Wednesday, December 31, 2014

So endeth the year

2014-12-23 18.08.59 So glad to see the end of 2014.

It wasn’t all bad, indeed creatively it was a really good year.  Getting nominated and winning two Ditmars was perhaps the highlight. Growing as a poet and getting some paid publishing credits to my name was very rewarding.

I became an uncle again. I attended conventions, met some long time friends for the first time in the flesh. I did lose about 20 kilos which I need to keep reminding myself about, because its slipped my mind as an achievement this year.

The end of the year came with disappointments and illness.  I didn’t get a job that would have set me up for the next few years and I underwent treatment for some health issues that seemed to come from nowhere, but which after reflection I can see have been a long time coming.

I participated in the Australian Women Writers Challenge for the third year running and will need to compile that and a gender audit of my reading and reviewing for the year.   I read more poetry and discovered more poets.

I am still reading for the Aurealis Awards and that has been rewarding and educational.  I recommend saying yes if you get the chance.

So until I have the wherewithal to write again, please have a happy and safe new year.

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Celebrities, poetry and the policing of creativity

I read the the following article by Myf Warhurst Celebrities, do your worst with verse – just don't call it poetry at the Guardian and it grated ever so slightly.  Sure I don’t like Gina Rhinehart’s poetry, but it is poetry- technically poor poetry, offensive to the ear perhaps but it is poetry.  I tend to agree with Anthony Lawrence’s opinion on Clive Palmer’s poetry as well ie :

“I really celebrate the fact he’s done it, I love the fact he’s taken the time and care to explore his emotions and his affections for someone in verse and I think that’s a big deal. Most people stop writing poetry in high school and move on and he clearly had something to say and felt poetry was the best vehicle for that.” – Source: Guardian.

Jimmy Franco, I haven’t heard but I’m sure there’s much that’s worse and better.

The reason why I didn’t write poetry for a long time is because if the weight of expectation attached to it, both personally and by the public - whether they have read anything published in the last 50 years or not. 

It’s only with the encouragement of friends that I was able to start writing and start writing bad poetry, stuff that makes me cringe.  But I began to get better and I began to read more, began to realise that our most lauded poets wrote some absolute clangers at some stage. Half the time I feel like I am an apprentice to an absent master. The other half I just enjoy expressing something about my life, an observation etc.

I’d rather people wrote more poetry, talked more poetry.  Sent doggerel into newspapers, had fun with words.

Your thoughts?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Buy a Tincture with me in it :p

cover_small Tincture Journal have been very good to me again agreeing to publish my Shepherd Mourning poem in the final journal for the year.  Looking at the TOC I’m in some smashing company as well.  Issue 8 featuring myself will be out shortly (depends when you read this) but take a look back through all the back issues, as there’s sure to be some discounts.

The TOC for Issue 8:

  • Editorial, by Daniel Young
  • Inferior Bedrooms, by Meg Henry
  • Crazy Town is a Happy Place, by Deborah Sheldon
  • Post-mortem, by Elizabeth Allen
  • Delicious, by Elizabeth Allen
  • Looking for Links, or: On Imagining What I Would Talk About If I Met Stuart Barnes (Elizabeth Allen, interviewed by Stuart Barnes)
  • Red Flowers of the Exodus, by Amy Ward-Smith
  • Folded Peace, by Adam Byatt
  • One Small Step, by Matt Smith
  • What I Write About When I Write About Dance, by Sophie Pusz
  • Teddy Bears’ Picnic, by Emily Craven
  • Ms Robyne Young requests the pleasure of the company of Ms Janis Ian to dine, by Robyne Young
  • Shepherd Mourning, by SB Wright
  • First to a Hundred, by Jodi Cleghorn
  • Barn Burners, Fire Vans, by Stephen Koster
  • inevitability, by Ashley Capes
  • Simmering, by Katelin Farnsworth
  • On the skin, by Rebecca Howden
  • Bringing Experimental Text to the Mainstream: Kirsten Krauth’s just_a_girl, by Julie Proudfoot
  • The Monologue, by Nicholas Lawrence
  • Live Cam, 42nd Street, Times Square, by Francine Ruben
  • One Bronx Morning, by Patrick Fogarty
  • Hunting With Masai, by Charles Bane, Jr.
  • Knock Knock, by Edoardo Albert
  • A Night Inside, by Kathryn Hummel
  • The House of Little Things, by Grant Tarbard
  • 11 Months in London, by Tony Walton
  • Oh, La, La! by Barbara Donnelly Lane
  • Reply Hazy, Try Again, by Kevin Brown
  • The Moth, by Abhishaike Mahajan

You can purchase Tincture from the website direct or get a small discount through Tomely if you use social media to spread the word.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Decommissioning Culture – Australia without a national poetry broadcast.

You may have heard that the ABC is decommissioning Poetica (along with a raft of shows) in a bid to weather the cuts inflicted on it by the LNP.  I can’t help but think that this is the thin end of the wedge, or perhaps the middle, who knows.  Both sides of politics have continually sought to get aunty on the treadmill and make her efficient.  I am sick to death of governments privatising public services (and long term,  I think this is where it’s going), it never works out better for the public. 

I don’t know why the decision was made to axe Poetica, leaving Australia without national poetry coverage, was it ratings, was the size of its staff, the likelihood that poets would not protest in the streets? It had a listenership of 60,000 which is about 50,000 more than I was thinking. So…

Let us reflect on this for a moment, Australia without a national poetry program.  What does that say about us as a culture?  What message does it send? What does it project about us internationally?

It’s not the death of poetry in this country of course, the scene(s) is/are still pretty vibrant.  But in a country as big, as geographically challenged as ours, poetry and host of other non-commercially attractive pursuits, benefit from the lift national coverage gives, benefit immensely from the piddling amount that is spent on it.

I am underwhelmed by the response in general from the public and I’m talking about the poetry reading public here ( I realise that Poetry is a pastime shared by a dedicated few). I expected a bit more…fire in the belly. Some metaphorical rioting.

I expected some big names to come out swinging. I expected our poetry elders to sharpen their quills. Perhaps they are still reeling from the other cuts inflicted or instigated by a government that seems determined to push a nasty ideological agenda.

Thanks to Australian Poetry who made a statement here and to the Sydney Morning Herald, who carried the only mainstream media story I could Google on it here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Luncheon on the Grass or Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe


Free to air television being what it is I have taken to borrowing  documentaries from the local library.  This week I picked up Every Picture Tells a Story, distributed by Readers Digest and hosted by Waldemar Jansuzczak (apparently the David Attenborough of the English speaking art world).  Once I get past the sped up, handheld filmed title sequence, it’s been good, very good in fact.

So why am I talking about art and presenting you with a painting by Manet on my poetry blog?

Well, The Luncheon on the Grass or Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe is the masterpiece that the first episode focuses on and while viewing it I had a personal epiphany…perhaps that’s too strong a word. It got me thinking.

Take a good look at the picture above without Googling any info, maybe do an image search and get a better quality picture.  Take a good look at it.  What do you notice?

While you are doing that I am going to blather on about how this picture sums up some of my difficulties with poetry, contemporary and historical.  This painting (and the same would go for almost any masterpiece) is a metaphor for my experience.

