perched on a log
damp bark transfers water —
my pink frog bum

P.S. Cottier

I do not understand this image...

I do not fully understand this image…

Now that damp croak of a poem was written at a great event which was held in O’Connor, just up the road from where your poetic blogger lives. (That’s me, if you were wondering.) A group of people met, heard about the wetlands and haiku, and wrote a brimming bucket of the tadpole poems.

The event was organised by Sarah St Vincent Welch (writer) and Edwina Robinson (Urban Waterways Coordinator). There are lovely photos and more poems at the following link, including some more serious ones. But I am particularly chuffed by the photo that follows on from the poem, in which I am indeed perched on a log.

Canberra is a very lucky city, with features such as the urban waterways in the inner city. (If you are imagining a city such as Paris, or Sydney, please don’t. Canberra is not that type of place at all.) The waterways return some of the creek that flowed through this area to a more natural state after it was concreted at some stage. Philosophically, it is an interesting question whether these recreated ponds are ‘natural’, but I am pleased that they exist.

Similarly, is haiku in English actually haiku? Is a haiku that contains a rhyme a proper haiku? Should we worry about such notions of form and purity?

Or should we just play?

Press this feather, fly to New Zealand, and read even more poetry:

Tuesday Poem<

Hope was but a timid friend;
She sat without the grated den,
Watching how my fate would tend,
Even as selfish-hearted men.

She was cruel in her fear;
Through the bars, one dreary day,
I looked out to see her there,
And she turned her face away!

Like a false guard, false watch keeping,
Still, in strife, she whispered peace;
She would sing while I was weeping;
If I listened, she would cease.

False she was, and unrelenting;
When my last joys strewed the ground,
Even Sorrow saw, repenting,
Those sad relics scattered round;

Hope, whose whisper would have given
Balm to all my frenzied pain,
Stretched her wings, and soared to heaven,
Went, and ne’er returned again!

There is another poem on the same subject by Emily Dickinson, of course, which mentions wings, but I prefer this one, being a renowned misery guts.

If you would like wingèd hope to plop onto your lap like an obese kakapo, may I suggest you press this feather? You will not fly, or run very fast, but you will find yourself reading many poems from New Zealand. However, a flightless parrot tells me that the very fine Hub Poem is by a member of what our Prime Minister just dubbed ‘Team Australia’. A phrase guaranteed to make any poet puke. If you don’t, please hand your licence back in to the Appropriate Authorities.

The poem at the hub is by a third Emily, by the way: Emily Manger.

