She would surely
free the refugees —
but mostly those
with nice table manners.

P.S. Cottier


Based on overhearing a conversation at a café about how ‘we’ could take in more refugees if only they would ‘assimilate into mainstream society’.  I said nothing, but write this in true esprit de l’escalier.   It’s almost an aphorism, rather than a poem, isn’t it?

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

…is that you can post poems or stories that you know would be rejected from serious poetry journals.  This little piece (not a story, certainly not a poem) deals with the Antipodean writer seeking publication in a Very Serious American journal.  It’s partially based on fact: I had one editor tell me that while international submissions would be  accepted for a competition, he didn’t encourage them, as some of the publisher’s books once went astray in Asia.  A broad geographical area that presumably includes Australia.  Needless to say I didn’t enter that competition.  (Most US journals/publishers are much better than this, by the way.)

Smart and Serious

‘Be professional, patient and persistent’

Advice given on Duotrope’s Digest web-site

Three communications received from Smart and Serious: America’s premier journal of the literary short story and of avant-garde poesie by Ms Felicity Quillpien, writer (retired) of Sydney, Australia.


Dear Ms Quillpien,

We love your story!  It deals with the essential paradoxes of the human condition in an elegant and thought-provoking way.  I particularly enjoyed the way you played with notions of gender throughout your story.  Your style rivals that of Jane Austen and the description of the house of endless rooms is positively Kafka-esque!  Congratulations!

However, Smart and Serious is a literary journal, and we are therefore unable, under any circumstances, to publish science fiction.

I suggest you submit to a genre magazine, if such pulpy things exist outside of my worst nightmares.

Yours sincerely,

Roland K Roland


P.S. We are unable to return the manuscript, or your attractive ornamental tokens (‘IRCs’ whatever they may be) due to your disregard for our instructions that adequate postage be attached to a self-addressed envelope.


Dear Ms Quillpien,

Sincere praise for your new story.  I am glad to see that you have jettisoned any suggestion of the future, adventure, humor (note spelling, please) or the possibility of a life in any way different from that currently lived in North America (excluding Canada).  The lack of any verb in the first ten paragraphs struck me as particularly conducive to engendering a feeling of contemplation on behalf of the more sensitive reader of our peerless feuilleton.

I was about to mail the acceptance letter, when I noticed you live in Australia.  Smart and Serious does not accept stories translated from the original, although we often favor (spelling) the French language in our use of English.  We find it adds a certain Proustian quality, the soft pas of a boulevardier, the frou-frou of dresses and the enchanting smell of the salon, would you not agree?

I suggest you submit to a German language literary journal, if such boldly Teutonic things exist.

Yours sincerely,

Roland K Roland,



Dear Ms Quillpien,

Thank you for your enquiry about submitting to Smart and Serious‘s first ever short story competition.  I answer your rather curt questions and complaints in turn:

1. Payment must be made by check.  (Please check your spelling before even considering further communication.  Last I heard, a cheque was a type of European to be found quite close to Australia’s borders.)

2.  I am sorry that a check for $15 US costs so much to arrange in Australia.  May I suggest that a change of venue might be in order?  Smart and Serious, as a literary journal, can hardly concern itself with the realities of international commerce, politics, or economics.  ‘Countries may come and go but soft Literature is forever/  She slides through crepuscular mornings like a feline snail.’ (Copyright, Roland K. Roland, from Stanza 58 of my ‘Thoughts for Twilight Mornings’, forthcoming in next month’s Smart and Serious.)

3.  Cash is not acceptable.  It would lower the tone.  Your suggestion that ‘money is money and at least the dollar speaks clearly’ does not bode well for any story that might be about to spring from your marsupial pen.

4.  Electronic submission is similarly vulgar.  If we embraced technology, next we knew, we’d be publishing science fiction!   God only knows where that might lead!

I hope that this helps you in your admirable if rather surprising intention of submitting an entry (English original only, danke) to Smart and Serious.  We like to think of ourselves as literary missionaries, bringing culture to the world.  The world can only learn from the American literary journal, of which Smart and Serious is the exemplar, par excellence.

As I have been busy lately, I am afraid that the closing date for the contest has already passed.  As the French put it, Temps fugit!  Perhaps you might consider an entry in next year’s contest instead?

Yours sincerely,

Roland K Roland,