March 14, 2017
Feral is the weed that walks hops or swims
that we seeded here first of all.
Like weapons in Afghanistan to fight Russians,
they shoot back against the giver, given time.
The irony in the soil, the punch-line
that keeps moving.
They are the spoonful of toad that never
helped the sugar.
The feral is the new devil;
we burn them, use their live bodies for cricket,
run them over.
They are our scapegoats, scapetoads, scapecarp,
whipping boys for our royal, stupid selves.
Varmint, pest, pets gone wild, rejigged —
dancing to their own tune.
Continuing thoughts about what is a weed from my last post, this week I touch on feral pests, with which Australia is now teeming, after 200 years of colonisation/invasion.
Cane toads are probably amongst the most famous, although even cats multiply like mice (ew!) here, and feed on parrots and lizards and all the tiny marsupials that most Australians in cities have never seen.
I am working on a sequence based on this; though trying to organise my thoughts is like teaching cane toads manners. (And that’s not a cane toad above, but it is a cool illustration, courtesy of the wonderful resource Old Book Illustrations.) The guy peeping at the main figure is 100% Gandalf, and I’m sure he has Powers over toads.
Either that or he uses them for their interesting secretions.
September 25, 2016
Firstly, if you want to hear me talk about poetry at some length, and read a few poems, please go to the Verity La podcast. Michele Seminara and Alice Allan are the interviewers/fellow discussants, which means that they like hurling questions like flattened orbs, but in a polite kind of way. I am just getting up the courage to listen to myself.
Secondly, I was in a most excellent night at The Salt Room on Friday 23rd September. I was the first reader, armed with lectern, and stayed rooted to the spot, even if my poetry didn’t. I read about fantastic creatures and climate change.
Then came Miranda Lello, who read a long poem, or poetry sequence, called Election Day 2086 (a memoir, a map), which she had written for the reading. She also made a zine specifically for the night. The election described in very grounded in Canberra, but a Canberra that stands as a kind of ghost of the current one. Black Mountain Tower
‘…rises from the forest pointing
To our neo-retro-future selves
Empty for decades beaming signals to the stars –
Stories of school groups’ noisy chattering
The cruelty of children…
She is a great reader/performer, and I enjoyed her travels in time, and the way she recasts the very familiar in a slip of unfamiliarity. She needs no magic call box. Or lectern, either!
Scott Wings also dealt with time, but for me his use of space was the most remarkable thing; his crawling up a tree by lying on the floor, his pacing the room, so that even the shyer people up the back were made part of the performance. If you gave Scott a lectern, I think he’d probably use it in some unexpected way. His work is quite moving, too, dealing with aspects of his life and how he came to poetry. Here we all are:
Joel Barcham and Andrew Galan were their usual form of excellent, too, and I am very happy to have been asked to read at The Salt Room.
Yesterday (and thirdly) I went up to Sydney for the
inagaural first Poetry at Sawmillers reading, and enjoyed the brief taste of the lower north shore. Some really good poetry read and performed, and I’ll post a link to the winner’s poem if it is published. For me, sitting at a local pub with a view of a bay and a bridge, sipping booze was so pleasant I can imagine another poet, say SP (“Sippy”) Cottier, who would miss the reading and simply stay on the terrace, sunning herself like one of the lizards living under the succulents on the deck who have no idea that they have a view worth about 3.5 million dollars.
But I am not that poet, and really enjoyed reading my poem, which I present forthwith:
7 ways to look at a sculpture
Firstly, it seemed a frozen poem,
which I read in different drafts
as I skirted around it.
Then it was time captured,
as if to trap the watchers,
and so release us from fervent rush.
By Wednesday I saw it more
as a mere mirror to catch
any cracked thought I threw at it —
but the next day it restated
its being as a question, set to
disrupt our certainties with what?
Friday, it seemed to push up the sky,
a small, persistent fist clenched
against wind and mess and change —
but this changed on Saturday.
The grass seemed to give birth to it
as tulip, rocket and shining tree,
which unfurled into beauty
on the stretching, languid, seventh day,
an exclamation, an endless ah!
Now I am off to stare at the Verity La site to see if I’m brave enough to listen to me.
***I have also received my new chapbook, and will post about that very soon. That’s a fourthly.
UPDATE: I listened to the podcast and I’m not as inarticulate as I had feared. I particularly like the discussion on ecopoetry and climate change.
