Tag Archives: Poems

Rain in Blackall

               for Sally

We stand together, our yellow coats
a welcome contribution to the outback
palette of red earth and Mitchell Grass.

Two people immersed in the descending
chords of rain; one having the time of her life.

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People’s Day

Here in Brisbane, it’s ‘People’s Day’ at The Ekka. I am just about to pack my bags and head off to take in all the tastes, sounds, scents and sights of the show… and remember, if you are at The Ekka today, come along and see us at 5pm on The Community Stage.

Here’s a few haiku to start your morning and bring a little of The Ekka into your day.

                                                                          dodgem cars
                                                                          waiting for the sparks
                                                                          to fly

grand parade
the lowing of cattle
drowns in itself

                                                         
                                           pink nose of the bull bristled by our scent

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small words

Today I came home to the pleasure of the two latest copies of The Lilliput Review, one of the coolest little magazines you could ever set your hands on and if you need proof, check out this gem from an earlier issue, currently posted on Issa’s Untidy Hut (the blog of The Lilliput Review)

    

      Voyeur

that heavy breath
against smeared glass

the poet rubbing
windows

for the world to
peep through

          Melissa Cannon

 

The magazine features haiku, artwork and other short poems from around the world and has already helped ease me into the weekend groove, with its many wisdoms.

So here’s a selection of my own haiku… I hope they help lead you into your own weekend space.

 

                                                                        whistling
                                                                        in the bamboo grove
                                                                        August wind

 

                                             turning my back
                                             you can make love now
                                             pigeons

 

                                                                        sun in the west
                                                                        between us
                                                                        not a word

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The Poetry of Ko Un

Ko_Un

The whole Banned Books thing sent me to my bookshelf and one of the spines that spoke to me straight away was Three Way Tavern by the incredible Ko Un. Korea’s greatest living poet and humanitarian, Ko Un was jailed four times for his political activities against an authoritarian government. His work is revolutionary. He describes his poetry as:

“… flow. That flow will at times produce rhythms as it strikes against the riverbanks or frolics, speckled by light and shade. Thus my poetry is resonance. In an interview with the New York Times in the late 1980s, I said that `poetry is the music of history,’ stressing the music no less than the history.”

 

Here are five short poems:

Two beggars
sharing a meal of the food they’ve been given

The new moon shines intensely

*

In a poor family’s yard
the moon’s so bright it could beat out rice-cakes

*

Get yourself a friend
come to know a foe
Get yourself a foe
come to know a friend

What kind of game is this?

*

A thousand drops
hanging from a dead branch

The rain did not fall for nothing

*

Without a sound

resin buried underground is turning into amber
while above the first snow is falling

Translated from the Korean by Brother Anthony of Taizé, Young-moo Kim and Gary Gac (taken from The Nation)

You can also read more of Ko Un’s work in issue #34 of Jacket.

Ko Un’s work sings of freedom, sings of tomorrow… perfect for this Spring day.

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Overload Poetry Festival in Review

Well the ALS 2009 Tour rolls on, and the 4th leg of the tour took me too the cooler climes of Melbourne town. The big difference on this leg of the tour was that guitar-slinging Rock Pig, Sheish Money was along for the ride. Now Sheish and I have played lots of local gigs, but outside of QLD and Northern NSW, the other states have so far missed out on the Nunn/Money experience. So I have to say… we were fairly excited!

Friday kicked off with the launch of Overload 2009 at the Fitzroy Town Hall, MC’d by poetic raconteur, Myron Lysenko. A truly beautiful venue and great space to mingle with the Melbourne poetry crowd. I was really impressed by the passion of the Mayor who delivered the best speech I have ever heard from a politician at such an event. You really got the sense that she was right behind the festival. After the speeches, The Heart Chamber featuring Matt Hetherington, Tom Joyce, Lia Hills, Marian Spires & Michelle Leber performed a set of love poems. Matt Hetherington’s poem , When I Am Not With Her There Where She Is, the absolute stand out and one of the best contemporary love poems I have read in the last decade.

So with the room feeling the love, Santo Cazzati hit the mic dressed in checked suit and matching hat with all the energy of a box of snakes, promising us to keep us safe from the Fitzroy Ghouls as he lead the poetry crawl, Takin’ it to the Streets. And we were off…

First Stop Dantes.

