November 24, 2015
Just when it has begun to dawn (as opposed to dawning to begin) that next week contains some of a month called December, I see that next year is already totally stuffed with events, like a Christmas stocking full of jolly wee gifts. (I would be quite happy with a stocking full of miniatures of vodka, rum and gin. But Santa never heeds my blog written hints. Either that or his historic sponsorship by Coca-Cola has made him renounce alcohol, the capitalist running dog.) Jason Nahrung has a very useful list of next year’s literary festivals on his blog:
Hilariously, the Adelaide Writers Week dates are set until 2019, which is so redolent of 5 year plans as to be practically North Korean. Though the wine in South Australia is undoubtedly better (listen, Santa, Goddamn you!) and they have luxuries like food, too. If you know of any other events, let Jason know!
Just had my first poem published in the Australian Poetry Journal, called “Secondary ghosts”. In his introduction, editor Michael Sharkey touches on ecopoetry, birds, and questions of popular appeal/playfulness. It seems to me, on first reading, that the volume is chockas, if not chookers, with winged things (my words, not Michael’s). Hence my arranging the journal next to by embroidered cockatoo cushion (that is a most playful bird) on a chair which is covered with a fabric called Virgin Lawn. (No kidding.) The colours of the beautiful cover of the APJ (painting by Lise Temple) reminded me of the chair. And, as the person who wrote the ghost poem, here’s a little poem about that poem:
I do the ghosts
In all their unseen glory,
or whingey postlife
booing or ruining feasts.
Which is not to say
that some feasts don’t need ruining.
Which is not to say
that a good scare is a bad thing.
Yes, birds flutter
through pages like
olive leaves. Some simply
go away, evermore,
but so many leave
droppings, and so we
put them into poems;
poems of soar or seediness.
But there are other
neither here nor there.
So I do the ghosts.
This is all getting a tad intertextual, which is when Santa leaves a new pen next to the list of gifts (which read Vodka, Gin, Rum) after amending it to read New Pen.
Tuesday Poem is going through something of a reconfiguration at the moment, but I certainly intend to keep posting on Tuesdays. Read the works of the other Tuesday Poets by pressing here.
Next week there will be fewer brackets.
November 14, 2015
‘Pen’ —60th Birthday
FROM youth to age, in calm and storm, in fine and cloudy weather,
My harmless little pen and I have safely jogged together.
When first I grasped his tiny staff, one Christmas long ago,
He lisped: “Come let us make a rhyme about the frost and snow.”
“Ah, foolish babes!” the nurse cried out, and snatched his tiny wing;
“The world is full of sweeter songs than you can write or sing.”
At school he was a sturdy wight, although I held him badly,
And many a page of classic prose we canter’d over gladly;
In leisure hours, on sunny days, he whisper’d in my ear;
“O, let us sing of all that’s bright and beautiful and dear.”
“Write not, sing not, misguided pen,” the teacher wise exclaimed,
“Or write me but the names of those whose poetry is famed.”
Then, for a time, he frisk’d about, in incoherent fashion,
Longing to tell a tragic tale of hopeless love and passion;
“Wait yet,” I cried, “till time shall show if love be sweet or bitter.”
Poor Pen (he lost his feathers then) gave but a mournful twitter.
Love, when he came, was sweet and shy, and would not be portray’d;
He brought his own low melodies, and sang them in the shade.
Then Pen began a diary of household joy and sorrow,
And, steel-clad, plodded on his way for many a busy morrow.
From lists and bills he sometimes turned, at evening, with regret,
To say: “The poetry of life is hanging round me yet.”
“Put down that pen,” the babes cried out; “O, mother, do not write,
But sing us just one little song before we say ‘Goodnight.”‘
The babes grew up, and faithful Pen, their copies duly set,
And we, for daughters’ eyes retraced the lines where first we met;
Ere the first brood had taken wing, another race began,
And Pen and I forgot the verse while teaching boys to “scan.”
So let it be, we acquiesced. “More useful we have been
Than had our verses lived and died in ‘Fraser’s Magazine.”‘
And yet not so; we linger still; the gentle hand of age
Has swept across the blotted book, and turned another page;
A blessed blank for Pen, who still delights in rhyme and jingle;
No worldly cares need now intrude, no household duties mingle;
The eye is dim, the ear is dull, the limbs on sofa prone,
But Conscience whispers, with a smile, “Our time is now our own.”
The mental stream thro’ flow’ry meads delights no more to flow,
But, filter’d through the ash of life, its drops are clear and slow;
Baptised in these to higher aims, and willing to the end,
Pen yet may take a prize or two to help a needy friend.
For nights of rest and peaceful days a weak thanksgiving raise,
And may his latest struggle be an humble song of praise.
Emily Mary Barton
This poem by Emily Mary Barton was first published in the volume Straws on the Stream in 1907. The poet lived from 1817 to 1909.
Born in England, she arrived in Australia in 1839, was married and had eight children. The effects on her writing are mentioned directly, if lightly, in stanzas four and five above. Barton was from a relatively wealthy background, which is probably the only reason that her voice is still with us today.
Today we still see how writing is squeezed between other concerns, and how some people like the idea of a capital ‘L’ literature that floats above the merely domestic, born from Jupiter’s inky, or bytey, thigh. This poem by Barton is a reminder of how the ability to write, and even, therefore, to have a chance to be considered for publication, let alone be read and reviewed, are inextricably linked with the mundane world.
This Barton’s grandson is much better known; his name was Andrew Barton Paterson, known to us as Banjo Paterson.
If you would like to read more of this ‘other’ Barton, you can go to the Australian Poetry Library. It is probably worth noting, in the context of this piece, that less than one-third of the poets represented at the APL are women. Women are not, so much, ‘…those whose poetry is famed.’ Perhaps this is changing, although statistics on reviews of books by women in the world’s major journals are still often quite depressing, if one thinks about which books are being regarded as ‘worthy’. And writers are also marginalised based on ethnic origin, as if only one type of person ever writes Real Literature.
A beguiling question is whether anyone now writes poems celebrating their computers, as Emily Mary Barton does her pen? Somehow, I think the great ‘Ode In Praise of My Device, Upon Which I Write Stuff’, has yet to be written.
I am posting early as I didn’t want a light-hearted tanka about Paris up as the opening post at the moment, given the appalling murders that have been committed there. I particularly urge you to read the blog of Tuesday Poet Rethabile Masilo,who lives in Paris, and who has posted a poem about these events.
November 11, 2015
She thought Paris
was a city of couture
modelling thin —
the Place de la République
where McDonald’s fashions fries
The photo has very little to do with the poem. Honestly.
Next week: Exegesis and tea.
November 2, 2015
Smith’s Alternative used to be a bookshop and is now a venue. I was lucky enough to be asked to be the first poet to read as part of ‘That Poetry Thing That Is On At Smith’s Every Other Monday’ aka An Evening with P.S. Cottier, by MC Norm de Plume.
I really enjoyed chatting to Norm (aka Josh) about writing and reading my poetry. In between there was a really lovely set by musician Gabriela Falzon. I wanted to listen more closely to the lyrics, but I had to compose a poem from words given to me by the audience at this time. God damn them. The words were:
Here’s what I wrote in ten minutes or so, between the interview (why, how, where) and the reading (what):
So I googled aardvark, and it took me
to South America, where the plants
are lumps of pain, needling the air,
the air thin as capillaries.
I want to be a gaucho,
chasing beef and capybara
through the blank page plains.
I wear chaps like parchment,
tattoed with macho glamour.
So I fell asleep, my pen flaccid
as a pancake’s Sunday hammock.
I am no gaucho, my purple bolas
do not spin. There is no flying
revelation, no roasted meal
in front of tossing, avid fire.
All I have is knowledge,
received knowledge, that the aardvark
seeks ants amongst ruins, as I seek
relics of greater words.
The cactus blooms, and no-one sees.
Rough as a superannuated gaucho’s knees, but I enjoyed the process. (That is unedited, except for the spelling of aardvark, which is a word specifically invented for spelling comps.)
Smith’s has been a significant place for me. My first book launch was held there back in 2009. I wore the same dress tonight that I did then. My second poetry book was also launched there, and I remember independent MP Nick Xenophon read a poem from the book, the night the bar was opened. (Hal Judge launched that book, and Geoff Page launched the first one.)
Now Nigel is the proprietor, and I hope that the space works as a venue for years to come. Thanks to everyone who came along.
I suppose this can act as a Tuesday poem after all!
November 1, 2015
I have been asked to lead off a new series of poetry readings/discussions about poetry/general poetic hi jinx (the lesser known relative of the execrable Jaja Binks). Details for Canberrans/people with private jets who are not Donald Trump:
That Poetry Thing That Is On At Smith’s Every Other Monday @Smith’s Alternative, Alinga Street Civic
An Evening With P.S. Cottier
That’s this woman, escaped from the psychedelically besmirched attic.
I am looking forward to being quizzed by JC Inman, fellow poet, about what inspires me and why I do it, and a myriad of other matters. There will be music! Hopefully composition on the spot! And then I will read for twenty minutes or so.
Do come along and keep the poet in fete money.
(I have an awful feeling that rugby may be mentioned, too…Josh Inman has some New Zealand blood, I believe.)
And, if you are seeking a Tuesday Poem, please press this link: http://cordite.org.au/poetry/toil/a-hard-poem-to-market/ That will take you to Cordite Poetry Review. This issue is on the idea or theme or prompt of toil, and is edited by Carol Jenkins.
By late Monday, I will be far too happy (I hope) to type.