Monday, October 15, 2007

Environmental magick


It's Blog Action Day, Monday 15th October 2007 (my time), when bloggers all around the world – 14,000 or so, last I heard – are posting about the environment. What has that to do with my tour of Texas last year? Well, it wasn't only poetry that happened on that trip.
At Kerrville in particular, I felt a strong, mystical connection with the land itself. At home I have a conscious connection with nature spirits – those beings often called faeries – who are definitely not merely imaginary! In various ways my husband Andrew and I have worked with them for years. Some of this is recounted in our blog The Truth About Fairies.
My guest room at Anne and Harry's place (see previous post) had a balcony overlooking their back garden and a section of untended bush around the side of the house. I would sometimes sit out there alone and write or meditate, or simply enjoy the view.

I was surprised to notice that the nature spirits there made their presence known to me, showing themselves to my inner vision and communicating telepathically, not in words so much as feelings and the particular flavour of their energy. I realised I'd had some sort of unconscious expectation that only the nature spirits associated with my home locality would connect with me, not those in a place which I was only briefly visiting. I tuned in and asked why, and they told me that (a) it was an acknowledgment of all the work I had done in cooperation with nature spirits in Australia and (b) the world is all one, it is only we humans who see different parts of it as separate; the nature spirits all over the world are connected and in communication with each other.

It was a joy to be greeted by these special beings, who were indeed associated with that place in Kerrville. And it didn't stop there. They began imparting wisdom and insights. Some of the people I met in Kerrville, knowing that I also work as a psychic reader, consulted me in that capacity. I didn't cart my huge crystal ball overseas with me, but I did take a special crystal which is attuned to it, and I took my Voyager™ Tarot. For these readings, which took place on "my" balcony, I was also aware of the local nature spirits speaking to me, and through me. They were very special readings indeed! It's not an overstatement to say they had a sacred quality. Not only that, but certain Native American spirits also communicated with me – not nature spirits, but the spirits of people long dead. In one reading, I received information for my client concerning a Native American tribal leader I had no knowledge of. I described his face, and other details which made her think it must be a historically famous person of whom there was a local statue. A few days later she took me to see it. There were statues of other, less famous men there too, and I recognised one of them as the man I had seen in my vision.

"Why me?" I kept wondering. I gradually got in touch with a long ago past life when I was intimately connected with that land. I saw myself planting crops there. I understood that I was planting blue corn – a thing I didn't even know existed until I started sharing these visions with friends. To me the notion of blue corn seemed preposterous, but apparently it is commonplace in America. So I guess it was a kind of homecoming for me!

I also connected with witches in Texas, being one myself. Witchcraft is very much about care for the environment. We revere all life – theoretically at least. I guess it depends what you think is alive. At one ritual event I participated in (after I left Kerrville) I became excited to perceive that a nature spirit had entered into a small rock. I pointed this out to a man with whom I was setting up the ritual space, explaining that we should place this rock in the circle. He didn't get it. He made some remark about it looking a bit like a gnome, and humoured me about including it, but he obviously thought it was just a rock. (Though as to that "just", even rocks are themselves sentient beings ... in my understanding.) After the ritual, when we were dismantling the circle, I wasn't quick enough to stop this same man from kicking that rock carelessly aside. I was shocked at his disrespect, but he only shrugged. A little while later, he went to retrieve his thongs (I think they're called flip-flops in America) after doing the ritual barefoot. He was puzzled to find one had vanished inexplicably and didn't turn up no matter how we hunted.

Next thing, he exclaimed that he'd lost his pentacle, which he'd been using to try and pendulum the whereabouts of his footwear. This was more serious! The ground was fairly bare and the pentacle, though small, was shiny silver, yet no-one could see it anywhere. At this point I went aside and spoke telepathically to the local nature spirits, saying, "Hey guys, his shoe is one thing, but his pentacle is his sacred tool. That's not fair; he really needs it." Suddenly he said, "Here it is!" looking down at his feet – and there it was, to be sure, yet we hadn't seen it there a minute before.

Often even the most spiritually conscious people simply don't take into account the nature spirits who inhabit our world alongside us. Perhaps it's because most believe – as I did for many years – that such beings aren't real. I have learned a lot about them in the course of my psychic work over the years. I have learned that they have a role in looking after our earth and all its life forms. But now that the environment has suffered so much at human hands, they are retreating to what few areas of wilderness they can still find.

A remarkable woman called Machaelle Small Wright, who works closely with Nature on her property at Perelandra, has passed on, in her Garden Workbook, their request that we create sanctuaries for them if possible.

She suggests we find a suitable area, preferably near our garden (but it could be the top of a cupboard if that's all you've got) and rope it off or mark the boundary some way, then invite the nature spirits in. If you know how to test with pendulum or kinesiology, you can ask if they accept; or you can request a sign. [Wright gives detailed instructions and drawings in several of her books, to show you how to do kinesiology testing with your fingers. Not having that facility here, the pendulum and asking for a sign are my own suggestions, which also work.] This sanctuary should be a place where you guarantee no humans will physically intrude (though animals are fine). So if it's on your land, you'll have to let the weeds grow! If ever you need to dismantle the sanctuary, e.g. if moving house, please let the nature spirits know beforehand when this will take place, and perhaps invite them in advance to join you again when you get a new one set up.

