Friday, June 7, 2013

I Wish I'd Written This

By Phillip Barker

Morning, green-tea steams
The black book collects her thoughts
Tears, like petals, fall
Her eyes track a flight of doves
Reflected in broken glass

One of the many lasting friendships I made on MySpace through poetry was with Phillip Barker, aka Soma. We collaborated on running haiku and tanka groups there, and eventually moved them to Facebook. The poem I've chosen is in fact a tanka.

The tanka is one of my own favourite forms, often used for expressions of love and longing, and subject to fewer rigorous requirements than the (traditional) haiku. Contemporary tanka (and haiku) in English often dispense with syllable count; however this one, you'll note, keeps to the 5-7-5-7-7 rule. 

Phill is a fellow Aussie and lives in Melbourne, a city I know well as I lived there more than 30 years myself — but that was before MySpace. We never ran across each other back then and still haven't met in person. Nevertheless he's a trusted and understanding friend, and the perfect collaborator as we share many attitudes and values. 

An irreverent soul, serious about art, he tends to gather other poets around him in online communities where there is much hilarity, much jocularity, and also a genuine delight in celebrating each other's talent.

As well as a poet, he is a digital artist and a musician. His main blog, where you can find more of his poems, is called An Unauthorised Autohagiography. (He has a wicked, and self-deprecating, sense of humour). There are samples of his art accompanying the poems, worth admiring in their own right. You will also find links to his music, and to other places for viewing his artworks. But before you wander away from the poetry, look for the several pieces with audio. Phill has a wonderful, deep voice with a naturally caressing quality. It's a treat to hear him read. 

As I've indicated, I first met him through haiku — but he is capable of long, discursive poems too, and does them very well. You'll find plenty like that at his blog, many of them haunting, some of them wild. And I must mention that he excels at erotic poetry. Do read and listen to Lick! It's not to be missed. (But expect to feel pretty hot and bothered as a result.)

You know I never leave you with just one piece if I choose a very short poem. So here is another sample of Phill's work.


excellent green tea!
and I'm OFF! to serve the ku.

ancient trees
drink long of the flood
willow fronds caress the waves

water, gurgling over the falls
upstream — reluctant to come

leaves spiralling gently down
to race along the river

she paints her picture
he writes a final few lines
they retire, content.

a bell, fading quickly
still rings in my mind

... of which he says:  '
A bit of explanation for them what likes the minutiae.  These stanzas are my part of a haiku / tanka cooperative write — right?'

And why did I choose these particular pieces, why would I wish to have written them? For their beauty! This musician also makes music with words.

(Note: He tells me he's a double-l Phill. I've made belated corrections.)

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).


  1. You have met the most amazing poets on My Space / Facebook, Rosemary. I do think that many of the best poets of today are NOT published in bookstore books but somewhere in the blogosphere. I like Philip Barker's tanka very much. Thanks for introducing him...

    1. I agree, Mary. There are briliant poets online, some of whom don't even know how brilliant they are. Yes, MySpace was a revelation to me at that time, full of wonderful poets I'd never heard of before. Many of them are now on facebook, which is great; however facebook's great gift to me has been to reconnect me with Australian poets I used to hobnob with, and lost touch with after I moved interstate.

  2. Wow, thank you so much for sharing this extraordinary voice

  3. WOW! Rosemary! I SERIOUSLY LOVE this poet. I shall investigate further. My kinda poetry, love it, love it, love it. (You know the COOLEST poets! Maybe because you are one yourself!)

  4. This poet spaces his impressions after green tea, making them satisfying and warm to me! And, Rosemary, your essay this morning is poetic too.

  5. Oh I loved this! Thank you so much for the intro too his work--now off to ceck out more--

  6. Thanks so much - what a wonderful voice. The lines work against each other like "broken glass" - very powerful.

  7. Me too! I wish I had written that, too.

  8. Been trying to post a reply for a few times now - a password issue!

    Those days on myspace while I tried to work out tanka and haiku were fantastic. A haiku on Friday - a tanka on tuesday... fantastic stimuli to actually WRITE!

    And thank you all for the lovely comments. I'm touched (as I'm often reminded by people that know me well - though I think they have a different definition of the term).

    1. Thanks, Phill, for taking the trouble to persevere. :)


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