Monday, December 22, 2014

Tuesday Poem - 'Morning Ride' by Lisa Jacobson

Morning Ride

Eltham Station, 8.01 am

School girls whinny and toss their yellow manes
in half-wild herds on board the morning train.

I'll never be like that again. What's quick
in them now slows in me, though I recall

their visceral scent, new-glistening, which makes
grown men and school boys shift, ambivalent

in their vinyl seats. The girls gossip and stamp
their black-laced feet. Some part their legs a bit.

Something's begun, some urgent heartstrong need
for root and seed that no old god can halt,

no worn-out creed. The train groans to a stop.
The girls get off in a flecked-skirt, skittish mob,

disperse. And yet, the taut wire of their want
persists; their sharp desire, its imperative.

I really look forward to The Best Australian Poems each year.
It's always a feast. And this year it is not sorted from Adamson
to Ziguras (or even vice versa) nor by the title of the poem, but
by a narrative imperative. Look, almost every poem in the book
is tip top, (it's a rare year that has many duds) but this mob of
school girls on the train is my first pick to share. I have been
one of those girls, and now I am not one of those girls.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tuesday Poem - 'At River Bend' by Frances Olive

At River Bend



First blue day -
mint on the water.

Above the clothes line
a wedge-tailed eagle
does not mention me.

All my plans
aren't a woman
now I am here.

With my thought I snatch
the fishtail -
passing future.

Is this a path?
Or is it my eyes
who are tame?

When will my memories
learn non-attachment?

One month passes
more slowly than the moon.


Slipping on the lazy morning
the sun wheel gifts me
her spare hour.

Tomorrow is clean as stripped bark;
still, today is not a tree.

Green grass wears
a blue face.

The day moon
our picture books.

When is this present?
I don't remember it.

Arriving is
hot in the hall.

A held breath
on laughter.

Talk happy
tangled in the sun.

How can I remember in time,
not to rush?


Too quickly passes
the beauty
of the river.

This gold guitar is all that's left
of the yellow moon.

What is silence,
that is brought by the loud rain?

If I turn in
am I sleeping or entering?

Because only God is perfect,
on such a night
we will spill a little wine on the carpet.



My words spilled before strangers
are strangers.

What white face stands
opposite truth?

She is there.
Why can't I lift her
out of my eyes?

When there is no reason,
there is the pink dawn.

Rain brightly breaks
into my solitude.

You have buried a cloud
beneath the path.

Is it you
or the day
who passes?

What is the river,
that when I open my door
it comes in?


The twitching grass -
I see you rain!

The glowing moss
is eating
the light.

Yellow moon through wood-smoke
(memory rising)

Can you see the clearing
for which I am longing?

As we talk
hot chestnuts
burn my fingers.

It's easy
lighting candles
for the bath.


More rain!
Do you want to fall to Earth
old sky?

The cold in stones
is trying to leave.

Is smoke the future
or the memory
of fire?

I sadly grow accustomed
to beauty.

Only midnight.
What luxury!
Seven more hours to sleep.

Where does terror go
when we wake?

Gum trees rock softly,
in the wind.

Night tenderness -
cicadas after rain.



Beautiful dawn
blows clean.

The animal has lost
her burrow

Old typewriter,
words pass through
with suitcases.

Memory – a scent
I cannot place.

A house
can be
a well.


The wane of year -
each day sliced thin

The blue-lipped land
has eaten my time.

Winter pollen – the bee
calm on my foot.

The old spirit:
smoke in your hair.

Cold creaks her body
through my body.

I will learn from the river
how she leaves.


We have something to travel.

The end of home;
I pack away my mind.

The longest night -
our fire in space.

Embers smack
their toothless lips.

Sudden rain -
cleanse me with falling!

Spring is a memory
of what comes.

