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.

P.S. Cottier


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.


Read the works of the other Tuesday Poets around the world by pressing here.

Poet assassin for hire

The poet is armed and kicks.
Sometimes that even hurts.
Then she legs it, all enjambe
ment and blisters.
A regular mule with the metaphors,
she similes like a snake on butter,
and can tell voltas from mere electrics.
She chucks haiku
and knows better than counting
syllables like coins.
She put the eco in ecopoetry
and swoops like a precarious bird
onto the blank pages of logs.
Knuckledusters swell
on the ends of her fingers
like real toads waxing
in totes imaginary salons.
She stashes bullets
in well-worn culottes.
She will absolutely murder
for a few couplets more.

I, too, dislike her.

P.S. Cottier

(Many apologies to Marianne Moore.)

Wistful and vicious

Wistful and vicious

Sometimes it is good to have fun, ‘because fun is good’, as Dr Seuss wrote. Did you spot the ‘haiku’ embedded in the poem? Sorry, there is no prize.

I know at least three people that a poem written purely for fun will annoy, as they disapprove of play. I hear that Poet Assassin does not care. She is beyond shame. But obsessed by spelling; and I hear that she chose enjambement over enjambment for some obscure reason of poetics. Question that decision and die…

Read the works of the other Tuesday Poets around the world by pressing here.

On a very different note, there is a great new opportunity for poets who would like to write a speculative poem. A competition, organised by Joanne (Jo) Mills, will award $1000 (that’s the plucky Aussie $) to the best poem written in the science fiction, fantasy, horror or any related field. Entry is $12 (again, in the magic coin of Oz). Online entry? Yes.

Here are the details:

I am chuffed that the contest was partly inspired by the book The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry edited by Tim Jones and myself last year. Ms Mills had a poem called ‘Folds’ selected for the anthology by the incredibly talented and gorgeous editors, who are only slightly inclined to exaggeration in one case.

Tuesday poem: Sequential menu

November 10, 2014

sequential menu

methane farts
too many cows
thick beefy skies

thick beefy skies
drive for takeout
taste that plastic

taste that plastic
(onion rings)

gutter wrapper
sea junk flourishes

sea junk flourishes
macturtles sup
second hand meat

second hand meat
too many cows
thick beefy skies

P.S. Cottier

but not so charmingly rural

but not so charmingly rural

I like this one; parts of it were originally written for a science haiku competition, but it grew and grew like cattle in feedlots.


Currently I am co-ordinating an on-line course on writing speculative poetry for Australian Poetry, which has nothing to do with cows. I just set an exercise, and, in case anyone out there is interested, here it is:


Imagine you meet a supernatural or alien creature. In a poem, describe this being, which could be from another planet, another dimension, or another time. It, or he or she, could also be a fairy tale character, or a character from mythology.

Try and avoid cliché. For example, if you have chosen a vampire, don’t use bat or crypt imagery. Don’t put your ghost in a graveyard!

Imagine meeting it in a common situation, such as your house, walking the dog (is that actually a dog?) or at a supermarket.

How does the creature sound? Smell? These senses are just as important as how it looks. Try and be specific in description rather than using abstract terms. (For example, don’t say ‘its alien hands’, say ‘its caterpillar tentacles, slug soft yet avid’.)

Tone can be humorous, terrifying, matter-of-fact.

Any form. A haiku can say as much as a ballad. But don’t let rhyme become the main reason for the poem!

Enjoy yourselves.

Now New Zealand has weird creatures, including the flightless poet. One of them just dropped this feather onto my screen. Click it and read her or his poetry:
Tuesday Poem

Okay, the feathers have disappeared, ruining all my amusing references used for years on this blog. Please excuse! Our feathers now are ended…

Well, that was nice

July 18, 2013

Wellington could be covered by a giant’s pocket handkerchief. Such a lovely place, even when there are four consecutive days with gusts of rain that are correctly described, in meteorological terms, as gusty.

I enjoyed my short stay there, working on lists of poems with Tim Jones, who is a very patient and funny person. Tim lives in the right place, as he very easily overheats. ‘I’ll just take my coat off,’ he says, quite frequently. Also ‘Is that heater too high?’. To which the correct answer is ‘NO!’ I don’t think he would like Darwin…or tropical Canberra.

