Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Wrote two poems today

I got up this morning a bit early and made some coffee, then went back to bed and slept for a couple more hours. It was raining fairly hard this morning, and when I got up the second time it was still raining. I sat down at the computer and checked poems done the day before. I saw that one of them needed some more work, and I worked a bit more on another poem from last week as well.

Then I started work on a poem about the rain and it came out quite easily. I was happy with it except for the last two lines. I then went out to the sandwich shop to buy a roll - schnitzel, tomato, lettuce and onion - and came back with that and a two-litre bottle of milk, because I had been running low on milk. When I had finished eating the roll I took a look at this morning's poem again and decided to change the final couplet based on the fact that the sun had started to shine again. I had actually worked out some of the two lines - including the essential rhyme - on the way back from the shops. Walking has this effect on you, that it makes things flow.

After finishing the poem I published it on social media then started work on another poem based on some thoughts that I had had on my walk to the sandwich shop - that period of my life when I had quit smoking. Again, this time the poem came out quite quickly, and I tried putting the discarded final couplet from the poem about rain written this morning in it but then decided to do something different. I just had trouble finding a word to rhyme with "lungs" and decided that the half-rhyme "feeling" would be enough, and went with that.

Today was a very productive day, during which not only did I write two original works from scratch, but I also finished two other poems, improving them materially. I feel blessed because although it is summer the temperature is reasonable, and there was no sitting in the chair covered in sweat like there had been before, during the heatwave.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Grateful to live in a stable society

I got up late this morning and made some coffee, as usual, of which I drank two cups before going back to bed for about 25 minutes. But it was no good. I couldn't go back to sleep, and if you can't go to sleep what's the point of being alone in bed? So I got up and dressed, then went into the bathroom to get two prescriptions that my psychiatrist had filled out. I took a walk down to the pharmacy near Coles and enjoyed seeing people on the street.

There was the young woman walking her dog just up the street, and the crowds of people at the cafe in John Street Square having their lunch break sitting around tables and laughing and talking. There was the man in the hi-vis shirt going into the building that is still - after all these long months - being renovated. There was a workman threading cable down into a manhole cut into the pavement. There were three young women walking abreast up the street next to the cafe set into the casino, one of whom made way for me as we passed. I saw them all and reflected how lucky I am to live in a society where just going to the pharmacy - to buy subsidised medications that are completely affordable - is a routine part of life.

Here there is no scuttling from doorway to doorway to evade snipers perched on rooftops. There is nowhere the sound of bombs going off just down the street, turning neighbourhoods into piles of indistinguishable rubble. There are no tanks roving through the street machine-gunning people who must run out of the way. We might see from time to time a police car cruising at low speed down the street on the watch for trouble, but that is all. We are truly blessed to live in a country as devoted to peaceful pursuits as this one.

When I got back home I poured myself a glass of wine and sat down to write a blogpost. I thought about Fernando Pessoa writing his curious entries in his journal under the name Bernardo Soares, a "heteronym" he invented to express this aspect of his personality. Pessoa loved his city of Lisbon and was a great flaneur, walking around watching the people go past and cultivating an organic sense of the city in his fecund mind. I have been reading Pessoa since finishing the Karl Ove Knausgard series of autobiographical novels - I still miss lying down in the evening before going to sleep and reading his stories - because a dear friend of mine sent me his 'The Book of Disquiet'. And I have been enjoying it immensely. Knausgard is a hard act to follow, but Pessoa is up to the challenge, and keeps me entertained for the 30 minutes or so that I spend reading each evening in bed.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Got the car rego done

This morning I was up early to get the car to the garage at 8am for a registration inspection. When I arrived the floor manager said that it had been a year almost since my last car service, and he asked me if I wanted them to do another one. I said yes. When I had handed over the keys I walked out of the garage along Ross Street and luckily an empty cab was on the street, so I got in and came home.

I went back to bed and slept for a few more hours, then got up and went to the computer, logging onto social media. I put together the last pieces of the paperwork needed by my accountant to do the end-of-financial-year accounts. At about 11.30am the garage rang me to tell me the car was ready to pick up, and I left home, heading up the street to where the cabs congregate. I caught a cab to the garage and paid for the service and the rego inspection, then left and drove down Parramatta Road and Broadway to Quay Street, then I turned onto Harris Street and made my way home through the heavy traffic. The rains had made the traffic worse, with some streets flooded and cut off.

At 1pm I left home to take a package of papers to the post office to send off to the accountants. After paying, I went to a restaurant and ordered some noodles, had some sushi and a beer, and ate my lunch. Then I went to the psychiatrist's office and we talked for an hour. At the end of the appointment I left and went home, and went to bed for a nap. At about 5pm I got up and started on the white wine. Later, I had some food for dinner - just a little bit, including some mackerel on toast - and settled down to watching the TV in the evening. I thought about how lucky I am to have a warm, dry home to go to in the evenings, and how I can come and go when I please. It is a great blessing for me.

