Author photo by artist, Walter Bakowski

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Personal Weather

                                                                         Photo By Walter Bakowski

This black and white photo of myself taken at Mary Street park in Richmond, Victoria on Sunday,
18 November 2012 is the proposed book cover for my forthcoming volume of new poems, Personal Weather, which I anticipate being published in the first half of 2013. 
The photograph is meant to complement the book title. Any feedback about the photograph is appreciated.
Here is a self-portrait poem from Personal Weather

Self-portrait, Melbourne, 19 September, 2012

I am many selves, some are intimidated by authority figures.
isapproval, its possibility, makes them stay in the dark beneath my ribs.
mergent selves must believe no predators are near, ready to break their spines.
ot too social some of my selves. In being alone they get their best thinking done.
entative, they observe rather than participate, prefer libraries to dance floors.
nsistent invitations make them grumpy. You can tell by their body language that
hey’d rather be elsewhere, not politely asking, “And how do you earn a living?”
et they can be kind to the shy. “That was me once,” they’ll say to each other.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Portrait of Edith Murtone, fiction writer

Scarlet nail polish and lipstick.
Plastic surgery on her once-prominent nose.
Edith summers in Cornwall,
winters in Athens.

Her latest novel is selling well.
The cook and the gardener
will each receive a Christmas bonus,
compensation for enduring 
Edith’s moods and temper
when she finds living
harder than writing.

Characters like Clarissa and Harold
appear to her
as she drives, 
as she walks along the river.

eldest of two daughters,
an amateur botanist and watercolourist, 
infatuated with her piano tutor.

a neighbour’s only son,
asthmatic, excused from sport.
Interested in astronomy
and the treasure underneath Clarissa’s skirt.

the primary emotion that moves plot and pen,
stirs the serpents in the garden.

Images crafted into words,
words crafted into images.
Truth and fiction,
lying down in the same bed,
no longer strangers
to each other.

The white heat of writing—
thoughts, visions
becoming words,
lifting the writer and the reader
beyond the page,
to where the self is seen,
an ant
struggling with crumbs,
one day to be crushed 
beneath a wind-blown twig.

On a good day, five thousand words.
On a bad day, the snapping in half of pencils—
the study mirror reflecting
Edith asleep on the sofa,
one shoe missing, 
an empty brandy bottle
in her lap.

Edith waking
with hangover—
legs of straw on which
to inch and tilt
towards the horizon
of the kitchen sink,
a much-needed glass of water.

straightening cushions on the sofa,
lighting the day’s first cigarette,
asking the walls
what post-war England could be 
if Nigel’s plane hadn’t been 
shot down over Berlin.

The roulette wheels spins,
the white ball
comes to rest on zero.

Not every player 
will risk as much again.

Edith alone
with her characters.
Maybe in the next book,
Harold, through his telescope
will view the flare and fall of a comet,
an arc of light that once scarred the heavens,
now reduced to a photo, data in a journal.
Clarissa will disturb his ordered world
by becoming pregnant.  

The characters’ world changed by 
a birth,
a wavering allegiance,
an affair revealed.

All that threatens and excites,
asks us to consider again 
human nature
as it slithers away
from definition,
Edith will examine
in her next book.

Already she knows its title,
writes it out neatly
on a fresh sheet of paper.

Tomorrow will be a good writing day.

Pruning and sifting your poetry

When you've written poems for a few years, it's worth doing a count of certain words you've used. If get to the happy state of having a Selected Poems published you wouldn't want to see that you've used the word "banana" in nine of your poems. I've realised in my twenty-years of writing poetry I've now used the words "sparrow" and "sofa" enough. I'm going to consciously refrain from using those two words in poems. I've had my quota. If you keep using a word you're arguably resting on your laurels, kicking back in the same old comfort zone. Refresh your poetry with fresh for you words.


I've heard and read too many poems that include the word "silence". I find in reality that if you stop and listen at any moment you'll hear something - the wind, a lorry rumbling past, the sound of a car shifting gears, a neighbourhood dog barking, a birdcall. I can't recall the last time it was truly silent - that is, I could hear no sounds whatsoever. I encourage poets to question each time they're about to use the word "silence". I encourage poets to ask themselves why they are going to use the word "silence" in their poem, to ask themselves "Is my use of that word accurate, true? Does its use ADD to the poem, improve the poem?"

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Syvia Plath writing in her journal, 23 Fitzroy Road, London, February 1963 - genesis of the poem and video link

Writing my Sylvia Plath homage poem involved reading several biographies of Sylvia, a biography of her poet husband, Ted Hughes, and a biography of the woman he left Sylvia for - Assia Wevill.
I also re-read Sylvia's poems, especially the ones written in the last weeks of her life.
A key fact that helped me in writing the poem was learning that the winter that Sylvia killed herself was the coldest London in 100 years.
Melbourne poet, David Lumsden, also encouraged me to write a Sylvia Plath poem that didn't mention gas - unlit gas fumes from the kitchen oven being the cause of Sylvia's death.
Over the course of two years I revised the poem a dozen times. Reading all the biographies concerning Sylvia, Ted and their circle, was invaluable to me in realizing the poem. I get lots of poems from reading - reading continues to seed poems for me. Click here to hear and see me read the Sylvia poem.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Portrait of Blood - background to the poem and link

Click on "Portrait of blood" (in purple) in the last sentence of this post to hear and see me reading "Portrait of blood" from my poetry collection, "Beneath Our Armour".
The poem is personal in that I was born premature with a hole in the heart and have undergone heart surgery twice, once at the age of six and once at the age of thirty-seven. Consequently, I've seen my own blood in tubes and syringes in doctor's surgeries and hospitals throughout my life.

The poem is universal in that we are all mortal/finite, all have red blood coursing through us no matter what colour our skin.
We are all vulnerable to bullies, conflict, known and new diseases, the fickleness of biology and luck.
"Portrait of blood" is the last poem in my poetry collection, "Beneath Our Armour", because I always like to have a philosophical poem ending a book and a poetry reading.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

An open letter to translators

I try and write as clearly as possible. I do my best to refrain from inserting fog, cloudiness, confusion in any poem I write. I try to use ordinary language to say extraordinary things.

I've chosen the words I've chosen and no other words as each word has a specific sound and power.

Given the above, my expectation of the translator is to reveal and state in their language what I reveal and state in my language. My expectation is a mirror of the poem in the translator's language.

What I DON'T want is dilution, erosion, corruption, renovation of the poem.

Translation involves care and faithfulness by the translator. It involves trust by the person being translated. It is an honour to be translated. Translating is a labour of love.

Translation of poetry opens doors, shows the reader what is observed, what is thought important, what is thought worthy of a poem.

I prefer

For Wislawa Szymborska

I prefer
chess to boxing,
solitude to gossiping,
the graves of the elderly to those of the young.

I prefer
the bullied to the bullying,
wands to truncheons,
reason to patriotism.

I prefer
strolling to fleeing,
buoyancy to gravity,
misplacing my glasses to misplacing my trust.

I prefer
self-improvement to nostalgia,
galaxies to ruts.

I prefer
the seeker to the know-it-all,
luck to luxuries,
the blushing to the poker-faced.

I prefer
winters that are external,
interruptions to loneliness,
when life
increases in value.

from "Days That We Couldn't Rehearse" (Hale & Iremonger)