Issue 19: July 2016 – September 2016

Song Sung DETAIL Pollard
Song Sung (2014) [detail] Georgina Pollard, 1.1m x 2.4m, house paint and curtain fabric, exhibited at Eco Spirit (2014), Modern Arts Projects (MAP), Blue Mountains. Photo credit: Billy Gruner


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Featured Writers Part 2: Past Australian Poetry Café Poets – curated by Zalehah Turner

Teasing Threads

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Published by Rochford Street Press
ISSN 2200-9922

A gnome by Geoffrey Prince, ‘All the galaxies’ by Diane Caney and ‘Lap, lap.’ by Miriam Dale

A packet
of poems
to put in
your pocket


for you to
unlock it …

-Geoffrey Prince

All the galaxies

To the little pirate:
who dreamed of clouds
being fairy floss,
while lording it over ships
and massive sandcastles.

To all the sun-kissed babies:
tucked up in bed, day-dreaming
of riding to the moon on a dragon,
meltingly happy.

Until the moment
when the fairy-tale
was ripped away.

These words are for you.

You were six, maybe seven,
twelve or thirteen.
your childish landscape
was bright shining as the stars …
before it was ship-wrecked,
on rocks of shame
and you were left
in an ocean
of self-loathing …
without any (bed) room
for doubt
that the nightmares
would … not … end …

You couldn’t tell anyone
or if you did, they would not listen,
or they COULD not listen,
or they DID NOT CARE.

feels like an EXIT sign,
beckoning …
after the endless reruns
of ‘The Day YOUR Childhood
Had Its Head Kicked In’

Listen to me …
I want to tell YOU
about the fury I have
for every CARDINAL,
who’s PRO-
for the men and women
the endless yellow days of childhood …
the days you should have had
with lazy blue skies,
red helium balloons …

And the adolescent years
that should have been filled with joy,
and the surprise of first love …

Instead, a wasteland of living death.

I want to tell you about the fury

But if I am to open my mouth …

If I am to open my mouth –

it will have to OPEN
as wide as ALL the galaxies
in every possible universe
and the sound –
that long and anguished


will never end.


But you have my WORD
that I will NEVER
stop speaking

-Diane Caney

‘All the galaxies’ waswritten in pieces while, I was the cafe poet at Chado – The Way of Tea (run by Dr Varuni Kulasekera and Brian Ritchie) in Hobart. I performed a slightly different version of it at a pub in Hobart in 2015. I put a version on youtube, so that it might buoy up the Ballarat Survivors on their way to Rome. Also, in the hope that the Healing Centre in Ballarat becomes a source of hope, love, peace, kindness, restoration, strength, courage, and calm for all who need it– Diane Caney

Diane Caney reads ‘All the galaxies.’ Used with permission by the author.
N.B. Unfortunately, there is no visual on this recording, only audio.

Lap, lap.

Lap … lap
Goes the water on the bones
Lap … lap
The water on the bones
Lap … lap
The water on the bones
Lonely bones on a lonely beach

I read about your story
Fleeing from your country
Seeking life and hope
For your family
The young boy, only 23
Now just –lap … lap- bones on a beach

You hunted for safety
Through so many countries
And you hunted for hope
For life and for work
You got stuck in Calais
On the beaches of France
And now it’s just lap … lap, bones on the sand

You saw one more chance
For hope and for happiness
One more chance
For money, to feed
Saw it across the ocean, the channel
It didn’t look that distant
It didn’t look that deep.

So you bought a cheap wetsuit
And you bought cheap flippers
And you told your family you would see them soon
And then you set out into the cold waters
And swam for your life
Through the washing seas
Swam for your life
Through the gathering gloom.

And you kept on swimming
Who knows for how long
And somewhere you drowned
Who knows where
And somewhere you lost
The battle for freedom
And all that we know is just
Bones, on the beach.

And somebody found you
Though they weren’t looking
And somebody studied
Your bones on the beach
And they studied and searched

And hunted all over
Till finally they discovered
How you tried to swim the sea.

And all I can think of
Is your lonely body
All I can picture
Is the washing seas
And some days, the image won’t leave me
Of lap … lap
Bones on the beach

-Miriam Dale

‘Lap, lap.’ by Miriam Dale was inspired by ‘The Boys Who Could See England’, an article by Anders Fjellberg that was published in The New Statesman on 16th July 2015. Read the article here


                  Geoffrey Prince

Geoffrey Prince is a poet and long-term sufferer of mental illness who lives in the Dandenong foothills of Melbourne with his wife and Australian cattle dog. Geoffrey has several books of poetry published through Papyrus Publishing including, The glass asylum and other poems (2005) and Anthems of artspace (1998). His first book was Highly Commended for the FAW Anne Elder Award for poetry in 1994. Geoffrey was the Australian Poetry Café Poet at Abitza Café, Upwey in 2010.



Diane Caney

Diane Caney was the café poet at Chado – The Way of Tea from 2011 to 2013 which was run by Dr Varuni Kulasekera and her husband, Brian Ritchie (Violent Femmes/MONA FOMA). Diane Caney’s poems are influenced by the live music played at the café, her anger about child abuse, and her PhD thesis on intertextuality. Diane has written a book for children who have suffered abuse entitled, The Time Virus which will be launched on 11 November 2016 at Baha’i Centre of Learning for Tasmania, in Hobart. More of Diane Caney’s poems and short stories can be read at ‘over there’.





Miriam Dale

Miriam Dale is a blue-haired, MMA-fighting, theology-loving poet who lives and works in Melbourne. In between writing and working she enjoys reading Terry Pratchett, Henri Nouwen, and Vogue. Miriam Dale was an Australian Poetry Café Poet at the Brunswick Flour Mill, Melbourne from 2013 to 2014. After a successful Pozible campaign, Miriam published her first poetry collection, The Common Condition: poems and prose in January, 2014. She launched The Common Condition at the Brunswick Flour Mill during her residency there as a Café Poet.



Featured Writers Part 2: Past Australian Café Poets- Curated by Zalehah Turner
Read about the Australian Poetry Café Poet Program (2009-2014)

Zalehah Turner is a Sydney based critic, writer and poet currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Communications majoring in writing and cultural studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. Zalehah is an Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review:

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Good things come in threes: Poems by Alysha Herrmann, Janette Dadd and Indigo Eli


He is –

Murky breaths and midnight toenails
Perfect Tai Chi in between the walls
Headlight free and Sunday solid
He bends I told you sos into spoons

…………made in his mother’s image.

