Eyes, Fish, Writing and Painting

Several paintings, a book cover, and a swirl of tropical fish.

Dear Reader,

Over the years I have had many people ask me why fish appear so often in my poems, short stories, novellas and novels. These include those written under my own name and the two books written under the pseudonym of Craig Carden. A lot of my paintings and drawings include, or wholly involve, fish. Why? The answer lies in my early childhood and involves something my mother did during a time when I was experiencing severe eye problems. Here is the story:

My fascination with fish, often bordering on the fanatic, began as a young child. Between the ages of three and a half and nine, I had to undergo several operations to my eyes. At the conclusion of each operation, my eyes were heavily bandaged. I could not see for about a week after my first operation and for two weeks after the second. Whenever the time came to remove the bandages, I was always filled with a great deal of expectation. Finally, I would be able to see again. It was strange to be looked after in hospital by people who I learned to recognise by voice only. As I lay in the dark, I spent a lot of time imagining what they looked like.

Following my second operation, as was done after the first, the bandages were removed in an almost-dark room so that my eyes, unused to the light for some time, would not hurt. The hospital room had blinds and they were slowly, slowly opened to allow more and more light to filter in. Even though this was all gently done, my eyes felt as if they were being stabbed. The first thing I saw after the bandages were carefully removed, and the blinds were close to half open, was a bowl of colourful fish. They were being held by my mother who had bought and then carried them into the hospital for me. As I got used to looking into the light again and the pain began to subside, I concentrated on the moving colours right in front of me: red, black, orange, blue, silver gently moving in and around brilliant green water weed.

The bowl with the little fish stayed beside my bed until I was ready to be discharged about two days later. They were two guppies and two red wagtail platies, and they made the journey back with me from seaside Durban to rural Zululand, a place of rolling green hills, citrus trees and sugar cane. The car was a station wagon and I lay in the back all the way home. Every hour we needed to pull over so that ointment could be administered to my eyes. We also used this opportunity to check that the fish, placed in a plastic bag for the journey, were okay.

To this day I have never been without fish. My mother had unknowingly begun a lifelong hobby. Today, many, many years later, I have several tanks in my bedroom and the fish are the last things I see when I go to sleep and the first when I wake up.

To those of you who write and paint: happy creating.

Andrew Pender-Smith


You Will Follow Us


You Will Follow Us

We are birds in a tree.
Shooting, trapping, pollution
and building have destroyed
most of our kind.

For the moment, those left
sing happily,
but one by one we are going,
going, going…

One day you will not hear us sing
and another sound will be heard –
it will be of the world caving in,
not bit by almost invisible bit,
but with a tired roar,
and you will have followed us into

Andrew Pender-Smith

One of my greatest concerns is of the need to conserve the environment. Those of you who read Green Monkey Publications posts may have read ‘Popping Off’. If you have not yet done so and you would like to read it, you will find the poem by scrolling down. 



How Goes it?

How Goes It?

Yo, I’m still swinging here.
I’m still swinging dere.
So, how goes it wid you?
Me, my bro? I’m mighty fine.
Creatively, I still move here
and I still move dere.
An you, my bro? I hope it’s
so with you.
Don’ lose de rhythm of creativity.
Let your imagination go wild.
Let your imagination fly high
like one mighty swinging monkee
over a big banana tree.

Your art won’t happen if you just
sit around.
Get your feet and your behind off
the ground.

Loop-de-loop. Swing by de tail of Art’s
best thing.
That will be you, my bro,
if you let what’s in you grow.

Sebastian de Vervet

It has been a long time since the inimical Sebastian de Vervet wrote a poem for the Green Monkey Publications website. As so often before, he once again encourages individuals to believe in their own creativity and to do something positive with it. Sebastian chose these images to go with the poem because he loves pink and because he thinks those who created the images have more than a flair for creativity. How is the creative in you progressing?

In Poetry


In poetry I have found many teachers. Yes, I have. Over the years I have read a tremendous amount of poetry. These have included poems from centuries ago to poems recently written. One of the reasons why I have gained as a reader, thinker and communicator is because I have not restricted myself . I have spent years enjoying poetry in different genres dealing with a wide variety of subjects. Reading and discussing poetry has helped me to think better and express myself with greater accuracy. How much reading of poetry are you doing? If you haven’t read many poems, I urge you to start now. You will grow. 

Between Plots and Characters.


The last time I posted, I talked of gardening being one of my favourite activities when not writing. The photos were of a pink and white amaryllis and an orange one. The white one, pictured above, flowered later. I had five blooms on the end of a rather long stem. Gardening gives me a break from hours of typing to produce a story. It is a great help if I have become too tense about an aspect of my writing and need to stand back for a while. Some of the knowledge I have learnt from gardening, and also as a member of a local horticultural society, has found its way into a few of my stories. 

To those of you who write: Happy writing. 


When I’m Not Writing


I am often asked what I do when I am not writing. One of my favourite occupations is gardening. Bonsai, succulents and orchids give me a break from the story on which I am currently working. Amaryllis also make it onto the list, especially at this time of the year in South Africa. Both the amaryllis pictured have been in our garden for some years. They live in pots and are brought onto the front verandah just after they come into bud.  


Popping Off – Why we desperately need to keep the bees.

bees and lavender

Popping Off

They are flying gold
to me and those who know them.
Bees thrumming harvests.

Nature’s bullion
sparking flowers to fruit,
now dwindling slowly.

So many have gone.
The humming golden ones
are dying, dying.

Abundance is a myth.
Bankruptcy is fast coming.
Some flowers are dead.

When the bees teemed
forth, the crops sang happily.
Silence approaches.

They are winging off.
Those who toil within petals
are almost, almost lost.

There will be no grave
to mark the final passing.
No burnished plaque.

The pollinators are popping
off, and then so will we,
lamenting: ”Too late!”

Andrew Pender-Smith

Written by the author as an answer to the question: If the bees go, what happens to us?

In pushing the bees into a losing position, it is worth considering that we could be doing the same to ourselves.  I encourage readers to give it careful thought and to ask, ”What can I do to see this does not happen?”