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Poets Out Loud



They started with me! (Pardon my excitement.)

Enterprising young poet Sarah Temporal has just organised a new series of monthly poetry readings in Murwillumbah NSW where I live (and she lives). They began last Thursday with a varied and exciting program of two featured readers (me and Matt Hetherington) and lots of brilliance in the open sections. Here I am in full emote on the night:



And these are the poems I read, the first two from my book Secret Leopard, the second two much more recent, from my blog The Passionate Crone:


The Day We Lost the Volkswagen

During a momentary lull in her head,
the poor old thing lost her grip.
The boat she was towing towed her instead
ponderously down the slip.
backwards into the water.

For a swirling moment she almost floated,
she thought of setting sail.
But her bum tilted, her britches bloated —
she was heavy in the tail —
and the sly seaweed caught her.

I thought even then she might make a try
(she seemed to be righting her flank)
but she spun gravely, one eye on the sky,
gave a dignified splutter and sank.
The sea frothed briefly.

I don’t know — she wasn’t the kind to drift,
much less come apart at the seams.
But the sails and the clouds that day had a lift,
and perhaps she had some dreams.
It was a damn nuisance, chiefly.
                       
© Rosemary Nissen 1974
from Universe Cat, Pariah Press (Melb.) 1985, and
Secret Leopard: new and selected poems 1974-2005 (Alyscamps Press, (Paris) 2005
First published Nation Review. 
Also in:
A Second Australian Poetry Book for Children, Oxford
Secondary English Book 3, Macmillan
Off the Record, Penguin                                    
Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets. 


Vagabond

Down near the flat rocks at the pool
the secret leopard sniffs the day.
He tilts his head by the striped bamboo,
calling me: come and play.

When I was seven, and nine, and twelve,
I watched for his furious, bell-shaped head,
but they always dragged me back from the track.
'He is terrible,' they said.

They stuffed my ears with cottonwool,
they tied my hands and feet to the bed,
but still the house shook silkenly
to his broad, electric tread.

That was a long, long time ago.
Now I am grown and free to run
to the white rocks and the dim bamboo
and the velvet hood of the sun.

He has been waiting by the yellow pool,
padding the black leaves patiently,
holding the flame in his narrow eyes,
wild and slow as the sea.

His handsome haunches are molten gold,
his perilous paws flow red through the shade.
You may mew forever from your pitiful bed —
I am deep in the spiky glade.

I will not tell of the spotted jungle
with silver trees that eat the sun.
I will not tell of the tawny trails
where I and the lavish leopard run.

 © Rosemary Nissen 1974
 from Universe Cat, Pariah Press (Melb.) 1985
and in Secret Leopard, Alyscamps Press (Paris) 2005.
First published A Second Australian Poetry Book for Children (Oxford)
Also in Secondary English Book 3, Macmillan.

Sonnet Written Upon a Tim Tam
As requested by my friend Jim 

Yesterday I posted on facebook my pleasure
at eating Tim Tams and reading sonnets 
simultaneously, whilst also sitting in the sun
with my sweet cat. This post got a lot of likes. 

Then one friend asked, intending jocularity, 
'When will you publish "Sonnet Written 
Upon a Tim Tam"?' Why not? I thought, 
and replied, 'Tomorrow' – which is now today.

The taste is something between chocolate
and honey, a blend, and the texture also mixed:
creamy soft outside, the centre crisp yet melting. 

It takes six bites – or sometimes only four –
to savour and devour one whole, from the first
burst of joy in the mouth to the last lingering lick.

20 Aug 2017


The Advantages of Poetry

Be faithful to your calling.
It will not desert you.
(You will doubt this at times,
when it seems to take leave of absence,
but trust. It WILL come back.) 

Poetry won't keep you warm
on cold nights,
but will help you celebrate
those who do
(every coupling 
a secret threesome)
and console you
after they depart.

It might not make you rich
but you'll think
your poverty's worth it.

You'll always
have someone to talk to.

Poetry is not a partner
who’ll dump you after just one dance.
Poetry wants to go home with you.
And if you can't dance,
poetry will teach you.

Poetry will happily 
get wasted with you –
and in the morning
you'll both look worse for wear.
Later, though,
poetry will help you straighten out.

If the power goes off,
you only need a candle
and some kind of notebook
with keyboard or pen.
You can do without TV
or someone else's novel.

It won't feed you
but it can make you forget about meals, 
and any other hunger or thirst 
except the ache for perfection
of word or line.

No matter what goes wrong,
no matter how helpless you feel,
there is always this to do.

And when everything's right
and beautiful
and buoyant,
poetry enables you
to hold the moment a whole lot longer,
then to return for more.
(With poetry, there is no such thing
as being too greedy.)

Poetry doesn't care
about fame and status. 
You do –
and it may or may not happen –
but to poetry it's simply irrelevant.

You want someone to read your poetry,
someone to hear your words.
You're allowed to want that; it's natural.
And there will be those who do.
Cherish them, even if they are not many.

But know, as well,
that if you stand outside and speak your poetry,
be it in a shout or a whisper,
the trees will hear, and the air.
When you read your words over to yourself, silently,
angels and spirits will stand at your shoulder
reading too, noticing the pictures and the music.
And when the words are nowhere but in your mind,
God perceives them, who put them there.

29 June 2016

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