Monday, June 30, 2014

Tuesday Poem - 'Midday Gavotte' by Alex Skovron

a duet in which the other instrument is silent’  
                                                       — Henry Miller
His fiddle burns in the sun
as the shoppers crowd around to listen,
looking for the hat. He has come

out of nowhere, his teeth are missing
and his oversize jacket
wriggles with the music, and he glistens

with sweat. His violin is lacquered
a brilliant ochre, the bow
dances, and the eyes bestow a regular rapid

smile (not the lips though),
and the little stool that he perches upon
is almost comically too low,

and a second almost identical one
stands empty a foot away.
Just then he nods at the invisible companion,

sniffs, and ceases to play –
but continues tapping out the colourful beat
with his bow; he nods again

and smiles surprisingly, his absent teeth
gaping, as if in pride
at so adept a partner, steals a fleet

inspection of the financial side
of the performance but continues conducting.
All at once he nuzzles high

into his instrument, slyly whispers something
to the second fiddle: with a poetic
toss he resumes his own song, disrupting

the loud silence of traffic,
all the unseen migrations, the mall’s frenzy;
the audience is clapping

as if in appreciation of the tacit cadenza
just concluded – then sever
slowly, diplomatically from the climaxing dancer
to go about their day. Weather
is turning: he stops, collects his disconsolate chum
and they walk off the stage together.

Alex Skovron

I finally caught up with Alex Skovron's 2003 book The Man and the Map (Five 
Islands Press). I googled and you can still pick up copies here and there, or if you
bump into Alex around the Melbourne traps you might be able to score one off him,
like I did. That was a great night the Melbourne Poets Union put on at The Architect's
Basement, and I came away with an excellent book. I mean, I knew Alex was a fine 
poet, just I had never got round to sitting down to a book of his. You know how it
is. And now I want more, and I want to hear Alex read his work. I just haven't heard
him read as much as I would like. I often bump into him, like he bought me a coffee
at a reading at Fed Square (I owe you a coffee, Alex, must remember for next time
we meet) but he is not up on his hind legs in front of the microphone as much as one
would wish.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Tuesday Poem - Cargoes by John Masefield


Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.
Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amythysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.
Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

Because I am reading 'Now All Roads Lead To France' by Matthew Hollis,
which is about the last years of Edward Thomas, my mind has turned back
to the poets of that time. Edward Thomas seemed to be right in the thick
of the scene, (he reviewed poetry before he began writing it himself -
encouraged on by Robert Frost, who was visiting England with his family),
and all the poets I have ever heard of from that time are in the book. 
Walter de la Mare, Eleanor Farjeon, Yeats, Pound, Abercrombie 
Lascelles etc etc, and Masefield.
'Cargoes' is a poem I came upon at a very young age, and liked very 
 much, I became almost drunk on the sound of the words and the beating
 rhythm, and that final triumphant shout of – 'cheap tin trays'! In my found 
object art making stage I did a piece called 'Cheap Tin Tray”. I've chosen 
'Cargoes' this week because I thought maybe these days the work of 
Masefield and his ilk are not so easily come across. Maybe some people 
don't know it.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tuesday Poem - Two Poems by Claire Gaskin

sandstone shelter

in the language of slammed doors
the loudest slam means acceptance

his palm reminds me of rain puddling
in the plastic chairs behind the flats

I hear the screeching brakes
of a swan etched on a mirror

rank betrayal with the metronome

what holds us together lasts longer than we do

I put my hands into the silences of my pockets


you don't slam the door until I'm two flights down
please find a reason not to self-destruct
my knees are crumbling like sandstone churches

I'm cleaning our house of horizons
the pain doesn't forget my body
I don't fear death, yes invented the wheel

What a strange emotional trip Claire Gaskin's new book 'Paperweight'
(Hunter Publishers) is. I read the whole book in a sitting and it had
such an odd effect on me. I zoned out, as I paid the closest attention.
It was trippy. How does she do that!!??

Monday, June 2, 2014

Tuesday Poem - Your Mother, My Daughter, And You, Her Son by Jennifer Compton

Your Mother, My Daughter, And You, Her Son

You don't look like anyone I know, and never have.
But your mother was the same, she always confused me.
She arrived in a hectic rush, as did you, and like you had
set up a beachhead, taken a foothold, in a handy uterus,
uninvited and yet adamant, so all a mother can do is submit.
Both of you loved the rock of a horse cantering underneath.
You are more like your mother than anyone else.

For one moment on the 3D pic they took of you in utero
you were the image of your father, your mother tells me
babies do that because fathers need to know, they lack
confidence. Once the dad is safely hooked the child can
express their own unique understanding of the ancestors.
Nobody ever said babies lacked the rat cunning to live.
Perhaps you are like me and I don’t recognise myself.

Who are you like? I need to pin you to the family tree.
From time to time I catch a facsimile of the sweet smile
a maternal great-uncle would deliver as he bent to press
an oddfellow into my palm. But he was stone-cold bald
and we don’t want that. Or the way you run to enlarge
the circle to include everyone puts me in mind of what
my father would have done. Sometimes, because I am

getting old, I call you the same name that I gave my son.
As if I can reclaim him, pop him back into the stroller,
and out into the beautiful morning and down to the shops.
Not that you are at all like him. I do know your name.
No one else, to my knowledge, has been called Nicholas.
The line branches back to the beginning of everything,
there is no one called Nicholas. That I know of. It’s new.

I wonder how many people in the Antipodes read New Welsh Review.
I'm guessing it's not very many. Anyway, I was asked to draw attention
to the issue my poem was in, and this seemed the best way to do it.
The poem came about because I was talking to a friend on facebook
and she said that grandparenting was such a vital part of many people's
lives, but that one seemed to rarely come upon poems about the role.
And I thought – yeah! I haven't written about it.