Why does that page look so white?

Scary poem surrounded by wasted space
Scary poem surrounded by wasted space

Why does that page look so white?
Why is it only half full?
You don’t like poems and fair enough
you take in an eyeful of words
and then the words stop short
making space on the right, your space
making time on the right, time for your mind
to wander, so you float away
to your brother rowing across Cook Strait
or your mother who never went to church
or a film you saw the other day.
That’s good, feel free
that’s why the lines are chopped
that’s what white space is for.
This is a single runaway non-poem.
I’m seventy-eight, that’s not very old
but it’s getting late
so I’m rushing at this like a bull at a gate.
So much living done and dusted
none of it ordinary, all of it ordinary
some of it wanting to turn into a story
all of it mine and all of it yours.
I could be arcane, I could be smart
I could crochet the strings of your heart
I could be clever, I could be wise
douse my words in splendour and surprise
but now that I’m staring at my own demise
I’m in a rush to beat the deadline.
So read it aloud in a lonely room
or read it with friends in a Long Song huddle
or read in peace to somebody dear
who has to be fed mushy food with a spoon
and here’s the deal
I’ll stop talking to myself
and talk to you.


I see this (partly) as a poem about how to read a poem, for people who don’t like poetry. I wonder what you think about this?

Image and poem and voice by Rachel McAlpine, CC BY 2.0: that means feel free to share them, but always attribute them to me. Thanks!

18 thoughts on “Why does that page look so white?

  1. I like your non-poem! I’m sure the audio would be pleasant as I was able to listen to your previous post the other day, but not this one, although I did find the contact screen. I expect most of your readers aren’t in my boat in that regard — I have Stone Age internet speed so don’t do well time-wise downloading but I’ll still enjoy reading here.

    1. Oh thank you for telling me this. My solution when I get time will be to include both versions: m4a, which you could read but I couldn’t, not even on the device that created the file, and mp3, which I could. Because it won’t be just your old computer: I bet there are others. So thanks again.

  2. I am not a poetry fan but I found the thought process behind the narrative interesting. I have never read anything like this commenting on the space left unused on a sheet of paper.

  3. I don’t always understand the prose either – but in some ways I like the “white space” – I could add my own thoughts or something else – a doodle – a reminder to check something out, that I’m seeing in the writing…or check what else the author has composed, maybe even another poem of a similar title…

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