Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tuesday Poem - An instance of the genre by Vincent O'Sullivan

An instance of the genre

You can't help liking this grey-haired
never-quite-pretty woman who tells
you, 'Frankly,' as she says, aware
the word is fondling a hedgehog
should you trust it too deeply, 'Frankly,
I love being middle-class. I vote
of course we all do, I've only to see
a flood halfway up a village wall
and I'm phoning with a donation. I
have the local bookshop automatically
deliver the three best books
of the month according to the list
they get – good bookshops do.' I
like the way she tells you, straight
out, how well the children prosper.
She uses expressions like 'A-team'
and 'B-team' without a hint of either
swank or rancour, and assumes you
understand the praise her husband
gleans on the back of quite justified
glamour some years back is only as
it should be. She smiles, she knows
there's a dash of irony with any
success, she says, 'Luck? Of course
luck's crucial.' I know if I wrote
this out as accurately as I can
to the way I heard it, the reader
as likely as not may imagine
there's a slinking figure somewhere
not being quite straight on what
the story is. I appreciate why
you'd think so, geared as we've
been for decades on the lookout
for subversion. In even the most neutral
phrase say, 'You can't help liking...'

This poem is from Vincent's latest book – The movie may be slightly different - published by Victoria University Press 2011. It is such a strong, rich book, from cover to cover, it is jolly hard to pick just one. All the poems seem to work together and ring each other's bells. Not that they don't stand alone. One of the best books I have read for yonks. Almost carelessly generous.


  1. I think he's brilliant - it reads so easily, but there's so much craft in it.

  2. Mm, me too. It always feels like he's talking straight to you with each poem. I haven't had a chance to look at the new collection yet, so much appreciated that you've posted a newie!

  3. Such a great character sketch, this. All in such a straightforward telling, but in lines that only work the way they are put together. Really enjoyed this poem.

  4. I agree Jen (and Kathy and Elizabeth and Michelle) - 'Movie' is a fantastic collection - reading it through is like reading an absorbing memoir.