Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Poetry by Stuart Barnes


I like men
I like the masculine
- Peggy Lee

It's not the mirror I 

but the mist as 
hard as a fist against
my face, the Freddy 
Krueger fingers, 
the concatenation of
florid adjectives, the
peroxide highlights,
O drug-fucked slut,
Ricardo, François, Shai.

- Stuart Barnes 2010


livid as the Führer’s flag, not sheepy-woolly grey.
Appalling, like the gorgons, a pall that smokes
the living, the dripping never expunged from the
Christmas china. Melbourne’s inclement weather,
a pail of tar, a shock of feathers, prevailed since
his positive diagnosis. Her blinded emerald eye,
their broken bones not knitted, enough to twist
this corkscrew through the Arctic, Hades’ gates.
The vacuum, black, in which no man survives.

- Stuart Barnes 2010

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

New words and pictures by Wayne H W. Wolfson


There is a voice coming down the tube. I want to say tunnel but even with my eyes only half open, I can see it would be too narrow to traverse. There is no trick of perspective the entrance is not off in the distance but small and right by my head.
The whole thing would seem more possible if I were to say the lining of the tube was made from experience but I can not. Although it too is an intangible, it seems right to say instead, years.
At first it seems just like a pressure change but it is actually someone passing by the other end of the tube, stopping. Now, a low hum, which travels the entire length of the tube, slowly becoming words. Talking, fragmented as if a secret told over the course of a dream.

 - "Cats" (pastel & paper)

 Faintly, I smell lilacs, it is her. She speaks to me; she tells me that she had a baby anyways, with someone else. From my end, I was going to put my mouth up to the hole to also speak but realize that I had not cared about anything that she had to say. Holding my tongue, I stuff a piece of wadded paper into the hole before walking away. 

- Wayne H W. Wolfson 2010
(for more info on Wayne, just click on the post heading)

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Circus

Apart from the resources boom of the past half-century, it would appear my country's greatest export, since Australia Square first punched at the virgin Sydney heavens as a perfect circle, is a particular breed of itinerant ratbag intent on shaping the world in their own image, or at least of leaving their mark on it like a child scratching her name in a desk the first day of term.

The latest in this long, snaking, checkered line is, of course, the Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, physics graduate, computer programmer and hippy child. Like many of his generation (of which I am, need you be reminded, one of the eldest of the elder statesmen), Assange bears no allegiances and is innately suspicious of anyone in authority. That such a stance seems blind to the rather obvious paradox of his own and his institution's sudden ascendancy, I will leave to one side for the moment.

For those of you whose only experience of cyberspace is Bluepepper (and I know you are legion, or the sky would not be the colour it is), Wikileaks is a "controversial whistle-blowing website", according to the print and electronic media, who all in all seem strangely ambivalent about the phenomenon Assange has set in motion. Perhaps because in their jaded wisdom they clearly see the paradox I mentioned above, or perhaps because they are a lazy, pampered breed of lapdogs happy to see someone else doing all the dirty work, or perhaps because they see nothing so earth-shattering in the material Wikileaks has managed to get its hands on.

Truth will out, for it forms the bridge between our suspicions and our latent paranoia, beneath which a dark, slick something flows, well, thickly. Anyone who has read Evelyn Waugh or suffered piles through a Wodehouse knows that the stamp of the pampered and infantile is to accuse rather than empathise, to suspect rather than think.

Perhaps it is more the means of conveyance than the substance of the matter that is the matter here, when all is said and done.

In the latest chapter of the Wikileaks/Assange saga, roughly one quarter of a million confidential diplomatic documents from Government cables right across the world have found their way onto the Wikileaks site. If there is a bias, it is merely through weight of traffic from and between the US diplomatic missions, for as I said before, Julian Assange and his cohorts appear to be equally suspicious of authority no matter where it crops up to impede the mind and body of we ones so burdened and so gifted. 

However, nothing I have read so far has struck me as particularly earth-shattering, although I must admit I have had a good deal of trouble gaining access to the Wikileaks site and thus have had to rely on the very mainstream media Assange and co were hoping to circumvent. You could play a good game of poker with the ironies and paradoxes stacking up in this story, but does any of it make us any the wiser? 

