The writerly reader.


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You must have heard about the Japanese poem, haiku. It is the smallest poetry form in the world – seventeen syllables only – but one of the most penetrating. The word ‘haiku’ means ‘the beginning’. This is a tremendous significance – the word haiku means the beginning.

The haiku poets say: We only begin, we never end.

The poet begins, the listener has to complete it. If a poem is complete with the poet then nothing is left for the listener. Then the listener will be just a spectator. Then the act is not creative – in fact, it is dangerous.

The poet, the real poet, never completes. He leaves something incomplete. He gives hints and leaves gaps: those gaps have to be fulfilled by you. Then the transfer is creative. The poet sings a song, ripples are created in your consciousness, and you complete the song in your innermost core of being.

The poet begins it, you complete it.

Then you are joined in one creative process: the painter begins it, then the person who looks at the painting completes it.

Osho, The Divine Melody, Ch 4, Q 2

Alan Watts on Writing




Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.

Marchfly, Geikie Gorge




Red rocks. Dark water. Big sky.
Rough sand, damp… cradling me…

…and oh! the Sun.

Flesh evaporate, this me is vast.
Senses: mine and not mine,
a trickle of sweat.

Hnnnn, Hnnnn. Bzzzt!
Dancing feet bring hints of definition…
…fastidious fly indeed to choose that silken patch of skin.

I watch in close up…the  piercing,
feel the drawing forth…

Drink, marchfly, drink…

…sate you…

… I overflow.

And afterwards, the flesh unblemished, still.

On Woo Woos


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I wrote this piece as a facebook response to a posting by my friend Sam, who sometimes gets carried away in his determination to stamp out Woo Woo.

On Woo Woos

In many sceptic’s attacks on “alternative” medicine I think there is an area that’s often overlooked and that is the area of preventative and nutritional medicine or holistic medicine, an area that is moving ahead at a tremendous pace at the moment, and is both well researched and peer reviewed.

This area is largely overlooked by the mainstream medical profession unless it is promoted by such organisations as The Heart Foundation who, in my opinion,  often promote simplistic and out of date ideas, viz. the margarine versus butter campaign.

Many GPs are not only overwhelmed with work, but are hemmed in by government regulation and an inflated fear of litigation. This, combined with the fact that lots of people just want to get a magic pill from the doctor, rather than to take responsibility for their own health through diet and other lifestyle changes, means we have a health system in crisis.

Dismissing alternatives such as holistic medicine does not improve things, simply makes it less likely that people are going to investigate alternatives. Alternatives that might empower them to wean themselves off the nipple of the health care system.

The problem with a lot of so-called sceptics is that they are not equally sceptical about everything, sometimes aligning themselves unthinkingly with the status quo and calling everything else ‘Woo Woo’. Probably a result of uncritically taking up what is put forward in the media as ‘the truth’, which is a difficult thing to avoid in this thoroughly mediated world.

When I challenged my sceptical friend about practices that moved from Woo Woo to authodox. He replied, as I knew he would: “Then it’s no longer alternative medicine it is now medicine. Which smelt to me very like appropriation.

We need to consider the fact that such things as folk remedies have existed for centuries and that many are, and have been, investigated and found to be effective in clinical trials. To say that these remedies were Woo Woo and suddenly became scientifically valid because someone did tests on them is patently ridiculous. There is another form of knowledge that has been passed on through means other than medical journals and peer reviewed papers for centuries. This form of knowledge is often dismissed as ‘mere anecdotal evidence’ and its positive results dismissed as the ‘placebo effect’.

Interestingly, much of the research into ‘alternative’ medicine has come about because orthodox medicine is having to face up to the limitations of its non-holistic approach to health. An example of this is the creation of antibiotic resistant superbugs triggering research into the use of colloidal silver.

I am not dismissing the scientific method, I am well grounded in it. I studied science at University level. And I am not dismissing scepticism either. Both need to be used intelligently, not simply as weapons against ideas one is uncomfortable with or which do not fit with the current orthodoxy.
Even worse is the use of selective skepticism as a way of self-definition over and against some enormous class of Eejit Woo Woos, existing largely in ones own imagination.

In his occasional speech on receiving his honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of WA Tim Minchin, the pin-up boy of the sceptics movement, said:

Most of society’s arguments are kept alive by a failure to acknowledge nuance. We tend to generate false dichotomies, then try to argue one point using two entirely different sets of assumptions, like two tennis players trying to win a match by hitting beautifully executed shots from either end of separate tennis courts.

I have never heard this better put. I wish I had said it myself.

Who Am I? A Journey Round Myself

ElizabethOne day you find yourself asking:

“Who am I? How did I get here from there?”

You want to see the shape of your life from the outside. Like a snail crawling out of its shell to see what it has made of its life and how that life has moulded its flesh.

You want to take this life off and stand naked wearing only the face you had before you were born.

“Who is this creature I call myself?” you say.

“What makes this patch of humanity tick?”

Continue reading

And So It Was


And so it was.

God saw all that he had made,

and indeed it was very good

Genesis 1:3


The sound of her sister’s voice pierces the sunlit afternoon stillness.


But Lucy is utterly absorbed in the garland she is making from the scores of dandelions scattered like stars across the street lawn.  She remembers, if asked, that they used to live somewhere else that didn’t have a lawn or even a yard.  But just now it seems to her that there has only ever been this golden day; with the green of the lawn, and the yellow of the dandelions vibrating in the sun; the shade of the nearby box tree like a deep hole in the lawn.

“There you are Dilly Dream!  Mummy says to come in and have some cake because Daddy’s going soon.”

She looks up at her sister, who is wearing her best pink dress. It has puffed sleeves, a smocked bodice and flared skirt, and Katherine carries herself as if she is wearing a crinoline. Lucy’s dress, similar in style, has already lost its fresh-from-the-ironing-board crispness.

“Come on then!”

“I’m just doing this! You go way!”

Taking a deep breath, Lucy splits the stem of the last dandelion with her big round thumbnail….  “She’s got her father’s hands” … then, breathing out, she carefully extends the split to allow the folded flower from the other end of the chain to pass through and complete the circle.  It is beautiful; the dandelions all still open, petals taut and full of juice; the blue iris and the center of blackness clearly visible on each, like eyes, wide open. Laying her offering on the lawn, she stands up, peels her now damp skirt from her thighs, carefully takes the chain up across her wrists and walks, as if on a tightrope, to where he is waiting for her.

As she enters the kitchen she has a sudden moment of hesitation and stands paralyzed in the doorway.  She had forgotten the visitors who had come to say goodbye.

“Here let me fix your ribbon for you … just look at your dress.”   Her mother’s voice goes unheeded, out at the edge somewhere.

“So there you are! What have you got there?”

“It’s for you!” she blurts out, her face getting hot.

“Well, you’d better put it on me then,” says her father leaning down to her, his face doing that funny thing with one side of his moustache curling up in a grin and one eyebrow raised.

Moving closer she smells the familiar mixture of tobacco and ether that comes from his suit, especially in the clouds of steam when her mum presses it with a wet cloth the iron going thump, thump, thump.

As she puts the garland round his neck, she feels a warm glow in her chest and a rush of energy tingling up her legs. Daddy squashes the flowers a bit with his big hug and all the flower-eyes are closed up by the time the time he swings his suitcase into the boot of the taxi, but he doesn’t take it off and goes off to fly ‘half way round the world’ wearing her daisy chain.

They wave until Daddy’s taxi disappears around the corner. Continue reading