Gobbledegook Gazebo


Gazebos like their full cousins, rotundas, are architecturally beautiful. The Green Gazebo, the subject of many of my poems, in a leafy park near the Gap Village in Brisbane is no exception. Imagine my surprise then when I bumped into a dotty character while sitting under it:

Today I met a real weirdo
just outside the green gazebo.
He spoke in rhyming gobbledegook.
His face was white as a spook
as he walked a pink flamingo.

Allison Whittle


A letter arrives at Bev’s place. It is addressed to Allison Whittle. She opens it. It is confirmation of a dental appointment at the N Dental Centre where Bev is a patient. Bev has been waiting for an appointment for some time. She is indeed patient. She phones.
“I am not Allison Whittle but can I have the appointment anyway?”
The receptionist consults a dentist.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “It is specifically for Allison Whittle.”
”But she doesn’t live at this address.”
The receptionist consults the register of clients.
“Umm,” she says. “That’s strange. There’s no Allison Whittle.”
“So can I have the appointment?” Bev asks.
There is a prolonged silence while the receptionist consults the dentist.
I look at Bev. She has the look of someone whose patience is being whittled away by an dumb and obdurate force.
“I’m sorry,” she says after a while. “What if Allison Whittle turns up?”
“What if she doesn’t?” Bev snaps. “If she exists, she won’t even know about it.”
Again there is a prolonged silence on the other end.
“She may have been sent a duplicate at her real address,” the voice says.
I have a word with Bev. There is a prolonged silence at the receptionist’s end.
“Can I turn up anyway,” Bev says, “and take her appointment if she doesn’t turn up?”
The receptionist surrenders.
“You can take your chances,” she says.
Bev will turn up on March 18th at the N Dental Clinic. I will keep you posted.

The Results Are In

Last week I bit the bullet, took the bull by the horns and submitted to my editor, one of Australia’s most ruthless and respected, the sixty poems I had collected over the last eight years that I thought worthy of his perusal and costs. The results are in. Graham phoned me this evening and told me his judgment: 48 of the poems, he said, are of publishable standard and will go in the collection. One, Penny, a poem about a computer pet, is worthy of inclusion, but can’t be fitted in. I am meeting Graham tomorrow over coffee to discuss the arrangement of poems and the putative title. All good! The next step is submitting it to a publisher. We have one lined up.


I had my back to the class, writing on the blackboard when the chatting sank to a murmur then silence. A buzzing filled my head. I kept writing, anything to keep them busy, when something tugged at me like a mastiff on a leash. That’s when I turned ….

And that’s when my nightmare began.

The classroom was empty. The students had walked out on me. I had always had a number of disruptive kids but you could deal with them, pick them off, like a sniper, one by one but a whole class! If the word got out my career would be finished. I could never face those kids or any kids, once the word got out, again. When you lose respect you lose everything. I was a mess when I woke up.

Poetry Plan to Publication

I’ve stopped writing children’s poetry. What I’m doing now is collecting all the poems I’ve written over the past eight years for a general audience and submitting them to my editor. There are at least sixty poems that I’ve found, some two pages long. My editor will determine which are of a publishable standard. We already have two publishers lined up if the collection is strong enough. It will need to be at least 80 pages. My editor will determine the sequence of poems in the collection and the manuscript’s title. I’m excited. I’m sending it off to my editor tomorrow. I trust him. He has seen two of my manuscripts through to publication.



As if the world didn’t have enough acronyms ! Still they serve their purpose — as a short-hand mnemonic . This particular acronym represents a technique I’ve always intuitively used but only lately have come to articulate . It began with a poem or rather the draft for a poem , an apercu about nature .
After a particularly wet weekend I walked outside during a break in the rain to see a rainbow crossing the sky . I don’t know why but the rainbow reminded me of a scythe , an implement that has never appeared in any of my poems . So I wrote this [ please remember this is a draft ! ] :
the rainbow in the sky is in the shape of a scythe
I knew I could improve on this — not the image but the wording . I did three things : I compressed the line , I changed ‘scythe’ from a simile to a metaphor and then to an active verb replacing the passive ‘is’. So the opening lines now are :
The bright rainbow scythes
the air
So we have the first three letters of the acronym : ‘c’ for Compression , ‘a’ for Active and ‘m’ for Metaphor . Now what followed is equally interesting . If the rainbow is a scythe what follows ? If the chain of logic is pursued then there must be a crop to amplify the scythe image . What then is the meteorological crop ? It is rain . Not a downpour but a gentle fall . Now we’re almost there . To pursue the logic a little further , what do you call such a scything ? A yield ! So the fourth attribute is Logic . And the finished product — with a new layout is as follows :

