Nipped In The Bud

Wedged        in a bed of snow

against a backdrop of bricks

the headstones        stand in rows

like the teeth of an old man

with gingivitis.

 

Not the graves of soldiers       

taken in battle

as first glimpse would suggest

but

fifteen hundred children

of Sarajevo

ripped        from the future.

 

 c. Kathryn Coughran

 

First published: 1994 in Family Matters (Kathryn Andersen)

Best Poem Of The Night: Penrith Sailing Club Readings 1998…

…Chosen by a scout from The Joan Sutherland Centre

 

Exciting Announcement

Regular visitors to my writing site will notice minor changes and some additions over the coming weeks.

When the site was set-up in August 2016, I kept its structure simple to give myself time to learn about its operation as I went. My partner, an electronics engineer, took the reins as the lead administrator and has supported and guided me along the way.

Now, the time has come to add features to make the site more interesting to those who already follow my Blog, Writing Tips and Writing Exercises… and accessible and enticing to those who are new to the site.

Categories already on the site remain, albeit with slight editing of menu-button titles and a small rearrangement of order. These adjustments have been made to allow extra buttons in the same space.

Two new menu-buttons have been added:

The first, Kathryn’s Corner, has been created to provide a space for my personal writing, as opposed to writing about all things writing which will continue to be posted in this blog. Kathryn’s Corner features a drop-down menu, dividing my work into sub-categories such as: Musings… Poetry… Prose… Posters… Other sub-categories will likely evolve, but these will suffice initially.

The second, Gallery, will feature photos of my writing journey, and my writing students and writer-friends… all of which overlap in one way or another. Some form of sub-categories will no-doubt evolve here too, and I suspect there may be some shuffling before they find their natural angle of repose.

By the time this announcement is posted, some of these new functions will be operational. The remainder will follow shortly, and new material will be added gradually. Thank you for your patience… please re-visit the site and watch these developments unfold.

I hope you enjoy the additions and what they bring to you over time. I would value your thoughts and feedback in the Comments section, which can be found at the top or the end of each posting.

If you would like to be notified each time I post on my website, please enter your email address under the heading Follow My Blog, on the bottom of the right-hand column on any page. Your email address will only be used to provide this notification and no other information is required. This is a free service to ensure you don’t miss any new post.

 

This Blog relates to all sections of my website: www.kathryncoughran.com, particularly Kathryn’s Corner and Gallery.

From My Window

I     Simple beauty meets the eye…

a still, but ever-changing landscape

shades and shadows shifting

with the sun.

 

Morning fog obscures detail

across the valley.

 

Mist rises from dam

nestled amid rolling green

fodder for cows that wander there

a few times each week.

 

An orb of earth-sodden roots

of a fallen tree       on distant hillside

blends in       until

reflection takes it

through the spectrum

of yellows and gold

to burnt orange.

 

Night draws the shutters

and bathes the hills

in moonlight.

 

 

II    Closer in       by day

galahs       parrots       peewees

forage for worms and seeds    

in freshly cut grass

and magpies       drift

around the yard.

 

Their baby visits me     

perches on the clothes line

and       sings his hallowed tune.

 

I talk to him       from my window.

 

…Sometimes…

he brings his mother

to sit beside him

and check me out.

 

 

III   In the evenings

small brown frogs

graze on white moths

that flutter       against the glass

drawn by the light.

 

They wait patiently

for their prey

grey bellies and suction toes

visible from inside.

 

Freddie and Freida

we call them…

Soon a third appears

a baby

Freddo or Francine

we joke.

 

We leave the light

on for them      until

bedtime       so they

can have their fill

but

they are gone

in the stillness of the morning

when

simple beauty       once more

meets the eye.

 

 c. Kathryn Coughran  April 2016

 

First published: December 2016 in The Triangle

Also: 2017 on Scriggler – https://scriggler.com/DetailPost/Poetry/54336

… Scriggler Publication of the Day – 22nd March 2017 …

 

Subtle But Strong Inspiration

There is a level of inspiration more subtle and yet more powerful than the boosts we receive in our everyday quests for creative stimulation. This is the degree of connectedness reached by some who think of themselves as ordinary people, but are in fact remarkable in some way. When you encounter such a person, their beacon shines, your heart sings and you feel like you can also achieve anything you set your mind to accomplish.