You can use this sanctuary to build your relationship with Nature. Knowing the spirits are there, you can focus in your mind on that area when you wish to communicate with them, or even stand or sit near it. It's important for us to work in cooperation with the forces of Nature, for our own sakes and that of other life forms and the planet itself. There are many ways of doing so, and of caring for our environment. A conscious cooperation with the nature spirits is an often overlooked way which is remarkably easy to implement.

The pictures in this post are of Anne and Harry's back yard in Kerrville,
and the beautiful back gate of their magickal property.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Kerrville: 1

First posted 8 October 2007

"Poetry on the Patio" and "Facing the Shadow"

Anne Schneider – poet, mask maker, doll maker and Tai Chi teacher – had been corresponding with me by email for some months ahead of my visit and we'd designed a workshop incorporating writing, mask-making and dance, for us to teach together. We had such easy rapport, we already felt as if we'd known each other always.

She picked me up from Neil and Dorsey's on Thursday the 6th, and drove me to her home in Kerrville, a pretty town in the hill country near Austin and San Antonio. Until I made the journey I had no idea what a long trip it was for her. Yet another example of generous Texas hospitality, and a mere foretaste of what was to come! It's hard to pick any one highlight of my Texas tour, which was so full of them, but my time in Kerrville was a very special interlude.

I emailed Andrew on the Friday:
"More lovely hosts and luxury accommodation here! Spanish style house and guest cottage in treed garden with rock pool and waterfall, in a suburb rather like the leafy parts of Eltham." [Eltham is a hill suburb of Melbourne, Australia.]

A section of Anne and Harry's garden


"As I type, Harry (Anne's husband) is practising his classical guitar downstairs; a mellow sound.

I have a big poetry reading tonight on Anne's capacious patio."
Anne had organized a reading featuring a number of local poets with me, the international visitor, as star turn, and plenty of non-reading audience members too, to enjoy the show. We had a buffet dinner first at a number of outdoor tables, then assembled in a courtyard area for the reading.

Then on the Saturday we had our one-day workshop.

Again, I'll quote from a detailed email to Andrew, written on Monday the 10th (interspersing a couple of poems mentioned):

" Well, what can I say? Anne and I are the soul-sisters we already knew we were from email communications. Harry is a simply lovely man, a retired
lawyer who now plays classical guitar, practises daily, performs professionally at times, and wishes he had given his whole life to it instead of discovering it so late. He is a courteous, gentle person whose bookshelf contains items you have too and others you'd like. He and I like each other very much, have a quietly affectionate relationship, and yesterday he brought me home a lovely ornamental frog after hearing my green tree-frog poem the night before."

Celebration of the Green Tree-Frog

The small frog squats at night

in the track of the sliding door,
hunched below the level of the glass.
Lamplight turns him brown;

his eyes are amber beads.
He is carved stone
watching the moths.
They flutter above him,

little brown leaves
falling against the flywire

and twirling off.

In daylight the frog is green,
sticky and shiny with big webbed feet,
transparent as a leaf.
On top of the water tank
in the gap between pipe and filter,
just where the rain spills in,
he rests and celebrates.

When storms lash and the pipe gushes,
we hear from his tiny throat
a pulsing, continuous drum-beat
heavy and huge and deep.


© Rosemary Nissen-Wade 1996


"Before the poetry night Anne and I went to visit her friend Paula who gave us lavender, flowering sage and irises to decorate the venue. She keeps
cats, dogs, chickens, prairie dogs (a kind of squirrel without the bushy tail) and a miniature horse. We also saw this part of the Guadalupe River, which is truly a turquoise colour; you would not believe it if you saw it on a postcard. (Neil had prepared me for it already.) And at the health food shop I got an unscented roll-on deodorant. EVERYONE in Texas (it sometimes seems) has huge allergy problems including sensitivity to smells, and eventually Dorsey told me gently that my perfume was rather strong and perhaps I should try using essential oils instead. As that is what I do use, I identified the problem as the spray deodorant I brought from Oz, largely chemical-free but quite scented. Now I am fine and can go amongst people without causing distress!

The poetry reading on Friday was a great night,
beautiful balmy weather on Anne & Harry's patio. A good crowd turned up, maybe two dozen, we weren't counting. Four other poets read for 10 minutes each, all good, one wonderful. (I swapped books with her later.) One woman read an amazing prize-winning poem by her 11-year-old grandson, profound stuff. The Dress – or should I say The Gown? – featured of course, to great acclaim. They liked me too. Some of my funnier pieces stopped the show, people laughed so hard and long. It got dark sooner than expected, so we ended up reading by torchlight but that was fine. Luckily I have memorised the more performancy pieces. I had wonderful conversations, and met one woman who is such a kindred spirit that we agree we have to keep in touch.

Seven of the same women, and one who had been unable to attend, turned up for the writing and mask workshop yesterday (Saturday). That too was a huge success. It is pretty amazing considering Anne and I mostly planned it by email with only a quick get-together about it Friday afternoon in
between preparing for the reading. Afterwards people expressed surprise to have accomplished so much in one day. It was called Facing the Shadow. I introduced it, speaking about parts of the psyche, explaining the concept of the shadow, and reading a couple of my poems that came from some strange, unfamiliar aspect of my persona. Only later I discovered one of the group was a professional psychologist! But she was gracious, saying she had long noticed that writers already know a lot of this stuff she trained in.

Anne used me as demonstration model for casting a mask, then I got to watch as the participants paired up and cast each other under her supervision. With fast drying plaster it took only half an hour to make a cast.


We broke for lunch, came back and I guided them through a meditation about meeting their shadow, then they did some timed writings. Anne participated in this. I re-read my Carlina poem (which I also did the night before) seeing it as being about reclaim
ing the shadow."

Carlina


‘Yes, Rod Craig,’ I said,
ripping off my mask —
‘I AM Carlina!’
and I smiled: a wicked smirk
of curling crimson lips.

My little brother
and his friend,
the kid from next door,
got a bit scared.
They knew I was quoting, but,
‘You really changed!’
they said later.

My slanty green eyes flashed.

I tilted my hips
in the black sheath dress
and casually sharpened my nails —
my long, red, pointed nails —
on the slim dagger
I kept in my boot.


I met Carlina in a comic book:

the evil beauty,
a seductress who killed.
I was not repelled.

Her hair was black and sleek,
rippling down her back.
No mere gangster’s moll,
she was the brains of the gang.

She schemed. She gave orders.

Always, I was the one
who scripted our games.
The day Carlina entered in,

the script went wild;
I followed where she led.

Dangerous battles happened.
We fought with improvised guns.

(Guns were forbidden; we didn’t care.)
We scaled high back yard fences
or writhed like snakes through scrub.

I got to know a lot about her
that wasn’t in the book.

Once she’d been a pirate,
captain of her own fleet.

She began as a dancer, a gypsy.
She could pass for an aristocrat.

When our mothers called us indoors,
Carlina disappeared smartly.
I knew she had to be secret.

She threatened the little boys
so they wouldn’t tell.
They never did.

The mask melds with my flesh.
For years I live inside
its comfortable normality.
I raise my kids ... I go to work ...

Suddenly in late middle age
I dye my hair wild magenta,

wear low cut gowns,
and a bold pendant
shaped like a sword.
My lips are painted purple.

Yes, Rod Craig,

I AM Carlina!

© Rosemary Nissen-Wade 2006



"Then we decorated our masks, and I got to participate. It was wonderful indeed to see what transformations were wrought on the plain white forms. We had all sorts of materials to use: paper, fabric, beads, shells, leather, feathers, crystals ... and great little glue guns, and of course lots of paints.

Having done that meditation in the past, I expected my shadow to be a tribal warrior, young and male. No matter what I did, however, the face looked like my mother! Eventually I gave up and just went where the spirit guided me. It was a process: she became my martyred mother, and later the one who tried to pretty everything up and present a nice face to the
world. Finally the sadness metamorphosed into strength, and behold – a tribal warrior emerged of his own accord, out of all that!

Everyone got to say what they felt their mask expressed or represented. I pronounced on what I saw as the essential quality in each one. They wrote some more. We danced with our masks, holding them to face us, and we each gradually, spontaneously, unexpectedly fell in love with our own shadow. Then we turned them around and danced AS our shadows. Anne, who didn'
t make a mask of her own on this occasion, found she had created a psychic mask to dance with!

I spoke about the muse and read them my muse poem. They wrote some more.
Few people shared any of these writings; I took this to mean they were going deep. (There were some passing comments which delighted me, suggesting the meditation had sparked many new insights.)The few pieces that were aired were wonderful, and at the end a woman shared two beautiful poems she wrote in response to the final exercise. Then we all lined up for photos with our masks, and suddenly it was all over!
All tired afterwards, Harry and Anne took me out to dinner at a restaurant a couple of minutes drive away. We sat outside, overlooking the river, which ran right beside the restaurant patio, and watched the sun set on the peaceful water. I had a fresh water fish called Tapilia, very tender and tasty. Harry put his arm round me and said, 'Rosemary, how can we let you leave?' and Anne chimed in, concurring. I said I wasn't mad keen to go, but then we decided I might find the summers here a bit much: over 100 degrees F quite often. We turned in as soon as we came back home, but I was restless until midnight, processing after the workshop. Anne said she woke at 4 to do the same. I didn't rise until 9.30 today; Anne and Harry not till 10. We are having a nice, lazy time.

I can sure see why Thom likes Texas! The people are so warm and kind, and there is so much poetry around.

And I have finally seen a few deer. They roam these hills and are considered pests that people try to keep out of their gardens. The ones I saw when we drove out at dusk yesterday were hornless, small and pretty."

***********************************

I thought at the time I would write a series of poems about the workshop, but it's taken me until only a few days ago to get started! The Texas tour changed my life in many ways, leading me in new directions in writing which have kept me busy, and it seems I needed many months to process it all! At last this recent piece begins the series:


Mask-Making

(Kerrville, Texas, April 2006)

For Anne Schneider


1. Beginning

I perch on the high stool
out the front, looking down

from this vantage-point
on the group of women
newly-met,
my fellow-students.

I close my eyes.
She covers them with cloth.
Now I must trust her.
I wobble. She brings something firm –
box or shelf or upturned bucket –
on which I rest my feet.

She blots out first my brow
then cheeks, nose, chin
with thick petroleum jelly.

She describes to the group
the inch-by-inch procedure,
with every new step
telling them why.

Telling me too.

Her fingers are gentle.
Inside my blindness
I begin to feel protected.
She touches my shoulder,
showing me she is there
right by me,
I won't go spinning

over the cliff of thought
to the floor.

