These paper boats of mine are meant to dance on the ripples of hours, and not reach any destination... Rabindranath Tagore

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past...F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby

We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.
On the way to the river are the old dormitories, used for something else now, with their fairy-tale turrets, painted white and gold and blue. When we think of the past it's the beautiful things we pick out. We want to believe it was all like that.
--from Margaret Atwood - The Handmaid's Tale

Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another's skin, another's voice, another's soul.
- Joyce Carol Oates

Monday, March 22, 2021


SarumSarum by Edward Rutherfurd
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Imagine a grand mural in a grand, several-storeyed palace. Imagine that palace has secret chambers, a humble attic or two. And the mural travels from space to space, beginning at the entrance. The mural is a story within many stories, a giant narrative of people and their descendants through time. Their stories spring from Salisbury, medieval Sarum. Watching over the lives of these people is one constant...Salisbury Cathedral. It too grows and changes and grows through time. Edward Rutherfurd's Sarum is a masterpiece, first chronicling one man's emergence from the world's darker place to the Salisbury Plain, then the interaction of many families and their descendants, all the way to World War II encampments. In between, the Black Death, colonisation, markets, cathedral challenges, loves and heartaches, social tensions and visions intercept the flow of many family lives. Here is time on a grand scale, but the intimacy of characters and emotions is not neglected. We feel Jane Shockley's yearning for Jethro Wilson. But that cannot be. They come from different worlds. We feel Jane's stoic dignity in accepting this fate. We feel many stories and we learn so much about the colours and the mores of many times passing. Indeed, this novel is a vivid mural painted with words.

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old worlds

old lifetimes

the eyes of yesteryear
seem to watch


on new worlds

and wonder

Monday, January 25, 2021

Girl With a Pearl Earring...

Girl With A Pearl EarringGirl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Girl With a Pearl Earring may initially have attracted the reader who seeks an understanding of a 17th-century painter's lifestyle. But this novel offers so much more...intimate interactions between class levels, conflicts of values, all impacting personal journeys of the inspired and those more intent on 'fitting in'. Johannes Vermeer, the Dutch painter in Delft, lives in his own world of painting portraits, lit with light and soul, even though his large family attests to occasional, more worldly distractions. Griet, the housemaid in this family, becomes his muse. She feels challenged to survive in, to straddle the two worlds...the real and the surreal. Finally, Griet understands that the magic moments of soul connections can only survive the moment. A charming, sensitive portrait of old Dutch worlds.

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torn from her family 
by circumstance

working from
cellar to attic

being a housemaid
for some
a muse
for one

but movement
from low to high
always comes
at a price
with few guarantees

and maybe comes with
some personal loss

some sacrifice

Page 214: "He is an exceptional man" van Leeuwenhoek continued. "His eyes are worth a room full of gold. But sometimes he sees the world only as he wants it to be, not as it is. He does not understand the consequences for others of his point of view. He thinks only of himself and his work, not you. You must take care then -' He stopped. My master's footsteps were on the stairs.
"Take care to do what, sir?" I whispered.
"Take care to remain yourself."
I lifted my chin to him. "To remain a maid, sir?"
"That is not what I mean. The women in his paintings - he traps them in his world. You can get lost there".

Thursday, January 14, 2021

A Theatre for Dreamers...

A Theatre for DreamersA Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even though Charmian Clift, George Johnston and Leonard Cohen may appear in A Theatre for Dreamers, the novel is not all about them; they are just a few of a huge cast of bohemian characters. The novel is about the Greek island of Hydra, its 1960's lifestyle and culture; it's about the magnetic power of an island paradise, an island curse. Through the eyes of young, rooky novelist Erica, we bask in the party lifestyle of a would-be arty community and realise that the idyllic party world thinly shields darker tensions and insecurities and secrets. Erica seeks answers about her mother, her mother's connection with Charmian Clift. What she finds are questions she needs to ask herself. And in this cast of many, despite the underlying darkness, infidelities and tragedies, there is always the dream that is Hydra.
In short, our curiosity treats us to a lifestyle most of us will never know. We may even not want to party endlessly, where each day rolls out much the same; where the event of the day seems to involve who is bickering or sleeping with whom. Indeed, at times, the novel seems to become weighted down with this cycle. But thankfully, Erica drags us away for some relief in England... and only returns with a little extra age... and maybe wisdom.

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NOTE: Polly Samson is married to Pink Floyd's David Gilmour...

sunny island days
intent on keeping
the Cold War at bay

(at least
the political Cold War)

other wars were

but where there's
stars and
a slice of moon
is bearable


who can forget
the island
the rock
the tiers of white houses
like amphitheatre seats

a theatre for dreamers

it's all fine
while the curtains are open

but at some stage
the curtains
must close

will always
find you

even if you live
on a rock

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Talking to My Country...

Talking to My CountryTalking to My Country by Stan Grant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stan Grant's Talking to My Country represents a bold, enigmatic, challenging whirlpool of many genres - historical documentary, travelogue, memoir, autobiography - with an overlay of philosophy and vision. But the many perspectives all meet in one vital place - 'my country', my Australia. A beautiful spin of lively expression ensures that some narratives do not wallow in shock and melancholy, but rather heighten our awareness of traditionally blurred histories, endeavouring to bridge the gulf of misunderstandings between 'old' and 'new' Australians. Too easily we have slipped into the 19th-century poetic prose of William Henry Suttor, and accepted his views as our history. Too easily we have overlooked Murdering Island and Poisoned Waterhole Creek - not recorded in traditional school textbooks. Not till Grant travels abroad - especially Mongolia - when he reports on the suffering of others, did Grant unlock the door to his own soul. Grant sees a future where there is survival, adaptation; our Australian story and one Australian spirit.

