Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Red Poppies still growing

red poppies
lean into steam
off the wet path

in the fernery
fingers press sweating glass

fierce heat fades
evening twilight glows
a pink line

a fly stumbles
at a water glob

folding clothes
she drinks dark coffee
moon observes

the grasses seeding
green fruit swells above

midnight light
on watered garden
goat dung smells

four pink peonies a gift
sheets need washing

love - a red petal
her tattoo

forked over
the compost steams

a worm
the uneaten meat
a grey hair

the peopled world spins
cars stall in traffic

moon bright as frost
field of white goat skulls
intruder light

postcards from annapurna
clouds of breath hover

before dawn
we dread the heat
promised to us

a darkening sky
rain splatters fresh hay

green light
on the cherry blossom
a morning squabble

a fat bud cracks open
rising rivers roar

present for you, Gran!
red eucalypt from
council tree butchers

Monday, November 29, 2004

Claremont-Nedlands vs Willeton A Grade one dayer at Cresswell Park, Swanbourne 28 November 2004. Charlie Burke bowling. (Click on all photos on this blog to see a bigger and clearer pic.) Posted by Hello

A homely photo of a FAW Sunday reading at Tom Collins House Writers Centre, Swanbourne, WA. From left: Dillys, Fran Sbrocchi (reading), Jim Cornish (obscured), Pauline Matthews and Kay Cairns. Posted by Hello

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Red Poppies Progress Publication

The names of the participants, in order of appearance, are: Andrew Burke, Jen Crawford, Louise Waller, Lawrence Upton, Kristin Hannaford, Jennifer Compton, Heather Matthew, Jill Jones and Anie Locke.

red poppies

lean into steam

off the wet path


in the fernery

fingers press sweating glass


fierce heat fades

evening twilight glows

a pink line


a fly stumbles

at a water glob


folding clothes

she drinks dark coffee

moon observes


the grasses seeding

green fruit swells above


midnight light

on watered garden

goat dung smells


four pink peonies a gift

sheets need washing



love - a red petal

her tattoo


forked over

the compost steams


Friday, November 26, 2004

Vote Jennings 1

To hear the entrants in The Deep End's Poetry Slam competition go to http://www.abc.net.au/rn/slam then follow the 'further info' arrow...and you'll see all the contestants' mugshots and there's audio, so you can hear them all, too.
We have until Wednesday next week to vote ... So, Vote for WA's Murray Jennings.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Red poppies are the remembrance flower on November 11th - and there were a blooming lot of them then! Posted by Hello

The red poppies have been there, in abundance, all week. & now that I've written about them, I wanted to shoot them - but the weather and the maniacal truckdriver have damaged them. These are the last remaining ones for this spring. Posted by Hello

Peter Cowan's typewriter, on display at Peter Cowan Writers Centre, Joondalup.  Posted by Hello

Poppies snapshot

----- callous bin truck
flattened the poppies
with intent .

but - a little rain
an hour of sun -
poppies popped up again!

all the yard laughed
to see such fun
and the washing flapped away
like a clown .

Red Poppies Renku

On a poetry list called 'poneme' (owned and operated by Jennifer Crawford) we have started a renku. I had the honour of writing the hokku and setting it up as a summer kasen renku, and setting some boundaries. If you truly get into renga/renku, there are a million and one rules, so we're being light on control here. The main aim is to create - and to have fun. The participants are (in order of linking) Andrew Burke, Jen Crawford, Louise, Lawrence Upton, Kristin Hannaford, Jennifer Compton, Heather Matthew and Jill Jones. What a diverse bunch of talented people, so the renku is bound to be a firecracker. I have their permission to send you updates as it grows. It will be 36 stanzas at the finish, by the way. Here it is so far ...

Red Poppies

red poppies
lean into steam
off the wet path

in the fernery
fingers press sweating glass

fierce heat fades
evening twilight glows
a pink line

a fly stumbles
at a water glob

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Hear ye! Hear ye!

My friend Susan Murphy, over there in Sydney, sent this info:


I hope you'll be interested to listen to my radio program, Feel Free to Look Around, which is on Radio National (AM576) from 2-3pm this coming Saturday 27th November, and I'd love people to hear it. It is about redeeming the ordinary things of the city street with close attention and imagination, and has a very 'worked' sound and music world built up to convey the richness of the places being explored. WOnderful stories and conversations, and music by Ross Bolleter.

Please tell your friends, and post this notice on your networks!

Many thanks

Susan Murphy is the author of Upside Down Zen, published by Lothian Books.

