Friday, April 30, 2010

QLRS: Vol. 9 No. 2 Apr 2010

QLRS: Vol. 9 No. 2 Apr 2010

I have a poem in this issue entitled Bad Weather, a poem written in a notebook when I heard the news about Dorothy Porter's death on the radio. She died from a strong type of breast cancer, and when I heard the news I was in the car park of the Mercy Hospital, waiting anxiously for my wife who was inside having a second mammogram because the first was inconclusive. That rough draft went through some changes on its way to its final shape as presented in these pages.

'Some Notes On Writing' by William Stafford

My poems are organically grown, and it is my habit to allow language its own freedom and confidence. The results will sometimes bewilder conservative readers and hearers, especially those who try to control all emergent elements in discourse for the service of predetermined ends.

Each poem is a miracle that has been invited to happen. But these words, after they come, you look at what's there. Why these? Why not some calculated careful contenders? Because these chosen ones must survive as they were made, but the reckless impulse of a fallible but susceptible person. I must be willingly fallible in order to deserve a place in the realm where miracles happen.

Writing poems is living in that realm. Each poem is a gift, a surprise that emerges as itself and is only later subjected to order and evaluation.

William Stafford,
USA poet

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Appciety Sydney 2010 - Review Panel

Appciety Sydney 2010 - Review Panel

It is all in a foreign tongue to me, but I am proud that my son Miles has been chosen as a judge. A beer and a block of his favourite cheese should just about sway his judgement

New & Revised 'Mother Waits for Father Late' now available

Picaro Press has published a beautiful new and revised edition of Mother Waits for Father Late, first published by Freo Press in 1992, but sold out and out of print for some time. I've tweaked the text a little, thrown some poems out and added some in. For the cover, there is an archival photo of the Burke family from 1947 or so, having dinner out in the yard. The little boy standing at the far table is myself, between my grand parents with my mother nearby. Yes, I had hair then. My siblings are at the front table, all five of them.

The book is available for $15 from myself or online at Please support Rob Riel, the brave publisher who supports Australian poetry by keeping in print those titles which have made an impact on their first showing. The press also publishes chapbooks and new titles, plus the wonderful Wagtail series of monthly compilations of individual poet's works.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Some talk of poetic craft by Mark Strand

I have been reading The Weather of Words by Mark Strand in recent days, and would like to quote some words on craft (relating to poetry, of course):

"In discussing his poem The Old Woman and the Statue, Wallace Stevens said:
While there is nothing automatic about the poem, nevertheless it has an automatic aspect in the sense that it is what I wanted it to be without knowing before it was written what I wanted it to be, even though I knew before it was written what I wanted to do.

"This is as precise a statement of what is referred to as 'the creative process' as I have ever read. And I think it makes clear why discussions of craft are at best precarious. We know only afterwards what it is we have done. Most poets, I think, are drawn to the unknown, and writing, for them, is a way of making the unknown visible. And if the object of one's quest is hidden or unknown, how is it to be approached by predictable means? I confess to a desire to forget knowing, especially when I sit down to work on a poem. The continuous transactions of craft take place in the dark. Jung understood this when he said: As long as we ourselves are caught up in the process of creation, we neither see nor understand; indeed, we ought not to understand, for nothing is more injurious to immediate experience than cognition."

from page 71, The Weather of Words by Mark Strand, Knopf, 2000

Monday, April 26, 2010

Alan Sillitoe dies aged 82 years - in London

Alan Sillitoe was best known for his novels Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, both of which were made into films.

Both books were required reading by us young writers of the early Sixties, along with Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim and John Osborne's play, Look Back in Anger.

The two books are regarded as classic examples of kitchen sink dramas reflecting life in the mid 20th century Britain.

Sillitoe was born on 4 March 1928 - the second son of an illiterate tannery labourer who was often out of work.

More at

Sunday, April 25, 2010

instant poem

throwing curtains to the wind
i write
as Ravel unravels on the player

the wishbone dries above
a pencilled draft of
last night's poem

bills litter the feet
of my red and yellow Buddha
sunning himself in Aussie sunshine

Toots Thielemans is flavouring Faure
Sunday morning detritus
celebrating another day above ground

watch the bee as you drive out
as it suns itself drunkenly
on the faded cement

so many tracks in memory
Ravel Buddha bees
and bathing in April sun

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Peter Porter has died - aged 81

Death is immaculate: we must not write of it,
Living in the scenery of its sick wit.

