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2016 Porter Prize Shortlist

March 2016, no. 379

2016 Porter Prize Shortlist

March 2016, no. 379


                  'Call one thing another's name long enough, it will answer'
                                                                                                    Jane Hirshfield

Eyelets of cosmos, anaemic stars, only gazing in words. That parrot
bush called budjan with its supernova of stamens, spurious and sacral
Initiate of glinting conversation with long-beaked cockatoo and bee

Hunger is the dugite resigned to regurgitating a blue tongued lizard
Its shingle back unpierced as it swings away, reefing its legs past a dead
raven unsettled by maggots, used condoms, me taking a photo

A man searching the swamp for a hook-up on Grindr scans my hand
for a phone, his vulnerability touching as he passes soundlessly
Keens into the whiteness of paperbark trunks and anonymity

I've been walking, barely felt Prickly Moses exposing flecks of blood
to garnet on my arms in the heat, which kindles this wildness in me
I can't name and meet each time as a stranger, forfeited to sleep

My suitcase yawning at the foot of his bed, him spilling cunning lines across
new sheets as the mirror trembles with a passing train. I know the shame
of wanting him to call me, before distrust stakes its claim on memory

There are worse things than fire. Thriving, a tingle tree, heartwood burnt out
centuries ago, shelters a school tour from a deluge in its still-black bethel
One girl lingering, is moved on by a teacher yelling that she won't drown

How it all turns in and swallows, thinking in unison as everything is
knotted, from trees to throats. Swelling panicle of micro orchid trodden
down to mandibles of ants, their mass smothering a flinch of baby bird

Scudding dragonfly plucked from the wind by dazzle of bee-eater, knows
catastrophe. Congested telepathy of letters nesting on my desk, a ruin
of truth, part flight, breezing devotion through an open door

Here with my son, mantising gooseberries to our mouths in undergrowth
A thrall of silvereyes quicken the fig as a neighbour spits words at her dog
Galahs shear sunflowers above us. Before it rains, I'm burying the seeds


Amanda Joy


Lament for 'Cape' Kennedy

Djirritch Djirritch
the black and white
willy wagtail
fate's messenger
did not tell me you'd gone
but your cousin phoned.

Kids walking to school
found you
flat on your back
on the pavement frost
eyes open
looking for that emu in the Milky Way
but the coroner saw
no evidence of foul play.

I saw you leave
the Dimboola Hotel at closing time
with half a slab
the doctor warned against
with your clapped out guts
at only half three score and ten
but your missus wouldn't let you see your son
what else was there to do.

They haven't taken down the pictures
plastered on your bedroom walls
of Elle Macpherson smiling down
over and over again
and no one will stay there for a while
but you pissed yourself laughing
when the skies opened on your funeral
in the middle of the worst drought
in a century.

I remember you skinny and shy
beanie, five days growth and
'fuck you' painted on the uppers of your boots
taking me up the river
to show me the Bullitch
bent over with age
with the footholes
chopped out by your great uncles
climbing high for honey
and on the other side
the scar from where they'd peeled off a canoe.

No foul play?
What about the feller
shot by the Namatji squatter
not far from where they built the mission church?
What about Dick-a-Dick
left in Sydney to walk home
after the first real Ashes tour?
What about Uncle Nyuk
run down in his horse and cart
by the publican drunk and driving home?
What about Vicky and Bubbles
farmed out to Namatji families
who tried and failed to make them white?
What about the bosses in Canberra now
whose law won't recognise
your lore along the river?

Your bag of bones rots in a cheap coffin
in Dimboola cemetery
while you roam around Lake Wirregrin
waiting for it to fill again
for the Beal to blossom and seed
and for the black and white cockatoos
to fly the same way.


