Of course, it is a work of love —
and has the smell of dust about it,
the love that settles from the air
on everything unread.
It has the whiff of toner, too,
the creak of books split newly open,
face down into the light,
poets’ names attached in biro,
a note for reference also.
We almost hear the cut-and-paste,
the metal edge, the mucilage.
Of course, there will be borders too —
space and time and native tongue.
The publisher will always want
her clean subtitle, not
the vagrant tastes of just one man
let loose among his intuitions.
And, as with all librarians,
his book will be arranged:
or poets by their date of birth
or sectioned into themes maybe,
the generations and their schools.
He’s read the Greek progenitor,
the original a template
inside the Palatine.
Sometimes it will be search-and-rescue,
helicopter, dangled ropes,
a poem flailing in the swell
against its third and final time.
And, yes, he feels the shove of others,
their sense of how things ought-to-be,
the by-lines that they’ve always known,
the names which cannot be be left out —
and, no less so, the what-ought-not,
the ones too cheap and glitzy,
or much too modish in their time.
He’s tweaking still the Introduction,
his ars poetica,
the rationale that might explain
a teenage love to doubtful parents.
He sees the book in both its forms:
the hardback, leather-bound,
distinguished on a thousand shelves;
the paperback the young will relish
sprawling on their lawns.
He’s not untalented himself,
a man of (is it?) six collections,
but probably he won’t include
a sample of his own —
although the first anthologist,
sixty years BC,
was not beyond such self-absorption.
His book will have its own coherence,
its own necessity.
It’s in the closing stages now —
late inclusions, slow deletions,
ready almost for the scanner,
the unifying discipline
of one sweet serif font.
There’ll be the business of permissions,
the correspondence with the living
and those not so long dead —
the heirs at least, so hard to please.
He even conjures up the launch,
the song to send it on its way
given by the last great voice
remaining from her generation.
He’s seeing, too, the first reviews,
the listing of his strange omissions,
the talk of what they would have done.
And yet his book will find its readers,
the ones who’ll make it last for months,
the chosen poems, two or three,
they’ll slip into their sleep each night,
the few whose love is long and real —
among them the anthologists
who’ll murmur quietly to themselves,
inserting stickers here and there
and dreaming of their own.
- 99: BROWNFACESUBMIT NOW with W S Dunn 98: SINGAPORECOMING SOON with A Pang and J Ip 97: PROPAGANDACOMING SOON with M Breeze and S Groth 96: NO THEME IXwith M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHwith M Takolander 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRO AUSTRALIANwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones