Joy Harjo – by Colleen Keating, a Paper prepared for U3A

Joy Harjo

Joy  Harjo is  an American Poet.

She is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. 

She is the incumbent Poetic Laureate of United States serving her second term as the 23rd Poet Laureate.

She is the first American Native Indian to be poet Laureate.

She is a musician and saxophonist  and mixes her poetry and music beautifully.

Joy embraces the world .

Her poetry embraces the world every sky sea and stone.

She is an autobiographic poet, informed by the natural world 

 with a cry for the survival of her people and our earth and 

transcend the limitation of words. 

Her poetry inhabits landscape and centres around the need for

 remembrance and transcendence.

 She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Accolades

She is so well known in America with so many honours 

include the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Wallace Stevens Award the William Carlos Williams Award and the American Indian Distinguished Achievement She has received fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rasmuson Foundation, and the Witter Bynner Foundation and the Guggenheim award. In 2017 she was awarded the Ruth Lilly Prize in Poetry.  

author of nine books of poetry, including the highly acclaimed An American Sunrise,

She is Exec­u­tive Edi­tor of the anthol­o­gy When the Light of the World was Sub­dued, Our Songs Came Through — A Nor­ton Anthol­o­gy of Native Nations Poet­ry and the editor of Living Nations, An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry, the companion anthology to her signature Poet Laureate project. 

She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, 

Board of Directors Chair of the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation,

and holds a Tulsa Artist Fellowship

Influences

She read the bible a lot

 Pablo Neruda she loved for his integrity to his human beingness 

African poets especially Uganda poet Oket p’ Bitek 

Gwendolyn Brooks

 Audre Lorde (poetry is not a luxury and the litany of survival

and and sometimes she finds herself channeling Walt Whitman.

She draws on First Nation storytelling and histories,

 as well as feminist and social justice poetic traditions, and frequently incorporates indigenous myths, symbols, and values into her writing.

and she says “Most of the poetry available to her generation was set in the New England and North Western regions and was written by men or sometimes women emulating the male experience.

Poetry had become very intellectual we could blame TS Eliot but we won’t  and it had lost touch with the heart and feeling and the voice of the people. 

Joy loves tones rhythm and the musicality of words. 

  • “There is no poetry where there are no mistakes.” …
  • “I’ve always had a theory that some of us are born with nerve endings longer than our bodies” …
  • “To pray you open your whole self. …
  • “I know I walk in and out of several worlds each day.” …
  • “It’s possible to understand the world from studying a leaf.
  • I am the holy being of my mother’s prayer and my father’s song

 She Had Some Horses                                                  

I. She Had Some Horses

She had some horses.
She had horses who were bodies of sand.
She had horses who were maps drawn of blood.
She had horses who were skins of ocean water.
She had horses who were the blue air of sky.
She had horses who were fur and teeth.
She had horses who were clay and would break.
She had horses who were splintered red cliff.

She had some horses.

She had horses with eyes of trains.
She had horses with full, brown thighs.
She had horses who laughed too much.
She had horses who threw rocks at glass houses.
She had horses who licked razor blades.

She had some horses.

She had horses who danced in their mothers’ arms.
She had horses who thought they were the sun and their
bodies shone and burned like stars.
She had horses who waltzed nightly on the moon.
She had horses who were much too shy, and kept quiet
in stalls of their own making.

She had some horses.

She had horses who liked Creek Stomp Dance songs.
She had horses who cried in their beer.
She had horses who spit at male queens who made
them afraid of themselves.
She had horses who said they weren’t afraid.
She had horses who lied.
She had horses who told the truth, who were stripped
bare of their tongues.

She had some horses.

She had horses who called themselves, “horse.”
She had horses who called themselves, “spirit,” and kept
their voices secret and to themselves.
She had horses who had no names.
She had horses who had books of names.

She had some horses.

She had horses who whispered in the dark, who were afraid to speak.
She had horses who screamed out of fear of the silence,
who carried knives to protect themselves from ghosts.
She had horses who waited for destruction.
She had horses who waited for resurrection.

She had some horses.

She had horses who got down on their knees for any saviour.
She had horses who thought their high price had saved them.
She had horses who tried to save her, who climbed in her
bed at night and prayed

She had some horses.

She had some horses she loved.
She had some horses she hated.

These were the same horses.

Joy Harjo  1983  from collection of the same name 

What are the horses

I don’t really want to say and I get asked that question often
I just leave the horses to themselves.In this powerful collection Joy explores womanhood’s most intimate moments 

 

“The Knowing”

Joy Harjo explains that she has lived her life being guided by “the knowing.” She writes:

The knowing was my rudder, a shimmer of intelligent light, unerring in the midst of this destructive, terrible, and beautiful life. It is a strand of the divine, a pathway for the ancestors and teachers who love us.

She tells us that “the knowing” speaks “softly, wisely,” and that you are always clear on what “the knowing” is telling you, but you don’t always listen.

She tells the reader the truth (she always tells the truth, by the way, you can feel it): she has sometimes listened to “the knowing,” and other times (like when choosing her violent and alcoholic male partners) she has intentionally ignored this guidance, or intuition.

I loved this concept of “the knowing,” and I am guided by my intuition, too, but I wish that she had addressed the application of “the knowing” at more mature ages. I think we often assume that life is more difficult or we are tasked with more challenging issues when we are younger, but now that I’m at midlife, I think it is the exact opposite. I think so much of youth is filled with black and white choices. Midlife is muddier, knee-deep in the grey areas, thicker and more complicated as we age. 

 

POETRY

Fire

a woman can’t survive by her own breath
alone she must know
the voices of mountains she must recognise
the foreverness of blue sky she must flow
with the elusive bodies
of night winds who will take her into herself
look at me
i am not a separate woman i am a continuance
of blue sky
i am the throat
of the mountains
a night wind
who burns
with every breath
she takes

from What Moon Drove Me to This? 1980.

