I’ve chosen two of my poems to illustrate different types of pain. I could have selected any number of poems because most of my work comes from some sort of conscious or subconscious pain. Some of this pain from my past has been resolved but some of it has not, so writing poetry about it is a way of trying to explore it further. I took one of my poems to my psychologist once & asked him what he thought it was about. He said: ‘It’s a classic case of living in denial you need to take more responsibility for your pain.’ After this advice I was able to finish re-writing the poem. My personal life improved too, whenever I remembered his counsel.
This poem is about the pain of going through the delivery process, where the end result of pain is the miracle of birth & its overwhelming sense of happiness & achievement.
In the delivery room I massage
Another contraction comes
You sway on hands & knees
The mid-wife leaves the room
You scream so loudly
This is all your fault, you yell at me.
You moan & say: Never again.
I’m so proud of you, so proud
My final poem is based on an experience I had in the early 1990’s when my partner & I were splitting up, after the birth of our daughter. We were living on the outskirts of a small country town & we were very unhappy with each other. She said I was a city-boy & should move back there & just come around to visit sometimes. I said I’d just stick around to see what happened, that things might eventually improve. But, I didn’t actually do much to try to make things better between us. I moved into a cold, little log-cabin out the back of the house. A few months later she told me she’d fallen in love with somebody in town. I thought: Well, here’s a good poetry opportunity. I invited him over so I could meet him. The first thing I noticed was that he only had one leg, which gave me the title to this poem:
|She Ran Off With a One-legged Man|
After two years of breaking up
she says she’s found a new man
so I invite him to dinner.
He’s a one-legged, asthmatic diabetic
with a good sense of humour
and one bad eye.
I cook them a roast lamb.
I eat mine in my room.
I don’t mind him being here
The music from my cassette player
I go inside and my two-year-old daughter
The new boyfriend goes home
Humour in pain is something I come back to again & again in my work. Is it yet another act of denial on my part? Why do I enjoy hearing people laugh at the predicaments I present in my poetry? Maybe putting humour into pain is the only way I can write about depression & confusion? Sometimes I am referred to as Melbourne’s happy pessimist. It’s a description I sometimes enjoy, although I know it means I have to suffer periods of depression (when I’m not writing) in order to do proper research into my condition of being alive in such painful times. Poetry is my pain & my cure. If I wasn’t a poet, or any other type of creative person, I wouldn’t have as many lows in my life, but I wouldn’t have all the highs that writing & reading poetry have given me.