Dot Strong springs to mind. In 1970, Dot walked away from a drought-ridden property in western New South Wales and headed to Sydney with just an old station wagon and a few clothes. She found work as a cleaner at one of the Australian Broadcast Commission buildings, and slept in her vehicle in the backstreets of Darlinghurst for months to give herself a chance to recover financially. An executive eventually helped her into a small flat after he caught her showering in his suite early one morning, when she thought no one else was in the building.

With time, Dot took up the position of tea-lady. In this role, she served many entertainment industry personnel and other celebrities. She sang the praises of most and was smitten with Kamahl, who she said was a perfect gentleman. I agreed, having crossed paths with Kamahl myself briefly in Tasmania in 1972.

When I met her, Dot was about to retire and the ABC was moving to a new building in Ultimo, where the mezzanine cafeteria was to be named in honour of her as their last and longest-serving official tea-lady.

Dot told many interesting tales of her time at ABC, and chuckled proudly as she relayed how she gained the attention of a high-ranking politician who was intent on not communicating with her. He was scribbling away, head bowed low when she tapped on the open door and offered, ‘Tea or coffee, Sir?’ He ignored her. She waited a moment and asked again. There was still no reply, so she cleared her throat and said slowly with emphasis, ‘Tea..? or… Coffee..? Sir’. He grunted. She repeated the slow questions twice, with only a grunt in return the first time and a gruff ‘Yes’ the next. Dot quickly fetched his brew and delivered it with a smile, which he missed because he still didn’t look up.

While she was serving her next, more convivial recipient, she heard spluttering and then demands of, ‘Come here, Woman!’ from the politician’s room.

‘Yes, Sir’, she said, approaching him professionally.

‘What is in this?’ he snapped, pointing at the cup on his desk.

‘Tea and coffee, Sir’, she said with a dead-pan face. ‘I asked if you wanted tea or coffee and you said yes, so I gave you both, Sir…’

Dot was especially proud to have been one of the inspirations behind the television character Aunty Jack, created and played by Grahame Bond in the early seventies. Aunty Jack’s favourite line, ‘I’ll rip yer bloody arms off!’ was a direct reflection of Dot’s regular threat when someone was about to put a wet spoon into the sugar bowl. When cups weren’t returned, she warned the offenders they were risking broken arms. The celebration cake at Dot’s farewell party was in the shape of an arm torn from the shoulder and covered with ‘blood’ – strawberry jam, I believe.

Dot was a character in more ways than one. Her stories whisper through the memories of those who knew her. The plaque on the wall in the cafeteria on the Dot Strong Terrace reminds those who relax and dine there of the many times Dot’s trolley rattled down the corridors of the old building, and the good-nature with which she served over two-million cuppas across more than two decades.

These two claims to fame were quite an achievement for the unassuming, hard-working woman off the land who’d taken drastic measures to survive.

Dot never lost her sense of humour no matter what the world threw at her. She just ‘got on’ with her lot and lived a routine kind of life, serving her fellow-workers day-in and day-out. Yet she brought out the best in most people she met and found ways to influence others.

I like to think of her as an extraordinary ordinary person, but she didn’t like praise. ‘I’m just a simple country girl, itching to get back to Dubbo to open a little café’, she told me, when I complimented her on her achievements.

I walked away from interviewing Dot energized and ready to take on the world. I wasn’t sure how, but it seemed nothing was impossible.

 

Watch this space for more stories of inspiring people and other musings…

Poetry Readings In The Nineties

Sue Hicks, co-founder – with Danny Gardner – of Live Poets Society at North Sydney, now lives in the UK. She recently posted on Facebook that she’d made a photo-collage for Dulcie Meddows, a brilliant poet with several books to her credit. I was saddened to learn Dulcie has dementia, but pleased she lives in a place she enjoys, surrounded by caring people – including a priest who reads her own books to her – and I’m told she is up and about, busy with movies and activities.

Dulcie Meddows at the launch of her first book Poems, December 1992

Sue’s post catapulted me on another sentimental writer’s journey – reliving the wonderful poetry scene in Sydney and the Blue Mountains in the nineties.

I was somewhat of a novice and quite shy when I came to this vibrant hive of literary activity. Writing had always been part of my life; I’d belonged to writers’ groups and organisations, studied writing, written articles for local newspapers in various areas I’d lived and published short stories and poems. But the only time I’d read my work publicly was in small workshops with people I knew.

