Home » 2015 » February

Can happy make you money?

IMG_20150211_133500

Andrew Bradley

Andrew Bradley knows money. His long career in the wealth and investment industry proves that. But in How Much Is Enough? he and his co-authors reveal the side of money that seldom gets discussed: the emotional side. Karin Schimke interviewed him.

Hearing you speak and reading your book, I got the impression that you became interested in psychology only after many years as a financial adviser. Is this correct, or had you always had an interest in psychology?

I was always a people watcher and was fascinated with how people behaved and conducted themselves – even as a young boy. However, only much later, after many years of being a financial adviser and then working with and guiding other financial advisers, did I realise that all this behaviour had a psychological basis. This has led me to informally study and read extensively in the field.

Psychology and emotions are often taboo subjects in the corporate and financial worlds. I suppose I remain under the impression that in certain sectors of society talking about how things make you feel is a sign of weakness. Is that erroneous? And if not, do you think there’s a chance this is changing any time soon?

I agree. Psychology and emotions have always been viewed as something to avoid at work. However, things are changing fast in corporates as organisations grapple to compete in the market place for quality employees. Today’s employees want to be engaged and inspired so they can connect with the company’s purpose and link this with their purpose. If they do not connect they will move to where they get this. We all have ‘life issues’ and behavioural biases and we cannot ignore them.

They are not weaknesses but strengths – if we can understand them and harness them.

What we are talking about in the book is more about understanding these dynamics in our consumer/client base. In my opinion if organisations do not get in tune with this and connect with their clients they will not thrive. In fact they will struggle to survive – certainly in the financial services segment. This is a challenge in this segment as we are not naturally endowed with skills.

Our clients are not looking for a transaction. They are looking for a relationship. So a focus on these dynamics is critical – not taboo.

This book is clearly the product of a journey of research. What were the absolute “a-ha” moments for you? What really struck you about the research you were doing? And did any of your a-ha moments resonate on a personal level?

There were a number of a-ha moments that resonated with me. These include:

 Investment markets perform well but most investors fail over time

 Behavioural biases are the primary cause of wealth-destroying behaviour

 Money does not bring happiness. Happiness generally brings money

 Happy people are better investors than unhappy people

 It is possible to significantly enhance your happiness with conscious awareness and behaviour. Based on these learning I have made a number of changes to my approach, with good results – not least of these is a happier relationship with my wife.

 It is possible to prevent wealth-destroying behaviour, just like it is possible to change behaviour regarding exercise and eating habits. Yes, this takes effort but the results are significant.

 We can help our children improve their happiness and set them up to live a happy and meaningful life. We can also help them to understand how to create wealth for themselves. Personally, I was trying to teach my kids about money, but I realised that I was going about it the wrong way. The result was that it was having the opposite effect. I have now changed my behaviour.

You embarked on this research because you were puzzled by something that you’d been seeing in your business for years – something that wasn’t clear to you. What was this puzzle?

Investment markets were performing well over time. All the information to capture this in investment portfolios was available. Only some investment managers and investors were making use of this. Many were taking bets against the market to try and beat it rather than optimise it. Those that take bets against the market generally do not beat the system. This results in unnecessary losses.

In addition to this, most of the investors we came across in these portfolios were also trying to second guess what was happening and trying to outsmart the investment managers – and failing.

For our clients we discovered that our biggest challenge was for them to stick to their plans after we helped them put them in place. This specifically occurred when investment markets were either performing very well or going through a slump – these were the times when they felt the need to second guess their decisions.

Why was this all happening? Our conclusion – bad human behaviour. Our hard wiring from generations of survival behaviour means that we try and follow the crowd. In investments the opposite is usually required.

You and your fellow writers show very clearly that money is not a “neutral” tender, but a highly emotional one. What, in your experience, are the most common emotions around money and which of these are most destructive?

Yes, it is emotional. In our society money is largely and unfortunately seen as a reflection of self worth – when it should not be. Money is also the means to live the life we desire to live.