I met many Tuesday poets in Wellington, including Mary McCallum, Keith Westwater, Helen Rickerby (publisher of Maria McMillan’s wonderful collection The Rope Walk, which is such an attractive book, and the launch for which I was lucky enough to attend) Harvey Malloy, and Janis Freegard. So nice to meet people only known electronically!

Tim, Harvey, Janis and I gave a reading at Au Contraire. I think that the full range of speculative poetry was represented, including Janis’s surrealist works and Harvey’s delicate ghost poems. Some of Tim’s were science fiction, and some of mine were horror. Here are photos of the other three poets:
Janis at reading
Tim with stuff

So busily engaged in going through massive numbers of poems with Tim meant that I was unable to engage with the Convention very much, but I also enjoyed the poetry workshop I went to, run by Harvey and Tim. I may post the poem I wrote in ten minutes for my Tuesday Poem next week. I also attended the Julius Vogel Awards, where Simon Petrie, who I had talked at at the airport in Sydney for hours, picked up a gong. Simon also has a story in the new collection Regeneration, as does Tim. I must admit I have read a couple of stories, thus compromising my vow to read no prose for a year, but after working through literally thousands of poems, I excused myself. Sometimes, when tired, prose is easier to read than poetry, being inferior and all. (The stories, however, are of a particularly high standard.)

I meant to take a group photo of Tuesday Poets drinking, but I forgot. Here is a nice photo of Mary, though.

I realised after uploading this just now that she is wearing a top that I had been eyeing off on Cuba Street for a few days and bought on my last day after another few hours tireless (I typed ‘fireless’ at first, which would certainly have pleased Tim) anthologising. It was so dark in the Library Bar where me met that I didn’t consciously note it was the garment I had been admiring. Mary is a trendsetter, so much so that it works at a subconscious level! I wish I could have talked to her more, and all the other poets.

I have no profound thoughts to offer about New Zealand or Wellington after my few days there (I am always suspicious of instant summaries of other countries by blow-ins) but it is a place in which I felt very comfortable. I think it is legitimate to make comparisons with Canberra, too, given that both Wellington and Canberra are smaller capital cities with larger cities within the same country.

The public service seems to dominate Wellington far less than it does Canberra. You just don’t see so many people wandering around with their security tags on lanyards around their necks, like besuited dogs from a Russian novel. Perhaps security is slacker? (Or stricter, given this open display of ID has always seemed a strange practice.) Perhaps I was in an area of Wellington entirely inhabited by web designers, small press publishers and the owners of interesting boutiques? But I also noticed that conversations that I overheard were not so much about the minutiae of policy or whinges about conditions in the public service. Or upcoming elections as they are in Canberra at the moment!

This may seem a slightly bizarre comment, but there are far fewer blonde or redheaded people in Wellington than in Canberra. (I am talking about people of European origin here, obviously.) I have no idea why this is the case, but it struck me that only one person in a cafe was a redhead. Perhaps it is illegal for redheads to frequent Cuba Street?

It would be so good to live somewhere where walking was the major means of getting around. On the other hand, Canberra is much better for bicycles, at least in the inner city.

I ate and drank far far too much during my stay, burning off the equivalent of about one glass of wine during a leisurely stroll around part of the Zealandia wildlife sanctuary. The takahe, a fat, flightless bird, spend their lives munching grass. The story of their rediscovery is quite moving. Such placid, helpless creatures.

Less reassuring were the warning signs about what to do in case of an earthquake; with profound ignorance I hadn’t realised that Wellington was particularly prone to earthquakes. Certainly that is not talked about in the guides to cool Wellington on the net!

I do hope to have a longer stay in New Zealand next time. Here I am looking a tad rugged up at the wildlife park.
roughing it

Thank you to everyone for being so welcoming, and especially to Tim. I met so many people that it’s quite likely I forgot to include a name or two, so this may need a few edits…

VITAL UPDATE: According to the site Answers, 4% of Australians have red hair and about 2.5% of New Zealanders.

Australian poets! If you have been sitting on your elegant bottoms thinking ‘I may submit this excellent poem to an anthology of speculative poetry written by Australians some day,’ well that day is today.

Submissions for The Stars Like Sand close on June 4th, so read the full submission guidelines:


And submit yourself to my tender mercies, and those of my co-editor, Tim Jones.


The poetry semi is about to leave…

We have already received a large number of submissions from Australia and from Australians living in other places. Add yourself to this roll of honour today! And next year you may be reading your work in an Interactive Publications tome.