Without this reassurance,

I might not sit so quiet
for the application of texture –

wet, cold, smothering my skin,
even covering my nostrils briefly.
I hold myself stiff
in order to not shriek.
I forgot to tell her

I suffer, though ever-so-slightly,
from claustrophobia.

Her sweet voice continues

to prevent me flying off
into terror.
Her deft touch keeps me
grounded, present, still.

Quite soon, the whole concoction

is lifted off me.
I rediscover sight.
My sense of self

settles into familiar territory.
I feel my centre,

I know my edges.

White, lifeless, removed,
my facial likeness lying over there,
my other, newborn self
embodies the term "blank-faced".


I grow interested in her.
I could invest in this different me
hidden things, invented things,
visions of who I might be
in other worlds / times / truths.


I collect my materials,
selecting bits of coloured silk,

buttons, liquid glitter, shells …
I become explorer.

Let the journey begin!

© Rosemary Nissen-Wade 2007


Returning to Texas

First posted 5 August 2007

No I don't mean geographically. If only! I nourish dreams of getting back there in 2009, but meanwhile I would like to finish recording here my wonderful experiences in 2006.

"Everyone is very good to me. Don't worry," I emailed Andrew on my third day there. I look back now and am amazed at how very well people treated me. For instance everyone insisted on driving me all over the place instead of letting me get cabs – which I was quite prepared to do, but no-one would hear of it. In that and many ways the hospitality was extraordinary.
I left off my account with English poet Rupert Hopkins and me about to appear as featured readers at an Italian café called Vinny's. The poetry performances were on a verandah area where we could dine and listen. Neil and Dorsey drove me there and Patricia Fiske joined us for dinner.

Neil and Dorsey at Vinny's

I couldn't eat much, too nervous before the performance. I ended up sitting with Rupert at a different table from the rest of our party, because we had our piles of books to sell, and our tip jars for people to give us donations if they liked our work. I ordered a small plate of something, and a drink, thinking to pay for it myself, but I didn't get away with that. Neil was watching and made sure the waiter put it on his bill.

The poetry hostess at Vinny's was Kathleen Romana, poet and artist, with whom I'd had some email correspondence while I was still in Australia. She turned out to be a beautiful blonde with very long hair, who loved retro dressing. At last, someone with a gown comparable to mine, but hers was black lace. "How beautiful you look!" we told each other in delight.


Rupert and Kathleen

Kathleen performed delicate, mystical poetry to a background of two musicians weaving melodious improvisations softly around her words. That would have been impossible with my more animated pieces, and when I began my set they sat silent a while; but then I did a quieter one and they chimed in. I did a few more quiet, lyrical pieces so they could continue. It was a lovely experience to recite to music like that.

It was at Vinny's that I first encountered Jazz, in the open section. I didn't know him by that name then. When he approached the stage, a big, serious-looking young man in a striking black and white Thelonius Monk T-shirt, everyone was chanting, "Jason! Jason!" I found out later he is also a DJ and "Jazz One" (or Jazz 1) is his DJ name – which by now everyone calls him. He performed from memory a sombre but brilliant poem with a lot of repetition, "I'm in love with the cutter," i. e. a girl who self-mutilates. I was stunned. I'd never heard anything like it. I joined enthusiastically in the loud applause.
Patricia Fiske told a funny story instead of a poem, and wowed everyone I was beginning to realise that Patricia, who loved theatre, was always one of the star turns on any occasion. Later she talked to me about her interest in blending various components in art, e.g. poetry with music and dance.
Rupert and I said goodbye, as I was off to Kerrville for eight days and he was going to New York and then home to England. I spontaneously hugged him, which I think was a little unexpected but he did his best to respond despite English reserve.

"Texans of course," I wrote to Andrew, "give even better bear hugs than Aussies."

The first week

First posted 23 April 2007

After Celebration Circle on Sunday morning (see previous post) we rushed back to Austin where I called in to make myself known to the staff at BookWoman, the wonderful feminist bookshop that had agreed to launch my book. It was hard to tear myself away from its treasures! I bought a sticker that now adorns my fridge, saying, 'Well-behaved women seldom make history' and was delighted to note that Angela Davis, whom I had not heard of for decades, is alive and well and writing books. Yes, she is still dedicated to social reform!

Thom picked up a supply of bagels to take to the homeless, his regular afternoon task, from two young poets who run a cafe near BookWoman. He was expected; a young woman met the van at a park where the homeless people hang out, and thanked him smilingly as she shouldered the huge bags of bagels. Thom explained that there is no government assistance available; it falls on individuals or businesses so inclined to try and help. One of the guys from the cafe had been taking the bagels to the people by pushbike every day, until Thom discovered what he was doing and said, 'Hey, I've got a vehicle; let me do the delivery.'

I finally met Dorsey, my hostess, who had been away in connection with her work as a psychologist. I'd seen her photos around the place, and thought she looked warm and dynamic. I discovered she is also gentle and thoughtful. I taught her Reiki I over the next two days with Neil acting as assistant, fitting it around their work and my gigs. On the Monday (April 3) they took me to lunch at La Casa, a restaurant attached to a primary school. We ate outdoors, enjoying authentic Mexican food, the happy sounds of children playing just over the fence, and the good company of some of Neil's friends – journalists and poets.

