August 22, 2016
I apologise profusely for no original poem today. I am a tad busy at the moment.
Thursday 25th at 7.30, I am reading poetry at Manning Clark House, Tasmania Circle, Griffith. Many of the poems will have first been published on this very blog, or at Project 365 + 1. I will be reading for about 30 minutes, as will Hazel Hall, the other reader. There is an entry fee of $10, I think, which covers wine, some small items of food and the wee literary stuff.
On 27th August (Saturday) I’ll be moderating a discussion on The Poetics of Politics, at the National Library of Australia (a big building by the lake). The immoderators/speakers are Lizz Murphy and Susan Hawthorne, and it happens at 12pm, just after a launch of novelist Kaaron Warren’s new book, The Grief Hole, at the very same library at 11am.
On the 31st August I’ll be going to the launch of Award Winning Australian Writing in Melbourne, and reading a poem, and then attending the announcement of the Australian Catholic University Poetry Competition results the next day. I am short-listed for that, but I don’t think I won a prize this year, for various reasons. Still, they produce a really nice collection of poems short-listed in the competition.
Then I will hopefully get some writing done. Plus I’ll soon be proofreading a new chapbook of poems. More about that later.
June 29, 2015
Winter in Canberra
Wet paper mushrooms
thick crop on nature strips
The Chronicle is a free newspaper distributed to, I believe, every house in Canberra. They are thrown onto nature strips (the Australian name for the grassy area between footpath and road) and there many of them stay. In winter, the plastic wrapping your Chronicle cannot keep out all the water from frost, so they end up as delightful parcels of yellowed, soggy paper. The one above has not yet reached full mushroom.
Some people end up with months of Chronicles covering the grass outside their home. Talk about first world unsightliness! I saw one man, driven mad by the abundant crop his lazy neighbour had grown, throwing them from their nature strip into their driveway, so they would not be able to ignore them any more. He was genuinely angry.
Here I am listening to Judith Crispin say nice things before my reading at Manning Clark House. Despite the photo, the space was packed. There were as many people as the average Canberra nature strip has Chronicles, but they were a lot less soggy. In most cases.
The reading went well; I tried out a lot of new material and I am becoming more confident. Mark Tredinnick was also seemed happy after his reading.
Now I am off to throw around a few newspapers.
We are all working our way up, towards the birds
We are all working our way up, towards the birds.
Outliers like Icarus, 70s pterodactyl hanggliders,
twitchers and breeders of weird coloured parrots:
they have all felt the urge and responded
to the best of their beakless capacities.
But they are not the neo-orno avant-garde.
The egg must come first, before the flight —
putting aside philosophy, that is just true.
So who is nature’s true Anna Wintour?
Where is the next Paris to be found?
The catwalk of the world is spiked by echidna.
Platypus pouts there too. (That is hard with a bill.)
These two are the fashion-forward models,
who will soon sprout wings and launch and fly;
it is happening now, as I type and you read.
Placenta will be ditched, like yesterday’s rags.
Next year, unaided flight will be de rigueur,
and song will erupt, without instruments,
deep from the gape of seven billion throats.
We are all working our way up, towards the birds.
This poem was recently highly commended in the Interstellar Award for Speculative Poetry. Fellow Tuesday Poet (and lovely person/editor) Tim Jones was placed second with a poem that blends the speculative and the political, and Kevin Gillam (who may be lovely, for all I know, but who lives in Western Australia, which is much further away than New Zealand, at least psychologically) was awarded first place with a fascinating work that demands several readings. (A little like that monstrous sub-clausey sentence, but much much better.) You can read their poems and the detailed judge’s report here. This was the second thing I was highly commended/shortlisted/close-but-no-cigared for in the last fortnight! I won’t bore on about the other one though, as I don’t want to publish that poetry here just yet.
If you like humorous, short poetry, I promise that some will be read at Manning Clark House on 24th June at 7.30pm. I hear there will also be some quite angry stuff, and, of course, some speculative poetry. That’s by me; I have no idea if Mark Tredinnick writes any of that sort of thing. (He is the other reader.)
Come along to 11 Tasmania Circle and find out. Also; wine.
May 18, 2015
Which hands sewed these hands?
The girl’s flapping exclamations,
two arched pink dolphins beached
framing that Tim Burton waif face.
Blank panic screams to eloquent air.
Thin spaghetti legs show bruises —
a manic teacher worked her too hard
at the barre of a ballet sweat shop.
Her hair a nest of vermicelli.
Blue eyes stare past sense —
blue eyes gape despair.
