Unfolding Complexity: Mark Roberts considers Anna Couani’s ‘thinking process’

This is a slightly edited version of Mark Roberts’ introduction to thinking process by Anna Couani, Owl Publications, 2017

.
Anna has been a friend and a mentor for more years than I care to remember. As a young poet in the late 1970s I had discovered New Poetry magazine and the Poets Union readings at the Royal Standard Hotel in Sydney. I began to meet poets and I read as widely as could among the small literary magazines and presses of the time. Then, I think it was in 1979, I came across Italy by Anna Couani (Rigmarole of the Hours 1977).

There are a number of things that I can remember from the first time that I read that book, the wonderful cover, which consisted of a simple line drawing of a kitchen with a pot on a hot plate and a bottle of salt off to the left and the opening lines of ‘Untitled’, the first prose piece in the book:

As I write down the sentences, mentally compose them and then read them off, they begin to break off like huge chunks of glacial ice, the row of type – the glacier’s cliff face at the water.”

There was  also, later in Italy, a drawing of a doorway, with most of a cane chair, a mirror leaning up against the wall reflecting another chair and a window and a piece of paper pinned to the wall with the word ‘Poetry’ written on it. This picture, for me, encapsulates Anna’s work, both literary and visual. It is, on first glance, a simple line drawing of a room. But as it draws you in the complexity begins to unfold. There is the hidden window reflected in the mirror, is it a glimpse through the doorway? There is the intricate detail of the cane chair and the piece of paper/poetry hanging on the wall.

It is interesting to realise that the connection between the visual and the literary has always been at the centre of Anna’s work. Early in her latest collection, thinking process, Anna asks:

is it ekphrasis
if the poet also made the picture?

She doesn’t directly answer this question but we know after reading the poems in this collection that the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. For Anna the “thinking process’ revolves around making art, whether it it is the writing of the poems, the making of the visual art that the poems describe , or the process of making space for the world of art and imagination. In the opening poem, ‘the idea of worlds’ she refers to her “world of work” as a school teacher:

the poignancy that
no one can understand
how it feels

the sense of restriction

but there is the other world “the virtual world already there / in the peripheral vision”. This other world is already an art work

a shimmering white border
enclosing a blue and green world

Anna’s background as a teacher runs through many of these poems. In a sequence of poems about making a print of an iris flower Anna refers to being a student learning a new printmaking technique. There is also a playfulness to many of these poems. The playfulness of an image that ends up being something completely different to what was intended, or the playfulness of words in a poem such as ‘2C’ which discusses how we are taught to ‘see’ an image. The ‘2C’ of the title is echoed in the poem when Anna writes that:

so that could mean
‘seeing’
a scene in 2D

thinking process is an important book full of finely crafted poems by a writer and artist who has played a critical, if under appreciated, role in the Sydney and wider Australian cultural scene for many decades. There is a final image from poem ‘200’ which, for me, encapsulates the success of this collection:

but texture and colour can sing
like the traditional finger painted end papers
of old books
something beautiful to see and touch.

 – Mark Roberts

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Mark Roberts is one of the founding editors of Rochford Street Review. His latest collection of poetry, Concrete Flamingos, was published by Island Press in 2016.

thinking process is available from http://www.owlpublishing.com.au/chapbook-series.html

Vale Judith Rodríguez

Rochford Street Press was saddened to learn of the death of Judith Rodríguez on 22 November 2018. Judith was one of the Australian poets I grew up reading and discovering Mudcrab at Gambaro (UQP 1980s) was one of those poetic memories that has always stayed with me. Rochford Street Press expresses our deepest condolences to Judith’s family and many friends and colleagues.

The following is a tribute to Judith published by PEN International (In memory of Judith Rodríguez (1936-2018)).

 – Mark Roberts

************************************************************************

A Farewell to Judith Rodríguez 

Judith Rodríguez died today, November 22, 2018. A beloved friend to many of us, Judith was a distinguished Australian poet and human rights advocate. She served the PEN community for many years in many roles, both locally and internationally.

Born Judith Catherine Green in Perth, Western Australia, on 13 February 1936, she grew up in Brisbane and attended Queensland University. From there she went to Cambridge for an MA, where she met her first husband, Fabio Rodríguez. They were married in 1965.

Professionally, she combined poetry, university teaching, publishing, and printmaking. She sometimes illustrated her poetry with woodcuts and had exhibitions of her prints in Australia and Paris. In 1979-82 she was the poetry editor of the literary journal Meanjin while teaching at La Trobe University (1969-85). From 1988 until 1997 Rodriguez was poetry editor with Penguin Australia but was back in academe at Deakin University from 1998 until 2003. Along the way nine collections of her poetry were published, and a play and an opera were performed. Her work has been rewarded with numerous prizes and fellowships.

Judith joined PEN Melbourne in 1984 and was a leading member of the center’s committee for three decades. She was President of PEN Melbourne during 1990-91, edited The Melbourne PEN newsletter from 1991 to 1995, and was Vice-President of PEN Melbourne for over 15 years.

In 1986 while she was Resident Fellow at Rollins College in Florida, Judith attended her first PEN International Congress in New York. From the 1995 PEN International Congress in Australia, Judith was PEN Melbourne’s Congress delegate and reported on the following:1995 Fremantle; 1996 Guadalajara, Mexico; 1997 Edinburgh; 1999 Warsaw; 2001 London; 2002 Macedonia; 2003 Mexico City; 2004 Tromsø; 2005 Bled; 2006 Berlin; 2007 Dakar; 2008 Bogotá; 2009 Linz; 2010 Tokyo; 2011 Belgrade; 2012 Gyeongju, South Korea; 2013 Reykjavik; 2014 Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan; 2015 Québec City; 2016 Ourense, Galicia; and 2017 Lviv, Ukraine.