I don't know how the al fresco dining would be going this year. Roger West and Clive Price, the musos I met at my first gig in 2006, returned for this year's poetry month. Clive, now back home in Edinurgh, says Austin was very cold this year following a severe winter – in fact colder than the UK. This news was a great comfort to me for not being there this time! When I was there, the weather was balmy.

That night Rupert and I were featured at The Hide-Out. It was where the young crowd went, though there were some older poets too. All were outspoken, including me. Thom presented us with trophies for being 'the only Rupert Hopkins and Rosemary Nissen Wade in the world'. To which I added, 'And the only one to drop her poems all over the floor' having just dropped my red folder of uncollected pieces. The rings came apart and pages went everywhere – which I took as a signal to abandon the planned reading (a good decision). I made a joke about it, kicked the pages out of the way till later, and careered blithely on.

My award, which now sits proudly on my computer desk in Australia, is like a sporting trophy. It is in the shape of a castle, and as far as I can see behind the label with my name, had an earlier incarnation as a prize in a chess competition. Rupert's was similar but not identical.


Thom had also created and disseminated poems about Rupert and me as an announcement ahead of the event. For Rupert:

HIS FATHER'S HAT

He wears his father's hat-
a style statement from some sixty years ago
when men wore hats like his brown fur
and sported jaunty Trilby's and Bowler's
His is different-
carefully folded in a triangle crease
Dark brown and somewhat conservative
(Like what we would see in early police TV)
he wears his father's hat to poetry..
His father still alive-though on a thin string
he survives by willed intention-his son
carries him with him-above his brain
his father always on his mind
whenever his brown hat comes to hand
FOR RUPERT HOPKINS April 3,2006

(featured at THE HIDEOUT 617 Congress tonight)


... and to promote me (for which you need to know that Jenny Joseph is the poet who wrote, 'When I am old I shall wear purple'):

DREAMS FROM DISTANT COUNTRIES

Recently,we have been importing clouds
to assist with these green Spring rains-
they cross borders with smiling genius
and give us the gift of their inspiration
She channels Jenny Joseph-purple hair
and flamboyance,announcing herself
as THE POET FROM THE LAND DOWN UNDER!
where(with laughter)she deals with healing
and beams forth Reiki to all who receive
Here,she revisits her SELECTED POEMS-
a SECRET LEOPARD that still stalks responses
across borders of consciousness
She will find you soon-tow you to your moon
and sit with stories around older campfires
She is Spring-come to remind you
of your green energies-your golden reasons..

THOM APRIL 3,2006
For ROSEMARY NISSEN-WADE
featuring@THE HIDEOUT tonight from 7pm


I wrote to Andrew:

'Tonight The Dress and I appeared at The HideOut, an 'open mic' venue run by Bevin, who is just a young thing. (And who runs it very well.) The poets were mostly young – though the first guy on when I arrived was white-bearded, and was saying some things I really liked, about the Void. [I later came to know this poet – pictured below – as Johnny Zianni. The photo also shows the big "tip jars" for people to give donations to the featured poets.]


It's a coffee lounge and was pretty informal. It's a real performance-poet venue, some rappy things, lots of passion, much irreverence, huge energy from all concerned, and some terrific poetry and also wonderful unaccompanied singing. I loved it, I loved it, I loved it! My kinda place. Uncensored too,so I got to do some of the wilder stuff.

One young black man, after hearing the famous C*** poem, presented me with a copy of a long and sensual poem of his own! I felt honoured, and made him sign it. [This is he, pictured, during his performance that night.] And a young Spanish man came up to introduce himself, shake my hand and tell me how much he liked my C*** poem – without any embarrassment whatsoever in saying the word.

I got great audience response, laughter and applause in all the right places – and shouts and whistles and stomping too. It was such a joy.

It was also a place where I was able to avow being a witch and read some wild, witchy stuff, and it was cheered.

You would think the Dress would be inappropriate in such a setting, but I am feeling more and more at ease in it and would now wear it anywhere. It is so unique that it does not appear inappropriate in any setting. In fact this was the one place where nobody even remarked on it.

This was a venue where anything goes, people REALLY dig the poetry, and while there is lots of angry political poetry read, there is lots of warmth and love amongst the poets. Takes me back to the old Poets Union days!

And guess what? The young love me!'

That night was my first encounter with Rhie, a dynamic young performance poet with a big voice and wonderful words, whose power and passion fair blew me away.

Next day I completed Dorsey's Reiki I training, then she and Neil drove me back to San Antonio for a gig at the Barnes and Noble bookshop there. Fortuitously, they had a dinner engagement at an Italian restaurant nearby. The gig was one of the regular Sun Poets readings hosted by Rod Stryker, with an appreciative crowd – but no whistling and stomping; we were in a bookshop not a cafe – and some excellent performances including one clown-like, acrobatic young man who had me mesmerised.

My email to Andrew next day said:

'Last night Rupert and I appeared as featured poets at a regular reading in Barnes & Noble bookstore in San Antonio – one of about 6 Barnes & Nobles there, I'm told, and if they are all like this one San Antonio is indeed well supplied with books; it was huge.

I thought I might have a change of costume – I did bring other clothes – but nothing I tried on measured up to The Dress, so on it went again. It turned out to be a new audience so that was all right. Neil has this theory that it is The Dress that takes me to the gigs, and simply would not let me off the hook on this occasion. (Of course, it is not merely The Dress but also The Coat, making The Outfit. However, everyone remembers it as The Purple Dress.)