Remember that we must elect someone to represent our collective interests, whether through consensus or the myriad shades of coersion. There is simply no way around this in our flawed binary universe. We cannot present our collective interests individually and expect real action. Such a system is called a committee, and at international level is little more than a sound and picture archive. Assange believes we have a right to be informed, and we do of course, but only when there is a reasonable expectation that we will be both willing and able to act upon the information so kindly proffered us. Is this the case here?

The recent startling example in mine and Assange's native country of collective action against a Prime Minister reneging on his promises to act on climate change would suggest that perhaps, at least at a domestic level, the possibility exists. But international relations are another beast entirely, and I fear that behemoth, the generation born immediately after the last world war, has once again led us down the garden path here. For they are a generation moulded by a world of polarities; through no fault of their own, nevertheless a fact that goes some way to explaining the lurching nature of their collective life from unsustainable (and rather short-lived) idealism to equally unsustainable narcissistic materialism, and I see no evidence that they possess either the patience or the capacity to see the world as it really is: more 1913 than 1949.

I can't help wondering if this latest bout of leaks will merely thicken our collective hides and accelerate a trend in international affairs that has been marked for some time now, in which all concerned play a timid game of watch and wait, aspiring to only the most easily attainable goals, and placing the real global challenges (such as climate change, or the north-south disparity, or a lasting Middle East solution) to the endless back burner of committees and sub-committees where the next generation of faffers and milksops are given a chance to cut their teeth.

What price so much chatter in so many ears when the chatter was already too timid to pierce a wall, any wall?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Carnival Is Here

New Release

The Carnival


Justin Lowe

Bluepepper is pleased to announce the release of Justin Lowe’s Historical Fantasy “The Carnival”.

Signed copies are available for AUD$29.95 (inc. postage and handling) via the Paypal link in the sidebar.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dot to the Rescue (once again)

The following arrived in my inbox this afternoon. Few greater poets, nor few greater causes, could I imagine for this sun-kissed, rain-drenched yuletide, in an otherwise smoky, fireless, Ashes-less country. 

Spears is a valedictory poem for someone I imagine to be a long-lost family member (they cross your mind when death crosses your path, believe me), and the draft is on auction in Melbourne (details below). The poem in question forms part of what I consider to be Dorothy Porter's most  succulent collection, an effect for which I suspect she was always aiming, but perhaps held in abeyance with one eye on the husk-eyed drones who ran the show throughout her long and electric career.
Drafts of a late poem by Dorothy Porter titled, Spears, will be auctioned as part of the Collected Works Bookshop Christmas Benefit at the Nicholas Building on Wednesday 8 December between 5:30pm-7pm.
‘Spears’ appears on page 64 of Dorothy Porter’s posthumous collection of poetry, The Bee Hut, which was published by Black Inc. in 2009.
Generously donated by Andrea Goldsmith, the auction item consists of:
* Draft 1: Original hand-written version from notebook, initialled and dated 17 August 2008
* Draft 2: Original hand-written version from notebook, initialled and dated 20 August 2008
* Draft 3: Original typescript, initialled and dated 20 August 2008 with editorial comment from Andrea Goldsmith
* One copy of The Bee Hut
Goldsmith said, “Spears is a particularly personal poem. It was written not long after the death of Dorothy's uncle, Hal Porter, and it is dedicated to him.
“The poem recalls a gift of spears presented to Hal by a group of Papua-New Guineans with whom Hal worked closely during the war. It was a gift of which he was rightly proud. On his return to Australia, the spears were burned,” Goldsmith explained.
“Sixty years later, as he was dying, he said: ‘I want my spears.’ Dot found this incredibly moving,” Goldsmith said.
Known for her passionate, sensual and edgy poetry, Dorothy Porter was one of Australia's truly original writers. She was twice short-listed for Australia's premier literary award, the Miles Franklin, and her verse novel The Monkey's Mask is a modern Australian classic. The Bee Hut, her fifteenth book, brings together the poems she wrote in the last five years of her life. By turns expansive and intimate, effusive and contemplative, these poems roam widely: there are journeys into history and to sacred places both mythic and deeply personal.
This generous donation will help to keep Collected Works Bookshop alive.
Plus, customers who spend $25 or more at Collected Works Bookshop between 1-8 December 2010 will go in the draw to win a fabulous range of literary feasts, including:
* Annual memberships with Australian Poetry and the Victorian Writers’ Centre
* Delicious hampers filled with wine, nibbles and books generously donated by publishers and writers
Lovers of literature are also invited to celebrate the importance of Collected Works Bookshop as a part of Melbourne’s literary heritage on Wednesday 8 December 2010 (5:30pm-7pm).
Collected Works Bookshop is a much loved Melbourne institution, which specializes in poetry and literary fiction from Australia, the USA, Canada, Britain, Ireland, Europe, Japan, China and other regions. Founded in 1984 Collected Works Bookshop is a home for readers and writers, a home for little presses, and a venue for launches and readings.
Collected Works Bookshop
Nicholas Building, Level 1, 37 Swanston Street, Melbourne
T: +61 3 9654 8873   E: collectedworks@mailcity.com

