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Books & Poetry

Poem: Not Mallarmés Swan

Books & Poetry

In this week’s Poet’s Corner, Glenn McPherson is inspired by both a poet and painter past.

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Not Mallarmé’s Swan

Two years ago a pair of black swans
Arrived on the lower pond of Mt Annan
Botanical Garden, flying mainly by night.

No longer locked in ice they couple now,
One in a nest of Tassel Sedge,
The other, nonchalant, neck drowned.

They have repopulated vast tracts
Of hills cleared of African Olive and Privet
Where bellbirds once felt for the dark

Elysian Fields by sound. Surely, loveliest
Landscape, in the city there must be,
Half ashamed somewhere, a peaceful street,

A building owned by someone who reminds us
Of you; who, in a weak painting of sun,
Reads and rests from reading, knowing that

Above, a billion stars spill.

What commands we follow, what lines
We tell ourselves and walk as if we do
Not inhabit this world, it is ours no longer.

And if children still hold our hands
In the presence of these swans and sing
A little bit from the bird hide, posting

Themselves through every slot available, so what!
But for all that we are overtaken by cyclists
Many times in an attempt to magnetise us.

Editor’s note: ‘Mallarmé’s Swan’ is one of a number of works by American abstract expressionist painter Robert Motherwell (1915–1991) in tribute to French symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé (1842–1898). In ‘Mallarmé’s Swan’, Motherwell was alluding to a poem by Mallarmé (‘The virgin, the vivacious, and the beautiful today’) where a swan caught in the ice of a pond and yearning to be free, symbolises the poet’s own lament for his entrapment in loss of creativity.

Glenn McPherson lives in Sydney. Published in leading Australian poetry journals and anthologies, he has worked as a teacher for more than 20 years. Growing up in small country towns in Central Queensland and North-Western NSW, he received his teaching degree from the University of New England, followed by his Masters in Education, then Masters in Creative Writing, from the University of Sydney. He helps run a school creative journal at Broughton Anglican College, assisting students in developing skills in journalism and creative writing. They published their first edition before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and the interview with the celebrated Australian poet, essayist and teacher Mark Tredinnick was the first to be included in the journal.

Readers’ original and unpublished poems of up to 40 lines can be emailed, with postal address, to Submissions should be in the body of the email, not as attachments. A poetry book will be awarded to each accepted contributor.
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