Australian Poetry runs an exciting series of national e-workshops with some of the country’s leading facilitators.
This is a selection from some of those participating in an AP e-workshop in August 2013.
Kogarah City Council (in southern Sydney) runs a comprehensive arts programme supporting a diverse and
energetic community. Also included in this issue is a selection of work from the local writers and
members of the Kogarah Writers Group who hosted a workshop in November 2013.
Finally, Coastlines Poetry is an energetic group run out of Brighton Library, Melbourne. They meet monthly
and held a workshop there in December 2013. At present they are putting together a DVD of their poetry
set to music and film to be shown at the Bayside Literary Festival in 2014.
Archived in Pandora
from Meuse Press –
gillian bennett, Sherryn Danaher, John Dingeldei, Geoffrey Dobbs,
June Dobbs, Jennie Fraine, Jasmine Giuliani,
Judyth Keighran, Sandra Lanteri, Stephen Le Page, John Lowe ,
Virginia Lowe, Bridget McKern, Judi Menzies, Patricia Meredith, Cecilia Morris,
Michele Seminara, Ruth Teicher, Anne Thompson, Margie Ulbrick,
Jim Walton, Lana Wayne, Kathryn Yuen & Ilse F Zipfel
I lost the God within
as I walked that cliff road
fraught with death.
I lost him somewhere near the oak
that grows dangerously close
and swings a noose so nicely tied
to neatly finish off a life.
I felt him slip from my fingers
as I tried to stuff him into my pocket,
a pocket so lint lined
with grief and vomit.
I tried to catch him as he fell
but he fell too fast,
suddenly he was gone
and I was alone.
I missed his voice.
I missed him telling me
which way to go or turn.
I missed him showing me sunset’s
slow orange and ochre burn.
At first the silence
was the single most awful thing,
then it was the terror of lost light,
as I stood alone on that cliff road
one dark and dreadful night.
Took It All In His Stride
Luck in life
is to have known an elder
who after digging the trenches
returned to parley with his plants
hunting, fishing, the bush
quietening his soul
Married, with children
she a dancer, he a bouncer
they danced and bounced their way
out of the Depression
He’d visit ‘the boys’ in Heidelberg
he declared, the unlucky ones
Still twenty years yet to live
she died, left him
only her love
and a cupboard to the ceiling
Fowlers Vacola bottled bastion
against his diabetic state
To visit his daughter and
family each year
the enduring twenty hour flight
as he dug and plotted their garden
did his thoughts drift back to France
One trip, mixed up dates
not met at JFK
concerned passengers drove him
an hour to his daughter’s gate
6.00 am, too early to make a fuss
grandson found him asleep in the car
He’d fly home to Melbourne
when the weather turned
at eighty five he stopped going
said his roses were suffering
At ninety we said goodbye to him
wore sprigs of rosemary
is to ponder the dicky knee
in terms of his Pozieres punctured leg
unhealed in a lifetime
Took it all in his stride
I have no regrets
I do not like the word
It is not that I cannot feel
I feel sorrow and remorse
I can be contrite
rue mourn grieve
I have compunction
penitence and guilt
I may be unable to
accept an invitation
but I will not apologise with regret
for this was my
I am the sum of myself
all the hurts
I have wailed in despair
in the foetal position
compassionate caring kind
adventurous inquisitive ponderous
I am responsible for where I am
Exactly where I
want to be
so how can I regret?
the sum of all things
I will not call
Decay became terminal, a tipping point reached
and things went too far.
The odd board he could nail back on a rotting strut—maybe.
The abscess on a window frame, cut out,
the fist deep concavity fill with agonised care.
But his own struts and cross beams
had already crumbled.
Sinews, muscles slackened,
fingers reset into mad, useless shapes,
eyes milky, sight blurred
so that nothing went where it should or could.
Meanwhile the house shed its skin and bones around him,
coated the vegetating yard with fine snow,
dropped hunks of odd shaped timber,
purpose forgotten or incomprehensible.
Cracked tiles slid with glacial slowness to the roofs edge
then plunged over the rusted gutter to smash below and
stub his unguided, blundering feet.
In the end they came for him, the nephews and nieces,
Concerned, efficient, unanimous in their assessment.
