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Reaching for Mercy Greenbelt 2018 Proost Talitha Fraser

“Here is poetry arising from the beautiful souls of poets you have passed on the street, never knowing they carried words that must be spoken… the poems are at times angry howls of protest or cries of lament, at other times they are saturated with hope.”

What makes a poem spiritual/Christian and therefore worthy of inclusion in this anthology? This is not an easy question to answer, at least in part because poetic spirituality is not a familiar part of our dominant religious culture. I have found it helpful to read the poetry written by the Sufi poets- Attar, Rumi, Sanai etc. They write poems that are not about instruction or impartation of theological truth (although they might achieve both) neither are they always about ‘God’ at all- rather they are written by people seeking truth, beauty and honesty. Sometimes they tip over into mysticism, as if what they are writing has gone beyond even their own understanding. Poetry like this creates open spaces for our spirituality to adventure; we feel it as much as we understand it…we just ‘know’ it when we read it. The poem soars inside us.

…So here we are. The starting page of a new book. A book full of people reaching for mercy.

Chris Goan

It has been a privilege over the past year to work with Chris Goan the curator of Proosts’ Poetry Collection Vol. 2 “Reaching for Mercy” and to travel to the UK for it’s launch at the Greenbelt Festival. Chris has a way of seeing people and holding space for how they see the world that’s captured and collated in this lovely collection by 8 editors and over a 100 contributors from all over the world… it’s not just “pretty” poetry, it’s protest too. Across all the themes: truth, wild, resisting, lament, hope, post truth, everyone is welcome, whole… there is a poignant paradox of sure hope and disbelieving grief in responding to the way the world is.  I think this collection speaks to our times. I hope it speaks to you.

 

Our model at events is to read one of our own poems and one by another contributor as a way of bringing that broader community of beautiful ordinary souls together. These are the pieces I read at Greenbelt…

God, did you see the news today?

God, did you see the news today?
We’re killing one another.
We’re killing in places killing has gone on so long we don’t know how to stop…
We’re killing next door.
We’re killing one another.

God, did you see the news today?
We’re laying waste to the world
to consume, consume, consume
an appetite “stuff” cannot sate.
Our elders know. Our elders tell us.
We ignore their wisdom.

God, did you see the news today?
People are saying hateful, hurtful things
what is right, what is wrong
what is holy, what is profane
…as if we know. As if we could know.

God, did you see the news today?
Were you there when we turned the boats away?
We are denying people food, electricity, sanitation, shelter, medical care…
We are denying people their basic human rights.

People are grieved and weary.
Longing for a world that is different
but not knowing where to start.
Not knowing how to start.
All victims, variously blind.

I’m not pointing fingers, I’m raising my hand.
I need Your help. We need Your help.

Amen.

 

And I was also very proud to read this piece written by my sister Abby. It felt significant to feel like I was representing some voice of Australia and New Zealand all the way around the world. It includes language and it includes my family. It speaks to home, belonging and identity… thanks for your work and words Mana Wahine… x

 

My Truth belongs to me
Abby Wendy

My Truth belongs to me. I will hold it tight, hold it close.
I will bury it deep.
My truth is a tūrangawaewae for the roots of my heart.
I will water it.
My truth is a nesting place for my wairua.

My truth is reflected in ten thousand random moments.
I am shining like the sun in the secret power of my own unique truth.

My truth requires no scientific proof – I believe it.
My truth requires no majority support – I believe it.

If I whisper my truth in your ear, will you stand with me? Would you trample the roots of my heart, buried deep, in my sacred place of belonging? Where will my spirit rest, if my truth becomes ash?

I will hold it tight, hold it close.
I will bury it deep.
My Truth belongs to me.

 



Copies of this book are available from Proost, if you know me it might be worth waiting as I’ll likely do a bulk order to Australia and you can get one from me directly if that’s easier… If you haven’t heard of it, Proost is a small publishing outlet aimed at gathering together resources from the creative edges of Church. Proost have lots of interesting stuff on their site – animations, songs, Easter and Advent resources, books… so have a look around while you’re there!

woman sitting in a fig tree Pipemakers park

Thin the slung chain,
silky slack, infrangible;
blood beads heavier than water.