This is why I sometimes love online shopping almost as much as op shops. In this case I bought these two puppets from the Salvation Army’s online store, combining two favourite shopping destinations. (Well Anglicare’s op shop in Queanbeyan is my favourite; you get a nicer class of second hand stuff, in general…)
The above is really notes towards a longer poem. I have yet to tackle the other puppet, complete with his magic cape of jewels.
I may use these puppets in a future reading. You have been warned.
Last Friday I was lucky enough to attend a reading by Stuart Cooke and Michael Farrell at Manning Clark House in Canberra. (Stuart is on the left of this photo.)
I have been reading Michael’s poetry and was delighted to hear him read his allusive and intellectually tantalising works in person. It was a small but enthusiastic audience.
The poets read a couple of poems in turn rather than dividing the time into two discrete blocks. I was particularly happy to hear ‘A lyrebird’, previously featured as a Tuesday Poem (posted by Jennifer Compton, with her comments) here. Stuart’s poem about Durras sticks in my mind: I was driving there the next day, escaping the desperate need for beanies and coats and bus stop conversations about how ‘chilly’ it’s getting, for a single warmish day. Minus 4 is not ‘chilly’, peeps. It’s appalling.
I found myself searching ‘ug boots’ on eBay the other day, which is slightly tragic. Particularly for sheep. That direct segue between fleece and foot enacted in a boot…where does puppet end and clothing begin?
April 29, 2014
Cradled in my pod, my body shut up like a bedside book, with a bookmark of drugs inserted to continue me some day, I had a nightmare. It was an old fear for the fourth millennium, that of being buried alive. And it came to whisper panic in my ear; you are forgotten. They have entombed you in speed. No-one will be there, at journey’s end, to dig you out, little podded pea. Fool, to accept this alien life, to dream in airless space, a ghost not dead, a man suspended beyond hope. Hanging in time, rope of frayed expectations slipped around your neck, tightening. And still you fly stupefied, dumb, trusting those not yet born to release you. Listen to your heart beat the retreat, a jerking jazz rhythm of fear.
The living dead, that shady cast of zombie, of vampire, flickered like ancient film shadows through my mind, a hazy cloud of horror where no cloud ever forms, out here between one star and the next. Feeble belief of resurrection somewhere, beyond the years.
Sleep left me. Gulping, choking, drowning in doubt, my eyes scanned the dark inside of the pod, looking for escape, for any feature to tell me that I was, in fact, awake. That I was, in fact, alive. But the pod was like a closed eye, and I was trapped inside its blindness. How could I know? Was this lulling pod a grave? I fought to feel the walls of the capsule, read their enclosing story in Braille, but my arms were pinioned, would not shift. I was wrapped in spider’s silk, a stupefied unbreakable embrace. My disquiet lead me further inside myself, with no twine of reason to bring me out. Knotted in a strait-jacket, tangled in progress, I sped on into darkness.
Machines detected, read the chemicals, adjusted. Put me back to sleep, rocked a thousand years. But now I dream only of death, and the heavy years and the speed of light smother me. I staked my life on stability, that there will be no upheaval in which I will be swept away, an insect unmourned, amongst the crumbs of swarming stars. I am the unborn, dreaming in the womb, this metal womb, quickening towards my second birth, but bracketed in iron ifs and buts. Icarus with untried wings of steel. Hiatus, hubris and hell here, inside me, inside the pod, cast away.
I wrote that piece of prose/prose poem for a competition in the United States way back in 2008. I was lucky enough to win, and actually went to the convention which had organised the competition in Wisconsin. (The Odyssey Convention.) This was a turning point in my writing, and although I had been exploring the speculative in my work, it certainly helped to strengthen that element.
Since then, ‘Pod, cast’ was republished in the Indigo Book of Australian Prose Poems, edited by Michael Byrne.
Currently, I have a poem up at Eye to the Telescope, the online journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association based in the United States. This one is edited by Robert Dutcher, and is one the interesting topic of ‘mundane’ science fiction, that is, the idea that we are basically stuck in our solar system with no aliens and no journeys to other galaxies, as undertaken by a million travellers in a million science fiction novels and films. And by my nameless traveller in the prose poem above.
Speaking of speculative poetry, here are the launch details for The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry, which I have been editing with Tim Jones for several light years:
Melbourne, 6pm for a 6.30pm start, Friday 6th June, Collected Works Bookshop, 1/37 Swanston St, Melbourne. To be launched by renowned poet Philip Salom. This is to be a joint launch with Gemma White’s new collection, which is also being published by IP.
There has been a wonderful response from poets to our request that they read poems from the anthology at the launches. I am looking forward to the two launches so much. Anyone reading this is most welcome to attend.
I’ll post the proper invitations here, and of course, sent them out (by email) to lotsa persons.
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