a bright rainbow
the air :
a gentle crop
of rain
I might add that originally the poem was conceived as a haiku — it had that kind of feel — but it was two syllables short and ‘bright’ was already a word I almost considered superfluous . So rather than add two more syllables , in the interests of compression I broke the poem up into the idiosyncratic way you see above

So there we have it . A good technique for many forms of poetry but certainly for any —- isn’t that most ? —- that employ metaphor . In my poem Bat , for instance , and Bath , the technique is pervasive . If ‘ My son is a bat ‘ then what follows ? The logic demands you employ bat imagery . It makes for a weird poem but it does have an internal logic . Here is the poem in its entirety :

My son is a bat .
His eyes blink when darkness comes
his body stirs with life
his limbs gorhe with blood
as he sets out through the cave of night
his roof the stars
the moon a big white eye watching ;
attracted by the bright lights
he mingles with his batty friends
weaving in and out of night clubs
endless parties
each others places
till sensing the sudden ebb of darkness
he flutters home
a cloaked Dracula
to the hollow of his room where
he will sleep all day

The ‘batty friends’ is almost an unforgivable pun but logically it was inevitable . So too is the Dracula reference . How could any self-respecting writer avoid it ?

Bath , likewise , in which a bath is said to be a boat , has its own logic : a metaphor that is not that big a stretch of the imagination . But the logic of such can take it down strange paths :

A boat-shaped vessel with room
for one ; when you

clamber into a bath , you are
captain,crew, passenger

rolled into one — yet baths
require no special skills

nor do they stand on ceremony ;
in this they are like

some beaches — dress is entirely
optional ; entering a bath

you enter a topsy turvy world
where water fills the craft not

surrounds it — though baths will
never sink ; head back , you

settle down but are going nowhere—
baths have no destinations

nor sails and are permanently in
dry dock — yet people

have been known to drift off
in baths emerging

rosy skinned and luminous as if
fresh from a voyage .

It’s a strange Alice-In-Wonderland logic — especially the topsy turvy world — but once the path is laid down all the author has to do is follow

What I seem to be stressing here is the logic over other factors . Compression can always be demonstrated by referring to drafts and stressing to students that strong verbs are preferable to weak ones . No one will quibble over simile or metaphor , the need to find an effective but surprising image . But logic —- a feature not normally associated with poetry — is the challenge and the concept — less contentious — of transforming the metaphor [ once it is established ] to an active verb . I give one more example :


that branch
bobbing up and down

breezeless air : a wattle-

from one bough to

The main point I want to make on this one is the use of ‘trampoline’ as a metaphor for the quivering bough that the bird jumps from and THEN the transformation of the metaphor into an active verb . It encapsulates all four features : the metaphor produces compression twice over — as a metaphor [ embracing collateral features ] and as an active verb ; the logic , in this instance , precedes the metaphor .
But it is logic that is truly the liberating factor . Once you establish a metaphor , a position , a statement , then follow its implications : push the logic further and further ; even the most absurd implications have an internal logic , one that cannot be disputed by any rational discourse outside the text .

Green Gazebo 3

And just in case you haven’t had enough — I’m on a roll here — here’s another one :

I have no faith, I have no credo
When I sit beneath the green gazebo.
Everything is as it is.
Life retains its whirr and whiz,
Its pulse and libido.

I am amazed as always by the ever proliferating list of words that rhyme with ‘gazebo’. Perhaps you can suggest a few. And by the way here’s another I’ve just written:

Green Gazebo 4.

I like to wear my tuxedo
when I dine beneath the green gazebo.
I raise a glass to one and all,
to my daughters, my son Paul
and my ever present ego