Poetry in film – February – O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Yes. I know. It’s March. What happened to February? I still can’t believe it’s gone.

My plan for February was to watch O Brother, Where Art Thou?  by the Coen brothers. The DVD is ready and waiting on a shelf I pass multiple times a day. It’s at eye level and I look at it each time I pass by. I just haven’t been able to watch it.

Despite that, the film and its distant, loose connections to The Odyssey have been on my mind.

In the meantime, my real purpose in this ‘poetry in film’ project (which sounds so much better than distraction, tangent, avoidance strategy …) was to think about the poems. There should be time for the film over the Easter break but I’m going to jump ahead and riff a bit about the poem now.

A late arrival

I came to The Odyssey late. I dipped into it as necessary when I was an undergrad. I watched friends work with it as part of their studies of Ancient Greek. I wished I could fit Ancient Greek into my own program. I couldn’t. I let it go.

I have fond memories of Sunday mornings in the ’90s watching Tony Robinson’s Odysseus, The Greatest Hero of Them All. I loved that. Robinson’s storytelling on windswept beaches and that great grey coat (and was there a red scarf? a pinkish one?) has stayed with me. Rik Mayall’s Grim Tales was also part of my television viewing at this time. I remember there was cracking storytelling from both Robinson and Mayall.

From time to time there were brief excursions into episodes along the way. Links to a short story here, a conversation about Homer/epic poetry/oral traditions there. It would come up – as you’d expect – in discussions about the hero’s journey and archetypes.

I didn’t read the poem in full until I was in my thirties. I still haven’t learnt any Ancient Greek* so I read it in translation – a Penguin Classics edition by E. V. Rieu, D. C. H. Rieu and Peter Jones and the Robert Fagles translation that I’ve realised is missing from my bookshelf and will need to be replaced. (Yay for shiny new copies!)

I read the Rieu et al version at the height of summer, stretched out on the floor very close to a fan. It was perfect reading for ridiculously hot days that stretched into hideously hot weeks.

I loved the unevenness of the narrative line. When I finished The Odyssey I jumped straight to The Iliad. It was that sort of summer.

poetry in film check in february book pile
Ready and waiting

A recent encounter

In the past few months, The Odyssey has been popping up. It could be I’m noticing it because I knew I would be thinking about it as part of the schedule I set myself. One of those, I just bought a red car, now all I notice is red cars scenarios.

The most striking encounter was when I caught The Epic (Finn O’Branagain and Scott Sandwich) as part of this year’s Perth Fringe Festival. That was an hour of whirlwind storytelling that looked at some of the ‘big’ stories from across the world over history. The show included a captivating demonstration of the ripples of the story that continue to be felt. (I won’t go into detail because I’d hate to spoil it for you if you ever get to see it. You never know…)

I had gone to the show because I thought there was a bit about Macbeth (there wasn’t). The Odyssey turning up was a timely bonus.

The Muse and magic

The Odyssey opens with an invocation to the Muse. As it’s an epic poem, I’m guessing that is Calliope. The invocation rests in ritual and the sacred. It also makes sense for the poem as a spoken performance. It not only calls the muse but captures the audience.

The telling of the story begins with an incantation.

Perfect. So much of storytelling is weaving a spell. I love that drawing in – and being drawn in. There is also the appeal of an external (or it could be internal) driver.

The invocations in Homer’s The Odyssey, its companion The Iliad, Virgil’s The Aeneid and in later poems such as John Milton’s Paradise Lost and, with a slightly different  purpose, Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene offer up the poem as something not only created but inspired.

The lit-nerd in me quite likes the idea of reading just the invocations and doing a formal comparison of what they seek and what they offer.

There are all sorts of arguments against inspiration and for the hard graft of day in-day out work, but there’s a part of me that loves the idea of an otherworldly – if not divine (and these days I’m more atheist than agnostic …) – spark as the impetus of a work.

Why not begin with an invocation to a muse, human, divine or otherwise?

Peacock close up
A muse of sorts

*One day I hope to read it in the Ancient Greek. For now, though, translations have to do. After this thesis is done. Latin has a higher priority. And Middle English, for that matter. I’ll be in my 50s. Excuse me while I process that …


A singing bird – reading leads to writing which leads to reading

Despite the best of intentions, I’ve strayed from the routine I’ve been nurturing. Actually, I did so intentionally. I have been wilful and made a fully intentional detour.

