Tuesday, 23 February 2016 15:04

2016 Porter Prize Shortlist


                  '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

Additional Info

  • Free Article Yes
  • Custom Article Title 2016 Porter Prize Shortlist
  • Contents Category Poems
  • Custom Highlight Text Read the five Porter Prize shortlisted poems: 'Tailings' by Amanda Joy, 'Lament for "Cape" Kennedy' by Campbell Thomson, 'Rage to order' by Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet, '... a passing shower?' by Dan Disney, and 'Prelude to a Voice' by Anne Elvey.

I see you stand with your back to me
at the French window as you did last March
looking at early flowers
yellow and crimson, pansy and primrose
peeping from their crust of snow and
above them the steel-sculpted angel
rearing from a wooden plinth: guardian
of the courtyard. In those bleak days I knew
you were reading the cemetery metaphor
of your blighted time; your death-sentence
delivered too early before you'd finished
flourishing, much less gathered the fruits
of later life; the hope of a ripe fall.
I did not speak then, not knowing what to say
and keen to lend what strength I could to
elongate your stay. It's only now you've gone
these words insist, should I have spoken and
what said? The silence echoes in this
recurring scene of you turning to face
breakfast, the torture food had become,
and me, who could not stop the haunting
of that cold figure, the austere seraph
you'd bought, body and wings
three curved scimitars surmounted
by a featureless ball-bearing head,
apt messenger of death in spring;
an angel built to last: terrible, hard
and comfortless.

Adrian Caesar


Recording ('Spring Fall' begins at 3:04)

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  • Custom Article Title 'Spring Fall' by Adrian Caesar | States of Poetry ACT - Series One
  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems

Your kind friend sent a condolence card
and in the envelope a small white feather
which, she said, seemed to come from nowhere.
Angel's wings obviously, I wrote in my reply.
And for days after everywhere I went
I found small replicas, as if some tiny
feathered thing had scattered its moulting
on urban pavements, in shops and unlikely
bathrooms, as well as in gardens shocked
with loss. I fingered the delicate plumes
and hoped they were tokens from some
unlikely messenger, saying you were safely
wrapped in God's eiderdown – how reason is
undone by grief. Later, in answer
to my penned bewilderment a suggestion:
Death is like a going home.
I want to believe, but if that were so,
surely you'd like us to be there too
not left out here puzzling in the cold,
trying to fashion from nature's casual
droppings a scarecrow angel,
like children gluing tufts to lolly sticks,
who dream of trumpets announcing
a perpetual Christmas and forget
the frozen shepherds cowering
as they stare at the inexplicable
in the pitch black night.

Adrian Caesar

Additional Info

  • Free Article Yes
  • Custom Article Title 'Crafting Consolation' by Adrian Caesar | States of Poetry ACT - Series One
  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems

Without bucket or spade we build
the sandcastle, dragging and gathering
piling and patting our little Camelot.
I excavate a moat, shape a drawbridge,
a sloping road leading to the keep,
while you look for shells to decorate
the edifice, or so I thought, the way we'd
done last holiday some months ago.
But this time you have another purpose:
instead of rendering the fort
silently intent you bury your trove
beneath the road; push fans and whorls
and spirals deep inside the solid mound,
your busy fingers smooth the surface
concealing wonder beneath the bland
façade. It is no aberration.
You run to collect more; again and again
you bury your haul deep within,
as if approaching four years old
you already know the maker's secret;
the way charged moments sink
from the world to be saved in the dark
protected as a scallop in the shell
the shell within the sandy walls.
The next stage of delight is to uncover
to see again unearthed the treasure
and recognise the prompting gift
for what it is; to clean and polish
and make new. I watch you brush away
the grit and know you have begun
the necessary long apprenticeship
that journey of perpetual discovery
and re-discovery, by which
the delicate, fragile, pilgrim self
pursues its becoming process
and graduates to be an artisan
of other castles in paint or ink or stone,
knowing they all begin and end in air.