Sheish Money & Graham Nunn Blue Velvet2_gimpKicking  things off was Gabrielle Everall (WA), who I had seen perform last weekend in Perth. Gabrielle delivers her words in a darkly musical voice. Her poems brimming with equal parts beauty and menace. Her set was followed by fellow West Australian, Vivienne Glance and the man who is on a quest to become Australia’s first poet laureate, Ben Pobje. So with the first leg of the crawl setting the bar high, the crowd was whitled into action, and set off to Southpaw in pursuit of Santo Cazzati and the offerings of poems by Anthony O’Sullivan, Jenny Toune, Kimberley Mann & Sam Byfield. Sadly, Sheish and I had to miss Stop Two to rush back to The Nunnery, get our gear and head off to Blue Velvet to sound check for the the third and final stop for the night.

Third Stop Blue Velvet.

Sheish Money & Graham Nunn Blue Velvet1_gimp

With the sound check done and the crowd squeezing in to the lounge-room sized back room, we hit the stage to open proceedings. No intros, no talking, just the sparkle of Sheish’s big red Kasuga brightening my poems. This was the teaser for Saturday night’s set, so we played only three poems Nomads, Ocean Hearted & Seeing a girl off in a summer storm. The room feel into that deep silence, and for those few minutes, the world seemed to close its eyes. We looked at each and smiled, eager to play an extended set tomorrow night. We were then followed by the be-helmeted Alex Scott and Bribane’s surrealist wildcard, Ghostboy. A Ghostboy set is something to behold. The crowd is just as much a part of the show as the man/ghoul/poet himself. Tonight Ghostboy tied one woman to a chair and incited another pair of ladies to passionately kiss on the carpet. He was on, the crowd lapped it up and he lapped the cheeks of several men in the audience.

We had taken to the streets and the streets had embraced us.

Jenny Toune Bella Union_gimp

Saturday was the big one… tonight Sheish and I stretched our poetic riffs at the Bella Union Trades Hall, sharing the stage with tap-dancing poet Jenny Toune and the mighty Sean M. Whelan & the Interim Lovers. Jenny kicked things off with a show that blew away all my expectations. I have to admit, when I read tap-dancing poet, I wondered whether one of the art forms would suffer, but within minutes, she put all those concerns to rest. She had the moves and the words to make the stage light up. It was a great opening set and a real pleasure to have seen.

 

Sheish Money & Graham Nunn Bella Union1_gimp

Sheish and I were up next, and champing at the mic. From the moment we plugged in, it felt good. We opened with Gutter & Edge which is on the forthcoming CD and the sound, lights and crowd were all in sync. From there we kicked in to Save Me/Lessons, Sheish showing off his full-throated growl, with me stepping in and out to punctuate the verses. It was then in to the newer poems,  Sentinel and And What Voice Says. The dark guitar loop and lead flourishes giving And What Voice Says a whole new life. Sheish then pumped straight into the big open chords of Grounded before channeling Bootsy for a funky version of Oooo… We then reinterpreted old favourite In Devotion Sheish Money & Graham Nunn Bella Union3_gimpto Life’s Sordid Affairs and closed the set with Sheish tearing into the mic with his song Poetry and this Lost Shark, dropping in Point Danger between verses. It was a tight set, the interplay was good and we walked off stage, only to be called on for an encore. This is where the true brilliance of Sheish comes into play. I named a poem and he just knew the right chords… it was off the cuff, it was spontaneous and it was right. We walked off into bright lights of the Bella feeling good.

Sean Whelan & the Interim Lovers Bella Union_gimp

And to round off the night Sean M. Whelan & the Interim Lovers took to the stage unveiling a new set of poems, which reinterpret the Lewis Carrol classic, The Hunting of the Snark. Whelan is a gifted poet and performer. Tonight he swayed with the band’s subtle movements and writhed as they reached crescendo. The poems, never overshadowed by the band and the band… well, I was mesmerised. In fact I could have watched/listened to it all again. I look forward to seeing this project evolve.

Steve Smart Bella Union_gimp

And with MC Steve Smart, bringing the night to a close, we all stumbled off into glorious Lygon Steet for more wine, pizza and endless conversation.

During my time at Overload I also had the pleasure of seeing Eric Beach at The Dan; Santo Cazzati, Steve Smart & Carmen Main, Eddy Burger and Jo Truman & Warren Burt at Glitch Bar and launching Maurice McNamara’s debut collection, Half-Hour Country at Dantes (more about that soon).

