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 9, 2016
He wouldn’t know a poem…
…if it had a business card that said A. Poem
(‘read me and weep’) which it presented to him
while waving a bright purple beret under his nose
(which organ is unable to detect the whiff of poesy)
while reciting itself, excitedly or coolly,
while pouring itself a sixth large glass of wine
(which would be hard, because of clutched beret and card case,
except that it would first return the beret to its poeting head,
at such an interesting angle, and would put the card case back
in a voluminous tote bag, full of its brother and sister poems
gathered into slim books which are now remaindered)
while squatting and shitting lines of the purest gold.
He just wouldn’t know it,
for what it seems to be.
Now I could have the heading ‘nasty little poem’ for that but I’ve become a tad bored with that self-generated meme.
I’m been working on a little manuscript of fantasy poems at the moment; more about that anon. Speaking of that type of thing, there’s a nice competition on at the moment, run by the Science Fiction Poetry Association in the US, for poems of all lengths written in a speculative genre (fantasy, horror, science fiction etc.). If you write such things, why not have a go? It is only $2 (that’s the ‘somewhat more valuable than the Australian $ at the moment, but we’ll see after their election, American $’) to enter. You don’t have to be a member of the SFPA to enter (I am a member), and it would be lovely to have more Antipodean entries.
It closes at the end of the month, and entries can be lodged on-line.
August 2, 2016
Turn away from the night.
Too much freedom is implied.
Trap stars in flags, pin them down,
render them national, bordered,
an angular abacus to figure normality.
Adorn children’s essays with thin
gold paper star stickers.
Wonder is juvenilia that we must
grow to despise, jettison
like milk teeth swapped for coin.
Yet those million suns, flickering
light sirens, keep calling, ululating.
Day demands in clear clipped diction
that we make work’s timed rituals
the sum of all equations. From such
abbreviation, each star whispers
turn away, turn to me,
turn to me, and turn away.
I can’t remember if this has been published before; it’s not on my List, so probably not. There’s going to be a lot of flag waving soon at the Olympics (and, of course, in the final grim push to the US elections) so it seemed appropriate.
My poem ‘Criminals who are no longer criminals’ has been included in this year’s Award Winning Australian Writing, which included poems and prose that have previously been awarded first place in a literary competition (as you can probably read on the cover). The annual is published by Melbourne Books, and I’ll be going down for the launch late this month and reading the poem, which will be fun.
The poem qualified as it was placed first in the Thunderbolt Prize for Crime Writing, organised by the New England Writers Centre, and it is concerned with the definition of crime changing over time. It also has a speculative element, as there are ghosts involved.
I believe that the current Thunderbolt Prize is still open for entries: check out the rules and categories here.
July 11, 2016
Oppressing the gnomes
The garden gnomes are downing tools
all over Australia, and whimsy is plummeting.
No more riding snails and pushing barrows,
or fishing for strangely ecstatic cod,
who gape for hooks in a pornography of cute.
The gnomes are turning nasty, attacking
the flamingos who continue to strut —
elegant pink scabs over the quirky lawns.
Gnomes piss on succulents and smear
foul gnome shit on the guinea pigs.
What do we want? they ask the air.
But they don’t know what to chant back —
their dissatisfaction is merely existential.
Even their industrial action raises a laugh,
with their crooked green caps slipping,
and their endless pipes twixt ruddy lips.
Their signs are egregiously misspelt.
Nome’s R Us is at least legible,
but the kerning is much worse than that,
and the punctuation speaks volumes.
Get back to it, gnomes, I say, imperiously.
Ply those forks, and play that accordion.
I bask in my elevation to exploiter,
swaying in a complacent hammock.
Surly yet amusing, the wee green men obey.
The ringleader rides a frog to the pond,
and casts in his line like a sigh.
This is probably a weird commentary on the zeitgeist. Either that or the gnomes have been putting things in my tea.