States of Poetry 2017 - ACT | 'Patriotism' by Geoff Page

Patriotism

‘... the last refuge of a scoundrel’.
                                   Samuel Johnson

But here and there a whisk of it
does no essential harm:

an accidental win or two
in sports you never follow,

a minor decency observed
by those you didn’t vote for,

a set of figures showing that
we’re still not quite the worst

of countries with a moral fault
but clearly in the running.

The high point comes though when
a boy or girl who seems to hail

from Beijing or Bangkok
or even Addis Ababa

starts addressing you in diphthongs
first heard long ago

among your parents and their friends
who’d seen off a depression

and managed World War II,
that accent which is ours alone,

mysteriously quite unlike
all other Anglophones,

its vowels worn down by space and weather,
eucalypts and stones.

Geoff Page


My ‘Patriotism’ poem is as close as I get to a dangerous emotion. I find I can’t help liking the way the children and grandchildren of migrants and refugees take on (unconsciously, I think) a lot of the accent I grew up with in the 1940s (and in which I still proudly speak – though sometimes with an ironic smile as well.) – Geoff Page

Geoff Page

Geoff Page

Geoff Page is based in Canberra and has published twenty-three collections of poetry as well as two novels and five verse novels. His recent books include 1953 (UQP 2013), Improving the News (Pitt Street Poetry 2013), New Selected Poems (Puncher & Wattmann 2013), Aficionado: A Jazz Memoir (Picaro Press 2014), Gods and Uncles (Pitt Street Poetry 2015), Hard Horizons (Pitt Street Poetry 2017) and PLEVNA: A Verse Biography (UWA Publishing 2016). He also edited The Best Australian Poems 2014 and The Best Australian Poems 2015 (Black Inc). His Elegy for Emily: a verse biography is due out shortly from Puncher & Wattmann.