His protests fluttered in vain against their
And one morning he was gone.
The house remained, for a while:
a discarded, threadbare suit,
all its worn cavities cold and empty.
Then, it too disappeared:
not a board, tile or brick remained.
Home from school I longed for a book
under the shady veranda.
But the weaners must be brought to water.
Dog Ponty joined me, sunset still ablaze with heat.
Together we traipsed to the distant paddock
summonsed by the hollow bleat of the mob, bewildered , thirsty.
‘Come Ponty, way back’, diligently he worked
mustering, chivvying those foolish lambs.
An older lamb, scenting water, took the cue,
and they jostled, panting
to those troughs of cold fresh water, and drank thirstily.
Soothed, they drifted to further pastures.
Last rays, burnt red, streaked the sky.
I sank wearily in the shade of a bleached, dead gum
amid the tall, brittle-dry grass, beside a fallen limb.
Dog Ponty backed away, barked and barked—
foolish dog. I rose to fetch him, to cool and rest awhile.
Then—a curious quiver in the grass;
There, coiled and glistening, black eyes watching,
golden scales broken by dark russet bands:
a tiger snake.
Recoiling, shocked, we ran, dog and girl together.
‘Lambs all up to water then?’
My father, rolling a cigarette.
I stared back in silence
recalling that moment under the old tree,
that fatal beauty
Mungo National Park
Bones poke through after weather; from the weight
of sand and clay baked in outback’s kiln
they speak with delicacy: a bare whisper.
Small pieces of ossified tree, and grey patches
where fires roamed or cooked snacks
also reveal themselves.
Births and extinctions: cycles within cycles
continuing beyond our ability to think or imagine.
North was once East North East, he says, and
we acquiesce as patterns begin to make sense.
Neither the vast lunette sands, finer than beach,
spreading one and a half metres east per year
nor that lone whistling kite pursued by a plover
cares what we make of it all, what meanings we add.
Nevertheless, I see a future starkly imaginable
arriving faster than the speed of human thought.
from her book Births and Extinctions
Google predictive search
My fingers fleeting lances
as they enter the urgently hallow query upon my mind
but when my eyes raise
the predictive quandary sitting sheepishly in the bar is
the definition of love?
such a question upon where I spoil each and every whim
hauled to see
a collected urging for understanding from those
the interlopers who dare fill such knowings with one
This, the kind of question which is so obvious and elusive to
like I, a copper nail pulled and swooning away from the plaster
indulgent of nothing
other than the lean.
At the foothills of Donegal
in a new thatched cottage
(public housing for the aged)
Hannah spent her days
knitting Aran cardigans
mapped in memory
A family of tourists came
to the cottage next door
The woman spent the evenings
knitting from a pattern
plotted in letters and numbers
Hannah’s door was open
to her neighbours
The women’s conversation
was wound and unwound
in the coil of their craft
She sold her cardigans
at the Sunday market—
cooled her pint of milk
in the stream near her house
The tourists bought broccolini
and whole fresh salmon
chilled their milk
in the refrigerator
Smoke from both chimneys carved
blown by the same wind
The brash call of a donkey
fractured sleep in both houses
At holiday’s end
Hannah gave their daughter
a red Aran cardigan—
a Celtic shield against
icy nomadic winds
My home is hallow
my heart wooden
a perfect miniature
in a larger world
My mouth a cavern
I’m piano played
limp ragged, tin taut,
vocal yet dumb
as dishonest as you
pulling my strings
I am you
you are me
but when the curtain drops
I’m doubled up
and you go free
Stephen Le Page
She crouches in limbo -
frog-like, with legs ajar.
Java cotton bunches and
shifts, flutters, floats
on see-sawing deck water
anointing crinkled toes,
a baptism of past labours
in melancholy sea-driven rhythm.
She is separate, oblivious and
the hubbub of humanity,
fail to mask and silence
groans of rivets and
as her carriage rots.
pores clogged with flying salt
whipped by whistling winds
via flaky paint holes and gunnel gaps,
while the engine
wanting to break but
yet to choose its time.
Her mind unfathomed, massive
like the sea beneath.
Though eyes be distant,
glazed to cramming crowds,
though her boat decays --
inside she’s alive
that budding pubescent radical notion
now wormed deep-deep inside,
first dared ages past.