Peter Porter

How sad. I was skimming a list of poetry matters when the news was simply there in blunt terms. Death is always blunt, isn't it, the full stop in the middle of a sentence of unknown length until it is finished. A mortal tale has a mortal end.

I stopped typing just now to pat my dog who was looking for attention. I patted her, reflecting on a day some years ago now when the great Australian poet who had gone and lived in England for so long, came for a visit to Perth. The practicalities of his visit were of no interest to me, but the man himself was. A friend of mine, one of this State's best poets ever, William Grono, invited me to an afternoon with Peter Porter, at his and his wife, Janet's, place. I eagerly said Yes. Sex and the Over Forties, Morts aux Chats ... I read them and a few others afresh to anybody who was handy.

My daughter Alice and I attended that afternoon. And we met Peter Porter, a gentle man with an English accent, and sat down to chat. Instead of a few bon mots about poetry and poetics, Peter P wanted to talk about advertising - a job we had both had but he had escaped. I was still in its clutches. Well, to have more than a kind 'How do you do' was very nice, but to talk about advertising wasn't the way I wanted things to go, but my core shyness stopped me trying bluntly to change the subject. (He had no doubt spent the air journey writing a review of a few poetry books and preparing whatever paper he had to deliver in my home town. He may well have been sick of the subject of Poetry! The idea never occurred to my over-eager young mind.)

Some months later, an English teacher mentioned Peter Porter or alluded to one of his poems in a class at the high school Alice attended. She proudly declared, 'I've met him.' The teacher - I can only guess at the tone of her reproach - said, 'I don't think so, Alice. He lives in England.' And I don't know how far my daughter went in challenging her teacher - my daughter does have a mind of her own - but it is just another instance where teachers of a certain style lose the confidence of their students. But that's a hobbyhorse for another time ...

So, Peter Porter has gone. I will pull out his books today and have a reading of my favourites - including The Great Poet comes here in Winter, What I have Written I Have Written and On First Looking into Chapman's Hesiod - I won't wear a long face or tell everyone I meet my small anecdote, but a small corner of my heart will wear black for another dead poet.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Making Bloom while the Sun Shines / draft two

Which skins enriched the earth
before carrot shavings and potato peelings?
I wouldn’t have written those lines
before I’d read James Tate; wouldn’t
have accepted it as poetry before
Ted Berrigan and maybe Ken Bolton.
Through the concrete driveway
a thistle fights for light, in
a solar-powered syntax
reminiscent of Roethke. I’m not
ashamed of my past, body
flaking daily, skin lining my poems.
Others prefer no ‘I’ in their poetry.
Let them read Ogden Nash. Once again
I’ve been wondering what poetry is,
what it’s made of, and who called
it that in the first place. The bottle brush
is happy now, head above parapet,
making bloom while the sun shines.
That’s how it is, the individual
utterance in the tribal context.
‘Take care,’ your mother said;
‘Take risks,’ the writer wrote.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Day in the Life

My chest clenches
and I fumble in my pocket
for the Nitrolingual spray.

I’m walking
my dog and damaged heart
through the trees.

You can watch just so much
television, you can nap
just so many hours

then you itch
to do things, simple things
like stretch your legs

and walk.
I stand under a tree
to catch its breath.

A fine mist
is working its way
through dank slums

to open the way ahead.
Zimmy sits at my feet, tongue
hanging out like

a flag at half mast.
‘Come on,’ I say, ‘let’s go.’

Monday, April 19, 2010

On Your Way - a poem by Rae Armantrout

On your way to The Sea
of Reeds you will meet the

Soul Devouring Demon.
You’ve heard it all before

and you believe it. Why not?
Why would they lie? You

must wear the beetle amulet
to avoid being consumed.

But it’s also true that you
can’t really know until it’s

actually happening. So you
have a sort of knowledge

which, even if later confirmed
in each detail, is still

not real knowledge. He will
weigh your heart and,

if it’s too heavy, you’ll be
swallowed up. What is this

extra element that is mingled
in when you arrive at the

ordained spot?

