Second Thoughts

B N Oakman finds poetry in the ordinary, the exotic, the political and the aesthetic. No head of State or classical film is safe from his exacting eye, which yields refreshing insights about subjects we thought we already understood.


Click Here To Download The Preview

Winner, 2014 IP Rolling Picks Best Poetry

B N Oakman finds poetry in the ordinary, the exotic, the political and the aesthetic. No head of State or classical film is safe from his exacting eye, which yields refreshing insights about subjects we thought we already understood.

A poet for the journey rather than the arrival, Oakman blends intellect, heart and imagination in sharply observed verse employing the rhythms of everyday speech with a conversational tone devoid of sentimentality. He eschews distracting detail, embellishment and pointless abstractions, to usher his readers towards closing lines frequently of startling impact. If this book has a leitmotif it might be distilled from the poetry of Antonio Machado, the great Spanish poet whose life and work are referenced here and there throughout Second Thoughts. Oakman is plainly sympathetic to Machado’s credo: Wayfarer, your footsteps/ are the road and nothing more./ Wayfarer, there is no road,/ the road is made by walking. Oakman’s writing, recently described by a prominent critic as ‘radically comprehensible’, is a poetry of engagement which embraces a wide range of subjects – political, personal, cinema, art, war – always encouraging the reader to share an experience, an idea, an emotion.


One measure of a poet’s dedication to the art form to ask how many poems have been published elsewhere prior to their presentation in book form. Oakman mentions in his acknowledgements that all but one of the 51 poems in this collection have been previously published in various magazines, journals and newspapers which include many of the most sought after literary publications in Australia and overseas. The exception is the title poem – and we can only speculate he reserved it for this book.

B N Oakman

B N Oakman, formerly an academic economist, started writing poetry in 2006. In 2006 he started offering poems to publishers. Subsequently his work has been widely published in magazines, journals and newspapers in Australia, the UK and the USA. He has since published many poems in Australia and overseas as well as a full-length book, In Defence of Hawaiian Shirts (IP, 2010) and two booklets, Chalk Dust (2009) and Secret Heart (2013), both with Mark Time Books. He was awarded a grant by the Literature Board of the Australia Council for 2009. His work is recorded on the ABC Classics CD, Peter Cundall Reads War Poetry and he reads his poetry at various events and festivals. His work has been nominated for The Pushcart Poetry Prize 2015 (USA). Second Thoughts is his second full-length collection.


You urge me. Go. Hasten to Spain.
Return to my heart’s desire. Heed
the fandango’s beat. Dwell not

on your capricious health. Tarry,
and be infirmity’s wall-flower.
‘I’ll still be here’, you say.

Imagine me, prowling the Prado,
knocking on Unamuno’s door
in Salamanca, catching whispers

of Lorca in Andalusia, resting
on Belchite’s abandoned stones,
wandering the maze and Mihrab

of Cordoba’s mosque, placing a palm
on pardon’s portal in Santiago,
pausing by graves only the brave

dared name, listening to Spaniards
talk politics in a taberna,
my book on a table, an empty chair,

bread gravel in my mouth, oil
rancid on my tongue, the wine
vinegar to unkissed lips.

A Note for My Daughter

for Penny

After I am ashes wait
until your tears have dried.
Choose a day when the wind blows hard
and take the urn (or box or bin)
to some convenient lofty site
(a handy rooftop will suffice) and there,
without ceremony, words or prayer
fling my dust into the flying air.

No declarative stones or lettered brass,
no rosy plot for ruminations,
but in gusts and zephyrs, puffs and squalls
you may remember me
and smile,
your every breath my name.

Look At My Eyes

Look at my eyes.
I’m dead behind these eyes.
– Archie Rice, eponymous character in John Osborne’s play The Entertainer (1957)

I know how Archie feels
after the fire’s gone out
easy to grab at pain killers
a few swigs of self-deceit
no trouble doing drugs
helpful doctors will oblige
or try DIY
no one will notice
you’ll still be moving and nodding
not a bother to anyone
after all you’re only dead inside

somebody taught me
pain is more lively than torpor
but there’s a price
you’ll be a bloody nuisance
a pest in the popularity quest
now look at my eyes
see anything burning
maybe smouldering
or is there a blaze
the flames dancing in the ruins

On Waking

I wake
each morning
to the curve
of your body
lips pressed
to the nape
of your neck
and wait
for the sun
to tint the room
with gold
and wonder
if such as you
lies here
how shall I
ever know
I’m old?

