Archive for the ‘Memory & Understanding’ Category

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

Read Full Post »

This poem of Melinda Smith’s sets the two-faced coin of motherhood spinning. How it lands today or any day you do not know. Will you see the face of love or the flip-side, loss?  To give birth is to experience a joyous connection with the miracle of life. Yet to give birth is also to face an ocean of uncertainty. While motherhood is often presented as a flowery, sickly sweet confection the images and rhythm of this poem pounds home the uncertainty.


Wave after wave, the ocean counts the cost
by piling sheets of water on the sand.
I dreamt before your birth that you were lost.
I think I have begun to understand.

By piling sheets of water on the sand
the sea offers its body, slice by slice.
I think I have begun to understand.
I love you knowing sorrow is the price.

The sea offers its body, slice by slice,
heaving itself onto an empty beach.
I love you knowing sorrow is the price.
I start a task whose end I’ll never reach.

Heaving itself onto an empty beach,
the sea still finds the energy to give.
I start a task whose end I’ll never reach.
I give you life, not knowing how you’ll live.

The sea still finds the energy to give.
I dreamt before your birth that you were lost.
I give you life, not knowing how you’ll live.
Wave after wave, the ocean counts the cost.


Melinda Smith

Photo of Melinda SmithPrize winning poet Melinda Smith is a widely published ACT poet. Her poems have appeared in Quadrant and The Canberra Times. This poem comes from her book Mapless in Underland , Ginninderra Press #mce_temp_url#

You can read more of Melinda’s poems on her  mull and fiddle blog#mce_temp_url#

Read Full Post »

It is important to realise in this era of political spin that some of the greatest speeches ever given had impact because they expressed the profound truth and raw beauty of poetry. This is especially true of the speech given by Robert Kennedy delivered 4 April 1968 in Indianapolis, IN, following the assassination earlier that day of Martin Luther King (pictured left).

 #mce_temp_url# martin luther king

Race riots broke out in cities across America but not in Indianapolis. Robert Kennedy stood quietly before the distressed audience and spoke about someone close to him (His brother JFK) also being killed by a white man. But it was this poem by the Ancient Greek playwright, Aeschylus (525 – 456 BC)


that expressed the raw grief and crushing despair of that moment. Maybe, just maybe, finding the words to express such pain disarmed those who could only express their feelings through anger and violence. While this poem sites God it could have evoked Life. It is a universal poem about the human condition written over 2,500 years ago made tragically poignant by the assassination of Robert Kennedy two months later by a white man. 

My favorite poem, my — my favorite poet was Aeschylus.  And he once wrote:Robert_F_Kennedy_crop

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget

falls drop by drop upon the heart,

until, in our own despair,

against our will,

comes wisdom

through the awful grace of God.

Read Full Post »

The following is an extract of  Dorothy Porter’s poem, Thin Ice which you can download to view her reading the poem @   Sunday Arts Extras (Poetry Segment 30/09/07. Second Reading) or you can hear her read the full poem on the  Dorothy Porter Website.  Dorothy Porter has such a strong poetic voice you feel as if she is walking around in your head organising your thoughts.This can be frightening.  Nevertheless in a few lines she can capture like a fossil insect in resin convoluted emotions we often find difficult to express. The following extract about our mortality is made even more poignant by her recent death.

…we all have so much to bear 
the slip 
the slide 
the sense of the dark 
frigid nothing 
under our warm blooded mortal feet ice skating 2
but when the ice takes our young 
we know we’ll never have happiness 
or find our deluded footing 

Dorothy Porter

1954 – 2008

Dorothy Porter Tribute site  Dorothy Porter was a celebrated Australian Poet who, among other achievements, authored six collections of poetry, two novels for young adults and three previous TheBeeHut_0verse novels, AkhenatenThe Monkey’s Mask and What a Piece of Work. Her verse novel Wild Surmise published in 2002 was awarded the Adelaide Festival Award’s 2004 John Bray Memorial Prize for Poetry as well as the overall Premier’s Award, the first book of poetry ever awarded the prize.  The Monkey’s Mask won the Age Poetry Book of the Year Award and the National Book Council’s Poetry Award, was reprinted eight times and made into a film in 2000 starring Susie Porter and Kelly McGillis. Her posthumous book of poetry, The Bee Hut, was recently published by Black Inc and can be purchased for $24.95 through the publisher’s website: #mce_temp_url#

Read Full Post »

Poempig finds this poem fascinating.Rodney Williams_photo_resized-3 It appears, at first, to be a simple poem.

It captures one moment in the poet’s life. This poem describes beautifully a flaw of our human condition. We are social animals yet too often our memory is rich on one level and faulty on another leaving us socially inept. We are immobilized by dithering or stuck in a state of indecision. 

