Issue 13 October 2014 – March 2015 (Special Double Issue)

Quotidian Rapture by Sheila Murphy.  Ink drawing on paper, treated digitally.

Quotidian Rapture by Sheila Murphy. Ink drawing on paper, treated digitally.



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The Doing is the Discovery and the Discovery is the Making: Sheila Murphy talks to Mark Roberts

Sheila Murphy has been Rochford Street Review’s first feature artist and her work has been highlighted throughout Issue 13. A brief biographical note accompanies her final work in the issue ‘Motion Juncture’

Over the last few weeks Sheila has responded to a series of questions from Rochford Street Review about her work, concentrating particularly on her visual work.

Quotidian Rapture by Sheila Murphy.  Ink drawing on paper, treated digitally.

Quotidian Rapture by Sheila Murphy. Ink drawing on paper, treated digitally.

Mark Roberts: I first came across your poetry in the early 1990s when you sent some work to P76 Magazine. I didn’t come across your visual art work visual poetry until we connected on Facebook over the last couple of years. I was wondering if you describe what you see the relationship is between your poetry and visual work? Did the poetry come first and the visual work grew out of it? Would you describe yourself as primarily as a poet/writer or an artist or are all forms equally important to the way you approach your art?

Sheila: I have been a poet for most of my adult life. Having studied language and literature, as well as music, formally, I chose to explore poetry writing from a more independent, if well-read, perspective. The poetry has been and always will be a vital part of me.

I have allowed myself a greater initial relaxation in visual work than I have done in poetry. There is a sharper edge to a great deal of my poetry, more definitive form, shall I say. The visual work has grown over the past 15+ years. I have invested many hours in it. I work very hard and seek precision in the drawings, in particular. I gain feedback from one primary individual, who also provides editing suggestions in my poetry.

I am generally an “and” person, more than an “or” person. I have many endeavors and interests that coexist in my life. Making room for many different entities is a commitment that I hold dear. This means that poetry and drawing can coexist comfortably. They seem to be mutually reinforcing.

Mark Roberts: I am interested in how writers become interested in, and start producing Visual Poetry. How did you find your way into Visual Poetry, who were your influences/mentors?

Sheila: The visual art work and visual poetry emerged in 1999, and was amped up in 2002 as I participated in the Avant Symposium at The Ohio State University, put on by Dr. John M. Bennett. I have many friends in the visual poetry and visual art realms, and have always possessed a strong inclination to do two-dimensional art.

Solfeggio – Sheila Murphy

Solfeggio – Sheila Murphy. Hand-drawn ink drawing treated digitally

I particularly appreciate work by K.S. Ernst and John M. Bennett, both of whom I collaborate with. Scott Helmes, another collaborator of mine in words, primarily, is an admired visual poet. Bob Grumman is an exceptionally intriguing visual poet, with his Mathemaku, a source of infinite interest. Marton Koppany and Jukka-Pekka Kervinen are additional individuals whose work I admire greatly.

Mark Roberts:  Following from the first question I asked you – you said that your writing and visual work is “mutually reinforcing”. I am interested to understand how you approach a new visual work or a poem. Do you know at once if an idea is going to be a poem or a visual piece? Can it be both? Do you bring a different creative approach to a visual work than to a poet?

Sheila: I do know immediately, yes, regarding the road branching between visual  and word-centered effort, which is alert to the impulse to create. Of course, there is the issue of visual poetry, in which the two may be commingled. That, of course, gives us a third branch! Your question, though, about how work forms remains apt. I involve my hands or voice in making something. With visual, I actually feel the pulse of motion, and allow it to focus my mind on where the work is headed. The doing is the discovery, and the discovery is the making.

With poems, the hearing faculty, and the hands, as well, with their corresponding “new body part” of keyboard or other writing instrument, are charged and attended to. I hear something or I feel words from a page, and I am off on a strong charge toward finding the poem. As an illustration, I just a moment ago came upon the word “monetize,” one that suggests a certain pallor. The thin level of living that emerges in context of money-mainly thinking. It occurred to me that somewhat was there, stirring, so I let the fingers on the keyboard (that aforementioned body part joined with the rest of me at age 16 way back when) find a poem. They did. It seemed to work. I received validating feedback from my friend Doug Barbour, also my long-term collaborator, as I shared the piece with a list (Poetry Etc).

Motion Juncture by Sheila Murphy.

Motion Juncture by Sheila Murphy. Ink drawing on paper, treated digitally.

Mark Roberts. I am interested in the background of the three pieces we have run in Rochford Street Review Issue 13 (the cover image has had some great feedback by the way). Could you provide a few sentences  about these works – when were they produced? What did they grow out of? Where they part of a sequence or similar works?

Sheila:Thank you for sharing the response you have received about the cover piece. I have been drawing pieces of this nature for several years. They emerged from absolute focus on the interplay of lines and their relationship within a system of conforming processes that inter-relate and thereby redefine themselves as the work grows. The biological and organic nature of a system means, as you know, that there is an inherent pull toward the essence of where the system “goes.” I cannot presume to know ahead of time. The piece morphs, and I drive with it. The relationship among parts is part of that seemingly chemical reality, if I may slightly mix scientific metaphors.

Part of what excites me about the visual is that my perpetual attraction to it has at last come to be realized. I always wanted to “go there.” I was always a sound, music, poetry person. (Music came first.) The outgrowth of where sound would take me was in part social-educational, as I felt the perceptions about poets during my formative years and realized that I belonged there. Taking my musical training and inclinations to that place was natural and greatly satisfying. It remains so to this day.

The visual sense came later, much later. I found my way there, and lucky person that I am, here I am now. This process of finding the visual offers a way of making palpable the conceptual reality I seem to inhabit. The physical presence seems a small miracle, as much of what I do occurs in thought and feeling. There is a clear sense of its own entity.


 A non exhaustive Sheila Murphy Bibliography

Visual Poetry Books

  • Yes It Is (with John M. Bennett). Luna Bisonte Prods. 2014
  • 2 Juries + 2 Storeys = 4 Stories Toujours (with K.S. Ernst). Xerolage 55 from Xexoxial Editions. 2013.
  • This Is Visual Poetry. 2010.
  • Permutoria (with K.S. Ernst). Luna Bisonte Prods. 2008.