The Casual Observer/Reader

On first impressions it is a pleasurable painting to look at and understand (certainly easier than say abstract work).  You might notice that the women are naked while the men are clothed.  You might notice that one of the women is looking directly at the viewer, you might notice that she is of fuller figure.  You might notice other things.  You don’t have to really know anything about art(and here art may have an edge over the written word) to get some basic enjoyment/wonderment from looking.

I find some poetry to be like this ie broadly accessible, its syntax and diction fairly straightforward. I am thinking of Thomas Gunn, Billy Collins, blog visitors Michele Seminara and Ash Capes also come to mind.

We could leave the painting and poetry at this point and have an appreciation, an enjoyment.

What Jansuzczak does in this video is start to educate us in this painting, its artist and its context.  Thus we learn that:

  1. The figures in it are relatives and friends
  2. That it is referencing two classical paintings
  3. That the bird that sits in the top centre of picture is taking the place of the dove of peace and makes the painting sacrilegious.
  4. That the woman bathing has actually just finished urinating.
  5. That the central women looking out is challenging the viewer
  6. That this painting by referencing the classics (which displays similar levels of nudity) reveals the hypocrisy in modern mores.
  7. etc.

I find much contemporary poetry a little removed.  Now, I’m no idiot but I am not an academic or an academic poet but I love it when I understand what a poet is doing and saying.  I often feel that I could benefit from a Jansuzczak of the poetry world.  A lot of the analysis and reviews I read come across as academic and a little dry.

I find that I enjoy and understand the poetry of my friends and poetic colleagues because I understand them and where they are writing from.  As my circle of poetry reading expands though I find the process more difficult.  Sometimes I get lucky and a poet will blog and post videos, like Helen Mort (my fave English poet).  Sometimes you will get someone who verges on being that Jansuzczak like figure - an example of  that might be academic and poet Anthony Wilson writing in his post Introducing Chrissy Wilson.

I have been reading Plath lately and without a substantial study of her as a person, the context of her writing I feel a disconnect with a lot of her work. Is the only place that will find this information in a lengthy (and expensive) course of study? Is there a poet, a blogger out there that can communicate the body of contemporary or modern poetry in an accessible fashion?

I can’t help getting the feeling that a lot of poetry criticism and learning is locked up in texts aimed at other poets of the same persuasion that I am looking at  A Luncheon on the Grass and missing out on what the poet is doing and why it might be important. 

Your thoughts?

Monday, November 10, 2014

eBook Review – Picnic, Lightning by Billy Collins

picnic-lightningCollins was U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001-2003, and still is one of America’s most loved and successful contemporary poets both in monetary and critical terms. 

I am, as I have stated before, attracted to formalist poetry, to fairly distinct and repetitive rhyme and rhythm.  My enjoyment of Collins then, came as a bit of a surprise. 

Picnic, Lightning is a collection of everyday musings in poetic form and from what I can ascertain, this is standard for Collins’ kind of poetry.  Indeed his poem In the Room of a Thousand Miles presents us with a manifesto.  Though perhaps that’s too strong a word:

In the Room of a Thousand Miles

I like writing about where I am,

where I happen to be sitting,

the humidity or the clouds,

the scene outside the window—

a pink tree in bloom,

a neighbor walking his small, nervous dog.

And if I am drinking

a cup of tea at the time

or a small glass of whiskey,

I will find a line to put it on.


My wife hands these poems back to me

with a sigh.

She thinks I ought to be opening up

my aperture to let in

the wild rhododendrons of Ireland,

the sun-blanched stadiums of Rome,

that waterclock in Bruges—

the world beyond my inkwell.

…[read on]

This focus on the everyday, the mundane, the “suburban” as Collins himself calls it, has led some to view his work as a bit bland.  For sure, you won’t find rage here or angst.  You might find humour, wit and playfulness though and perhaps that puts people off that think poetry should be about important things (as If laughter and lightness aren’t important) or about “plumbing the depths of one’s soul”.  Collins is far more contemplative.

Personally I get the same sort of feeling reading Collins that I might reading Japanese forms like Haiku and Tanka, in that they are often very particular observations of the ordinary and yet more than that as well.  The diction and syntax is fairly straight forward, enhancing his general appeal and accessibility. The poems tend to seep in under your defences and a poem that first is about returning to the house for a book, walks you gently into a meditation on alternate possibilities/realities. 

Readers of speculative fiction might not view the following as all that strange but if you are fairly linear in your thinking, then this poem opens up possibilities:


I Go Back to the House for a Book


I turn around on the gravel

and go back to the house for a book,

something to read at the doctor's office,

and while I am inside, running the finger

of inquisition along a shelf,


another me that did not bother

to go back to the house for a book

heads out on his own,

rolls down the driveway,

and swings left toward town,


a ghost in his ghost car,

another knot in the string of time,

a good three minutes ahead of me—

a spacing that will now continue

for the rest of my life.

I enjoyed Picnic, Lightning for its relatively easy “entrance exam”, almost any lover of good written words could pick Picnic, Lightning up and enjoy it.  Many of the poems could have been formatted as prose, as flash fiction, but there is something to be be gained by the arrangement of line breaks, in drawing you eye and pacing your reading.  Collins draws your attention to the ordinary and most of the time finds for us the extraordinary. It’s his consistency in delivering this to the reader, I suspect, that grants him success. 

Death and pain are big themes in poetry but sometimes we need to be reminded of the extraordinariness of life.

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Book Review – Selected Poems by Thom Gunn

thomgunnThom Gunn has been one of the happy discoveries wrought by my self imposed regime to read more poetry and to read more widely.  I can’t remember how I stumbled across the name but I am glad that I did. 

I am very glad to have picked up this particular Selected Poems edited by August Kleinzahler, because I think, in my limited knowledge of the poet, that Kleinzahler has done a very good job of presenting a cross section of Gunn’s work.  I also found the introduction by Kleinzahler to be one of the best I have read in a book of selected poetry in recent times. I was left with a very well rounded sense of the poet. While that in itself was not necessary for enjoyment, I felt it beneficial nonetheless.

I am a fan of form poetry, of rhythm and rhyme.  I like writing and reading it and although I write free verse as well, I never seem quite so happy as when I discover a well wrought form poem or manage to crank out one myself. 

Gunn, writing from the mid 19,50’sright up to the turn of the century begins as a formalist, transitions through syllabic poetry and ends up writing free verse.  And looking at the whole of his work (as presented here) I can gain an appreciation for all of it.  An appreciation for what’s possible along that continuum.

This collection spans some 50 plus years but I did feel as though I was reading a very contemporary poet, much of this is owed, I think to the content. With my penchant for nostalgia I really enjoyed Last Days at Teddington (which sadly doesn’t appear online anywhere) and likewise Hug, although Hug is as much a love poem.

The Hug

It was your birthday, we had drunk and dined

    Half of the night with our old friend

        Who'd showed us in the end

    To a bed I reached in one drunk stride.

        Already I lay snug,

And drowsy with the wine dozed on one side.


Gunn covers the big topics, like love and death.  There’s also a strong vein of poems that focus on nature or a simpler life.  Indeed, a poem like The Night Piece reminds me very much of Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.


Here are the last few streets to climb

Galleries, run through veins of time,

Almost familiar where I creep

Toward sleep like fog, through fog like sleep




The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.


