Horizon Poem by Ken Bolton


Rating: 4.9

'As a people we are now called Australians because a vast & lonely land
has touched us with her differences'
- George Ivan Smith, 1953 preface to For The Term Of His Natural Life

'it's noble to refuse to be added up or divided'
- Frank O'Hara

'In this dawn as in the first
it's the Homeric rose, its scent
that leads on'
- Frank O'Hara, Ode to Willem de Kooning

'Beyond the sunrise
where the black begins' -
& the lights of the city, we
imagine, twinkle or blaze . . .

the horizon line here
a curve of butter yellow,
slightly oxidized - lined,
at its rim, by olive-green 'natives' -
hides a city that if I am
facing the right way
must be doing its afternoon trade
relaxed this last few days after December 25th
but ready nonetheless for the big push
at night, the raid on
fun desire release -
selling mostly coffee, wine,
Michael / rolls a joint has one
then rolls several others children
contemplate navels - the girls their own
with quiet pride, the boys the girls'
with longing puzzling as it is strong
Mary paints her nails, reads, Cuban music
playing. What of Margaret, of Crab? they do
those things normative in a utopia
a cork is popped, Marg plays
fado, the soulful music of Portugal
or Crab practises on sax
reads some politics, some mayhem, reads
the poems I gave him. I
try to seize upon that greatness
which is available to me
if it is available at all
(am I facing the right way?)
thru art.
The view is
quintessentially Australian, which is its
problem - for me - tho not classical
& in its particulars
is information (where the classic typically presents
only sign). The essays of
Meaghan are to hand which might
stiffen my resolve or form it: not to be
inimitably weak & picturesque myself
but standing forth a subject not a spectacle.
There are daisies nearby & a shin-high wall
of loose but flat-laid shale or slate twelve feet
beyond - a standard country wire fence; the
field of grass; on the horizon a distinct
curve of hill three hundred yards away, a
water tank nestles in to the furthest reach
of the olive 'natives' -
can I dropp the scare marks from
that word now, hasn't it
done enough? &
I rest their case
'for now
a long history slinks
over the sill',

& with it history's ironies, reversals
sarcasms so de rigeuer. I never wanted to be postcolonial
or colonial just modern which is
the joke on me - but who wants to be a category?
Many would be right - it will do me to be interested - &
one accepts the truth like a tired disguise handed out
for the party - is this me? - & joins the crowd
as the brave must always ascend, always the musts:
the Eiffel tower, the flight over London, the café
table - in Rundle Street or rue de la Rocquette
where Lorraine lived & we stayed tho for me, today,
this hill is my focus, the clouds - (for I must ascend) -
are beautiful & white & echoing fluidly the hills'
shape, the splotches of green that mottle the yellow
& remind of �Minor Moderns of South Australia'
a line I join of precursors - Horace Trennery,
Dorritt Black - pondering a relation
to the minor English, Europe, the
universal - & its status as 'the wrong question'
which strolls now & then into a field
& sits down like a forgotten rock
while 'we' walk on
to an horizon line, that's beautiful, keen,
precarious, & doesn't tug - not 'rose', but
serene, & melancholy, & joyous, all at the same time, a kind
of benediction that says, I'm free & I'm gratuitous
why not feel better? & since you do you do
return: into that inanimate world of voices cross-
questioning you, no longer like your father, a man
in an open necked shirt eating an icecream (& just,
perhaps, 'going for a walk'), but in a shirt I bought in Melbourne
made by migrant Vietnamese late at night, yet in which
I feel Australian, whatever that is
- a point mapped by shifting co-ordinates
you momentarily 'keep your eye on' or don't being
yourself or a moving target (do the hills you climb as
no one count? The hostess explains,
As we leave administered life
there is a slight discomfort - the tug of
gravity on re-entry returns, you may
feel tired. Where, the open neck shirted men, women in
thongs & sandals, ask is our shimmering ideal? If O'Hara
had such timing John his last move suggests he blew it
Tho exits are notoriously hard to make. 'I live above a
dyke bar & I'm happy' - I might too for all I know.
Am I? Occasionally, occasionally very. The female
of the tiny blue jay or 'wren' appears, bouncing,
across the grass outside then some of the 'men'
move across my field of view from left to right . . .

Susan Williams 04 October 2018

I have never read a poem bt him before. Quite frankly, I am not sure what I think. At times I am riding along quite comfortably then the verse bolts to the left then bogs its head and starts crow-hopping all over the country. I am withholding real comment until I read more of him.

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Denis Mair 04 October 2018

I think I know what you mean by THE VERSE BOLTS TO THE LEFT AND THEN BOGS ITS HEAD....This poet has a tendency to steer himself into an explanatory morass, maybe to enjoy the gnarliness and the exertion of thrashing one's way out. Maybe I'm wrong about BOGS ITS HEAD. Is that an equestrian term?

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Susan Williams 09 October 2018

Yes- a horse must lower his head to really get to bucking

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Susan Williams 09 October 2018

I think I could get used to this poet and like him immensely when my eyes get unblurry

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Edward Kofi Louis 04 October 2018

A curve of butter yellow! ! Thanks for sharing this poem with us.

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Sylvia Frances Chan 25 October 2023

Congrats being chosen as The Modern Poem Of The Day. Hoorray!

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Sylvia Frances Chan 25 October 2023

His latest collection (At The Flash & At The Baci,2006) has been described as 'prov[ing] to us that Ken Bolton is a prime example of a poet breaking new ground in Australian poetry.'

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Sylvia Frances Chan 22 July 2021

Very enjoyable read about Today's Down Under!

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Sylvia Frances Chan 22 July 2021

Most deserving as Poet Of The Day! Hoorray! Congrats!

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Ratnakar Mandlik 04 October 2019

The story of modern day Australia and it's inclusive horizons beautifully versified. Well deserved modern poem of the day.

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Ken Bolton

Ken Bolton

Sydney / Australia
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