Rupert is having to cut short his tour as he has been asked to step in for someone else who got ill back in England, to teach media studies to kids coming up for exams. So in a few days he will go from here to New York, stay with friends and do some gigs there, and miss the Austin International Poetry Festival.

He is quite the intrepid traveller; has trekked mountains in Nepal, the Australian outback and many other places, on his own. He tells tales of emerging from the scrub on to one of those long, empty roads in central Australia, to the amazement of a lone aboriginal driving past; and of being on a snow-covered mountain in Nepal with no food or water but a haversack full of interesting rocks he was collecting – sustaining himself with mouthfuls of snow – and deciding with night coming on to trek back to his hotel instead of staying the night out there. He has wonderful blown-up photos with him of some of his travels, made up into big posters with haiku he wrote about the scenes depicted. He showed us on the photo of the mountain how far it was to trek back to his hotel that night – but probably the wiser decision all the same! He is a small, unassuming fellow of whom one would not at all expect such feats. Getting around Texas is of course no great challenge to him, and he went down to San Antonio by bus before our reading to have a good look around.

Afterwards one of the organisers dropped Rupert and me off at the restaurant where Neil and Dorsey were dining with Neil's lawyer and his wife. She was another of these Southern belles. She was in a denim jacket, and had spiky blonded hair – but it is the manner: they have a way of enfolding you with their graciousness and charm, and taking care of your comfort, your ego, whatever. We have seen it lampooned in movies, but the real thing is quite enchanting and disarming.

Now I am about to go out with a witchy woman called Jade.'

Jade Beaty
, author and counsellor, was one of the people Thom had put me in touch with before my tour. She arrived bearing gifts to welcome me, including a large piece of Celestite – a type of crystal I had long been yearning for, though she didn't know that. It has been on my bedside table ever since I brought it home. Jade took me to see the nearby Zilker Park, noted for its gardens. At that time Austin had experienced drought, but the flowers were doing their best. The roses seemed small to me, but colourful. I was intrigued by unfamiliar birds – tiny cardinals deep red all over, and big blue-black grackles that reminded me of our Aussie bower birds. I thought the grackles beautiful but learned they are considered a pest in Texas, for their harsh cries, scavenging ways and huge numbers.

Wednesday night Rupert and I were featured at Vinny's, which had a different flavour again.

National Poetry Month, Texas, then and now: San Antonio

First posted 10 April 2007

Here are two very recent video clips of Thom the World Poet performing for students and staff at Schreiner University in Texas. Watch both - the introduction is much the same but the poems are different.


The woman introducing Thom is Dr Kathleen Hudson who conducts the writing course there. She's a formidable writer herself and a devoted chronicler of Texas music and musicians. Round about this time last year I was her guest, gave a performance for her students, discussed writing with them, and heard some of their own exciting work. That was while I was visiting nearby Kerrville. Before that, however, came more adventures in Austin and San Antonio, beginning with Gini's Tea Rooms in San Antonio the night after the Expressions gig.

On the way to dropping me off for the trip to the Tea Rooms, Neil took me to a reading called Poetry in the Arts. It was run by Peggy Lynch, a real Southern belle - at 83! Full of charisma, wit and joy, she welcomed me warmly and gave me two spots on her program as well as promoting my book launch. One of the musos from Expressions the night before was there, and when I was announced he called out loudly, 'She's a wonderful poet!' (I got to know him later: Chip Ross, the drummer who always plays with Roger and Clive when they visit Austin.)

Meeting Peggy showed me that the famous Southern charm is actually all about caring for people. I was to come across many more examples during my time in Texas.

Christine, whom I'd met at Expressions the night before, gave Patricia Fiske and me a lift to San Antonio - quite a hike from Austin. I don't do jet lag? Ha! It was late afternoon and I kept nodding off. Patricia was puzzled that I didn't want to look at scenery I'd never seen before, but I simply couldn't stay awake. It was Christine who realised it must be jet lag. Probably a good thing I gave in to it. I emailed Andrew later that I 'managed to put on a performance that had people remarking afterwards what a bundle of energy I am!'

Gini's Tea Rooms was like an English tea rooms with dark wood, white tablecloths, a big antique sideboard. I told Andrew: 'We all had tea or coffee, and amazing cakes. I was the final of 4 featured poets, high standard and hard acts to follow. Then there was an open section, all good. People enjoyed my stuff and said so later.'

I didn't wear The Dress; it was rinsed out and hanging up in the shower back at Neil and Dorsey's. Mim Scharlack, who was hosting the performance, had already heard about it and was disappointed not to see it. I'd been corresponding with Mim by email from Australia after Thom put us in touch. She was a slight, vibrant, pretty little woman with snow-white hair, who sang and drummed with gusto during her own performance. The drum strapped around her waist looked big enough to pull her over! But Mim is far more powerful than she looks, in all sorts of ways. I could have listened to her all night. Rupert was on the program too, and I was delighted that Roger and Clive were performing as well. It was a wonderful audience; the place was full and everyone was attentive and appreciative. For the first time, I heard the wonderful Patricia perform in public. At 79, she was glamorous, confident, talented and funny. I found out later she was a very seasoned performer with a theatrical background, who sometimes blends music, poetry, drama and dance.