After all, life has to happen like that sometimes.

My life does, at least.

It only becomes an issue when the detour needs to come to an end. That’s where the best of intentions come into play. Detours and diversions can be so (let’s be honest) seductive.

This is a recurrent theme in my reflections. What I’ve realised is that I’ve arrived at a point where I need to take time to do what gives me joy if I’m going to stay focused on the other things. There might be joy in them, the other things, but … sometimes I need to be sure of some respite.

There is a Chinese proverb that I have always loved: Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.

Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come
A thought to carry

I always think of the bird as joy and creative energy.

The joy of reading

Most of my life – day job, study, recreational time – revolves around words. As a rule, that works for me. I love what I do. Mostly.

There a moments, though, when my heart sinks. Just a little.

Another discussion about Oxford commas, anyone?

But words and everything that goes along with them are what makes my heart sing. Reading and books, word games and word play have been at the centre of my world. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a reader.

I’ve always loved putting words together. In my head if there’s been no paper or, in those early years of school – it was that long ago, a slate.

  • My great-grandmother, Old Nan, was legendary for wanting to read everything. She was voracious. I didn’t know her for very long. She was 97 when she died and I’m not sure I was even at school. But the memory of her – of her reading, along with the family stories – has stuck.
  • When my dad accidentally caught my arm with a cigarette as we walked along a crowded street he consoled me (not only by obviously being devastated that it had happened) with a wonderful book of poetry.* I remember choosing the book from the shelf in the bookshop, the shape of first poem (even though the exact words escape me now) and its illustration. It was about looking into a fire and seeing fairies dancing. I read and read that book. I loved it.
  • My prized possession as a child, lost when I left home, was a book of fairy tales. Each story had one illustration. The only story I didn’t read – because the picture featured a man pinned to a tree by a snake – was ‘Sinbad the Sailor’. The others I pretty much knew by heart.

So, I’ve always been a reader. Words have always been my thing.

I don’t have time for a bookclub and my solution is time out for a sizable detour. It’s an indulgence, if I’m to be honest, especially as far as time goes: the Perth Writers Festival.

Three days of listening to writers and readers. Three days of catching up with friends, some of whom I hardly ever see these days. With some it was a quick chat in queues – or in passing as we crossed paths in the race to the next session – and with others it was a lunch and conversations that peeled away the years in between meetings.

They were three days of knowing there was other stuff I should be doing but that I was doing what I needed to be doing.

I imagine this also explains why I went to PWF16 with a plan to attend poetry events and sessions but kept finding myself listening to people talk about writing crime stories.

Start of Australian Poets Festival: 9x5 The Big Read WA Poetry
Standing room only

I went to sessions that were packed. There was standing room only for some.

I caught some spoken word sessions that made my heart sing. I’ve heard about Barefaced Stories, so that session on the Friday night was always on my horizon. Sketch the Rhyme – freestyle rap meets Pictionary … What’s not to love?

Joy and effervescence

Amongst it all, I have made progress with my thesis.

I have clarified what I think needs to change with the shape and direction.

Reshaping the project continues to be confronting. That’s obviously the point. If I didn’t need to respond and make changes, I think pursuing the topic would be an empty activity. The changes come from making discoveries and deepening understandings.

It comes down to the words and, to be honest, the chase. Hunting down ideas is part of the game. It’s what I love about the process.

Along the way, I’m hoping to be more balanced and remember that joy in being a reader and a writer. It is being a reader and a writer that brought me to the project. I am staying alert to moments that fizz because ideas work and words are right.

I’m hoping for some of those moments while I’m drafting the next chapter and making ongoing revisions.

A moderate haul from the bookshop at the Perth Writers Festival 2016
In the wings


*I suspect I only felt its heat, not an actual burn. There was probably no real need for consolation…

Between the lines – taking a break to be able to read and write more

This has been a better week. Taking some time out last week was well worth it. I’ll admit to still being tired but not like I was last week. I was, to be frank, wiped out by the time the weekend came around.

This week has been slow but I’ve been more productive. I had a particularly good night of revising the draft of my introduction on Thursday. For a while in the mid to late afternoon I was worried I might not settle to the page and then, in a rush, I did. It was great.

I must get back to that page soon because there is still a (frightening) lot of work to do. However, in the spirit of recognising that I’ve been pushing too hard for too long, I took Friday night off to catch up with a friend and take in a movie.

