The Tuesday Poem: No harm in hoping

I’m putting the Tuesday Poem up early because I’m going to be travelling for the next 24 hours. Neil has flown off to Singapore, (tempted to put a sad emoticon in here) en route for Cambodia and I’m heading south to Kaikoura on the ferry.

The poem I’ve chosen is by Vincent O’Sullivan, from his collection ‘Further Convictions Pending’ published in 2009.

No harm in hoping

At the end of the story I want you
to say, ‘I’ve forgotten the plot entirely.
It’s no use asking which character was which,
what name she used, what his job was.
Or where the bridge crossed the canal.’

At the end of the story I want you
to remember only the important things
that walk between the congregations of print
like a bride you’ve read of between the torches
of the story you thought you read.

I first met Vincent O’Sullivan when I began researching the Katherine Mansfield biography, because he’s one of the foremost Mansfield scholars and editor (with Margaret Scott) of all five volumes of Mansfield’s letters, author of many eminent academic papers, as well as the editor of numerous editions of New Zealand literature. It was only after that first meeting I realised that Vincent himself was a formidable poet and author of fiction. I began reading his work and it quickly became apparent that he was one of New Zealand’s most gifted authors. I felt quite embarrassed that I had regarded him initially as a scholar and not as a poet and author in his own right. This is one of the problems in New Zealand - authors here don’t always get the exposure they deserve on the other side of the world. Vincent’s work should be much, much better known.

I chose this poem because it seems to be about reading. To me it says ‘forget the detail, immerse yourself, live in it, to the point that it becomes your own story’. I’ve never agreed with the notion of ‘the death of the author’, but I believe absolutely that every reader reads a different version of a poem or story. The best stories for me are the ones where I go through a door into a virtual world that is utterly real until the last page.
I particularly love the image of ‘congregations of print’ and the reader walking like a bride down the torch-lit aisle between them.

For more Tuesday poems, click on the link.


  1. I love it. very cool - "between the torches of the story you thought you read." Or for the Tuesday Poem group maybe it should be the poem that you thought you wrote...
    will have to look out for that book :)

  2. Kathleen,

    There are some exquisitely memorable lines here. Among my favourite -- "the important things/
    that walk between the congregations of print/
    like a bride..."

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. I can only echo the comments above - there are lines to die for here..

    'that walk between the congregations of print'

    'between the torches of the story you thought you read'

    Thank you for sharing this Kathleen



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