Birthed we are like Russian dolls,
one from another from another,
mother, daughter, granddaughter,
red smudges on each cheek.

You stand at the open window
being never too happy in your own
time & place as she is always,
straddling blowsy branches, singing.

I bend between, frisking marjoram,
twisting in weedy aisles a breathing
space. The bright links burn on my neck.

 

Bernadette Hall
Alexandra, Central Otago #NZWOMANPOETS

All We Can’t See: Illustrating the Nauru Files – a powerful exhibition as part of Melbourne Art Week that invites artists to respond to the redacted case file notes from Nauru… the images giving a human face to the human cost of the experience of being on the receiving end of Australia’s policy of offshore detention.

all we don't know exhibition fortyfivedownstairs melbourne August 2018 refugees Nauru files

all we don't know exhibition fortyfivedownstairs melbourne August 2018 refugees Nauru files

 

all we don't know exhibition fortyfivedownstairs melbourne August 2018 refugees Nauru files

rainbow skipping rope

England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales Inside, Outside, puppy dogstails

A constant refrain of my playground days and I remember setting up two dining room table chairs to practice at home as well. Because once you succeed at ankle height you get to move up through ‘kneesies’ and ‘underbums’ through up to ‘necksies’ if you were really good. And then you got to go to the next rhyme… or the next move… Diamonds?! I can’t even remember how that went… skipping, clapping games, knucklebones… 80s playground mash up… GO!

Down down baby, down by the rollercoaster. sweet sweet baby, I will never let you go shimmy shimmy cocoa puff, shimmy shimmy pow! shimmy shimmy cocoa puff, shimmy shimmy pow!

On top of spaghetti
All covered with cheese
I lost my poor meatball
When somebody sneezed

It rolled off the table
Right on to the floor
And then my poor meatball
Rolled out of the door.

Bubbles go haatchi tachi (knee, knee, flick)…

you are my darling…

Bubbles…  hatchi tatchi

Bubbles… hatchi tatchi

Bubbles… hatchi tatchi (getting faster and faster until someone breaks the rhythm)

Shoo!

 

Under the bambushes under the sea Boom boom boom boom
True love for you my darling
True love for me

When we get married
We’ll raise a family
With 16 children all in a
Row row row your boat Gently down the stream, Fling your teacher overboard And listen to her scream.

Under the bambushes
Under the sea
Bom bom bom
True love for you my darling True love for me

When we get married we’ll raise a family A boy for you
And a girl for me
I-tiddly-I-tie sexy

 

Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?
[Name] stole the cookies from the cookie jar. Who me?
Yes you!
Couldn’t be!
Then who stole the cookies from the cookie jar ?…

 

Concentration, concentration, now begin Keep the rhythm, keep the rhythm moving. Start now… 1 -2, 2-8, 8-4…

 

Out of breath? Me too. Apparently you have more energy when you’re 8…

David’s Cabin

Davids cabin gembrook retreat centre

The new cabin up at Gembrook is ready to host guests! A lovely property to ramble about on – the guiding values of this space for rest and renewal are of hospitality, simplicity, community and care for the land… so think woodfire stove, gas burner, solar powered lighting, tank water, outdoor composting toilet and, you know, a quiet that creeps into your soul and brings you peace. A very affordable getaway to keep in mind next time you need it, or to recommend to others… you can find more about Gembrook Retreat Centre here.

I guess this place has a special place in my heart as a writer. I need time and space to tune in to the voice that is mine and to Listen.  This is a space that has feed my heart, my soul, and my imagination and I think it can offer that to others too – whether you are looking for a walk and getting into nature,   doing deep self-work and feeling impoverished, doing a self-directed contemplative retreat (this one I was using 7 Sacred Pauses by Macrina Wiederkehr), or just want a quiet place to write, write, WRITE.

