Port Campbell near the Cave that Echoes



The cove is a crumble at the far end
Fragile I say      You say I’m wrong
It’s always been this way     Everything nibbling
to the core    or is it just some shifting
to another space    I think of that clearing
on the clifftop     The ocean disappearing
eastward       Current forever chasing,
rejoining itself

We found a half drunk Lindeman’s Merlot,
a plastic water bottle cut in half for a glass
mini bell jar holding secrets, a memory
Forgotten hair clasp like ribs of a small
marsupial come undone  Skeleton home
for a Valentine beetle, if there is such a thing

I think of your ship in a bottle on the Ercol
sideboard    The diorama of the Somerset fox
with the funny eye,  dusty partridge in its jaw
I love souvenirs     Not the Kiss me Quicks
(the sort that pull the world apart)     but a rock,
a shell, driftwood in the shape of a seal
They fix things like nothing else I can think of


Published in Orbis, UK. ‘When I Saw Jimi’ Indigo Dreams, 2013

The Big Squat-World Toilet Day


When I knew it was World Toilet Day I couldn’t resist posting this piece. I wrote it a while ago and, of course, try to include every word for a toilet that I could think of and because I’m English have always enjoyed a good bum, poo or fart joke, except this is a serious matter.


Hi-tech, low-tech, disabled, men’s, women’s, multi-gender, eco-friendly, manual, auto, septic, pit, drop, half-flush, dual-flush, cubicle, urinal…

Australia is a world power when it comes to the disposal of shit. We’re so comfortable around the subject that we make films about it. Just ask Kenny. At the same time 2.6 billion people around the world do not have access to a decent bog. We joke about stuff giving us the shits without pausing for a second to consider the billions whose lives in developing countries are cut short because they really do have the shits.


Diarrhoea alone claims two million lives every year from diseases like cholera and dysentery. More people die from lack of a clean toot than from war and most of these victims are children. For many, their education is affected. It’s not hard to imagine why pubescent girls stay home from school, (if they’re lucky to go to school in the first place), when they’re having their period.

The privileged in developing countries make sure they park their posteriors on proper toilets so why are they so constipated when it comes to installing decent sanitation for their people?

It costs money, organization and compassion and would leave less for Mercedes, mansions and stockpiles of loot. And people living in countries with fancy flushing toilets also demand other things like education, public health and free speech.

Excrement is not trendy or sexy. It’s embarrassing and smelly and entrepreneurs may not see the financial returns they would expect that would encourage them to invest in such technology or infrastructure. At the same time, many people living in what we would consider squalor, don’t always see the value in working sanitation. I was surprised to learn that while millions in the developing world have mobile phones, they often have little interest in having a toilet.

Jack Sim, the Singaporean (where there are among  the best self-flushers in the world) who established the World Toilet Organization, has said that it’s not easy persuading people in developing countries of the benefits of good sanitation.

He says if you build a room for a toilet, it will often be converted into a store room or some other space. He knows that selling the idea of good clean sanitation often has to appeal to emotions such as fashion or status before you go into features and benefits.

He thinks that toilets should be trendy in style and colour and promote interest in this way. He gives the example of how a company like IKEA would be well placed to design and distribute mass volume of smart, stylish designs.

We are preoccupied with food security and providing clean water, noble and necessary, but we need to consider both ends (of the argument) because in the meantime we are losing valuable effluent which could be going towards something useful like saving lives and powering machinery with methane and doubtless a lot of other ingenious technologies.

There has always been money in muck as the saying used to go. World Toilet Day sees rich countries encouraged to appreciate the dollar potential in the sheer volume of demand for sanitation in developing countries. It’s a hard sell because while everyone loves to be able to say they’ve installed running water and a tap, nobody wants to boast of installing a pan and a ballcock.



A Potted Histoire of the Pissoir starting in Oz 

Empires have risen and collapsed under the weight of gross human product. It’s a long and winding sewage system that has got countries to where they are today. And we shouldn’t sit on our laurels if we have the latest dual flush integrated system because world powers, like the efficiency of their WCs, come and go.


A milestone in the history of Frankston occurred in April 1991, when the last three pan-closet toilets or ‘thunderboxes,’ were removed. Typhoid, dysentery and cholera had been eradicated.  Melbourne used to be called ‘Marvellous Smellbourne’ in the 1800s because of its open drains and lack of reticulated sewage. Not any more. Most of our toilets are clean, easy to use and okay. The weirdest addition which I hope doesn’t take on is the Tardis usually found on the outskirts of small country towns or out of the way places. Large metal boxes that lock you in, watch you do the business, flush automatically, self clean and do everything except wipe your arse. These are terrifying.