Silent in a father’s absence.
Light feet on cold floors
Old dreams starting new wars
Nothing in a name –

He’d like to ask. He doesn’t.

-but shame. Woven into brickwork clusters.
Filling in cardboard carpets and red flags.
A dented screen, a captured queen.
A ticking secret on the other end of an Instagram like.

He swallows.
He bends.
He –

– is.

-Alysha Herrmann


I. Churches, Boots and Trains

The ritual is complete
as with gloved hands pushed together
she receives wafer and wine
allowing the sweet God of her supplications
to flow through her veins.
He ribboned her soul with His eternal breath.

She collects mended boots tied with string
from the jigsaw of a shop.
Her nose sniffs the elixir of hides, polish, sweat.
A swarthy skinned mute watches her quietness – black eyes looking
as he controls  the whirring straps flapping against metal constraints.
Once, invited, she ventured behind the counter.
He silently held her hand to the quivering belt.

Her body swings with the train’s rhythmic chant
as she follows him to the engine
jumping her fear when the earth raced backwards between carriage gaps.
He let her sound the whistle as the dark tunnel bent the smoke
stole the daylight.

II. Cicada Season

The cicada’s song resonated the summer she left.
After six months of tunnelling through the soil of familial expectations
and shedding multiple shells of held views
she finally split the carapace of family –
the effort and agony of separation over
and pulling herself out of herself
she was able to dry those wings and prepare for flight.
She thrummed a discordant, eschew view
and tested the circumferences of her oscillating sphere.

III. Captured Images

There is quietness now.
The whispering of her ghosts is welcomed in the dappled light of dreams.
When she had been cut too deep her raw heart stained everyone.
When she had been cut too deep, their sorrow seeped into her, reopening her wound.
She thought it would always be that way.
But a smile pushes a tight mouth’s edges as she watches the fern pushing its way,
disturbing the levelled pavers, like a wafer uplifted a girl’s soul.
Her body becomes as skittish as a cat’s when the wind
tangles her hair and whips her skirt.
She grins like a child invited behind the counter.
Thermal currents, stirring a coastal storm, remind her of smoke
sucked into a tunnel’s depth
as her mind spirals with images of a girl gone.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Find a centre, hold peace.

-Janette Dadd

.                           waiting at the stop.

.    our breath exchange is paused. lingering. at a stop.
. a breeze of cars circulates like a smooth pulse. exhale.
.exhaust. concrete.  my thoughts circle your waist, wrist,
.fingers. find the ticket.   inhale.   a rumble-wave of trams
.                                                            dips in from above.
.                                                                       dips in from
.                                                                               above.
.  I left you
.      asleep  between   the silky sheets of this morning.
.                                                          remind me why.
.                          pause.   inhale.   remind me why.

-Indigo Eli



Alysha Herrmann. photograph by Siobhan Fearon

Alysha Herrmann is a proud parent, regional artist and advocate working across disciplines in the arts, education, community development, social justice and social enterprise. She is a writer, theatre-maker, cultural organiser, and the current Creative Producer of Carclew’s ExpressWay Arts. Alysha has won numerous awards for her work using the arts to interrogate and explore community concerns and aspirations including, the 2015 Australia Council Kirk Robson Award and the 2014 Channel 9 Young Achiever Arts Award. Alysha was named as one of SA’s fastest rising stars under 30 by SA Life in 2014. Alysha tweets tiny poems as @lylyee and blogs about living a creative life at Alysha was the Australian Poetry Café Poet in residence at Sprouts Café, Berri, South Australia in 2012.



Janette Dadd

Janette Dadd has had two books of poetry published with Ginninderra Press. The first Eve’s Tears was published in 2000 and the second Early Frosts in 2013. Janette also reviews verse novels and poetry collections. Her reviews have been published in Spineless Wonder, Global Poetry and Mascara Literary Review. Janette is the convener of the poetry slam, held annually as part of the Eurobodalla River of Art Festival. Janette was the Café Poet in residence at the Air Raid Tavern, Moruya, NSW from 2011- 2013 through the Australian Poetry program.





Indigo Eli

Indigo Eli is a multi-form poetic artist based in South Australia. Her work weaves between writing, spoken word, performance, visual art, installation and everyday encounters. She is a three-time Australian Poetry Slam national finalist and was an Australian Poetry Café Poet at two venues: Conniption Café in Paper String Plastic Gallery in 2011 and The Croydon Store in 2013. At her first, as part of ‘the nameless project’, she dropped poetry bombs during an exhibition opening. At her second, she delivered hundreds of poetic fortunes under coffee cups. Find out more about Indigo Eli here.


Featured Writers Part 2: Past Australian Café Poets- Curated by Zalehah Turner
Read about the Australian Poetry Café Poet Program (2009-2014)

Zalehah Turner is a Sydney based critic, writer and poet currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Communications majoring in writing and cultural studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. Zalehah is an Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review:

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‘The glass table’- Mark Liston

“‘The Glass Table’ is a response to that first winter; fresh and joyous, and totally foreign to our previous, Newcastle home.”- Mark Liston

The glass table

We left the table outside.
It had started life as a desk
but being glass, and heavy
and rather large,
it didn’t fit in the study anymore.

So, it sits on the paved back deck
home to three spider webs,
collections of plant pots
and two empty paint tins.

But last winter it found a new job.
Each morning ice collects
in pools and sheets of frost
and fingers of haw fronds.

And from underneath
nascent sunlight
refracts as tiny spectrum murals.

If you time lapsed a video
the spiders and ice and seven
colours of it, the fronds of plant and frost,
the melt of light and rusting circles of tin
and the disappearing of day

would win you a doco prize
for best inverted use of a glass table
with added poem and voice over.

-Mark Liston

A hard winter and ‘The glass table’

Living in rural Tasmania, we struck a ‘hard’ winter, as the locals called it. A week of minus 6 plus degrees froze the river and water fountain in the town leaving frost in spots of shade all day. ‘The Glass Table’ is a response to that first winter; fresh and joyous, and totally foreign to our previous, Newcastle home.

Experiences as Café Poet and beyond

I was Café Poet at Sprockets Newcastle for 2 years (renewing every 6 months or so) from October 2011. During that time, I was Poetry Co-ordinator at Hunter Writers Centre. [I conducted] a monthly group and bi-monthly open mic readings at Sprockets with special guest poets, including, Montreal Prize winner, Mark Tredinnick. Picaro Press gifted many poetry books for prizes and handouts. [I organised] local musicians to play at several events. [I was] also Secretary of Poetry @ Pub. The three positions coalesced [and helped me build] a strong community of poets which still continues.

In 2013, I was invited to organise the poetry component on the inaugural Newcastle Writers’ Festival started by Rosemarie Milson- journalist with Newcastle Herald. I invited and successfully gathered together, numerous highly credentialed poets including, Anthony Lawrence, Phillip Salmon, Anna Kerdijk Nicholson, Judy Johnson and Jean Kent as guests to three open mic sessions, one at Sprockets. [The open mic sessions were important.] They gave local poets a chance to read their own work and to feel part of the whole Festival. In subsequent years, poetry has become embedded into the Festival even more.

Many of my poems have appeared in Anthologies and my poem ‘Her Cameo Face’ was Australian Poetry Poem of the year in 2013.

I met Les Murray at Sprockets. We discussed the Café Poet program and all matters poetry (a true highlight). I subsequently wrote a piece about the meeting for ABC Open.

Several short poems and haiku [of mine] were translated into five languages on online sites and in a Poetry Café in Toronto, Canada as a result of meeting overseas visitors at the café and at open mics.

I published a chapbook with Picaro Press in 2013, again because of exposure as a Café Poet.

In 2014, [My partner and I] semi-retired to Tasmania and have since joined two poetry groups in Launceston (Poetry Pedlars) and attended the Tasmanian Poetry Festival, and the Europa Poets in Burnie, reading at their yearly Poetry and Music Concert.

We are in Burnie now as foster parents for 6 sibling children, but I still find to write and read as much poetry as possible. I have enjoyed the last few years of involvement in poetry at various organisations and hope to continue to ‘spread the word’.

-Mark Liston


Mark Liston reading from Fragile Diamonds (Picaro Press, 2013).

Mark Philip Liston’s poetry and short fiction has been widely published. He won the 2013 All Poetry Prize and 2014 Australian Poetry, Poem of the Year Award. Mark was Australian Poetry Newcastle Café Poet in Residence at Sprockets from 2011 to 2013. His first collection of poetry, Fragile Diamonds was published by Picaro Press in 2013. He now lives in Tasmania.


Read ‘Her Cameo Face’ by Mark Philip Liston, winner of the ‘Poem of the Year 2014’ Prize on Australian Poetry here

Featured Writers Part 2: Past Australian Café Poets- Curated by Zalehah Turner
Read about the Australian Poetry Café Poet Program (2009-2014)

Zalehah Turner is a Sydney based critic, writer and poet currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Communications majoring in writing and cultural studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. Zalehah is an Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review:

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‘Transparent City’/ ‘Ville filigrane’, ‘Snapshot’/ ‘Instantané’ and ‘Powder Puff’- Daniel H. Dugas

“I was a Cafe Poet at the Blackwattle Cafe in 2013 in Sydney. During my residency, I worked on a book project called L’Esprit du temps / The Spirit of the Time, a collection of poetry in French and in English with photographs. The book was published last December by Les Éditions prise de parole.”- Daniel Dugas

1-transparent-city-ville-filigraneTransparent City

Here I am, sitting at the Blackwattle Cafe. The air is humid, fresh, invigorating. The doors and windows are open. Customers are coming and going. The sound of spoons and cups clanging seems familiar. The morning fog is slowly dissipating. I see the Anzac Bridge stretching across Sydney Harbour. There is a continuous flow of trucks, cars, buses, and I see a few pedestrians walking like floating shadows. The buildings in the distance are still shrouded in the mist. The landscape fades away; the transparent city hangs only by a thread.

Ville filigrane

Je suis attablé au Blackwattle Café. L’air est frais, humide, vivifiant. Les portes et les fenêtres sont ouvertes, les clients vont et viennent. Le bruit des cuillères et des tasses scintille. Des nuées d’oiseaux s’envolent. La brume matinale se dissipe peu à peu. Je vois le pont Anzac s’étendre au-dessus du port de Sydney. Les camions, les automobiles, les autobus passent sans arrêt. Les ombres des piétons s’allongent, perpendiculaires. Les édifices au loin sont encore enveloppés de nuages. Le paysage s’estompe. La ville filigrane ne tient qu’à un fil.


It is the first day of my project and I am here to write about colours. At first glance, what is striking at the Blackwattle is the walls. The building, once known as The Bellevue, belongs to the city and was renovated a few years ago. There was a will to bring the house back to its former grandeur. As in an archaeological dig, the walls were carefully scraped to reveal all of the tints that were used in the last centuries. The result is breathtaking, a snapshot of all of its lives.


Ce qui frappe au Blackwattle, ce sont les murs. L’édifice appartenant à la ville a été rénové il y a quelques années. On a voulu restaurer la villa, The Bellevue, à sa grandeur originale. Comme des archéologues, on a soigneusement enlevé une à une les couches successives de papier peint et de peinture. Pour témoigner des vestiges ensevelis, on a laissé ici et là des coupes du raclage, exposant ainsi les strates de couleurs. Le résultat est saisissant ; chaque vie est une couche, chaque décennie une couleur.

spirit-of-the-timePowder Puff: The English language introduction from L’esprit du temps / The Spirit of the Time by Daniel Dugas

The Spirit of the Time, a project based on words and colour, was created in Sydney, Australia during a residency with the Café Poet Program of the Australian Poetry Association. Coffee houses have always been inspiring locales for poets and the goal of the Association was to revive this connection. My office was located in the Bellevue, a large Victorian house owned by the City of Sydney. In 2012, this 19th century villa on the shores of Blackwattle Bay was transformed into what is now known as the Blackwattle Café. It is a magical place with breathtaking views of the harbour and the Anzac Bridge; the staff is inviting and the coffee, superb.