A friend invited me to Live Poets, saying ‘You don’t have to read your work if you don’t want to’. But I was seduced by the energy and camaraderie, and soon found myself delivering the poem I’d tucked in my pocket ‘just in case’. On that first night, I met stalwarts like Sue and Danny, and of course Dulcie. The sense of connection and freedom I experienced with that first reading of my work, gave me such elation I travelled from the Blue Mountains to the venue one night every month to participate.

Entranced by this new world, I established Poetry Plus, a reading and performance venue in Springwood in the mountains. Several North Sydney poets attended our Sunday afternoon sessions and many poets travelled down the mountain to share their work on a regular basis.

These were joyful and expansive times for me, personally and in the development of my writing muse. Despite working full-time, managing Poetry Plus and attending Live Poets, I attended other poetry readings – Poetry In The Park, Poetry Picnic, PIE, Poetry At The Parakeet, and Trevar Langland’s venue at Blacktown. I also attended regional poetry conferences and represented the Blue Mountains at a Sydney Writers’ Festival event at the Opera House in 1995, where I read from my then new book Family Matters.

Dulcie Meddows was the first Guest Poet at Poetry Plus in June 1992 and the last in late 1997.

 

Dulcie Meddows

at

Poetry Plus

 

Dulcie and I each hosted radio programs for writers, as did Don Saunders who was a regular participant at Poetry Plus. I was guest poet on Dulcie’s Australian Made Poetry on 2NBC-FM several times and on Don’s Pictures Of Poetry twice, and two other radio programs at 2BLU-FM… where my own Poetry Plus On The Air was produced.

These programs showcased one poet and their work for half an hour each week, then Dulcie took this a step further when 2NBC produced a longer (perhaps two hours) program at the top of Centre Point Tower in the heart of Sydney, featuring several poets. I was lucky enough to be one of these poets, and you’ll spot me waiting anxiously in the background for my turn… in this snap of Dulcie doing what she loved to do best – bring poetry to the world.

Dulcie Meddows hosting Poetry In The Air at Centre Point Tower Sydney, 1993

Along the way, there were articles written about poetry venues and published in entertainment magazines, inclusions in anthologies, book launches, play readings and productions, and congregating in cafes after Live Poets or my home after Poetry Plus, where there was fine food, more poetry and much joviality.

Rex Hockey and Dulcie Meddows rehearsing Aiding Others, a play I wrote and produced in 1993

Dulcie Meddows reading her work at my home after Poetry Plus, 1992

During the nineties, I blossomed from an unseasoned writer holding my work close to my chest, to an active member of the writing community and a facilitator of the exposure of other writers’ work.

Dulcie Meddows was with me all the way, as were Sue Hicks and many others. Twenty years later, they continue to stimulate connections between writers. Sue’s love for Dulcie, her collage gift and her posts about it, led to me seeking out several people I knew back then who have moved in various directions in the meantime.

My nostalgic exploration of those years has underlined the extreme value of friendships with kindred writers and of taking our work into the public arena. It has also prompted me to share this leg of my writer’s journey with you and I hope this in turn will give you the courage to take the next step on your journey… whatever that may be.

Danny Gardner still facilitates Live Poets Society at North Sydney and there are several other reading venues around Sydney and in country areas. I would encourage any writer who has not yet read their work publicly to attend one of these venues, even if as a listener initially – but don’t forget to tuck a poem in your pocket ‘just in case’…

Dulcie Meddow’s first book Poems was published by Gavemer Publishing in St Leonards, Sydney. Several of her other books are available from Learn-em Books Pty Ltd Sydney and Kindamindi Publishing at http://www.kindamindi.com.au/ and individual poems are on www.youtube.com.

 

This Blog relates to my Blogs Reconnections and Hidden Stories Lurk In Photograph Albums, Writing Tip #16, Writing Tip #17 and Writing Tip #18 and Writing Exercise #16~ Journey Into A Photograph.

 

Please share your thoughts in the Comments section…

 

Writing Exercise #19

A New Approach To Childhood Stories

This is a fun exercise that challenges you to re-think stories and ideas that have been dear to you since childhood. With the benefit of life experiences and shifting perspectives, you may be surprised at the tales you create!

Follow the steps below and see where they take you…

>  Make a list of your favourite fairy tales and stories from childhood.

>  Choose one of these narratives and re-write it with a different ending.

>  If you have difficulty changing a beloved tale, try the exercise with a childhood story that left you unsatisfied. This is your chance to turn it into a favourite!

>  Make any necessary adjustments to your new storyline and do a first edit.

Enjoy the journey!