Poetry and Writing

  • Continuations 2 (with Douglas Barbour). The University of Alberta Press. 2012.
  • American Ghazals. Otoliths Press. 2012.
  • Noun that I’ve Been Watching. White Sky Books. 2012.
  • American Haibun. White Sky Ebooks. 2012.
  • The Daylight Sections. White Sky Books. 2011.
  • Beyond the Bother of Sunlight (with Lewis LaCook). Blazevox [Books]. 2011.
  • Reverse Haibun. White Sky Books. 2011.
  • Circumsanct. White Sky Books. 2011.
  • Toccatas in the Key of D. Blue Lion Books. 2010.
  • Quaternity (with Scott Glassman). Otoliths Press. 2009.
  • how to spell the sound of everything (with mIEKAL aND). Xerox Sutra Editions. 2009.
  • Collected Chapbooks. Blue Lion Books. 2008.
  • Parsings. Arrum Press (Finland). 2008.
  • The Case of the Lost Objective Case. Otoliths Press. 2007.
  • Continuations (with Douglas Barbour). The University of Alberta Press. 2006.
  • Incessant Seeds. Pavement Saw Press. 2005.
  • Proof of Silhouettes. Stride Press (UK). 2004.
  • Concentricity. Pleasure Boat Studio: A Literary Press. 2004.
  • Green Tea with Ginger. Potes & Poets Press. 2003.
  • Letters to Unfinished J. Green Integer Press. 2003.
  • The Stuttering of Wings. Stride Press (UK), 2002.
  • The Indelible Occasion. Potes & Poets Press, 2000.
  • Falling in Love Falling in Love With You Syntax: Selected and New Poems. Potes & Poets Press, 1997.
  • A Clove of Gender. Stride Press (UK), 1995.
  • Pure Mental Breath. Gesture Press (Toronto), 1994.
  • Tommy and Neil. Sun/Gemini Press (Tucson, Arizona), 1993.
  • Teth. Chax Press, 1991.
  • Sad Isn’t the Color of the Dream. Stride Press (UK), 1991.
  • With House Silence. Stride Press (UK), 1987.


  • The Art of Survival: an Anthology. Kings Estate Press, 2014.
  • Reading the Difficulties.. The University of Alabama Press, 2014.
  • 147 Million Orphans. Gradiant Books, 2014.
  • 1000 Views of “Girl Singing”. Leafe Press, 2009.
  • Visiting Wallace: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Wallace Stevens. University of Iowa Press, 2009.
  • Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh. Salt Publishing, 2009.
  • Anthology: Spidertangle. Xexoxial Editions, 2009.
  • Visio-Textual Selectricity. Runaway Spoon Press, 2008.
  • The Hay(na)ku Anthology, Volume II. Meritage Press, USA. xPress(ed). Finland. 2008.
  • >2: An Anthology of New Collaborative Poetry. Editor, with M.L. Weber. Sugar Mule Press, 2007.
  • The First Hay(na)ku Antholgy. Meritage Press, 2005.
  • Fever Dreams: Contemporary Arizona Poetry. The University of Arizona Press, 1997.
  • The Gertrude Stein Awards in Innovative American Poetry,1993—1994; 1994—1995. Sun & Moon Press.
  • Primary Trouble: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry. Talisman House Press, 1996.
  • A Curious Architecture: A Selection of Contemporary Prose Poems. Stride (UK), 1996.
  • The Art of Practice: 45 Contemporary Poets. Potes & Poets Press, 1994.

Exhibitions of Visual Poetry and Art

  • Lists: an International Special Exhibition. Minneapolis, 2014. June, 2014.
  • Visual Poetry Exhibition. Ráday Könyvesház. Budapest, Hungary. April, 2010.
  • Asemic Exhibit in Smolensk. Russia. April 17 – May 1, 2010.
  • Explanations of Signs. Collaborative Paintings with Rupert Loydell. University College Falmouth. 2009.
  • Visual Poetry Etched on Glass Wall. Rondo Community Library and Housing Project, Minneapolis, 2006.
  • Blends and Bridges. Cleveland, Ohio, 2006.
  • Still Life with Words: an International Exhibition. Gallery 308, Minneapolis, 2005.
  • SoundVisionVisionSound III. Nave Gallery, Somerville, Massachusetts, 2005.
  • Infinity. Dudley House. Harvard University, 2005.
  • Vispo at Durban Segnini Gallery. Miami, Florida, 2005.





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‘Motion Juncture’ – Sheila Murphy.

Motion Juncture by Sheila Murphy.

Motion Juncture by Sheila Murphy. Ink drawing on paper, treated digitally.

Sheila Murphy is the featured artist for Issue 13

Sheila Murphy was reared in the community of the University of Notre Dame, in South Bend, Indiana USA. Much of her formal education was in the State of Michigan, followed by additional learning in Arizona. She has lived all of her adult life, since age 25, in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area.

Murphy has strong ties to Australia, with family  in the Sydney area, as well as a personal interest in Tasmania. She performed her poetry at the Brisbane Writers Festival in 1999 and has visited Australia on many other occasions.


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The Vulnerability of Individuals in the Face of History: Lisa Gorton launches ‘This Intimate War: Gallipoli/Çanakkale 1915’ by Robyn Rowland

This Intimate War: Gallipoli/Çanakkale 1915 by Robyn Rowland and translated by Dr Mehmet Ali Çelikel, Five Islands Press, was launched at The Wheeler Centre Melbourne by Dr Lisa Gorton on 2 March 2015

This Intimate War‘What is history?’ E. H. Carr asked in his 1961 lectures at the University of Cambridge. ‘What is an historical fact?’ By what process is ‘a mere fact about the past transformed into a fact of history’ – made to express, more than all the other multitudinous facts of the same moment, the meaning of what happened? No poem can change the past. But a poem, if it is strong enough, can change the way in which we remember the past – our own, or our culture’s. It can change the kinds of facts that we notice. And when it changes the kinds of facts that we notice in the past, it changes the present, too.

