Emerging Poets Series: Peter Clynes

Peter Clynes wrote his first poem when he was eight years old; his grandmother told him she loved it so he took that as a sign of good things to come. He started writing again more seriously later in high school. Since then he’s written and performed a lot of performance and page poetry. Now he’s at RMIT studying Creative Writing and Mandarin. He hopes to one day write scripts for both video games and obscene cartoons.


Bird Song

Crow lands, downwards hop from swoop
          cold air parts under claws
                ardent black feathers 
hard stance, 2 ounce samurai 

                   wind mixes sparrows. 
            bodies juggled under clouds 
casually exploding nowhere on each buffet 

Crow’s song breaks into morning 
	     dark suited birds exchange pointed glances 
important faces agree now it is time to sing
	     puff-chested businessmen  
		   looking carefully at their colleagues 

 red round berries push themselves up off twigs 
 	      and dance along the branches.
tiny birds share the sweet treasure 
	  picking at the constellation grove 

	  Crow lifts wing
flush raiment responds tight, silent.
	  instant grave stroke

Home Brew

when he came into your apartment
                      you planted him
and the coffee you poured was so strong it was 
                                     life affirming
and you talked eye to eye 
on things he knew more instantly than
the taste of the coffee
          and you were drunk on the coffee
          and the coffee shook your hand 
          and he swallowed lungfuls of your coffee 
          and the coffee threw his coat on the floor
          and you and he and your coffee spent the night
percolating through each other’s hair
          brewing on the heat of each other’s breath

Taxi Driver

so tired, a taxi driver’s pupil hangs loose from his eye
	   he unties it, lets it dangle from the rear view

	   traffic moves like oatmeal through a shoe 
mariachi jerk and spatter of engines 
	   sound collecting in his ears like small rocks 

the hot sun knocks at his doors 
	        	and the taxi driver lets down a window
		        in the side of his head  

pigeons – hungry soft balloons full of
	   city dust and flight 
open their eyes above the skyline and
	   four million lives 

they land like tubs of yoghurt thrown from a bus
	     and pick at garbage

 he drives past them, 

Who are you reading now and why do they turn you on?

At the moment I’m reading (listening to) Earl Sweatshirt. He’s a young rapper most notably related to Odd Future, and I really love him for two reasons. First, his lyrics are so powerfully vulgar and awesomely repugnant, but he still executes every line with the lyrical control of a serious poet. Second, Earl, being nineteen, is only a few months my senior, and I’ve always been impressed with his candour and creativity on issues of young male identity and aggression, particularly what it means to strike with words instead of fists. I listen to all sorts of hip-hop constantly and consider it to be very influential in the way I write page as well as performance poetry.

In terms of more traditional poetry, my all time favourite poet is Tomas Tranströmer. He’s probably the only poet whose collected works I’ve read from cover to cover. I treat his collected works as a kind of bible, and usually end up going back to it every few weeks. Those who also like him can probably see the strength of his influence in my writing, particularly in his seemingly tenuous relationship to reality. The way Tranströmer can call details out from the woodwork of everyday life by naming vague metaphysical shapes around them is what draws me to all poetry. It’s like having your head stuck in the clouds and benefitting from it.

How often do you write? Do you have a writing practice?

I write constantly, for my uni work, for all kinds of things around my college, as well as for myself. My writing practice is mostly obsessing over ideas. I get symbols, metaphors and lyrics stuck in my head for weeks at a time, and I try to use pen and paper to see why. I also really like automatic writing for the same reason. Putting down a line because the metering or a simile or an implicature in it amuses me, then using that as a kind of pipeline into what I found amusing is usually how I write.

I can’t emphasise the importance of obsession to my ‘writing practice’. One of the reasons I consider hip-hop to be so important to my writing is because learning about rapping and freestyling has taught me to keep a rhyme scheme or a particular metering in my head for days and weeks at a time. Even though the rhymes rarely make it on to the page, I think the constraints of working around a rhythm are very helpful in trying to automate your writing, particularly because it gives you an excuse to not feel like you’re wasting your words.

When you think of Australian poetry, do you see an elephant in the room? If so, what is it?

I think I’m probably too young to answer half this question. I really don’t know enough about reading Australian poetry to seriously tackle this. The only Australian poets I really know much about are Dransfield, Forbes and Wright, and it’s hard to say there’s much wrong with any of those three.

