It’s time to take that lonely trip again people… so man those oars and together let’s paddle to the Desert(ed) Island of Matt Hetherington.
I could be really cheeky, and say that the first two I would take would be John Anderson’s the shadow’s keep (37p), and Nathan Shepherdson’s what marian drew never told me about light (26p)…These are both actually considered to be SINGLE POEMS and are truly two of the richest works I know, plus Graham here has been involved in getting the last one published…but that’d be impossible to reproduce here, and they’re BOOKS, dammit. So, to be brief to the brief, here’s ONLY ten. And there’s only 3-and-a-half Americans!
Leopold Sedar Senghor – Night of Sine
A politician who at least wrote good poetry! Plus here in what I think is at least his third language…I know I don’t fully comprehend this poem – which is certainly part of why I’m so drawn to it – but I keep going back to it. It’s a Senegalese/French sensibility, but the sense of peace amid darkness here is unique in my experience. And yet familiar.
Read the poem here: http://www.point-editions.com/sedar.html
Paul Celan – The Straitening (trans. Michael Hamburger)
“Poetry is what gets lost in translation”, said Robert Frost, and that’s as good a definition as I’ve heard. If one poet exemplifies that adage more than any other, I would reckon it’s Celan. Difficult, verging on baffling at times, driven by the power of the WORD (in all that word’s suggestiveness, and to the point of obsession with etymological uncoverings)…put simply, he wrote like no other poet. Born in Romania, a Jew writing in German, his first poems were published in 1947, at the age of 26. This is a later work, uncharacteristically lengthy (part of why I chose it), and I won’t comment on it, other than to say it’s the perfect sort of poem for a long desert(ed) island stay, and should really be read (like all his poetry) with a good German-English dictionary alongside the original and translation, together with lots of time and patience.
Read the poem here: http://www.artofeurope.com/celan/cel7.htm
Denise Levertov – A Solitude
This haunts me. Many, many levels of insight under such apparent plain observation.
Charles Bukowski – see here, you
No man has the testicular fortitude to write quite like Monsieur Buk, although certainly many have tried, and continue to try. He makes it look extremely easy, this poetry malarkey, but that’s part of the greatness of the guy: you try writing like that and you invariably end up with crap. And in this poem (from the last poetry collection he finished while alive, I believe), he knows how special he is – and how special you’re not – most probably, and he’s just telling you that truth plain and straight. Ok, maybe rather enjoying it, too. It’s strangely damn fortifying to be reminded of this aspect of artistic endeavour – what we do is in many ways so insignificant, and always in some sense a failure, and hats off to Hank for pointing to that. Every time I read the last line I always kind of chuckle. Hope I always do.
Jennifer Compton – Very Shadows
Just ‘cos it’s from a really good book (called Blue) and it’s my favourite poem right now.
Read the poem here: http://www.book.co.nz/compton.htm
T.S. Eliot – The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
To me, one of the few ‘classics’ that live up to the hype, and probably the first poem I really fell in love with. Still trying to shake off its influence, but if I’m stuck on an island, I suppose I could just forget about that particular anxiety, couldn’t I?
Read the poem here: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-love-song-of-j-alfred-prufrock-2/
Andre Breton – The Spectral Attitudes (trans. David Gascoyne)
For me, this piece perfectly illustrates the magnificence (as well as a little of the banality) of Breton and, more importantly, the principle that seems to lie at the centre of the Surrealist and Imagist enterprise, something beautifully expressed by the French poet Pierre Reverdy in 1918: “The image…cannot be born from a comparison but from a juxtaposition of two or more less distant realities. The more the relationship between the two juxtaposed realities is both distant and true, the stronger the image will be – the greater its emotional power and poetic reality.” I also kind of felt that if I was going to put a Surrealist poem in here it should be a longish one, and that it should be by the movement’s self-appointed Pope.
Read the poem here: http://www.jbeilharz.de/surrealism/gascoyne-translations.html
mtc cronin – Slow
Like Ashley Capes said in the first Desert(ed) Island Poems installment, about William Carlos Williams’ “This is Just to Say: “Simplicity often strikes me – that and openness or accessibility.” This has all three of those qualities, and a few more! I’d take it with me to an island because I wouldn’t want to forget those virtues – as both a human being and a writer – or about the truth of easiness, ease, eroticism, and tenderness. I love this poem and I want to marry it.
Harold Norse – Mysteries of the Orgy
Bukowski said of him: “He can’t write a bad line. I’ve never seen one.” Well, he couldn’t have been looking too hard, because like just about everyone remotely connected to the Beats, he wrote plenty. But not too many in this poem. In the section of her diaries later published as Incest, Anais Nin made consensual sex with her father seemingly ok and even romantic – Norse does something similar with orgiastic sex (admittedly a bit easier, I suppose.) I love the depth, the joy, and the cosmic awareness of this poem. On a desert island, it might have to serve as my only reminder of all the things I missed out on, and still can’t seem to have.
David Prater – betty conquers all
I’ve never chortled as much reading a poem. Isn’t that enough?
Read the poem here: http://www.papertigermedia.com/hutt/hutt2_5/prater.htm
Matt Hetherington is a writer and musician based in Melbourne. His first poetry collection was Surface (PRECIOUS PRESS, 2004), and his latest is I Think We Have (Small Change Press, 2007.) He is on the board of the Australian Haiku Society, can’t live a week without listening to Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew album, and loves cooking with home-made vegetable stock.
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