In This Intimate War: Gallipoli/Çanakkale 1915 Robyn Rowland has entered the field of history. She has taken on the role of shaping how we perceive the past. I have read her collection many times now. It has come to live in my mind. Its many telling details, and its approach to history, have become intrinsic to my way of thinking about Gallipoli and Çannakale. This Intimate War will work in this way on those who let it. This collection brings home the vulnerability of individuals in the face of history.

thank heavens

faith is everywhere like bloodied green grass,
flying stone, screams of thousands in the din of dying,

sweet jesus, allahu akbar, mary mother of god,
yes sir, sergeant, commander, captain, lieutenant,

necessary as breath when the voice screams attack!
obey, obey, obey, smother that tremble,

fling your body over the trench-bank, charge!
feel your friend run beside you, grunt, drop,

run, keep running, forward, push those legs,
remember those childhood races, the prize,

bayonets are gleaming in the bright sun,
fields of starlight glinting before you so lovely,

waves of light moving towards each other,
the sound of cymbals? no, god NO!

the shock of his eyes up close,
stink on his breath – fear – and lunge in,

up under his chin to the spinal cord,
steel dulled, crimson as faith,

sweet jesus, allahu akbar, mary mother of god,
it wasn’t needed for long.

This, the first poem in the book, takes the reader immediately into the onslaught. Rowland is interested in history not as a narrative framed by retrospect, the perspective of safety, but as a present imperative force in the lives of individuals. The very inwardness of the poem’s point of view gives the voice of the poem a frightening, shifting intimacy. ‘Fling your body over the trench-bank’. Are we who speak the poem commanding someone? Are we hearing someone commanding us? Or is this someone speaking to himself, having internalised the voice of command? Who is vulnerable, who is safe? ‘Up under his chin to the spinal chord’. Who has died? Has the poem stepped back, is it recording the death of its nameless protagonist; or has this protagonist, who might be us, killed someone else?

Such shifts of perspectives, worked into the details of this poem, are essential to how this collection represents war. How does the voice of command enter into the lives of individuals? Does the idea of victory in war depend on stepping back from the nameless dead? On the facing page, the poem is translated into Turkish. A killed soldier, and a killing soldier: this poem belongs to both sides of war. I have no skill to comment on the translations; but having the poems in both Turkish and English is central to the idea of this book. Turn the page and these languages touch each other as the dead of that war are joined in death.

In a later poem for child soldiers, ‘Children of Gallipoli’, Rowland writes:

Every country had them. They left no wills,
no children to grandchildren, no mark on the earth
but some fading photo. If there is no stone for them
their brief breath vanishes into the vapour of history
unremembered. Just the image of a boy
dead in the trenches…

The poems in This Intimate War draw on private testimonials. The collection quotes, for instance, the letter that a boy called Hasan Ethem wrote to his mother, a letter smuggled past the censors hidden in a sardine tin. The poems in This Intimate War work with individual names, with quotations and recollections. They remember particular single incidents: how ‘General Sir Bryan Mahon, a Galway man/ had a tantrum when he didn’t get promoted, resigned and/ headed off to an island, leaving his men under fire,/ and no-one game to pull us back without command…’; or how James Crozier, twenty-one year old Belfast boy, fell asleep in a farmhouse and was shot for desertion. The poems in This Intimate War consider the lives of women: mothers, nurses, lovers, munition workers: a photograph of seven women pouring explosives into shells; a recollection of England’s ‘Canary girls’: ‘their yellow skin shining/ brighter than flares, orange hair a badge of courage/ as TNT poisoning sank its toxic glow into their flesh…’

Rowland quotes Patrick Shaw-Stewart: ‘Think of fighting… on the plains of Troy itself!’ Not only in such references to Homer, but also in her sequence about war artists, ‘Ways of Seeing’, Rowland shows her reflective interest in the ethics and aesthetics of representing war. Of Major L.F. S. Hore she writes: ‘the smallness of his paper allowed such intimacies with landscape, such smallness of citizenry.’ Of Sidney Nolan she writes, ‘His landscapes have no aerial views. He sat among the ridges, bluffs and valleys’. Intimacy, citizenry, close and involved perspectives: these are values that Rowland’s collection embodies. The poems in This Intimate War consider war not from the perspective of victory but from the perspective of those caught up in war, who, whichever side they were on, lost.

– Lisa Gorton


Lisa Gorton writes poetry, essays and fiction. She is the poetry editor of ABR. Her latest collection poetry Hotel Hyperion was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards and Western Australian Premier’s Prize for Poetry. Her awards include the Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal, Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize and Victorian Premier’s Prize for Poetry. Her novel The Life of Houses has just been published by Giramondo.

This Intimate War Gallipoli/Çanakkale 1915 – İçlİ Dışlı Bİr Savaş: Gelİbolu/Çanakkale 1915 is available from


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Addressing the Social: Elizabeth Ashburn’s Artist talk at Articulate Project Space.

This is the text of an Artist Talk given by Elizabeth Ashburn at Articulate Project Space (497 Parramatta Rd, Leichhardt. NSW) on Saturday March 15 as part of the exhibition Taking up Space

Articulate Project Space presented the exhibition Taking Up Space from 6 to 22 March 2015 as an event celebrating the launch of Future Feminist Archives by Contemporary Art and Feminism (CAF) to coincide with the fortieth anniversary of Women’s Day 2015. Artists were invited to respond spatially to an artwork from the women’s art movement in Australia. This call provided work from young emerging artists to those with a long history of art practice. Consequently the exhibition is diverse and reflects contemporary practice in art as well as continuing themes of feminist thought. It was accompanied by short artist talks by the participants and here I am speaking about my work Stop Slavery.

I am passionate about many issues that are part of our contemporary world so, as an artist, I focused on developing an art practice to address social, rather than personal, concerns, but to do so in ways that remain valid artistically. A current concern lies in that of contemporary violence, such as war or torture. For over ten years I have been making art about the war in Iraq to examine the impact on civilians and combatants, as well as on children, women and the environment in this conflict.

