MB50 Challenge: Find us Poems for older Men!
- Published on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 21:23
- 0 Comments
Are there poems to inspire us as we grow older? Many poets are men, and of course over time they all grow old. But what I am wondering is – Are there particular special poems we need to read as older men? Or put another way do older men write differently than when they were young? And do older men write differently than older women.
I began to consider these questions recently coming across a small printing press called Grey Hen Press (www.thegreyhenpress.com . Its latest publication is called Cracking On: Poems on Ageing by older Women.”For women over 50″, it said.
Poems for men over 50, and men over 50 writing poetry – do we do similar?
There are plenty of older men poets to love and admire, but among the current and living the one I would like to single out is the Australian Les Murray. Now well into his 70’s the poet is still going strong, or rather as he says simply ‘conscious and verbal’ (in fact he has nearly died a couple of times in ER hospital departments).
”Big, fat, long, hairy-arsed, man-sized”, wrote Don Paterson in the introduction to Murray’s 1990’s Collected Poems. In his life Murray has known the walkabout of all the major male issues and suffered all the shipwrecks: a violent father, a depressed mother dying in childbirth – ‘haemorrhaging like hell’, 40 years of unexpressed griefs – ‘ From just on puberty, I lived in a funeral’, boarding school traumas, sexual humiliations – ‘sex is a Nazi’, gender issues and the ‘relegation’ of masculinity – ‘The man we surround, the man no one approaches / simply weeps, and does not cover it, weeps / not like a child, not like the wind, like a man’, and recurring bouts of the black dogs of his own depressions and despair .
Then hitting 50 in the 1990’s, Murray’s creature poems began to appear. The collection was published as Translations from the Natural World and was where he discovered a maturing poetic way with a ‘herd voice’, becoming a many voiced ‘translator’ for meetings and speaking: try Pigs:
Us back in cool god-shit. We ate crisp.
We nosed up good rank in the tunnelled bush.
Us all fucker, then. And Big, huh?
Wide-ranging and often deeply unsettling Murray does not fit a single ‘older man’ poetry category, and I think would also not have anything to do with the like of the Mankind Project past or present, or men’s groups in general. Wonder and shock, unease with the ageing of the body, encounters with the strangeness of elderhood, and a general messiness: the colossal Murray sprawls across boundaries of the masculine and feminine. Reading Murray’s best work, we can feel involunatily changed at the root of our being.
Les Murray, Selected Poems. Carcanet Press (2012)
… For a companion major poet and older man from down-under try Bill Manhire (New Zealand’s inaugural poet laureate). On first meeting Mannhire appears more lyrical and approachable:
Old Man Puzzled by his Pyjamas
I am the baby who sleeps in the drawer
Blue yesterday, and Blue before –
and suddenly all these stripes.
But there is the same wide-ranging spread of subject matter, and unsettling quality as Murray within the heart of his poetry.
Bill Mannhire, Lifted. Carcanet Press (2007)
Do older men poets write differently than older women? I don’t know if they do, but I am open to exploring the possibility. So, dear MB50 readers, here’s the challenge: send us the poems you think we older men need to read, and tell us which other current and living older men poets you find the most inspiring… and if there is a printing press publishing poems for older men (like Grey Hen Press) let us know!