Monday, 20 July 2015

Famous last words

by Sarah Cole

Tom Keneally

Last night Tom Keneally's plane was delayed, so while he made his way to the venue the audience was unexpectedly treated to a brief conversation with Pulitzer Prize winning poet Sharon Olds.

There were probably two hundred people tucked into the Mildura Club but there was an immediate feeling of intimacy and connection about the way Olds spoke and responded to questions.

One of the things she discussed was the large number of poems she writes and then rejects. When asked what she looks for in a poem when deciding whether or not it will go anywhere, one of several things she mentioned was a good last line.

The poem she read to the audience was about sitting in a plane flying over the Pacific Ocean, and it had a beautiful final line. I didn't get the exact words, but it was something about the earth thousands of feet below pulling the tears down her cheeks. Such a compelling idea.

Good last lines make poems resonate and sort of echo in your head, pulling you back to read the whole thing again with it in mind.

Here is an example of a final line that has stayed with me. It floats into my head randomly sometimes, and I always think of it when I see roses with rain drops on them.
Does anyone else have last lines that have stuck with them?

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond

E. E. Cummings, 1894 - 1962

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond 
any experience, your eyes have their silence: 
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me, 
or which i cannot touch because they are too near 
your slightest look easily will unclose me 
though i have closed myself as fingers, 
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens 
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose 
or if your wish be to close me, i and 
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly, 
as when the heart of this flower imagines 
the snow carefully everywhere descending; 
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals 
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture 
compels me with the colour of its countries, 
rendering death and forever with each breathing 
(i do not know what it is about you that closes 
and opens; only something in me understands 
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses) 
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

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