Self Seen


photo (1)At the beginning of this year I was asked to read my poetry at The Woman Scream International Poetry Festival in Sydney. The festival is celebrated in March every year in many countries throughout the world, and seeks to bring attention to issues such as violence against women, as well as to support and showcase the voices of women in the arts.

It was an honour to be asked to take part, but it was also rather nerve-racking! I was punching above my weight with this one, reading my work alongside other Australian poets who are much more widely published and well-known than I am. Scary!

Happily, it turned out to be a wonderful night; everybody was supportive and gracious, and I even made a few new literary friends. 🙂

However, when I saw some photos of the event afterwards on Facebook, I was dismayed. Everybody else appeared so at ease and animated; I had tried so hard to look calm that I ended up looking completely expressionless: zombie-like in fact! The only clue to my anxious internal state — a very shiny (ahem, some would say sweaty, but we all know that ladies don’t sweat) face. Oh well! Poet Michelle Cahill kindly gave me some make-up tips for next time.

On a more serious note, the experience got me thinking about the dichotomy that often exists between our external appearance and our internal reality…and so, dear reader, I do what poets do — I wrote a poem. ‘Self Seen‘ was first published in the fabulous Blue Hour Magazine: read it there, or here below.

Self Seen

Impassive as a mountain
I sit, hands resting reverentially in
the infertile valley of my lap,
face glowing like the gibbous moon
and hair as vaingloriously glossy
as the Jewess’s wedding wig.

Others incline inquisitively
their thoughtful hands cup jutting jaws
their sharp eyes peck the gold from dross
and their hair like blazing halos
is conspicuously mussed.

Only I seem to sit
insensate as Vesuvius,
internally vibrating on the verge
of deliquesce—


13 thoughts on “Self Seen

  1. Well done Michelle for having the courage to get up and share your poem! We are our greatest critics in life and I am sure you looked and read wonderfully. Thanks for sharing your story with such honesty.

    • Hi Karen, thank you so much, I really appreciate your kind and positive comment. You’re right, we are are own harshest critics, and I’m sure no-one else noticed my shiny face – until now! (I probably should have kept my mouth shut!!!) But best to be honest, and good not to take yourself too seriously. Thank you!

  2. On the first (and only!) occasion I ever performed a poem (this one, at the St Kilda StripFest), my hand was shaking so much my eye couldn’t follow the letters on the page. Fortunately it was a tiny poem 🙂

    Anyone who claims they don’t get nervous is having you on 🙂

    Also congrats on your recent editorship.

  3. Hi Mig – love the poem! And thanks for sharing your experience – it’s nice to know you’re not the only one 🙂 On this occasion I had to read for 10 long minutes – eek! But I’ve read again a few times since then, and every time gets easier.

    Thanks also for the congrats. That’s the next ‘first ‘ experience to get nervous about – editor! Tell me that gets easier too…???


  4. Heh-had to look up “deliquesce.” Thanks for that, Michele, and your wry poem. So psyched that you read as part of this cool international poetry festival–yay you!!! You are quite the performing poetic celebrity–first emceeing The Blue Stocking Poetry Jam and now this. Go, girl! xoxo

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