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Poetry by Phillip Ellis

"Dedication (for Clare)"

This is a simple sonnet for you, Clare,
since I have the time to write, and presume
you have the time for reading. I would dare
something spectacular, but that assumes
it is the flash and sizzle that is there
momently, not the lasting taste that grooms
your tongue, that attracts you. I would not dare
speak other than plainly: there is no room.

I have not been brought up to be fancy
or fanciful, but to be honest, plain
and sensitive; that is my nature. When
you hear I had been called nancy
boy, and worse terms, then turn not to disdain:
remember I was still this poet then.


"Polestar (for Clare)"

Time has been passing me with white wine's strength
on a hot summer's day. Such are the ways
of this world: some seasons are cold and wet
or cool and dry, and others are hot, heavy
with sweat, or hot and tinderbox dry. Why,
there are very few seasons which are pure
with beauty, without some sorts of mistakes,
misprisions of climate, such is nature.

But the thought of you can make all my seasons
bearable, the heat, humidity, dryness,
cold and wetness bearable, by some magick,
because, like some fixated, creaking weathervane,
only one direction matters to me,
oh yes, only one direction matters.


"What Truly Never Ends (for Clare)"

I keep wanting to begin these sonnets
with "Time is like..." and so forth. Suddenly
it seems less amusing than wearisome
to me, as if I cannot think about
anything other than this theme, this one
never-ending refrain of story. This
is what it is like for me, echoing
so softly, like cat purrs in hollow rooms.

But what truly never ends for my mind
are the echoes of your name in my room--
the word 'fern' reminds me of your country
for one thing, and ferns are etched in my mind--
and I can't stumble around in my head
without these joyous reminders of you.

- Phillip Ellis 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Collected Works

It has just come to my attention that the bookshop that more than any other has kept poetry alive in this country in recent years has received the red slip from the landlord. 


Collected Works, for those off the eastern seaboard, is a specialist poetry bookshop run by the inestimable Kris Hemmensley, a legendary poet in his own right, and a selfless proprietor, as I can attest from my many dealings with him. 

For those even farther afield, Bourke Street, Melbourne has been prime real estate in the Anglosphere for the best part of two centuries, and I must admit that the survival of a specialist poetry bookshop right in the heart of Bourke Street has helped sustain the illusion in my car park of a head that south of the Murray lies another country........

.......and all it takes is a little custom to sustain the illusion....... 


A recent rent increase has caused Collected Works Bookshop to reassess its future. Make sure this much loved Melbourne institution survives.

Spend $25 or more at Collected Works Bookshop between 1-8 December 2010 and go in the draw to win a fabulous range of literary feasts:
* Annual memberships with Australian Poetry and the Victorian Writers’ Centre
* Delicious hampers filled with wine, nibbles and books generously donated by publishers and writers

Plus, you’re invited to come and step beyond the beaded curtain! Celebrate the importance of Collected Works Bookshop as part of Melbourne’s literary heritage on Wednesday 8 December (5:30pm-7pm). Buy great Christmas gifts and enjoy wine, nibbles and a great night of lit love! A special (free) gift-wrapping service will also be available on the night. Raffle prizes will be drawn at the end of the evening.

This special event is a Friends of Collected Works initiative proudly supported by Australian Poetry, Victorian Writers’ Centre, Hunter Publishers, University of Queensland Press, John Leonard Press, and over twenty writers including Kevin Brophy, Alison Croggon, Joel Deane, David McCooey, Robyn Rowland, Alex Skovron and Chris Wallace-Crabbe.

