Type
Article

The story (a poem)

The story must come out,
ripping like hurls of vomit /
of an infectious plague
that locks away
crazy.

It tears at a body
that coughs up in resistance /
green phlegm and acid /
with seized up hands
of sand.

The story must come out /
at the ‘You’re not going in
there, Mummy’ / and the
‘one more cuddle,
Mummy’ /
You’re a shitty mummy,
Mummy / where is your next child,
Mummy / you should clean,
Mummy / or work,
Mummy / stop chasing dreams,
Mummy.

You – are – a – fucking – lousy – mummy,
Mummy.

The story will come out /
against walls of fucking brick /
of ‘no children at
Rosebank – sorry
that’s for
dedicated writers
to finish their manuscripts’ /
and ‘your submission’s
unsuccessful
but please
celebrate our writers’.

The story will punch out /
at the ‘I won’t read your work
you didn’t read mine’ /
at the snubby
elite /
while I drag heaviness
through fields of mud.

Why am I doing this again?
Oh – right – the story’s got to come out.

It shrills out in the night
where wide eyeballs scribble notes /
and voices not mine
scream lost.

Varuna deadlines loom /
‘Why aren’t you coming to my birthday?’
Where’s my sister, Koraly?
My cousin, Koraly?
My wife, Koraly?

Is that Ella in Cyprus or me?
Is that Ella in love or me?
Is that Ella fighting with Harry or me?
Is that Ella slashing her wrists or me?

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Koraly is a widely published Cypriot-Australian writer and performer. She is the author of the controversial Love and F**k Poems. Koraly received an Australia Council ArtStart grant. She presents on 3CR radio and has a residency at Brunswick Street Bookstore. Her 2013 La Mama show is Exonerating The Body. She is mentored by Christos Tsiolkas.

More by

Comments

  1. That’s a heart wrenching poem. Never, ever let anyone say you’re a bad mother. And never ever stop chasing dreams.

  2. Hi Tara, thanks for your comment. I think most of my work is very heart-on-sleeve. I haven’t actually studied poetry but from what I’ve read or learned on my own, I thought a slash is a pause. Is that what you mean?

  3. Well, I didn’t learn about it from formal study either, but I suppose it can be a pause, most commonly used in place of ‘and’ or ‘or’. Usually when you quote poetry you use it to denote a line-break, that’s pretty much the only time you use a slash with spaces around it.

    I mean, it’s a poem, you have license to punctuate it however you like, obviously. I’m just always curious about what the alternate ways of punctuating stand for. Like, why did you specifically opt not to just use a comma, for instance?

    The first poem I ever fell in love with was Stevie Smith’s Black March. The enjambment between the first two stanzas made me understand what poetry was good for.

  4. I haven’t actually read that poem – I’ll have a look at it, thanks. I don’t profess to be a poet since I haven’t studied the form but I use a dash when I want a more abrupt pause then a comma which is a softer, more natural pause.

  5. I was wondering about the dashes too, Koraly. As you know, I have a long love affair with them, but I only use them for pauses in performance poems (intended for aural delivery) & I couldn’t work out why you’d put then at the end of lines. I think they work well within the text though.

  6. Maxine – your clarification about the use of dashes to indicate pauses in perfomance poems is interesting.

    I remember hearing IQ mention to another person that you should write down the poem as you want it to be performed, developing a notation for this.

    I must admit I find the idea a little strange. For one thing, we already have a perfectly well developed form of notation for performance that is utterly specific about everything to do with the performance – dynamics, pitch, phrasing, and so on. It’s called musical notation! Learning another notation on top of that, for me, would be quite confusing. That’s how it seems to me anyway, I come from the position of someone who studied quite a bit in classical music.

    But then again… I can also remember the eccentric use of punctuation by a lot of poets. Emily Dickinson’s dashes (are all those dashes used to indicate pauses, too?) John Donne’s elaborate uses of commas and colons. And then there are the distinctive and eccentric uses of grammar that you see popping up again and again in poetry. (The use of an exclamation mark! mid-sentence, for instance.) So maybe poets have been using a kind of trade notation for performance for centuries?

    I don’t know. For me I’m happy to stick with poems as normal text, selecting my performance ones if I think they have a strong dramatic or musical element in them. Maybe it’s different for other poets – and when I hear an excellent poem, performed brilliantly, I can’t argue with the results, even if I might quibble about the notation.

    PS I think I saw you at the slam last night? Any thoughts?

  7. My immediate and extended family is very musical – I grew up on music and some members of my family are part of European orchestras. Every time I write a poem I read it while I write, tapping out the beats. This goes back to the point I raised as part of the Overload poetry festival that, in my opinion, a poem that can’t be read aloud isn’t poetry. The dashes and slashes are there because they provide a broken abrupt pause compared to a comma when read aloud. I think this poem would read differently without them, especially in the Mummy stanza.

  8. Hey Tim – I’m only just getting the hang of writing poems down before I perform them. I kind of write and edit by memory, one line or refrain at a time, then afterwards, if I want to post or publish them, I write them down…99% of my work is crafted this way, specifically for performance.

    The slam last night? It was without a doubt the best slam final I have ever been to & I think I made the right choice to observe this year instead of participating: it was a joy to sit back and listen! And hold on…the review is coming. I hope to post it here and on my own site by tomorrow. I’ll also be talking about it on RRR’s Aural Text next Wednesday but will post a reminder during the week. Well done – and thanks to you and everyone else for a fantastic night.

  9. What about concrete poems?

    I think the beauty of free verse poetry is that you can use formal devices to enhance the meaning and aural quality of a poem. What seems to happen a lot in contemporary poetry is that punctuation is bent to denote something it previously never denoted, and on paper it just confuses the reader. In performance, nobody’s any the wiser – for all we know, that’s a comma or full stop there where the performer paused.

    I posit that a poem that can’t be read off the page isn’t poetry.

  10. Well that’s interesting Maxine… I often hear a strong voice inherent in poems, and sometimes a small phrase or comment will inspire the writing of a longer poem, but I don’t start thinking about the poem in performance, typically, until much later. For me the original inspiration is an idea or phrase; and the character, voice, and type of performance emerges after the poem has been written.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>