Saturday, September 29, 2012

How to script an enemy

I performed this poem at ACT Heat 1 for the 2012 Australian Poetry Slam. It got me through to the final, but I was a bit lucky. I think it is slightly too obscure. It is also very hard to remember and I froze mid-poem, stumbling over one line.


The producer says make them look like bugs
John Wayne grunts a story old as Cain.
Western logic and Arnie dialogue.
On a frontier moonscape godless plain

As John Wayne grunts a story old as Cain,
Farmers slay nomad roaming scum
On a frontier moonscape godless plain
Circle the star wagons, here they come

The farmers slay nomad roaming scum
Space cowboys six-shooting indians
Circle the star wagons, here they come
[Ignoring truly cowboys were the aliens]

Space cowboys six-shooting indians
You’re not from this land, extra terrestrials
[Ignoring truly cowboys were the aliens]
Process those left in off-planet jails

Not from this land, extra terrestrials
Leave them voiceless in floating space
Process those left in off-planet jails
Keep the public in hypoxic rage

Leave them voiceless in floating space
Rotting bounty in transportation ships
Keep the public in hypoxic rage
Can’t exterminate them once they’re in

Rotting bounty in transportation ships
Keep out the vermin infestation
Can’t exterminate them once they’re in
Be wary of words like assimilation

Keep out the vermin infestation
Human reptoids with pseudo skin
Be wary of words like assimilation
These creatures betray from within

Human reptoids with pseudo skin
Keep our story to its central thread
These creatures betray from within
The Federation against a common threat

How can we keep our story to its central thread
Of Western logic and Arnie dialogue
Rally the Federation against a common threat?
The producer says:
                        Make them look like bugs

Tuesday, September 25, 2012



how can all those bands
fit in a crushed
aluminium can

with their guitars, haircuts,
gazing shoes, jackets,
ironic spectacles,
amplifiers and tambourines,

egos and hope and
art spammed

into that boy's hand?


he doesn't request the
exit row
for the
        leg        room
but for the specific
of the flight attendant
and the


sense of purpose

Friday, September 21, 2012

Poetry as therapy

He pretends he writes about anything else:
The way a lone bare tree's toes grip the
Knuckles of a rocky peak,
The birds stirred to exalt the
Shameless nudity of the dawn,
The wind through cyclone fences,
The glimpse through fence-board slits
Of the wide hole a sky scraper will be
Dressed in;
He cloaks emotion around animals,
Even inanimate objects and abstract nouns;
Uses third person as a thin veil
And remarks:
'All thoughts look ridiculous when naked.'

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


The sparrows caught in a shopping mall
Have all they need: food hall
Crumbs and fountain pools,
The jungle sounds of Saturday school.

They fall asleep to the maternal purrs
Of ride-on vacuum sweepers,
In ceiling girder nests
Of dockets and gum wrappers;

The droppings of materialism;
With a vague memory of something
Bigger Out There
Somnolent within them.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hunger Trilogy

I performed this poem at a few events in past weeks and had a request for the words. So here they are.

I don't think they work anywhere near as well on the page as they do on the stage.


Hunger Trilogy

I Taste

‘How should I live’, I asked the monk
Upon the mountain’s peak.
He threw me an orange and he said:
‘First, to know the thing you seek,
Learn you must the way to eat’.

I ate the fruit and asked again:
‘Amidst all this squalor and strife,
Master, how should a man truly, purely, live his life?’

He said, ‘How can you learn this one great truth
When you know not how to eat some fruit?

'Before you finished each orange piece,
You were already peeling another slice,
Eating each as quickly as you could, without thought.

'This is not how one should live a life.

‘Meditate on this, my holy son,
To truly eat with the moment you must be one.

‘Caress the acne-pocked skin
Feel the pith wedged beneath your nails
Smell the drying white citric oil filling your fingerprints

'Be there, be there! As each piece yields to your teeth releasing sweet juice.

‘This is how one should live a life.’

I try to remember the monk’s words when we kiss,
My mouth pressed between the sweet orange segments of your lips.

II Gluttony

Girls, I want you all.
To smell the texture of your hair,
To see the colours in your cheeks,
To hear the waterfalls of your voice,
To taste your neck, your ear, the corners of your eyes;

I want to feast on your ample thighs.
I want to drink you in.

For you are like food to me
And a balanced diet needs variety.

From organic, wholefood hippy chicks,
To a frigid, vegan hipster bitch.
From junkfood sluts
To a Michelin-starred princess:

Everything in moderation
And all of you to excess!

III Craving

Hunger is not skipping a meal.
Hunger is not a sudden, five o’clock realisation you forgot to eat lunch.
Hunger is not how you feel
When you slap down your tray and sit with your mates to your
Big Mac meal,
Super sized.

Hunger is carrying a cold, tight golfball of a stomach.
Hunger is gulping in scented air, hoping it carries sustenance.
Hunger is returning to where you were last satisfied, picking over the same old bones, praying that the pain will stop for only a moment.
Hunger is finally feeding, but each morsel makes you ill.