Collected Works Bookshop is a much loved Melbourne institution, which specialises in poetry and literary fiction from Australia, the USA, Canada, Britain, Ireland, Europe, Japan, China and other regions. Founded in 1984 Collected Works Bookshop is a home for readers and writers, a home for little presses, and a venue for launches and readings.

Collected Works Bookshop –
Fiercely proud
Fiercely independent
Fiercely vital for this City of Literature

Help keep Collected Works alive!

Collected Works Bookshop
Nicholas Building
Level 1, 37 Swanston Street, Melbourne.
T: +613 9654 8873

We look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

My sense is your non-sense

Alison Croggon makes an oft-repeated yet nonetheless interesting point in her editorial for Cordite magazine's addendum "remix" issue 33.1.

Alison, the only poet of whom I am aware attended Kevin Rudd's hidebound, and for no other reason infamous, "People's Summit" of 2008, conjectures, maybe a little on the cuff, in "Creative Commons 33.1":  We all like to think that we are makers of language, but anyone poking around in the engine of poetry uneasily realises that it is just as likely to be the other way around, that just as DNA shapes our morphology, language is the shaper of our consciousness. Like I said, not the most original thought you are ever likely to encounter, perhaps more prim than piquant, but then this blog is full of them.

Alison makes the point (once again, well worth repeating) that the act of writing can take possession of us, that we become a poem, story, or novel in ways that we never expected when we first put pen to paper. I myself have been a 12th century stonecutter by the name of Lonzo "The Priest" for the past 18 months, a sensation I am struggling to work out of my system now the tale is told and all I have is your bruised ear, dear reader. I am sure anyone who has been in this game long enough knows the feeling. It is, after all, why we persist when the fat cheques keep getting lost in the mail. 

Ms Croggon then introduces the equally familiar Cartesian fugue of body/mind, all in an effort to arrive at the conclusion that poetry's great contribution to the human experience has been its ability to elucidate the otherness of so much of even the most trivial encounter. As so many Ashberrians out there have attempted to prove time and time again, even a trip to the corner shop can be an exercise in this. At the expense of a footnote,

John Ashbery (born July 28, 1927) is an American poet.[1] He has published more than twenty volumes of poetry and won nearly every major American award for poetry, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his collection “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror". Recognized as one of America's most important poets, his work still proves controversial. In an article on Elizabeth Bishop in his Selected Prose, he characterizes himself as having been described as "a harebrained, homegrown surrealist whose poetry defies even the rules and logic of Surrealism." Although renowned for his complex, post-modern and opaque work, Ashbery has also stated that he wishes it to be accessible to as many people as possible - not part of private dialogues.[2][3]

Thankyou, Wikipedia.......

That much of Ashberrian poetry is dull and nonsensical is neither here nor there, for such poetry invites the mash-up, and that is all our priviliged, miraculous lives really are in the Ashberrian universe. A perfect storm of nothing but physicality and sound and the predictability of another poseur writhing around on some wine-bar stool, open mic in hand.

But perhaps I am being unkind, for serve up any tosh and someone out there will be prepared to devote their lives to it. Poetry has a good deal to answer for in this regard, although I offer in its defence Alison's point that poetry's great strength is its ability to bring out the otherness in ourselves and the world around us, tearing down the veil between universes, mercurial as chance, to which our esteemed editor seems to hinge all hope of success in the issue concerned. As far as the quality of the issue Alison "remixed", I will leave that up to you to decide. The thought of putting any sort of value on it, either in the red or the black, gets me about as dizzy as an ARIA steward in a portaloo.

Which brings me a little closer to the nub of this blog.

I have a long and reasonably-documented history of vertigo. It has plagued me consistently since late 2003 and does not look like going away anytime soon. The world will keep on turning. All my public pronouncements on the subject have been in poetic form, so I was interested to come across an essay by Tony Hoagland in the September 2010 issue of Poetry Magazine out of Chicago. There has been a marked tendency with this august publication in recent years to tend toward the Ashberrian and vertiginous, and it has turned a lot of readers off, but the ambulance chaser in me has kept up my subscriptions in the hope either I or the editorial board in distant Chicago would see the light. My persistence has been rewarded by many poetic jewels, but it is essays such as Hoagland's that I tend to thumb straight for whenever another handsome little A5 issue arrives in the mail.

