In this episode of the Australian Book Review's States of Poetry Podcast, state editor Lucy Dougan introduces the 2016 Western Australian poets: Barbara Temperton, Charmaine Papertalk Green, Carolyn Abbs, Graham Kershaw, JP Quinton, and Kia Groom.

 

You can learn more about States of Poetry and read the full anthologies here.

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    In this episode of the Australian Book Review's States of Poetry Podcast, state editor Lucy Dougan introduces the 2016 Western Australian poets: Barbara Temperton, Charmaine Papertalk Green, Carolyn Abbs, Graham Kershaw, JP Quinton, and Kia Groom

In this first episode of Australian Book Review's States of Poetry Podcast, state editor David McCooey introduces the 2016 Victorian poets: Amy Brown, Kevin Brophy, Michael Farrell, A. Frances Johnson, Cameron Lowe, and Jessica L. Wilkinson.

 

You can learn more about States of Poetry and read the full anthologies here.

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  • Custom Article Title States of Poetry 2016 Podcast | State editor David McCooey introduces the Victorian anthology
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  • Custom Highlight Text In this first episode of the Australian Book Review's States of Poetry Podcast, state editor David McCooey introduces the 2016 Victorian poets: Amy Brown, Kevin Brophy, Michael Farrell, A. Frances Johnson, Cameron Lowe, and Jessica L. Wilkinson.

In this episode of Australian Book Review's States of Poetry Podcast, state editor Jen Webb introduces the 2016 ACT poets: Adrian Caesar, Jen Crawford, Paul Hetherington, Jeanine Leane, Omar Musa, and Sarah Rice.

 

You can learn more about States of Poetry and read the full anthologies here.

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  • Custom Article Title States of Poetry 2016 Podcast | State editor Jen Webb introduces the ACT anthology
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  • Custom Highlight Text In this episode of the Australian Book Review's States of Poetry Podcast, state editor Jen Webb introduces the 2016 ACT poets: Adrian Caesar, Jen Crawford, Paul Hetherington, Jeanine Leane, Omar Musa, and Sarah Rice.

Melbourne is home to numerous poetic institutions, including Australian Poetry Inc, Collected Works (Australia's best bookshop for poetry), and, of course, Australian Book Review. Among these institutions there are vibrant – if sometimes occult – print, audio-visual, and spoken-word scenes. Regional Victoria is far from eclipsed by the metropolitan centre. The Bellarine Peninsula, for instance, is home to numerous poets, including Barry Hill, Diane Fahey, and Anthony Lynch. Two of the poets included here – A. Frances Johnson and Cameron Lowe – are 'Bellarine poets'. Living in Geelong myself, I make no apologies for this regional bias. In putting together this anthology, I have focused largely on early- and mid-career poets whose poetics I find appealing. It is a poetics attracted to openness, energy, catholic interest, and wit.

Kevin Brophy – the most senior of the poets represented here, and a long-standing participant in poetic culture – writes poetry that is by turns plangent and comic. His work brings together a highly original, and rich, mix of the surreal, the lyrical, and the satirical. Jessica L. Wilkinson, one of the youngest poets represented here and the founding editor of Rabbit, a journal of 'non-fiction poetry', demonstrates that mode with an innovative suite of poems concerning the choreographer Nijinsky. One of the most intensely 'local' set of poems is from Amy Brown, a poet who was, in the first instance, 'foreign'. A New Zealander, Brown considers Melbourne with an eye that is both affectionate and critical, and she does so using a poetic language that is both delicate and authoritative. Possibly the 'coolest' of the poets, Cameron Lowe is also deeply interested in the everyday. However much other poets might be interested in quotidian particularity, Lowe's quotidian is all his own, both intensely 'felt' and intensely 'aesthetic' (from the Greek word meaning 'to feel'), undoing the supposed distinction between affect and aesthetic distance. Lowe is also attracted to an aesthetics of name-checking (something found in other contemporary Melbourne poets' work), referring without hierarchy to family members, friends, and poets (local and distant).

Proper nouns abound in the poetry of Michael Farrell, too, though his work is more explicitly 'experimental' (should such a term mean anything these days) and his comedy even more surreal or absurd. It is interesting that Farrell has been charged by some as being 'unduly' obscure, since – as the poems included here illustrate – his work is richly playful and steeped in antecedents of various kinds. Farrell's work is notable in part for the way it 'queers' classic (or reactionary) Australian tropes and myths. Perhaps this is what makes Farrell such a necessary irritant in Australian poetic culture.

Farrell's queering of Australian tropes is inherently a political act. While such an aesthetics is far from 'protest poetry' (a category that many literary poets would see as potentially facile and politically naïve), there is no doubt that recent years have seen something of a 'political turn' in Victorian, and Australian, poetry generally. Many poets have been galvanised, if not radicalised, by the actions of the federal government. Political satirists such as Charlie Pickering or the cartoonist First Dog on the Moon have the medium and audience to publicly intervene in the tragedy and farce that is political life in contemporary Australia, but poets are also engaging with the torsions of national politics, albeit often in complex and tangential ways, as Brophy's 'Before I Speak' illustrates. Indeed, one might say that such a 'tangential poetics' is in fact a necessary addition to a public discourse so otherwise debased.

The continuity between poetry and politics, anger and artfulness, is eloquently seen in the work of A. Frances Johnson. She – like Lowe – shows that being a 'Bellarine poet' does not simply mean attending to the bourgeois blandishments of coastal life. One of Johnson's key strategies is to imagine and recontextualise Victoria's largely repressed histories. Her 'Shrine', for instance, is one of the great poems on the frontier wars in colonial Australia. Just as First Dog on the Moon brings about his powerful effects through the marrying of political rage and cartoon comedy, so Johnson produces her powerful effects by marrying political rage with lyrical intensity and wit.

The six poets collected here are not 'representative' in a demographic sense, but they do illustrate the variety and vitality of poetry in Victoria. They bring together the Magic Pudding, Frida Kahlo's face, and Tunnerminnerwait.

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  • Custom Article Title States of Poetry 2016 - Victoria | State Editor's Introduction by David McCooey
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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
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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

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  • Custom Article Title 'Crafting Consolation' by Adrian Caesar | States of Poetry ACT - Series One
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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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  • Custom Article Title 'Shell Burial' by Adrian Caesar | States of Poetry ACT - Series One
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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
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(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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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
telephone

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
annabayannabaywannabaymarawanna
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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