Judith Rodriguez was elected a Member-at-Large of the PEN International Board 2001-2004, 2004-2006; a member of the Search Committee from 2006, and its Chair 2008-2009, re-elected and Chair 2009-2012. In 2017 she was elected an International Vice-President of PEN.

Judith was much loved in Australian and international writing communities as a writer, mentor, teacher, and supporter of emerging writers. She taught at universities on four continents and read her poetry in Europe, North America and India.

In 1994 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia, for services to literature, and she is also a recipient of the FAW Christopher Brennan Award. Her poetry collection Mudcrab at Gambaro’s (1980) received the PEN International prize for poetry. Who’s Who in Contemporary Women’s Writing, comments: ‘Her poetry constructs strong female voices which insist on justice, clearly perceiving the intricacies of the personal and the relational. They are not confessional, but draw deeply on experience.’

Judith was a fierce campaigner for social justice, a lover of the written word, an inspiring poet, and a true internationalist who has lived a life of commitment and service both within and beyond many borders. This great woman will be very much missed.

She is survived by her four children: Sibila, Ensor, Rebeca, and Zoë Rodríguez and her second husband, Tom Shapcott, whom she married in 1982.

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The Slipperiness of Meaning: Jean Kent launches ‘Instant History’ by Richard Tipping

Instant History, by Richard Tipping (Flying Island Books), was launched by Jean Kent at  Poetry at the Pub, in Newcastle on 18th April 2018.

Forty years ago — when I was such a new poet I would never have dared call myself one— I bought a book which is still one of my most treasured possessions. It was the catalogue for a touring exhibition of poems by Australian poets. There were only 75 poets included: one of them was Richard Tipping

 Richard had already published two collections by this time, and was a significant presence on the poetry scene. I didn’t know him personally, but I was certainly aware of his poetry. In the years since then, he became known both in Australia and internationally for his visual poems and his sculptural poems, many of which are now held in art galleries. But he has always also been a writer of finely crafted poems for the page, and Instant History is an important reminder of that.

In the beautifully produced, palm-sized format of all Flying Islands books, Instant History may look small, but in fact it is an extraordinarily large collection. Not only are there a lot of poems, their range is also vast. Thirty plus years of life and observation are distilled here, in the typical Tipping style, with dazzling wit, playfulness, precision and clarity.

 Richard’s delight in words is (to use one of his own words about the book) multifarious: simply reading the title and the names of the different sections – The Postcard Life, Rush Hour in the Poetry Library, Earth Heart, Kind of Yeah – suggests how he loves the slipperiness of meaning.

 Even the title Instant History can be understood in so many ways. Is it immediate history? The history of small instances? Or a nod to the way so much of our lives now is captured by the media and then forgotten?

Considering Richard’s gift for plucking the right couple of words out of air as if this is as natural as breathing, we might think it’s just another of his serendipitous , but very clever throwaway phrases … until we realize that there is also a poem in the book called ‘Instant History’.

This title, though, is not just ‘Instant History’. In brackets after that we find “Gulf War 1”. ‘Instant History (Gulf War 1)’ is a vividly shocking recreation of the way television and on the spot reporters changed the recording and receiving of news about war. Now that the transmission of news, both personal and public, is as instant as a click on a Smart Phone, it is chilling to be reminded of this time when, suddenly, cameras “at the place of the Arabs’ are “filling houses across America with worry”, the President keeps repeating “Read my lips. This war/ is not about prime time television”, and

collateral language
keeps bobbing its head up
out of the bloodied sand

where bodies have become pink mist
swirling in data smog.

 

Richard has been a film maker, visual artist and musician, as well as a poet, and his talents in all these areas are obvious in the poems. He has also travelled extensively, so not surprisingly there is a global awareness in much of his writing. There are poems of social and political commentary, postcards from everywhere, riddles, lyrics, meditations … and so many memorable phrases.  

I don’t have time tonight to offer more than a small glimpse into the surprises and treasures Instant History contains. But I’d like to mention one of my favourite poems from the travel section.

‘Snap’, is the poetic equivalent of tourist snap shots on a trip from London to Tokyo, interspersed with reflections on how “to find the Tao”. Moments all through the trip are observed with photographic clarity, giving glimpses of the world, gone in seconds, but vivid. There are acutely observed progressions from the confinement within the plane – “Jumbo shivering vast fatness / Dinners warming in the microwave” to the almost hallucinatory brilliance of scenes on the ground, at last, in Japan: 

…………….Globular persimmons, orange weights
glowing in bare branches

Old man, bowing to a crowd
of worn stone Buddhas.
Etched shadows on crystal moss

 and the wonderfully unexpected end, where

 …………….One hundred bobbing nuns
all laugh at once”

 In this poem, blank white space on the page gives a sense of time passing, or past. The way poems look on the page is important all through this book. It’s something I especially admire about Richard’s work. He also has a natural ear for the way words work, and there are some wonderful, pithy expressions of both the way language can degenerate into inarticulateness, and the power it has to work magic if we are alert to its possibilities—the way, for instance, a poem can be condensed to

…..a single
dot

of tensile energy
transmitted on the tongue.”

 There are also tantalizing examples in Instant History of Richard’s typographic and sculptural poems, including one which is in the grounds of Lake Macquarie Art Gallery. This ‘earth sculpture’ consists of bricks laid into the grass in a circle. From the air, the bricks clearly form letters, which spell out Richard’s title of the work: ‘HEAR THE ART (EARTH HEART)’. There are no gaps between the letters, so if you are at ground level, you have to walk slowly around the circle to make sense of it … Other words then start to form – like ‘HEART’ and ‘EARTH’ and ‘HEARTH’. It’s a classic Richard Tipping concrete poem—surprising, enigmatic, charming and clever.