The collection is broad enough to have something for all readers.  What I like in particular though is his consistent use of rhythm and rhyme.  The content and the language changes from earlier to later poems but to me shows what’s still possible with form poetry as we edge into the 21st century. If you like poetry that sounds like poetry, that plucks at emotions and that doesn’t shy away from topics like sex, suicide and illness, then I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.


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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Kate Tempest – Performing an extract from Brand New Ancients

I listened to this and immediately got an American Gods feel.


Friday, October 31, 2014

A prayer for the small things– Poetry and an Update

2014-01-14 16.05.49Busy four weeks as you may be able to tell from the slow post count.  I have been working full time, helping manage the downward decline of our 18 year old cat, trying to read Aurealis Award Submissions and reading the odd review title as well.  This weekend should see some reviews of books I finished weeks ago.  Until such time I shall inflict some poetry on you.  I subbed this to an Inkermann and Blunt anthology and sadly it didn’t make it.  So here it is:


A prayer for the small things

Oh, say a prayer for the small things
for in all things, small things matter.

Oh, say a prayer for love’s gentle touch
for too much is made of passion.

Oh, say a prayer for a stranger’s smile
for while here, such joys are fleeting.

Oh, say a prayer for an unkindness spared
for where unkindness lives, it festers.

Oh say a prayer for a listening ear
for to hear a sorrow, helps heal it.

Oh, say a prayer for a considered word
for once heard, words have no master.

Oh, say a prayer for the small things
for in all things, their sum’s the larger.


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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Notes to myself – Poetry and discoverability

2014-08-22 16.42.31 I have been researching an article on poetry and plagiarism (the focus being on what help there is for inexperienced poets to avoid unintentional plagiarism) and the process has unearthed a few thoughts.  So I type them here as notes to myself:

  • There’s a variety of ways in which poets indicate that they are borrowing from/commenting on another poet/poem that don’t necessarily spell it out for the reader
  • There’s a high degree of assumed knowledge that a reader of poetry must possess to fully appreciate or perhaps even understand some poetry
  • This assumed knowledge barrier may be more harmful to the wider craft

Some of the joy of poetry is of course returning to a poem and discovering something new.  I particularly like Frost’s Mending Wall for that reason but experiencing poetry communities from the outside (ie not tertiary educated in poetry specifically, only recently affiliated with any online groups) I do feel I am lacking some understandings, rules of the culture if you will.

Take for example the long established tradition of dedicating a poem to someone.  I, in my ignorance thought that this was only the poet being nice.  What no one tells you, what you have to work out for yourself is that this is one way in which poets reference the work of others or note that the poem you are currently reading is in dialogue with or is potentially taking ideas/words from another poem, by the poet who is referenced in the dedication.

This is only one of the myriad ways a poem indicates it’s referencing other work, it’s a little more obscure than say titling a poem A Reply to ……etc, or including an epigraph,  but the variety of ways in which a poem can be referenced, and the lack of any Rough Guide to referencing poetry had me thinking about discoverability and how I find poetry, how I, an inexperienced poet but not uneducated person make connections between communities of poets dialoguing with each other.

There is an expectation(probably as a result of poetry that originates in academia) that if you are going to write poetry and read poetry there’s a long apprenticeship, there’s some learning to be undertaken.  Consequently there’s an aversion to dumbing down or making some things as plain as day. I understand that argument and agree to some degree – practicing a craft, requires actual practice and learning from those further along than you. 

But I do think there’s room for some facets of the craft to be documented or more readily available, even standardised.  It is glaring that  in the three “How to” poetry books ranging from general audience to university text, that I have, that there’s little on on the subject of citing or referencing other’s poetry in your poems. There’s copious documentation on referencing for other non-fiction ie essays etc, but little for poetry. 

Hard to accuse someone of playing fast and loose with the rules when the rules aren’t written down or there’s no common understanding or different understandings are held between different types of poetry communities.  But ignoring the plagiarism angle for a minute I thought about how being made aware of the more obscure ways that poets reference each other opened up links to other poets and poems ie if poet a is talking about poet b’s poem than I should try and read both no?.

I’d like to think that a very broad and basic understanding of how to reference or borrow other poet’s work might not only contribute to less plagiarism or at least leave sneaky plagiarists with less wiggle room but also leave signposts to explore other poets and poems.

So not handholding per se but directing me for further reading.

But I suppose it depends on who you are writing for.  I wouldn’t expect to sell a chap book of Haiku to a very large audience because the form requires a bit of leg work to appreciate.

I tend to favour more information about poets poems and collections, than less.  Case in point a recent library borrowing, Uncommon Light by Brook Emery.  I wouldn’t have known that that Emery was referencing the thoughts of St Augustine if it hadn’t told me on the jacket. Now that connection isn’t necessary to gain an immediate appreciation but it places the work in context.

I love it when poets include notes on specific poems as well.

Sure a poem should stand on its own, and I do like reading it “clean” first but I also like seeing where it fits; in the head of the poet, in the greater dialogue etc.

Do you think insularity or an assumed knowledge culture harms poetry?  How do we convert non-poetry readers into poetry readers?  Does poetry have too high an entrance exam to steal a phrase from the Coode Street Podcast?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Poetry’s position in mainstream Australian Culture

There’s an interview conducted by Brook Emery with Australian Poet and ex-publisher Ron Pretty.  Its well worth a read but I really connected with this part of one of Ron’s answers:

I am frustrated by the fact that there is so much poetry happening at present, but most of it is hidden from the majority of Australians. I don’t think poetry is so much an unpopular art as an unknown one. So many people don’t know how to respond to it because they’ve had so little exposure to it since they left school, where many of their experiences with it were not happy ones.

This gels with some of my recent experience. I see Slam Poetry making some noise and selling out shows, I’m subscribed to a number of feeds and twitter accounts that keep me appraised, but I have an interest so its always hard to judge just what the wider perception is. 

My experience observing poetry taught in High School ( I relief teach) has shown me an art form haphazardly taught and heavily reliant on both the skill and interest of the teacher – the emphasis on it being a vehicle for teaching Poetic/ English techniques.

In terms of support from newspapers/media sites it doesn’t appear to be much better.  I can remember whinging on Twitter about how the poem presented in one of our online daily news sites seemed to come secondary to the placement of the advert that appeared in the centre of the page destroying the poem’s formatting.

By way of contrast I am subscribed to the Guardian UK’s poetry feed and they manage to put out one poetry related article a day it seems in addition to featuring poems of new poets.  They also seem to give a damn about the way poetry is formatted.  For sure there’s more people in the UK but no doubt proportionately the audience that enjoys poetry there is small as well. But they seem, on this limited sample, to care.

I wonder if gender plays a significant role.  Australia is already one of the most polarised of the OECD countries when it comes to gendered perceptions ofr eading (children as young as four identifying reading as a feminine activity).