Elizabeth Ashburn. Stop the Torture of Women 2015

Elizabeth Ashburn. Stop the Torture of Women 2015

I struggle to find ways to make art that might engage an audience without supporting or glamourising or even fetishising war or violence. Does the continual exposure of violence through the visual media make art become just another contributory to this stream of images? Is art able to effect people’s perceptions and even their behaviour in ways to address the violence endemic within our world? And finally how can women be placed as other than victims, or worse, as invisible?

Vivienne Dadour’s Connections— a community project. 2015

Vivienne Dadour’s Connections— a Community Project. 2015

Other artists in this exhibition have also used content that grapples with these issues. Che Ritz has made Cement Boxes 2010, a series of small wooden boxes filled with cement and burned, disfigured and reshaped safety pins, that are a visual response to the incarceration of young girls at Hays Girls Institute. The area of female invisibility and devaluing of their work is addressed in Anne Graham’s She left the Table 2015 as a tribute to women in gaol or sweatshops where women suffer for protecting their own. And in Vivienne Dadour’s Connections— a community project 2015 she showcases the largely unrecognised work of the early Lebanese migrant women who were considered undesirable participants and a hidden presence in Australian society 1900-1950. Phaptawan Suwannakudt’s work, Broken the Spell 2014 refers to the silencing and control of women in Thailand.

Che Ritz. Cement Boxes 2010. Photo Emily K Parsons Lord.

Che Ritz. Cement Boxes 2010. Photo Emily K Parsons Lord.

My piece in this exhibition, Stop the Torture of Women, grew out of my realisation that women throughout the world increasingly are subjected to torture both domestically and through state institutions. I have taken aspects of the work of Rosalie Gascoyne to create these two panels. She used recycled timber and fragments of language to create large word art works similar to puzzles, like crosswords or find-a word. Rather than using found objects I have used plywood, which consists of thin slices of wood glued and bonded together and I have further cut the ply into squares imposing further fragmentation. This once living material has been put through a process so that the being and spirit of a tree has been torn apart akin to the process of torture. These square remnants have then been painted a strong pink, a colour culturally associated with the vulnerable female body. While the victim of torture in the collective imagination is generally viewed as male, women are increasingly raped, sexually assaulted, brutalised, killed and tortured. The message to stop torture is jumbled and fragmented to encourage the viewer to put the puzzle together and so to become aware of the need to act against the torture of women.

Anne Graham.  She left The Table 2015

Anne Graham. She left The Table 2015

Torture is strictly forbidden by the United Nations convention and bans torture under all circumstances. The UN convention also forbids activities, which do not rise to the level of torture, but which constitute cruel or degrading treatment. In September 2014, representatives from the government of Australia appeared before the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) as part of a current review into Australia’s obligations under its treaty. In their submission, our government argued,
“As a matter of international law, domestic violence does not fall within the scope of the Convention … as it is not conduct that is committed by or at the instigation of, or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”
In other words, in the view of the government of Australia, violence against women in domestic situations is not torture. Similarly they consider certain of their policies regarding internment falls outside UN conventions and cannot be regarded as torture. Tragically many other countries also continue to defy these UN conventions. Some countries increasingly torture and degrade women and these include China, many African and Middle Eastern territories and possibly the United States through its war on terror and this is why I created this art work.

– Elizabeth Ashburn


Elizabeth Ashburn has been involved in the education of artists since 1964. She is currently an Emeritus Professor at the University of New South Wales and a Conjoint Professor at the University of Newcastle. In 2007 she was awarded an Order of Australia Award for services to education, fine art, contemporary Australian art and to the community.

Taking Up Space runs at Articulate Project Space,  497 Parramatta Rd, Leichhardt. NSW 2040. Australia, until 22 March 2015. Further details at

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Big, Bold and Glorious: Dr Janine Burke launches Kate Just’s ‘The Furies’

Dr Janine Burke launched Kate Just’s The Furies St Kilda at the Town Hall Gallery, 99a Carlisle Street St Kilda on International Women’s Day 2015 (8 March). The Furies runs until 25 March (interior work) & 30 June (outdoor work).


Kate Just, The Furies, 2015, digital print on satin polyester, each 130cm x 400cm. Photo: Simon Strong

I’m so honoured to be opening Kate Just’s exhibition The Furies, today International Women’s Day, 2015. In our society, acts of violence against women have become a constant and hideous presence. Nearly every day, or so it seems, we react to fresh reports of this violence with dismay, disgust and fear. We ask ourselves, what can I do? How can I deal with this onslaught?

In this magnificent and moving series, Kate Just invokes the wrath of the Furies and they release their power from the walls of this building. These fabulous creatures have existed since the creation of the world, so Hesiod tells us in his Theogony written in the 8th -7th centuries BC., and which provides the earliest reference to the Furies. The Theogony, a geneaology of the gods, tells the Greek creation story. The Furies are the goddesses of vengeance and retribution. They were born out of violence. An assault on their father – Great Heaven or Ouranos – occurred as he slept next to Gaia, the Earth, the mother goddess, his partner. Drops of blood fell from Ouranos’s wound. These were nurtured to life by Gaia and they became the Furies.

Sophocles describes them as ‘the Daughters of Earth and Darkness.’ Their hair writhed with snakes – a symbol of magical power over nature. They were said to be terrible to behold. The Furies were tasked by the gods to hunt down those who commit serious crimes. To bring justice to the guilty, to subject them – in some cases – to the torments of madness. To pursue until the wrong-doer shows remorse. The Furies are the Law. Implacable. Invincible.

