Let’s Go Find the Women History Hides

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Last weekend Jackie French mesmerised and intrigued Booklinks members and the public by speaking about the women history hides to raise money for an upcoming Symposium on literature and writing centres.  This is my account of listening to her talk.

It was a shocking morning, hearing all about stabbings in London.  I could scarcely keep the tears from rolling down my face.  Oh what are we doing – humanity?  I wasn’t sure if I could leave the house, and if just a day of meditation and prayers, or a solitary walk in nature, might be the way to go.   That’s my sensitive poet’s heart; I am sure a lot of other’s people’s hearts were breaking too.

But I gave myself a stern talking to, Jackie French one of my all time favourite authors was in town, and was going to give a talk.  ‘Get on that bus June and go be with your friends who love writing.’

 

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On June 4th, a Sunday afternoon, over 40 people of the book, many of them Book Links/Write Links members, gathered at the Queensland State Library to hear renowned Australian author and patron of Book Links, Jackie speak about the women history hides. The talk, hosted  by Book Links, was a fundraiser for the upcoming symposium on literature and writing centers for young people which will be on June 17th.  Marking that one in the diary now!

As we entered the room, a suitcase full of Jackie’s books, and a wombat! was there showcasing the travelling suitcase program.  This suitcase brings the author (via video interview and their books) to visit schools all throughout Queensland.   It is special as the author can’t always make it to all the schools who want to see them, and not all schools can  afford to pay them a visiting fee (which is so important to authors.)  Luckily for us though, Jackie was right next to her suitcase, and was even signing a few books for people before the talk began.  She was excited to see the suitcase too, as she hadn’t seen it in person before.

Jackie began her talk in a most original way. By showing a piece of patchwork quilt and asking the audience what they thought it was.  It turned out to be some of Queen Victoria’s underpants which her maid had stitched.  She then spoke about the importance of underpants which the Queen wore and popularized.   The widespread use of underpants meant women could protect their ‘dignity’ whilst doing active things like dancing and riding horses, things Queen Victoria herself loved to do.

She added another that the invention of the bicycle gave more mobility to more women.  (I think also more women could own bicycles than horses!)

 

Image courtesy of Kara Mcleod

She told us the fascinating story of how Queen Victoria’s chief surgeon was a woman, but this was only discovered on the surgeon’s death! This surgeon made such a huge difference to Queen Victoria, curing her of cystitis and ensuring her child-birth experiences were less painful through the use of chloroform(I am still trying to find a reference for the surgeon and am uncovering a lot of other stories on the way.) Sadly many women in Queen Victoria’s time had to hide that they were female to have access to some professions.

Jackie then took us through many hidden stories of women which we ourselves will find if we go looking for them.  She told us the tale of the French Peasant girl, Jeanne Baret, who discovered bougainvillea and was for a time her country’s most decorated scientist but not many knew.

She told us some of the stories of the women who are not in the regimental and official histories of World War One and Two.  Many of them ran unofficial hospitals, or were stretcher bearers, ambulance drivers and more.  Some women ran refugee camps.  Jackie said she just can’t watch the television documentaries of these times very often as she sees so many untold stories missing and they frustrate her no end.

Jackie asked us what we knew of the French resistance, and then told us the story of the Dame Blanche, The White Ladies, of the French resistance movement. The most common spies of this movement were young granddaughters and their grandmothers, because they were the people who would be least suspicious.  They seldom even fled the scene of where they undertook sabotage operations because nobody thought them capable of such things.  The image of grannies with handbags full of bombs is a much more likely scenario than any other at the time, even though films and stories tend to depict men doing this.

I found it interesting how Jackie punctuated her talk with questions.  This seemed to be a way of checking what we knew, and engaging us.

Jackie reminded us that women at various points in history have been told their greatest power is that which they can have through their marriages, or being muses.  They even trained to do this and could go to special schools to learn the steps of charming! It has taken some time for women to have their own influence.  She then told us about her latest book Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies. 

Miss Lily runs a school for teaching the six steps to influence a man, steps which Jackie jokingly said she would never be able to follow herself.  Mostly aristocratic girls would go to this school; it was rumoured that Mrs. Simpson  who later married Edward (who abdicated from the throne to marry her) went there,  but in her novel she focuses on Sophie Hicks, a daughter of a Corn Beef King, with unusual intelligence, goes to Miss Lily’s, due to her father’s acquired wealth.

 

Jackie described her book as a mix of Downton Abbey with Espionage thriller, which appealed greatly to the gathered audience.  She said even her publishers and editors had not predicted the ending of the novel. There are many more books in this series to come, which just thrilled the audience.  Jackie was really happy with her plotting in this novel.  She felt it is her best plotted book so far.

At a few points in her talk Jackie spoke about her own experiences like being  Australian of the year, and sharing the stage with exceptional women who acted like women not men,  but contrasted this with being afraid to say she was married when a teacher,  because she had a mortgage, just in case she was then made unemployed if the law was changed back again.  She reminded particularly the younger women in the audience, that the time when women could not stay working for the public service when married was not that far past in our history.

Jackie then told us more about some her other books, focusing mostly on her series about Hitler.  She spoke specifically about Hitler’s Daughter, and Pennies for Hitler. She told us a fascinating story about Nun’s rescuing children as they were begin marched away to camps, by ducking into the crowd to pray for people, and then rescuing young children under their habits and with the consent of the doomed parents rescuing them.

Due to the terrible events of the day the next few words of Jackie’s were particularly moving to me.  She shared with us that the message of Pennies for Hitler is to be ‘wary of anyone who makes us angry, because anger can lead to hate.  Anger can be harnessed by others to give them power. ‘ This lesson cannot be forgotten.

Jackie told us how the Polish intellectuals were decimated by the Nazi regime, and in fact over 44 million people were killed by Nazi Germany as many more than the Jews were also killed, including the polish intellectuals, and Catholic nuns.

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Jackie then read from the opening and closing of Pennies for Hitler. She reiterated the power of the ‘people of the book,’ those who write, especially those who write for children can create understanding within the world.

I am sure many of us will keep searching for those women that history hides and  do our best to draw on the power of love, story and words as we continue our life journeys in a world being challenged to find peace. Maybe we will even write about them too!

Jacqui Halpin local author meeting Jackie French

 

Me with Write Links members and fellow authors Jacqui Halpin and Karen Tyrrell

 

June Perkins is a Book Links and Write Links member and has long been a big fan of Jackie French’s books.  This month she will be giving workshops on writing and illustrating poetry for children with Helene Magisson, Kenmore Library June  27th  and June  28th at Ashgrove Library.  These are free to the public but you need to book care of the library. 

June is also appearing at Mary Ryan’s, Milton, on the 24th of June to sign copies of Magic Fish Dreaming (and has had Helene pre-sign some books so the books will be signed by both author and illustrator.)

https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/whats-on/venue/library-events 

 

 

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Highlights 1 – Meeting Well Known Writers

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It has been a wonderful year for meeting some very talented and successful writers, among them Katherine Battersby, Troy Cassar Daley (song writer – with a memoir),  Sarah Holland Batt, and Tim Winton as well as reconnecting with Alesa Lajana.  I have enjoyed reading their books or listening to their songs and stories, and learning from the way they approach things.  Little Wing, I read and then sent to my niece for her daughter’s first birthday.

I still have to write up the talk by Tim Winton, and will do that hopefully over the holidays.  All my energies are going into creative writing at the moment so sharing photo highlights for now.

What can I say but attending these launches, concerts, talks or master classes has inspired me to put my best efforts in with my craft.  I can’t wait to see who I might meet next year, and what adventures might be around the corner.  It would be so lovely to visit Katherine in Canada.  I have a severe case of itchy feet, and have decided to save for overseas trips!  Just have to find a way to make these trips.   Perhaps just thinking they might be possible, will make me take the steps to take more journeys beyond the shores of where I now live…

Time to make a few more dreams reality.

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The Launch of Little Wing – Katherine Battersby

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I love meeting up with Writer Friends.  When I first met Katherine we were on a writer’s panel together at the Cairns Tropical Festival.   We have stayed in touch on social media ever since.

And then later I met her husband to be, a poet,   Shane Rhodes, when he visited Mission Beach with a group of poets to read his work.