From “Versed,” by Rae Armantrout, published by Wesleyan University Press. Copyright 2009 by Rae Armantrout.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Natalie Merchant sings Poems

Natalie Merchant spent six years (and no doubt a load of money) bringing this project to life. Here she sings her own tunes set to the lyrics of poets like ee cummings, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Ogden Nash, and many more - some of whom I had never heard. Whether this improves the poems or not is up to the individual listener, but I have always liked her voice and her performance on this video clip is very pleasant. It may bring poetry alive for people who love gentle folk music and in doing so, perform a positive service to poetry in general. Maybe, just maybe, those listeners will seek further poems from the poets they particularly like on her CD, 'Leave Your Sleep'.

More about the CD, including some samples, at

Issa Haiku

the first cherry blossoms
soon scatter and stick...
people's faces

-Issa, 1804

Saturday, April 17, 2010

'What's been bad for the career has been good for the poems' ... Eleanor Ross Taylor

Little-known 90-year-old wins $100,000 poetry award | Books |

At pension age, I feel like I'm twice the poet I was when I was a youngster. It is always good to have a senior poet up ahead of the pack who is still achieving - and ninety sounds quite daunting, about as daunting as 65 did to me twenty-five years ago

A book of mine from 1992 has just been republished, with some poems lifted out and others put in. (Mother Waits for Father Late, available through ) It is a challenging experience for my writing practice today. I certainly have moved on, but what have I gained and what have I lost in this process of development? Now I can see these strengths and weaknesses as I view the resurrected poems, so further change is on its way. And, as I keep quoting, time is a measurement of change - both growth and decay. Age supplies the same pluses and minuses.

Watch this space for future developments ...

More about Eleanor Ross-Taylor at

Thursday, April 15, 2010

2010 Peter Cowan Writers Centre PATRON'S PRIZE for Poetry

The President of the Peter Cowan Writers' Centre, John McMullan has announced the launching of its annual Patron's Prize for Poetry. The closing date for entries is July 2nd and it is only for residents of Western Australia. It is for poems with a maximum of fifty lines and includes a category for children under the age of 19.

'The Patron's Prize is a relatively new concept,' Mr McMullan said, 'but last year we had a phenomenal interest in our competitions and I feel the same will happen this year. I am confident that there is a large number of poets who will be attracted to the idea that it is for Western Australian residents only. In national competitions the average poet is dubious as to whether or not they can compete. However, most writers are keen to either win a prize or be listed in the commended category. Having your name mentioned somewhere can be a very important way to establish your reputation.'

The prize for the winner is $200 and Second $100

John McMullan
Peter Cowan Writers Centre
Office hours Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10am-3pm
Phone/Fax: 9301 2282

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

hot news: Rae Armantrout wins the Pulitzer Prize for 'VERSED'

I am absolutely knocked out that one of my favourite poets on the planet today has won such a prestigious - and, I would have thought, conservative - prize. Rae Armantrout is an adventurer with thought and language. One quote I think explains a lot about her process:

". . . it’s all right to be unsure. There’s something powerful . . . in not being quite certain of what you’re seeing. Is there something in that shadow? This is often how we experience the world, why shouldn’t it be how we experience a poem?" Rae Armantrout

And doesn't her face in that photo intrigue you into reading her verse? Order 'Versed' now - and then go web surfing for poems and readings. It's a good day for poetry, I tell you.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Jack Kerouac's Jacket - presently in The Beat Museum

I have grown out of my Beat leanings, but I still hold an affection for Kerouac - both the man and some of his writings. Alcoholic, Catholic, 'madman, bum and angel', I identify with certain aspects of his confusion ... As the Kerouac magnet on our fridge says: I have nothing to offer anyone except my own confusion.

New World Writing "Jazz of the Beat Generation" by Jean-Louis (April, 1955)

Also from the same site I hope you enjoy the following ...
This is the very first appearance of an excerpt from On The Road called "Jazz of the Beat Generation".

Legend has it Kerouac used the pseudonym because he was being sued for child support by his ex-wife Joan Haverty (their daughter's name was Jan, born 1951) and he didn't want Joan to know he'd been paid $100 for the except.

From the book: "This selection is from a novel-in-progress, "The Beat Generation" (later published in 1957 as On The Road). Jean-Louis is the pseudonym of a young American writer of French-Canadian parentage. He is the author of one published novel."

