Poetry and the Monsters


I’ve recently received word that my traditional Shakespearean sonnet, ‘To his lover, awaiting sundown’, has been accepted for a future dark poetry anthology by Lycan Valley Press, entitled ‘Untimely Frost’.  I’m pleased that in this poem I was able to combine my love of iambic pentameter and vampires.

Also, just released is the latest edition of Sirens Call eZine, which contains my flash fiction piece about a werewolf, ‘Against the Wall’. The pdf of the eZine is available here: http://www.sirenscallpublications.com/pdfs/SirensCallEZine_August2017.pdf  I haven’t read it completely yet, but I’m sure there are lots of wonderful stories in it for your reading pleasure.

I’m also very pleased to share that the recent issue of Takahe is online, and it contains my poem ‘From Ashes On’, accessible here: http://www.takahe.org.nz/t90/ronnie-smart/  There are no monsters in this one, but it is in iambic pentameter.


Poetry and Craft

I’ve been thinking on Neil Gaiman’s ‘Make Good Art’ for a while. It all depends on what you mean by ‘good’, doesn’t it? Good means different things to different people. When I think of a poem as good, every syllable and stress, every rhyme and pause, has a reason for being the way it is. There is no padding in a good poem.

For me, if a poet uses rhyme at the end of lines, there must be a good way to get there. If the poet can’t get there well, the poet should kill the rhyme, or work on an appropriate way to reach the ending. Otherwise it won’t even be as good as when you sing a half-remembered song. At least with a half-remembered song, you can hum the length of the line, then get back to the good bits. If end rhymes are forced and draw attention to themselves too much, they can turn the rest of the line into a kind of unremarkable nonsense that’s either a wordy rush or full of worthless padding.

In the last week or so I’ve come into contact with a few excellent poems.

One of these, and the high point of the National Poetry Day in Christchurch for me, was listening to Jeffrey Paparoa Holman read his poem about the famous Maori chieftain and warrior Te Rauparaha and the Thistle Inn. I found it online, here on his blog:  https://paparoa.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/i-was-dreaming-of-te-rauparaha/ Jeffrey informed me that it’s in his selection of poems, entitled ‘Blood Ties.’ I’m going to Scorpio Books to get it soon.

The other two poems were in two poetry books that a friend, the writer Sabine Schneider, gifted to me recently. The first was Joy Green’s excellently crafted sonnet ‘Surface Tension’, which is in a poetry collection of the same name, the other is a poem called ‘The colour of birds’, which is in Tim Upperton’s poetry collection, ‘The Night We Ate The Baby’. The latter poem concludes with the lines ‘…every slow / invertebrate creature glowed its wire.’ I’m not sure what ‘glowed its wire’ means, but I love the line.

Buster Keaton, the Journey, and Bears

I was amazed and entertained by the silent movie ‘Our Hospitality’, that I saw with full orchestral backing at the Theatre Royal on a rainy Sunday with the family. Almost everyone enjoyed the movie, evident from the laughing and clapping throughout.

As I was laughing and smiling, constantly amazed by Buster Keaton’s athleticism and physical comedy, I couldn’t help think of the Hero’s Journey, the three act structure I  recently studied in the Hagley Writers’ Course. With the background of a family feud, there was a call to action in the form of a letter regarding the protagonist’s inheritance of the old estate of his father. This set up a wonderful adventure, followed by numerous obstacles, and culminating in an amazing climax at the top of a waterfall. I’ll not give the plot away too much, suffice to say it is a movie full of joy. Everyone walked out smiling.

Another piece of news. My flash fiction piece, ‘Sometimes, there are bears’ is now online on the wonderful Blue Fifth Review, in the Summer Quarterly Issue. I’m quite proud of it, and think it’s well worth a look, even a very short one. It is, after all, a very short piece.

If you’re looking for something else to read, and like flash fiction, I’d really recommend Frankie McMillan’s My Mother and the Hungarians, and other small fictions. It’s terrific flash, and it’s available from Canterbury University Press, or at good bookstores in New Zealand. The first story I read in the book is ‘The piano learns to swim’, and it’s my favorite. Check it out if you can.








Shakespeare Sonnets and Static Trees

Sometimes it doesn’t matter where things start, it’s where they takes us.

For the past several days, I’ve been reading Shakespeare’s sonnets aloud. I’m finding that this practice not only improves my control of the iambic line, but also helps me understand how to use punctuation, line breaks and rhyme more effectively. I’m also becoming more and more unforgiving of forced rhymes and poetic inversions in the work of others.

When on the twelfth day I got to Sonnet 12, beginning ‘When I do count the clock that tells the time,’ and – and I’m prepared to forgive that ‘do’ in the line, since it was probably written in the late 16th Century and all – I immediately started thinking of the song ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone?’, sung by Peter, Paul and Mary. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmBLSGy6g58

Are they linked together? Does it matter? Today I heard radio static while passing a tree and it seemed as though the tree itself had static. Things spark and catch on fire due to rogue winds.

I love dark ballads best


Just bought an issue of Mojo Music Magazine, because there was an exclusive interview with Nick Cave in it and a CD stuck to the cover. The blurb on the cover said that it contained ’15 original tracks’ that ‘inspired Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’. I’ve been listening to it, and it’s wonderful, even though the sound quality is a wee bit harsh at times. But hey, some of the songs on the CD are from the 20s!

Today I started obsessively listening to an old American lullaby for children from it called ‘All The Pretty Little Horses’ , sung by Pete Seeger (pictured), which has these lines:

Don’t you cry,
Go to sleepy, little baby.
Way down yonder
In de medder
There’s a po’ lil lambie,
De bees an’ de butterflies
Peckin’ out its eyes,
De po’ lil thing cried, “Mammy!”
Don’t you cry,
Go to sleepy, little baby.

So disturbing! And it’s the peaceful soothing nature of the piece that makes it all the more troubling. And there’s also this cruel ballad called ‘Knoxville Girl’ by The Louvin Brothers on it, and the ballad ‘Katie Cruel’, which is not as cruel, which has the following lines:

‘Through the woods I’m going
And through the boggy mire
Straight way down the road
‘Til I come to my heart’s desire
If I was where I would be
Then I’d be where I am not
Here I am where I must be
Where I would be, I can not’
Anyway, these old songs stimulate me to write more, and to write more darkly.
Bye now,


A chain of good news

Tagged onto the end of the other good news, I’ve just received word my flash fiction piece, ‘Sometimes, there are bears’, has been accepted for the August edition of Blue Fifth Review, an online quarterly of art, flash fiction, essays, reviews, and poetry.


It’s seems I wrote too soon. The ‘unrestrained’ werewolf story that I mentioned in May, ‘Against the Wall’, has also just been accepted for publication in the August 2017 issue of The Siren’s Call Ezine. The issue contains stories on the theme ‘Feel the Fear’.