Tag Archives: contemporary Australian poetry

‘Oh Lord make me pure-but not yet’ Let’s celebrate…

…the  release of this new pamphlet from the Picaro Poets series.

Songs of the Godforsaken
by Geelong poet
John Bartlett.

I found myself moved, amused and affected by the poems in this marvellous collection. You will be taken to that fiery night in Mallacoota, to the eye of a heron in a blackened landscape, to a back garden in London where a migrant’s life comes to a tragic end and to the Bourke Street Lotto. You will go to private sensual places.

John’s poems are sinewy and beautiful on the page. They have the sensuousness of the Baroque in form and style. Each poem skilfully crafted, the works artfully curated and confident.

There are confessional poems and poems that question, Will I surrender to the drug of memory, Is that how I will find my way home? and in the title ‘What would I say ‘ to the father for ‘not loving him enough’.

Some lines are arresting, God will always demand the sacrifice of small children. John’s experience with the church in a past life has made a lasting impression on him and infuses his work. It’s given him an evocative mastery of language. It may have given him a dry sense of humour. It’s certainly given him an ability to note injustice, joy, beauty in destruction, ugliness in ignorance, the power of transformation, and a yearning for what is denied— innumerable lovers. And in the last lines of the collection the question of his unfinished life makes for a dramatic finale.

Schubert’s symphony, his seventh,
Unfinished too.

Can its single, final note
surf the years, proclaiming

-‘who do you think you are
to escape unscathed?’

It is with loud clashing cymbals and a bottle of expensive champagne I smash the bow of this book and bless all who get lost in enchantment and awe between her lines!



She’s back again this year
in heels and nuptial plumes,
in pale eye liner
-the white-faced heron
selecting twigs,
thinking of survival
What rush of rapture
-these birds
designed from
templates of dinosaurs
with songs that shiver
in the deep wells of the soul
So, despite
the cracking ice
in Greenland, the rift,
the cleft, the split,
the speld

Despite the smell,
the stench, the stink
of burning forest,
I see you still,
by cross-thatched  leaves,
your changing of the guard
with stilt-stepped stealth,
this private pact
between you,
this brooding hope

Shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Poetry Prize, 2020

A Year of Masks

Spring/Hong Kong
            Anonymous, yet uniform
            in our disguises, we
wear our false faces
crafted in the basements
of our outrage               against
tear gas & elimination

On days the sun refused
rise, we
huddled on the edges
of our nightmares,
lives burning, gasping    in
smoke & suffocation

White-robed, masked Archangels
engrossed in ceremonies of ablution, we
ration out each breath
from hostile air, as if
breathing less might save us
from extinction

Winter / the world
In that other room without pretences,
we mock our other selves
happy to dwell under the dark clouds
that herald every rain
surviving in some eternal

                                The disobedience of the Genitals
                                (“Oh Lord make me pure – but not yet.”)

In 400 AD, or thereabouts, Saint Augustine prayed
for a thirty year delay on his ejaculations, waxed
eloquent (&endlessly) on the “disobedience
of the genitals”, their unexpected ability,
their agility to leap into alacrity at
short notice, fig leaves, he knew
were not a short-term solution,
absolution a necessity,
suppression a
better option, so
henceforth flesh &
spirit, like a firewood
log split in two,
a smashed
egg’s yolk a
broken heart


John Bartlett is the author of three novels, collections of his short stories and published non-fiction. His poetry has been published in a number of Australian and overseas journals.  In June 2019 Melbourne Poets Union published his Chapbook The Arms of Men. Ginninderra Press has just published Songs of the Godforsaken as part of its Picaro Poets’ Chapbook series and will publish his full collection Awake at 3am later in the year. He was recently shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Poetry Prize.


Songs Of The Godforsaken



Andy Jackson

Andy was one of the first people to give me the encouragement to keep writing when he judged one of my poems in a competition in 2010. Since then I’ve tracked his career as a poet and it’s clear that it continues to be a rich and full one. It’s exciting to see that his next collection will be published by Whitmore Press and it is a beautiful book to hold and to read and savour. The poems featured here give you a sneak preview of the works in The Thin Bridge which gives you an insight into how it is to love and live with a rare physical condition that informs a whole being and creative life.

As winner of the Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize, The Thin Bridge will be launched by Dr Kevin Brophy – poet, writer, academic, on Friday 5 September at Collected Works, First Floor, Nicholas Building, 37 Swanston Street, Melbourne. 6 for 6.30pm. Andy’s blog is at http://amongtheregulars.wordpress.com/

Two portraits, no black rectangle

In a basement – Relax, he says, so I
hide the tension somewhere in the stomach.

Move your hands away from your sides, thanks.
This isn’t about aesthetics, but diagnosis.

Can you move your boxers down just a little?
What does it matter what I felt?

Lift your chin up.  That’s it.  Just one more.
There were plenty more, but who’d prefer

the truth to relief?  Years later,
my file arrives with a thump on the mat.

I’d remembered a black rectangle that wasn’t there.
In the photo, my face is visible and a touch out of focus.


Hugo Williams wrote, Given that poems themselves are metaphors,
I find overt metaphors more and more embarrassing in poems,

                        which is interesting because it seems to
he’s also talking about photography,

clocks, chairs, a green lake somewhere, memory
and association, the unstoppable neural flares and leaps –

the white space
of the mind which can never be empty.


This is different, singular
or trying its best to be – lenses facing off

at close range.  Camera-sound,
an automatic sprinkler.  I squint into

a brilliant sun that loves
and ignores us.  One of the garden’s pigeons

tilts her quizzical silver head.
In the beds, the fresh stink of fertiliser.

I remember now the continual labour.
Lines dug into soil.  This face

that looks back at the world that is making it.
The background is a blur.

 First appeared in Land Before Lines (photographic portraits of poets by Nicholas Walton-Healey, 2014)

Fact and resistance

The monthly open mic begins with two bearded men
wheeling Clancy of the Overflow through the room,
the audience mostly chairs.  In the Lancefield Mercury,
I read how Dennis Edwards plans to return to Nui Dat.

In ’69, kept awake by heat and detonations, they build
playground equipment for the local orphanages.  Later,
teachers and nuns are raped and killed by the Viet Cong.
Horse with No Name.  Dirty Old Town.  A song I don’t know.

The guitarists swap mics.  A cough-induced stumbled chord,
their laughter fills the room.  Elderly parents settle
the restless hands of their two disabled adult daughters.
All day, the tables are cleared and wiped clean.

Outside town, small herds of cattle feast on drought grass.
Stones and boulders sit arranged on nearby hillsides
as if miraculous, but what isn’t a collision of fact
and resistance?  Even home, even breath.

First appeared in Unusual Work, (PiO) 2012


Andy Jackson’s collection Among the regulars (papertiger media 2010) was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize and Highly Commended in the Anne Elder Award. His new collection the thin bridge won the 2013 Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize and has just been released. He has performed at literary events and arts festivals in Australia, India, USA and Ireland, and his poetry has been featured on Radio Australia, 3CR, 3RRR-FM, Radio National’s Poetica, and at the Melbourne Museum. Andy and Rachael Guy won the Most Innovative Work award at the 2009 Overload Poetry Festival for their poetry-puppetry collaboration Ambiguous Mirrors. He is currently working on a series of portrait poems of other people with Marfan Syndrome. amongtheregulars.wordpress.com