Once again, let’s take that trip to solitude. This time we look at the poems that inhabit the Desert(ed) Island of Melbourne’s Eddy Burger.
Henry Reed – Naming of Parts (1946)
This poem is one of a series by Reed entitled Lessons of the War. Naming of Parts was my first ‘favourite poem’, back when I started to write poetry seriously years ago. It’s funny and innovative, which are two qualities I aim for in my own work. I love the juxtaposition between serious military instruction and the poetic references to flowers, nature and sex – there is contrast between subject matter as well as between style of language. It is engaging, appealingly structured, and quite odd.
Read the poem here: http://www.solearabiantree.net/namingofparts/namingofparts.html
E. E. Cummings – in Just (1923)
I’ve always liked E. E. Cummings for his unconventional language and structure. In Just- is a wonderful poem. I love its depiction of childhood and the playfulness in its funny expressions and layout. Expressions like mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful are great, as is the funny lame balloonman who whistles far and wee. The poem is simple, innovative, beautiful and so joyous.
Read the poem here: http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/1636.html
Williams Carlos Williams – This is just to say (1934)
I’m not the first to cite this poem as a favourite, yet I came upon it some time ago and have been enamoured of it ever since. It is so simple yet so evocative. It’s funny in the way he so cheekily confesses to eating the plums, then says how delicious they were, as if to rub it in. And I can really imagine how the plums must have tasted. The fact that this poem mimics a real note adds another dimension to it. I also like the way the poem’s title is also the first line of the poem.
Read the poem here: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15535
Wallace Stevens – A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts (1937)
Stevens is my current most favourite poet. His work is complex yet beautiful, more concerned with the nature of things and obscurer relationships than most poetry. A common theme is the privileging of the subject’s perspective. I see it as empowering the subject and the reader, inspiring freedom and potential through freewill and imagination. We see it in A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts: The trees, moonlight and the whole ‘wideness of night’ is for the rabbit, whilst the local cat becomes no more than ‘a bug in the grass’. It’s such a beautiful, cute, inspiring and funny poem.
Read the poem here: http://www.repeatafterus.com/title.php?i=1026
Ania Walwicz – Australia (1981)
Ania’s poetry works well on paper and also sounds great when she reads it, like a crazy child. Since I am a performance poet, among other things, it’s fitting that one of my top 10 particularly lends itself to performance. It’s language is simplistic yet frenetic, satirical and pointed. The naive tone accentuates the ridicule aimed at her subject. Her subject is Australia and its people, which her narrator attacks partly due to not feeling accepted. It echoes sentiments I feel about mainstream society. I love the odd manner of expression and the pace, which employs much alliteration and rhythm.
Read the poem here: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080611035633AAIECTx
Les Murray – Bent Water in the Tasmanian Highlands (1983)
Whilst many writers I have chosen might be called modernist, unconventional or whatnot, Les Murray’s poetry is generally more conventional – though this one ain’t. A frequent subject of his is nature and the countryside, for which I feel a particular affinity. This poem is dense, focused on imagery and full of the exuberance of nature. I like the way it is laid out, like prose, with unbroken lines that help convey its relentless pace. I love its pace, reverence of nature, and abstraction, as the flowing of water encompasses the whole land, to the point of evoking of godliness.
Robert Frost – To Earthward (1923)
Frost’s work is more conventional but I am very fond of it, particularly this poem. I like its simplicity, beauty and oddness. I feel empathy for its sentiments, but its analogies are so striking, portraying his younger self’s experience of love and nature as so powerful it hurt, compared with the world-weary older self who wishes he was practically crushed against the earth just so he could feel. The poem is not long but absorbing and has me quite mesmerized. It has a rhyming structure, which I’m not usually keen on, but it compliments the poem’s sensuality nicely.
Read the poem here: http://www.americanpoems.com/poets/robertfrost/12107
Mona Van Duyn – Falling in love at Sixty-Five (1990)
I came across the poetry of Mona, an American, only recently but really like what I’ve read, particularly this poem. To fall in love at sixty-five is likened to using an overly bright lamp in the bedroom at night, but it’s the most dynamic, feverish description of a lamp I’ve read. There is a beautiful passage describing an earlier experience of love, but then it’s back to the lamp and being barraged by bugs. To try relating it to falling in love makes my mind boggle. I like the poem’s pace and oddness. It is wonderful, innovative and funny.
Lewis Carroll – Jabberwocky (1871)
Mum has been quoting Jabberwocky since I was young and I have always loved John Tenniel’s Jabberwock illustration. I love the poem’s strange fantasy world, and its made-up words are innovative and so evocative. Much of my own writing contains fantasy, more literary than genre fantasy, and I find Jabberwocky likewise inspiring, as I do the complete Lewis Carroll books. As well as the poem, I’d like to include Humpty Dumpty’s explanation of the words, plus the Jabberwock illustration. Also, I think I’d prefer the poem in reverse, as Alice finds it; she has to read it through a mirror.
Read the poem here: http://www.jabberwocky.com/carroll/jabber/jabberwocky.html
Guillaume Apollinaire – Horse Calligram (1916)
Since I also produce visual and concrete poetry, this visual poem belongs in my top 10. Its hand-written lettering is arranged to create an image of a horse (its front part). I can’t vouch for its legibility because it’s in French, but calligrams are generally about the thing they portray. It’s inspiring to see something handwritten taking precedence over printed lettering, which would look clunky by comparison. It’s a beautiful image. As a writer with also much experience in the visual arts, I am interested in combining the two. The Horse calligram is the perfect marriage of the two artforms.
Eddy Burger is a Melbourne writer of humorous and experimental poetry, fiction, plays and zines. His writing has appeared in local and overseas journals. In 2007 the Melbourne Poets Union published a chapbook of his poetry entitled Funny & Strange, and in 2009, Queensland ’s Small Change Press will publish his poetry collection Impressions of Me.
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