The Trouble with Poetry

In the poem which is like a house the poet is looking 
out a window. This is to say, he is looking into his own 
furnished, sensitive mind. Sometimes he doesn’t see anything 
out the window at all, it’s so reflective, and that’s one kind of poem.
Sometimes he sees something you wouldn’t notice but – 
because he’s sensitive – he gets worked up about it. Not too much. 
A thrush on the lawn, for example, yes, a lyric thrush pecking 
at the soil, its bright, hard eye, a light rain falling,
and it reminds the poet somehow of his friend’s last days 
at the hospital, and what he said to his friend, or didn’t say, 
and meanwhile his hands are doing nothing in particular 
and so he’s now peeling fruit, maybe a pear, the flesh gleaming 
wetly under the knife. So there’s the pear, the speckled rind 
spooling naturally into a self-deprecating, slightly goofy anecdote 
to offset the gloominess about his friend. He’s sensitive, not morbid. 
His glass of chilled sauvignon blanc – there it is, in his hand –
catches the yellowy light. And he’s a poet, not a novelist,
so after a page he’s winding it all up, the friend, the pear, 
his wine the colour almost of grass, the rain, and evening coming on,
finishing, of course, with the thrush on the lawn, its head cocked, 
bent to the ground, acutely listening to the unseen thing tunnelling there.

LISTEN to ‘The Trouble with Poetry’ by Tim Upperton

Tim Upperton is writing his PhD thesis on the poetry of Frederick Seidel. His poems have previously been selected for Best New Zealand Poems in 2008 and 2009, and his first collection, A House On Fire (Steele-Roberts), was published in 2009. His poems have been published widely in literary journals and mainstream magazines in New Zealand and the US, and recently in the anthologies Best of the Best New Zealand Poems (VUP) and Villanelles (Everyman). He reviews books for the Dominion, the Listener, and Landfall, and he blogs at A Spurred Word. Tim judged the New Zealand Poetry Society’s International Poetry Competition Open Section in 2011.

Upperton comments: ‘This poem borrows its title from Billy Collins’s poetry collection, The Trouble With Poetry (2005). Collins’s poems, it’s often said, are easily accessible, and immediately engaging. The front door’s wide open, the reader’s made welcome, and there’s BC, sitting at his table drinking a glass of wine or eating fruit or whatever, making these witty yet poignant observations. My poem gestures towards the pleasures and the limitations of this kind of lyric.’

Poem source details >



A House on Fire at Steele Roberts
‘The Starlings’ in Best New Zealand Poems 2009
‘Four Bananas’ in Best New Zealand Poems 2008
‘The night we ate the baby’ in New Zealand Listener
‘When we watched movies’ in Turbine 2011
‘The Colour of Birds’ in Turbine 2009
Tim Upperton's blog