Monday, March 18, 2019

New Poetry by James Walton

The Strzelecki Mountain Killings (I,II,III)


I brought down the iron bark by the garage
to give the solar panels more say
in using the day from the north east.
The mahogany wood is hard to split,
the dense grain knowing more than sin;
axe and wedge recoil 
until I find a way to work around the edge
down to the heart.
Younger branches dribble sap in thick remonstrance on my shirt -
on the sawn rounds my thumb traverses a thick history
of circles closer than early marriage,
holding more than a national library in an inch.
I strike down and shatter the lines
that were there when Charlemagne was emperor,
growing when Istanbul was just rumour to Constantinople.  


Elizabeth Watkins Creek speaks in flowing,
most often, a rustle in the back ground
like the child up first for the Christmas presents,
or a whispery kiss on your ear.
Sometimes, a lunging push that wakes in flood
when the careless water sprite surge might just
grab dangling ankles off the stringy bark bridge
past the driver’s ford;
rolling over winded flat out on your back the last thing seen
a stencil of doily tree ferns stitched on to looming white gums.
Black wallabies sip at the giggle of her ribs,
waving off the early traffic
where the sandy gravel rides the perimeter circus curves.
She springs too early, washing down McDonalds Track;
the mountain quakes its fist for her again
pleading release from the undercurrent leash
slapping the bitumen harness away.


Through the cross roads
where the big cat is claimed to wander,
past the gorging potato factory tractors
an iron tower marks the place,
where the tallest tree in the world stood.
Two brothers cut it down to measure -
the distance now in segments of fence post spacings,
a splash of orange on one to show
where the crown would have been
ten quarter acres up the road
from the rusting monument base.
Out of the aching mist on windy nights
you can hear the ruffeting of missing limbs,
waving across the valley to the Baw Baws
where a higher regnans in sanctuary,
clothed in a garland canopy
resists the tailor’s tape, 
knows better than to signal back.

- James Walton 2019

James Walton lives in South Gippsland. He was a librarian, a farm labourer, a cattle breeder, and mostly a public sector union official. He is published in many newspapers, journals, and anthologies, and has been shortlisted for the ACU Prize, the MPU International Prize, the James Tate Prize, and Jupiter Artland. His books include The Leviathan's Apprentice  2015, Walking Through Fences 2018, and Unstill Mosaics (forthcoming). 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

A beacon on the dark waters

I think probably enough has already been spoken and written about the hideous and still unfolding tragedy that took place just across what we antipodeans affectionately refer to as "the ditch" not 48 hours ago. Needless to say it diminishes us all a little as a species, and as tempting as it is to collapse into a slough of despair, that is precisely what the perpetrators of such heinous acts would want, and pretty much the last thing the brave and innocent victims deserve. Bluepepper would like to take this opportunity, however, to convey our deepest condolences to all those victims of this or any and every other act of violence perpetrated against the innocent. Ideology is perhaps best regarded as an occasionally useful tool to open a dialogue, not deployed as a closing argument. 

On the same day as this tragedy started to unfold, two other events occurred that we believe are worth noting. Firstly, the children of the world finally grew sick and tired of their elders' solipsistic dithering and took to the streets to voice their concerns over the lack of action on climate change. Bluepepper salutes their courage, passion and conviction, duly notes their frustration, and while in no way encouraging any child to skip class, we sense that the future will be in safe hands (assuming, of course, that our generation has allowed for one!)

The other signal event (at least to the international poetry world) was the passing of one of the pre-eminent poets of the past hundred years. We refer, of course, to American poet laureate, WS Merwin. On Friday 15th March this most peaceful, insightful, wise and dignified of poets died peacefully in his sleep at the tender age of 91, proving in some small way that there is still a sliver of justice in this world. The timing of his passing is significant for no other reason perhaps than that this tireless campaigner for the environment passed away on the same day as the youth of the world expressed their own vital concerns for how our species is treating the planet. As they (and Merwin) so rightly pointed out, there is no Planet B. 

Our own Bloodaxe Books copy of WS Merwin's "Selected Poems" is one of our most prized and dog-eared possessions, a great source of solace when faced with the many vicissitudes of this chequered life. If you have a minute, please indulge us while we share some of the great man's wisdom.

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveller
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

- For the Anniversary of My Death (1967)

RIP to all the innocent, gentle, loving, and good.

New Poetry by Tares Oburumu

How I write myself Into A Book

The room or place name for the transportation 
of memories, 
expands Jan Vermeer's craft in itself.
                        The girl with the Omnipotent Dream,
sleeps under the paintings which hang with Gogh

 in jade some-playgrounds in her childhood, 
where I huddle my body between 12am and the davenport
built into the morning, being time against solipsism, 

with the world floating above the night.
                          The behaviour of the  clock, deft handed, 
can be described, psychologically, as infinitude.

It strikes out the hours with the attitude of years yet lived.
At dawn, I should step out of myself into the city
redesigning me in its people, architect, and lights.

For a while, after moments of denial, I open the door, 
and find myself in Sasha's hands reading all of herself
to art and the sum of man.

- Tares Oburumu 2019

Tares Oburumu is a graduate of philosophy from the University of Benin, Nigeria. He's a lover of God and his daughter Sasha.

Friday, March 15, 2019

New Poetry by Tim Suermondt

It's Partly Grace

I heard a bus in the distance
and noticed close up a rat scurrying
out of a bush of moonflowers,

the night I waited for you
for the first time on a street
familiar to us both. A woman

in a light yellow raincoat
appeared—it wasn’t you, yet
I knew it would be soon, solidifying

a lovely parable how against
the odds there we were, and everyone
waiting and longing sang on the avenue

past midnight, how the mountains outside
the city marveled and moved.

- Tim Suermondt 2019

Tim Suermondt is the author of four full-length collections of poems, the latest one THE WORLD DOESN’T KNOW YOU. His fifth collection JOSEPHINE BAKER SWIMMING POOL will be coming out from MadHat Press in January 2019. He has published in Poetry, Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, Able Muse and Plume, among many others. He lives in Cambridge with his wife, the poet Pui Ying Wong.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

New Poetry by William Doreski

Faxing a Message from Prison

Faxing a message from prison,
I have to stand in line for hours.
Guards blot excess adjectives,
words with too many vowels,
and phrases shaped like cigars.
They ridicule love notes to judges,
flattery to sleazy lawyers,
and threats to errant spouses.

My turn. The guards critique
my awkward metaphors and excess
chiasmus, but let it pass.
The machine growls at me. Teeth
gnash as it shreds the page.
A cough from the depth of earth
has digested my message. 
A sigh of boredom suggests
that message has arrived, so what?

The guards hustle me along.
I hope that whoever received
my fax will publish it somewhere,
maybe in a local newspaper
among the hundreds of coupons
and lurid accounts of honeymoons
and obituaries of realtors
everyone secretly despised.

Sentenced to life for living too long,
I’ve faxed this last complaint
in living color. But reproduced
on flimsy paper, all streaked
and blotched, it will testify
with faceless expression anyone
might don like a mask for a laugh.

- William Doreski 2019

William's work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently A Black River, A Dark Fall (2019).

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

New Poetry by Keith Moul

No Longer a Dream

He stood in the dark hall and stretched
toward the bathroom light, to the right;
he wobbled on his feet, feeling a reach
back toward youth, scratching the wall
in a fruitless act. He needed to pee, to do
what his dream had been about all night.

His fingers touched the bathroom switch.
The light washed over him with terrible
speed, even through him like an opposing
idea. It made an audible thud against the
further wall of the hall to burst in waves
against his daughter's photos taken at her
birthday party thirty-four years before. He
recalled the hand-drawn sign, sweet sixteen.