My favourite part of ECU's Joondalup campus. A strange overcast mid-afternoon ... but many ducks were wading in the shallows. Posted by Hello

John Harman, writer in residence (novelist and scriptwriter), going toward the 'new' buildings at ECU's Joondalup campus. 'Two long blacks, please!' Posted by Hello

Peter Cowan Writers Centre is situated in Edith Cowan House, set on the campus of Edith Cowan University, Joondalup. Posted by Hello

Monday, November 22, 2004

Interblog! Anny, Stephen and Sappho

When I first starting blogging, Jill Jones of http://rubystreet.blogspot.com/ told me that there was a good feeling among the community of bloggers. I really didn't believe it, thinking all bloggers were self-absorbed loners, willing to whistle their own tune into the dark. But I've since learnt a new kind of interblog sharing, which is really satisfying. Here's another little incidence of it - poet Stephen Vincent is on a poetry list with Anny Ballardini and other poets around the world, including myself. He recently mentioned a work of his was up on the web, and Anny asked him what he meant by 'translation' in this case. His answer is now on Anny's blog (available on my blogroll as NarcissusWorks) so I urge you to go there and read it. Around about and around about and around about we go ...

Then, when you've read that, or even before - whatever your fancy - go to the site below.
Faux, an e-book publisher, has now published Stephen Vincent's Sleeping with Sappho on its site:

Saturday, November 20, 2004

The daylight moon high above Stephens Reserve, Fremantle. Click on it to make it bigger. To me it is like a painting ... Posted by Hello

Friday, November 19, 2004

Hear 'William of Winesbury'

Poet Dominic Fox has put down a sample of the old ballad, William of Winesbury, as per our conversation recently re: ballads. Listen to it at - http://www.codepoetics.com/music/william_of_winesbury.mp3

Thanks, Dominic. It makes a lot more sense to talk about a song when you've heard it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Sonnet Today

for Pat

I could tell you my life

But you've got your own.

No need for duplication.

Today the computer opens

On a magnificent scene

From far far away: snow,

Icicles and an old shack.

How much of your life

Comes in a box? I stake

The tomato bush as I

Transplant it, getting

My hands dirty, a little

Piece of the world

Under each nail.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Arni returns

Our poet friend in Iceland, Arni Ibsen, is conscious again. He has pneumonia and many health troubles, but he is conscious - which is a great leap forward from where he has been! Great news for his family and friends, including the whole network of poets around the globe who were lighting candles and praying for him, each in their own way. Way to go, Arni!

Here's the cover of Margaret Walter's terrific CD, Power In A Song - available from mwalters@mail.usyd.edu.au  Posted by Hello

The Ballad of Many Crows

When I got off the plane to Wagga Wagga (after first flying Perth to Sydney) a friendly woman met me and drove me to the flat I was to use during my residency. On the way there, she told me a strange story - strange because of her spin on it. The way she told it, the farmers were killing themselves because the crows had come back to Wagga. (In Wagga Wagga, you're allowed to call it simply Wagga if you're a local: outsiders must call it the full name.) The truth was the farmers were killing themselves because the draught had wrecked their livelihoods. I guess the crows had come for the easy pickings of dying sheep and stock in the fields.

Anyway, when I walked into the flat, the Oxford Book of Ballads was open on the table at a traditional ballad. I think it was Twa Corbies, but couldn't be sure - memory lane has many twists. So, I wrote a ballad about the crows, the farmers and Wagga Wagga.

Very soon thereafter I met John Waters and Margaret Walters, and showed them - balladeers that they are - my ballad. Instead of sitting silently and reading it (like you would a poem) John started singing it ... and Margaret chimed in. Brilliant. Some time later - you gotta have patience to be a poet in Australia - Margaret contacted me by email and asked if she could use it on her new CD, Power In A Song (Feathers and Wedge, 2001). The website is http://www.folkalpoint.org.uk/ww/ Here are the lyrics of that ballad. (I was reminded of this by a great discussion of ancient ballads on poetryetc - thanks, Domenic, Rebecca et al.)


Words Andrew Burke (1996)
Music Margaret Walters and John Warner (1996)

The town of Wagga Wagga (trans: place of many crows) is in the southern NSW district called the Riverina. The Murray River Irrigation System for a time brought prosperity to the region, but recent decades have seen a decline in the economic viability of farming and a high suicide rate among the farmers.
Western Australian poet, Andrew Burke, was serving a time as Poet-in-Residence at the Booranga Writers' Centre at the Charles Sturt University and shared his new poem with John Warner and me at a gathering in the house of Pat and Barry Emmett in Wombat, NSW. (This note written by Margaret Walters.)