The most common behaviours that can and do destroy wealth are:

 Getting the short-term and long-term trade-offs wrong

 Not coming to terms with the trade-off of the tangible versus the intangible

 Uncertainty and lack of control

 Using price as a proxy for quality

 Living for the day

 Peer pressure and status

 Loss aversion and particularly myopic loss aversion

 Rules of thumb, saliency, and over-confidence

What do you think is an appropriate and useful emotion towards or response to the concept of “money”?

Money is not the end itself, but a means to an end. Knowing the life you want to live that will bring you happiness is the most important start. How can you achieve that in the most efficient manner? This includes trying to win the hedonic arbitrage war – how to you get more happiness for the same money (or same happiness for less money). As an example if you have R100 to spend what will bring you the most happiness? Spending the day on the beach with your family or going to the mall to buy something. Understanding the difference between a need and a want is a helpful guide as well.

And finally, is it that achievable? Can people really change their attitudes towards money in time increase their wealth?

Yes. Absolutely. Just like many people have successfully changed their health and fitness habits/behaviours, you can do that with your wealth behaviours. We have seen many examples of where clients have made very meaningful changes that have had positive results.

REVIEW: How Much Is Enough?

just-cant-get-enough1

IMG_20150211_133500How Much Is Enough?

Andrew Bradley, Arun Abey and Andrew Ford

Zebra Press

REVIEW: Karin Schimke

Money.

Say the word and wait. Sooner or later, an emotional response rises.

For some, the emotional response takes a little longer to surface. For others, the anxiety or glee or bitterness spills out immediately. “Money” is a heavily loaded word in every possible realm of our lives. In the conversations we have with ourselves when we need or want something that we have to purchase in order to have. In our intimate relationships and those with our children or our parents. When we think about retirement. When we have a major domestic crisis. Every time we have a bad day at work. And in our social and political relationships – especially in South Africa, where poverty and affluence rub up against one another daily.

That money and our emotions are inextricably entwined is not a new concept, and yet the idea has not found enough traction in our day-to-day dealings with our wealth, however small we perceive that wealth to be.

It is this idea that the authors of this accessible financial how-to book explore at some length: that the average person they see in their work as financial advisers do not make any connection between money and feelings.

They exploit the cliché “Money can’t buy happiness”, turning it on its head to show that happiness might, in fact, be the starting point for increasing the wealth you already have.

Bradley, in an interview, said that he and his colleagues had observed that while investment markets performed well, most investors failed over time and that behaviour was the primary cause of destroying personal wealth.

In the book, which is packed with memorable anecdotes, the authors tell the story of Isaac Newton who was a keen share investor. The story starts well enough for him with a certain investment and he seems to make all the right decisions, but then he’s influenced by fashion, acts rashly and loses a great deal of money.

Even rational thinkers, even Newton, a respected scientist, is influenced by emotion.

In this book, layer by layer, the authors show that money can’t bring happiness, but that happiness can bring money. Drawing strongly on psychology and the vast amounts of happiness research that is available, the authors construct an argument for working on the self before working on the money.

Once they have shown how emotionally charged money is, they begin to colour in their arguments about why happiness should be the starting point of wealth work.

They show, in fairly broad brush strokes, what exactly “happiness” is and how it can be attained, referring to a great number of well-respected researchers in the field. They demonstrate how behaviour towards and around money can be changed, just like eating and exercise habits can be changed. And they also address in simple and easy-to-understand terms, actual investment.

I have a fairly firm grip of, and have done quite a lot of reading about, happiness and I have a general interest in psychology, so while the first part of the book did not hold any major wow moments for me, I am quite convinced that the straightforward manner in which the authors tackle that complex area will have a great impact on many readers who are not au fait with the science of the human mind and how it affects behaviour.

But I am less comfortable with the language of investment – to the point where I get edgy because I’m convinced I am not going to understand the jargon – so I was pleased to get through the “technical” chapters with great ease and with a much better understanding of investment than before. The authors must be lauded on being able to write in such a straightforward way without sounding patronising.

Also valuable is the chapter entitled Kids, Money and Happiness. It contains simple ideas that had never occurred to me. I realised that, while I have nurtured an open relationship with my children on social, political and sexual matters in order to prepare them for the world, I have been oddly coy about money.

