INSOMNIA


Sleepless
sleep less
without sleep
lacking sleep
minus sleep
positive negative

Sleeplessness
Sleep less ness
either way looks sleepy to me
nessling  nestling
between the sheets
under the quilt
snuggling the pillows
lack between abundance
thorn between roses
pea between mattresses

INSOMNIA
Synonym – sleeplessness
Antonym – sleepiness
New Antonym – sleepnest!

Restless
Restlessness
Rest less ness
same same
resting lacking nestling
comfort minus comfort
positive negative positive

INSOMNIA
Synonym – restlessness
Antonym – restfulness
New Antonym – restnest!

Jud House  16/09/2013

* * * * *

WINNIFRED – Part 6


October 1931 (cont.)

     In the early stages, as they drove through the inner suburbs, Emma gazed in awe at the row upon row of houses which looked as if they were stacked on top of each other, their square, orange roofs making a checker-board pattern against the sky.  How could so many people live so close together?

     Continuing to gaze out the window, Emma left her brothers to answer as best they could the many questions put to them by Mrs Reiner concerning their life at the The Home.  Their replies were brief, for most of the details were locked away in their memories, far too painful to speak of.

     Memories like the morning parade of bed-wetters, among whom her big, strong brother was a regular.  This measure was under-taken in the mistaken belief that the offenders would be cured of their weakness.  As the white-robed figures entered the hall, the wet sheets draped over their heads with the wettest part over their faces, Emmy’s eyes would quickly identify the tall erect figure of Walt.  She felt his pain and humiliation as they were paraded in front of the assembled children.  Her heart ached, her insides hurt so much that she could have doubled up.

     At such times, her cloak was not sufficient to protect her, and she was utterly exposed to the thrusting stabs of pain that pierced her.  How could they hurt him like this? He was so kind, so manly.

     At school, Walt was always the teachers’ right-hand man, so capable and dependable.  Emmy was to treasure the memory of a particular day when his dependability was to get her out of trouble.  In the Third Grade, she seemed unable to keep track of her possessions.  Books, pens pencils – all had a will of their own and successfully kept out of her sight.. On this particular morning, as writing lesson rolled around once more, Emma scrabbled in vain among her things trying to find her pen.  Her teacher’s patience exhausted, Emmy was banished in disgrace to the porch outside the classroom, where she sat in utter dejection.

     Suddenly, the door of the next classroom opened and Walt came into the porch.  “Hello Em, what’s up’?” he asked.

     Instantly cheered at the sight of her big brother, Emmy told him her  troubles.

     “Well, aren’t you lucky?” he said, grinning at her.  “I’ve just come out to get my spare pen for one of my team.  Each team gets points for having all their gear.  We’re winning at the moment.  But, here y’are Em.  You take it and go back to your writing lesson.”

     Emma took the pen, her heart in her eyes, too choked to speak her thanks.  Despite his hearty manner, she knew what it cost him to part with it.

     At The Home, he was just a bed-wetter, but in the school community his qualities were quickly perceived and extended.  This was his place – he thrived on the trust placed in him by his teachers.  As captain of his team he took his responsibilities seriously and was proud of being in the lead, but his responsibility for Emma came first.

     Bed-wetter he may be – he was Emmy’s Hero.. Some ten years later he would rank high among the heroes of Tobruk, as he fell leading his men into battle.

     It was from his classroom that Emma first heard the strains of the beautiful Londonderry Air and the words of “Danny Boy”.  There was something about the words and music that filled her with ecstasy.  As she listened to its haunting opening: “The pipes, the pipes are calling”, the words caught at her very soul, calling to something within her – so exquisite, yet painful.

    “From glen to glen and down the mountainside” held for her a mystical quality.  The little girl would sit at her desk enraptured, listening, transported from the mundane world of multiplication and subtraction, out into the hillsides beyond the schoolroom, until she too, was part of the mists swirling over rocky glens, rising, falling, at one with the haunting melody.

    “tis you must go and I must bide …“ it ran, moving with infinite sadness to its conclusion: “And I shall sleep in peace . . . . .‘ “  The song was always linked in her mind with Walt – prophetically as it happened.

     But memories like these were certainly not to be shared with strangers.

