Written Off

They had insured
and re-insured,
still it was not enough.

They hunched over maps,
consulted climate science.
Beachfront property

went with the stroke of a pen:
no possible premium
could insure that level of risk.

And floodplains:
why do people choose to build on them?
Bigger floods, more often: gone.

East Coast farmers, eyeball-deep
in debt, haunted by drought,
desperate to irrigate:

you backed the wrong horse.
Low-lying suburbs, factories
built next to streams:

there is no mercy
in insurance. The numbers speak,
and then there is no mercy.

Tim Jones

new-sea-land-front-cover

This poem is from Tim Jones’s new book New Sea Land, and deals with the effects of climate change in a particularly effective way, using deliberately simple language to describe a practical effect of rising sea levels.  It will become impossible to insure all those ‘desirable beachfront properties’, which may soon require scuba gear for inspection.

Tim’s book envisages the further changes that we may see (alongside those that we are already seeing) due to the global experiment that humanity is performing, without a control world to see if it’s a good idea.  The effects on the environment and people, both in his own country of Aotearoa/New Zealand, and worldwide, are the subjects of the book. The changes are envisaged in the very title of the book, with the shift from the words New Zealand to something recognisable, but quite different.

If the book’s topic sounds a little overwhelming, the poems themselves are witty, controlled and moving.  As someone who is trying to write on the same issues, without breaking into long and unseemly rants, I recommend this timely book to anyone who is concerned with climate change.  (Which is a bit like saying anyone who thinks, really.) Personal history is a concern in New Sea Land as well, notably in poems such as ‘The map’, but this is inextricably linked with questions of the treatment, control and ownership of land.

I have had the pleasure of editing a book with Tim, and is intriguing to see how he has moved his political concerns to the centre of his creative practice with New Sea Land.  And what a cover by Claire Beynon, showing a person teetering on a thin rope.  Tim’s poems are also attempts to find a way of walking the new landscapes we are creating, where loss and uncertainty surround us all.

New Sea Land is available from the publisher, Mākaro Press, who are producing great books.  Here are the details:

Title: New Sea Land
Author: Tim Jones
Publisher: Mākaro Press
ISBN: 978-0-9941299-6-3
$25 (NZ).

Review at Verity La

August 13, 2016

I just had a long review posted at Verity La, of a book called Backlash: Australia’s Conflict of Values over Live Exports by Bidda Jones and Julian Davies.  I love writing for Verity La, as it published both great poetry (modesty doesn’t prevent me…) and long form reviews.  Check it out.

bigstock_Sheep_And_Cow_3197770

 

Tuesday Poem: Global Farms

December 2, 2014

Global farms

Stock cubes
are sent to sea, flavoursome squares
of mutton flesh and bone, seasoning,
woolly sardines.

Between pasture and knife
the blue stretches, and the yellow,
as rivers soak downwards,
contained in time.

No truck of guilt to turn from,
met on sudden road. Squalor
bleats over dollar’s equator,
safely unseen.

P.S. Cottier

That poem (published once before on this blog, in 2011, and written in 2008) about the horrors of the live export trade is a way of working through the feeling of surprise I had recently in re-reading something that I wrote twenty or so years ago.

I stumbled across an article by me that is seemingly in favour of fur coats. I am now tending more towards the vegan with every passing year.  (Not there yet, because….cheese.)  I wrote the article back in the early 90s to provoke the sort of person who decries self-expression through clothes. To quell any left over Old-Style Communist or inflexibly Green tendencies that renounced fancy endeavours such as hair dye and high heels. I recount some experiences with some fairly ugly types. (The article was published in the Australian Left Review, probably the last organ of the Communist Party of Australia. I used to have a column in it, mostly about food.)

Re-reading the article, I am struck by how far the central tenet seems to far be from what I think now, and, indeed, thought at all earlier times in my life. I first became vegetarian when I was eleven or twelve, although I have lapsed, sometimes just for days, sometimes for much longer. I can remember one of the first stickers I ever displayed was in favour of a ban on ivory.

Here’s the link to where you can go to read the article. The writing is quite good, in a few parts at least.  The article seems to have been a little unusual at the time in linking feminism and questions of personal appearance in this way. That has become far more familiar, now that it is fuelled by social media. (In the days I am talking about, we had the occasional etching and miniatures in lockets, which gave a little more time to think.  I think.)

