On new forms of poetry..

30 03 2009



I was taking a cover lesson of a year 10 English class for a colleague the other day and the students were doing a poetry exam. As I mentioned that they would be studying a novel next term, there was a noticeable “Whooop” from most of the boys in the class.

Having spent the last 16 years as a teacher on a solid diet of skepticism about most adolescent boys’ latent desire for fictional literature (without pictures), I did not for a second believe that they were overjoyed at the prospect of ripping into a new tome over Easter! (Notice how my writing style has emulated an English teacher over the last paragraph?).

Anyway, I digress. It dawned on me a second later that these boys, nay, young men, had just been subjected to poetry! For a term!! Where is the humanity?

I empathised with these young Australian men, whose ordeal would best be mirrored by subjecting your average facebook-obsessed, Australian-Idol addicted lass to a full term of Top Gear and highlights from the last decade of State of Origin Rugby League as a principal source of textual discourse.

Then, my hypocrisy alert went into meltdown as I remembered that era in my own life. Actually, I read and wrote quite a bit of poetry in my late teen years. Enough to fill a copy of the Weekend Australian at least. I reflected on why this was.

Chicks, mostly. They accounted for about half the content and perhaps 80% of the motivation. Young ladies dig guys who are comfortable enough with their manhood to indulge in a little poetry. Well, so my adolescent mind told me anyway. As it turned out, this, like so many of my adolescent theories was 1% inspiration and 99% sheer bollocks. These young ladies (my wife included!) still, by and large, went for the footy guys, those on the verge of expulsion and those most likely to carry an extra Y chromosome. It turned out that philosophical nerds and female interest in try-hard sensitive-new-age-guys peaked more at 22 years of age than 15 years of age . The fact that this generally coincided with the popular thugs of the cohort variously ending up in fatherhood, unemployment or prison was probably less than coincidental.

Writing good poetry is, and most likely  should be, difficult, in my less-than-humble opinion. If it’s not, well, for a bloke, what is the point? Now Dimitri Martin, a famous US comedian, wrote a 224 word PALINDROMIC poem. Now THAT is poetry! Not just mindless stream-of-consciousness prose, overly laden with obscure adjectives and pseudo-existential babble. Yep, a real poem either has to woo chicks or be cool. There is really no other justification for delving into this minefield of masculine vulnerability.

So how did I rate my own work? Mostly dross, I am sad to say. Some interesting (and hard to write) rhyming patterns and amateur philosophy. Although I did pen one weird one called “paradox lost” in which the “story” runs backwards and each adjective is selected on the basis that it is tautological to its subject. Still, it is a silly little piece and is best buried in whichever box it is buried in currently in my wardrobe. The rest is adolescent twaddle and has about as much existential angst as a toddler who really needs to go to the toilet. Actually that gives me an idea for a poem.

I have even, with the help of an experienced colleague at work, created a new version of poetry, modelled on the classic Japanese “haiku” but more hip than an orthopedic surgeon’s dumpster. It is called a “lowku” and instead of the standard 3-5-3 pattern with its mere three lines of syllabification, a lowku requires, nay demands, a postively svelte 1-3-1. Such verse are harder than they look and can be cool, or good for pulling chicks or both as the examples below clearly show:






what’s it good

Ok, lowku c) is not a good example of one which can be used for both, unless you happen to be targetting a pacifist in your local “Resistance” meeting but, hey, can’t hurt, right?

So what did I tell these fine young men about poetry? “Hey guys, take it from me, chicks LOVE poetry, study it, write it, read it!”. So did I knowingly perpetuate this myth? Absolutely, but I have daughters and I am happy for this myth to live in perpetuity at least until my daughters are well and truly married well. Keeps those lusty little toads off my front lawn doesn’t it?


On Earth Hour, Workchoices and Baby Boomers

24 03 2009

One fundamental problem we have in our society is that we allow smarter people to design and make stuff for dumber people. To a Sony engineer with an IQ the size of a small planetoid, having 12 menus and 46 buttons on a remote and the ability for a TV to broadcast in English, Japanese and Esperanto… possibly simultaneously is a REAAALLY cool idea.. but they don’t get out much.

However, for the rest of us, this adds to the burden of our cruel western, middle class life. We go to work to pay off TVs we can’t pay off unless we become CEO in 2015 when the bill finally comes. Then you’d come home buggered from work trying to prove you are CEO material (again, if we weren’t so dumb we’d realise that working too hard is NOT one way to become a CEO). So, exhausted, we sit and try to watch the telly… well, documentaries on SBS at least, because we can’t operate our TVs enough to pick up any other channel. Then we slouch off to bed with this numb nagging guilt that we have just produced two tonnes of CO2 with our 56 inch plasma playing SBS.

Let’s pause and spare a thought for Earth Hour. Oh.. I love it when humanity joins together in unity and solidarity and oneness of purpose and love and, well khaftans mostly and agree to switch stuff off for an hour. Man, that inspires me. Like… like.. like Workchoices ads or those really gruesome don’t-drive-too-fast-ads I guess.