At that evening of poetry reading I shared some work in an open reading, and a poet there (not Shane though)  said ‘Why not make that into a children’s book’  And it made me begin to think about taking my poetry skills in a new direction, into writing for children.  So I listened to that poet and started to do just that.

I was delighted to find out Katherine became engaged to Shane, who I had also stayed in touch with on social media.  I loved his playfulness and experimentation in poetry, and touching character portraits.

However, when I moved to Brisbane I met many of Katherine’s friends in the children’s book writing community.

I am sharing this story with Katherine, as we chat above.

In the next image I am chatting with a dear friend from the Rainforest Writing Retreat.  Debbie. She just made me laugh endlessly at the Retreat  and we hung out with a lovely group of writers, who didn’t mind looking at the challenges of life, with immense humour.

I really want to see her book on the shelves!  I can see her becoming a household name, seriously!  And yes she shared an inspiring teacher story with me.    Hmm another book Deb.

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Now the next image is with a wonderful lady Sam, who is heavily involved in the CYA conference, and Dimity Powell another bright star, who was the first writer from the Brisbane Gold Coast area that I had come across in an online writing sprint group we were both in, set up by a mutual friend.  Again I knew her online for quite a while.  I telephone interviewed her for my blog before we met in person.  Now we often see each other at writing meet ups around the traps.  She is a truly generous human being who reviews children’s picture books as well as writing them.  She has a major launch coming up next year, and yes, I am having her visit my blog.  But you know what she is a real space writer friend as well.  I love everything she does in the service of the writing for children community not just in Queensland, but also in Australia but also her dedication to working on her craft.  Yes, another up and coming star who has always thought of others as well her own development.

As for Sam she loves helping others, and I am thrilled to have met her.  She is often mentoring me quietly and was a good sounding board during my kickstarter.

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And here we are again.  Katherine, had so many people at her launch, who were thrilled to see her back in Australia, as she now resides in Canada.  It was lovely to hear her congratulate me on the upcoming Magic Fish Dreaming.  It means so much coming from creatives  in your own community.  And just before I had this book signed for a young family member who I know is going to just love it I saw Katherine warmly greet and embrace a friend of hers who had driven up from the Gold Coast for the launch.

13939359_10209055641001109_3399098803309876109_nWriters do not have to just exist in isolation, and the sense of community I have found since moving to Brisbane, has been just uplifting, and have given many opportunities for growth and development as a writer.  I too hope to have an inspiring launch like Katherine and look forward to the delightful smiles of young ones enjoying the poems of Magic Fish Dreaming.

Oh and Little Wing is an inspiring character, who just loves books!

 

All the photographs here were taken by my daughter on her phone. 

Precious Painting; Precious Times

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Me as Young Artist – by Edward Broomhall

I was delighted to receive this photograph of attending an art class in my childhood from my art teacher at that time.

Thanks Edward!

I remember this experience and this jumper so well.

It was one of my favourite jumpers, due to the multicoloured randomness of the pattern, and the soft feel of the wool.

I remember painting a self portrait to capture how special it  was and will never forget that painting day.

I think that will be a poem one day for sure.

**

I have written my early childhood up to when I was twenty and am letting that percolate for a while before deciding where to definitely finish the story of growing up or whether to continue into student hood for my first book.

Work progresses on Magic Fish Dreaming!  It is now with the designer and prepress, and in a few weeks will be at the printers.  Wow.  Right now I am madly planning launches and ‘selling the book’ events and have a huge number of places to call and some maybe to email.

I have completed half of my mentorship for the Australian Society of Authors picture book emerging writers mentorship with Dr Robyn Sheahan-Bright.  It has been fantastic working with my mentor.  Here we are at a meeting before the Leigh Hobbs’ Visual Literacy lecture at the state library.

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I’ve learnt the value of having my manuscripts sit for a couple of weeks or more between each draft, and day dreaming, walking and thinking of solutions to the challenges in a meditative and relaxed state. It will be enlightening to reflect on this process and look back at how much my storytelling has improved.

Just a couple of months ago I met John Marsden at the Rainforest Writing Retreat.  It was enlightening to attend and experience his participatory class.  This was packed with lots of drama exercises, writing exercises, and memorable stories which imaginatively communicated his knowledge and expertise in not only writing but education as well.

