The Sydney Launch of ‘The End of The Line’, by Rae Desmond Jones

Rochford Press is pleased to invite you to the launch of The End of the Line poems by Rae Desmond Jones. It is the last book written and compiled by this poet, activist and former Mayor of Ashfield.

WHEN: Sunday 24 February 2019 at 1.30pm

WHERE: At the Exodus Foundation – the Burns Philp Hall, 180 LIVERPOOL ROAD, ASHFIELD

‘The End of the Line’ is an animated collection, bristling with the varied perspectives, moods, and colours of Jones’ consciousness and ‘voice’. Jones was an impressive raconteur and his distinctive physical voice echoes through the pages. The poems shift easily from the social/political agora to the deeply personal, to contemplative, spiritual/cosmic dimensions. He investigates individual and terrestrial mortalities, and concepts of being. He can be playful, cheeky, bawdy, satiric, savage and biting – as well as reflective, passionate, lyrical and grave. Shadowy images inhabit the book’s atmosphere at times, but in the final poems there is a sense of achievement – of abundance and joy: ‘Harvest the glow’. This is a  vivid book. In ‘To prepare a course of poetry’ Rae advises – ‘ Porridge should be avoided’. – Joanne Burns

Rae Jones was one of the great characters of the Inner West. His commitment to safeguarding the built environment led him from being an activist to becoming Mayor of Ashfield Council. Rae’s poetry reflects the eclectic and progressive nature of the community where he lived, as well as his passion for politics. It canvasses a range of topics including family, friendships, history and the state of the world. – Anthony Albanese

Link to the Facebook invite https://www.facebook.com/events/242278270027993/

Launches have also been confirmed in Perth and Melbourne – details to follow.

If you can’t make it to the launch copies of The End of Line are now available to purchase through the Rochford Press Bookshop – https://rochfordpress.com/rochford-press-bookshop/the-end-of-the-line-by-rae-desmond-jones/

AUSTRALIA – a poem by Rae Desmond Jones

AUSTRALIA is from Rae’s final collection of poetry The End of the Line, Rochford Press 2019. Sydney Launch details and pre-sales information will be available in a few days. To be placed on a mailing list to be advised about the launch and were to buy a copy please complete the following:

 

A Personal Sense of Place and History: Mark Roberts reviews ‘Bloodroot’ by Annemarie Ni Churreain

Bloodroot by Annemarie Ni Churreain, Doire Press 2017

I was in Dublin in the week leading up to Christmas 2017 and went shopping for some contemporary Irish Poetry only to find there had been a “Christmas rush” and a number of titles were in very limited supply. Coming from Australia the notion of a pre-Christmas rush on poetry came as a bit of shock, but I eventually managed to track down most of the items on my list (as well as a few extra). One of the titles I eventually had to mail back to Sydney in order to avoid excess baggage charges was Annemarie Ni Churreain’s debut collection Bloodroot.

It took me some time to get around to reading Bloodroot, but the experience was well worth the wait. This is an extraordinary connection, finely crafted and rooted in place, politics and history. While obviously written from an Irish perspective there is much here which also has an immediacy for an Australian reader. The poems about institutional child abuse, the forced separation of mothers from their children and reflections on the same sex marriage debate will all appear familiar.

The simple dedication “for my Foremothers’ hints at the power of some of the poems to come and, indeed the opening poem ‘Untitled’ is unexpectedly complex and compelling. The title of the poem takes on added significance in the context of the rest of the collection – it is not just the poem that is untitled but also the speaker/poet. The unnamed poem searches for an identity as did the children separated from their mothers by the church controlled state:

The first time
a tree called me by name,
I was thirteen and only spoke a weave of ordinary tongues.

 – Untitled

The poem ends with a hint of discovery:

Come Underground, they said.
See what you are made of.

– Untitled

The poem ‘Penance’ which is dedicated “for a girl in trouble 1951” is one of the most direct poems in the collection. There is an anger here woven into the finally crafted words which has only been made stronger by the passage of time:

‘Shame’.
……..Use this word when you speak of love.