     There was the terrible night, when she was summoned from her bed, confused and half-asleep, and taken to the cover-way which separated the boys’ dormitories from the main building.  On the way, she was vaguely conscious of others – a few girls dressed in their night-gowns standing in a group on the balcony, talking in low voices.

     Arrived at the cover-way, Emma saw a van drawn up, ready for departure. Standing near were a number of staff members, but since it was dark Emmy was unsure who they were.

     In utter bewilderment she then saw Dick with another boy about his own age, on the point of being ‘loaded’ into the van.

     “Here’s your little sister come to say ‘Goodbye’ to you,” she heard someone say.  Then speaking to Emmy, the voice continued, “They’re going to the Reformatory for being naughty boys.  They were in bed together.”

     Reformatory!  Emma had no idea what it was like, but the word was one she’d heard in association with crime and punishment of the extremest kind.  She looked at her brother’ s white face and shared his fear.  Fear of the unknown terror that lay in store for him; fear that if he was sent away she’d never see him again. What would become of him?

     Emmy tried to speak and found that she had been crying for some time. “Please, please don’t send him away” she sobbed.

     “There now, see how upset your sister is,” said the Voice.  “We’ll let you off this time for her sake, but there’ll be no more chances.”

     Emmy was sent back to her bed, where she lay emotions in turmoil – wondering why two little boys should not share each other’s beds.  Some twenty years passed before she posed the question to her brother.

     “Why were you in bed with that other boy?”

     “I forget now” said Dick “We were probably cold or lonely and thought that two would be warmer and more comfortable than one.”

     “But why should you be sent to the Reformatory for that’?” Emma persisted.

     Dick smiled grimly.  “Come off it Em.  Two boys in bed together.  What else are adults to think but the worst?”

     Did they really intend to send them away? Or had they only intended to frighten them? Either way, it was surely an act of the coldest cruelty.

(C) Winnifred Knight  2000 – 2007

Transcribed and Edited by Jud House 2007

(C) 13/06/2013

* * * * *

WINNIFRED – Part 5


October 1931

“You’re going home tomorrow.”

     Emma stared in disbelief at the girl who’d whispered to her as they passed in the corridor on their way to bed.  Going home – dared she believe the magic words she’d waited to hear for the past three years.  Too good to be true!

     But here they were with only another fifty miles to go!  Emma thought the journey would never end.

     It had been early morning when they left The Home and wound their way down through the hills – one of those soft, cool mornings that holds promise of a beautiful day to come.

     “We have to pick up a passenger on our way through the city,” their father had said.  “But if we don’t have any other delays or unexpected mishaps, we should be home by mid-afternoon.  Seeing it’s such a nice day we’ll leave the curtains off and enjoy the fresh air.  So hop in and let’s get started,” he added.

     In a hurry to be off, the boys had opened the front door of the car for Emma, then fairly bursting with excitement, scrambled into the back, urging her to get a move on if she didn’t want to be left behind.  Emma needed no second bidding and climbed quickly in, shutting the door behind her.  For a while at least, she was to sit beside her father – this handsome, half-real, half-imaginary being, who for the past three years had existed chiefly in her dream-world.

     How many times had she looked up from her work or play and seen his tall, lean figure materialise before her eyes, walking towards her with his firm, springy step, so that as time passed, she became uncertain which of his visits had been real and which merely fancy.  Even here, at this moment, she couldn’t be sure.  Was she still dreaming?

     She watched him as he walked around the car, checking the tyres and doors, ensuring that everything was tied on securely before slipping into his place behind the wheel.

     “All set, lads?” he asked, glancing back at the boys.  Their hearty response set Em shivering with excitement, so that thinking she might be cold her father reached over, placed a rug across her knees, and with great tenderness, tucked it around her.

     “Comfy, little girl?” he asked, his grave deeply-lined face softening into a smile as he leant towards her, his face close to hers.

     Emmy nodded shyly, too overcome for words, her cup was filling too quickly.  As the engine started, she gave herself up to the joy of the moment.  The dream had come true.  They were going home!

 * * *

At the start of any journey, the traveller’s thoughts tend to linger for a time with the people and places he has just left behind, perhaps pondering unresolved problems or unfinished business, or merely reluctant to let go of familiar scenes – or they of him.

So it was with Emma.  The events of the past three years were not quite ready to release their hold on her and for a time accompanied her along the way.