It happened that that was the last night ever of the regular monthly poetry evenings at Gini's. It can be hard to sustain a poetry venue over time. The people clearly felt sad as they formally thanked both Gini and Mim, and no wonder – it had been going for nine years. I had a sense of occasion, a historic moment to have been a part of. The poets and musos finished the night with a party at Mim's house. I met her beloved old dog which wasn't well, and gave it some Reiki. It was late when we got back to Austin.

Next morning I was up early to return to San Antonio. Neil was due to pick up Dorsey from the airport, and I took a taxi to Thom's house to ride down with him and Rupert. This time I managed to take in the sights on the way. I couldn't get over it when Thom said, 'There's the Alamo,' and I glimpsed a tiny, pretty little white building overpowered by huge, glass-fronted shops and offices.

We were featured at Celebration Circle, a Sunday gathering for people of all religions. I wrote to Andrew later:

'I had the most amazing morning. We went to Celebration Circle in San Antonio: me, Rupert Hopkins from Bristol, and Thom. I wore The Dress, particularly for Mim who ran the Tearooms reading and had hoped to see it the night before. (Its fame had preceded me!)

Thom introduced me to Rudi who runs the Circle; he was younger than I'd expected. He gave me a namaste hand gesture which I returned, and a hug likewise. The venue was a theatre with tiered rows of chairs and a stage with two mikes and a couple of sound engineers testing levels. One of them greeted me "Hare Om," and after a moment of surprise, I replied, "Hare Bol."

Rudi showed us order of program, how to adjust mike, and so forth. I sat down and watched him rehearse. He is muso and poet, plays guitar and sings, and dances a bit. As I watched I went into total deja vu. He was now completely familiar to me, well known in fact, and so were the other musos who came on stage to join the rehearsal. It wasn't a dramatic thing, but very strong, and continued the rest of the time. I remarked on it to Rudi, who just laughed and was fairly matter of fact about it.

Celebration Circle is Sunday worship, of a very eclectic kind. One song he rehearsed starts: 'Come to the light. Come to Christ, come to Krishna, come to Buddha, come to the Father and the Mother Goddess too, come to Allah, come to Jesus, the Spirit that frees us ...' and goes on to ask us to remember who we are and that we are all one. I lapped it up! Partly because Rudi's energy is pure love and joy (not at all ostentatiously).

Although apparently many people had forgotten about changing to daylight saving and didn't turn up, the theatre soon became quite full. A man from India, who bought my book at Expressions the other night, brought his wife up to introduce to me. Before we began, Rudi took the musos and poets out the back for a quick prayer circle, standing holding hands and asking to be of service and to know that we are all one. It all felt soft, gentle, and nice – and genuine.

So there was music and singing. Beautiful slides of nature were shown on a screen all the time, without anything being said about them. Rudi's wife Zet invited us to honour the directions by standing and facing each direction in turn, while singing,'O Great Spirit' etc. - the chant I have so often played at my Reiki classes. At one point the several young children present were invited down on to the stage and stood there a few minutes while we all spoke love and blessings to them, very simply. Rudi gave a lovely discourse on one of Thic Na Than's questions. He and Thom did some 'word stew' combining poetry, music and discourse. And at three different places during the program the poets did a round: first me, then Rupert, then Thom. On Thom's advice I did again, as it was mainly a different audience, the 'down under' poem that has become my opener. It was a hit as usual. In fact, after that, Rudi played some music before putting Rupert and Thom on. The others I did were The Sword of Archangel Michael and Dancing for the Goddess.

At times there was a slightly gospel feel to the event, with people clapping and singing along – myself included – to things like 'This Little Light of Mine'. The whole feeling was friendly and joyous, but softer and sweeter than a gospel meeting. It had some flavour of a Hare Krishna celebration, but livelier and freer. I found it so totally nourishing I cannot tell you! I experienced it like some lovely acknowledgment bestowed on me for the path I have been following. I felt greatly blessed by the Goddess. When I gave Rudi a hug in thanks later, and told him how nourished I felt, he smiled and said, "Welcome home!" to which I responded, "Oh, absolutely!"

I am surely starting to get a sense of why this journey was so meant to be, and so serendipitously arranged despite seeming at first so impossible!'

The Sword of Archangel Michael

The sword glows
in my right hand.
My arm swings from the shoulder
wielding blue flame:
sharp light, the cut of truth.

Precise moves.
Economy. Bite.
These are the qualities.
These and blue light –
a laser that heals where it touches.

In the beginning
the word.
The word true,
the word precise,
the word deliberately aimed.

It cuts to the heart,
my sword in flight.
From the heart of God
to the point of now
exactly aimed,
quick light.

© Rosemary Nissen-Wade 1995
First published Divan (e-zine) issue 4, Dec. 2001.
Also in Secret Leopard: New and selected poems 1974-2005, Alyscamps Press (Paris) 2005















Rudi onstage, and with Mim after the performance

The first gig

Originally posted 9 July 2006

My first gig was Friday 31st March, two nights after my arrival, at Expressions — a monthly event at the B’hai Centre, hosted by Thom.

I spent most of that day rehearsing. ‘Don’t worry if you hear strange noises from next door,’ I told Neil.

