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States of Poetry 2017 - ACT | 'In Place of a Bio' by Isi Unikowski

States of Poetry ACT - Series Two

States of Poetry 2017 - ACT | 'In Place of a Bio' by Isi Unikowski

States of Poetry ACT - Series Two

In Place of a Bio

Can we not take all these prizes as given?
The awards, fellowships and accolades
that greeted an awaited first book, the driven
milestones of a talent in spades?
Must everyone describe the same lookouts
from Parnassus’ slopes, Calliope’s redoubts?

When all are gods, let the lame smith stand forth:
just for once, couldn’t the editor decree
that in, let’s say, 200 words (because less is more)
we will hear, not these extracts from the Laureate’s CV
like weather reports on the evening news
telling us everything we already knew,

but—how it felt to be married to one
never entirely there; who applied
stratagems of retreat so everything done
was done as though behind glass, or on a slide—
that call, or letter, that caused a leap of joy or a grudge,
demography’s prolonged, sullen trudge;

how the widow, whom posterity will vilify
sorts through the journals and notes left there
to converse, finally, with the man who shut himself away
from her, every night, while she waited upstairs.
Let’s read, in that para underneath the last stanza
how every quarrel, mined, gave up its bonanza,

let’s hear, in these notes at the end of the book,
how to probe the auguries of his demeanour,
how you became a Vendler, a Bloom, of that look
that said: ‘I’ll break your things, then write a sestina.’
No, I swear, next time they say ‘please provide a brief summary’,
I’ll get the other half to send them some flummery.

Isi Unikowski

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