by MLL Bliss (formerly known as Jenny Boult) 1951-2005
i am smiling a secret smile i want to share
with you, a few short days & i find myself
missing you & the smile grows i know
there will be other nights
my child asked me why i was wearing
such a happy face this afternoon & i said,
because i’m pleased to see you, & he smiled
& we kissed & hugged each other very tightly
& suddenly we were laughing,
we didn't know why. it’s funny.
tonight i don’t crave the dawn
i am full on, high beam, the night stretches
like a country road & my destination
is the morning, bright bright light
one of the pillows smells of your hair
my toes curl & somewhere low down my belly turns over
& i am ticklish, a chuckle escapes & i cuddle the pillow
listen to the rain.
it’s funny, blowing you a kiss thru the starless night
time of departure 11.45pm, tell me when it reached you.
tonight this house hears laughter
in the heavy raindrops as they roar
against the roof, & i slide into sleep
Photo © Tim Thorne 2002
I knew her as Jenny Boult, and published one of her books, flight 39, under my (now discontinued) Abalone Press imprint, but we lost touch after I moved to northern NSW and she moved to Tasmania. I remember another poet friend saying, back in the eighties, ‘I really think she’s the best of us,’ meaning our generation of Aussie performance poets. I agreed with him.
She was an uncompromising poet, who wrote of social issues and the truth of life as she experienced it. One of my most vivid memories is of a poetry conference where a panel was attempting to determine what was the first criterion for poetry. The discussion went on and on and got quite heated but nowhere near resolved. Finally Jenny, losing patience, yelled from the audience in her characteristic husky voice, 'Deeply felt, for God’s sake — deeply felt!' and stopped the argument on the spot as we all digested the undeniable truth of that.
That husky voice was the result of heavy smoking, which eventually killed her with throat cancer — a great loss to Australian poetry as well as to the many friends who loved her.
She was a great supporter and encourager of other poets, and of youngsters beginning to write. An ardent feminist, she was co-editor with Kate Veitch of Pearls: Writing by South Australian Women (1979-80), and After the Rage with Tess Brady (1983).
Born in England, she came to Australia in 1966 when she was 15 — transported by her parents as she used to say, an allusion to the fact that convicts were once transported from England to Australia. I guess that meant she didn’t choose to come here, but she ended up loving both her countries. She felt deeply about the British miners’ strike of 1984-5, involving those she grew up among and thought of as her people, and wrote some powerful poems on the subject. Yet she wrote of Australia as her home, and we Aussies related to her as one of us. She did go on an extended visit back to England about 1987 and placed flight 39 in libraries there.
She was also a playwright, fiction writer and children’s author — but primarily a poet. I chose this particular poem because it’s such a happy love poem. You can read more of her work here, here and here and a review here. Some of her books are available at Abe Books and at Amazon, and her last chapbook, Moonshine, can be bought from the publisher, PressPress.
Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).