This is what hunger is.
And this is what I feel 
For you.


And here is a recording of me reading this poem:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

My Religious Poem (3)


Writing at my desk my eyes caress

two mouth-red rosellas

bouncing between the limbs of a tree

which is naked but for the buds they

tongue and pluck,

buds as plump pink and full of promise as

pubescent nipples;

and I think 

‘is that creepy?’

I am usually a good judge of these things.

this is my conviction poem

this has to be my conviction poem

but the only thing I know for sure is

this is where I am meant to be, right now,

with you

this is my religious poem

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My Religious Poem (2)


He is twelve.

His mother tells him turn off Doctor Who and

wash your hands for tea.

In the bathroom he steams.

He carries the fog on his brow to the table,

a storm cloud chewing lighting bolts silent in his distance.

Ten minutes later, he is chatting like

cockatoos after rain.

He still has trouble holding onto clouds.


Café gig cross-legged on the floor

Light like sun through skin

Hot towel music; mulled wine music

The singer is a fireplace

We pendulum to snake charmer flames

We hum like plucked strings

Tones holding us like mothers’ arms.

I tuck in my head, and pull 
you in
to me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My Religious Poem (1)

As part of my performance as feature poet at the Traverse Poetry Slam in Canberra on 31 August, I performed This is My Religious Poem.

Writing this poem began with the title. I then collected my thoughts on what would represent my religion. I found quite a miscellany of images, which surprised me a little but ultimately was as I should have anticipated.

When I perform the poem, I tie the individual pieces together with a verbal representation of this surprise. I change my mind - it is my religious poem, then my gratitude poem, then my love poem...

It is difficult to put those tying passages down on the page, so I am going to skip them and give you each individual sub-poem alone. Here are the first two.

This is my religious poem


I stop to help a couple push

Their stalled car off the road;

Breathing steam expelled between

my locked arms take the load.

Back bent, sliding gravel gripping beneath my soles,

Finding purchase on the stilled artery,

Finding purpose in being pulled forward by their need.


Sitting on the steps in the rain

I listen to the Smiths on my mp3 and watch

A raincoat girl, glistening yellow as a rubber duck,

Bob to the letterbox to post some catalogues,

Her head bowed with purpose and the

Pamphlet weight of her pack.

As she turns, beneath the beak of her hood,

She lifts her eyes and smiles.

When I raise a palm off my knee

And reflect her smile I am surprised

To realise

I am crying.

I like the rain and I like the Smiths

and I didn’t know I was crying until I tasted

salty drips.

Friday, September 7, 2012

National Poetry Week 5

A poem to read

From the Red Room Company, here is a poem by Andy Kissane, titled The Smell of the Sea. It is from the Red Room's project 'The Disappearing', which places poems about locations into an iPhone and Android app.

Have a look around the Red Room Company's website while you are there.

A blog to link to

Randall Stephens is a Melbourne poet who is known for his engaging performances and pith helmet. His blog, which he regularly seeds with new poems, is titled Tales Told by an Idiot.

An exercise to write to

Taylor Mali is a legend in American slam poetry. A former teacher, he has graciously loaded five lesson plans to his website. Designed for teachers to use, they can also be used as writing prompts at home. I particularly liked the Answer to an Unasked Question. They can be found here.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

National Poetry Week 4

Half way there. Or second-last post. It depends on whether my original commitment included weekends. I haven't decided yet.

A poem to listen to

I couldn't make up my mind, so here are two performance poets from the US. (The second, George Watsky, is unfortunately now a not-very-good hip hop artist. He was a much better poet.)

You might need to Remove Annotations for this one:

A blog to link to

Indiefeed Performance Poetry is an invaluable podcast. Three times a week, a recording of a performance piece is posted, along with biographical information on the poet and other useful information. It is a great way to hear new voices, be exposed to different ways of writing and performing, and get inspired.

The host is Wes Mongo Jolley, but he has recently been joined by several other hosts, including Joel McKerrow from Melbourne's Centre for Poetics and Justice. Consequently, more Australian poets have been featured in recent times.

An exercise to write to

List 7- 10 each of events, locations and protagonists. Make sure you get a mix of happy and sad events, a mix of fun and boring locations, and a range of occupations/backgrounds/sexes/personalities in your protagonists. Put each event, location and protagonist on a single piece of paper and form them into three sorted piles. Then randomly select an event, location and protagonist.

For example, you might get a nun's birthday party at a rubbish tip. Or a clown's funeral in a 7 Eleven.

Write a poem about your random collection of inputs.

As a suggestion, start by writing all of your thoughts about the three elements you have gathered. Why would a clown have a funeral at a 7 Eleven? Who else is there? What does the guy behind the counter do?

Then, to take it one step further, how can the apparent ridiculous of this situation relate to your life or to anyone else's. Can you reflect that in the poem?

