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Words to wake us | South Sydney Herald South Sydney Herald

BooksReview

Words to wake us

#WorldPoetryDay 2019 (March 21) invites us to celebrate poetry and encourage people to read, write and teach it. Here goes …

Her precious life
Mary Oliver was one of the world’s most popular and accomplished poets. She was also an “indefatigable guide to the natural world”, wrote Maxine Kumin. Oliver’s poetry won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and the US National Book Award. She died in early 2019 aged 83. Oft-quoted and much loved is this line from “The Summer Day” (published in House of Light) “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

#MeToo battle cry
Indian poet Tishani Doshi wrote “Girls are Coming Out of the Woods” six months after Jyoti Singh was raped on a bus in Delhi in 2012, and it has been described as “a battle cry for #MeToo before it was a movement”. It starts: “Girls are coming out of the woods, / wrapped in cloaks and hoods, / carrying iron bars and candles / and a multitude of scars”. Watch her perform it on YouTube. It’s moving.

Big boys don’t cry
“Big Boys Don’t Cry” explores toxic masculinity and male suicide, and is well worth watching on YouTube. It is written and performed by Irish poet and actor Joe Byrne, and it won the Doolin Writers’ Weekend Poetry Video Competition 2019. “Big boys don’t cry. That’s what we tell a 6-year-old with tears running down his face, growing up feeling ashamed to be sad. Going deeper into despair when he feels upset. Never has a bigger yarn been spun.”

Cloth of gold
“Westward the field of the cloth of gold. It is fall. See the / corn. How it aches. / Lay the golden cloth upon me. It is night and I come / through the streets to your window.” These beautiful lines are from “A Visit” by Sherwood Anderson – an American writer who published several volumes of poetry. He is best known for his stories, Winesburg, Ohio (1919), which influenced a generation of writers, including Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner.

Wild aloe
I love the lush immediacy in “Skin Repair” by Jaya Savige, which is from his second collection Surface to Air. “Today we etched her initials in a wedge / before unpeeling it, so it bled up / through her name like succulent graffiti. / Enzymes catalyze the milk to resin.” Savige is an Australian author, editor and academic whose poetry has been widely published and won many awards. He is Poetry Editor for the Australian newspaper.

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