Just Read: The First Bit of July

Attention Conservation Notice: I still haven’t read enough poems, but some lovely people have donated anyway. Poets read include Aleister Crowley, T.S. Eliot, Lee Cataldi, Carolyn Kizer, Banjo Patterson, Ellyn Touchette and Simon Armitage. (1716 words)

Okay it’s not going brilliantly. Amazing how three days can just whip past and you turn around and think fuck I haven’t read a single damn poem in days and then don’t do a damn thing about it. I’ve also been sloppier about actually keeping notes on when I’ve actually read these poems, so that whole day-by-day format is out the window too. Totally defenestrated.

But!

Here are some of the poems I did read of late. And thank you muchly to the generous donors who’ve come to the party since I last posted, bringing the total raised to a delightful $241.50. If you’d like to be part of this odd little project and donate some money to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, then head over to my Everyday Hero page and follow yon instructions.

To the poems!

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot

Holy fuck. I know this is kind of an obvious choice in some ways, one that risks the “really? you hadn’t read that?” accusation, but no, no I hadn’t read it but now I have (and if you haven’t yourself, you really really should) and holy fuck. This? Is a pretty good poem.

I’m not kidding myself that my opinion, heaped onto the back of everything else that’s been written, thought and said about it, is worth anything, but damn this poem is a shot in the arm, extolling the virtues of carpe diem et cetera by painting the picture of a most vacillating and cowardly person who’s paralysed by inhibition. Trust me. You don’t want to be this guy.

Do I dare to eat a peach, Mr. Eliot? Yes I bloody well do. And thank you for reminding me of that.

“The Rosehead Nail” by A.E. Stallings

I am totally becoming a sucker for sonnets in my middle years. Can’t write them for shit, but I know how to spot one and I do love a well-woven rhyme scheme, not to mention a solid final couplet landed well (rhymed or not). Reading a good sonnet is like watching well-executed gymnastics, and this is one of those. It’s about a blacksmith forging a nail with a head shaped like a rose, which is a thing of beauty in itself, even disregarding the beautiful way this little scene is told (not that it’s possible to disregard its beauty, but you get what I’m saying).

“if the earth” and “radio birdman” by Lee Cataldi

Cataldi’s The Women Who Live on the Ground collection starts strong with “if the earth”, a pithy and brief castigation of humanity as parasite.

later in the book, “radio birdman” starts even before the title is finished, the bold of the title running straight into a roman possessive s like this:

radio birdman‘s

before jumping off with the “first” line and the rest of the poem thus:

audience is
too fucked to
clap

and going from there with a great sense of release and urgency that just makes me want to shout this poem out loud. Check it out here at the Australian Poetry Library, but do forgive them for not being able to reproduce the amazing shift from bold to roman in the title on that page, probably because of some vagaries of html or something.

“You and me at the Basement with Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, and her” by Jill Jones

I’m actually going to take umbrage at the serial comma there in the title, but you know – it’s just a comma. This is a neat enough little poem about a rival for your crush’s affections showing up unexpectedly at a gig. Not much to write home about, but okay. I think I like the title best.

“In the Droving Days” by A.B. “Banjo” Paterson

This one was recommended by one of the lovely people who’ve donated to this poetry reading fundraiser, a poem her grandfather apparently used to quote when he was feeling neglected or rejected by his family. There are no surprises here re: form – it’s a jaunty bush ballad as you’d expect, and there’s plenty of that idealised romantic bush-by-the-numbers stuff too, but it’s a sweet poem about giving an old horse a paddock to live its days out in, and I do like the way he’s written the auctioneer’s dialogue. Nice to read something a little off the beaten Banjo track.

“The Orchard” by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Okay so this was a crazy surreal dealio, fairly longish too, about a horse in an orchard in winter that’s really a dog eating a dead deer while the narrator eats a rotten worm-ridden apple that turns into a heart. Yeah. Not really my speed, but still genuinely unsettling, which I assume was the point.

“Dream On” by James Tate

I’ve never been comfortable with poems about poetry. Too much of a circlejerk for me. This one starts okay though, with the contention that while there are many people who’ve never written poetry, they still do amazing things, like brain surgery or play golf, but then it takes a hard left and argues that without writing poetry their lives are somehow missing something fundamental. Look – I love poetry. Really a lot. But I’ve never really been happy with the idea that if you don’t write it you’re just not as good somehow.