It’s hard to believe that a fully reticulated sewer with stone drains was found in Knossus on the island of Crete dating back 4000 years when you look at the curious and woeful plumbing arrangements in Greece today. Perhaps it was an earthquake that blew everyone’s brains out and in the aftermath they remembered how to make moussaka but forgot how to make a lavatory. The sanitation hasn’t changed for 2000 years.

Pythagoras shouted ‘Eureka,’ not when he discovered the formula, but when he found the plastic waste bucket to put his toilet paper in. Anyone on a Contiki tour of Corfu will have exactly the same experience, unless they’d thrown up in it first. I suppose you could think of these waste baskets as not so much dual flush as dual purpose, so not all bad. Alexander the Great would not have put up with a waste basket because he lived in a time when Greece enjoyed hot and cold running water, like the Romans, and not just in the toilet.

United Kingdom

Susan ring

The British Empire did not rise on the seat of a toilet. The Romans, bless them, gave us wonderful language but completely wasted their time laying down sophisticated plumbing systems in Britain two thousand years ago. The effluence of the Dark Ages which poured forth when they left saw Britons sink back into a sewer of its own making.

The plumbing in Britain still defies description, so does the toilet paper which is thin and ineffectual, like its House of Lords. The Brits have the hang of toilets but baulk at running water especially when it’s hot. Most would still prefer a shallow dip in a bath than stand naked under a shower. In any case you need a degree to operate the showers. Sadly, the Romans have since disappeared off the radar except to design a frock or a pair of shoes or make a lot of noise around soccer fields. Everyone knows Georgio Armani but only a handful remembers Mark Anthony.



Catherine the Great died on a toilet, true, and I bet it was travelling at 100kph on the Trans Siberian Railway from Moscow to Paris. They say she died of a stroke. Crap. The shock of relieving herself on that train would have been enough to kill her and the Russian Empire all in one go.

My husband as far back as the Seventies reports his experiences on this iconic train. He recalls opening the flap, parking his bare arse on its wooden rim and getting his meat and veg snap frozen in an Arctic whoosh from below. If any of you have difficulty imagining this scene, remember James Bond in Casino Royale.


Thanks to Jack Sim public toilets in Changi Airport in all their hi-tech splendour are a delight. (How do they know when you’ve finished and to activate the flush? Is there a peephole?) Whatever it is, it’s a wonderful experience.


Vietnam has the best of toots and the worst of toots. It’s on the cusp of Uranus, not knowing which way to turn. At the back of a restaurant you might find a flat tiled room to squat and pee on, communally, then flap dry in the absence of paper, and a cubicle for number twos. I didn’t venture into those.

There are signs on train toilet doors When train parks in station do not have bowel movement. Only the faint hearted could piss in those stink holes with the starting blocks, thank you France. Not.

However, up north, past Sapa among the indigenous people, the village toilets of the Hmong were the cleanest and most ingenious of all, built of bamboo erected over creeks taking everything down to the shit field that fertilizes the rice. I heard of some soldiers during the war finding themselves up to the neck in these at times. These village drop dunnies were clean, environmentally sympathetic and useful.


download (2)

Japan has disappeared up its own arse and gone bankrupt by spending too much on its toilets.

  • water jets that wash your arse
  • arse blow dryers
  • artificial flush sounds to mask bodily functions,

–           urine and stool analysis for medical monitoring,
–           blood pressure, temperature and blood sugar level testing
–           digital clock to measure time spent in the toilet
–           auto lift operation, heated seats
–           deodorizing fans
–           automated paper toilet seat cover replacements at the push of a button.

The trouble with all this paraphernalia is that nobody would ever want to leave the toilet to go to work. Maybe this is how great powers did it. Take over a foreign land, hi-tech it so it gets so happy that it never complains. It never wants to do anything except take a dump.

United States

It’s almost impossible to find a public toilet in New York and when you do you have to have a key to get into it. They are shabby as all get out like the city, running down but not to worry, there’s enough methane coming from the Whitehouse to power the Developing World. The rest of the world, if it wants to become the next empire is going to have to catch the US with its pants down, pull their fingers out and stop pissing in the wind which brings us to…

 download (3)


The Chinese are going up market with fancy Japanese, US and European influenced cutting-edge toilets oozing high-efficiency flushing systems, heated seats and built-in bidets. Nearly nineteen million toilets are sold in China annually, about double the number sold in the U.S. all companies fighting for their share in this exploding market. Here is an empire the second time around, this time with a rush of plumbed water, hot and cold.

