Saturday, December 20, 2008

New Art and Story by Wayne H. W Wolfson

Magic Hat

Youkali said she would trade me a new hat for one of my drawings. Her cousin owned a shop near a bar I liked so we had some drinks before going to get one.

I usually wore a snap brim to mute the sparks I occasionally gave off when things were going well. Knowing that I was getting one tonight, I had not worn a hat. I was only half recognized, the way one would a familiar song as heard from a distance.

Blue-gray fur and of Russian lineage, it sat, a stranger among the Pork Pies and Fedoras. I had always been superstitious and knew this outcast would bring me luck.

I tried it on as Youkali gossiped with her cousin. Two faces flushed, one with drink, one with lust.

“It’s more than I wanted to spend but no one else would ever take it which may be why it costs so much.”

Initially I was going to just offer her a piece from my portfolio. Although it had nothing to do with my choice, I had seen the price tag as I moved it out of the way while trying the hat on. I had to do something a little more special, not out of guilt but because I felt to do otherwise would cheapen my art.

We did a quick shot of Grappa out of paper cups with her cousin and then were off.

Walking down the street she took my hand. It was warm and fluttered, a bird which could not come completely to rest. She drove me home. We sat in her car for a minute.

“I will do a portrait of you.”

I was debating whether to ask her up now. Nerves won out over desire for her.

“You can do it from a picture I will give you.”

I put on some Don Byas and fell asleep.

Early in the morning I heard a noise. Only half awake I thought it was the paper-boy or the sun taking the stage.

Hours later it was time to get up. I found an envelope had been slipped under my door. Over coffee I opened it up to find an instamatic photo.

She had used the mirror on the armoire. A reversed image Youkali sitting up in bed, naked but visible only from the waist up. She knew the trick I could do, so her eyes were shut and with the look on her face it was not clear if she were coming or crying.

We met for dinner, the bar being our starting point. With the picture done we would be even, so it was unclear who would pay.

Again, a mad chorus of drinks, empty glasses lined up before us casting their shadow over tattooed cocktail napkins. It all took longer than we had realized. She could make good eggs and I had half a loaf of bread with a little life left in it.

We walked back to my place. I stopped her under a street light I was fond of. She had noticed the large envelope all night long but in a show of extreme will power had pretended not to.

She carefully pulled the picture out. She liked it as was evidenced by the care with which she handled it. I had also put the photo in the envelope which she now held in her hands.

Again she closed her eyes and kissed it. Within the beat of a heart it was floating skyward, the plastic of its surface reflecting the moon as now motionless, it took its spot hanging in heaven, a celluloid star among other abstract dreams.

- Wayne H. W Wolfson 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Submissions in the spirit of summer

After that fairytale end to the test in Chennai between England and India, when the Mumbai hero Sachin Tendulkar knocked up a century and the historic winning runs in a single languid sweep behind square, when the soothing balm of cricket was laid over a pained nation......

I could go on until your ears began to bleed.

I have decided, in the full knowledge that Dave Prater at Cordite will be whispering "hey, that bastard stole my idea!", to put out calls for submissions with the noble game of cricket in mind. Don't be too specific. In Australia cricket evokes long languid summers slurping on mangoes and falling asleep on the beach under the latest soon-to-be-pulped-staff-pick with the occasional bark from a radio as another wicket falls. In every corner of the world there will be different associations. I would like to sample as many as possible.

So just for the time being, submit with cricket in mind.

Monday, December 15, 2008

New Poetry by Ashley Capes

lapse into

gabrielle is weeping –
they’re smoking his hems now.

a spoon tangos spaghetti

and brown shirts gather
in the wardrobe

lens click and you pirouette,
unleash the elephants.

a robin lands in the fruit bowl

somewhere in the desert
a tomb
and in that, your smile

i start to cover things up.

- Ashley Capes 2008

Ashley co-founded Egg(Poetry) in 2002, which sadly ceased publication in 2006. He is currently studying Arts and Education at Monash, while co-editing and singing for his band. His first collection of poetry pollen and the storm (2008) was published with the assistance of Small Change Press.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Writing by Jen Craig

The inheritance

My colleague took great delight in hearing that one of the students we
taught together, a student who appalled her by continual racist slurs on her
fellow students and, last month, on Barack Obama¹s biological legitimacy,
had recently inherited an aged, diseased cat. Having spent years looking
after an irascible and childless neighbour, I had heard, looking after in
the sense of occasionally ringing the elderly neighbour¹s doorbell and
bringing her soup or the local paper, our student had been furious to learn,
after the neighbour¹s death, that the stately but disintegrating terrace
house in Stanmore she had coveted had been left to the church instead of to

The delight of my colleague would have been complete if I had been able to
tell her about months of exorbitant vet bills and feline dyspepsia, but this
student, always canny and now grown righteous in her anger, told me that she
had left the cat at the church in a laundry basket. The church would
understand, was all she had said.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Calling all poets

I will be away down in Sydney for a couple of days reveling with my good friend "Geordie", but will put out this call now for submissions in the expectation that we can sail under the radar of the law as we perhaps haven't done so successfully in the past.....

The usual conditions: a handful of poems in the body of the email. ATTACHMENTS WILL NOT BE OPENED. Any style any subject, but as with my drinking partners, I am always looking for something with a bit of flair and sense of adventure. Comments, too, are always welcome, although I loath the encroachment of Messrs Anonymous into the Public Domain. Times such as ours demand that every man and woman bear their stamp proudly.

Monday, December 01, 2008


Recently, at the gentle behest of my most staunch and dew-eyed drinking partner, Jeff "Geordie" Graham, I began work on a collection of poems whose titles would all bear the august names of bands or singers who (and by extension...)I figured had cast some sort of spell over times and places since the turntables started turning.

It seemed a noble idea between beers and the froth that follows.

We both misted up and scrawled a whole lot of crap in the most frightening Gen-X ransom-writing that I gazed at next morning in mute horror. And yet I went ahead, pasting snippets of my life to the names of great people with heartfelt and brainless abandon until one day I fell back a little dizzy with the effort and realised all I had was a fistfull of poetry-lite and heavy lawsuits.

The poetry-lite was the problem, not the names I had attached to the waffle, as dawn bled over me. Because the names became an anchor. No-one, other than Gore Vidal, would divorce their name from even a middling work of art; assuming, of course, they were merely the subject and not the hapless author.

Speech writers have their own private hell.

Names are the very stuff of us. It will be the prevailing matter, trust me, when Jeff and I meet for lunch next Thursday. That and the bill.

The names I keep calling these things, mate. "Morrissey", "The Pixies", do you really think they'll mind?

Jeff works high up-middling in one of the big corporations, dances at Christmas parties with a witch-hat on his head. Sings through a "no" as though he had a deeper sense of its polarity but didn't want to break the party up to warn us. A man I have always considered born out of his time, such as Bowie or Frank Black or that lazy-eyed genius Thom Yorke. Loves his ex-wife as the mother of his daughter. Has never once pitied we "childless", knows he is simply along for the ride, witch-hat or no. He is a story on his own, Jeff, which is probably why I decided to dedicate the book to him.

The one with all the names inside of it.

Proper names, like proper nouns. Those ones we all own and have a right to scratch our heads at when we meet them in out-of-the-way places.

Which brings me to AUSTRALIA.

I have learnt a thing or two about naming things with this book.

One: that if there is any borrowed splendour from your creation it will not come from the name.

Two: names are important, not imported, mate. You cannot assume with names. Especially names as redolent and (apparently) unsung.

You had a good thought, you should have stopped at the second line.

As a pimply boy from Castlecrag with a hump on his back and just as much love for this strange and wonderful place (although with a little less money to spend), I set my sights on writing the Aussie version of Dostoevsky's "Brothers Karamazov". My twenties were wild and wired and roaming, but never ever in all my time before or since would I have ever assumed such an audience existed for a poem named after a country.

