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Poems by John Leonard


The country closes down in rain-
Misty winter rain after long drought.
Paddocks and woodlands stand deep,
Rivers spill across the land.

It is still winter, but the rain
Gently soaks long-parched roots;
A flush of growth will greet the spring,
Dusty trees put out fresh leaves.


The point of poetry
Is precision. Poems
Are either exactly wrong,
Or exactly right.

So we read poetry
Mostly for our prognostics;
Just occasionally we find
The cure set forth.


When he was merely agèd
He did what he had always
Done, but less well, more slowly:
He wrote less, walked less,
Met fewer people, with less patience.
He grew possessive, but careless,
Of his memories, which were coveted
By many greedy others.

When he reached a great age
He became a stranger to his own
Life, no longer sharing even
Its memories-which then became
The property of others. He retreated
Into a new world, which was his
Alone, for it had no features-
Nothing more to lend.


I could, for my reward,
Try to give you
A new understanding,
A new message,
A new truth.

But instead, the utmost
I will try, is
To make you fail
To understand what
You already know.


Study the latest books well,
And the periodicals, give
Out an accurate copy
Of what you read, newness,
Not novelty, is the point.

Sometimes yesterday's fashion
Can pay-people often
Need time to catch up;
A little oldfangledness,
Can be well-received.

But never think for yourself,
Never expect intelligence
To pay, never bring new
Tidings-no-one wants
To hear tomorrow's truths.

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Biographical sketch: Born 1965 UK. In 1991 moved to Australia. Has published two colections: Unlove (1990) & 100 Elegies for Modernity (1997). See www.spirit.net.au/~jleonard.

John Leonard recommends:

Selected Poems (Penguin 1959) by Robert Graves

Reason: Best selection of the middle-period work of the greatest C20 poet in English.

Recommendations for writers:

See the poems 'Why Read Poetry?' and 'I Could', and for cynical advice 'Advice to Authors'.


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