Rob Walker

I’ve seen Rob’s poems in many places in recent years, wondering if he was the Rob Walker I’d once taught with in South Gippsland. He doesn’t appear to be, his hair’s not long, black and curly (or not anymore). I made contact with Rob when I read his terrific poem ‘termites’ which you can read here. I’d written a poem with the same title, not unusual, but our language and observations are uncannily close and his is the better poem. Rob has just enjoyed the successful launch of his new book ‘tropeland’ published by the prestigious Five Islands Press. I find Rob’s poetry full of energy, it’s often funny, oozing with his love of language and general pissed-offness with the current government and injustice in general. He doesn’t hold back. I bring you Rob Walker…

RobWalkerByMartinChristmas

Photo by Martin Christmas

tropeland

Tropeland.

In the Land of Trope
boxes of matches spontane combustiously,
self-ignite like passion.
Vampire bats appear as garbags snagged on barbed-wire fences
Butterflies float skyward like liberation

In the Land of Trope street lights go through the phases of the moon
while the real moon waits for the traffic lights to change.
Deep serene ponds resemble your eyes and babies’ cheeks are gardenias

In the Land of Trope ears roar like the ocean
when you hold them up to your shell
cellos are the waists and childbearing hips of country girls

In the Land of Trope cotton wool confined
to bathroom cabinets thinks it’s a cloud
forming over the ranges
the day sky tries to be as blue as the child’s pencil
while the night leaves itself deliberately empty
for the distant sound of a lone dog

In the Land of Trope sweat from armpits impersonates
cinnamon bark and vanilla pods
Similes assimilate later as comparative as a comparison

In the Land of Trope dark sky splits white lightning apart
and all poetry is black except for the pink bits

In the Land of Trope nothing is like anything else
It’s as fat as a fat thing or as like as an as.
It’s as different as everything and like nothing else.

In the Land of Trope pine forests are as fresh as toilet disinfectant,
lemons smell as clean as dishwashing detergent.
Silver coins look like rain-filled sheep hoofprints

In the Land of Trope 2 a.m. clocks tut-tut that you’re not asleep.
Mountain scenes are almost as realistic as paintings.
Surreal estate.
leaves fall in love every autumn and
drums beat like a
heart.

In the Land of Trope dogs feel as sick as a man
wheels are as silly as eccentric children
and tacks never feel flat.

In the Land of Trope rainbows come blank
so you can colour them in yourself
from ultra-yellow to infra-green

In the Land of Trope pins are as neat as houses,
rabbits breed like the poor. A whip
is as smart as a sadomasochist

In the Land of Trope
money is mute and
humility talks.

In Tropeland
it’s better for you
and metaphor me

termites

we are the tectonic organic architects.
fixed action patterns, no masterplan
predisposed destruction
genetic construction.
we are the wrecking ball
and the engineers.

bees are greek geometers,
bodies as rulers, hexagons in their heads.
we the pallid homewreckers
with magnets instead. north of capricorn

use our clay skyscrapers
as compasses
but we will destroy your home
to build our own.
we are Vishnu and Shiva,
no arms, six legs.
world-best-practice fungus
farmers
we’ve thrown away the plans.
each buttressed edifice with aircon, heating,
unique.
form is function,

function, form.            hyperbolic paraboloid,
hyperboloid, helicoid
straight lines are anathema
the shortest span between two points is
follow the guy ahead.
we know no Pythagoras nor Euclid,
give a passing nod to the Bauhaus
and gaudy Gaudi who plagiarized
our best.

An accident waiting to happen

purposeless and alienated, a coexisting anomie and ennui
a concatenation of the unrelated    i lurk on street corners
planning the intersection of vehicles.

delayed by traffic light whim or
leaving home moments earlier you leave    yourself
vulnerable to my coordinate points.

I am the haybale awaiting synchronicity
of temperature                   and humidity
to interrupt            a firefighter’s dinner.

I am the thrown match which may peter out
or destroy the entire national park,
the oily rag in the shed.

