Category Archives: Poetry

41 North 50 West

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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

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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

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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

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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

Stuart Barnes

Stu

I can’t remember where I first saw Stuart’s poems but I do recall telling him how much one of his poems in particular had a profound effect on me for its muscularity and melancholy. It was a tapestry of colour and energy with a lush complexity that I found both exciting and moving. This was back in 2012 when I was about to publish my first collection and I sensed a kindred spirit emerging in the poetry scene with a keen appetite for getting his work known. Stuart’s poems appear in our best journals and it was only a matter of time before we would see his first collection. I’m thrilled that Stuart bagged the Thomas Shapcott Prize in 2015 and is about to launch this eagerly anticipated collection.

Launch details

Glasshouses will be launched by Matt Hetherington at Queensland Poetry Festival on Saturday 27th August, 2.30-3.15pm in the Judith Wright Centre’s Shopfront, 420 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley. This is a free event. Book signing afterwards.

Barnes will also be appearing at Queensland Poetry Festival event The Big Read on Friday 26th August, 3.30-4.30pm in the Judith Wright Centre’s Performance Space. This is a free event.

Full Queensland Poetry Festival 2016 program here: http://www.lostlanguagefound.com/

 

Glasshouses front cover

Sample poems from ‘Glasshouses’


Mr Gingerlocks

The neoplasm, sleek, jet-black: Why tend
this sack of blood and bone pronounced too old
by Muscle Marys, periwigged? Pretend—
at 37, I’m out in the cold,

a subtle cub playing with the railings
of a broken rocker. The ascetics
may be on the money, flayers ailing
alone.
           Who fancies the antiseptic

touch of a whopping bore? I crave what lies
among Bornean trees (poachers unclean)—
a barbarian who snarls into skies,
not Fitness First’s merciless eyes. O Mean

Girls, I crave not Tina, nor fey. Instead,
a Sun Bear to paw sweetness in my bed.

First published at Seizure

 

colour wheel
i.m. Mervyn Barnes

the American-
barn-red off-centre
timber
shed

trumpeting
through blood &
bone the glasshouse’s
yellow stars

the front yard’s statue-
sque rooster
screaming blue
murder till blue

in the face
Bay of Fires’
orange lichen,
zinc-creamed lips

a pine plantation’s
green rose-
llas      that Tasmanian
tiger snake’s

purple
jaw
slurping at the
truck’s driver window

quick wound
the moon
poring
whitely over the almanac

First published at foam:e

 

Black Cockatoos
after David Brooks

Red-
tailed Bedouins
of Poetry, black
cockatoos embroider
the sun into us,
seam-rip it asunder.

*

On the Fitzroy’s
bank at midday,
cracking seeds of eucalypts
that outrank Council, a hundred
Banksian black cockatoos,
a paroxysm of commas.

*

With their subtler
complex-
ions, the females infinitely
more beautiful
than the ludic-
rously coloured gatherers.

*

The gospel according to the locals:
‘Four black cockatoos
kreeing seawards
means four days of rain’
(burkesbackyard.com.au confirms it).
I am not a God-fearing man.

*

Should black cockatoos
know
that theirs are the colours of life?
Indefatigable black
and needlepointed into this
starry orange and yellow.

*

Imprisoned
black cockatoos
long-lived as man
neglectful beneath the same
white sun, its ROYGBIV illusion
destroyed by the tiniest prism.

First published at Australian Book Review

black cockatoos

…and what they are saying about ‘Glasshouses’

From Sjón, award-winning Icelandic novelist, poet, playwright, and lyricist (Sjón has collaborated a number of times with Björk, one of my favourite artists).
‘Man moves in a world made of things, beings and events.
And things, beings and events move in the mind of man.
Living in this half-transparent state triggers poetic reactions,
strong and beautiful poems like the ones you’ll find in Stuart Barnes’ Glasshouses.’

From Jessica L Wilkinson, award-winning Australian poet and editor:
‘Glasshouses is the brilliant nest for Stuart Barnes’ meticulous bowerbird poetics; as readers we become the curious mate, charmed by his architectural wisdom. A vision trained on a vast expanse of literary and cultural phenomena permits the crafting of intelligent centos, transformations and interventions in modern living. These are political, compelling poems, assembled with heart; they will never harden to stone.’

And from the Judges of the 2015 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize:‘A beautiful and sophisticated collection of poems. Drawing on a number of complex techniques … the manuscript presents a deeply poetic sensibility at work.’

Bio

Stuart Barnes was born in Hobart, Tasmania in 1977. Australian poet and librettist Gwen Harwood befriended him in the late-1980s, at All Saints Church, South Hobart; there, she’d slip slim volumes of verse into his trouser pockets and insist he read and write poetry. In 1996 he moved to Melbourne, Victoria, where he completed a Bachelor of Arts (Literature) at Monash University. Since 2013 he has lived in Central Queensland and been poetry editor for Tincture Journal. In 2014 he was runner-up for the Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize and co-judged (with Penelope Layland) the ACT Writing and Publishing Awards: Poetry Book Category. In 2015 Barnes won the Thomas Shapcott Prize, resulting in the publication of his first book, Glasshouses (UQP, August 2016), and performed his work at Queensland Poetry Festival and Brisbane Writers Festival at the invitation of their directors.