- Keith Moul 2019

Keith Moul is an accomplished poet of place, an accomplished photographer of the distinction light adds to place. Both his poems and photos are published widely.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

New Poetry by Tug Dumbly

Dreaming Cannons

Little German trench mortar
squats in the geraniums
of the Deloraine RSL, Tasmania.
A century since you burped a shell.
This long snooze suits you well,
snuggled keepsake, greyly dozing
amongst generations of flaming flowers,
keeping company a wee obelisk
of the district’s dear dead dairy farmers.

In Berry lies another of your kind,
under palms in a park, sleeping the seasons 
by a cheap-made wall of mossed up names
that won’t keep open their eyes.
And I think of all the dreaming cannons
in all the parks in all the towns
in all the world, all the 25 pounders
and Ack-Acks, clambered on by kids,
dripping sweet pigeon shit and icecream.

- Tug Dumbly 2019

Tug Dumbly is a Sydney poet with a long performance history. His first book of poems, Son Songs, has just come out through Flying Island Books. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

New Poetry by Peycho Kanev

Approaching the Truth

What is the German word for a man who loves
his wife and his three children, goes to work
without remorse and drinks only one beer on
Sunday? I don’t know either. I just sit here and
watch the vast horizon, how the light ashen and
the day slowly turns into a dark night. 

Sometimes I sit with a cup of tea in the morning,
watching the neighbors go to work, how they
kiss their wives and kids and pet the dog with
a smile on their faces. Arbeit macht frei. Then
I go to the back yard and I raise the flag again.
Birds fly freely in the bright sky. This is Hell.

- Peycho Kanev 2019

Peycho Kanev is the author of 4 poetry collections and three chapbooks, published in the USA and Europe. His poems have appeared in many literary magazines, such as: Rattle, Poetry Quarterly, Evergreen Review, Front Porch Review, Hawaii Review, Barrow Street, Sheepshead Review, Off the Coast, The Adirondack Review, Sierra Nevada Review, The Cleveland Review and many others. His new chapbook titled Under Half-Empty Heaven was published in 2018 by Grey Book Press.

New Poetry by John Sweet

song of the sinking man

all these hottest days of late spring spent
obsessing over the grey despair of
february, and why not?

there is only hope and hopelessness,
endlessly circling one another

this woman framed in the pale light of a
bedroom window and when you ask if
she’ll be the one who betrays you,
she laughs

says it’s not that simple, but
doesn’t this feel like a lie?

weren’t the teeth of christ filed down to
jagged points for a reason?


why would you bow down to
anyone demanding fealty?

learn the faces of your enemies
and then learn their weaknesses

- John Sweet 2019

John Sweet sends greetings from the rural wastelands of upstate NY.  He is a firm believer in writing as catharsis, and in the continuous search for an unattainable and constantly evolving absolute truth. His latest poetry collections include HEATHEN TONGUE (2018 Kendra Steiner Editions) and BASTARD FAITH (2017 Scars Publications).

Monday, March 04, 2019

New Poetry by Abigail George

Burnt seed

(for the Dutch poet Joop Bersee)

I have made mistakes in my life. I’m still paying
for them with half-malice and delight. How cold

    the stars. The heroic damsel in distress. Abyss
found in dementia. Abyss found in Dominica.

Stars are cold in winter. In summer they begin to warm up.
Show their true selves. Goodbye my eyes, my swimming

    limbs. Let me count the grains of sand with my hands.
Let me travel slow then hard and fast in this country. Let

me moan about the unfairness of it all. Look here at
this surface of flame showing off daylight. Flames

licking at desire. Look at this earth-dream that once
belonged to the river and then the ocean depth of it.

I think of the lungs of London. The slow and deliberate
inhale and exhale. The busy Amazon structure to it.

Dambudzo Marechera liked sex once. His body (shimmered) like a leaf.
His mind a sweet, sweet, sweet journey of shades.

I’m ecstatic about the seed he sowed. The uncommon leader
he was. His anointing. Now, let me count the grains of sand

on this land called Zimbabwe. Ask why the sea.
Kindness is a seed. Obedience is a seed. Power is
a seed with hope and expectation. The theory of
love speaks to me in Technicolor waves. The spirits

of this place needs us just as much as we need them.
Love speaks to me. That theory of falling in love.

You were a careless mistake. The earth moves (inside of me)
like a woman now. Chirping birds gravitating towards

the warm ochre earth. This amount of love. The eternal
song in his river teeth. I know where they are right now.

In the context of heaven. They’re found in the paradise
for the lonely. Let us admire this coastal view. Pond life

I’m addicted to poems and funerals, roses and cacti.  I can
love you. I can harm you. I can’t promise you I won’t.

- Abigail George 2019

South African Abigail George is a full-time poet. She has lived in the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth for most of her life. She was born in 1979.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

New Poetry by Louise McKenna

Snowfall in Auschwitz

settling on the shoulders of trees
nesting in chimney stacks
lying between the collar bones of the eaves

tracing the spines of the rail tracks
forming a coverlet over a ruin
letting a concrete elbow poke through

sifting down from a cinereous sky
blunting the barbed wire

blurring the steps to the prison block
forgetting our footprints

trying to compete with the lightness of ash
and bury the dead
and bury the dead

- Louise McKenna  2019

* Śnieg – the Polish word for snow

Louise McKenna is an Adelaide poet. Her chapbook, ‘The Martyrdom of Bees’ was published by Garron Publishing in 2016.  Her work has appeared in Australia, the US and UK and include the journals ‘Allegro’, 'Animal, A Beast of a Literary Magazine’, 'Cordite Poetry Review,’ ‘Mascara Literary Review’ and ‘Verity La.’ Louise was shortlisted for the 2012 Fish Poetry Prize.  She is currently working on a full length manuscript.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Kids Are Alright

Walking Through Fences
James Walton
Flying Island Books

Son Songs
Tug Dumbly
Flying Island Books

Tricia Dearborn
UWAP Poetry Series

In an interview a few years back, the celebrated Australian poet and novelist David Malouf made the bold call that there seems to be a lot more lyrical poetry being written in Australia than elsewhere these days. Now, while Bluepepper has rarely found itself on the same page as David where poetry is concerned (and certainly not since we first got wind of his infamous "Lollywater and Fairyfloss" review of Michael Dransfield's work penned way back when we were still in short pants), on this matter we find ourselves in full agreement. Where the poets of David's generation and before (with the notable exception of Dransfield, Buckmaster, Rosemary Dobson, Slessor and a few of the more expansive of the '68-ers) tended to be poets of place, Australian poets from the early 90's onwards have not been afraid to turn inwards. Now, like all lines of demarcation this one is largely a matter of perspective and preconception, but I think  there's a sliver of truth in it. Lyrical poetry, when done well, is afterall why most people turn to poetry. Not just to gild their vows or bury their dead, but because it is an uplifting experience like no other. Whether it has won poetry anymore readers in this country is once again a matter of perspective and preconception, but if the publishing lists in which the above titles are included are anything to go by, then Australian poetry is in pretty decent shape at the moment.

Flying Island Press, an off-shoot of Cerberus Press, has been around since the late 90's, and under the firm and steady hand of Kit Kelen has produced an impressive list of poetry titles. The current pocket book series are handsome productions that do the quality of the poetry proud. James Walton, one of the best lyrical poets going around at the moment is, ironically enough, in a less lyrical mood  for much of this book, tending toward the darker, knottier more jagged aspects of the human experience

The fascist weeds the garden
Such love in pulling out,
Care granted to save the soil and replenish
With self-made compost of previous remains.
They should have known his bitter truth
Of all he did for them unrequited;
In gentle torture he weeps for his people,
And how the day goes down so normally
As the lorries remove without haste
The handiwork so finely crafted,
To bring in bloom again
The preferred order of lines.

