Tuesday poem: Watching Les Murray

February 21, 2012

That's Les Murray's beer


Watching Les Murray
(I am not making this up)

I went to hear a certain poet
the best known one,
the big one we own.
I wished I could draw
his gentle circles,
his particular infinity.
But I can’t draw.
Though there were pencils.
Giant ones. Three metres tall. Red.
I am not making this up.
So I sat and watched Les,
dwarfed by these giant pencils.
And if you don’t believe that,
you won’t believe this;
the place where he read
was called The Gods.
So I sat, a poet from Lilliput,
leaning on a giant pencil,
listening to God, or at least,
his Southern emissary.

I laid wistful eggs on the pencils.
In time, something may emerge,
and help me make something up.

P.S. Cottier

I went to see Les Murray read at the Gods, a café/restaurant on the Australian National University campus on Wednesday, 15th February. Organised, as always, by the indefatigable Geoff Page. There are giant pencils attached to the walls of the café, as you can see in this appalling photo:

Les Murray is so very good as a reader, and I was impressed by how many humorous poems he read last week. I wrote the poem above about four years ago, when I was just starting to make contact with my fellow poets (but before my licence was issued, in the form of my first book). It recalls a much shyer Penelope, sitting in the corner, watching Les read.

Another poet at Les’s reading was Mark Tredinnick, who, as you may know, recently won the Montreal Poetry Prize for his poem, ‘Walking Underwater’. Mark is of course endlessly teased now by cruel people (who shall remain nameless) about how he is spending the prize money, but he takes it very well.

A rather surprised Mark Tredinnick

All in all, this was a wonderful night and it reminded me of just how good poetry can be. As Les Murray said, poetry is strong stuff, and it doesn’t need the crutch of prose to justify itself.

Easy for you to say, Les!

Give it back? Why would I give it back?

If you click on this quill you will be transported to a hub based in New Zealand, and will find Treasure in the form of poetry:
Tuesday Poem

On a totally unrelated issue, my review of  ‘A Tingling Catch’ : A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009, ed. Mark Pirie, Wellington: HeadworX, 2010 has just been published at Cordite.  Those who were worried that I was going to write a post without mentioning sport can now breathe more easily.  Although watching poets read (and listening to them, too) has aspects of a sport about it.

6 Responses to “Tuesday poem: Watching Les Murray”

  1. Elizabeth said

    I really enjoyed the shaky sense of disbelief woven through this – the repetition of ‘you won’t believe this’. I have to say, what a name for a cafe/restaurant! I laughed a lot at the line ‘leaning on a giant pencil, listening to God’ – fabulous.

  2. pscottier said

    I’m glad you liked my excursion into ‘occasional’ poetry Elizabeth!

    I think the name The Gods possibly comes from the fact that there’s a student theatre in the same building, so it may be a reference to those types of seats in the theatre? But I prefer to think of Greek or Roman Gods chowing down on pasta ambrosia while sipping a VB (Very Bacchus?).

  3. Tim Jones said

    I enjoyed the poem, and the sense of the occasion I get from it, but (frivolous person that I am), what I really want to know is: did you give him back his beer?

    I love the ‘wistful eggs’ – I think they have, to mix metaphors horribly, borne fruit.

  4. pscottier said

    Eggs bearing fruit is a terrifying image, Tim, a kind of infinity of fertility. Although my literal mind runs to what sort of fruit? Pineapples or bananas?

    Of course I didn’t really keep the beer. (Burp.)

  5. melindasmith said

    Love yr poem Penelope, those giant pencils have been crying out for immortalisation – glad to know you’ve taken care of that. I was so disappointed to miss Les reading this year, I ended up having to work both those nights. From the photos it looks like it was a great night. M

    • pscottier said

      Fortunately the photos of a certain poet (me) were taken at the beginning of the night, Melinda…

      I have had to miss a few readings lately as my husband has been traveling a lot and child care raises its ugly head, like…an ugly thing.

      Looking forward to featuring your poem next Tuesday.

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