Madam Pele, Goddess of Lava and Volcanoes

Madam Pele, Goddess of Lava and Volcanoes

Pele’s Journey.

Daughter of Kahinalii and Kane-hoalani
insubordinate and disrespectful Pele
enticer of husbands
cast out from Honua-mea, in Kahiki
pursued by sister, Na Maka o Kaha’i.

Kai a Kahinalii
“Here my daughter, you have need of ocean
to carry your canoe.”

Surround the mountains –
Hale-a-ka-la, Mauna-kea, Mauna-loa
till their peaks peek from ocean gift.

Kaula, tiny isle,
a home for Pele?
Tunnelling deep to fire
quenched by flooding ocean –
sister sent.

 Lehua, tiny isle,
a home for Pele?
Tunnelling deep to fire
quenched by flooding ocean –
sister sent.

Niihau, tiny isle,
a home for Pele?
Tunnelling deep to fire
quenched by flooding ocean –
sister sent.

Kauai, large isle,
a home for Pele?
Tunnelling deep to fire
quenched by flooding ocean –
sister sent.

Oahu, double mountained
Kaala, the fragrant
useless, unsatisfactory chain.

failures as before.

Maui, western mount,
Hale-a-ka-la immense and sulphurous,
Pele settled in delving and stirring
the lava and fumes.

South-east to Hawaii
across Ale-nui-haha channel
Firepit bubbling beneath the crust
awaiting release
awaiting Pele
home at last in Kilauea
making the Big Island
Navel of the Earth –
Ka piko o ka honua.

Hawaiian Chain

Hawaiian Chain

From MADAM PELE Contemporary Fantasy Novel by Jud House 2006

Jud House 14/09/2013

* * * * *


sinking slowly into miasma
into slow-sand  into mire
into immobility
with such clarity.

How cruel can life be?

What was faced during life
traumas dealt with
crushing emotional blows
intellectual defeats
missed opportunities
uncalled for discriminations
injustices intentional and unintentional
is nothing.

How cruel can death be?

No living to the full
to slip away in sleep.
No sudden rending pain
shocking your systems
frying your circuits
then gone  peace.
No sudden stroke
numbing your muscles
from which return is possible.

How cruel can decline be?

Fully aware  cognizant
slowly watching yourself sink
patronised by strangers
talking at you in third person.
No pain to let you know you’re alive
it’s managed by morphine.
No discrimination here.
Taking no mind of your cleverness
your life accomplishments
your talents  beauty  knowledge.
All slowly phased out
till you’re a mind in a body
refusing to let you speak
unresponsive  leaden
manhandled by strangers
never alone  family in vigil-mode
interminably listening to conversations
you can’t join  you don’t want to hear.
Lying breathing open-mouthed
intermittent deaths occasionally
in a holding pattern
for hours  days  even weeks.

Do your dead siblings wait in the shadows?
Can you let go and join them?
Must you cling on while family linger?

How wonderful will death be?

(C) Jud House  10/04/2013 * * * * *


For want of a shed
for need of paved yard
for a lockable gate
ocean view thrown in
throw away common sense?

Unrealistic vendor expectations
ignoring market values
stubborn offer resistance
no common sense.

Good size rooms
good views from cool site
good number of rooms
good potential studio
good layout
plus side of common sense.

Poor quality fixtures
poor functioning fittings
poor neglected areas
poor work needing repairs
poor presentation
negative side of common sense.

Money to be spent
shade sails required
studio hot-house modified
lap pool installed
carpets replaced by bamboo boards
tree removal  frangipani planting
bathroom upgrades
kitchen bench-top  stone replacement
money side of common sense.

Walk away . . . .

(C) Jud House  8/04/2013

* * * * *


Back and forth you walk
dodging people with trolleys
mobile phones

You plan your picnic
know what needs to be done
their order
the least energy
the fewest footsteps
the quickest route

But still you recross your tracks
revisit premises done
things change
ideas occur
items missed
crowds cause chaos

Physical fatigue sets in
mental fatigue sets in
lose track of time
make no sense
sight shifts a little
feet ache

Where am I?
What was I saying?