And another of the short listed poems from The Newcastle Poetry Prize.
At River Bend is such a magnificently calm, lucid piece of work. It puts
me in my proper frame of mind.
And how, oh how! it reminded me of my year at Honey Cottage in the
Wairarapa on the Hungaroa River. What a blessing it is to live by a river.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tuesday Poem - 'Walking the Undoing' by Anne Walsh

Walking the Undoing

My body is my attempt at graceful healing.
It's the archive of my undoing.
A two-legged word for loss.
And my writing is how I walk the undoing.
And how I walk it is up to the weather.
If it's raining down the inside of my shutters,
if it's torrential and my trees are thrown,
I walk well and my body heals.
It's so graceful in a storm.
But if there's too much sun, and it lights too much who I could've been,
I wilt with my lettuce words and I can't find a place to keep them.
No crisper to keep the secret of them graceful in my body
stumbling in all that un-refrigerated light.
And I have to accomplish more of what is accepted as accomplishment
when the weather is considered fine.
There's washing of clothes and of myself that's expected.
Washing and I hanging with expectation.
So, on fine days, I accomplish a lot and get nothing done.
Because my only doing is my undoing.
My only walk is this body.
These words.
And there's a choir that sings them, I swear it.
It's the loam voices of the dead in barnyard light.
Because adoration is like that. Rafters. A wing.
And the dead sing do nothing; accomplish us.
Walking is not something I do without their choir accompaniment.
It's the symphony of how I do my undoing.
The exquisite opera of inclement weather sung by the diva dead.
Scarlet lipstick. Crimson boots. Curtains. Lost love.
This is the time to act, they sing, so undo yourself, listen.
That's why my body is graceful in storms.
It's lithe with listening to the woodwind Beloveds,
to the strings of everything, to the rain thick as brass.
The chemistry of the lover's brain is un-sound.
I'm a lunatic accomplishing nothing.
The choir singing through this body.
This one answer to everything.
This word of the body, this body of the word.
The walking I do with you now.
This pure love accomplished.

I had an excellent weekend in Newcastle recently, attending the celebrations
circling around the Newcastle Poetry Prize. (Joint winners Debi Hamilton and
Anthony Lawrence, congrats!) And of course I invested in the anthology to
assuage the long, long journey back home to Melbourne by bus. (Fear of flying.)
This mordant yet exultant piece by Anne Walsh was one that really took my eye.
It is true, in the midst of everything else, there is always the washing.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tuesday Poem - 'The Hand' by Jennifer Compton

The Hand

We'd finished shooting, I'd got my glasses back on.
I lit a cigarette, letting the sweet smoke lift me and
I turned my head to stare afar with one eye,
the other one held on to what only I can see.
As the hand swooped up to my lips to deliver the hit
I began to riff. Do you see, how I am about to speak?
When I was a young woman, oh a long long time ago,
my most hideous, heaving nightmare was my mother
laying my hand on the butcher block and with a swift
gesture, lopping it. Night after night, I lost my hand.

Waking in the dark, sweating, feeling for the precious
hand that wrote my stuff. Why would my mother want
to cut it off? My beautiful hand, my sagacious hand.
It arrived as an attachment, the photo he had snatched
after we had finished shooting, that is the way of it, but
with a hand deformed by slow motion, twice life-size,
monstrous, levitating a doppelganger of a cigarette.

I clattered out an impassioned message and pressed Send.
'Can you take out the hand?' So he did. He purged the hand
with her familiar, it was never there. Can you see it, no? 

Check out this most interesting and archival of books by Nicholas Walton-
Healey, released last year.  My picks of the photos are Steve Smart and PiO. 
As for my poem itself - well I am not sure. It could be the initiating poem of my
next book, or it could just get tucked into the archives.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tuesday Poem - 'Standing Orders' by Jennifer Compton

Standing Orders

They issued me with my identity
drilled me in the finer points of usage
shipped me in then — nothing.

The radio transmitter — silent
in the attic
these fifty years.

Awaiting orders
I vanish into a life very like
my life.

I catch the 92 or 94 from the corner
ready to counter Top-hole morning!
with — Whizz-bang!

But my contact hasn't
made contact

Tonight, listening to the News at eleven o'clock
I hear a noise I can't place.
A valve about to blow?

like a clock about to strike.
But we don't have a striking clock.

I go up to the attic
switch the gizmo on to green alert.

