Lynn Buckler Walsh
Many of us are familiar with the Japanese haiku form of verse. Here’s another one, with which I was unfamiliar until recently. Shadow Poetry has a good explanation of Tanka.
There are, of course, many more subtle components of the verse than its 5-7-5-7-7 or 31 syllable shape. You can always aspire to reaching higher expression of the form. In the meantime, it’s fun and satisfying to play with it as a container. If, like me, you are in the habit of writing down the odd phrase that occurs to you, the Tanka provides a good starting point to use the idea. In this case, my phrase was the sound of one frond dropping.
you don’t hear the sound
that silence before the fall
only with the break
that crack of separation
the sound of one frond dropping
Lynn Buckler Walsh
This is the cover of our high school poetry text. It was edited by John Palmer and published by William Brooks & Co. This particular copy was decorated and annotated by my good self, age 17 or thereabouts and is a survivor of the odd book cull over the years.
With its paste-on characters, doodles, glossy pages, worn corners and a broken spine, it’s showing its age, but still provides pleasure in the gleaning.
For readers who are not familiar with any Australian poetry, today’s offering is from the late Judith Wright, poet, environmentalist and Aboriginal land rights activist.
The poem is The Company of Lovers. The scribbles are my high school notes. A clean copy is provided below for easier reading.
THE COMPANY OF LOVERS
We meet and part now over all the world,
We, the lost company,
take hands together in the night, forget
the night in our brief happiness, silently.
We who sought many things, throw all away
for this one thing, one only,
remembering that in the narrow grave
we shall be lonely.
Death marshals up his armies round us now,
Their footsteps crowd too near.
Lock your warm hand above the chilling heart
and for a time I live without my fear.
Grope in the night to find me and embrace,
for the dark preludes of the drum begin,
and round us, round the company of lovers,
Death draws his cordons in.
Back in my first days at university, I took a lot of English Literature subjects for someone who was also working towards graduating with a Geography major. In the end, I suspect the number of English classes surpassed the Geography ones.
It was the seventies. Unsurprisingly, I guess, Women’s Studies was on offer. One of my lecturers was the most radical woman I’d ever met at that stage of my life. Her classes were politicised, her clothes, her hair, her very presence in the academic halls were statements amidst the men’s tie and shirt brigade. I loved how what she taught was on the edge of the usual course fare. You could not ignore her. You could not get away with being in one of her classes and not thinking.
She is now Head of School at the same university. This was one of the texts for the course. It’s been well dipped into over the years. The collection includes Denise Levertov, Gwendolyn Brooks, Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich, Sylvia Plath (of course) and Margaret Atwood, better known today for her impressive body of work as a novelist.
“After All You Are Quite” was written circa 1965-1972.
More in the ‘see what jumps out of the anthology at you’ series. Again, from the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry.
Josephine Miles was born in 1911 in Chicago. The link will take you to her biography. Her academic and writing career is more impressive given that Miles suffered debilitating arthritis for most of her life, making it impossible for her to use a typewriter. Her poems were committed to paper using a pen, in movements that were “slow and painfully deliberate” according to an oral history recorded by Ruth Teiser and Catherine Harroun. They conducted interviews with Miles in the late seventies under the title Poetry, Teaching and Scholarship.
This poem – On Inhabiting an Orange – was written in 1935 when she was 24 years old. She died in 1985.
I’m still coming off the high of earlier this month when I spent a couple of days steeped in the poetry of others and rediscovering the desire to write my own.
I’m spending time dipping into the old texts and newer volumes that I’ve purchased over the years.
First stop was my old Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry. A university text. 1973. First edition no less, although its thumb-worn state belies any value it might have had if I’d left it on the shelf more often.
This poem by the late Seamus Heaney stopped me in my tracks last night. There is so much going on in a mere four verses. Oh the skill!