Campbell Thomson


Rage to order

insert here: dark joke about sharks (keep swimming or they die)
cruising around the apartment    something always in her hand
from here to there, returning:      every wayward thing
                                                            needing her to find its home

idle, idle, wedge-edge of panic     polishing itself
she is easy to dismiss, is difficult, elegant

too, demanding, too

in the house
of self, she is the sleeper
                                              cell, rogue

sharp whir, levitating
mission: eradication

all the edges singing

all the clean all the blade, only the everything there, and not
                                                                                                              the not-

o darling see this bed I have made you,
                                                                          so white

what she was, under that tree, stack of books
at hand, was lonely (sole, not tragic, still:)
only, clear gone, tumbling
                                                into pages

everything needed her

and meanwhile, back to the cells, doing their job
perhaps a bit too well: look at them shine, O –

if foreign: eradicate
if possibly foreign: no chances
if only
                                                         O to be
perfect                 clear                   shot through
                                                                                  all silence in the piercing light

because she read Plato at a tender age
because it feels like fixing
because if she does what they expect they will leave her alone
because the right slant of light
because something to push against

because annihilation

some pure beauty some glacier singing

literally, no metaphorically, no literally

{if in doubt, eradicate.     if skin, if swell, if possible
invader, encompass, wall off, flood
to inflame ::


                                             better safe – }

than what? then
what? Some slip

past the bracket-gates, then –


Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet


Dan Disney poem full cropped take two


Dan Disney


Anne Elvey Poem cropped


Anne Elvey

From the New Issue

Comments (26)

  • Well, here I go again, agreeing with others who are many, about the weird 'stuff' that is called poetry these days. Stephen Fry said as much last year, how there was no soul, heart......just vague juxtaposed waffle, or as someone posted above 'being clever'....but I say it isn't even clever. I have studied degree and Masters level Creative Writing at a top UK University, and this gumpf was on the menu there also. I had to fight to keep my style and to make my point all the way. Obviously, poetry does NOT have to rhyme at all, but I note that all these awards are won by the same style? which leaves you with nothing....not lasting anywhere in your heart ,your head, or even in memory. Could you quote any of this - or even want to?
    Posted by phil Cassidy-mccluskey
    29 June 2021
  • This is not poetry, it is MENTAL GYMNASTICS.
    Posted by Mandy Rice
    22 July 2017
  • I agree with Mr Shane Alan Thompson - most of these poems are too clever by half. At least the Thomson poem had heart and soul. It moved me - the others left me cold. Is that what poetry has come to - all the tricks and brilliance and literary allusions - but no heart?
    Posted by Lucy Snowe
    21 March 2017
  • Maybe I am ill educated or just old fashioned, but some of these poems are not for me. They are a little too cryptic and clever with their wording, which takes away the emotion behind the message, of which I am looking for in a poem. If I have to stop after each line to think about what it means then It loses me very quickly. The story needs to sound like it comes from the heart.
    For instance with Cambell Thompsons' poem I got the anger sadness and frustration straight I suppose put my words where my mouth is and have a crack at the next competition.
    Posted by Shane Alan Thompson.
    04 March 2017
  • I have writen hundreds ofpoems, mostly blank verse but not prose.
    From what I see wins a prize is not my style.I don't write long poems, mostly everyday stuff or mystical.
    Posted by peter daley
    11 January 2017
  • Great work Campbell Thomson, a truly enjoyable read.
    Posted by Michelle Allam
    24 November 2016
  • I have always loved poetry both reading & writing. However I learnt at school that poetry had to rhyme & if it didn't then it was prose. So how have these writings been called poetry? I would love to enter but am afraid I do write poetry not prose so I guess that counts me out.
    Posted by Terri Bradley
    29 July 2016
  • I liked all the poetry, enjoyed reading them-- very traditional in all respects, which is fine with me. Congratulations to all the poets! But sometimes I yearn for a touch of John Ashbery or Michael Palmer: nice and illogical with lots of non-sequiturs (sigh): fly me away folks.
    Posted by Leith Morton
    15 June 2016
  • Does Susan Bennett really think that all criticism necessarily stems from sour grapes? Any author who doesn't anticipate some criticism is living in fairy land. You don't reject criticism- particularly constructive criticism- solely because you think it comes from one of "the losers."
    While ever we continue to focus only on the obscure and ridiculous structures like we see in those short-listed, the losers will be the Australian public and poetry itself. The challenge for ABR is to stop its obscure, open-form only, "us and them" toffee-nosed, trendy attitude to poetry and embrace all forms of poetry- before it is too late.
    Posted by Barry Collier
    17 May 2016
  • It's a bit sickening that every contemporary writer/poet/ artist is now into science. They obviously have no shame hailing the bandwagon. If they did it in the late nineties, it may have been novel.
    Posted by Kane Holahan
    26 April 2016

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