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.

Rapunzel’s lesson

And after they have stopped swarming up
massing like armoured lice, itching, pulling…
What then?

Nothing in this world in free, she said, dear
mother, before she died, like all mothers
in this castellated world.

And she was right. After the long climb
they ask for my hand. Hair, rope-pulled,
then hand, for life.

I’ve learnt. I flick my golden ladder
and watch them free-fall, moat-wards,
screaming, motes of shiny dandruff.

And then I comb my hair.

P.S. Cottier

‘Rapunzel’s lesson’ was highly commended in The Bridge Foundation poetry competition, October 2009.

In an exciting development (well exciting for me, anyway) Tim Jones and I will soon begin editing a book of Australian speculative poetry. As you all know, that’s science fiction, fantasy, horror and magic realism. It will be published by Interactive Publications of Queensland. The book will contain new poems as well as previously published works, so watch out for the call for submissions and further details, dear fellow Australians of a poetic bent.

I am looking forward to working with Tim, who I have only met electronically. Amazing what a little Tuesday Poem can bring about. As he has previously edited Voyagers with Mark Pirie, he has the runs on the board, speculatively speaking.

So the little fantasy poem above is a tribute to Books Yet to Come.

Tim Jones

I spent most of the weekend at the Conflux science fiction convention in Canberra, where I met some poets who I will spank with Rapunzel’s hairbrush if they do not submit to the anthology.

They have been warned…

For further poetry, press this raven’s feather. Never say nevermore, chickies.
Tuesday Poem