On mistakes

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.)

‘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.

Read the works of the other Tuesday Poets by pressing here.


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.

The poet addresses her first book

Oh my little treasure, with your spine just like a real spine
and your two short footnotes; smooth, appropriate and small.
I would swaddle you in gossamer, rock you in a golden crib.
All too soon you’ll be waddling out amongst dangerous critics
(if one so angelic and slim could ever so perambulate.)
Strange readers may not see your brilliance, and overlook you
for the thicker, slicker, tarmac roads of easy fattening prose.
Those lard-backs, perched like obese babushka dolls
above the Muse’s cuter, lighter, cuddle-worthy spawn.

Hush, dear bookie. Drink deep.
No-one will ever love you as I do.

P.S. Cottier

This little occasional poem was written for the launch of my first book, way back in 2008. I have been thinking about that as we head towards the launches of The Stars Like Sand, jointly edited by Tim Jones and myself.

It’s always a strange experience to hold something that was previously only an idea, or a manuscript. A manuscript is a bit like an ultrasound of a baby, showing a rough outline, but not the detail. The pregnancy, in the case of the latest volume, lasted about 18 months, which is positively elephantine.

Can’t wait to get back to concentrating entirely on my own poetry. I almost have another manuscript prepared. And I have an inkling for something else, too.

Launches intervene, though!

These have been unusually feminine metaphors for me. Or perhaps female would be a more accurate word. Next time I promise to return to football or cricket imagery.


Click this feather for further poetic goodness, with no added artificial ingredients:
Tuesday Poem

Tuesday Poem: Café haiku

February 25, 2014

Umbrellas cup us
in upside down khaki
we sip browner rain

P.S. Cottier

That photograph is of the view of and from Tilley’s, which is less than a five minute walk from my house. When not trapped in the spider’s web of editing, I fly down and write there.

Here, for example, is a draft of this very poem, written at Tilley’s:

Haiku draft

I had never thought before I started writing how the ‘U’ at the beginning of umbrella looks like an umbrella blown inside out. Small step from there to coffee cup, really. (And yes, I realise that those umbrellas are not khaki! Also that ‘in upside down’ is a little clumsy. But it reminds me of a blown umbrella, somehow.)

I am longing to be back with my writing routine, away from the exigencies of editing poets’ biographical notes for The Stars Like Sand. I am not really given to minimalism in poetry, and want the time to sprawl over several stanzas. I am sure the my fellow editor Tim Jones feels the same way in regard to wanting more writing time, although he seems to be involved in a myriad of other activities as well.

For me at the moment it’s edit, gym, drink.

Interspersed with the occasional coffee.

Click this feather and see if they make good coffee in New Zealand:
Tuesday Poem

It’s great to write to a strict deadline sometimes. I’m just about to post a stanza of the Third Tuesday Poem Birthday Poem. Hopefully it will be better than that title, which I just made up. It’s actually called the Third Birthday Communal ‘Jazz’ Poem, to emphasise the aspect of improvisation.

So dog, what rhymes with 'jazzy'?

So dog, what rhymes with ‘jazzy’?

Click this feather to see the poem develop…emerge…crystallise…meld…cook…,no no no; rise, Phoenix-like from the unashed and smokeless computer screen. Mmm, perhaps I need to try that sentence again?

Tuesday Poem

For a person who usually works in isolation, this is quite a rare process. I’m going to go for it…whatever that may mean.

Visit the Tuesday Poem site a few times this week and see how things are going.