Perfect Blue
Kona Macphee
 
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Commentary: Smallpox

Growing up in Melbourne, I rapidly developed a strong phobia of the large and fast-moving huntsman spiders that got into the house on a regular basis. Perhaps I learned the phobia by observing my equally phobic mother, or perhaps it was simply instinctive: after all, from an evolutionary point of view, a tendency to fear and avoid dangerous things like snakes, spiders and heights seems like a pretty adaptive genetic trait.

My huntsman phobia is very particular (unlike huntsmans, I can rescue large Scottish spiders from the bath, and I've even held a tarantula in my hands), and it's a curious mixture of panicky terror and perverse fascination. If you put a huntsman in a safely-sealed jar on my desk, I'd spend all day staring at it, and even provoking it to rear up on its hind legs and menace me (as they tend to do when threatened). This poem is inspired by that strange admixture of fear and fascination - the same thing, perhaps, that induces some people to enjoy horror movies.

The poem has a very tight rhyme and rhythm scheme, with the same patterns of metrical "feet" and the same end-rhymes in every stanza. There's a terrific pleasure in writing poems like this, because the ultra-restrictive constraints seem to act as a spur to one's unconscious creativity; somehow, almost miraculously, piece after piece of the rhyme's "puzzle" appear and slot into place, as though the poem already exists and is simply being remembered, bit by bit.

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