Monday, May 24, 2010

An absolutely ordinary rainbow

It wasn't the first poem I read, and loved, and felt. But I still recall with perfect clarity the tingle of wonder invoked when I, at the age of fourteen or so, read Les Murray's An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow.

There's a fellow crying in Martin Place. They can't stop him.

Two plain sentences. Using simple words that a child could read and understand, Les Murray opened a door in the world. This one line, at the end of the first stanza of the poem, is the heart and soul of it. It encompasses all the meaning that is supported and explained in the rest of the 45-odd lines.

It's a poem about Sydney, about being Australian and being human. It describes a singular man, and every person. It's about living and loving, lachrymating and laughing all at the same time. Thirty years after I first read it, that line still gives me goosebumps.

I write this now, because I heard Les reading some of his new poems on the weekend, at the Sydney Writers' Festival. He's still got it:

They explode the mansions of Malibu
because to be eucalypts
they have to shower sometimes in hell.