The Painter Surprised by a Naked Admirer, 2004-05

—as he damned well deserves to be
after all these ticky-tacky years
soiling and being soiled
leaded and unleaded, head heavy with Cremnitz
living the life of a prize smear
staying up half the night with rags . . .

What woman wouldn’t go down—
be bare on the bare floor
sniffing his oily woodwork
keeping his thighs company
checking their health, their tree-stump
strength and protean quality?

Gallantly he pits her presence
against the mess he’s made of wall
his fury of backdrop
their crib of a love nest
his gloriously free comic routine
and her bliss, there’s no mistaking it.

Every other woman can go jump.
And the gormless feminist men, too.
Brave the fire that’s in submission.
See how ignitable she is—
like that bundle of sticks on the stool.
Brushes, some say, but they’re ready to burn.

He’s even made a clearing in the room.
They could swing a dozen cats.
The wall, every stab and jet, ripples with mirth.
And what does he say about what
he’s been doing with faces lately?
Those not hers, the wild golden ones—

I’m thinking of Ria, a naked portrait
a face that’s pitted, ecstatically roughed—
an attack that could be viscous
as if he’d break each atom open.
Yes, he says, wait and it will settle
paint abides by Egyptian rules.

Meanwhile all naked admirers
will cling to what they must—
what’s oily, hot, conflagrations of riposte.

by Barry Hill

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‘The Painter Surprised by a Naked Admirer, 2004-05’, is copyright © Barry Hill, 2012. It is reprinted by permission of Shearsman Books from Naked Clay: Drawing from Lucian Freud .

Notes from Shearsman:

Barry Hill was born in Melbourne in 1943, and completed his tertiary education in Melbourne and London, where he worked as an educational psychologist and a journalist.  He has been writing full time since 1975, living by the sea in Queenscliff, Victoria. He has won major national awards for poetry, history and the essay. Penguin and Faber have anthologized his short fiction, and stories have been translated into Chinese and Japanese. He has written many pieces for radio. His libretto, Love Strong as Death was performed at The Studio, at the Sydney Opera House in 2004. 

Broken Song: T G H Strehlow and Aboriginal Possession (Knopf, 2002), Hill’s magnum opus on Australian poetics, which won a National Biography Award and the 2004 Tasman-Pacific Bi-Centennial Prize for History, has been described as ‘one of the great Australian books’; it was reviewed in the TLS in 2003. His poetry has been published in the Kenyon Review, The Literary Review and Agenda, as well as the major literary magazines in Australia, including the annual anthologies, Best Australian Poems. In 2008 he won the prestigious Judith Wright Prize for his reflections on revolutionary romanticism, Necessity: Poems 1996-2006. Along with As We Draw Ourselves (2007) this book also includes his responses to living in Italy, and his Buddhist travels in India and East Asia. Lines for Birds (2011) is a collaboration with the painter, John Wolseley.

Naked Clay: Drawing from Lucian Freud, is Barry Hill’s ninth collection. Read more about the book on this page, and sample several more poems from it here (pdf). An article about Hill’s response to nakedness in Freud’s work and the writing of the book, including further poems, is available to read here.

Between 1998 and 2008 he was Poetry Editor of the national newspaper, The Australian and between 2005 and 2008 he was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Melbourne. He is currently the recipient of an Australia Council Fellowship, which enables him to spend time in Kyoto and Calcutta while writing a book called The Peace Pagoda, about the travels of Rabindranath Tagore in Japan.

Shearsman Books is a very active publisher of new poetry, mostly from Britain and the USA, but also with an active translation list. You can learn more about the publisher here, and find Shearsman on Facebook.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.