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Archive for December, 2009

A good poem for me has to slip under my skin and inhabit my being. Here is a poltergeist poem that has set up residence in my conscious mind and keeps rustling through and disturbing my thoughts when least expected.  Its range from statistics to thermodynamics is broad. But such matters are inconsequential compared with the theme of this poem, which stretches beyond the universe and outside of time.

This extract from the book Generosity by Richard Powers is an embedded poem of polestar brilliance. (As quoted in The Australian 19/12/09 Book Review Geordie Williamson)


Art is a way of saying what it means to be alive,

and the most salient feature of existence

are the unthinkable odds against it.

For every way there is of being here,

there are an infinity of ways of not being here.

Historical accident snuffs out whole universes

with every clock tick.

Statistics declare us ridiculous.

Thermodynamics prohibits us.

Life, by any reasonable measure, is impossible,

and my life – this, here now –

infinitely more so.

Art is a way of saying,

in the face of all that impossibility,

just how worth celebrating it is

to be able to say anything at all.

Richard Powers

Richard Powers is the author of ten novels, including Galatea 2.2 and The Echo Maker , Generosity. His writing often combines fiction with the themes of historical events or, as with his latest book, scientific developments. He has received numerous honors and awards including a MacArthur Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, and the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Historical Fiction. He lives in Illinois. (Photo credit:Lorenzo Ciniglio. Books can be purchased through Richard Powers website.)

Generosity (Atlantic 2009)

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When a poet writes an essay they cannot help themselves. Trapped within the essay are literary jewels, poems of exquisite beauty crafted and polished by the poet’s word-smithing skills. Michael Leunig is a poet so it is not surprising that his essay ‘Sleeping in on Doomsday’ from the Good Weekend, The Age (Sat 28th Nov 2009) had a poetic sensuality. This embedded poem in the essay addresses the hopes Leunig has for his children, that they will not be tethered to the family tree but rather free to fly. free as they wish. Moreover, it is within all our capabilities to escape the gravitational pull of our origins.

…no shares in any great cultural franchise

with stories of tragedy and triumph,

and don’t have much in the way of extended family.

None of this to enshrine and uphold.

They are unadorned earthlings.

Human nature is their story.

The spirit of the country runs out of the earth

And the air and into their bodies like a mystery.

This is their inheritance.

It is no virtue, no deficiency and no advantage;

This is simply their lot.

 

I see them asleep at night, these beautiful earthlings;

their faces still so glowing and  open and young.

There are many of them in this world and in this land.

When they awaken they will create their own way.

Michael Leunig  

 

 Michael Leunig is a Melbourne cartoonist, artist and poet. His short and often melancholic poems are published in a number of Australian newspapers. His  enchanting poems have been published in books available through his website.

Earthlings pic karstenkneese’s photostream

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This poem reflects the intensity and clarity poetic writing can bring to understanding our shared humanity. But context counts. This poem was added as a comment by Tim Shanasy to the Embedded Poem, Dead Love, by Will Storr posted in this blog. The poem howls with rage about the difficulty of living with tinnitus. When you know this context, you don’t just read the words, you also hear the scream of the white noise.

Like an endless steam train with horns ablaze,

about to emerge from it’s tunnel,

into a forest of crazy cicadas.


This, endlessly, a photo of noisy sounds,

steadfastly displayed in the gallery walls of my mind.

In sleep and in surf.

The only relief . .


Subconscious or immersed,

the only respite.


To awake, is to take control of the emotions.


To sink, or to swim. I swim.

The trick is to normalise.

How bad is this really?


Only to ponder truth briefly, is all it takes.


The plight of so many others, must be so much worse.

The human condition lives on, in us all.

Tim Shanasy

Tim Shanasy is a Byron Bay musician and, obviously, poet.

Pic from Travis Hornung’s Photostream

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According to The Guardian (UK) former poet laureate, Andrew Motion, has been accused of plagiarism by a military historian for a poem published in The Guardian. 

Ben Shephard who produced the television series The World at War complained the poet had been ‘extracting sexy soundbites’ from the historian’s painstaking work on the psychiatric impact of war on soldiers.  “Shameless burgalry’ Shephard called Motion’s Remembrance Day poem explaining that five of the eight stanzas were lifted directly from his book A War of Nerves.

Do poets have this right to use others words as they see fit? The found poem is, indeed, a literary tradition but when does borrowing become ripping off? You decide. Here is a ‘borrowed’ extract from  the pome, An Equal Voice, compiled by Andrew Motion for Remembrance Day 2009 as a tribute to those who fought in World War I. You’’ll find the full text of An Equal Voice on The Guardian Website.


An Equal Voice 

…………….Everyone called it

shell-shock, meaning concussion, but shell-

shock is rare. What 90% get is justifiable funk

due to the collapse of the helm of our self-control.

You understand what you see but you cannot think.

Your head is in agony and you want relief for that.

The more you struggle, the more madness creeps

over you. The brain cannot think of anything at all.

From An Equal Voice by Andrew Motion

You will find another poem by Andrew Motion, The Five Acts of Harry Patch, on The Telegraph website.

Poppy Pic Bas Kerr’s Photostream

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