Monday, November 10, 2008


There have been a fair few changes to the world since I last posted. Peace tables (laid out in all their Amin-ostentation) in The Congo, workable closing times in Westchester, Parramatta, Kawaguchi. Roads and highways deserted but for the few shift workers and idle dreamers the world can still afford. Australian cricket ordinary. Our enemies machine-gunned to death. May we never have to stoop so low again or cross paths so tired and out of breath.

And then, of course, there is Obama. Who inherits all this. Who stands there like a Christmas tree, all crow-faced-coddled-foundling, (my own constituency), smiling the world into tomorrow. The gift of a truly great orator, I suppose. To alert you to the steaming pile of shit you're standing in, and to its ripe (but not always cogent), potential. And still be holding the adapter, grinning, waiting for the angel to light up while you all argue over the last dram.

His work begins, as mine has, by opening a decent Atlas (believe me!) and flipping through the pages. As I followed this time-honoured protocol, I couldn't help noticing how many great cities of the world had their railway hubs sign-posted THUS, and how many of their cultural hubs signposted thus, or in even smaller font. No wonder Sarah Palin didn't know Africa was a continent and not a country. She couldn't read the font.

I spent six months of my priviliged childhood in a very white and priviliged Africa. That is not my point. Africa is not my point. Africa is a continent with too much of the wrong attention paid to it. Like the library of a dying town. Only journeymen have taken Africa's wars beyond. Otherwise war has been an import.

Tomorrow marks the 90th anniversary of the moment the guns were supposed to fall silent all across the planet. So it begins, so it ends; a very Hegelian little war.13 million dead. Someone declares dark, the other light, and so you count down the hand. Tomorrow is Africa's birthday. No more please.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Executive Decisions

It appears some genius at a certain US publisher has decided to tinker with their on-line shipping costs, so that anyone trying to purchase my titles through the on-line bookstore incur a whopping US$169 shipping fee! I therefore advise anyone interested in purchasing the twin verse-novels, "Magellenica" and "The Great Big Show", or the 2006 collection "Glass Poems" to go through Amazon, Barnes and Noble or any of the myriad places they seem to be for sale across the globe. Meanwhile I will join the ranks of writers and booksellers staring down the digitalised version of middle management trying to baffle us with their weasel words while they pocket their Christmas bonus.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Standard

In the early 1970's, following the lead of that moral avatar Richard Nixon, most of the developed economies of the "free" world decided to quit pegging their issued notes to the gold standard. The Communist bloc regarded all this with wry apprehension. This decision happened to coincide with the blushing vaseline-lensed dawn of easy credit. All of a sudden the bills you held in your hand were not actually worth what was printed on them (ie what your government held in its reserves) but what complete and mostly unnacountable strangers haggled between themselves in the smoky confines of the bourse. I am old enough to remember the OPEC crisis of 1973 when the Arab nations took the only other way out after the humiliations of the Yom Kippur war, but even their Soviet-inspired perfidy pales in comparison with the utter stupidity and greed of western markets who have held governments to account for their spending on the one hand (at the expense, of course, of the most vulnerable), while leveraging themselves into a very tight seat indeed in what may become the greatest roller coaster ride since that honey of 1914-45.

The venality and greed of the post-war generation is, of course, pretty much a given on this site. That is not my point. My point goes back to the gold standard, to what beet-faced poets like myself skirt around like sharks around a rusty anchor. That guarantee there was a mother ship in these waters and there will be again. That underwriter of all parliaments and all royal houses, the guarantee that we will rise tomorrow and not all be speaking different tongues. Guarantor of Shelley's great fear when he woke up that fateful post-war morning all carpet-mouthed in the dungeon of his liberty.

Next came Fraud, and he had on,
Like Eldon, an ermined gown;
His big tears, for he wept well,
Turned to millstones as they fell.

And the little children, who
Round his feet played to and fro,
Thinking every tear a gem,
Had their brains knocked out by them. 1

You see, without more than paper promises that those in a position to make a difference will do so in the common interest, we will remain a market place and not a culture. A civilisation requires some sort of underpinning. Debts are all very well as long as they don't outlive their usefulness.

Which brings me back to the gold standard.

In the mid-1960's, when the world's economies were still dubiously pinned to gold, the English marched with their feet away from cricket and toward football as the national sporting obsession. Within a year or two, Britain had decimalised its currency, joined the European common market, dropped the gold standard, and introduced a truncated version of first-class cricket that could produce a result within a day. The doomsayers doomsayed and the kiddies...well, some grew up and some grew into those bull-necked wizards in the corporate boxes holding up every passage of play in every Test cricket arena in the country.

And some, of course, have always loved football the way I love cricket, can eulogise for hours on the deft touch, the lyrical dance of someone long dead just like I can. But then football was bought like everything else, once the "gold standard" of local representation was steadily vetted.

I am not English, but I lived there through the end of the Thatcher years when Millwall supporters could have governed the country (if they had not been so indebted to their bookies and the crown), and when test cricket stadiums stood empty as though the very word cricket meant "bomb".

I despaired of the future of the game then, because I had left behind an equally desultory island with a barely beating cricketing heart.

But within a matter of three or four years something miraculous happened in world sport - cricket began to pack stadiums like it hadn't since carpet became vogue. In Australia, England, Jamaica, Johannesburg, people were queueing up again to see this strange game, and nor were they disappointed. Since 1993/4 crowds all over the planet have been graced by some of the most exhilarating, tightly-contested international sport ever played.

I am here talking of Test cricket, that eternal drone some overseas visitors have commented on when gracing our summer shores. Because there are now in fact three formats of the game played at international level - the five day Test format played between 2 squads of 11 players selected by their respective country's board of control, a one day game consisting of 50 6-ball overs per side in which the highest scorer of runs always wins, and the newest version of 20-20 cricket where the uninitiated can more than half the previous formula.

As I am spelling all this out, I feel like Frasier Crane explaining Radiohead to a young girl in a lift. Cricket is not that foreign anymore. Just ask Allen Stanford, the Texas millionaire behind the 20-20 Stanford Cup in the Carribean. The game was a religion down there until about 10 years ago. Suddenly the lure of Basketball and more nefarious activities robbed cricket of one of the world's most enduring and successful sporting federations. Allen Stanford saw something worth reviving and has gone about it with all the verve and aplomb of a man who has discovered the old world at his doorstep. In other words, like a wealthy, warm-hearted American of the old school. The type who picked up Bradman's tab in the midst of the last Depression.

I am getting somewhere, my American cousins.....

In a small administrative Punjabi capital last week, by the name of Mohali, the Australian test cricket team suffered one of its greatest defeats since the 1920's. There were celebrations all over India, the financial home of cricket these days, as Australia and India have been standing toe-to-toe for the best part of a decade now. And yet for all five days of this beguiling Test match the stadium was at most half-full. The previous Test match in Bangalore was better attended, but not much better. Which isn't to downplay the quality of those attending, another matter entirely, especially at an event as strangely intimate as Test cricket. But perhaps it is no coincidence Fleet street lies under the shadow of the bells, because journalists are always listening out for some bell tolling for someone. This month it happens to be the global monetary system and Test cricket. Both have been assailed by greed, self-interest, naked ambition, and nationalism, all the usual symptoms of decline (or revival), it all depends on the editor.

In Test cricket, like in no other international sporting event I can think of, you have the lone figure (the batsman) pitted against eleven of his opposing country's most talented representatives. He has a batting partner at the other end of the pitch, but that pitch is 22 English yards long, and that's a long long way when you have just walked in with, say four chatty Indian fielders crouched in a ring just far enough away they don't cast a shadow across the pitch.

If you are interested and uninitiated, I refer you to the YouTube footage of the famous Kolkata 2001 test match to the immediate right of you right about now.

