Tag Archives: 21stC poetry

Friday poem #5 – from Thylazine – Michelle Cahill

Today we go back to Oz Poetry and forward to some newer voices, courtesy of Thylazine and their TWELVE AUSTRALIAN POETS SERIES 2. I have chosen something by Michelle Cahill, born in Kenya. “Her first collection of poetry The Accidental Cage was Best First Book with Interactive Press 2006 and was listed among the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Books for 2006.”


You tell me how it feels
to be inside the glass of a wave,
quiet as a womb
with the force to pitch
against the velvet rocks
what skims iridescent
from its dark mouth.
Sea-gulls angle off the point
where I watch the grommets,
black seals in wet-suits
with livid lips.
When the wind turns
the sea wears a mask of mercury,
begins to swirl and chop.
The sky is spitting rain,
the surfers paddle back.
I wonder when love turns.
You scramble down the cliff
sprint across the rocks.
Now the waves close out
a monologue wracked
by contradiction.

A “grommet” is a young or inexperienced surfer.

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Posted by on February 27, 2009 in Australia and Australian, OzLit, poets and poetry


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Friday poem 2009 #4 – Poetry on 3 Quarks Daily

I will also be referencing 3 Quarks Daily in the next post! You’ll have also noted regular items linked in my Google Reader, not least the item I usually label “poetry therapy”.

Jim Culleny is the Poetry Editor of 3 Quarks Daily. He contributes an original poem every week, and selects brilliantly on other days. His latest poem is one I kind of relate to – the age business at least, if not the physical prowess. Never big on physical prowess, me…

Past Prime

Jim Culleny

Knowing I once could whip
two 2 by 12 by 12s
to shoulder height
from a ground-level stack
without ripping a ligament;

or haul two sheets of drywall
at a time across a room alone
without reaching for the liniment,

I’m pissed at being humbled
by a mere rock-salt sack
I strain to lift and lug
and spread so as not to slip
and be laid up with a broken hip

Follows nicely from Robert Frost last Friday here.

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Posted by on February 6, 2009 in America, poets and poetry, USA, writing


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Australian poem 2008 series #21: Adam Aitken

Here, for a change, is a poet I actually know. I first became aware of Adam Aitken when I was editing Neos back in the early 1980s; I subsequently met him on a number of occasions.  The poem which follows is from Adam’s excellent blog ADAM IN CAMBODIA. Adam is of Thai/Anglo-Australian parentage. He was born in 1960.

The fig tree is neither in Cambodia nor Thailand, but in the front courtyard here in Surry Hills.


elizabeth4 004


The Diary of Louis De Carné. Louis de Carné’s Travels in Indo-China and the Chinese Empire describes the work of the Colonial French Mekong Exploration Commission (1886 -1888). It is a mix of travel diary and a trade report, and a guide French colonial policy in Indochina. De Carné predicted that India would one day fall into the hands of the Australians. He considered Indochina’s climate too enervating for whites, and describe Annam (Vietnam) as a “counting house”. In his introduction, De Carné wrote: “by a kind of natural law, which one can hardly admit without sadness, there is scarcely an alternative, for races outside European civilisation, between a melancholy transformation, or a remorseless extinction.” For the English translation, see Travels on the Mekong, Cambodia, Laos and Yunnan, White Lotus, Bangkok 2000. — Adam Aitken

Louis De Carne’s Diary

Stunned by the noise of the waters we reached Khemarat
where M. Delaporte awaited us.
Nothing could express the horror
of the petty mandarins, the imbecile governor,
and the yellow waters twisting through a narrow pass,
a child of seven smoking a cheroot,
or the site of a prisoner impaled by the tusks
of an elephant.
The light a deadly shade, the forest a blacker hue of green,
the boat shaped serpent-like, whirlpools we could not see.
The river all tributary – no one knew or cared
for the source or predominant
direction of its flow, a river unfit
for commercial intercourse.

Man had fled its banks, an abyss on both sides.
I was hot, too hot after my ramble
through an expanse of fetid mud.
I wondered what economic utility
Parisians might find in a lake full of fish
(how to get them to Paris?)

But I could write all night in my tent
cobwebbed in ennui and
sucking on the leg bone of an iguana,
or recline under the implacable serenity of the heavens,
the all powerful constraints
of influences so fatal to human personality,
that thought dies away by degrees
like a flame in a vacuum.
At least I knew there were guards
(of vagabond stock, with the timid air of the aborigine)
whom I barely trusted
posted around the perimeter.


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Australian poem 2008 series #19: You Don’t Get Me — Lachlan Irvine

You won’t find Lachlan Irvine’s poems in the anthologies or in, so far as I know, the usual literary magazines. They are outside the stream; but they have an honesty to commend them, and an experience, particularly in the Vietnam series — and we are coming up again to the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan — denied most of the actual poets. Because Lachlan was actually there.


I know a man who looks at me
With eyes that see right through.

Like a dog whistle with a pitch
Beyond the reach of human ears,
His eyes are focussed on the middle distance,
Fixed on a point which others cannot see.

I know I may not share his world
Where tracer splits the midnight sky,
Where ambush waits along each track,
Where constant guard must be maintained,
And even sleep can bring no rest
When relaxation may mean instant death.

What has that world to do with me?
It seems so very far away.

Yet I cannot escape those eyes,
That ice-blue look that haunts me still;
That steady, thousand-yard stare…
There – in my mirror – every day.

Check Lachlan Irvine’s site. I especially commend the personal pages.


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Australian poem 2008 series #18: YouTube – Poetry Clip: Robert Gray

Robert Gray is one of my favourite contemporary Australian poets.

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Australian poem 2008 series #10: Peter Skrzynecki "Summer in the Country" (2005)

Jim Belshaw has made my choice of Australian poem today a foregone conclusion, though I would call Skrzynecki a Strathfield poet rather than a New England poet. 😉

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Posted by on March 28, 2008 in Australia, Jim Belshaw, nostalgia, OzLit, poets and poetry


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Australian Poem: 2008 series #4 and #5 — two for the price of one

You could say these poems are a comment on the discussion that has been taking place over at my OzPolitics blog.

Paul Buttigieg (Paolo’s Poems) is familiar to me only from his web site; I have not come across his work elsewhere. I think he is from Western Australia. I like what I have seen. Here is one example:

Black Bastards

I heard an urban white man speak
About we black bastards
The troubles we caused
His mob
The knowledge we lacked about city life


Forty years later
I heard him again
Praising our black souls
As we saved his white arse from an unforgiving bush


A thousand miles from water

He loved the sight of us black bastards

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Australian poem: 2008 series: #1 — Marian Spires "War on Language" (2003)

This  year the Friday Australian Poem will continue in a slightly new guise, as I am not committing myself to any given day. However, there will be one every week, perversely tagged “Friday poem” so it continues the set in the WordPress tagging system.

Today’s poem is one of many published by the Poets Union in 2003 I suspect, though the copyright note says 2004. They are part of an international set of Poems about War.

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Posted by on January 10, 2008 in Australia, OzLit, poets and poetry


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