Up At The Tech
This poem was written in 1992, which was four years before I stopped teaching there. The art school was variously called East Sydney or The Tech or The National Art School. Everyone knew what you were talking about. When I was there, first as a student in 1971 and 1972 and then as a part-time teacher between 1976 and 1996 there was a degree of modesty at the school. Trumpet blowing was disrespectful in the face of the history of art and the history of the school. When Alexander Mackie was established in 1974, two years after I finished studying, they left the premises to establish what was supposed to become the major art school in Sydney. Thankfully they left the jewelry behind. They left the gaol, they left the tradition and they left the staff that was committed to that tradition. We couldn't believe our luck.
I was very pleased to remember writing the poem and be able to make a modest contribution to what was a happy celebration dinner in one of the sculpture studios at the school on 2nd May, 2017.
As I mentioned in my introduction on the night, it was not presented as a work of literature, but as a document that illustrates the commitment to the school over those years, before the school was granted its independence.
You have entered a place of great beauty and power.
It is dark, it is quiet and you have to enquire.
There’s a queue and a test, best dressed is poor.
The machinery is broken, don’t break the door!
Of winning and status, of dreamed success
Qualifications B A R S
If you think you can make it then make it again!
To make it from here is to break from the pen.
The messages, the lessons, are etched in the walls
The veins are the teachers who lurk in the halls.
They think, but they’re actually carried along
Their voice is a trick laid down by the song.
The waves are the students who slightly demur
They ripple and tease a distant shore.
The water is left in puddles and pools.
And each generation walks through the news.
There’s lock, stock and barrel, a range and a zoo
Every opinion is riding, make that one, make that two.
We know that it’s happening. It’s happened before.
There’s a clock in the passage, a knock on the door.
The hour is coming, the hour is here.
The hour comes every year.
To be neither in fashion nor out of date
To be neither too early nor ever too late.
To be part of the middle of a missing core,
While around the edges they cry for more.
Michael Snape 1992