We saw The Brand New Testament (Jaco Van Dormael, 2015) at Somerville. I enjoyed the movie. It featured a misanthropic God, his downtrodden wife and his daughter who dreams of a kinder world. It was irreverent, surreal and thoroughly enjoyable.

Somerville and tea

I suspect that I’ve mentioned the Somerville before. If you don’t know Perth (and as I’ve found out recently, even if you do) you might not have heard of the Somerville. It is an outdoor cinema at UWA. The Perth International Arts Festival presents a season of films there (and at the Pines at ECU) every summer.

Going to the Somerville is always lovely. Even on the nights when the films are not particularly to my taste.*

An outside movie on a balmy summer evening in the company of good friends goes a long way towards giving me joy. On evenings when I choose to go alone, I find it is a great place for reflection, getting some notes on the page and then having some time out. Because I know the time out is definitely coming I end up staying on-task pretty well.

The Somerville was packed, brimming with happy movie goers enjoying a picnic ahead of the screening. (And some who were not so happy because finding a seat – even on the grass – got to be a challenge.)

The resident kookaburras were also happy. The picnics made for a delightful smörgåsbord that they couldn’t resist. The murmur of hundreds of picnickers chatting over their dinners was punctuated by laughter and the occasional scream as morsels were snatched from forks. It seems that food being between plate and mouth makes for an easier target.

So long as you weren’t one of the ‘swooped’, the swooping made for some light entertainment. (I should note that this activity is not limited to the Somerville and the ‘burras make good use of the outside dining at other places on campus.)

Two kookaburras at the Somerville
Plotting the next heist
Kookaburra perched on lighting rig at Somerville
All he surveys

There has also been some pretty serious café writing with many pots of tea and the occasional LLB.

This weekend alone has featured Bread in Common, Natural Light Photography Gallery Café, Matilda Bay Tea Rooms (which may have changed name…) and Little Way. There was Tiamo as well as the UWA Club during the week … I don’t know what it is about writing in cafés but it really does work for me. A lot.

The promise of reading

Progress towards the revisions has meant that there wasn’t the reading that I had been doing last week. That aside, there was a moment when a colleague asked me about what I had been reading and I was excited to be able to reel of the titles of not one but two books-for-fun and have a quick chat in the tea room.

It had been too long since I’d been able to pull a couple of purely recreational titles out and talk about being a reader.

I also caught Spare Parts Puppet Theatre‘s version of Margaret Wild’s Miss Lily’s Fabulous Feather Boa. that gave me a chance to talk a picture books, reading AND puppets with some of my favourite young people. All of which was joyous.

I’m not sure what I’m going to read this week. With the Perth Writers’ Festival – and its attendant flurry of book purchases – on the horizon I expect I should prioritise one of last year’s purchases that I haven’t quite made it to yet. Due to my appalling lack of control in such bookshopping situations, I have a fair selection from which to choose.

I’m deliberately scheduling some reading-for-fun as part of my conscious carving up of time. (It ties into one of those beautiful planning sheets I am so fond of.)

There is also some more Keats to read this week. I’ve been dipping in and out of his work since watching Bright Star. I haven’t quite fallen in love with him yet. Perhaps that will come. I’ll let you know next time we meet.

There is also a book about sorting through clutter. For now, I’m going to head to my (blissfully air-conditioned) desk at uni and the delights of connecting Derrida and Foucault, et al with medieval fashion and gender studies. I am loving this part of the work but I need to get it done and move on soon.

OWC Poetical Works of John Keats and Banish Clutter Forever by Sheila Chandra
On my list for this week

*I found Zentropa (Lars von Trier, 1991) harrowing, for example, but it was still a great night. A Mongolian Tale (Fei Xie, 1996) and Departures (Yôjirô Takita, 2008) are among my all time favourites.


Letting go – giving in to the pleasure of reading

It is Sunday afternoon and on the way to my desk at Uni I succumbed to the temptations of the delights of a pot of tea (or two) and a seat outdoors at Little Way, an eatery near campus that opened a week ago.

It felt good to be outside in the fresh air. I fluffed about with some work but not much. The tea really was very good and I enjoyed the crumbed squid I opted for.

On reflection, tea and squid doesn’t make a lot of sense as a combination and I will be more thoughtful with my ordering next time but each was lovely in their own way.