This poem in the earth is much loved by the swallows that live by the lake—they swoop and dive and circle around the bricks, “quick-dancing in the rising wind”, as Richard aptly describes them in a related poem.

In this book as a whole, I think there is also a dazzling combination of aerial views and close attention at ground level. Instant History is a book to dip into, like the swallows, for light-hearted joy, but it is also a complex, comprehensive response to the experience of living in our times, a ‘his-story’ which rewards careful, serious reading.

  – Jean Kent

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Jean Kent is the author of eight books of poetry. Her most recent books are The Hour of Silvered Mullet (Pitt Street Poetry, 2015) and Paris in my Pocket (PSP, 2016), a selection of her poems from an Australia Council residency in Paris. With Kit Kelen, in 2014 Jean co-edited A Slow Combusting Hymn: Poetry from and about Newcastle and the Hunter Region. Samples of her poems and occasional jottings are on her website http://jeankent.net/

Instant History is available from https://asmacao.org/publications/instant-history/ 

Featured Writers from ‘To End All Wars’: Biographical Notes

!Gisela Nittel 2012

Gisela Nittel (2012)

Gisela Sophia Nittel was inspired to start writing poetry after completing her PhD on the Austrian poet Ingeborg Bachmann. She is an active member of three poetry groups in Sydney, and her poems have been published in Australian Poetry Journal, Going Down Swinging, Australian Poetry Collaboration, Quadrant, Yours&Mine and Tamba. Gisela has an ongoing research interest in post-war German poets, whose work she also enjoys translating.

 

 

!Judy Johnson photo credit Judy Johnson

Judy Johnson. photo taken by Judy Johnson

Judy Johnson has published six poetry books and several chap books. She’s won many prizes for individual poems, and for collections, including the Wesley Michel Wright Prize (twice) and the Victorian Premier’s Award for poetry. Her work was also shortlisted in the WA Premier’s and NSW Premier’s Awards. She taught Creative Writing part time for several years at the University of Newcastle and is one of four editors for a 25-year retrospective Contemporary Australian Poetry published by Puncher and Wattmann in 2016.

 

!Andy Kissane photo credit Michael Reynolds

Andy Kissane. photo taken by Micheal Reynolds

Andy Kissane has published a novel, a book of short stories, The Swarm, and four books of poetry. Radiance (Puncher & Wattmann, 2014) was shortlisted for the Victorian and Western Australian Premier’s Prizes and the Adelaide Festival Awards. He was the winner of the 2017 Tom Collins Prize for Poetry. He has read his work in Ireland, England, Austria and many venues in Australia. He is currently working on a verse novel and a short story cycle. http://andykissane.com

 

 

 

 

!photo_AngelaGardner_lowres

Angela Gardner

Angela Gardner is the author of Parts of Speech (UQP, 2007); Views of the Hudson (2009) and The Told World (2014) both from Shearsman UK; and Thing & Unthing (Vagabond, 2014) as well as three published collaborations. Recently she has been published in Blackbox Manifold, The Long Poem and Tears in the Fence, UK; Axon, Hecate, Rabbit and Cordite; West Branch and Yale Review USA. She has received a Churchill Fellowship, an Australia Council Literature Residency and project grant, and the Thomas Shapcott Prize. She edits at www.foame.org. ‘Ilium’ (after Sidney Nolan’s Gallipoli series) first appeared in APJ 3.1. and was later published in The Told World.

 

A selection of four poems from To End All Wars (Puncher and Whattman, 2018):

‘Parallels of latitude’- Gisela Sophia Nittel
‘The Sestina Shot for Desertion’- Judy Johnson
‘Raking the Powder, 1943’- Andy Kissane
‘Ilium’- Angela Gardner

To End All Wars, edited by Dael Allison, Kit Kelen, Anna Couani and Les Wicks, is available from Puncher and Wattmann

 

 

Featured Writers: Four Poems from ‘To End All Wars’

Parallels of latitude

In one version of our story, Gavrilo Princip,
.    named by his devout parents after the Archangel
Gabriel, dies in infancy – like six of his siblings.
.    In another version he survives, and applies
himself so well at primary school, the headmaster
.    gives him a volume of Serbian epic verse.
Roused by his reading, young Gavrilo,
.    born into a long line of subsistence farmers
in a remote Bosnian hamlet called Obljaj,
.    spends the rest of his life writing poetry.

Then there is the version where Gavrilo follows
.    in his father’s footsteps and becomes a zealous
nationalist. Expelled from school in 1912 for protesting
.    against Austro-Hungarian rule, our promising insurgent
absconds to Belgrade, where he soon falls in with fellow
.     revolutionaries – or ‘terrorists’ as we prefer to say today.
Gavrilo joins their training camp at Vranje but is killed
.    while handling ordinance the group was using
to rehearse their next assassination plot.

In a completely different version, Gavrilo stays in Obljaj
.    to become a teacher, who falls incurably in love
with Anna, the best friend of a distant cousin.
.    The embers of Gavrilo’s murderous rebellion are now
slaked by floods of passion for his bride, and nascent love
.    for their first child due early in the spring.
In this version, presumptive heir to empire Archduke
.    Franz Ferdinand and his new wife, Sophie,
survive the drive through Sarajevo, felicitously seated
.    in the second car of the imperial convoy.
Not the fourth, which is blown up by a hand grenade
.    thrown by the Vranje band as planned.
The intact royal car still stalls after taking a wrong turn
.    into the street where Gavrilo would have been that day,
ready with a gun, to accept this gift of fate – but for Anna,
.    who could have spurned him for another, and did not.

