10 episodes

Life is long and you're getting older. It's weird, and not just in a bad way. An old poet talks about the ups and downs of life so far, and wonders about well-being in old age. You too may find that old age is unexpected, ever-changing, and in some ways strangely satisfying.

How To Be Old Rachel McAlpine

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Life is long and you're getting older. It's weird, and not just in a bad way. An old poet talks about the ups and downs of life so far, and wonders about well-being in old age. You too may find that old age is unexpected, ever-changing, and in some ways strangely satisfying.

    No fear of old age—a poem

    No fear of old age—a poem

    Many people say they have fear of old age, not death or dying. But my role model is the woman who wasn't afraid of open heart surgery—or loneliness—or lazy brain. This poem has danced off the page and has its own chorus and a subterranean tune.

    Scottish poet Michael Pedersen on poems, people and old age

    Scottish poet Michael Pedersen on poems, people and old age

    Scottish super-poet reads "Gravity" and talks about poems, people, and his future old age. Recorded November 2019 and still as fresh as a purple thistle head.





    About Michael Pedersen: The Scottish Poetry Library
    Neu! Reekie!
    Kim Hill interviews Michael Pedersen

    Young poet, old poet

    Young poet, old poet

    A young poet reads a poem to an old poet. An old poet learns about eating green apples with chili, and a new snack is invented. You can read the original poem on my blog.

    Poetic therapy: two poems for when you break or are haunted

    Poetic therapy: two poems for when you break or are haunted

    In a storm of regrets or negative thoughts, when you feel broken or haunted, a poem can help you to mend. That's informal poetic therapy. Today Kintsugi by Janis Freegard and When Befriending Ghosts by Siobhan Harvey are poetic therapy for me. Which poems do you turn to? I'm Rachel McAlpine, 81, a New Zealand poet.





    Kintsugi by Janis Freegard



    You will break and break and keep breaking until you’re on the floor
    Wondering whether you can ever rise. (You can.)



    You’ll break until you feel you may never be whole again.
    (You will be.)



    But you’ll be altered. Now is the time for kintsugi,
    the Japanese art of repairing with gold, mending the cracks



    in smashed ceramics to make something more beautiful.
    You’ll reassemble yourself and use gold to seal the fissures.



    You’ll be better than before. Don’t stay damaged —
    That’s no use to anyone. Don’t give yourself more pity than you need.



    As soon as you’re ready, heal. (On second thoughts,
    You may never be ready. Do it anyway.)



    Trust me when I say: it’s going to be better. Trust me when I say:
    This isn’t your fault. This shouldn’t have happened.



    But it has and you couldn’t have stopped it. Make sure
    whatever happens next is good. Really good.



    Prepare your lacquer pot,
    Mix in the gold.



    Janis Freegard's Weblog



    If Befriending Ghosts Siobhan Harvey



    If they are the legacy left in lost code
    If they are the beginning of broken soul



    If they are the bitter end of love
    If they are the sour taste of rejection



    If they are the other side of the story
    If they are the curses cast into oblivion



    If they are the chemical rendering of light
    If they are the sky at the point of breaking



    If they are a house troubled by occupants
    If they are a dwelling upon difficult territory



    If they are my crying out of pain
    If they are my tearing open old wounds



    If they are my looking deep inside
    If they are my viscera, blood and bile



    I will give them oxygen and time
    I will give them fuel and flame



    I will raise them to ruin, to wreck
    I will raise them as lovers, as pets



    I will wear them up like a leash
    I will wear them down to a dust



    I will be their armour, their second skin
    I will be their padded cell, their asylum



    Siobhan Harvey

    Poems for friends and relatives

    Poems for friends and relatives

    Today I'm reading a few poems that I wrote for particular friends or relatives—not love poems, just a message of delight or affection. Have you ever written a poem like that—and given it to them? That's pretty special for both the poet and the receiver.

    How children think

    How children think

    Wonder what children think about hell, careers and catastrophes? Sit back and listen to three poems with some insights into their private worries.



    Theology of hell



    I was worried. I was seven
    and Daddy (as we called him then)
    was tucking me into bed.
    I was worried about hell.
    I wasn’t sure how bad you had to be.



    So I asked him, “When I die
    will I go to heaven or
    to hell?” Not a chatterbox
    he thought before he answered.
    We always could see him thinking
    with his eyeballs and his mouth.



    He said, “I don’t believe in hell
    for God is a loving God.
    But if there is a hell, I’m sure
    that only a very very few
    would go to hell, and only after doing
    something very very bad.”



    “Like what?” I pushed.
    Again he pondered. Then he said,
    “Like killing a person on purpose
    and never feeling sorry.”
    He was a vicar, and he knew.



    He kissed me goodnight
    and left me healed.
    I knew for sure and certain
    I would never kill
    a person, not on purpose
    and if I did, I would be sorry—
    so I wouldn’t go to hell.



    Vocational Guidance





    You have to say something when they ask
    and they always ask.
    But I haven’t decided yet.



    I might be an anthropologist
    or I might be a lady with a nail polish shop
    or I might be both, and in my spare time



    I might be a ballerina.
    When I get tired of being a ballerina
    I will have a baby called Hannah



    and she will be my friend.
    But I can’t have two friends called Hannah
    so I will give my baby Hannah



    to my other friend, Layla.
    Actually I won’t get tired
    of being a ballerina.



    Elsie's Scale of Terribleness



    Having no one to play with is four out of ten
    if it’s only a single day.
    A sunburn on your bones is an eight.
    Dropping your lunch in the dirt is a five.
    A zombie attack is about a nine
    A ten would be if my dog died
    (that would make me very sad)
    or if all the humans of the world
    got destructed by the God of Mud
    but Granny dying would only be
    a five, because she’s old.



    All poems are from How To Be Old, for sale at any New Zealand book store (if not, they'll order it) or buy direct from The Cuba Press.

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