Monday, June 18, 2012

Balloons, gyres, orbits and snow globes

I have been writing fairly regularly over the past few years. As many writers know, the process doesn't just produce publishable or performable material (which is extremely lucky for me). The act of writing  is cathartic, allowing the release of emotional jetsam onto the page. (Performance has a similar effect, just more pronounced). Sometimes what is washed up is surprising. In this way, writing is also a learning process.

More frequent writing should be allowing me to develop a 'voice', one that explores several key themes that are important to me. At the moment, though, I am having difficulty distinguishing between a voice and a lack of imagination. Do repeating images indicate stale writing, or is each use of a given metaphor a new way of exploring a developing theme? I don't yet have an answer.

Regardless, it is interesting to find the same common images and themes in the writings of others. How do others approach these images? Can I learn something about myself by how others use them?

One image I seem to keep returning to is the circle. I have used orbits, ellipses, swings, roundabouts, centres, concentric circles and curves in many of my poems. I often picture balls, balloons and planets. Usually, I think of the circle as something that contains an idea or feeling, while keeping some separation from the centre (usually me - my poetry tends to be CJ-centric) and the circumference or the orbiting object. I like the idea of overlapping circles and the ambiguity of non-straight lines.

Recently, I have read (or re-read) other poet's use of circles.

Last Wednesday was the anniversary of William Butler Yeats' birthday, which encouraged me to return to 'The Second Coming'.  In this poem, Yeats uses the circle as a metaphor for control that is being lost:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
 I wonder if my use of circles indicates some subliminal desire to keep control?

In another recent reading, I found repeated use of circular imagery that is closer to my own writing. (This is probably the only attribute of similarity between this piece and my poetry - the poem is a work of brilliance). Joel Ephraims (I can't find him online, other than Facebook) won the 2011 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for his poem 'Rock Candy'.

His poem is a collection of events in the life of a relationship. Reading it brings image after image to the mind, much like the way I imagine having 'your life flash before your eyes' would feel. Not all of the images are directly linked, and some are confusing, but it conveys a faithful representation of the memory of a relationship. I haven't fully unpacked the poem yet, a true sign of good poetry - something that rewards with repeated reading.

'Rock Candy' contains images of moons, planetary orbits, balloons, horoscopes, speedometers, clocks, hoola hoops and snow globes. Throughout the poem, the circling metaphors point to the passage of time, imply a certain inevitability of change while also hinting at cycles and repetition.

Both of these poems have opened up the circle, so to speak, and encouraged me to look at other ways to use the image. They also invite me to look deeper and see if there is more to the way I already use the circle as a metaphor. Perhaps I can play on those deeper meanings and bring them closer to the surface for others to see.

Oh, and finally, have you read a better fragment of a poem than this:
  having a girlfriend is like having  a basketful
of  lemons,  glances,  and lavender
  curls .

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Tipping or Rocking May Cause Injury or Death


We are not vending machines,
We are Salvation Army bins,
Mending the hem of hope and
Manufacturing rags out of despair,
Carrying our notebooks like pottery class ashtrays,
Tapping out the fags of our white hot wit;

Our poems are toy guns that shoot flags that say
Pffff...I’m lonely

We are not vending machines,
We are android psychopaths.
We rape and kill our childhood and
Wear its skin like a clown suit;
The process of writing is merely the
Act of rubbing the lotion in.

We are angry and we don’t know why,
Riding toward death on the horses of regret.

We masturbate in public
We self-mutilate in public
And we over-dramatise

Our poems are suicide notes that lack conviction.

We are not vending machines,
We are fountains that spit coins back at you,
Stamped with: Souvenir of Me.

We write poems on the back of postage stamps
We write poems on toilet paper planes
Our verses are homing pigeons.
We tend them. Feed them seeds of ideas.
Wrap scrolls of tiny careful text around their legs.
Stroke their necks, before snapping them and
Releasing them on our breaths.
Our poems fly like monuments.

We are not vending machines,
We are TV green screens:
Insert your nirvana here.

We hate the way we love ourselves
We call all mirrors narcissists
And write poems like smashed glass.