And so Kaiser Wilhelm’s never drawn into protracted war
.    by his Habsburg ally. The cousins on the thrones of Britain,
Germany and Russia remain friends for many years.
.    And Anzac boots don’t touch the shores of the Gallipoli
peninsula. Instead, ten decades on, squadrons of retirees
.    from Australia and New Zealand swarm from buses
every summer to trek the Dardanelles. To fill their phones
.    with photos they post on social media as proof
of yet another bucket-list adventure: this time the must-see
.    rugged ridges guarding open and as yet unspoiled beaches
north of Kabatepe on the Aegean coastline of a land
.    where Ottoman and Islamic heritage live easily enough
alongside western influence – in this latest variation
.    on our hypothetical narration.

Many of our travellers then fly on to France.
.    And after Paris they descend on regions like the Somme.
Hungry for rustic charm and local produce, they practise
.    high school French on villagers, who forgive Antipodean
vowels when asked about the choicest cycling routes
.    and picnic arbours – locals and tourists equally oblivious
to the treachery of tunnels, and the misery of mustard gas
.    and trench foot. And the abandoned corpses speared
on endless concertinas of barbed wire, lacing the horizon
.    of a ravaged swampland. One hundred years ago
in the final version of our story.

– Gisela Sophia Nittel

 

The Sestina Shot for Desertion

‘There is not a sign of life on the horizon, and a thousand signs of death. Not a blade of grass, not an insect; once or twice a day the shadow of a big hawk scenting carrion.’

Wilfred Owen in a letter to his mother 4th February 1917.

You were so young
and happy at first in the trenches of honour.
With no bugle or drum to sound your own beauty.
It’s a marvel your singing kept the tune straight.
Going over the top was a fizz in the blood.
All those excited, patriotic bodies

falling over the other decomposing bodies,
unburied. Maggots older than time in the eyes of the young.
Climbing over the top descended to a blood
sport.  And you trapped in the hell of those trenches of honour.
It’s a marvel your courage kept the bayonets straight.
Some see bullet holes as flesh-roses of beauty

or Owen’s ‘full-opened sea-anemone.’ Beautiful
loyalties face-down, kissing mud. Broken bodies
cleaned up by pure bravery. But history can’t keep a straight
face. Not when it comes to sacrificing our young.
It’s hunger for violence that lies behind all that honour.
Ask the carrion birds, those dull porters of blood,

what they think of the Great War. How the Hun’s blood
tasted no different to ours.  How the cruel beauty
of kill-or-be-killed pulls the trigger of honour.
Well, I have sons, and see no honour in piles of dead bodies.
Human nature’s a fucked-up sestina at heart. No young
doubt, ambivalence or straight

up compassion. No commitment to incorruptible beauty.
Just endless repetition. Clichés galore. It’s up to the young
to break pride’s spirograph.  Embrace the straight
line of peace, no matter the cost.
Ignore the compulsion to go round in circles of blood
for the sake of honour.

Oust the old men of power who hunger for War,
and then when they get it, take 6 words as gospel:
.   young
.             straight
.                    beauty
.                           blood
.                                    bodies
.                                           honour

then arrange them in 39 rows of cannon fodder.

-Judy Johnson

 

Raking the Powder, 1943

Every day I remove my ring, brooch
and bobby pins, draw the blue serge sack
over my head, tie the laces of my special
shoes—shoes without nails in the soles—
walk up the duckboard ramp and punch
the bundy to begin my shift. The powder
comes to me like a lump of wet clay.
I weigh it, then place it on a heated table
on a handkerchief of Fuji silk, as a bride
might spread her gown out over the bed
before dressing. Once it’s warmed, I load
the powder onto a trolley and wheel it
to the charging room. The machine has a plate
with holes like those on a salt cellar.
I slide a tray of caps under the shelf,
open the holes and brush the powder across
the top with a delicate velvet rake.
Push in too much powder and you’re history,
but there’s a war on, so I don’t think
about the danger. Occasionally the boss
takes us, the gelignite wrappers, the cordite
girls and the women who crimp the detonators
into the paddock for a safety drill.
One day he walked half a mile away,
dug something into the earth and marched back.
“This is what happens when you’re careless,”
he said, as grass shot into the sky and dirt
rained down on us. We were frightened and
terribly careful afterwards, but you never
think anything will happen to you. We were just
about to finish last Tuesday—you have to clean
the press and the pellets before you knock off—
when I heard this rumble. If it’s a pop
you ignore it, but when the floor moves
you know something is wrong. The blast stripped
the protective clothing off her—dress,
shoes, cap, everything but her undies were gone.
Stubble on her forehead like burnt hay.
Skin flaking off the way a dead moth crumbles
in your fingers. The foreman didn’t recognise her,
that’s how bad she was. I held her and said,
“you’ll be alright, love. We’ll have you
doing a foxtrot in no time.” She loved
to dance. She was barely conscious and had
no use for the truth. At least I managed to lie.