 

Attending this workshop and retreat made me feel so much closer to the writing community and that I can and will contribute to World Literature.

Another highlight of the writing retreat was taking a long adventurous walk to a waterfall with Robyn and Jillanne (both pictured below) and spending time with Writelinkers there as well.  I came across some Magic Fish Dreaming and blog fans which was amazing.

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Jillanne and I have become closer friends after spending time together at the Writing retreat.  She is one of many writing sisters who I am happy to know.  Jillanne, Robyn and I did some critiquing of each other’s work, perched in front of an open fire.  Truly unforgettable times.

I loved this retreat so much.

Well, that will be all for a while, have so much work to do, to make sure Magic Fish Dreaming is out before Christmas.

The only other news is that I am so super proud of the students I tutored last semester who achieved brilliantly in their creative writing units at QUT.  Maybe one day I’ll be attending their book launches.

All the best everyone,

June

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A Long Way From Misery

An inspiring interview with Jacqui on the recent launch of the memoir she has cowritten with her Dad.

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Jacqui Halpin, Jack Turner, A Long Way from Misery, Book   Launch-1Jacqui Halpin is an Australian children’s author whose stories have won prizes in writing competitions and been published in anthologies. She attributes her love of storytelling to her father, Jack Turner. ‘Listening to the amazing adventures Dad had growing up stirred my imagination and transported me back to his world,’ Jacqui says. Jacqui has co-written her father’s memoir, A LONG WAY FROM MISERY, which is a rollicking journey through the Australia of yesteryear with a true Aussie larrikin who grew up on a farm called Misery.

 Jacqui is passionate about preserving the social history of Australia for future generations and is currently writing a series of historical junior fiction novels inspired by her father’s adventures growing up.

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June: Can you give us a short synopsis of the book?

Jacqui: A Long Way from Misery takes you on a rollicking journey through the Australia of yesteryear with Jack Turner, the…

View original post 1,042 more words

Writing Group – Write Links

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One of the best things about moving to Brisbane has been making new writing buddies in the field of children’s literature.  Some of the great people I have been meeting are Writelinks members.

We meet once a month to do professional development workshops, network and critique each others work.

Recently we celebrated Hans Christian Anderson’s Birthday and celebrated various achievements of the group.  Here are the achievers that were there that day holding their books and certificates.

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This is me with Yvonne Mes, our co-ordinator who does a great job and is backed up by a team. For example Ali organised the birthday celebrations and asked one of the members to make a cake.

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Here are many of the group, although we have heaps of members, many were away this day and some mostly participate in the online group due to not being able to make the meetings.

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Dreaming and Making Books

I have been quite neglecting this blog; but it has been for a good reason.

I have been working on a kickstarter to bring a poetry collection for children, into being.

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The brilliant news is that we have successfully crowd funded the book!  You can find out more here  MAGIC FISH DREAMING KICKSTARTER  and there are 69 hours left to pledge.

I am so excited, but there is more, I gained a mentorship right before my kickstarter, with the Australian Society of Author at the end of last year after a string of rejections.  This felt like confirmation I was on the right path.

Over the next year with my mentor, I am working to deepen my picture book crafting skills, by focusing on one manuscript.  We have a total of 25 hours to work together, which is so cool.  We’ve had a couple of sessions before the kickstarter and will continue again in April.

My goal is to take what I learn from the mentorship to have a stack of picture book manuscripts polished and ready for submissions next year, whilst I am working on the production and printing of Magic Fish Dreaming.

A recent interview reminded me of how far the journey in education and poetry has brought me, and that I will definitely at some point complete my memoir, which is now on a second draft.  For some of my story you can check out this link.  I think the memoir is definitely saying it needs to be completed!

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My Family

Someone asked will your memoir have poetry, and then suggested, ‘it should have sprinklings of it, that would work well’, and another friend said, that ‘the journey of Magic Fish Dreaming, has felt like more than the journey of a book.’

Through all of this the power of collaboration and friendship has been central to the breakthroughs of the last year.

