Category Archives: Poetry

Kei Miller maps his way to Oz

i. in which the cartographer explains himself

You might say
my job is not
to lose myself exactly
but to imagine
what loss might feel like –
the sudden creeping pace,
the consultation with trees and blue
fences and whatever else
might prove a landmark.
My job is to imagine the widening
of the unfamiliar and also
the widening ache of it;
to anticipate the ironic
question: how did we find
ourselves here? My job is
to untangle the tangled,
to unworry the concerned,
to guide you out from cul-de-sacs
into which you may have wrongly turned.

ii. in which the rastaman disagrees

The rastaman has another reasoning.
He says – now that man’s job is never straight-
forward or easy. Him work is to make thin and crushable
all that is big and as real as ourselves; is to make flat
all that is high and rolling; is to make invisible and wutliss
plenty things that poor people cyaa do without – like board
houses, and the corner shop from which Miss Katie sell
her famous peanut porridge. And then again
the mapmaker’s work is to make visible
all them things that shoulda never exist in the first place
like the conquest of pirates, like borders,
like the viral spread of governments

iii.

The cartographer says
no –
What I do is science. I show
the earth as it is, without bias.
I never fall in love. I never get involved
with the muddy affairs of land.
Too much passion unsteadies the hand.
I aim to show the full
of a place in just a glance.

iv.

The rastaman thinks, draw me a map of what you see
then I will draw a map of what you never see
and guess me whose map will be bigger than whose?
Guess me whose map will tell the larger truth?


Kei Miller

from The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion (Manchester: Carcanet, 2014)

Kei Miller was born in Jamaica in 1978 and has written several books across a range of genres. His 2014 collection, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, won the Forward Prize for Best Collection while his 2017 Novel, Augustown, won the Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the Prix Les Afriques, and the Prix Carbet de la Caraïbe et du Tout-Monde. He is also an award-winning essayist. In 2010, the Institute of Jamaica awarded him the Silver Musgrave medal for his contributions to Literature and in 2018 he was awarded the Anthony Sabga medal for Arts & Letters. Kei has an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University and a PhD in English Literature from the University of Glasgow. He has taught at the Universities of Glasgow, Royal Holloway and Exeter. He is the 2019 Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor to the University of Iowa and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.                        Carcanet, UK

Photo from citynews.com

12 Days of Christmas Ink Sweat and Tears 2018/19

This poem appeared in Helen Ivory’s 12 Days of Christmas (Ink Sweat and Tears) in 2015. A new one is about to appear any day. Follow the range of Christmas poems telling it slant, here:http://www.inksweatandtears.co.uk/ Thanks Helen and Kate.

 

When temporal lobes

ignite like Christmas lights
down High Street

she is upright in a bentwood chair
/resin replica/

Can’t see or hear
Not a sound

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

Never expecting a good thing
to come of it

the crate of her skull
a pulse of epiphanous bliss

She thinks in tongues
of a thousand angels Gabriel

Couldn’t 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/

How to get off the slush pile-ask Robert

Come on down to our vast white brain of a library in Geelong next Tuesday at 6.30pm to meet Robert Lukins. I’m going to be having a chat with him about how this compelling and potent novel managed to get off the slush pile and onto our bedside tables. It’s a free event.

Book here http://www.grlc.vic.gov.au/whats-on/robert-lukins-%E2%80%93-everlasting-sunday

Robert+Lukins+01+COL
‘Described as both highly atmospheric, yet deeply unsettling, ‘The Everlasting Sunday’ is a meticulous account of toxic masculinity within a setting of inverted institutionalisation. At once beautiful and brutal, this is a haunting debut novel by writer, researcher and journalist Robert Lukins about growing up, growing wild, and what it takes to survive.’

images

Links to poems online

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/250060

http://cordite.org.au/tags/julie-maclean/

https://overland.org.au/author/julie-maclean/

http://redroomcompany.org/poet/julie-maclean/

http://www.inksweatandtears.co.uk/pages/?p=4799

http://www.foame.org/Issue10/biographies/bio-maclean.html

http://www.ofipress.com/macleanjulie.htm

https://bodyliterature.com/2013/04/23/julie-maclean/

 

Damen O’Brien

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.

