Sunday, March 31, 2024

For My Friend Marjorie Perloff (1931-2024)


Elegy for Marjorie


I’ll talk as if neither of us are here,

leaves that cling or won’t fall,

fourth person in the dialogue.


When the body dissolves, a unity

forms around sand and leaves,

the very specific songs of remaining


words. In the absence of lyrics,

we make an assemblage of protests.

In a lyric of absence, we haul


a grammar across that landscaping.

Many meanings reduce to one

when we try to utter ‘development’.


Others will be having this conversation,

too. Now we’ve sorted the issue

of distance. Once. For all. And.



            John Kinsella

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

On Les Murray

Les and I had a complex interaction due to different ways of seeing the world, but we still had overlaps and strong shared interests. I think Les's dynamic thinking around language will always be a vital and interesting thing, and a poem like 'Bats' Ultrasound' shows an empathy with the non-human world that is moving, emphatic and genuine. You really get the sense that he not only 'feels being bat' but can draw connection between animal and human (mammal to mammal) that is both allegorical and quite real. 

Les, to me at least, seemed to identify as an outsider, and though some would say he relished this 'position', I felt that he was actually quite lonely amidst all the acclaim and public interest. Poetry for him seems to have been a bridge between his 'difference' and what he imagined the world was. As he sought to translate for us, he also sought to translate for himself. I think his finest poems are those full of 'strangeness' and yokings between the familiar and unfamiliar. Sometimes these yokings can jar and seem a little off (certainly from my pov, politically), but they can also bring a reader to self-analyse their own perceptions and use of language. 

There are many contradictions in this, but contradiction drove Les's poetry, and I am all for generative contradictions.  Because Les focalised all life through 'the glory of God', he seemingly and maybe for him necessarily created a hierarchy of humans over animals, but I always thought Les's empathy could be more than 'wonder'... in fact, it could be a form of almost secret sharing, an affinity in being unable to find a place in any hierarchy. 

I strongly believe Les's work is most often read in a reductive way — really, to get to his essence you have to almost lift him out of reality into that space where language is forming, is almost unutterable.

      John Kinsella

Friday, March 1, 2024

Poem for Poets Who Resist War

 Graphology Superscription 3

Two poets have been imprisoned in Russia for reading poems against war in Ukraine.

            Hooded crows are probing luminous gardens full of the storm.

A spring tide has ripped out of Bantry Harbour exposing winter mudflats —

there had been some flooding — and two people are digging for lugworms.

There is a prismatic glister of oil, an iridescence of unearthly behaviours.

All of this is tragic. All of this is connected. All of this aligns, though it might

not seem obvious. In the violent interstices. Mud and haemoglobin.

Standing outside the perspiring window and not looking back through its glass.

            Hooded crows are probing luminous gardens full of the storm.

Two poets have been imprisoned in Russia for reading poems against war in Ukraine.



            John Kinsella