What’s your perception? Do enough Australian’s care about poetry? What’s the downside to a culture that thinks poetry is irrelevant?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Poem – Death is a Cuckoo

Death is a Cuckoo

after Fiona Hall’s, Out of My Tree

Death is a cuckoo
Clock slowing down;
Youth's vital spring in
Measured parts unwound


Part of Fiona Hall’s exhibition, Out of My Tree, featured a cuckoo clock with a skull painted on the face.  If you do a search on “Fiona Hall’s, Out of My Tree” you should find it.  I was keeping this couplet in the hope that something additional would spring forth, it hasn’t.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Writ. Poetry Review is Live

shot_1393622253215 After some teething problems that extended the launch time a little longer than expected, Writ. Poetry Review is up and running.  The site is reasonably minimalist, designed to showcase art and words.  It also looks as though it’s been designed with tablets and mobile phone access in mind. 

They feature a poet every issue and that poet gets a selection of their work shown and an in depth interview.  Then you are treated to a number of other poems, some from new or emerging poets and others from luminaries in the field.

The feature poet in the Alpha Issue is Scott-Patrick Mitchell. Some other names you might recognise are: Mark Tredinnick, Zenobia Frost, Nathan Hondros and Benjamin Dodds.

The Alpha issue features a number of poets (some 30 odd poems) and artwork.  I am pleased to find myself in very good company.

Enjoy Writ. Poetry Review

Monday, September 29, 2014

Poetry Update: Writ Poetry Review

100_5803Just a short note to let you know that my poem, That Summer will be reprinted in the inaugural Writ Poetry Review that launches tomorrow. There’s only a placeholder page at the moment but bookmark the site for future reference.

Writ Poetry Review

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Finding your poetry

shot_1407548672319 My self imposed challenge to read more poetry and to read more widely is beginning to pay dividends, if not in my own poetry yet, at least in my appreciation of poetry. 

I remember reading and reviewing Aria by Sarah Holland-Batt in January and while I liked a few of her poems right away, I mentioned that subsequent readings might engender more appreciation.  I had the good fortune to pick up a copy of Aria second hand a month or so ago and upon reading the first poem, Pocket Mirror I had the wonderful experience of reading a slightly different poem. 

The poem of course hadn’t changed, I had.  In the eight intervening months I had read more widely and also paid more attention to the technical skill that’s not immediately evident to a casual reader of poetry.  It’s the gift of poetry I suppose - a good poem is one that can draw you in again and again as you grow and experience more poetry.

So that’s one way I have found my own poetry or the poetry that I really enjoy i.e. by continued exposure.

I continually hear that poetry is a dying art, that it can’t make money (except in the form of particular anthologies) and this might be the case but there is still an ocean of poetry being written and published.  Reading more widely, reading poets who allude to other poets work has led me to a couple of recent finds that really hit my love for form. 

I recently read Selected Poems by Thom Gunn and discovered someone who wrote writing engaging and gritty poetry in form as well as free verse.  Likewise, I have really enjoyed Philip Hodgins one of Australia’s critically acclaimed poets, who I am sad to say, I never knew existed. Hodgins’ plain talking poetry depicting rural Victoria and the harsh life on the farm showed me that form  still has a place in contemporary Australian Poetry.  Perhaps his honesty was attractive too, brutal at times, particularly when talking of his impending death. He passed away in 2000 but the Australian Poetry Library has all his works that you can read free here.

Just as with fiction writing there are works that you like and those that you don’t.  There are poems and poets who at first seem impenetrable but reward you the more experienced you become.  Finding your poetry takes time, stick with it.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Australian Poetry Journal in eBook form

1-APJ-4.1 If you’re signed up to the Australian Poetry Journal’s fortnightly newsletter you'll already know that APJ’s plan to release their journal in ebook form has happened.  If you're a financial member of Australian Poetry, you should have got a code to download a copy for free.

Sadly I am not a member (yet) but decided to take advantage of their Tomely ( Tomely is a service which allows vendors to offer discounts if purchasers announce their purchase on social media) offer for a copy!

So I ended up forking out about $8 for what has been up until now a print publication I just can’t afford.

Now any small publisher who takes on eBooks is brave, especially if it’s not been part of their workflow before, the different formats and the differing devices can make a meal of a straight prose text.  Producing a text filled with poetry and its sometimes bespoke formatting, no doubt calls for long hours and stiff drinks.

So first impressions:

  • Egads! A 30mb epub file - it turns out that this issue contains a few images (photographs/concrete poetry) and embedded multimedia files.
  • Ok, once over the file size shock I opened it in ADE and in Calibre viewer and it seems to work well *
  • There’s scads of top quality poetry, some essays and reviews

*Apart from the fact that I can’t view any of the multimedia files – don’t worry APJ are aware of the situation. If you experience the same issue let them know.

And the price feels about right to me, in that it’s probably worth more than that but it’s about what the market will bear.  I hope that they sort out the multimedia issue because the concept is cool.  I am not sure about the 30mb file size though – I dare not load it on my Voxto test it out.

All in all a good first foray into the digital realm you can test it till the cows come home but you never really know until the product is released. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Published - a Haiku in A Hundred Gourds

shot_1394577960482 Well September has come around far too quickly but it has brought with it the small joy of publication.  My Haiku “Morning Chill” features in A Hundred Gourds 3:4 September 2014

A Hundred Gourds is a quarterly journal of featuring a number of Japanese poetic forms and the western interpretations of these.  You will find Haiku, Renga, Haibun, Tanka and Rengu along with essays.

Please enjoy.



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Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Review – On a moon spiced night by Jude Aquilina


In a short space of time I have come to really enjoy Jude Aquilina’s work.  On a moon spiced night, released in 2004 by Wakefield Press, is however, the first collection solely made up of her work that I have read.

On a moon spiced night fits neatly into the kind of contemporary poetry that I have, through the course of the last couple of years, come to discover I like.  It’s accessible, it riffs of nostalgia, it hooks me in and elicits an emotional response.  That’s not to say that it’s simple nor that I don’t appreciate works that require some poetry reading experience to fully appreciate.

That Aquilina is a South Australian poet writing at times about South Australia, obviously adds a little extra.  I know the places that she is describing and evoking.

It’s a diverse collection structured in four separate categories: Habitat, Love’s Dream, Seeds and Creature Acts

The poems in Habitat seem to centre around experiences of growing up in Adelaide or observations of the city and suburbs.  There’s some subtle experimentation with concrete poetry and some clever choices in format and presentation and I find myself noting some of the choices she has made for my own learning.  The poems Street Fabric and Pointillism best display what I am talking about but are hard to present here in the appropriate format.

Grace versus The Highway is my favourite poem in this section, outlining the struggle of a South Road (presumably) resident who has survived a husband’s death and sons moved to foreign cities, only to have her home bulldozed so the government can widen the highway.

A hanging garden chokes verandah posts;

violets and agapanthus bury the pathways.

Entwined in her nest, Grace is safe for now

until the rats in suits and ties arrive

bearing smiles and papers to sign.

Her shrine will be desecrated by July.


Love’s Dream collects Aquilina’s love poetry, whether this be yearning, remembrance, celebration or vengeance.  We have the racy The Lonesome Cowgirl Blues with such suggestive lines as:


…I wanna feel like Dolly P  when I hold

your hard mike between my parted pouted lips.


and the chilling calculation of a murderer in  Diary of a Poisoner. 

Overall I found a playfulness in this section, an invitation to enjoy love and life, passion and yearning. 

