What did you do in the …?

Number 6 in the weekly poems written with the “Poetry in a time of Pestilence” group.

What did you do in the …?

A Golden Shovel using part of “Speech To The Young : Speech To The Progress-Toward” by Gwendolyn Brooks

 

We wrote for distraction and we’d say

“let’s meet for wine and gossip”, to

drink in words, to laugh at them

and to bless us, to crush sour grapes, to say

“another bottle”, to walk the city dark, to

find the last bar, the last resort, the

place for desperates and down-keepers,

to string out the night like Christmas lights, to coax the

right words, to praise the sun-slappers,

to empty ourselves and our souls, to overshare the

daily drama, berate the self-soilers,

the donkey-men, the lairs and pikers, to sift the

possibilities, drown out the harmony-hushers

decant our thoughts and Lord knows we even

hugged and held hands and danced, as if

that would be enough to save the world for you.

© Mike Hopkins 2020

In Which I Confess To Plagiarising Many Poems (PiatoP#5)

 

In Which I Confess To

Plagiarising Many Poems

Plagiarising Ross Sutherland

On my way home from the poetry reading,

I call into The Austral for a steadying drink

and marvel at the fact that I, Michael J Hopkins,

have not yet been exposed as a plagiarist.

 

Even though my bio states that I have been heavily influenced

by certain other poets, that I’ve read widely, that I may be channeling

Gertrude Stein and Kenneth Koch, that I attend séances

where my pen is possessed by the spirits of dead poets,

 

the critics still praise me as an original talent. In my early period

I would make at least some effort to cover my tracks. Lifting whole slabs

of works by obscure Canadian poets was my favourite gambit. Thankfully,

not many people have a copy of Best Manitoban Poetry 1997.

 

I just replaced snow with red dirt, Douglas firs

with Blue gums, grizzlies with kangaroos, Pierre Trudeau

with Paul Keating and was careful to remove

all references to Mounties. Over time I became bolder.

 

I incorporated well-known lines unchanged: I wandered lonely

Shall I compare thee …, It was the man from Ironbark …  But my audiences

smiled at my cleverness and applauded. These days I steal poems

wholesale. I can hardly be bothered to change the title. I won the T.S. Eliot

 

with a clone of The Waste Land, (opening line: August is the shittest month)

the Blake Prize with a knock-off of And did those feet in ancient time,

set to a mix of cockney rhyming slang and ocker (And ya reckon those plates back in the day…?),

the Montreal Prize with a sonnet commencing Shall I compare thee to a winter’s night?

 

My proudest achievement is putting a third-century Chinese classic through

Google Translate and publishing it as my own original homage to Tao Yuanming.

SQuadrant described it as poetry of ennui, shifting towards sustained

transcendental inclination. It’s great they can find jobs for these critics.

 

When people ask me to autograph books of my poetry, I sign

with someone else’s name: Keats, Collins, Armitage, even Heaney.

Think of a poet, I’ve copied them. But people don’t bother to read

the scrawled inscription: All their own work or the badly forged signature.

 

Ira Lightman will track me down eventually,

but I’ll transfer the prize money to the Cayman Islands and decamp

to a south-east Asian country where poetry is valued more than the poet who claims

to have written it and where they appreciate a genuine charlatan.

 


Er… © 2020 Mike Hopkins. Image from here

Listen to Ross Sutherland’s poem here

Crackertown (PiatoP#4)

 

No photo description available.

I’ve started, with a group of friends, writing a poem a week during these strange Covid-19 days. I’ll share mine here, regardless of quality. This is the fourth. 

Crackertown

I’m drinking in Crackertown

because teaching a class of bored, phone-fixated teenagers makes me thirsty

because riding home on my motorbike takes me through Crackertown

because Crackertown is full of cheap bars and cafes and reprobates, lots of reprobates

because of the waft of dope, the construction dust, the security guard who looks like my favourite uncle, the fairy lights around the doors

because the bar staff remember me from when I was here ten days ago and might be the only ones all week to ask “how are you?”