But the fur thing? The article reeks of me being sarcastic, and I have never thought that fur was a desirable or ethical choice. Perhaps I should have included a sarcasm alert? Or a reminder, that would have unfolded twenty years in the future?  (‘Penelope, you always liked tickling a little too much.’)

On a trip to New Zealand last year, a Maori woman who was a guide at Te Papa (the museum in Wellington) explained that the use of the introduced possum to produce fur products was a positive development, in her opinion. The possum, introduced from Australia, causes damage in New Zealand, just as the fox, rabbit and cane toad do in Australia.  She obviously knew more about the environmental issues that I did. (It is also relevant to mention that Indigenous people have been utilising the meat and fur of Australian animals for tens of thousands of years did so in a way that caused no damage to the land.)

But can I see myself wearing a cane toad cape, to return to the feral? No, not really. Although I haven’t totally weaned myself from cow leather, so my position is totally hypocritical. And, if I had to choose a garment made from an invasive species, it seems hard to place a toad on the same level as a fox; the latter being only a leap from a pet dog. Farming animals for fur, is of course, a revolting practice.

So strange not to recognise oneself fully in a piece of one’s own writing. There are a couple of other things in the article that my position differs from now, but I remember the changes in my thinking for those.

Cutting wit has its limitations…I hope I remember that I was being sarcastic about one or two little stanzas that I wrote this year if I last another twenty years!  At least one attentive reader will know what I am talking about there.

Just as that person, and indeed other readers, will recognise that poetry knows no borders.  Here is a link to the poetic output of other Tuesday Poets.

Tuesday prose about poetry

September 3, 2013

I just had to write about last Friday, which saw a flurry of poetic activity at The Front, a café/bar/gallery/performance space in Lyneham. The regular poetry slam held there, organised by Josh (JC) Inman and Varisht Gosain also saw the launch of the fourth edition of Canberra journal Burley. Patrick Mullins and Cara Foster edit that journal, although I understand that the editorial team is being enlarged for the next issue. Lots of wonderful poets performed in the slam, which was expertly judged…(Why, yes, I helped with that. Chris was the winner.)

But most interestingly for this little rhymester, there were two guest poets: Jackson from Western Australia, who radiates energy and plays the guitar, and Jennifer Compton. Fellow Tuesday Poet JC. Here we are before the slam started, and you can see Burley-related activity going on in the gallery space behind us:

Berets aplenty!

Berets aplenty!

(Thank you to the pretty young man who took the photo! If you have a name, I have forgotten it, unfortunately.) It is the first time I have met Jennifer, who has been performing right down the east coast; notably at the Queensland Poetry Festival. She was tired, but her poetry was far from tiring: she does a very nice job in wicked and quietly disturbing.

This was a night that showed all that is good about Canberra; even the weather is pulling itself up by its bootstraps. I am, however, referring to the energy of the poetry, in both written and spoken form. All happening within a very short walking distance of my house.

Wonderful stuff, with a real mix of types of poetry and ages of poets. Sometimes I really love Canberra. Not the politicians’ Canberra, but the place where people live.

Click this feather and go to New Zealand for good poets who published actual poetry today:

Tuesday Poem

Here’s a link to a new review of Triptych Poets Issue Three: http://verityla.com/peaks-from-start-to-finish-blemish-books-triptych-poets-issue-three/ in Verity La, an Australian journal. Tim Jones also reviewed the book previously, on his blog. Way back in November.

Spoiler alert: Mark William Jackson likes it!

TP3_cover

Now, it may be just a tad late to stuff it into someone’s stocking in a Christmas related capacity, but why not make your New Year’s Resolution to read more poetry? I intend to read only poetry next year. But that’s just me. I’ll be boring on about that soon. In the meantime, your fingers are moving towards this link. They will press it. You will find that they are delving into your purse or wallet, and extracting your credit card. Somehow, your pesky digits enter your number. And in a while, the book will arrive, with three poets for the price of one. You will kiss your wise fingers, and run out to buy them gloves (should it be cold where you are), or to have a manicure (if, like me, you are a tad vain).

But you will thank your prescient fingers, again and again, as you read the book which Mark William Jackson describes as ‘just straight peaks from start to finish.’

I’m blushing as I paste in that quote, but modesty, they say, is a virtue. So it’s good to parade it.

Christmas. Good. Have.