A Visit From the Muse, or The Stranger

Her hands were rough,
hands that were used to work,
busy hands
brushing against mine
as she told me stories,
tales of artists
living, breathing, dying,
and lives led after that.
Her voice was soft,
leaving a trail of feathery husks
blowing in the wind,
lips full against my cheek,
her eyes bright as stars
in the dark of the evening
before us
and after us.
And then
she was gone.

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Waking

The ceramic tink of my morning

swirling in a cup

to wake the sleeping brain inside

my head, full of dreams

and memories of dreams.

I rub them away with a long slurp,

a gulp, a breath,

half closed eyes now half open,

my mind uncurling,

wrapping its ribbons and strings around

my body, leaping to life.

 

© Hayley New 2016

Artista

Tell me again,

where will we begin our summer?

Where will we learn

how to hope, how to love,

how to cut ourselves into the night sky

to shine forever?

 

Do not let me forget you.

Forget the warmth of your words

as you wake me,

as you send me into dreams.

Give me our hope, your heart,

give me the never and forever of it all.

 

Bring me the warm breeze of a summer’s eve,

the clouds stamped out like boot prints

across the sky,

the clouds soaked in the sweet

melted honey of a dying sun.

Bring them to me on a page.

 

No? Perhaps let me run beneath your

skin, made of words and ink.

Fold me up and plug the wound,

fit me in your dreamy head.

But tear the page in pieces too,

and share me on the wind.

 

And there, new air, a sudden shock,

a deep and gasping breath.

No room for me

on word stained page.

Artista, a new world

made out of what was left.

 

So send away the gold crunch leaves,

the dim of the sky.

Smash the sun into pocket pieces

so that I might take these days with me.

So that I, with new feathered wings,

can fly.

 

© Hayley New 2016

On Celebrity, Death and Mourning

In the last week, two very well known artists passed away – David Bowie and Alan Rickman. Both were 69 and both passed away after a private battle with cancer. The death of both these men struck me hard, my grief visible not only on my face in the days afterwards, but also in my letters to each of them that I chose to publish on INWORDSANDINK, to share my deep regard for these extremely talented individuals.

But, as much as the world mourned these men, commentators and social media trolls brought up the question once again – are we allowed to be upset over the deaths of people we didn’t know?

***

I personally have mourned the death of ‘celebrities’ (a term that I feel uncomfortable using when referring to these particular people), especially in the last few years. I have been deeply upset over the passing of people such as Mickey Rooney, Robin Williams, Edward Hermann, and now most recently David Bowie and Alan Rickman. I openly grieved for these people, cried for them, felt my heart go heavy at the news of their passing. Most of my idols had already passed on before I was aware of how much they meant to me (Audrey Hepburn, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Vincent Van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, Andy Warhol and many other artists and creatives), but these people had been such a significant part of my growing up that I couldn’t help but mourn them.

When Robin Williams died, it felt as though I had lost a family member. Like I was saying goodbye to a kooky uncle who had always made me smile and had taught me so much. To this day, I still weep at the end of Dead Poets Society when the students farewell their beloved teacher. “O Captain, my Captain” and I feel as though I am saying goodbye all over again. I smile through my tears and thank him for what he taught me, what he made me feel.

And yet, despite all my grief, I felt bad. Guilty almost. As though I was somehow claiming a right to mourn him that didn’t belong to me. Surely this grief belonged to his family, to his closest friends, and not to me. I was betraying the true feeling of their grief by feeling as I did.

Sure I didn’t know him, but wasn’t my grief valid as well?

***

With the news of the loss of an artist or celebrity, comes not only a mass wave of grief over their fans and audience, but also a swarm of scepticism. Did you really value them and their work, or are you just playing along with the grief? How can you say this when you didn’t know them? These (rather vocal) people tell us we have no right to mourn this death, that it is not ours to grieve.

I think they are wrong.

Whilst we did not know these people personally, we did know them. We knew them through their artistry, through their work. We knew them as the faces and voices we grew up with. As the people who made us smile and laugh and cry. As the people who taught us valuable life lessons through their particular crafts. These people were special to us in their own particular way.

The brilliant men I mentioned earlier were a tremendous part of my childhood. Upon Alan Rickman’s death, my good friend Nabila had this to say about losing childhood heroes:

“There comes a point in everyone’s life when they realise they’re getting older, and it happens when the people who made their childhood very special begin to move on and pass away.”