Greek myth has proved a fecund and enduring source of inspiration for Western art and thought. Sigmund Freud based the Oedipus complex, a cornerstone of psychoanalysis, on the legend of Oedipus, vividly captured in Sophocles’ play, written in the fourth century B.C. Like much classical Greek art, Oedipus involves the pressure of moral force and its resolution. On the road to Thebes, Oedipus gets into a fight with an older man, and kills him, without knowing that it his father, the king. After Oedipus solves the riddle of the Sphinx, the people of Thebes reward him with the hand of the queen, Jocasta, in marriage, whom he does not know is his mother. But the Furies are waiting. An epidemic, droughts and famine ravage Thebes. Oedipus tries to discover the source for this disorder, why the gods have turned against him and, when the awful truth comes out, Jocasta commits suicide and Oedipus blinds himself.

furies 3

Kate Just, The Furies, 2015, digital print on satin polyester, each 130cm x 400cm. Photo: Simon Strong

Freud’s construction of femininity was extremely problematic and remains the most controversial area of his thinking. In a nutshell, Freud seemed incapable of imagining women’s potential beyond the pale of convention. His attitude parallels that of ancient Greece: in myth and art, women were worshipped as goddesses: Artemis, moon goddess of the hunt, strong and independent, and in need of no man; Athena, namesake of Athens, goddess of war and wisdom, the arch diplomat, adviser to gods and men. But in daily life, the role of women in Athenian society was highly restricted. They were often treated little better than slaves. Unfortunately, such contradictions remain familiar to us.

Like Freud, Kate Just re-interprets Greek myth for a contemporary audience, mining its intensity, drama and psychological complexity. As we see from her banners, The Furies have lost none of their powers over time. They are big, bold and glorious. The Furies are enraged. The Furies fight back. We gaze at them with awe and pride. These Furies are women in our community whom Kate got to know when they participated in self-defense classes. What do we read on their faces? What do their bodies, their actions, reveal?

This series reminds us that the space of physical confrontation is rarely one that women confidently inhabit. It is one reason that makes these extra-ordinary images. Though the Furies are galvanised by righteous anger, traces of fear can also be detected on their faces.

Perhaps it is not only the fear of what may confront them as they move forward to engage in combat. Perhaps it is the fear they may have experienced, in testing personal situations, which, nurtured by the support of community, they now have the freedom to expose and release. Fears they have learned to conquer – as we must all learn to conquer our fears, time and time again. Such duality makes the Furies both divine and human – immortal deities with the might of heaven on their side – and vulnerable women who have learned to defend themselves against attack.

Myth reminds us of the power of imagination, the resource we possess to see ourselves as greater, better, stronger than we are. That is the power of art – and one that Kate Just so memorably manifests in this significant and beautiful exhibition.

Which I now declare – open.

– Dr Janine Burke


Dr Janine Burke is an art historian, a curator and an award-winning novelist. In the 1970s she lectured in art history at the Victorian College of the Arts. During that time, she wrote Australian Women Artists, 1840-1940 and co-founded the Women’s Art Movement and Lip, the feminist arts journal. Since then, Janine has published 20 books including Australian Gothic: A Life of Albert Tucker, The Heart Garden: Sunday Reed and Heide and The Gods of Freud: Sigmund Freud’s Art Collection. Most recently, she curated Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing for the Freud Museum London (October 2014-March 2015). She is Honorary Senior Fellow, Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne.

Kate Just can be found at


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Alien Steampunk: B. J. Muirhead reviews ‘The Airmen (Part 1: The Pirates of Aireon)’ by R.J. Ashby

The Airmen (Part 1: The Pirates of Aireon) by R.J. Ashby. Dragonfall Press 2012.

AirmenScience-fiction is a very difficult area in which to publish. A part of the reason is the unwillingness of publishers to take on unknown authors in a world where it seems that fame alone sells. I would not have believed the extent to which this is the case if one sci-fi writer had not told me over coffee that his publisher was begging him to write fantasy in place of the planned volumes he already had been signed to write. The point of mentioning this is that, in spite of this, there is a lot of good work written and published that may not receive the exposure it deserves.

The Pirates of Aireon is one such work. It is a science-fiction adventure set on a planet which seems entirely unsuited to human life, a planet almost entirely covered by ocean, above which float giant cities which are divided into groupings of nations, all of which surround Rimland, the one known area of land, in the middle of which is a lake, complete with sailing ships and another island on which is the entrance to Underworld, where no one but priests of the Sacred Flame are welcome.

Everything technological which the people need for life, the metal for the cities and airships, fruit, vegetables and more, come from Rimland and Underworld; everything but fish and ocean driftweed, the latter being an unpalatable but nutritious seaweed infested with giant leeches. The ocean also is home to a variety of dangerous creatures, including a variety of sharks and krakens, which hide in deep water and attack creatures on the water surface. Airships are the only viable means of transport between the cities and Rimland, and are made of lightweight, gravity resisting metal skeletons covered with canvas.

Jardan, the twenty-one year old central male character, lives on the Rochelle, a three hulled, three winged airship with his father Borges. As airmen they find and strip wrecked airships of everything that is useful, in particular the valuable engine parts and the crystals which power them. Airmen avoid the cities which are overcrowded, polluted and often dangerous, preferring to live a nomadic life in their airships, only stopping at the cities when they need supplies and have salvage to sell.

Most of this is learnt in the first few chapters, which present an almost idyllic lifestyle for Jardan and Borges, apart from the need to keep watch for pirates, and the predators in the ocean.

The set up for the story is accomplished and peaks our interest. In fact, the entire book holds a reader’s interest easily, partly because the action is ongoing and compelling enough to sustain interest, and partly because new information is injected into the action in a way that is natural and pushes the story forward until we are deeply involved in a culture which is almost unbelievably vicious and anarchic within a rigid social structure. People kill each other regularly, almost without thought. The worst among them are the pirates, living in Aireon, a city which many have heard of, but whose location is known to few. Jardan arrives in Aireon after killing all but one of the pirates who attacked the Rochelle and killed his father. The only escape, after he and the female pirate Rowella had been rescued by a salvage vessel, whose crew Jardan then killed when they planned to rape Rowella, was the pirate city of Aireon, where Jardan is sold as a slave.

Both Jardan and Rowella are accomplished pilots and fighters, and when they escape Aireon they are accompanied by an acolyte from Rimland, who convinces them to take their stolen airship to Rimland where the truth of their presence on the planet is discovered by Jardan and Rowella.