August 29, 2016
Sometimes they reach out
caress with syllable fingers —
egregious is my long term love
half egret feathers with the jus
noise saucing the end,
despite the meaning
or because it’s such a better way
to say doubleplusbad.
Gnarly enchants, with that
drowning g, wiping out
in the endless surf of the ee.
What wetsuit could protect,
what board shorts deserve
the sweet yet egregious sea,
with the tincture of shark grin
and the promise of release?
That illustration is most egregiously gnarly, and not AMA approved.
Here’s a photo in a different key, of Susan Hawthorne and Lizz Murphy who were participants in a discussion on The Poetics of Politics which was part of The Canberra Writers Festival. I moderated the session on Saturday, and it went well, I think. We covered quite a lot of ground, and read several poems. Later I thought about the event, and I realised that all the speakers and questioners had been women, which was a first, in my experience, at a mixed gender event.
Here are Lizz and Susan at Tilley’s après the panel. They both ate. I drank, and had a quiet evening watching horrendous Swedish murders being solved Nordically.
And here’s another one
before the wine at the end of the event itself; thank you Gina Dow.
August 15, 2016
A short wander through the head of a poet
‘I am finding a lot of this poeting business is learning how to hack your own thinking.’ (SB Wright)
Axing myself near every day
with nouns like blades
or is that the verbs,
sneaking and executing
behind my weary back?
Adverbs are the worst,
obviously, and I try
to expel them from thought.
Does a bear? Does a bear?
It doesn’t work, naturally.
My head is a jungle
of the old Tarzan sort,
and even a cunning machete
won’t clear a way,
despite avid hacking,
and the sticky tape I use
to reattach feckless fingers.
I will staple a handy volume
to my brow, perhaps
one that tells how
to write truth slant,
like Dickinson E,
and to be picaresque,
and appropriately Byronic.
A coupling that, of itself,
will cause sparks to leap
as if one were to jump start
an elderly ute gone bad.
Now, where are my cables?
Is this an Allen key
I see before me?
Statbadgers of the world unite!
Pick up your tongues like sticks,
and lick the befuddlement of brains
from cracked and gnarly windows.
SB Wright is a poet who, this year, is detailing the process of writing and learning more about poetry at his blog. It is well worth a look. He is far more honest about the struggle involved in writing than many of us, particularly when it comes to how he manages a ‘real job’ (my words) while trying to write. He posts actual numbers, written by helpful Statbadgers for those who like that type of thing.
Occasionally he also posts one of the results of these struggles, aka a poem, and he frequently directs you to poems by others, or books and talks about poetics. (Poetics is like choreography, but involves people who are a lot more clumsy.)
SB Wright is not plagued by adverbs in his poetry, incidentally. That was poetic licence.
July 25, 2016
Let them run —
but run as they would
chasing the wind or their mate
not a screeching curl-tailed baton
flung round the track
in a circular curse.
And let them live —
just as long as greyhounds live
not dispatched for slowness
and spaded into the bush
in a quotidian slaughter
nose to tail, tail to nose.
So weird to find myself agreeing with a Liberal government…But the Baird Government is right in banning greyhound racing. (As is the Labor — with a sprinkling of Green — ACT government.) No decision is ever totally pure, but this ‘sport’ is undeniably cruel, and the sooner it is abolished, the better.
To all those whinging about the attack on the working man (and it is usually categorised in that gender specific way) that the ban represents; note that there is something incredibly insulting in this thinking. Working class does not mean cruel and unthinking, and unable to act ethically. Most people with pet dogs would shudder to think of them being treated in the way this industry has treated greyhounds (and other animals used as live bait) for years.
My PhD on images of animals in the works of Charles Dickens touched on the history of the RSPCA, and around the time it was created, there were people mounting exactly the same arguments against bans on cock-fighting and the like, categorising such activities as important recreations for the working man. Implying that the ‘working man’ is necessarily a brutal moron.
The NSW Labor Party, in defending the greyhound racing industry, is showing that it is pathetically out of touch with anything progressive.
The ban, which comes into effect 1 July next year, does open up thinking about how we treat other animals, and that has to be a positive development. Go, you good thing!
(I know there probably should be an apostrophe in the title, but it looked so bad I removed it. Fussy.)
UPDATE: October 2016
The Baird NSW Government has changed its mind and decided not to ban this cruel and outdated ‘sport’. Weak and very sad.