For me, this moment has only really hit home a few times, with the death of very special people.

When I saw Night At The Museum 3, a few months after the passing of both Mickey Rooney and Robin Williams, I felt my heart break. When they both made their appearances onscreen, I could feel my cheeks wet with tears. My old childhood friends were right there and yet out of reach. When Robin William’s Teddy Roosevelt said his final goodbyes, I blubbered like a baby.

When I finally pluck up the courage to watch Harry Potter again, I’ll likely weep when Alan Rickman makes his entrance, and even more so when he leaves the screen for the final time. I can’t bring myself to say goodbye to him just yet.

***

Occasionally, in a moment of strange silence or awe, I turn to my mother and ask her:

“What are we going to do when (Helen Mirren/Judi  Dench/Merryl Streep/Betty White/David Attenbourough/Jeremy Irons/Ian McKellan/Julie Andrews/Dick Van Dyke/George Clooney etc) dies?”

Because one day, I won’t have to ask her. I’ll know exactly what I’m doing when this happens, because one day I am going to hear the news that another of my long-term idols or childhood friends has left us. And I’ll mourn them, because I’ll miss them.

It is okay to be sad when these people die. It is okay to cry, to mourn, to grieve. Because although we never met them, they were special to us, the people we surrounded ourselves with in moments of darkness and light.

That’s why I write letters for them. I want to thank them for making me feel the way I do when they are gone. I want to thank them for touching my heart and affecting me so deeply.

Anyone who tells us we have no right to feel this way isn’t hurting us, or our feelings, but instead the memory of the person who we mourn. Because they are saying that these people didn’t make a difference, didn’t make a profound impact on our lives.

And oh, didn’t they make such an impact on our lives.

 

© Hayley New 2016

 

 

Read Nabila’s clever and heartfelt tribute to Alan Rickman here.

A Letter for Alan

Dearest Mr Rickman,

Today, I woke up with a heart of heavy lead. I didn’t think I would be penning this letter. Not today. Not for many years.

I don’t write letters for everyone, only old friends, people who I look up to and have the upmost respect for, people who taught me invaluable lessons.

And you, you were all those things.

It would seem a lie to say I never knew you, because I did. I knew you as Colonel Brandon, as the Sheriff of Nottingham, as Hans Gruber, as Harry in Love Actually.

But I knew you best as Severus Snape.

Growing up with your Snape was a gift I didn’t recognise until it was all over. Your Snape taught me that people have complex histories, complex moral structures, that people are not all they seem. That love continues beyond all bounds. Always.

I give as much credit to you for Snape as I do to J.K. Rowling. You were the face that taught us so many things, that taught us how there is no clear cut line between good and evil.

You have been one of the best actors this world has seen. A dastardly villain, an absolute sweetheart, and easily the only person who could have played a man with such complexities as Snape. I always thought we would see more of you, of your work. You had so much to give us, it seems a terrible injustice that you were taken before you could walk across the boards of a stage and take one final bow.

So, Mr Rickman – Alan – how can I begin to thank you for teaching me so much? I honestly can’t find the words to express my immense gratitude.

It’s raining here in Sydney. It seems rather poetic that the sky has opened up and is pouring with tears. I know so many of us will be doing the same.

If I had a wand, I would raise it in honour of you today, and shoot a light into the sky in remembrance. I hope you can see the light you struck inside all of us from where you stand now.

Because our hearts are ablaze with your memory.

All the best,

Hayley New

 

So I’ll raise my broken wand up high
And shoot a light into the sky
To clear away the rain and grey
That crept in with your loss today.

For Alan. Always.

 

© Hayley New 2016

A Letter For Ziggy

Dear Mr Bowie,

Today, in a moment of choked silence, it was announced that you had left us.

I don’t know what to say.

I didn’t know you personally. I wasn’t one of your most vocal fans. I wasn’t even alive at the height of your music career. But your death still strikes me as this strange and unbelievable thing, something I can’t quite wrap my head around. For your lungs, the very things powered your voice and allowed you to entrance us with your words, to give up on you, seems a terrible injustice.

You have always been there. Someone we talk and smile to ourselves about when your songs hit our radio. The voice that silences us for a few moments before we sing along.

I grew up with your music. I grew up on your duet with Freddie, the loud PRESSURE shouted with my sisters each time we heard the opening bars, with your Ziggy Stardust sparkle shining through playlists and my parents (often terrible) vocal accompaniments to your songs, with your rather tight tights in Labyrinth.

But I missed out on so much.

I never got to go to one of your shows.  I never got to stand in line with a group of your fans and sing my heart out to Star Man or Space Oddity. I didn’t get to hear your voice spinning around on vinyl. I wasn’t there for some of your very best moments.

But I have had the opportunity to punctuate my life with your voice, your brilliant talent echoing around my room as I wrote or danced or smiled. I’ve heard you in the soundtrack to some of my very favourite movies. I’ve seen you immortalised in popular culture beyond even what your imagination could conjure up.

You bent genre. You bent gender. You bent all the rules. You changed us.

I wish I could say how grateful I am to you for imploring me to look upwards, towards the skies and challenge all the rules.

I wish I could say how much your music meant to all of us left behind.

I wish I could say how much you will be missed.

Most of all, I wish I could thank you for telling us we could be heroes. That is perhaps, for me at least, one of the best things you could have done. You told us we could step up and be whatever we wanted, we could stand tall and be heroes, even just for a day.

So thank you Mr Bowie, because to us, you will forever be a hero, a legend of music and vocal brilliance.

I wish you all the best for the life beyond. May you rest in a sky of stars as bright as you.

 

Kind Regards,

Hayley New

 

P.S. Please give my regards to Freddie.

 

 

© Hayley New 2016

On Creativity: Multiple Crafts

I have recently been thinking about how creativity manifests itself in different people. How these people choose to interpret their ideas and inspiration and turn it into a piece of art. And I soon realised something very important (and amazingly obvious):

I have rarely encountered an artist who isn’t pursuing multiple crafts.

I myself have never been one to only engage with only one form of creative expression. I call myself a poet, an essayist, a creative non-fiction writer and an editor just as easily as I would call myself a novelist or storyteller. Whilst some may say that these all fall under the one creative mode – that is, writing – it is clear to me at least that each of these forms requires something vastly different from me.

So, I am always interested to see how my creativity is channelled into each of these endeavours, and how often I find myself engaging with each of these forms at any given time.

Those who have known me long enough (read: five minutes) will easily tell you I have a particular interest in novel writing, that this is my passion and I will pursue it as long as I reasonably (or unreasonably) can. However, I often find that this particular craft is difficult to stay singularly engaged in. I am always ‘writing a novel’ but I am not always writing a novel. Sometimes, I find myself in need of a break from it in order to maintain creative interest and work I am genuinely proud of.

You may think this to be writer’s block, the thing that kills creativity stone dead without hope of resurrecting it. I can’t call it that, because it’s not true at all. When I get stuck in my novel, it is not for lack of ideas, it is usually for an over-abudance of them. So I switch crafts, channel my creative energy into something different for a while. Poetry, first and foremost, is my remedy for so called ‘writer’s block’, the thing I turn to when I am struggling to see my characters through their current predicament. For the first half of 2015, all I did was write poetry in a bid to reconnect myself with my creative energy. It was my ticket back in.

I wrote some pretty great poems, and I wrote just as many duds, but I was always writing. It was this constant working on one of my multiple crafts that got me wondering if I could write a novel as richly worded and fulfilling as my poetry had come to be, as true to the world I was building with these small sets of lines. So I moved between my crafts once again. And then again to essays and creative non-fiction when the right ideas struck. I was, and still am, careful not to let my hand sit still on any page for too long when I lost myself in one form. I simply shifted gears creatively.

I have many talented friends who are constantly moving between their multiple crafts – playwrights who are also actors and poets, watercolour painters who edit literary journals and scribble small sets of words in notebooks, fiction writers, journalists, dancers, songwriters, screenwriters, vocalists, slam poets, comedians, spoken word artists, directors, designers, novelists, theatre performers, essayists, every imaginable craft. I never fail in my excitement to see what they will do next, to see the many things they will add to their list of crafts. These people are so committed to creativity that they simply can’t let it alone. They must create.

There is a common misconception that any creative person can only have one true craft, that all others must be secondary or else non-existent. But as many of my creative role models, friends and even my own experiences have shown, an artist is simply someone who is passionate about creating, no matter the form. Having multiple crafts that they pursue without hesitation is a miracle of creativity that allows artists to constantly be working at the things they love.

And that is something to celebrate.

© Hayley New 2016