Remember

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. 
Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. 
Remember her voice. 
She knows the origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people are you.
Remember you are this universe and this universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
Remember.

from She Had Some Horses 1983

This land is a poem

This land is a poem of ochre and burnt sand I could never write, unless paper were the sacrament of sky, and ink the broken line of wild horses staggering the horizon several miles away. Even then, does anything written ever matter to the earth, wind, and sky?

Anything that matters

Anything that matters is here. Anything that will continue to matter in the next several thousand years will continue to be here. Approaching in the distance is the child you were some years ago. See her laughing as she chases a white butterfly.

Don’t Bother the Earth Spirit

Don’t bother the earth spirit who lives here. She is working on a story. It is the oldest story in the world and it is delicate, changing. If she sees you watching she will invite you in for coffee, give you warm bread, and you will be obligated to stay and listen. But this is no ordinary story. You will have to endure earthquakes, lightning, the deaths of all those you love, the most blinding beauty. It’s a story so compelling you may never want to leave; this is how she traps you. See that stone finger over there? That is the only one who ever escaped.

all from Secrets from the Centre of the World  1989.  

My House is the Red Earth

My house is the red earth; it could be the centre of the world. I’ve heard New York, Paris, or Tokyo called the centre of the world, but I say it is magnificently humble. You could drive by and miss it. Radio waves can obscure it. Words cannot construct it, for there are some sounds left to sacred wordless form. For instance, that fool crow, picking through trash near the corral, understands the centre of the world as greasy strips of fat. Just ask him. He doesn’t have to say that the earth has turned scarlet through fierce belief, after centuries of heartbreak and laughter—he perches on the blue bowl of the sky, and laughs.

from Secrets from the Centre of the World  1989.  

This Morning I Pray for My Enemies

And whom do I call my enemy?
An enemy must be worthy of engagement.
I turn in the direction of the sun and keep walking.
It’s the heart that asks the question, not my furious mind.
The heart is the smaller cousin of the sun.
It sees and knows everything.
It hears the gnashing even as it hears the blessing.
The door to the mind should only open from the heart.
An enemy who gets in, risks the danger of becoming a friend.  

from Conflict Resolution for Holy Being 2015

Eagle Poem

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

 

from  from  In Mad Lover and War  1990

Perhaps the World Ends Here

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

 

from The Woman Who Fell From the Sky 1994

Grace

for Darlene Wind and James Welch

I think of Wind and her wild ways the year we had nothing to lose and lost it anyway in the cursed country of the fox. We still talk about that winter, how the cold froze imaginary buffalo on the stuffed horizon of snowbanks. The haunting voices of the starved and mutilated broke fences, crashed our thermostat dreams, and we couldn’t stand it one more time. So once again we lost a winter in stubborn memory, walked through cheap apartment walls, skated through fields of ghosts into a town that never wanted us, in the epic search for grace.

Like Coyote, like Rabbit, we could not contain our terror and clowned our way through a season of false midnights. We had to swallow that town with laughter, so it would go down easy as honey. And one morning as the sun struggled to break ice, and our dreams had found us with coffee and pancakes in a truck stop along Highway 80, we found grace.

I could say grace was a woman with time on her hands, or a white buffalo escaped from memory. But in that dingy light it was a promise of balance. We once again understood the talk of animals, and spring was lean and hungry with the hope of children and corn.

I would like to say, with grace, we picked ourselves up and walked into the spring thaw. We didn’t; the next season was worse. You went home to Leech Lake to work with the tribe and I went south. And, Wind, I am still crazy. I know there is something larger than the memory of a dispossessed people. We have seen it.

from In Mad Love and War,1990 

Ah, Ah

Ah, ah cries the crow arching toward the heavy sky over the marina.
Lands on the crown of the palm tree.

Ah, ah slaps the urgent cove of ocean swimming through the slips.
We carry canoes to the edge of the salt.

Ah, ah groans the crew with the weight, the winds cutting skin.
We claim our seats. Pelicans perch in the draft for fish.

Ah, ah beats our lungs and we are racing into the waves.
Though there are worlds below us and above us, we are straight ahead.

Ah, ah tattoos the engines of your plane against the sky—away from these waters.
Each paddle stroke follows the curve from reach to loss.

Ah, ah calls the sun from a fishing boat with a pale, yellow sail. We fly by
on our return, over the net of eternity thrown out for stars.

Ah, ah scrapes the hull of my soul. Ah, ah.
  from How We became Human  New &Selected Poems 1975-2001

Praise the Rain

Praise the rain; the seagull dive
The curl of plant, the raven talk—
Praise the hurt, the house slack
The stand of trees, the dignity—
Praise the dark, the moon cradle
The sky fall, the bear sleep—
Praise the mist, the warrior name
The earth eclipse, the fired leap—
Praise the backwards, upward sky
The baby cry, the spirit food—
Praise canoe, the fish rush
The hole for frog, the upside-down—
Praise the day, the cloud cup
The mind flat, forget it all—
Praise crazy. Praise sad.
Praise the path on which we’re led.
Praise the roads on earth and water.
Praise the eater and the eaten.
Praise beginnings; praise the end.
Praise the song and praise the singer.
Praise the rain; it brings more rain.
Praise the rain; it brings more rain.
            from Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings. 2015

For Keeps

Sun makes the day new.
Tiny green plants emerge from earth.
Birds are singing the sky into place.
There is nowhere else I want to be but here.
I lean into the rhythm of your heart to see where it will take us.
We gallop into a warm, southern wind.
I link my legs to yours and we ride together,
Toward the ancient encampment of our relatives.
Where have you been? they ask.
And what has taken you so long?
That night after eating, singing, and dancing
We lay together under the stars.
We know ourselves to be part of mystery.
It is unspeakable.
It is everlasting.
It is for keeps.

MARCH 4, 2013, CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS  from Conflict Resolution  for Holy Beings 2015

 

An American Sunrise

We were running out of breath, as we ran out to meet ourselves. 

We were surfacing the edge of our ancestors’ fights, and ready to strike.

It was difficult to lose days in the Indian bar if you were straight.

Easy if you played pool and drank to remember to forget. 

We made plans to be professional — and did. And some of us could sing

so we drummed a fire-lit pathway up to those starry stars. 

Sin was invented by the Christians, as was the Devil, we sang. 

We were the heathens, but needed to be saved from them — thin

chance. We knew we were all related in this story, a little gin

will clarify the dark and make us all feel like dancing. 

We had something to do with the origins of blues and jazz

I argued with a Pueblo as I filled the jukebox with dimes in June,

forty years later and we still want justice. We are still America. 

We know the rumours of our demise. We spit them out. 

They die soon.

from Poetry 2017

Redbird Love

We watched her grow up.
She was the urgent chirper,
Fledgling flier.
And when spring rolled
Out its green
She’d grown
Into the most noticeable
Bird-girl.
Long-legged and just
The right amount of blush
Tipping her wings, crest
And tail, and
She knew it
In the bird parade.
We watched her strut.
She owned her stuff.
The males perked their armour, greased their wings,
And flew sky-loop missions
To show off
For her.
In the end
There was only one.
Isn’t that how it is for all of us?
There’s that one you circle back to — for home.
This morning
The young couple scavenges seeds
On the patio.
She is thickening with eggs.
Their minds are busy with sticks the perfect size, tufts of fluff
Like dandelion, and other pieces of soft.
He steps aside for her, so she can eat.
Then we watch him fill his beak
Walk tenderly to her and kiss her with seed.
The sacred world lifts up its head
To notice —
We are double-, triple-blessed.

Source: Poetry (September 2017

Break My HeartpastedGraphic.png

There are always flowers
Love cries, or blood.
Someone is always leaving
By exile, death, or heartbreak.
The heart is a fist.
It pockets prayer or holds rage.
It’s a timekeeper.

 Music maker, or backstreet truth teller.

Baby, baby, baby
You can’t say what’s been said
Before, though even words
Are creatures of habit.
You cannot force poetry
With a ruler, or jail it at a desk.
Mystery is blind, but wills
To untie the cloth, in eternity.
Police with their guns
Cannot enter here to move us off our lands.
History will always find you, and wrap you
In its thousand arms.

 . . . . . . . 

Someone will lift from the earth
Without wings.
Another will fall from the sky 

Through the knots of a tree.
Chaos is primordial. 

All words have roots here.
You will never sleep again
Though you will never stop dreaming.
The end can only follow the beginning.
And it will zigzag through time, governments, and lovers.
Be who you are, even if it kills you.
It will. Over and over again. 
Even as you live.

Break my heart, why don’t you?                from   An  American Sunrise   2017

The last few lines from My Man’s Feet

My man’s feet are the sure steps of a father
Looking after his sons, his daughters
For when he laughs he opens all the doors of our hearts
Even as he forgets to shut them when he leaves
And when he grieves for those he loves
He carves out valleys enough to hold everyone’s tears
With his feet, these feet
My man’s widely humble, ever steady, beautiful brown feet.

This is the ending to one of .er most popular poems.  entitled “My Man’s Feet,” in her newest collection of poetry, “An American Sunrise.”

The lines are pretty straightforward, but there is a poignancy in them. Her adoration of her “Man,” and the qualities she appreciates about him. His father heart, his tenderness, his grief for the loss of friends and loved ones. The end of this poem is amazing..

The Mozzie – Colleen Keating

THE MOZZIE

I am excited to have a poem in every magazine of The Mozzie this year  (2021)!

summer anguish is in the January edition

water clock is in the February edition

when  you can only take photos from the window is in the March edition

Thank you to Ron Heard for his dedication to Australian poets and poetry. I know for him there have been many hardships, loss and  sadness, and maybe times it is not easy to go on but he

The Mozzie is a small press poetry magazine that publishes the work of established and emerging poets.

An independent poetry magazine, it  publishes over 400 poems a year. 2017 will be its twenty-fifth year of publication.  The Editor Ron Heard lives in Brisbane “among the heat, rain and roof possums”and is  the author of the verse novel The Shadow of Troy which regular readers of The Mozzie  followed episodically  poem by poem , month by month .

It was reminescent of my wonderful Ancient History lessons  at High School. In the final year I studied at the Honours level and our teacher was an elderly nun Mother Oliver IBVM * who had survived throat cancer  and taught our small class of 4 girls by speaking into a megaphone  that rested on the desk. We waited upon every whispered word and we loved our time with the text Peloponnesian Wars by Thucydides, an Athenian historian who served as an Athenian general during the war. His account of the conflict is widely considered to be a classic and regarded as one of the earliest scholarly works of history. The History is divided into eight books and tells the story of the Peloponnesian War which was a war fought in ancient Greece between Athens and Sparta—the two most powerful city-states in ancient Greece at the time (431 to 405 B.C.E.). This war shifted power from Athens to Sparta, making Sparta the most powerful city-state in the region.

  • Besides being a scholar and  lover of Ancient History Mother Oliver was also the author of the story  of Mother Gonzaga Barry IBVM , the founder of the Loreto Order of Religious Sisters in Australia which is called   “Love is a Light Burden” by Mother M. Oliver, I.B.V.M. Published 1950.  My signed copy is very precious and is one of the inspirations  for my writing.

 

 

Memorising paragraphs of Thucydides like the above i can see  how I developed  my awareness of justice and deep belief in the following.

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak  is to speak, not to act is to act. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Grandchildren, autumn colour, mountains, fresh air, lyre birds, walking tracks . . .

Grandchildren, Autumn colour, mountains,  fresh  air,  lyre birds,  walking tracks  and an Old World Guest House

How special to be invited to join the family for a few days to play again in the Blue Mountains,  all of us staying at an ‘old world’ Guest House in Katoomba and returning to  Blackheath to reminisce and remember the playground our family  enjoyed in the young years..

