See that link, dear reader? Follow it and you will glean valuable insight into the process of editing. You will read horror stories about Bad Editors! You will meet knights, zombies, ghosts and Me. Tim Jones appears as a back story, too.

Have fun!


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.

How long to wait before assuming a piece has been rejected? When do bad manners or sloppy practices or simple overwork slide over into the world of too long, allowing a conscientious writer or poet to submit her work elsewhere? How do we decide where to send our poetry?

As to the latter, well, I went through a stage of deciding merely by name. I thought that if a journal had an imaginative title, it was probably likely to publish interesting work. Sometimes I did this sight unseen, and have been very pleased. Shakespeare’s Monkey Revue, for example, attracted just because of that title, and the journal didn’t disappoint when I saw it.

I have been advised to take a more sensible approach to where I try and place work. I am grateful for that advice, from a very well-respected and, more importantly, accomplished poet. There is a definite hierarchy of literary journals in my homeland Australia (and elsewhere of course). But I am not a poet because I want to build a career, or because I want a sparkling CV. On the contrary; poetry should be an escape from that type of world. I love the idea of people who like poetry reading my work, rather than worrying about status.

A similar question is: how much time should one put into trying to receive funding for one’s artistic endeavours? Some poets seem to spend as much time writing applications as sonnets. They might as well get ‘a real job’ and write in their spare time, so relentlessly do they work at chasing the Government dollar. And the whingeing! It’s as if they think they’re Shostakovich and the funding body is run directly by Uncle Joe, when they lack both talent and any real cause for grievance. (For my mythical foreign reader, most funding in Oz is public, not philanthropic.)

One would be mad to ignore the possibility of assistance in pursuing one’s art, but equally insane to sacrifice art for the pursuit of money.

But here’s a funny little one about the way poets often work for free:

Will work for print

I can do sarcastic.
I can do elegaic,
but controlled, you know,
no red hearts or roses
strewing graves.
I am indeed bereft
of the word bereft.
I’ve dabbled in spiritual.
I do a very good dog:
snuffling, truffling, worshipping
at a scented shrine, one leg cocked.
I can even do decent rhymes
if pushed. And if there were time
I’m sure I could run to a novel
in verse. (But that might be cheating.)

So for all your poetic needs
call the number on the little
paper tags fringing the bottom
of this hula page. And ask for me.

P.S. Cottier

Joy (or at least a certain satisfaction) should be the poet’s main reward. If one is lucky enough to have enough, why complain? People write poetry in jails and where there is virtually no hope of publication. This, surely, is what any art should be about? Something that even the sloppiest journal editor can never steal? (Let’s end where we started, with a bracing question mark.)