Tag Archives: poetry

Poetry and Music

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:

Polyphony

This is the nature of things           this dense fabric

           of sound

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     

              infinity

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

of depth     its opaque archaeologies   finding

             the updraft         the prospect of

ocean           unbearability

of the falling away

Old Water Rat Publishing brings you: burrow

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.

Have a read: https://oldwaterratpublishing.com/unleavened-easter-2020/

Between home and the further world

This poem, published as ‘Further, or Autumn Isolation 2020,’ has now been published in Text journal, special issue 58, The in/completeness of human experience.

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.

Further

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[1]

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


[1] 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.

Of fear, death and life

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.

Easter, during the Pandemic

Broken

like an egg into a pan

              its yellow eye &    spill

of visceral white

            

this seasonal story          of catharsis

  hurricane of catastrophe     beating

                             on this bowed back

one human body      

          

cracked

& hammered            until it is

a vanishing point             of fall    & grief     of where

the splintered edges can never be made

whole

                             no going back     only

ahead      where Lazarus slides        without reprieve  

into inexorable death      the heavy curtain

of descending quiet –

a first morning                 unspeakable    &

then a second

at last a third &                        life creaks on

jolting us forward

              awkward            scarred

into the only world                       possible

its narrow frame

its flickers of meaning

              our persistent   hearts

If you stop – and look carefully – what will you see?

‘Woolsthorpe Manor,’ copyright Pauline Brightling 2012

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.

What Isaac Newton Saw

At Woolsthorpe Manor,

his childhood home,

the famous apple tree –

                     or perhaps its latter-day descendent,

a gracious Maid of Kent –

still droops its gnarled arms toward the

clottedness of earth,

giving up its wormed and floury fruit to the grass,

to the possibilities of turbulent

and muddy transformation:

Outwitting the plague, he sat for seasons in his quiet house,

its losses and constraints,

the drabness of its close routines;

almost a poet,

he watched

with such stillness and

openness

and restlessness –

the quiet world unfolding in his garden;

an ordinary miracle that needs a different eye to see it,

           a new tilt of the head, or sudden mood of

equanimity that allows leaves to rustle,

branches to brush the lawn,

a bird to move discretely and even

          try out some autumnal singing –

each thing 

sifting into

place,

judged   or

unjudged:

until an apple simply

 falls –

a muscular movement of energy,

and chance –

and a new constellation of elements

spins

shimmering

into view.

For more on Isaac Newton in the time of plague, see the UK National Trust: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/woolsthorpe-manor/features/year-of-wonders

Poetry in the time of corona virus

Under the Wave off Kanagawa: A Poetose Notebook (100 pages/50 ...

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:

Under the Wave

Slipping under the wave –

that space where even sand

might settle,

          unswirled, where

the turbulence that rakes at the roots of your hair

          filling it with grit,

                     yanking it back toward the wildness of the surface,

a kind of reverse gravity,

might yet,   like the hand of god,   pass over you –

slip under the wave,

you know its towering confluence of tide and wind,

the crushing hammer of its foamy fist;

watch, where the form of your flailing, human body,

with all its intricacies of angle and organ,

might turn its fins in this mottled light,

negotiating an ancient element –

slip under the wave,

make for the sky.

Reading for World Poetry Day: Geelong Library and Heritage Centre

I’m really looking forward to reading for World Poetry Day at the Geelong Library special event, with fellow poets David McCooey, Jo Langdon, Cameron Lowe and Maria Takolander.

Come along on Wednesday March 18, from 6.30, at the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre at 51 Little Malop St. Register via the link below

https://www.grlc.vic.gov.au/whats-on/world-poetry-day