Sent here for no reason
to do

I will be away for a bit up in Sydney and Newcastle and I am struggling to get 
to the end of something before I go, so quickly and lazily I pop up an old poem 
of mine. 
I am starting to consider a Selected. If not now, then when?  
So I am mostly reading old stuff when I go out to poetry readings, just to check 
how it stands up.
Someone did say to me - 'Don't be unkind to young Jennifer'. Which is something 
to keep in mind.
This poem I am in two minds about. I got it from a BBC TV play about two
Russian sleeper spies settled in England. They married, got jobs, waited, and 
waited for orders, their radio sets stowed up in their attics.
Met once a week during the season in the stands at the football match.
'Anything?' - out of the corner of a mouth. 'No, nothing.'
And then they would enjoy the football match.
But one day they got a message when they went up to the attic to check their sets.
I am in two minds about the poem. I don't think it has enough life of its own without
the explication.
And also, who now knows what 'standing orders' are? Or 'gizmo'. Or how radio
valves would need to be replaced. It's all a bit musty I think.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Tuesday Poem - 'in the palace of broken men' by David Stavanger

in the palace of broken men

there are few women
mothers call on the weekend

new friends come by in the night
the only language second-hand vinyl

t-shirts swapped, beers opened
brief pats on the back and surnames

meetings are held on the threshold
the kitchen is the best place to talk

sighing is the first act of morning
in the toilet books but no paper

rat baits but no rats
an unnamed smell in the bedroom

bins put out not brought back in
defective fans in the middle of summer

can't locate documents when required
a birth certificate photocopied five times

two television points but no aerial
picture of a couple drowning in a boat

random toys underfoot, many are broken
the constant drone of recollection

opening the back door slowly
to let out the muttering light

 In case you wonder if my life is a constant glittering stream of top-notch literary
events,well, it is LOL. I was the warm-up act for the Melbourne launch (by Angela
Meyer) of David Stavanger's new book 'The Special (UQP) last week, and
 although there were at least five must-see events on that night (Melbourne, I hate
you!) what a rip-snorting, take it as it comes, fly fly little bird sort of night it was.
But David always seems to be at the centre of that sort of thing. I believe the book
has gone into a second printing, so relax if you haven't located a copy yet.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Tuesday Poem - 'The future of genetics' by Andy Jackson

The future of genetics

Through a cold foyer, we're ushered in
and down into the cavernous theatre by a string
of young women in academic gowns.
Their smiles seem genuine. Something

not unlike a twisted ladder, we're told,
spins invisibly at the core of us.
Each DNA strand, if unwound, would span
a metre and a half. We're quietly impressed

and think of knitting, of surgery and love,
as one single cell appears, wall-high,
before us. This is the culmination of countless
experiments by computer animators

and geneticists. The projection falters again -
a black-clad technician rushes up,
hunched over, as if in obeisance, then
disappears. The laser pointer hovers

shakily for a moment over indigenous,
as the speaker mentions ethics, then moves on.
We're reassured Exxon is developing
a synthetic organism that could replace oil.

Another professor sniffs into a handkerchief,
blows her nose. One roving microphone
and ten minutes for the history and future
of genetics, as the house lights come up on us.

We can't help but gaze at each other's arms
and faces. Lights shine and turn on the surface
of our eyes. We are all strangely alive.
All our very good questions are answered

confidently. At the exit, a metallic tree
of coathangers, a sign disclaiming
responsibility. We lift our heavy coats -
the hangers chime.

I went to the launch (by Kevin Brophy) of Andy Jackson's the thin bridge
(Whitmore Press Poetry) at Collected Works, and what a top night. I don't
think I have ever heard Kevin be more apposite or askew – and then the
book! Andy's work just gets better and better. It becomes more yielding,
more trenchant, more charming, and more exacting. All I can say is that
it is a pity the Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize only has a print run of
200 copies. That just doesn't seem quite enough for such a little ripper
of a book.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tuesday Poem - 'Aubade' by Kevin Brophy

     Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in
        in the night. William Blake.

He's young again, my old friend,
and has not cured himself of the habit
of pulling curtains aside and raising blinds
as he slips in and comes through the house.
He's already opened the kitchen window for me
and settled on the balcony, slouching on its long bench, ready.

