August 15, 2016
A short wander through the head of a poet
‘I am finding a lot of this poeting business is learning how to hack your own thinking.’ (SB Wright)
Axing myself near every day
with nouns like blades
or is that the verbs,
sneaking and executing
behind my weary back?
Adverbs are the worst,
obviously, and I try
to expel them from thought.
Does a bear? Does a bear?
It doesn’t work, naturally.
My head is a jungle
of the old Tarzan sort,
and even a cunning machete
won’t clear a way,
despite avid hacking,
and the sticky tape I use
to reattach feckless fingers.
I will staple a handy volume
to my brow, perhaps
one that tells how
to write truth slant,
like Dickinson E,
and to be picaresque,
and appropriately Byronic.
A coupling that, of itself,
will cause sparks to leap
as if one were to jump start
an elderly ute gone bad.
Now, where are my cables?
Is this an Allen key
I see before me?
Statbadgers of the world unite!
Pick up your tongues like sticks,
and lick the befuddlement of brains
from cracked and gnarly windows.
SB Wright is a poet who, this year, is detailing the process of writing and learning more about poetry at his blog. It is well worth a look. He is far more honest about the struggle involved in writing than many of us, particularly when it comes to how he manages a ‘real job’ (my words) while trying to write. He posts actual numbers, written by helpful Statbadgers for those who like that type of thing.
Occasionally he also posts one of the results of these struggles, aka a poem, and he frequently directs you to poems by others, or books and talks about poetics. (Poetics is like choreography, but involves people who are a lot more clumsy.)
SB Wright is not plagued by adverbs in his poetry, incidentally. That was poetic licence.
Loud man pissing round the reading
with irrelevant comments,
dribbling self, reflected in a deep pool
of his own stewed past, steaming.
He is a true Narcissus,
but not so drop-dead gorgeous;
fungus mated with dead cat.
He smells of yesterday and loss.
He shouts his irrelevance
with every tedious joke,
every punch line a squib,
tarnishing the grey sky.
A nasty wee poem indeed, based on a couple of True Incidents.
On a couple of more positive notes, I’ll be reading a poem or two at Tuesday night’s launch of Suddenly Curving Space Time and meeting Gerald Keaney, one of the editors for the first time. That’s at Smith’s Alternative (aka Smith’s non-Euclidean?), Alinga Street, Civic, at 5pm. There is a bar. I’m not sure if Hal Judge, the other editor, is in the country at the moment, but I will certainly find out.
UPDATE: This launch has been postponed as Gerald is stuck in Brisbane due to ‘freak weather conditions’. I think that means fog! I’ll give new details when I can.
FURTHER UPDATE: The rescheduled time of the Canberra Launch of the Suddenly Curving Space Time anthology of experimental poetry is 9.30pm – 11.30 pm on Thursday 21st July.
Secondly, the usually totally impeccable Kaaron Warren has inexplicably featured me as a guest blogger, chatting about how I refresh my wells. That is what they call a metaphor, I believe. Kaaron is seemingly aiming for a Guinness world record in having quite a few people write on this topic. Seriously, there will be enough material for a Real Book based on these jottings, some of which are very informative and detailed. S
ome of the contributions One of the contributions is, however, a tad frivolous and involves violence towards naiads.
March 31, 2016
So you’ve laboured over a poem, and it’s as near to finished as it will ever be. So you upload it and pay the fee for a comp, and sit back and have a cup of tea (or coffee, or wine, depending on the time).
So you realise that you sent a draft, and that draft was over the line limit. So you refill the form with the proper poem uploaded, and ask if it can be substituted. So you kick your computer and yourself. So you don’t know if the poem will be disqualified. So you may never know!
So you have a glass of wine, and stuff the time. Wine is the only cure for idiocy.
So you are not as celebratory as the woman in the picture.
UPDATE: So on the way down to your favoured wine place, you remember that you are picking up your daughter from school later on, and therefore, that you can’t drink. Let middle class sulking erupt like an erupty thing! (You maintain you are working class, but people tend to laugh when you say that.) So you vent on your blog like a whingey Vesuvius.
UPDATIER: The lovely administrators have accepted the second submitted version of my poem. Drinking in celebration is so much nicer! (Please read with slightly slurred eyes.)
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.