“Lines Composed 3000 Miles from Tintern Abbey” by Billy Collins

Having said that, here’s a poem about poems that I did like. I love me a bit of Billy C, and this is just as clever and amusing as anything I’ve read of his. It’s a mildly snarky dig at the trope in poetry about passing by somewhere that’s fallen into ruin or disrepair that you remember from your childhood and which makes you think how you yourself are falling into disrepair and the world in general is no longer as good as it was in the golden ages past. He has some fun with it and imagines a poet taking a nana-nap and waking up to see the cushions all messed up and an apple core browning and thinking of the salad days of before the nap and how everything was so much better then. Fun stuff.

“Second Time” Around by Carolyn Kizer

Ooh I liked this. I thought it was about Arthur Miller at first, especially the bit where the guy is relieved that his marriage to a more famous person is over so that he doesn’t have to compete for attention so much, and his younger, more docile, more-in-awe-of-him wife is much more attentive and easier to manage. According to the author statement at the back of Best American Poetry 1998, where I found this, though, Kizer says it’s just a pattern she’d noticed in older gentleman friends of hers when it came time for to marry a second time.

“Reply” by Nathan Curnow

Last month Nathan did a series of “hump day hoodie poems” where he recited one of his poems to camera in a hoodie and posted them on Facebook on Wednesdays. This is also a poem about writing poems that I really, really like. I think it’s because it’s not JUST about writing poems, and also it doesn’t argue that writing poems is teh amazeballs. It’s got a lot of dadness in it, being partly about Nathan’s daughters, and I’m a sucker for dadness. I think it’s also really appealing because of the calm, quiet, almost hushed way he speaks in this video, direct to camera, which creates an intimacy that perfectly compliments the last couple of lines. Short version: Aw.

The video’s here, but I’m not sure if you can see it if you’re not friends with Nathan. It’s a Facebook thing.

5 poems about Gene Hackman by Ellyn Touchette

A friend recommended FreezeRay Poetry to me the other day as something that is relevant to my interests, being that it’s a poetry journal dedicated to crazy pop culture stuff like robots, kung-fu and horror. They also publish chapbooks, and they have one coming out soon called The Book of Gene by Ellyn Touchette. It’s a suite of poems all about hanging out with Gene Hackman, which expands on a series of 5 kooky poems Touchette had published in FreezeRay Poetry a while back. With titles like:

  • Gene Hackman Reluctantly Accompanies Me To The Spa
  • Gene Hackman Only Wants Whole Foods’ Sushi
  • I Ask Gene Hackman If He’s Cool To Just Hang Out While I Go To Therapy
  • Gene Hackman and I Drive Home in Silence
  • Gene Hackman Takes a Shower and I Wonder What All This Means

you kind of know what you’re getting, but it’s still a lot of fun. These poems are sweet, whimsical and slightly dark. Check ’em out.

“23 Skidoo” by Aleister Crowley

I came across this on John Coulthart’s always intriguing {feuilleton} blog in a post about various manifestations of the phrase “23 Skidoo”. All I can say is that Crowley may have spent time with Yeats, but it sure didn’t rub off on him.

“An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” by Simon Armitage

Another poem about being a poet – what has my subconscious been doing of late? Anyway I had a nice grim chuckle at this poem about the heartbreak of doing shitful drudgework on other people’s terrible writing instead of working on your own stuff because the drudge stuff actually pays the bills. Bonus points for the image of Adam Smith’s portrait laughing at Armitage from his lofty position on a £20 note.

***

Okay that’s 18 more poems on the pile, bringing the sad total so far to 53, a pretty far holler from 122. That leaves 69 poems to go, and 15 days to do it in – we’re looking at 4 poems a day minimum from here on in with no days off.

Anyway, let’s see how close we can get, shall we? Thanks to everyone who’s donated so far, and see you in a week or so.

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Poet. Author. Beard. Husband. Dad. Four chickens. Dog. Cat. I can sometimes fix my lawnmower.

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Posted in i would like to recommend these people's writing, poetry

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About Adam

I'm the author of the poetry collections The Third Fruit is a Bird and Not Quite the Man for the Job, the novel Man Bites Dog and the short story collection Heroes and Civilians.
contact: adamatsya@gmail.com
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