Desert(ed) Island Poems #9 – Rob Morris

Rob Morris is an original Brisbane hipster; his vernacular owning all the rush of the street. Rob has built his raft and is sailing to that mystical island just north of nowhere… and he has packed his poems. Yes indeed, he has packed his poems. Take a look at what will get him through the journey.




FIVE BELLS by Kenneth Slessor

Slessor declared: “I think poetry is written mostly for pleasure, by which I mean the pleasure of pain, horror, anguish and awe as well as the pleasure of beauty, music and the act of living.”

As a war correspondent (see ‘Beach Burial’) and a journalist, this Sydney-dwelling multi-tasker has taken the death of Joe Lynch and elevated it into parable, dreamscape and nautical myth.  ‘Five Bells’ is at once, truly beautiful and mysterious in its use of language, and a piece of art that exists beyond the tawdry strictures of time and location.  It is a masterpiece from a poet who cannot be easily defined or even discussed.  Genius at work!

Read the poem here: 




He proved how cruel he could be with “Like a Rolling Stone”.  This is not a cynical blast at Edie Sedgewick; this is a far more profound brush at words directed, I think, at many women he has loved.

The alliteration and imagery generally take the senses into someone elses sad life.  The use of repetition (How could they ever have persuaded you?) is effective to the point where one feels like taking up arms in defence of the song’s much abused subject.  Hymn-like.  Listen in darkness.

Read the poem here: 



LYSISTRATA by Aristophanes

As new as tomorrow’s bread, I’d take the edition using Norman Lindsay’s illustrations.  If one is stuck on as island, a bit of classical bawdiness and “nod-nod” humour would not go astray.  Sexy and funny enough to keep the mozzies off:

1st market-lounger:  What’s this?
You’re sitting down; Shall I singe you with my torch?
That’s vulgar!  Oh I couldn’t do it … yet
If it would gratify the audience.
I’ll mortify myself.

2nd market-lounger:  And I will too.
We’ll both be crude and vulgar, yes we will.

(Count me in!)

Read more about Lysistrata here: 



HORSES by Patti Smith

“do you know how to pony
like Boney Maroney?
Do you know how to twist?
Well, it goes like this.
Horses, horses …”

The reincarnation of Whitman, Rimbaud, Parker, and a dozen lesser known “individualists”, Patti Smith means POETRY AS LIFE.

A true shaman, a humble fan of other older Bohemian word dervishes, she demands total involvement.  “Horses” is everything Patti is:  poetic, unpredictable, Rock’n’Roll, brash,  transcendent and irrascible.  Sexy as well.  There’s plenty to choose from in the back catalogue but ‘Horses’ shows Patti Smith as warrior for the brumby word, and artist working sublimely.

Read the lyrics here: 




This is Rimbaud’s ‘Kubla Khan’ but comes from a darker level of the TREE OF LIFE.  “A SEASON IN HELL” is good but I would not want to be stuck with it.

 “I saw the sun with mystic horrors darken
      And shimmer through a violet haze;
      With a shimmer of shutters the waves fell
      Like actors in ancient, forgotten plays!”

Rimbaud is very modern, urbane, and truly disturbing.  His life has almost overshadowed his work but this and a dozen other poems place Rimbaud as a virile, invigorating, descriptive writer.  An electifying poet.

Read the poem here: 



MESSALINA by Dulcie Deamer

Once the most widely read English speaking female novelist, DD is funny, self deprecating and so very, very “different”.  She wrote:

“I am as naked as life’s naked flame!
No-one ever spoke of law or coward shame
In that spring-fevered world from which I came
I fear no death.  Let swift sleep end the game.”

With a Dorothy Parker-ish wit and a romantic streak as wide as Darlinghurst Road, she personifies the Bohemian poet of the twenties.  She was even crowned Queen of Bohemia at the 1924 Artists’ Ball.  A bit of a “square” in some ways, DD believed in “the triumph of the soul over the body”.  In her Arcadia she served Diana.  She deserves a more devoted legacy for she wrote finely.  As she said:

“So I stand – the hopeless goal
of the finite worlds desire.”

She aimed high!




Tasmanian poet Karen Knight wrote a collection of poems about America’s 19th century “enfant terrible” Walt Whitman (“Under the One Granite Roof”), and it is not difficult to comprehend why he remains such a charismatic poet.