Damen-OBrien-e1442714269442

                                                                              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

Kristy Bowen

authorphoto.jpg

Kristy is not only an accomplished writer and visual artist but also Editor/Designer of her own publishing enterprise,  Dancing Girl Press and Studio which publishes pamphlets of contemporary poetry by women. If you read her interview on the Harriet blog of the Poetry Foundation you will see that she has ‘proclivities for strange and quirky books, …books that have some sort of darkness to them.’ I should admit here that Kristy has recently published my pamphlet, Lips That Did, and she also generously designed the cover which I adore, but I am not the only Australian she has published. I see that Ivy Alvarez and Alyson Miller are also in the mix.

Kristy’s poetry is visceral and jumping, and makes its business the mess between birth and death. Women will get it, like the titles of her books in the bird museum and girl show, books that ‘deal with feminist themes of danger and transgression, the female body…’ There is a retro sensibility and painterly quality to her collages and you can easily feel she’s tracked your life and written every aspect of it.

 

from The Care and Feeding of Mermaids

Don’t worry about the bathtub, the bits of scale and hair
caught in the drain, a little more each day. Only a fool
would weather the storm at the northernmost point. She’ll
still be good in bed. Adept at karaoke and drinking mai
tais from glasses shaped like cats and dragons.  Can
probably name every crustacean by blind touch, her
fingers seeking out each grooved exoskeleton in the dark.
Warning: The vapor of her breath against the mirror will
make you anxious. The way she winces over the sashimi
and cries in the shower. At night, she’ll slip out to meet
men in hotel bars downtown, sneak into the pool after
hours, call you at 3am begging for a ride home. Do not
acquiesce. Especially on nights when the fog settles low
on the water. Especially when the stars above it line up
like a million tiny fish.

download (1)
DUCK & COVER

 At night, the fission loves us, lathers us over,
makes our teeth glow like  low watt lanterns in the dark of our beds.
This town is all carhops and canapés these days, the women
narrow waisted and waspish.  Oh nostalgia, we love it.
Write letters to it in the green light of television sets.
Meanwhile, the  men set fire to the jukebox, the junior college,
the dead pigeons in the gutters of tract homes.
Oh hope, oh love, we’re filled with sugar and seething
into our silk pantyhose. Our bodies as pristine as our
mother’s whites, flapping on clotheslines across the low hills.
In an emergency,  above all else, keep calm.
In an emergency, keep your tongue glued fast to the roof
              of your mouth to avoid screaming.
In an emergency–


PLUTONIUM BABY

When his says father says boo, plutonium baby cries all night.
The milk gone bad, leaking and souring in the folds of his mother’s
nightgown. 3 am and the world glows with him, even now,
before the bombs, before the backyard barbecues and shiny
black sedans. Before the open mouth of his wanting grows
wider and wider and swallows everything not weighted down..
When he’s grown, he’ll take up with women named
Tina, or Charla, or Tiffany. Will tuck his shirts in and talk
about stock commodities.  Everyone loves a plutonium baby,
all new and shiny as the chrome on a brand new bicycle.
As American as apple pie or insider trading.
He’ll twirl the scotch in his glass around and say things like
“Key West is a sauna this time of year..”
Those kind of manners could be lost or poisoned or dead
for all we know. His black shoes, shiny and sure of it.

MISS URANIUM 1954

 It’s months before she can recite the alphabet backwards
again. Birth dates. The chemical equation for hydrogen peroxide.
All caught in the foggy nether than begins somewhere in the cerebellum.
On the patio, all the bodies in bikinis float in a thin soup of chemicals
and it’s all good, all gone,  all going to hell in an alligator handbag, she thinks,
her fingernails  flaking away like piecrust. These limbs loosening into ether.
In the hospital, the sheets were white and precise.
Her mind white and precise.  She clenches her jaw and meditates
on milk cartons, lined up single file on the store shelf.  The perfect slices
of bread dropping into the toaster. Scratches on her thighs and breasts
where the bees went in, and worse, where they demand to come out.  

