Once more he tried, before he slept,
to rule his ranks of words. They broke
from his planned choir, lolled, slouched and kept
their tone, their pitch, their meaning crude;
huddled in cliches; when pursued
turned with mock elegance to croak

his rival's tunes. They would not sing.
The scene that nagged his sleep away
flashed clear again: the local king
of verse, loose-collared and loose-lipped.
read from a sodden manuscript,
drinking with anyone who'd pay,

drunk, in the critic's favourite bar.
'Hear the voice of the bard!' he bellowed,
'Poets are lovers. Critics are
mean, solitary masturbators.
Come here, and join the warm creators.'
The critic, whom no drink had mellowed,

turned on his heel. Rough laughter scoured
his reddening neck. The poet roared
'Run home, and take that face that soured
your mother's lovely milk from spite.
Piddle on what you cannot write.'
At home alone the critic poured

gall on the poet's work in polished
careful prose. He tore apart
meaning and metaphor, demolished
diction, syntax, metre, rhyme;
called his entire works a crime
against the integrity of art,

and lay down grinning, quick, he thought,
with a great poem that would make plain
his power to all. Once more he fought
with words. Sleep came. He dreamed he turned
to a light vapour, seeped and burned
in wordless cracks where grain on grain

of matter grated; reassumed
his human shape, and called by name
each grain to sing, conducting, plumed
in lightning, their obedient choir.
Dressed as a bride for his desire
towards him, now meek, the poet came.

Light sneaked beside his bed. The birds
began their insistent questioning
of silence, and the poet's words
prompted by daylight rasped his raw
nerves, and the waking world he saw
was flat with prose and would not sing.


About Gwen Harwood


Gwen Harwood AO, née Gwendoline Nessie Foster, was an Australian poet and librettist. Gwen Harwood is regarded as one of Australia's finest poets, publishing over 420 works, including 386 poems and 13 librettos. She won numerous poetry awards and prizes. Her work is commonly studied in schools and university courses. Gwen Harwood is the mother of the author John Harwood. Life She was born in Taringa, Queensland and brought up in Brisbane. She attended Brisbane Girls Grammar School and was an organist at All Saints Church when she was young. She completed a music teacher's diploma, and also worked as... Read more...

Poet of the day

Giorgos or George Seferis was the pen name of Geōrgios Seferiádēs. He was one of the most important Greek poets of the 20th century, and a Nobel laureate. He was also a career diplomat in the Greek Foreign Service, culminating in his appointment as Ambassador to the UK, a post...
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Poem of the day


Beijar-te a fronte linda

Beijar-te o aspecto altivo

Beijar-te a tez morena

Beijar-te o rir lascivo

Beijar o ar que aspiras

Beijar o pó que pisas

Beijar a voz que soltas

Beijar a luz que visas

Sentir teus modos frios,

Sentir tua apatia,

Sentir até répúdio,

Sentir essa ironia,

Sentir...
Read more...