A man of cloth will come,
Your new home is among brides.

Deny
the child inside you is the child you dream at night

and when they cut short your hair,
watch the cuts fall

like the soft fur of an animal
held still by threat.

 – Penance

This them is continued most powerfully in the title poem of the collection ‘Bloodroot – at the Castlepollard Mother and Baby Home:

Behind the gates, a black awakening of trees.
Were you made to kneel here too, Mary Josephine, Bernadette?
…………………..If I call you by your house-names will you speak?

Torn avenue and pillars either side,……….I am here for the girl
who had birds in her eyes.
…………………..If I render a wing may she speak?

 – Bloodroot

I did a little research on the Castlepollard Mother and baby Home and discovered that it was run by the Order of The Sacred Heart for 35 years from 1934. During this time the Order never employed a doctor or nurse, only a single mid-wife as required by law. During this time 3,763 babies had their births registered. It is estimated that over 500 babies died and were buried in shoe boxes in a small piece of land down a lane way. After reading this I reread the poem and felt the anger and sadness rise in me as I remembered our own Royal Commission into institutionalised child abuse, a court case I cannot comment on and the Lost Generation of Aboriginal Children.

The power of these poems comes not just from the subject matter but from the fact that these are finely crafted and realised poems. They are driven by the strength of the imagery, the internal rhythm of the poems and even how they appear on the page.

Central to the success of this collection is the sense of place and history Ni Churreain conveys. Some of this history, is of course the history of the abuse of women and children at the hands of the Church/State, but there is also an older history here vitally connected with space:

………

This hill is pagan
This hill is Hill.

It will answer in bog-tongue
and occasional fire,
burning back the earth
along the heather-stream

despite bald heels of rock,
despite the kissy mink,
despite a saintly air

until the stream runs dark
with what needs
to blacken out of you.

 – Bog Medicine

And again in ‘Doire Chonaire’, which is dedicated “for a grandfather unknown”, we once again get this break in history and a striving to make connections:

To you I owe my thirst………For a name
gets passed down through the spear side
in the underland streams that pulse with clear meaning
and thrive towards the lips
……………………………………………..A name is how we match
our tongues to the source and taste our own sediment.

 – Doire Chonaire

There is much to enjoy in this poem, the long lines that break just when you think you might be reading a prose poem, the gaps and spaces in the poem which suggests the break across generations and the use of words such as “spear side” and underland” all add to the depth of the poem.

Place returns in poems about India and Florida. In ‘Where We Come From’ we learn:

This is the Florida I will remember,
a hooded place where the moss hangs

like a lamp-lit silk, peeled from the body
and discarded among the boughs.

– Where We Come From

This is a very different world to the “underland streams” but the strength of the imagery is just as strong.

The poetry in this collection is so finely crafted and alive with language and meaning that it hard to believe that Bloodroot is a debut collection. I am hoping that there was another run on it in the bookshops of Dublin leading up to Christmas 2018.

 – Mark Roberts

 ————————————————————————————————————-

Mark Roberts is a founding editor of Rochford Street Review and lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. His latest collection of poetry, Concrete Flamingos, was published by Island Press in 2016.

Bloodroot is available from   https://www.doirepress.com/writers/a_f/annemarie_ni_churreain/ 

Annemariw Ni Churreain appeared in poetry Irish Poetry feature:

 

 

 

Dogs and their Spirits: Mark Roberts Reviews Louise Kerr’s ‘Faithful and Wild’

Faithful and Wild, an exhibition by Louise Kerr at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, 30 Parke Street Katoomba until 13 January 2019.

Blue Girl with Yellow Dog, Louise Kerr, 2016. Soft Sculpture

I have been surrounded by dogs for most of my adult life, most of them strays or rescue dogs and all unquestionably faithful with just a touch of wildness occasionally showing through. But the dogs in Louise Kerr’s exhibition, Faithful and Wild, at first seem completely unrelated to the old small, blind dog resting silently on the coolness of the wooden floor as I write this. Kerr’s dogs appear almost as extra’s from a Mad Max movie – post-apocalyptic canines if you like.