("Pax Romanus (I,II,II) Spare us,  the Conquered")

There is a great sense of history, of that fourth dimension to the human experience, that pervades this collection, and the "Cicero" poems are perhaps where Walton's innate lyricism shines through best in the eyes of this reviewer. It is a powerful collection, and a lovely thing to be able to carry around in your pocket and open at random when the world before you appears a little too drab and washed out.

While Tug Dumbly may at first glance appear to be an entirely different stamp of poet, the two share much in common. Bluepepper first became acquainted with Dumbly's work way back in the mid-90's at Monday poetry night at the much-lamented Sandringham Hotel in Newtown, and from the outset Dumbly's work stood out from the rather motley pack, not only because of his undoubted skills as a performer, but because of the profound wit and intelligence of his observations bound in sharply honed pentameters. It often struck this observer that we were being gently harangued by a slightly tipsy Socrates in the Agora as Dumbly cleverly opened with a sometimes brash sometimes flippant statement and then rolled out his argument. 

How sweet to find a poem in the footpath
that doesn't start and end with 'Shalee Sux'
or 'Wazza Wuz Ere!'

But there it was, etched with a conviction
to outweather decades:


("Found Poem, Cooma")

The poem, like many in this collection, and in Dumbly's oeuvre more generally, is far too long to quote in its entirety, but it ends with the poet thanking the passionate Shane. "Yet you lent me a spark." 

Not all the poems are in this classic Tumbly vein, in fact a decent portion of the collection consists of shorter more succinct and emotionally charged poems, many of them dealing with what appears to be a somewhat problematic relationship with the poet's father.

 Between the hug and the handshake

The rusted armour of sarcasm
my father's trusty
old army

Hands on, he was
handy with a spanner.
But shut tight as a packing case.
You had to wrench the bent nails from his heart
with a claw hammer

I never knew my grandfather
but I hear him, trapped in the amber
in my father's voice.

("Four for Dad")

Perhaps as good an example as any of Malouf's point about Australian lyricism. Dumbly's is a collection of many shades and colours and angles and will appeal to loyal followers and new readers alike.

Autobiochemistry is, if I'm not mistaken, Tricia Dearborn's third book, a fact which seems to belie the weight of her presence in the Australian poetry scene. Her CV is impressive to say the least, and her poetry has appeared in almost every anthology released in the past decade or so. Her poems have always stood out, bright flowers amongst some pretty unpromising weeds, and this book will surely cement her reputation as one of the foremost lyrical poets this country has produced. The collection begins with a series of poems devoted to the elements, by which I mean Hydrogen, Carbon etc. The poets skill is entwining qualities of each element with elements (pun very much intended) of the poet's own life, especially her rather troubled childhood.

I tape to the doorframe
a black and white  photo

developed and printed
with silver salts.

How is memory laid down?
How is it fixed?

Weeks later, I think
'you look familiar'...The clock

ticks twice
before I recognise myself.

I return the ten-year-old's
captive gaze.  Remember

looking into the lens,
deciding not to smile,

not to pretend.

("Ag - Silver")

If you want to know why the child in the photo decided "not to pretend", you will have to beg, borrow or buy this wonderful book, dear reader, but rest assured you will have every heart string you may yet possess pulled taut by the sheer beauty, pity and terror of poems like "Scar Massage", "Impact", "Sanctuary", and the entire "Element" series. In light of recent events in our highest courts, this book holds many timely and eternal truths. 

UWAP, like Flying Island Books, has produced not only a great collection but an attractive object. Their list is long and getting longer with a collection by Victorian Robbie Coburn purported to be in the pipeline for release later this year, among others.

If these three books are anything to go by, then Malouf is right (although we still haven't forgiven him for the Dransfield slight). Lyrical poetry is alive and well in this country, and there are publishers with the will and resources to lend it their support.