"Dean was in a trance. The tenorman's eyes were fixed straight on him; he had found a madman who not only understood but cared and wanted to understand more and much more than there was, and they began dueling for this; everything came out of the horn, no more phrases, just cries, cries, "Baugh" and down to "Beep!" and up to "EEEEE!" and down to clinkers and over to sideways echoing horn-sounds and horselaughs, and he tries everything, up, down, sideways, upside down, dog fashion, horizontal, thirty degrees, forty degrees and finally he fell back in somebody's arms and gave up and everybody pushed around and yelled "Yes, yes, he done blowed that one!"

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Zen Gallery

Since my return from China a couple of years back, my treasured scrolls have lain, rolled up, in a top shelf. Except one - a Dragon scroll as you enter our home. One day, after winning millions on Lotto, I shall have walls big enough for all my rolled art to come out of hiding! Until then, have a stroll through this Zen gallery at

Saturday, April 10, 2010


soi 3 modern poets,
an imprint of Papertiger Media, presents -

Pam Brown’s poetry attends to the soundbites and transitoriness of contemporary Australian life. Her dazzling wordplay gives us glistening souvenirs of overblown politik-speak, uncontrolled Western consumption, and the daze of the habitual and housetrained. Rather than timeshare the modernist experiment, Brown moves beyond its heroics and fashions a commentary that is understated, down to earth, and unsettling. While questioning its own title, what remains marvelled at in ‘Authentic Local’ is the colloquial and its uncanniness, the utopic harbour glimpse of a home language.
- Ann Vickery

This book complements the collection True Thoughts, published by Salt Modern Poets in 2008. Many of the poems here were written in the years between 2002 and 2005 and were put aside whilst compiling the selection for True Thoughts. To read Ken Bolton and Carl Harrison-Ford on True Thoughts click A number of recent poems are included in Authentic Local alongside the earlier material.

For more information, or to buy a copy of the book, visit soi3 modern poets

A poem by way of a taster ...


by the radio:
I mishear the news and sports presenter
say ‘the latest in nuisance sports’,
outside the light is green,
the lightning frightening stay away
from windows but the storm
takes no notice of me and my black Bic biro
here at the kitchen table
with a new biography of Dante – ‘Dante;
The Poet, The Political Thinker, The Man’ –
I’d just begun reading twenty minutes ago,
the cover image, a detail from a portrait of him,
one book open as he turns
to consult another, open and propped
up against two others, leather-bound,
he has the poet’s leafy laurel twig
tucked into his familiar red headscarf.
poetry is like
tv’s live coverage and if you change
a particle you can arrive at an elegant result
via electronic properties and, probably,
high conductivity in an electrical storm,
but the computer is down and so am I –
my bad handwriting taxes my energy,
how does my brain put up with it ?
(who am I to ask?)
this almost illegible notation driven into
the empty moments between a book
and a book, a poem ‘made in situ’,
the phrase imagined
as a t-shirt slogan or a label
but handwritten

Pam Brown

Issa Haiku

the nightingale, too
has a merry song...
tea pickers

-Issa, 1808

Thursday, April 08, 2010

from Brenda Walker's 'READING BY MOONLIGHT: HOW BOOKS SAVED A LIFE (Hamish Hamilton, 2010)

'Love and solitary thought can both do the work of insight and transformation. Both can bring a sense of the sweet and dangerous strangeness of other people - even, or especially, within the world of ordinary routine.' Brenda Walker

And from the Preface:

'When I was a child my family knew a man with so many books they seemed to push his bed into a corner. They lined the walls from floor to ceiling, and more lay horizontally on those already shelved. Their spines were brushstrokes of ochre and faded orange, violet, red and black. There were even fat chimneys of books rising in the centre of his room.'

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Get your ticket for the Last Station

A fine movie. Some critics have said it was disjointed - rubbish. It took a few minutes to get your bearings, but then the richness of all the characters took hold and the plot (based on the last weeks of Tolstoy's life) grabbed me. I laughed and cried; I learnt some things I didn't know before, I related to some of the philosophy, and (in a narrative sense)to the domestic upheavals.

I'd encourage anyone to see it that is at all interested in literature. It may also work as a passionate love story for those who know nought of Russian literature.

Snap Dragons - mini-poem by Andrew Burke

snap dragons
swaying in
a childhood garden

continue to
snap here
in my old mind

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

New SHOp out now - in Ireland

SHOp 32 (Spring 2010) is now out, and available in nearly all the best bookshops...[in UK, Ireland, etc. Good luck in Australia!]