I am the outdated nuclear reactor
behind the low seawall
waiting for the plates to move.

I am the occasional freight train,
the unsignalled crossing,
the sleepy motorist.

I am the barely submerged snag in the murky river
the sharemarket software trigger
programmed to sell  sell   sell.

I am the one flake of snow
that begins the avalanche.

I am unstring theory.
I am tired of waiting.   So tired…

(all poems from tropeland)

Bio
Rob walker has always been fascinated by language and its multiplicity of forms. In between his time as an educator in Performing Arts around Adelaide and teaching English to Junior and Senior High students and  adults in Japan, he has also found time to write a children’s musical, essays, short stories, poetry reviews, co-edit a poetry anthology and produce three  poetry books. With hundreds of poems being published online and in journals and anthologies in the UK, US and Australia, Rob also enjoys collaborating with other artists. He currently divides his time between grandchildren, a small farm in the Adelaide Hills, travelling and writing.

Rob blogs here:      http://www.robwalkerpoet.com/

Five Islands Press, June 2015
PO Box 4429 University of Melbourne
Parkville
Vic. 3052

http://www.fiveislandspress.com
ISBN: 978-0-7340-5026-7

Available here. https://www.google.com.au/?gws_rd=ssl#q=rob+walker+tropeland&tbm=shop

Jane Clarke

Jane165HiRes

I spent a week with Jane on a residency in 2013. She impressed me, not only as someone with strong convictions, but also as a sensitive  and beautiful writer. When she shared her poems with us I could feel her passion for the natural and political world of her native Ireland, and her love and respect for her father and for people of the soil.

At the time Jane had been widely published in journals but seemed frustrated that she hadn’t had a full collection accepted. How exciting it was then to hear, two years on, that her poems had found a very good home indeed. Bloodaxe Books has published Jane’s debut collection which will be launched in various locations from June this year. Please go to her website for dates.

janeclarketheriversmaller

The River

What surprises me now is not that you’re gone
but how I go on without you, as if I’d lost
no more than a finger. My hand still strong,

perhaps stronger, can do what it must,
like carving your name on a branch from the beech
by the Suck, letting the river take you,

so I can call myself free. Only sometimes,
like yesterday or the day before, last night or this morning,
the river flows backwards, uphill to my door.

 First published in the Irish Independent, 2012

Every tree

I didn’t take the walnut oil,
linseed oil,

the tins of wax
or my lathe and plane

when I closed
the workshop door.

I left the grip of poverty
on the bench

beside my mallet,
whittling knife

and fishtail chisel
with its shallow sweep.

I quit the craft
my father had carved into me

when I was pliable
as fiddleback grain,

left all at the threshold,
except for the scent of wood,

a different scent
for every tree.

First published in the Irish Times, 2015

On the Boat

On the boat we were mostly virgins,
we talked about who we were going to be –
waitresses, seamstresses, nurses,
we didn’t talk about why we had to leave.

We talked about where we were going to be,
the wooden frame house with a picket fence,
but we didn’t talk about why we had to leave
as we touched the lockets around our necks.

The wooden frame house with a picket fence
led to talk of lost villages, lost streets
as we touched the lockets around our necks.
We didn’t foresee tenements that grew thick as trees

when we talked of lost villages, lost streets
and the diligent men we were going to marry.
We didn’t foresee tenements that grew thick as trees,
the suitcase of memories we would have to carry

to the diligent men we were going to marry
when we were waitresses, seamstresses, nurses
nor the suitcase of memories we would have to carry
from the boat, where we were mostly virgins.

