Posts filed under ‘Poetry’



Split the Sack by Rumi

Why does the soul not fly
when it hears the call?

Why does a fish, gasping on land,
but near the water,
not move back into the sea?

What keeps us from joining the dance
the dust particles do?

Look at their subtle motions
in sunlight.

We are out of our cages
with our wings spread,
yet we do not lift off.

We keep collecting rocks and broken bits
of pottery like children
pretending they are merchants.

We should split the sack
of this culture
and stick our heads out.


December 23, 2013 at 1:01 am 1 comment



At the Modernism Lab Andrew Karas says of this work
In 1915, Ezra Pound published a slim volume of poems which he called Cathay and which contained, according to its title page, “translations by Ezra Pound for the most part from the Chinese of Rihaku.” Yet in writing the poems contained in Cathay, Pound set out to do much more than transcribe Chinese poems word-for-word or line-for-line into English. He set out to redefine poetic translation itself, replacing long-held ideals like “accuracy” and “faithfulness” with a conviction that one could use old—even ancient—texts to make English poetry look and sound quite new.
Critics have spilled a good deal of ink identifying the numerous inaccuracies of Cathay’s translations, many of which stem from Pound’s almost complete dependence on the notes of Ernest Fenollosa, an American scholar who studied the Chinese poems while living in Japan. (Pound was not himself proficient in Chinese.) Fenollosa’s notes on the poems are terse, occasionally cryptic, and easy to misinterpret. For instance, Pound’s conflation of two distinct Chinese poems into one English piece, “The River Song,” most likely arose from a misreading of Fenollosa’s notebooks. Yet, even when Fenollosa’s notes on a poem’s content are unmistakably clear, Pound shows a remarkable willingness to alter that content in order to craft, in his judgment, a better English poem. Thus Pound often changes details of images or omits pieces of the text altogether. Such omissions often result from Pound’s decision to eliminate instances of complex literary allusion which, though characteristic of Chinese poetry, would probably confuse English readers not versed in the Chinese poetic tradition (Kenner 204-10).
Hugh Kenner is the most prominent of a number of scholars who argue that readers who criticize Pound for Cathay’s variations from its source texts miss the point of Pound’s effort, which was to produce innovative English poems using the ancient Chinese texts as an inspirational springboard, not a constraining template. The “real achievement” of Cathay, according to Kenner,

lay not on the frontier of comparative poetics, but securely within the effort…to rethink the nature of an English poem. It consisted in maximizing three criteria at once, criteria hitherto developed separately: the vers-libre principle, that the single line is the unit of composition; the Imagist principle, that a poem may build its effects out of things it sets before the mind’s eye by naming them; and the lyrical principle, that words or names, being ordered in time, are bound together and recalled into each other’s presence by recurrent sounds.

These things had been done before but not simultaneously. (199)

December 23, 2013 at 1:00 am 1 comment



Do you remember being seven or 8 years old, just in bed, under the covers, you can read now, but despite that, this night, your mum comes in anyway. You hear her come in and see the book in her hands, you don’t notice but the cold sheets just got warmer the blankets less scratchy. As you roll over to watch her sit down, she opens the book and……

Something, or several things, were happening to us all in those moments. Could have been poetry, fairy stories, a made up story, or a novel depending on your household. No matter what was being read its likely you don’t remember much detail. However, judging by last book group we all remember plenty, unconsciously, because in seconds we all relaxed and slipped back into that feeling.

I was nervous about idea. That’s why I set the short time limit of 3 minutes per read. I needn’t have worried. From the first word each person read a relaxed hush fell on the group, not an impatient tolerance, and as each person stopped there was a sense of disappointment, rather than relief.

  • don did james thurber’s  the night the ghost got in. it was very funny and a great example of how to tell a story
  • trish did an extract from a Tolstoy short story. Its called strider in english but published as kholstomer. trish explained what it meant to her, which was beautiful and very trish. she also did an extract from perfume by patrick susskind which was excruciating but completely historically perfect. it described a young paris woman giving birth, in public, and being executed. it focussed on the stinks of 1700s paris. it was brutal, powerful, accurate.
  • annie did something by scotland’s national hero and poet laureate  rabbie burns‘. a very famous poem called to a mouse – which features the eternal line ‘the best laid plans of mice and men’ . surprisingly in the original that line reads
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
  • leanne did the introduction to a book on italian cooking by elizabeth David. it said what you might expect a celebrity chef to say in a book about italian food. the kicker is that the book was published in the 1954. that is 60 years ago. given how flooded popular culture is now with celebrity chefs, and how food didn’t really change until the the 80-90s, its amazing this woman was doing what she did in the 50s – talk about being ahead of the curve 
  • mark did a very short poem by auden, which, typical of auden is often used at funerals. in response to a series of imponderable questions it features the beautiful line ‘if i could tell you i would let you know’
  • karl did a helen  garner essay on writers festivals
  • i did south of my days circle by judith wright, a famous aussie poem about the new england region, and hippopotamus by ts eliot, which is a very clever anti-church piece, especially given that eliot was a true believer
 auden elizabeth david helen garner hippo judith perfume thurber

