“All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of Love,
And feed his sacred flame.”
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge
As David Abram writes in the preface to his book The Spell of The Sensuous, humans are tuned for relationship. The eyes, the skin, the tongue, ears and nostrils- all are gates where our body receives the nourishment of otherness.” He continues, in prose, to discuss this as a “landscape of shadowed voices” of “feathered bodies and antlers and tumbling streams” This “many voiced” landscape is the common ground we so often listen and speak into when writing poetry or feeling love.
Love fuels so many emotions, impulses and intentions, it seems little wonder that fire appears so often as metaphor in association with it. As with fire, love transforms, there is a transmission of warmth from one object to another. It quickens, but we sense that it is also always there, latent. Comfort and torture, entire volumes are dedicated to its paradox.
With this in mind, the poems selected from the submissions to the Poetry d’Amour Love Poetry Contest have been grouped in this anthology into four chapters, Kindling, Spark, Flame and Embers and I leave it to the reader to come to their own conclusions as to why.
The poems in this anthology were chosen in the most part for a deft evasion of the trap of cliché or the way they were able to write “around’ the subject rather than directly to or at it. In that spirit, the judges report is shared below.
I would echo the words of Dr Liana Christensen in her wonderful introduction to the 2014 Poetry d’Amour anthology, where she signed off with the excellent advice “Listen to each with an open heart.”
Each cupped flame.
Dancey Gordon, Baby Lemon.
A mature voice instructs very particular and original ways in which one might shift focus to imbue domestic objects and scenes with intimacy and love. Cleverly steering away from cliché, we find many of the usual associations given a slight and delightful twist.
Anna Minska, Microbial.
Reminiscent of Seamus Heaney’s Summer Home. Microbial is written to a vividly portrayed “he”. So much constellates through the taut language of this poem. Not all beautiful, this wonderful lyric poem, takes us through the many ways love is fed and ritualized in domestic spaces and is always subject to larger rhythms. Its’ metaphysical considerations firmly anchored in rich imagery, overlapped and enchanted by ordinary things.
Alison Thompson, Moss.
A delightful allusion to an Emily Dickinson poem, dedicated to Charlotte Bronte, All Overgrown by Cunning Moss. This poem is filled with amplified images of overgrowth and neglect, spaces highlighting the absence of habitation or co habitation. Moss stood out even in its initial reading for the precision and cadence of its language, I found myself returning to it repeatedly. Announcing in the opening line that the narrator is “no good at love poems” the poet then encapsulates a poignant scene of slow dissolve and waiting, through sparse details of solitary, static objects reclaimed by nature over time.
Renee Pettitt-Schipp, Love Letter.
Through a repeated motif of connective tissue; nets, slender threads and tension, the detail of a morning is illustrated in this deceptively simple and very direct prose poem. Lit from within by a filigree of warm detail in lines such as “clouds were stretching thin nets until their underbellies were pink and glowing” A living, breathing garden shimmers and refracts the gate shuddering in the wake of separation left by a farewell kiss.
Peter Jeffery, Calice De Amore.
A robust poem, narrated in a confident voice. An emphatic reverie for the bristle and heave of life taking place publicly in European streets, cools dramatically as it cascades toward the final stanza and its cold coffee.
Liana Joy Christensen, Ménage à Trois.
In “pared back” and taut language, with an eerie breathlessness, Ménage à Trois speaks calmly and hauntingly of setting “up house with death”. This poem rewards the reader with another layer at every revisit.
Alison Thompson, Flare.
A deliciously restrained narrative in which a brief moment of contact is remembered in sensual detail. In a metaphor of wonderful paradox, her touch ignites a flare, burning, “invisible to the world”.
Danny Gunzburg, Why Can’t I Leave?
An irresistibly playful ballad composed of rhyming couplets plaintively questioning not only why the narrator can’t leave, but also why they are writing the words.
I’m no good at love poems.
Instead I’ll tell you how the wooden box
props open the shed door; how the eaves of the iron roof
bend with the weight of pine needles; how there is dark moss growing
at the base of the chimney and how the unpruned pear strives for the sky
and how – right now – evening mist is sifting through this scene,
dissolving what might-have-been,
if you’d been here.
This morning quiet birds were filling our trees, gracing the gum you planted for your Dad, heavy heads, pendulous blossoms still filled with nectar. As you made our coffees in the kitchen, the sun found its way once again over the blue range mute in the distance, waxing the world of foliage gold, deep and bright.
After you brought me my coffee, I watched the silent feasting continue, cat crouched amongst the flowers, puffed and whiskered against the cold. Small clouds were stretching thin nets until their underbellies were pink and glowing, and the grey that seemed to own them gave way…
It was then I wanted to stop you, sit you down, show you, but you were off on your bike, gate shuddering where you closed it, kiss lingering in the tissue of my lips. And most days I manage to hold it, finding my own traces of grey, humming that song you played me, remember when you told me one of us will die inside these arms. And I own that beautiful tension, I wear that difficult tension, feeling in that weave
how fine, so fine, our thread.