Contributors to this issue include Michael Longley, Seán Lysaght, Paula Meehan, Peter Porter, Knute Skinner, William Wall and many others, some never previously published. Ilya Kaminsky and Anatoly Kudryavitsky, writing here in English, were both born in Russia. There are six Japanese poems translated into Irish, with back translations into English, by Gabriel Rosenstock.

The cover picture is a formalised image of the Hill of Tara and its gods and kings by Jeanette McCulloch. She also contributed two of the black and white illustrations accompanying some of the poems.

Here's a sample poem from SHOp 32. It's "Fourteenth Week" by Ilya Kaminsky:

On the balconies, sunlight, on poplars, sunlight, on our lips.
Today no one was shooting, there is just sunlight and sunlight.
A girl cuts her hair with imaginary scissors--
A girl in sunlight, a school in sunlight, a horse in sunlight.
A boy steals a pair of shoes from an arrogant man in sunlight.
I speak and I say sunlight falling inside us, sunlight.
When they shot fifty women on Tedna St.,
I sat down to write and tell you what I know:
A child learns the world by putting it in his mouth;
A boy becomes a man and a man earth.
Body, they blame you for all things and they
seek in the body what does not live in the body.

Go to

Interview with Derek Walcott

"To me the West Indies is a beginning society, very exhilarating with all its faults, and I do feel, as the whole world feels, that it's possible, quite possible, that Western civilization is probably suicidal in its direction, and there's no doubt that one is playing with a loaded revolver and that we live in this despair. I'm in the position where if I write a poem like "North and South," I am then entering the echo of that rhetoric in a language that I can address it to. When I am writing "Sainte Lucie" I am talking very simply to tree, sea, stone, person." Derek Walcott

Full interesting interview at

The Poem-A-Day site is at

Monday, April 05, 2010

Some reviews written by yours truly in Southerly's 'Long Paddock' at Of course, there's more - poems, essays, another review.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

'Feast' - a poem by Virginia O'Keefe

I have eaten the city, taken in huge gobfuls
Of wintery lightfall on grey metal rooflines
Sucked out the marrow of tenement houses
And spat on the doorsteps carved deep by past feet.
I have plunged my lips along park benches and lake reeds,
Guzzled black swans under canopies of date palm
savoured the creamery of frangipani lit gardens,
and dined on old bus fumes pumping black in my veins.
My teeth have crunched over pink sandstone shorelines
Slaked down slime oysters drowned in sea brine.
Roving the wharflands my tongue goes riffling through gutters,
Slurping on pubspill, licking tars from the street.
When summer arises I hunger for ferries
And gorge on the sails of triangular light.
City of ancestry, city of youth,
I devour my history, carve the corporeal roast.

Virginia O'Keefe

This poem was first penned at a Writing Marathon, conducted by myself for the Fellowship of Australia Writers (WA branch) at Tom Collins House, Swanbourne, on Saturday 3rd April. I think it is a very imaginative and strong poem and thank Virginia for permission to publish it here.

Issa Haiku

pulling up
his fishhook he looks...
at cherry blossoms!

-Issa, 1818

Interview with Joyce Carol Oates on FORA TV

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Fora TV has some wonderful interviews, one of which is with Joyce Carol Oates after publication of The Gravedigger's Daughter.

If you don't wish to hear the entire 50 plus minutes, then there is a schedule of subjects on the site where you may just click on that section and hear her, for example, on Developing Character or reading an excerpt from her novel. You can quite positively skip the host's introduction which says nothing over 2 minutes, but then Joyce Carol Oates own introduction is very warm and self effacing. She is a remarkably prolific writer, a very skilled storyteller who fits easily into both Literature and General Fiction categories.


Amazing ... Worth watching.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Cordite News

News from Cordite editors:

Our latest issue, Zombie 2.0, has now gone live, and can be accessed here:

The issue, which has been guest-edited by Ivy Alvarez, contains forty new poems, plus interviews, feature articles, audio poetry and illustrations.

It may also contain braaaiinz.

As part of the issue we have also launched our second Renga experiment. This time, we're calling it Zombie Haikunaut Renga and our guest renga master will be Ashley Capes.

Finally, we've opened submissions for our 33rd issue, Creative Commons. The poetry editor for this issue will be Alison Croggon. Visit the website for details of how to submit, using our untold new online submission form!

Thanks for supporting Cordite, and I trust you will enjoy perusing the contents of the Zombie 2.0 issue online.