First published in the Irish Times, 2013

Biography
Roscommon-born, Wicklow resident, Jane combines writing with her work as a management consultant. She holds a BA in English and Philosophy from Trinity College, Dublin and an MPhil in Writing from the University of South Wales. She won the Listowel Writer’s Week Poetry Collection Prize (2014), the Trocaire/Poetry Ireland Competition (2014), Poems for Patience (2013), iYeats (2010) and Listowel Writers Week (2007). Her poems have been published widely, including The Irish Times, Irish Independent, Rialto, The North, Agenda, Southword, The Stinging Fly, The Shop, Cyphers. Her first collection, The River, is published by Bloodaxe Books.

www.janeclarkepoetry.ie

http://www.bloodaxebooks.com/titlepage.asp?isbn=1780372531

http://andotherpoems.wordpress

www.dromineerliteraryfestival.ie

May-wandering with dingoes in the outback

                                                      Wave from Oz

In the last three weeks I’ve been following in the footsteps of early explorers and entering (respectfully, I hope) sacred spaces in the Simpson Desert, the Gammon Ranges, Flinders Ranges and Big Desert ending up in the Grampians for a cold, wet last night around a camp fire, warmed by whiskey, wine and mild hysteria since nothing major had gone wrong as it so often does. Last year we rolled the vehicle on the Montezuma track in Tasmania which has made me terrified of driving the really hard stuff.

    roo

We broke one wine glass, a suspension air bag and, as I tried to save my iPad from falling into a canyon, crashed onto a rock and have a black bruise the size of a small plate on a fleshy bit. The worst thing was my USB charger died but I managed to buy one in an outback store where you couldn’t buy a fresh bread roll but they had  a wall of charger cables.

I’ve written about the outback before and didn’t think I would have any juice left for new material but it’s always surprising how reading fresh work can inspire a new approach. I began a journal under the influence of some new poets I discovered from POETRY and also some collections I took with me in my portable ‘office’-a clear plastic zip-up bag which kept the dust and sand out.

Terry Quinn sent me this beautiful collection Sea Creatures from Sarah Hymas which shows you what can be done with imagination, maps and lovely hand-made paper. He asked me to photograph it in the desert which I did in several sandy places all of which once formed the great inland sea which is an idea I find quite thrilling.

IMG_1308

Before I left I made several poetry submissions so of course, the rejections started coming in, but among them was acceptance of a piece of flash fiction and a poem due in the next issue of Orbis which is a terrific magazine. I also have a poem coming up in the next Aus Poetry Journal edited by Michael Sharkey and I also learned that a script I’d submitted to a competition at Christmas has been shortlisted and will be read and judged with two other shortlistees on June 20 by Geelong Rep.

orbis 171

I returned to rain and ten loads of washing and the Spring issue from Poetry Salzburg Review. Another lovely surprise was the latest anthology from Emma Press where I have two poems. (They’re currently looking for poems on ‘the sea’ ). I also received an email from a friend of mine in the UK who said she’d enjoyed Stu Barnes interview with me in Tincture, an international e-magazine of contemporary writing that pays its writers.

                                            new books

Hi there.

April news.

Some exciting updates in the last few weeks. No, I have not written a poem a day. Vision Australia is making an audio book of Kiss of the Viking, my pamphlet of Scandi Noir published by Poetry Salzburg last year. I’ve been in the studio with professional actors in the last two weeks guiding the process gently. It’s been a good lesson in forensically analysing my work, which I felt needed tweaking here and there, so I did.

The IOWA online poetry workshop is a great trigger for poetry. This week Robert Haas told us to write every day on a kind of scroll, read poetry that knock our socks off and then write. There was also some concentration on the line break which reminds me of something someone said at Pascale Petit’s workshop a couple of years ago when we were talking about the same thing. This very proper lady said, when sharing her own experiences, ‘I sometimes feel like I’m disappearing up my own line-break.’ I know what she means. I go with a gut instinct, then tweak but try not to dwell too long on it. This week there was also a master class in using the page which has encouraged me to try the more Whitmanesque approach of the long line. I’ve been avoiding it as it didn’t seem to suit my style but since trying it, I feel liberated and am on a bit of a roll.

I come back to the UK every year to visit my mum who’s 88 and not that well and like to get a writerly thing in  at the same time. This year I’ve had a hankering for Wales or Ireland so when I saw that Helen Mort was running a week’s residency at Ty Newydd in North Wales I was taken back to a family holiday in Snowdonia and booked immediately even though it is pricey. Life is also short.

