poets I’m reading: Over the frontier by Rosemary Dobson

Today’s poem is by Australian poet, Rosemary Dobson.

there is always something that eludes one … the poems presented here are part of a search for something only fugitively glimpsed; a state of grace which one once knew, or imagined, or from which one was turned away. Surely everyone who writes poetry would agree that this is part of it – a doomed but urgent wish to express the inexpressible.

From the preface of Selected Poems. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1973, revised 1980.

Over the frontier – Rosemary Dobson 

(Reverie on a poem by Zbigniew Herbert)

The object that exists

a glass, say, or a bottle

is one step away from the object that does not exist,

it has crossed over the outermost rim

and between light and darkness

it has assumed shape and purpose.


And the poem that exists

will never equal the poem that does not exist.

Trembling, it crosses the frontier at dawn

from non-being to being

carrying a small banner,

bearing a message,


bringing news of the poem that does not exist,

that pulses like a star, red and green, no-colour,

blazing white against whiteness.

Listen to the universe –

those are the possibilities of order

buzzing and humming.


The outline of non-existence

can be held by the inner eye,

always moving, it assumes the shape of stillness.

So a plate spinning on a stick

is the essence of a plate, a still one,

absolute plate with a fish on it.


From the collection: Over the Frontier: Poems. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1978





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