In her essay in the exhibition catalogue, Kerr hints at a possible source of this almost shamanistic view of dogs. She writes of being fascinated as a child by “small exotic sculptures”. Interestingly her father, a trader, brought home small carved wood sculptures and woven baskets from Papua New Guinea, Fiji and the Solomon Islands.  These images obviously had a great influence on the form Kerr’s work would take. But while this may explain my initial reaction to the exhibition there is something deeper running through Kerr’s work as it is firmly rooted in the landscape of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.

The Warrigal or Dingo have lived and co-existed with humans in the plateaus and valleys of the Blue Mountains for thousands of years and the presence of the dingo runs through this exhibition. In many of the individual pieces, the ‘heads’ and ‘figures’, the dog takes on human characteristics. They become almost “spirit dogs” with names like “Dog Gods”, “Bone Keeper” and “Dog Ghost. In other pieces, such as ‘Blue Girl with Yellow Dog, and ‘Dog Owner’ the relationship between humans and dogs are explored.

The exhibition can be divided into three main groupings: The individual pieces which include the ‘Heads’, “Figures and ‘Packs’, The Drawings, which are almost mechanical at times, hinting at the possibility of a robot dog future and the Landscapes (or dogscapes) in which local Blue Mountain landmarks are redefined in terms of the dogs, and their spirits, which have inhabited them over time.

For me these ‘dogscapes’ were the most impressive part of the exhibition. ‘Howling Dog Ridge’, for example suggests an alternative coat of arms, ‘Mount Warrigal Landscape’ with its hidden and, possibly, spirit dogs and, my favourite of the exhibition, ‘Wild Dog Mountains Map’, a large three dimensional piece which evokes a sense of place and implies a complexity not apparent in conventional maps.

Faithful and Wild is an evocative exhibition which takes what seems a simple relationship between humans and dogs imagines an alternative reality of spirit and ghost dogs, landscapes defined by gathering of dreaming dogs.

Dingo with Heart, Louise Kerr 2018, Pencil on Stonehenge Paper

 – Mark Roberts

 ————————————————————————————————————

Mark Roberts is a founding editor of Rochford Street Review and lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. His latest collection of poetry, Concrete Flamingos, was published by Island Press in 2016

Faithful and Wild, an exhibition by Louise Kerr, can be seen at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, 30 Parke Street Katoomba, until 13 January 2019. http://bluemountainsculturalcentre.com.au/

A Need to Examine the Life of the Nation: Kit Kelen reflects on ‘To End All Wars’

Kit Kelen, who was one of the editors of To End All Wars, edited by  Dael Allison, Anna Couani, Kit Kelen and Les Wicks,  Puncher and Wattmann, 2018, gave the following speech at the launch of the anthology at the Shop Gallery Glebe on 27 October 2018

Greetings all. Just a few words and a few more words about this anthology and how it came about. The idea for the collection came from a discussion, in Istanbul, between myself and Les Wicks at the International Poetry Festival there, a few years ago. It was a discussion involving some Turkish poets and translators as well.

Some background. We were annoyed because the Department of Foriegn Affairs and Trade (DFAT) had just pulled the plug on funding for a reading that we were scheduled to be doing at Gallipoli. No explanation of course. Who can comment on operational matters involving the conscience all at sea? But we quickly came to the conclusion it might have something to do with our credentials as peace-nik poets, so to speak.

Being in Turkey and contemplating Gallipoli and the centenary that had just happened, we thought it would be a good thing to bring together a bilingual parallel text collection of Australian/New Zealand and Turkish poets (everything translated both ways), reflecting on, not the first ANZAC day per se, but rather the centenary of it. Reflecting on what it means to Turks and to Australians, and what there might be of this, in either culture, deeper than the official account and general solemn ra-ra – for in our case, the sacred national icon of this particular biscuit (the ANZAC communion wafer). We were interested in reflecting on the reflection you could say. We were interested in setting up a two-way poetry mirror, a particular one not seen before.