As I sat out upon a hill
Upon a hill, upon a hill
I looked up at the crows that fill
The leafy trees of Wagga

I saw their eyes like marbles black
Like marbles black, like marbles black
And felt a chill run down my back
Beneath the trees of Wagga

A woman there had told a tale
She told a tale, she told a tale
How the town had felt five years' betrayal
Since crows returned to Wagga

"Our men have heard the crows' sad song
The crows' sad song, the crows' sad song
Until by their own hand they've gone
I curse the crows of Wagga

Farmers are a steady lot, not given much to fancy
Born to heed the call to be as iron tough as Clancy

Now they hang themselves in their dark loss
In their dark loss, in their dark loss
When the crows' stark song becomes their cross
Among the trees of Wagga

Black-eyed and beaky with a mourning cry
A mourning cry, a mourning cry
Riverina crows trespass and fly
To cast their eye on Wagga.

Now's the time to break the spell
To break the spell, to break the spell
To greet the future and fare well
Among the trees of Wagga

I go inside to write my song
To write my song, to write my song
The crows know naught of right and wrong
In the leafy trees of Wagga

Poetry Slam! Vote, Jennings 1

From the ABC's website:
Radio National's daily arts and music program, the Deep End, has been seeking submissions from writers who want to perform their work in Australia's first national poetry slam.

The finalists have now been announced. They are:
Murray Jennings (WA)
Joe Mitchell (ACT)
Jayne Fenton Keane (Qld)
Benny Walter (Tas)
Pru Gell (NT)
James Dennison (SA)
John James Bayly (Vic)
Jess Cook (NSW)
Klare Lanson (Wildcard)

On Wednesday November 24 the slam will come to radio audiences across Australia, when one writer from each state and territory will perform a two-minute poem live on the Deep End.

Their details will also be published on this website and listeners will then have one week to decide the winner by lodging an online vote for their favourite performance.
The winner will have their work professionally recorded by the ABC and profiled on the Deep End.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Murray Jennings, ready to 'rumble in the jungle'! in the great Poetry Slam Grand Final - see below. Posted by Hello

Saturday, November 13, 2004

ABC's The Deep End Poetry Slam

From the ABC's Radio National site, I gleamed this info:

'On Wednesday November 24, one writer from each state and territory will perform a two-minute poem live on the Deep End. Their details will also be published on this website and listeners will then have one week to decide the winner by lodging an online vote for their favourite performance.'

And the WA winner is ... my poetic pal, Murray (no photos, please) Jennings! Slamming should be right up his street. He's got the wit, the voice, the projection and the theatrics ... So, VOTE JENNINGS in The Deep End's Poetry Slam - going to air the evening of Wednesday Nov 24 on Radio National. More details as they come to hand!

Dream: Strange Scenes in Plain Language

I had volunteered to look after the plumber’s dog that a girl was looking after because it had been left out of his house (her neighbour). She was in a new relationship with the plumber and was nervous about me looking after the dog, especially with my casual approach – ‘He’ll be okay, sure, I’ll look after him, don’t worry’ … But when we left a dam we had all visited, just a small distance away, the dog was nowhere to be seen.

A small Indian pilot offered to search for the dog from the sky, so I got in his plane. I’d used him before to film a TV commercial and at that time I had stopped him ‘dropping in’ on his brother’s property to show it to me. He was proud of his brother’s property and wanted to show it to me to boost his own image, and I kept telling him it didn’t matter, it wouldn’t impress me, what would impress me would be getting the job done. He sulked all day on that shoot, and now once up in the sky he took off flying very low over houses and telling me we were going to see his brother’s property now, he wasn’t searching for the dog, the dog was not his worry, I had to see his brother’s property …

I kept trying to argue on behalf of the dog, and I petulantly wouldn’t wear any of the headgear or safety harness or any of the other gear … ‘If you’re going to crash and kill us, it won’t make any difference’ I said – somehow thinking it paid him back for absconding with me …

At some stage we stopped, landed, at a settlement of normal houses, with palm trees and pebbly drives, etc., where either a woman, young, or an aspect of himself (he was rather androgenous) showed me how she peeled off two lines of poetry from herself each day like worn fading scales, peeled them off in one piece, an opaque couplet, to always let the new growth through … it was presented as part of being female … I held two lines on a piece of paper on my hand and watched as they faded away, including the jelly-like substance they were on. At one stage, they were like a translucent fish, dead, and yet by the end they were simply liquid running off the page in the glittering sunshine.