– Andy Kissane

 

Ilium

after Sidney Nolan’s Gallipoli Series

I

in the small shallows of midday
he bends to retrieve
fallen colours

slouch hat, bare chest
an emptied beach, flag against nothing
maybe a ship

out beyond the cut-throat rocks

walks the horses back into their shafts,
a ribbon of old picnic race tickets
worn as a shade to his dark face

smoke hazes their position
making the strappers nervous and sweaty
as the horses shift

II

the moment the guns fire
each horse stands
as if backed against bad weather

a range beyond human voice
attempts to hold the sky
to silence

even as it disappears

III

the horse is waterborne — legs kicking
neck a nebula in Andromeda
exploding shrapnel stars

he surveys the drainage
with its naked dead
the cliffs behind roseate and unhelpful

— it is Ilium unrecognisable

But for the crossfire
the man’s languid pose might be love-made
his naked face

untouched

as on a different beach, his lover
before the rain flattened
— or hit his left side

IV

cockade and plume ragged
the grasses on cold white sand
bend over their work

— driftwood in pyres

out there the ships are copping it

all the bright days, the burst
as swimming, they faced each incoming hit
of wave

their touching flesh beset
with exhaustion
bodies ripped in streaming light

— open
washed in blood, adrift
in limp animal-hipped shallows

V

in the act of firing a weapon
he searches for signs of the enemy
for death almost

beautiful

finds his slack arm holding lost shoes
drone and flash in all directions
the sky spilled

VI

into this two-up — unsaddled
the calm young
tread dirty air’s comet tail

the pillion flicks aside

one only is capable of moving
faceless, dog-tagged
held crutch and truss
to an armature of metal

they are parts of a gun
oiled to hollow downcast weight
of prosthetic

— weapon equal of the man

VII

in a moment of quiet entering the water
horse and rider are alert
for a trail of bubbles to surface

even here where rock or water belay
to knife point
the sea’s uninterrupted search

the world put in its place
distant, voided, cast into water
a horizon lacking solidity

VIII

they are limbed again, jaunted and weightless
no longer stilted to be heel-hauled
from open bodies of water

at play in some otherwhere

and the figure he crosses to
— already falling, gone ahead
dreams emptying like cargo lost at sea

the clean anonymous water
and he the sunlit swimmer
shield arm raised

no longer soldier nor anything from home.

-Angela Gardner

 


 

To End All Wars Cover

A selection of four poems from To End All Wars (Puncher and Whattman, 2018):

‘Parallels of latitude’- Gisela Sophia Nittel
‘The Sestina Shot for Desertion’- Judy Johnson
‘Raking the Powder, 1943’- Andy Kissane
‘Ilium’- Angela Gardner

Featured Writers from To End All Wars: Biographical Notes

To End All Wars, edited by Dael Allison, Kit Kelen, Anna Couani and Les Wicks, is available from Puncher and Wattmann

 

 

Listen to several of the poets included in the anthology To End All Wars read and discuss their poems on Earshot, Radio National

 

Featured Writer Jennifer Maiden: Three New Poems

brookings in fur

Calling this new collection brookings: the noun, on the basis
that brookings are things that trickle the Overton Window
to the Right by focusing on soft left topics, like Me Too,
Women’s Status and Ecology and Same-Sex Marriage –
even though all these are noble causes – creates some creature
in the mind: soft little Brookings, a pink-nosed squeaker
too gentle for words like Global, War or Money, who
would not know the price of a gun. I feared to describe him,
in case I became trapped, like Jann Harry almost in Peter,
but you are too shrewd to fall in love with fur,
and Jann discarded artful innocence anyway.
In fact, I was at least once Max in her poems, when
I explained that Iran ran the Basra Secret Service,
.                                      and Max
said the same thing to Braid the next day. I may
have been Max at times, and my own George Jeffreys,
or Clare, or any of the others, single voice or pair.
But would I want to become little Brookings?
I see him with small claws. They close on you
and your heart becomes a real physical thing,
with a compulsion to protect him. Let her protect me,
great Spirit of the Universe, my ancestral Durga,
with her many limbs, from all that’s born to narrow
the vision to a bright domestic window. But once now
I will pass small Brookings to you for a hug. He
needs one, as we all do. His eyes are very pure,
he lives by the morning water,
he yearns, like all of us, to climb a tree and stay there,
nothing clear but his headlight-stare. I will give to you
his unforgettable softness: as profound as all live fur,
but you, like me, may never let him go.

‘brookings in fur’ read by Jennifer Maiden (Quemar Press, 2018)

Rope

They threatened and promised so much,
and why when I was contained, numberless,
and posed no threat?
We’ll talk soon of Elbridge Colby.
But I ask you to hold this rope,
as no postmodernist conceit.
My weight will rip inside your armpits
and I’ll sway like a corpse
back and forth on blind depths
too lightless even for black, too deaf
for wet echo. There’ll
be a time when you let go,
in pain beyond a choice. But
the rope is not suicidal. I can fly
here evenly for a time. I will list
some faces of suicides: Grace
or Joan Maas perhaps who at first
thought writing was a brook
to refresh and for respite. But
this is not the end of Childe Roland.
There is one of you, not a mass
in gloating darkness on a mountain.
Have you heard of Elbridge Colby?
We will move from my state,
as I do in truth to survive,
to the personal and worldly.
Tacitly condoned by the New York Times,
Democratic Party, Colby who was ‘Joint
Under Secretary in charge of strategy
and developing the force’, has written
for the Council of Foreign Relations
that the War on Terrorism is gone
and that we will go nuclear again
against Russia and China. The Council
know they can contain anything.
Hold the rope.
I will fall from my state
without numbers without hope
without promise without threat
to the personal and worldly.
We can talk about Elbridge Colby.

 

‘What Did They Do with the Bits?’