Mostly, I was excited by the coolness of the fresh air.

Newly opened eatery Little Way, on Broadway in Nedlands
Fresh and inviting


A cool change

I seem to be inside all the time of late. This is partly because Perth has been so hot and the air outside has been like warm soup but also because I’ve either been at either my day job office or at Uni. To be outside with a cool breeze against my face was delicious. To switch off, frankly, joyous.

I don’t often goof off on a weekend afternoon. Even over the Christmas – New Year period, I kept the work going as much as I could. I’ve studied part-time while working full-time for most of my working life and, as a result, my weekends have been ‘golden’ for years. If I haven’t been studying I’ve been writing.

Catching up with friends and family punctuates the routine.

Knowing how I ‘should’ be spending my weekend time and not doing so tends to leave me uneasy. Last week, though, I’ve realised I’m at peak capacity and I felt I needed to step back a little. The year is just a couple of weeks old and I’m thinking of a holiday; just a week away, somewhere quiet, somewhere without a library.

I tend to measure a good holiday by the quality of the libraries I spend time working in. The idea of a library-free holiday feels unusual. I’ve also been weighing up the idea of making the week technology free. I don’t know how that will go. Surely it couldn’t be as hard as it feels it would be? I

’m also not sure how I’ll put together a week away. I suspect it will come down to a compromise. A week off with just a couple of days away may do the trick?

While this will go down as one of my most ‘unproductive’ weeks on record, I have made some inroads. While reflecting on my thesis topic, I’ve made links between a range of unexpected sources and influences that will be useful for further exploration. This is more exciting than I can explain, other than to say it is always heartening (yet also, on some levels, disappointing) to identify connections between the world today and what I’m looking at in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

My next step is to confirm how to make them work. They aren’t ready for public consumption but I’m looking forward to developing my explanations of the connections. That my awareness of these connections has emerged through serendipity is a bonus. What seems to be serendipitous may, of course, just be that I left my mind free for some processing space.

Using poetic forms as a means to make notes and work with ideas continues to be helpful. I haven’t ‘finished’ anything but I have jottings that are promising. At the very least, they are useful as notes and starting points for the next piece of work. I’m still in that space where any words on the page are exciting; that those words might take on a pleasing shape gives me joy.

The calm of reading

I love reading but I lately I haven’t been reading fiction for pleasure. With so much else to be doing I just let it slide. This weekend I’ve indulged in some pleasure reading. I (finally) finished A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale and I’ve nearly finished Careless by Deborah Robertson.

I enjoyed the Gale and can’t explain why it took me so long to read it. The practical reason is possibly that I put it down for a minute and it got buried under papers for a bit, languishing until I uncovered it. I had been meaning to read Careless for ages. This morning seemed like the perfect time to crack into it. I’m expecting to finish it tonight.

The thing that has pleased me about this weekend’s reading is that I’d (somehow) forgotten how different reading for pleasure is from reading for information. It is wonderful to remember that reading can be calming. I love what I’ve been reading for Uni but, for the most part, it hasn’t been relaxing of late. This weekend I have revelled in immersing myself in stories and how refreshing that can be.

As the weekend comes to a close I am still tired. The dream of a modest holiday lingers as a necessary goal but I have to admit that I’m feeling more relaxed. I let go of the routine and, while I may later be tempted to rue the day that I did, it is delightful to feel this relaxed.

Lilies in the moat at the Reid
Memory of calm


Words in transit – reading and writing on public transport

I don’t use it as much as I could but I quite like public transport.

This is fortunate.

I’m waiting for some mechanical work to be done on my car. While it’s off the road, I’ve been catching buses and trains.

It isn’t always convenient. It can be confronting and discomforting. In the mid of winter and at the peak of summer it can be less than pleasant. At this time of the year the weather in Perth is generally pretty good.

Breathing space

Getting places without having to engage with traffic gives me a wonderful sense of freedom. Being on a bus or train with strangers means I don’t have to be sociable. I can cocoon myself in (silent) words. I can listen to the words of the people around me.

I deal with time differently. I work out schedules more rigorously than I would normally do. I take time en route to pause and notice my surroundings. Rather than just zipping by I stop to smell the roses, or lavender, or even the dank stink of the Moreton Bay figs at uni.

The lavender in Freo this morning was particularly beautiful.