It can quickly become an incendiary clatter of tumbling Australian/Indian wickets (the nearest thing our two nations have ever come to war), or a strangely intimate affair, almost as though millions of people were peering in to a slowly unraveling family reunion. That is the beauty of test cricket, and the germ of its own demise. It really needs no apologists (and I hope I have not come across as that), and I doubt it will ever see any serious attempt at a re-packaging of its "product". Because there is often none (other than the copious tv revenue and the sheer exhilaration of the best pitted against the best), even after five days of grueling competition. That is test cricket's enduring, lyrical statement in the face of the sneers of radical-chic, punk, yobbo, yuppie. Sometimes you must search for a result, yes, even in a sporting fixture.

Five days is a long time, granted. But there are few things that can equal the rush of following the first two days of a test match as you deliver pizzas, paint a house, hold the hand of your dying mother, then stroll bug-eyed into the stadium twenty minutes after the start of play on day three, the long, silent march of that lonely figure toward his destiny before you can stop someone cheering long enough to tell you who just passed by.

1. IV and V from "The Mask of Anarchy" by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Monday, October 20, 2008

New Poetry and Pastel by Wayne H. W Wolfson

Summer’s Funeral (for Lady Ahna)

We were in October but now is the time. Keep glasses in the ice box as the rain maker won’t come.

All day the sun had been out, so much so that I felt it licking my scalp as I took my walk. I could keep the windows in my studio open allowing bugs to get in so that the cat could hunt.

At night the heat refused to flee with the light. The black dress with its pattern of red flowers laying across the back of the one chair without a trick leg, I wash my hands, still wet, I flick them at the sink three times.

The air is still warm, as if she has just left, her breath on my neck late at night after every vow has been met and broken.

I shut all the lights, let the stars spell out her name.

I want music, something blue. There should be music for summer’s funeral.

- Wayne H. W Wolfson 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Poetry by Phillip A. Ellis

For Derrick Hussey

In memoriam: H. P. Lovecraft

Though time, like ice, is slow,
the moments pass, accumulate
with the weightiness of glaciers
between now and the now that saw
Howard, plunging into deadly
breathlessness, pouring the will
to fight to fightlessness, and the final
rattle of lungs, and thence silence.

And, as (I imagine) his hand
faltered, dropped the pen a span
of space, onto the bedspread,
his beloved aunt surviving
him a second's worth then more,
tears falling along her cheeks
in mournfulness, I expect there may
have been a tuneful bird that day.

I can imagine the single, solitary song
honing in through a semi-open
window, with the white, washed curtains
breathing inwards. And the song
itself is catching in the throat
of Howard's closed ears, and some spark
of life is thinking, even as it fades,
"How beautiful is life!"

How truly beautiful is life,
when there could have been a man
as moving to us as him preceding,
and living still in our memories
and our actions even now? I don't
know if there was that bird,
but I can imagine it this easily,
and it is with this that I am comforted.

- Phillip A. Ellis 2008

Tori Amos in the Morning

Listening, Tori Amos in the morning and YouTube
underneath the palimpsest of a poem,
and, like a shadow of cigarette smoke, the globe
made of tin, of the moon, lost now to time,

a free verse poem, but with slant rhyme, a growling
stomach that complains almost, all against the song
the way that a cat rubs up against the shins
and ankles, or the winter sunset wanly shines.

- Phillip A. Ellis 2009

Phillip A. Ellis is an external student studying English Honours at the University of New England. One collection of his poetry has been published by Gothic Press, and another will be published by Hippocampus Press; his concordance to the poetry of Donald Wandrei has also been published by Hippocampus Press. He is the editor of (, and Similax ( Click on the post heading for Phillip's web page.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New Poetry by David Lumsden

Hercules Goes Bananas

On rugs by the temple
vendors offer bright
prayer flags, short
in-curved knives,
pirate DVDs, despite
half here subsist without
electricity or water.

The heir to absolute power
liked Schwarzenegger movies,
and in a shooting frenzy
slaughtered his family.

Internet caf├ęs are empty.
Large ads for mobile phones
overlook now touristless streets.

Over murky tea in glasses sticky to the touch,
we gaze out at The White Mountains
as though this high valley were a prison.

Beyond the city
gunfire descants
the sacred river,
chirping birds,
and people still
singing in the fields.

- David Lumsden 2008

David makes a living with software. His poems have appeared in lots of magazines in Australia, U.K. and U.S.A. but there's no book yet. Ages ago he edited a litmag called Nocturnal Submissions. His blog of poetry commentary is called Sparks From Stones. Click on the post heading to take you there.

New Poetry by Ashley Capes

no tyrant could match

the sixth letter was ‘e’

and it was wrong
and I wanted to correct her

but between husband and wife
history rattles

a faint breeze carries the scent of frangipanis
over three carpeted steps to the bookcase,
where novels are little train-wreck victims,
lumped together in a mountain of bodies
no tyrant could match, their spines twisted
and pages torn like bloodless arteries

- Ashley Capes 2008

Ashley co-founded Egg(Poetry) in 2002, which sadly ceased publication in 2006. He is currently studying Arts and Education at Monash University, Australia, while editing (issue one up now!) and His first collection of poetry pollen and the storm was published with the assistance of Small Change Press in 2008.


I am fresh out of rants. The times are too tight, too close. Everyone knows who the bogeymen are, and nothing has come across my desk of late that inspires me enough one way or the other to review. So, once again I am CALLING ALL POETS.

Just click on the "Bluepepper" tag in the top right hand corner and submit anything up to five poems, a 1000 word comment or review in the body of the email. NO ATTACHMENTS PLEASE. I have a very good turnover time, and that applies to most things I do. Just as my bevy of exes.... The worse you will get is silence, as I won't comment on subs unless I can see some way of working with the author to make them more suitable for posting under the Bluepepper. There are no payments and thus no guidelines.

Monday, September 29, 2008


North or south of the line, beggar's east or golden west, mumma's boy or beer-tap dancer, third man or fly slip, I have always been true to my kind. Spoilt, white, male, bullet-dodger, all the echoes that would see me chased from any self-respecting chamber. Studio 54, Hacienda, the Macquarie Street public gallergy, open mic night at the old Sandringham Hotel...

But as summer comes, I am suddenly reminded of all the scratches I lay pellets for in the chill season. Small, hapless creatures disposing of my waste and keeping Buster (pictured)busy. Rats, as though the busy need names.

By the way, don't stare, he bites.

If there will ever be days of a truly republican, Cato-esque, Cicero-free, democratic Australia, they are probably brewing a little further west than the Mamre Road exit. No Jacobite massacres, just the usual grumbles in the usual 40-ton tread. Kiwis, probably, drawing our western riches from the ground. Scots and Maori A-sharp churl lending the customary Aussie D-minor drone that little bit of piquance. A bookish bunch, the Kiwis, and we have already taken over their air defence. Perhaps in time they will teach us how to take a position and hold it.Otherwise, just the usual rattle of chains.....

This nation (I mean the third assumption of those we know), was brought into being by a motion of hands some doubtless bristling day in the great breezy Georgian complex of Westminster just as the last great Queen's grieving head was finally coming to rest. And so white nations are settled.

That was one hundred seven scratchy years ago.

The usual strangers suckling our young, enticing their wolves to our throaty syllables.

...and still this profound place, this envy of the slack-jawed and the square-jawed and the millions in between....thriving despite a surfeit of roses and a talent for cricket.

But why did they pick could they ever mistake you?

(Bob Dylan, 1967)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Infrequent Poet

Recently, courtesy of Melbourne's one and only poet/rock star/editor Ashley Capes, I have come across two mature, insightful, even-tempered blogs - Kris (the saint) Hemmensely's Collected Works blog, and David Lumsden's beautifully named Sparks from Stones. The former is a surprisingly chatty site from an apparently rather taciturn, wise and gentle man, interspersed with brilliant poetry of every colour and hue. As I mentioned to Kris Hemmensley a few weeks back, it makes me want to drive down the deadly Hume and walk down this magical street populated by poets and painters.

