Rose Lucas is a Melbourne poet. Her first collection, Even in the Dark (UWAP 2013) won the Mary Gilmore award; her second, Unexpected Clearing (UWAP) was published in 2016. She is currently completing her third book At the Point of Seeing.
As many of you will know, it’s just recently been the 200th anniversary of Walt Whitman’s birth – that amazing American poet of teeming cities, meditations on life and loving, and of course that great and terrible experience of the Civil War. My poem, selected for this celebratory collection, Endlessly Rocking (ed Stan Galloway and Nicole Yurcaba), takes as its point of reference, the figure of Whitman as he travelled to the hospitals of the Civil War, horrified by the scale of the suffering and spectacle and beauty of so many violently damaged young men.
The poem is dedicated not only to Whitman himsef, that ‘bewhiskered emissay,’ but to my friend, fellow writer and Whitman -o-phile, Lindsay Tuggle.
Last week I did an inspiring workshop with Mark Tredinnick – a whole day dedicated to listening to, writing, thinking and talking about poetry. He introduced us to the form of the Sijo – a kind of Korean version of the haiku. I think I may have taken some liberties with the form, but here is another I wrote today.
have to go far to feel the kindness of
Light to sit in a well of quiet sun beside the rosemary,
Crush of mown
grass, the heaviness of spent lavender nodding
as I pass.
Like so many of us, I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary Oliver since her recent death. Remembering how important and influential she has been to me both in terms of the craft of poetry itself and its necessary basis in a grounded perception of the world. Her work has achieved what I think the best of poetry can only sometimes do – to make us, the readers, sit up and take greater note of the extra-ordinariness of life which is embedded within the fabric of the everyday, to take ownership of the ‘one wild and precious life’ which we have, perhaps even to become better people.
A couple of poems, and lines from poems, have been coming back to mind. In particular, ‘Work,’ from White Pine (1994), for me, expresses so simply and yet effectively this balance between being in the world, open to seeing a pond, ‘catching the rain/on its broad back,’ and the ethical labour of poetry, what it might craft with ‘the linen of words/and the pins of punctuation.’