German lithographer and engineer, Harald Küppers, said that man could distinguish 10,000 different shades of colour but that his vocabulary for describing them was limited. If colour is an element of joy and surprise, the names invented by paint companies suddenly become surprises within surprises, an explosion of possibilities. No longer bound to a limited set of descriptors, our world of colour has become Gypsy Moth, Powder Puff or Chocolate Cosmos.[1]

Both words and colours are vehicles that move the emotions, the symbols of our desires and our hopes, the emblems of our determination to face reality. But words do not function in the same way as colours. While a blue pigment is blue because it absorbs all colours except blue, the word blue does not absorb or expel letters of the alphabet. Instead, words provoke our imaginations, carry fragments of fiction.

I set out with the idea of using commercially available colour palettes as cues and I picked swatches from Benjamin Moore, Ralph Lauren, Behr, Earthpaint, Taubmans as well as others. Every day, on my way to the Blackwattle, I would take photos of objects or scenes that stood out: a bright yellow safe in a window display, a discarded VHS tape left in the garbage, a Chihuahua waiting for his master. I made detours, took different routes altogether to discover other neighbourhoods in the city. At the Café, I would begin by studying the images for emerging meanings while searching each photograph for two colours, especially for the two that seemed to be vibrating with the most energy. I would then work through the mobile applications supplied by the various paint manufacturers to find matches for those two colours. The colours and their marketing nomenclature, as well as the source images themselves provided the base material for my writings. The Spirit of the Time is also a translation project. The texts were all written in either French or English, and then translated into the other language, a process which provided many cross-pollination opportunities. Sometimes it simply enhanced the original version, at other times, the text was transformed. Whenever a paint company did not provide a bilingual name for a colour, I translated it, keeping as close as possible to the original. In order to share links to each week’s poems, I created QR codes and posted them on the walls of the Blackwattle Café.

More than the hues, the names of colours are cultural reflections of certain moments in a timeline. They express the Zeitgeist, the way we were, the way we are, or the way we would like to be tomorrow. They are: The Spirit of the Time.

– Daniel H. Dugas

[1] Sample colours from Complete Paint Palette – Martha Stuart Living.

‘Transparent City’/ ‘Ville filigrane’, ‘Snapshot’/ ‘Instantané’ and ‘Powder Puff’ (an introduction) by Daniel Dugas were originally published in L’esprit du temps / The Spirit of the Time (2015) by Les Éditions Prise de parole. All images and text are courtsey of the author.


Daniel H. Dugas. photograph by Valerie LeBlanc

Daniel H. Dugas is a bilingual, Canadian poet, videographer and musician. He has participated in festivals, literary events, exhibitions, and performances internationally. His ninth book of poetry L’esprit du temps / The Spirit of the Time was published in December 2015 by Les Éditions Prise de parole. The Spirit of the Time (2015) is a collection of photography and poetry in French and English that Daniel created during his residency as a Café Poet at the Blackwattle Café, Sydney in 2013. Daniel’s work has also been published, in French and English literary magazines in New York, Ontario, New Brunswick, Belgium and France.

More about Daniel
Purchase L’esprit du temps / The Spirit of the Time (2015) by Daniel H. Dugas here

Featured Writers Part 2: Past Australian Café Poets- Curated by Zalehah Turner
Read about the Australian Poetry Café Poet Program (2009-2014)

Zalehah Turner is a Sydney based critic, writer and poet currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Communications majoring in writing and cultural studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. Zalehah is an Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review:

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“A vision of past savagery that lies maddeningly between truth and fiction”: James Dunk reviews Sarah Drummond’s ‘The Sound’

The Sound by Sarah Drummond. Fremantle Press (2016).

the-soundSarah Drummond’s debut book, Salt Story: Of Sea-Dogs and Fisherwomen was a rare one – a non-fictional account of the sea and its people arising from the author’s own experience. It was short-listed for the West Australian Premier’s Book Awards in 2014.

Drummond’s second novel, The Sound, fictionalises the lived experience of others, carefully reconstructing the world of the sealers who worked in the hinterland of British colonialism in Australia in the 1820s. It vividly recreates King George’s Sound, a bay at the south-western tip of the continent, as a theatre of cross purposes, of freedom and death – a beautiful place tortured by European savagery.

Drummond’s novel is a beautifully written excursion into the ethics of this violent world. Her protagonist is William Hook, a Maori man who crosses the Tasman in search of the sealers who sacked his village. To find them, he joins a sealing crew. The novel follows closely the small band from Hobart, through the islands of Bass Strait, to the Sound, dwelling on the relationships ‘Billhook’ forms with the white sealers and with the Aboriginal women in the group. Some are coerced; all are pursuing private agendas. They span the gamut of privilege and agency.

In Salamanca Bay, Hobart’s now charming and genteel dockside district, two heavy black pots stand in commemoration of the whaling industry. On ship decks, on the islands of Bass Strait, and on southern shores, blubber was boiled down for days at a stretch and drained into barrels of oil. These cauldrons now stand as opaque relics of ecological destruction. Phillip Hoare’s Leviathan, or the Whale (Fourth Estate, 2009) illuminated this history with its winsome, devastating portrayal of whale life and the life of whalers. Leviathan ties the early march of industrial progress to the hunting of cetaceans: the whales of the oceans died in thousands to light the streets of European cities.

‘Sealing’ was like ‘whaling’ (words which elide the black pots and bloody harpoons), except that where whales were fearsome quarry, seals were gormless creatures waiting beside the sea for men to club them. Graphic passages in The Sound describe this killing. Drummond’s language here is vivid and precise. She conjures the past in its infinitesimal details without labouring these details: a difficult balance to achieve. In less elegant historical novels, the paraphrasing of technical information gleaned from long researches easily breaks whatever spell may be obtaining. Drummond, however, deploys the fine grain of the past in order to bring the past credibly and compellingly into the present.

The Sound is set in the world of the sealers, deserters, and escapees who fled from colonial society and authority to the southern shore of the Australian continent and the islands of the Bass Strait. The Sound’s dust jacket calls it a ‘violent and lawless world.’ It was constituted in defiance of the authority and regularity, the sovereignty and justice of imperial Britain and in flagrant disregard for the subjectivity and sovereignty of Aboriginal people. The Empire, for all its sins, brought an air of bureaucratic formality to the areas it directly controlled, and this proscribed certain behaviours. At its territorial fringe, however, those who fled its restraints wielded European knowledge and technology licentiously.