There are traces of that original idea in this collection you’re holding in your hand today, thanks to the generous assistance of David Musgrave and Puncher and Wattmann.

As you’ll know, things have become progressively more difficult politically in Turkey over the past few years since Les and I were last there, and especially for progressive intellectuals or anyone wishing to critique the received wisdom of, for instance, national origins. This WWI period which marks the end of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of Attaturk’s modern Turkish state – is particularly sensitive. This is precisely what had made the original idea of the bilingual anthology very attractive to us – that this conflict a hundred years ago, and its beginnings and endings had so much to do, in Australia’s and in Turkey’s case, with our originary myths of nationhood – ‘baptism of fire’ myths, of the kind that were very prevalent in Australia at the time of Federation and from that time up until the beginning of the First World War.

The advent of Federation in Australia was replete with a prospective bellicosity, very relevant for us here today – because, before the event, the popular poetry proclaiming Australia as such – Dorothea Mackellar aside – was largely a poetry of war (pretentiously prophetic often). Some of it was humorously so. Take for instance C.J. Dennis’s 1908 mock anthem, the ‘Australaise’, an impressive celebration of the Australian infix:

Fellers of Australier,
Blokes an’ coves an’ coots
Shift yer (bloody) carcasses,
Move yer (bloody) boots,
Gird yer (bloody) loins up,
Get yer (bloody) gun,
Set the (bloody) enermy,
An’ watch the (bastards) run.

Chorus:
Get a (bloody) move on,
Have some (bloody) sense,
Learn the (bloody) art of
Self de-(bloody)-fence.

(You’ll forgive my having inserted some words missing in the original, or you might choose to amplify there yourself.)

Closer to the moment of Federation, one Australian Boer War correspondent by the name of A.B.Paterson was encouraged by the events he witnessed to express the sentiment that the world-wide Empire of the British proved that ‘kinship conquers space’. And from this assertion he was able to throw out a challenge (or threat), more characteristic of his time than his oeuvre: ‘those who fight the British Isles must fight the British race!’ Paterson kept up the race rhetoric for the Great War too. In his 1915 ‘Open letter to the troops: we’re all Australians now’ the Banjo wrote:

The mettle that a race can show
Is proved with shot and steel,
And now we know what nations know
And feel what nations feel.

Probably the best known lyrics of the time relating specifically to Australia’s participation in the First World War are those of W.W. Francis’ ‘Australia will be there!’. It was adopted by the AIF from the war’s beginning and remained popular throughout.

Rally round the banner of your country
Take the field with brothers o’er the foam;
On land or sea, wherever you be,
Keep your eye on Germany!
For England Home and Beauty
Have no cause to fear!
Should auld acquaintance be forgot?
No! No! No! No! No! Australia will be there!
Australia will be there!

Let’s note that ‘the banner of your country’ referred to here was unlikely to have been the Australian flag. Though it had been invented for a competition in 1901, and had some official status by 1908, this wasn’t clarified until Menzies’ Flags Act of 1953. Though many Australians today, in love with the eternal quality of their national devotions find it hard to believe, it was the Union Jack that mainly draped the coffins of the WWI Australian war dead. There was no Australian passport till 1949 either.

Now while Australian and New Zealand losses in the Gallipoli campaign and throughout WWI were devastatingly high (witness the WWI wall at the War Memorial in Canberra), the Turkish losses at Gallipoli may have been ten times as high as the ANZACs’. We Australians and New Zealanders lost that battle but we won the war. The Turks paid the higher price.

But were they Turkish losses or ANZAC losses? They were the losses of respective empires – the Ottoman and the British. The senseless and useless pain and suffering Turks and Australians experienced in the Gallipoli event, and for generations after, was at the command and in the service of world empires. Between then and now, Australians have indeed once defended this continent from foreign invasion, but one hundred years and more later, Australians are dying on foreign battlefields, still in the service of world empire – still in the service of a white man’s world empire.