Heading for home . . . .

(c)  Jud House   4/04/2013

* * * * *


Rescued  elvish cat
milky eyes and feathered ears
scruffy  skinny  rat-tail end

Treasured pet
timid scaredy cat
commandeering the bed

Long-haired  handsome
white tipped tail
imposing  weighty  in his prime

Hair shedder bigtime
constant hair-bunnies
decorate the floors
the sheets

Stone deaf  ancient
full furred  should be bald
‘3 cats worth’ and counting

Yowling full-voice  fretting
resounding in still streets
neighbourhood nightmare

Outside the house
inside the house
echoing in the lobby
up the stairs
till he sights his people


(C) Jud House  3/04/2013

* * * * *


This was the Seminar I gave while at University during the late 1990s.  It was the precursor for my Essay NARRATIVE POETRY so is identical in places.  However, there is an oratorial nuance that underlies this version.  I have left in the ‘Read from ….’ lines, as they show how there were several larger portions of text read from the relevant works.  The Medieval texts were read, fluently, by Professor Andrew Taylor to demonstrate the nature of these texts as the Medieval audience would have perceived them – via the sound of the words as well as the allegorical narrative content.

Before the written word, verse was the form in which oral tales were told.  And when the written form began to appear, its form was still that of verse – alliterative verse with patterns of syllabic and spatial stress, i.e. metre and caesura, within each line, and, in some cases, rhyming patterns.  Their content was mainly of two kinds – heroic tales of super-powerful men battling super-natural enemies (monsters, dragons) as in Beowulf (C 8-10th), and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (about 1400); and allegories where abstract human traits were personified in order to drive home a homily on religious behaviour as in the C14th works, Piers the Plowman, Pearl and Canterbury Tales.

Read from Piers the Plowman

With the advent of the novel in the mid-eighteenth century, the narrative function of verse was usurped, leaving it as a vehicle for the expression of ideas – love, hate, revenge, pity, ambition; of ideals – political, social, cultural; and of nature – land-and-sea-scapes, flora, fauna, artifacts, and humans. At this time poets were exploring ideas rather than expounding narratives, mixing story with contemplation.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (pp. 567-581) is not a short poem, but equates with a short story in length, and in content.  Chaucer by William Wadsworth Longfellow (pp. 679-680) presents a portrait of a poet that could be expanded into a short story.  The Listeners by Walter de la Mare (pp. 906-7) is a narrative belonging to the fiction fantasy/thriller genre and reminds me just a little of J B Priestley’s short story BenightedSnake by D H Lawrence (pp. 952-4) tells of a confrontation between man/culture and nature.  The Hunchback in the Park by Dylan Thomas (pp. 1178-9) makes a social comment, while Boy at the Window by Richard Wilbur (p. 1222) comments on cultural perspectives.  Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers and Living in Sin by Adrienne Rich (p. 1309) provide narrative cameos of modern life, with a wealth of information in a few words.

My task is to ascertain how these poems tell their narratives, and in what way they differ from short fiction, and to point out their similarities. The definition of narrative is a significant factor.  According to Abrams in A Glossary of Literary Terms,

a narrative is a story, whether in prose or verse, involving events, characters, and what the characters say and do…. Narratologists treat a narrative not in the traditional way, as a fictional representation of life, but as a systematic formal construction … the way that narrative discourse fashions a “story” … into the organized structure of a literary plot.(Abrams, 1993, pp. 123-4)

To facilitate the construction of the narrative, poets resort/resorted to the use of several devices, which we have already covered in the previous seminars – those of imagery, metaphor, simile, metonymy, alliteration, rhythm, metre and rhyme.  While the first five are used equally by prose-writers, the latter three are specific tools of poetry.