A special thanks to  Helene, Vacen, Tita Mel, Carmel, Pam, Angela, Dimity, Julianne, Katayoon, Shirin,  the many Writelinkers, hard to mention  all individually but a special mention to Ali, Karen, Yvonne and Katrin, and to more recent friends such as Nancy, who have given me much courage to be fearless and who their own lives provide much inspiration.

There are other people never met, who I have known for nearly ten years now, and a special mention must go to Danny  and Janet my flicker pals who also follow my writing now and then, the many soul Fooders, especially Sally and Gail, but also Joanne, Suzanne, Jill, and Gemma.  And there are the friends like Melissa who I have come to know through her online poetry and photography, and who offer their encouragement as well.

And last but not least the wonderful Magic Fish Dreaming team, Helene, Heidi and Matilda thank you for believing in this project!

Thank you for the many conversations, online and real space, that have uplifted and encouraged me to just keep on writing and creating projects that want to make a difference in the world.

Will be back here now and then to share, but have to keep on task.  And don’t worry that memoirs is on its way!

 

June

 

 

Writing Empowerments: Ink from Ochre Extract

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Ong argues that writing can “enrich the human psyche, enlarge the human spirit, intensify its interior life.” [1]  In other words writing can be moulded to fit those who use it, and can extend rather than diminish subjectivity and intersubjectivity.   Max Van Manen describes the power of writing:

Writing fixes thoughts on paper.  It externalises what in some senses is internal; it distances us from our immediate lived involvements with the things of our world.  As we stare at the paper, and stare at what we have written, our objectified thinking now stares back at us.  This writing creates the reflective cognitive stance …[2]

Writing has a paradoxical power that comes from its ability to objectify as ideas are placed onto paper, yet as it objectifies it subjectifies.  It can do this because writing can represent a dialogue with the self.   Even though many Indigenous women write in collaboration with others, dialogues with the self have some importance.  As Lisa Bellear, a Noonucaal writer and broadcaster, who has experienced violence and abuse at some points during her life, argues:

Each one of us is aware of how colonisation has and is still impacting on our lives.  All of us know what it is to hurt inside.  What is required is to find an effective way through which we can face our traumas . . . Poetry is only one form . . . it is through writing and broadcasting I have a release for my emotions.[3]

Writing itself alone does not achieve transformation, release or healing.   Its potential to transform comes from the “gifts” the writer has and brings to the process of what they put on the page.

Stephen Covey argues that there are four major human “gifts” — self-awareness, conscience, imagination and independent will — which empower individuals.  These gifts enable people to choose how they will respond to any given circumstance in their lives.  He defines self-awareness as the ability to step back from life to observe oneself (including thoughts).  Conscience gives moral sense and moral power.  Imagination is the ability to  “envision something entirely different from  . . . past experience.”[4]  Independent will is the power to take action.

A fifth vital “gift”’ in Covey’s discussion is that of humour, as it has the capacity to combine all of the gifts, to bring great self-awareness so people can think about what is really important in their lives.  Laughter releases tension and “is an alternative to guilt tripping” (p.34). True humour is “light heartedness” not “light mindedness.”  Empowerment is being aware of these gifts and being able to mobilise them in everyday life.  Covey argues that to be proactive people need to develop all these human “gifts” to achieve synergy in interpersonal communications.

Covey uses circle imagery to explore intersubjective empowerment.

The Circle of Concern is a large circle that embraces everything in your life that you may be concerned about.  The Circle of Influence is a smaller circle within the Circle of Concern that embraces the things you can actually do something about. (p.41)

He explains that the tendency is to focus on the Circle of Concern, causing the inner Circle of Influence to be diminished.  Proactive people focus their energies on the Circle of Influence and expand it, rather than diminishing energy (p.41) by focusing on their own Circle of Concern.   Covey maintains that proactive people know when to tell the difference between these two circles.  In his model the major Circle of Influence is self and maybe one’s own family because, even in a single family, one’s influence might come from first effecting a change in oneself.  Change in the community then comes from changes within the individual and family networks.  Action becomes connected to spiritual principles rather than based on emotion.  Love is something we do, not just something we feel.