Of something ahead
better, greener, fairer--
to her mind
imagined, so dazzling
to stir and lure and
build within her
a lust, a thirst.
That speck of light she holds
still within –
Sailors once again engage
that old thug god, the sea,
boiling and bullying.
Above its boundlessness
stands the lighthouse,
built upon rock to avoid.
rocking upon the sea,
can now draw a line
that walks the water.
a place, a fixing –
it stands upon its bluff.
Conception of a Grandmother
"Bless what there is for being" [Auden]
A tiny creature floats
in whose nascent mind
inheres a world in which
its mother's childhood
has no place
will not exist -
A world so real
so tangible to me
for this little one
will be forever
It was you
who made me a mother
who changed my life
by vesting me
with the mantle
You are mother-maker
the world shifts
You are mother yourself
You bear within you
your own mother-maker
and now child-bearer too
in the maw of our holy land
that we have
the indigenous Soul
to the edge of extinction
no bounds –
no perception of indignity
in this scrabbling
for insane wealth
before the world
shakes its head
wakes up and says
a mighty NO
to these disastrous
Do we run and hide
our heads in disbelief
from the greed
of fat feral cats
ever bigger holes
this body of the
A City is…
She longed to leave that desolate place.
She slammed the window and cried.
The roofs were grey, the buildings grey,
even the weather was grey that day
and she longed to pack and run away
before part of her died.
Sleet and rain beat on the town,
the buildings cowered beneath.
Mount Wellington looked foul and white
while gnarled trees framed the chilling sight
and convict ghosts were rife that night
with damp and misty breath.
Mount Wellington lay bathed in sun…
She glimpsed a harbour of blue.
They circled round, the plane flew low,
a golden city grew below
fringed by beaches she did not know
and hills of blue-green hue.
In parks of thick green lushness snoozed
quaint ruins of sandstone blocks
and fountains played in city squares
while honeymooners strolled in pairs
past sleepy shops of antique wares
and miles of sandstone docks.
How strange that now this city seemed
so different from before.
Even the wind that howled and whined
once conjured terrors to her mind
but Hobart now seemed warm and kind…
she loved it more and more.
On a mountain path, a traveller
Gazed at the city below.
‘Hey man!’ he asked a passer-by
‘Is their lifestlyle worth a try?’
The local looked down to the valley
And said he didn’t know.
‘I’ve travelled ‘round for 60 years
to places of every kind
and I’ve come to see a city is
a personal thing. The pity is
so few can see a city is
an attitude of mind’.
The Essence of Valour
Decimators…of strategic rationale
Orders so vehemently disputably
There was no escape for heroes
Their footprints ebbed on a lapping shore
To lie side by side on blood soaked sand
Survivors’ relived the truth…
Only the lifeless won
rising to…the elusive peace
The tilted land,
the rising globe
whales used for bait.
A crease through desert
drive sand away
from what was
the sudden fall
odious wings stilled
a symmetry of green
sharpened trees a military line
guard the awe of resorts
rolex time 2.20 am landing
the 8th wonder Dubai
All Dried Up
an old lady
waiting in this parched bed
for something to happen
which cannot happen.
an old lady
with an impatient
that will not rain.
an old lady
whose slow mind spreads out
so far her eye has
who age must not tame -
May my drying up cause this spark to flame!
First published in BLUEPEPPER 2013
Trees writhe in agony
To warmer climes
We shiver and shake
Wishing we had wings
And could fly to
to warmer climes.
Sung Dynasty Pottery Jar
Blue, like my memories, indistinct
and hazy, hovers over
the jar’s near-black glaze;
while outside my window, deep
snow buries crocuses
that yesterday bore spring
through yielding ground. The world
is stilled, when
suddenly, this day, the dead pour
out of the old vessel
like snow over lotus flowers.
Words shape the past
into song. I am surrounded
by yellow and purple blossoms,
and you are with me in the garden.
I am no longer full
I clatter about in silence,
reaching out, strangely,
for the presence of the ancient
potter, his finger mark
in the jar’s clay. I find shards,
mist of blue, black glaze,
patterns without sound.