 First published in Split Lip Magazine

 

BIO

A writer and visual artist, Kristy Bowen is the author of six books of poetry, including the recent (Black Lawrence Press, 2016) and (Sundress Publications, 2015), as well as a number of chapbook, zine, and artists book projects. Her work has appeared most recently in Paper Darts, Handsome and Midway Journal. She lives in Chicago, where she runs dancing girl press & studio and spends much of her time writing, making papery things, and editing a chapbook series devoted to women authors. Her most recent collection, little apocalypse, is forthcoming from Noctuary Press. http://www.kristybowen.net

Links

https://asitoughttobe.com/2017/01/13/kristy-bowen-cynthia-manick-a-conversation/
A conversation with Black Lawrence Press Authors Kristy Bowen and Cynthia Manick

http://cowfeather.org/text-texture-textile-tech-bowen/
Text | Texture | Textile | Tech:  A Book Art & Letterpress Interview Series  w/ Kristy Bowen

http://femmesfollesnebraska.tumblr.com/post/90549885042/kristy-bowen-artistwritereditor
Interview with Kristy bowen @ Les Femmes Folles


www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2012/07/an-interview-with-dancing-girl-press/
Interview with Kristy Bowen Editor of Dancing Girl Press

Girl with Ears and a Tale

 carroll lewis alices 012341
‘It is better to be feared than loved.’—Lewis Carroll,
Alice’s Adventures Under Ground

 

In a Somerset cave she scoops up silence in a jar.
There’s a faint drop of h2o in the distance,
a kerosene lamp lighting her back to lessons where multi-headed
hydra (good preparation for a life subterranean) and paramecia are dodgem cars under the microscope bouncing off each other like she now finds difficult in a crowded street.

Minuscule hairs in her ears indicate presence of the other.
She prefers to keep hers still
but thunderclouds continue to mass from the north full of possibility.
Bikies glass a whispering junkie, Alligator mississipiensis
has a mating call hard to resist and the scorpion
she keeps in a tank on the dining room table tracks her vibration when she’s out for a walk. What attracts her to one above all?
Goon, cannibal, child-killer on Death Row?
A solitary cell attracts her the most.
And now she’s here, her hair grows long.

First published in Rabbit, 2016
Lips that Did, chapbook, 2017
Text and illustration -Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures Under Ground held by The British Library Add MS 46700

41 North 50 West

download

This is the imprecise location
where Titanic was strafed
by an AK-47 in 1912
and slumped
where at 4.15pm on an ocean liner
bound for an empire
I looked out from the balcony
for a sign of Rose and Jack Dawson
and in leapt two dolphins
one for each eye.

/They circled with other motes
gathering like great whites
to witness my reaction to the tragedy/

I double checked the radar for icebergs.
It was spring. They were splintering south
but the sea was empty that day
while my eyes were alive with cheery
mammals nudging me to tears so they could
slip out to try the buffet          European cheeses—
Rocquefort and Brie.

Precisely one century later a Bengal tiger
called Richard Parker            jumped right into my lap
in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi
3D so terrifying my eye dolphins
seemed like they’d come for a play.

Dolphins and whales confounded Aristotle
when they beached themselves in 350 BC
glittering pelts drying to black along the shores
of Greek islands like Kos
like the sunburst skins of fugitive children today.

 

‘Best poem’ of 2016 fourW anthology.  Booranga Writers Centre 

Cool Bird

images

A bar-headed goose
and her ten goslings
nest in a belt of superlatives

Himalayas rifted with granites
and acid volcanoes

She would prefer glacial rivers
away from ramparts

of thin air and a tough life
but old habits

At quiet times
she’s disturbed by novice monks
honking their silly horns

Herons make a racket
trumpeting the secret of long life

and when there is a sky burial
saffron robes climb a revered peak

eyed by snow leopard
hungry as China’s sorrow

When the urge comes
beaks become missiles

gearing south in an arrow
as cold brings new smells
to the mountain

 
First published in Under the Radar, 2016

David McCooey

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I enjoy David’s droll humour and references to pop culture, and it looks like we are going to see that and, according to Duwell, a more lyrical McCooey in Star Struck. The ambiguity and perhaps irony of the title contains notions of fate and a place that relates to music and celebrity and comes after his brush with something sinister in the region of the heart. David is launching his new book on Sunday in Geelong and I’m hoping there will be wine to celebrate his stellar contribution to poetry and  to welcome his return to health, vitality and old and maybe new habits, ‘crazy for music and listening for God’  Cheers!