The difficulty for me in writing about it is that there is so much action in this book, so many plot diversions and twists, that it is very difficult to provide a feel for the work that doesn’t seem as though it is outrageously absurd. There is a sadistic assassin, for example, who chases Jardan after the latter, without meaning to, caused the death of the son of a crime gang leader, and there is the Chairwoman, the insane elderly leader of the pirates and grandmother to Rowella, who saves Jardan from the Chairwoman and who becomes, after many misunderstandings, Jardan’s lover. But it is not the most complex novel of this type, and this gives it a directness which other adventure stories often lack. Suffice it to say, therefore, that the story is well constructed and believable within the constraints of the planet and steampunk technology, bearing in mind that the story expands and evolves so that many of our questions—how did such a strange society come about? being just one—are answered.

As the first in a planned series of books this sustained, and restrained, release of relevant information works well, and we certainly don’t have anywhere near all of the answers by the end, but nor does the end leave us hanging uncomfortably waiting for the next volume. By the time we reach the last page, the story being told has been finished satisfactorily, which in this instance means that although everything in this volume has been resolved, new elements have been introduced as the foundation for the next book in the series.

The second book in The Airmen series (The Kraken Hunters) has been written, but the whole series is a victim of the closure of Dragonfall Press.

Ashby, however, is a determined writer, and has commenced a new series, (The Kingbreaker Chronicles) published by Ticonderoga Publications.

I personally hope, however, that The Airmen series will be revived. Part One is a good read for kids, and anyone else who likes adventure with a dash of planetary science fiction.

– Bruce Muirhead


BJ Muirhead is a writer and photographer living in rural Queensland. He has published online and in print journals, and was included in an anthology of Queensland poetry (1986). He has published art criticism and was photographic reviewer for the Courier-Mail newspaper in the 1980s. His writing and recent exhibitions, Primary Evidence (2011) andFlesh (2014), continue his lifetime interest in the human body and its relation to the inevitability of age and death. He can be found at and

Unfortunately with the closure of Dragonfall Press it maybe difficult to locate a copy of The Airmen. A search of the internet, however, may turn up some copies. Further details maybe available from R.J. Ashby’s website

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For the Words…. Les Wicks experiences the International Poetry Festival of Granada (Nicaragua)

Les Wicks has just returned from attending the Festival Internacional de Poesía, Granada in Nicaragua. Here he shares his experiences of the Festival.

Poetry at the Plaza

Poetry at the Plaza de la Independencia

We do what we do. Mostly it’s like some sort of psychiatric itch, satisfied safely in dark corners well away from any hint of public gaze. Oh yes, to be a poet sounds dashing, even romantic… to anyone who knows nothing of the realities of our invisible art. I think the general consensus is that the world needs poetry just so long as nobody ever has to read it.

The first indication that something was different in Nicaragua was when two of us were plucked from the “huddled masses” at immigration in Managua airport to be spirited away to the diplomatic suite while our passports and luggage were processed by energetic others. We are not used to special treatment.

So to be launched into a tardy, spectacular maelstrom that was the Festival  Internacional de Poesía, Granada. This beautiful lakeside town has a vast central public area called the Plaza de la Independencia. An extraordinary expanse – this was to be the heart of the Festival. Each night there was an audience ranging between 500 and 2000 – engaged, animated and happily munching on popcorn. I had experienced something similar in Medellín, widely acknowledged as the world’s biggest poetry Festival, but this extraordinary outpouring of that rarest commodity in poetry – interest – is deeply humbling. I know people use this phrase all the time but when you experience the real thing there simply isn’t another word for it.

This isn’t about star power. There were around 100 poets from 50 countries performing across the seven days. Each poet was probably only known to few of their compatriots, let alone this vast audience. With the exception of those like Ernesto Cardenal, to the audience we must’ve seemed like a collection of disparate oddities, a freak show of words. But we were part of something called poetry and that was what they showed up for… a conscious choice in a town where there was plenty else going on. They listened patiently to the, say, Friesian version of one poem waiting for the Spanish translation that would follow.

Throughout each day there were a series of smaller, but well attended readings. There was an exciting range of work available at the book fair. But just as we had settled in to this enriching pattern of engagement there was the biggest surprise of all – the carnival. This year themed around the proposition of celebrating a death of violence against women through poetry (this loses something in the translation) we were in a street parade lasting several hours (with thermometers hitting the mid 30s) – an array of musicians, dozens of dancers and thousands of onlookers. At each streetcorner the carnival stopped and poets were called to the stage to read their work. Earlier I talked about humility, in the carnival I cried at times. This was just so much.

Everything ran late. There were some interesting failures of organisation. But this was set against a planning incomprehensible anywhere else in the world. The scale was mind-boggling. We just shook our heads as we watched organisers going publicly mad juggling so many balls at once.

More than once we had to ask ourselves whether all this could be justified in a country facing so many economic challenges. Nicaragua is poor, the 2nd poorest in the western hemisphere. Nicaragua has vast inequalities. The newly restored Sandinista government faces an economy in many ways at a standstill. The endemic corruption throughout the region has allegedly breached the barriers and a proposal for a Chinese built canal to rival Panama cutting through the country’s gigantic freshwater lake sees the country deeply divided. Why would a fortune be wasted on words?

Granada3 071 (2)

The Carnival!

On the first night there were a few of us in the audience chattering quietly through the long blocks of indecipherable (for us) Spanish. The homeless guy in front of us tapped our knees and begged us to be quiet so he could hear. Over the week teenagers pulled us aside asking for autographs, but more importantly wanting to clarify points in our work that they wrestled with in their hard fought English. We engaged with the people at each point of this extraordinary week – some clearly from the social elite engaging in “high culture”, some penny-poor revelling in the roars from angry wordsmiths. The simple reality is that poetry rests close to the core of Latin America’s DNA. This didn’t happen over the course of a few decades, it didn’t happen by accident and it has been maintained through prodigious efforts by countless practitioners and volunteers. It is an amazing sacrament that those of us from other cultures can only marvel at. Is this the justification?