Another factor that differentiates between a narrative verse and a short story is the obvious one of length – that is, economy of language.  Yet most early narrative verses were much longer than many short stories.  However, later narrative verses, including the long ones, used economy of language, saying a great deal with few words, as compressed meditative poems do.  The Medieval Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Piers Plowman told complex narratives in formal structures, with interlaced flashbacks, symbolic and allegoric sub-plots.  Similarly, many modern short stories use flashbacks, symbolism and inter-textual references to expand the content of the narrative.  According to C S Lewis, “allegory is a mode of expression [which] belongs to the form of poetry, more than to its content … [s]ymbolism is a mode of thought …” (Lewis, 1958, p. 48)(my underlining)

In Medieval times, the function of the narrative was divided – as entertainment, and as the vehicle for spiritual or physical lessons in life.  This function underwent a change during the Renaissance, moving away from the heavily allegoric and epic towards the symbolic and metaphoric.  Lessons were still there to be learnt but they were not the prime motivation for the poem.  Narrative works became shorter and less frequent, as emotions and subjects involving the senses became more popular.  Yet throughout this time myth and its creatures were still used as vehicles for idealistic standards.

In Coleridge’s narrative poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the  mystic and symbolic abound.  Events were governed by omens and curses.  When the Mariner shot the Albatross, symbolic of good luck at sea, with his crossbow, he realised that he:

          … had done a hellish thing,
          And it would work ‘em woe:
          For all averred, I had killed the bird
          That made the breeze to blow.
          (Norton, 1983, p. 569, lines. 91-4)

During his tribulations at sea, including the death of his companions, and his own near-death, spiritual beings both good and evil manifested to assist the Mariner to learn the lesson that:

          He prayeth well, who loveth well
          Both man and bird and beast.
         He prayeth best, who loveth best
          All things both great and small;
          For the dear God who loveth us,
          He made and loveth all. (ibid,
          p. 581, lines 612-3,616-7)

Coleridge used patterns in his verse structure – the first and third lines were of iambic tetrameter, and the second and fourth lines rhymed – and most of the stanzas were quatrains, though there were a few six line stanzas.  The rhythms these patterns set up enhance the narration, especially if read aloud, or performed.

Longfellow’s Chaucer evokes a picture of the poet sitting surrounded by artworks that illustrate his penchance for nature.  The sonnet harks back to Chaucer’s own major work The Canterbury Tales – a  narrative verse of epic proportions in which the characters tell tales to pass the time on their journey of pilgimage; tales involving characters of all classes, and including tales of talking animals and birds.

Read from The Canterbury Tales

This tale of Chanticleer the rooster, who through cunning escapes the clutches of a fox, is a retelling of an Aesop fable.  Longfellow evinces from the reader of his poem all of this pre-existent narrative knowledge, by the lines:

                                            . . . and as I read
          I hear the crowing cock, I hear the note
             Of lark and linnet, and from every page
             Rise odors of plowed field or flowery mead.
         (ibid. p. 680)

Thus a poem can be a vehicle for past narratives, achieved by a touching reference of a few words.  If told in short story form, this character sketch would need expansion of these inter-textual references that can be alluded to in verse form.  Longfellow wrote the one stanza sonnet using ten syllables lines that were a mixture of Iambic and anapestic trimeter, and an orderly rhyming pattern – ABBA ABBA CDECDE – that facilitates ease of reading.

By the closing of the nineteenth century, much poetry had moved away from the narrative.  Walter de la Mare wrote poems about concepts, like Goodbye and Away, but also wrote a narrative verse called The Listeners which dealt with a Traveler’s experience at a “lone house” one moonlit night.  It tells of “phantom listeners” who

   Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
       To that voice from the world of men:
   Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
       That goes down to the empty hall,
   Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
        By the lonely Traveler’s call. (ibid, p. 906)

It doesn’t just describe an eerie moment though.  With the lines:

    “Tell them I came, and no one answered,
          That I kept my word,” he said. (ibid, p. 906)

the narrative expands, teasing the reader with the hint that there is more to the Traveler’s visit to the house than mere chance.  It is left to the reader to fill the gaps.  This is where poetry has the edge on prose – it can tell parts of a narrative, leave whole swathes of information out, yet leave the reader with the knowledge that a tale has been told, and one that fits a bigger picture.  Short story can do this too, although it is rarely done with the same degree of brevity.  According to Dylan Thomas, in his essay , ‘Walter de la Mare as a Prose Writer’, he describes de la Mare’s “elaborate language, [as] fuller than ever of artifice and allusion when it was seemingly simple”. (Thomas, 1983, pp. 110-111)  He believed de la Mare’s

[c]ountry terror was a little cosy, so that you felt not that
ething nasty had happened in the woodshed but that
there were quite hellish goings-on among the wool-
in the parlour. (ibid, p. 110)

Of the same era as de la Mare, D H Lawrence wrote poems about objects like Piano, and concepts like Elemental and Self-Protection.  With his poem Snake he wrote of nature as seen and experienced from a cultural position.  The narrative describes the coming of the snake to the poet’s water-trough, giving a physical description of the snake and its actions, followed by his reaction based on fear of snakes bred into him.  As a result of this fear, he killed the snake.

          And immediately I regretted it.
        I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
        I despised myself and the voices of my accursed
                 human education. (Norton, 1983, p. 953)

With a touch of intertextuality Lawrence refers to the albatross of Coleridge’s poem, and the connotations that accompany it.

          And I thought of the albatross
        And I wished he would come back, my snake.
       (ibid, p. 954)

Of significance in these two poems is a breaking away from the formal structure of verse.  Walter de la Mare’s poem was of mixed metrical patterns, with alternate lines rhyming, and no stanzas.  D H    Lawrence abandoned all formal patterns of line-length, stanza-length, and rhyme-grouping.  There were no rhymes, and the line lengths were often those of sentences.  In other words he wrote free verse.  The line between prose and poetry, for those who need their literature to be placed in neat little boxes clearly defined and labeled, was beginning to blur.

Of the twentieth century, Dylan Thomas specialised in the sounds of words and their interplay to form vivid and unusual images.  Of mixed metre in six line stanzas, with intermittent rhyming, his poem The Hunchback in the Park (Norton, 1983, pp 1178 – 1179) tells a sad social tale of a homeless man forced to sleep in a “dog kennel”. Much of the narrative is implied yet evocative by his turn of phrase – for example “the Sunday somber bell at dark” that tells of the bell rung to inform visitors that the park is closing implies the tolling of the church bell, carrying with it notions of religion, of Christian attitudes which should encompass the sheltering of all God’s creations, including the aged and poor. The narrative is also that of the park, Cwmdonkin Park in the industrial Welsh town in which Thomas grew up.

Read from The Hunchback in the Park

A favourite of mine, Richard Wilbur’s Boy at the Window tells of two points of view, two perspectives on life and what constitutes security and safety.  Yet it tells a tale – of a boy snug inside a warm house watching a snowman outside in a storm, and of the snowman watching the boy staring out of:

                    . . . the bright pane surrounded by
          Such warmth, such light, such love, and so much fear.
          (ibid, p. 1222)

Told with a degree of formality in two brief eight-line stanzas, iambic pentameter, an ABBA BCBC pattern of rhyming, and an economy of words, Wilbur’s narrative is nevertheless crammed with details. His referral to Adam and Paradise shows a leaning towards the earlier poetry, where religion and myth were used as signposts to further meaning, and to strict standards.  Yet the narrative is modern in its use of perspectives and the emotions, the senses it arouses.

Both of Adrienne Rich’s poems, Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers and Living in Sin tell stories – the former ballad in a structured way with rhyming couplets in four line stanzas of regular iambic pentameter stresses; the latter unstructured, with no rhymes, irregular metric lines and no stanzas.  In Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers her life is revealed not just by her tapestry, but also by:

The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band [that]
Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer’s hand. (ibid, p. 1309)

We learn by those two lines that her life has been controlled by her husband, has been restricted.  As she depicts the tigers, free “and unafraid” upon the screen, the reader shares a knowledge of the sense of her longing for freedom.

Living in Sin tells a tale of adultery, of an illicit affair with the milkman.  Rich used words like heresy, sepulchral, and demons to remind the reader of the religious immorality of the protagonist’s way of life.  With words like “beetles”, “dust”, “cigarettes” and “the coffee-pot boil[ing] over on the stove”, the notion of the sordid nature of the affair is underlined.  The final commentary leaves the reader in no doubt.

