Contemporary Australian Poetry.
Artwork by Anna Dunnill click on the info icon (i) on the far left to learn more.
"A Short Lesson in Embroidery
(Study #1)", 2014 by Anna Dunnill
Embroidery thread, linen, air-dry clay
Photo: Joshua Jasper
The edges of your body look like they're made of skin, but they might be glass,
or smoke. They drift in and out
on their own tides.
To anchor the edges of your body,
take a needle and thread. Poke the needle under your skin. Pull the thread through.
Make your stitches small, and close together.
Start at the feet and work upwards, beginning in this way.
This thread in your skin will be a firm hold,
a point of reference. A boundary for what's inside you. It will take a long time, but it isn't difficult: just in and out, like breathing.
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in this issue...
3 poems by feature poet Bronwyn Lovell
Alexis Lateef interviews Bronwyn Lovell
3 poems by feature poet Tracy Ryan
Robbie Coburn interviews Tracy Ryan
Nathan Hondros reviews Lesbia Harford
Robbie Coburn reviews Samuel Wagan Watson
Siobhan Hodge reviews Jennifer Maiden
A selection of 29 poems
feature poet - Bronwyn Lovell
Interview with Alexis Lateef
Beside the telescope, I ask Dad if he ever tires of the same
old objects night after night, year after year. He says each
viewing has its own quality, just as the particles in any
breath of air are unique. He’s checking in on constant
friends as they rise and waltz across a ballroom sky
(ladies’ diamantes glittering, men’s shoes shining)
and that dazzle, for him, could never grow dim.
Hands snug in snow-jacket pockets, I ask if he believes
that the pull of planets affects humans, as astrologers
would claim. He says, Bullshit. It’s all too far away.
But what about the moon? I say. And the way blood
gushes from women in tides? Yes, he concedes, that is
amazing. I ask about UFOs. He says, if they’re real, our aliens
are surely just humans from the future who found a way to fold
time—disciples of Einstein. Oh, so you believe in time travel
then? I smile. Look up, he says. You’re doing it now.
Previously published in Radiations (Fall 2014).
When it happens, be mindful how you label it.
Avoid words like ‘fate’ and ‘destiny’. Say to yourself
“What a coincidence!” and think on it no more.
Do not calculate the odds of that city, that person,
that street; such mathematics leads only to madness.
Do not look to the heavens and imagine there
a great conductor; if there were such a musician
your mismatched tones would never have been
struck together again and again so carelessly.
Upon encountering that person in that city on that street
speak only briefly. Curb details. Do not dissect diction;
minced morphemes won’t give up any answers.
Like a faulty set of kitchen scales you assign weight
too willingly; everything is heavier for you.
The only way to take this is lightly. Keep
eating and sleeping. Do not let your apartment
fall into disarray, nor re-enact the years
in fitful confusion. You can cry, even
glance back if you must, but do not abandon
your direction: walk on, surefooted, towards
the next city, the next person, the next street.
Previously published in Australian Love Poems and Best Australian Poems 2014.
In the beginning
you could barely see at all;
your eyes were simple.
There were no reflections,
no such thing as images then
only darkness and light.
With hundreds of tiny hairs
you sensed the caress of air
along your plump body
and consumed the world
with the strength of your jaw;
never dreaming there would come
a time you wouldn’t eat at all.
Loud noises shocked you. Flight
was the domain of predators
but then change shifted
everything. Now you
hear with your wings: sensing
sound as whispered vibrations
fluttering through the wind.
You dance in the sparkling complexity
of your mirror-ball vision;
and drink the world in
slowly through a straw
like a tropical cocktail—
in your showy new dress.
Previously published in Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology 2013.
AL: You've had a prolific two years, being published in journals like
Australian Poetry Journal, Australian Love Poems, Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology, Rabbit, Cordite, The Best Australian Poems 2014, and many others.
Have the past few years been a particularly inspiring time for you, in terms
AL: Your poem 'Astrophysics' won the Adrien Abbott Prize, congratulations.
You have stated on your website that you have a fascination with outer space,
how did this come about?
AL: You are writing a verse novel called 'Migration', about a group of people who are sent to colonise Mars. What verse novels have you been inspired by?
AL: Do you have different methods for writing poems and writing the verse novel?
AL: You recently published a chapbook called 'Chrysalis', a suite of
butterfly poems. You explore the life cycles of butterflies while weaving in
a thought-provoking commentary on life and mortality. What was your vision
for this collection?
AL: What can we expect from you in 2015?
feature poet - Tracy Ryan
Interview with Robbie Coburn
The essential is invisible to the eye.