Reading this book, I realise that it is learned behaviour that I can unlearn and that if I do unlearn this behaviour, my children stand a better chance of having an easy relationship with money.

And an easy relationship money – where you feel in control, where you understand what you have, what you want and how you can get – is the beginning of the kind of wealth that means some freedom from the anxieties about what exactly “enough” is.

REVIEW: Some Luck

some luck feature pic


some-luckSome Luck                            

Jane Smiley                           

Mantle (Pan Macmillan)

On reading the blurbs and beginning to read the book itself, the initial impression was that I was paging through The Saturday Evening Post while episodes of The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie were showing on the television. Not for long however.

Prolific American writer Jane Smiley has given us the first book of a planned trilogy telling the story of the Langdon family over a span of a hundred years. Beginning in 1920, she gently but relentlessly introduces us to the Langdons – Walter, pater familias, of Scottish and Irish descent; Rosanna, the blonde blue-eyed daughter of German Catholics and their five very different children: Frank, the brilliant, stubborn first-born; Joe, whose love of animals makes him the natural heir to his family’s land; the beautiful Lillian who enters a seemingly fairy-tale marriage with a man (a spy?) only she will fully know; Henry, the bookworm who simply does his own thing and Claire, the laatlammetjie.

Moving from post-World War I America through to the early 1950s, each chapter covers one year – a useful device – Some Luck gives us an intimate look at this family’s triumphs and tragedies, focusing on the realities of farm life.  While using all the family members as narrators, the storyline is essentially devoted to Frank as he grows up, leaves the farm to study, goes away to fight in the second world war (in France, Italy and Germany); but Some Luck is not simply an observation of family life on an Iowa farm and the pressures it is naturally susceptible to; it is also a subtle analysis of the idea of family, and of the truths its surface impressions will mask.

Smiley uses the dramatic changes that occur during the first half of the twentieth century to highlight changes in the family dynamics.The extent to which each of these vast events is dwelt upon depends largely on the narrative’s shifting focus: so we find ourselves brought up close to war-time battlewith Frank, who, having spent his childhood on the farm shooting rabbits and foxes to sell the skins for pocket money, becomes a sniper in the allied army. This is one of the novel’s cleverest ploys: its rhythmic unfolding lulls us into the sense that, somehow, we can tell what is going to happen. We can’t; we think we’re in for another tranche of unpredictable corn prices and then suddenly someone’s married a spy.

But, already, stories have gone untold – there are things we never really know much about at all. Family episodes are alluded to and then left hanging, sometimes to be picked up again and sometimes not. So the narrative rolls on encompassing dramatic childbirths,tentative romances, long lives and unexpected deaths, all the while set against the relentless development of increasingly powerful modernity. Written with much compassion and wisdom, Some Luck takes us through the cycles of births and deaths, passions, and betrayals, displaying Smiley’s deep understanding of human nature and the nature of history, but never forgetting the role of fate and chance.

 

 

 

 

So bored with sex

bored_frustrated_pink_41_xlarge

(This was the weekend that THAT movie based on THAT book was released in South Africa.)

When I was a teenage reader the only place I could find out anything about sex was in novels. The information was sketchy, erratic, disjointed and usually unexpected.

I’d be happily reading away and all of a sudden I’d trip over a couple of fornicators. Equal parts embarrassed and intrigued – and more, rather than less, confused – I would stumble ahead in the book, but keep going back to that part, feeling like a voyeur. Though of course at the time, I had no idea the word “voyeur” existed.

It’s odd to read about something that is both forbidden and fascinating. I was dying to know more about this thing people in books were doing, but I had no one to ask and no experience to draw from. My only experience to that point was that sex was a deeply scandalous and dangerous something-or-other, and not a topic for discussion.

Skip ahead a decade or a two and my curiosity had gone from an academic interest in the existence of such an odd pastime as getting naked with someone else, to the opinion that the repression of conversations about sex was damaging in all kinds of ways.

It damages people. It damages thought. It has contributed to the violence surrounding sex. It has damaged our society.