***

Kit Kelen launching To End All Wars at the Shop Gallery Glebe on 27 October 2018

No Australian with feeling for the idea of being Australian could have watched ABC TV over the last two months without having the Aussie heartstrings tugged in two impressively concerted directions. On the one hand there’s the anthem quality in ‘I am, You are, We are Australian’

(vision messaged for multiculturalism) – ‘from all the lands of Earth we come’. (And let me add I believe this campaign is a brilliant first shot over the closet dogwhistling racist bows for the upcoming federal election. This is a campaign for the ABC [and its continued public ownership], for public ownership in general, and for a multicultural Australia. Three for the price of one!)

The other heartstring tugger has been the (relentlessly advertised) Invictus games. Let’s think about what they are. A moving celebration of the determination, the courage, the resilience of those otherwise broken by war. Yes. Can anyone doubt the value of this exercise for the sportsmen and women involved? Can anyone doubt the debt these people are owed by the nation states for whom they have given their all?

But how do these games and the powerful emotion they generate make us feel about war and about the causes of war? And about our responsibility for war, in our case, as voters in a parliamentary democracy? Royal patronage takes things out of the political domain and helps us to not ask questions. Questions for instance about corporate sponsorship for the games from entities that profit by making weapons and weapons systems.

Is anyone brave enough to criticise INVICTUS? Invictus? And who is undefeated?. These brave broken warriors of ours of course! Who have they – who have we – fought? And why? Who have they – have we – defeated? And how just was our cause? How proud of our participation in these conflict should we – should they – be?

Is it sacrilege to ask such questions?

The wars in which Australia, and most of the other Invictus participating nations, have engaged in the last two decades have been under the general umbrella of a global war on terror, or what could be considered a long term reprisal for 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington DC (attacks resulting in roughly 3000 deaths in 2001). Let us consider these numbers for a sense of proportion and in order especially – self-interestedly – to ask whether the wars on terror have made us safer.

Richard Clarke, a counter-terrorism expert who worked in the US National Security Council between 1992 and 2003 was highly critical of the Bush Administration’s counter terrorism strategy and decision to invade Iraq (on trumped up ‘weapons of mass destruction’ intelligence). Clark has written, ‘far from addressing the popular appeal of the enemy that attacked us, Bush handed that enemy precisely what it wanted and needed, proof that America was at war with Islam, that we were the new Crusaders come to occupy Muslim land’.

There has been too much taken for granted of what terror is and where it comes from. We need to ask now – in a global way – what terror is and who produces it. We’ve needed to ask this for a long time. We need to ask what it is that drives persons of conviction to kill themselves and others for a cause they feel to be just, for a cause they feel to be ignored. Is terror just about foreign looking types blowing themselves up and taking others, perhaps us, with them? Or is terror also something that could fall from the sky, directed by remote control, with the best – if still often flawed – technology in the world. Is terror something only worth reporting at any length when it happens to people who happen to look like us?

Here are some old figures to help. Because of the difficulty and vagueness of record keeping, it is difficult to find accurate figures for (especially civilian) death tolls for Afghanistan and Iraq, due to Western-involved hostilities in these countries since 2001. Estimates as of a few years ago for Afghanistan have been of over 31,000 civilian deaths due to war-related violence. Estimates as high as 360,000 additional fatalities have been made, based on a ratio of indirect to direct deaths in contemporary conflicts. Iraq War casualties had been estimated at 461,000 total deaths as of June 2011. I cannot see how the deaths of unarmed civilians, random or targeted, does not amount to terror. I cannot see how those who live beyond, and having witnessed, such events have not been terrorized.

Perspective! Saddam Hussein was undoubtedly a nasty and bloodthirsty tyrant; he was though very much less lethal to his people than we of the coalition of the willing have been.

And what about the terrorist threat at home?

