We have our very own poet laureate, Committee member, Professor Chris Ringrose. Chris shared this wonderful poem on the impact that words and stories have made in his life, written especially for the Willy Lit Fest program launch. Our audience was delighted! Thank you Chris!
About the lure of curiosity –
the need to make a leap, or take a chance.
Some say it stems from that forbidden fruit –
How would it taste upon the tongue?
Some indicate the lifting of a lid:
(another woman did the deadly deed).
Pandora did it! And the woes that flew
And fluttered up round her startled face
in that one moment, she could not retract.
The sad results of curiosity.
But look, we are all avid readers here.
We know that, for the curious, books are doors
Or double doors, of paper, where we trace
the scraps of letters and insert the key.
The door that is a book swings open and
then leads us to a world inside and out.
It might have been my nosiness that made
Me peer through Cloud Street’s windows, gates and doors
My nose stuck up against the grimy pane,
Or gawp at Ahab’s cabin, where he paced
with clunk and shuffle of his whalebone leg
and muttered threats to Pequod’s nemesis.
Yes, I was curious, I will admit.
I peered inside old Wordsworth’s Lakeland heart
And found my young heart beating time with his
Invited in by Humbert Humbert’s charm
I found him funny, then despicable.
And all the time I was invited in
I was inviting them inside myself.
So now it really is too late to ask
If curiosity showed me the world
or dreamed it for me, out of subtle words.
Am I living in Australia?
Or am I just its host, that land
constructed in me by a hundred books?
I want to sail up Grenville’s secret river
to find an outcome happier than hers;
I want a year of living dangerously
Before I come back safe to Williamstown
And steep myself in erudite Malouf.
The fate of books, you know, is not all grace
The years can squeeze them dry like a damp rag
Till no-one’s curious any more at all –
You’ve seen them whimpering quietly
in some cheap op shop pavement stall.
I’ve seen books shut and thrown across a room
And seen them mashed to pulp in giant vats
And bleached and stewed and rolled and then reborn
To make the notebook that is in my hand.
But now at seventy I still retain
a curiosity that books can stir.
I’ll walk in lovely suburbs with Nick Gadd
and peer at ghost signs in his company,
and eavesdrop on the loves of Sunday Reed
or hope, when turning pages near the end
Laguna finds a home for Jimmy Frick.
There’s something that I want to say today
about the path of curiosity
from child to man or woman and its reach.
I still can feel the arms of Mum and Dad
around my shoulder as I read, just like
I did at home when I was only five.
I see the book, I hear the magic words —
the sense of building bridges, opening doors
on to the worlds that brimmed so full of things
I never knew I wanted until then.
Yes, there were tears at violence and death
and there were things I did not want to know –
those roads I felt compelled to travel down
to be offended or insulted on the way,
or be fully aroused – oh goodness me –
and so in June I’ll hear the writers speak
and possess their words more intimately.