Last Thursday the second launch of The Stars Like Sand occurred in Canberra. Novelist Kaaron Warren, pictured here, did the honours, and spoke of her love of poetry, despite not writing it herself. She compared it to those without the skill watching someone crochet or knit, and distributed woollen bookmarks. Another ten poets read, and they read beautifully.

kaaron at launch

This is a photograph of Philip Salom, who launched the book in Melbourne. He spoke of play and ‘pataphysics, that is,”the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments.”(Jarry)*
philip_salom

Alternative pedigrees. Different ways of being. Garments we put on. The sinuous muscles of poetry. Lines of knitting. Each launcher took a different direction to describing a book that tries on different worlds.

I am in a state of mild grief now as the book that was once a near endless possibility, is now a thing; a physical object that has its own place in the world. It is what it is (subject to interpretation) and it is no longer mine. What once existed into multifarious complexity is now rendered actual. That’s always a bit of a bummer, even if it’s also a delight. It’s a bit like the difference between hearing a joke told for the first time, and hearing the same joke again. Something is lost, isn’t it. Something that leaps in the mind and the body at exactly the same moment.

But what a misery guts I am being; mulling over mental gruel rather than Pantagruelling! I should be revelling in the joy and enjoying myself! It is, I think, in many ways, a wonderful book. But it seems that some of us are more attuned to loss than achievement…even if we like funny poems.

I certainly enjoyed meeting my co-editor Tim Jones for the second time, as opposed through working through the aerial guts of Skype, with its weekly digital farts. Here is a photograph of Tim listening. He is much better at that than I am. He is listening to the wonderful Joe Dolce read his poem at the Melbourne launch. Tim has a new post about the Canberra launch too, at his blog.
joe_and_tim

We have forwarded the list of poets’ addresses to the publisher, so all contributors should receive their copy soon. Thank you to all the poets who contributed, and also to our two wonderful launchers.

And because I am vain, here is a photograph of me; on a high, reading my poem from the book at the Melbourne launch. My hair was much better at the Canberra one, though…
penelope-2

Now I am going to revel in The World Cup for a month. In another universe, Australia will be winning.

*Spellcheck kept trying to render ‘pataphysics as pasta physics, by the way. Love those alimentary lineaments.

Alice looks back

Since furniture regained its proper size
and animals ceased to speak;
since teapots evicted rodents
and the Queen became so very nice
I find myself looking back
more and more and more.
Everything now is normaler and normaler,
and normalcy has its limitations.
I play patience, play it out,
wishing that the cards would rise
and assume that manic thinness,
that monarchy would lose itself
in ordering the loss of heads
for no known reason at all.
But we have assumed the robes,
the tight beige robes of logic.
Mathematics begets statistics,
measuring the mundane.
One day we’ll hear again
of these parallel places,
rabbit holes or worm-holes,
and falls into other worlds.
For now, I corset myself in common-sense,
and stuff memory into quotidian hats.

P.S. Cottier
flamingo

This poem was first published in Eureka Street, and then in my book The Cancellation of Clouds.

Alice in Wonderland is a perfect book; one that can be dipped into again and again. It makes us all flamingos; turning pink as we sup on its immortal shrimp. And if that’s not the worst metaphor you read today, I will eat my quotidian hat.

This feather was dropped by a rare New Zealand flamingo, known for its total lack of defence, unique accent, and inability to fly. Click it to discover more poetry:

Tuesday Poem

Apparently, poetry is the WordPress theme/prompt/challenge for the week. I wrote this before knowing that, but given poetry is my life-long challenge, I’ll sneak in a link anyway.

The terrace next door

Seven kids and a parrot in a small terrace house.
Where squawking ended and shouting began
I could not say. But one sudden day, they spread wings,
left cage and house empty, my ears ringing on quiet.

Until six stoned students, without a single book,
set up camp. Smiling hammocks in the backyard sun,
contents content. Guitars, flute, piano-accordian,
folding time like an unwritten essay, due last week.