Lavender in bloom with butterflies
A heady scent

I like the opportunity public transport presents for being productive.

When I’m catching buses and trains I deal with time differently. It’s not just because of the timetables and having to be in the right place at the right time.

There’s the time walking and waiting that’s great for thinking.

I’m far too sedentary. I’m considering one of those treadmill desks that let you walk while you work…


I’ve decided to use my daily commute – on the bus/train it’s less than half an hour – to read novels. I’m wondering whether I should, perhaps, change that to research articles now that I’m formally enrolled and have some deadlines. That said, I also know I need to read for fun.

One of the novels I read this week, Ian McEwan’s The Comfort of Strangers, didn’t turn out to be much fun. Not to worry. It’s read now. I’m considering whether I want to keep it on my shelf or send it the way of last week’s cull. I suspect it is too soon to decide. I should let my memory of the story settle. My gut feeling, though, is that it’s not going to take space on my shelf for too long.

The other novel I read was Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. There were moments when I wasn’t sure about how I felt about the novel but in the end I loved it. I’ll definitely read it again…and again. It is one of those novels that I want to know more about – from my own and others’ reading. My regret is that my pristine-for-years copy is now battered from kicking around in my bag for a couple of days.

My next book-for-the-train is Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5. I first encountered a passage from the novel in my Year 12 Literature exam and then came across it as a whole as an undergrad. I remember that moment of recognition when I realised I’d ‘met’ the book before.*

I know we often talk about our first experiences of books. I’m also interested in the ways our experiences of reading a particular novel changes over the years.

On that note, I think I’d like to reread Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. My copy from first year is, sadly, in pieces. Even the rubber band I tried to contain it with has perished. Clearly I need to hunt out a new copy.

I wonder if I have it in my kindle?

I wonder where my kindle is…


The other thing I love about public transport is huge time and space it allows for writing. Not, as a rule, on a crowded weekday commute. That can be tricky. There are times when words have to be set down and it doesn’t matter where you are.

I know I’m not alone in this.

I find trains easier than buses for writing.

Fremantle Port from train
Coming into Freo

I remember one day travelling up from Freo to Subi and there were three of us that I could see drafting away in notebooks of various shapes and sizes. I quite like catching up with friends for writing dates at cafés. Anonymous writing with random strangers while in transit also appeals.

Knowing I’ll have a given chunk of time means I can plan for writing and not just drift away from it because there are dishes in the sink or laundry in the washing machine. The walking to stops and stations is a chance to map out the piece to be written. I stop. I take a posture break. I move. I breathe.

Knowing the end point of a journey means I can’t fluff about too much in getting the words down.

I find that can be very helpful.

Coming up roses

The trick with writing on public transport is not to tall into the trap of reviewing everything for a couple of hours when it actually time to be at the library.

That said, I should head for the Reid now and get to work.

On the way back to the bus stop, I must stop again to take in the glorious roses outside Winthrop Hall.

Winthrop Hall and roses
Winthrop, roses and a blue, blue sky

*A late post script. I’ve been meaning to make this update for a while. I realised as I finished reading Slaughterhouse 5 that my moment of recognition had been for Cat’s Cradle. Sometimes that happens, I guess; the details of an author’s works merge together and confuse themselves in your memory. I must remember to slow down and leave space between books. (Perhaps I should write that out fifty times.)

A moment in the sun – reading and writing when the sun is shining

Yesterday, I took some time out.

When I packed up my laptop and headed out the door in the morning, my plan was find somewhere to write. It was a beautiful day and I thought it would be good to be in the fresh air.

I can’t begin to describe how much I like fresh air. Or, at the very least, air to be moving across my face. I think of a walk in a bracing wind is one of life’s pleasures. I need a fan on my desk while I work.

There was no bracing wind in Perth yesterday. Well, not the parts of Perth I was in. It’s a sprawling city. It could well be that there was a bracing wind somewhere in the area but I didn’t come across it.

What I did find was sunshine. Beautiful, spring-time sunshine. In a few months the searing heat will make asphalt melt, but this was a gentle warmth that was just right for basking. The sunshine in Perth at this time of the year is delightful, the stuff of rhapsody and odes.

I burn easily, so I wasn’t in the sun for long but I did take the time to sit and feel its warmth on my skin. I enjoyed how different the day was from last weekend’s storm. I watched the gentle movement of the flowers in the garden outside a shopping complex. I sat and was still.

