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. 

Change of Form

I tend to think of myself as an exclusively short story writer. I’ve dabbled in screenplays and obviously write the occasional blog, but in terms of my creative writing endeavours I always write short stories. The other day a new idea popped into my head. I began to think about the ocean, and all the things that are lost there. Word and images began to form in my head, a solid structure surrounding my idea. I let the thoughts develop, exploring the visual setting and emotions that I associated with the idea, then I sat down and began to plot out my story. I drafted this concept numerous times, but something about the narratives I was constructing didn’t feeling quite right. It wasn’t until I verbalised the idea to my boyfriend that I realised what the problem was; this idea I had was not suited to the short story form.

Generally, when I have a realisation such as this about a piece I’m working on I’ll shelve it and work on something else until I can figure out how to make my idea conform to the structure. Often, the idea will completely reform and slip right into the narrative I desire. Other times, this is impossible and the idea itself has to be completely scrapped. But there was something different about this idea, and I knew that if I tried to force into a short story it wouldn’t have the impact I was searching for and the idea would be wasted. So, I did something I’ve never really done before, I turned it into a poem.

I can’t say I’ve ever really had much time for writing poetry- not because I don’t appreciate poetry itself, but because I feel like poetry is one of the purest forms of writing, there’s no room for waffley language or long paragraphs of description. Everything is laid out in a way that is both complex and simplistic, a skill which I don’t believe I’ve ever possessed. Up until now I’ve always thought my poetry had an air of pretention. It always feels as if I corrupted my original idea by trying so hard to writer ‘proper’ poetry.

So, when I sat down to write this poem, I did something different. I didn’t force it. It sat over my notebook, pen in hand, and let the images I had created surrounding this idea flow until I could completely picture the scene and the emotion I wanted to capture, and then I wrote. Granted, this poem isn’t fantastic, it still has a lot of work to go and I doubt it will ever be read by anyone other than myself. But for the first time I had constructed a piece of poetry that I appreciated, something that I can feel proud of, something which has sparked an interest in me to pursue more poetry, to extend my writing beyond the realm of what I know I can do and challenge myself with a new form.

I have spent many years being reluctant to the idea of even attempting to write poetry, mainly due to a fear that it just won’t be good enough. Now that I look back, I see how foolish that was. I want my writing to be a challenge, I don’t want to write the same stories over and over again and never experiment with anything other than what I know. As Theodore Roosevelt rightly said; “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…”


Originally Posted on The Musings of  a Blackie