Gembrook Retreat is like a refreshing well. Come and drink the good water.

 

 

 

Raising Boys

Radical Discipleship

20180722_114619By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann. Published in Geez Magazine‘s most recent issue on Gender Flex.

“Mommy, baby is tired. I need to put baby in the pack and walk,” says Cedar, my two-year-old. I quickly design a make shift baby carrier tying his baby doll to his stomach. He walks back and forth across the house and then stops and sways. After five minutes, he heavy sighs and says disappointedly “baby is still awake.” He walks on mumbling to himself about how baby needs his milk and how the baby is too little to drink water out of a cup and baby just needs his milk.

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grown up holding hands with a child joy cowley poem bridges

There are times in life
when we are called to be bridges,
not a great monument spanning a distance
and carrying loads of heavy traffic
but a simple bridge
to help one person from here to there
over some difficulty
such as pain, fear, grief, loneliness,
a bridge which opens the way
for ongoing journey.

When I become a bridge for another,
I bring upon myself a blessing, for I escape
from the small prison of self
and exist for a wider world,
breaking out to be a larger being
who can enter another’s pain
and rejoice in another’s triumph.

I know of only one greater blessing
in this life, and that is
to allow someone else
to be a bridge for me.

Joy Cowley
Featherston, Wairarapa #NZWOMANPOETS

 

The characters in this story are 5 and 6 but it is WAY to scary for kids that age (Badjelly turns kids into sausages).  Spike Mulligan does all the voices in this creative and absurd story and there’s a fairly intense soundtrack (fyi his work was a big influence on the Monty Python crew).  Essentially little kids Tim and Rose wander into the woods after their lost cow Lucy and meet various enchanted woodland characters like Binklebonk and Mudwiggle…  OMG a rumour website tells me Tim Burton might be making this into a movie 2020 – that could be fun… stinkypoo and knickers of fun.

Folks might also remember one of his most famous nonsense poems and a good example of his style:

On the Ning Nang Nong 

On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go Bong!
and the monkeys all say BOO!
There’s a Nong Nang Ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.
On the Nong Ning Nang
All the mice go Clang
And you just can’t catch ’em when they do!
So its Ning Nang Nong
Cows go Bong!
Nong Nang Ning
Trees go ping
Nong Ning Nang
The mice go Clang
What a noisy place to belong
cause it’s the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong

Aah, like so many of the great lights of comedy it seems Spike struggled with nervous breakdowns and depression… this piece is called “Manic Depression” and is very evocative. Vale Spike Mulligan – we are grateful for your silliness and sensitivity and the gift of your art.

The pain is too much
A thousand grim winters
       grow in my head.
In my ears
        the sound of the
             coming dead
All seasons, all same
        all living
        all pain
No opiate to lock still
        my senses.
Only left, the body locked tenser.

 

Stephen cosgrove serendipity books fawn woodland animalsIf nurture (per the nature/nurture debate) is to be weighed with me then the moralistic Serendipity book series by Stephen Cosgrove might have something to answer for. I recall a box full of them, a rainbow of spines, and particular favourites I asked for on repeat – perhaps some morals I was more interested in cultivating than others. 

It’s the illustrations that bring the series to mind now more than the stories. Something of a vibrant, sumptuousness, with their wide-eyed woodland creatures and forests. 

The wiki entry for the series has a list of the lessons from fairly basic ideas such as “You are special” and “Don’t take more than you need” to things that seem complex to think on explaining to a child now… “when we exaggerate everything, we forget what the truth is” and “fear of losing what you have can rob you of the joy of sharing”.  Though my adult brain wants to presume they’d be trite to read now maybe they still have something to say after all that would speak yet to our times.

Incidentally, one of the fun things about rummaging through my brain archives and trying to find sources for half-forgotten stories is learning things I never knew about them in the first place such as that these books inspired episodes of an anime series in 1983 combined in a movie here.  I’ve just watched the first 20 mins and I’m not seeing much resemblance but you know… fascinating.