Monday, June 26, 2017

A Chat With Robin About Humans, Whales, and the Great Barrier Reef

Some weeks ago now, Robin Kimber, whom we know affectionately as Old Egg, who writes so charmingly at Robin's Nest, wrote a poem reflecting on how the world has changed since we were young. I think many of us feel the same way, looking back on simpler times, when there was a certain societal expectation of behavioral norms, that seems to be lacking today. I asked him if he might reflect a bit on his poem, and his feelings writing it. I bring it to you today, for your thoughtful consideration.


Little did I think playing on the beach
A child many years before
Those sand castles, moats and dams that I built
Were mountains in days of yore

As the sea washed over my little toes
I knew not what came before
That my ancestors had crawled up on this beach
A new place to live they saw

For as I hopped and skipped without a thought
As I grew each year by year
We had once feared wild beasts and birds around
Pets now that I hold dear

Did they stay close or forsake Mother Sea?
To find a safe place to hide
Live in a cave or construct a wood hut
Safe from predators abide

Mankind has struggled many years thus far
Now to reach this point in time
But found it best to fight in bloody wars
And to trash this Earth sublime

As the sand through my fingers now does run
A tear runs down my face
This paradise in which we once lived
Has been made hell in its place

Sherry: It does seem a very different world today from the one we knew as children. I often wonder if today's children feel about life the way we did, when life was safe and stable and calm. I do hope they have the same pleasures and hopefulness and dreams that we did. 

Robin: When I wrote my ‘Looking back’ poem a few weeks ago, I was getting frustrated with the Australian government for supporting international mineral magnates to come and drill for oil in off South Australia’s shores, and mine for coal in Queensland, which had the likelihood of affecting not only the unique fauna in the neighborhood but would also seriously endanger the ocean's inhabitants and the unique Great Barrier Reef of the coast of the state of Queensland. 


The Reef is already suffering due to global warming, causing it to bleach, but the proposal was to provide a deep shipping channel to the ports so the coal could be easily transported abroad.  

Australia doesn’t really need it, with the feasibility of all our energy being sourced through renewable means, such as Wind and Solar generation in the near future.

Sherry: I have been concerned for the Reef, too, Robin. They must be protected, and helped back to health.  I am also inspired by your country's efforts to switch to clean energy. 

Robin: Oil may also be found in the Great Australian Bight, which is the massive bay that stretches hundreds of miles from Western Australia to South Australia. It is a sanctuary for Southern Right Whales to come in wintertime to escape the frozen Antarctica, and for females to give birth in safety. photo

Because there are very few sites for harbours for hundreds of kilometres, it is a safe haven for other sea life too. Strict fishing limits are imposed on both commercial and recreational fishermen there to ensure the fish stock numbers are kept viable. Clearly having a huge exploration effort for oil in the Bight would affect not only the wildlife but Australians as well, together with the tourist industry that this unique environment attracts.

Sherry: It is the same struggle everywhere, addressing the need to protect wild ecosystems, against the voracious demands of the multinationals, whose bottom line is always money, at the expense of all else. 

Robin: In the poem I wrote, I tried to convey how the innocence of mankind has been lost over the millennia. We have developed the ability to do almost anything on Earth and beyond with the aid of education, cooperation, scientific discoveries and our inventiveness, but we still cannot feed the starving, we cannot preserve the precious forests that give us air to breathe, we pollute the atmosphere and cause an acceleration of global warming and still fight each other like savages, as we don’t want to share or we dislike the way that others worship their gods, thinking that we are the only ones that are right.

Sherry: I feel the same way, Robin. I resonate very much with your poem "What's Happening?" and would like to include it here, since it continues this lamentation.

What's happening to our world?
As we now cringe in mortal fear
Are terrified of rulers vain
That will destroy all we hold dear

Happiness is so hard to find
Despite our Earth's once rich domain
Too many greedy and cruel in charge
Some of our leaders seem insane

With forests felled and icecaps gone
Wild animals search for a home
Our waste strewn across all the Earth
Our rivers filled with toxic foam

What's happening in our world
Please let there be a hopeful light
To see a future for all kids
I fervently pray that I'm right

Sherry: I do, too, my friend. I have always been determined that the transformation of human consciousness would occur in time, that humans could not possibly be so short-sighted as to put money before planetary survival. With the election of the U.S. president, I admit to falling into utter discouragement. The planet doesn't have four more years to ignore climate change.

But I am noticing his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord has galvanized and strengthened most people and countries of the world, including cities and states in the U.S.,  to work all the harder to make the switch to clean energy. So, in a way, his approach has backfired quite nicely.

Robin: This Earth we live on will continue with or without us changing slowly or dramatically, if we are foolish. But mankind sees only money in the bank, not trees in blossom, see castles of their making rather than the health of all living things. We think we are so big and important but we can’t see we are upsetting the balance of nature and are hastening a disaster that may well be catastrophic.

Sherry: It is astonishing to me, when we have all the information, see the poles melting,  coastal areas already flooding, that we are still so slow to act. We are the only species so greedy and heedless that we destroy our own habitat (and that of every other living thing).

A Southern Right Whale, breaching
copyright Doc White /

Robin: Southern Right Whales as well as seals and sea-lions can often be seen all along South Australia’s and other states coastlines. Now that it is winter, we can expect a whale sighting any day now at Victor Harbor, a former whaling port where they like to come for a rest.

Sherry: Our whales on the west coast of the island are here too, migrating up to Alaska from Baja. Some of them will stay all season in our area, becoming accustomed to the tour boats. Each year, there is a "friendly," who sometimes approaches a boat and allows itself to be seen close up, looking in at the people with its big, ancient eye. More rarely, one allows itself to be patted, a gift and an amazement. I always think that "whoosh" they make sounds like the voice of God. Their breath is very ancient too. It smells of ocean bottoms and things long gone.

Robin: Curiously there’s a rule here that you shouldn’t approach too close to a whale when they are in-shore just in case they suddenly notice you and make a sudden movement causing your boat to capsize!

Sherry: We have that rule too. Boats must stay a good distance away and may not chase or pursue whales. We do not want to disturb them. When we spot them, we stop the boat, turn off the motor and drift. I find that whales approach the rubber zodiacs more often as, in them, we are drifting silently, at almost the same level. I remember one diving right beside my boat once. It thrilled me to my toes!

A not-very-shy Tofino whale

Robin: My wife and I looked over a cliff on the Bight (between South Australia and Western Australia) and there must have been over twenty whales placidly making themselves at home and there were young ones there too. 

In the Barrier Reef's tranquil waters, people swim miles from shore, (which I have done!), but I didn’t stay in too long. I didn’t want a shark to sniff me out!

Sherry: It must have been amazing! Robin, I have enjoyed this interesting chat so much! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and reflections with us. You have given us much to think about.

Well, my friends, there you have it: humans, whales, the great barrier reef, climate change and clean energy, a conversation  for our times. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It may be you!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Poetry Pantry #359

Lake Michigan Photos - Early Saturday Morning

Greetings, Poets!  There is a wonderful farmers' market along Lake Michigan's shores.  The photos above were taken yesterday morning!  There really is something very special about this lake....

Friday Rosemary shared Shay Simmons' (aka Fireblossom) poem "For Young Poets."  Whether you are young or older, don't miss this poem.  I bet some of you will wish you had written it as well!

Monday, be sure to visit Poets United for Sherry's wonderful and informative interview of Robin, who we all know as "Old Egg."  It is a feature NOT to miss.

On Wednesday, Sumana's theme for Midweek Motif is "War and Peace."  Oh wow, so many different directions one can go with that theme!!

With no delay, let's share poetry. Link your poem below.  Say hello in the comments.  Visit other poets who link.  Have a poetic week!

Friday, June 23, 2017

I Wish I'd Written This

For Young Poets

First, stop banging away at silence 
like you would with a snow shovel against the ice.
A poem is not a dancing dog,
summoned to perform on its tiptoes at parties.

Put away all spirituous beverages.
Those who write while pitching in a sea of booze
do so in spite of such idiocy, not because of it.
If you haven't the imagination to see things differently without such props,
then become a mail carrier or a bus driver.

Read Lorca and rip your hair out til you're bald.
Read Neruda and flail, little fledgling on the cliff-side!
Read Plath, tuck your children safely in their room and then
to the kitchen with you to contemplate why cowards can't be poets;
at least not for long.

All you wild spastics shouting at the coffee bar,
waving pages and thinking volume and auctioneer-speak make poetry?
Sit down. Have someone duct tape your cake hole shut.
Think about what you haven't done, until you're ready to join us.

Now, to purge.
Write several great long hunks of unreadable shit,
staggering along on broken syntax,
with words strung together willy-nilly like last year's holiday lights,
all the similar-colored ones in a row, and half of them burned out.
Write haiku about a yew tree or a cherry blossom.
Get your paper plate-eyed friends to declare it all "brilliant!"
Then throw it away and we can get started.

Light candles.
They won't help you to write, but I like them.
Lock the door and don't answer it;
your husband will find his favorite golf shirt on his own,
and your children are already ruined anyway.
Let's do this thing.

The hard part is already done!
The lonely rejections and upheavals of childhood,
the sexual confusions and self-destructive rebellions of youth,
they're over with.
The burials, the pointless treks, the lovers who laughed and left,
the beetle of doubt and otherness digging its burrow behind your heart--
all of this is long complete.

Now, just stare out of the window at the sorrowful blue of the sky,
and the silver beauty of the impossibly distant moon.
Bite your knuckle if you have to, but stillness is best,
even to the point of drooling and apparent catatonia.
"What are you doing?" you'll be asked.
Working. Slaving. Making art.
Understand this, give yourself permission for this,
even as the dishes fester in the sink and the baby cries;
The seeds of greatness will germinate inside the still soil of you, The Poet.

It's not an easy road,
but there is soul and pride to it.
Your poems will be your own particular inverse garments to wear,
heart and guts to the world.
You have joined the cabal of those who possess a true talent:
unicycle riders have their uncanny balance,
lesbians their tongues,
demons their blackness;
now you have your poetry and people to admire you and say,
"It's nice",
"This is what you were doing?"
and "Huh." 

you could still apply to Beauty College.
It's up to you.

– Shay Caroline Simmons

No apologies if you've read this one already very recently, because I know you'll love reading it again. And if you haven't, oh what a treat I've just given you! Shay recently posted it to her blog and linked it to The Tuesday Platform at 'imaginary garden with real toads'.

It blew all her readers away, and several said they wished they had written it. I wished that too, and rapidly secured her permission to say so publicly here. Some people said it should be disseminated in schools, blazoned on college walls, and so on. Well, I'm doing my bit!

I have featured Shay here before, and so has Sherry. If you'd like to know more about her, this link will take you to my article, which also links to Sherry's feature as well as to Shay's Amazon page. If you don't already follow her blog, it is Shay's Word Garden where she posts as Fireblossom. All her poetry is wonderful, and I think it all deserves to be read as widely as possible.

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.