We sit for a while out here considering
the nature of the light this morning.
I tell him, again, I'd like him to stay all day.
Nosing through the long grass above the house
two dogs from next door trot past, sniff the sweet william.
He shivers in his thin jacket, dawn's frost still in him.

I mention fireflies we saw last night
though I know this is a sight he can't imagine.
I tell him my hip and right calf are tight
from yesterday's walk in these mountains.
He says he walks everywhere he goes and I believe him.
He watches me do some stretches, finds it amusing.

I know that when I go inside to the coffee pot
he will leave. I do think, though, that he's curious
about how a whole day might go, its hollowed out
brightness, eventual dusk, descent into night.
When I come back from the kitchen with coffee
I'll sit where he was sitting and consider the valley,
its vines that hold out their last leaves eager for this light.

As a rule, since Larkin's Aubade, I am a bit stringent about the use of
the word as the title of a poem. So I approached this poem stringently,
which may have been why it took me a moment to tumble to it. When I
did I gave a little grin and a chuckle, as if the poet was joking with me,
(maybe he was) and I thought – Yep. You've earned it. Only title you could
have used.
I also really liked the use of personification, and wondered if perhaps the
poet is a fan of Keats, maybe back in the day, like we all were back in the
day. Maybe some of us still are fans. John Keats' To Autumn was the first
time I stumbled upon personification, and now I realise it is a weapon I
have never added to my arsenal.

Kevin Brophy's new and selected book Walking, is now available from -

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tuesday Poem - 'Charlie Twirl' by Alan Gould

Charlie Twirl
16/8/1945 George Street, Sydney

This is the Street of Hullaballoo
when poor link arms with the well-to-do,
two Diggers drunk beyond all help,
vast crowds a-sway like ocean kelp.

This is the Street of Broad Hooray.
Papers blizzard on its grey,
and folk go wigged in shredded files;
unprompted are their camera smiles.

My darlings, look, we have come through!
declare the crowds on Hullaballoo,
who conjure from their one ahoy
this genie now to seize their joy,

to skip and sway and doff his trilby,
pirouette his sideways smile,
and signal how all futures will be
made the lighter for his style.

This is no more than circumstance,
and this tall fellow’s brilliant dance
has just eight seconds in our view
as Newsreel trawls on Hullaballoo.

Yet catch the sob of pure release
from those for whom he’s centrepiece
so bravo and so fugitive
as he takes flight in ‘forty five,

this Mister Zeitgeist, Charlie Twirl -
whose name will be historical
for all there’s nothing in a name
when dance outdances personal claim

to touch the quick of what’s in view
along the tides of Hullaballoo,
where strangers link an arm and arm
to joy at others saved from harm

on isles of acrid ballyhoo
where wreckage is the homely view
till lifted now from that sheer pall
by this so debonair morale.

Our camera tremors on its scene
to steady light for where we’ve been,
this day of papers churned to snow
and crowds in archipelago,

to lift us with these ballet motions,
this blithest fuse for huge emotions
with commentary so bygone, yet
the footage of this pirouette

tracking the shots on Deep Hooray
where this Mad Hatter flaunts his sway,
lighting what’s meant when Hullaballoo
slips arm through arm with me and you.

I took a trip up to Bendigo for the Writers Festival recently, and while
I was there I bumped into Les Murray, and he pressed this poem upon
me with assurances that it was masterly. I didn't disagree with him.
Below I have added a link to the inspiration for the poem, for those
too young to know of it, for those who live in other countries and who
are steeped in other cultural images.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Tuesday Poem - 'CONTEMPLATING A MIGRAINE' by John Mateer


Words, there are for this, but the thing — a distant flaring
under the crust of my skin, deep inside its shifting homeliness.

Pain: the purest life. I could start to pray …

Through the window, as compensation, the rain gently gives me the garden,
its mossy rocks, its green benevolence, the garden that drops away

into the soaring cedar forest suggestive of the opposite of whatever
this pain is.

I would say, a kind of mountain.

                                                                     But maybe I am the mountain,
and the pain, hidden in cloud, is a foreboding shrine, unvisited.