The six sixties clones left, sweet smoke signals blown.
Five rugby boys scrummed in, all frantic barbecues,
discarded runners, toxic socks smelt over fence,
and a screen bigger than the house, to pack in the front line.

Was it the four intense Vietnamese, who came next to next door?
Inexplicably neat, the terrace became clipped hedge suburban.
Or the three goths clothed in darkness who never met my eyes,
papers piling archaeologically on pavement, abandoned?

Better those times than the perfect couple’s renovating din,
as they improve the street out of sight, pave it with expectations.
Each hammer blow smashes the ex-rental like a musty egg,
as they grow golden equity, crack troops of one mortgaged dream.

PS Cottier

Definitely after renovation…

‘The terrace next door’ won third prize in the NSW Writers’ Centre’s ‘Inner City Life’ contest, December 2007. Published on their web-site, January 2008, and read at award night in Sydney. Also published in Eureka Street, Vol 18, No 3, February 2008, and in my first poetry collection, The Glass Violin. Based on terrace houses I remember in Melbourne.

Now I live in a city without any terraces, of course. My house, built in the 1950s, is quite old for Canberra. Tragic, isn’t it?

I can’t guarantee more fine architectural/economic analysis, but I can guarantee more poesie. Click this feather and go to New Zealand, where I assume that there are more terraces than in Canberra, if not as many as in Melbourne or Sydney:
Tuesday Poem

I must try and be more opinionated, as my blog as shrunk back to one poetic entry a week, on Tuesdays. I promise to try and work up a frenzy about some major issue, or think of a whimsical and touching observation on life (sorry, Life,) perhaps illustrated with a picture of a cat smelling flowers. If I do that, could someone arrange for a contract on my life? Thanks, discerning reader.

Take out the cat too.

Mental cases

Who are these? Why sit they here in twilight?
Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows,
Drooping tongues from jaws that slob their relish,
Baring teeth that leer like skulls’ tongues wicked?
Stroke on stroke of pain, – but what slow panic,
Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets?
Ever from their hair and through their hand palms
Misery swelters. Surely we have perished
Sleeping, and walk hell; but who these hellish?

– These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished.
Memory fingers in their hair of murders,
Multitudinous murders they once witnessed.
Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander,
Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter.
Always they must see these things and hear them,
Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles,
Carnage incomparable and human squander
Rucked too thick for these men’s extrication.

Therefore still their eyeballs shrink tormented
Back into their brains, because on their sense
Sunlight seems a bloodsmear; night comes blood-black;
Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh
– Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous,
Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses.
– Thus their hands are plucking at each other;
Picking at the rope-knouts of their scourging;
Snatching after us who smote them, brother,
Pawing us who dealt them war and madness.

Wilfred Owen

the building in the back fills the one in the front

And on ANZAC day, 25th April, let’s not forget that we still send young men (and women now, too) over to do the dirty work for us all; or at least in our countries’ names. I would like to see Australia’s troops only here for the defence of Australia, and fuck the geopolitics. But it’s usually old men (and the occasional middle aged woman) who make the decisions that cost young men their lives or sanity.

Not to mention the civilians, who have no special day of remembrance. It’s appropriate to remember the dead, but it would make more sense if we didn’t take actions that guarantee that we are making more of them.

Click the black feather to go to the Tuesday poetry hub in the country that contributed the rest of the ANZACs.

Tuesday Poem

For Amy

August 12, 2011

For Amy

14 September 1983 – 23 July 2011

A claret voice, thick liquid copper,
poured out of her skin, sweat honeyed,
hair bee-hived. No droning sweetness;
such a tangy longing. If only she’d lasted
a few more years, we say, as if she were
a bottle to be stored and turned, turned,
until she matured into something else,
ordinaried into age, lees less special.
She’s gone; jade asps of notes remain
to remind how beauty often stings.

P.S. Cottier