In his essay, "Recognition, Vertigo, and Passionate Worldliness", Tony Hoagland gets straight to the gist of the matter:

Here are two well-known descriptions of what a poem is, and does, one by (William) Wordsworth, one by (Wallace) Stevens:

Type A: Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility. 

Type B: The poem must resist the intelligence/Almost successfully.

For the moment I will leave that "almost" of Wallace Stevens to one side. The parentheses are there for the wine bar poseur mentioned above who adamantly refuses to read anything "literary" in which her name does not appear. 

Hoagland asserts rather boldly only three paragraphs into his piece that there are in fact plenty of readers alive and well who seek "a kind of clarification". I assumed at first he was referring to that "otherness" Ms Croggon made such a point of making seem so, well, other. He is speaking, however, of poetry that "helps you live" in this world, and asserts rather boldly that to "scoff at this motivation for poetry because it is "unsophisticated" or because it seems sentimental - well, you might as well scoff at oxygen." He is referring here, I assume once again, to that much maligned school of plain-speaking poetry for which Billy Collins is the poster boy. Neither harking back with any great poignancy, nor looking forward with any great hunger. America as it is. 

Against this, Hoagland sets what he calls the poetry of "dis-arrangement", the school of Ashberry et al. Not so much estranged as flummoxed by the object seen up close. It is "the world in a grain of sand", I suppose, except with strobe lights and microscopes rather than reading glasses and candles. "In our time," Hoagland goes on to say, "this bifurcation of motives among poets has become so pronounced as to be tribal." Once again, not the most original thought that will pass your desk today, but Tony has a point, even if it appears to be at first glance a very American point; the Great Society polarising before our very Spielberg-ed eyes.

As an example of Type A, Hoagland offers up George Oppen's "The Building of the Skyscraper", written in 1965 at the very apex of American triumphalism.

The steel worker on the girder
Learned not to look down, and does his work
And there are words we have learned
Not to look at,
Not to look for substance
Below them. But we are on the verge
Of vertigo.

And so and so and so......

The apotheosis of the artist divorced from the lying, vertiginous world around him. I am beginning to see where Ashberry got his audience. According to Hoagland, Oppen "performs the role of tribal father here...", although he offers no solution, merely a place to stand while the storm whirls around our heads. King Lear or the Falling Man? Well, 

You think you can begin as if it were ten years ago & you were still that person

A woman turns her head to catch a glimpse of her former lover

I offer you the key to a city without words

The guy on trial for rape wears glasses to make him look studious

And thus the world of disjoint according to Lewish Warsh in a poem called "Elective Surgery".

This being Hoagland's primary example of Type B. 

The vertiginous effects of such poetry, the stark and bitter randomness of the associations, Hoagland seems to be saying, is merely a poor substitute for tenderness, merely substituting one conceit for another and leaving the world even more polarised than before.

It is a long essay. A long, long essay.......replete with many examples, and much back-tracking, a compulsion spared we bloggers. But for all his American filibuster, Hoagland still manages to end with something even the most toothless of us can chew on for a while.

Even if we are falling, we can feel fortunate that we have some human company in the descent. Ah, poetry.

Surely, he seems to be saying, poetry's brief days as a divisive force are at an end. If not, then all real talk is at an end, for all stories have reached their conclusion and there is nothing left but sleep. For where poets go the truth will follow, even as far as Fox News, the blogosphere, or that milksop speechwriter waiting in the wings.

King Lear and the Falling Man. There in two tragic icons lie the two schools of contemporary poetry and much else beside. The former screaming toward the heavens and the latter toward earth, neither expecting much for all their howling, but a want of tenderness. 

Saturday, October 09, 2010

New Poetry by Ashley Capes

kitchen poetry

I run the knife under hot water,
wrap it in a patterned
tea-towel &place it in the drawer.
Beside the kettle is a tiny
jumping spider
but it does not twitch. I imagine
the way its many-chambered eyes
must have tracked my clumsy movements
as I prepared vegetables
for an omelette. Even if the meal isn’t poetry
doing something this simple
could be, and so I hope to make you smile
when you come home.