For me, the assessment of the Festival from a critical standpoint is a process that will take some months yet as I read through the array of books I took home to follow through from the live experience. Of course, one could revel in the lyric clarity of US poets like Richard Blanco and Jessica Hellen Lopez. I ran across the work of Campbell McGrath the first time and was fascinated. Sweden’s Bengt Berg had a canny anarchism that disrupted the easy assumptions of poetry. New Zealand’s Doc Drumheller had the crowd eating out of his hand. Peter Waugh, Immanuel Mifsud, Monica Aasprong, Aurelia Lassaque, Dylan Brennan, Claudio Pozzani, Alexander Hutchison, Hanane Aad, Gasper Malej and Johanna Veno all brought unique voices to play. After some rum fuelled insights into poetry shared with Maarja Kangro I looked up some of her translated work and thought yes, she gets it. I loved Luis H Francia’s work and attending the launch of Sudeep Sen’s Spanish book enabled me to immerse myself in a full hour’s worth of his words helpfully also read in English. It was a frustration that I was unable to understand the full richness of so many of the Latin American poets, but having previously read a superb anthology called The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry I kinda knew what I was missing. I recommend it to readers.

The final question is both difficult and tedious. What is the biggest poetry Festival in the world, Medellín or Granada? I’m not sure I’m ready to take that call as they have quite significant points of differentiation. But to have been a guest at either changes a poet’s perception of self and their art fundamentally. Both richer and poorer we sit before our computer screens knowing each word must count, somewhere.

– Les Wicks


A review of The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry can be found on Jacket 2

Les Wicks’ 11th book of poetry is Sea of Heartbeak (Unexpected Resilience) (Puncher & Wattmann, 2013), his 12th (a Spanish selection) El Asombrado (Rochford St Press, 2015) is available on-line He attended the 2015 festival with assistance from Copyright Agency for part of the transit costs.

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Adding it all up: Mark Roberts considers ‘Eight + One’ at The Shop Gallery

Eight + One. Featuring work by Lynne Barwick, Edwin Easydorchik, Nola Farman, Barbara, Halnan, Sahar Hosseinabadi, Kate Mackay, Bette Mifsud, Cecilia White, and Elke Wohlfarht. Curated by Dr Willian Seeto. The Shop Gallery, 112 Glebe Point Road Glebe NSW. Open 1-7pm Tuesday to Sunday from 27 February to 19 March 2015

Eight + One. Front Room - Week One. Photograph Dr William Seeto

Eight + One. Front Room – Week One. Photograph Dr William Seeto

The Shop Gallery is a new gallery on Glebe Point Road and is in a building that used to house The Cornstalk Bookshop and a bookbinder. Cornstalks Bookshop would be well knows to anyone familiar with Glebe during the 1980’s (I can remember a reading consisting of young poets who had been published in Neos Magazine being held in a very dusty upstairs room at the bookshop). Cornstalks continues as an online shop ( The bookbinder, Newbold and Collins which was also well-known now operates in Yagoona (

The crowded space I remember has been transformed with two rooms opened up as exhibition spaces – a larger room fronting the street allowing a good view from two large windows each side of the door and a smaller room behind it with what looks like a working fire place. Curator William Seeto has taken full advantage of this space in the first major exhibition in the gallery (there was an earlier saloon type open exhibition to launch the space). Over the three weeks of the exhibition the nine different artists will circulate through the two rooms with a different grouping of three of sharing the larger front room each week. While this allows each artist to highlight their work in the larger space and to ‘call out’ to the passing foot traffic on Glebe  Point Road, it also sets up some exciting possibilities in the back room as the other works are forced into a closer relationship. Of course this relationship will change every week as the artists move in and out of the front room.

For the first week the front room contains work by Bette Mifsud, Nola Farman and Kate Mackay. The left wall of the room is dominated by Mifsud’s photographs derived from 1950 and 60s family slides. The images are familiar to anyone who grew up in 1950’s or 60’s Australia, beach scenes, the family house, lawn bowls all with that exaggerated colour that seemed to occur when kodachrome slides started to age. Mifsud has played with the images scanning, cropping , editing and and manipulating then to “create visual resemblances to impressionistic memories”. They recall a lost time, the myth of Menzies’  post-war white Australia. There is also a strong sense of family as the images reflect intimate glimpses of family – and it is no surprise to discover that the original slides were taken by  Mifsud’s late father-in-law, Doug Shearston who became a keen amateur photographer when he returned from World War Two. This family connection also creates a bridge through generations to the multicultural present as we can’t help reading the images of an imaged perfect past through a contemporary lens.

Kate Mackay’s constructions stand guard in the windows of the front room, one each side of the doorway. The larger one is a cube tower made of coloured cardboard wrapped in yarn. There is a simplicity to the structure which functions almost as a totem at the front of the exhibition. On the other side of the door is another cube construction. this time made of knitted yarn cubes formed into a larger cube. This is a playful piece, almost suggesting a children’s toy. This fascination with geometric shapes is continued in her other works which are also hanging in the front room during the first week. Rather than using space these works use the canvas as a space to spread patterns of squares, circles and triangles.


Nola Farman takes us in a different direction with her work The Hermit’s Tablecloth. Based on a section of Eugene Ionesco’s only novel Farman’s work takes as it’s departure point a red wine stain on a tablecloth:

I stared as hard as I could at a red wine stain on the paper tablecloth. I had already tried that experiment and made it work before. It was all a question of looking at something until you no longer remember what it was. It was supposed not to be a wine stain any longer, it was supposed to become something, I don’t know what, on that other thing, the tablecloth, which was no longer a tablecloth, nor a white space, nor the site of a stain.

– Eugene Ionesco, The Hermit, Trans., Richard Seaver,

In her work the redness has become much more than a red wine stain, though it is, of course, still possible to understand the source. We have a series of works spread across a wall of the gallery, different ‘splashes’, Pollock like hakiu abstractions, a single colour on a small canvas. Up closer however the notion of a stain, accidental or otherwise, disappear. These works are carefully constructed, layered and crafted. Complex hakius , no longer a table cloth, a white space or the site of a stain.

