Moderately threatening bird

Between budgie and hawk
you flutter your mild wings,
which still cause wee jumps
in heart rate or blood pressure -
more wallaby than pole vault.
You don’t pick eyes out
like ravens of ill repute
(though I’ve always been partial
to those most Victorian birds).
You don’t trade messages with the dead,
or lead the undead back to tossed bed
of sea doona, or semen sheet.
Yet you are somewhat disquieting,
with your cleverness beyond our control.
So we clip your wings, and ignore
the unclipped birds flocking in our heads.
Ideas swarm like sparrows
and each one is falling into dread.

PS Cottier

starling

Something weird is happening with that poem’s formatting, in that it won’t let me insert a proper em dash, just a hyphen.  Moderately threatening glitches/your less successful witches/wedged in the keyboard like sandwich ham.  (Said witches also make you experiment with Instant Poetry, which is A Truly Dangerous Thing.)

For those in Canberra, I’ll be doing a reading at University House next week, Wednesday 8th of February.  This is the series that used to be at The Gods, and the other readers are Chloe Wilson and Keith Harrison.  You can eat there before, should you wish, from 6pm, and the readings start at 7.30pm, in the Drawing Room.  It costs $5 for the unwaged and $10 for those with gainful employment.  (Otherwise called Not Full-time Poets.)

I’ll be reading my usual mix of poems about elves, and poems with a serious political slant.  Often both exist in the same poems.  I sometimes think I should do a collection called Fairies of Social Realism Playing Football on Mars.  Or perhaps I already did.

The new year is finally picking up, and I have had news of a couple of forthcoming publications, which I shall post about soon, witches permitting.

 

 

bigstock-Barbells-781666

I feel almost forced to reflect, like a cross between Narcissus and the kid in that eye device in Clockwork Orange.

Achievements:

I leg pressed 200kg, which is pretty damned good.
Lots of publications. Lots!
My chapbook Quick Bright Things came out.
I did more live readings this year.
I was highly commended in many a poetry competition, which is winning’s peculiar cousin, sitting in the corner playing endless games on his device.

Not so achievey:

I spent too much time worrying about the news, and letting it affect me.
My budgie won’t talk.
My canaries won’t sing.

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Irresolute:

I don’t do resolutions, partly based on the fact that I heard two very fit people at the gym sneering at those they called ‘the resolutionists’, who join in January and are never seen after February.

But I will continue with the poeting, the gym, and letting the budgie teach me budgie. And this blog will continue as long as blogging is a thing, and Tuesdays exist.  Back to Tuesdays after the celebrations end.

Happy New Year, and easy on the Rabbie Burns!

Firstly, if you want to hear me talk about poetry at some length, and read a few poems, please go to the Verity La podcast.  Michele Seminara and Alice Allan are the interviewers/fellow discussants, which means that they like hurling questions like flattened orbs, but in a polite kind of way.  I am just getting up the courage to listen to myself.

Secondly, I was in a most excellent night at The Salt Room on Friday 23rd September.  I was the first reader, armed with lectern, and stayed rooted to the spot, even if my poetry didn’t.  I read about fantastic creatures and climate change.

Then came Miranda Lello, who read a long poem, or poetry sequence, called Election Day 2086 (a memoir, a map), which she had written for the reading.  She also made a zine specifically for the night.  The election described in very grounded in Canberra, but a Canberra that stands as a kind of ghost of the current one.  Black Mountain Tower

‘…rises from the forest pointing
To our neo-retro-future selves
Empty for decades beaming signals to the stars –
Stories of school groups’ noisy chattering
The cruelty of children…

She is a great reader/performer, and I enjoyed her travels in time, and the way she recasts the very familiar in a slip of unfamiliarity. She needs no magic call box. Or lectern, either!

Scott Wings also dealt with time, but for me his use of space was the most remarkable thing; his crawling up a tree by lying on the floor, his pacing the room, so that even the shyer people up the back were made part of the performance.  If you gave Scott a lectern, I think he’d probably use it in some unexpected way.  His work is quite moving, too, dealing with aspects of his life and how he came to poetry.  Here we all are:

salt-room

Joel Barcham and Andrew Galan were their usual form of excellent, too, and I am very happy to have been asked to read at The Salt Room.

Yesterday (and thirdly) I went up to Sydney for the  inagaural  first Poetry at Sawmillers reading, and enjoyed the brief taste of the lower north shore.  Some really good poetry read and performed, and I’ll post a link to the winner’s poem if it is published.  For me, sitting at a local pub with a view of a bay and a bridge, sipping booze was so pleasant I can imagine another poet, say SP (“Sippy”) Cottier, who would miss the reading and simply stay on the terrace, sunning herself like one of the lizards living under the succulents on the deck who have no idea that they have a view worth about 3.5 million dollars.

But I am not that poet, and really enjoyed reading my poem, which I present forthwith:

7 ways to look at a sculpture

Firstly, it seemed a frozen poem,
which I read in different drafts
as I skirted around it.

Then it was time captured,
as if to trap the watchers,
and so release us from fervent rush.