Seeds, which featured a collection of poems about Fruit and Vegetables didn’t grab me as much as the other sections in the book, except for perhaps Outside the Market, 7 am. which illustrates the callousness and indifference that we can have to the destitute when presented with it on a regular basis.  The opening lines resonated, because this sort of indifference was part of my youthful experience:


Don't worry luv

their ears go blue

when they’re dead,

the market man says.


Creature Acts as you might expect contains observations of and questions asked of our pets, wildlife or ourselves.  King Gussie reveals me as a lover of cats and by extension of cat poems, his antics remind me so much of my own that I had no chance with this poem. 

But lest you think its all fluffy and cute Aquilina gives us some of her emotional heavy hitters here, particularly with The Horologist, about a father who was a fan of clocks, whose interaction with them is a daily ritual. Its a skilfully evoked and executed snapshot of a mans life and its ending.

For decades, he sat at a felt covered bench

poring over tins of sorted springs,

cogs like serrated coins, one eye shut

the other adhered to a magnified lens.

Then suddenly his heart beat stopped

and one by one the clocks followed.


Selling poetry whether it be the actual selling of poems or the concept of the art appears to be a difficult act these days outside of the community of poets.  I have some inklings, some gut theories about why this might be.  Folks baulk at paying the same amount  (or more) for a collection than they do a novel.  So I hope that my discussion here has awakened interest, particularly in those who normally pass over poetry.

I think On a moon spiced night has wide appeal and if the thought of taking a chance on poetry (which admittedly can offer diverse and strange fruit) makes you hesitate, try and find a copy at the library. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.


This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women..





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Monday, August 25, 2014

An update – paddling crazy beneath the water

shot_1408421320090 It may look like very little is being written in the way of poetry at the moment but I am actually the busiest I have been poetically for a good while.  I have posted off an entry for Inkerman & Blunt’s Prayers of a Secular World and by posted I mean posted – I felt delightfully old fashioned having to drive 40 minutes to post three paper copies.

I am also readying another nostalgia inspired poem for Cordite’s Obsolete submission call.

On the self education front I continue to plough through Mary Kinzie’s  A Poet's Guide to Poetry and have began trying to hook in to American and English sources of online poetry publication. 

I also managed to pick up Tom Petsinis’ Four Quarters and a collection of Peter Goldsworthy’s(the location and title of which escapes me at this moment) from a second hand shop and I was struck by what good value they were.  Most second hand stores will sell their books from upwards of $8 I think I got these two for $5 all up. 

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Book Review – The Duties of a Cat by Jenny Blackford

dutiesPoetry featuring cats is not unheard of, T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is one famous example, though I am not sure how many folks realise this collection of light hearted rhyme formed the basis for the musical Cats.  Then of course the internet is powered by pictures of cute kittens.  So on the face of it, a collection of cat poems is probably a very good idea.

The Duties of a Cat is described by publishers, Pitt Street Poetry as a pamphlet, a collection of 12 poems.  It’s similar in size to some poetry chapbooks I have purchased previously.  But whereas most chapbooks are small collections produced cheaply to give the reader the words in the cheapest fashion, Pitt Street have managed somehow to produce a compact, high spec collection, illustrated by Michael Robson, and saddle stitched with a heavy card cover for just $10.

For lovers of cats and poetry the collection is a no brainer as a gift.  But for those strange folk that don’t happen to like our feline masters companions I shall expand a little. 

Blackford can be hard to pigeonhole as a writer, she’s more than dabbled in a number of genres and forms (see her Snapshot Interview) and this facility is evident in the variety she presents in this short collection. The reader is treated to beautifully articulated observational poetry as in Soft Silk Sack and Learning how to be a Cat, to humour that will have even dog lovers generating a grin with The Duties of a Cat, to the dark in Something in the Corner which displays Blackford’s penchant for the weird and to the science fictional in Their Quantum Toy.

I tend to struggle with overwrought diction and experimental syntax and thankfully Blackford is one of those poets who tends to be be more direct.  We get clearly evoked or described images and subtle rhythm. See the excerpt from Dream Hunt below:


The white Cat sleeping by the window growls.

I glance across. One pale curved paw, pressed hard

across his eyes, keeps out the daylight world.

His other paws are trembling, desperate to run.


While I am admittedly a cat lover and probably outrageously biased, I did enjoy the craft Blackford displayed and the words as much as their subject were a pleasure to read.  On this work and other poetry of Blackford’s I have read, I hope we will see a larger collection in the not too distant future.

awwbadge_2014This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.





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Saturday, July 26, 2014

The King by SB Wright

first published in Tincture Journal 5, March 2014


Sun Wukong
was my first

No journalist jesus
with his undies
on the outside.

No dark defender
of the city's
status quo.

It was . . .

philosophy lite
on a weekday

a broomstick
to a seventies
pop tune.

His journey
to the west
gave us cloud surfing
and Buddhism

...before Tenzin.

He was a larrikin
in yellow skin

before chip shop
owners and
card playing
brought us to hating
those like

It didn't matter
back then;
the colour of his skin.

He was irrepressible,
the King.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Summer Squall Recording

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Haiku 38

First published in 50 Haikus Issue 5, Volume 1


midday heat
the water song
of magpies


Composition notes:

The impetus for this poem comes from the flocks of magpies that come and sit under our veranda in the summer heat and drink the water we leave for them. They have a beautiful bird call which I decided was their water song.


Thanks to Ashley Capes for comments and suggestions.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Book Review – Thread me a Button by Jude Aquilina & Joan Fenney


I nearly missed this collection for two reasons.  The first was that it was located at my local library and while the superb and nearly fully complete state system enables me to find and request almost anything and have it delivered to my nearest town, the clientele of the local library is generally conservative and older.  I’d be more likely to find a healthy quilting section or the poems of Banjo Patterson ( to be fair they have great crime and fantasy sections).  So I wasn’t expecting poetry, nor poetry written this century.  Second the collection is small physically, I initially mistook it for one of those small advice books or guides that publishers release.

Whatever caused me to look further I don’t know but I’m glad I did.  Readers of the blog will know that I am exploring poetry; reviewing as part of the Australian Women Writers challenge and also engaging in reading as part of my poetry practice.

I expected to enjoy some poems and to learn something.  I’m not averse to sewing in general but I didn’t think an anthology organised thematically around buttons would be too engrossing.

But it was. To the extent that I feel jealousy. Creating an anthology around buttons was a stroke of deceptive genius and the poems have taken, what on the surface is a simple idea and stitched together a collection that is diverse in tone, form and subject matter.

There are 43 poems in all, presented in the sections: In the sewing draw, Love’s tangled thread, Dark holes, A buttonhole to history and Of Kith and Kin.  We don’t find who is responsible for each poem until the list at the end of the collection – a good choice I think forcing the reader to concentrate on the poems themselves rather than who has written them.

Overall the collection favours less complex diction and manages to evoke nostalgia and emotion consistently.  There’s humour, horror and love poems and a collection that you might think would drag on the topic of buttons ends up extremely well rounded.

It’s hard to pick favourites as several read throughs have revealed other poem’s charms to me.  But if forced to pick two that were immediate favourites - From Her lover’s Uniform by Fenney, in which a small token of affection is imbued with lifelong meaning and sadness, is one. While the second is Deep in a Forrest by Aquilina,  perfect in the way it holds its cards close to its chest until the final, horrible reveal.