Photograph - Nola Farman

The Hermit’s Tablecloth – Photograph Nola Farman

Moving into the back room we are confronted with at what first appears as a delicious confusion. The other six artists in the exhibition are crowded into this smaller space with little space to spare. Boundaries are not respected but it all seems to work.

Unsurprisingly given my writing background I was immediately drawn to the two artists who incorporate words and letters in their work. Words are central to Lynne Barwick’s work in the past she has covered a Marrickville Garage in text – Marrickville Garage, ‘Like A Structured Language’, May 2014 ( Here her works are more manageable in the small space with a number of concrete poems painted onto wooden bases.

Cecilia White has three installations vying for space in the small room. ‘make them space’, the most expansive, stretches across the original fire place and consists of over 200 drawings, two sculptural wordworks and small objects. The title of the work ‘make them space’ is taken from Italo Calvino’s novella Invisible CIties and, like Calviino, White is seeking to explores the “manifestation of space between the seen and unseen of everyday urban landscapes” It is an intricate work covering the space above the fire place, the mantelpiece and the space above the actual fireplace.

'make them space' 2015 Detail - Photograph Cecilia White

‘make them space’ 2015 Detail – Photograph Cecilia White

The dynamic of the exhibition will, of course change dramatically as the work moves in and out of the front room over the three weeks of the exhibition and  multiple visits will be required to comprehend the full scope of the works.

Speaking to the curator Dr William Seeto after the opening I became aware of how Eight + One fits into a larger strategy. Seeto is looking to establish a series of curated exhibitions combined with an online artist database. In the first phase, the emphasis will be on curated exhibitions in a primary location; and in the second phase, the focus will move to the artist database to promote artists and their work. The database will assist in forming ongoing links with artists to promote their work and will also assist in presenting work; assisting with grant applications and to facilitate new opportunities and possibilities for showing work in Australia and overseas. Remuneration from sales and projects associated with exhibitions and database would attract a small commission.

It will be interesting to see how this concept develops in an Australian context. In any case the work in Eight + One suggests that Seeto has a firm foundation on which to develop this concept.

Considering Bette Mifsud's images at the opening of Eight + One - Photograph Dr WIlliam Seeto

Considering Bette Mifsud’s images at the opening of Eight + One – Photograph Dr WIlliam Seeto

Exhibition Website:

Artists Websites:
*  Lynne Barwick
*  Nola Farman
*  Barbara Halnan
*  Sahar Hosseinabadi
*  Kate Mackay
*  Bette Mifsud
*  Cecilia White
A review of Cecilia White’s chapbook, N THING IS SET IN ST NE, appeared  in an earlier issue of Rochford Street Review (

– Mark Roberts


Mark Roberts is a Sydney based writer and critic. He currently edits Rochford Street Review and P76 Magazine. He also has a number of manuscripts looking for a publisher.

The Shop Gallery can be contacted through its website:!/home


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Woman Scream: Michele Seminara previews the Second Sydney International Women’s Poetry Festival

The Second Sydney International Women’s Poetry Festival. Treasury Room Sydney Town Hall, Friday 6 March 2015, 6.30-10pm.

WOLOn 6 March a significant event will take place in Sydney’s Town Hall – the Second Sydney International Women’s Poetry Festival. The Festival is part of a global chain of events celebrating International Women’s Day in over forty countries worldwide, and has been officially named one of UNESCO’s 2015 International Year of Light activities.

The Poetry Festival, also known as ‘Woman Scream’, is a platform for women’s creative participation, providing a socially viable and direct way of using poetry and the arts to encourage women’s achievements and bolster their self-esteem. It is also a vehicle for creatively protesting violence – in all its forms – against women. Begun in The Dominican Republic by poet Jael Uribe, the Festival is organised in Sydney by poet, filmmaker and human rights activist, Saba Vasefi. Saba is originally from Iran. At 24 years of age she became a lecturer at Shahid Beheshti University, one of the country’s most prestigious schools. She was a member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, and also worked as a reporter for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. However, she was expelled from the University after only 4 years of teaching due to her activism, and fled from Iran to Australia. She has since completed a postgraduate degree in documentary film making at The Australian Film TV and Radio School, and two of her films, which deal with the plight of refugees in Australia and the issue children’s human rights abuses in Iran, were recently launched in NSW Parliament House. Saba believes that:

The role of women in history, society and culture is underrepresented or devalued. In many instances, the contribution of women is only recognised and appreciated when viewed as subordinate to the role of men. Cultural patterns of discrimination are intersectional; the marginalisation of women functions in a system that involves race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, ethnicity and age. Contemporary female artists must navigate through interconnected systems of oppression. The literature … of women… is the literature of resistance.

As festival director, Saba has ensured that established – as well as emerging – poets and artists will be represented. Well known poets such as Melinda Smith, Tricia Dearborn and Candy Royalle will perform alongside lesser known, but highly respected, poets such Sara Mansour, Hani Aden and Roya Pouya. In addition, the audience will be treated to musical performances and film presentations, as well as to speeches by the likes of leading feminist and journalist Dr Ann Summers, and noted politician Dr Mehreen Faruqi, among others.

Asked about her motivation for staging the Festival in Sydney, Saba has said:

This is a creative rebellion against the forces that abuse and displace women … My awareness of this matrix of oppression, and the complexity of humiliating structures that support it, motivated me to organise this event in Sydney. I have witnessed discrimination towards different cultures, social classes and other marginalised groups… As a Middle Eastern woman I am pleased to create an opportunity for myself and other women with different voices, from different cultures and with different sexual preferences to scream against violence and once more display our power and unity.

The Festival will be attended by some refugee women and their children, who will be released especially from detention for the evening, and all proceeds from ticket sales will go to the Bridge For Asylum Seekers Foundation..

For further information visit the event’s Facebook site:

– Michele Seminara


Michele Seminara is a poet and yoga teacher from Sydney. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Bluepepper, Tincture Journal, Regime, Seizure, Plumwood Mountain and Social Alternatives. She is also the managing editor of on-line creative arts journal Verity La. She blogs at and is on twitter @SeminaraMichele

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