This week I’ve been asked to host an interview with Graeme Simsion of The Rosie Project fame in November.

Continuing to work on a book of reply poems with a UK poet after an idea by Judy Brown. We’re half way through and a great exercise it is for writing.

The autumn crops are in storage and beds are being prepared for the winter lot. I think I love these the most-cabbage, sprouts, broccoli and parsnip.

I submitted a novella this week among poetry submissions within Oz, to the UK and US. Canada and India next.

_______________________________________________________________________

Where to get published.

I’m often interested to see where poets are getting their work published. If you’d like to see which journals and anthologies have published my work recently I’ve listed publications in Australia, UK, Europe and the US including The Ofi Press out of Mexico City, edited by Jack Little. If you have time please check out my books under ABOUT , GUEST poets like Pascale Petit, Maria Takolander and Alexis Fancher, and my published POETRY. Thanks for dropping in. AUSTRALIA     The Age, Australian Poetry Journal and Anthology,  Avant, Blue Pepper, OzBurp, Cordite (39, 46, 46.1), Divan, 8d Erotica, ETZ 7, 8 and 9, Famous Reporter 44, foam:e 9 &10, Gangway, Hecate, LiNQ,  Overland, Plumwood Mountain, Rabbit, Southerly, Stylus, Tango Australis, The Best Australian Poetry (UQP), The Paradise Anthology, The Red Room Company, Verity La, Wet Ink, Windmills. Forthcoming in Australian Poetry JournalRabbitRegime and Tincture.

bunyips UK/ Europe  And Other Poems, Angle Poetry Journal, Antiphon, , BODYLit, The Emma Press anthology (Motherhood), Eunoia Review, Flash, Gangway, Indigo Dreams, Heartshoots anthology, Ink, Sweat and Tears (including 12 Days of Christmas 14/15), Kumquat Poetry, The Lake, Mslexia, Obsessed with Pipework, New Linear Perspectives,  Orbis, Poetry Salzburg Review, Flarestack Poets anthology: Sylvia is Missing, Shadowtrain, Shearsman (93/94, 101/102) Under the Radar, Wandering Words, Sensing Spaces Pamphlet (edited by Abegail Morley, Emer Gillespie and Catherine Smith). Forthcoming in The Emma Press anthology on Dance and The Interpreters House.

                     ms

 US/Mexico        Cultural Weekly, LA (Feature poet), ‘Dogzplot, B’, (Barbie anthology) Kind of a Hurricane Press, Sundress Blog, Best Dressed feature collection for Kiss of the Viking, The Ofi Press, Penduline, Poetry (Chicago), The Bond Street Review, The Nassau Review. 3_2015-cover-360

When Temporal Lobes

chair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ignite like Christmas lights
down High Street

in the middle of
her grand mal

she is sitting upright in a bentwood chair
/resin replica/

She can neither see nor hear
Not a sound

Normally susceptible to suspense
/Can’t seem to shake it/

Never expecting a good thing
to come of it         she is suddenly alive

in the crate of her skull
a pulse of epiphanous bliss

She thinks in tongues
of a thousand angels Gabriel

Could never imagine a suicide
bomber or serial killer

Knows everything about us
Some days she takes little walks

past hospital wards with white views
a clipped, aching feel about them /to us/

carrying out her marvellous plan
over crumpled pages, musical scores

Child of the cosmos
Jesus lives!      /for five minutes/

 

Published in Helen Ivory’s Twelve Days of Christmas, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Dec 2014/15

Ivy Alvarez

It’s hard to pin down someone with the name Ivy. Just when I thought I’d found her, first in Oz, then in Wales of all places, she pops up in New Zealand where she’s  taken root for now. I’m always a little envious of global souls, like Ivy. It seems like one of life’s greatest freedoms and pleasures, getting to know new cultures and peoples.