I have been writing poetry for the past two days, which explains why I haven't been blogging as much here over that period of time. The poetry came back to me because I have replaced my totems from the Queensland days - the magpies and the paperbark - with new ones. I wonder if anyone out there can tell me what my new totems in Sydney are? I have anyway been trying to be positive and helpful to others on social media. I hope that people find my participation to be of use. My aim is to be reliable and encouraging.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Writing poetry again

This morning I had an inkling about the first line of a poem and instead of ignoring the inkling as I would normally do I sat down to the computer and opened up the last Word file from 2015 and copied it with a new name: '2017 sonnets'. I had a nervous feeling tinged with excitement in my stomach as I wrote the first words of the poem I had started in my head. The next line followed and as I put it down I planned the rhyme for line three.

Thus it was that I started to write poetry again. It has been two years since I last wrote poetry. Exactly two years, it transpires (because I date all my poems in the Word file; the date comes directly under the title of the poem). The previous poem was written on 5 February 2015. After that: nothing for two years. Until this morning.

I went back to read the other poems from other years, including the prodigious year of 2013 and the next year of some output: 2014. There are only three poems in 2015. All my finished poems have been saved as PDF files, so that I can quickly go back and read them in isolation. Removed from the company of what precedes them and what follows them in the flow of writing they are more like themselves, and of course inside the folder on the hard drive they sort themselves in alphabetical (not date) order. Rereading the old items I felt something like that same nervous feeling in my stomach. It's as though when I read the old poems I am revisiting a mood, seeing again an image that I had first seen on that day so many years before when I wrote them.

But the interesting thing is that most of the poems in those years were conceived in the summer. It seems that I am most fecund when the weather is warm and the breath slips in and out of the hot body unencumbered by any chill or other temperature-based abeyance. Up in Queensland in 2013 and 2014 I was accompanied, as always in those days, when I wrote poetry, by the twin presences of the park with its enormous paperbark, and the cries in the morning of the magpie. The birds used to settle in ones or twos on my balcony up there in southeast Queensland. And the paperbark was like a sentinel for me - in fact I think on one occasion I likened it to exactly this type of thing in one of my poems.

Down here those things - those totems of my spirit - disappeared replaced by the sounds of the city. The helicopters that fly by over the CBD on their endless quests, and the cars that roar up the street nearby in the night and during the daytime too. These are the new totems for my productive soul.

The sensation of movement in the pit of my stomach is the thing that characterises the experience of poetry for me. I feel vulnerable, exposed. Perhaps that is why it has taken me so long to revisit the experience of writing poetry, now that I am down here in Sydney. I needed to build the ties that bind me to the new totems of my life here. Perhaps that is why it has taken me so long to go back to writing poetry.

Movie review: Paterson, dir Jim Jarmusch (2016)

Nothing much happens in the lives of Paterson (Adam Driver) a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey, and his girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). While he gets up every morning without an alarm clock at almost exactly the same time - he says there is something special about his watch - she stays at home and paints everything black and white (her favourite colour combination). They have a routine life but they support each other and love each other, and therefore also have a rich and full life. A night out at the black-and-white movies is something to celebrate.

Paterson's poetry - which he captures in a notebook with an elastic catch on the cover - is also something to celebrate for Laura, and she takes every opportunity to tell him what a great poet he is. Paterson is content. Even when Laura's bulldog Marvin eats his notebook he doesn't get angry. But after that happens we know he will continue to write because a stranger in the park who Paterson meets one day gives him a new notebook as a gift. (The stranger, a Japanese man, had come to Paterson because of his love of the poetry of William Carlos Williams, who had lived in Paterson while alive. Williams is Paterson's favourite poet.)

While nothing much happens, the things that do happen seem to have a meaning beyond their immediate significance. When Paterson meets a child who is sitting outside - he thinks he should wait with her until her mother returns to take her home - it turns out she is also a poet, and she reads a piece of her poetry to him. He takes home the first few lines and recites them for Laura.

Laura is busy with her own things, too. She bakes cupcakes for the local farmer's market, and makes a big stack of money. She also gets Paterson to buy her a guitar so that she can become a country-and-Western singer. She has dreams. Meanwhile, Paterson finds that having a mobile phone would sometimes be an asset when his bus inexplicably breaks down while he is out on his route, and he has to borrow someone else's phone to call back to base for help. He might have a stack of poetry books on his bookshelf in the basement, but he doesn't have a mobile. Paterson is a bit odd that way.

He's also odd in the way, each evening when he takes Marvin for a walk, he stops at the bar for a beer. At the bar we meet other people in Paterson's life, such as Everett (William Jackson Harper), who is in love with Marie (Chasten Harmon) although she doesn't reciprocate his affections. He also meets Everett one day when he is taking a walk in the afternoon, when he doesn't have anything on his plate. Everett is something of a philosopher, unlike Donny (Rizwan Manji), who checks off Paterson every morning before he starts his rounds. Donny always has problems at home that he complains about to people. Paterson has Laura at home and he never complains.

What the movie does so well however is to slow things down to a snail's rate of progress. We notice each smile and display of intimacy or dislike. We are drawn into this shadow-play of tiny gestures and our hearts almost start to beat at a more sedate pace. This is a film out of the ordinary. Most films these days hep us up to a high state of excitement with their special effects and explosions. This movie does the complete opposite, so when the Japanese stranger appears at the end we are primed for the explosion of emotion we feel as Paterson denies he is a poet. This doesn't put the stranger off his quest for meaning, however, as he works to experience what it signifies to be a poet in New Jersey.