As far as writing ‘Australian poetry’, I would say there are a few dangerous taboos that can make roadblocks for young writers. Gender identity is one of those taboos, but also an obsession of mine. I think it’s because I think about sex so much, as much as my own ‘manhood’, being only one year out of an all-boys school. On that note, I feel really constrained in writing about male identity. I want to pick at all the holes I can find in my psyche, but at the same time, the kind of power in a uniquely male Australian poetic voice (as I see it) comes from its restraint. In that way, I want to be as open and forthright as Sharon Olds, but as measured and purposeful as the late Seamus Heaney. I don’t see myself ever really writing on either of their respective levels, but I think many Australian writers of all identities, in or outside of their relationship to gender, walk a similar tightrope.


Other works:
Public service’.

Peter Minter

Peter Minter is a leading Australian poet and writer on poetry and poetics, and Overland’s outgoing poetry editor.

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

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  1. It’s surely a little worrying that one can be classed as an ’emerging poet’ now in Australia despite having published nothing and professing that ‘The only Australian poets I really know much about are Dransfield, Forbes and Wright’.

    1. By definition, my twelve year old son who has an interest in poetry and but two poems under his belt is ’emerging’. An encyclopaedic knowledge of Australian poets and their work may help you in your writing, but it is not essential, especially with the skill this young man clearly has. Listing all the poets you know is all too often nothing more than a pointless exercise in name dropping.

  2. Brian that is cruel and unnecessary. The whole point of the emerging poets series (if you bother to check) is to encourage new poets who haven’t yet published a book.

    Do you have an opinion about the poems? I think they are fantastic, especially for someone who hasn’t published and who took the risk of sending their first poems to Overland.

  3. ‘Percolating through each other’s hair’ is a surprising phrase! Vivid and humorous and short: what’s not to like?

    I think it’s important to note that the poet has quite a lot of performance experience too, which may explain why these poems are anything but boring.

  4. I have to agree with Peter here: these are lovely poems! There’s a really intriguing confluence of the real and the surreal; how good is ‘Bird Song’?!

    And I think if one only knows a little about Australian poetry, then knowing about Dransfield, Forbes and Wright is a pretty great triumvirate to start with.

  5. These poems are great.

    I don’t believe knowing an abundance of Australian poetry is necessary to classify one as an ’emerging poet’. Nor does it mean the difference between a good or a bad poet! (as we can clearly see evidenced here)

    Thank you to Peter Clynes and Peter Minter.

  6. the 3 poems seem to be wrightian, dransfieldian and forbesian (in that order) .. which kind of redefines emerging as: emerging through these poets instead of emerging into knownness

    theyre original enough too

  7. These poems by Peter Clynes are terrific, it’s no longer true to say he’s unpublished, thanks to Overland and Peter Minter his poetry is not only published now but being read. I think the question of reading other poets is important, Peter has chosen three very different poets to mention and read. It’s interesting to think about about what Forbes, Dransfield and Wright had read at the same age Peter is now. All three started reading a huge number of various poets early in their lives and I’m sure this love of poetry led them on to their own finest work. I do think it’s important to read your contemporaries alongside whoever else comes to hand . It’s no fluke that Peter has sought out Tomas Tranströmer, Seamus Heaney and Sharon Olds, it shows, and his own energy transforms these influences into a new voice in Australian poetry. I enjoyed this post and these poems a lot, thanks to both Peter Minter and Peter Clynes.

  8. I’ve known Peter for several years, and he has wowed a number of well established poets. This. Kid. Sweats. Metaphors.

    1. Agreed. Very good.

      At times though the metaphors get in the way of a good poem, kid. For example, those pigeons “landing like tubs of yoghurt thrown from a bus” is pure bathos, I get it that the cab guy is nodding off (you told us so to begin with), but he’s not trippin’, and neither should you or I, nor the city and poem, be trippin’ over metaphors simply to reach a formulaic end. If he is trippin, then the whole poem needs to trip too. But what would I know, I’m just a cab guy after all.

  9. A young man with obvious talent. Constructive criticism should always be welcome, Brian’s comment gives you nothing apart from perhaps sympathy for him as an unsuccessful poet? Keep writing Peter.

  10. I am the proud grandmother Peter refers to in his opening blog. Seamus Heaney is also one of my favourite poets and I can recognise Heaney’s influence in Peter’s work.
    As a retired secondary school English teacher of over 30 years experience I both admire Pete’s poetry and his courage in putting himself forward for public scrutiny and criticism. Overland/Peter Minter provides a wonderful opportunity for emerging young poets like Peter to publish. Congratulations!

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