Kristy Bowen

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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.

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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

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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

Girl with Ears and a Tale

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‘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

 

 

 

 

 

Sabotage reviews our new book.

To Have To Follow by Julie Maclean & Terry Quinn

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Reviewed by Charlie Baylis –

To Have To Follow, a pamphlet of twenty four poems, is the result of a collaboration between Julie Maclean and Terry Quinn, two writers who “come from similar worlds; both born in England in the fifties and both travellers and poetry lovers.” Though they wrote To Have To Follow together, Terry and Julie are separated by thousands of miles, as Julie lives in Australia and Terry in Lancashire. The names Terry and Julie remind me of the couple in ‘Paul Weller’s favourite song’, Waterloo Sunset by the Kinks (“Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station every Friday night.”) which is fitting, as Waterloo Sunset (originally written as Liverpool Sunset) belongs to, and is emblematic of, Maclean and Quinn’s baby-boomer generation.

Their jointly penned foreword evokes a certain romance: “winning that prize [the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize] and launching our books together in the Black Country that same year put us on the same page. We continued writing to each other, sharing ideas about poetry, publishing and the weather.”. A poetry pamphlet is without doubt the most divine product of love between two poets (whether that love is platonic or romantic). Though all of the poems in the pamphlet were written as response pieces, in the final two, Maclean and Quinn’s lines of longitude and latitude are inseparable:

From under an old army blanket
we watched the sun rise over Friars Heel
before high wire and solstice porn ruined our Druid fantasy
[from ‘Stonehenge in the Ley of the Dark’ [Maclean]]

a hidden track
Stonehenge by moonlight
the finding of a tump
[from ‘Curious’ [Quinn]]

I really like how uninhibited Maclean is: ‘solstice porn ruined our Druid fantasy’. Writing such absurd, potentially embarrassing details somewhere so sacred is brave; dare I say it, there is not enough solstice porn and Druid fantasy in contemporary poetry. Of the two poets, Maclean strikes me as the more imaginative: there are some outrageously silly moments in ‘Emily Dickinson as an Octopus with a Pre-death Plan’ (title worthy of a prize alone) and ‘Walking with Joan Didion in Central Park’, where:

Armoured in a meteor of bangs
she shifts through ragged spans
of Manhattan schist happy to return
to the Angel of the Waters

It’s always good to see more ink spilled on Joan Didion; most of it seems to be soaked up by male poets of the New York School. In contrast to Maclean’s abrasive, highly entertaining, delirium, Terry Quinn’s poetry is quieter and more reflective. His descriptions are nicely metered and evocative:

textiles bending and
sine waves breaking on
shores of smooth grey bark
[from ‘that New Idea’]

This follows the contours of the British literary canon, from which I would pick out Larkin and Geoffrey Hill as his most pronounced influences. Quinn is a gentle soul:

in the local Odeon
watching Casablanca
at midday on a Monday

and I am alone
[from ‘On not being there’]

In moments like these it is very easy to relate to Quinn, although his poetry is not as fun as Maclean’s: it doesn’t turn me on in the same way, though I am sure fans of more cerebral verse will find much to savour.

It is a beautiful thing that Terry has found Julie and it is a beautiful thing that Julie has found Terry. Furthermore it is great that they are sharing and writing about their experiences. To Have To Follow is a touching and sweetly-penned poetry pamphlet. I will leave the last lines of my review to Ray Davies of The Kinks:

Terry and Julie cross over the river
where they feel safe and sound
and they don’t need no friends
as long as they gaze on Waterloo sunset
they are in paradise

 

Review of my collaboration with Terry.

To Have to Follow: Julie Maclean & Terry Quinn, Indigo Dreams

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Collaborations between poets are interesting and, in the age of the internet, becoming more popular between poets from different countries. In this case, the collaboration comes from two writers who have certain things in common (they were both born in England and share a love of poetry and travel) but now live thousands of miles apart – Julie Maclean from the Surf Coast of Victoria, Australia, and Terry Quinn from Lancashire in England.

Malcean and Quinn were joint winners of the Indigo Dreams inaugural Geoff Stevens Memorial poetry prize, with their collections being published in 2013. After launching their books together they remained in contact, and then decided to start using each other’s poems as triggers. This collaborative pamphlet contains 24 poems, (12 by Maclean and 12 by Quinn), written as response pieces. In each of the pairings Maclean’s poems appear first, which suggests that Quinn is always the responder – but this need not necessarily be the case. The way the poems are set out means that we will never know.

The title sounds like a fragment from a sentence suggestive of “I am going to have to follow that with this” or, in the context of food, the dessert that follows on from the main course. Even when the phrase appears in the very last poem it is still somewhat elusive in terms of its meaning – a man following a woman into a medieval building.

The content is global in its reach: there are references to planets, oceans, seas, continents, countries, geology, glaciers, the Ice Age. The images on the cover are redolent of travel and exploration. Some of the locations are firmly grounded in England: Stonehenge, Bristol, Birmingham; sometimes they are more specific such as a cinema or a dental surgery. Other locations are harder to pin down with any certainty. There are literary references to RM Ballantyne, Thomas Hardy, Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson, Joan Didion and Emily Dickinson.

Stylistically, Maclean and Quinn are poles apart. Maclean is the more elusive whereas Quinn’s poems are grounded in the everyday. Maclean is the more daring. In ‘Garuda’ – the title is a reference to a Hindu demigod who is part man and part bird – she writes:

 

At the end, once I’d arrived, swallow from the south,

I barely recognised my bird father. It was his pecked look.

 

The ribs of his cage beat a hymn rhythm on his heart.

 

It wouldn’t stop, like some wind-up toy you tire of,

like the long-time sick and dying.

 

His djembe throat drummed on while I sat and held his

featherless wing.

 

Maclean’s “Brief Encounter Poet to Poet” is a visual poem that describes half a circle or half a globe, which is almost the distance between them.

Quinn’s poems are spiced with a quiet, erudite wit. They are gems waiting to be discovered. Poems such as ‘The Rules of Detection’ which is split into five parts headed up by the questions Who / What / When / Where / Why? and ‘Statements of Accounts’ are cleverly written with attention paid to detail. The poem ‘Seven Seas’ which is set in a dental surgery is equally well-crafted:

 

This shouldn’t be difficult

North, Irish, Black,

and I’m just relaxing

as the problem of the Atlantic

springs to mind

 

I open my mouth

just a bit wider

should I move my tongue

or leave it like Italy

dipping into the Med

that’s another …

 

Finding the connections between each pair of poems is half the fun of reading them. Sometimes they can be found in the titles; in one instance the words in the last line of the first poem become the title of the next poem. Sometimes it is the time of year, or a theme. Occasionally it is a phrase or even a single word that is repeated across poems, a literary reference, or a particular feature in the landscape that is picked up on. The links are subtle and not too obvious, and this is one of the strengths of this collection.

Neil Leadbeater

 

Julie Maclean and Terry Quinn, To Have to Follow, Indigo Dreams, £6.75

 

 

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