This little story was the winner of the RedBeard Bakery 50 Words Microfiction Competition, at the Words in Winter Festival, Trentham, Victoria. It is up by link on the Word in Winter site, but I thought I’d post in here now. Prize winning entries in the other categories can be read here. The story had to be exactly 50 words long; hence the rather clipped tone! The theme was ‘Origins’.


It was hidden in the op shop, behind fifteen copies of Fifty Shades. First edition Darwin. Original Origin.

He grabbed it from me, paid $5, and ran. I followed, did only what was necessary, and reclaimed the book.

It sold for £100,000.

That’s only fitting, if you think about it.

PS Cottier


I also have a micro-poem just published in Award Winning Australian Poetry (Melbourne Books) which is being launched in Melbourne on the 30th August, at the Athenaeum Library in Collins Street, at 6pm. I went last year and it was a great launch.

So, after two micro awards, I’m obviously getting big in a small way. I received $200 in vouchers from a great bakery in Trentham for the story, which probably works out at a large roll a word, and will have to drive down and stuff myself some glorious and calorific day.

And on another note, over at Overland there’s an extended debate about whether ‘bush poetry’ deserves to be included in ‘Best of’ collections. I find it fascinating how this sort of debate tends to attract so many more men more than women; what is it about definitions and certainties? But, anyway, here’s my less than serious contribution.

Mayweather v McGregor was more entertaining
than trying to know poetry by explaining.

It’s all so pugnacious.
(Is rhyming contagious?)

Next week: post-structuralism summarised in a limerick, and semiotics in a haiku.

And on yet another, far less frivolous note, send a thought to the home of real haiku, who just had a missile sent over their northern island.


She stalks them, device in hand, in a modern bloodless hunt. They hide near buildings, the cute light beings, and she captures them with her e-net. The one she desired most appeared; half hedgehog and half platypus.

‘Great!’ she said. She had been searching just for him. He was king of all the cute light creatures. She lined up the e-net with the furry ball, with his fringe of pink spikes.

The hedgepus pounced, all claws and teeth. He skinned and ate her, with the efficiency that only practice brings. They stalk humans, the light things, and no nets are necessary. Their hunt is not bloodless.

His cuteness returned, with only a few stains on the fur near his mouth. People would assume that he had eaten too many berries. The hedgepus is said to relish the raspberry.

A kidney marked the spot, flung out like confetti.

PS Cottier


This micro story  was highly commended in the Microfiction category of the Fellowship of Australian Writers National Awards for 2016, just announced.  (I’ve edited it a little since then.)  I also won another category, called the ‘How-Tweet-It-Is Poetry Award’.  I won’t post that one, though, as I have submitted it for publication Elsewhere.  That second award allowed me to try out a poem short enough for Twitter, without joining that foul and parasitic ‘conversation’.

I also enjoy writing the occasional wee story, like the one above, safe from the constraints of character.  And often plot… Prose poetry morphs into story quicker than seagulls wolf chips.

Very happy to be highly commended for a tiny horror story, too.

Next week, I promise fewer internal organs, and even a different image.

Tuesday prose: Bloogled

June 18, 2012


Perhaps I shouldn’t have Googled myself. But who can honestly say they haven’t looked into that electronic mirror? If Jesus were around today, he’d probably be the only person on Earth not to even want to explore his computer self, those little masturbatory keystrokes revealing one’s achievements. Or lack of them. Me, I mean, not Jesus.

Don’t get me wrong. I only Google myself occasionally. I’d just had a poem published in Andromeda Street. I knew that of course, I’d checked out the site, but I needed to see the evidence reflected back to me, the great mathematical Google God presenting me to me on an airy platter. It’s deeply satisfying to see yourself emerge, like a woman in a bikini from an over-size sponge cake. Then the eye always travels to the crumbs, the other ‘me’s, the doppelgängers of name.

There aren’t too many Sebastian T. Smails in the world. It’s an unusual name. But there was a crumb this time, another me. Seems he was a writer too, but of short stories, not poetry. In Wyoming, U.S.A.. There was exactly one story by him, published in an American literary journal of the sort I dub Smart and Serious. Where genre is a very dirty word, and the readership sometimes reaches seven. But I’m a poet, so seven seems a fairly decent number. There was yet another Sebastian T. Smails with a trucking business in Queensland, called DeepNorthQwik. Only three in the whole electronic world, a tripod of Me, limping along. Better than being a John Smith, though, a centipede’s leg, lost in a moving forest of abundance.

I did some work, finishing a sonnet about trees and age, in which the word ‘autumnal’ did not make a single appearance. It was taut. It was elegant. It was good enough to send off to Wombat, the right wing journal which has Australia’s most brilliant poet as the literary editor. So far I’d only scored form rejections, not even personal ones from the great man.