Tuesday Poem

Poems read at the Dead Poets’ Dinner in Canberra, July 22, 2014

Colin Campbell / Thomas Blackburn ‘A Smell of Burning’ and ‘Hospital for Defectives’
Marion Halligan / Yeats ‘Sailing to Byzantium’
Joyce Freedman / Siegfriend Sassoon ‘Everyone Sang’
Hazel Hall / Hilaire Belloc ‘Tarantella’
Chris Dorman / William Baine ‘The Archery of William Tell’
Kathy Kituai / Muso Susaki ‘Sun in Midnight’
Nicola Bowery / Sarah Broom ‘About Me’ and ‘That Moon’
Wendy McMahon Bell / Seamus Heaney ‘Digging’
P.S. Cottier / Catherine Martin ‘The Mouse Tower’
Geoff Page / Seamus Heaney ‘From the Republic of Conscience’
Laurie McDonald / David Meyers ‘Fencing in the Dark’
Carmel Summers / Janice Bostok ‘Amongst the Graffiti’
Moya Pacey / Elizabeth Bishop ‘One Art’ and Louis MacNeice ‘Wolves’
Rosa O’Kae / Seamus Heaney ‘Skunk’
Sue Edgar / J.L. Borges ‘Mirror’ and Sylvia Plath ‘Mirror’
Adrienne Johns / Hugh McDiarmid ‘Vanitas’ and ‘Balmorality’
John Stokes / R.F. Brissenden ‘The Whale in Darkness’
Mary Besemeres / Wizlawa Szymborska ‘View With a Grain of Sand’
Sarah Rice / T.S. Eliot excerpts from ‘Little Gidding’
Emily Rice / Ted Hughes ‘Tractor’
Annie Didcott / Keats ‘Ode to a Nightingale’
Tony Williams / Neruda ‘The Dead Woman’
Arlene Williams / J.J. Bray ‘Address to Pigeons in Hurtle Square’ and William Carlos Williams ‘This is just to say’
John Van de Graaff / Seamus Heaney ‘Follower’ and D.H. Lawrence ‘Piano’
Adrian Caesar / R.S. Thomas ‘The Owl’
Michael Thorley / Thomas Hardy ‘Channel Firing’ and ‘They’
Andrew McDonald / poems by two Scottish poets (Norman McCaig?)
Lesley Lebkowicz / poems by Soseki
Alan Gould / a song by Hamish Henderson
Alinta Leaver / Kenneth Koch ‘Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams’
Richard Scutter / Auden ‘Musée des Beaux Arts’ and Hopkins ‘Inversnaid’
Martin Dolan / Dylan Thomas ‘Prologue’
Marlene Hall / Thomas Wyatt ‘Whoso list upon the slipper top’
Melinda Smith / Francis Webb ‘Cap and Bells’ and ‘The Bells of St Peter Mancroft’
Ruth Pieloor / C.J. Dennis ‘The Austra—laise’
Janette Pieloor /Gwen Harwood ‘The Secret Life of Frogs’

37 readers chose poems to read by dead poets. 7 women’s poems were chosen. Please check and see if I got that right, as numbers and I rarely speak. I can’t work out the percentage, not being at all like the remarkable Ada Lovelace pictured below.

We continue to shape the world with the words of men only.

Poetry is an art form where many women work, and have done so for centuries. There are lots of works by ‘dead women poets’.

Are our aesthetic judgements so very narrow? Does thought spoil poetry?

I did get a giggle out of ‘The Dead Woman’ by Pablo Neruda. In one sense women are more dead than men, in that their/our poetry seems more easily buried. In another, it seems that they are not dead enough to qualify as Dead Poets, that is, those who are part of the pantheon.

I just don’t understand.

Apart from the retrospective silencing of women, it was a very enjoyable night.

Bias in the sciences and bias in the arts

Bias in the sciences and bias in the arts


August 5, 2014

On Sunday I did something I’ve never done before, and moved away from the microphone to perform a poem, which I had memorised. No fiddling with glasses. No piece of paper. (Both were there, in case my brain melted, but I managed without.) Speaking of melting brains, here is an ice sculpture of Douglas Mawson, melting in the comparatively tropical Canberra sunshine:
douglas mawson

This sculpture, and the perfomance, were part of a wonderful event called the Winter Festival at the Portrait Gallery in Canberra. An ekphrastic competition was held, where we had to respond to a photograph in writing. The writing ranged from non-fiction memoir, to short stories, to poetry. The judge was Paul Hetherington.

Thanks to my poem (and the obviously impeccable taste of the judge) I now have a gift voucher for the Portrait Gallery bookstore, as I was highly commended.

Recently a novelist of my acquaintance, Kaaron Warren, detailed her haul of booty from winning a voucher for the best fiction book published in the ACT. She bought books.

I may well buy an item of personal adornment. A new beret or something, as one can never have enough headgear. Ask Douglas Mawson.


No poem today.

UPDATE: Michelle Brock was the poet awarded first place. Thanks to Kathy Kituai for jogging my memory.

Lizz Murphy at the Hub

July 28, 2014

That sounds like an ad for a jazz singer, at a club drenched in twilight like cheap cologne, where the sax wails like a lonely cat.

But it is not. It is purely informative, telling you, dear reader, that I edited the hub post for Tuesday Poem this week, and that it features the said Ms Murphy with a most beguiling poem. Press this feather and read:

Tuesday Poem

Here is a photo of Lizz Murphy and myself in front of some wool, which bears absolutely no relation to the poem. She is the one who looks intelligent.

Lizz and me at Yass


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