TEXT poetry


Philip Neilsen

The Poem as Research



Problem: to examine contradictory cultural
formations around the jacaranda (Bignoniaceae).
Case study: its association with seasonal anxiety &
libido in Brisbane university students of the 1960s.

Methodology: the flowering plant extended metaphor
of the poem draws on rite of passage models,
eco-critical & poststructuralist allusions and tropes,
self-parodying, nostalgic, or uplifting.

November, you brought the pain of error,
new heat, when we searched hungrily 
the Thesaurus of the heart, only to discover
five lovers more precise than we.

In exam rooms we watched and in turn  
were watched – until the gaze blazed
into the sun for love at last to burn
(as mediated by The Beatles). To paraphrase – 

we went silly as a limping hound.
Pens still, stopped our essays on Romance
and filled our ears with melting sound
until we could hear the progress of ants

in bird shadow. Knew that we were meant
to climb the branches of desire
to reach too far in risk well spent
for kiss of skin, late flower, or hour 

until night, when all rose unafraid      
with drunken tongue from purple stain
to loiter skywards. And each word made
a rehearsal of hurt, and transience, and gain.

 (Referee: some poignant signifiers of teenage love/invigilation,
‘Nature’ as linguistic construct, Marvell, Sexton and sensation,
‘Being in the World’, aesthetic manipulation. Imagery a little forced,
but ‘new knowledge’ could emerge from such interrogation). 



Philip Neilsen’s most recent collection of poetry is Without an Alibi (Cambridge: Salt Publishing, 2008).


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Vol 14 No 2 October 2010
Editors: Nigel Krauth & Jen Webb