As the car drew away from the building and moved slowly along the avenue of pines and past the orchard, she recalled the many hours she had spent there, looking for ‘monkey’ nuts – which was permissible – and in the orchard picking fruit – which was not.  How precious those hours had been and how fleeting!

Looking back, she exchanged a glance with Dick, and realised that he was having the same thoughts.  But from now on they’d be together all day and every day.

At The Home, contact between the three children had been very restricted.  The girls’ section was separated from the boys’ and strict supervision was exercised to ensure that the occupants too, remained separate – even at meal-times.  Though they ate in the same building, their dining-rooms were separate, and at school of course, the three were in separate class-rooms.

There were fleeting moments during the week when brief contact between them was possible – in the mornings when they waited to take their places in the ‘crocodile’ for the walk to school, and in the evenings in the Common-room when assembled for prayers.

Seating on the floor was somewhat haphazard, and it was sometimes possible for Emma to sit near one or other of her brothers and exchange a few words.  Just knowing that they were near, in the same room, brought a measure of comfort and companionship.

Saturdays provided the best opportunities for being together.  Every alternate Saturday was Visiting Day.  It was the highlight in the dull routine and must have made life considerably sweeter for those fortunate enough to have family or friends within easy reach of The Home.

At first, Emma would watch wistfully as one by one the other children were caught up in the centre of a group of familiar faces, friendly, loving.  Her eyes would examine each group closely as they arrived, hoping to espy a familiar form among them.  While she watched, a small hollow would begin to form in the pit of her stomach, slowly enlarging until the feeling of emptiness was too great to bear, and she would turn away.  These were the lucky ones who at the close of a pleasant day within a small circle, returned to the larger community refreshed – both physically and emotionally – hands filled with gifts, most often in the form of food treats, which broke the monotony of plain dining-room fare.

But as Visiting Days came and went uneventfully, Emma learnt to remove herself early from the visiting area, so that she would not have to witness the reunions, and together with one or two other lonely ones, or sometimes with Dick and a couple of his friends they roamed the large grounds, in which there were several delightful areas where, freed from Authority’s watchful eye, it was possible to lose themselves for an afternoon.

An occasional foray into the orchard in the right season could yield a succulent ‘King David’ apple with ruby skin, so juicy that the creamy flesh inside had turned in places to jelly; at other times an orange, which could be peeled and eaten, the pieces of skin then secreted on their persons and hidden under the pillow to be nibbled on in the dark after ‘lights out’.

Their favourite haunt was the driveway leading up to The Home.  Here in this quiet place, they were sustained by the bill of fare supplied by kindly Mother Nature.  The towering pines provided a canopy above them and spread layers of brown needles to form a soft carpet beneath their feet, and in Autumn the cones which littered the ground were fat with nuts, their hard, brown shells streaked with black.

Responding to the pressure of eager fingers, they spilled out and were carefully cracked between stones to release the luscious kernels.  Slipped from their silky bronze coating, the milk-white kernels were put to one side until the heap was large enough to make a tasty mouthful.  And how tasty they were!  Nothing could compare with the unique milky taste of these ‘Monkey’ nuts, and to children fed on a plain, unchanging diet they were exotic fare indeed!

* * *

As the car reached the end of the long drive, the children’s excitement mounted.  Always on the rare outings with their father, a sense of freedom overtook them as the gates came into view, and today there was no thought or their return to dim the excitement.  Emmy’s stomach seemed to turn over as they passed through the gates for the last time.  This time there’d be no going back.  She turned for a last look.

In the grass beside the gate, as though reluctant to see them go, a lone clump of snowdrops that somehow still persisted hung their heads.

“They look so sad,” thought Emmy who loved the tiny white flowers with their ever-drooping heads and the ever-present teardrop on their faces.

“Look at the wild-flowers Em,” said Dick pointing towards the hillside as they drove out on to the road.  Then with a wicked grin, “But I can’t see any orchids.”

Again sharing his thoughts, Emmy grinned back then turned to look out of the front window.  Yes, it was wild-flower time again.  She thought of the bush-track around the hillside along which they walked to school each day, and the flowery slopes that always invited them to stop and play – as on one memorable day they did!

