Thursday, January 31, 2013

Yet another poem about a dead cat

In this case, the splendid British Blue Takanohana. She spent her days in a state of catatonic inertia, barely bothering to twitch. But then again, the wildlife in my apartment is pretty limited.

That cat

That cat is a capital cat,
a most satisfactory cat.

That cat may act like a mat
but she isn't exactly flat.

That cat billows and flows,
a cloud that grows and grows.

That cat is a regal cat,
a womanly cat, a curvy cat.

But you'd better not call her fat.
She doesn't like that.

Rachel McAlpine

You may share this poem freely, but always include my name as author.
More poems free (for now) to a good home on Smashwords

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Love poem from a cat that hunts

Cats are in the news right now as instinctive hunters who slaughter New Zealand's precious wild life. And they do. They do.

I have my own companion cat, but her hunting is safely limited to cicada safaris in the apartment and on the deck and roof.

I enjoy the ambivalence towards cats shown in the poem, Offering. Hope you do too. At least this moggy catches a mouse-poem, not a bird-poem.


for months now
I have brought you nothing

but today you will see on the step
a slight grey poem
barely flecked with blood
so lightly was it caught

this purse of fur contains
bones of flute
notes of flesh
palpitation quelled

it is the only gift
for one as quick as you
despite your speed
you cannot hunt like me

still I would swallow the lot
if you rebuked my purring
if you did not stroke my neck

Rachel McAlpine

You may share this poem freely, but always include my name as author.
Rachel McAlpine on Smashwords: poetry books are free—for now.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The bravest poem you'll read this year

My friend Diana Neutze has been using poetry for years as a life-saving outlet for her creativity and communication. In the process she has kept her brain athletic and inspired many others.

Diana is now, after decades of suffering inflicted by multiple sclerosis, frighteningly debilitated. Yet she is still writing some of the bravest poems you'll ever read.

Today she posted on her blog a poem setting a deadline for her death:
The Third Bell, by Diana Neutze

At the same time she sent a supplementary letter to her friends giving a realistic picture of her physiological state. Nobody could read those medical facts and still imagine that there is any other future for Diana but a painful death, perhaps a lot sooner than 40 weeks.

Without those facts, you may be tempted to imagine, "Oh if only she could do this or that—take this new treatment—be more optimistic."

No. This is not a whim, not a decision taken lightly. Diana faces facts, makes a rational decision, then processes tragedy into spiritual growth.

I think you will marvel at her courage, honesty, and skill with words.

Diana's blog: 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Love poems free to a good home: Smashwords

Need a love poem? Most people do at some time in their lives.
I'm sharing a book of love poems.

Lover Poems by Rachel McAlpine on Smashwords

Poems for lovers, happy or not. In this book of love poems, certain lines may express precisely what you feel but cannot say. The delicious agonies of longing. Confusion when a love affair goes wrong. The frivolous, funny, and comforting aspects of love. Enjoy!  You'll know when to use the following poem...

Love Song
Your forehead
is the curve
of the world.

Through your eyes
I slide
into a jungle
a tangle
of flying vines
of blood feasts
of jagged cries
of silent

Your blood
has the beat
of the sea.
It pulls
to the pulse
of the moon.

If I die
before I lie
with you
rocks will rain
from heaven
on my grave.

Rachel McAlpine

You may share this poem freely, 
but always include my name as writer.

Get the whole book. Free.

P.S. Lover Poems is in the Smashwords Premium Catalog. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Heavy metal (type)writers

It's two years since I began this blog. I intended it to be a personal notebook about the peculiar personal process of aging. Blame my mother, who died absurdly young, almost-but-not-quite on purpose. 

Well, I'm over it. Had to do it. Over it. The deadline for Hamletting has passed. Now let's get cracking on the new stuff. New books to read and new books to write.

Those antique typewriters are icons for people who write. Every second writer's blog flaunts a photo of one of the old pedal machines.

I've never used one in my life. I began with a Hermes Baby: brute force was required and it squeaked when I hit the keys. Cute, but nostalgia? Zero. Give me a MacBook Pro or a MacBook Air any day.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Writing process: the novel as patchwork skirt

The novel I'm writing this year began as 26 colourful patches, otherwise perceived as short stories.

My other novels were, of course, written from scratch. The writing process is always a hard muscly battle between structure and story, with myself as a bewildered but ambitious adjudicator. 

With my first novel, The Limits of Green, I just jumped on the elephant of the story and held on like grim death when it bolted. Then I tried to impose structure as an afterthought. 

With more experience, I became more of a sumo wrestler than a novice arm-wrestler, but neither is a match for an elephant. Writers always attempt to prod, cajole or even programme the elephant to follow a structured path, and to some extent writers will always fail, because story must win. It's a fun fight although there is much at stake.

As I was foolish enough to reveal my current project, some friends inevitably ask, "How's it going? How much have you written so far?" 

I can't blame them, because I also announced my game plan prematurely: to write at least some words every day. Word count and duration are irrelevant: 100 words or 1,000 words, 15 minutes or 4 hours—I don't care. I just write something and the novel grows.

This book didn't start as a blank page: it started with 45,000 words—26 stories that must now be sprinkled evenly through the narrative. The stories are like multi-coloured patches that I have roughly pinned on a canvas skirt template. 

The main narrative begins as 26 bits and pieces of cloth. Right now, the narrative pieces are small, pale and shapeless. As I write, fabric will be removed and replaced and destroyed and shifted and shaped and stretched until the entire canvas is covered and the skirt as a whole emerges. 

I cannot predict what the general impression will be—bright or sombre, short or long, bristly or smooth, A-shaped or O-shaped, flat or textured. (It won't be frilly.) However, after the battle of structure and story, bones and colour is over, I hope to find something coherent, graceful and astonishing. 

I'm over real-life patchwork skirts, but in my youth I created a couple of beauties. One was constructed in tiers: that was so easy it was virtually cheating. The other was sleek and subtle, cut on the cross and featherstitched. 

Photo of a vintage patchwork skirt: found on e-Bay

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year writing and the Google novelist trap

Hello there, new year. You always make me feel a tiny bit inadequate. I believe it's normal to be able to sum up the old year in a nice little bundle. To figure where you've been and where you're going. Make resolutions, I suppose.

But life is messy, and my mature brain is a network of fibres hopelessly tangled by some metaphysical kitten. (An escapee from Schrodinger's cat-box, no doubt.) Every thought is connected to every other thought, if you follow Ariadne's thread far enough into the maze.

See what I mean? Away they go...

This week my beloved brain's wanderlust has been more obvious than usual. I'm writing a novel (yay!) and I make reasonable progress in the morning. Afternoons, not so much. In mid-sentence I tend to slide into Googleworld in search of, for example:
  • the meaning of Libertia Peregrinas (or is it Peregrinans?)
  • a biography of Anne-Marie Libert, 19th century Belgian botanist
  • photos of shearers' quarters on Canterbury farms
  • the difference between golf carts, ATVs and quad bikes
  • earthquake damage in Rangiora.
None of this information is necessary for me to write a perfectly good draft chapter, but I just can't resist. Research is a tunnel—an enticing tunnel, crammed with would-be novelists blundering around in the dark.

And so is blogging.

Why the New Zealand native longfin eel (tuna) should be the official symbol for the Year of the Snake: see my business blog.

Photo: Inside Lyttelton Tunnel (c) FishnChips on