         [S]he woke sometimes to feel the daylight coming
          like a relentless milkman up the stairs. (ibid, p. 1309)

The futility, and the inevitability of the continuation of the affair is driven home.

In these postmodern days, verse has seen a return to its original narrative function although in a much less formal form – free verse, with its lack of structured metre, stanzas, and rhyme.  In The Monkey’s Mask, by Dorothy Porter, a modern fictional genre, that of murder mystery with a lesbian detective, is presented in verse form.

Read from The Monkey’s Mask

(C) Jud House  17/02/2013


Abrams, M H (1993)  A Glossary of Literary Terms 6th Edition.  Fort Worth:  Harcourt Brace College Publishers.

Allison, Barrows, Blake, Carr, Eastman, & English Jnr; + Stallworthy (essay) (1983)  The Norton Anthology of Poetry 3rd Edition.  New York:  W W Norton & Company. (REFERRED TO AS NORTON)

Lewis, C S (1936;1958)  The Allegory of Love – A Study of Medieval Tradition.  New York:  A Galaxy Book, Oxford University Press 1958.

Thomas, D (1983)  Quite Early One Morning – Poems, Stories, Essays.  London:  J M Dent & Sons Ltd.

Mentioned Narratives

Alexander, M (Trans. 1973)  Beowulf.  Harmondsworth:  Penguin Classics, Penguin Books Ltd.

Chaucer, G The Canterbury Tales  Trans. Coghill, Nevill (1970)  Middlesex:  Penguin Classics, Penguin Books Ltd.

Langland, W  (1377)  Piers the Plowman.  Edited by Skeat, Rev W W (1869)  Edition: (1958) Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Porter, D (1997)  The Monkey’s Mask.  South Melbourne: Hyland House Publishing Pty Ltd.

Tolkien, J R R (1995)  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo.  London: Harper Collins Publishers.

* * * * *


Just a quick  note to start.  While trolling my Essay Archives I came across this mini essay which includes a list of really helpful definitions (that I complied while at University).  I thought it might be of interest to other writers, as we sometimes need a reminder from time to time, especially when things have slipped to the edge of our mind, or vanished into its filing system!  Besides, following the Definitions list are Jacobson’s and Lodge’s interesting views, on Metaphor and Metonymy and their application Narrative Contiguity.  I don’t have a Bibliography for the poems cited here, but feel that they are probably from The Norton Anthology of Poetry 3rd Edition, or any later edition for that matter.

Metaphor – connects different images for one meaning – an illogical abstract entity brought to life – the assertion that this is that, A is B.  It is economical with immediate effect, used to build an elaborate picture.  Metaphors link two meanings, two unconnected things to create a new way of seeing.  There are overused metaphors called ‘dead metaphors’  – the life has gone out of them – but these can be re-enervated, e.g. an arthritic table, to refer to the leg of the table.

Metonymy – (Greek for change of name) refers to this linking of words, but there is already a connection between the two, e.g. crown for king, turf for horseracing.  This connection is often the result of cultural symbolism.  It seems more logical than metaphor, turning the real into an abstract entity.  Literal term applied to something associated.

Trope – is language that has been twisted for figurative use.  ‘Corrupt clergy’ written as ‘blind mouths’.  Mouths is the metonym, the part being connected to the whole.  Blind is the metaphor, they refuse to see the truth of their actions.

Simile – assumes the comparison that A is like B, whereas a metaphor assumes A is B.  As and like are indicators for a simile.

Synecdoche – replaces part for the whole, part represents the whole, e.g. hand for man, hands signify sailors; sails for boats – a hundred sails means a hundred boats as in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.  It is a taking together – the part to signify the whole. The whole signifies the part – the words Shakespeare, Milton and Blake are used to mean their work, e.g. we read Blake (obviously not the man, but his works).  Attire is used to denote sexes without the use of man or woman, e.g. petticoats signify women, doublets or breeches signify men.

Tenor and Vehicle – Using these well-known phrases: ‘My love is a rose.’                  ‘War against inflation.’ the Tenor is the subject being described – love is the tenor, as is   inflation.  It is often an emotive word.  The Vehicle refers to the word describing it – in this case rose is the vehicle, as is war.  There can be specified and unspecified tenors.

