Monday, November 30, 2009

Pretenders - a pantoum

Poets trying to impress poets
Writing poems true to form
Twisting and turning their intelligence on display
Like I do for you today

Writing poems true to form
Using clever construction terms
Like I do for you today
But don’t take them too seriously

Using clever construction terms
Creating displays of impressive vocabulary
But don’t take them too seriously
They who compel by cunning display

Creating displays of impressive vocabulary
Pretenders proving what we already know
They who compel by cunning display
Shown for what they are

Pretenders proving what we already know
Twisting and turning their intelligence on display
Shown for what they are
Poets trying to impress poets

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance day

I miss you, old man
As I sit here remembering
The day we met
Right here at this bar
The bar we’ve met at every year since
Recognising something in each other
That brought us together

There we were, old man
Remembering together
As you do on days such as that
Such as this
Fresh back from the parade
Drinking together
A generation apart
Closer than many could be

You told me of yours
I told you of mine

You spoke of trenches
Of comradeship
Of that feeling you all had
The patriotic call
The belief in what you were doing
When it began

And then you spoke of horror
Of bodies
Of bloodstained mud
Of mortar fire and midnight rifles
Of disease and cold

You spoke of disillusionment
And then of comfort taken
In bonds made between those that were there
And the feeling beneath
That of all the wrong that was done
It was done for the greater good

And I envied you that conviction, old man
That comfort
As I told you of fear
Of hot jungle rain
Of confusion
Of silent death creeping through trees

I told you of times with no comfort
No sense of right and wrong
Just alive
And not

And there were things I didn’t tell you
Though I know you no doubt knew
And I thank you for not asking
For allowing me not to speak

Of villages destroyed
Out of suspicion
Or of children shot
Out of fear

And of…

But I looked for you today old man
Unsure if this year would be the one
Knowing your time would come some day
As they all do
Realising I had hoped it would be later

Always later

And I miss you this year, old man
But still, here I sit
A glass of neat whisky next to mine on the bar
And I’m listening to the world change again
Hearing people make that call again
Wondering what tomorrow will look like

I miss you, old man
Old friend
But it’s possible I might see you again
Sooner than either would have hoped

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

to read or not to read

Article I wrote for the DanPoets Zine I was publishing around 2000. Seems to still be relevant given the large number of new poets I see every year.

It starts like this: while on this journey that we call life, you, unlike half the developed world, have your eyes and mind open, observing and experiencing most of what goes on around you. Also, just like the other half of the developed world, you are wont to put pen to page to capture what you see and experience. This is fine, you like writing, and reading over it reminds you of stuff you’ve done and the things you’ve seen. Sometimes it gives you something to think about and helps you with the whole growing thing. And, hey, writing can be the best cathartic activity short of punching people in the head, and other stuff I’m not aloud to say too much about because this is a PG Zine (except for the occasional swearing in the poems, but that’s art, damn it!).

Now comes the turning point. You realise you’ve got some killer stuff here. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could share it with others, but for this you need (insert dramatic music here) an audience.


No big deal, you’ve got friends (my sympathies if I’m wrong), so you show it to them, email them little stories and poems, throw bits of paper at them each time you see them, and generally bug them for opinions on your literary genius. Sooner or later enough of them tell you all this great stuff about your work and you think, “Hey, just maybe I should find a bigger audience. Why don’t I try one of those open stage deals I’ve heard about, I think more people need to hear what I’ve got to say.”

Deciding is the easy part, but a lot of people struggle with the doing. Not because they shouldn’t be there, open stage means just that; they’re for anybody who wants to do their thing. What usually happens is that all of a sudden you realise you are about to stand up in front of a group of people you may not know, and bare yourself in front of them (not literally, of course, although I have seen this done). Reading poetry or other writings to an audience can leave you a bit nervy, I know I still get jumpy a lot of the time, and you wouldn’t be the first to start to talk yourself out of it.

Don’t. Once you’ve decided it’s what you want to do, then do it. It’s not like you can actually die from embarrassment, it’s just a figure of speech, and you’ll probably find that the people in the audience dig it just because you did it. A friend of mine once asked an old hand at the stage thing, “But what if I shake?” The answer of course was, “Then shake. But don’t stop reading.”

That is the real point; don’t stop reading. Or writing. Or sharing your stuff around. Of course, once you hit the stage, you probably won’t stop, it’s rather addictive, and there are plenty of venues around. Holding this little publication in your hand means you’ve already been to at least one of them (or someone wanted you to read this killer article about reading for the first time. Oh, and the wonderful poetry inside.) Have a look inside the back cover for more, or ask the wonderful folks that run the venues you already go to where some of the other gigs are, and what they’re like. There is a wide variety of them around, and we might have a chat about that in the next issue.

See you at the mike!

Monday, November 2, 2009


A man walks into a bar
Orders a beer
The bartender serves him
Leaves him to drink it

This is not a joke

And you are not a poem