But this time he liked it, and eventually my fourteen lines appeared wedged between an article about how the existence of the Stolen Generations was a myth, and another about how being stolen was good for Aborigines anyway, because they learnt so many useful things. Like logic, presumably. I only had eyes for my poem, though. In real black print, not that electronic pixelated muck. And then, a fortnight later, I Googled myself…

…and found that Sebastian T. Smails of Wyoming, now had a personal web-site, and my poem ‘Transpiration’ was listed under ‘Recent Publications.’ I sat, staring at the fat-faced American. He was wearing a dark beret, and had his head on an angle, as if he were just too intelligent to view things straight on, too totally quirky and poetic. He looked like a French cockatoo who’d been hitting the crackers and absinthe a bit too hard.

I e-mailed him saying that unless he removed the reference to my poem immediately, I would sue. This was a sad joke. Copyright lawyers aren’t cheap, and my total earnings from poetry totalled $672, including the $50 cheque I expected from Wombat. The wages from my day job, as a library assistant, were squandered on rent and food and other luxuries.

I waited a month for that cheque, fuming at the American Sebastian, sending him more and more irate e-mails. Eventually I rang Wombat, and the office administrator reminded me that I’d requested an electronic payment so I wouldn’t have to pay for depositing a cheque made out in a foreign currency. I was too stunned to argue. How had the other Smails known to ask for the electronic payment before the poem had appeared? Or had he rung afterwards, just in case payment had not been made? Who’d go to that much trouble for $50, anyway? Our plucky Aussie dollar may be worth almost as much as a real God-trusting dollar these days, but still, it seemed a little desperate.

I forced myself to do a little work on the manuscript I was about to submit to a publisher. No identity-stealing American was going to stop me seeing it in print, turning the pages, feeling its slender beauty. I fell asleep, dreaming of Lord Byron, who awoke one morning to find himself famous…

…and awoke to discover that the American Smails had a poetry collection called Leaving about to be published by Castanets, in London. Need I tell you the name of my intended book? I think not, attentive reader. I think not. The manuscript sat on my desk, next to the cubist Cyclops eye of the computer, ready to go. I would never have sent it to Castanets though. That was a bold move on behalf of the Septic Smails. I was thinking much smaller. Local, in fact. I opened my e-mails.

There were twelve urgent messages, from me, sent to someone of my name, each more desperate than the preceding one. I found a copy of a contract sent by Castanets, signed with a familiar signature. My electronic transfer account had new funds, too. I reached for a mirror. I’d obviously been working too hard. I’d put on weight, and my hair was thinning. I groped for my coffee, and my hand caressed a piece of cloth. A beret. It was black. It fitted perfectly.

Obviously, I was being consumed by that other me, like a 1950s film where a big red cloud of Communist rubber sucks people in and eats them. Only, I had to ask, was it really so bad? American me was doing better than I was. Better than I could reasonably have hoped to do. I could attend readings, continue writing, and it seemed some money was finally trickling in. If my identity was being subsumed, I didn’t really care. Eat away, Google blob, I thought. Suck me up. I’m yours.

Then I heard the trucks, a dozen of them, rumbling outside my window. A man in a blue singlet was knocking at my door, yelling ‘Boss’, holding a clip-board. I felt the beret morph into a cap, my beer-gut spill over my suddenly short shorts. I’d been Bloogled again. I grabbed my manifest, and headed for the door.

P.S. Cottier

‘Bloogled’ won third prize in the 2009 ‘Best of Times’ humorous short story competition and was published on the competition web-site, November 2009. Judged by Chris Broadribb, who also organises these competitions.

I was going to write something new in honour of National Flash Fiction Day (the 22nd June) in New Zealand, but my mind is simply not working in prose at the moment, so I recycled this one. (The attentive reader will note that the hero-loser of my story is a poet. At least most of the time.) At just over 1000 words, it’s arguably too long to be flash. It falls into the dead realm between flash and what is regarded as a ‘proper’ short story. Many narratives go wandering in that desert, and few are ever seen again.

Unusually for anything I write, there is the tiniest inkling of plot detectable here. Most ultra-shorts I enter in flash competitions are in fact prose poems. Please don’t tell anyone, though.

I look forward to seeing if any eligible Tuesday poets win prizes in the national flash fiction competition being finalised now in New Zealand. There’s at least one title on the shortlist that could possibly belong to a Tuesday poet, methinks. But I won’t provide clues as to who I think that may be. Because I’m probably wrong.

For proper flash fiction, press this feather:
Tuesday Poem
The central post is by Tuesday Poet Michelle Elvy, who has been organising the National Flash Fiction Day in New Zealand.

It’s been a good week for my fiction writing, which I generally see as a secondary function to poetry.  I sometimes sneak prose poems into story competitions, and hope that the judges will accept the lack of plot and character development!  My first small collection of ‘real’ stories, A Quiet Day, was published in 2009 by Ginninderra Press, and was just highly commended in the 2011 Society of Women Writers Awards in Sydney. The judge was Susanne Gervay, who is an established and prolific young adult and children’s fiction writer.  (Here’s a link to her blog.)  This was very gratifying for me.  Susanne told me that there was a poetic element to my stories; I didn’t mention that this element is always threatening to eat the plot!

