Monday, February 14, 2011

Tuesday Poem - Life sentence by Vincent O'Sullivan

When the man from the Arts Council mistakenly
knuckles my door in the hope an artiste
might be found on the premises,
                                                   when this woman
with frankly, Norks, you wouldn't believe them,
asks do I have faith in the beyond,

or Arkansas, as he's known around here,
a stud-nostriled bogan with musically
simian taste,
                    he or his gravid sister
wanting to borrow my 'focking tape-deck bro',

there's a queue, veritably, to my front verandah,
each expecting feedback as though manna's by right,
why, I quote Akhmatova
                                      at them, my one
stab at truth in a tricky world, 'The Venice,'
I tell them, 'the Venice of Doges is next door.'

I chose this light-hearted and, yes, tricky poem, from Vincent's most recent collection, Further Convictions Pending. But it wasn't easy to pick just the one poem. I dithered a lot. I was being lead by the nose and up the garden path, forward and back through the book. Yes, the one about the rat with the timely front tooth. Or the one about the squadroned vaginas of the tulip beds. Or the one about the eyes from different people who are introduced to each other in the optician's office. So true! But no. I picked this one because it was too delicious to resist. Sly wit, and naughtiness. Norks is naughty. And so is artiste. I just wish I knew why one of the supplicants is called Arkansas. I have been making up stories about why he is. And pondering whether it is pronounced as it is written, or in the Cholmondeley way it is pronounced in the States. Sigh. Just the one inscrutable in a world I recognise spoken into life by a voice I trust. Just the one pebble to stub my toe against. Do I want to explained to me? No, I don't actually. There is a reason for it, maybe connected to the gravid sister, just as there is a reason why the the chief magistrate and leader of the Most Serene Republic of Venice was styled the Doge, but I am not in the know about that either.

Further Convictions Pending poems 1998-2008 Victoria University Press


  1. Great choice, Jen. I can see why you like it, and why Vincent liked your work enough to award you that fabulous prize (the Kathleen Grattan). You are both sly, witty and naughty in your poetry!

  2. i love the 'Norks' coming so unexpectedly! Great poem, Jen!