David Lumsden's blog, on the other hand, has a far more solitary tone to it, although by that I do not mean navel-gazing, or any of that smug mingling of hauteur and tweed-radical so beloved of sites like Jacket. There is such a measured, urbane tone to Lumsden's blogging, and such a clean edge to his insights, that I reflected on my own jagged efforts with a twinge of remorse. His piece on the Sydney connection to Eliot's classic Prufrock is text book stuff for any literary blogger - measured, succint and with not a jot of barrow-pushing.

Click on the post heading to see what I mean. Kris Hemmensley's Collected Works is already on my links list.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Between the pertinent facts, to paraphrase Martin Heidegger, there can only be music.

He is perhaps the only other philosopher beside Wittgenstein to truly revel in the linguistic thorns of the German language since the trenches, but unlike his shell-shocked counterpart, he only really stumbled on and over a concept of silence. The Period, as it has to exist in both cognitive and dialectic theory. That instant between two changes. What poetry thrives on. What Wittgenstein must have glimpsed manning the spotlight on the frozen river, what in Beethovian scoring would look something like.@?@?//what the?...

Well, I can envisage it because I have seen some of the scratchy pages, and we all know what Beethoven looked like tearing his lead-based hair out. The lack written all over a child's face when they're left to guess the word. Pertinence of so much happening there can only be a single measured beat to account for it. That the only depth and calibration of the great eternal OTHER, of SILENCE, is in music.

Silence is not something bloggers are good at, but then ours is a different universe, blogosphere, floating around like Icarus with aluminium wings.

There is a journalist on this scorched island writing for one of its major dailies whose father taught her everything she knows. She best float up to the blogosphere, because she has inherited her father's eye for the pertinent and all his impatience for detail.

There is a federation on this island, one of the oldest surviving, which isn't saying much perhaps, because they are tenuous things. But there has been a concerted attack on this adolescent bonding, as on many of the other tried and trusted institutions of this oh so young oh so ancient place, snatching at the hook of all our daily troubles like one of those dark eels you hook off a pier that turns your hand black and crowds your faith in doctors.

James Joyce, I apologise for all that maybe.

Her name is not important. Those who have lived in Sydney or Melbourne for any length of time will (eventually) know who I am talking about. She does not brave photos that aren't a dozen years old. She talks of mothers like some talk of diggers, as though they were all blameless and not sometimes answerable for the wrong turnings of the world. She does a hatchet job of almost every subject she preys on, but she is impetuous and almost indelible now on my fair, forever spruiking harbour city's crystalline chatter. No-one trusts her but everyone likes her in that trussed up way of port cities. Fortunately we are not the capital of this country, only its first port of call for most new constituents and its administrative centre for its most teeming most consistently bankrupt state.

She has now settled into her role as some sort of gadfly for the new "socialist" Australia. She is kidding herself. She is nothing but a whiner and an apologist depending on the day and the turn of phrase that enters her diesel-powered head. She is, in other words, a blogger, not a journalist, at least none worthy of the name even on this truth-scorched island.

I will blog now, but hopefully you will get my point and search elsewhere for something to fill the THE PERIOD, that great Beethovian scratch.

She, like those shady and not-so-shady figures in the Sydney Institute (I will parcel up all "think-tanks" with short-selling as a doomed phenomenon - call me sunny) have taken to filling up valuable real estate in Sydney's only broadsheet with half-baked commentary for the triumphal post-1998 Howard decade. Bill Clinton still had two years to run then, don't forget, albeit against Gingrich and a hostile Senate. Australia had diggers storming beaches that weren't theirs, even in 1915, usurping questions of who stormed this island's beaches when and why and for what and for how long - all old barbecue questions with suddenly two sharp ends and no prong.

It was all finger-licking fun when my nephew was a boy, except for all those usurped by the mindless chatter post- Mabo, post-Wik, about what should and could be done about the cultural, spiritual and material health of all occupants of this island.

Now she of the Calender quote is trying to teach teachers how to teach. She is spirited in her defence of nothing, just a white room with a rat lurking somewhere inside. She quotes Orwell without blinking, she one of the proudest lieutenants of one of the greatest periods of obfuscation this Federation has ever seen. Something about the erosion of a language if it is not handed down properly...

Fittingly, I suppose she means.

And she will always have a point as long as there is an alternative point of view. Which, the last time I checked, was the birth of civilisation, not its end, Socrates.

Friday, September 05, 2008

2008 National Poetry Festival

This damp spring weekend in Sydney sees the 6th National Poetry Festival, due to be launched tonight over cocktails at the Sydney Mechanics's School of Arts in Pitt street. I include a list of highlights below. Bruce Dawe giving the Judith Wright lecture should be a must for anyone interested in the state of original thought and letters in this country. I would be there myself (I happen to be a member of the Mechanics' School of Arts), but my unscrupulous landlord insists that I work long weekend shifts to maintain a roof over my head. To those of you attending the soiree tonight, please feel free to have one for me.

* Cocktail Party Opening with performances by Sarah Day, Judith Beveridge and Peter Boyle.
* Readings by poets from Australia and overseas including Bruce Dawe, Michael Hofmann (UK), John Tranter, Bronwyn Lea, Jan Owen, Vivian Smith, Louise Oxley, Alan Wearne, and many more
* The Judith Wright Lecture delivered by Bruce Dawe
* Presentation of the Poets Union Poetry prize and the Scanlon Prize for Indigenous verse
* The State of Play panel
* Pre-festival events including the 'Creative Reading' seminar.

Cocktail Party Opening - 6th Australian Poetry Festival

Fri, 01/08/2008 - 16:29 — Poets Union
Start: 05/09/2008 - 18:00
End: 05/09/2008 - 20:00
6th Australian Poetry Festival
An Australian
Poetry Festival

The Festival will open with a cocktail party and you’re invited!

When: 6pm–8pm, Friday 5 September.

Where: Festival venue, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, first floor, 280 Pitt Street, Sydney.

Cost: $20 at the door (includes drinks, finger food, music, a chance to mingle, and highlight poetry performances by Judy Beveridge, Peter Boyle and Sarah Day)

Bookings: Please call the Poets Union on 9357 6602

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Short prose by Jen Craig

Lola kills

This morning, as I was passing between two women who were chatting with smiling faces on a narrow footpath, I overheard the single statement: my friend died last night ­ a single statement which had the same intonation and tone, I was thinking, as if the woman had said instead: my friend came last night (a long awaited friend ­ a friend she had been talking about to this other woman for weeks and weeks now, each day bringing the event of her arrival only slightly closer).

If it had been possible to pause where I was passing, I might have done, if only to hear whether the apparently cheerful tone of the conversation was going to alter.

The fact that, by coincidence, a new piece of graffiti had appeared on a building nearby saying: Lola kills, only added to the gentle hysteria of the morning.

- Jen Craig 2008

Jen Craig’s short stories have appeared in various Australian literary magazines. In 2007 she finished a MA in Writing from the University of Technology, Sydney, with the completion of her first novel, Since the Accident. Her blog of micro prose can be found at

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

New Poetry by Mark O'Flynn

Francis Bacon's Studio

From the perspex doorway, thick as a bank
teller’s window, every dream is achievable.
Not a draught stirs. The rosy splatter of the rainbow
arcs across the ceiling like a blood spill.
Loose feathers of paint, the forests of brushes
held fast in this holy, primal mess.

Behind the ravaged door every mother’s nightmare.
Scraps of newspaper fossilized in place,
the round mirror a bloodshot eye.
The light preserved, exactly, like the light
of a grimy London hangover. The floor,
long forgotten under tins of rubbery paint,
slashed canvases turned towards the wall
await the verdict of the rats in the temple.

- Mark O'Flynn 2008


One thing you can say about the razor wire
when the overnight spiders cast their fishing nets
and the early morning light strikes
at just the right angle,
for a moment the fence is meshed
in shimmering colour like something woven
or stumbled upon, decrepit in a swamp,
and everything to be faced on the other side
for a moment disappears.

- Mark O'Flynn 2008

Mark O'Flynn's most recent collection, What Can Be Proven, came out in 2007 through Interactive Press. He still has the great bounty of a dear and loving family, a very cute dog, and the grave misfortune to remain my neighbour until the lease runs out. His poetry, of which I have only recently become acquainted, is a compelling mixture of the tender and the sonorous, the hug and the bristle. Click on the post heading to see what I mean.

Friday, August 29, 2008

New Poetry by Ashley Capes

august rain

plucking courage
from somewhere
she’s months into
this newest illness
still working still
somehow smiling,
everything passes
in grey sheets then
crumbles like yoyo
or a long landslide,
i’m awed holding a
tub of vicks at the
beside just giving
my brave face and
though it’s wearing
out, there isn’t any
thing else i have so
we make do with
that and settle into
sheets that smell so
much of eucalypt.

- Ashley Capes 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

and yadayadaya

Which leads me to poetry as dirge, as plaint of a swinging gate, a whining dog, a town google finally takes off its maps.

Shakespeare. War. Religion. Radiohead. Love. THE TRAPPED. All that is dangerous and tender about our days.

We are, and will always be, dear readers, alive in dangerous times. We are no different to any other excepting the angle of the wind, the calibre of exception. The comfortable have for all eternity and will (at least for now) continue to spare a moment for the trapped.

Poets are the first to respond and the last to pronounce about this on-going crisis that is us. But that is just their method. They are, like journalists and infantrymen, prone to a breath-taking mortality. They stop to think, pronounce, die in the dreadful percentages of those who count.

We have those playing a two-handed game, however

turn to window turn
from tv & c
d player to col
our lifes short & on
lookers fickle read
what you fear true hear
an unknown sound one
holds the benchmark an
other chins with succ
ess theyve a whole oth
er raison detre
flatters something rac
ist precious unreal

- Michael Farrell "curtain as persons" from a raiders guide

It sounds like it means something because I built it up to dodge a bullet, which is what Michael Farrell's poetry does very successfully. I call it poetry only because that's how it came packaged via the name of a man I do not know but trust like the weatherman. Whether it is his judgment or mine that is finally askew is one of those best left to the weathermen of this great new medium. The blurb (and I am a magpie of poet's back yards) informs us that Farrell's new collection is a "raid on the inarticulate", but not as TS Eliot intended...The poems are composed through the application of principles familiar from contemporary music - sampling and remixing, repetition and substitution. Which, I gather, is supposed to legitimise this intellectual condescension passed off as a book. It is enough that we have digitalised that last bastion of spontaneity - rock and roll soul rap hip hop - but now we have to swallow these desperate grabs at street cred by a desperately over-rated writer. "Farrell's ear is as warm as an analog synthesiser" blurbs Aaron McCollough a little underwhelmingly, but at least his forms a sentence. Christ knows what the ubiquitous blurber Chris Wallace Crabbe was getting to or working away from when he was finally grabbed mumbling "...a tough little cookie".

Raise your standards, Giramondo.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Garret

There was, back in December of last year, about the time I was lauding its crisp pages like an orphan at his first Christmas dinner, a debate opening up in POETRY regarding the merits of Ezra Pound's Cantos. A tired argument, you might say, and a tired old place to have it, but, well....I am blogging for much the same reason you are surfing.

In recent times I have gone back to Pound's Canto's to find out if I was correct in so thoroughly getting over my initial enthusiasm for them, or it.

So begins Clive James in his graffito of one of the great poetic exiles.

Fifty years ago, when the mad old amateur fascist was still alive and fulminating, I fell for the idea of his panscopic grab bag the way that I was then apt to fall for the idea of love.

Ah, dear old Clive, our very own Don Bradman of the reverse average, holding out until the maiden comes. Not so strange to your dear blogger, I suppose, as a man who so aspires, except that Clive seems to have fallen out of love with the mad visionary and in love with the ordinary when there has in fact been no surer, more steady time to do exactly the opposite.

Come let us pity those who are better off than we are.
Come, my friend, and remember
that the rich have butlers and no friends,
And we have friends and no butlers.

One of those closed conceits so loved of drawing rooms before the big guns made litter of the drawing rooms and many of the people in them. I will let go that clunky first line, the hokey indicative. I assume Clive James emulated the same clunky grammar in his passionate commentary on the flawed but passionate man for much the same reason.

I have been disappointed by most of my heroes one way or another, but that is the point of heroes, or at least the way we have been re-inventing them since the Wars.

There is in Pound's Cantos as much to confound and disappoint as there is in any chat between the triumphant and their tired and beleaguered ancestors.

Who, who will be the next man to entrust his girl to a friend?
Love interferes with fidelities;
The gods have brought shame on their relatives;
Each man wants the pomegranate for himself...

I am not of Clive Jame's generation, so I can only blog at one remove about the desolation they soaked in around the dinner table (yes, there used to be such things, dear reader, even in my over-extended blog-time), but there seems to have been an air of acquisition in the generation following the last war that is almost Hellenic in its breadth and scope

...just as we can scrutinize the aging remains of our bodies in the mirror and decide that these loose remnants would not even be here to be looked at if we had not been strong and healthy when we were young, so we can look back to when we were wrong, and decide whether we were wrong as all that.


Youth and health have their virtues, as Clive James so readily doffs to the Hellenic in his Antipodean heart, but play can take your eye out...


Mascara is an online journal seeking to promote poetry of excellence and originality. We are especially interested in the work of contemporary Australasian and Indigenous poets. Our criteria for selection are quality of image, language and innovation. The word ‘mascara’ entered the English language in 1890. It derives from Spanish, Arabic and French origins, its meaning evolving from the word mask, masquerade, to darken, to blacken. The Arabic word ‘maskhara’ means buffoon.

And there you have it, short but sweet. Another Australian poetry hopeful is launched on the web. It is over a year old now, and judging by the two issues so far, it has a long life ahead of it. Diane Fahey, Phil Hammial and my long-suffering neighbour Mark O'Flynn are just some of the talents so far published. The mag has a strong editorial team with a subtle focus on Australia's troubled relationship with Asia, that amorphous mass where most people live. The editors are open for submissions all year round of poetry, reviews and short essays. They even PAY! Yes, that's right people, this is a grown up editorial team with access to funding and a willingness to share it. Do yourselves and Australian writing a favour and check it out. Just click on the post heading. And no, I don't know who the pretty girl in the picture is.

Vale Mahmoud

Mahmoud Darwish, a poet of great tenderness and lyrical intensity, has died in the US at the age of 67. His work became a rallying cry for the Palestinian struggle, and although the poet scorned the tag "poet laureate", he was closely allied with the Communist party and later the PLO, one of many Arab liberation movements which it spawned. Darwish spent 26 of his 67 years in exile, first in Moscow, then Paris, then Cairo until finally settling back in Ramallah in 1996. This later period in his life proved to be perhaps his most productive, spawning six books including Unfortunately it was Paradise: Selected Poems in 2003.

About Darwish's work, the poet Naomi Shihab Nye has said, "Darwish is the Essential Breath of the Palestinian people, the eloquent witness of exile and belonging...."

I Come From There

I come from there and I have memories
Born as mortals are, I have a mother
And a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends,
And a prison cell with a cold window.
Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,
I have my own view,
And an extra blade of grass.
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,
And the bounty of birds,
And the immortal olive tree.
I walked this land before the swords
Turned its living body into a laden table.

I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother
When the sky weeps for her mother.
And I weep to make myself known
To a returning cloud.
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood
So that I could break the rule.
I learnt all the words and broke them up
To make a single word: Homeland.....

- Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Eternal Youth

The streets of Sydney are once again being blocked off. Last year it was for the secular end of hot air in the guise of the APEC summit, this time it's for the Catholic Church in all its atavistic glory. We are even getting our trickle of medieval milksops up here above the snow line, and I can't decide whether my teeth are clenched against the cold or the sanguine chatter of believers. I do not begrudge them their life choices, merely the imposition of them on the rest of us. What we have here is state-funded proselytizing courtesy of a New South Wales government still in thrall to the old DLP/Santamaria Catholic left. Like the church it is playing host to, it is decades behind public opinion and only retains power in the absence of any effective opposition. Apparently I can be cautioned, or perhaps even fined $5500, for remonstrating with a Catholic youth trying to sell me their wares. Indeed, so vague are the laws passed in the dead of night a few weeks back, that the police seem tongue-tied when trying to explain them to the general public. All I can suggest is that all we cemented agnostics with a tendency to flashes of anger in the face of the untried and the supine keep off the streets of dear old Sydney as much as possible for the next few weeks. I'm sure whatever is up there is looking down with an oily smirk on its lonely, indelible face.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

New Poetry by Phillip A. Ellis


He eats
of their flesh,
devouring his young.
How he fears,
as he swallows it all,
flesh, blood, bone,
stone alike.
How he is undone
by his rapacity.
How he dooms
his fellow Titans.

- Phillip A. Ellis 2008

Memento Mori

Three dead trees
against the eastern sky:

beyond us are death,
skeletons of rabbits,
and you cannot ever
return from whence
you must go.

Three magpies
in the burgeoning dawn,
in the carolling dawn,
on the frostbitten lawn,
and I’m back beyond
dead trees against the sky.

- Phillip A. Ellis 2008

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

New prose by Jen Craig

The decorative circle

Last week, she told me, as she was driving, she happened to listen to a radio feature on the life and work of Hildegard von Bingen – a twelfth century mystic who had so fascinated her during the nineteen eighties that she had bought a book of her illuminations and writings.

It was only as the actor read the line, My new song must float like a feather on the breath of god, that she realised, not only did she fail to recognise these words, but that she could not even recall actually reading the book she had bought and treasured through so many moves and changes of relationships. In fact, all that she remembered of it, right then in the car, was that the cover was a pale egg yolk yellow and, in the centre on the front, there was some kind of mandala, or at least decorative circle, which, now that she came to think about it properly, she said, was very likely the one thing that had attracted her to Hildegard von Bingen in the first place.

- Jen Craig 2008

Jen Craig’s short stories have appeared in various Australian literary magazines. In 2007 she finished a MA in Writing from the University of Technology, Sydney, with the completion of her first novel, Since the Accident. Her blog of micro prose can be found at

Monday, June 30, 2008


I am afraid I will have to rant now. I was taught to respect another’s wishes, until they began to mutter words like “faith”, and “no more”, then we were supposed to find a minister, or “minister”, I have always been hazy on matters as intimate as religion. Anyway, it’s too late now. I am Anglican and so barking mad by default. Either you are all too talented, too feckless, or too prudent to submit to me. Your choice, invisible one. This blog becomes either a bible or a history.

But you should know I tread this earth very lightly. I am a tall, fleshless thing, and my stamping up and down will not coax one boat further to the shore. Yours or any other. I may have given the impression that such is what I am looking for in poetry. For that I apologise. For being agnostic in most things that matter to our time, I do not. I am a poet. They shoot better than me for nothing.

Mark Dapin had an interesting little rant at the opening of his piece on the young writer Chloe Hooper in The Sydney Morning Herald (Good Weekend 28/29th June 2008). It is a rant couched by a wide shot of an elfin Chloe Hooper all little-girl-lost in her "small converted factory in North Fitzroy". It begins (and I only quote at all because its cry to the buried past lends it gravitas)

"Covens of Australians are jealous of Melbourne author Chloe Hooper. They hiss and they bitch and they spit and they mew (you can tell he's English, can't you), and by night they drink pinoit gris and howl at the moon. They think Hooper (meaning Chloe, first names in this country please, Max, the war is over- I think?) has had it all too easy. On the publishing-party canapes circuit, rumours spread like exotic turrine on very small crackers."

Well bugger me!

I mean the canapes and those nasty turin poor poor Mark defers to Pepys red-faced Albion and island of shoddy paperwork. From whence he fled and brung the bad taste here, ta very very.

He should be working for me, don't you think?

For we are still just a tiny island, miraculously white, and shorn of all sheep now, Mark. And yet, there's a story of incarceration, of a kid boxed in, of a child out of step with her time. And some bald prick with his arms crossed looking frightened as hell pretending he knows everything.

I'm sorry, I seem to be drifting between small, bloated men now. I was referring, just then, to Andrew Wylie, the old Testament god guy of all Antipodeans with a mss and an rss and no sense of good old bss.

And the ridiculous leap

No-one in the writing fraternity who cares about what they do ever wished Chloe Hooper anything other than "good luck". She made you young again, pilgrim. Didn't she? Unfold your arms, stop looking east. It is a dangerous occupation.

When there is a lack there is a tendency to fall about. That is history. All great cultures are prone to it. As are all great drunks.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

New Poetry by Wayne H. W Wolfson

Rue Linnei

It is a hot day, the specifics I don’t know, never having mastered the metric conversion. The heat makes everyone crazy dumb. It is only after the sun goes down that some will attempt to recreate the day’s madness with drinks and different positions.

Christina does not cover up as she hangs some towels to dry. Leaning forward, the geraniums bow their heads at the touch of her skin.

I steal a glance, imagining the taste of salt and flowers on my tongue.

Despite the heat there is a breeze in the courtyard, caused perhaps by the tiny space between each building, a closeness which makes the sidewalk gasp for air. The green of the trees rustle.

It is like a secret, the sound of a quickly running tap or the metro as it glides to a stop.

Out front, everything remains still. I whistle some Django so she will know that I have gone and she can cover up.

- Wayne H.W Wolfson 2008


They called me “Beethoven” because the thin walls could not hold back my music.

Although I think if it had been anything besides symphony they all would have complained, but to complain about symphony would almost seem an admission of ignorance. They may not get or even like it, but no one wanted to appear left behind by what they considered class and culture.

Originally they called me “Professor.” This made the old guy who rented the room across from mine with the grey, push broom moustache upset. I learned later he had been a teacher before forced retirement.

He never complained that I heard. Very quickly though, I was “Beethoven”.

The morning after the first heavy snowfall and he was gone. I decided to sleep in, the whispering of the cleaning women, I knew there would be nothing left to steal unless I ran in now. Ah, but the floor was cold and I needed a shave.

I did not worry, that room with its trick doorknob had a way of growing new lodgers.

I pull the covers up and roll over. Some of the staff enforced the no visitors rule. She would throw small pebbles at my window until I got up and helped her sneak in.

How long ago was that? When asked, who left who, which side was better to be on?

She told me where she would be, even made up a little song, borrowing a melody for it, so as to not forget.

Flat on my back, I stare straight up. The halls are quiet now. Her perfume haunted the cracked plaster sky above the bed.

I would like to stay in this wonderland, but lack of motion eventually makes me uneasy. Besides, she was out there somewhere, now within a song.

- Wayne H.W Wolfson 2008

One of Bluepepper's trusted regulars, Wayne has just returned from his yearly sabatical in Paris.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Calling all poets

It's been just over a year since I posted a general call-out, but I haven't forgotten my threat to start posting excerpts from my verse novel. I have two to threaten you with now, so poets and poetry lovers consider yourselves on notice. Just click on the "Bluepepper" tag in the top right hand corner and submit anything up to five poems, a 1000 word comment or review in the body of the email. NO ATTACHMENTS PLEASE. I have a very good turnover time, and that applies to most things I do. Probably why I haven't got a girlfriend.... The worse you will get is silence, as I won't comment on subs unless I can see some way of working with the author to make them more suitable for posting under the Bluepepper. There are no payments and thus no guidelines.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Magellenica now available

The sequel to Justin Lowe’s premier verse novel, The Great Big Show, told through the crooked eyes of Albermarle Darcy, DSO, a womanizing, cricket-loving, autodidact veteran of the trenches with a cast of nefarious characters haunting the piers and alleys of Balmain, 1924.

Purchase now in hardcover with handsome dust jacket.

Click on the post heading to get to the storefront.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Short fiction by Ashley Capes


gunpowder-blue, walls shelter the bed, milk-sheets and a zippo click, as the cigarette glows.

a jessica-rabbit-gown on the floorboards, caramel wrappers congealing in his pockets

and her shampoo dragging lilac through the window, streetlights steady blonde beneath the black-eye-sky.

is this really what you want?

he spins the lighter on the sill, lilac smoke bleeding from his lips.

she pulls the sheet across her breasts, milky hands and clean nails.

don’t pretend you’re the one being hurt.

this isn’t a play, sweetheart.

he rubs lipstick from his neck and glances at her gown, remembering how very soft it felt.

she leans against the bed-head, blonde hair wrapping her throat in gentle fingers, eyes flat as boards.

god, you’re a prick. haven’t you had enough?

he stares out the window, exhales.

she wraps the sheets round her feet.

- Ashley Capes 2008

Ashley co-founded Egg(Poetry) in 2002 and is working on an pdf magazine holland1945. He is currently studying Arts and Education
at Monash and 'sings' for his band kingfit. His first collection of poetry
is 'pollen and the storm' (2008.)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Life after Egg

We're very pleased to announced that our new* pdf magazine holland1945 is open for subs, we're closing at midnight on May 31st and would love to hear from you or your writers. We're looking for text and image this time so please feel free to submit in either or both realms. A quick note: we won't be taking short stories and our images will be published in a horizontal format - but for full guidelines and contact info visit the site by clicking on the post heading.

Sturm und Drang

Talk as you see it and then as the other one sees it and then as you both picture it. Strangers aching to touch each other on this wildly spinning ball. 1945 when my parents cured the world of war for the second time, and poetry. X. 1968 when my "godparents" did the very same thing. X. Yours too, I'm sure, obliquely.

I have other sires, other grudges, but the one always balances out the other.

War war war, even here on this placid blue mountain.

Is it that my country plays cricket and sleeps strange hours?

Or is it the enduring terror of that dark spinning ball in the besieged of us all answering to the whispers of Fluellen, expert on all matters bar the vicissitudes of mass grieving

Know the glove?
I know the glove is a glove.

He was barking at his betters after a hard-won victory. I love Fluellen, the nerd in us all there in the trenches rasping to all and sundry how to both survive and appreciate the young Harrys of this bleak spinning ball.

Fluellen is the hard-bitten, butter-mouthed Welsh geek of Shakespeare's Henry V, down there in the trenches before the walls of Harfleur with Pistol and co as they bang out how to do their best by the lions in their hearts. God is blinded by the smoke, an utterance. The drama does not pale. For He wanders amongst them in a pillaged cloak on the eve of battle, haunched amongst the Fluellens as they talk the sleep and chill out of their frightened bones. Even if you've never heard of Shakespeare, that sentiment is gospel.

The young king Harry has rubbed shoulders with these men before, not as a prince, not as a man of fate as such, but as a fugitive from his destiny, in other words in a pub.

It is there he finds his poetry, there the Bard drags him down by the hair and drags him up again. The boy does not become a man by being drunk. That is left to the heroes, beyond which humanity has passed well and truly. What young Harry meets in his dissolute youth is Falstaff, of course, the still beating heart of his father's legacy. A man no boy can quite believe because he is so generous and clumsy, like the wind, but

By my troth
....The King has killed his heart

Meaning the boy, of course, come good and with a heart as big and beating hard but a little less black than old Flastaff's, he leaves his conscience to die in the upstairs room of a pub in Dover. Harry would swallow that, and the hanging later, but Shakespeare wasn't interested in ghosts, at least not in that play. He was interested in young Harry, the balls he had or hadn't, and what dead wood you must set adrift to be young Harry or young anyone. Not a bad question as we coast into the autumn years of the age of celebrity. What does it mean to have actually achieved something in the eyes of your peers?

Remember, the ground will always be breaking, the sky will always be opening.....

* Portrait by Suzie Bower

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Shop talk

My email address has changed. I have enjoyed an entire 24 hours without any spam. Click on the submissions tab to update and get those insidious robots working again!

By the way, the poems published yesterday at Retort magazine are from my verse novel Magellenica, written in the voice of Albermarle Darcy, DSO as he lived and breathed in 1924 in Balmain, NSW, Australia. I am not in the habit of employing racial epithets in my poetry.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

New Poetry by Phillip A. Ellis

The Dream of Meaning

Be the girl who's her coat,
the guy who's his car,
the wife who's her washing machine,
the man who's his tie and promotion,
the grandpa who's his rocking chair,
the grandma who's her cooling apple pie
on the window sill,
and that elusively hollow dream,
that masculine and powerful dream,
that warm and limiting dream,
that bread-winning dream,
that retired dream,
that comforting, homely dream,
may be saccharine enough to choke upon.

- Phillip A. Ellis 2008

Phillip A. Ellis is a poet and scholar living on the eastern coast of Australia. His first concordance, of the poetry of Donald Wandrei, is due for publication by Hippocampus Press, and he has a free e-chapbook of poetry, Morning Light downloadable from and he has another chapbook, Bitter Honey, available for purchase from as well. He will be studying English at Honours level through the University of New England, Armidale, over 2008 and 2009.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

New Poetry by Wayne H.W. Wolfson

Hearts and Onions

The alley was narrow. Two neighbors had agreed to stretch a rope, window to window.

It is late. Everyone is asleep, eating or hungry. From the rope now hangs a solitary shirt. Dead breeze, with the last of its strength, this torso waves the way out of the city.

No one ever looks up though. He is still now. No escape is possible, not even his own.

The last set, the bassist is half awake and the skin man seems anxious. After this, what? I feel compelled to take my time. Horn in hand I stretch out. Three small vignettes, Schubert playing the blues. The last note a stifled sob. People file out, the night air, hungry beast licking with heavy tongue.

Summer is like the illusion of the promised land, and that things are going to be better.

Libby will still be up.

I knew her neighbor. He called me “Schubert, the sad one”. I think he purposely waited to hear my footsteps on the stairs, to come out and meet me. I did not care, we are all inherently lonely.

Before anything else, I would have to wait while he took his watch out. It was not a pocket one, it had just lost its band.

He would look at the watch in his palm, squint, look up as in prayer, and depending upon the time say:

“Good morning” or “Good afternoon”.

She let me in wearing an old housecoat I hate.

She always thought tea would make me healthier. The cups from my previous visit where still on the counter. After two days the sugary dregs at the bottom had hardened.

All further prophecies now frozen within this dark hued amber crystal landscape.

All bets are off, you will have to find out for yourself.

Being too tired to try to magic trick pop them in my mouth unseen, I went into the bathroom and popped some pills.

She put a record on and shut out the lights.

The scent of orange blossoms, dilated pupils, I had never noticed before the intricate patterns tapped out on the high-hats.

I opened my eyes. Her silhouette framed in the dirty blue of a midnight window.

The stars were fish which ran through her hands, who pulls at these long fingered dreams?

She came to bed.

“Take a shower, you smell of smoke.”

“You, of cheap airport cologne some of your customers wear.”

“We could take one together.”

I don’t answer, but roll over.

“Should I set the alarm or let nature takes its course?”

- Wayne H.W Wolfson 2008

Water Song

Somewhere, in the dark, she hides her secret wishes.

Again, the boy-girl thing.

Come on in, the water’s fine, for the Sharks.

Her blues.

A treacherous kiss finds my lips.

Where are we?

According to the informant, caught.

Dancing, wrapped around each other like good poetry.

Where are we?

In between rounds, putting her blues in motion on the dance floor, hiding from all tomorrows.

- Wayne H.W Wolfson 2008

Monday, March 31, 2008

New Poetry by Les Wicks

Episodic Gratification

Kill the cat.

Your name is not enough.
Trust your hands.
Kill the cat. Make It.
Don't let prayers have all the brightest stars, roll your lips.
Your choice one-day one-day.

The secret is layers, one cannot endure…
good life is an accretion of layers.
By the time you have attained
spouses, mortgages, power or esteem
there will be nothing exposed to the certainties of cold winter.