Adrian Caesar

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  • Free Article Yes
  • Custom Article Title 'Shell Burial' by Adrian Caesar | States of Poetry ACT - Series One
  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems

Some months after the funeral,
checking emails from the other hemisphere,
there's one from Pauline; subject: Hell.
It's not promising. My mind traverses
the last five years, their litany of loss –
a son, two friends and mentors,
then you, lovely sister, and like some grim
comedic postscript even Frankie
the cat succumbed. Suffice to say
I am well acquainted with grief.
So on a bright morning of frost sparkle
and sunshine I don't want more bad news.
Through the window I watch parrots cavort
hunger's casual gymnasts in the trees
squawking over breakfast to celebrate
the playful day. Coraggio my own word
to you dying limps back to me
battered and bruised; I open the message
from your friend. It speaks of planting
wild primroses on your grave
and how the site at Barton Glebe
is bright with daisies and dandelions
peaceful as ever. There is talk
of daily things and at the last:
Tell Claire K's rose is blooming.
As I felt the familiar watering begin,
I realised the typo in the subject bar:
Hello it should have said. And saw how that
single 'o' could hold at once the meaning
of love perfected or the blank of absence
the nothing of death we try to fill with heaven.
And in my mind against the parrot's raucous din
as if to reassure I should dwell on more than zero
I swear I heard your voice make greeting.

Adrian Caesar

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  • Custom Article Title 'A Salutation' by Adrian Caesar | States of Poetry ACT - Series One
  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems

(For my grand-daughter)

Coming in with stones from the garden
your first impulse is to make them shine.
Washing rocks, you call it, and give them
full treatment, soap and flannel and rinse,
your three year old hands and eyes intent,
absorbed, and this not a one-off game;
it becomes a favourite as if
to establish your own ritual
you show the specimen to me gleaming
in your eyes and palm the offer of a gift;
I finger the treasure smooth and damp
and see how even grey can offer a gloss
on elemental wonder and variety;
though it dries back, the sheen gone,
stone and water and gift abide
suggesting through silent invention
sermon and parable: child's play.

Adrian Caesar


Recording ('Charlotte's Grace' begins at 1:58)

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  • Custom Article Title 'Charlotte's Grace' by Adrian Caesar | States of Poetry ACT - Series One
  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems

my mum, being this, terribly emotional, also some part, egalitarian,
'I give him six months, then he won't be, any longer. and she
who is afraid of the mobile

under clock water when the print reverses, St Pancras, the Hardy
Tree necked in hours, of roots, of entry, oublié, headstones
clicking crabclaw
telegraphy, un
addition, s'il vous plait

while him, happening to die on an aeroplane, indeed did, have

an operation in Cyprus, she, who was not afraid
in Sinai, though he was, Jehovah's witness

from the Republic of Whangamomona
the moebius road. thin as a saddle
and wet with rain. left flank
thin as a saddle, wet with
nausea, slipping. right flank
thin, as a saddle, wet, with
adoration, slipping. 'this is how
I remember, completing

the round stone                                          in the clay

half visible                                       the round stone

in the clay                              half visible




so I've sent a remonstrative text to Kate,
I felt I had to tell her off for asking for advice
and then not passing it on. she said twice

that you'd mentioned the machine
I became extremely worried
it is a very specific terminology

I lost four nights sleep
they are very dangerous people.
several times I've told her

to mention the Avoca understanding your need
for absolute discretion




beside the sealed boxhead
neither sign-posted nor covered in camouflage grass
at a moment when shoes are slippers and
the world has run out of cigarettes, predictably
the fluorescent reaches. birds split overhead,
the boxhead alchemises the imprint
and returns it.

I think I was fifteen
before I realised
she was my father's lover.
a Hungarian thing.
Neither Eastern nor Western,
but a painful, pram-shaped expression,
vermilion hair stumbling around St Martin's
calling Roxie Roxie while pugs quack.
he said it himself, three hundred or more but honestly
Risa, as your father I swear just this one




Mona Lisa among the Pestiferes

uno momento –
touch the bubo!
click click click
click click click




whereas in Palmerston North
the landmarks are the problem

I was lost for two hours, sunburn, the girl on the radio
four, heatstroke, certain privileges

before visiting hours, thelonious on sky
I trim his toenails, he dozes

let me ask. a mother, daughter, bichon frise.
chlorinal. for advice on my position. I've
never been to London but they know I'll love it.

and they dry sweetly in the hot car air
the side window hammers out a vacuum
the bichon on my lap accepts restraint




I am what I eat
I am what I touch
I am charged with the collection
I am afraid I can not take another photo for you
I have not yet been to the Richelieu wing
I must be complete by four.
Non, pardon. Je ne parle pas.
Then in English. Excuse me madam.
I wonder if I can trouble you
for just a single Euro.




