The first poem I wrote was a haiku

Words by Andrew Phillips

Published on March 1, 2013

Mum points to the large cardboard box in the corner of the living room. Bulging with papers, folders and ring-binder plastic-sleeves, all of it yellowing and musty. I pull out my old high school folder, dark recycled grey and covered with clear contact to hold the cut-out magazine pictures; winter lines of swell at Bells beach, a cutback sends an offshore fan of ocean water over the back of the wave or the orange and grey rock of Mt Arapiles with shirtless climber in bright leggings laybacking Punks in the Gym, reaching for a hold to his left. ‘There’s another one in the garage for you to take.

There isn’t much inside these leaves. I went through school just aiming to pass subjects, hanging out for lunchtime cricket, footy training or dreaming about surfing and clambering up Kangaroo point cliffs. It’s the same story from senior down to primary — ‘significant holes in his written English language.’

Today I sit with amazing poets in coffee shops, critiquing each other’s latest piece and I feel like a fraud giving them feedback about their poem. What would I know? They were all reading and writing, making newspapers for their street while I spent those days (at best) reading Tintin, whittling sticks and playing endless games of backyard test cricket. Primary-deep within the box I find this in modern cursive HB scrawl:

hawkes on a
kangaroo
pick the last bites of
their meal
fly back to their
nest

Typically 5/7/5 in teacher syllabus driven haiku=counting syllables however she (or he) did get me to write and capture the details of a single moment so they managed to pass on some elements of haiku writing.

This is my first poem. Scratching through the rest of the box I guess I wouldn’t write my next poem for another twenty-five years, which is probably the poem you want to read about but it’s a pretty sad poem and I didn’t feel like sharing it today. Another time perhaps.