States of Poetry 2017 - ACT | 'The Poetry Exam' by John Foulcher

The Poetry Exam

The hall begins to fill. The students sit.
She sets her papers neatly on the desk
and rolls the lines around her mouth, flits
from word to word, moves her lips. The rest

is left to memory. The tests are stacked
for passing out on perfect, icy lines
of tables set in single file, tables packed
away when half-right answers whine

and plead for one mark more. She’s worked
for this. She knows the poems like friends,
she’s been to bed with them, she’s heard
their true confessions, knows their ends.

The earth moves. She turns the paper, reads it all.
She tears it into tiny bits. She leaves the hall.

John Foulcher

John Foulcher

John Foulcher

John Foulcher has written eleven books of poetry, most recently 101 Poems (Pitt Street Poetry 2015), a selection from his previous books, and A Casual Penance (Pitt Street Poetry 2017). His work has appeared in Australian magazines and anthologies for more than thirty-five years, and he has received and been shortlisted for many awards. Poems from his first book, Light Pressure (Angus&Robertson 1983), were set for study on the New South Wales Higher School Certificate syllabus for ten years. In 2010–11 he was the Literature Board’s resident at the Keesing Studio in Paris. He divides his time between Canberra and an old Catholic church which he is renovating near the town of Braidwood in New South Wales. His books can be purchased from