Michael Witts: 2 poems

  Michael Witts

  2 poems

  JPR 08

L to R: Poets Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, and Lew Welsh,
early in their careers.
  Homage to Gary Snyder
words whittled to shavings
curling at my feet
thoughts like plastic wrappers
swirling in the wind
a puddle willing itself
to become an ice cube
the wave of a drowning man
in the waves
the sound of one hand clapping
in the forest
words shouted into the face
of the storm
unheard unread

your footprint preserved in stone
once a tentative step
in the ooze of time
much the way this began

  Dear Ken*
John Ashbery, New York City, April 1985, photo by John Tranter


when Ashbery* wrote “hand me the orange”*
was he slyly referencing O’Hara’s*
“Why I am not a painter”*
was this the orange he wanted
or would another do
was he craving the cool dimpled skin
the juicy flesh
explaining what happened to Frank’s orange
all that time ago
why do we assume he means
the fruit not the colour

nothing is as it seems
maybe he was just hungry not ironic
at his age would he care or remember
you can continue to break language down
but eventually the music
becomes just noise
words broken into a mumbled jumble
or is that the point

Ken when we both wore our hair long
your studied casualness signified cool
I still admire your hip nonchalance
your deliberate insouciance

nothing is as it seems

Mies Van Der Rohe* was born
Ludwig Mies
his Barcelona pavilion
was really the German pavilion
on Montjuic* overlooking Gaudi’s* city
not in Barcelona
the pavilion built 1929*
was demolished in 1930
what happened to the Barcelona chair*
is unknown
when we supplicants climb the hill
to pay homage
does it matter this structure is
the 1986 re-construction
how authentic is this
set down millimetre perfect
to site specified stone in its construction
what is more important
the plans and specification or the building
is one just language the other the thing
where does the idea manifest itself

if your poem is reproduced
which is the authentic version you devised
if translated what does it mean
to you if you don’t speak that language
is it still your poem

nothing is as it seems
is your poem the same read
as heard by you     or me
your sparse flinty words
scatter the light

not the way the pavilion
reduces the vast Mediterranean sky
in the pool the building floats in

there is no ambiguity in structures
maybe that is why you are not an architect

1. Ken Bolton — Australian Poet, born in 1949.

2. John Ashbery — American Poet 1927-2017

3. “hand me the orange” — final line of Ashbery’s last published poem, in the New Yorker magazine, February 2017

4. Frank O’Hara — American Poet 1926-1966

5. “Why I am not a painter” — O’Hara poem, 1956

6. Mies van der Rohe — International architect 1886-1969

7. Montjuic — site of the 1992 Games of the XXV Olympiad and site of a vast above-ground necropolis

8. Antoni Gaudi — Catalan architect 1852-1926

9. For the International Exposition 1929

10. The only piece of furniture to have a building designed around it.

Michael at his wedding in 2013.

Michael Witts has been writing poetry for more than four decades. Selected early work was published in three volumes: Sirens, South and Dumb Music. He was a founding editor of DODO magazine. Michael was born in Cardiff in 1953 and moved to Australia at the age of five. He studied Arts and Law at Sydney University. He lives in Sydney with his wife Caroline and their daughter. He has three older children and two grandchildren. As well as writing poetry, Michael is a solicitor working in wills and estates.


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