Christmas Poem: Forecast

December 21, 2016


It’s 12 degrees in Bethlehem
right now, a satellite says.
Cold, but not cold enough
to freeze a woman, kill a man,
or icicle a donkey.
But babies are mere hope,
hope wrapped in folds of flesh,
and that needs relief from wind.
Even 12 degrees will bite
a baby with teeth of blue,
suck out crimson hope
faster than any ghoul.
So came a shed, some hay,
the pleasant fug of cattle.
And god, mewling in the grain,
seeding time, forever.
It’s 12 degrees in Bethlehem,
a satellite says, just now.

PS Cottier


The funny thing is that when I searched for the weather in Bethlehem, I was first directed to the United States where there’s another place by that name.

Have a wonderful Christmas and see you next year (through my special reverse-blog glasses).

Upon reading Henning Mankell’s Wallander novels

It’s obvious —
the weather is the culprit.
Endless snow, or waiting for snow,
or discussing if it will snow,
or wading through medieval mud,
down hidden, slushy roads.
And those other nights
that are nights in name only,
quite midday bright.

The wonder is that there are Swedes
who don’t murder each other.

(Not to mention the Danes.)

P.S. Cottier



I read very little crime, and have been surprised how much I enjoy Henning Mankell’s Wallander novels, which I have read in a huge glut.  Only one to go.  So clever how he lets the reader know more than the detective for most of the books.

Gloves house hunger
moths make gaping mouths
finger tongues speak


Now that’s me, begloved in gloves which never had fingers, at the launch of Poetry in ACTION yesterday, in front of my poem, ‘April mornings’. ACTION stands for ACT Internal Omnibus Network, by the way. I bet you didn’t know that! (And it just occurred to me that some readers won’t know that ACT stands for Australian Capital Territory, which was set up so that Canberra wasn’t in either New South Wales or Victoria. Most of the ACT is national park.)

If you would like to read this poem properly, along with the other nine poems selected to appear on Canberra buses, please press this link, which will take you to a page within the Arts ACT site.

You can also see the short-listed poems, and children’s poems, if you navigate from that page.

It was beyond freezing in Canberra yesterday. Note the loverly weather outside the bus window in the photograph above. It may snow at the weekend, which is positively un-Australian. Next month, though, I am having a handful of days in sunny Wellington…

Click this feather for further poetry frisson from the tropical climes of New Zealand:
Tuesday Poem

Why would you do that?

February 22, 2013

Sometimes you forget why you started writing in the first place. You get so caught up in minutiae: rewriting an article for the fifth time, or compiling endless lists of addresses to which you need to send something, or writing careful emails to other poets so you don’t inadvertently hurt their feelings…which is about as possible as teaching a walrus to tap-dance.

Rodrigo will tango, not tap

Rodrigo will tango, not tap

And then you come across a poem that reminds you why it is all worthwhile. These things often happen through serendipity. I was lucky enough to be short-listed in a Canadian literary competition a while back, and have been receiving the journal CV2 (Contemporary Verse 2) from Canada for a year. It is most excellent, and the Summer 2012 issue (which translates in Winter 2012, for Southern Hemisphere dwellers!) contains some truly beautiful work by John Steffler. I can’t reprint the poems here, as I don’t have the rights. But there are poems about rock art and trees and people living in snow and, yes, moose, that stole my muscles for a moment or two.

Mr Steffler is on the cover of the journal, wearing a black beanie. (I get the impression that everyone in Canada wears a beanie all the time…) He is, to put it euphemistically, no spring chicken, even an autumnal chicken, and the backs of his hands are deeply mottled, as if they have poems bubbling away, just waiting to filter into the fingertips and onto paper.

A lot of poetry comes about from the sort of chance meeting that led me to this journal. (And please note I am talking about my own poems and methods here, not those of the far more experienced John Steffler.) You see an orange-tinted cloud that reminds you of the flavour of ice-cream. You don’t know why exactly, and then you remember an orange dress that you were wearing where you smelt the first drops of rain while eating an icecream and how they drew you outside into the sudden cold. You notice the particular curve of certain words; yes, obviously, the word curvy (not in this angular font, though) but also cove. Does the word cove change its meaning when written in the longhand of say, James Cook, to when it is dashed off on the spur of the moment blog entry on a computer? These thought can lead to a poem. It’s the quirk of things; the infinite jest of language itself; grinning from its deep grammar into the everyday exchange of inanities.

And that’s why you say yes to poetry, even when you have a cold. Even when you just wish you were a tad more ‘normal’ and didn’t get excited about words in a way most people don’t, and wish you didn’t see a misplaced apostrophe as a knife stuck into a sentence’s bowels.

You feel even better when you can indulge in a little schadenfreude: Clarise Foster’s editorial to CV2 for Summer 2012 mentions that there are only a few months of the year in Canada where you can get out ‘without ubiquitous winter gear’.

Makes the first signs of Autumn seem bearable. (Autumn translates to Spring, Canadians! And our Autumn, even here in Canberra, is probably a lot warmer than Canada’s Spring, I suspect.) Sometimes we even go out without beanies!

tanka and wine crop

What a lovely present for a launch speech! Yesterday it was about 36 degrees in Canberra and unusually steamy, and I gave my first launch speech for the pamphlet In Response to Magpies.  This was organised by Hazel Hall, Australian Poetry’s café poet at Biginelli’s café.

Hazel Hall

Hazel Hall

It went quite well, and the readings by the poets included in the collection were enjoyable. Here I am looking up in the air, as if there is an invisible magpie swooping:

magpie launch

Fortunately I am wearing my special invisible helmet

I am hoping to write up the speech for publication. The wine remains intact, as it is gin weather.

Last night I went to a poetry slam, co-organised by fellow Triptych poet J.C. Inman at The Front, and it was so steamy and hot we were all like pieces of tofu floating in a laksa. Here is a piece of poetic tofu, also known as J.C. Inman:

J.C. Inman(my phone was fainting from the heat)

J.C. Inman
(my phone was fainting from the heat)

I realised how exhausted I was when I read a poem before the slam and my hands were literally shaking. People must have thought I was a very sensitive flower, but that was not it at all. It was: half heat, half gin, half gym. So what? A mathematican I ain’t.

Canberra: freezing one day and Brisbane the next. If only I could afford a pankawallah.  Or another gin.

Now I’m off to be languid.  After the gym.