The Dharug and Gundungurra Peoples welcome you
to this special place and ask that
you acknowledge, respectand appreciate its story
and sacred beauty

Day 1  

The family left for Katoomba early as they were booked in for the Scenic World Experience  which included the Scenic Railway down into the Valley and a Valley walk to see the amazing interactive  sculptures,  to see the old coal mine, then up the cliff and across on the  Scenic Skyway.  It was a fun  morning for them. Edison was excited about the waterfalls, and being in the front row going down  in the train the steepest train in the world, into the valley and Darcy loved his map and kept showing us where he went. 

Michael and I took our time  and stopped for a picnic lunch at one of our nostalgic venues Wentworth Falls Fall Lookout . The air was electric, the sky so blue and each deciduous tree was turning in their perfect timing.  There was a helicopter going back and forth and a National Parks woman explained they were dropping material along tracks for maintenance and taking out rubbish. It did take away from the serenity I was wanting so much but suddenly they took a break and the silence was hypnotic Not even the Falls could be heard where we sat. 

 

 

We arrived at the Guest House . . very old world with a breakfast room, dining room, games rooms and piano and had the character of a well known jazz lounge in its younger days.  At least the many  posters  decorating the walls were nostalgic for those  heady days.

We all went then to see the Three Sisters and we walked down about 80 steps with some metal ladders and out across the bridge to the first sister. We had a great picnic in one of the original caves.  Everything was so quiet . . .  by that I mean not many people . . .they had a quiet morning at Scenic world and we had no trouble parking at the Three Sisters. We were spoilt as it was not a public holiday and  little could we predict the Easter crowds.

On face book Jessica wrote of their day

What a perfect first day of holidays in the Blue Mountains. We spent the day at Scenic World Blue Mountains. We went down the steepest railway 🚃 , walked the long track for the Sculptures in the Valley and then came back up the cableway  🚡 then we took the skyway out over the valley and stopped over Katoomba Falls before heading to The Three Sisters. We walked down to the First Sister and then back up the very steep steps. Only 80 of them 🥵 back up the top we had our picnic waiting for us in one of the caves. I loved watching the kids explore, especially Edison who climbed, jumped, poked, questioned everything he came across and was so determined to try everything. Nothing was too much for him. I don’t know where he gets his energy 

 

 

Day 2    Blackheath

We woke to a glorious day and down in the dining room to meet the family for breakfast at 8 am as our plan was to get on the road early to travel the 10 minute drive to Blackheath for the day.  (that became closer to an hour with the crazy  Easter traffic that appeared.)

Michael and I have gone to Blackheath hundreds of times and never , ever experienced a traffic jam!  on this road, so funny . We surmise people were on their way to Mudgee or Dubbo . and we heard the Bells Line of Road was closed due to landslides I think or fires or flood  or as a result of all three  . . these days you can choose the catastrophe andyou probably wont be too wrong.

How to describe the morning.

Firstly the air had a crisp tingle to it. . .we all needed our trackie top
but we felt invigorated by the tingle.
No-one can beat John Keat’s words:
Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness
yet I couldn’t help whispering,
leaves of russet golds and brown
and flaming fire red
tatter the emerald sky and burnish our tracks
willowing air blow gently on the trees
leaves spilling,
pitter patter down
as flaxen autumnal raindrops

 

In Blackheath, as pilgrims, we headed to our old home in Burton street where we had spent so many fun holidays  and like pilgrims we retrod our footsteps down Porters Pass  to Keating Rock, around to the lane to the warm Sunset rock  so tiny now which seemed to fit us all snuggled into watch the sun set.and we laughed about the quiet street  where the kids rode up and down with ice-cream bowls on their heads teasing the magpies who joined in the game swooping each time.

We chose the Fairfax Heritage walk because it was suitable for Pa to walk with the boys and we arrived at the view of Govetts Leap .

 

The Bridal Veil Falls  was the best I have ever seen it after the rains it flowed and pounded wildly down into the valley its spray soft lifted  by the winnowing wind sometimes caught the rays of sunlight flashing a rainbow veil. I couldn’t  catch it on film it was momentariy,  fleeting and spectacular .

To the Red Rocket park where the boys had a lot of fun and Jessica was reminded  about the many times she played there with her brothers and sisters and sometimes cousins and the near escapes they had.

Back to the Guest House and a takeaway Thai meal we shared in the recreation room while the boys watched TV and played.

 

Jessica wrote,

Down memory lane yesterday.
Blackheath.
Keating Rock.
Govetts Leap.
Bridal Falls.
Memorial Park. Still the same equipment since 1964, just safer!
We had to keep a tally of how often Mum and I said “Be Careful!!!”
When I was young we were trusted down these walks on our own!

I lived to tell the tale 😂

Day 3  

A stunning autumn day  . . blue sky touches of lifting mist , falling russet and gold  leaves 
the walkways beginning to crunch but still early autumn days.
 

We were the baby sitters for three year old Darcy, as his older brother  Edison had begged to do the full Giant Staircase down into the Grose Valley and to walk around to the Scenic railway to ascend .  So the three of them Nath Jessica and Edison drove off after an early breakfast left their car near the Three Sisters and set off down the close to 1000 steps that Edison can now say he did. We breakfasted with Darcy and then set off for a walk to get some postcards and brochures  to make a project of the Mountain adventure  for his preschool  and to help his language. 

Great photos  of Lyre Birds . It is good to know they are surviving down in the valley.

They arrived back pretty tired but very proud they have achieved this challenging walk. 

It is a great achievement for a seven year old.  Congrats Edison. Mum and Dad did well also .

When they arrived back we set off for home and made it easily dodging the Easter traffic.

We seemed to be going in the opposite direction to most!!! Maybe that is the story of our days.

Safely home after an invigorating pre easter time.

 

Canberra road trip day 1 by Colleen Keating

 

The Ngunnawal Peoples  on whose lands we stand
welcome you to this special place,
and ask that you acknowledge, respect and appreciate
its story and sacred beauty.

Saturday 27th March 2021

Our road trip to Canberra

As the mist lifts
we see such blue sky
and the air so clean after the wash of rain.

Autumn gnaws at the edges
summer wilts
giving way like one accepts
the turn of age
when one can no longer fight it.

Expansive open country –
gentled nodding brûlée tones of grass
trees, cattle, green hills round and soft
birds, billabongs all brimming full now.

Lake George its waters a shimmering mirage
in the distance the wind-farms green and clean
once called an eyesore.

Our picnic break –
a postcard country scene
the magpies still with us
and chirping of tiny birds
dozens of them
flitting from tree to tree
my research calls them Eastern Yellow Robins
and their flitting about
is on the wing for insects.

 

Standing before the portrait of Julia Gillard
I know I have arrived in Canberra
and excitedly
walking freely around
Parliament House
for me the centre of of my greatest ideals.

The fun frame is gone
set up with the sign . . .
‘Future first female Prime Minister’
now times have moved on. . . the ceiling broken
but in such a harsh and tormented way.

Hospitality at The House
freiendly and helpful at every turn.
made our walk relaxed
over the glass bridge to the senate chambers
over the glass bridge to the the lower house
looking out over into the court yards
checked the red maple –
the ‘budget tree’
which has a while to go to turn a flaming red.
and stopped at the Terrace cafe
for coffee and lunch.

A ritual visit to the Aboriginal Embassy
its sacred fire that always burns
stirs our  hearts
with the cleansing aroma of its smoke
SOVEIGNTY  TREATY NOW
STOP BLACK LIVES IN CUSTODY
are the cries
on signs and banners.

And into Old Parliament House
for an exhibition –
best political cartoons of 2020
hawaiian shirts and hoses
blackened trees, orphaned koalas
give way to spiky balls and masks
masks of many types!
cartoons of fires,Trump, pandemic, closing the gap
black lives matter
I can’t breath
iso, sano, toilet paper frenzies.
masks and not masks
sport rorts, pork barreling, dirty coal or not
Cathy Wilcox the Cartoonist of the year
with the year of a dog’s breakfast –
dog eats dog,  top dogs, sly dogs, people thrown to the dogs
panic buying, curves on graphs and on ourselves
finishing with sending 2020 firmly back
to the dog house where it belongs.

 

Then to our booked motel
in the treey suburb of Forrest
where the summer is gripping to hold on
as the fierce maiden of autumn
determidly shows her face.

We relax after an awesome
reassuring day in our nation’s capital.

 

Love Gough Whitlams’s  hands open.                                                                                                 Lego
He is the only one with a free and open stance.

Canberra road trip day 2 by Colleen Keating

 

Sunday 28th March 2021

The Untold Story

At Canberra the air tingles with a vitality
that is breathtaking. We meet the proprietor
on our way out
and stand by our motel room
talking of this moment –

the morning breathes a sigh of fruitfulness
whispers, here I am at my best.
It tastes of autumn crispness.
It feels mild and mellow
and so day two begins.

Thank goodness for google maps –
with her instructions
it takes 7 minutes to loop
around and over the bridge
and out to The National Museum of Australia.

The entrance walk
is now a procession of wildflowers
grevillea, banksia, eucalypt, bottlebrush.
a symbolic landscape Garden of Dreams
exploring ideas of place and country.

And what a great experience we were in for
The story of an untold story –
our nations’ origin story
and how differently it is remembered
by its two peoples.

Exposure of the lie of the bible story
taught to all Australian children
about ‘the discovery ‘ of this land
is nakedly bare.
We meet a young Indigenous man
who explains the exhibition and we enter –
flip back into first contact and re-experience
as if time absorbs us in its arms
carries us  into an other worldy experience.
and three hours were gone
when we exited back into the light

The Untold Stories of Cook and the First Australians
reaffirms and articulates our thoughts
for so many others  will be a transformative experience.
To our right side was the journey on the Endeavour
maps, telescopes, sextants, levellers, ropes and pressed plants
to the left was how it effected First Peoples
as they followed the journey on land
from the southern most point Pt.Hicks
to Possession Island in the far north
their story carved onto a message stick
and passed by runners, sometimes by smoke signals,
bull roarers, conch shells
the mirror-message,
reflected from shiny mother of pearl shells.
How inspiring for the future of our country
to see the true words of Cook and  Banks
from their  original journals
reframed
alongside the thoughts and ideas of First Peoples
who witnessed the passage from land.

How interesting to see together the two painting
of the raising of the Union Jack–
original painting at Botany Bay in mid 19th century
and under it the commissioned painting to white-wash the story.
(in it the fearful black people are gone
and a black servant dressed in suit and waist coat
serves drinks to the group of men raising the flag.
Could the white-washers of that day
ever conceive they could be exposed?

Our picnic today
was in the Garden of Australian Dreams
on the banks of the Lake Burleigh Griffith
outside the National Museum.

Then off to the National Library
one of my favourite venues
with its 16 marvellous stained glass windows
and the three precious French tapestries in the foyer.

Here the Ellis Rowan, The Bird of Paradise  exhibition
was remarkable
every painting unique
stunning in colour and flow
and just beautiful to see.


I had read the story of her life,
painting wildflowers
(interested because of my research on Olive Pink
another woman plant illustrator)
and this was a new addition
that she took on<
with financial support from several groups close to 70
a wonder woman set off for the wilds of New Guinea

All her life she fought for her rights –
told she could not paint landscape she painted still life
then told they could not be judged in the competition
even fought the art gallery to buy her work
(which they did for 5,000 pounds in 1923 after she had passed (1922)
and the same year they bought the original Captain Cook journal
also for 5,000 pounds.

Back to our motel very tired<
but full of enthusiasm and very happy
about an enjoyable day
as Mary Oliver says
“O what is that beautiful thing
that just happened? “

 

 

 

 

 

One caption of the exhibition.

‘The story of the 1770 voyage of the Endeavour lies at the very core of the Australian nation.

James Cook, the Endeavour’s captain, is celebrated as a peerless seaman and a remarkable leader whose voyage transformed European knowledge of the world.

But the land Cook charted – strange and ‘new’ to Eupropean  eyes was an ancient continent, home to First Peoples whose history stretches back more than 65,000 years. Until now, their voices have been missing from the Endeavour story.

In this year, the 250th anniversary of the voyage, it is fitting to experience the other side of the story and here we enjoy the story from the sea to the land and from the land to the sea, and embrace the shared history of this country.’

Canberra road trip day 3 by Colleen Keating

Monday 29th March  2021

Our road trip to Canberra

A new day needs birds, clouds and flowers
to begins and here we have all threee
magpies are singing in the eucalypts
we have been reading angels wings
into the whispy clouds for the past few days
and we have sunflowers

A frenzy of sunflowers.
signs everywhere in town
cars are painted in them
canvas seats are printed in them
and we are here to see
one special painting the Sunflowers by Van Gogh
on loan from London
so our day begins
it to opem

We are by accident in the members line
first to go in
we pass as members
show our phones for our tickets and we are in.
Botticelli to Van Gogh with many great artists –

Turner’s painting of the escape
from the cyclops in the story of Odysseus
stunning with the sunsetting
across the water
as only Turner can do
and next to him
Claude with his painting Seaport
The perspective with the tones of creams and browns was rich
and in same school as Turner
picks up the golden sunset and reflection
breathtaking
Renoir with the Blue Lady at the Opera,
Constable,Francesco de Goya, and Monet’s bridge and Waterlilies.
the developmental movement of art and artists over the centuries
from the static Botticelli who paints  movement by developing the story
in windows to Monet with his bridge and water lilies
and finally the Sunflowers
We enjoyed Geraldine Doogues audio on our phones
and at the completion we still had enough energy
to experience a second exhibition
Know My Name , Women in Art from 1900

 
many Indigenous womens names and paintings of the Seven Sisters,
women who are not well know,
Fiona Hall, Roselic Gascoigne, Cossington,
Preston Olley, Janet Laurence Anne Ferran

and then we reward  ourselves with a sumptuous lunch
on the Portrait Gallery Terrace
Michael had the fish, catch of the day
and I had the wild fig and feta salad
with toasted walnuts.in a bed of rocket


then to Australian Love stories, 200 stories
exploring love affection friendship
unrequited, obsessive, scandalous and creative
Lovely to see some of our favourite couples
Bryan Brown and Rachel Ward
(who fell in love during making the film Thorn Birds),
Stan Grant and Tracey Holmes,
Bob Hawke and Blanche, Jimmy and Jane Barnes
Nick and Susie Cave, Namatjira,Oodgeroo Nunnuccal
Barbara Blackman and Judith Wright
Before we go back to our car


we pop back into The Aboriginal Memorial
comprising 200 hollow logs represents a forest of souls
‘like a large war cemetery, a war memorial
for all those Aboriginal people
who died defending their country’

Then to the James Turrell installation.

Within without 2010

some stunning photos of light and water
back to our car
afternoon tea by the lake\

 

 

and to the motel

 

Canberra road trip day 4 by Colleen Keating

 

 

 

Tuesday 30th March 2021

Walk among trees

There is a sense of energy
when one walks amongst trees
that are grown to be there

We love to hear their music
and today we will walk amongst and picnic near trees
that are welcome and growing with affirmation.
for we are visiting the Aboretum
and the tree is the  humans  best friends on earth
says the poet
physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Firstly we pop back to the National Library
for a new exhibition
Rivers: Lifeblood of Australia .
Hardly worth the trip, very disappointing.
It is based on a book about
ten main rivers.

Australia the driest inhabited continent
covered in evidence of water,
rivers, creeks washes and wetlands.

The paradox is due to the ephemeral nature of the water.
Over the millennia the First peoples survived
in both the driest and wettest of places
living with plenty and scarcity
by living with the environment
moving, adapting listening learning.

Europeans brought with them a different mindset
one formed from the northern hemisphere
They sought to shape the environment
to serve their existing cultural,
social and economic
ideas and support a growing population
dames,reservoirs,tunnels,pumps and more dams
are their answer.

and then to the Arboretum
where we watch the progress each visit.of this project
100 forests of 100 trees each from around the world

 

And home to Sydney.

HILDEGARD WINS: Society of Women Writers by Colleen Keating

Hildegard wins.  This is for Hildegard of Bingen.  I was very excited to see the full page spread in Women’s Ink journal of  The Society of Women Writers

Two wins for her .

Thank you to  the judge Margaret Bradstock for judging  Hildegard’s poetic journey the winner as poetry book

Thank you to the judge Judith O’Connor  for judging Hildegard  the winner as non-fiction book.

These wins are for Hildegard of Bingen and her story may her spirit spread across our land.

 

White Pebbles Haiku Group Autumn Meeting

White Pebbles Haiku Group Autumn Meeting

March 13th 2021

On our arrival for catch-up and coffee we were slightly daunted by a brief downpour. This obligingly ceased precisely at our regular ginko set-off time of 10:30. The glossy leaves of cloud-shaped bushes, neatly trimmed, glistened with small raindrops; and white crocuses lined one edge of the pathway. Jotting and silence prevailed, apart from waterfall tumble and the voice of a very young child telling her mother how much she loved the word ‘igneous’,  her favourite type of rock.

left to right: Colleen Keating, Gail Hennessy, Beverley George, Kent Robinson, Marilyn Humbert, Gwen Bitti
Photograph courtesy of Deb Robinson

 

Our guideline for the ginko was to write two haiku, or ideas for them, one based on something we saw that intrigued us with its colour and a second based on sound. Then to draft a haibun, or possibilities for one.