A few years ago I edited a collection of short stories called Open (Oshun) in which I requested South African women writers to contribute stories in which sex featured. This was before the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, and while I might have contributed in some small way to opening up conversations about women’s more positive experiences of sex (or that’s what I thought I was doing at the time), I certainly didn’t hit the graphic-sex-in-literature wave on time to make myself or the contributors any significant money.

Since then, Helena S. Paige (three South Africa women writing under one name) has garnered international book deals with a series of sexy books. Joanne Hichens has recently brought together a whole lot of wonderful short stories in which sex features in the book Adults Only. And, perhaps most noteworthy, is that an Afrikaans writer, Fanie Viljoen, has penned a book for young adults called Uit, a book that I think breaks new ground in the discussion of sexuality amongst young Afrikaans readers. I do hope it’s going to be translated into at least three of our other national languages.

I welcome these developments while at the same time, I’m bored silly by pop culture’s obsession with sex.

It borders on rabid, with everyone clamouring to say or do or show something new about sex in pop lyrics and videos, in adverts and slogans, in TV shows and magazine features.

Sex is so ubiquitous now it has become as boring as it once was forbidden.

Perhaps this is just the backlash: an over-the-top obsession with talking about sex in as public and graphic way as possible in order to get over the repressed past.

Maybe only when we’ve exhausted ourselves will we be able to stand on some sex middle ground, where neither shame and fear, nor braggadocio and victory are the main elements of the discussion. – Karin Schimke

 

Outgrow? Books? LOL!

"Twas brillig, and the slithy roves did gyre and gimble in the wabe"

Susan Samuel Van Rooyen is a journalist, a teacher and a mother of three children. She will be writing regularly for Not Now, Darling. I’m Reading.

How do you fit reading to your children into your busy life? 

I don’t really. It’s a struggle. We binge-read over holidays and weekends when I’m relaxed and I can sit still for a while and read to the children. But in the week during the term it’s difficult because there are extra-murals and homework and admin and chaos. My children are lucky to have two grandmothers who like reading to them and whom we see often. They take the pressure off me. That’s the wonderful thing about grandparents.

I try, though, to set an example by practising reading for myself as a necessity, not a luxury. My children often see me read – in the car while I wait for them, or next to the sport fields. They have to see that you don’t have to wait for holidays to read.

Why is reading to your children important to you?

It’s important for me that my children realise that if their lives are boring, they can still have fantastic experiences through reading. In a small town, with protective parents and a laid-back community, books will be their saving grace one day. It will relieve them of a boring, grey existence and will make them look forward to the life that awaits them in the future.

So they need to learn to be patient, to give books a fair chance and to experience the value and joy of books. This ability has to be learnt. It doesn’t come all on its own. To read to children is the only way you can show this world to them. It’s so much harder to discover an unknown place by yourself. You might miss the best corners and hidey-holes. As a reader and a citizen of this world, I feel it’s my duty to show my children a lot of the old favourite before I leave them so that they can discover more with self-confidence.

Does South Africa produce good enough books for children and young adults? 

I think so. I often see typical South African books on the shelves and it’s excellent quaility. I do think, though that little attention is paid to local English books, probably because the overseas English market is so productive and interesting. I’ve read a few wonderful English books for which I couldn’t discover a single review.

The market for Afrikaans books for children and teenagers has its very own unique personality and even though the market is small, it’s very active. There are a few local writers who dominate, which is a little disturbing sometimes, but that often happens in a small pool. There are lovely books being translated into Afrikaans and I appreciate the effort publishers go to in order to introduce international writers to Afrikaans chikdlren, especially writers of classics. I just wish they’d make the effort to choose good translators. I’ve recently come across a few truly awful mistakes in translations in children’s books.

When your children have outgrown books, how do you choose which to keep and which to pass on?

Outgrow? Books? LOL!

Which books from your childhood do you remember most vividly and why?

house by mouseI especially remember Bill Peet’s books. He was an illustrator who worked for Disney and many of his books were translated into Afrikaans in the early eighties. One of these books, Woempe, is about pollution and selfishness, and I recently discovered it in our local library and often take it out for my children. Two others, also translated into Afrikaans, that I remember are Mamma en Die Wilde Baba and Mirabella Muis who designed houses. I could look at the pictures for hours.