Random flowers from a sunny morning
A moment in the sun

Just thinking

I didn’t end up writing very much. Some days are like that. Yesterday, I was in a reflective mode.

Even when I was looking at the shelves at New Edition I was thinking about other books. There were titles I was looking out for but I couldn’t see, authors who reminded me of other authors. It was one of those free-wheeling episodes that bookshops offer up. I found it really hard to work out what I wanted to buy.

I was trying a new approach to book buying and reading: select one book and commit to reading that book over the week to come.

I was on my way to an appointment and only had half an hour or so to spare. That in mind, I’d parked in a fifteen minute bay. As I tried to find a book … the book … I became aware that I must have been in the shop longer than the fifteen minutes. Perhaps not. I find bookshops are places where time can be particularly elastic.

I thought the ‘one book experiment’  would be helpful.  Just the one book on the, frankly overwhelming, to be read pile has its enticements. I was backing up last week’s successful enterprise of reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog.* Repeating the experiment seemed a good idea.

It turned out to be quite pressuring.

I eventually settled on A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro because I’d been thinking about how much I like Never Let Me Go in the light of my previous ‘top ten’. Faced with all the possible choices it made sense to settle on an author whose work I’ve previously enjoyed.

Later, when I went to enter my purchase into my Goodreads list I found out I already had a copy. The annoying thing about it was that I had been flicking through Goodreads while I was scanning the shelves. Clearly, I hadn’t been paying attention. There had also been the over-time in the parking bay issue to consider.

I walked back to Henry Street to exchange the duplicate copy. I still had plenty of time to spare in my new parking bay. Staying with my initial decision seemed the best (and most time-efficient) option so I picked up an alternative Ishiguro. This time it was When We Were Orphans. I haven’t started it yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

Ishiguro's When We Were Orphans and stamping material
Accessioned and ready to read

In the meantime, I can’t find the copy of A Pale View of Hills that I gather I should have on my book shelves. Perhaps it is lurking somewhere unexpected – waiting to ambush me? A sentinel gone AWOL?

There is a substantial pile of books waiting for a new bookcase. I guess it must be in there – buried deep in the middle.

Paying attention

Although there wasn’t any actual writing done I did make some progress. I walked away from the day – and the week – with more fodder for the (recently disciplined scrawl of notebooks. I’m not a fan of lifting people and their habits or situations from their daily lives and dumping them into stories. I’ve never been able to work like that.

That said, I do find it useful to pay attention. I’m happy to make a note of tiny things that catch my eye and might be useful, ideas especially from images and phrases. They can sometimes be assembled at a later point. Mostly, however, I springboard from a note into something that has no obvious relation to the original observation.

I like how that works for me in my writing.

There are images that stay with me for ages before I work out how to use them.

I’m not ready to do anything with yesterday’s but I have been thinking about one from quite some time ago: as I reversed out of my driveway I looked out of the window – to check for traffic. I remember the morning was already hot and my eye was caught by a crow. He was black and glossy. In his beak he carried three coloured chocolate balls (the type with the glossy sugar crust on the outside…the logo was still clear on one). There was a blue, a red and a yellow. They were vibrant against the blackness of his beak.

This happened years ago and I think that – finally – I might have a way to use it. I’m still not sure whether it will be whole image or just a shadow. I hope I’ll be able to resolve it soon, though. Perhaps I’ll be ready to share the ‘final’ (things are never really final) product next time I post.


I can be impatient for the weekend to come. The two days loom as opportunities to do everything that I didn’t get done in the week. Sometimes I try to schedule too much in. I always have high hopes of getting a good amount of reading and writing done.

The promise of sunshine and fresh air lured me out of my study and I didn’t quite do what I planned but that’s ok. It is probably more than ok.

Instead of the planned writing, I

  • solved a problem (well, worked out how to use an idea that wasn’t really troubling me, but … let’s go with the concept of a problem solved)
  • thought about my response to The Elegance of the Hedgehog (not that I’ve decided whether I like it or I don’t – I have some issues with the penultimate chapter and I’ve been thinking about that, and how my attitude fits in with my own approaches to structuring stories – since I finished it last weekend)
  • felt the sun at my back and a gentle breeze in my hair.

Not a bad day to end the week at all. Looking at the day ahead of me now, I have plenty to be going on with.