On this particular morning – Emma was afterwards unsure just how it had come about – she and Dick became separated from the ‘Crocodile’ and, wholly oblivious of the passing time, spent a wonderful hour wandering through the scrub.

How peaceful it was – so quiet and still – like being in church.  The call of birds was the only sound that broke the silence and the two fell under its soothing spell.  It was early Spring and the wild-flowers were in bloom.

Unmindful of scratches to legs and hands, they picked their way past banks of blackberry bushes that grew thickly beside the track.  Mingled scents of boronia and wood-violets reached them as they tramped among the clumps of fern and heath in search of the elusive ‘spider’ orchid.

It was an hour stolen from Time, and they lavishly spent each moment, heedless of the reckoning.

Mercifully, no repayment was exacted when, flushed with guilty pleasure, they presented themselves – two hours late – at the schoolroom door – precious orchids drooping in hot, grubby hands.  Surely that day, the windows of Heaven were open wide, the golden hour shared and blessed, for with rare forbearance, Authority smiled faintly and held its hand.

(C) Winnifred Knight  2000 – 2007

Transcribed and Edited by Jud House 2007

(C) 13/06/2013

* * * * *

WINNIFRED – Part 4


 Emma’s memories of life with her mother were vague.  She had recollections of a lady, dressed in a long black dress, whom she was ‘helping’ to wash the clothes outdoors.  They had a house at this time but no laundry, so the copper, and the washtubs on a stand, all stood in the open.  One of the tubs was used to wash the clothes which didn’t need to be boiled, but most of them needed much rubbing on the scrubbing board – a vital piece of equipment on washdays!  The other was used for rinsing.

     Bed-linen and towels were washed at another time, when Emma was fascinated as she watched her mother wring the water out of the heavy sheets and towels, looping the ends over her arm as she did so, both before and after they went into the rinse water, and then hang them on the lines, which were strung between posts and trees.  A forked branch acted as a prop to hold the loaded lines up.  A far cry from modern washdays!

     There were dim memories of sliding off the rump of a horse, and the trembly feeling in her legs when she tried to stand, and later burying her face in her mother’s skirts, as she was comforted.  (The horse could only have been Brownie, as Kit would not have stood still long enough to allow three children to clamber on her back at the same time.)

     Another incident which stood out in her memory, was having had mustard put on her tongue – presumably for using a forbidden word.  Unable to stay outside, and anxious for her mother’s forgiveness, she peeped around the kitchen door, pressing herself close to the wall as she did so.  (She must have been four years old at the time.)  Her mother was seated on a chair facing the doorway, feeding the baby.  When she caught sight of her errant daughter, obviously seeking ‘absolution’ she smiled her humorous Mona Lisa smile.  Emma remembered that smile and treasured it.

     The last event she would rather not remember – the day the ‘phone rang in the kitchen, answered by her eldest sister, Maud.  When she’d replaced the receiver, she stood quite still for a moment or two, then turned, her face flushes red, as though to prevent herself from crying.  Then it drained of all colour as she spoke just two words – words which were to bring with them pain, heartache and above all, change to the life of each member of the family left behind – “Mum’s dead”.

     From that time onward there was a blank, except for those memorable nights when, as she and her father watched for the evening star, and she would say, “Is that where Mum has gone Dad?”  and he would reply, “Yes dear, that’s her star”.  All her life, Emma was to think of it as her star.

     Then one chill morning, she was wakened while it was still dark, bathed and dressed by Maud, and after having an early breakfast with her father and the two boys, they set off in the truck for The Home.

 * * *

  October 1928

     “This way kids, follow me.”  The voice of a small girl rang out as she set off confidently in the lead across the lawn, the two older boys trailing.

     “Wait up, Em, we’re coming.”  Dick, the younger of the two ran to catch up with her.  Walt followed more slowly.

     The suggestion of a smile showed briefly on the deeply-lined face of the man who watched them.  They crossed the drive-way to the front entrance of the elegant building which was to be their home for the next three years.

     “Plucky little Emmy,” he thought.  “Thank God she seems almost to be enjoying herself.  She’ll be good for the boys, and they’ll watch out for her.  Walt’s very responsible.”  He sighed deeply.  “Perhaps everything will work out for the best.  At least they’ll be well-cared for.  But I hate to leave them.”

