Monday, January 31, 2011

Tuesday Poem - Adlestrop - Edward Thomas

Yes. I remember Adlestrop -
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop – only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that moment a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

This Tuesday I will go for the bleeding, blinding obvious and post one of my favourite poems. I typed it out and as I did I pondered how the poet had used his devices. The capital letter at the beginning of the line, when he used a run on and when he didn't. And his rhymes. Just your usual sort of rhyme – afternoon/June came/name dry/sky until he hits you with mistier/Gloucestershire.

Couple of pics of Adlestrop then and now. It is one of those places to which I would like to make a pilgrimage. This poem gave me the idea of taking a place and 'glamorising' it by taking a poetic snapshot of it. To bring it into another sort of existence. I think the reason I like this poem so much is because it is archival. I am a sucker for delving in the archives. But although it jerks and flickers a little, and it is very much of its time, I can also be right there in that moment so long ago. I can't find out when it was written but it was pre 1917, when Edward Thomas was killed in action at the Battle of Arras (at the age of 37 if I remember right). I feel as if I know this poem completely, in all its intents. But the only thing I can't know is how I would have reacted to it if I had read it when it was first written. Would it have seemed odd and fey to me, would it have passed over my head or under my radar? One other thing - if you consider, as I do, a poem to be a conversation with other poems, then I am continually conversing with this poem. I reference it a lot. The spreading soundscape, the atonal rhyme. And in a recent poem about the train station called Alamein here in Melbourne, I go so far as to write - “I was the only person who got off here. And nobody got on.” A direct homage. But I wonder how many people know this poem these days. I wonder if anyone will get it. Anyway, this poem is very close to my heart and it emboldens me every time I read it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tuesday Poem - Chop! - by Steve Smart


This is an axe

I’m not going to hurt you
just need to chop some wood
it’s cold out tonight

This is a fire

Small, slow burning
stop poking at it
it’ll burn all by itself

This is a chimney

The fire is going now
but there’s too much smoke
the room is filling up, choking

This is a bucket

The fire is spreading out of control
must find water
before skin begins to melt

This is relief

Not too cold, not too hot
the porridge is cooking nicely
come inside, get warm –
stop apologising
every time you don’t save the world

This poem is a hint
of things to come

Steve Smart is yet another Melbourne poet – we have such a lot of poets in Melbourne- (lucky us) – and I think it would be fair to describe him as a 'performance poet'. Not that there is anything wrong with that, to quote Seinfeld. I heard him read this poem in last year's final of Poetry Idol at Federation Square and liked it loads. Steve is a mover and a shaker and an instigator and a begetter, the Overload Festival is a brain child of his – with a little bit of help from his friends. To quote the Beatles. These days he is one of the conveners of the long-running Dan poetry readings, and he tours, he paints nails, he writes poetry, he slams, he is a true believer.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tuesday Poem - The Ministry of Going In by Christine Paice

The Ministry of Going In

This is what happens
I go in
sweep the floor
clear the dishes
interview the Secretary of State over a flat white
and lamington
and ask about Afghanistan and post modern democracy
in a political vacuum
I forget to ask if she wants sugar with that

This is what happens
I go in
sweep the floor
stack plates
dry cutlery
make sure the knives
are really really shiny
and ask the Minister for Dreaming
if I need a new paradigm to contain my thoughts

There was a knife once that was not
as shiny as the others
it was held up as an example
of what can happen
if you’re careless
an unclean knife
half a second and your whole life changes

I go in
sweep the floor
foam the milk
and wonder
if there is too much importance
placed on the size of a take away cup
milk jugs are full
of constant fluctuations
and I ask the Minister for Intermittently Good Behaviour
how he is adjusting to the global downturn in fortune cookies
he says there is always another biscuit to be had

This is what happens
sometimes I don’t go in
I run in the wind
a gory phantom with a large
coconut shell necklace
I say gory on account of the beetroot I have peeled
and I ask the Minister for Outsized Accessories
if I have gone too far
in my quest and she says
she would wear that far mountain and two intertwined planets
if she could get them round her bloody neck

This is what happens
I go in
there are people
waiting at the counter
I take one not-so-shiny-as-it-should-have-been knife
and excise my bad intentions
and I ask the Minister for Procrastination
is it always as bad as they say
he says not if you catch it in time and do something about it