Napoleon was at his greatest outside France. He wasn’t exiled to Elba-he was avoiding the pissoir in the Bois de Bologne which is the filthiest toilet I’ve ever not squatted in, splattered as it was by every excretion made possible by the human excretory system. The Ottoman Empire rose to greatness on the rim of the Roman john but again, the same old story; Romans out, crap in.

We eat, we shit, but above all, we forget. The rise and fall of civilizations is like watching someone with Alzheimer’s-lights on, lights off, while

tracts of knowledge are flushed down the massive, neverending pan of time.

download (4)



The Bit in Between by Claire Varley


I can see why Macmillan plucked this novel from the slush pile.

In a time of terror what joy to find a debut novel that deals with some tragic backstories but manages to be both irreverent and philosophical at the same time. Varley has used her Greek/Cypriot background and time as traveller and community worker in China, Cyprus and the Solomon Islands to create pacy fiction in the form of a Bildungsroman or a coming-of-age story as far as Oliver, the male protagonist is concerned.

The action, mainly based in Honiara, is where Oliver chooses to set his second novel in the company of new love interest, Alison, an adventurous girl he meets at the airport. Varley pokes fun at the literary world here since Oliver has had a book published and has won a literary prize but it soon becomes clear that his writing is dire and he has no original ideas.

Expats in Honiara come under scrutiny too in their desperation to build wealth, reputations or to find themselves in the spiritual sense while the Solomon Islands struggles to build a nation. Varley has an eye for the serious and the ridiculous in this post-colonial carnival. This is entertaining and sensitive writing.

Written in the third person, the action springs from the curious and lively Alison. In spite of her insecurities and her twenty-something questioning of life and its meaning she observes folly and flaws in the parade of opportunists and do-gooders seasoning places like the Pacific Islands. These characters could have fallen into the  stereotypical-drunks, egomaniacs and bleeding hearts but are saved by authentic dialogue and surprising revelations that bring balance to individuals like NGO Rick, the dope-head American who lives in a Vogue house with a servant and who is given some of the funniest lines.

Caricatures like this really exist and Varley knows how to extract comedy and pathos from her experiences. She cleverly juxtaposes a funny episode in a bar or club with the more serious story of Sera and her pregnancy. We are taken into indigenous family life and the struggle of the local women in particular, their morals and mores cleverly set against Oliver’s struggle with his over-protective Cypriot mother back in Melbourne and her hilarious emails which made me think of Sue Townsend and ‘The Diary of Adrian Mole’.



I enjoyed this book’s meta nuances and literary devices, not only where Oliver writes a story within a story, but where vignettes of individuals are embedded in italics. This technique highlights their significance but also Varley’s dexterity as a writer. These backstories are lyrical, poignant but not sentimental.

Varley might have become didactic in narrative dealing with social injustice in a Developing country but instead, we learn a lot about life on this Pacific island through skilful weaving of well-drawn situations involving believable characters. A surfeit of adjectives was distracting now and again in phrases like ‘beautiful brown eyes’ and where a description of a sunset and sky seems overwritten but this is a minuscule irk in what I found an engaging and intelligent read.

I found the story compelling on many levels, many personally resonant, and whilst it will probably not be considered literary fiction because of its humour and accessibility, it has a literary bent bordering on the style of Simsion and Hornby.

‘The Bit in Between’ could have wide appeal because of its global reach, political themes and humour, but specific appeal to young adult and baby boomer travellers. I read it in two sittings and look forward to the sequel because the ending opens it right up and I want to see where Oliver and Alison go from here. A confident and assured debut.


Robyn Rowland


Robyn lives on the Great Ocean Road in the same little seaside town as me for part of the year and can sometimes be glimpsed heading for the shops or the beach in crimson boots or purple sandals with her hair flying loose. The rest of the time she is in Ireland and often Turkey, and has two brand new publications to show for her time and love of these places, their peoples and histories.

Between 2010 and 2013, when I was new to the area, Robyn curated a memorable series in Geelong called Poets in Conversation where we  were treated to readings by some of Australia’s and Ireland’s best loved poets. Robyn transformed an otherwise dreary institutional space into a living room with lamps, flowers and beautiful words. This warmth and intimacy infuses her personality and poetry so it’s not surprising to see the word ‘intimate’ in the title of one of her new books, with some irony and melancholy, perhaps. Robyn is the sort of person who could inspire the likes of Harry to read a verse or two. I think she tried.