This exercise can be rewarding when done with someone else or in a group. That way, you are more likely to be surprised by the combinations you pick from the piles.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

National Poetry Week 3

A poet to read

Today I have a poem by a Wollongong poet, Joel Ephraims. More than just any poem, it was the winner of the 2011 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize. It is titled Rock Candy and can be read here. I have mentioned it on my blog before. It just keeps giving something more each time you read it. I hope I get to meet Joel in Wollongong when I travel there for a poetry event.

A blog to link to

Melbourne this time. Here is the website of Melbourne Spoken Word, maintained by the core of Melbourne performance poets - people such as Randall Stephens and Benjamin Solah. It has great links to events, poets and general Melbourney poetry thingys.

An exercise to write to

Begin a poem with one of these lines:
  • One of these days...
  • Today was meant to be the day...
  • That was the last day [I/he/she]...
  • The day I ______
You could just start the poem with the chosen line or you could repeat the line at the beginning of each stanza. A variation could involve changing the line slightly with each stanza. For example, 'Today was meant to be the last day I slept past noon' for the first stanza, then 'Today was meant to be the last day I drank before I ate' for the second, etc.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

National Poetry Week 2

Day 2. On track so far...

A poet to listen to

I am going to go back to one of the first performance poets that inspired me and got me hooked on slam poetry. Rives is an American poet and performer, who is mostly known for his Def Poetry Jam performances and appearances at TED conferences. Rives is a great performer, effortlessly combining stagecraft with verse.

Here is one of my favourite Rives performances.

Be sure to stay on You Tube for a while and browse his other videos. The TED emoticon story is amazing.

A blog to link to

Keeping the Brisbane theme going, I recommend Eleanor Jackson's blog. Eleanor is a regular performer, she keeps feeding her blog and has just declared her niche to be Cycling Poetry. I think that is way cool.

An exercise to write to

Check out the Poets & Writers website for a comprehensive collection of writing prompts for all genres.

Here is one I particularly liked:

Focus this week on collecting images, drawing on as wide a range of sources as possible. Cull family albums for interesting photos, visit online archives of images, cut out images from magazines or newspapers, take photos of buildings, billboards, birds—anything that strikes you as you make your way through each day. At the end of the week, assemble these on a table or tape them to a wall in your work space. Write a poem inspired by this collage.

Yours and Owls video

I attempted to video my performance as the feature poet at Yours and Owls in Wollongong on 25 August. I managed to grab grimy, low quality moving pictures of three of my poems and have loaded them to You Tube here.

This is my performance of Tipping or Rocking May Cause Injury or Death. It is my dedication to performance poets everywhere.

Monday, September 3, 2012

National Poetry Week 1

Ok, it's National Poetry Week. To celebrate, I am going to attempt to blog everyday this week. I will post a poet to read or listen to, a blog to link to and a writing exercise (or two) to write to.

A poet to listen to

Performing in Wollongong the other week, I was introduced (figuratively) to Alan Wearne. Several of the poets and people in the audience were students from the University of Wollongong, where Alan teaches poetry.

Ashamedly, I had not heard of Alan Wearne before that night. So I did some googling. Here is Alan's writings online.

Here is Alan performing as part of the Red Room Company's The Wordshed collection of poetry. His interpretation of popular Australian songs is worth listening to.

A blog to link to

This is, I believe, one of the best poetry blogs in Australia: Another Lost Shark, the blog of Graham Nunn. Brisbane has a great poetry and performance scene, and Graham is at the centre of it. A co-founder of SpeedPoets, former Artistic Director of the Queensland Poetry Festival and Haiku master, Graham regularly posts his poetry and links to events and other poets. The blog is worth checking out just for its comprehensive list of other related blogs.

An exercise to write to

Rachel McGibbens is a fantastic American spoken word artist with an amazing website and regular blog. One of her particular compulsions seems to be to collect writing exercises. She is up to #87 in her blog. I like this one:

Once you have done that, stroll around her blog and check out the other exercises.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Yours and Owls, 25 August 2012

I was very fortunate to be the feature poet at the relatively new monthly slam in Wollongong. Hosted by Poetry in Wollongong and held in the appropriately bohemian Yours and Owls, the slam has been running for five months and has gathered a sizeable audience. The place was full.

I performed ten poems:

We are the poem
Kingsford Smith was a mystic
Tipping or rocking may cause injury of death
I'm too boring to make good art
Driving phrase trains off the track
Hunger trilogy
The sound of a fish jumping
The laying on of hands
Two doors down from billy-cart hill
The most awesome party ever

The audience was fantastic and attentive. A pleasure to perform in front of.

Five poets too part in the slam. Three of them did two poems each. The quality was very high.

One of the competitors, Adam Formosa, is a nationally published poet. His work has appeared in Overland and in The Best Australian Poems 2010. Adam's poems display a very strong sense of place and identity. Here is his contribution to Overland.

Adam's poem in the 2010 annual can also be read through the Google preview function on the Black Inc. page here.

These are the best parts of being a performance poet - connecting with others and being exposed in turn to more poetry. I have been very happy to see the depth of art and performance in Canberra and the event at Yours and Owls showed me Wollongong too has a lot going for it.