Monday, March 11, 2013

Poetry Monday: Philip Salom

The full program for the Newcastle Writers Festival is now up at: and I'm busy enjoying some of the most vibrant poetry that Australia has to offer with a pile of new books that I've purchased and taken out of the library.  Next up is Philip Salom, author of, among many other things (some 12 poetry collections and 2 novels) The Keeper of Fish and Keeping Carter, both written with a heteronym (an imaginary character). However, the poems I have been reading come from A Cretive Life, which just happened to be sitting on my bookshelf, as yet unread.  How could I resist such serendipity?  I think I could easily write an essay on every poem in the book, including the powerfully intense sequence "Preservation: Things in Glass" which won the 2000 Newcastle Poetry Prize, but instead I'd like to give you a tiny excerpt from the title poem, which, as you might expect, is a reflection on both the notion of creativity, and perhaps "ac'cretive" as in accretion or a growth in size:

Well, it's all right for him
living in atonal jungle, each whisker
trembling like a tuning formk.
The crotchets are flying up
like waterbirds lifting in a rush
of music from the surface of a lake.

I suspect this may be a reference to the composer cited in the epigraph, whose typo 'How strange and exciting it is living the cretive life' gave rise to the title.  The last bit of poem is "Australia" - full of the sensations of the natural world, eucalypts, and the struggles of the artist, "neurotransmitters going/dry as paint left out in tins." Though there are books to read, I suspect I'll be dropping into A Cretive Life for some time to come, exploring its extreme depths, memory, loss, perception, and above all, the way we make meaning through the creative (and the cretive) process.

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