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history weighs heavy
for some

blood and bone
buried deep in a land
one day 
may emerge
and bring
a new light
to a filtered 

one day
our land
our Australia
will exhume
its secrets

and then
we can willingly share
the burden of history


Sunday, December 27, 2020

this peace...


this peace by Robyn Cairns
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rob Cairns' this peace poetically highlights features of a journey we all take, either consciously or subconsciously...seeking that elusive, maybe utopian light we like to understand embodies our personal concept of peace...That peace maybe scrambled with grey and crossed wires. It may even be a little scarred with an industrial skyline or rust. But somewhere, if we take the time to notice, there is the zen glide of a pelican uplifting us and trees regenerating us. For me, Rob's journey is fragmented, halting...short poems connect loosely...The Mungo interlude seems stark, as if not quite the indulgence I expected for an ancient dreaming place...But this is Rob's journey...not mine...I borrow what is meaningful to me, and remember classrooms must have daydream windows. (After all, I am a teacher.)

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the earth may spin

through industrial skylines

but seashells
keep the ocean
in my pocket

regenerate me

my whole world
inside a drop of rain

as it should

but I wonder

is it time
to visit

and dream
old dreams 


Friday, December 18, 2020

From Snow To Ash...

skinny, wiry-haired boy
window dreaming
of mountain music

yellow trail markers

Mt Baw Baw
Main Range
Munyang River
Granite Peak
Perisher Valley

snow grass tussocks
sprinkled with charred leaves

Valentine Hut
With red timber walls

And in a fleeting moment
I am the man
And the child
I'm the dream
And the fulfilment

They call Mt Jagungal the crouching lion

But Jagungal looks worried
The fire is closing in

charred black leaves
twirling down
dotting the snow grass tussocks
like chocolate shards on cupcakes

walking is a workout for the senses

even if it is to 
with no name

From Snow to Ash: Solitude, soul-searching and survival on Australia's toughest hiking trailFrom Snow to Ash: Solitude, soul-searching and survival on Australia's toughest hiking trail by Anthony Sharwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In a digital age, when our thoughts pinball around, walking encourages the mind to drift rather than dart. And indeed, this book is a compelling, December 2019 walk on the wild side in many unexpected ways. The physical walk involves the challenges of the Australian Alps Walking Track. But other walks excitedly intersect - a walk with related geographical and historical contexts - 2003 fires and alpine huts + a special connection with Elynn Mitchell, author of Silver Brumby + a brief walk with Wordsworth. The book is a smorgasbord of wonder for the senses, enhanced by richly crafted expression, sprinkled with humour. Who would believe that the town of Guthega's name could easily become the author's word for a range of emotions. For the 2020 pandemic-riddled reader, it even has a final, wry pass at sanitisers and toilet rolls, ironically connected to this great walk. In short, this book offers a refreshing escape from routine. A great experience!

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EVERNOTE? REVIEW (appears with a Google search)
'From Snow to Ash' documents Anthony Sharwood's challenging trek in the Australian Alps. But it offers far more than the wonder of physical survival, combatting the odds of the environment and the whims of Mother Nature. A feast of sidetracks provides subplot entertainment - from a Wordsworth acknowledgment to an Elynn Mitchell perspective (she was a champion skier) to the quirky possibilities of the alpine town of Guthega's name. On the surface, we hear the plea to save the Australian Alps. But the plea is captivatingly garnished with the many windows on Sharwood's multi-faceted personality. A book to indulge the senses and come out refreshed...and maybe a little more knowledgable. 

If you are seeking a personal detailed, 'smile-by-frown', solo physical survival experience, a trek successfully completed as planned, this book is not the answer. But if you seek the novelty of human distraction, detours, a little knowledge, whimsy and humour shaping and enhancing a tough survival experience, then this book ticks the boxes and more. Sharwood's trek in the Australian Alps is as much a learning curve for the human psyche as it is a confronting attempt to become immersed in the wildness of wilderness. Childhood mountain dreams become adult reality and leave room for another attempt at embracing the whole Australian Alp experience. Save and protect the Alps for others to indulge.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Reckless Paper Birds...

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Reckless Paper Birds (2019)- John McCullough

what am I?

I am all
my day connives

I am yellow
and pink

I am jellyfish
and seashells

I am fizzing light
skeletons of Russian thistle

I am
the stone
rolled back
in the desert

I am a cup or a mug

I am
the infection
from a contact lens

I am Montaigne
on some days
and even Gaga

I am a dangerous minting
with my cloud of thorns

And beneath it all
I am the silent blanket
with its own agenda

That is as close as you can get
to upgrade from

what I am


who am I?


Reckless Paper BirdsReckless Paper Birds by John McCullough
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reckless Paper Birds by John McCullough grips the poetic microscope tightly and closes into the deepest recesses of body and soul in action... together, not separate. The body is no longer the frame, the encasing for the soul, but is the reality of the soul... McCullough's poems are a heaving sea of past and present pieces - colours, scenes, objects and people - all washed into tides of cresting and crashing waves riddled with sensual shock after sensual shock.
The 'I' figure emerges and fades and re-emerges through the poems, ensuring that all the physical experiences are overlaid with soulful introspection.
Varying poetic formats ensure that no one poem is quite the same as the last; no one wave can ever be the same in the sea that is life.
The energy in the poems is palpable, generated by a lively selection of verbs and tightly paralleled images e.g. Outside, the weather bludgeons photo ops... So many images are crunched together and overlaid, creating a richly mesmerising poetic experience.
This collection of poems dares to portray rarely visited (or even recognised or known) human experiences. And the impact is a pleasant surprise.

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