Thanks to Anne Elvey and Plumwood Mountain for publishing my review of Martin Langford’s new collection of poetry and prose, Eardrum: poems and prose about music (Puncher and Wattman, 2019). A topic that’s very close to my heart!
Here’s a poem of mine which also works to find the shared language of music and poetry:
This is the nature of things this dense fabric
these threads of what thrums true
in my sternum call it melody
the simultaneity of harmony where threads of pitch or
timbre might intersect surfaces tumbling and
touching each other notes that lean close then
yearn apart suspended shimmering somehow
held together here is
marshalled for a short time in the generosity
of what is beautiful
cradled in the phrasing of an idea
this pattern a language that strikes
or glides or quivers reverberating
through bodies or wood or silver the hollowed bellows
of its making scribed on air
this is the way the world turns the recurring question
My dear friend Phillip Hall has, with Jillian Hall, just published the first issue of the e-journal burrow.
I’ve been fortunate enough for them to publish a pandemic poem of mine ‘Unleavened: Easter 2020.’ What do we hang on to in such a time of loss and dislocation? And yet there is a persistence, a desire to continue; Easter is one way of telling that story.
This pair of poems – two faces of response to the pandemic we are living through – has just been published in Mensicusliterary journal. https://www.meniscus.org.au/Vol8Iss1.pdf. Thanks to Jen Webb and Shane Strange.
Somewhere around early April we travelled down to our weekender to bring supplies to our daughter who was in quarantine there after returning from overseas. Coming out of the cocoon of home, I was almost surprised to see that the beautiful balmy world of autumn was still out there, patiently waiting for us, maybe wondering what we’d be like when we emerged and re-entered it.
Isolation in Melbourne: April 2020
‘I love our house…It’s probably a bit of a dump to some or a castle to others, but for me it’s a light-filled container full of people I love.’ Sarah Watt
The sanctity of this marked out space
this collective turning inwards
the quiet comfort of walls angle of stair
our bed creaking as we turn
ripening of garden figs in afternoon light or
voices drifting down a corridor –
while streaming away like photons dissolving in air
the further world still lies
bemused and utterly beautiful
beneath a creamy sun
its fields and stony
rises streets and verandahs all tipped
skywards and slipping
gently from summer’s ferocious grip
waiting for us – as though
through a frosted pane
we had never really seen it before
rolling out its carpets of recurrent green
never stood amongst the low thrumming
of unfolding seasons or travelled
its wide and gusting territories of shift
and hold and shift
 Sarah Watt and William McInnnes, Worse Things Happen at Sea: Tales of life, love, family and the everyday beauty in between,’ Hatchette, 2011, p.244.
This season of easter and of passover comes in the middle of the corona virus pandemic. Apart from the sad fact that, as in Narnia, all holidays are cancelled, it’s not a bad time to think about these narratives and traditions which concern the human relation to death and our persistent desire to somehow overcome it. It is a relationship certainly characterised by anxiety and grief; yet, at our best, we can glimpse the possibilities of change and acceptance, those small transformations of shift and slip.
1666. Bubonic plague devastates London and Isaac Newton retreats to his family home at Woolsthorpe Manor. Self-isolation, long months of being in close quarters, no external stimulus – just the quiet world around him and the rising, creative life of the mind. Quite a combination as it turned out.
What can you see, what new constellation of elements – as the noise and frenzy of the great world slows, as the quietness of garden, autumn sunlight, the passing of hours, comes inexorably into view?
First published in Plumwood Mountain, a poem from my second collection Unexpected Clearing (UWAP 2016) – certainly more prescient than I could have known.
Dear friends, we are entering the strangest and most challenging of tunnels. These last few weeks I know that I, along with everyone else, has been frantic – trying to mentally catch up to what this pandemic means, even as it keep changing, scrambling to recreate my working life from home, trying hard to manage the rising anxiety and its different manifestations, reaching out to the people I love.
Poetry has been on the back burner amidst all this. But I thought about Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year (a whole year??) and thought I would try and record some of my thoughts and reflections during this unprecedented time. Please follow the blog – tell me what you’re thinking, respond to what I’m able to put out there. Let’s converse.
As we move into this uncertain time, here’s a poem from my second book Unexpected Clearing (UWAP 2016), ‘Under the Wave’, that speaks to both the risk and the possibility of such a dive: