‘limestone’ published in ‘Communion Arts Journal’ Issue 8 December 2017

1 Jul

Windjana Gorge, WA

I haven’t sent much work out over the last 18 months or so but I was particularly pleased that one poem made it into print. Communion Arts Journal, edited and published by Ralph Wessman and Jane Williams out of Tasmania, has a long and proud history. As part of the Walleah Press stable it can trace it’s ancestry back to the wonderful Famous Reporter journal which was one of the important and long lived small press journals of the last 30 years (back in 2013 I reviewed the last issue of the Famous Reporter edited by Ralph Wessman for Rochford Street Review  https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2012/08/10/an-eclectic-tour-de-force-mark-roberts-reviews-famous-reporter-43/). Unlike The Famous Reporter Communion is an online journal but it shares with its forebear a commitment to powerful writing and a keen critical ear – something that makes being published by the journal doubly satisfying.

‘limestone’ is a very short poem but it took a long time to write. Over 25 years ago Linda Adair and I spent a few days in the Kimberley east of Broome. There was an ancient beauty to the landscape which spoke deeply of the history of country and, particularly at night when the Milky Way was almost bright enough to throw shadows,  it was easy to feel a connection stretching back eons. It was a feeling that demanded a poem, but it was one of those situations where the poetic strength of the moment swamped the ability of any words to record it. Gradually over two decades words came, Auden helped a little as did the threat posed to this ancient environment by the rise of the ugly right in Australia and around the world which would deny the value of such a link to country. Once you’ve read ‘limestone’ make sure you hang around and enjoy Communion – it is a valuable journal whihc deserves your support.






Poetic Journal: 20 December 2017: ‘Ha’penny Bridge.’

24 Dec

Day 4 of the journal – I observe the Christmas lights from one of the famous bridges across the Liffy.



The Liffy reflects back the Christmas lights
on Ha’penny Bridge forming an imperfect

oval. The river is as still as a mirror
yet the image is distorted slightly

on the southern side – a grimace
more than a smile. So perhaps

the opposite of a Dublin frown
is not complete happiness.



Poetic Journal: 19 December 2017: ‘‘Easter 1916 – Dublin GPO’’

21 Dec

Day three of my December/January poetic journal.  On our first full day in Dublin we visited the Dublin GPO.


19 December 2017 ‘Easter 1916 – Dublin GPO’

Along with the saints
my grandfather taught me
the name of the martyrs:

……….Patrick Pearse,
……….Thomas MacDonagh,
……….Thomas Clarke,
……….Joseph Plunkett,
……….William Pearse,
……….Edward Daly,
……….Michael O’Hanrahan,
……….John MacBride,
……….Éamonn Ceannt,
……….Michael Mallin,
……….Seán Heuston,
……….Con Colbert,
……….James Connolly
……….Sean MacDiarmada.

He was just about to turn sixteen
when the uprising took place
on the other side of the world
fifty years later he still held that anger.
He told me that they had to rope Connolly
to a chair in front of the firing squad
because his ankle had been shattered
by a bullet in the GPO.

My grandfather never saw Ireland
but today I silently tell him
there is no union jack
flying on Dublin GPO.




Over the coming few weeks I will be doing a bit of travelling on the other side of the world. I have decided to try and keep a small poetic journal to capture some of my observations and thoughts during this period. The poems aren’t complete or polished, please treat them more as observations or first drafts.



Poetic Journal: 18 December 2017 ‘Yellow Sea Chest’

20 Dec

Day two of my December/January poetic journal. I still have the sea chest that my great grandmother brought with her to Australia from Ireland in the mid 19th century. As we tried to meet the baggage restrictions for the flight to Dublin I reflected on the luggage restrictions she faced.


Yellow Sea Chest 18/12/17

A per airline instructions
we have packed  two bags each
to travel 30 hours to Ireland.
We have left behind
my great grandmother’s
sea chest which contained
all her possessions when she travelled
from Cork to Sydney 150 years ago.
She had luggage restrictions as well
one sea chest for everything she wanted to keep
for her new life away from hunger and the British
(I have often wondered about the British
in the colonies but my grandfather said
it was a different oppression).

The sea chest has secret compartments
and pictures from the 1860s vanished onto boards
the leather straps have rotted away
and my grandfather painted it yellow
during the depression
“a bright colour to cheer things up”.
I have recently found that the curve top
meant that it had to be stacked on top
of the pile of cases in the hold
and indicated that my great grandmother
had a little more money than most.