Few of us read to be brutalised, but the problem of writing about the past is that it was often brutal. Penny Russell’s history of colonial mores, Savage or Civilised?: Manners in Colonial Australia (UNSW Press, 2010) maps the navigation of etiquette in colonial society. Although her work has mostly treated civility, rather than savagery, Russell is hardly a historian of niceness, seeking merely to divert. She delves into the archive of polite and impolite gestures, reading the construction of colonial society with a critical eye. Other literature, both fictional and non-fictional, simply conjures a past in which ‘civilisation’ really indicated virtue and restraint. The virtuous frontier summoned by this writing is a pleasant place to visit: a place where the dramas of individual and familial life can be played out in the curated world of the ‘pioneers’, rather than at the actual ragged edge of empire. Savagery is harder. To write about it is to either demonise it – to make it fundamentally, unfeasibly other – or to do the unpleasant work of imagining ourselves into the emotional and intellectual spaces in which savagery seems civilised. Nietzsche’s abyss threatens to open also in ourselves during the act of gazing.

The shroud lying over the Australian history of sealing, and sexual and labour slavery implied by it, is partly the deliberate work of its denizens, opposed as they were to authority, regularity, and record-keeping. But it has been reinforced by modern sensibilities. Although in many ways sealers and whalers were colonial pioneers, and even excelled in certain of the traits we laud in our more palatable pioneers, Australian narratives have neglected them. They represent the colonial darkness over which the brief, but rancorous history wars were fought. The literate public has tended to allow them the seclusion they themselves sought. As if they were not also the product of our empires, and builders of our ‘civilisations’.

Despite Lynnette Russell’s excellent Roving Mariners: Australian Aboriginal Whalers and Sealers in the Southern Oceans, 1790-1870 (State University of New York Press, 2012), then, the world of these sealers remains for the most part an informal, uncertain one. In fiction, however, such a world can still be effectively explored. The mainspring behind The Sound is an unassuming, but entirely enthralling statement made by William Hook, to Edmund Lockyer, who arrived at King George’s Sound in 1826 as commandant of a new British settlement. The text, which appears in Historical Records of Australia, is reproduced in full on Drummond’s website, amongst a plethora of biographical and historical writing, all anchored by conventional references in the established historical record. It bears witness to crimes by sealers against the indigenous people of the Sound. British law, which had been largely theoretical, was breaking in.

Drummond uses Billhook to guide her through the mechanical difficulty of writing about savagery, that of perspective. How can we get close enough to savagery to see it properly? Drummond makes ‘Billhook’ the victim of a massacre in adjacent imperial borderlands – a real attack carried out in 1817 in Otago by James Kelly and the crew of the Sophia – but one not clearly linked with William Hook. By this means, readers only gradually enter the mindset of the sealers; the ugliness is introduced in stages. When we encounter genuine brutality, therefore, we are imaginatively involved with the brutalisers. The clubbing of seal cubs pales beside the abduction and rape of Aboriginal women. This was what transpired at the edge of empire.

Or was it? There is little evidence of precisely what happened amongst these sealers and whalers. This dearth has allowed space for prevarication, and justified silence. This savagery was a thing half known. Certain ‘cultural warriors’ sacralise a threshold of written factuality – something only achieved within that imperial formality; everything beyond is speculative, even malicious. This self-serving standard protects that image of the virtuous pioneers, who wrote their own histories.

In her dispute with Kate Grenville, author of a different imagined account of frontier brutality, The Secret River, the historian Inga Clendinnen (2006) argued that historians are set apart from novelists by their ‘moral contract’ with the past. At the end of The Sound, a note claims this moral authority for the author, if not the novel. Readers are directed to Drummond’s website, where a collection of closely-referenced biographical pieces explore the recorded past in the manner of what she calls ‘straight history’. Fiction, however, may be bolder than history, and the novel itself follows, imaginatively, the slender evidence to its likely conclusions.

Drummond is contractually bound not to the past, as it actually was, but to the problem of human savagery. It was unpleasant to get close enough to the characters to write them compellingly – particularly the sealer, Samuel Bailey. “I’m completely stalled with that writing,” Drummond (2013, para. 12) blogged at one point. “I don’t like them. I don’t want to hang out with Samuel Bailey every day. When I do, he does my fucking head in. I feel crazy by the end of the day. I just want to climb out of my own brain.”

Why take up such a project, without an injunction from actual victims to bear witness? Drummond uses the conceit of Bluebeard’s chamber to explore her fascination with Bailey. Like Bluebeard’s young bride, she blundered her way into a dangerous contract, telling herself ‘his beard is not quite so blue’. Researching, and particularly writing, was for Drummond the opening of the chamber, and the loss of this cultivated innocence. “When you shine a light in a dark cave,” Drummond (2013, para 29) writes of the minds of the sealers, “the crevices and corners become all the more darker.”

The problem fiction writers have, and historians do not, is that here there is no cave. The crevices and corners, while certainly dark, are written into the past from Drummond’s imagination. Fiction is wonderful; it transports us from the prosaic not only into rich-hued worlds, but into the thrust of meaningful narratives. Historical fiction produces these narratives by smoothing out past episodes that almost hang together. It abridges the pieces of men and women which we can find scattered in the records of the past that almost make believable characters. It can turn the past into a place we understand. But it cannot at the same time hold these men and women to account. A novel like The Sound, finally, has its own delicate cruelty. It traumatises with a vision of past savagery that lies maddeningly between truth and fiction.

-James Dunk

Reference list

Clendinnen, I. 2006, The history question: who owns the past?, Quarterly Essay 23, Black Inc., Melbourne.

Drummond, S. 2013, ‘Predator dreams,’ A winedark sea: ripping yarns, beautiful lies and a few home truths, weblog, 10 July, viewed 23 September 2016, <>.

Purchase Sarah Drummond’s The Sound from Fremantle Press here
Read a chapter from The Sound here


James Dunk is a historian and writer living in Sydney’s Inner West. He holds a PhD from the University of Sydney

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‘Minus Minus’ (extract)- Claine Keily

“Minus Minus is a prose poem that tells of the dark underside of rural life”- Claine Keily

Minus Minus (extract)

How can a woman love once she has learned the laws of commerce? All her loves, long before Minus, were tiny men leaning towards subtraction, as shamelessly as flowers toward the sun. But when it came to her they added up, counted up, the lines, the years, multiplied her sex, then divided, while she screamed “Let me, let me”, they were stuffing up their ears.

I do not count on you my love for I know myself far stronger, and I have a horror of children who appear in bodies far older than their years. I prefer the mystery, the brief time before subtraction. Love cannot pass through this knowledge of division, which men devised to help them on their way.

We have never known love, only the desire of a victim for a tormentor. A something doubled over. And then to love the animals, is to turn from a man in horror, to forget childbearing beneath the fur of unbearable forests.  The word love is a shield for all we hope for, a minuscule something glimpsed behind a mirror. A moment forgotten. And how we want to know its name, as surely as we can add and subtract upon our fingers. 

And so love is hiding, love is cloaked, is hair, is paper. Somewhere there is a trunk enormous and it tucks itself in at night behind this tree, long before we can reach it. 

She-friends, separated, toy with misdoses of poisons and extracts of kindling herbs. Silence grows in them. They hear the chemical murmur, the chemical murder written on their walls. Psychologists twitch out prevention and cure, balancing their shoulders against the wait of fall.  Psychiatrists linger dull in offices without splendour, careful as the sown of wheat now, they waver and shudder reaction and reason. 

Minus is here, paper throated, a midget dancing on the pathway. There are pearls and cars miraculous, but no music, no voices wailing to joy now, learning to name the darkness. I want to say that you are summer, that you are tillage to the garden, the silver to the frost, but I am a darkling, a forever stranger, throttled now for want of love.

-Claine Keily

Extract from Minus Minus: A prose poem that tells of the dark underside of rural life (2016) by Claine Keily

“I wrote the whole novella [Minus Minus] in 2002. An extract was published in Standards in 2002 and can be read online in that journal. The complete novella was published in 2016… The novella tells a tale of a relationship breakdown set against a backdrop of rural isolation. Minus Minus is the male partner in [the] novella who subjects the female narrator to psychological abuse as a form of control over her.”- Claine Keily

Claine Keily talks to Zalehah Turner about her Cafe Poet residency, transmedia poetry, Minus Minus and Luce Irigaray

A couple of years ago I became a Café Poet at The Four Birds Cafe in Darwin. I undertook a series of poetry performances at this cafe which I titled, Hotel Genet. These were public ‘happenings’ outside the cafe in the shopping arcade. Australian Poetry asked me to open the Wordstorm Writers Festival with a reading as well as to host a National Poetry Month reading as part of my residency.

I have worked in a variety of mediums for all of my artistic life. I make super eight films and video poems based on my writing. I have produced many artist books of my poetry and these form part of the rare book collections in state, national and university libraries in Australia.

In 2011, I lived in Paris and then in Oxford for six months. I performed each week at Spokenword in Paris as well as at Catweazle in Oxford.

I am influenced by the philosophical writings of Luce Irigaray. I wrote my Masters thesis in response to her ideas on sex/ gender. Minus Minus was written after my study of her ideas. [I]f you have engaged with Irigaray’s ideas about sexual difference, then you may see that I am reflecting on many of her ideas in Minus Minus.

Minus Minus was written while I was living in a shack in the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales. The novella is written in a stream of consciousness manner; while at the same time, being built on two years of intensive study at Sydney University engaging with the work of Luce Irigaray.

The novella maps the terrain of psychological abuse in all its forms, against the backdrop of an isolated rural alpine environment. I have written many volumes of poetry as well as, full length prose novels and novellas. Extracts from these works have been published in print and online journals. My novellas and collections of poetry are available for sale at Amazon.

I recently participated in Project 365+1 which is an online community of poets who write and publish a poem each day during the time they are part of that community. I am always working on a novella or collection of poems. I am often working on a video poem or two as well as, performing my poems at poetry events with a range of musicians.

‘Minus Minus’ (extract) video by Claine Keily


Claine Keily

Claine Keily is a poet, video artist, performance poet, and author of six prose novellas, including, Minus Minus (2016). Her prose novellas are all available through Amazon. Her poems and selections of her prose novellas have been published in journals in the USA, Ireland, China and Australia. Claine Keily’s limited edition artist books form a part of the rare book collections at National, State and University libraries across Australia. She currently works as a teacher of English Literature. Claine Keily was a Café Poet at Four Birds in Darwin in 2013. 


Minus Minus was published in January, 2016 and is available through Amazon here.
Keily, C. 2002, ‘Minus Minus,’ Standards, vol 8, no 1 here.

Featured Writers Part 2: Past Australian Café Poets- Curated by Zalehah Turner
Read about the Australian Poetry Café Poet Program (2009-2014)

Zalehah Turner is a Sydney based critic, writer and poet currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Communications majoring in writing and cultural studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. Zalehah is an Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review:

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Teasing Threads – Sundry Film and Literary Criticism: ‘Umbrella’ by Will Self

Chris Palazzolo feels his way through Umbrella by Will Self, Bloomsbury, 2012

UmbrellaRoland Barthes makes the distinction between the ‘readerly’ text and the ‘writerly’ text – the readerly text, which is the kind of text we encounter most commonly in everyday life, is where transparency of meaning is what all of writing labour is devoted too. Newspaper prose is the perfect example of ‘readerly’. When we skim a newspaper article, we get no sense of the industry that has gone into its production, neither the physical labour of writing the raw copy, from research, note taking, and 3am keyboard bashing, to the yanking and twisting of that raw copy into grammatical sentences that flow clearly and legibly – the text is ‘readerly’ because ease of reading and the transparent and limpid conveyance of meaning from text to reader’s mind is what the whole industry is about.

The ‘writerly,’ on the other hand, are those rarer, usually poetic as well as modernistic and experimental prose texts, where the labour of writing demands a more equal share of labour on the part of the reader. James Joyce described the ‘writerly’ when he said a novel should take as long to read as it took to write (it took him 7 years to write Ulysses, and took me 14 months and a considerable chunk of a scholarship from Murdoch University to hack my way through it – writerly indeed! I felt I had to ‘write’, that is to say inscribe into my brain, every word of that book, before it yielded meaning).

Will Self’s Umbrella is such a book, which is to say, its mysteries are not accessible to the casual reader. Nonetheless if one is prepared to put in the effort (in my case a kind of six pages forward, four pages back kind of reading, so that with each session I would progress two pages) it will open up. The challenges it puts in your way are features such as no chapters and no paragraphs so the book is one exhausting block of text (there are paragraph-like indentations every ten or twenty pages or so, but they’re not really paragraphs because many of them are continuous sentences), and sudden shifts of subjectivity which are also often in the middle of sentences. In the broadest sense it is about the pot-bound nature of institutionalised memory; the memories centre on a patient in a specialised hospital, and how those memories, both the patient’s and others connected to the patient, are tangled together.