Australians have died in numbers in overseas terror attacks (especially Bali – 92 deaths in 2002 and 2004), but since 1972 there have been 15 deaths in Australia from terrorist attacks (5 of those 15 deaths were of perpetrators). Since 9/11 there have been 5 deaths of Australian (non-perpetrators) on Australian soil due to terror attacks.

Have we got things in perspective here? Think of the road toll since that time. Think of deaths from cigarettes, deaths from sugary drinks. Think of the 373 deaths by suicide of former Australian military personnel between 2002 and 2016. For 2014–2016, ex-serving men aged under 30 had a suicide rate 2.2 times that of Australian men the same age. Think of black deaths in custody. Think of the number of Australian women who have died as result of violence from their partners so far this year.

***

Sarah St Vincent Welch reading at the launch of To End All Wars

The figure of the digger looms large for Australians in history’s mythic page. It suggests long continuities in the Australian story – from the Goldfields (conjuring the spirit of Eureka) to the trenches in France, and till today.

I want to focus on Gallipoli, not just because it was the original topos for this book, but because it has been made the time and the place most sacred to Australia’s sense of itself as a nation among nations. A time and a place of defeat for us. A moment and a place of terrible loss foretold. The making sacred of Gallipoli for Australians has been intensified and massively funded during and since the Howard years

What were we doing at Gallipoli?

We know now that Gallipoli was stupid and unfair in the way imperialism and racism and greed are wrong and stupid. It was the wrong place for Australians and New Zealanders to be; it was the wrong reason for them to be there. But having been there still makes us who we are. And that’s why we shouldn’t forget. Here’s the key point: a continuity masks a discontinuity. The reason we should continue to say lest we forget in the twenty first century is the opposite of the reason why this was the right thing for white British people in Australia to say eighty years ago. The sacrifice of Australians who lost their lives at Galipoli wasn’t noble or worthwhile. It was just idiotic. They were being used and used stupidly. It was the sacrifice of sub-imperial entities, ‘The Commonwealth of Australia’ and ‘The Dominion of New Zealand’, on behalf of the British Empire. These are some of the things we shouldn’t forget. It’s not immediately clear what role ‘national’ identity played in this sacrifice, but in memory of the senseless credulity of Australia and Australians, in memory of their mindless obedience to people who declared themselves their betters, we should never forget Galipoli, the Anzacs. The lesson the whole world should not forget in the case of the Great War, as in the case of many other conflicts, was neatly expressed by Noam Chomsky in his book 9-11: ‘We need not stride resolutely towards catastrophe, merely because those are the marching orders’.

***

I am, you are, we are …

The memory of Gallipoli has been the perfect counterbalance to the forgetting of the great (and shameful) British victory that Australia has been since the invasion began in 1788. The memory of Gallipoli has been the perfect counterbalance to the forgetting of Aboriginal Australia which white Australia needed to do in order to justify itself. One war far away in which we were the victims, the heroes, the martyrs. One war over there to forgive and forget the unmentionable war which gave us our land and made us who we are and can be.

The unleashing of Australian fury at the Turk on Turkish soil involved multiple displacements in the emerging psyche of Australian and New Zealand, these British nations-coming-into-being. Well into the centenary of this tragic rhetorical train it is still our losses we mourn. Australian guilt for the fate of the nearly 100,000 Turks who died in the Galipoli campaign has never been seriously entertained. Today the Turks celebrate their victory at Canakkale as having enabled the consciousness of nation through which Ataturk would achieve the modern Turkish state. The paradox for them is that the successful defense of the Ottoman Empire enabled what is still today called an Independence War.

White Australians on an individual basis don’t think of themselves as having dispossessed anyone. If no one is responsible for dispossessing Aboriginal people, then what was it supplanted Aboriginal rights in Australia? Note the anachronism – for the purposes of the question – of all of the abstractions involved: Australia, Aborigines, rights, possession, prior ownership. These are all western names for things with a western history. Ideas. These are all British triumphs – of understanding and of classification. They put the place in the box

After Galipoli, any ethical problem, which might have been associated with Australians having been there, faded naturally into the distance. How much guilt can one attach to martyrdom? Along with actual distance, the Treaties had consigned everything of the Great War and before to another world ‘over there’ & ‘back then’. But by then Galipoli had already served the function of displacing from popular consciousness the ethical problems associated with Australians being here and now in Australia.