There is something incredibly special that happens when poets come together… and this Lost Shark was once again, honoured to be a part of the poetry community. Sheish and I tip our hats to James Waller and crew for all their hard work. I hope you guys are still revelling in it.

To keep up to date with all the Overload events visit Overland and be sure to leave a comment.

NB: All photographs taken by Michael Reynolds… one of this world’s true gentlemen.

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QPF Spotlight #16 – Ten QPF Poets

Just four more sleeps and I will be in poetry heaven… yes QPF 2009 is just around the corner. There are still some tickets left for Friday night’s, ‘A Tangle of Possibilities’ concert so make sure you get your seat booked asap. You can do that online here, or call The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts Box Office on (07) 3872 9000 between 12pm and 4pm.

And to help fill your next few days with poetry, I have put together a sampler from ten of the poets featuring at QPF this weekend. Hope this gets your poetry gland salivating.

See you at the festival!

 

The Violence of Work by Geoff Goodfellow

Ruminations, Allegro & The Swoop by Geoff Page

These are Wobbly Days by Anna Krien

Cheap Red Wine & Why I Write? by Bronwyn Lea

38 ways to stain a memory by Nathan Shepherdson

Death and the Maiden by Jeffrey Harpeng

And this is just the morning, glass to sea-junk: a sacrifice & How do you do, Tuatara? by Zenobia Frost

Getting off the Round-About by Janice Bostok

Of a Place by Elizabeth Bachinsky

One by Hinemoana Baker

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QPF Spotlight #15 – Adam Phillips

Adam Phillips is an emerging poet, harnessing his love of bush verse to address the stories and topics of our time. I shine the QPF Spotlight on this young storyteller to find out where he finds the words…

 

adam phillips

 

Influences

The works of Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson have always been my greatest influence. In recent years, Lawson’s red blooded poetry has been most inspirational. I’ve found myself drawn to the goodwill that is ever-present in his voice, despite his troubled life.

The early bush poet, Henry Kendall, paints some of the most beautiful scenes of the Australian bush I’ve ever read. I often turn to the American naturalist, Henry David Thoreau, when a dose of earth and sea is needed. The Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, who served me well while travelling through India, has also impacted on my writing too.

Songwriters like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Paul Kelly are always thereabouts, along with many other balladeers with a story to tell.

 

The Writing Process

A poem can start in many ways but I never try to force the words or assign a time to write. Sometimes I just hear or read a word that appeals to me and I craft a phrase or line around that word. Other times, a certain experience or pang of passion triggers some form of poetic release.

I always store poems in my mind before writing them down. Only when I’m happy with the rhyme, structure and subject matter do I push the pen. I prefer to write poems in one sitting otherwise it feels as though you’re returning to a moment that’s had the life sucked out of it.

 

The Importance of Voice

I remember an introduction to a Henry Lawson anthology that described his poetry as having ‘axe marks’ all through it but such was the beauty of it. I took comfort in that and still do. It is important to write poetry. To put on the woodchoppers singlet, have a swing and tell the stories that need to be told. 

A dear friend of mine gave me this quote from an old Persian poet which read ‘the great religions are ships, the poets are the lifeboats – every person I know has leapt overboard’. I’m just a sidestroker to the lifeboats, only I’ve got a few things to say on the way.

 

Recurring Themes

The natural world is generally a feature in most of my poems. I have a real passion for the environment and my poetry tends to reflect this. Even if I’m writing a city based story, there seems to be this inherent longing for the landscape that always creeps in somehow. Being an avid bushwalker brings themes of space and distance into the fray.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last two or three years travelling so I’ve written quite a lot about travel experiences. But every foreign yarn is countered with a story about home or life in Australia. In fact, some of my favourite work comes from that outsider’s perspective, seeing my homeland from afar.

 

How have my feelings about poetry, the reading and writing of, changed since I first started writing?

The first poem I wrote was about playing mud football with my mates. My early poems were very simple and I haven’t veered too far away from that idea over the years. I’ve definitely become a more rounded person and had more life experiences than when I first started writing. Accordingly, the potential subject matter has become much broader but in saying that I happily wrote a sequel to that very first poem just recently. The reasons for writing haven’t changed.

I can appreciate different forms of poetry now but the blinkers are still on to a large degree. The vintage verse of the early Australian poets that got me into poetry is what reminds me to keep going.

 

About Adam:

Adam Phillips is a local Brisbane poet who competed in the 2008 Poetry Unearthed competition and had works published in the ‘Poem of the Week’ competition in 2008. He has performed at numerous functions around Brisbane and also recited his poems on radio.

With an eye to the natural world, Adam’s poetry calls upon his love of classic Australian bush verse to address the stories and the topics of our time.
 

A COOEE AND A CANNON SHOT
by Adam Phillips

A cooee from the cliff edge cuts the treeline with its pledge
Strips the bark and loosens leaves or so the wayward man believes
Through the mangroves and the mud carrying his strains of blood
He calls across such virgin space with misery to match the place
Then to the cliff a countered sound renews the dreaming on the ground
And chance lifts off a southern sea to dance a great corroboree
Fire breathes and smoke billows and the furthest skyline glows
With each flame as old as sand – the story of us and our land

A cannon shot towards the shore misses what it’s aiming for
The tall ship squints with just disdain, what little force for such terrain!
Along the wall of shoal and rock waves bunt in and spit with shock
At colonies and regiments, European sentiments
And now where council parks are found tributes touch the coastal ground
Children chirp and play at ease, families picnic with the breeze
A row of pine slowly grows and the furthest skyline shows
With each tree cast over sand – the story of us and our land

A cooee and a cannon shot is all a broken man has got
To bridge this distance and this time, so much harder in our prime
This northerly is chasing down to find you at the edge of town
And meet with all your sweet finesse, wrap you up in wilderness
And steer you on the secret path where distance in the aftermath
Reduces to our human touch, fingers never meant so much
Until the new wind duly blows and the furthest skyline knows
With each footprint swept from sand – the story of us and our land

 

Catch Adam at QPF 2009:

Saturday August 22 – 8:00pm

A Million Bright Things: featuring a short set from every bright thing on the 2009 program plus a feature set from the awesome Neil Murray

 

Sunday August 23 – 2:00pm – 3:00pm

The Singing of the Earth: featuring Adam Phillips, Geoff Goodfellow & Neil Murray

 

All sessions are held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.

For full program details head to www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com

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Guided by Poets – Maxine Clarke & friends

Hasn’t been a Guided by Poets blog up for a while so here goes… this one is bristling with the white hot energy of Maxine Clarke, Santo Cazzati, Steve Smart and Melissa Petrakis. You can catch Santo in Brisbane at QPF 2009 (August 21-23) and he will also be stepping out onto the Overload stage alongside Steve Smart and Maxine Clarke, so if you can, get along and check these guys out live… you will not be sorry.

 

white bred bun
by Maxine Clarke

 

oooooh check out that lifeguard
he’s ripped
hand me a vegemite
sand stuck in my baby bonus
ooooooh my baby bonus bits

oi! mister / let’s breed
gold haired & knock-kneed
buttercup & coon cheese
bandaid on a scratched knee
judge me by a wet T
call me love

my god / i love this
sunburnt cunt –
calls me a slapper
nother shrimp on the bar—
be unaustralian

i come from the land down under
limp lettuce / tomato sauce
burnt sausage & onion on
a white bred bun
i come from the land down under
balangalow screams / do
you speak my language
well / f*ck off & go home

hey sheila
hitch hike your skirt up
like a north shore school girl
hey blackie
yes you / beat it
only kind we dig are rip curls

oooooh check out that lifeguard
he’s ripped
hand me a vegemite
sand stuck in my baby bonus
ooooooh my baby bonus bits

 

 

Maxine_Clarke

Maxine Clarke is a West Indian-Australian poet, writer and journalist (The Age, Crikey, the Koori Mail, the Big Issue etc). Her poetry, short plays and fiction, examining the experiences of African descendants in the ‘new world’, has been broadcast and published nationally. She has read her poetry at many venues around Australia , including at the Melbourne Writers Festival, the Arts Centre, the Victorian Council of Churches and Quang Minh Buddhist Temple . Maxine’s poetry chapbook Original Skin (2008) is published by Picaro Press. She is a blogger for Overland literary magazine, and writes a poetry blog at slamup.blogspot.com. Maxine’s first novel Black Lazarus was the chosen manuscript for the Overland Novel Search (2008). Maxine lives in Melbourne and loves cheese, chocolate and well, pretty much all milk product. She knows that is not cool, in these days of climate change PC, but unfortunately lacks both the willpower or will to change. She does recycle and compost though, does not drive a car. She also rarely showers, which she thinks more than makes up for the milk fetish thing.

 

 

Ballet Class
by Santo Cazzati

 

Santo Cazzati

Santo Cazzati is a spoken word artist. The son of Italian immigrants to Australia, he emerged from past lives as a classical concert pianist and avant garde jazz musician to teach at an elite Melbourne private school which must remain anonymous in order to protect those concerned. He performs in a range of styles, from fast rhythmical delivery to slow atmospheric meditation, often with a strong world music influence and critical ironic distance.

 

 

Poems and Open Doors
by Steve Smart

The sign said open
but the door was locked
a sure sign that things had
already turned to burning hell

A brick through the window –
situation desperate
note of apology, rushed but half sincere
the things you’ll do when you really need a pen

no such thing as a victimless crime
minding your own business not always an option
I was trying to prevent a crime
or I was in a hurry . . .

I was thinking about something someone once said
that captured a moment in my life
I wanted to get it on paper before I forgot
it seemed of great importance at the time

Moments are lost so easily
all the things I never wrote down

there’s a certain sense of desperation to it all
I accept I may have been hasty
a poet without a pen is just a brain on legs
I never claimed to be rational

the sign said open
I was confused
the rock was handy
it was Autumn

Without structure an open door is just air
the sign said open
the rock was thrown through air
yet there was structure
the crime was committed
the pen found
the poem written as confession
the poet sentenced to hang

Pause to argue semantics:

If I reduced the poem to a sentence
would you reduce the sentence of the poet?

The verdict revised, the poem thus reduced to

In Autumn I had a thought

 

Steve Smart

Steve Smart is a Melbourne based poet who occasionally delves into acting, script writing, dodgy video making (www.youtube.com/olbollocks), tupperware parties and various collaborative activities with musicians and other artists. His self-deprecating style has won the hearts of people all over Australia who claim to dislike poetry. He sometimes feels trapped and frightened by the life he has chosen but doesn’t really know how to express these feelings except by writing poetry, which is what got him wherever he is in the first place so it’s  . . . he wants to say ironic but has a feeling it isn’t quite that. Hell, maybe it is irony after all. Let’s say Steve loves being a poet and leave it at that.

 

 

Witchcraft
by Melissa Petrakis

I’ve heard it called witchcraft
when your eyes are dazed
and your autonomy of will
               is non-existent
when your breath is caught
at the hint of a scent like
               theirs
and actual sight of them
               renders you mute
               and impotent
until their permission to touch
               touch them
ignites
and delivers
arterial action
once again.

Someone’s put a spell on you.

You can’t work
You can’t sleep
You can’t
               talk
without sounding like static
on the radio
ill tuned in
an AM station
and the band way down
at the far end of the dial
You can’t leave this city
               you can’t
get away
whatever you do you know
they’ll haunt you.

The spell is strong.

To your room at night
in full flight
               overhead
an adrenalin surge
a heat rod to your spine
a cold shower
it delivers
and it lingers
and it feeds
and it needs
and it gives you
               no peace
not that you’d want any
not that you remember
even recall what it was like to be
               tranquil.

And there’s no escape.

There’s no avoidance
               no
abdication or disinclination
no intermission
there is no sense
that denial would help
It’s a full steam
               straight ahead
rollercoaster ride
It’s a train wreck
It’s not polite or kind
or generous or political
               or fair
and never rational
It’s the pits
and they’re so hot.

Someone’s put a spell on you.

 

(from the collection, The Naked Muse: Domain Press, 2001)

 

melissa petrakis

Melissa Petrakis is a writer of poetry, plays, short stories, academic reviews and clinical work in the field of mental health research. She has recently completed her PhD with the University of Melbourne, School of Social Work on an innovative model of client-centred assertive counselling, community linkage and monitoring in suicide prevention for emergency department care and follow-up. A short story reflecting on generational differences and motherhood was published in the antipodean anthology about mothers and daughters Mothers from the Edge. Over the last 10 years her poetry has been published in journals and anthologies in Australia, including Meanjin and overland, and the USA, including kotapress and The Muse Apprentice Guild. Her 3 published collections are The Naked Muse (2001), Attic Dweller (2002) and The Earth of Us (2005). Over the last 2 years she and her husband Tristan have become proud parents to Isabel and Lucas.