Because the book is one unbroken roll of text we can think of its memory scheme as pleats of fabric folded over and tangled in to form a kind of rabbit warren of funnels leading to chambers and gaps of lost time. If I was to iron out that fabric in order to put all of its events into the proper (chronological) order, the story would look like this – London, 2010, the disgraced and pensioned-off former psychiatrist Zachary Busner, takes a bus trip down to a new block of swanky apartments built on and around the site of the hospital where, in 1971, he conducted the experiments that got him struck off the register. Those experiments involved the use of a powerful hallucinogenic drug called L-Dopa to revive patients made catatonic by encephalitis lethargica. One of the patients, Miss Audrey Death, had been in the hospital since 1920, but when revived her memory and language was so clear it was as if the fifty years of catatonia had been no time at all (she remembered, among other things, all the factories she worked in before she was hospitalised, including a munitions factory and an umbrella factory). Nonetheless, something had happened during her hospitalisation; her sensory deprived subjectivity had found, through a hole of what can only be described as familial and race memory, passageways to the contemporary experiences of her two brothers, both of whom in different ways, were destroyed by the First World War.

The hospital is the ruling sign of this book. It is both a setting for all the crucial action, and a metaphor for the crabbed-in depth memories its very walls induce in its residents. And rabbit warren is the way a nurse once described Royal Perth Hospital to me. This aging facility, over a century old, has had so many additions to it; new wards, new passageways linking wings, which themselves were added to and modified decades later, that the hospital has become a labyrinth of imperfectly matched styles, steps, slopes and entrances to other entrances, each bearing the imprimatur of rational trends and assumptions current at the time of construction. This strange, anachronistic, four dimensionality serves a single purpose; the containment of sickness, its cure, or ease of death, onto the body of the patient. But the patient’s subjectivity is another rabbit hole within this warren. Friern-Barnet Hospital, where Audrey Death resides and Dr Zach Busner conducts his brilliant and career destroying experiments, is a kind of hermetic container of personal and racial suffering (its patients are all Jews). Like Royal Perth Hospital it has that rabbit warren structure of ad-hoc additions. Contained in the middle is the warren of Audrey Death’s memories, and, confoundingly, her communings with her brothers even after they’ve died. Where does her subjectivity stop and theirs start? What wall was knocked out, what passageway, what entrance opened up deep inside her mind that led to the infinite interlocked chambers of her brothers’ subjectivities? This is the deepest mystery of all.

– Chris Palazzolo


Teasing Threads is Chris Palazzolo, novelist and poet, editor at Regime Books in Perth, radio host on 6EBA FM North Perth, and was, until recently, manager of one of the last video shops in the world.

Will Self has a website

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Surreal Shapes: Siobhan Hodge reviews The Curtain Breathed Deeply by Justene Williams

The Curtain Breathed Deeply is showing at PICA, Northbridge from 17 September to 30 October.

img_4046PICA gallery is currently featuring an installation by Justene Williams, rich with textures and colours. The Curtain Breathed Deeply comprises of a series of constructions, initially concealed by a large blue and gold patterned curtain. The massive drape is thickly decorated, yet sections have been removed, offering snatches of insight to what will follow. For Williams, curtains are selective concealment. They invite and distort, but ultimately are flexible and full of life.

Sound plays a key role in the installation. Rhythmic tones with occasional bursts of discord are played at various stages of the exhibit, imparting a disruptive sense of ritual. Couches have been set up in front of some of the televised sections, yet the structure of the exhibit demands that you keep moving. Indeed, movement dominates the installation. Curtains keep moving, television screens flashing, and a particularly key-catching series of dancers and wide-eyed owl puppets flit across the projector screens. The exhibits “breathe”: they move, but there is a rhythmic certainty to it, undercut by the unsettling music. Garbage bags layered with handmade felt mushrooms and mould are suspended from the ceiling. There is life here, but it is always followed with some grimmer reminder.

img_4041Williams’ use of colour and texture is bright, obtrusive, and catches the eye from all angles. However, the majority of her materials appear recycled; these are familiar domestic objects given new life. A paddling pool, scattered with coins, takes the centre of the room, screened off by long tresses of wool, plastic flowers, wigs, and cut-out lightning bolts. The pool’s warnings of death by drowning remain plainly in sight; this is a familiar object, childlike and surrounded by fantastic constructions, but connected with reminders of mortality. There is an underlying sombreness to the installations in general, linking with ideas of Dadaism and surrealism. At the same time, there is a sense of ritual; of familiar items made more whimsical via artistic means that invoke strong senses of the handmade, direct, and personal.

The exhibit has been dedicated to the life and works of Williams’ father, and the curtain forms a rich motif of both invitation and soft denial – reminiscent of a hospital curtain, but also creating a gentle delineation of spaces in which life in all its complexity and confusion can proliferate. This is a surrealism that is rooted in notions of life and the familiar.

 – Siobhan Hodge


Siobhan Hodge has a doctorate from the University of Western Australia in English. Her thesis focused on Sappho’s legacy in English translations. She is an Associate Editor at Rochford Street Review, Reviews Editor for Writ Review, and contributing reviewer for Cordite. Born in the UK, she divides her time between Australia and Hong Kong. Her chapbook of reflections on Sappho, Picking Up the Pieces, was published in 2012 as part of the Wide Range Chapbooks series. She has also had poetry and criticism published in several places, including Westerly, Limina, Colloquy, Cordite, Plumwood Mountain, Page Seventeen, Yellow Field, Peril, Verge, and Kitaab.

