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).

So as the year drags its poxy old carcass towards December, waiting to be reborn, I thought I’d have a bit of a think on what I’ve done this year in terms of writing. If that is likely to bore the intellectual beeves from your brain’s corral, please scroll down to the end, where there be a poem.

Firstly, the list is not all settled as the anthology edited by Tim Jones and myself has been nominated for the poetry category in the ACT Publishing Awards, run by the ACT Writers Centre.

SLS_Cov

The awards are to be given out in the lovely old building that is now the Gorman Arts Centre, on the 17th, as people sip wine and nibble on cheese.  Or, in some people’s cases, spurn cheese and guzzle wine.  I’ll update on those results.

Here’s some other stuff I did this year. Some future publications (accepted but not announced) do not appear:

P.S. Cottier’s stuff in 2015

Poem ‘Canberra’ accepted for Capitals anthology, edited Abhay K. To be published in 2015.  Now 2016.

Poems ‘Lord A of Yarralumla’, ‘Bike ride at night’, ‘A good end’ and ‘The smell of heaven’ published in Eureka Street, Volume 25 No 2, 9th February 2015. ‘A good end’ also published in Global Pulse, ‘edited in Rome, produced in Thailand’.

Poem ‘A lively discussion over the merits of flash fiction’ published Antipodean SF, issue 200, February 2015, along with reprint of ‘Prickly Green’. Recording of latter on radio show, March 2015.

Shortlisted Thiel Grant for online writing, March 2015 for proposal to write weekly piece on Frankenstein and Mary Shelley.

Report on Banjo Paterson Festival for Australian Poetry website, March 2015. (I performed a poem at the competition in Orange in February.)

Reading, Folk Dance Association of ACT, March 2015.

Poems ‘Cockatoos’ ‘All the blond Jesuses’ ‘The chicken in Autumn’ ‘A gecko in Canberra’ published in The House is Not Quiet and The World is Not Calm: Poetry from Canberra, edited Geoff Page and Kit Kelen, China, 2015.

Poem ‘After hours in the op shop’ republished in Rhysling Anthology, 2015, USA

Pocket book Paths into Inner Canberra published by Ginninderra Press, March 2015 in ‘Pocket Places’ series.

Adelaide Plains Poets Inc Poetry Competition 2014/15 ‘CLIMATE’ theme, awarded second prize for ‘Circular’. Judge Shelley Hansen.

‘Miles and beyond’ published Eye to the Telescope, Issue 16, on ‘Music’ theme, edited Diane Severson Mori, April 2015. (USA)

Tanka ‘without you’ published All You Need is Love, ed Amelia Fielden, April 2015.

‘Fire haiku’ published in Flood, Fire and Drought, ed Hazel Hall et al May 2015

Poem ‘The fruit of her hands’ published Midnight Echo, no 11, edited Kaaron Warren, April 2015. Also column on poetry, called ‘Writing with the Left Hand: P.S. Cottier discusses the sinister side of poetry’.

Article; ‘Crafty poet seeks words’ in ACTWrite, May 2015 (How I write)

Article ‘Literary competitions: Better than the pokies?’ (retitled ‘An accountant of dreams’) Overland Blog, May 2015

MS ‘ “Impressed upon me even more deeply”; Reflections of the monster’ judged to be ‘outstanding’ by Amy Hilhorst, work & tumble’s letter press chapbook competition, June 2015

Reading, Manning Clark House, June 2015 (30 minutes)

Highly commended inaugural Interstellar poetry award, June 2015 for ‘We are all working our way up, towards the birds’

Poem ‘Carrying an injury’ Verity La, June 2015

Poem ‘Route 9’ awarded third prize Australian Catholic University Poetry Prize 2015 on theme Peace Tolerance and Understanding, judged Kevin Hart and published in book of theme name, August 2015.

‘Shellac’ republished in Dwarf Stars Anthology, USA, 2015, edited John Amen.

Book Review Timelord Dreaming by David P Reiter published SMH 1-7 (on-line) Canberra Times 1-8 (print)

‘Soft-sacks for total relaxation’ (story) published Antipodean SF, August 2015. Also recorded for radio show. Broadcast November 7.

Book Review Growing Older Without Feeling Old: On Vitality and Ageing by Rudi Westendorp published The CT, August 8 2015

Two poems ‘The rules of cricket rewritten for the fairy world’ and ‘All the ships of the world’ published Eureka Street, Volume 25 No 15, 10 August 2015

‘At the Lifeline Bookfair’ Canberra Times, 19 September 2015

First Place Thunderbolt Prize for Crime Writing, New England Writers Centre, 2015, published Armidale Express and the NEWC website. Judge Les Murray.

Highly Commended FAWQ Poetry Competition, November 2015 ‘The sounds of dying’

‘Secondary ghosts’ published Australian Poetry Journal, Volume 5 Issue 2, November 2015, edited Michael Sharkey.

‘A hard poem to market’ published Cordite ‘Toil’ edition (52) edited Carol Jenkins, 1 November 2015

‘Remembering Laika’ published in A Quiet Shelter There: An Anthology to Benefit Homeless Animals, ed Gerri Lean, Hadley Rille Books (US)

Solo reading/discussion Smith’s Alternative, November 2, 2015. That Poetry Thing That Is On At Smith’s Every Other Monday.