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QPF Spotlight #14 – Jessika Tong’s Desert(ed) Island Poems

Last year at QPF, one of my highlights was an afternoon reading by local Brisbane poet, Jessika Tong; words raw and engaging, pulling the crowd into her at times unsettling world. Audiences will again have the opportunity to hear Jessika at this year’s QLD Poetry Festival, so I asked her about the poems she would tuck into her hip-pocket if she was heading off to a Desert(ed) Island.

 

Jessika Tong

 

Lady Lazarus – Sylvia Plath

Dying
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.

This poem, to me, is beautiful. I have always admired the sharp, short but brutal lines of ‘Lady Lazarus’, as well as its honesty and brave approach to language.  I first read this poem when I was fourteen and have come to greatly appreciate its place amongst my collection of favourites with its stabbing lines and bold imagery. I have always been an avid reader of Plath and a great admirer of the ways in which she chose to express herself.

Ash, ash –
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there –

I don’t think ‘Lady Lazarus’ is sun and sand material but I would take it, regardless of the scenery.

 

Bindawalla, binda, bindi, bindii – Elizabeth Hodgson

I enjoy the simple words of this poem. The way it doesn’t glamorize but haunts with its starkness (deserted island) – this is what makes it appealing. I discovered this poem only a few weeks ago and immediately shoved it under the eyes of friends just to see if it broke their hearts as well (it did).

The nurses laughed as they put me in a shoe-box
And gave me to my mother: she cried.

I was weighed and measured.
With the Apgar score they rated me
To see if I could survive in this world on my own.

 

Rapunzel – Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton has always been a curious creature. I find myself drawn to her confessions and fragile but dark wordplay. The way she dominates a line with her famous ‘I’. Her recreation of ‘Rapunzel’ shows her brilliant mastery of taking a beloved fairytale and making it entirely her own. I adore most of Sexton’s work but ‘Rapunzel’ remains a solid favourite (as does the entire collection of ‘Transformations’) since fairytales and folk lore (Baltic) have always entranced me. I grew up with a mother who looked like a witch and read me tale after tale in front of a crackling fireplace so I feel very much at home when I am reading ‘Rapunzel’.

As for Mother Gothel,
Her heart shrank to the size of a pin,
Never again to say: Hold me, my young dear,
Hold me,
And only as she dreamt of the yellow hair
Did moonlight sift into her mouth.

 

Light breaks where no sun shines – Dylan Thomas

Light breaks where no sun shines;
Where no sea runs, the waters of the heart
Push in their tides;
And, broken ghosts with glow-worms in their heads,
The things of light
File through the flesh where no flesh decks the bones.

This poem describes the body, or the death of the body, in the most extraordinary way – its slow decay with connection to earth “the secret of the soil grows through the eye”. Like all great Thomas poems, there seems to be edge to something other than man, woman, body, sea, animal, bone and light. Like many of the other poems I would select, this one would not suit an island littered with sun tanned shoulders and coconut milk.

 

You took away all the oceans and all the rooms (307) – Osip Mandelstam

I have carried this poem around with me in a notebook for years. Transferring it when each book became fat and useless. Mandelstam died in the Gulags of Russia but wrote this particular poem while in exile. It is a brave poem, highlighting the human spirit without making one gag.

You took away all the oceans and all the room.
You gave me my shoe-size in earth with bars around it.
Where did it get you? Nowhere.
You left me my lips, and they shape words, even in silence.

 

The Nim Poems – Dorothy Hewett

Alice turning eleven
Watching the blood trickle
Between her thighs onto the warm boards
The woodbugs investigated it
For touching myself on the woodheap
I must be going to die she thought

This poem is an epic and is broken up into seventy-two verses under a number of sub-headings. I love the way that Alice’s life (the centre piece of the poem) is slowly rolled out with its mythical undertones and raw language. Hewett writes poetry that is adventurous and the Nim poems are a great example of her wild talent and provocative imagination – she is not shy and this is why I appreciate this set (and her) so much.

She went to the races
Pregnant in a black pill box hat
With a veil
He borrowed his father’s ute
& drove her to the abortionist’s
The unregistered doctor came
In the dark & masturbated her clitoris
Relax  he told her

 

In a dark time – Theodore Roethke

What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The days on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks – is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I  have.