Metro Antonio Machado

Garcia Lorca’s name graces an airport
while the poet of dreams, remembered

landscapes, diviner of Castile’s flinty soul,
fuser of outer and inner, dignifies

a metro station on Linea 7, steel rails
joining Pitis to Hospital de Henares.

Machado is not the ideal poet to counsel
straying travellers to ‘get back on track’.

Wayfarer, your footsteps/are the road,
and nothing more./Wayfarer, there is
no road,/the road is made by walking.

But five correspondencias permit us
to deviate, perhaps emerge somewhere

unintended, and Don Antonio, reader
of Freud, will encourage wanderers

to follow their footsteps, explore
subterranean darkness, descend deep

beneath the teeming surface of Madrid.

In Defence of Hawaiian Shirts

Too many uniforms mean a country’s turning dangerous,
that’s what I thought as I watched Triumph of the Will 1 –
masses of Germans marching (in step)
kitted out in matching threads and shod with leather boots (named Jack)
and the film’s star is The Führer (he of curt salutes and silly poses)
who shouts a lot about the rules for partying with his tidy mob.

And today it frightens me nobody simply works a job,
they are members of a team and trussed
in corporate garb for fish shops, planes and pubs and banks
and embroidered with their masters’ names – even those
who drive a taxi are buttoned in a company shirt
(with insignia, epaulets and badge)
and every one of them commands that I enjoy my bloody day.

So it’s with some fondness I remember
(and I don’t believe I’ve made this up)
being served one cold July (in Customs) by a silent splendid clerk
who wore a loud Hawaiian shirt
where the waves were blue and the sands were gold
and lithe brown girls in grassy skirts
with hibiscus flowers in their raven hair
swayed beneath his printed palms and shimmered with Alohas.

1 Triumph des Willens, Germany, 1934, dir. Leni Riefenstahl, b&w, 114mins.

Read more on Google Books

ISBN : 9781922120991
ISBN: 9781922120991, 9781922120984
Tags:, , , , ,
Page Length: 68
Weight N/A
Dimensions N/A

Ebook, PB


ePub, mobi(kindle), PB, pdf

Customer Reviews

1-5 of 5 reviews

  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    Oakman writes poems for those annoyed by poets. These are honest stories drawn from history, sometimes the personal, more often the sweep of the world beyond, with an even-handed empathy for the subject of each telling. Resisting the florid and the abstract, Oakman drives directly at the point, with here and there a verse like Incan stonework, so carefully composed you barely see the joins.
    – Geoff Lemon, Editor, Going Down Swinging

    July 20, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    There is a gentle, but occasionally disconcerting, power in all Bruce Oakman’s poetry. He has an extraordinary talent for revealing and confronting us with aspects of reality about which we are either unaware, or tend to ignore. His poems are filled with surprises, sometimes making us smile, but the unexpected distilled truths he uncovers about ourselves and the world in which we live, can leave us weak and trembling, but always wanting more.
    – Peter Cundall, Peter Cundall Reads War Poetry

    July 20, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    Bruce Oakman’s writing grows ever more robust and compassionate. He goes to the centre of things, drawing on both past and present as he creates landscapes of feeling in poems in which history, politics, people and places are refracted through a deeply felt understanding of the human condition. With a vision committed to looking at things straight, these are poems from the heart.

    – Valerie Krips, Editor, Arena Magazine

    July 20, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    My favorite film is probably Brief Encounter, and it’s lovely to find it here as the focus of Bruce Oakman’s title poem in this collection: a collection of not just second but infinitely reconsidered thoughts on all the major themes of life and literature; a succession of brief encounters with a rich, and enriching, array of people, places, passions. 51 compact poems encompass whole worlds of emotion and experience, from hospital beds to hilltop towns in Spain, politics to prisons, films to the footy field, each freshly fashioned to prompt our own thoughts and second thoughts.

    – Ian Britain, former editor Meanjin

    July 20, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    Oakman’s poetry moves deftly, but no less aptly, between the commonplace and the insightful, the particular and the universal. Moments of frolic are shot through with wisdom, as elsewhere a purposeful ruggedness leads on to refinement. So many poems are distinguished by their final line: demonstrations of organic closure – conceptually retroactive, forceful yet elegant.

    – John Flaus, actor and critic

    July 20, 2023

Write a Review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *