Monthly Archives: April 2017

Damen O’Brien-Peter Porter Prizewinner, 2017

I first read Damen’s poetry a couple of years ago and was moved by the fine detail (often science-based), the intelligence of his work and his political and moral stance. Each poem is so beautifully crafted with elegance and flair that I’ve been greedy to seek out his published pieces. There aren’t that many to date. He seems to have won prizes but not appeared in too many journals. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of his work. I hope there’s a publisher out there with an offer.

 

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                                                                                    Image from Mascara Review

Fiddler Crabs

Before the Egyptians had glyphed the inundation
you were already a worshipper of the tide,

building brief altars in the soupy midden mess
of the returning mud, and the retreating sea.
Before the spring-masted marinas
hung on the warm swell like the bloat of a dead bream
you cultivated the root forests and played at empire.

 Even then, sharp sawing beaks and ruffled shadows
could have you shuffling sideways into your tunnels like magicans:
neat sifters and scavengers, daintily testing
the rich silt pickings, before there was recycling.
You are courtly jousters, holding up the glaives of your claws
even as the wash shudders and swirls around you.

Before the Mayans and their millennial calendars could,
before the yabby pumpers and the sand-dredgers will,
you know what is coming, in your soft-shelled fevers:
the surges seeded from the burning Devonian forests,
the punishments promised, and the last inundation climbing over the flood-lands
and tumbling you from the altars and the seedpods of your world.

Highly commended W.B. Yeats Poetry Prize, 2015

 

 

The Flinch

We knew about the flinch, because
time-lapse photography showed
bruised leaves and cut-stems curling,
nearby branches swaying away
in distress, through the same filter
we’ve witnessed rival canopies clashing
and striving in bitter border disputes,
but now we know that in silent outrage
and perhaps also in plea, each plant calls
to its neighbour in chemical messages,
if it is assailed by caterpillars or
by the predations of grazing cattle,
not for its own sake, but to warn
its neighbour to furl flowers or close leaves.
So, anthropomorphic enough to make
vegetarians quail, and meat eaters
smile around the edges of their steak:
empathy Dahl and sympathy salads
and indigestible moral dilemmas.

Published in Blue Pepper, 2015

 

What Poem Would The Mining Companies Tell Lionel Fogarty?

In between howls that could be poems,
Lionel tells us that he is teaching the black kids poetry.
To a bunch of white middle class mainstreamers,
he’s reciting poems in monochrome bullets
about hate, and guilt and history, and we don’t miss the irony.
In between the dressing-down that could be poems,
he asks us what will the mining companies teach
his black kids about themselves? Every other word
is the whip, and the blessing: black. Black, black, black
is the poem Lionel Fogarty tells the mining companies,
and the mining companies who know about holes in the ground
echo it back to him. Black, black, black.

Published in Mascara Review, 2015

 

Bio

Damen is a Queensland poet and joint winner of the Peter Porter Prize, 2017 (with Louis Klee). He has been writing for the last 20 years and works as a Contracts Manager for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle company. His poetry has been published in Cordite, Mascara Review, Island and The Courier Mail, and has won or been highly commended in the Yeats Poetry Prize, the Nillumbik Ekphrasis Poetry Award, Ipswich Poetry Festival, the Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Prize, and the FAW Tasmania Poetry Prize.

 

Read the shortlist here along with Damen’s winningpoem.
https://www.australianbookreview.com.au/abr-online/current-issue/march/3918-2017-porter-prize-shortlist

Hear his interview with Michael Cathcart and where he got his idea for the winning poem. You might be surprised.

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/booksandarts/2017-peter-porter-poetry-prize/8383004

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