May 13, 2013
chewing soft cud of sky krill
The best thing to happen during Canberra’s Centenary Celebrations (there are a lot of capitals around at the moment in the nations’s capital) took to the air outside the National Gallery on Saturday.
Skywhale, a balloon sculpture designed by Patricia Piccinini, is not exactly your typical whale. She has a bit of the turtle about her, and wings made of breasts. Is she an angel? I don’t know, but her presence is peaceful and wonderful; confusing those who like straight lines and easy classifications.
The money, some people are shouting! The outrageousness of producing a whale that isn’t even a proper whale for the centenary of an inland city! The threat to mental law and order! Read some of the comments here on RiotACT, where the haiku was posted by me as a comment. I didn’t want to argue the case, as Skywhale seemed so strangely perfect in her ambiguity. A poem seemed more appropriate.
There should be more of this sort of perplexing beauty, confounding those who think that art should be confined to easily recognisable portraits and lovely landscapes punctuated with useful sheep:
Moustaches and merinos
made Australia what she is today.
No fleecy clouds of maybe here!
No blubbering queens of perhaps,
with flowing boas of breast to tease
certainty into mere sniffle;
our capital’s castaway.
Through all the controversy, Skywhale maintains her dignity, moving gently through the sky with her wings of breasts, a kindly and whimsical presence, powered by hot air but quite serene. Skywhale is certainly the Queen of the Centenary. She will soon be touring the country, looking down on her subjects with that benign and somewhat Mona Lisa smile.
Long may she swish through the skies, delighting those who prefer their art to have a little whimsy, and to pose a few questions, at the same time that it delights and sets us free.
May 6, 2013
Angels dancing on pins are nothing to us.
Those celestials number thousands,
harpies with harps, slippery butterflies.
Bring the formeldehyde, I say,
and still their antic twists.
We live in millions, simple stars,
galaxies that give no light.
A bone slung hammock,
a fleshy divan,
your body transports us
as we rock, divide, and redivide.
Under the curved
frowns of your fingernails,
on the flaky deserts of your head,
we plant our sprawling flag.
Any crevice is our castle, your mouth
a plunge-pool for our disport.
Arise, Sir Realm, Lady Habitat.
King Bacillus is well pleased.
Really, these little things rule the world; a successful form that’s been around a lot longer than we have, and which may outlast us.
Sucked in, hm?
April 9, 2013
Ten million green commas punctuate blue sky,
quick breaths of swooping wonder, multiplied.
Water-hole is your target; liquid rope pulls you
and the whole emerald sky is diving,
as miniature bodies scoop down to pool.
Your individual markings have taken you
further than native flight; outside the Louvre
I saw you, cold, trying to break in, as pointillist
as Pissarro, but so acrylic in your finish.
Proud but damp escapee from French balcony,
regretting the lost seed and the found liberty.
Plump and fresh, I have heard you were good eating,
a winging fast food charred to a turn;
as far from stringy battery chook as fingers in the fire.
Most know you singly: whistling in cages,
bowing and bobbing, rattling plastic mirrors.
Driven mad you ring and ring chink-chinky bells
or make love to that hard, hard-to-get reflection.
What joy to see you
just once, as you swoop,
one stitch amongst the tapestry,
a blade of grass in feathered turf carpet,
transforming dreary waterside
with that fallen sward of Eire.
Swift dragon of twenty million wings,
fluorescing with your simple, beak-filled joys.
I wrote this poem quite a while back, but haven’t found the right place for it. Until now! Budgerigars live in huge numbers in inland Australia. Apparently they are our most successful animal export (excluding the woolly things). They are, I assume, no longer exported, but their proclivity for breeding makes them the world’s most popular cage bird. I’m sure they’d rather be back in the wild, if birds were capable of such choices.
For further poetry, click this feather, which is most definitely not that of a budgie:
March 26, 2013
I’ve had two articles published in other places this week, talking about the wonders of poetry, in prose.
Here is a link to a launch speech I gave last year for the pamphlet In Response to Magpies. It deals with that most Australian of birds, its colonial conquests, and some very well known poets. That’s in the Australian Poetry members magazine, called Sotto.
This second link is to the ACT Writers Centre blog, where I mentally swear at a stupid person, and talk about Byron, as per usual. It is a defence of poetry. It contains jokes.
So busy have I been writing prose about poetry that I have no Tuesday poem for you today! But fear not. Click this feather, and other poets will satisfy your cravings:
Next week, the third anniversary of the Tuesday Poem group, we will be writing a joint poem, starting on Tuesday, to be posted gradually at that link as each poet writes a section. It should be a lot of fun!
Have a wonderful, reflective and chocolate flavoured Easter.
February 22, 2013
Sometimes you forget why you started writing in the first place. You get so caught up in minutiae: rewriting an article for the fifth time, or compiling endless lists of addresses to which you need to send something, or writing careful emails to other poets so you don’t inadvertently hurt their feelings…which is about as possible as teaching a walrus to tap-dance.
And then you come across a poem that reminds you why it is all worthwhile. These things often happen through serendipity. I was lucky enough to be short-listed in a Canadian literary competition a while back, and have been receiving the journal CV2 (Contemporary Verse 2) from Canada for a year. It is most excellent, and the Summer 2012 issue (which translates in Winter 2012, for Southern Hemisphere dwellers!) contains some truly beautiful work by John Steffler. I can’t reprint the poems here, as I don’t have the rights. But there are poems about rock art and trees and people living in snow and, yes, moose, that stole my muscles for a moment or two.
Mr Steffler is on the cover of the journal, wearing a black beanie. (I get the impression that everyone in Canada wears a beanie all the time…) He is, to put it euphemistically, no spring chicken, even an autumnal chicken, and the backs of his hands are deeply mottled, as if they have poems bubbling away, just waiting to filter into the fingertips and onto paper.
A lot of poetry comes about from the sort of chance meeting that led me to this journal. (And please note I am talking about my own poems and methods here, not those of the far more experienced John Steffler.) You see an orange-tinted cloud that reminds you of the flavour of ice-cream. You don’t know why exactly, and then you remember an orange dress that you were wearing where you smelt the first drops of rain while eating an icecream and how they drew you outside into the sudden cold. You notice the particular curve of certain words; yes, obviously, the word curvy (not in this angular font, though) but also cove. Does the word cove change its meaning when written in the longhand of say, James Cook, to when it is dashed off on the spur of the moment blog entry on a computer? These thought can lead to a poem. It’s the quirk of things; the infinite jest of language itself; grinning from its deep grammar into the everyday exchange of inanities.
And that’s why you say yes to poetry, even when you have a cold. Even when you just wish you were a tad more ‘normal’ and didn’t get excited about words in a way most people don’t, and wish you didn’t see a misplaced apostrophe as a knife stuck into a sentence’s bowels.
You feel even better when you can indulge in a little schadenfreude: Clarise Foster’s editorial to CV2 for Summer 2012 mentions that there are only a few months of the year in Canada where you can get out ‘without ubiquitous winter gear’.
Makes the first signs of Autumn seem bearable. (Autumn translates to Spring, Canadians! And our Autumn, even here in Canberra, is probably a lot warmer than Canada’s Spring, I suspect.) Sometimes we even go out without beanies!