 

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Publications & Awards

His poems have won, been highly commended and shortlisted for CQ University’s Bauhinia Literary Awards and the Newcastle Poetry Prize, and have appeared or are forthcoming in the following anthologies, journals, magazines and newspapers: Assaracus: A Journal of Gay Poetry (USA), Australian Book Review (States of Poetry Anthology, ed. Felicity Plunkett), Australian Poetry Anthology 2015 (eds Sarah Holland-Batt and Brook Emery), Blackmail Press (NZ), The Canberra TimesCordite Poetry ReviewfourWGoing Down SwingingHIV Here & Now ProjectIsland MagazineMascara Literary ReviewMeanjinotolithsOverlandPlumwood MountainPoetry Ireland Review (Ireland), Rabbit Poetry Journal, Seizure, Snorkel,  Social AlternativesSoutherlyTEXTThe Fractured Self: Poetry of Chronic Illness and Pain (ed. Heather Taylor Johnson), The Lifted BrowThe Warwick Review (UK),  The Weekend AustralianTransnational LiteratureWesterly and Writ Poetry Review. His website is https://stuartabarnes.wordpress.com/; he tweets as @StuartABarnes.

Corpse Paint

Goldau_1841

I love the void
of a Turner
Lagoon of Venice
Eternal nothingness

I love paintings that show the divide
between heaven and earth in a clean unbroken line
Water from the waters

Master of emptiness
he sculpts with light      where all is cosmic
crepuscular

I  love the simplicity
of an egg in a stark space

The way Freud placed something
womb-like, perfect and unexpected
next to flawed skin on a broken couch

Colour in a vacuum makes me
want to know what I come from

Where will I go?
Redness can be wetness and death

When colour behaves
it sucks you into a vortex
a mirroredness, transformation
Rothko style
Hand and eye collide
to make a deep picture plain

There is beauty in death
Hirst knows it
Vincent saw so much poetry

in stars he became one
Even Rembrandt painted
a moody carcass
Sacrifice in a tender cluster
of virgins

How we work the queer chapters
of our lives
Warm-blood Caravaggios
Cold-blood Picassos
that we are

 

First appeared in The Journal, UK, 2015

Image ‘Goldau’ JMW Turner

 

Robbie Coburn



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Robbie must be the youngest published poet in Australia, the southern hemisphere, the world. He is also firmly in the public eye as fiction writer, editor, essayist, playwright and critic. His immersion in the literary world is deep and as writer he is prolific. Robbie’s poetry is visceral and lyrical at the same time and oozes emotional honesty. Raised in country Victoria, his relationship with the land infuses much of his work.

I first became aware of Robbie when I was beginning to be published around five years ago when I discovered his blog of Australian poets. I was impressed by the initiative and maturity in one so young. He already seemed like an old hand. He has two new books on a busy horizon, poetry and fiction. Check out his website here http://www.robbiecoburn.com.au.

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selkirk: one

no clean break of sky, a musty air
transcends the paddocks in sheets of cloud,
lengths of sand all the eye can see.

no spec of blue, but sun beats out
from behind the grey overhang to burn
the skin- hands finger the lead,
threading it through to wrap
around the wrist.

they move on their haunches gently
inside expanding fur: there has been
waiting all day, all processed-
a thumb prods the button of a stopwatch,
the dogs lash out together on

an open track
with the rabbit lured swiftly in
a mechanized circle, rounding the pen-
greyhounds caught and walked back
through the winds, sent back out
into the endless track
of this inexhaustible life.

 

You

day begins slowly. been unsleeping  poisoned by alcohol
morning’s dissolve beneath a grey sky
a fear spanning the length of my room

outside my love walks through dawn
a new order  a changed season emerging in her wake

her flesh pierced  gives shape to a pressure in my lungs
radiating into all atmosphere
a weightlessness  mirrored by her eyes sets in
better to be nothing than to starve without her body

walk out my breath concealed inside her palm
skin meets collision of dreaming nights
where its still early  regret a sound escaping my mouth

dark will come make its nest in the vacant space
recollection only dust  a swift vanishing like vapour in wind

all longing given to glass visions
cannot stay in this place
its savage terrain   its mouthfuls of hostile wind

an eclipse of light flooding our bed  where i dwell
the other flesh     her body i must live in..

 

morning

morning.daybroken light
shoulders the rain at the window.
she has deserted me, forgotten her breath
at the foot of my bed
descending on my sleeping face.
each thought doubles. reignites the electric
spark that forms the wall of glass that is her eyes
as they watch me move. not quite moving other than
the tranquil voyage when  i am still, she is not returning.
i drift into the belly of another silence stirred by memory.
we kiss and she vanishes from the doorway. repeat.
today she grows taller as my chest is splintered by
her mouth of moments:
a scar leaving path we walked,
a mark in my arm

remembering her for all that she was
anchored in an act i have yet to perfect.

 

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Bio

Robbie Coburn was born in June 1994 in Melbourne and grew up in the rural district of Woodstock, Victoria.
He has published a collection, Rain Season (Picaro Press, 2013), as well as several chapbooks and pamphlets. His latest chapbook is Mad Songs (Blank Rune Press, 2015).
A new collection of poetry The Other Flesh and a novel Conversation with Skin, are forthcoming.
He currently resides in Melbourne.  http://www.robbiecoburn.com.au

 

Pippa Little

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The first review of your first book is the one most anticipated, most dreaded. In 2013, after the launch of my debut collection, When I saw Jimi, I wasn’t thinking as far as ‘reviews’ until three months later when editor John Murphy alerted me to a thoughtful critique of Jimi in his online journal (The Lake) and for all the world to see. It was by Pippa who made me realise that the business of publishing and poetry was serious and exposing.

She seemed to like aspects of my work but also drew attention to flaws in the more abstract pieces and quite rightly. Since then I have been more considered in thinking about what it is I am really trying to say and to avoid unnecessary obfuscation. It was a valuable lesson for a new poet. I also appreciated being reviewed by a well-respected and assured poet like Pippa, whose own work appears in places like Poetry Review, TLS, and anthologies like Best British Poetry.

Pippa’s narratives are abundant, compassionate yet restrained and true. She has an eagle eye and soul for the essence of things as in her poem Cobbles, which makes you view a single element of nature through new and penetrating eyes.

Pippa’s latest chapbook, Our Lady of Iguanas, takes you to Mexico. It is to be launched on March 9 at The Lit and Phil Library, Newcastle, UK. http://www.theblacklightenginedriver@hotmail.co.uk

 

iturbide_graciela_130_1995             Graciela Iturbide, Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas, 1979 (130.1995)

 

Against Hate

Sole passenger on an early morning tram
I’m half asleep when the driver brakes,
dashes past me, dives into a copse of trees,
gone for so long I almost get out to walk.
Then he’s back, his face alight.
I saw the wren! Explaining
how he feeds her when he can
and her restless, secretive waiting.
We talk of things we love until the station.
I tell him of the Budapest to Moscow train
brought to a halt in the middle of nowhere,
everyone leaning out expecting calamity
but not the engine driver, an old man,
kneeling to gather armfuls of wild lilies,
wild orchids. He carried them back
as you would a newborn, top-heavy, gangly,
supporting the frail stems in his big, shovel hands.
These are small things, but I pass them on
because today is bloody, inexplicable
and this is my act, to write,
to feel the light against my back.

‘Against Hate’ is in Hands and Wings: Poems for Freedom from Torture, ed. Dorothy Yamamoto, Foreword by Philip Pullman, White Rat Press, 2015 (raising funds for Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture)

 

 

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Brushing The Old Yellow Lab

She is grainy cornfields I remember up beyond our house,
glowing on the hillsides I never reached
through late summer sunsets: long shadows in slow burn,
that longing to be somewhere else
where my life could begin. So much faster
than I expected, here I am, mothering a dog in our middle-age
who slips out of herself, supple as thistledown
every season, almost-white chaff lifting in tufts,
for whom love is this wordless touch, the weight
of my hands. I plough shadows in and smooth them out,
remembering light pollen-sticky on my skin,
waiting for that sensed world to come.
Not how I thought it would be
or enough, yet warm, rough, loose,
more than I needed.

 

Cobbles

I love walking them late rainy nights,
their slippery fish-scale sheen lit from within,
love to listen to their mutter under my bootsoles,
how they unbalance me
yet hold –

they came from reefs,
languorous and murky, settling slow
in a warm mineral broth
studded with trilobites, flurried
by silver tail-to-fin-to-tail
oozing into stone

and now
like shoulders in a crowd or
a house of cards, delicate
weight with counterweight,
each one alone yet borne along in shoals,
they roll me home.

Cobbles was Runner-Up in The Black Country Museum Poetry Comp 20

 

Biography

Pippa Little was born in Tanzania, East Africa, grew up in Scotland and now lives in Northumberland in the North East of England. She was given an Eric Gregory Award and the Norman MacCaig Centenary Poetry Prize, is a Hawthornden Fellow and also a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. She teaches, edits and runs workshops. Her collection Overwintering, from OxfordPoets/Carcanet Press, 2012, was shortlisted for The Seamus Heaney Centre Prize. She is working on another collection. Her latest chapbook, Our Lady of Iguanas, is from Black Light Engine Room Press. She has three sons, the eldest of whom is editor of The Ofi Press in Mexico City, a husband and an elderly yellow lab.

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Links to Pippa’s poems and an interview online

http://thealchemistskitchen.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/new-poet-pippa-little-and-overwintering.html

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-9052-Four-poems-by-Pippa-Little#.VtEiUn195ZI

https://peonymoon.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/pippa-little-writes-about-overwintering/

http://www.jamesnash.co.uk/blog/index_files/72857f0ada3c7d8b72257c86a13a92e2-66.html