Ménage À Trois
Not traditional vows, ours
—-By a winter-mirrored lake
—-we said we’d take each other
Before our kin gathered
—-by a bird-haunted lake
—-we took each other
And vowed to stay true
—-in the infinite tense
—-of the present breath
Then — deep breath —
—-we went and set up house
Who proved to be
—-a better mate than
—-you might imagine
When we exhale
—-little death comes, too
Teases— then withdraws
—-those icy feet discreetly
We know we must obey
—-when big death comes
To stake a claim
—-on this all-purpose bed
—-and we are unwed
In the stark mercy
—-of the absent breath
—-birds still sing
Liana Joy Christensen
Calice De Amore
In Italy, they sprawl in chairs on sun spilt pavements,
And as the strong black coffee grows cold,
And as the pipes burn out
Their starstained lips mouth the canti of their spring.
Of Bologna and the running of the bulls,
Black massive frames with nervous nostrils,
Striking the cobbles in showers of sparks
And the spilling liquid wists in the siestaed beds.
Of Roma and the singing of the whores,
Strutting their fine limbs like brave young cocks,
Drinking dankly from the dark pools of night;
And in the morning, crying hands of prayers before virgin stone.
Of Venezia and the slow drift of boats;
Nosing their laundered prows against weed crusted stone,
The gondoliers weaving the air with song;
And Love draws sequined curtains on fevered thighs.
And of calice de amore,
Lifted once, at least, to all men’s lips
Whether in the tall wheat, or groves of vine,
Or ‘neath the cold, impassive pine.
These things they sing from toothless jaws,
Feel with lifeless hands,
See with sightless eyes;
These things are live, and the coffee cold.
Why Can’t I Leave?
Because she is beautiful, and I want to stay,
(tell me what mad spell has made you this way?)
Because her skin is dark
and her lips are fine
Her hips are round
and her arms divine.
Why can’t I leave? Why must I stay?
(What evil thoughts are making you this way?)
Her eyes are soft
and her hair is free
Her legs go from here
The dust just sinks
at her feet so rare
And she moves like clouds
in the evening air.
The birds fly past
with their wings on fire
The night seems lost
to my shy desire.
Why can’t I leave? Why must I stay?
(Because I saw Rimi Rider on the street today.)
I saw her move
like a silent storm
Like a lazy snake
in the jealous lawn
As the evening stood
like a beggar’s hand
She swayed like air
at the earth’s command.
And my evil eyes
took my thoughts to song
And I wrote the words
till the words seemed wrong
But her hips just swayed
in the dusty night
So I wrote the words
till the words seemed right.
Tell me what has made your heart this way?
(Because I saw Rimi Rider on the street today).
When she touched him on the arm late in the afternoon;
around the time the guests were spilling out of the house
to walk barefoot on the lawn,
his skin flared;
as if caught in a grassfire.
Later he remembered the sounds that filtered in;
the laughter of guests, his wife’s voice
in the kitchen,
the chained-up dogs,
children running on gravel.
In that whispered corner where he held back
from kissing her they stood together, his lips
brushing the hair at the side of her head,
invisible to the world.
Remote And Regional WA Winner
he says our gut is like the milky way
and we are microbial, little starry feeders
in the vast black. the dirt has filled
every crevice on his hands — maybe
all that digging and turning things over
has relieved him of fingerprints, the need
to know oneself as a snowflake.
this love is a million dots of gold,
freckled across the muddy canvas of history.
my baby brings me fish still jumpin’
(he said the rising sun cast a long line
across the bay, cutting just above the ankles
where he forgot to put sunscreen)
and i fry ‘em up, high on cotton dreams.
burnt and crispy skin flashes in the pan,
wades through rock pools of summertime devotion.
he keeps the heads and guts for compost,
grins at the steam rising, the sweet stink
of decay. life! life! i’ve had it all boxed up,
away from lady death but they’re lovers,
dancing across constellations of carcasses,
cut grasses, burnt-out suns and spiral bones.
the whole animal was put to good use.
can he see that when i’m dying again,
bleeding out this eggy moon’s passing hope,
i am also close to new?
his night-gaze beams up and straight,
contemplating the loop in the thread,
the chemical reactions that play out like mandalas
because we are not one or the other.
afternoon light is flooding the kitchen, pale gold.
i place bay leaf upon dill frond and wind
cotton around stems. her belly is open,
smiling, and i have scattered salt like snow;
tuck the bouquet in between sequinned lips.
he kisses me after dinner, to say thank-you,
to say forget dishes and death.
sometimes i think it doesn’t matter
who we are, but what we’re made of.
Youth Incentive Award
Have standing at the base of your bed:
One stunted lemon tree with inedible fruit.
Couple with a pair of cracked brown leather shoes,
Aside a raincoat heavy with mud.
Make sure it is five going on six,
And the light is waning.
Make the air smell of lemon,
And check on the dog.
Talk about a painting you hate,
And send the fly’s home for the day.
Realise that silence is not simple,
And know that
Make you eager to feel.
So brush her hair with a finger,
And sequester his socks.
Meddle in the mystery of his porcelain skin,
And make friends with his handwritten notes.
Kiss him briefly and let truth hover on your lips.
Listen closely as he tells you he loves you,
But listen too when you say it back.