     Matthew Haywood looked around at the beautiful grounds and gardens that provided the setting for the Queen Victoria Home for Children.  Sloping lawns, surrounded by shrubberies, spread across the entire front, and beyond – out of sight – were orchards and vegetable gardens which he’d seen on his initial visit.

     At the front stately columns supported the verandah, and within the entrance, passageways led directly to dining-rooms, kitchens and laundries.  Immediately on the right, a graceful staircase led up to the large common-room, bedrooms, bathrooms and administration office, where Matt had earlier had his final discussion with the matron in charge.

     Now he followed his three children into the hall and saw them into the hands of the waiting nurse.  A quiet goodbye, and they moved off up the stairs, seeming eager to inspect their new surroundings.

     Matt stood looking after them for a long moment.   “It’s the best I can do for now, kids,” he murmured.  “God bless you.”

     Turning, he went out to the waiting car, and began the long journey home, alone.

* * *

The Years Between

There were good times and there were bad.  There must have been laughter, but it couldn’t have been very deep, for she couldn’t remember it.

     There were brief moments of joy, injustice and bewilderment.   The latter predominated during the years between.  Her earliest memories were, naturally enough, dream-like – at times nightmarish.  It was like living in a fog – everything became blurred around the edges.  Nothing seemed real – reality, like reassurance, seemed always just out of reach.

     Time didn’t exist – just this sense of waiting and filling in time until someone should say, “You’re going home.”

     She learnt not to feel too much or too deeply, but to accept things as they came – the good and the bad.  Even the good times she leant to regard as somewhat common-place, because if you enjoyed them too much, you missed them too much when you didn’t have them.  The bad she learnt to endure.

     She learnt to contain herself – like a caterpillar which wraps itself in a protective covering to await the day when it is time to emerge.  What it amounted to was survival.  How strong within us is this instinct, when a five-year-old child feels the necessity to wrap itself in a protective cloak from within which it resists those things that appear to offer too great a joy or pain.

     Thus Emma existed day by day, her cloak proof against much that would assail her from without, while within its folds she wove a lining of resilience that allowed her to survive the worst times – when forced to witness the unpitying hand of Authority turned against her brothers.

     Her father’s visits – so rare and so doubly precious – whatever form they might take (a day at the beach, the zoo or the gardens), must be kept in their right perspective; the heady draught must be merely sipped, because at the end of the day they would go back to The Home and Dad would drive away – back to the farm.  In order not to taste the bitter dregs, she must not drink too deeply.

     Her one excess, because she held the cup in her own hands, was her joy in singing.  No-one could take it from her; she could call on it at will.  It was always there – constant.  Possessed of a voice that was regarded as both wonderful and unique, she was known as ‘the little girl who sings’.  It was this that gave her inner strength, that made it possible, when trouble pressed too close, to draw her cloak around her and wait, in the knowledge that no matter how bad it might be, when it was over, this part of her would emerge unharmed, unaltered.

     Yes, there were good times and there were bad.  Some of them she would never forget.

(C) Winnifred Knight  2000 – 2007

Transcribed and Edited by Jud House 2007

(C) 13/06/2013

* * * * *

WINNIFRED – Part 3


This is Winnifred’s story, told and written by her – I merely transferred it from Floppy Disk to Hard Drive, adjusting the altered format, and typos at her request. Emma is Winnifred.  Mother changed the names for two reasons – she didn’t want to upset any family members still living; and for her anonymity, and her reputation, as what she wrote would deconstruct the public persona she had created for and of herself.  Also I think to distance herself as she wrote.  If it had been in first person I think it may have been too traumatic, even after all those years.

Prologue

     “Mrs Roberts?  Please come in.”  Emma entered the tiny cubicle, closing the door behind her.  Struggling to compose herself and suppress the familiar surge of panic, she looked around the confined space.

     The attendant looked at the notes in her hand, then pointing to a pile of folded garments on the end of the seat, said kindly, “Just change into one of these gowns.  We’ll call you as soon as we’re ready for you.”

     Emma’s mouth felt dry.  Licking her lips, she asked, “How long is that likely to be?”

     “Only a few minutes,” replied the nurse, looking at her more closely.  “Are you all right?”

     “Yes, for the moment,” she murmured.  “But Nurse . . . please don’t shut the door.  It’s rather cramped in here.”

