That looks on tempests – thoughts on the nature of love by Barbie Robinson

For Pity Sake Publishing pal Barbara 'Barbie' Robinson has just released a new collection of poetry. Check out her reflection below and visit the store now My brother and I had the blessing of a northern hemisphere childhood until, at the ages of nine and seven respectively we came to Australia as migrants – ten pound Poms in fact. Think the south of England with its greenness, its rain and its cold winters. Indoor pursuits like board games, family concerts and reading by the fire. Think too of a place where the snow banked up to the rooves of two-storey houses and a mittened hand placed on a window pane meant the mitten stayed there till thaw – Goose Bay in Newfoundland and Labrador. More indoor activities like listening to jazz records and reading, with the basement furnace blazing away.

The double blessing of parents who loved and cherished learning and books meant that we both grew up to be adults who read and collect books. I admit to the incurable vice of bookitis. I can’t go into a book store unless I am prepared to come out with at least four books – and I am prepared to.

Poetry was something I started writing in that angst driven state one perpetually inhabits as a teenager. Happily, an education that included French poets like Verlaine and Prevert, English poets like Gerard Manly Hopkins and Roger McGough and a life path that gifted me the Fitzgerald translation of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, the irresistibly sensuous language of Dylan Thomas, Milton, Dryden, Richard Brautigan and so on and son – you get it. I was blessed over and over with the power of language both, prose and poetry, to move, amuse, beguile, raise up, cast down, expound and altogether fill us with ideas and feelings.

That looks on tempests is my third solo book of poetry and it is a very important piece of work for me. Not only does it explore the gamut of love, it also expresses my gratitude for being here to write – thanks to a stem cell transplant that saved my life in 2015. Love and gratitude seem to be in such short supply world-wide. I am daily conscious of how fortunate I am and the poetry is one way of acknowledging this and thanking the universe.

I’ve set the book up in three sections – people, place and paradoxes. The work explores the way the word love is used, what it means in different contexts and to different people, how we learn about love. I start by quoting in full Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 – Let me not to marriage of true minds – is there a better known work on the subject or a more beautiful one? I end by quoting two lines from a Bonnie Raitt recording of a song by Bob Thiele Jr, John Shanks and Tonio K:

Isn’t it love that keeps us breathing? Isn’t it love we’re sent here for?

Both of these works carry meaning for me – does it matter that one is considered high literature and the other popular culture (country music no less?) I don’t think so. The poems in my book are all true, which is to say they all come from my life, from real things that have happened, real things I’ve felt and experienced. They are not mysterious, impenetrable or difficult. They are accessible and they are not just my experiences but I suspect rather  the experiences of many who will read them – the care and death of a loved one, passion, sex, lust, devotion, the love you have for children and grandchildren or lovers or spouses or parents, friendship, admiration, charity, misuse of the word ‘love’ when ‘selfishness’ and ‘ego’ are better suited.

I hope the words will wash over you and that you will be able to say, ‘Yes, I’ve felt that. Yes, I’ve known that. She’s writing my life too.’ I hope you will cry, laugh, smile, sigh, share the poems with someone else, read them again to yourself in a private moment of recognition. Of course, I hope you will cherish and love my child, this book, as I do. It’s the wish of all writers I think and all artists who open themselves to the world outside.

That looks on tempests in available now. 

The Bowral Bodice-Ripper

When I read the first draft of Diana Thompson's just released Winterflood's Passion I dubbed it the 'Bowral bodice-ripper' a name that has stuck much to the bemusement of the author, I'm sure. An article in the Southern Highland News and the program of the Southern Highlands Writers Festival (where Winterflood's Passion was recently launched) both picked up on the term with unfettered glee at having a novel set in Bowral, a jewel of the Southern Highlands region of New South Wales. Who can blame them? It is a beautiful place and a very apt setting for the passionate love affair between the fictional young and beautiful widow, Charlotte Ranleigh and the dashing, playboy art entrepreneur, Daniel Winterflood. The bodice-ripper part is not so easily explained, except to say that, not being an aficionado of the romance genre; I had no idea before reading Winterflood's Passion that there would be so much explicit sex in a romance novel. Silly me! Hot sex is writ large here - and stirring stuff it is too without being kinky, dark or dysfunctional. The bodice-ripper term refers not so much to the timeframe (bodice-ripper inferring an historical or regency theme) but to the unbridled lust and its many earth-moving incarnations of which Diana writes so skilfully in this, her first novel.

It's certainly not my intention to leave you with the impression that plentiful, well-written sex is the only thing that attracted me to this book as a publisher and a reader. Like most things in life it is far more complicated and multi-factorial than that - so please, let me attempt to explain.

Firstly, Diana's work is very descriptive and I found that really drew me in.  From the herbs that Charlotte grows in her garden to the Aubusson rug and Margaret Olley painting in the living room, to the detailed description of the furnishings in Daniel's bachelor lair in Sydney and every meal they consume together - Diana's attention to detail is, dare I say it, very seductive. A vivid picture is painted around the main protagonists, how they look, feel and live, that I found myself quite spontaneously seeing them in my mind's eye – even wondering who might play them on screen.

The second thing I love about Winterflood's Passion is that Diana doesn't push the boundaries of fantasy too far.  Sure there's escapism here - beautiful, wealthy people living in luxurious surrounds with fabulous careers - what's not to like? But in amongst all that Diana deftly weaves in some strong correlations with anyone’s real life - a tragic death, misplaced guilt, thwarted dreams and self-doubt. All of these make an appearance and help to ground what would otherwise be fantasy characters that one only reads about in, well, romance novels.

And finally, the greatest appeal of Winterflood's Passion is the context of true love in which the mind-blowing sex is set. Call me old fashioned but reading about sadistic or violent sexual encounters that are way beyond my understanding or aspiration is not my idea of a rollicking good roll-in-the-hay read. Diana's novel strikes a brilliant balance between the raunchy, wanton, get-on-board-or-get-out-of-the-way sex and exquisite love-making between two people with a very deep connection.

Diana Thompson is a long-time friend of mine and a highly acclaimed jewellery designer in her own right.  To my way of thinking, Di epitomises the person who is strangely compelled to write and who's actually sat down and done it while carrying on with life as normal. She is the very type of writer we had in mind when we founded For Pity Sake Publishing and the fact that our fledgling publishing house has been able to produce her first novel brings me more joy that I can adequately express here.

Bowral bodice-ripper it is.



Buy your copy of Diana's debut novel Winterflood's Passion here!