Ivy and I came together on Clare Carlin’s elegant blog Pieced Work but I have long admired Ivy’s poetry for its muscle and mischief. Full of the Christmas spirit and remembering the joy of decorating the mantelpiece with ivy in a northern clime, I bring you the ultimate pop-up poet, Ivy Alvarez who tells us how Michael Jackson danced into her latest collection. Merry Christmas!

Ivy                                   Photograph by Rachael Duncan

a memory of breasts

I show my mother a book of breasts. At first, she’s shocked and pulls away. But then, she returns to them and looks at the pictures on the cover. She points to one. The breasts are creamy and voluptuous, arms gloved to the elbows, crossed in front. ‘I like these ones,’ she says. ‘They are elegant.’

(from Mortal)


dumb

baby brother brings me booty
booty I do not want
blood out of squirrels’ mouths
blooms from a badger’s back
broke spine splinter bones
blown wide apart
belly open of a fine snout fox
bleached fur stiff fuzz
better not show baby brother
briny pinpoint pupils’ glaze

brings me his killing jar
bees, spiders, hornets and wasps
brave his fingertips’ acetone smell
dumb husks in a glass shell

(from Disturbance)


The School of Physics

the kiss that does not exist will exist next door
in a house that houses the kiss, most likely in a vase
exuding a scent in passing
as if from the unlikeliest, shyest woman in the room
forcing me to ask, Is that your perfume
she smiles, eyes downcast, and hands me my change

you and I will sit in a green sofa and admire the kiss
its shapeliness, how it wrings
inadvertent sighs just from listening to it grow
into its fullest power
a tiny nova of desire compacting in on itself
pulling us towards its center


And could you comment on who or what influences your practice, Ivy?

While putting together the final incarnation of Disturbance, I kept thinking about Michael Jackson’s album Thriller, how every song released from it found its audience. I always keep that in mind. I find it helps me trim the dead wood from a manuscript.

For poetry, Sylvia Plath is my foundation stone, as are Dorothy Porter and Ai. I will continue to build and create because of what I’ve learnt from them, and from the future influences I hope to still discover.

 Ivy

disturbance

Bio
:

Ivy Alvarez is the author of Mortal (2006) and Disturbance (Seren Books, 2013). Both Literature Wales and the Australia Council for the Arts awarded her grants towards the writing of Disturbance.

She is both a MacDowell and Hawthornden Fellow, whose poems appear in anthologies and journals in many countries and online, including Alquimia del Fuego (Spain, 2014), Best Australian Poems (2013), and A Face to Meet the Faces (USA, 2012). Several of her poems have been translated into Russian, Spanish, Japanese and Korean.

In the past few years, she has received invitations to speak at the Oxford Literary Festival, the Dylan Thomas Festival (UK), and the Seoul International Writers Festival (Korea).

Born in the Philippines and raised in Australia, she spent time in Scotland, Ireland and Wales, before settling in Auckland, New Zealand in 2014.

Links:
Website: http://ivyalvarez.com/
Disturbance: http://www.serenbooks.com/book/disturbance/9781781720875

Review What Days are For by Robert Dessaix

I’d like to thank Random House for inviting me to review Robert Dessaix’s latest memoir.

Dessaix

I came face to face with Robert Dessaix in the early nineties when he came to speak to us about ‘Night Letters.’ What he had to say was engaging (more European than Australian in directness and flair) and witty in a candid, self-deprecating way. He reminded me of nobody else.

Conversational and derisory, this latest memoir is both playful and reflective. It’s a style relished by keen readers of his works. Each of the thirteen chapters is assigned a day of the week, playing into the title and line of Larkin’s poem ‘Days’ and tracking his recovery after a massive heart attack. When a semblance of rational thought returns it ignites ideas of the spiritual.

What, he muses, have his days been for? What and who has he loved – and why?

On the third day, Wednesday (Chapter 3), he rises again, and whether this is fact or fiction it is such a delicious nod to the Bible for a writer like Dessaix. He is thinking of things spiritual, after all, as he regains consciousness, at the same time grooming us for one of his customary forays into a foreign land,

..in my case there is usually a kind of Shinto side of travel. Although I know nothing about Shinto.’