     “Just as you like.”  Smiling, the girl withdrew, and she was alone.

     Clad in a white gown, Emma sat down on the narrow bench-seat and looked at the opposite wall.  How close it was!  The room was so small – like a cupboard!  She leaned back, trying to relax, but the words she had spoken stayed with her, and in the shadowy recesses of her mind faint images were stirring, while in her ears sounded the plaintive plea of a child: “Please Nurse, don’t shut the door.”

          She closed her eyes . . . . . .  remembering.

* * *

      It was dark in the cupboard, except for a narrow strip of light which showed beneath the door as it closed behind the tiny form, shutting her in.  the sound of footsteps faded, and she was alone.

     Unable to see, she was sharply aware of the scent of clean linen and the musty smell of mice.  She didn’t cry, conditioned to passive acceptance of a punishment she didn’t question, though could not understand.  Shivering in her thin nightgown, she lay down across the doorway, pressing herself as close as possible to the fragment of light, as if to draw some warmth and comfort into her small body.

     She closed her eyes to shut out the dark, but could not shut out the sounds – the furtive scurrying of tiny feet somewhere near her.  “Please God,” she thought, “don’t let them touch me.”

     How she wished she were safely back in the dormitory!  Perhaps, if she wished hard enough, it might come true.  She tried, but nothing happened.

     Quietness descended on this House of Charity.

     Charity?!  The mind screams at the word.  Dear Heaven!  Were their windows closed?  Did no-one care?  Did no-one see – or hear?  None, it seems, save the inscrutable walls standing guard over the helpless child as she lay thinking of the other girls asleep in their beds.

     Presently, in spite of her fears, she too fell asleep.

     Here at The Home, bedtime was always the best time of day.  Bed was the one place you looked on as your own personal territory which you did not have to share.

     Of necessity, in such an institution, nothing you had – the clothes you wore, the books, pens, pencils – none belonged to you.  All were on loan.  The prettiest dress had been worn by someone before you, and you had to take care of it, for someone else would surely wear it when you’d outgrown it.

     The Home itself was not your home.  You were a visitor, and that feeling never faded.  No room was your room.  There was no corner into which you could creep and feel at home, no chair which was your own place.  You took it for granted that you would be asked to move up and make room for someone else.  There was always someone else!  You did not have your own space – except in bed!

     Here was your won world, where no-one could touch you or intrude upon your privacy.  Here, with some secret treasure tucked under your pillow, you could escape from the bewilderments of the day, whisper your own special prayers, play ‘Let’s pretend’ and wish yourself to sleep.  “Perhaps . . . perhaps I’ll wake up in the morning and find myself still at home on the farm, with Dad out milking the cows, Mother feeding the baby, and all this just a dream.”

     Yes, it was a good time of day.

     And it was good too, after ‘lights out’, to lie and talk to the other girls in the comforting semi-darkness of the dormitory.  From this place of her own each could be, for a time, herself.  As the uniform clothing of the day was put aside, so the uniformity which cloaked their personalities gave way to individuality.

     The soft shadows seemed to cast a spell over the room and its inmates, healing the hurts inflicted by angry, unkind words; soothing the cruel sting of indifference, the ever-present pain of aloneness and the yearning for close family contact – a goodnight kiss and a loving hand to tuck them in.

     In the darkness they reached out to each other.  Quarrels were for a time forgotten; confidences could be shared.  This was the best time for talking.  But talking after ‘lights out’ was against the rules!

     And so here she was, alone in the dark with only the mice to keep her company.

     Always she slept soundly, for in sleep she could enter that other world where everything was possible.  But tonight, after a few short hours, she stirred, moving her cramped limbs.  She felt cold and uncomfortable.  Reaching for her bedclothes she became aware of the hard floor beneath her and sat up, opening her eyes.

     Why was it so dark?  Straining her eyes to see, she listened for the sound of breathing from the other sleepers in the room.  All was quiet and still.

     Sudden realisation brought her fully awake!  This was no dream.  She was still in the cupboard.  They’d forgotten her!  A wave of desolation swept over her at the thought.  Then a further flash of insight told her the awful truth.  But surely they wouldn’t  . .  they couldn’t leave her here all night!

     The little head drooped and the plucky little figure crumpled, as the courage which had sustained her thus far ebbed away . . . and slow, creeping fear took its hold.

     She sank down and lay quite still, curled up against the door, unable to move, scarce daring to breathe in the oppressive silence.  Her chest felt tight, her throat ached with pent-up feelings clamouring for release, while closer and closer as in a nightmare, pressed the impenetrable darkness, enveloping her, stifling . . . smothering.

     In terror she started up desperate to escape.  Her searching fingers found the door-frame, slid upwards until they touched the large, cold door-knob.  How smooth, how cold and real it felt!  Grasping it with both hands, she turned it and the door moved inwards.  It was unlocked!

     For a moment her heart stopped beating, then began pounding with hope of freedom – and fear of discovery.  Opening the door she crept out, drawn towards the faint light at the end of the dark passage.

     Across the vast common-room, which seemed incredibly larger in the pale glow of the night-light, she could see the doorway of her dormitory . .  and just inside – her bed.

     Her bare feet made no sound as she stole across the floor towards it.  What a journey it seemed!  She was alone in a world of silence and shadows – an overwhelming sensation for a hapless mite, seeking the sanctuary of her bed and blankets, shaken by the experience – and the reasoning behind it.

* * *

      Emma felt a light touch on her shoulder and opened her eyes.  The nurse was bending over her.

     “You can come through now dear,” she said.  “Sorry to keep you waiting.  How are you feeling?”

     Gladly Emma rose and moved through the open doorway into the large room beyond.

     “I’ll be fine now thanks,” she replied.  “And thank you for leaving the door ajar.  Those cubicles are very small aren’t they?”

     The nurse smiled, sympathetically.  “A little claustrophobic are we?”

     “More than a little I’m afraid,” Emma replied.  “It goes back a long way.”

(C) Winnifred Knight  2000 – 2007

Transcribed and Edited by Jud House 2007

(C) 13/06/2013

* * * * *

THESIS – THE WRITING OF ‘MADAM PELE: A Contemporary Fantasy Novel’


What led me to write my novel ‘Madam Pele’, as a contemporary Mythical Fantasy novel – including discussions of both literary theory and influential authors of several genres.

For those of you who wish to view the complete Thesis, the following Link takes you directly to my Thesis page within the Edith Cowan University Repository.   Click on Madam Pele: novel and essay to open, then scroll and read the complete Thesis.

http://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/37

Below is a Synopsis laying out the format of the Thesis.

ABSTRACT

In this essay I cover contemporary theoretical considerations, such as Modernism, Postmodernism and Fantasy, and the influences of various authors’ writing techniques, descriptive language and narrative-plot genres, that led me to want to write my novel Madam Pele as a contemporary mythical fantasy.

Naturally, my personal experiences form the foundation of the novel, especially those in Hawaii which contribute to its scope, but writing style is of equal importance.  In order to demonstrate what has led me to this stage of style development and position of perceptions, my early reading history and an analysis of the influential authors is a necessity.

‘Travelogue’ novels.

My definition of a ‘travelogue’ novel is one that describes the details of a journey to another country or location, as the vehicle for the story which is often secondary to those details.  I discuss two influential ‘travelogue’ novels: A Pattern of Islands by Arthur Grimble, and Faraway by J B Priestley.

Crime novel plotting.

Having, over the years, accumulated an extensive library in Crime/Mystery fiction, with their often complex logical plots, I have learned not only to apply my analytical mind, by focussing on minutiae, but have gained a firm grounding in plot construction.

Analysis of influential authors.

Moving through the works of various authors I rejected many and was drawn closely to others.  I found that the novels that remained embedded in my mind contained the elements of satisfying plots, and mystery that was not always criminal, as I was drawn towards fantasy fiction.

Modern and Postmodern characteristics.

I discuss what characteristics constitute Modernism and Postmodernism, listing them as gleaned from my studies of Literary Theory, and reinforcing it with quotes from  Lewis and Moss.

Descriptive Language.

I define some literary terms, such as metaphor, simile, metonymy and synecdoche, and the specified or unspecified tenor of these language tropes which were often used figuratively.  They could all evoke an image that was instantly recognized, including the connotations of the chosen likenesses, and the baggage of intertextuality, the resultant image suggested – imagery contributing to the clarity of the wit, humour and landscape of the authors’ texts.