On another level the poem tells, in quick snap shots, the very complicated story of another life. 

was that you, by god, after thirty years

outside a roadhouse where I bought

flowers for mother’s day?

she’s passed on since, but your old girl

she was gold, paying me to mow her lawn

a chore that you refused

hell, that must have been you, the kid who held

the biggest parties of boyhood

with ice-cream soft-drink spiders fizzing

and a slot-car set that filled a room –

once you rolled our billy-cart down our hill

right beneath a reversing truck

paradise anthology Correction

by jesus, that was you for sure

my drinking buddy of underage teens

in our fathers’ footsteps

staggering arm in arm down the milky way-

when first busted for dope, you employed no counsel

expecting a bond, amazed by conviction

That was you, by christ, still with pixie-point ears

sizing me up with a squint

you’d learnt doing time inside-

your nephew told me years and beers ago

how he’d gone to a brothel on a footy trip

only to find your wife, his aunt

for god’s sake, that was you, off to your car

and I hate myself now for not calling your name

Rodney Williams

Rodney Williams is a widely published Victorian poet and literature teacher. This poem appeared in The Paradise Anthology 02 available at Readings Bookshop. #mce_temp_url#

Read Full Post »

This is a poem about grief and loss. But there is a gentleness to this grief that is both warm and reassuring. There is a joy in the recollection.

A grey path runs beside the metal lake

past empty winter trees. You are there,

a tiny figure with your back to me,

walking away, your red jacket bright,

and the only coloured thing. This photographby lake

one of the last I have of you. We walked

together on that path so many times

to where it curves away, and out of sight.

Michael Thorley

Michael Thorley is an Australian poet who writes in both traditional and free-verse forms. His book Sleeping Alone can be purchased at Ginninderra Press, ACT #mce_temp_url#

Clip Pic: Okaiuz’s Photostream: #mce_temp_url#

Read Full Post »

Trying to wipe a protesting chocolate-smeared face with one preloved tissuefifties-mom

Listening for the sound of the front door latch.

1am. 2am. Where are they? Sleep banished to the drumming of your heart.

Stop bouncing that bloody ball!


Darling, you’re a goat in The Three Billy Goats Gruff. You have to be a goat.

Not a princess. Put on some glitter. You can be a goat princess.

The cry, the gasp….pushing new life into the world

How could you cut his hair? Look at him. He looks like an 8-year-old monk!

Yes. I am his mother. What hospital? How bad?

The others? Thank God. (Strong words for an almost atheist.)


You can’t wear that t-shirt. I don’t care if everyone’s wearing them

and you are a PORN STAR. No. That’s not what I meant.

Clever boy! Wee wee in the potty. Bring on the brass band!

I can’t just go to the hole in the wall and get money. It doesn’t work like that.

But you can’t be a vegetarian! You don’t like vegetables.


The small fey-like fist clasping your little finger

You’ve made some honeycomb. Greeeat! And what tornado hit the kitchen?

Your father and I do know one or two things about sex! Don’t look so shocked!!!!!

STOOOOP! You WERE going to hit that car. I am not panicking.

I’m the licensed driver. You’re the learner. Remember.

Sorry Luke. She’s at Under 14 swimming. Perhaps you could ring back in 2 years time!


You will call us from your bohemian hovel, occasionally. Won’t you?

Oh Look! Mummy’s wallets in the toilet! How DO you wash $20 bills?

Knock. Knock. Who’s there. Bumface. Bumface Who? Bumface you!!

The tears. Someone will love you. Sometime. I promise. (I do. I love you.)


Motherhood: cont…..


Between these moments, maybe because of them

Into your psyche sweeps the image of the Mythical Mom

In her chariot of goodliness. All gleam and glow!

No oil dripping on your thoughts from her chariot hubs.


She is, for me, the Fifties TV cup-cake making mom.

A pert Harriet Nelson. Frilly in her stereotype apron.

School lunches packed. Kitchen clean.

Serving me – by reason of certain inadequacies- lashings of cup-cake guilt.

Every so often, I try and fit myself

Into her smooth cup cake mould

But I’m all rough edges and jutting bits


I want to warn you about her! The Mythical Mom!

She is a chameleon. She becomes the perfect hue and shade 

Of everything you aren’t!

And she’ll turn up, uninvited on the doorstep of your unease

All knowing, mixing bowl in hand

To marble the shadows of guilt into your motherhood.


But those moments (of motherhood)

Are yours. Not hers.

They form the language and texture of your motherhood

They make you into the mother only you can be!        

Kerry Cue                          


Read Full Post »