On Thursday September 3rd Doire Press and Robyn Rowland are delighted that Catherine Bateson will launch Robyn’s Line of Drift at Collected Works Bookshop. Thanks to Kris and Retta. Please come at 6 for 6.30, sip a glass and join us upstairs at 1/37 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone:(03) 9654 8873


Second skin

Sticky veil, this grief,
second skin impervious to touch.
Plum jam – his favourite – rests thickly in the spoon
she holds, has been holding now for two hours.
It slips along her hands, her veins, dripping.
Only the wretched know this stillness –
and the dead.      She must clear up.

They cannot give her white marble and red poppies
to grow him back. She wants to go there,
look up at the impossible height and shiver,
dig like an animal among the rough cliffs
with her bitten nails, her bared teeth,
among the bones on the sandy beach in the shallows,
find him and stick him back together.

The sea was scarlet but it will be Aegean-blue now.
Her son cannot be remade like that, washed fresh –
some god decree a whirl, a vortex in tidal time,
find the pieces and meld him back along the spine.
He wrote – ‘it is bloody, mother,
and won’t be over by Christmas. I can’t tell you more,
it lacks faith’ ­– but hid the real letters in a sardine can

they sent back not knowing. When she opened it
fishy fear leached out of the blue pencilled lines
and no-one to hold him in the night as she did for
his night terrors as a child and smooth his hair back.
‘We couldn’t find enough of Charlie to bury him.’
The thought of his fear pierced her, cut her throat,
took her voice and she doesn’t want it back.

She sits still, cold, empty-veined – wonders –
at ten million dead will peace last?
One day will we trade with them again, marry their sons
that are left, and will it somehow have been right?
They have signed all the papers, the ‘war to end all wars’
is over, they say. The ordeal done.
She sits, still, dripping.      She must just clear up.

Hyacinth Loving

and what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on this earth.
– Raymond Carver

God or flesh, Persian poets wooed their ‘beloved’ as if
there were no greater gift than to be both namer and the named.
Absent, your brown furred body lives in my skin’s memory,
laughter recalled is my uisce beatha, water of life,
your care, the charge of a sun.
Every morning, alone here but for the thought of you, excitement
tingles in fingertips that tuck in the stray flips of earth
tipped from indigo pots at my door, as hyacinths,
rising from their dark birth-shrouds, go ruffling for light.
Brown onion caps almost discarded, balance in comedic joy,
a small wonder as they protrude into the ice-blue chill above ground.
Heads loaded with bubbles of scented flower,
they make the sky ache for their pink and blue sweetness.
In the cleft of their companions’ leaves thrust toward sunshine,
clear rainwater is caught, meniscus bulging as if curved crystal.
First night back, a pregnant crescent moon slung low,
carried before her the shadow-shape of herself to come.
Connemara’s sky was star-crowded and cold –
deep airborne cold – and pure beyond diamond.
Spring is an act of trust – the sky will warm, buds rise and open,
and the great moon sail into her own fullness as a matter of time.
Waiting is the necessity for growth.
All this readies for you, beloved, and when you come
your soft kiss will give me again the first spring-time of opening.

Brief Sport

You see her from the highway
where the tall eucalypt stands greyly at the edge of bush,
dumb with its necklace of flowers,
drooping as if it, too, is weary of the weight.
She leans as if to kneel,
caught into the slump of her mute grief,
careless in the tangle of her clothes
at the end of the long thread of skid.
Its burn of rubber, odourless now,
scars an uncomprehending earth
right to the tree’s roots,
black scores against the young,
their sport cut short.

Across this broad land, strings of floral crosses
tacked on trees, guard rails, signposts,
sprout names in a tortured kind of style,
road maps tagged out by a new form of headstone.
Dot-to-dot drawing pages from the book of youth,
they link them in migration points under their flight
towards that un-aged land where years evaporate in a blaze.
She laces the trunk with fresh flowers,
blooms left yesterday wilting in the sear of summer heat.
Winter will never arrive with its resting dark,
her son already days behind in history, just
a photo on the mantle, heat-welded to his eighteenth year.

Notes on Robyn’s new titles  (2015) and Testimonials


This Intimate War Gallipoli/Çanakkale 1915 – İçli Dışlı Bir Savaş: Gelibolu/Çanakkale 1915 is published by Five Islands Press in Australia and by Bilge Kultur Sanat in Turkey. Sponsored by the Municipality of Çanakkale.This is bi-lingual in English and Turkish (translations by Mehmet Ali Celikel), about the experiences of Australians, allies and Turks – soldiers, munitions workers, nurses, families, composers, painters and poets – during the battle for Gallipoli, and its pre-cursor the Battle of  Çanakkale.