Of course, he knows a lot about Shinto when he goes on to talk about his ‘torii’ as his front door where his ‘sando’ begins, but undercuts this knowledge in self-parody.

‘(goodness me, I nearly said ‘spiritual’)…restoration.’

Dessaix mentions that some people find him ‘pompous’ and suffering from ‘rigorous snobbishness.’ This might be evident in lines like…

‘…India is awash with comfortably-off Westerners decked out in crumpled dhotis and shalwar kameezes like down-and-out Bollywood extras, ecstatically pretending to be what they patently are not.’

Observations like this, and there are many, could just as easily be seen as funny, even hilarious and true. They certainly represent one side of Dessaix’s writing prowess. He seems to take great delight in creating these tableaux in which he pokes fun at Asian spirituality, bureaucratic torpor and veiled criminality (the light-fingered magician). Later, you can feel him squirming when he receives ‘a poem about a goddess’ from his friend, Prakash, then renders the situation humorous in the act of it being ‘emailed.’ This juxtaposition of the exotic against the pedestrian makes for entertaining reading and while he is often blunt he is never cruel, recognising folly as necessarily or inherently human, perhaps.

Occasionally, we are yanked from Dessaix’s meanderings and dumped back, unceremoniously, to his hospital ward where the inmates smell ‘strongly of takeaway’ and are glued nightly to Channel 7 punctuating the air with,

                           Nurse! Nurse! Nurse! Nurse! Nurse!

At quieter times the language is pared back as he considers the big questions.

‘I can feel my old eagerness to learn more and more about love falling away.’

And ….’there must be good ways, and also how to die, what days are for, in other words, when you’re old and death is in the offing.’

These moments are well placed in the narrative and give the text gravitas which balances the more Baroque aspects of his writing.

In an interview with Gail Bell in ‘The Monthly’ in 2012 he says of his own writing,

Anyone who reads a large number of my books gets used to this kind of spiralling shape, and so I just take my time, and I just spiral around. I try to mention the main things I want to talk about in the first chapter, and then I spiral and come around and talk about them from a different angle again later. That’s what I’m doing.

There is more than spiralling around going on in this memoir. A linear narrative is played out at two levels below the circuitous.There is a chronological path as we witness Dessaix’s recovery in days and chapters and, alondside the anticipation of opening night of his first play, and which he will undoubtedly miss. The presence of the play adds another stratum to his story where it’s hard not to think of Shakespeare’s ‘Tomorrow’ speech and man who struts and frets. Through clever segues between one vignette and another Dessaix shifts cannily from death to life.

Along the way we are in the august company of Jane Austen, Francis Bacon, Dario Fo, Alan Bennett, Samuel Johnson, Hilary Mantel, Voltaire and Turgenev, often in quotes or scenes from their works which convey a point and add yet another layer to his embroidered text.

Taking his title from a Larkin poem, which means he was actually reading a Larkin poem, I was curious to read in this memoir that he states he does not like poetry, so little moves him. Given his breadth of reading this is hard to believe. He certainly writes poetry because every word, every phrase has been carefully crafted to maximum effect and frequently an elegant symmetry.

from glowing nub to glowing nub, joining what’s Western about me to what is Eastern…’

Over the course of thirteen days/chapters  we travel with Dessaix outwardly to India then back in time back to his childhood, always the return to his enduring relationship with Peter. In this way the memoir functions as a tribute to the longevity of this union while pondering spirituality, love, infatuation, intimacy and what matters in the end.

What matters to Dessaix in the face of death comes back to simple things expressed in prose which can teeter on the sentimental, but juxtaposed against the down-to-earth is reined in, giving the reader time to pause for breath.

‘I smell rain. I smell wet wool. I open my eyes, It’s Peter. He’s back. My continuance. My wholeness. His happiness at being here again fills the room. ….
‘You flew again,’ I say

‘And what about the dog?’”

This is the kind of memoir that speaks to me; exotic yet familiar, colourful, philosophical and ultimately life-affirming.