This week, Mona starts to explore some of the ways in which poetry is being transformed by new writers. Emma Datson shares with us her poem about her hometown, Cobar, which she has written in the style of the New York School of Poets. In a blend of the urban and the rural, the traditional and the experimental, Emma explores the circularity of the concepts of home and community, and shows us how we all have a poem hidden inside our ordinary experiences.
The Indelible Stain
The furrows on my brow clear as I hear
the raindrops, the size of pennies from
the Christmas pudding, start falling. The
rain hitting the hot tin roof, as I sit
on my mother’s step smoking my
life away, even though I know I should
quit. The petrichor is rising from the
ground, intertwining with the sweet
smell of orange blossoms, underlined
with a tropical tang from the nearby
blooming frangipani in my mother’s
front garden, they all combine to soothe
went out into the world so long ago,
seeking belonging, a community to
be a part of when all along it was
in the place I grew up, Cobar. The
red dust akin to rust made its indelible
stain on me a long time ago, now I
have answered its call and fulfilled
my promise to my father. Millie will
be loved and looked after. Here in
Cobar, I am no longer hollow, I am
no longer lost. The red dust akin to
rust means I am home.
'The Indelible Stain' is written in the style of Frank O’Hara and the New York School of poets. These poets were experimental in the 1950s and 60s and threw away the rejected the formal language and rules of poetry and turned, instead, to enjambment (run-on lines). Their lines of poetry included humour, everyday language and events and pop culture references to "capture life as it happened”, which indeed is what is happening in 'The Indelible Stain'. It records a summer day in my mother’s garden, the sights and smells and they way I felt about being back in Cobar at home.
The poem also reflects another key technique of Frank O’Hara in his poetry of Personism, or that poetry should be like a conversation between two people. Or in his own words: “the poem exists between two persons instead of two pages” (Personism: A manifesto, Frank O’Hara). In the case of 'The Indelible Stain', it is a conversation between myself, the author, and you, the reader. We could be talking on the phone or via messages on social media.
Millie in the poem is the name my father used to call my mother. When my father was dying in December 2021 and early January 2022, I promised him I would move home to Cobar to look after her, for him. Which I have now done as of March 2023. I moved away from Cobar 28 years ago and never thought I would come back. I was seeking love, connection, and community anywhere but Cobar, when it was to be found here in Cobar all along, at home with my mother.
Emma Datson is a 40ish medically interesting, emerging Australian poet and writer, who is beginning to use her voice. She and her family moved to Cobar, NSW in 1982, and it was that the red dust akin to rust, made its indelible stain on her. Cobar, or Kubbar, as the traditional custodians of the land call it, a place of ceremonial significance to the Wongaibon people of the Ngiyampaa nation. Emma moved to Canberra, Country of the Ngunnawal people, and learnt how to become a library technician, a librarian and then an information architect, whilst working in the Australian Public Service for about 20 years.
Emma started writing poetry in high school after being haunted by 'The Love Song J Alfred Prufrock' by TS Eliot, the evocative language and yearning of the poem, including the the eternal footman and the mermaids who would not "sing to him", often echo in her own poetry. Emma loves to play with language and words to express her own human condition through writing. Her writing is mainly concentrated on poetry and life writing and — soon — creative non-fiction.
Emma moved back to Cobar, NSW, after spending a few years in Brisbane/Meanjin, Country that has inspired her poetry. Exploring the secret life, rhythms and seasons of the Brisbane River, inspired her to let go of her own fear and anxiety of the world, and to embrace life again. And most to all to start writing again – eternal footman be damned!
She enrolled in a Graduate Diploma of Writing and Literature at Deakin University, studying in the cloud, and at the end of 2022, she became a casual reporter for the Western Plains App, who report on a large area of NSW west and north of Dubbo, including Cobar, Bourke, Brewarrina, Walgett, Lightning Ridge, Coonamble, Coonabarabran, Condobolin, Nyngan, Narromine, Gilgandra and their shires.
Emma is particularly proud that she was published in the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s first ever issue of the Bard Review, “celebrating the next generation of Classics”, with her sonnet, 'Blue Butterfly Dreams'. You can find more of her writing on her Vocal page and on Twitter. Emma’s superpower is her vocabulary.
You will find that Emma leaves her soul in every letter and word that drips from her pen. Her voice rings out its aching grief, love and loss, that make us all human. Despite this, her light is a beacon full of love and hope, that shines out from her work, illuminating the dark.