The small wild fruit that lies at your feet
As if it would purr in sun feasts on such elegance
And outside the black wind blows
Leaves catch cold like fire that smirks in your eyes
Every time I see you dance delighted as a silk-blue sky
Reminds me of the first time you stood out under the jealous midnight moon Knowingly
And all together for this I have abandoned my other lives
To converse with you as if you were really here
Coming home today as I did
I saw you from a distance working away
Bent over manacles clutch measure pour fill
In the sheer dogged carrying on of you
I knew you would not don tools and see me there
I knew this coming home today as I did
Bone achingly weary red crumbly bricks inside your skin
Eyes burn leak like tears that cannot find a way home
I do not know where I live
I do not know when you will come back
I do not know what I do not know
Fallen stars now under vanished skies
Come in flashes like inspiration
From this choleric universe we inhabit
And I lie here try to sleep
Will it breathe it sense it
Until at last peace comes
And finds me all curled up
Alone in your bed
Waiting for you to come
I’m going to spend my whole life waiting for you here
Wanting and not wanting you
The warmth you bring to my cold chilled heart
The havoc you bring to my neat little life
My children will keep you here and not here
With remnants of our story echoing in theirs
On again off again like some old broken Greek myth
And there in Mykonos the kiss we could never have
That speaks of birth trauma love loss
It goes on and on like some stolen curse
As I live a kind of half halting life wondering
Deeply treacherous inside my skull
The curse of family at my back
My small stunted heart lying smashed
My weary wild bones ache from absence
The hay cutter speaks of his love
Lady, I came for your love – not to haggle.
I am no wisened mariner of orbs familiar knowledge,
But a castaway escaping the casket’s clamour -
Our years wait in your mantled hourglass beyond that door,
My journey is measured in the distance to the bed head.
Strand me not here for my bones shudder to cease and the sand runs down.
I would be Warm and Content and Yours.
Madam, I am no callow stent and lack the vigour to court these months;
The days are ours and I have not the tongue to maintain the nights as once
I climbed to masthead nests and sailed high.
Put away this doubting nunnery,
Turn the key, loose the handle and say you are mine.
Shadow on the Wall
He stands there looking at the sleeping angel
As she lays beneath her covers
And he remains with her till sunrise
When she stirs awakens to find him gone
The shadows play tricks on her
AS she searches for her love
Yet he does not reveal himself
Until its time to rest once more
How much longer can they play this game
The torment is too hard to bear
Please she begs
Let me come into your world
Once you become a part of me
There will never be the light of day
Only shadows on the wall
To keep you near.
Evil lurks behind bleached teeth and blond highlights in hair
‘I look good for my age’, she says as she
backstabs and emotionally abuses her ‘friend’ on the phone
and ignores the psychological damage she inflicts on her
toy-boy f#@% buddy and other ‘acquaintances’
‘You’re very good to just ignore me
Not get upset. It’s just my Slavic nature’, she says
But her acid-tongue would threaten the devil
And she thinks she could be a music therapist? Start a new career.
I’m aware that the stench of excretment lingers if not flushed.
For too long, an out of school hours carer of young minds
‘This business pays very well’, she says
She’d pulp and insinkerate a baby or her own mother
If she could get away with it
She’s a hypocritical, frustrated creative who minces values and ethics
‘I’m best at structuring other people’s work”, she says
But her work is pedestrian and all her skills like a
homicidal road train before it creates road-kill splatter
Note - her only child was a mealticket and laneway access
to white picket fence respectability
And that I have not flushed sufficiently.
Ilse F Zipfel
Nestled around glazed columns
beside a glassy waterfall
cascades of curved patterns repeat
along plate-bound exuberance
for little hands to reach
On black and white pillows
rounding this picture
children scribble on bits of paper
or swirl ‘round on this concrete floor
- a dull appearance in grey begs for light to fall
into its subdued texture variation -
Sleeping nearby in half-circle fashion
around a pillar close to exit
three ladies of Asian complexion
dressed in costumes of their land
found refuge here
Wrapped in colorful clothes
upright in comforting sitting pose
like dolls I practiced propping up
recover from flights or other commotions
I met these three women next day
awake and alert amidst this city’s week-end strollers
aware of others and of me
I think they feel safe
by returning knowing glances
at strangers they met asleep
MEUSE PRESS publishes this collection.
All work © the authors.