- Ashley Capes 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

New Words and Watercolour by Wayne H. W Wolfson

Autumn Serenade

I was heading home, hot and tired but having gotten a lot done, I was not too displeased. I had even managed to sketch the little stone relief of the goat above the water spout at the bottom of the stairs which now only managed to drizzle water.
On Sunday mornings there would be brown bottles, broken jagged gems, littering the fountains slow growing puddle. The goat had his back to the viewer but was looking over his shoulder as if the sound of the sculptor’s chisel had taken him by surprise. To the lower right corner of the relief grew a clump of wild thyme, the scent of which always made me hungry unless late night revelers had pissed by it; then I would have to wait a few days to enjoy its perfume.
I had met Cecilia for drinks. I got a whisky which she always sort of disapproved of because of the hour, feeling for herself that Campari and soda was not really drinking. She had looked good, always shown to best effect when turned out in a simple dress.
From perspiration and a shirt collar which had grown too big, the shoulder strap of my bag cut into that place where neck meets shoulder. My hand held the paper bag but carefully as I thought about perhaps doing a mural on it which would now be scented with charcuterie and cherries.  
Normally, my hands would be free, clasped behind my back as I walked but my book bag was full up with sketch pad, the first volume of Mandalbaum’s translation of Dante and the bottle of Corsican brandy I had been planning on giving to Cecilia to pass on to Ottorino.

 "Paris Street" (Watercolour on paper)
 by Wayne H. W Wolfson

 The holidays were coming and I enjoyed the novelty of being the good son as there was no blood between us, the complete lack of expectation made it far easier for me. Good because I chose to be, a skin I could shed at anytime.
He had been sick with a flu which left him ten pounds lighter. She was the obedient daughter and would never tell him that he could not drink but anyone trying to expand the glass bottle marimba which had slowly been taking over the buffet would face her fury.
It was all right, I knew a little place next to a tobacconist in Rome where I could get him a new chess clock instead.
She would notice that I , among his closer friends did not disrespect her by trying to smuggle in contraband.
“You play nice.”
The phrase had an almost baby talk connotation which I hated but was one which she could murmur smoothly in English not sounding too bad when carried by her slightly husky voice. She also practiced saying no with her eyes so that she could at least lie to herself as she got ready to go out.
Tomorrow we would go to the concert together and I would kiss her neck as the lights went down.
I got home and through the living room window, saw a bird pecking at a bit of dirt below the geranium in the window box. He looked up at me and cocked his head to the side. It was just the two of us and for now, that too was all right.

- Wayne H. W Wolfson 2010 

One of Bluepepper's most beloved contributors, Wayne H.W Wolfson is an American artist and poet who has just returned from his annual sabbatical in Paris. Click on the post-heading for more of Wayne's work and contact details.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

New Poetry by Libby Hart



I’ve been crossing myself
at odd moments.

There was a time
I would only do this in church

and its ritual meaning
was nothing more than obedience.

There has been a great gap of time
since then and now

and I wonder why,
suddenly, I’ve taken it up again.

Is it akin to what Steinbeck once described
as a duck walking over my grave?

Or is it my soul touching on
the unknown and recognising it?

With great reverence stitched on my face
I make the sign of the cross

wondering if, indeed,
it is because you have remembered me.

- Libby Hart 2010


Small apparition,
a perfect shape of fire.

Once I held your warmth
in both hands.

I murmured safe passage,
ripe crimson words

Then swift grace followed.
Wonder soared inside the New Year.

- Libby Hart 2010

Wild calling

A fear of drowning
can make a man test himself
against the cool shock of salt water.
Each day he presses on with purpose,
but soon will scull the shore
with all that force inside of him,
one oar stroke at a time.

Once he called the whales to come,
watching the wide, sparkling ocean
with all the enthusiasm of a true believer
until they emerged with a mermaid’s flourish
inside a glimpse of fluke then a mighty roll,
barnacle jewellery glinting in the sun.

- Libby Hart 2010
Libby Hart’s first collection of poetry, Fresh News from the Arctic (2006) received the Anne Elder Award and was shortlisted for the Mary Gilmore Prize. She is also the recipient of a DJ O’Hearn Memorial Fellowship at The Australian Centre, University of Melbourne. Her book-length poem This Floating World was devised for stage and performed by Teresa Bell and Gavin Blatchford (2010). Publication of This Floating World is forthcoming through Five Islands Press (2011)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Calling all Poets!