Over the coming few weeks I will be doing a bit of travelling on the other side of the world. I have decided to try and keep a small poetic journal to capture some of my observations and thoughts during this period. The poems aren’t complete or polished, please treat them more as observations or first drafts.



Poetic Journal: 17 December 2017 ‘hidden’

19 Dec

Over the coming few weeks I will be doing a bit of travelling on the other side of the world. I have decided to try and keep a small poetic journal to capture some of my observations and thoughts during this period. The poems aren’t complete or polished, please treat them more as observations or first drafts. The first post is dated 17 December and covers the flight from Australia to Ireland.



leaving melbourne
flying northwest
across night desert
…………darkness scattered lights
…………a richness of stars
stories are hidden here
even in daylight
but at night they call to us
singing across country
and reaching into the sky

…………in this plane
we eat
watch a movie
and try to sleep



Poetic Journal: 18 December 2017 ‘Yellow Sea Chest’


‘Yaranigh’s Grave’ appears in ‘Landmarks: Microfiction and Prose Poems’ edited by Cassandra Atheron

28 Nov

I haven’t sent much work out over the last 12 months but I have been fortunate to have a number of pieces appear in various magazines and anthologies. Many of these have been from the Lacuna manuscript which I am still working on 18 months after I originally thought it was completed. One of the pieces in Lacuna is a poem inspired by a visit to Yaranigh’s grave just outside of Molong NSW.

Yaranigh was a Wiradjuri man caught up in the rapid dispossession of Aboriginal lands in the first half of the 19th century.  Yaranigh straddled both Aboriginal and European cultures and worked on expeditions with with early colonial ‘explorers’ through NSW and Queensland, acting as a guide and interpreter as the expedition moved through different Aboriginal nations. The most famous of these expeditions was with Sir Thomas Mitchell’s expedition to find the mythical inland sea. On  his death Major Mitchell gave him a formal European burial while his own people surrounded the graves with ceremonial carved trees. This combined tribute made me think of delicate situation Yaranigh must have found himself in and how he might have attempted to limit the impact of the Europeans by carefully negotiating passage away from scared sites and areas of importance to local people.

Landmarks is described as an anthology which tackles the theme of Landmarks: critical or celebratory, watershed moments or turning points in history, culture or in relationships. It seemed to me that my poem about Yaranigh’s grave was a good fit for such an anthology. Unfortunately the anthology was looking for microlit and ‘Yaranigh’s Grave’ was a poem. So, not for the first time, I attempted to take a work in one genre and rework it into another. The version that appears in Landmarks is therefore a different work than the one that exists in the Lacuna manuscript. While I still think the poem is a more powerful piece I am still extremely proud that the micro prose version of ‘Yaranigh’s Grave’ has appeared in Landmarks.


Landmarks: Microfiction and Prose Poems Edited by Cassandra Atherton. Spineless Wonders is available from https://shortaustralianstories.com.au/product/landmarks/

‘The Office of Literary Endeavours: Maree’ appears in Postcolonial Text Vol 12, No1 (2017)

11 Jul

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee; Dictee Takes the Stage. Photograph by Soomi Kim. The cover of Postcolonial Text Issue 12: No.1

I am very pleased to have had ‘The Office of Literary Endeavours: Maree’ published in the on-line journal Postcolonial Text. This poem is an interesting one for me as it grew out of a novel I’m attempting to write. As part of my research I was reading a lot of poetry in translation. I found myself increasingly wanting to get ‘behind’ the translation to the poem – to read different translations of the same poem and to use online translation tools and dictionaries to create my own literal translations.

One of the poets who caught my attention during this time was the Spanish poet Luis Cernuda. Cernuda was born in Seville in 1902 and during the Spanish Civil War he found himself forced into exile when he was unable to return from giving a series of lectures in England. Openly homosexual and antifascist Cernuda spent the rest of his life in exile, dying in Mexico in 1961. It was while reading and playing around with Cernuda’s work in translation that I started writing some poems in a style that seemed to me to have a feeling of being translated. This is a hard thing to describe but I guess it is where you look at the multiple meanings behind each word and try and understand different ways of capturing the same idea or image.

One of the results of this exercise was ‘The Office of Literary Endeavours: Maree’  and you can read it here: