Monday, January 4, 2016

a good poem should smell of tea

I Have Three Poems

by Olav H. Hauge

I have three poems,
he said.
Who counts poems?
Emily tossed hers
in a trunk, I
doubt if she counted them,
she simply opened another tea bag
and wrote a new one.
that was right. A good poem
should smell of tea.
Or of raw earth and freshly cut wood.

(Robert Hedin, translator)
- from The Dream We Carry 

Leaf Huts and Snow Houses

by Olav H. Hauge

These poems don't amount
to much, just
some words thrown together at random.
And still
to me
there's something good
in making them, it's
as if I have in them for a little
while a house.
I think of playhouses
made of branches
we built when we were children:
to crawl into them, sit
listening to the rain,
in a wild place alone,
feel the drops of rain on your nose
and in your hair -
or snow houses at Christmas,
crawl in and close it after us
with a sack,
light a candle, be there
through the long chill evenings.

(Robert Bly, translator)

These poems don't amount to much, says Hauge, yet of course we know they do. For exactly the reason he says - because we need somewhere safe, where we're known, understood, somewhere to retreat. A place from which to hope.

Ever since I discovered Esther Morgan's book, Grace, I keep searching for more poems like hers. But there is something very particular about her voice - the cadences. Which is apart from how she herself sounds as you know, though you can listen to her read here


by Esther Morgan

You’ve been living for this for weeks
without knowing it:

the moment the house empties like a city in August
so completely
it forgets you exist.

Light withdraws slowly
is almost gone before you notice.

In the stillness, everything becomes itself:
the circle of white plates on the kitchen table
the serious chairs that attend them

even the roses on the papered walls
seem to open a little wider.

It looks simple: the glass vase holding
whatever is offered—
cut flowers, or the thought of them—

simple, though not easy
this waiting without hunger in the near dark
for what you may be about to receive.

- from Grace by Esther Morgan

Read more about Morgan on the Poetry International site. 

You can fall back into this next one by her. It fills me with longing for a holiday in summer...

The Long Holidays

by Esther Morgan

The day stretches ahead - nothing but
grass and sky grass and sky grass and sky grass and sky
as far as the eye can see

nothing but sky and grass sky and grass sky and grass sky and grass

and the wind galloping hard over the fields
like a riderless horse.

There's a very lovely thinking through of this poem by the poet George Szirtes on his blog.

I suppose I'm having my yearly crisis of faith / re-evaluation of everything week. I think this is in general a fairly healthy thing. I've been cleaning drawers and closets and bookshelves and de-cluttering. I've been deleting tons of files and junk from my computer, even. I'm asking myself if I'm using technology in the ways I ought to be. Is it efficient? Is it fun? How much time should I be spending on social networks, on blogs? on this. What should change?

I've set my writing goals for the year. That's easy, really. It's all the rest of the creative stuff that has to find a place around that. And of course, one puts family above all that, and work, the sustaining, paying kind, must be a priority, too.

Sometimes I look at other blogs and think I should write a more proper blog. One that isn't so self-indulgent, more organized, you know. The kind of blog that has themes for each post, and topics. And doesn't veer off wildly in every direction. A blog where the visual content matches the text.

Anyway. Is that likely to happen? Who knows....

But one of the blogs I do like to look at when I'm in blog dissatisfaction / envy mode is Gwarlingo. I like the design, the content, etc. And there's even a Donate! button at the bottom. So, check out this post, for example, where there is the following quotation (addressing creative angst) from the letters of Sol LeWitt and Eva Hesse.

"Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, numbling, rumbling, gambling, tumbling, scumbling, scrambling, hitching, hatching, bitching, moaning, groaning, honing, boning, horse-shitting, hair-splitting, nit-picking, piss-trickling, nose sticking, ass-gouging, eyeball-poking, finger-pointing, alleyway-sneaking, long waiting, small stepping, evil-eyeing, back-scratching, searching, perching, besmirching, grinding, grinding, grinding away at yourself. Stop it and just DO! 
…If you fear, make it work for you – draw & paint your fear and anxiety. And stop worrying about big, deep things such as “to decide on a purpose and way of life, a consistant [sic] approach to even some impossible end or even an imagined end.” You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then you will be able to DO!"

“Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool. Make your own, your own world. If you fear, make it work for you – draw & paint your fear and anxiety…”

According to the Huffington Post, there's to be a movie made about Eva Hesse, which is great news. Can't wait to see it...

In the meantime, I suppose, this blog is what it is. An illustration of doing what you can with what you have.

And this past week there were tufts of snow, a bit of sun coming through. A dog on a hill.

There was tea, coffee, more tea.

Rob and Chloe bought me a drip coffee cup for Christmas which I'd been hoping for. 

The sun comes into our house at strange angles and odd times, low and warm. The beams don't last long, but Ace has a way of meeting them.

I got out my usual post-holiday cook books. I ate so much over the holiday that I think I'm just going to eat kale for a month.

Watched: Iris. The documentary about Iris Apfel. Amazing woman. Kind of interesting to see the abundance of stuff - the art of her life - after going on a decluttering binge, myself.

An article about her on AnOther magazine.

A quotation: “When I wake up in the morning, some days I feel a certain way, some days I feel another way. I’ll say I live by the ten commandments if that sounds good for you. But live and let live is my motto; I don’t sit and judge anybody. I always feel it’s better to be happy than well dressed. I go with my gut, I don’t do things intellectually."

Read over the holidays: Willa Cather's My Antonia. It's been on my to-read list for so long, I'd nearly forgotten about it.

Also reading: W.G. Sebald's writing tips.  For example:
- I can only encourage you to steal as much as you can. No one will ever notice. You should keep a notebook of tidbits, but don’t write down the attributions, and then after a couple of years you can come back to the notebook and treat the stuff as your own without guilt. 
- Don’t be afraid to bring in strange, eloquent quotations and graft them into your story. It enriches the prose. Quotations are like yeast or some ingredient one adds

- Fiction should have a ghostlike presence in it somewhere, something omniscient. It makes it a different reality. 
- Writing is about discovering things hitherto unseen. Otherwise there’s no point to the process. 
- By all means be experimental, but let the reader be part of the experiment.

Drinking. The London Fog tea latte. I skip the sugar. Because, well, the aforementioned kale thing.

Looking forward to: getting back to a schedule this week. Writing. Disappearing into that for the next while.

Wishing you all a calm and creative week, a happy settling into the new year, and that the poetry of your life smells like good tea, warm earth, freshly cut wood. (Or similar, to your own taste).

- Shawna


  1. Calm Things maketh my Monday. Each post contains the right amount of everything to start my week off on the right foot. Thank you for the beauty you share Shawna. Wishing you a joy-filled creative year.

  2. What is a proper blog, anyway? Yours is perfect.

  3. I love the veering off. Happy New Year!

  4. I love the veering off. Happy New Year!

  5. Thank you for your thoughts, lovely photos and the beauty of small things

  6. Yours is the perfect blog. No need to change anything. It's the most honest thing on the internet and it inspires me daily. But, it should have a donate button so we as readers can give back a little for all your hard work finding amazing poetry and capturing breathtaking shots.

  7. I love that Esther Morgan poem, it describes exactly my feelings after the holidays are over. And the Iris Apfel quote..I tend to go with my gut also.
    And speaking of guts, mine is twice it's size and I may have to follow your lead and stick to kale for the rest of the winter. Shawna, don't change your blog, it's perfect as it...if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

  8. Thanks, everyone. I ask for validation, and I get it :) Love you guys.

    The blog gives back in all sorts of ways - that I do know. I'll take that as my donation :) xo to you all.

  9. Ace meeting the sun is the best:) kale too.

  10. I really like that first poem. I think the idea of a poem smelling of tea corresponds to that idea that a poem should give you warmth or comfort in some way.

  11. Came back a few times to check out your links. I'm very intrigued with Eva Hesse. What a sensational letter written to her by Sol LeWitt. I may have to borrow that.

  12. I felt a true, honest-to-goodness shiver of fear when I read the part about your questioning the tone of your blog. Question, if you must, but I hope you will also appreciate how this space is most definitely a refuge of the snuggest kind for your readers : ) happy new year, Shawna! xo

    1. Awww....sorry to induce fear :) I think that Facebook would have to go before blogging :) Always good to reevaluate though xo!

  13. Love this: "and the wind galloping hard over the fields
    like a riderless horse" ... I should try to remember that.
    You know, I have been 'attempting' to do a 'proper' blog for years. Follow the advice of 'experts' who say it should be short, focused. But I'm finding that's not me and when a couple family members asked why I try to 'help' others in my blog, it really got me thinking -- a lot. So, I've decided NOT to follow the rules of blogging. No more. Nor should you -- do what gives you pleasure; share what you wish to share; say what's in your heart or your days. Just do what stirs your own soul. I'm going to try doing the same in my blog from now on.

    1. Diane, you're very wise. Love the letter writing post on your blog. Cheers to you, and here's to breaking rules!

  14. Shawna, after re-reading the EJ article this a.m. I was shocked at the line about the 'ugly corridor' that you walk with Ace by the Anthony Henday: your photos along there are always so lovely and awe-inspiring, that even though the setting isn't pretty for those walking or driving by, your photos have found something beautiful and magical there. I also feel this way about your blog. Whatever you are doing - sharing, worrying, rejoicing, wondering, fretting . . . it's YOU, not a prescription of how you should be. I can't imagine your blog being better. The best part about it is the feeling that you are writing this for you. That's what I want to read.

    BTW I checked out your link to Gwarlingo. Nice, true, but it felt like a tutorial, a magazine, another thing I 'should do' and you know, I have too many things I should do; I wanna do what I wanna do.

    Thanks for so many inspirational things in here today.

    1. You are the best, Cathy. So true, we should enjoy what we do enjoy, do what we wanna do. Thanks dear friend.

  15. Those roses, the Sebald...worth their weight in gold. Thank you so much.


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