Princess Diana woke up in Theme Park Nirvana, drowsy and pretty
next to Mother Teresa and flushed with curiosity. The Park
was closed for repairs but people came, went, happily through
the wide side gate. She and Teresa watched and waved
to them. In life, much as she loved her, she had suspected
at times that Teresa was a star-fucker, but now she knew
that not to be the case: star-fuckers always pick the wrong
people they think stars and Teresa had picked right ones. She
could discuss anything with her, and now was fascinated
with the death of Dodi’s cousin Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi
Consul in Turkey. She explained: ‘Dodi’s mother was the sister
of the Arms Dealer Anan Khashoggi, and Anan was Jamal’s
Uncle. Jamal was involved with a lot of arms and CIA stuff
before he went home to the Washington Post. Why do
you think the CIA didn’t warn him the Saudis would snuff
him at the Consulate?’ She had merry eyes, as if she drew
Teresa’s attention to an enticing chessboard. Or maybe
Monopoly – she’d taught it to Teresa. Teresa said: ‘They
may not have thought the Saudis would be so obvious.
But the Saudis would have been the priority to please
because of the Crown Prince working with Israel against
Iran and everybody wants the Yemen oil…’ Diana
interrupted: ‘But the Crown Prince’s a fruitcake, bumps off
and tortures all his rellies. And the CIA has another
Prince they want to replace him with. And of course
that is meant to embarrass Trump. So poor old Jamal
was strangled and dismembered. The Turks probably
think the U.S. will soften sanctions and that Russia
will support them because the Russians always adore
an opportunity. What did they do with the bits, do you
think, the Saudis?’ Teresa was a bit behind on that story:
‘I thought they found him in a well?’ ‘No, that was phony.
The Turks are drip-feeding the news cycle for concessions.
Now they say he was dissolved in acid, but I don’t know
if the Saudis would do that – they’re into public display,
if only among themselves. The Prince surely
would have wanted the writing-hand for a souvenir.’
Teresa was tuned in to Diana’s relish for lateral facts.
She asked, ‘What music do you think the surgeon
they flew in to cut up the body was listening to?
On the tape apparently he told the team he always
puts on earphones when he is dissecting. I thought
there was a problem for strict sects in liking music?’
‘They’re not all that strict in private, apparently.
The scotch in the royal safes is Johnny Walker.
Dodi can tell you anything about them.’ Teresa
became uneasy. She did not like to think of Diana’s
dying, although Diana would speculate enthusiastically
about it, as on any other thing. She knew, however,
the topic saddened Teresa, and anyway Teresa
had known too much in general of death. Her affection
for Diana was a desert thirst for water. More than distraction,
here the workings of the world were precious breath.

-Jennifer Maiden

 

First published in Rochford Street Review, ‘brookings in fur’, ‘Rope’ and ‘What Did They Do with the Bits?’ will be included in Jennifer Maiden’s forthcoming collection brookings: the noun.


Jennifer Maiden photo Katharine Margot Toohey

Jennifer Maiden, Penrith, N.S.W., 2018. photographer: Katharine Margot Toohey.

Jennifer Maiden was born in Penrith, NSW. She has had 29 books published – 23 poetry collections and 6 novels. She has won 3 Kenneth Slessor Prizes, 2 C. J. Dennis Prizes, overall Victorian Prize for Literature, Harri Jones Prize, Christopher Brennan Award, 2 Melbourne Age Poetry Book of Year, overall Melbourne Age Book of Year, and ALS Gold Medal. She was shortlisted for Griffin International Poetry Prize. In 2018, Quemar Press published her Play With Knives quintet of novels, Appalachian Fall poetry collection and Selected Poems: 1967-2018. Quemar will publish brookings: the noun in 2019.

 

Featured Writer Jennifer Maiden: excerpts from Appalachian Fall, Play with Knives: Five, and Selected Poems: 1967-2018
Featured Writer Jennifer Maiden: Biographical Note

An excerpt of Jennifer Maiden’s forthcoming collection brookings: the noun is available for download on Quemar Press.

 

Featured Writer Jennifer Maiden: excerpts from ‘Appalachian Fall’, ‘Play with Knives: Five’, and ‘Selected Poems: 1967-2018’

Rich Men’s Houses

I have quoted myself once already in a poem,
Uses of Live Odds, that poor men don’t belong
in rich men’s houses. I said it first in an essay,
Death by Persona, about John Forbes. I say
he spent too much time in the houses of those
friends financially better off than he was.
I will tell you how I witnessed the Luna Park
Fire, because I’m thinking bleakly of those
new things I know about it: Lionel Murphy
being friends with the crime boss of Sydney,
Abe Saffron, who is said to have ordered it
so that he could take over the land, a set up
to be approved by the Labour Party. Poor men
are a danger in rich men’s houses. But then
when the fire burned the ghost train, a man
and some children, I was young. I saw it when
I’d had to transfer an opera ticket from my
usual cheap matinees to a sleekly wealthy
First Night of The Girl of The Golden West. It was
the only time I saw Donald Smith sing, his voice
less harsh than the recordings, much more tender
in focus to his soprano, directed only to her,
as if a small fat bald man were ideal lover.
We’ve moved into triplets: I must be nervous.
There was reason to be nervous, but the guess
I had then was only about some fire as such, if
intuitively looking at the exits, fearing smoke.
When it was late and we had left the Opera House,
there was a light reflected in the Harbour
like the shuddering of autumn leaves on tar.
And no one left the pier. One followed their gaze
and saw the flames three times the height of the head,
and clown’s face leer underneath. Next day the dead
were numbered. But I remember the strange tallness
of the pure thick flames, no blackness and no breath
of creeping smoke: all looked intentional.
Someone else there that night was Phil Hammial,
who was a carnival hand. Many of these were out
of work a long time, but he may have been too close
to really see the nature of the beast. I was across
enough water to measure the scope. Poor men
do not belong in rich men’s houses.