By Wednesday I saw it more
as a mere mirror to catch
any cracked thought I threw at it —

but the next day it restated
its being as a question, set to
disrupt our certainties with what?

Friday, it seemed to push up the sky,
a small, persistent fist clenched
against wind and mess and change —

but this changed on Saturday.
The grass seemed to give birth to it
as tulip, rocket and shining tree,

which unfurled into beauty
on the stretching, languid, seventh day,
an exclamation, an endless ah!

P.S. Cottier

Now I am off to stare at the Verity La site to see if I’m brave enough to listen to me.

***I have also received my new chapbook, and will post about that very soon.  That’s a fourthly.

UPDATE:  I listened to the podcast and I’m not as inarticulate as I had feared.  I particularly like the discussion on ecopoetry and climate change.

You can’t stand outside

Those small hems of grass at the edge
of the pavement, skirting road and house —
nature strips, we call them.
As if nature were a thin green line
of easy demarcation,
a quaint decoration for real estate.
Long home to droops of grass,
and limp advertising leaflets,
spat from bored letterboxes
like soggy swear words,
promising a paradise of credit.
But now backs swell,
bums are fleshy pumpkins,
bending over to tend
your actual pumpkins.
Vegetable patches add a swatch
of nature to the nature strips,
cultivated as they may be.
They’re small, these crops; pea small.
Peas placed under the mattress
of the market — hardly enough
to wake it from slumber.
That lazy princess dozes on,
dreaming the unseemly lives we live in.
And yet, as my neighbour said,
mulching with soggy leaflets —
if you can’t stand outside things,
at least you can get outside
and grow a few things.
She turned her strong back,
tending to tumescent zucchinis,
and the impatient tomatoes
she will decant into twenty hungry jars.
She’ll give some jars away,
or swap them for flowers or beans
in a cool, vegetable anarchy.

(Her recipe? Well, I would attach it,
but that’s one thing she just won’t share.)

The Princess shifts in her sleep.
The pumpkins are replete with seed.

P.S. Cottier

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This poem comes from a proposal to allow people to grow vegetables and other smallish plants on the nature strips outside their houses in Canberra, which are now meant to remain as purely grass and government street trees. A great idea to allow a bit of cultivation of the nature strips, as every bit of produce grown at home reduces the need for buying goods shipped in carbon emitting vehicles. Plus, it’s fun.  And it gives capitalism a wee tickle, a bit like a green fairy armed with a budgie’s feather.

The proposal was going to be formalised in Saptember, but has been put off to next year. I do hope the ACT government allows this change, and has not been dissuaded by whinging about the possibility of someone impaling themselves on asparagus spears or knocking themselves on the head by slipping onto a pumpkin.  Of course, ensuring that footpaths are accessible to all is important; but some other people just whinge about any change, however minor.  You know you live in a fairly safe city when people get worked up about beans possibly detracting from the ambience.

The poem above is therefore an imaginary creation of the Vegetable Patches of The Future.

🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅🍆🍅(I am getting bored)🍐

In my immediate future (Friday) is a reading at The Salt Room. Here are the details:

FRI 23 SEPTEMBER
The Salt Room
Main Hall, Gorman Arts Centre
7.30pm to 10.30pm

Presented by Ainslie and Gorman and BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT!, The Salt Room is a showcase of the finest ACT, interstate and international writers and performers around. Featuring Miranda Lello, P.S Cottier, and Scott Wings. 7.30pm.

Cost: $10 full, $5 concession available at the door.

There is a bar. And hopefully I will have received my new chapbook of fantasy poems to sell by then! As crunchy as a carrot and as magical as an eggplant. (A vegetable that divides opinion like an avocado, I find.  And good luck growing those green lovelinesses in Canberra!)

UPDATE:  Just heard that a poem I wrote has been shortlisted in the Poetry at Sawmillers prize, part of the Sculpture at Sawmillers event at McMahons Point in Sydney, so I’ll be popping up to read it on Saturday afternoon.  Should be fun, once I get there.

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Perfect words

Sometimes they reach out
caress with syllable fingers —
egregious is my long term love
half egret feathers with the jus
noise saucing the end,
despite the meaning
or because it’s such a better way
to say doubleplusbad.

Gnarly enchants, with that
drowning g, wiping out
in the endless surf of the ee.
What wetsuit could protect,
what board shorts deserve
the sweet yet egregious sea,
with the tincture of shark grin
and the promise of release?

P.S. Cottier

grandville-hospital

That illustration is most egregiously gnarly, and not AMA approved.

***

Here’s a photo in a different key, of Susan Hawthorne and Lizz Murphy who were participants in a discussion on The Poetics of Politics which was part of The Canberra Writers Festival.  I moderated the session on Saturday, and it went well, I think. We covered quite a lot of ground, and read several poems.  Later I thought about the event, and I realised that all the speakers and questioners had been women, which was a first, in my experience, at a mixed gender event.

Here are Lizz and Susan at Tilley’s après the panel.  They both ate.  I drank, and had a quiet evening watching horrendous Swedish murders being solved Nordically.

Lizz and Susan

And here’s another one before the wine at the end of the event itself; thank you Gina Dow.

CWfest1