Poem ‘Three ways to look at crochet’ accepted for The Canberra Times, September 2016 (!)

***

I feel I’ve been quite busy this year, and I am particularly pleased with the wee book Paths Into Inner Canberra, which combines prose and poetry.  On the other hand, I should be sending out full length manuscripts here and there, but just want to write more individual poems at the moment.

I’ve been doing a few readings, and did my first solo one at Smith’s in November.  I particularly enjoyed being interviewed by Norm de Plume (Josh Inman) who is back in Canberra after defecting to Sydney.

Sydernee and Melbourne are both easier places to be a poet, it seems to me, (cos bigger and nearer to more publishers) and harder, in that it is easier to slip into anonymity there (cos bigger and more poets).  But definitely, those of us in the provinces need to be a little noisier to be noticed and acknowledged, I think.  Hard for the shy and retiring!  Or those who find Facebook and Twitter unbearable, anyway, such as your constant blogger.

Here’s a wee poem after all this egregious seeveeing.  (Which is like emceeing but even more ego driven.)  About climate change and monsters, which are frequent companions in my work this year:

Full stomp

It’s coming —
stomp! stomp! stomp!
down the roads of your town
or city or village or Tokyo style
megalopolis. Or isle now all swamp —
splash splash splash splash!
Roaring and slapping buildings
like the cheeks
of a thousand hysterical women
in chap rich 50s Westerns.
Stomp stomp stomp stomp stomp!
It is silver as a can,
silver as the idea of an automobile
before we (forget Tokyo)
realised that petrol had a price. Or gas,
as the Americans say —
fart fart stomp fart fart.
Godzilla on steroids
(for we shall use Japan when it suits us)
it turns its awful face towards us!
The face seems so familiar!
It breathes out the thick air
of a million hangovers!
Its cheeks have warts like silver hubcaps,
flung onto the highways of its cheeks!
I am the Anthroposaurus, it says.
Look upon me and weep!
Its voice is as subtle as its step,
subtle as this poem’s drear
stompification.
(Full stomp.)

P.S. Cottier

struth-winkelried

oral hygiene and the dragon

In many ways, this blog is my favourite creation, and thanks to all my readers for being part of it.

Other Tuesday Poems can be found here.

Tuesday poem: Sequential menu

November 10, 2014

sequential menu

methane farts
too many cows
thick beefy skies

thick beefy skies
drive for takeout
taste that plastic

taste that plastic
(onion rings)
defenestration

defenestration
gutter wrapper
sea junk flourishes

sea junk flourishes
macturtles sup
second hand meat

second hand meat
too many cows
thick beefy skies

P.S. Cottier

but not so charmingly rural

but not so charmingly rural

I like this one; parts of it were originally written for a science haiku competition, but it grew and grew like cattle in feedlots.

***

Currently I am co-ordinating an on-line course on writing speculative poetry for Australian Poetry, which has nothing to do with cows. I just set an exercise, and, in case anyone out there is interested, here it is:

EXERCISE YOUR ALIEN

Imagine you meet a supernatural or alien creature. In a poem, describe this being, which could be from another planet, another dimension, or another time. It, or he or she, could also be a fairy tale character, or a character from mythology.

Try and avoid cliché. For example, if you have chosen a vampire, don’t use bat or crypt imagery. Don’t put your ghost in a graveyard!

Imagine meeting it in a common situation, such as your house, walking the dog (is that actually a dog?) or at a supermarket.

How does the creature sound? Smell? These senses are just as important as how it looks. Try and be specific in description rather than using abstract terms. (For example, don’t say ‘its alien hands’, say ‘its caterpillar tentacles, slug soft yet avid’.)

Tone can be humorous, terrifying, matter-of-fact.

Any form. A haiku can say as much as a ballad. But don’t let rhyme become the main reason for the poem!

Enjoy yourselves.

***
Now New Zealand has weird creatures, including the flightless poet. One of them just dropped this feather onto my screen. Click it and read her or his poetry:
Tuesday Poem

Okay, the feathers have disappeared, ruining all my amusing references used for years on this blog. Please excuse! Our feathers now are ended…

the opposite of poetry?

July 14, 2011

Limericks are meant to be obscene, or at the very least, scurrilous.  The strong ‘message’ and the clunky rhyme pattern make them a very particular form of poetry.  One could not, I think, write a moving or sensitive limerick; that’s a different KOF, to be poured into a sonnet or free verse.

But where the expressed views of a public figure seem crude and somehow thoughtless, the limerick is the best form of poetry there is.  Here’s one about the current Leader of the Opposition in Australia, Mr Tony Abbott, whose political position on climate change seems to be entirely based on crude populism.  (Not that Julia Gillard’s government is a shining example of The Mind Made Flesh, but still…)

And I promise not to do the limerick thing again for a while.  Please excuse double spacing; for some reason my computer ‘does this’ sometimes, and won’t listen to reason.  Which actually seems appropriate for this little poem‘s subject.

My budgie slipped out...

There once was a leader called Abbott

who criticised just as a habit.

The climate did fry

and he couldn’t say why

which bemused this nay-saying maggot.

P.S. Cottier