What do you think the marks of quality are in children’s literature? Do you actively seek out books that have these qualities or are you of the any-book-is-a-good-book-as-long-as-they-are-reading school of thought? 

Illustration is very important and not all illustration works equally well. To be able to draw well is not necessarily the same as drawing in an interesting way. A child is not necessarily engaged by ‘n pretty picture, but rather by an interesting picture. I buy books with good illustrations and where they story works well, but not all the books I buy my children are of equal quality. But I don’t just by any book. Some publishers are sloppy. Sometimes the drawings irritate me. So I stand at the shelves for a looooooooong time and look before I buy something.

Older children are influenced by trend reading and read what their friends are reading. In this instance a library – especially a school library – is invaluable, because I don’t necessarily want to go out and buy all 64 books in the Geronimo Stilton range.

I seldom throw books away and choose well what comes home with me.

 

Ontgroei? Boeke? LOL!

lees

Susan Samuel Van Rooyen is ‘n joernalis en ‘n onderwyser. Sy’t drie kinders. Sy gaan gereeld vir Not Now, Darling. I’m Reading skryf oor kinderboeke en jeugliteratuur.

Hoe pas jy lees vir jou kinders in ‘n besige lewe?

I don’t really. Dit is ‘n stryd. Ons “binge-read” oor vakansies en naweke – wanneer ek ontspanne is en kan stilsit vir ‘n ruk en kan voorlees. Maar tydens die week in kwartaaltyd is dit moeilik, want dis buitemuurs en huiswerk en admin en chaos. Aangesien ek smiddae en saans by die kinders is, beteken ‘n ruskans vir my juis om sonder die kinders te wees! Om alleen te sit en lees, net stilte om my te hê. My kinders is gelukkig om twee oumas te hê wat graag vir hulle voorlees en wat ons gereeld sien. Hulle haal nogal die druk van my af. Dis die wonderlike ding van oumas en oupas. Ekself prober egter altyd ‘n voorbeeld stel deur lees as ‘n noodsaaklikheid vir myself te bedryf, en nie ‘n luukse nie. My kinders sien my gereeld lees – in die kar as ek vir hulle wag of langs die sportveld. Hulle moet sien dat ‘n mens nie hoef te wag tot vakansies om te lees nie.

Hoekom is lees vir jou kinders belangrik vir jou?

Dis vir my belangrik dat my kinders besef dat indien hul eie lewens vervelig is, hulle steeds fantastiese ervarings deur boeke kan hê. Op ‘n klein dorpie met beskermende ouers en ‘n rustige gemeenskap gaan lees en boeke eendag hul redding wees. Dit gaan hulle verlos van ‘n vervelige saai bestaan en dit gaan hulle hopelik laat uitsien na die lewe wat vir hulle voorlê.

Hulle moet dus leer om geduldig te wees, om boeke ‘n regverdige kans te gee en om die waarde en lekkerte van boeke te ervaar. Hierdie vermoë moet aangeleer word – dit kom nie vanself nie. Om vir kinders voor te lees is die enigste manier waarop jy hierdie wêreld vir hulle kan wys. Dis soveel moeiliker om ‘n onbekende plek op jou eie te ontdek. Jy mis dalk van die beste hoekies en gaatjies. As leser en inwoner van hierdie ‘lees’wêreld, voel ek dis my plig om my kinders ‘n klomp gunstelinge te ‘wys’ voordat ek hulle loslaat sodat hulle met selfvertroue verder kan ontdek.

Is die boeke wat in Suidafrika vir kinders en tieners gepubliseer word van ‘n goeie gehalte? 

Ek dink tog so. Ek sien gereeld tipies Suid-Afrikaanse boeke op die rak en dis van baie goeie kwaliteit. Ek dink daar word ongelukkig bittermin aandag aan die plaaslike Engelse boeke gegee, waarskynlik omdat die oorsese Engelse mark so geweldig produktief en interessant is. Ek het al wonderlike plaaslike Engelse boeke gelees waarvan ek nie ‘n enkele resensie kon opspoor nie.