No, it’s great, It shows that we still have some baby boomers employed in mass media and not chugging around Australia in motorhomes with witty environmental stickers like “make love not war” on the bumpers. Yeah, OK you could argue that this particular slogan is really about war, not the environment but, you know, agent orange and napalm and all the diesel fuel getting the troops around and well, they do get breaks you know, it is called R&R. I learnt my modern history from MASH (and my ancient history from Asterix the Gaul).

What I want to know is why in MASH they always flew to Seoul or Tokyo for their R&R? All that diesel fuel. They could have really affordable holidays locally in pretty cheap bombed out villages and they’d be helping the environment too!

Another bumper sticker I see a lot is “No Dam” . (laugh) .Yeah, I get it. Well, kind of. No Dam what? Good one. When I came back from Hong Kong I used to see “Not happy, John” on a lot of cars, mostly government vehicles, now that I think about it. Anyway, I don’t know who John is, but man, try some Prozac or Zoloft.. THAT would make you happier. Don’t drive around being unhappy. Just stop and take some PBS sponsored medication.

No, don’t get me wrong, Xers  will testify that we DO care about solidarity. It’s just semantics and how you define solidarity. For us, we think that solidarity is important. Look, when your little baby daughter’s poo changes from liquidarity to solidarity, THAT brings a tear to a Dad’s eye…. Mostly the smell really but nevertheless important. Just different generations, I guess.

A lovely lady on the radio was talking about Earth Hour. Well, I say “lovely lady” on the benefit of the doubt that she was actually a lovely lady and not the complete numpty she sounded like. Her idea was that we should all sit around in silence, with all the power off and candles all around and just breathe in the universe and the wonder and the awe… yeah and all the flamin’ CO2 from the bloody candles!!!! Wasn’t she listening in her science classes????!

MDF coffins

24 03 2009

Prepaid funerals. It had to come someday, I guess. On the radio the deep, male, serious yet comforting voiceover guy convinces me that I should prepay my funeral and lock in today’s prices. Of course, when you are dead,  you want to know that you’ve nipped that one final potential rip-off in the bud. Now THAT’s organisation. Or selfishness.

You could, of course, give that $10 000 or so to just about any kids in the third world (or village) and give them a fighting chance of making it into double digits before having to attend their own funerals. Heck, I’d be happy enough with unvarnished MDF for my coffin. It’s not like I’d be contracting cancer from the Formaldehyde content, I’d already be dead for goodness sake!

Funeral parlours are a booming business here in Australia, they’ve got nice names too, like “Simplicity Funerals”. It’s the death equivalent of weddings in Vegas! Do you, Edna, take this coffin? This handmade recycled cardboard coffin. The  celebrant guy looks like Elvis.. the jumpsuit Elvis. They always do the fat, cheeseburger momma, jumpsuit Elvis, never the lean, soldier Elvis, or wee-bairn Elvis. Why IS that?

Some funeral parlours, like the one up the road are called “White Lady Funerals”. Political correctness not gone far enough. “I’d like to book a funeral please”. “Ok, please fill in this form and attach a photo.” “ Ohhhh, I’m sorry, it’s a fat grey man. We only do funerals for White Ladies.”.

I met one guy who was an undertaker by profession. Actually it bothered him how hard it was to make friends. As soon as he would say his occupation people would uncannily remember dental appointments, even at midnight. I guess there’s always this unwritten law that if you know an undertaker and times get really tough for them, well, you know? Anyway, I thought he was a great guy, wicked sense of humour, which I reckon would go down a treat at a funeral home.

I knew a colleague too who bought a house in Norman Park very cheaply, chiefly because it overlooked a cemetery. It put a lot of people off. I can’t really see why, you’d pretty much have the quietest neighbours around, except on the odd winter solstice, I guess. I always thought it would be great, you’d never get built out. Seriously, I mean the prices of single-story mausoleums would keep your lucky family mortgaged well into the next millennium, so you could forget any double –storey beauty blocking your city view. Yep, I reckon you could do a lot worse.

They say that fear is grounded in that which we don’t understand. A good reason why we are generally so sensitive about death. Mind you, if you are pretty sure you know what is beyond, it kind of “takes the sting out of it” in the true biblical sense. Death is kind of funny. I thing Solomon got the humour in it. There is nothing that appears more silly than having wasted our lives on things that matter not the slightest iota in the eternal scheme of things.

It’s probably part of the reason that I find worry such a complete and utter waste of time. It is nothing more than being deeply annoyed that you just don’t get to put your ducks in a row all the time.

Breathe deep. Shalom. Enjoy what you have this day and be thankful for it even if that is a bucketful of pain. Whatever the day holds you will either enjoy it or learn from it. Either way it is marrow.

If we uncouple what we experience from what we think we deserve we’d be a whole lot happier and might enjoy the view over that peaceful, quiet cemetery.