Creative Space

Poet’s Corner Provides Stunning Presentation for ISSTD’s First Asia-Pacific Conference

ISSTD’s very own poetry group – ‘Poet’s Corner’ has provided a fantastic presentation as part of the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference in November 2021. By way of background, Poet’s Corner formed rather organically in 2020-2021 – and in fact they first presented at our last annual conference. Since then, this group has grown and continued to collaborate, present at conferences and publish in ISSTD News, as part of our Creative Space columns. For more information about ISSTD’s Poet’s Corner, including how to join, see the July 2021 edition of the ISSTD News here.

Poet’s Corner warmly welcomes all Society colleagues. We regularly share poetic offerings with each other and on occasions we come together to present a recital at one of our online conferences. The poems that are included in this issue of the ISSTD News and in the next two issues, represent the content of a Poet’s Corner recital which look place as part of the first ever Asia–Pacific Regional Conference, which was very successfully staged on 19th & 20th November, 2021. Participants were as follows:

Gloria Burrett 
Quentin Dignam 
George Halasz

Jan Ewing
Phyllis Klein
Valerie Sinason
Colin Ross

Ericha Scott
Sally Wood
Warwick Middleton

This month we will feature the work of Group 1 Poets.

Gloria Burrett

Who will roll the stone away?
No one surely!
The stubborn stench of fossilled self 
Too long entombed.
Best leave untouched.
Leave death alone to deeper rot.

Who will roll the stone away?
Might there, could there
Be one with love-scent
Defying all? Fool 
Who dares to touch and try
Best not believe.
Leave hope alone to natural grief.

Who will roll the stone away?
It’s done! See, feel.
Was it one? No, two made one
Whose poured love nudged it far.
Life filters in.
Best soak in deep.
Leave love alone to swell and free

Quentin Dignam

Their boat pushes through a mat of broken bodies
to morning tea on the banks.
Dazed villagers re-wrap their longgyis
and stumble into instinctive hospitality –
green tea is found and something to nibble
amongst the dead flung by the wind and
left by the receding waters.
Stunned and numb, the living survey
the visible devastation around them
or gaze unseeing into the gaping void of grief –
those missing and never found.

Eight years on, our boat glides its way up the channel
pushing milky ripples of silt into the shore.
A soft sky drizzles subdued tears and
the fields resurgent abound in green padi.
The new crop of kids are in the school now, too:
the post-cyclone generation, rote learning in rooms
where once they squatted on plastic sheets amidst the debris.
Under the now-quiet sky, teachers – grounded again in the transience of life –
move serene and composed around the learning space.
Whence comes this calm and wisdom, healing in this place of harm?
If the land can heal, we can.

[Laputta, Myanmar, July 2015]

Dr George Halasz

you (he/she/they) and I
we really did try
how I miss your simple presence
as I struggle in between
my familiar home

you and I

here, there, where I offered
solitary solace 
mirrored self-same shame,
in safety, many weeks we did try

you and I

we remained mostly disconnected
much of the time, subjective islands
random reverberations
separated by oceanic isolation
barely aware, neither quite alone
nor securely together
in our ferociously buzzing minds

no longer paralysed by shame
you seized my imagination
how did we survive those turbulent times

you and I 

I marshalled my scarce resources
from naive indifference
I refocused my concern
turn taking, as I struggled to tame
tainted pride to reframe frozen exposures
to historical shame, unspeakable crime

each visit we struggled more
almost, not quite attuned well-enough
to bear our traumatic triggers, on cue
we remained fatefully  
misattuned, misgendered, misaligned  

you (she/he/they) and I

between pleated warped time
our efforts redoubled
to make sense in real-time
our nurseries’ veiled wounds
those wordless shameful crimes

one moment, through curiosity
we unravelled more reason
unveiled shadows, undefeated
yet suddenly you beat a retreat,
as we held our breaths

either you (he/she/they) or I

imploded or exploded
truth be told
we disrupted or ruptured each other
much of the time
to make bearable another moment
witness passed suspended time
you revealed layer after layer
less than less care,
being overtaken as you ran
till you were caught and beaten 
I exhaled, exhausted
I witnessed your survival

he/she/they and I

suddenly, once more,
beyond perception
I marshalled my scorched care
despite irresistible urges to run away
we managed to reach out
together, instantly reconnected 

yet a heart-beat later
we disconnected, again 
far, far out of your reach
deadened to your pleas 
my masked and muted tears

adrift you (he/she/they) and I

afterwards, once more
dry-eyed I listened again
to register your faintest vibrations 
I tried, best as I could
to proceed to decode
shame’s sudden salience

was it you, she/he/they
who scarred both our troubled minds
as we forced each other to scrutinise
our sacred sonority of being


you (he/she/they) bonded with  I

alone between our togetherness
fleeting complaints echoed each
heart-beat by beat
unsustainable subjectivity,
as we shredded our fragile identity
unshamed we cried

you and I

now our silence bypassed
we did survive
to possess fragments of each others entirety

you and I

in the end
awful power struggles precluded
gaining more foothold in our quest
for elusive tranquility between she/he/they

you and I

All photographs are courtesy of Shutterstock.