Die mark vir Afrikaanse boeke vir kinders en tieners het ‘n eie persoonlikheid en hoewel die mark redelik klein is, is dit baie aktief. Daar is ‘n paar plaaslike skrywers wat oorheers wat soms nogal steurend is, maar dit gebeur maklik in ‘n klein poeletjie. Daar is lieflike boeke wat tans in Afrikaans vertaal word en ek waardeer die moeite wat uitgewers doen om oorsese skrywers ook in Afrikaans aan ons kinders bekend te stel, veral die klassieke boeke. Ek wens net hulle wil moeite doen om.goeie vertalers te kies. Dit mag dalk kinderboeke wees, maar ek het al gruwelike foute opgetel in onlangse vertalings.

Wanneer jou kinders boeke ontgroei het, hoe besluit jy watter boeke om te hou en watter om weg te gee?

Ontgroei? Boeke? LOL!

Watter boeke van jou kinderdae onthou jy die helderste?

house by mouseEk onthou veral Bill Peet se boeke. Hy was ‘n illustreerder wat destyds by Disney gewerk het en sy boeke is taamlik in Afrikaans vertaal in die vroeë 80’er jare. Een van hierdie boeke, die Woempe, wat gaan oor besoedeling en selfsug, het ek opgespoor in ons plaaslike biblioteek en ek neem dit gereeld vir my kinders uit. Ek kon egter niks anders van hom weer opspoor in Afrikaans nie. Die ander boek is Mamma en die wilde baba, wat ook ‘n vertaalde boek is. Daar is ook ‘n boek oor Mirabella Muis wat huise ontwerp. Ek kon ure na die prentjies kyk.

Wat is die kenmerke van goeie kinderliteratuur?

Die illustrasies is baie belangrik. En nie alle illustrasies werk ewe goed nie. Om mooi te teken beteken nie noodwendig dieselfde as om interessant te teken nie. ‘n Kind word nie noodwendig deur ‘n mooi prentjie geboei nie, maar eerder ‘n interessante prentjie. Ek neig om boeke te koop wat vir my mooi is en waar die stories vir my werk. Nie alle boeke wat ek koop werk ewe goed vir my kinders nie. So dit bly ‘n uitdaging. Ek koop egter nie sommer enige boek net omdat dit byvoorbeeld Afrikaans is nie. Sommige uitgewers is slordig. Soms irriteer die illustrasies my. So ek staan laaaaank daar by die kinderboekrakke en kyk boeke deur voordat ek sommer net koop.

Ouer kinders word weer deur “trend-reading” beïnvloed. Hulle lees wat hul maters lees. Dis hier waar ‘n biblioteek – veral die skoolbiblioteek – van onskatbare waarde is, want ek wil nie noodwendig al 64 uitgawes van Geronimo Stilton of Reënboograndtieners gaan koop nie. Ek gooi selde boeke uit (sien Vraag 4) en kies dus baie mooi wat ek by my huis indra. Biblioteekboeke is egter altyd baie welkom en ons pas dit baie mooi op.

 

Remember when we used the Encyclopedia Brittanica?

IMG_20150201_105707

I recently visited my parents in city far from mine. That feeling of having turned into a giant in a doll’s house has never left me. The place you grow up in always seems ridiculously small through adult eyes. When you are small, the space feels full of endless nooks and crannies.

One of the nooks I spent a lot of time in, was this one. It’s in the living room.

IMG_20150201_105707

On the shelf below the Encyclopedia Brittanica are my father’s records. Both – encycolopedia and LP’s – now seem like such quaint artifacts.

For years I failed to “see” that shelf, but this time the Encyclopedia Brittanica hooked my eye. What a proud row of books – and how useful it was. It was the first and last source for every project from about the age of 11 onwards. Trips to the library provided the meat on the research sandwich.

I opened one up and was amused at how small the writing is. How was I not intimidated back then? But I wasn’t. Those books were (almost) all I needed for research and independent work at home.

I pulled down the book that promised to have an entry for “Encyclopedia” and found an eighteen page (!) entry.

 

The entry for "Encyclopedia" from the Encyclopedia Brittanica

The entry for “Encyclopedia” from the Encyclopedia Brittanica

An encyclopedia is: “a type of reference work or compendium holding a comprehensive summary of information from either all branches of knowledge or a particlar branch of knowledge”. 