Here’s to a fruitful week of reading, writing, thinking and mooching.


*I’m not sure I would have finished The Elegance of the Hedgehog if it hadn’t been my book for the week.

Book addict ahead – the joy of book shopping

It is a beautiful morning. There is a fair bit of cloud but, at the moment, the sun is streaming in through the window. When it gets too bright, I find myself typing  with my eyes shut. (Thank you, dad, for making me do that touch typing course during my honours year!)

When I was thinking about what to write today my first thought was my haul from the Save the Children Book Sale that has just finished at UWA. I posted a  picture on Sunday to Facebook with the comment ‘A picture of restraint’.

Secondhand books on coffee table
Last Sunday’s effort

Books v shoes

Have I mentioned before that I live in the midst of a bookshelf crisis? There are worse things. Much worse.

That said, I am aware that I need to deal with the books I have before adding too much more. My ambition for the day was to be restrained.

So, I walked into the sale at the Undercroft of Winthrop Hall with a plan. I was going to be restrained. I was going to just look out for something special.

I had limited time: I was parked in a 30 minute bay, I was meeting a friend for a writing date in 45 minutes.

I didn’t bring a carry bag and I promised myself I would only purchase what I could carry comfortably in one trip back to the car.

I set a budget. A modest one.

It was nominal.

Who knew what I might find and whether such a bargain would mean that the budget would need… NEED…to be revised?

It is lucky I don’t enjoy shopping for shoes. Imagine how that could play out. That said, I often wander around in the morning thinking I’d like to have more/different shoes. I just don’t want to go shopping for them.

And where would I put them?


It is only a couple of weeks since I posted a different picture of books picked up on a whim.

The thing is, they don’t just need to be housed. They need to be accessioned. They are lined up and waiting.

Stack of books with bookplates ready for labelling
Books stacked, ready for the next step

Perhaps I should have been a librarian. It was tempting. That whole must-be-quiet and must-share-books-with-anyone was a concern.

I’m not the only person who checks  with a friend – a friend, not a stranger – that they will take care of the volume they are about to take into their custody, am I?

I don’t know about how other people handle their home-libraries. I have a spread sheet that I try to maintain. I use an online service that helps me to not double up on purchases when mooching turns serious.

Helps, but doesn’t always prevent…

At the moment, the spread sheet and the book list don’t match up. There’s a discrepancy of probably about a 100 books between them at the moment. The only way to know where the problem is would be to do a full stocktake.

That won’t be happening this weekend, or next.

To be honest, it’s the sort of dusty chore that I like to take care of over the summer holidays with fans cranked to high and the promise of a swim at the end of the day’s work. Bring on the summer break!

Moderate, and not

As I welcomed the latest additions into the family by adding them to the spread sheet and the online service I discovered that I had doubled up on a volume, the 2006 edition of Best Australian Essays. My first copy is one of those books that hadn’t made it into the online list. Not to worry, I think I have a friend who will like the spare copy.

I already knew that I had a copy of The Faerie Queene. The copy already on my shelf is battered and does need replacing. Well, not replacing as such. It has my notes as an undergrad. Along with someone else’s. I can’t jettison those. The scruffy and much-better-looked-after will need to reside companionably on the shelf. Once I figure out how to fit them in.

There are a couple of books that I brought home that I have been looking for for ages. Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer is one of those. I am looking forward to reading that!

Some of the others I picked up specifically for friends and family. I can’t wait to see the reaction to the edition of Shakespeare’s Love Sonnets illustrated by Caitlin Keegan when I hand it over.

I must hand it over.

I must.

Perhaps I should write that out a hundred times…

Bibliophilia and logophilia

So here I am, loving books and words. I’ve thought about this a bit over the years. I even started to sketch out a play called Logos years ago. (I was living in the Pilbara. The days were long and, often, hot…)

There is the material aspect of the books. The layout and design. The bookplates and stamps that I use for labelling. There is the flow of words through the pen or keyboard, under the eye, on the tongue.

Any time spent with them is a joy. Even when they don’t come easily. Even when they threaten to cascade over the desk and knock teacups to the floor.

I have to go out for the usual Saturday things-to-be-done reasons.

It is a bit of a wrench today. I look forward to coming back to my desk to finish this latest round of accessioning and working on the scrawl.

Of course, I’ll probably add to both while I’m out and about.