Friday, March 7, 2014


Recently, the book Obsession: Sestinas in the Twenty-First Century was launched in the USA and sold-out on the night. It's an anthology through University Press of New England, and my work is included in this publication.

The sestina is a form of poetry which fell out of favour for a time but it's now gaining more interest. The rolling effect of the repetitions suited my poem, which is set on board a cruise ship with someone watching a lightning storm at sea. Then they relate this to the beginning of what they see as a tempestuous love affair. In order to freshen this rather cliche idea, I took a few twists and turns with the language as you will see if you read this excellent publication.

Poems are like spells, or supernatural experiences, in many ways, they take people into interior human places that we usually think of as mysterious, hidden or difficult to explain. Poets also arrange words in such a way as to contain more than what at first appears obvious. This magical quality can relax and engage a reader, makes some perhaps feel at certain points as if time and space and possibilities expand beyond whatever we could possibly know. The unsettling effects can put a particular reader off reading verse; the more practical and surface-focussed may find poetry too strange or disturbing. But feel assured that usually the effort of stepping out of one's comfort-zone to explore poetry is always rewarding, and often joyous, at the least emotionally releasing in some way, informative, inspiring and healthy.

It is for instance surely poetic how I like to plant trees to cover my carbon output (from driving a car, flying in planes, and so on). The world is better off due to these eco-actions. It seems to be the arts encourage this generous and thoughtful action, and then a kind of poetry continues in the action itself. We are planting the verge here soon near my place, as well. More greenery growing, and it will produce oxygen after soaking up carbon dioxide. This verge won't be planted with trees, there is one large pohutukawa there already. No. We are instead taking plants from pots which have almost out-grown them and creating a garden on the verge. In time we hope to place a bench there as well, for people to sit on.

The more evidence of human habitation on a street, the more likely it is motorists will take care driving along there. This is a busy road and many children walk to and from school along here. Then there are all the other pedestrians, too. We like to think our verge planting could enhance not only our own experience of this property and area, but also that of others passing by. Encouraging healthy, enjoyable community activities is a revo lutionary act in many ways, it is a step towards decency and fairness and away from anything like the zombie apocalypse, (which is what I call cor porate capital ism).

Our city council recently decided not to mow the grass verges of Aotearoa New Zealand's largest city, Tamaki Makaurau Auckland. (Our city rates charged for service do not go down, but our services do disappear or become separately-charged-for items). The city council's mismanagement of our rates is, however, another issue. Meanwhile what to do with these overgrown verges? They're in various states of unsightliness now in some cases, (although a gone-wild verge may be replanted and grow rather pretty. It will need noxious and dangerous plants to be taken out, at times, but otherwise can be a lovely patch). 

Ours shall get the 'install garden' treatment, providing an extension of what is already a flourishing garden on the property here. Also, our front lawn shall gradually be planted with other vegetation. A pathway shall be made down the middle probably with cedar chips (they halt growth of anything underneath them), because mowing is yet another carbon-producing expensive exercise we can do without.

Gradual transformation of our world towards better ways of living, kinder behaviour towards each other, and choosing healthier alternatives in diet, clothing, housing, education and health could gradually turn around what we have now as far as impending, and immediate disasters. 

A natural swimming pool in a garden in Europe

I suggest you also start your own personal programme of transformation of lawn now. Or choose some other area to change. Perhaps install solar hot water heating. It could be good to make a fresh water pool in the earth on your property too, kept healthy with the proper plants and so on. No concrete or tiles are used for these natural features, I gather.

It's great exercise, gardening, feels healing to be outside and planting or tending vegetation. Beneficial actions may improve a neighbourhood. The more pleasant surroundings then may affect many people, producing happier people, better attitudes, finer behaviour and perhaps the ability to make better choices. 

Small actions like replanting grass verges properly may have long-range beneficial effects for a whole community. The world is made up of those, interconnected, and surely the more a community is well-off and eco-friendly then the more likely they will happily affect others around them?

Let us flourish with eco-awareness and so well affect the world within and beyond us.

One of my Inspiration Books - waywincraft my brand for these - this one is in The Sheffield Artist Book Collection in the UK. The book is made mainly from discarded things that would otherwise be landfill. They use a natural glue too.

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