Then I looked up “Encyclopedia Brittanica” on its modern incarnation, Wikipedia, and discovered the following:

  • In 2012 it was announced that the 2010 edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica would be the last printed edition
  • It was first published between 1768 and 1771, in Edinburgh in Scotland and it ran to three volumes.
  • The final set was 32 volumes. It was the fifteenth edition and it ran to 32 640 pages.

I remember when my parents bought the Encyclopedia Brittanica that it was an enormous financial sacrifice. In retrospect, it seems like it was a good investment.

Francis Bacon's classification of knowledge

Francis Bacon’s classification of knowledge

  • (Watch Joey from Friends in the episode where he can afford only one volume of the Encyclopedia.)

Eighth Day: Love poetry

heart

Love and poetry go together like a bard and his red, red rose—and no better way to enjoy Valentine’s month than with a little lust, eroticism and reminder that neither are reserved for the young or heterosexual. MOIRA RICHARDS shares her thoughts.

Schmailo#specialcharacters

Larissa Schmailo

Unlikely Books

As the titian-haired faun on the cover suggests, Larissa Schmailo’s collection limns the life of a lover—a lover who is a lusty lover of life too. The opening piece catches the first 12 Fibonacci numbers and finesses them into giddy remembrances of an octogenarian’s most significant birthdays. Then, as Fibonacci sequences do, the pages of poetry spiral with the 89-year-old, ever outwards, or perhaps inwards, towards her infinity.

Stream-of-consciousness narrations, witty footnoted asides, plays with parentheses and fonts, prose poems, list poems— they all fill in on the special character(s), subject of the book. The last section introduces the once successful poet, Ritar (“Ritar had had her 15 minutes of fame, many times over”), bottomed out, no longer “wave… disturbance in space-time… Cambrian explosion of creativity.” But she is still in control of her own infinity. Schmailo’s poetry sucked me into/out of its golden spiral.

TwoWhiteBedsTwo White Beds: Millie and Sam

Laura Cherry

Minerva Rising

ISBN 0989574547

This discreet, pocket-sized chapbook, winner of the publisher’s “Daring to be the Woman I Am” contest, comprises eight poem letters sent to “Dearest Millie” by Samantha at intervals during the year running from June 1882 to June 1883. All but one, perhaps two, were ever posted. Interleaved between them, are seven first-person musings by the respectable Miss Millicent in which the poetry touches on the unexpectedness of their love, on their self-imposed separation and their eventual decision to live a life together.

A deliciously period piece, subtly erotic through its imagery of full-blown peonies, perfectly ripened fruit, and feastings on oysters by young women who, outwardly, will present themselves to the Victorian English world as merely two of those ubiquitous “harmless maiden aunts / arm in arm along the boardwalk.”

Cloves&HoneyCloves & Honey

love poems

Athena Kildegaard

Nodin Press

ISBN-13: 978-1935666363

Kildegaard set out to write a love poem every day for 365 days – I’m inspired now to try and do the same. Then she revised and selected a quarter of the untitled poems to craft an ode to a three decades long, happy, marriage. Divided into four sections, matching the seasons of a year and drawing often on the images of nature, each became my new favourite as I read on through this celebration.

Understated eroticism and long-ago new beginnings in the poetry of spring; a languid sense of repletion suffuses the summer; the poems of autumn marvel at good fortune, recognise its ephemerality; and at the last, poems in which winter’s freeze is held at bay as two fifty-year olds (children grown and flown) divide and share the small chores and routines of their domestic life.

LiesThese are the lies I told you

Kerry Hammerton

Modjaji Books, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-920397-22-7

I’m a sucker for a great cover and, happily, the insides of books usually deliver on their outside promises. This, with its hot pink letters lying flat on their backs, is no exception. The poems run page over page to create a lusty tale of seduction, sex and falling in love; and heartbreak and love again and … well, you didn’t think I’d give away the ending?

Hammerton’s poetry tells the stories poets have told since back when – stories we never tire of living and reliving especially when told new. Her light, sometimes witty, sometimes understated control of words, make this telling deliciously new.