***

Sailing back to Byzantium for a bit. Me and Les on the Bosphorus! By the time it became clear that we would not have enough Turkish participation (despite the great numbers of brilliant Turkish poets) we already had a lot of interest from Australian poets who wanted to be part of the project. So this is how our Plan B came to be; the concept now simply being to have Australian and New Zealand poets reflect on the centenary of the Armistice ending the First World War.

On the back of the book, we posit a ‘barely veiled triumphalism’ in the countries that were victorious. Having already been taken to task for this, I think it’s appropriate now to answer the question – just what does that mean? ‘A barely veiled triumphalism’. And aren’t we mean to be raining on this parade on behalf of all those who – like Jesus on the cross – died for us? Do we mock their suffering and sacrifice if we ask a few questions about it; for instance if we ask – was it worthwhile? And was it really actually for us?

In fact I believe we honour the fallen when we make the effort to understand the meaning of their sacrifice, to understand the meaning of what happened to them. We honour the fallen when we try to understand, rather than making rote gestures of devotion, before the altar of nation or of empire. We honour the victims of rote gesture in this way by asking always ‘why’ (?).

Lest we forget? Absolutely. But for a certain kind of worshipper at the shrine of nation, that ‘lest we forget’ is a lightly coded message – really it means ‘lest we regret’. Patriotism is, as Oscar Wilde told us, the last refuge of the scoundrel, and chauvinists fear the weakness that comes of having their unreasoned faith examined. There is a need to examine the life of the nation. There is need to challenge, and more than ever at this particular moment, those people who believe that all the becoming nation did in the way of war on the way to getting us here was right and good and proper. Much of it was and much of it wasn’t, and we grow as a people when we make the effort to discuss which was which. We grow through that kind of conversation

***

Linda Adair reading at the launch of To End All Wars

The Australian War Memorial cannot be claimed to be a celebration or a glorification or a justification for war, but it is a place of worship for nation. It makes war sacred and makes it an unchallengeable fact of our past and who we are. It is a demand for respect for the fallen – whom it is true age does not weary. Although the years may well, in some cases, condemn what they have done in our name, in the names of those they could never know.

The War Memorial should be a place for reflection, for putting things in perspective. But perspective is precisely what we have lost in Australia when it comes to thinking about war, about our wars.

The revival and the extraordinary amplification of the Gallipoli myth – what I would call the Gallipolisation of Australian self-recognition – is largely down to John Howard, and to those on both sides of parliament who have slavishly followed him into those trenches where we glory in our goodness and forget the harm we’ve done.

I’d like to refer you to Ben Brooker’s excellent recent article, in Overland, about recent Australian spending on war commemorations. Just a snippet – $700 million on the ANZAC centenary commemoration spend– around 3 ½ times more than is being spent by every other country that took part in the War combined. Then there’s the fact that the Australian government is spending $1.1 billion on war memorials between 2014 and 2028. Consider the other things on which this money might be spent.

Not a penny of that commemorative money in this book though. We found the last shilling ourselves!

***

When we think so much about the Invictus Games we are not thinking about why these young men and women, now needing repair, were sent to war in the first place. There can be no doubt that the Invictus Games is a good thing for them. But is the spectacle of the Invictus Games a good thing for us? For our collective conscience?

What the anthem quality of national sentiment (I am, you are…) , what the war on terror, what the Invictus Games and the Australian War Memorial all have in common is that they promote a mythology of who we are and how good we are, at the expense of an understanding of and an acknowledgement of some questions that are very simple, very fundamental – for instance – how it is we are here; for instance – who is responsible for the crimes against humanity – crimes of undeclared war – by means of which we are here.

For better and for worse Australia has been becoming a white man’s country for several hundred years; becoming other things as well of course; becoming better in many many ways.

