The Defence

You know, students, it's not easy not to sound defensive
when you're doing your level best to defend yourself.
Yes, you'd have preferred us around the round table
& I'd have preferred us around the round table
but The Round Table Room was already double booked.
Yes. By all means elect a Chair, elect two Chairs
if you wish- that's a male Chair & a female Chair.
Alright. It's not up to me. I have to accept that.
Alright- not even up to me to accept or not accept.
Far be it from me to sound (or be) authoritarian but
I'm not going to go through the pretence, the charade of
denying I have the authority to Pass or Fail you. I do.
You've held the discussions. You've pinned up the notices.
You've collected the signatures. You've lodged the petition.
You've named the names. One name, anyway. Yours truly.
So don't you think it's appropriate for me to reply?
Now again, I don't want to sound (or be) self-serving
but if anything I've said or done, anything at all
has encouraged you to protest & organise against me
then fine. Obviously I must have done something right.
Repressive tolerance? Umm. I hope not. I hope not.
I hope I haven't entirely forgotten the 60s & all that.
Even so, I've learned not to wallow in The Good Old Days.
To the sonnet, then. Following the rhyme schemes down the page
(the Shakespearean ababcdcdefefgg, the Petrarchan abbaabbacdecde
& the Spenserian ababbcbccdcdee) mustn't be much fun, I know.
The stressed & the unstressed syllables of metrical English-
I wish I could say they caused me stress too, but I can't.
I was versed in free verse from the outset- free verse
free love & many a free kick at The Establishment. Even so
a bush picnic of poetry is hardly a university subject.
My 'Creative Writing' isn't 'Underwater Basket-Weaving'.
It requires form, shape, discipline, iron in the soul.
I know you don't want your whipper-snipper of a lecturer
to fault your poeticisms, your archaisms & strained rhymes
but nothing great, nothing memorable or even worthwhile
has ever come into existence without pain & suffering. So
pain & suffering, suffering & pain is what you can expect.
Call me a sadist, but you know it's for your own good.
Anyway, ababcdcdefefgg or abbaabbacdecde or ababbcbccdcdee
is better than your wife running off with a lesbian lecturer
or your boyfriend careering his car into the lake, drunk.
As for no one imitating those imitations of old sonnets
that were well after their time well before your time
I don't want to repeat the argument from pain & suffering
I'm not your father & I'm certainly not Father O'Flahertie
but I'm sure you'll agree that everything has a context.
The campus bank invests in the campus. Surprise. Surprise.
The cheeky little shiraz for our launching is uncorked by
courtesy of our Professor's wife's brother-in-law's son
who's experimenting at the winery with a new kind of cork
& the Vice-Chancellor thought a diminishing slush fund
would be a very small price to pay for the pleasure of
not having to decipher & launch the annual anthologies.
Once upon a time universities used to fund universities.
Now it's cap in hand to all the Government Departments.
I'm able to offer 'Creative Writing' through the auspices of
The Attorney-General's Department, Crime Prevention Unit.
You're looking at your watches, but I'm not going to smile.
Neighbourhood Watch, Business Watch, Rural Watch- all P R.
No, you're under no obligation to establish University Watch.
All the A-G is looking for is a reduction in the crime rate.
The Shakespearean, the Petrarchan & the Spenserian sonnets
should serve to limit your scheming to your rhyme schemes.
The pain, the pain, I know, but then- ah! the pleasure
in a society that's rarely been a society of extremes. So
you have no need to risk the ups & downs of using & dealing.
You have only to turn on the evening news to appreciate
the urgent & ever increasing need for rhyming sonnets.