Writing a poem is hard work

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The Poem About What It’s About
 
Here’s my question. What if there was a poem
That didn’t know what it was about until it got
To the end of itself? So that the poet’s job isn’t
To play with imagery and cadence and metrical
Toys in order to make a point, but rather to just
Keep typing in order to find out that the poem’s
About how hard it is to watch your kids get hurt
By things they can’t manage and you cannot fix.
If I had been the boss of this poem I would have
Made it so they can manage things, or I could be
The quiet fixer I always wanted to be as a father.
But that’s not what the poem wanted to be about,
It turns out. You have to sort of admire the poem
That’s about what it’s about. But you can also be
Angry and scared by how you can’t argue with it.
 
-- Brian Doyle
 
The Poem
 
The poem weeps cursive on parchment
it is an old story, told many times
the permutations only in pigment
a tale of travellers from many lands
fleeing oppression, seeking refuge and
finding none
only barbed wire and fences
 
The poem weeps blood on the page of history
spraying words like bullets
refugees betrayed by kisses
from friends of democracy
detained without liberty
as trauma layers trauma and
politicians touch and retouch
their policy like a painting
disguising layers of cruelty
in the guise of protecting borders from
souls seeking asylum
 
The poem weeps effluent besmirching the printed page
croupiers reporting arrivals on a biased wheel
using spin and a white ball to
determine colour and numbers
gambling with fear in the populace
a zero spiel deflecting boats to the neighbours
a play on people’s lives
 
-- Deanne Davies
 
Writing a Poem is Hard Work
 
It never looks like
hard work, watching
clouds.
It never looks like
 
work, unblinkingly staring out
the train window as I head to
work. It
never looks like
 
I’ve just rolled my sleeves up while
I stare at an old shoe in the corner of the
room for hours. And
it absolutely never looks like
 
I’ve sweated a day in my life
as I skewer a stare right through the
Friday morning waitress –
the brick wall behind her –
and the heart of the faint moon in the sky
 
contemplating
absolutely
everything at
all
 
-- Darby Hudson
 
Why Poetry?
 
Why poetry, he said,
And why not prose?
Many stories to be told and
“Literary fiction” to be written.
 
But so much discipline as well
Days and nights obsessing
A love of language to be sure
Life to be lived instead.
 
Already forty years of toil
Of discipline and effort
Of early starts and tired days
Why do that in retirement?
 
Live in the present, live today
Live fully and alive
Enjoy it all and sensitive
With feelings on the surface.
 
So poetry for me’s the thing
Emotions in an hour
The beauty of the language too
If selfish, in the moment.
 
Why poetry?
Intensity.
 
-- David Atkinson
 
Listening
 
To write again, if not perfect poems,
at least to feel that excess of meaning –
awkward in corridors and too loud in libraries,
cluttering desks, a distraction at prayer –
unsettling the agenda generally.
Its the old thrill, to write freely,
not knowing what you have to say,
but being written in a way:
Lower case inspiration, you might call it.
Whatever the case, despite the theories,
things get given: there’s store enough
in nostril and tongue, in skin and eye and ear,
and in the push and pull of being here,
to say nothing of a larger undertow
of that presence and absence somehow --
even enjoying the limits of vocabulary,
its resonance and dance;
and, the times being as they are,
to wait, pencil poised, or fingering a keyboard,
listening. . .
 
-- Tony Kelly


Brian Doyle

Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, Oregon.

 

 

 

 

Brian Doyle

 Deanne Davies from Geraldton WA won the Matthew Rocca Poetry Prize in 2011.

 

 

 


Darby HudsonDarby Hudson has been published in Eureka Street and Black Inc's Best Australian Poems, 2012 and 2013.

 

 

 

 

David AtkinsonDavid Atkinson, who lives in Sydney, is a retired lawyer and new poet.

 

 

 


Tony KellyTony Kelly is a Redemptorist theologian who recently gave a reading and paper in the Poetry for the Soul series at The Carmelite Centre, Middle Park, Melbourne.

 

 

 

 

Old boots image by Shutterstock

Topic tags: Brian Doyle, Deanne Davies.Darby Hudson, David Atkinson, Tony Kelly

 

 

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Existing comments

Poetry never fails us. I have a copy of Black Inc Best Australian Poems 2012 and looked up Darby Hudson's work in it. "Culture" - fine poem.
Pam | 04 August 2014


The last person who told me that 'no-one reads poetry anymore' died a hideous death of a thousand lines. A thoughtful collection here.
Penelope | 05 August 2014


Brian Doyle's poem touched me today in a vulnerable moment. . . and I want to be one of those parents, too . . the ones that CAN fix things. (I must admit I AM biased - I'm the imaginary cheer leader of his fan club)
Glen Avard | 06 August 2014


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