Lisa Gorton writes in her cover comments: ‘These poems draw on works of history and private testimonial. They are what this age needs: poems about war which do not glorify war; poems which, for all their considerable rhetorical power, nowhere distance themselves from pain,brutality and callous error. These poems are immediate and unwavering; they are also deeply thoughtful. In them, Robyn Rowland considers war from what were enemy positions; also, from the perspective of mothers and factory workers. Very few collections bring home so powerfully the vulnerability of individuals in the face of history. This collection certainly takes its place among Robyn Rowland’s best work. It is a courageous achievement.’

Professor Himmet Umunç writes: ‘ … she has looked at the Gallipoli experience not only through the eyes of the Anzacs but also through the eyes of the Turkish soldiers. With an epic perspective and overwhelming emotionality, she has created a lasting and moving saga of the Anzac and Turkish warriors in conflict as well as intimate comradeship. Critical of imperialist politicians and ill-planned logistics, Dr Rowland draws in her poetry extensively both upon her own impeccable observations of the battle areas but also upon the Anzac diaries and letters as well as Turkish narratives concerning Gallipoli. Her powerful style and also her descriptive and perceptive sensitivity create in the mind of the reader a vivid and enduring picture of the agonies, sufferings, and heroic fighting that characterize the human tragedy of Gallipoli.’

Line of Drift

Line of Drift, Doire Press, Ireland with the assistance of a grant
from the Irish Arts Council. Poems include tribute poems for Robert Adamson, Theo Dorgan and Jacob Rosenberg, an Epic about the Island of Inisboffin that could be a history of Ireland itself. Poems swing between Australia and Ireland, and reflect that tug.

John Foulcher writes: ‘Line of Drift’ is a high water mark in Robyn Rowland’s writing and for poetry in general. Her dual identity lends Line of Drift a unique perspective in modern poetry; she combines the best of Irish and Australian sensibilities. The lush passion of this book’s language is balanced by a wry, at times almost laconic view of the world. Every experience, from the grand to the mundane, from the personal to the political, is taut with vividness and energy. These poems are generous and genuinely moving, whether they depict the people or the places that she travels restlessly among and between.’
Iggy McGovern writes: ‘Line of Drift celebrates the ‘here and there’ of a half-globe bilocation, as ‘kestrels, wrens, robins’ line out against ‘rainbow lorikeets, crimson rosellas, honeyeaters’. Rowland is more than equal to the challenges of our own landscape and place history, as evidenced in the long poem ‘Unbroken Stone in a Stubborn Sea’; here Rowland is a latter day Synge who listens, not through the floorboard cracks, but across the hearth.’

Short Bio

ROBYN ROWLAND is an Irish-Australian dual-citizen, annually visiting Ireland for thirty-three years, now living half-time in Connemara. She regularly visits and works in Turkey. She has written twelve books, nine of poetry. Robyn’s poetry appears in national and international journals and in over thirty-six anthologies, including six Best Australian Poems: 2014, 2013, 2010, 2009, 2005 and 2004 (Black Inc.), with editors Les Murray, Robert Adamson, Lisa
Gorton and Geoff Page; and Being Human, ed. Neil Astley, (Bloodaxe Books, UK, 2011). Her work has been awarded a number of prizes and she has published and read in Australia, Ireland, Japan, Bosnia, Serbia, Austria, Turkey, Canada, India, New Zealand, Portugal, the UK, the USA, Greece and Italy. Robyn’s poetry has been featured on Australian and Irish national radio programs. Robyn has two CDs, Off the Tongue and Silver Leaving — Poems & Harp with Lynn Saoirse. Dr Robyn Rowland AO was an Honorary Fellow, School of Culture and Communication 2008-2012, University of Melbourne; was a member of the National Advisory Council for Australia Poetry Ltd 2010-2013; curated and presented the Poetry & Conversation Series for the Geelong Library Corporation, 2010-2013; and was inaugural Deputy Chair of the Board of the Australian Poetry Centre 2007-2009. Previously Professor of Social Inquiry and Women’s Studies at Deakin University, she retired in 1996 and was created an Officer in the Order of Australia for her contribution to higher education and women’s health.


Books: http://www.doirepress.com/writers/k-z/robyn_rowland/ Postage free http://fiveislandspress.com/catalogue/this-intimate-war

Interview: http://www.advertiser.ie/galway/article/78071/when-i-was-growing-up-youd-have-thought-the-australians-had-won-at-gallipoli
Launch speech: Lisa Gorton: The Vulnerability of Individuals in the Face of History


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…


Photo by Martin Christmas

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.



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

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


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
we’ve thrown away the plans.
each buttressed edifice with aircon, heating,
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)

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

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

ISBN: 978-0-7340-5026-7

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

Jane Clarke


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.


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

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.





May-June Wandering with dingoes in the outback