Launch details
https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/book-launch-star-struck-by-david-mccooey-tickets-28129928373?aff=erelpanelorg

star_struck_cover_grande

 

Sample poems from David’s latest collection.

Habit

In his bedroom, your son looks at pictures
of Ancient Egypt. Dark-haired workers
moving giant blocks of stone in the pale air.
‘What were the workers buried in?’ he asks.
He turns the page to show jackal-headed
Anubis, presider of the weighing of the heart,
laying his hands on a pharaoh’s coffin,
a brightly coloured wooden sleeping bag.
Custom is tool and pathology, you think.

And so is habit. While you set the table
at the appointed hour, laying out the cutlery,
your wife jokes with your son that you are
‘a creature of habit.’ After dinner, there is
the ritual of cleaning away the mess of eating.
The dog is given some half-cooked meat.
Your son has his bath, and returns wrapped
in his Egyptian-cotton towel to suggest that
you write a book called The Monster of Habit.

In the morning, dressed in his gaudy pyjamas,
he builds with his mother a room-sized construction
out of chairs, cushions, and blankets,
filled with unblinking stuffed toys and plastic jewels.
They are playing tomb raiders. You are invited in.
In your sacerdotal dressing gown, you get on
your hands and knees to enter the labyrinth.
You are shown the bewitching everyday things
that have been set aside for the afterlife.

Darkness Speaks

None of it is true: I am
neither malevolent nor

mystical. You have nothing
to fear; I am the one who makes

things bright and
dramatic when they need to be.

Like when I spill myself a
little at sunset. Night after

night you dream of me. One day
you will wake up for good,

and there I will be, at last.
Your new and endless climate.

Don’t look at me; I don’t compose
any kindertotenlieder.

How To Be a Better Elvis

The Parkes Observatory, surrounded by
its wheat and alien sheep, listens to the stars.
The town statue of the Founding Father looks
to be singing or preaching, an over-sized book in hand.
In January, the Elvis Festival herds in
the over-weight men, the Priscilla look-alikes,
the memorabilia’s promise of a Golden Age.

I’m not interested in the Vegas era.
I return each summer like an old-time itinerant,
getting younger every year, reaching back,
until I find that boy in a Tupelo shotgun shack,
crazy for music and listening for God.

 

:  (EUROPE AND AUSTRALASIA OUT)(Photo by Photographer/Newspix/Getty Images)

: (EUROPE AND AUSTRALASIA OUT) (Photo by Photographer/Newspix/Getty Images)

DAVID McCOOEY is a prize-winning poet, critic, and editor. His latest book of poems, Star Struck, was recently published by UWA Publishing. His debut poetry collection, Blister Pack (2005) won the Mary Gilmore Award and was shortlisted for four other major national literary awards.

His second full-length collection, Outside (2011), was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards and was a finalist for the 2012 Melbourne Prize for Literature’s ‘Best Writing Award’.

His work has appeared for ten out of the last eleven years in Black Inc’s annual anthology, The Best Australian Poems. McCooey is the deputy general editor of the prize-winning Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature (2009), published internationally as The Literature of Australia (2009), and he is the author of a critical study on Australian autobiography, Artful Histories, (1996/2009), which won a NSW Premier’s Literary Award.

His poems, essays and reviews have appeared in numerous books, journals, and newspapers. McCooey is also a musician and sound artist. His album of ‘poetry soundtracks’, Outside Broadcast, was released in 2013 as a digital download and is available for streaming on Spotify and elsewhere.

He is a professor of writing and literature at Deakin University in Geelong, where he lives.


Launch details
https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/book-launch-star-struck-by-david-mccooey-tickets-28129928373?aff=erelpanelorg

Review by Martin Duwellhttp://www.hotsdots.com/poetry/2016/10/david-mccooey-star-struck/

Print interviewhttp://isolatednation.com/articles/pv-davidmccooey

Video interviewhttps://sevenwesttravelclub.com.au/stories/poet-and-former-perth-resident-david-mccooey-drops-over-from-geelong-bearing-poetic-gifts-aplenty

Personal webpagedavidmccooey.com