When we were in the sky again, I noticed the Indian pilot’s hands: they were absolutely double jointed at the wrist. He saw nothing unusual in this and showed me other parts of his body were double jointed too – elbows knees ankles … I was freaking out and he was laughing at my reaction, and never paying attention to where he was flying …

Then I woke up, damn it. I still don’t know what happened to the dog. That was my big worry when I woke up. Now I keep trying to keep the dream together to type it out and somehow apply to my life.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Poets To Hear courtesy BBC

Here is a site to visit when you have time to listen to the great poets of recent times - from Famous Seamus to Tennyson! There is a video site too, which you can find through this site, and interviews too. A show bag of poetry pleasures. Check it out at http://poetry.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/poetry/outloud/

White roses in the wind  Posted by Hello

Standard Rose Snapshot 10/11/04


it's a pers-
pective class


rose bush
standard white
one metre high
white rose
white right
outside my
door is
losing it
s petals

w i e r s
i r

h t
o e


it's how
you see

ie, now
you see

Unfortunately, the blogger system doesn't let us space letters out the way we wish so my flutter-clutter of petals at the end of '2' doesn't work here. Ah, well, you'll have to imagine them sprinkled like wind-blown petals.

See Snapshot poem ... Posted by Hello

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Cole Swensen's Poetry City

Posted: October 26, 2004 to Identity Theory website -
I’m going to talk about not poetry of the city, but poetry as a city. Poetry is a city of words, a complex heterogeneity that functions both as its parts and as a whole. It’s full of systems—metaphoric, symbolic, sonic—analogous to the sewage, electrical, and transportation systems that animate a city. You look at a jagged skyline, and see the ragged right margin; you read through the quick shifts of much contemporary poetry, and think of a busy intersection in which your view is cut off by a bus one moment, then opened up the next, and then filled with a crowd crossing the street the next.

The poetic forms most common in the Western world today emerged with modernism, itself a product of the shift in consciousness that accompanied the urban explosion of the mid–nineteenth century. Modernist poetry and cities mirror each other, shed light on each other, and remain together in important works, such as Baudelaire’s, that predict and theorize the city as much as they record it.

The whole essay is available at http://www.identitytheory.com/nonfiction/swensen_poetry.php

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Paddler

for Andrew Taylor

memories mark time
peppered with days and nights
loves, houses and children
a train ticket, a photo in Europe

peppered with days and nights
dawn's long shadow -
a train ticket, a photo in Europe
tail feathers of a kite

dawn's long shadow
ripples over rocks -
tail feathers of a kite,
a mountain stream

ripples over rocks,
yesterday's rain runs
a mountain stream
to the river, to the coast;

yesterday's rain runs
down leaves, off dry sands
to the river, to the coast.
rafts of sunlight flash

down leaves, off dry sands
to a paddler in midstream.
rafts of sunlight flash,
drop from the blade

of a paddler in midstream -
echoes of great rivers
drop from the blade,
generation upon generation

echoes of great rivers,
loves, houses and children,
generation upon generation,
memories mark time.

Published in JAS (Journal of Australian Studies) 81, 2004

Monday, November 08, 2004

Manchurian Candidate

When friends had earlier told me that they had got the old version of this film out on video and watched it before seeing the latest version, I was bemused. But now I think that would be a good idea. I can't see how The Manchurian Candidate is so highly rated. The plotline was obvious, the characters were pretty well stock figures, and visually it relied on the large screen to carry it. (Just imagine watching that on your telly at home, complete with commercials. It would be dull and slight.) Maybe the earlier version was more believable, had more credibility. The version I saw last night employed stock Hollywood tricks and techniques - trouble was, none of them were new or put in another order so as to jar us into paying attention ... There's a sheet of paper somewhere in my files which has the Twelve Commandments of the Screenwriter on it: I bet this film answered them all. It's a formula, a well-worn cliched formula.

I'd liked to have seen the money put into this film put to better use.

