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.