because of the brown-snouted, hairy-backed pig trotting from bar to bar, snuffling nuts dropped on the floor

because of the sense that something outrageous has just happened or is about to happen and I want to be there, to witness

because of the low purr of the fridge full of Saigon Specials and Hudas and the sound of the cash drawer clicking out and in and the shuffling of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese dong

because the fellow teacher, who is a dick, walks in and says “Got any spliff man”

because the bar owner went upstairs and got some

because his wife has the shortest shorts I’ve ever seen

because the amateur singers are really, really good

because I can Shazam the music all night

because the two wasted old expats, skinny as rakes, tattooed on every limb, are throwing roundhouse punches in the street but soon will be hugging each other like lovers

because not once in nine months have I ever seen police in the street but rats every night, rats as big as cats, dozens of them, and most weeks motorbike crashes at the crossroads and still no police

because of more old expat guys gazing through an alcohol haze at half-their-age Vietnamese girlfriends

because I meet N and G at Taco Ngon, just a shack by the side of the road, and we choose from the menu of only four types of taco and four types of sauce and beer at $1 a can which we help ourselves to from an ice-filled esky and line up the empties on the low table on the pavement to show how many we’ve drunk

because the waitress counts our empties and paper plates at the end of the night and pencils up a bill for us and on a quiet night the owner invites me to play some incomprehensible board game which I always lose

because everybody in Crackertown is waiting for something, even the pig and the rats and the security guard who looks like my uncle.

 

“Crackertown” is a name given to the area around the An Thuong streets near where I lived in Danang.

 


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2020 except photo from here

I Can’t Swear There Wasn’t Love (PiatoP#3)

 

This is the third of the weekly poems written during the Covid-19 social distancing. The prompt this week was to write a poem which might be entered into one of several competitions. The subjects included place, water, mysticism and love. I don’t write many (serious) love poems, so this is a rarity. Its also a Golden Shovel, a form invented by Terrance Hayes in tribute to Gwendolyn Brooks. It takes lines from a Gwendolyn Brooks poem and uses each word as the last word in each line of the new poem. So if you read down the last word of my poem it will reveal part of the Brooks poem. And of course, the voice in the poem is not necessarily the voice of the poet.

I Can’t Swear There Wasn’t Love

(A Golden Shovel – using part of Gwendolyn Brooks’ “when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story”)

We undressed

our childhood wounds and

bared the stripes whipped

into our skins and held out

our scarred wrists. I can’t swear there wasn’t love at the

start, or even in the middle. I confess to conjuring a light

in her eyes, to loving the lilt in her voice and

being charmed by the way we flowed

across the dancefloor. It turned into

love of a kind, a shared bed,

a sense of being different and

being outsiders as we lay

in a tight-knit town, clinging, loose-limbed

to each other, mistaking alliance for

something deeper. I took on a

co-star role, but could not sustain the moment

-um or remember my lines. Outcasts in

a city of priests and zealots, we scorned the

wafer-thin piety, the schizophrenic week-end

binges of alcohol and devotion. In the bright

light of Sunday, the mothball aroma of bedclothes

and best suits was suffocating then.

 


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2020 except image which is from here

 

 

What You Missed That Day You Were Absent From Meditation Class (PiatoP#2)

 

I’ve started, with a group of friends, writing a poem a week during these strange Covid-19 days. I’ll share mine here, regardless of quality. The second is a response to, or inspired by, or in parallel to the poem “What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” by Brad Aaron Modlin here.

What You Missed That Day You Were Absent From Meditation Class

after Brad Aaron Modlin

Rinpoché explained how to breathe, to notice the space between inbreath and outbreath,

and how to locate the part of the mind that sends a shiver down your spine when listening

 

to Sibelius. He spoke of the wisdom of doing nothing and about waking in a panic at four

every morning. He suggested you think about who you were before you were somebody.

 

The morning dharma talk was about how combing your hair can be a meditation on loss

or even on grief. After a long sit in silence, he gave instruction on how to study a picture

 

of yourself as a child – to focus on the area around your eyes and forehead where you may see

your life compressed. There was a question and answer session on how to manage self-esteem

 

when ‘self’ and ‘esteem’ are delusions, and how to reorganise your mental filing cabinet

(hint: not alphabetically). This prompted him to draw a rough schematic of Shakespeare’s mind

 

at the time he was writing sonnets. The group discussed how not to scream when sending

loving kindness to world leaders and could the Buddha have been wrong about rage

 

being impermanent? Before sounding the gong, Rinpoché set the task for the coming week:

to find a good home for the people living rent-free in your head.

