Monday, 28 January 2013

Observation of everyday life.

The American poet William Carlos Williams was one person who made a successful career out of writing poetry while at the same time practicing medicine as a local doctor (see, you can write and work!).  What I like about some of his poems is the observation of everyday circumstances and ordinary life that he captures with a minimum amount of words – brevity – less is best; write four words – delete three.  I believe it was poets like Williams and T.S. Eliot who introduced a style of free verse and imagery that was then picked up by others, giving us the modern forms we know today.  Williams’ influence on me is an awakening to ‘quick observation’ – observation of the simple unfolding of events around me in everyday life – like a snapshot, still-frame from a camera; bang, captured a scene, and this is what it says.  Williams’ The Sun Bathers is such a snapshot.  That poem was taken so long ago, but I can still see the image clearly in old black and white, clearer than if it had been captured in a photograph.
                                                         The Sun Bathers
(William Carlos Williams 1883 - 1963)
A tramp thawing out
on a doorstep
against an east wall
Nov, 1, 1933:
a young man begrimed
and in an old
army coat
wriggling and scratching
while a fat negress
in a yellow-house window
leans out and yawns
into the fine weather

In my poem, On Maitland Road, I’m aware of Williams’ quick observation (except I get to repeat this quick observation over many days).  The subject is everyday circumstance.  It is what I experience and I want to capture it like a still photograph.  I’ve still got things to learn about cropping and reducing the image.

2009.   I travel the same route home every day.  People crammed into the suburbs live pretty ordinary lives.

                                                   On Maitland Road


There’s a dude
lives on Maitland Road
right on Maitland Road,
the front door of his rental
opens out
on pedestrians
pushing along the sidewalk,
that’s all there is,
a building front
and a door
with graffiti all over it,
he must hear their permanent pen markers
working on his door
middle of the night,
and drunks urinating
and whores getting screwed, and
dogs sniffing
and covering scent,
traffic up each other’s arse,
braking, engine revs,
tyre hum squealing in the wet,
I’ve seen the dude
I look for him every afternoon
soon as I turn right
into Maitland Road,
he’s there,
two door’s down,
sitting on a kitchen chair
propped up in his doorway,
the building façade
facing directly into the afternoon sun,
4pm daylight saving time,
you can feel the heat
coming off everything covered in concrete,
radiating out of dull coloured walls,
the dude sits like he’s posing
in the front row
of an academy graduation photo –
class of 84,
except he’s got a can of beer in his hand,
and his face is flushed,
that’s his thing,
sitting direct on the footpath
watching the fucking parade
pass by.
I don’t get to see
inside the rental,
I don’t think
anybody does,
it’s a black cavern,
right on Maitland Road.
                                                                                     J. O. White

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