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Bewilderment and Wonder: Claire Gaskin launches ‘Reflections of a Temporary Self: New & Selected Poems’ by Grant Caldwell

Reflections of a Temporary Self: New & Selected Poems by Grant Caldwell, Collective Effort Press/Trojan Press 2015 was launched by Claire Gaskin at Collected Works Bookshop in Melbourne on 24 March 2016

reflections on a temporary selfGrant has been a mentor to me and many others and I am grateful for that for me and for poetry. Grant’s qualities, intelligences and sensibilities translate to the page. He is even and embracing and so is his poetry, ‘a man passing/on the footpath/ followed by a plastic bag’, life passes by; the man passes by pursued by the empty and inescapable. The man and the plastic bag are of equal significance, both by-products. Grant has been unceasingly, uncompromisingly committed and dedicated to his practice over decades. I have always found his vigilance about constantly examining very reassuring. Language is lived, ‘there is darkness in the adverbs of his actions’. There is an inexhaustible quite enthusiasm and delight in the observational as illustrated in poems like ‘across the sea’ with its short lines and repetitions, ‘look at it/it never stops’ and ‘tobin bronze’, where the specific details conclude in an insight, ‘changing with every step/a man/ into a gambler’.

He quoted to me once; make the extraordinary ordinary and the ordinary extraordinary. He is so principled about this, it’s a discipline. It is the asceticism of austerity. No embellishment no affectation. Grant’s attention to specifics is so relentless in his poems that pathos and the supposed apathy of the everyday and situational are taken to their very limits to where they become exhilarating, ‘miraculous aberrations’. This is achieved through a flatness of the picture plan that has the effect of making all things equal. In the poem entitled ‘aparty’ which sounds like apathy we end with evoking stars and lotuses by mentioning their impossibility.

The intellectual, spiritual and philosophical concerns of the poems are alongside the mundane and practical. We have poems about being on the bus which become social comment, we have poems citing ‘the tao te ching’ and ‘hinduism’ and we have poems where Flaubert is quoted while the narrator is watching someone try to fish something out of a gully trap. Flaubert is quoted in the poem entitled ‘10 a.m. new year’s day 1990’ as saying ‘to be happy/ you must be stupid/ healthy/ and selfish’, alongside observations of the cat and the man next door. This placement this lack of separation has the effect of elevating the everyday to the philosophical and reducing the intellectual to the irreducibility of the everyday. The everyday being irreducible because it is independent like, ‘the figure of independence/ the cat’, it is on the street not in our institutions.

This man with his teeth is captured by the narrator in a private moment. Everyday indifference is under scrutiny here, made public. The poem is putting the intellectual on an even plain with the observable and immediate. Blanchot says when talking about the everyday, ‘this banality is also what is most important, if it brings us back to existence in its very spontaneity and as it is lived – in the moment when lived, it escapes every speculative formulation, perhaps all coherence, all regularity.’

The poem is taking on the nature of happiness, ‘flaubert also said/in order to be happy/first you must be so/the man next door/is going inside’. The seemingly ordinary is astonishing in its humanity. We get it out of the gully trap wash it and put it in our mouths. The everyday free from abstractions is the site of the real. There is a play off between truth and reality in this poetry, both boxing at the same weight.

There is a Pascalian philosophy that the truth can only be got at by listing what it is not, ‘it can only be described through negations’. Grant applies this in his list poem entitled ‘it’ and then humourously negates this method with his concluding lines, ‘but it’s pretty close….’ This Pascalian method ignores the everyday where thinking in binaries of right/wrong, positive/negative, true/false is irrelevant because of coexistence. In this list poem there is the intellectual, philosophical and spiritual coexisting, ‘it’s not Krishnamurti or zen’, ‘it’s not art’ it’s not physical reality or human relationships. Egalitarianism and non-judgement is also reflected in the structure of this collection of selected poems. The book is not divided into sections according to the seven books of Grant’s poetry. This book develops according to the themes and concerns of the poems. I think the structure asks us to appreciate each poem for its content rather than weigh it up against earlier or later poems accessing development. So development is radial rather than linear. All is now.

The bewilderment and wonder depicted in these poems means they are never earnest but always questioning, ‘the pointlessness of squares’ he says when referring to tourists taking ‘snapshots of their expectations’. When Grant uses poetic devices they are always playful, ‘the monkey is meditating’ but later in the poem the monkey is rushing after the tourists who are ‘screaming and laughing’, the monkey no longer meditating but not the lesser for it. The narrator is always in a state of bemusement at systems and constructs, ‘tight families picnicking in the park’, the alliteration further tightens the ‘tight families’. In the poem entitled ‘The Lights Turn Green’ a series of scenes depicting people in differing states of possession and dispossession is concluded by observations of lobsters in a tank suggesting regardless of status everyone is a lobster in a tank waiting to be eaten, ‘four small lobsters with their clippers bound in black plastic tape, also wait to be eaten.’ The ‘also’ seems conclusive, not just referring to the crabs in the adjoining tank but to all of us regardless of difference we are not free, we are ineffectual ultimately we have our ‘clippers bound in black plastic tape’. The book is full of surprises as it states life is, ‘a woman walking the coast/ carrying a man’s heart she didn’t ask for/but wanted all the same’. We are carried across the line lyrically by the alliteration to be undercut by the content, we have no choice no agency no control but sometimes there are delights even though the ‘intangibility of emotion/ knocks you like an elephant’. What can we hold onto? ‘the pleasure of habit/you find your measure of/in confusing spirals/the flux of wings/the bang/of miraculous aberrations’. Flight is about repetition of wing beats. In the poem ‘sunday – the sun is out’ observations and interactions of a walk to bronte beach ends with ‘i open all the windows/lie on the floor/and fly away’. Repetition is flight but it is also imprisonment, ‘the free bird/doesn’t know its name/the bird in the cage/is insane from repetition’. Identity is imprisonment. What you consume will consume you, ‘water with teeth in it’.

In this book with poems in it dealing with subject matter including owning a dog, going to a B.B.Q., watching the news, there are visual poems and pantoums and haiku all thematically strong full of the wisdom that ‘there is no wisdom/there is no attainment/whatsoever’. But there is the comfort in the everyday going ‘for a bit of a bushwalk’ where we can be anonymous, independent and escape all authority whether it be intellectual, religious, political or philosophical where, ‘einstein, buddhism and my stiff neck’ are a title all equally lower case.

I am delighted and honoured to say that Reflections of a Temporary Self is officially launched.

 –  Claire Gaskin


Claire Gaskin has been publishing and teaching poetry since the 1980’s. Her collection, a bud, completed in the receipt of a Literature Board grant, was published by John Leonard Press in 2006 and shortlisted in the SA Literature Awards. Her collection, Paperweight, was published by John Hunter Publishers in 2013.

For details on how to obtain a copy of Reflections of a Temporary Self go to

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