St-Exupéry, The Little Prince.
Taking our turn each to enter
this dark cabinet as if it were
confessional, only the failings are
ocular, commonplace and we hope
venial not mortal; in any case this
master’s scrutiny dispenses no
sacrament, merely lenses. And graven
images: a new machine that can scan
and fathom inside the eye, rotated
in three dimensions – look, my
macula as it should be, relief, he
calls you in from your pew to see,
returned to privacy: your wife in a way you’ve
never seen before, not louche but humorous,
charting the way we, so close, share the loss
of hold on the outside world – a pair
of old shoes or trousers still together
in decline as in all else – and yet treasure
each other no less. Look at that membrane,
floating, detached!he says, detached, and your
question leaps anxious but it is nothing
serious, just my vitreous ageing
along with the rest of us, and now for weeks
you will have to drive me, go wherever
I need to go, just as I’d do for you if you were
this helpless, extending each other’s senses,
flesh-of-my-flesh prosthetic, bone-of-my-bone
symbiosis, until my new set is ready to collect
and I’ll be once more communicant, outwardly
focussed, appearing to manage all by myself.
Built in is the possibility of it all going instantly.
Merely having a name seems minutest luxury, folly.
I’m still the open-mouthed child my brother could terrorise
by telling me the sun would end – will end, indeed
but so far along that the word far’s engulfed in
non-meaning the way the world would be. Will be.
And Tim, nearly nine now, who once lived for the sheer
idea of the mighty crab and horsehead nebulae —
something approaching God to him — hearing obliquely,
from a schoolmate, who’s got slightly the wrong end
of partly the wrong stick, that a STAR today will crash into earth
turning us off like a switch before we’re even aware of it
garbling, I guess, the story of NASA’s cast-off six-tonne satellite
expected in twenty-six bits which could each pack
a substantial punch but at odds of twenty-one trillion to one,
can meet this great ontological mess only with I hate space,
I hate space.
Previously published in This Corner magazine (UK, 2012).
Strange interlude, this week or more
once a year, in which he puts on
the old gear, black like his daily wear
but thicker, stiffened, coated by grease,
grass-tips and general grime, same as
last time, hair-shirt or scarecrow-garb
he calls iron maiden and must shower
even before, so as to feel vaguely human
flinching at texture ripe as old rot,
a living shroud, the dross and refuse
of our block so woven in, laid as sediment
within the garment, fossil record, too far gone
to wash in the machine, so it sits there, all year
waiting for him, too thin for armour, lets
in darts and shots that the ground retorts
in their annual tête-à-tête, the Place of Stones
whose steep slope no mower can take, combat
hand-to-hand but who’s the opponent? not
this land, not jam tree or York gum, that get
the blame if a spark should fly... Our neighbour
Jay says Everyone here just uses spray, the “quick”
solution, compounding the problem, for everyone
also drinks from bores and tanks and no one
thinks of the consequence and so he’s out there,
my husband, in that crazed casing, razing the dry wild oats,
making us fit as he can for the feared fire season
that is always to come, doing it hard, meeting each
stalk the same way God reportedly counts each hair
of your head, each sparrow that falls, alive to this patch
of six acres as only such work can make you, all he can do.
RC: Much of your work has concerned political topics; for example, animal rights, and you identify as a feminist and pacifist. How do you feel these aspects of your lifestyle affect your approach to poetry?
RC: One of the most interesting things I find with your work is the fact that your influences are vast, yet never exposed in the writing in an obvious way, and you have stated that you don’t like to fall into a particular school of thought. Do you think it’s necessary to categorize poetry for the sake of academia or do you think enjoying poetry for poetry’s sake is enough?
RC: Much of your work is based in a very personal space. Your wonderful collection Scar Revision for example, concerned experience and the impact of emotional scarring, using the personal as the basis for the poem. This also ties in nicely with the idea of schools of thought, and particularly movements such as confessional poetry. Do you think distinctly personal poetry is meant for the public, or do you think the poet needs to distance themselves from the poem?
RC: As well as poetry collections you have written several novels. Do you have a different method or practice when approaching these different styles of writing? Do you perhaps go through stages of writing solely poetry or prose?
RC: You’ve also worked in the publishing and editing of poetry, such as your involvement with Folio (Salt). How important do you feel it is for new publishers of poetry to emerge at a time when so many of the major publishing houses no longer include poetry collections in their roster?
RC: It’s no secret that the landscape of Australian poetry is changing drastically, particularly with the rise of poetry publications online. What advice would you have for young people wanting to write poetry, and I hoped you could give some insight into the path a young person might follow in order to be a poet in 2015.
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