Today I have one of my favourite Australian poets on my site -- Valli Poole. I first discovered Valli's work on Little Raven Publishing -- when I came across her poem Wrinkled Face and Withered Cunt. A raw and confessional poem exploring female sexuality and ageing. I loved how unapologetic it was. In a world of fake beauty and frozen foreheads, here was a real voice punching with authentic power. Please welcome Valli to my blog and enjoy her powerful poetry and interview below.
WRINKLED FACE AND WITHERED CUNT
She’s old now
beyond love and lust, perhaps!
in love’s ghost house
she with her cumin spiced
abalone plump thighs
amid a hot white sauce wetness.
had become a meal to be eaten
slowly, every mouthful savoured,
inviting you further into the heart
a warm, comfortable lover.
Are you surprised to hear this?
secretive sighs, silent crying in
longing’s indifferent time
the ache for touch!
no need for love at this stage
touch, human touch, that’s enough these days
what of the old woman’s desire!
she is not an atrophied permafrost
are there to be no more lovers’ in the ghost house
of these once supple well fingered vaults?
This is not a riddle to be solved
simply the unheard voice of growing old
and please there’s no place for smirking
or backhanded whispers
it is what it is.
INTERVIEW WITH VALLI:
I first discovered your poetry when it was featured on Little Raven. I was struck by your raw and in-your-face style. Have you always written this way?
I consider myself to be an ‘autonomous’ poet, meaning I have an aversion to being seen as a writer of specific style or genre. For instance with the theme of ‘erotica’ there was a need to dig into a more energetic, edgy and slightly dangerous approach in the telling. I wanted the woman to take control to direct as needs/urges dictated; a primal aspect. The works were stream-of-consciousness so they flowed freely from the mind to the page. Also they were largely experiential in keeping with most of my writing.
You’re a counsellor as well as a poet. Does the work you do as a counsellor inform your work as a creative?
This is an interesting question Vanessa, something I’d not reflected upon until now. Yes counselling does inform the work, enhances it, it gives a clearer perspective of human nature, indeed all nature. The eye is more keen, the observations deeper on every issue – myself included.
You recently founded Blank Rune Press, what made you decide to start up a small press outfit?
There were a number of reasons for starting the press. I was a librarian for many years, and I went into that profession for the love of book-knowledge; the way a book can open or enhance a person’s world. The look, the feel, the physical holding of a book in the hand, its tactile nature and the sheer beauty of many publications. The exquisite union of an art object and the written word. Blank Rune Press has been set up to support other writers, to get their work into a small press publication, something they can look at and be proud to be a part of. The small press in Australia is not as prevalent as in America; Americans adore and support the small presses, the range is astonishing. Many writers in Australia are unsung; they don’t get a look in for whatever reason and yet there is so much talent, published and unpublished, so many styles and there is a place for all, to have a voice and to be able to share it.
I particularly love your poem ‘Wrinkled Face and Withered Cunt’. It’s so honest, how can anyone not love it? Have you performed this poem live? How long did it take you to write it?
Firstly let me say a thank you for these comments, it’s always good to get feedback, to know that you have connected to another person through the work. The poem was an honest account of how I feel – how many ageing women feel – the work itself is confessional; that stream-of consciousness flow again.
Germaine Greer calls ageing women ‘invisible‘ – personally I don’t feel this way, but I know of many women who do. I felt the poem was powerful, insightful, and that it would speak to women of all ages. It was not about regret, nor self-pity, simply a statement of fact: the changes of ageing…
As to your question has the work been performed live the answer is no it’s never been performed live, but that’s wonderful suggestion Vanessa, it would work well in performance - strong tone and attitude mixed with a nuance of regret.
You are the author of an array of poetry chapbooks, including ‘A Box of Hummingbirds and Aeons’ and Bog Boys & Unquiet Graves ‘. What work have you enjoyed the most thus far and why?
I have enjoyed them all. They are eclectic and reflect the way a mind is engaged by different subjects. The book closest to my heart is Bog Boys. This works taps into my gothic side, my Celtic ancestry, my gypsy ways, the dead and the love of the past. Bog Boys deals with archaeology of the ‘bog people’- finding them, resurrecting them. The poets Margaret Atwood and Seamus Heaney were fascinated by this subject; the bog bodies hold a fascination for many of us.
Unquiet Graves is specifically about King Richard the III, it connects me to my mother, her love of Shakespeare and her need to impart this love to me by taking me to the Forum theatre in Melbourne City on Saturday afternoons as a child to see all the Shakespeare plays…. Richard III became a passion.
A box of Hummingbirds – Frida Kahlo – a woman who is inspirational to so many, her courage, her passions, art and the honest writing in her journals, her abiding love for a man Diego Rivera against all odds. I love the quote from her:
“There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.”
Who is your favourite poet of all time and why?
I find it impossible to answer this question. From the American poets Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath scream at me along with Marge Piercy and Maya Angelou. From the English poets, Ted Hughes, from the Australian writers I’m humbled when I read Vicky Viidikas, the mighty Dorothy Hewett, Dorothy Porter, Gwen Harwood, Judith Wright, Robert Adamson and John Kinsella. The French poet Arthur Rimbaud features in there somewhere too.
These are just the tip of the iceberg- so many more read and to read. They enhance my world and are in fact used as mentors, they teach me something.
What are you working on at the moment?
Have just finished writing the new book titled ‘Mull Bowl with Cockroaches’. These are largely poems which deal with Eltham and surrounds- nature, trees, birds, people and the loss of habitat through development, a tribute to Australia with Eltham as representative, as these themes work both the local scale and the broader vista.
Thank you so much Valli for allowing me to interview you about your work.
PLEASE ENJOY MORE OF VALLI'S POETRY BELOW:
I am ‘not’ nothing without a man
I am ‘something’ without a man
I have a need
to borrow the ‘rod’
* * * * * *
Hot After It
When I re-read your old letter
I place it in bed
beside me -
the heat is still there
I feel hot
I feel moist
I feel myself
* * * * * *
It’s 3 am
a jerk, she’s awake
rain rattles the gal tin
her hand in her cunt
her moist fleshy
she’s transported to
another reality in
summer night’s hot horn
the danger of the laneway
the excited fevered ripping
off his shirt
as she slams him into a brick wall
she grabs at his chest
her red hunger lips
she sucks, plays his raised nipples
her tongue probing, licking
razor teeth bit as he
and hardens, nuzzling and nudging her
this torture, exquisite
daybreak finds him sleeping with her fishnets
later in the wake of day
she remembers his empty
still in her bedroom drawer
au revoir, mon ami.
* * * * *
she always carries her purse
the purse is always for
her purse is always ready
her purse is always
* * * * *
The Last Flower
This last chance
is not withered in the bud
she opens, pushing herself
forward, strident & volcanic
erupting her sex, igniting her weapon
the ‘Venus trap’
the ‘man trap’
The ‘cock trap’
© Valli Poole 2014