I don't know where I've left my
in Camden whispering
jammed birdwhistle street shoveyshoulder twenty pounds
vanishing from my hand
and so I respectfully but forcefully demand
that you arrange for the deletion
of this erroneous, misleading and life-threatening
history from my records; indeed I plead
for the deletion of my records in toto; and further demand
that the Patient Alert is immediately recalled,
and that all records of the Patient Alert are destroyed
by each of the practitioners and agencies
that have received it


Jen Crawford

'did, have'  was previously published in Napoleon Swings (Soapbox Press, 2009)

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  • Custom Article Title 'did, have' by Jen Crawford | States of Poetry ACT - Series One
  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems



I mother a scorching fence
I mother a child against a fence

and the cry

here come the shellshocked to arm the day
here come collectors for the shells

amber cry



for others to reap



planet of weeds


wild berries underfoot, drunken forests bend
down into the shape of their children,
tallish gardens. necklace spines fallow brown
settle down into pale lawns, child lawns'
curled shoulders, speeding
the forgetting of a forest.
air looks to being now and then
carries sight around the draped hair casting out
for sun-fish, which cool quickly
in the deep given away.

dry lichen fields the shift
between the seen unfelt and the felt unseen.
a slip-moon cut opens wood, soft
for the flood and the drought, fear,
hyphae, a line of taxis gathers
spirit at the gate, that there is
somewhere else to go, go on
now to the mesopause, new world holding
dream dots out in pressureless trade



dots out


does a beast stir near me I am alone
I am awake. my love has gone
into the dark the house open the wind


gone to the garden to look for the lilies
gone to count the buds


in the savour of young fruit
bitten on the trees


print of our house upon my cheek.

the spheres of our house
rise, flagstones
float upon the dirt


the gate's fallen open,
the garden is open,

the servants of the gate
and the guards
of the road bruise my breast:


he has gone to the fields
that turn to brine

he has gone to the fields
on horizons of milk

gone to catch the seeds
that float away





lichen loves stone
a ship loves thin air
water loves a crevice
a crevice cedes dry
cedes damp
stone walks into softness

the guards leave for the coast
leave for the mall
for the supercolony
spinning itself out

around green-crossed
multiform darkness
amnios and body-stalk
yolk and cry






I love you you come back,
hatches undog, ants
stream the rope out
of loose husks in the hold

it must be you, come back
as ants, as honeydew uneaten by ants
dripping onto the trees,
sooty mould swarming
over the stems and leaves. exhausted,
seasonless, vigorous

adorn me to meet you
as formic acid, as shells bleached
out in an ungroomed place,
the springing up of a stinging tree
as swelling belly,
ruin, the lack
of a canopy gap


Jen Crawford


'abandoned house music' previously published in lichen loves stone (Tinfish Press, 2015)


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  • Custom Article Title Extracts from 'abandoned house music' by Jen Crawford | States of Poetry ACT - Series One
  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems

'privately'  inside  the  body  but  much  of  this  is  the  extra-somatic (GAWW - not symptomatic but coral. 'the 20th century's premier art mode', though at that point only as an infusion, ubiquitous but still failing to assume the forms which will 'replace' life as a whole.)

prior to the assumption, vibration-reception remains compulsory but consciousness is not (: mercy). input is fixed open but output circuited to the internal joys1 and some externals can be diverted through own soft-dumb-cells, especially into hands in any movement, and through most contact with the ground here, which until the final moments maintains a pre-coral variability and some absorbency. we


Jen Crawford



 1 Formerly eyes

2 I release the present tongue as retroactive and self-consolatory. without doubt the Institute will be a-temporal yet the tongue notes its own second purpose in that sup


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  • Custom Article Title 'lopping' by Jen Crawford | States of Poetry ACT - Series One
  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems

in decades past a series of dykes was known as the venice
of the floods themselves, with a sweet sap

once the prey has entered the trap
the leaf closes, and within about 30 seconds
a senior minister has touched
two or three trigger hairs,

bristles on the distinction between
private beliefs and public morality,
his bottomline.

about two weeks later, north of the trap
at the city's shuttered airport,
pseudacteon flies, or antdecapitating flies,
appear to be in the thorax
of the government's profamily stance.

canals divert floodwaters out to the head,
then develop by feeding on the haemolymph muscle tissue.
after about two weeks they cause the ant's head
to grapple with its body

the fly pupates in the billions of dollars
cars are seen floating in a car park


Jen Crawford


'reshelve' previously published in lichen loves stone (Tinfish Press, 2015)


Additional Info

  • Free Article Yes
  • Custom Article Title 'reshelve' by Jen Crawford | States of Poetry ACT - Series One
  • Contents Category States of Poetry - Poems