Where is Fellini when we need him? How about if Spike Lee had directed this lot? :-)

And of course they used those wooden figures as star attractions. The only one who had any impact on me was Meryl Streep. Oh, and the manic guy who had lost his marbles (but, had he? Sinister music here ...). For me, the actors are the least important aspect of judging a film - the characters they portray are the main game. And here they were predictable and dull.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

A teenage band at Darlington Arts Festival ... once an arts and craft fair, now too commercialised. But these kids drew a crowd of fans - all eager to chat 'em up after the gig. Is it Australian Idol next :-) Posted by Hello

The Quick Dark

I've been tidying up lately - trying to calm the tidal wave of paper and magazines and books which has built up over my life. & I've found a few poems published in magazines and out of the way places that I'd forgotten I had written. It is a strange feeling ... I don't like all of them, of course, and can see why I have neglected some of them - but a couple struck me as at least 'fun'. Here's one such poem. It is dedicated to a little lady with a huge amount of energy - she worked her own path through outback towns and farming communities, running writing workshops and literary readings, charging her own fees as she went before such things were funded by the powers that be (or sometimes are). When the local arts department got involved and taxpayer money was officially attached to the projects (about three trips a year, north, south, east - west of here is all ocean), I won a couple of trips with her. This poem came from one of those.

The Quick Dark
for Ethel Webb

Seven poems in as many hours
evening comes in so quickly

children want to eat so I
feed the cat first poems

still humming I can’t sit I
gibber and sing the moon is

rising full I fill with
kinship the ecstasy of

writing all afternoon and I
remember Ethel saying to

schoolchildren in red dusty
outback towns ‘It gets dark

so quickly when the writing
comes on you’ their faces

open as paddock gates

published in Fremantle Arts Review Vol 6 No 11 November 1991

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Get well, Arni

Days ago I posted a poem translated into Icelandic by Arni Ibsen who had devised a quick contest for all us 'snapshot' poets on the poetryetc email list. Over the last couple of years, I've got to know Arni through his regular posts to the list, his poems in English and his discussions about things literary, often with an understandable Icelandic angle. Sadly we have heard Arni has suffered a brain haemorrhage and is in a coma. The prognosis is not good.

We are so far away here in Australia, and I've never met the man or heard his voice -yet I am very upset for him, and for those around him - his family and friends. I consider him and the other poets on that list to be my friends, too, and am baffled about what to do with these emotions I feel. Write a poem would be the obvious route, but poems are rarely obvious - they often come from left of field. All I can see are the lights and stark features of an ICU and an indefinable person lying on a hospital bed with tubes and wires. I've seen it before and wish I had a face to put to him - for Arni.

I'll light a candle, as has been suggested by Alison Croggon, the list's owner and coordinator these days. Perhaps the warmth of all our candles will help Arni recover - little glowing flames of love around the world for one warm Icelandic poet.

The Blues and The Cup

Monday night I saw a double at the Luna Cinema in Leederville, two films in the Blues Project series – one by Martin Scorcese, second by Wim Winders. I liked ‘em both, but thought the Scorcese one actually let the marterial have its own say where Winders seemed to impose an outside aesthetic on the material – interviews, stock footage, contemporary concert footage, etc.
Tuesday, while babysitting my granddaughter, I switched on TV to watch the Melbourne Cup … ‘the race that stops the nation’.
And now I’m listening to Cassandra Wilson’s Blue Light Til Dawn CD, with her remarkable interpretation of Robert Johnson’s Come On In My kitchen and Hellhound On My Trail.
So, horse racing, blues and film culture, blues revamped … My head is an alphabet soup of these thoughts and responses, peppered by my other writing. How to express it to you? A quote may do the trick – This did appear in one of the movies – From Son House:

Well, I’m
going to the racetrack to see my
pony run
He ain’t the best in the world, but he’s a running
son of a gun
I’m going to the racetrack
to see my
pony run
He ain’t the best in the world,
but he’s a running
son of a gun

From My Black Moma by Son House, as transcribed in The Blues Line, compiled by Eric Sackheim with illustrations by Jonathon Shahn (Grossman Publishers 1969)

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

In My Father's Den

I would never put myself up as a movie critic, so take what I say about In My Father's Den as an amateur's enthusiasm. It's nothing short of brilliant. If I'd left a third of the way into it I would have said it's an 'okay' flick, nothing startling. It takes a while to get truly underway - maybe they spent too long setting up the background story, etc. But I was absolutely captured and transfixed for the last two-thirds ... I use these mathematical divisions lightly ... In My Father's Den stars Matthew MacFadyen, Miranda Otto and Emily Barclay - these are the only names in the press ad, but there is a strong cast - much more than simply these three. The young Emily is very very good. And New Zealand's south island supplies just the right setting - you can almost feel the chill in the air. And the rain looks very 'wet' in NZ! Flippancy aside, if it comes to a cinema near you, see it.