A particular knack with words.

Under this heading I deal with those authors whose works demonstrate this particular language use, plus aspects of literary theory that have been influential to my writing style.

Dylan Thomas:  I discuss Dylan Thomas’s use of evocative language in his prose, in some detail, referring to works such as Quite Early One Morning, HolidayMemory, and Under Milk Wood.  I love his prose.  It is easy, enjoyable, and engaging to read, written to be read aloud so that the music of the language can be heard.

P G Wodehouse:  While his plots and characters provide some comic nature to his stories, I believe the main contribution comes from his use of language, his surprising descriptive imagery, his use of metaphors and similes.  They engender chuckles that swell to gales of laughter.  I discuss this aspect of his writing, referring to Galahad at Blandings to illustrate my views.

Tim Winton:  Like P G Wodehouse, Tim Winton is a crafter of words, with the gift of creating evocative imagery.   I discuss his novel Lockie Leonard, HumanTorpedo, with its colloquial Australian language; followed by a detailed analysis of his novel The Riders and the Postmodern aspects of its text, including fantasy elements.

William Golding:  In his novel, Pincher Martin, Golding depicts the plight of a man lost at sea during the war, struggling to survive the elements while stranded on an isolated rock.  This novel demonstrates a Bakhtinian notion of ‘self’, as the protagonist strives to retain his identity without a reflected image or his view of himself as seen by others.

Fantasy.

            After defining Fantasy, Imagery and the Imagination, arguing for the legitimacy of fantasy as a general product of the imagination in line with Coleridge, Tolkien, and Le Guin’s opinions, I indicate the different types of Fantasy – High Fantasy, Sci-Fi Fantasy, and Realistic Fantasy – pointing out that my novel, Madam Pele, falls between High Fantasy and Realistic Fantasy, containing as it does authentic mythology presented within a real setting.

Analysis of influential authors.

High Fantasy.

I discuss J R R Tolkien’s views expressed in his essay On Fairy Stories, using an extract from my Honours thesis most of which I have included as an Appendix.

Sci-Fi Fantasy.

Briefly I discuss the works of Julian May, and glanced at “the increasingly inaccurately named Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy” byDouglas Adams.

Realistic Fantasy.

            The authors under this heading constitute my main focus as they deal with the area that I have chosen for my own novel.  Each has its own area of fantasy that is relevant to my work as indicated.

William Golding:  one step outside reality in The Inheritors.

Patricia Wrightson:  re her rock character in The Nargun and the stars.

Daphne Du Maurier: her temporal slippage between medieval and current Cornwall in The House on the Strand.

Susan Cooper: re her detailed use of medieval myths and symbols to authenticate her Dark is Rising series

J K Rowling: re the compounding complexities of her wizard world narratives.

Contemporary Fantasy.

This refers to other authors using postmodern format for fantasy, who opened doors for me to future writing possibilities.

Madam Pele : the novel.

My goal was to recreate an authentic myth into a contemporary literary myth including sufficient elements of the realistic novel to provide access to modern readers.  This section illustrates the methods that I used to achieve this.

Madam Pele – outline.

This gives a brief synopsis of my narrative, covering both the Hawaiian holiday taken by Di and Paul, but also their present predicament in Perth and their interaction with Madam Pele.

The importance of Madam Pele.

I discuss the importance of the character of Madam Pele to my narrative, through which her own story interweaves.

Postmodern characteristics.

I relist these characteristics and discuss their relevance within my narrative.

Geometric plotline.

This explains my geometric way of looking at the plotline, and includes a diagram.

Devices.

After defining the term, devices, I then discuss each device individually, showing how and why I have used it as a writing technique, under the subheadings: Dialogue; Non-essential descriptions; Patterns; Voices; Active Verbs; Free Verse; Inserts; ‘Travelogue’ nature.

 

Conclusion.

I mention that I hope my demonstration was successful regarding my reasons for writing my novel, Madam Pele, as a contemporary mythical fantasy, and that it indeed stands up as such – the implausable becoming reality with the Pele myth incorporated into the contemporary world.

SEMINAR on NARRATIVE POETRY


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
som
ething nasty had happened in the woodshed but that
there were quite hellish goings-on among the wool-
baskets
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

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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.

* * * * *