{Thu 22 March 2007}   tree and roses
tree and roses

i see
an abundance of roses,
waiting for the tree that cannot move
to come to them;

climb-twist, wave-scent,
petal-plunge, dip-dance,
grow, grow…

oh, blow, speed, plant
these seeds there
around the tree
(that, or this, or any of these,
may grow more easily, and faster
than any tree!)

grace it with delicacy,
protect it, love it
with laughing thorns
that scratch and tickle
its deep-grooved bark;
that these sweet roses
may draw blood from any outside hand
that knows not the dance
of tree and roses.

poet, i love you;
i long for you, to hold
you and walk through
roses with you,
dripping lifeblood.

teach me.

This essay by Timothy Steele has been around awhile, but it’s so well-written and its defense of the value of “meter, rhyme and stanza” is so well-supported with resonant examples that it still bears reading.

The Forms of Poetry by Timothy Steele, from The Brandeis Review, 12 (Summer 1992), 28-33

Today, I am particularly taken with these two passages:

“The original revolutionaries perceived more acutely what they wished to challenge or undermine—meter and rhyme in poetry, representation in painting and sculpture, conventional melodic arrangement in music—than what they wished to establish. As a result, the revolution had considerable destructive vitality, but it did not have comparable constructive powers to create alternatives to replace the conventions it swept away.”

“Meters reflect patterns of speech that occur naturally in language. Poets do not invent them out of thin air. To construct a new metrical system, one would first have to construct a new language, or the pronunciation or accentuation of the existing language would have to change radically. So once the battle the modernists fought had been won, their followers tended simply to maintain a somewhat meaningless spirit of rebellion, meaningless because the styles and attitudes against which the rebellion had been directed had ceased to exist.”

It seems an inevitable part of human experience that “the revolution”, after a heady period of free-spirited innovation, always acquires its own orthodoxy and becomes a vicious enforcer of “rules” of freedom. The insistence on the new way of seeing things as the only way of seeing things invalidates the experience, wisdom and creative productions of whole generations, and robs current generations of access to beauties and insights that have empowered and developed human consciousness for thousands of years.

This has always been the pattern with “renewals” in church history. At first they ride on a tide of openness, soul-searching, risk-taking and energetic action as people strive to “live out” their refreshed understanding of the meaning of their faith, sometimes taking great steps of love and courage and martyrdom which change lives and invigorate communities. But after a while, the actions become forms in themselves, nothing more than repeated, futile attempts to recreate the mysterious energy of spirit (Spirit?) that impulsed them so naturally before. The challenge to the status quo becomes the status quo, and the s/Spirit flees.

Why, oh why, is it so difficult for us to maintain “negative capability” (Keats) and realise that any form may contain or even generate mystery, that form does not preclude mystery and that neither form nor lack of form guarantee mystery?

{Sun 11 February 2007}   whirlwind visit

whirlwind visit

pattering, spattering rain races mission-bent to earth,
alert, seeking, challenging for territory,
it sprays grass and laps up dry land
as poppies pound and skip incorrigibly
to tease its watery muzzle.

today, our trees seem not so much
at mercy of the cavorting current
as at play with it;
dancing, dodging, mocking
leaves laugh out loud
at its tail-chasing;

the old bluegum,
bowing gently to humour
the bristling threat,
lets it sniff around awhile,
then shoos it out

and, with a tailwisp wag, it
whisks over the hedge:
we are unscathed,
but thrilled,


{Thu 8 February 2007}   virgin confidence
virgin confidence

it must be like this
to make love
feeling the sharp compulsive angle
of my suffering
received, absorbed, into the tender cushion
of your acceptance
feeling your smile’s fertile caress
diffusing pain
delivering me

{Mon 5 February 2007}   Coming to terms
Coming to terms

I miss him.
His otherwhereness is solid about me.

No longer raw,
I seem whole beyond tearing now, for him,
As I tore then.

But some days, musical days,
A sadness beyond tears hangs in, makes its own void in,
My breast:

I had dangerously given my heart as well,
When I thought I only loved him.

{Sat 27 January 2007}   Primeval Watercolour
Primeval Watercolour

Primaries pounce on the primitive page,
usurping space with bizarre pizzazz:
Opposing waves squall and break,
brim-brilliant crests crash, create a jazz
of chaos!
Interference drags a screaming thread of blue
across the careful splotches;
panicking through cooling pools of sulphur,
a purple pulse breathes whirls of fire,
willing them to swirl against the caking air,
to savage expectations, flay the fair
and even strokes of intent
with edges of the depths,
fan water into flame
with split-atomic spatterings
of aquamarine and shame
and shatterings
of line, design and reason—
Oh, Image, imagine
Imagination’s breathing:

See a subsequent digital version of this poem here.


{Mon 22 January 2007}   in the rosegarden
in the rosegarden

where will i go?
will i find home?
and if i wander without a home,
what will i give to the world?

drinking roses,
longing to be with longing,
not drawing back
from their deep white scent;

longing to let them pour
their wide, hurtful beauty
into me;
to stay, stay in swollen softness;

let the cupped hands of my mind
contain the full, firm, rounded,
perfumed richness
that pours into my weeping.

open, open,
searching heart,
open wide your mouth:
tongue, taste of longing,
yes, yes, of longing;
drink deep;
scent sweet.

{Tue 9 January 2007}   Relativity
Relativity at Injasuti

I, corvine clutcher,
pluck at bits
of reflected sunlight;
grapple rainbow shards
that glitter and twist,
beckon and change;
always over…

streams pour ceaselessly
and the blue skies extend
and the mountains continue
and night is simple,

Dawn’s golden tongue licks over pearly teeth
to melt the half-sucked peppermint
in God’s blue and awesome jaw,
and we are small,
the mountains and I.

And the high orbs lock there, and linger
and challenge for the sky,
for an instant eternal,
but we are hurled on regardless,
the mountains and I.

{Wed 29 November 2006}   Escalator

Lonely in London,
people float upward above me,
headless dreamers
on an earthbound Jacob’s ladder.

Denying gravity,
their sheer mass hovers
static in my airspace.

Our chariot screams, heaving
in metallic anguish, straining
its indifferent load to the spewing
forth, the spattering

of conscious flesh
upon the unconscious pavements
of this ancient present.

{Fri 24 November 2006}   pillion

I have you
warm between my knees
you are lightly held
as the wind blows cool
against our coming

et cetera