I don't bump into John Mateer very often around the traps, so took the chance
to go to his reading at Collected Works in Melbourne, oh maybe six months ago.
I am very taken with his work. It is kind of cool, maybe even abstemious. It is a
hinting, glancing, stringent (astringent?) exercise of the use and power of language.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Tuesday Poem - 'Angels' by Luke Fischer


I wonder sometimes whether angels are waitresses
and we spend our lives at a large table in a dim bistro.
A business man recounts the success of a trade-deal
with China while a mother relates how her son broke
his leg in training for the junior Olympics. A football match
unrolls on a corner screen backed by drunken cheers and sighs.
Roses for your lady, a migrant asks a spruce young man,
pleading with his gaze and wafting the perfumed bouquet.
And he scores! We toast with full glasses that shimmer
like dusk on the wine-dark sea and graze on plates of pretzels
that never run out. Have you heard the story about the donkey?
says a man with a bristly beard. Well, once upon a time
there lived a donkey, a very happy donkey. Every morning he went
to his trough and always found plenty of feed … Meanwhile
a mademoiselle lures the tide of her date's feeling
with her shadowed lunar eyes. At times we overhear
the decanting of a spring, glimpse silhouettes
of supple hands, a disembodied face in a tea-light's flicker
but pay little thought to these apparitions
until the waiter appears at 2 a.m. : a final round
or shall I bring the bill?

Good stuff from Luke Fischer's book 'Paths of Flight' put out by Black Pepper.
I happened to be at the Melbourne launch (jointly with Chains of Snow by Jakob
Ziguras – Pitt Street Poetry). You know how you can just happen to be at a launch.
Had a good time, heard some good work, invested in two books.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tuesday Poem - 'The end of the shed' by Sandra Thibodeaux

The end of the shed

You pull down the shed and ignore the long-grass
that’s trying to tell you the obvious
about leaving things go too long.
This is a love affair in reverse.
This is creation caving in.
You look at a slab of concrete where a shed has been.

You stand in a shower cubicle
without the shower, without the cubicle.
You peer over the drain,
watch the dregs of rain and try
to work out what comes next.
A stream of smoke next-door
gives permission to destroy the rest.

               Wiring, defeated, cut at the roots
                Doors, destined for pigs, strapped to the ute
                Hardware deals discounted by flames
                Tiles you’ll never lay
                A tired Christmas tree
                Tunnels in a French dictionary –
                white ant resistance
                The score of Stabat Mater
                past singing for a wasted son
                Weeping negatives
                in an age where no-one knows
                what to do with them anymore
                but their eyes burn holes through stories
                you’ve heard before

Suddenly, your lover’s gone
and you look at a gaping hole
where a shed once stood,
where a shed once stood in the way
of your Balinese vision:
verandah, termite-treated timber
and a shower with a portal to the moon,
clean as it always was,
waiting for you to clear that ugly ruin.

I haven't met Sandra yet, or heard her read, because she lives in Darwin,
at the Top End, as they say, but I am looking forward to it. One day soon.
Chris Mansell describes her work (on the back of Sandra's new book 'Dirty
 H2O' from Mulla Mulla Press) as – 'Turbulent, hot and irascible.' And that is
just about right, I would say.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tuesday Poem - 'So Over The Rainbow' by Jennifer Compton

So Over the Rainbow

My son tells me that
it's all over the Internet
Dark Side of the Moon
is the soundtrack for

The Wizard of Oz.
O Emerald City!
I travel north to pitch
a film to Fox

reading Spinster
by Ashton-Warner
written on my patch.
So few of us

from Kiwiland
that paua is annotated.
As the train pulls into
Emerald Central - paua*

*paua - irridescent hell.

I am awaiting permission from a poet (who is away at a festival it seems)
so was caught short this week without a poem. I was rummaging around
in my back files and came upon this poem, which I have always liked, but
have never managed to get anyone else enthusiastic about. No one seems
to get it. I suppose it hinges upon knowing that Sydney used to be called
Emerald City from time to time, oh way back then. And that I didn't live in
Sydney at that time. And as I am from NZ I know a paua when I come across
one. And the book, written by a NZer, which I was reading in the train, had a
most amusing typo. Hell instead of shell. That I read as the train was pulling
into Sydney (Emerald City). A poem shouldn't need so much explication,
right? But still, I have an affection for the poem. This is its first outing.