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Chris Ringrose – the Willy Lit Fest Poet Laureate

Chris Ringrose Willy Lit Fest Launch 2016

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!

Stay Curious

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.

chris ringrose