This poem is incredibly rich with imagery and rhythm. It reads like a heartbeat. Poems which generally describe self-discovery can be flowery and are poems which I usually avoid except for this one. ‘In a dark time’ is fat with death-like images but is rich with hope, recording the pain one must go through in search of the I. “A fallen man, I climb out of my fear. The mind enters itself, and God the mind, and one is One, free in the tearing wind”. What an exquisite creature Roethke is.

 

And you as well must die, beloved dust – Edna St. Vincent Millay

This flawless, vital hand, this perfect head,
This body of flame and steel, before the gust
Of Death, or under his autumnal frost
Shall be as any leaf, be no less dead

This poem bleeds and aches. It is truly beautiful and one of my all time favourites with its wonderful ode to lost love and death. This is a poem to sit quietly with as it is flooded with such intense imagery that it demands to be read slowly so as to be truly absorbed. I like the way that nature is used to describe decay of body, love, and life and how the appreciation of beauty is stitched into each line adding to the poems romantic appeal.

 

Trees – Jordie Albiston

My breasts fall free my torso expands
Hair covers my flesh like a friend   I
Feel my roots burgeon back down the
Years I stretch and stand to leave

‘Trees’ is pure magic. This poem was given to me as a gift when I was eighteen and although the pages have grown a faint yellow around the edges I have never grown bored of it. I like the connection to earth and how this is drawn back into the poet’s (or female) body.

Please do not feed the trees
They do not hunger  They do not seethe
Or writhe   requiring the control of
Nylon silk   twisted   root bound foot

The way Albiston is able to create an almost tree-like envy while wrapping the female into root and bark greatly appeals to me. I grew up in a pine forest and have always carried with me, and throughout my own work, the image of trees and I have always been fascinated by their appearance within the poems of others (The moon and the yew tree by Sylvia Plath).

 

And there’s no grave – Marina Tsvetaeva

And there’s no grave! No separation, ending!
The tables un-spelled, the house – wakened up.
Like Death – on a gay dinner after wedding,
I’m Life, arrived on the last evening sup!

Marina Tsvetaeva reminds me of my Grandmother by the sharpness of her face and severe fringe. My Grandmother smelt of her garden, beheaded chickens without crying, poured entire bottles of Brandy in her trifles. She always reminded me of a woman from the old world. A Tsvetaeva (although not Russian, but German). I admire Tsvetaeva originality, her spitting lines, and at times, her hardness.

 

About Jessika:

Jessika Tong grew up in a small pine village on the Northern Island of New Zealand and has spent most of her adult life in Central and South East Queensland. Jessika has appeared within various literary journals including Motherlode: Australian Women’s Poetry 1986 – 2008, Poetry Matters, The Age, The Australian Literature Review, The Westerly, Wet Ink, Tears in the Fence FourWnineteen, Mascara, Pendulum, LinQ, Poetrix, Polestar and Verandah22. Her first collection, The Anatomy of Blue was released in December 2008 by SunLine Press.

 

Words
by Jessika Tong

I came over the green flanked
Sea of the Arctic hooked pike
With brilliant gristle I came madly
Rocked the crotch bell split the
Artery of its tarred filaments let
The lid off your blood box

A studded stump of a man now
Cleaned of your gorse you achieve
Talent, nerves, the watery earth
Of the eye its black points and
Waxy edge of white humanness,
Pureness, at last, you are one of us

A beggar for ink in your house
I have filleted books of their sternums
Poured alphabets down the throats
Of geese until their livers, fat with dictionaries,
Swelled the emptied nib of a pen we are
Nothing special but hands in suffrage

Finding windows in bodies small curtains
Of meat a kind of light that turns on when
The tongue stamps its ownership
It does not breathe or speak
Its teeth poisoned at the root it
Opens, grisly as a cut throat, blowing red balloons.

 

Catch Jessika at QPF 2009:

Saturday August 22 - 1:30pm – 2:30pm

Spine of Lost Voices: featuring Jessika Tong, Noelle Janaczewska & Elizabeth Bachinsky

 

Saturday August 22 – 8:00pm

A Million Bright Things: featuring a short set from every bright thing on the 2009 program plus a feature set from the awesome Neil Murray

 

All sessions are held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.

For full program details head to www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com

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