Thread me a Button is a lovely example of  accessible poetry.  When I hear people criticise poetry for aloofness for being too distant and divorced from reality I think of something like Thread me a Button and shake my head.  This is perfect for the person who is unsure about this “highfalutin free verse” and for poets who know how deceptively hard writing such accessible poetry can be.  I think its also useful for poets thinking about the presentation and construction of their collections - its a great model to work from.

You can purchase it through Ginninderra Press

awwbadge_2014This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Haiku 36


empty foreshore
waves of air break against
pine trees


Composition notes:

I live near a secluded shallow bay where the shoreline is protected from open sea by a small spit of land. There are rarely any waves and on this day the bay was flat, but the wind hit the pines on the foreshore and mimicked the sound of waves crashing.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Awards, a launch and an acceptance

shot_1402091607662 So it has been a month since this blog received a post.  It has been quiet on the poetry front with only a couple of new poems in the works.  But I have excuses - I had been preparing and am now recovering from a couple of big events that coincided on the same weekend.

First I attended the Melbourne launch of the Stars Like Sand Anthology, one of my editors PS Cottier has written about the launches at length here.

I must say that on the night I did feel a slight bit of apprehension.  My poem was a Tanka ( or a couplet in Tanka form or both?) and about the shortest piece in the whole collection.  Thankfully Sean Williams was there with a slightly longer collection of themed Haiku. I did feel like I should perhaps add to my reading with interpretive dance just to stretch it out.

Phillip Salom did give a lovely intro and it was good to see to distinct communities (SF&F and the lit scene) meshing nicely in a collection, blurring genre boundaries. 

After that it was full steam ahead for the annual Natcon or the 53rd Annual Australian Science Fiction Convention.  Four days of panels and presentations on the Speculative Fiction community (including a Speculative Poetry panel chaired by myself).  If you write, watch or create anything in the Australian Speculative Fiction community this is THE event.

Part of that weekend was the Ditmar and Chronos Awards.  The Chronos Awards are the state level awards for achievements in Speculative Fiction while the Ditmars are the nationals, open to all residents of Australia who participate in the community.  As mentioned in my other blog, I managed to pick up two Ditmars -  a joint award shared with my fellow podcastees at Galactic Chat and a single for the best fan writer.

And just yesterday I received the nod on a Haiku that will feature in this coming September edition of A Hundred Gourds – you can check out the current edition now.

Monday, May 19, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

100_5680 I’d like to thank Jodi Cleghorn for extending the invitation to write about my writing process.  Jodi is one of those quiet achievers in the speculative fiction scene, she runs Emergent Publishing, she writes, by her own admission “dark weird shit”, has recently had a novella published and continues to surprise herself (but perhaps not those that know her) by making headway as an accidental poet.


What Am I working on at the moment?

In creative writing terms, my poetry.  In particular, trying to explore writing free-verse which everyone seems to write but which no one seems to provide any explicit teaching on.  Specifically though I have just finished and subbed a poem called A Shepherd Mourning,  which began its life as a Shakespearean sonnet and which I decided to write as a free verse poem after reading some essays by American Poet Lawrence Schimel. It was inspired by a glance at our local war memorial.  

My work in progress is another attempt at free verse which seems to be focussed on themes of rural abandonment again instigated by my observation of an abandoned church.


How do you think your work differs from that of other writers in your genre?

I have only really been writing poetry seriously for about 18 months and in that 18 months I am not sure I have even got a handle on the nature of poetry writing in Australia so how I differ I can only say in broad terms.  One noticeable difference is that I  am much more interested and pleased by poetry that uses traditional form, rhyme and metre. My first paid publication was a rhyming pantoum in iambic tetrameter, a poem that even some months on really effects me emotionally.  You can play it from the Soundcloud link to the right. In terms of themes, or genres I tend to write more realist/ observational poetry and there’s certainly a social justice angle to some of  it.


Why do you write what you do?

I write poetry because I find that I can hold the idea of a poem, in its entirety, in my head. I can hold the essence of what it is and then the process is just working out details.  It might take me a week to finish a poem to a first draft or considerably less if I am lucky and I don’t seem to build up the same amount of fatigue that occurs when I rip a short story apart.  I also find all parts of the process; conception, writing, revising, immensely pleasurable. 

With form poetry there’s  a degree of satisfaction in “solving the problem”, of making the poem work under constraints of metre and/or rhyme.  Usually when I finish a short story I hate it and don’t want to see it for a long time.


What's your writing process, and how does it work?

I carry a paper and pen everywhere I go.  Lots of things operate as a catalyst: trying new forms, reading about poetic technique, observations, the sounds of language, dialogue etc.

My current work in progress began on the back of a printed essay. I then transferred it to my Poetry Zoo account where it’s undergone several drafts.  I like to create new drafts( a feature of Poetry Zoo), because on occasion I come back to what I wrote first as being the better idea or choice of words.  Then I also transfer the most recent version to a Google document (backup, backup, backup).  When I have something solid I take it to my writing group, who have a variety of experience or I might perform it just to get some feedback. I try and work on some poetry every week, practicing and learning, stretching myself and find it easier to be inspired when I do.


So that’s me and as is traditional in these sort of posts I must select some new victims writers to entertain you.  So lets take a trip overseas and mention:


Joyce Chng (Singapore)

Joelyn Alexandria (Singapore)

The Stars Like Sand Anthology preparing for lift off

Apparently it’s a physical thing, this anthology I’m in.  One of our intrepid editors, Penelope Cottier, has a photos of it in the wild here. But it’s not quite a thing that you can own yet.  You can order it in physical or digital form from the IP website here.  It’s official release date is in June

starsFollowing up on our award-winning Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, IP has released an anthology of even wider scope showcasing the best in Australian speculative poetry from early times to the present.

Co-edited by renowned editors Tim Jones and P.S. Cottier, it features a virtual Who's Who of Australian poets including Judith Beveridge, Les Murray, Paul Hetherington, John Tranter, Diane Fahey, joanne burns, Caroline Caddy, David P Reiter, Peter Boyle, Alan Gould, Luke Davies, S.K. Kelen, Peter Minter, Jan Owen, Dorothy Porter, Philip Salom, Samuel Wagan Watson, Rod Usher, Jo Mills ... and many more!

Travel to the stars and beyond in this anthology by Australia's leading poets. Witness the end of the world, time travel to the future near or far, or teleport with a fairy or witch. 

Ghosts, dreams and strange creatures breed and mingle in these pages. 

Poetry has never been so mind-bending, or so entertaining.


So um yeah I’m in a collection with some really, really good Aussie poets. 

Now if you would like to get a copy signed by some of the poets you can come along to one of the launches.  I’ll be at the Melbourne launch on Friday 6th of June, details as follows:


Friday 6 June 2014, 6 for 6:30pm
Collected Works Bookshop
Level 1, 37 Swanston Street, Melbourne
Free event, book signings available!

RSVP: Phone (03) 9654 8873
or email

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

It has been exceedingly busy

100_5453 - Copy …and I have even been doing poetry related stuff.

I have just noticed that its been almost a month since I posted here. So a bit of an update on what’s been going on poetically.

  1. I attended another poetry in the pub in Gawler event.  This time with a short workshop with poet John Malone on metaphor poems. It was a fairly light workshop that I managed to pluck some interesting titbits from.  I performed an older poem, Summer Squall, which was quite apt following on from the mornings workshop.  I also tried out a work in progress that was well received (its currently awaiting rejection from one of our fine lit journals).  I was also commended on my diction and poetry performance which left me chuffed.
  2. I am meeting with some poets that are closer to me (40 minutes away as opposed to 2 hours) and we are trying to get a weekly poetry performance and critique group going at a local bohemian cafe, The Dragon’s Well, the first of these went well, we even had some audience members.
  3. I have about 5 poems out under consideration
  4. I managed to get a hold of Mary Kinzie’s A Poet’s Guide to Poetry, which seems to have some of the explicit teaching that I have been looking for in regards to free verse.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

eBook Review- Stepping Over Seasons by Ashley Capes


I decided to get serious about poetry last year (and by serious I mean skill up, write, rewrite, resub. and read).  Part of that plan was seeking out current Australian poets and reading their work.  Something you’d think easily done in the era of the internet.

It’s been and continues to be an interesting journey.  But it’s not been a particularly smooth one.  Australian poetry still seems somewhat fragmented to me as something of an outsider, islands of culture rather than one big continent(and perhaps this has advantages).  The Best Australian poems series by Black Ink certainly helps but I have been steadily making my way around these various communities, and know that what’s to be found in these is not the full story. 

Ashley Capes was featured in one of these tomes, but I don’t believe that’s where I first came across him.  Perhaps it was Twitter or his blog. In any case I feel as If I have come to his writing without the imprimatur of some college professor or a salon like group of poets meeting in a bohemian cafe(please, poets still do this don’t they).  I think these kinds of discoveries, the ones we make ourselves without the influence of others are important, they allow a genuine connection.

Stepping Over Seasons is Capes’ second collection and I am late to the party( it was released in 2010) and if I were to pick one defining feature of this collection, it is his striking ability to present clear imagery succinctly, to let just the right amount of words carry the feeling and point of the poem.

That and he can take the most mundane of objects and imbue them with meaning.  Maybe he’s just deploying focussed attention, developed through his work with Japanese forms of poetry like Haiku and Senryu, which I know he’s a dab hand at.

A case or poem, in point is the first in the collection:

other objects

my wedding ring is a plain silver
barrel band. same as dad’s, very modest
and very hard to keep smooth,
with scratches I can’t keep track of and
don’t want to hide. it’s no good pretending
the marriage is perfect, no use
hanging all our memories and every
step of the future on just one symbol. other
objects speak of love, too. the weeping
maple we’ve shifted to every house, the
cup we fill with knives and forks
or the handwritten address you gave me
the night we met, walking the city
and flinging orange peel into hedges, things
that endure, things that have lines
and marks to prove them.


I am suspicious of ebullient expressions of emotion, they can easily ring false (it depends on the Poet and what you know of their life an experience) but Capes is often understated in his expression of sentiment. All this Ink speaks of the struggle of writing, of hoping and believing that this writing is going to lead somewhere:


if I sit up tonight and all this ink

becomes poetry, I could point the wheel

to a place we’ve never been,

watch Venice sink a little more

or show you stability in three bedrooms,

and looking back, you wouldn’t see

smoke stacks or the front door.


and August Rain sketches out beautifully the reality of being in that position where sometimes the only thing you can do for some one is be present. This is not not to say that the collection is all reserved, contemplative poetry.  There’s some cynicism and criticism that comes through in Overlook, a piece that criticises the great poets who romanticise their cities, a piece that challenges them to find in Capes’ home town “…   a moment worthy of haiku, where sewerage and the paper mill meet.”

I laughed out loud at Sunrise Today which dryly eviscerates morning television variety shows. Four years on this poem is still right on the money, proof of every claim that Capes lays at their feet. 

But I return again to his ability to focus, to deliver succinct, and inspired observations. A stanza from Small Town could be the epitaph of half the regional towns of South Australia with

marks on the footpath

don’t fade and the cemetery

never shrinks, only the town around it.

These three lines speak more truth about my experience of rural towns than anything you’ll find by Banjo. 

In one of those serendipitous moments I happened also to be reading a Ted Chiang short story about a society in which we have the ability to record and recall everything and anything we experience (imagine being able to prove that you had indeed put the toilet seat down).  Chiang is seductive in that piece, in that I almost feel that such a thing(as he outlines it) wouldn’t be so bad.  Then I read Capes’ Late Night, and suddenly the seductive reasoning was a little more shaky. It ends with…

I guess the great lie of our time is capture –

it’s comforting to believe

everything can be caught, recorded

and remembered,

so we don’t have to appreciate

anything in the moment.


Stepping Over Seasons, continues to resonate with me.  Just in writing this review  I experience that aha! moment again as I pluck out quotes for you.  This collection had a very high hit rate for me.  Capes I find to be a keen observer and communicator with his poetry, it’s some of the most enjoyable free verse I have read.

I encourage you to discover Ashley Capes for yourself.  You can buy the collection in paperback and eBook form, or you could encourage your Library to purchase it like I did.

Did you enjoy this review? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Senryu and trying a bit hard

Okay so here it is:


March fly

…and the horse you rode in on

it’s April.


I am attempting a multi-layed pun here.  We get biting March flies in Australia, I have no idea why they call them March flies, probably because they are prevalent in March? Though I have been bitten by them at other times of the year.  In any case they are not the same as March flies in other countries which don’t bite and actually look entirely different.  The Australian March fly, from what I can tell is the same as the Horse fly in other parts of the world.

So back to the Senryu, and my oh so clever punning.  and the horse you road in on is a shorten form of “Screw you and the horse you rode in on”. Get it horse fly, horse you rode in on…*wipes tears from eyes*.

And then the reference to the month again. 

No?  Oh well I tried.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Me in print and first steps into poetry performance

prolificIf you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you will have heard me rejoicing in getting published again.  This time a Haiku I penned was accepted for inclusion in Vol.1 Issue 5, 2014 of 50 Haikus by Prolific Press. It’s a print only anthology so I won’t see the rest of the poems in the collection (shipping costs preclude me exercising my vanity).  But if you are in the US and want to support Haiku poetry, check them out.


In other news I took a trip to a Poetry in the Pub event in Gawler South Australia.  It was my first time performing live in front of an audience not related to me.  It went well so I will try and make the next one.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


So I am still writing poetry, Haiku, Senryu and Haibun have my attention at the moment.  I have even submitted a couple of reworked poems to some paying markets. But I wanted to talk a little bit about the power of translations or perhaps of translators. 

Now I read ( I am fairly sure in some writings of Jane Reichhold’s) that the early translators of Japanese Haiku, were not poets and didn’t understand some of the technical restrictions around the form – ie the season words and the allusions to classical Japanese and Chinese literature. Consequently the haiku can be somewhat sparse, lacking some of the original emphasis of the Japanese version.

But even then the choices made by modern translators can have significant effect.


One of my favourite haiku is by Issa:

snow melts


the village is flooded


with children



It’s the only Haiku where I have experienced the aha moment, that moment of surprise when Issa switches us from disaster to joy.  The only thing is I don’t know if this is an accurate translation.

