I first read Damen’s poetry a couple of years ago and was moved by the fine detail, the intelligence of his work and his political and moral stance. Each poem is crafted with such 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 to publish a full collection very soon because Damen is making a quiet but significant contribution to Australian poetry.
Image from Mascara Review
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
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.
Hear his interview with Michael Cathcart and where he got his idea for the winning poem. You might be surprised.