This is what happened
you went in
made muffins
and cappuccinos
ordered milk and bread
and did something about it
but didn’t catch it in time
you asked a doctor what the results were
and he said you’d better come in

You went in
swinging your wooden spoon
like a pendulum
backwards and forwards
into the dark
big black crow cleared his throat
and crow ordered fast
before you had time
to catch your breath
crow caught it for you

You and crow
riding a spoon
into the cold mysterious night
crow’s fierce black wings
beating the sky
and I asked the Minister For Last Things if it was true
that after you die you turn into a star
and he said he was looking into it

This is what happens
I go in
water has flooded
from the fridge
I swim round tables
like a dolphin
and I ask the Minister for New Beginnings
what she does when waves threaten to engulf her
and everyday feels strange
she says take a larger boat and throw your guilt over the side

This is what happens
I go in
my hair the shape
of a dolphin’s fin
someone hums the music from Jaws
and I ask the Minister for Psychic Disinformation
how many times he has blamed poltergeists for his own bad temper
and he says I am in the wrong film

This is what happens
I go in
sweep floor
rearrange shelving
stare at your photo
and stack my own
small bones
in with the coffee cups
I get everything right
it is one of those rare sparkling days
and I ask the Minister for Myself when I was last elected.

I was knocked out and blown away by this poem when I read it on line after it had won the Josephine Ulrick Prize. Such wit, such depth, such a bobby dazzler. Chrissy Paice has a particular and inimitable voice and I think in this poem her voice is almost stentorian.
I first met Chrissy when I mentored her through the South Coast Writers Centre and was thrilled to bits to find she actually didn't need a mentor. Well, I could suggest a few bits of marketing etc to her, and we did a modicum of fine tuning if I remember right, but good heavens what a find. I was thrilled to bits.
Her first book, Mad Oaks, has been sold out but contact her if you would like to get a copy of her second book, Staring At The Aral Sea.

Christine Paice is a poet and writer. She has published two collections of poetry, Mad Oaks and Staring At The Aral Sea (Ginninderra Press). Her poetry has been read on ABC Radio National and Jazz Alive, Vox FM radio, and published in the UK, and the USA. Her poetry has also been in Best Australian Poems 2004, 2005, and 2008. In 2009 she won the national Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize. Her children’s book, The Great Rock Whale, (Lothian) was published April 2009.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Tuesday Poem - Five Short Ones by Maurice McNamara

Five Short Ones by Maurice McNamara

milk spills in the keyboard
goes to sleep

in our dry country
rain on the roof
sounds like religion

drugs – a slow war
mostly carried out
lying down

in your arms
I wonder why I said that
stupid thing

you drive around
the block
waiting for me
to grow up

Maurice is a dear friend and a big part part of the Melbourne scene. In many ways he is the scene. If you want an insouciant MC with allsorts up his sleeve, ask Maurice. I have heard him stress, though, that he is not an unbreakable funboy. There is an ongoing discussion in Melbers about what is a haiku. This has often been sidestepped by dubbing a certain sort of work rooku. I would pick Maurice is an exponent of rooku, although he sometimes calls them short ones. As they are short I have posted five. It's hardly worth clicking on a blog for just the one. Though sometimes it might be.

Maurice McNamara lives in Melbourne. His book, Half-Hour Country was published by Small Change Press in 2009. 'Half history teacher, half Warhol, touch of Antique Roadshow. '

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tuesday Poem - Parsley by Chris Mansell



so I go outside
and pick parsley
to make tabouli
the burghul is
inside soaking
and the parsley
makes my hands
fresh and taste like
this is the closest
I can get
to describe it
and with truth
on my hands
I come inside
and think of hurt
how I cut you off so
brutally and
not wanting it
at all and you, no doubt,
angry and I no doubt
remorseful I loved you
in my own way
(always the worst
way to love)

I couldn’t take
- any more -
your attempts
to captivate and
educate but
I wanted your
sweet lips your
sweet body
that look that comes
out of the corner
of your eye
when you
make a joke

I wash the parsley
and pull the stalks off
take the truth
into my mouth
it makes
the breath fresh
they say but
my heart
still stinks

Here is another poem by Chris Mansell who writes so many irresistible poems. I heard her read this one when she was featuring at The Dan and, goodness me, it was powerful. If you get a chance to hear her read, well, I won't say crawl over broken glass to get there, but definitely make a bit of an effort.