We are hot. Like moonlight
And constant as the sea
We are not great dancers,
We are bad strippers;
Each poem a car crash lap dance.

We are not vending machines,
We were forced to choose to reveal the bad candy within.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Praying for Drought


I hate the fuckin’ rain.
It was rainin’ when we buried Lochy
And it was rainin’ when he died.

When we got the call I went straight down the Bowlo
Had a few and watched the rain drops on the windows
Gettin’ up the guts to race each other down the glass.
Like Lochlan. Only he raced up, not down.
First out the windshield and over the fence.
Then to heaven like an angel or some shit, I s’pose.
Tanya would have said that.

I don’t drink beer now, you see.
I can’t stand the bubbles on the inside of the schooner
Puffin’ up with air and then lettin’ go,
Fallin’ to the top. Like fuckin’ rain drops.

‘I’m a bourbon bloke. Keep it short and dark,’
I told the black-haired sheila at the bar. Ha!

No, rain does the cryin’ for me.
Tanya didn’t need any bloody help.
Everywhere I looked at home, it was fuckin’ raining.
Maybe I reminded her too much of Lochy.
Maybe I was just a prick.

Sometimes two of the bubbles inside a beer
Seem to race each other up the glass
And one will pass the other one.
I wonder if I started now, could I beat Locky to heaven?

We all flew to Sydney once, for the Easter Show.
It was drizzlin’ when we took off.
As the props beat some sense into the air,
The drops on the porthole thingies went sideways,
Clingin’ to the edge of the frame and then disappeared.
As we left the ground, the glass was dry.

Fucked if I know what that story means.
Maybe I need to go into the future faster.
Goin’ back won’t bloody help.

It was hot and dry the day she left me
But it pissed down that night.

They say lickin’ your lips only makes it worse.
Dries ‘em out more.
I reckon that’s true.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Three Poems Inspired 3


Tattooed on her cheek was the cover of the
Voyage of the Dawn Treader:
Lucy and Edward being pulled through the frame into Narnia
And aboard the ship that swayed on the toiling sea,
As she rolled her naked body on the sheets.

I climbed the salt-fingered crests and
Fell into the purple folds of her waves
And travelled east, into the sun,

Plunging to thrust my head above the peaks,
Stretching to see the horizon’s curve;
Always travelling east, into the sun.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Three Poems Inspired 2


We marched up in ranks, from the crease at the base of the hill.
Trees on the crest waved breezes past our necks,
Peeling off the scent of tedium and perspired fear.
The musket’s solid weight felt like a bed head,
The scar on the stock the secret she shared.
A drop of sweat peeked out it’s head beneath the
Band of my cap and ran a moist finger down my back.

We marched up in ranks, leaving the crease at the base of the hill.
My coarse trousers lightly chaffed like unshaven skin,
The shrapnel buried in my thigh pressing on my pocket
Like a re-found penny.
The tight leather of my boots parted the dew-brushed blades
Of grass with the sound of Molly’s skirts.

We marched up in ranks, as they appeared on the rise of the hill.
The cannonball took the right side of my face
Replacing sweat with spent cordite and heat.
I folded like a map, collapsing
Objectives, feints, advances and lines of retreat;
Each part of my body laying softly on the next like a sheet,
Until the good half of my face was gently pressed
Against the hill felt kissed.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Three Poems Inspired 1

In the night's velvet heat, he sits and drinks on the step
And watches the bored whores on the street.

As he swallows his beer in knots he drives his eyes on their
Bodies’ chicanes and avoids the straights of their gaze.

Their skirts cling like Catholic guilt.
Their souls glow in each breath in and
Float up in ribbons of smoke.

As a lonely car approaches, one girl turns and
Grinds her butt beneath a stiletto sole;
The knife turn twist of her leg;
She fulcrums on her hips and rolls her rump,
The drawbridge of her chest lowers to the car door.

Using her private feline voice, pawing at the
Prospect like she’s persuading for milk.

Feline. He smiles. An apt word for the curves of their assets.
Fee lines.
He drains his beer and crushes the can with a sharp crump.
The whores lift their heads like sleepy cats as he turns inside
To telephone his mum.