February 2009

Arts & Letters

Numismatics

By Clive James

 

Merely a planchet waiting to be struck,

The poem shapes up but is not a coin

Until, by craft, and then again by luck,

He fashions clean devices fit to join

A scrupulous design that he would like

To look mint fresh and not like a soft strike -

 

It must be hard. "It must be hard," they say.

But no, it isn't, not when you know how.

Except he doesn't. He just knows the way

To scratch and scrape until the coin says "Now,"

Boasting its lustrous proof against the sleaze

Of verdigris, that cankerous disease.

 

The scholar rediscovers the doubloon

Inside the encrustations we call Time.

The critic says it might shine like the moon

But pales in value next to a thin dime.

The poet only knows that he can't cheat

At any point, or else it's counterfeit.

 

He must be definite yet open to

The second thought. He mustn't make a mark

That falls short of the palpably brand new

Whose play of light pays tribute to the dark -

One solid, spinning, singing little disc

Perhaps not worth much, but still worth the risk.

Clive James

Clive James was an author, critic, broadcaster and poet. He wrote more than 20 books, including his memoir, The Blaze of Obscurity, and a collection of essays, The Revolt of the Pendulum.

Cover: February 2009

February 2009

From the front page

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller

The prevention state: Part four

In the face of widespread criticism of strip-searches, NSW Police offers a candid defence of preventative policing: You are meant to fear us.

Image of Scott Morrison

A national disaster

On the PM’s catastrophically inept response to Australia’s unprecedented bushfires

Image of Scott Morrison

A Pentecostal PM and climate change

Does a belief in the End Times inform Scott Morrison’s response to the bushfire crisis?

Police NSW festival

The prevention state: Part three

As authorities try to prevent crimes that haven’t happened, legislation is increasingly targeting people for whom it was not intended.


In This Issue

‘The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty’ by Peter Singer

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Looking sheepish

‘Outliers: The Story of Success’ by Malcolm Gladwell

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Representing


More in Arts & Letters

Image of Cardi B

Bodak moment: Pop’s decade of superstars

Cardi B delivered the song of the decade as a new league of superstars overcame the significance of bands

Photo of Liam Gallagher

Don’t look back in anger: Liam and Noel Gallagher

As interest in Oasis resurges, talking to the combative brothers recalls their glory years as ‘dirty chancers, stealing riffs instead of Ford Fiestas’

Conversion on the way to Damascus by Caravaggio

Damascene subversion: Christos Tsiolkas’s ‘Damascus’

The literary storyteller’s latest novel wrestles with the mythology of Christianity’s founder, Paul the Apostle

Cover of Peter Pomerantsev’s ‘This Is Not Propaganda’ [detail]

Agents of chaos: Peter Pomerantsev’s ‘This Is Not Propaganda’

The Russian expat journalist wonders if democracy can survive the internet, as social media is used to promote feelings over facts


More in Poetry

East Melbourne liturgy

Image of Les Murray

Les Murray’s magisterial ‘Collected Poems’

How to approach a 736-page collection by Australia’s greatest poet?

Detail of a painting of Barron Field

Barron Field and the myth of terra nullius

How a minor poet made a major historical error

Collingwood

A song cycle in 5 parts


Read on

Image of Scott Morrison

A Pentecostal PM and climate change

Does a belief in the End Times inform Scott Morrison’s response to the bushfire crisis?

Image of Scott Morrison

A national disaster

On the PM’s catastrophically inept response to Australia’s unprecedented bushfires

Image from ‘The Truth’

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s ‘The Truth’

The Palme D’Or winner on working with the iconic Catherine Deneuve in his first film set outside Japan

Image from ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’

Four seasons in 11 days: ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’

Céline Sciamma’s impeccable study of desire and freedom is a slow burn


×
×