The August winds have finally died, leaving me sitting on my frozen hands and with a soft ringing in my ears like all my ghosts come home to roost. While I wait for the first sanguine buds of September, I am CALLING ALL POETS! Refer to the submission guidelines in the sidebar before submitting, please.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Blake

On Saturday 4 September at 1pm join Judith Beveridge, acclaimed poet, academic and poetry editor of Meanjin, in conversation with the winner of the 2010 Blake Poetry Prize.

National Art School Gallery, Forbes Street Darlinghurst.

The winner of the 2010 Blake Poetry Prize will be announced Thursday 2 September.

NSW Writers' Centre
PO Box 1056
Rozelle NSW 2039

T  02 9555 9757
F  02 9818 1327

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Close the Gap

 For those precious few of you outside the ever-burgeoning Anglosphere, in June of this year the elected Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, was ousted in a palace coup after a series of poor showings in the polls. Polls: the credulous being flattered like cynics enabling the venal to be led by the leaderless. Kevin Rudd had served as Prime Minister of Australia for a total of 31 months and was at one time the most popular man ever elected to the office. However, the failure of the Copenhagen talks (at which he was a prime motivator) seemed to shake his confidence in any prospect of an Emissions Trading Scheme being passed in his first or second term, remembering that the party he was leading at the time is the party of labour in this country and that many jobs were at stake in Labor's heartland running along a 500km coal seam from Wollongong just south of Sydney to Newcastle a little further north. This is a political party so old and so crusted onto the fabric of the Westminster system that VI Lenin had cause to mention it in his pre-revolutionary writings, and for this and many other reasons it is confused by political dyslectics with an ersatz progressive party, which it is if you are talking about a conflict between capital and labour. But despite Whitlam's best efforts, the great party of labour has only ever embraced the progressive movement of the past 50 years like a drunk uncle at a wedding.

And so the man, Kevin Rudd PM, appearing increasingly isolated in his efforts to pair the short-term interests of labour with the long-term interests of the planet, and that Cheshire grin a distant memory, dallied while the knives were sharpened out back and the people turned away from their moon-faced saint. He was ousted suddenly in the small hours of early winter (no mean feat in Canberra) by the very party machine that had lent on him so silently and persistently to renege on policies the Australian populace deemed vital. Progressive policies, mark you, not necessarily in the interests of labour. And so a woman of good standing but little character took his place and a joust for the first office in the land commenced soon after, not between a government and an opposition, but between two oppositions – one to the government of the day, the other to the moon-faced King it had deposed.

A very un-Hegelian dialectic and a very un-Shakespearean tragedy.

Anyway, here endeth the lesson in hubris and that particular stamp of Aussie perfidy that is a field deemed perpetually fallow by all but a few brave poets.

I believe I was edging my way toward mediocrity……

 A symptom of the mediocrity that pervades this once-ebullient country is the fact that on the night of the first televised debate between the leaders of our two main political parties, schedules had to be put back so that politics didn't clash with a reality cooking show. You can probably gauge by the tone of this blog which "event" took preference. The best man won, I am told, although no-one seems to be able to remember his name with any degree of confidence. It was a "historical" moment as much as "history" can be said to  consist of such footprints in the snow.

 In the May issue of Chicago's Poetry Magazine, David Biespiel, offered a slightly less discursive plea for more substance and less spin in the public domain by asking simply: where are the poets? That we are a largely self-reliant lot is a given, that we are passionate is intrinsic to our very calling, for words will argue like a possum in a bag that you either love or put down on a roadside somewhere. 

Biespiel seems to infer that poets revel in their alienation, "that they want no part of democracy's dirty institutions". This would group them with the alienated left of 1960's vintage, which fits snugly with the stereotype of the bearded Ginsberg howling at the God of the New York skyline from his beat-up Chevvy. It is an ordinary perception, though, and a dull calling. Plato tired of it before he died 2,500 years ago. 

Biespel's prolonged diagnosis for the American polis and the American poet ends thus:

The American poet must speak truth to power and interpret suffering. And just as soon as the American poet actually speaks in public about civic concerns other than poetry, both American poetry and American democracy will be better for it.