And you'll have killed the cat

which had no name
maybe once sleek
preposterously proud in its little menace.
Worse then, ginger dimmed
scars and missing teeth
but still a tomcat howl
to rake a sleeping night.

He had no humans of his own
but his kind all know the predictable call for food.
Geoffrey allowed. The approach, the grab
then throttle. A vicious, short-term fight -
scratches before a death.
This man dropped the orange, empty carapace -
it lands like exhausted breath (which it no longer had).
He could almost see refugee fleas as they packed for diaspora.

That empty ball of bone
buried in a #4 blade plot of lawn.

Next day had a paper-cut wind
his own belief in comfort
warmed the Sunday hands.
We know this choice. The end.
He becomes the intended comet
of primary happiness.
Grass grew brighter.
Everything important wins.

Each page
in the Gehennic biographies -
more food, more garbage
sleep at the edge of charms.
Thieves, chains and Hugo Boss
strange children home from school
becoming just like daddy
and the wife is toning thighs
in rooms full of energy.

- Les Wicks 2008

Kurraga City Council

The lords of local politics fly spotlit under lamps.
A desk can bluster them lazily above crowds,
stinking contrails above the craning lumpen necks
of almost-concerned citizens.
Expertise is rusted on
our mouths are angry nests as waves
corrode beneath untended sun.
There's a 1940s lemon slumber in the halls
as lesser grades sick lankly over tea.

Pyramids of waste
cacophonous hymns
cracked roads like mousetraps
with chasms at the verge.

Art projects primped then launched in a
municipal wine to an audience of three -
ossuary of the new.

Pensioners get bussed to parks
where they're mugged then rushed to hospital.
Like People's Liberation Army troops at harvest time
blue uniformed Rangers march out to reap fines from those
whose junk-pump cars go everywhere
"for the ride".

Each civic plan has kernels for the next
while good intentions seep like limescale
in a great impotent bowl.
Envy no one this choice
when they one-day raise their hand;
Australian suburban jihadis
on an asthmatic campaign.

Me too, complaint becomes habit
then every day is caught up
whining into nitre.
Overheated phones placate iconoclastic codgers,
complaints are passed up into space
until no one rings and no one answers.
There's just the fart-oomph of spent words
folding all the air.

- Les Wicks 2008

Bondi poet Les Wicks appeared in the March issue of America's Concelebratory Shoehorn Review, one of hundreds of publications that feature his work.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New Poetry by Ashley Capes

as mud dries

what draws you to empty
spaces, where
echoes cross arms
and dive off rocks,
never to be heard again?

alone is just five letters
pulled together by a snapshot,
when otherwise they wouldn’t
know each other at all

but between them something
happens to make
going back possible

the way you can take words
like lead, until one syllable
breaks your knees,
and still you go back for more, sneaking

the way you find seconds
between jet engines
and a cool change,
even when running.

- Ashley Capes 2008


whatever hands may wash
we will steal and muffle with boxes,
rachel’s blue rose on the wall
of cups, crippled toothpaste
and the
peter pan complex

only the body moves
and thoughts stick
sills and taps that drip.

- Ashley Capes 2008

Ashley co-founded Egg(Poetry) in 2002 and is working on an pdf
magazine holland1945. He is currently studying Arts and Education
at Monash and 'sings' for his band kingfit. His first collection of poetry
is 'pollen and the storm' (2008.)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

New Poetry by rob walker

The Teachings of the Buddha

when the others have left
a man wakes from his
stupor finding himself
in the middle of the kingdom

of bhutan in an old hotel room
with a plain brown wardrobe
half a cup of cold darjeeling tea
a piece of plain toast and the

Teachings of Buddha at his side
through the curtains orange and
yellow prayer-flags billow upwards
across the whispering thimpu river

regular white geometry
of bhutanese houses climbing steep
slopes with the cedars and the
dzhong on a distant mountain

against blue
he wonders at his place in the
world and the book
falls open to

When a man is in a house and opens his eyes he will first notice the interior of the room and only later will he see the view outside the windows. In like manner we can not have the eye notice external things before there is recognition by the eyes of the things in the house.

And from a white fog
nothingness begins to take

- rob walker 2008

rob walker is an Adelaide poet currently residing in Himeji, on the coast road between Kobe and Okayama on the Japanese island of Honshu.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Les is more than I can handle

It will always have its detractors, of course, as anyone who has suddenly come into money will, and anyway, detractors are to any institution what air is to a whale. But Chicago’s Poetry Foundation is at least putting some of that money where its 96 year-old mouth is.

In its annual newsletter just arrived on my desk, Foundation President John Barr states

Recently we counted up… and were surprised to find that our partners number more than 40 different national and local academic and cultural institutions. The collective effect of all the Foundations activities in 2007……was to place the poems in front of 10 million people.

On top of this there is Poetry’s ongoing commitment to awards. Now, you may share some of my scepticism about awards (look no further than the winner of this year’s Archibald in Sydney), but at least Poetry is going some way to unclogging the funnel and allowing some real and lasting talent to slip through. There is also Poetry Foundation’s initiative American Life in Poetry, in the words of John Barr, a syndicated weekly column of poems selected by former poet laureate, Ted Kooser and published by the Foundation with the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. That column now reaches more than four million newspaper readers each week, and the program is being expanded to offer a free poetry syndication service to newspapers (you hear that, SMH?!!) featuring book reviews, op-eds, and articles on poets and poetry. In addition to continuing a series of broadcasts on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer......

As you may have intuited by the dots, I could go on, but all this vibrancy and optimism is making me dizzy. I am a native, after all, of that hoarse whisper south of the line where our only poetic “institution” is a bloated avatar for all the good we inherited, whose skewed pronouncements on those less fortunate than himself speak volumes for his clinical condition and not much else, and whose output seems to yellow and blister at each fresh reading. Had I a fraction of his money (this is a man, need I remind you, who could afford to return an enormous government grant, in essence buying copy to air his pithy grievances), then I assure you I would be doing my utmost to explore ways of salvaging what remains of this island’s proud literary heritage. Let’s face it, Poetry are drawing up the blueprints.

It behoves none of us to draw too many parallels between Americans and Antipodeans. They are a programmatic race infused with an energy alien to us. They are only ever looking in one direction (the Iran-Iraq war is, after all, ancient history to those whose parents’ taxes largely subsidized its prosecution and the eternal “liberation” of 2 million souls), while we are forever in two minds. In fact, just this morning I was struck on reading Don Bradman’s classic “A Farewell to Cricket” that he refers to heading off to the “New World” when setting sail from Sydney for his tour of North America as though leaving the “Old World” behind. Only the pedant in me was struck by it.

The great Don’s Dominion-esque approbations aside, institutions such as The Poetry Foundation enrich us all, Antipodean or American, poet or passing stranger. Did I mention their decades-old “Open Door Policy”? It was enshrined thus by founder Harriet Moore in 1912

The Open Door Policy will be the policy of this magazine – may the great poet we are looking for never find it shut, or half-shut, against his ample genius! To this end the editors hope to keep free of entangling alliances with any single class or school. They desire to print the best English verse which is being written today, regardless of where, by whom, or under what theory of art it is written.

Though an institution with plenty of money (it is in the process of building its own headquarters, for God’s sake, in downtown Chicago!), Poetry has never really forsaken its modernist roots, ie that vibrant, exploratory, oftentimes reckless spirit so characteristic of the first two decades of the twentieth century, workshop of that thundering rollercoaster on which was conceived this island’s all-too-partisan equivalents. “it is a strange bird/this world/whose habit is/to fight itself/whose left wing/and right wing/tear themselves/bitterly apart”. So said Michael Dransfield, back when our “institutions” were still young. But someone needs to tell these dons of the dilatory that the old bird is dead. That the wings weren’t clipped but blasted clear out of a September sky. Someone needs to tell these grand old cocks to either shit or get out of the nest and give this chick some room to hatch.