 


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2020 except image which is from here

Poems in a time of Pestilence #1

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) - United States Department of ...

I’ve started, with a group of friends, writing a poem a week during these strange Covid-19 days. I’ll share mine here, regardless of quality. The first was a response to, or inspired by, or in parallel to a poem about Covid-19 written by Simon Armitage here.

Let Me Count the Ways of My Virus …

… it causes men in pubs to speak at less than eighty decibels,

dogs to squeak like mice after three barks,

Americans to stop saying “reach out” (unless singing The Four Tops),

Australians to stop saying “that’s unAustralian”,

and shockjocks to receive a shock

every time they broadcast bullshit.


It turns politicians’ lies into pig grunts,

small children’s squeals into flute concerti,

football crowds’ racist chants into hymns,

sermons into words Jesus might have said,

suicide bombers into peaceniks,

soldiers’ rifle sights into pictures of their families,

dirty water into freshly squeezed orange juice,

cheap plonk into organic tempranillo,

dog shit into buttercups,

homelessness into homecoming,

cheeseburgers into vegan Bánh mì.


It causes bad poets to go hoarse,

spoken word poets to stop rhyming,

poker machines to pay out more than they take.

It amplifies choirs,

cools the Antarctic icecap,

gives pollen back to bees,

skims everything above a million dollars

from millionaires’ bank accounts

and spreads it like fertiliser

amongst the homeless.


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2020 except image which is U.S. Department of State

Poets, Pizza, Crowd-Sourced Poetry and Requests

Last night (Friday 17th Jan 2020), I performed in the beautiful new pavilion at Coriole Winery, overlooking the majestic McLaren Vale vineyards. A large and raucous crowd, fuelled by the excellent Coriole wines and fed by pizza from the newly constructed pizza oven, gave a warm reception to me, Sarah-Jane Justice, Emilia Haskey and Alison Bennett. The evening was MCd by the lovely Jude Aquilina who interspersed the performances with poems of her own and of others, including a new and very moving one to her partner Brenton, who had been fighting the bushfires on Kangaroo Island.

I tried something completely different as part of my set last night. I distributed clip boards amongst the crowd and asked them to write one liners about behaviours that make them want to shout “Selfish Bastards” at other people. I thought I might get one or two suggestions or none at all, but was inundated with contributions. Clearly there are a lot of selfish bastards out there. At the end of my set I incorporated most of these lines into my “Selfish Bastards” poem. It was a lot of fun. There were lewd, rude, funny and insightful lines from the audience. Just a  few of my favourites:

“People who holiday in Hawaii”

“People who dump me Xmas Eve (fuck you Dan)”

“People who don’t believe in climate change”

“People who think sex ends when they’ve orgasmed”

“Carnivores who eat all the vegetarian pizzas”

“People who’s mobile phones ring during poetry readings”

“People who know they’ve had more pizza than the rest of us but keep on eating it” (with accompanying diagram!)

Anyway, the poem itself went down well, and the whole evening was great fun. Many thanks to Jude Aquilina for the invite and to the wonderful management and staff at Coriole Winery for hosting the event. If you’re ever in McLaren Vale, pay them a visit, not just because they support the arts, but also because they are lovely people, their wine is world-class and the winery is such a beautiful spot.

Two people asked me for copies of poems I read which are not yet published, so I thought the easiest thing to do would be to put them here on the blog where they can access them and pass them onto friends. One is my sensitive little love poem to Donald Trump (for Tom from Norfolk – have fun in India). The other is my take on Philip Larkin’s “This be the Verse”, mine being titled “This be the ReVerse”, for Margret without an “a” – hope your children are the ones you deserve.

======

Donald Trump, I Love You Man

Oh Donald Trump, I love you man

Your orange skin face and your bright golden hair

Your peppermint breath and your predators glare

Your hair surfs your head from one side to the other

like a baby hamster in search of its mother

I love how you hold up your neat thumb and finger

like you’re summoning thoughts through the hole in your sphincter



Oh Donald Trump, I love you man

I love the way you don’t read no books

You got all your wisdom from working with crooks

No need for long words, no speech hi falutin

Your message is simple, just trust Mr. Putin

We trust you’re the man to clean up this mess

We don’t trust you more but we distrust you less



 

Oh Donald Trump, I love you man

You’ll keep those illegals from crossing our borders

with their nachos and tacos and cheap Margaritas

You’ll build a huge wall and you’ll send them the bill

and if they don’t pay you’ll nuke them to hell.

