Friday, September 23, 2005

Les Murray

Was at a poetry reading last night that featured Les Murray, the Australian poet. Murray is a great writer and a particular favourite of mine but a strange thing happened half way through the reading: I began to think his poetry was just a torrent of imagery that amounted, when it came down to it, to mere self-conscious trickery. I mean he described his son's fencing mask as 'the composite eye of an insect'. Why? Why describe anyone's fencing mask as 'the composite eye of an insect.'? And then just line after line there seemed to be more and more clever little devices pared and preened and taking their place among the others in a great man's great ouevre and for the first time ever I began to think poetry was just a silly little show off's game.
Maybe I'm cracking up.

3 comments:

Rob Mackenzie said...

“…for the first time ever I began to think poetry was just a silly little show off's game.”

It can be. I have had that thought too.

But the other night I was thinking about a comma and where to put it and where to put the word before it – at the end of a line or at the beginning of the next one? The former meant I could ditch the comma, but would have to insert another comma a few words further on. The latter meant I’d need the comma, and would have to decide on the other one. There was a clear difference made to the poem depending on what happened to the comma.

This might seem like an absurd, pointless exercise. But it might also prove beyond doubt that a poem isn’t just a show-off’s game, however many tricks are used. No one else reading my poem will know or care anything about the history of that comma. But it mattered, and it mattered because a poem is an integral work of art. And if it’s just a selection of tricks arranged in a certain order, it’s less a poem that it could be.

eeksypeeksy said...

I mean he described his son's fencing mask as 'the composite eye of an insect'. Why?

Did the bug have a stinger (sword)?

Katrina said...

Hey,

Very nice blog and some interesting posts. Have a look at my new bit torrent site called - Mininova -

Thanks