This week I am going down to Melbourne because my flash fiction ‘A Writing Unexpected’ won the Big West Festival Competition and I’ll be reading it at one of the events.  That’s if the airport is open, as a certain President Obama is visiting Canberra this week.  The only other problem with the awards being in Melbourne is that I come back to Canberra missing that city too much.  I am still having withdrawal symptoms from Sydney last week.

My very silly story ‘Little Nell’s death scene from The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens,  ‘improved’ into a happy ending by an alien’s tool’ was recently highly commended in a humorous story competition.  You can read it here if you feel like something quite ridiculous, along with the other prize-winners.  There was a special prize for the funniest title, and I thought I would win that!

I am such a pessimist that I focus on one typo I left in the story when I read it.  Perhaps you will find it if you go there.  There is no prize, dear reader, if you are a pedant too!

Speaking of US Presidents, I just read Stephen King’s new novel about the Kennedy assassination.  There’s a real storyteller, like Mr Dickens was before him.  I have spent many night with these writers over the years, running through the hours in a readerly marathon, totally absorbed.  I just don’t have that narrative urge, but prefer the sound of words.  They left plot off my mental Swiss Army knife, and put on extra tools for wordplay.

Which is why I’m mostly a poet, who dabbles, however seriously, in fiction.  Here’s the link to my skimpy story again.

must adjust trope...

This is the cover of my third book, with a somewhat pensive sheep under a very blank sky.  (It’s a poetry collection.)

Hal Judge launched The Cancellation of Clouds at 6pm, Thursday 20th October 2011 at Smiths Alternative Bookstore, Alinga Street, Civic.  (Civic is another name for Canberra’s ‘city’  centre – a non-existent thing, really – and the name is intended to contrast with political, governmental, national Canberra.)  Hal gave a very thoughtful speech, and I read a few poems, and drank a poetic amount of wine. Senator Nick Xenophon, an independent Senator from South Australia, also read a poem, after he launched the bookstore’s new bar.

Senator Xenophon takes a gamble

(Thanks Lily Mulholland for this photo.)

If you would like to order the book, please go to this page, within the Ginninderra Press site.  The first review of the book, by Professor Peter Pierce in The Canberra Times, describes it as ‘droll, intelligent and varied’, which was a very positive thing to read.  And totally right, too! Another reviewer, Michael Byrne, states that ‘It is…love for (and embracing of) the different that seems to define Cottier as a poet.’

And in the book’s first international recognition, New Zealand poet and man of letters Tim Jones describes The Cancellation of Clouds as an ‘Australian poetry collection with a distinctively wry yet dark tone and very effective use of long stanzas and densely packed lines.’. All very gratifying, especially hearing I’m more dark wry than white bread…

Now I return you to the real piece that bears the title given above.  I originally wrote what follows below back on January 22, 2009, and it still seems a good inclusion for my blog, although I notice a recent trend to write a little more often here than I did originally.  For a long time this was the first post the reader saw on my blog, and I only recently allowed it to move away from its ‘sticky’ position on the first page.

Cicadas and tortoises. And poetry?

In my case, cicadas and tortoises seem apt metaphors for the process of writing. My first book, The Glass Violin, a poetry collection, has just been published by Ginninderra Press.  Some of the works in the collection go back twenty years, so the easy option of comparing myself with a tortoise comes to mind. There’s nothing like a good old shell of cliché in which to hide an idea.

Yet I actually write quite quickly. I’ve just been a shocker about trying to have my work published. About a year ago I decided to put an emphasis on seeking publication, and I have been quite fortunate in finding places that liked my work.

Cicadas spend most of their life underground, only emerging after years and years to produce an ear-splitting cacophony. They only live a short while after emergence. As a practising poet, I feel a lot like one of these insects, pushing through editorial mud, but hopefully the process of publication has just begun. I wrote this poem about the vocabulary used for referring to poets as emerging, developing and established:

Emerging poets

White, shovel-shaped finger-nails,
rotten smell, the world’s worst bulbs.
Like durian fruit mushrooming,
zombie poets emerge, pushing
through editorial soil, groaning,
after a decade’s slushy stew.
Perhaps some emerge politely,
quaint chicks toothing oval eggs.
Others make neat papier mâché
cocoons from rejections, wait,
then one day, poof! Harlequin
wings, trembly antennae. Most
are born bogongs, banging on
bright lit windows. Any more sir?

(I like to think that my poetry is a little more melodic than the noise of a cicada, although this example is admittedly a little less than elegiac.  Incidentally, all poems on this site are by me, unless otherwise indicated.)

This will be a very occasional blog, as this cicada prefers to work on her poetry. It’s always a temptation to bury yourself away, once the soil has been so very comfortable for so long…

I was very happy to read this review.  And this one, too.

And since then, a second book, this time a short collection of short stories:

Both can be ordered from Ginninderra Press, under poetry and fiction respectively.