“Laws of thyself complete, thine own track
firmly holding.”

Whitman makes you believe in a greater force, as alive in his poetic sculpting of engines and enormous America in a growth spurt as Otis in the compassion and empathy he showed in his life.  The Civil War made him a poet; “Leaves” spread his name around and got the folks arguing about his ‘poetry’.  Whitman doesn’t even sound like anyone else – then or now, despite copyists – and of course, it’s hard to think of Ginsberg or Pinske etc. without regarding the singular form and generosity of his style.

Read the poem here: 


MY HEART LEAPS UP by Wordsworth

With that line: “The Child is father to the Man” (Note the capitals) and concluding with the statement that we are “Bound each to each by natural piety”, this brief paen to the redemptive power of ‘spirit’ and life’s natural course makes my heart leap up (not everywhere).  Timeless and and wise.

Read the poem here: 




“We worked in a spirit of community and collaboration that seemed to spring from the text,” spoke Jones.  The text she was referring to is Lee Gantelon’s book “The Words”, a modern rendering of the words of Christ.

“It hurts to be here
It hurts to be here
It hurts to be here”

she repeats, and you wonder if this existential cry is at once a personal statement or only an interpretation of Jesus’ anguish at what he knows is coming.  She repeats words like a ‘shaker’ who doesn’t quite trust her instincts.  ‘The Sermon’ mixes words, prayerful exhortations.  Hers is a voice that has withstood all the secular pains.

“They think God hears them louder
if they say it over and over.”

She repeats too!  She’s looking for God, and meaning, and redemption, and answers.

“I wonder why there is so much suffering.”

Me too, me too!

Read the lyrics here: 




“I was much too far out all my life
and not waving but drowning.”

Stevie Smith is supposed to have loved the act of reading poetry to an audience.  She was feisty, opinionated and a bit of a handful.  Now, Stevie wasn’t interested in Jesus, and she was quite a changling, a “free spirit” of the sixties.  Her live readings MADE her!  In another poem called “Poor Soul, Poor Girl” she wrote:

“I cannot imagine anything nicer
than to be struck by lightning and killed
suddenly crossing a
As if somebody cared:
Nobody cares whether I am alive or dead”.

There is great sadness just beneath the words.  The pitiful irony that dresses itself in these poems of hers suggest a “greatness”.  Some people call it “doggerel”. I call it writing courageously, saying what one thinks.  “Drowning” is funny in a Pythonesque way and I could use that humour (more sophisticated and multi-dimensioned than it may immediately appear to be) on my island.  Stevie Smith is original.  One of her is enough and a great gift.

Read the poem here:



And here’s a poem from Rob’s latest collection ‘So Much Weather’


The Paradox

“The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the source of all true science.” – Albert Einstein

Is it natural that they depart beautiful
from the brutal drag that is time’s Glasgow kiss
escape with an enigmatic bow
as some velvet curtain falls?
It is the Keatsian paradox,
the body slumps,
the swag comes undone
yet modest and oblivious
mind still struts and rocks on
though we dally wistful practice our worshipful prayers.
Time is a tough nut to crack.
It offers only memory’s consoling embrace on the stair.
Gleaners, we have to work at this stuff
or let our young shining ones go.
In the house of the artist
there are shape shifters
trying on old and new costumery
hopeful the wardrobe still fits
’til time gets impatient
with our lingering party and the darkening room taxes
our vision. We will dress ourselves upon light,
ask if we may
leave to
return tomorrow
and early.


Filed under Desert(ed) Island Poems

6 responses to “Desert(ed) Island Poems #9 – Rob Morris

  1. What a fantastic collection of influences, rock and roll esoteria at its finest. Obviously a man after my own heart. And a very cool pome too.

  2. ah, rob………………….
    the dude abides.
    your comments on stevie smith made me a lil tingly…very sweetntrue.
    and ‘the paradox’ — love that poem more than just about any of your choices, rob! (i remember doing a reading of that at the qpf cos i came after you, and you had been asked to read it n had forgotten! and without ever having read it before…ha!) long may you continue abiding.

  3. Your poems are amazing, I especially like them, some poets have written about my artwork in the past.

  4. Pingback: This Thursday: Poetry AND wine in the library « a storm of tea cups

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