Ginko concluded, we met up at the round table, delighted to be together in the same space. We shared recently published haiku and the two new ones we had penned on colour and sound. Then it was time to explore the haibun genre.

Marilyn Humbert, who had provided haibun guidelines by email well prior to our meeting, and who was the recent guest editor of the online publication Drifting Sands Haibun – a journal of Haibun and Tanka Prose” Issue 7 2021, led the workshop.  Marilyn guided and encouraged the sharing of haibun contributed by those present, and one sent by a valued member unable to attend on the day.  Appreciative comments have arrived since from everyone!

At lunch we enjoyed the additional company of three spouses before exploring the Regional Gallery’s exhibitions of stunning photographs of Antarctica, and, by contrast, an intriguing and diverse display of birds’ nests.

White Pebbles’ members uncomplainingly drive from beyond the Central Coast to be present (e.g. Bathurst, Newcastle and Sydney) and are rewarded by the enriching experience the venue offers: a well-maintained and authentic Japanese garden; an expertly curated art gallery, a café with indoor and outdoor seating; and an imaginatively stocked gift shop run by helpful volunteers.  So whatever the weather it is a satisfying venue at which to share haiku and good company. Smiles all round.

Beverley George
Convenor
White Pebbles Haiku Group

Guest Speaker at the Moolooboola FAW Group

A Workshop on Writing and publishing Hildegard of Bingen: A poetic journey

for the Moolooboola FAW Writers Group President Renowned and award winning John Egan

MY BOOK

Thanks John. It is lovely to be here. John speaks enthusiastically of his Moolooboola group and I believe, I hope my story will motivate and inspire you all on your writing journeys.

Firstly this is my book, Hildegard of Bingen.  It can be called a verse novel as the story is written in the poetic form . A tricky thing to do as you are aiming to be lyrical and poetic and at the same time driving a story line.

John asked me to tell you something about Hildegard.  the woman who inspired me. 

HILDEGARD

Most people know Hildegard through her music. In 2019  on ABC FM in a vote of the top 100 composers of the Western Musical oeuvre, Hildegard as Composer came 33rd ahead of  many of the full known male names in music. 

Hildegard was a fiery woman and a polymath. (someone of wide knowledge and learning – much done by absorption)

She was born in 1098 just on the turn of the century and she lived  most of her 82 years in the 12th century dying in 1179 . It was a vibrant time of expansion and often called a Renaissance because they had come out of the so called Dark Ages. and in the next few centuries, powerful women were often burnt as witches/heretics at the the stake. She was a 12th mystic, prophet, musician , poet, writer, artist, herbalist and healer and a Benedictine nun where  she lived the Benedictan way of daily prayer, work and  study .

From the time she was 6 she had heard the voice of God speaking to her in visions.  This concerned her parents.  And as she was their tenth and last child they tithed her to God. They thought this life safer for her.  They put her into the care of a wealthy young holy woman called Jutta and  together they entered an anchorage  (a room adjoining a chapel in a male monastery.)   Jutta’s family were wealthy patrons of the monastery and so they were welcome there. Anchorites brought in revenue, food and produce as they had a window to the world to talk and counsel pilgrims. 

Other women joined them and it expanded to a convent and when Jutta died Hildegard became the Magistra . Hildegard felt God was asking her to write down what she saw  and heard she went to the Abbott in charge and said God called her to write her visions. He refused her permission. 

As her wisdom developed she felt confined and began to stand up to the Abbott.  She was kept silent and repressed until she couldn’t take the patriarchy any more. She got very sick and only because he thought her death would be on him  he gave her permission to write and gave her a scribe . . a young monk called Volmar 

She wrote  ‘When I was 42 years and 7 months a burning light of tremendous brightness came down from Heaven and poured directly into my mind. It set my entire heart and being on fire, just as the sun that warms all around it by the strength of its rays. 

Hildegard went on to write :
3 theological books,
the first morality play,
two medical books
77 liturgical songs
3 biographies and volumes of correspondence to Popes, Kings, Emperors and many others.  

Every step of the way she had to overcome the repression of the Church, restriction of being a woman and patriarchy . When she decided to take her women to begin their own women’s abbey the men stopped them for ages as they were used to the women doing the gardening, making the medicines  and doing the counselling and attracting the pilgrims which all bought in the money to the monastery. Even when they left they refused to release the women’s dowries which was another struggle. 

Hildegard never gave  up  . . .  biding  her time and moving forward. She planned a way to move her  now 20 sisters to a new place down on the Rhine River  where she built her Abbey creating a place for housing 100 sisters, with an infirmary, hospice, herbarium and apotheke, a scriptorium, for scribing books remember there is no printing press as yet so every word , every note of every song had to be scribed. introduced her sister to running water  verifying her healthy life style.  SShe not only wrote but took on preaching tours up and down the Rhine

Building a second convent on the other side of the Rhine, her sisters caring for the people there and they were loved. Hildegard visited them weekly by row boat.

 Her music, her writings on caring for earth and environment,  health and well being and healing speak to us today very powerfully .  She was one of the first to call the earth mother  and she said we need to care for her as she nurtures  and nourishes us. 

MOTIVATION

My interest in Hildegard began in 1996 when I picked up an illustrated book of her life and work. 

As I came to know her more it became a passionate pursuit. 

On a sabbatical in 1998 I went in search of her. This meant physically a lone pilgrimage to her country, her land along the Rhine River in Germany. I walked in her foot steps sat in the ruins of  the monastery where she lived for forty years and I found myself listening.

I wrote a poem  of that journey which  was shortlisted and commended  in the Mary Gilmore Poetry Competition Women Speak for W omen.

That could’ve been it . Then  after I retired, I saw a 3 week Benedictine retreat to be given in English in her country, Germany and live in her spirit.  That is the  daily three pillars  of prayer, work and study. So this  motivated a new urge in me to write more.