He is addressing, it needs to be said, a rhetorical people with a rare gift for the taciturn that winks at an Australian like the distant portholes of a passing ship in the night. And an ideological people steeped in books of old Hebrew beside those of a far more recent pedigree, and thus a people condemned to lurch from one extreme to the other, whose centre is an axle that requires perpetual greasing. If they are plunging toward mediocrity, it is not the fault of their politicians per se, the speakers, the masters of rhetoric, but of the thinning rank of listeners in a polis which, for some time now, perhaps the better part of my life, has become an agent that is simply acted upon. Poets, myself included at times, play this victim role very well, and it is as good a time as any to remind ourselves that in a nation with a hung parliament it is we who hold the balance of power, as long as we are prepared to step inside our language and our culture, lay claim to all its baggage rather than continue to stand back and watch the carousel go round and round and round, shying away from  the ghosts who painted every sign.

Monday, August 02, 2010

New Poetry by Phillip A Ellis

Winter Breathing


Knowing well the wakening moments, morning
forming in front of my eyes, like some summer
evening after a humid nap, I embrace
the promise of another day with cool breeze.

Time was, I would have looked out of the window
with the dubiety that anticipates,
through the blustery trees, a southerly wind
channelled up from Bass Strait and off the snowfields.

Now, today is almost still, only a thin
abstraction of a breeze stirring the palm leaves
in what is an almost desultory way,
and, in the distance, the horizon is white.

No more cutting off the west with a hearty
escarpment, no more land then blue so brilliant
that eyes water, that little children can dream
that this city is at the edge of the world.


When the evening draws in, when the sun hangs low,
I look out on the winter day and think,
not on what I could have done to make better
this world, but with warm gratitude for this day.

The evening, as it breathes in me, will shelter
the world towards night and, for many, some sleep
in a bower, or a den, or nest, or bed,
and I think of so many hearts that beat slow.

I may turn off the lights, listen for night-birds
with my melting ice diluting my whisky
that grows steadily warmer with my palm's warmth,
and is not stirred by the thought of reflection.

And when I sometimes raise my glass to my lips,
I may momentarily remember smiles,
and, in doing so, lay my heart open-faced
to a mirror made of rue and reflection.

- Phillip A Ellis 2010


Colder than heart's thought,
it seems we're human,
but we are nothing
more than a shadow,
cast by a wan light
fading from attics

- Phillip A Ellis 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Poetry by Stuart Barnes


1995: Mr. Smith – middle-
aged, eccentric, lived at home with Hamlet’s
evil queen – unleashed a beast: recall, if
not all, as many as possible of
the Technicolors that gleamed at the front
of the fluorescent laboratory
like kaleidoscopic, hypnagogic
celluloid scenes of that city in Oz.
I forget how many there were then (one
hundred and eighteen and counting, now); all
I remember is wishing for the Scare-
crow’s brain, the Tin Man’s heart, the Cowardly
Lion’s courage, and a pair of ruby
slippers to whisk me far away from harm.

Nowadays, more splintered than ever, I
stand each morning like a caryatid
shouldering her colossal portico
all alone over the grim electric
Omega oven’s stovetop, eyes sponging
its greasy, incarnadine coils (all four),
irresistible dials in between the
first and thumb of each hand turning on, off,
on … I can’t help myself: five years ago
zeppelins dropped their terrible cargo,
high school voices, in my mind (such echoes,
still!), and everything changed for good. Jesus,
one day I’ll be freed from the claws of this
disease, from the hells of my elements?

- Stuart Barnes 2010


the waiting room’s

fluorescent, like Hell

a roily-faced girl’s
eyes are crazed as a feral cat’s;
and then there’s the stench of baby

crap     invalids
spin between doctors: kaleidoscopic
tops between children

a detached transaction:
my GP’s rote-learned questions,
my ‘yes’ ‘no’ answers

the dreaded tests are specified in puzzling

Latin on greying paper

at reception I
take a tarnished number:
pathology roll call

the nurse

on his
latex gloves, begins to
hum a golden
oldie like a vampire

– blackout

- Stuart Barnes 2010


Tips of toes stroking his pink magnolia’s flowers, found
bound in final prayer. Sick at heart,
I never knew him well,
but well enough to fathom he was

of the same tough stuff
as German Jews
or Harvey Milk,

the screws of Alcatraz. Red
knot in my deep, black throat,
sheet’s white ligature
puncturing his.

Why, why, why?

- Stuart Barnes 2010