-Jennifer Maiden

‘Rich Men’s Houses’ was published in Appalachian Fall (Quemar Press, 2018).

 

Solstice Eve

It was the eve of winter solstice in Australia. Silkie
seemed still safe with the Lithgow Coven, was still eating
bits of the vegan feast they were preparing. In Mt Druitt,
Clare’s mother, Coral, hugged the baby Corbyn closer
and sang to his hair some lullaby in a murmur
like the soft sea at Thirroul outside a window, probably
the sound, Clare thought, in which he was conceived.
She was lulled in a cold armchair with a cup of tea,
which she caressed lingeringly with her fingers,
as it was warmth from her mother, but relieved
that Corbyn like the tea was a conduit now
for the illusive love between them. Perhaps she
was conceived in the same sound, she drowsily
remembered when she was a baby the lullaby
Coral sang next to her cot as much the same noise
as the croonings from the bedroom when her mother
placated one angry husband or another.
.                   Clare’s second-last stepfather
killed himself when she was in prison for her murder
of her younger siblings. George had told her later
using the truth as he did then like a hammer.
But she had never felt she was the cause.
Nor had her mother been the cause of her deaths.
Near her arm there was a square fan-heater, flame effect.
Paper on wire inside turned round, as if the breeze
blew delicate flames on ashes. It also had a mutter
like immortal sea, the room’s noises swirled together
with the midnight wind outside to slow the heart
until the air was beyond time and space. I wonder,
she considered, if this is when and how
I should talk to my mother about jealousy.
Jealousy, too strong for just one object was searing
like an amputation again inside her body,
at some apex of feeling and lack of feeling,
in a skin that was unchosen and imprisoned.
Their gazes relaxed at last in meeting, briefly.
Then they both looked down to concentrate on speech.
Clare said, ‘I don’t know if jealousy is a simple matter.
Do I want to be the baby in your arms, or the you he
trusts and nestles into maybe over there as much
as he does me? If I were only one of you, is that enough
to soothe me? It wasn’t that you didn’t care enough, but
there were always others. You asked me to babysit,
and not go to the movie. I knew at the time you thought
you were helping me to love them, letting me be you,
as if my ego boundaries were too narrow.’ Her mother
said, ‘When you brought up children then they told you
that they learn to love by having responsibility, as if
all the numb ones needed were pet rabbits. I never
thought you did it on purpose.’ The solstice
rain fogged like filmy swaddling on the window.
.             In Coral’s accustomed arms, the baby
stretched away arms-length: bored, fickle or understanding
his mother’s defeated sadness. Glow, from wire and paper,
flickered on him as Clare took him back in keeping.

-Jennifer Maiden

Jennifer Maiden’s ‘Solstice Eve’ was published in Play With Knives: Five: George and Clare, the Malachite and the Diamonds: a novel in prose and verse (Quemar Press, 2018, pp.105-107).

 

Mary Rose

One thing among the many things I love
about Gen Y is that they’re ready to accept
transgender in anything, as if Caitlyn Jenner
was the best fan fiction ever. I’m thinking of Emily Bronte
having baked the bread for her family,
charging over the moors, with a rapturous dog
and a headful of Heathcliff and Cathy. I’m thinking
of the first and one of the best English
novels, Defoe’s Roxana, written in a saucy
female first person: never marry a fool, she says,
ladies, whatever: you must never marry a fool. I’m
thinking of Alfred Hitchcock, after Marnie, eager
to film Barrie’s Mary Rose. He’d seen the play
in England as a boy: in England, where the police
locked him as a child in a cell, to frighten
any trace of crime away, his parents quite okay
with that: Oh, God. The plot of Mary Rose
is that a little girl on a remote Scots island goes
AWOL into mystery, returns the same, but later
visits as young bride with baby, does
the moonlight flit forever, until one
day her grown-up son returns to find
her, by accident: the child-ghost-mother,
perching on his knee: a little ‘ghostie’,
transcending any fear. I think, from memory,
they part again, but everything seems better. He
should have made that movie, despite
studio screams about money. After Marnie,
he was opened like an oyster in the dark. The Hitchcock
blonde, of course, is Hitchcock, hence
his tendency to beat her, but now here
Marnie was allowed an understanding, maybe
relief from retribution: we escape
those hours in the killing cell at last. I’m
thinking of Gen Y with real thanksgiving. When I
was young and used male first person in my
novels, my feminist critics – as if I wasn’t one –
were horrified that I seemed to want to be
a dull man when I was still really such an
interesting real-life woman. Really. Now they’ve
grown old as me, some still seem to disparage
transgender as if they had monopoly
.                            austerely
on anything female, or indeed maybe
on all things that can stop the living body
claiming its other half in any way.  Gen Y
would have no problem with moorbound Emily
in perfect English hymn metre writing ‘There let
thy bleeding branch atone’, or Keats, becoming
Lamia so he could face the autumn, writing ‘You
must be mine to die upon the rack
if I want you’ to an unfazed Fanny Brawne. The psyche
well-expressed splits like an atom. It’s energy
flies wild as the unconfined electrons
of lightning finding home.

-Jennifer Maiden

Mary Rose’ was published in Selected Poems: 1967-2018 (Quemar Press, 2018).


Jennifer Maiden photo Katharine Margot Toohey

Jennifer Maiden, Penrith, N.S.W., 2018. photographer: Katharine Margot Toohey.