I have read it translated also as:



snow melting

the village brimming over...

with children!


Almost different poems yes?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Published – The King in Tincture Journal 5

tincture5 The kind folks at Tincture Journal have just released their fifth Issue featuring my poem The King along with short stories from Jodi Cleghorn and SG Larner.  Another fan of Japanese form, Ashley Capes, features as well. 

If you are interested in purchasing you can go here.  The Journal is around 280 pages according to my reading software, so it’s great value for money at $8 AUD. 

Tincture are a paying market and DRM free.


You can read the Table of Contents below:

  • Editorial, by Daniel Young
  • Inferior Bedrooms, Part Five, by Meg Henry
  • “Emotional Truth,” said the parrot, by Ashley Borodin
  • The Man Who Is Passing Through, by Michel Ge
  • The Demographic Decides, by David Lumsden
  • The Next Turn in the Maze, by David Lumsden
  • David Lumsden interviewed by Stuart Barnes
  • The Salesman, by Austin DeGroot
  • Something to Carry, by Elen Cox
  • Hoary, by Michele Seminara
  • Pearls Mean Tears, by Gargi Mehra
  • Animals, by Alyson Miller
  • Diary of a Tree-Sitter, by S. G. Larner
  • Strong, by Sarah Taylor-Fergusson
  • The Emilies, by Robin Dunn
  • Entropy, by Fleur Brown-Beeby
  • The Insomniac, by Jameson Rader
  • Break up, by Vanessa Page
  • I’m Afraid of Bad Dreams, by J.C.G. Goelz
  • Humbert, by Cassandra Atherton
  • Nothing New to Begin, by Jodi Cleghorn
  • The Dinner Party, by Kelly Hulin
  • temple, by Ashley Capes
  • The Freezing Reality, by Michael Mohr
  • Question, by Hao Guang Tse
  • Falling, by Shane Mac Donnchaidh
  • The King, by SB Wright
  • Lord of the Manor, by Simon A. Smith
  • Euthasia, by Murdock Grewar
  • Grey Streets, by Ellie Kiosses

Reflections on a month of intense poetry writing

So two years ago Adam Byatt and Jodi Cleghorn, on a lark, decided to hold a month of intense poetry writing.  The idea was to get people(themselves included) to write poetry without too much emphasis on being perfect.  To give people who may not write poetry regularly or at all, the motivation to try.  So much of writing culture and perceptions about writing focus on the finished product, the end of a long and often hidden process that leads some to believe that the work comes in a flash of inspiration, whole and perfect. 

So to make the event manageable participants were encouraged to write poems that could fit on a regular post-it note, to take a picture of said poem written on a post-it note and/or in situ with the the object that provided the inspiration. Then, this being the social media age, to share it on Facebook, Blogs or Twitter. 

The motivation from year one resulted in launching me as a serious poet.  Moving from a couple of early pieces published on curated websites, to being included in a print anthology and receiving two paid publications.

This year I decided to push the boundaries a little more and educate myself on Haiku.  So, up until a month ago, all I really knew about Haiku was what I had learned in grade 4 and what a quick look on wikipedia will grant you ie 17 syllables over three lines broken 5,7,5  about nature.

I promptly fell down a rabbit hole from which I haven’t yet and might not want to, emerge from.  Haiku and other forms of Japanese poetry have a depth to rival anything I have studied in Western literature.  The history of the form itself I could lose myself in years.

In concentrating on Haiku I found Jane Reichhold’s work invaluable.  I have mentioned her book before but you should also check out her webpage

I mentioned that Haiku is a little more expansive than 5/7/5. There are indeed a number of ways that Haiku can be written, there are a number of guidelines or rules, some of them contradictory.  Then there’s some hair splitting over season words, whether it's Haiku or Senryu. It can be a bit paralysing for someone testing the form out, but Reichhold’s relaxed and sensible approach gave me confidence.

I’d wager that it’s almost impossible for me as a Westerner with no knowledge of Japanese language to create a traditional Haiku.  That being said there are techniques and guidelines that I have tried to stick to because, well if you are going to play a game of poetry, you need to stick to some rules. 

Foremost among these is the fragment/phrase split.  Each of the poems below should be split, aurally into two parts.  Second, as you will see, I have kept them on three lines(mostly).  Although the Japanese tradition, I have read, is to have it on one line, and some western poets do this, I think the greater reading public see words presented as they are below and begin to think Haiku immediately and depending on their knowledge, know then what to look for in terms of technique.  Third, in terms of syllable count; at some point in the month I tried writing to 12 syllables(being closer to the original Japanese sound units in terms of conveying information) or less.

There were a range of techniques applied at different times to the content and notes can be found on what I was attempting if you go back through the other posts.  But here are the Haiku in order of publishing from earliest to latest.


...midday heat
magpies walk in shade
- water song


fallen star
dies in blinding flash


cool gusts
answer summer prayers
sand in my eye


night wind
rattles the house -
unsettled thoughts


my feet discover
presents on the lawn
- kangaroo


breaking fast -


mud wasp marches


pond to hive
a procession of bees
-water bombers


dead gum tree
heron perches


white wings
from darkness drop


two beats
a magpie takes flight
cutting air


tender hand
seeks hollow in the dark
Oh! your armpit


catches with gold
its dreams


late summer
taste of morning rain
on my tongue


rattles in silence
students work


churn my stomach
new class


distant bell
this ronin wakes to a new


rain clouds
in young man's eyes
storm brewing


in flight wagtails
dive and dog the raven


faded cat
on old armchair
well worn love


city lane
hardness beneath a
painted smile


warm bed
the toilet a long march
winter dawn


between gold and red
lips well met


mouse breath
from my ginger cat
twilight kiss


pull the hills along
autumn fog


on a street sign
croaks a frogmouth
autumn dusk


work of art
these termite trails 'neath bark
a page inscribed


hedge afire
with a thousand blossoms
summer's last rain


So on reflection I found the choice to investigate Haiku rewarding, and going by the response on Twitter and Poetry Zoo others enjoyed the poetry as well.  The plan is to tinker with these above and perhaps release some of them in eBook form.  I also have some creative ideas for meshing Haibun with Speculative Fiction.

Post-it Note Poetry – The end for another year




So 28 days of writing short poetry and reading the short poems of others is over.  There’s some reflections I’d like to make but first here are the last few poems:

work of art
these termite trails 'neath bark
a page inscribed


There's a partial rhyme that's crept in and I am not sure if I should have gone with beneath or ‘neath. I chose the latter to try and fit a 12 syllable restriction. Could easily have been:

work of art these termite trails under bark - a page inscribed.


I could also drop the “a” to give me the 12 syllables, but I am not sure if it works as well

I also was trying to introduce layers of meaning ie the trails are a work of art and they are like inscriptions or carvings on a page and/or both an inscribed page and a termite eaten log can be works of art.




hedge afire
with a thousand blossoms
summer's last rain


After an incredibly hot summer, breaking hundred year old records we received about twice the average rainfall for February in one day. But two days later our hedge burst into flame with beautiful red flowers.

It comes in at 13 syllables.  I could swap out blossom for blooms which would make it 12.  What do you think?

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