Category Archives: Poetry

Book 19 – Eugene Onegin

“Eugene Onegin” by Alexander Pushkin (originally, 1837, but the version I read is a translation by James E Falen – 1995)

“Eugene Onegin”is a Russian classic. Apparently, it was published in serial form between 1825 and 1832. It is a story written in verse. The story is told by a narrator who seems predisposed to speak kindly of Onegin. Sometimes, the narrator wanders off into a discussion about the world in which Onegin lives. It is fair to say that this gives the poetry a sense of plot, but only just. This book is a classic, highly admired for “the artfulness of its verse narrative as well as for its exploration of life, death, love, ennui, convention and passion”, so far be it from me to be critical.

But it didn’t grab me. Or fill me with poetic wonder. Or even make much sense a lot of the time. To be honest, I kept falling asleep while I was trying to read it. However, it was my brother, Patrick, who lent it to me, many, many months ago now, perhaps even years… and I’m seeing him next week so I thought it was time I got around to reading it. It’s not one I’d recommend.

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Book 3 – Interferon Psalms

Interferon Psalms by Luke Davies (Allen & Unwin, 2011)

As usual, there is a story about why I read this, before I can offer you my discussion of its contents…

I used to ‘give’ my parents a day of shopping at Borders near my home for Christmas each year. They’d come from their home on the NSW South Coast (where there was no good book shop) and I’d set them free to find books they wanted. Then I would buy the books for them and afterwards, we would have a lovely lunch somewhere, and we all felt richer for the fun of it all. Now, there is no Borders near my home. There is no book shop for miles around. The last couple of Christmases we’ve sort of muddled through, but this year was different. My parents have recently moved house, and Jill wanted vouchers for the nursery so that she could weave her usual magic and create a visual and vegetable miracle on her little plot of dirt. Easy. Maurice wanted books. He had a list. And this year that was fine, because it turns out that Booktopia (booktopia.com.au) is the best bookshop in the universe (no, I don’t get a special rate or anything) (yet). I got Maurice’s list, I sat at my computer, I clicked a few clicks… a few days later a big parcel of books arrived and I was all set. Now, the truth is, I didn’t even read the blurbs of the books. I wrapped them all up in a bundle of wrapping and ribbons and I presented them with much joy on Christmas Day. Then, on New Years Eve, while visiting and admiring the aforementioned magical garden, Maurice gave me back Interferon Psalms. “Do you read much poetry?” he asked me. “Oh,”I said, “is it poetry! I thought it was a medical book!” Of course, I do read quite a lot of poetry, being an English teacher, but I can’t say I’ve ever gone out of my way just to read some, just because. But that was what Maurice had done. He had read a review and he had put this book on his list and I had bought it and he had read it. And now he was asking me to read it. So it came home with me.

Interferon Psalms is a book about death. It is the reality of one man’s journey towards death. But it is a celebration of life as well. And tucked in within the lines, it is a story of love lost and the celebration of love as well. It is a collection of verses, a group of chapters, but a whole tale. I’m not sure I can offer you extracts that are logical, but there are three lines that really spoke to me, and so here they are…

Such moments of rupture. I cried that I had never seen the snow, having seen it now.

The world will be silent for thousands of years. Today, that made the loneliness even worse.

My pain was compulsory, but with the right saddle, the suffering was optional. Then I hocked my saddle, because when I was young, I was often foolish.

The real joy of poetry is that every person who reads this book will find three different lines that speak to them. Or ten. Or fifty. Reading this book was a real joy for me. Since becoming a teacher, my poetry reading has been completely isolated to that which ‘needed’ to be read. Thanks to Maurice, I will go looking now, for poetry for pleasure. I will start with the other books by this author. But perhaps you can recommend other Australian poets for me to read?

And if you don’t read poetry … make this the year you try it.

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