Friday, April 7, 2017

I Wish I'd Written This

Nine Poems

1. Poems are seasons undressed, the veil
lifted from timepiece and hourglass.

2. Poems are musings with silence,
a measured dance in the rhythm of rivers.

3. Poems are liquid resonances,
humming in silence and beaming belief.

4. Poems are buried bones of ancient tombs,
fleshed and etched on eternity.

5. Poems are enchantment listening to spells
held forever within themselves.

6. Poems are life brimming progress and peace
and swallowing potent myths and visions.

7. Poems are atomic flowers forsaken for God,
the echoes of desert and atoll.

8. Poems are reader’s lips pursed to kiss
the breath of the page in limbo.

9. Poems are symphonies of the tongue
painted on the caucus of selfish genes.

© Geoff Prince 1990



Geoff's a very old friend of mine from my years living in Melbourne, where he still resides. We met, of course, through poetry. He did get up here to visit Andrew and me soon after we moved to the Northern Rivers region of NSW 20-odd years ago, but since then we've kept in touch by email and more recently facebook.

Lately he's been posting a lot of wonderful poems on facebook, old and new. This one I couldn't resist grabbing for 'I Wish I'd Written This' – with his permission, of course. I'm sure I don't need to explain to an audience of fellow-poets why it appealed to me!

I asked Geoff to supply some information about himself. He sent me the following:

Geoff is a survivor of 40 years with mental illness, during which time he has continued to write and to share a voice from the maelstrom of madness. He lives at the foothills of the beautiful Dandenongs with his Australian Cuddledog Pixie. He has a number of books of poems published by Papyrus Publishing, as well as many collaborations, one of which was highly commended in a Human Rights Award (Loose Kangaroos). He has performed at festivals at Adelaide and at the Dame Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre at Penrith, and has had many guest appearances on radio.

I know Geoff's illness is a real, diagnosed medical condition for which he receives ongoing treatment – and I must suppose it is well controlled, as in our long acquaintance I have only ever perceived a sanity and humanity which shine through his poems as well as all our interactions. 

I asked him to remind me how we first met. I thought I vaguely remembered him being one of my poetry students at Box Hill College of TAFE (Technical And Further – i.e. tertiary – Education) and as participating in a group we formed, called the aardvarks, who produced anthologies of poetry. At the same time, I thought this couldn't be the case, as I was pretty sure Geoff was already making a name for himself as a poet at that time. It turned out I was right, though. He told me:

We first met at Box Hill ...

[Another student] suggested I enrol in your course. At that stage my first books were being published, and I had performed at la mama [theatre] and on community radio.  I was drawn into the aardvarks & the woorilla writers groups, as well as the monash university poetry group run by the late Dennis Davison. Lately I have been guest poet at the Dax Centre at Melbourne University.

So poetry came before ego! Looking back, I don't think many who were receiving that degree of recognition at that time would have been so willing to put themselves in the position of student. 

At my request, he also elaborated further on Loose Kangaroos, which was an initiative I admired (not only the name of a book, but a very active group of poets):

Loose Kangaroos formed in order to encourage those with a diagnosis of mental illness to have a public voice. We performed our poetry and conducted workshops with this goal in mind.

In Australia, as well as saying things like, 'not quite right in the head', being 'a few cents short of a dollar' etc., we also speak of having 'a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock' – a reference instantly recognisable in the group's name. Laughing at oneself with that kind of derogatory language is a great Australian tradition, inclined to engender affection in others rather than scorn.

I certainly recall the Loose Kangaroos as having a high profile in their heyday, and while the name may have pulled people in, it was the poetry which kept them engaged.

Geoff is also something of a poetic innovator, in recent years adopting with great success an intriguing, epigrammatic short form I haven't seen anywhere else. But I'll leave that to be the subject of a future post. 

His books are out of print, but there are second-hand copies in good condition available online. Two titles are listed here, and several others at Abe Books (where you have to scroll down a bit). For Aussies, copies may be found in Australian libraries. I'm trying to persuade him it's time for more.



Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.


9 comments:

  1. Thank you Rosemary, I loved the post! The poem was a good one!

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  2. Oh Rosemary! Oh Geoff! I think this is my favourite of all the poets you have introduced me to, Rosemary. I LOVE the wonderful poem of course. And I ADORE the whole premise of loose kangaroos! LOL. Perfect. I think many of us poets can describe ourselves as having a few kangaroos loose in the north paddock, hee hee. It's what makes our poems resonate. Geoff writes with such clarity and beauty and each of those nine verses is a gem. What a great start to my Friday. Thank you both.

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  3. I am also saying mostly thank you to you for Geoff and to Geoff for writing poetry for every reason of being in his poem. Wow! And thank you for the kangaroos--a few of which are loose in my paddock as well though they are sleeping peacefully at the moment.

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  4. Great to find Geoff here, and to learn more of his background in Melbourne poetry. And a very worthy one it is. I've recently "loved" several of his poems written on the 90's and posted now on fb. They are wonderful; so are these short descriptions above of poetry itself.

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  5. I enjoyed 'meeting' Geoff here in your article, Rosemary. What an intriguing article. I like a poet who can express wisdom in a few lines like he did in his "Nine Poems." How neat that he was also a student of yours at one time. (You must be just a little bit proud! Smiles.) I also do like the idea of Loose Kangaroos. Another sterling feature!

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  6. this is such a treat! thanks for introducing me to Geoff's work

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  7. I so much enjoyed Goeff's poem and am happy to meet such a talented poet. I applaud his success and his work to expose the writings of people with mental illness. Thanks for introducing him to us Rosemary.

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  8. I wish I'd written this! What a fabulous poem - so lovely and evocative - beautifully nuanced - brilliant, really. And the article was fascinating. Thanks for this, Rosemary!

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  9. This poem is exquisite...it was nice to read about a fellow poet. Thank you, Geoff, for sharing it and a little about yourself in this interview.

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