GETTING STARTED

I began taking a few poems of her early life to Norm’s writing group. and to the Women Writers Network  at the NSW Writers Centre. At Norm’s group some enjoyed them but generally they got panned.  John always wrote encouraging things. Told me not to listen to the whingers.  Decima kept me going

However  from that I learnt a lot . First person present tense even past tense was not working and could not be sustained. My  usual type of poetry without punctuation looked weak for a verse novel. Allelua. 

I learnt a lot and found moving into third person present worked. And using punctuation made it more accessible.

In the afternoon Women Writers Network, many looked forward to my next poem and that kept me on a roll.  Some were actually outwardly excited when I had a new poem about her. They all came to love this woman. 

So they energised me to write  . . .all of us wanting the next piece. I felt  I was bringing this 12th century woman  into the present day.  But even with that a heck of a lot of research was needed. 

Sometimes I would think of the season and research the birds migrations nests winds and what the river was up to and the herbs and vegetations -vineyards etc. and research more and read and read put her music on and then the rest happened as I put pen to paper and so often the seasons mirrored her moods.   That was an acclamation of one of the judges . How the landscape became a metaphor so often for her journey.  

VISUALISATION

At this stage they were poems but then I did a one day workshop with Jan Cornell. Busting out your novel. I think it was called.  She got us to map out what was inside us .

This was practical. It needed a title, it needed a cover . It needed direction,  story line, chapters .  We used butcher paper  . . some of you might’ve tried this, even cut pictures out of magazines .  to get characters . It was a fun day.  I went home and put it all in the drawer.  But as I looked back I had done something special that day.   An intention was there. There was a new seed planted.

I had drawn a cover with the title 

Hildegard of Bingen by Colleen Keating.

In a way it was using the secret.

What is ‘The Secret’? “The Secret” is simply the “law of attraction.” Essentially, the law of attraction states that whatever consumes your thoughts is what you will eventually get in life.

I visualised Hildegard in a book, my book .

And over the next few years she unfolded into a wild and woolly first draft.

read pg 57 

THE SECOND DRAFT

All of you as writers are familiar with the draft.

It is advised, recommended to put aside the first draft for a few weeks.  Then,  4 things  need attention. 

Characters. 

Structure. 

Dialogue

Thread of themes

PAUSE AND A NEW PERSPECTIVE    

So Michael and I packed up and set off for Bingen .This time I had Michael with me an enthusiastic offsider. He loved Hildegard and as we walked in her footsteps his step was very light. It happened to be late Autumn which gave me a whole different perspective 

from summer and spring  of my last journeys. different but no less beautiful. 

This time I knew German scholars of Hildegard to meet with and be guided by .

This pause was incredibly helpful process.

Firstly there was time away from the draft. 

Then in Bingen each evening we talked about getting a bird’s eye view and  refined the vision as we discovered the close up.

CHARACTERS   

The character each needs to be given a lot of thought . Each needed an arc of development . Each need to be themselves not pawns I push to make the story I want.  Volmar had to develop from a shy monk to be a maturing academic chosen for his ability in the scriptorium and he had to connect soulfully with the young girl Hildegard who was excited about everything. Sometimes the character of Hildegard reminded me of  a 12th century Alice in Alice in Wonderland, curiouser and curiouser and often Scarlett O’’Hara in Gone with the Wind – fully alive and impatient to be about life  with her arc in her maturity determined she will never be hungry again.  And her close antagonist  Abbot Kuno who like many acted out the patriarchy of the church.

Read young Hildegard First writings   p87/88

STRUCTURE

When I was writing the first draft,  as many of you know you are so immersed in detail and events that,as the writer , sometimes  you don’t have the space to look at the big picture. That was fine . 

For the journey is the journey. The road has been slowly making itself as I write.   I can ask myself if I chose the less worn fork in the road, or whether I should have taken that particular scenic route, or just pressed on over the mountain. 

It’s a bit like the Irish joke about asking directions: ‘Well, I wouldn’t start from here’.

It was at that point I felt it needed to begin at a later stage in her life. I chose a very painful pivot forming a Prologue and then flashing was able to flash back. Many have like that idea. I’ll read you the first poem.   Read page 17.

After that I follow thru to the inevitable end so that after you have been on her journey  I want you to sit silently in her honour at the end with hopefully a tear in your eye for the beauty of this life. One who stood up for women with

courage even as  the odds were against her she never took a backward step. 

 

DIALOGUE 

You can see from my readings the interweaving of dialogue 

In the second draft you will find scenes that can be put into dialogue. Often it pulls the reader into the experience, it quickens the pace of the scene,  gives variety, portrays characters more into reality. My hint for success is to read it aloud over and over .

Always aloud. If possible record and play back all the time getting it a dramatic and as real as possible. Iphones make this easy. 

p 198/199 on A visit from the Canon of Mainz.

THEMES

 Now it was needed to find the themes that thread through the story and note if they have been sustained. 

For Hildegard this included 

  1. her music, singing
  2. her healing  – plants  well being 
  3. environment, mother earth  nature  greening
  4. her writing,  mandalas
  5. her belief in the ability of women
  6. Veriditas  – greening power,  vital green life in a plant moistness, verdancy vitality, growth, greenness, fecundity, lushness .
  7. Suppressed from writing, from setting up her own Abbey.  They kept hold of her  dowries. they used all the tactics to make the women fail. 
  8. They silenced her music in the last year of her life  because she refused to do what they wanted .   She taught her women to find the song inside her heart and have the power inside themselves while she wrote a treatise on music  . . . how it was the song of the angels and sang in Heaven and the only one that would silence it belongs to the devil and Hildegard played on the fear and superstition of the day  and they gave her back her power and she died peacefully

WORKSHOP.

WRITING FOR 10 MINUTES ON A TIME YOU HAVEL FELT REPRESSED.
There were many well written and very interesting specimens writings shared.

John Egan thanked me for coming and Muchael for abeing there to support me and we received a wonderful bottle of Shiraz which Michael and I look forward to enjoying.