Alan Laslett

Alan Laslett first read at Friendly Street in 1982 and was first published in No. 7 Friendly Street Reader in 1983. He was a reasonably regular reader, though not always with a view to publication, until he went to Kangaroo Island as Principal of Kingscote Area School, 1995-2000. After retiring from the Education Department of South Australia, he began teaching in the professional writing program at the University of South Australia, Magill Campus, where he is currently. This continues to be a very exciting experience. He also teaches one class in the teacher education program at the Elder School of Music. Alan’s poetry has been published in a number of Friendly Street Poetry Readers and also in numerous Spring Poetry Festival publications produced by the South Australian English Teachers Association.. He also read on the ABC radio program, Unsettled Areas, which was produced and aired in the early to mid eighties, and at the Zoo and various other venues. Over the years (dates, times and locations run widdershins in the brain, as Judith Wright once said), he has conducted many poetry writing and reading workshops for students (and occasionally for staff and parents.) Other poetry has been published in various anthologies: The Inner Courtyard: A South Australian Anthology of Love Poetry Ed. Anne Brewster and Jeff Guess, Pub. Wakefield Press; Poets at Play Ed. John Maloney Pub. Longman; Doing Bombers off the Jetty Peter McFarlane and Rory Harris Pub. McMillan; and, other places too various to recall.

Alan Laslett now lives in beautiful Aldgate in the Adelaide Hills with his librarian cum belly dancer wife, Anne, and his delightful six year old daughter, Amy. He hopes you enjoy revisiting these poems from a past which was then intensely various and embryonic.

The Smallest Paddle Steamer on the Murray

Only a ghost
Of a paddle wheel steamer,
The smallest on the Murray,
The tourist brochure said.
We had to climb over
Barbed-wire fences,
Stir up dust on
Vermin-riddled levees,
Trespass over cow pasture
To catch sight of this spectre
Sitting all askew,
Slouching on mud,
While paint shredded
In long cheese-like strips
From the cabin.
The hulk, tethered to
A gnarled red-gum,
Much older and wiser,
Suggested only vague history,
None was told –
Only a sign
“Trespassers Prosecuted.”
Dare we even
Cross the threshold
In our imagination
Place stealthy feet
On crumbling decks,
Fire up the boiler
And dream…
Too small for wool bales
But challenging the “Tarella”
With a full head of steam,
Running general cargo,
Daring the new frontier
Along the old Murray.
But we didn’t trespass,
The old dreams
Wouldn’t rise and
All we saw was
An ancient derelict;
The smallest on the river,
So they said.

From Friendly Street No. 7

The Pattern of Learning

He always seemed to be there
The heavy door unlocked
Slightly ajar,
Peeking through windows
We saw him
Bending over papers.
The greying head
Holding the pattern of our learning
Moved only at the starting time.
Then, as if an automaton,
Without so much as a glance
At the old wall clock
That measured the minutes
Of our weekday lives
He closed the books
Rose precisely from his chair
Strode to the door
With an air of authority
And blew his whistle.
We scurried with haste
Lined the painted corrugated iron
Of the old shelter shed
The excitement of the lunchtime
“Kissing-in-the-ring” forgotten
Marched in to the regimented desks
Stood to attention
For the equally regimented
“I am an Australian”
And on to the familiar chant
Once four is four
Two fours are eight…
In the routine acquisition
Of our learning
‘Nulla dies sine linea’
Never a day without a line
Never a day without a sum
Never a day without reading
Never a day without
The patterns of our learning
Being etched more clearly
Never a day…

From Friendly Street No. 11


The mottled marble
Shiny-hard like agate
Matches his face
Intense and hard
In the early morning
His bag zippered tight
Like his closed mind
Encasing little
To stimulate
His hopefulness
Even the waiting
Has lost his purpose
And Godot-like
The specificity of hope
Has long since gone
No hope
Leaving a face
Uncut and unpolished
Hard like agate

From Friendly Street No. 13