John Leonard is a poet living in Canberra, he has four collections of poetry published,
the latest being Braided Lands (2010). He was born in the UK in 1965 and attended
Oxford University. He moved to Australia in 1991 and completed a PhD at the University
of Queensland in 1995. He is interested in connections between poetry, Daoism and deep
ecology and has a work, The Way of Poetry (2010) exploring these. He is a former poetry
editor of Overland. His website is

Themself, Anyway

A plural, sexless singular—
Arguably not reflexive—folded into
That 'anyway'. What's most to fear
In this individual case, sample
Of plural habit, is that the company
Is lost in argument.

Draft the poem again. Reduced
To one, then no matter what,
Anyway's slubbed thought has won.
You'd say they can go screw themself,
That we've dealt with anyway, but who's
Really screwed here?

The Three Stages of Poetry

The first is when you have so much
To say, and your words will not
Shape themselves to your ideas,
Though, strangely, they fit the pattern
And the fashion of the time.

The second is when your words
Match nicely with your ideas,
Your poems flow, and besides what
You wanted to say, your poems
Give you a little extra insight.

The third stage is when your poems
Do not flow, but force themselves
On you with strange words and expressions;
You think these poems not yours,
Do not understand them, and they unsettle you.

This last is commonly seen either
As a dotage, or the beginning of wisdom.


Always in post-production, it's
As though the script, the shooting
Never happened.
The publicists
Are keen to begin work; the stars,
And the backers want to know
How to think of it: bitter-sweet
Romance, quick-moving action drama,
Or something else entirely.
Are brought in to cut it, then
Then others to undo those cuts;
Viewer panels give reactions
That vary widely, and no-one can
Decide on the ending.
All agree,
However, that whatever is done,
It's likely to bomb—no-one will see it,
Or remember it for anything.


Change in the hills, change
In the air, change in the water,
But no change in hearts,
Only denial or ignorance.

You have looked to the hills,
You have drunk water flowing
From those hills, and lived
Years on the plains beneath.

As the hills dry, you will dry,
As the plains wither, you too
Will wither—you are of the world
And you will change with it.

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