Real ‘mericans will get the great jobs that they do

Like mowing the lawn and cleaning your loo



 

Oh Donald Trump, I love you man

I’ve heard the fake news of your sexual disgrace

with cute Russian hookers who piss on your face

And the stuff about groping and grabbing of pussy

Your businesses bankrupt, your real estate dodgy

But you wouldn’t waggle your horny old trumpet

In Russian hotels, with weak bladdered strumpets



 

Oh Donald Trump, I love you man

You say you can see that the future is dark

some say that’s because your head’s up your arse

You did it the hard way, you started with nowt

Apart from your billionaire Daddy’s hand out

You’re not polite and you’re not genteel

And you pulled off the greatest old snake oil deal

that’s why, Donny baby, our love is for real.

That’s why Donald Trump, I truly, madly, deeply love you man


=====================

 

This Be The ReVerse

after Philip Larkin’s “This Be The Verse”

 

They fuck you up your sons and daughters

They mean to, yes of course they do.

They blame you when they shouldn’t ought to

Denying all that you hold true.



 

And we fucked up our Mums and Dads,

Complained of absence and neglect.

Our rebel instincts drove them mad,

We thought them gormless, dull, inept.



 

We place the blame on those before.

We pass the parcel in reverse.

But here’s a truth you can’t ignore:

You get the children you deserve.





----
Copyright Mike Hopkins 2020

To everyone who has given to us in anyway since our place burned

Words of gratitude from bushfire victims Belinda and Ervin

Belinda Broughton

How can we thank you enough? 

If ever I had doubts about the hearts of others, about generosity of spirit, or pure love, I have no doubts now. It is incredibly humbling to be on the receiving end of such openness of spirit, and we can’t thank you all enough.  

Beautiful Hearts, thank you for helping us, for digging into your pockets, your wardrobes, your art supplies (among other things) to help us. On Friday the first payment from GoFundMe came through. It is a relief. And while the insurance has not given us the final go ahead, it looks like it will go ahead, though typically, it is far too small. 

And talking of insurance, I urge you to look carefully at your policies. Those of you who are in fire zones, remember that if you have to rebuild, the cost of building a house, wherein the largest diameter…

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Poets and Pizza – Coriole Winery – Friday 17th January 2020

 

I’m delighted to be appearing at Coriole’s Poets and Pizza event on Friday 17th January 2020 at 6:30 pm. It’s a stunning location in McLaren Vale. Coriole make some of the best wine on the planet and the crowd are always boisterous and out for a fun night.

Tickets are $35 a head, which includes pizza. Booking in advance recommended because the event has regularly sold out in the past.

——–

Poets and Pizza

Coriole has been celebrating and supporting South Australian poets since 2005 with the Poets and Pizza event.
Come indulge in a raucous evening of poetry, great company, wood fired pizza and wines by Coriole.
For this event we welcome Jude Aquilina, Emelia Haskey, Sarah Jane Justice, Alison Paradoxx and Mike Hopkins.
On Friday 17 January 2020 at 6:30pm

LOCATION

Coriole Vineyards
Chaffeys Road, McLaren Vale, SA 5171

Book here

————–

 

various angles

The personal aftermath of fire

Belinda Broughton

People who have lost people
People who have lost their possessions
People who have lost their homes
Their buildings 
Their livelihoods
Their sheds of hay
Their orchards and vineyards
People who have buried animals
Nurses of both people and animals
Fire fighters and the families of fire fighters
Those who are ok but are shit scared
People who have lost the places where they go for solace
their sacred spaces
The community of individuals who witnessed it
The list goes on

Healing trauma takes a long time
People don’t want platitudes 
They don’t want encouraging stories of other people’s survival
They don’t want stories of how hard your or other people’s lives have been
They want practical action, a sense of hope
They need to be witnessed 
They need to be heard
in their own time 
and in their own way
They want to hold their hurt in their hearts…

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