I was worried about my performance as I seemed to have a bit of a cold and be lacking breath for my longer lines. I said some prayers; no backing out now! I decided to wear my purple Goddess gown. I wanted to perform a new poem that referred to it, which would work better with the visual component. When Neil knocked on my door to take me to the venue, I asked, ‘Can I wear this?’

‘This is Austin.’ he said. ‘You can wear anything.’ He remarked what a lovely outfit it was — the first of many such compliments I received. I thought I would have to say something throw-away from the stage about how I was keeping Austin weird — which is a slogan and bumper sticker there — but everyone was so complimentary about my dress before I even got on stage that it simply wasn't relevant.

I loved performing in it and wore it to nearly every gig thereafter ! Sometimes a group of us would go out for a meal afterwards.


‘Can I go into the restaurant like this?’ I asked nervously at first.

‘It’s AUSTIN,’ they would reiterate patiently, as to a backward child.


When we arrived at Expressions, a woman sitting behind the reception table introduced herself : ‘I’m Wendy.’ Wendy is Thom’s American wife, whom I’d previously met only by email. I was unprepared for her beauty! She was slender and pale, with huge blue eyes, full lips, clear skin, and long, wavy blonde hair that was obviously natural. Then I was surprised all over again by her calm, direct manner and the absence of that self-consciousness most beauties can’t seem to help.

Thom came bustling up for a hug. It was the first time we'd seen each other in many years; he looked happy and self-assured. Patricia, Kathleen and John had come to hear the show. It was encouraging to see all these friendly faces. They introduced me to Christine Gilbert, another local poet, who was hosting the visiting English poet Rupert Hopkins. Rupert was also on the program that night, and so were some English musicians called Roger West and the Ones to Watch.

I loved the musicians. There were three of them: Roger himself, another Englishman called Clive Price, and a drummer who turned out to be American, Chip Ross. He lives in Austin and accompanies Roger and Clive whenever they visit. The songs had catchy tunes and witty lyrics. I particularly enjoyed a composition of Roger’s about an earth man who fell for an extraterrestrial, ‘My lady alien, reptilian or mammalian.…’


Roger West and the Ones to Watch. From left: Chip Ross, Roger West, Clive Price.

Rupert was next. A small, modest man, he proved to be an intrepid solo traveller, often to places off the beaten track, and a talented photographer. Many of his poems were about places he’d travelled, with accompanying enlargements he showed from the stage. He had books of both his photos and poems on sale.

Finally, my turn. I hoped my breath would hold out; I hoped I’d remember the lines of my opening poem, ‘I am the poet from Down Under …’ a rappy piece written especially for Texas; I hoped I wouldn’t let down my new friends and particularly my old friend Thom, who, as MC, gave me a great introduction.

Perhaps The Dress had magickal qualities! Suddenly it was as if I owned the stage. My breathing was perfectly fine, I was in good voice, I remembered my lines, I moved and gestured confidently. My opener brought the house down, so did the next piece referring to The Dress, and after that I could do no wrong.

Later that night I emailed Andrew:

‘People came up afterwards to say how much they liked my poetry. One exuberant old man called me “cousin” (“Oh I sure enjoyed YEW, cousin!”) and gave me a big bear hug. Neil said I was brilliant. Thom said “Well done!” and “It worked”. Wendy said, “You are a very animated poet”. (I love that! Henceforth I answer to the title of The Animated Poet.) Patricia and others said they could see why Thom and I were friends: “The same expansive energy.”

‘It is now 11.45pm. After the gig Neil invited Patricia, Kathleen and John back here for a glass of wine, and to see the beautiful Buddha statue I live with…. They are all old friends. They feel like my friends too, already. Neil has to pick up his partner, Dorsey, from the airport tomorrow, so Patricia has arranged for Christine to drive us all down to San Antonio for my tomorrow night's gig.’

I was too high on excitement to go to sleep easily. Neil and Dorsey live on the side of a gully, part of the Austin green belt. I enjoyed the backdrop of moonlit branches filling the window as I lay in bed happily replaying my evening.



The animated poet!


I am the poet from Down Under.
My heart calls to yours with a peal of thunder,
my mind is full of delighted wonder,
my spirit aches with a splendid hunger:
I want to feast on poetry —
I speak to you, you speak to me,
we all go together into mystery,
we all dream together with ecstasy —
not the drug, man, not the pill, lady;
who needs that for rhapsody?
We have words to set us free.
Words as bright as lightning,
words as clear as dew,
words that are frightening,
words that are true,
words that deliver us
from so-called reality
then drop us back, but without finality.

Tripping through the wild, the vast unseen —
Poetry, Poetry, what do you mean?
Poetry, Poetry, what do you say?
Come out, come out, come out and play!

I am the poet from the land of Oz.
That Great South Land is where I was:
the land where I grew, the land where I age,
the land of power, beauty and rage —
bushfires and flood, cyclones and drought,
all the extremes. Now I am out
into the wider world, into here.
Texas is real! I see and hear
excitement and vitality:
the Lone Star State is the place to be.
Give me your verses, give me your truth,
give me your wisdom, give me your youth!
Don’t hang back in the vestibule:
we’re here to create a Festival!
Give me your lightness, give me your dark!
In a coffee lounge or in the park,
let us with music, let us with voice
gather to celebrate, gather to rejoice.

Where have we been? What have we done?
Nothing new under the sun
excepting poetry makes it that way.
Poetry, Poetry — come out to play!

© Rosemary Nissen-Wade 2006