Because we all enjoyed it Bookgroup will be doing more reading out loud and i would encourage other people to try similar events



November 17, 2013 at 12:29 pm 1 comment


Love is like the bunyip, yeowie, saskwatch, cessnock monster, lochness monster, and the yetti. It is talked about a lot, some people are convinced it exists, some people claim to know what it is like, how it feels, indeed what it is. For example the cessnock monster is thought to be a 12 foot lizard from the pleistocene era.

Like love these creatures also serve a purpose. They make us feel that maybe uncertainty and mystery remains, maybe there is something bigger out there that we are part of, and as with mythological animals there appears to be no certainties about love, just an endless fascination.

Unlike love though these creatures don’t leave us dependent on another person for that feeling of transcendence, so they dont make us so vulnerable to being let down. And most sadly, and most importantly, they don’t physically exist so they don’t stimulate our hormones, they dont create that mysterious cocktail of chemicals that makes us feel different and do and say different things in some people’s presence, such as spend more time on our, appearance.

These are some of the conclusions that your, admittedly somewhat love wary, reviewer speculated upon following the latest bookgroup.

The bookgroup gathered to read out loud about love. it was billed as a slow luxurious soirée during which everyone reads something out loud to the rest of the group that includes the word and/or the concept of love, broadly defined. approx 10 minutes per reading.

bookgroupers read from
C. S. Forester (1937) The Happy Return, the first book in the Hornblower series. this post implied loved could be by men for their boat, their captain and war
WH Auden collected poems – If I could tell you and Tell Me the Truth About Love

Drussilla Modjeska – the introduction to Poppy
The BeatlesHer Majesty and The Love you make is equal to the love you take

Roger McGoughLove Cycle and Lonely Hearts

Helen Garnerthe spare room, about love for a friend and its complexities
Rumi – from the collection bridge to the soul – 2 poems, split the sack, which seemed to imply love maybe whatever we say it is, and faint lament of form, which seemed to suggest love is incomprehensible
Pablo Nerudafable of the mermaid and the drunks, which demonstrates that we dont need to be loved. ode to a beautiful nude, which raises the issue of beauty and how it is different from love, tonight i can write, which shows that love passes and love makes you sadlove
Michael Leunigbllly the rabbit, the love of a child for her pet, and the bottle, which demonstrates what a load of freudian nonsense we often get told about love
Wikipedia has a great page on love that is worth quoting

Love is any of a number of emotions and experiences related to a sense of strong affection[1] and attachment. The word love can refer to a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes, ranging from generic pleasure (“I loved that meal”) to intense interpersonal attraction (“I love my boyfriend”). This diversity of uses and meanings, combined with the complexity of the feelings involved, makes love unusually difficult to consistently define, even compared to other emotional states.

it has a great list of various types of love and interestingly to me as a thoroughgoing materialist it has a link to the science of love. however, it may not help you find any appropriate readings, whereas the love quotes encyclopedia may. a few examples follow

Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your heart or burn down your house, you can never tell

If love is the answer,
Could you rephrase the question?

True love is the greatest thing in the world…
except for a nice mutton,lettuce,and tomato sandwich when the muton is cut nice and thin…mmm..

I thought love might be a tough topic for bookgroupers but we had a great discussion although the poems and stories we chose did nothing but confirm our confusion.

Trish couldn’t make it but in an email making her apologies she presciently captured our concerns….

I admit, I am struggling a bit too, I always get
strange looks when I have said in the past, I love this car, I love my
skis, I really love this backpack etc, within a family context I have no
problem with the word love, in the friends, it is harder, yes I love my
friends but the “weight” of the word can sometimes make me uncomfy or
slightly wary…strange.

In saying all this, I would LOVE to be there on sunday but may have to
be at my sister’s whom I love dearly as we leave very early the next
morning from Nowra to go on a holiday which I know I will LOVE. Hope you LOVED your week away..speak soon, LOVE Trish

November 7, 2009 at 12:16 pm 1 comment

Poetry by Dorothy Porter

Monkey Mask Peter hosted the meeting to discuss poetry by Dorothy Porter

April 6, 2006 at 8:10 am Leave a comment


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