Contiguity – connectedness, connection, alongsidedness, e.g. contiguous houses = terrace houses.  It is the key to metonymy and synecdoche.  Metaphor and simile have no contiguity.

Prosopopeia – personification – abstractions given life, e.g. ‘muttering thunder, some sad drops wept’.

Pathetic fallacy – internal emotional state projected onto the physical landscape, e.g. when the heroine is happy, nature is rejoicing; when she is miserable, nature is miserable.

Roman Jacobson is a Russian critic who wrote a paper called ‘Two Aspects of Language and Two Aspects of Linguistic Disturbances’ which was published in 1956.  He maintained there were two types of linguistic disturbances in people with brain damage, and that there was a connection between them and the language called metonymy and that called metaphor.  Metonymy is the stringing together of things, while metaphor is the substitution of things in the form of language.

A sentence operates in two dimensions.  A normal sentence moves along from subject to verb to object.  It has a contiguity axis – every sentence operates horizontally because of it.  We can substitute other words for those in the positions of subject, verb and object, while the contiguity axis remains the same.  The horizontal contiguity axis corresponds to Metonymy, the vertical substitutional axis corresponds to Metaphor (which is a lie).

Jacobson discovered that one type of brain damaged people couldn’t make the <- contiguity -> axis work, but they could substitute endlessly.  Another type could string sentences together but not substitute, so they repeated the same sentences over and over.  Contiguity and substitution correspond to two different brain functions.  Metaphor and metonymy do the same.  There are quite distinct linguistic functions although their effect is so similar.

David Lodge believes that contiguity / metonymy is a characteristic of prose, and that substitution / metaphor is a characteristic of poetry.  Narrative contiguity is the plot – the thing that structures the novel and maintains the chain of sentences.  Fiction has  to have contiguity or it becomes unreadable.  Poetry is shorter, with language that is more dense, intense, and that requires more from its reader.  Concentration and close attention is needed on the words of poems.

‘O Rose, thou art sick.’  Rose as tenor is read literally; as a vehicle it is a substitution for some unspecified tenor.

‘The Red Wheelbarrow’ – is a compressed poem.  He was an Imagist – anti-Romantic – and an American.  Significance – so much depends upon small things; the poem depends on the images.  Our ability to see the images depends upon them.  So many diverse meanings to be culled because of ambiguity and compression.

‘Ah, Sunflower’ – Blake – sunflower is a metaphor for an aged person seeking Heaven – at end of life – cycle of life – of the flower – sunflowers follow the sun.  Frustrated sexual desire thwarted by society – by frigidity.  Can be read literally, metaphorically.  Time no longer exists – eternity.

‘They Flee from Me’ – Wyatt, p. 91 – Hunting metaphor from man’s point of view in first verse, from woman’s in second and third.  Whole poem could be about Ann Boleyn – newfangleness is her with King Henry.  Change of mood from tenderness to one of complaint./  She’s playing a dangerous role – a change of roles.  Actively seduces and rejects him – image conveyed by metaphor.  Linked to the poem ‘Whoso List to Hunt’

‘The Hand That Signed the Paper’ – Dylan Thomas – Hand is metonymy for power.  Synecdoche – the hand that signs the paper represents the part, signifies the whole man.  The fingers/Kings is metaphor for power.  Third verse ‘treaty bred a fever’ is metaphor.  Two synecdoches joined as similes.  Last line reversal to literal hand.  It is easy to be a tyrant if you don’t let your heart rule your hand/head – can be just a literal statement.  Thomas, as you can tell, wrote complex poetry, re-writing the whole work (always by hand) if he changed one word, over which he would agonise for hours.  So the words he used all carry multiple meanings.

Aporia – one reading of a poem flatly contradicts the other of the same poem, with no conciliation.  Poems deconstruct themselves – contradict themselves logically.  The reading of works using Deconstruction (a la Literary Theory) can render layers of meanings, complimentary and contradictory, which can either enhance the experience, or leave readers wishing they had taken the work at face value.

Jud House 25/08/1998 & 25/10/2012

* * * * *