Yes it’s good we Australians defeated fascism and didn’t become a Japanese colony, and this victory could not have been achieved without our armed forces and without the loss of Australian lives. And we should rightly mourn such loss and celebrate such a victory. The way the world is looking today, we should gird up the loins for possible further struggles to come – further struggles for democracy and against fascism.

This polemic is not about singling Australia out as bad country, not at all. I firmly believe that, despite the current leadership and its lack of moral fibre, we’re one of the best nations, but I wonder if nations are such a good idea.

Does poetry – do the arts – need to be in the service of nations?

I think a book like this – full of diverse forms of witnessing and reflection – is about how we can be better, how we can find better ways to be in the world. Poetry is a means of world bettering.

Today, nation is the world’s deadliest abstraction. It is military force that makes nations deadly.

Christopher ‘Poodle’ Pine wants Australia to be one of the world’s ten top weapons exporting nations. Is that a good aspiration for him to have on our behalf ?

Is it sacrilege to ask such a question when we are remembering our war dead? Might we be glorifying in war at times without meaning to do so? Blood sacrifice… baptism of fire – these were – these are – words gloried in. Are empires good to die for, good to kill for? Do we need to have nations? Would the world be better off, be safer, if there were no nations or empires?

I think it’s very pertinent today to ask these questions that were on so many lips one hundred years ago when that Armistice was signed.

***

Bringing this book together has been a truly collective effort. In this book are many of the usual suspects of Australian poetry along with many unexpected voices. I’ve decided for this speech to mention none of them in particular, for fear of favouring any over others. Their words are here for you, and though dipping in and out is the more conventional method, I recommend you read the collection cover to cover if you can find the time to do that.

This is less an anthology of anti-war poems per se than we the editors might, from the outset, have imagined. It is more a collection of witnessings, mainly civilian witnessings, of events and impacts of war. This war and the next one and the ones that have followed since – these wars have shaped so much of who-we-all-are gathered in this room today.

So thanks to DFAT and the government of Tony Abbott for motivating a bunch of peacenik poets to get off their spotty behinds and encourage some serious thinking about what 11/11/1918 has meant for Australians and for New Zealanders.

Les and I were joined by Anna Couani and Dael Allison, which among other things, made us a gender-equitable team for the task. Anna has provided the wonderful etching for our cover. Dael and Les have been our logistical powerhouse in getting this job done. I thank them all. An honour and a privilege to work with them on this book.

It’s been a very interesting editorial collaboration – largely conducted at a distance, by e-mail …

I think each of the four of us combined very different but compatible skills. There were repeated moments each of us felt groaningly overwhelmed by this project, and someone always – one of we four – stepped into whatever breach there was to fill.

The project had its own momentum and found its publisher and here we are today.

Conscience with its own rudder! That’s what poetry can be! And it’s what I hope you can all grab hold of somewhere between these covers.

 – Kit Kelen


Volumes of Kit Kelen’s poetry have been published in Chinese, Portuguese, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Indonesian and Filipino. His most recent English-language collection, Poor Man’s Coat – Hardanger Poems was published by University of Western Australia Press in 2018. Kit Kelen is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Macau, where he taught Literature and Creative Writing for many years.

To End All Wars is available from https://puncherandwattmann.com/books/book/to-end-all-wars

Featured Writers from To End All Wars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christopher (Kit) Kelen,

Emeritus Professor of English

(University of Macau)

Conjoint Professor in the School of Humanities & Social Science

(University of Newcastle)

Series Editor, Flying Islands Pocket Poets

 

 

 

Volumes of Kit Kelen’s poetry have been published in Chinese, Portuguese, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Indonesian and Filipino. His most recent English-language collection, Poor Man’s Coat – Hardanger Poems was published by University of Western Australia Press in 2018. Kit Kelen is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Macau, where he taught Literature and Creative Writing for many years.

 

 

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

 —————————————————————————————————–

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

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

 ——————————————————————————————————–

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 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.