“Proactive people focus on their Circle of Influence. As a result that circle increases.”(p.41)

He explains that as the circle of influence is strengthened, people become more influential in the world.  This study contends that writing can be a powerful tool in extending a person’s circle of influence, as authors publish their stories, readers engage with their thoughts, across time, and place. What began, as an individual’s story can become a story that becomes part of the reader as well.

Publishing, however, brings with it new challenges and can also produce new forms of writing, intended less for the self, and more for the public, although these lines are sometimes hard to see.  One weakness of Covey’s model is that he does not adequately take into account that some people have more opportunities than others to consolidate and expand the circle of influence.

[1] Ong, Orality and Literacy  p.82.

[2] Van Manen, p.125.

[3] Lisa Bellear, “Healing through Poetry,” in The Strength of Us as Women: Black Women Speak p.70.

[4] I use a popular self- help writer, along side my other theorists, because his model is very useful.Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families (St Leonards: Allen and Unwin, 1997), p. 31. All subsequent references incorporated into the body of the text.

An Extract from my PhD Thesis, Distilling Ink from Ochre, Empowerments of Indigenous Women Through Writing(2004)

I will be doing some updated reading, but it is interesting revisiting this document and thinking about how it may play a role in my writing of fiction and life story.  I’ll also be extracting journals and other pieces to see what treasures might lie therein.

(c) June Perkins

Am I having a second childhood?

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Stories in the Stone, Land, and Songs – June Perkins

Whilst thinking about how to deepen my writing about place – a love for ecological writing, nature writing, and an idea for a new book of poetry and story has been born, or surfaced.  Looking back I see there are hints of it, that perhaps I didn’t take notice of at the time, even though artists like Sasi Victorie and a writer/philosopher Nell Arnold told me it was there.

Every new essay and book read has been triggering an outpouring of thought. I follow trails, that seem to connect and double back on each other. Connections I could never have forseen appear – opera, wandering men who make the land their home, crocodiles, and plants weeping flowers that want to be named,

Songs of birds and humans, layers of land, story, culture, – the power of names, and the biographies of ecologists have been adding themselves to my consciousness, and rather than confusing they are clarifying and deepening my love for understanding the world around me.

An adolescent love of biology, a delight in the many documentaries of David Attenborough, and a love of stars have been combining to take me on a new writing journey.  I find myself watching documentaries on the origin of black holes. I look up the stories of the places I live in to find out: what the street names mean, who the Original peoples and Indigenous language groups are, and what are my old and new suburbs current cultural  and age demographics.

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Art at the Goma – in Brisbane

In a picture book idea I find myself searching for a bird call I want to represent in language and following a trail of bird sites  This leads me to exploring side track after side track, but the time is not wasted. I am creatively gathering – building a nest, or is it wings.  I am asking questions like what did the birth of the moon cause?  I alternate between a nature essay and a notebook of ideas for poems, with snatches of yet to be fully formed verse.

Am I living a second childhood, or discovering this is a way I want to be more in the world?  Why is this way of being in the world, being more aware of its many layers, actually making me feel closer to my own soul?

Ah it seems something to unpack in poetry, that is for sure.

(c) June Perkins, words and images – this has been shared on my Ripple Poetry Blog

The Unspoken/the unwritten

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Remembering – June Perkins

There are memories that can’t be spoken, but which etch themselves into the garments of the soul to become wisdom.

There are places that with time become more vivid as we understand the layers of experience, land, culture, history, and unspoken things that give meaning without knowing. We put them around ourselves to become the cloak of identity.

There are lawns, mosses, and soil that if walked again would be more keenly felt, more soaked in, more nurtured in the memory.  The feet are bare as the memory takes us walking there again.

There are moments where I collected images that would now be accompanied by scents and colour.

Without hunger, would taste and food be so strongly knit into memory.

Tables laden with treats spring out at me, banquets in between the moments of a grumbling stomach, provided by people at celebrations.

There are questions I would have asked, to make a person’s story come alive.  Where are the trails back to them now?

Some of them are gone in the fire and the storms.

Who could tell me more about them?

Will they speak, or is it sometimes better to leave stories, unspoken, unwritten, and remembered for the journey of the soul into the great unknown?

Does the writer decides what is unwritten, and what is written?

(c) June Perkins