Tenebrae

tenebrae – Latin for ‘darkness’ or ‘shadows’

‘Wit’s End Bay’ by Charles Wysocki

I have been missing in action on my blog for a while. Here’s why. The past five months have been tough on our Blue Mountains community. Over the summer we confronted the most extensive bushfires in our memory. Before we could even imagine how to recover from those, the coronavirus pandemic dealt its bewildering blows. With each event we have had to hang on to daily news briefings to figure out what decisions needed to made next. I lost count of the number of times either event has been described as ‘unprecedented’.

The consequences of each event are far reaching and the fact that they happened back-to-back for the Blue Mountains has deepened the impact. We’re still reeling, as a community, but also individually. Like many others, I have been juggling family, home, work and study commitments in the midst of these extreme events. To be honest it has been challenging.

Call it writer’s block if you like but what I have learned about myself during this time is that when I am in ‘survival mode’ the Creative Writer part of me shuts down and hides in a bunker so deep and dark that I can’t find her. I feel so much disappointment and frustration about this.

Leading up to Easter I sensed she was finally, slowly emerging and I wrote this poem.

Tenebrae

No more words

Tear down lecterns
Shut off screens
Board up mouths

Give up
sighs
platitudes
consolations

Hush them all

Be still
as comforts are
snuffed out

Silent
as shadows
shroud

Let wicks
go cold

Enter the tomb
within

Be empty

Wait

©Belle Perry 2020

When I was in high school I read The Plague by Albert Camus and memories of it resurfaced over the past few weeks. Coincidentally I discovered this brilliant article by writer and philosopher, Alain de Botton: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/19/opinion/sunday/coronavirus-camus-plague.html

Bushfires and coronavirus may leave us feeling fearful, overwhelmed and exhausted. It is warranted and to be expected. It is difficult to sit with such feelings and I suspect many of us are navigating them daily.

What I take from Camus’ novel is that in the face of the absurdity of suffering, kindness to one another is the best and only answer. As Alain de Botton explains more eloquently,

“Recognizing this absurdity should lead us not to despair but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.”

Let’s continue to support each other with soft and grateful hearts through these ‘tenebrae’ times.

My Old Friend, Haiku

Haiku is one of those gifts that keeps giving. 

I first encountered haiku as a child, under the sensitive and wise tutelage of my primary school teacher. It totally captured my heart and has never let me go.

Haiku floats my boat for so many reasons. 

I could write a book about it but that would take too long, so let me try and condense my enthusiasm into a few lines:

What is haiku?

Haiku is an ancient form of Japanese poetry. It is distinctive because its poems are short, only 17 syllables long, distributed between 3 lines in a 5-7-5 syllable arrangement. One haiku is meant to be no more than the length of a single breath. 

Authentic Japanese haiku adheres to very specific guidelines. For example, each haiku must describe an image from nature and make a reference to season. It must also contain some kind of interesting contrast or an element of surprise.

For the most part I stick to the rules of haiku but as a non-Japanese, contemporary poet, sometimes I stray a little, which apparently is allowed.

Why do I love it?

For starters: Simplicity. Clarity. Focus.

Reading and writing haiku declutters the mind! Haiku is deliberately spare and considerate. It does not crowd the reader with too many words or ideas at once. Each haiku contains just one image to see and one thought to consider. In many ways haiku is like a snapshot; it frames a single moment and then slips it into a telegram.

Also: Therapy – Mental. Spiritual. Emotional.

Haiku knows that beauty and nature will console and heal. Haiku slows down time and fosters an awareness of the environment but also senses and feelings. It is an exercise in being completely present. It is an invitation to be still, contemplative and open to fresh perspectives. One could argue that reading and writing haiku is an exercise in mindfulness or meditation.

In addition: A Good Workout

American poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-) advises: 

‘Think long thoughts in short sentences.’

The discipline of writing haiku is a boot camp for my development as a writer. It forces me to choose the best words and to convey my message in the most concise way. It is the height of minimalist yet poignant writing.

A famous haiku poet, Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694), said that to write good haiku one needs to have the eyes and heart of a child.

In other words, haiku needs to be highly inaginative, instinctive and uncomplicated. These are challenging goals but they produce compelling writing.

Not to forget: Surprise!

I love fresh insights. Haiku is all about ‘aha’ moments. It celebrates delight, wonder and unexpected revelation. Sometimes these surprises come from contrast, irony or paradox.

Finally: Connection. Wholeness. Circle of Life.

Haiku draws connections between truth and beauty, experience and thought, imagery and emotion, spirituality and nature, the ordinary and the extraordinary, the minute and the vast. Haiku explores the relationship between order and transcience through its focus on seasons. Haiku offers serenity and hope in the face of a complex and sometimes terrifying world.  

My latest haiku:

as blue as the bay

my heart in the morning light

a whale migrating

©2019BellePerry

Manifesto

A manifesto is a public declaration that spells out a set of ideals and intentions. Have you ever thought of writing one?

Manifestos are often produced by groups, such as political parties, religious associations and art movements to make obvious their views and plans. But individuals can write them too.

A while ago I started to think about the value of writing a personal manifesto. I wanted to sit myself down and get some things clear and straight. I needed to regroup and reset.

At the time I felt that my life was messy, gridlocked and overwhelming. I thought it might help to pin down what I value and how I want to move forward. I figured if I ever felt lost again I could read my manifesto to get back on track.

It took a few days to draft and refine what I wanted to say to myself and finally my manifesto took the shape of this poem:

Manifesto

like haiku

live in a hut swept clean

in a garden with a fence 

on a hill with a view

like a hand written letter

unfold the past with care

wrap goodness in ribbons 

burn the rest

shake the ashes off your shoes

trust yourself

to remember

to decide

to bear up

to heal

to learn

like a lighthouse

pummelled

sweep the darkness

beam through 

be true

like water

finding its course

be sure

and deep too

like dirt

holding seeds

of hope 

wait long for rain

be tender

gaze on each day 

with its newborn face

wonder at the Earth

who tends to you

look now in the eye

hear its pulse 

let it smell your fear

ruffle its mane

be leisurely

over cups of tea 

sit with silence

let mystery linger

count your breath 

and all your bones

balance all

that pulls

and pushes 

tango with possibility

dine with diversity

fly daydreams like kites 

grasp adventure

like the hand of a beloved

listen to the broken parts

they will tell you

what is needed

you will have the courage

to live forgiveness

to believe in pearls

to expect beauty 

in the wild

to give love away

to let it run 

through your fingers

like honey 

and not call it back

to be all

you were imagined

to be

©2019Belle Perry