Jennifer Maiden was born in Penrith, NSW. She has had 29 books published – 23 poetry collections and 6 novels. She has won 3 Kenneth Slessor Prizes, 2 C. J. Dennis Prizes, overall Victorian Prize for Literature, Harri Jones Prize, Christopher Brennan Award, 2 Melbourne Age Poetry Book of Year, overall Melbourne Age Book of Year, and ALS Gold Medal. She was shortlisted for Griffin International Poetry Prize. In 2018, Quemar Press published her Play With Knives quintet of novels, Appalachian Fall poetry collection and Selected Poems: 1967-2018. Quemar will publish brookings: the noun in 2019.

 

Featured Writer Jennifer Maiden: Three New Poems
Featured Writer Jennifer Maiden: Biographical Note

Appalachian Fall, Selected Poems: 1967-2018, and Play With Knives: Five: George and Clare, the Malachite and the Diamonds: a novel in prose and verse are available for purchase from Quemar Press and selected bookshops.

 

Featured Writer Jennifer Maiden: Biographical Note

Jennifer Maiden photo Katharine Margot Toohey

Jennifer Maiden, Penrith, N.S.W., 2018. photographer: Katharine Margot Toohey.

Jennifer Maiden was born in Penrith, NSW. She has had 29 books published – 23 poetry collections and 6 novels. She has won 3 Kenneth Slessor Prizes, 2 C. J. Dennis Prizes, overall Victorian Prize for Literature, Harri Jones Prize, Christopher Brennan Award, 2 Melbourne Age Poetry Book of Year, overall Melbourne Age Book of Year, and ALS Gold Medal. She was shortlisted for Griffin International Poetry Prize. In 2018, Quemar Press published her Play With Knives quintet of novels, Appalachian Fall poetry collection and Selected Poems: 1967-2018. Quemar will publish her next collection, brookings: the noun early next year.

Featured Writer Jennifer Maiden: Three New Poems
Featured Writer Jennifer Maiden: excerpts from Appalachian Fall, Play With Knives: Five, and Selected Poems: 1967-2018

Appalachian Fall, Selected Poems: 1967-2018, and Play With Knives: Five: George and Clare, the Malachite and the Diamonds: a novel in prose and verse are available for purchase from Quemar Press and selected bookshops.

 

Featured Writer Margarita Losada Vargas: Five Poems

VIDA BREVE

no pude saber con precisión
cuál es la dimensión del viento
ni la medida exacta
de un metro cuadrado de encierro

 

BRIEF LIFE

I could not know precisely
the dimension of the wind
nor the exact measurement
of one square meter of confinement

 

EL ORIGEN DEL OBJETO

la araña
no teje la red
une los puntos de la ausencia
para darle
una forma a la nada

 

THE ORIGEN OF THE OBJECT

the spider
does not weave the web
but unites points of absence
to give
shape to nothingness

 

EL INSTANTE PRECISO

pienso en la palabra
que no llegó a su destino
en la mirada que por azar
se detuvo un segundo antes
de encontrar los ojos deseados
pienso sobre todo
en la noche que ya no volverá
y en las veces que mi vida
hubiera sido otra vida
si hubiera estado
en el instante preciso

 

THE PRECISE INSTANT

I think of the word
that did not reach its destination
in the gaze that by chance
he stopped a second before
to find the desired eyes
I think about everything
in the night that will not come back
and of the times that my life
would have been another life
if I had been
at the precise instant

 

UN POCO DE SER

querer no este
sino otro destino
buscar la luz en el espejo que mira hacia la noche
o intentar una palabra que sostenga la imagen
flotando en el abismo

 

A LITTLE TO BE

want not this
but another destiny
look for the light in the mirror that looks towards the night
or try a word that holds the image
floating in the abyss

 

NOCHE

eres la vida que traigo dentro
la luz de las palabras que no podré decir
o la herida profunda
que permanece abierta

 

NIGHT

you are the life that I bring inside
the light of words that I can’t say
or the deep wound
that remains open

 

– Margarita Losada Vargas

trans. Juan Garrido Salgado
ed. Janet Galbraith.


Mejor arder - margarita-losada-vargasMargarita Losada Vargas (Neiva, Huila – Colombia, 1983). Margarita is the author of the book Mejor Arder (2013), and co-author of La Persistencia de lo Inútil (2016). Her poems have been included in the bilingual (Spanish-French) anthology of Colombian poetry Vientre de luz / Ventre de lumiere 14 Colombian poets + Raul Gomez Jattin (Thieves of the Time, 2017) and the Italian poetry anthology Il corpo Il eros (Ladolfi editore, 2018). She currently writes poems, works in psychology, teaches at the university, and sings in a punk rock band.

 

Featured Writer Margarita Losada Vargas: Biographical Note
Featured Translator Juan Garrido Salgado: Biographical Note

 

Featured Translator Juan Garrido Salgado: Biographical Note

!Juan Garrido. photograph taken by Tania Garrido (2017)

Juan Garrido. photograph taken by Tania Garrido (2017)

Juan Garrido Salgado immigrated to Australia from Chile in 1990, fleeing the regime that burned his poetry and imprisoned and tortured him for his political activism. Juan has published five books of poetry. His poems have been widely translated. Juan has also translated works into Spanish from John Kinsella, Mike Ladd, Judith Beveridge, Dorothy Porter and MTC Cronin, including Cronin’s Talking to Neruda’s Questions. He translated five Aboriginal poets for Espejo de Tierra/ Earth Mirror an anthology edited by Peter Minter (2008). Juan, Steve Brock and Sergio Holas translated the Latin American poetry included in Poetry of the Earth: Mapuche Trilingual Anthology published in December 2014 by IP (Interactive Publications). His chapbook, Dialogue with Samuel Lafferte in Australia (2016) is available from Blank Rune Press.

Featured Writer Margarita Losada Vargas: Five Poems
Featured Writer Margarita Losada Vargas: Biographical Note