new poems and a review

Great review here of Vanessa’s ‘Confessional Box’ 🙂

Worded Page

There’s been plenty happening over the past month or so…so this blog post is a bit of a catch up.

Firstly, I was thrilled to read a third review of Confessional Box on Cordite this week. This one was by Siobhan Hodge and I really enjoyed reading about her experiences with the book, particularly her unpicking of some of the poems that have a ‘male voice’, as so much of the book is from a feminine perspective. The Harwood comparison was a real compliment, and while I hadn’t initially seen it, there is certainly a resonance between ‘In the Park’ and ‘Wife’.  You can read the full review here: http://cordite.org.au/reviews/hodge-page/

I also came across Stuart Barnes’ recent piece for Shot Glass Journal: A cento for 14 Australian poets. Stuart has kindly included me in this poem, leading off with a line from ‘Five Fifty-Three am’. I’m in some great company…

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Dave Brubeck Quartet – Jazz Impressions of Japan (1964)

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The Dave Brubeck Quartet is pretty damn wonderful on their third ‘Impressions’ record, released not long after their commercial peak.

If this album isn’t as well-known as monsters like Time Out or At Carnegie Hall I’d argue that it shouldn’t be too far behind. Maybe it’s not a masterpiece of jazz – but it’s an essential Brubeck work and deserves extra attention.

A mostly contemplative set, there’s an ethereal quality to a lot of the pieces. The influence of Japanese scales is skilfully interwoven with more familiar Brubeck fare – this is done most convincingly (to my ears) in the beautiful Koto Song with its subtle cymbal and tom work from Morello, and stand-out performances from Dave and Paul.


In fact, Morello’s wide range of Japanese percussion instruments really add to the Eastern tone of the pieces, ensuring this is one of the quartet’s most satisfying and distinctive records. While it is dominated by quieter moments and relaxed tempos, such as Rising Sun with Desmond’s honeyed alto leading, or the mournful Fujiyama (see below), there is some snap to the album too. Opener Tokyo Traffic is quite jaunty and reflects the busy city, as does Toki’s Theme – the song that probably has the most fun on the album.

There are no missteps here; Dave Brubeck soaked up the feel of urban and pastoral Japan while on tour and returned to New York to blend it with Cool Jazz in what is easily one of the Quartet’s best.

Between Giants Review

Really happy to share a wonderful review of between giants from blogger and writer Aderyn Wood – it was a great thrill to read this as I really enjoyed the analysis. It’s like a gift, to see your own work through someone else’s eyes – so thank you Aderyn!

Here’s a snippet:

Over recent weeks I have picked up the book and opened to a random page.  More often than not the poems have caused me to stop and think. They compel me to consider things I normally don’t ‘see’, or to simply appreciate a mood or a feeling. Shelley famously said that “poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.” For Between Giants the poetry is a mirror that prompts you to glean some meaning about the world, but I think every reader will see something different, and it’s not necessarily “beautiful”. Don’t get me wrong though, there is certainly beauty to appreciate in this work – particularly with the simplicity yet weight of meaning within the words.

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Tintin in Tibet

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Perhaps the most emotional volume in Herge‘s Tintin series, Tintin in Tibet (1960) is certainly the one I’ve read the most times.

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There’s not as much action as usual, but with its mystery woven around a heartfelt storyline that sees Tintin and Haddock searching the snowy mountains of Tibet for Tintin’s friend Chang, it’s a fantastic piece of storytelling, that, despite the darker subject matter, is still graced with Herge’s usual fine sense of humour.

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While it can be difficult to separate pleasant memories of reading this one as a child from the reviewing process, I can safely say that Tintin in Tibet remains distinctive not just for the personal nature of the story, but for the powerful use of white space in the panels – Herge’s famous ‘clear line’ style is so direct in conveying a sense of space that I always find myself drawn in to the setting as much as the story. This is partly what makes the moments of colour, such as the visit to the monastery, so vivid.

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If your only experience of Tintin is the more explosive CGI outing from Jackson and Spielberg, and you’re not sure about the comics, perhaps start with some of the faster-paced volumes such as the Calculus-themed releases – but if you’re already a fan and you don’t actually have this one, then don’t deny yourself one of the most moving Tintin adventures any longer.

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Stay tuned for more in the series of Tintin guest posts – here are the first two from stuart and Maekitso!

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Easily one of my favourite Neil Gaiman books – so much so that just thinking about it makes me wish he had a new novel out right now. I’d read it immediately.
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In Neverwhere readers are given a brilliant mix of comic, dark, surreal and fantastical elements as they follow the out-of-his-depth Richard Mayhew through the mysteries and horrors of the otherworldly ‘London Below’ in his efforts to save the mysterious girl known as ‘Door.’
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Now, I know it’s a cliche, but I found it tough to put this down. Really tough. I generally annoyed those around me with my distracted state and I think everyone was pretty happy when I finished it and was able to listen properly again.
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Part of what enthralled me most was the way Gaiman interwove the ‘real’ world with the magical one below, it was always entertaining and often surprising. I didn’t expect the oddities of the Floating Market or Marquis de Carabas’ endless supply of cleverness. And I didn’t expect the wonderful evocation of loneliness the book achieved when Richard was ‘above’ either. Certainly there was action and suspense, but Neverwhere is often a touching story too – Gaiman has a knack for getting to the core of a character very quickly, often through his wit and use of dialogue.
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Reading it  again I do wish I’d been to London so I could experience the extra layers of meaning he evokes when using (in an amusing way) recognisable places like Earl’s Court or ‘Night’s Bridge’. Of course, it’s not a requirement to enjoying the story and in the meantime I can always read it again, right?

Five stars indeed.

Robbie Coburn’s ‘Human Batteries’ – An Interview/Review


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Robbie Coburn’s first poetry collection, Human Batteries (Picaro Press, 2012), is a vivid chapbook that contrasts experimental narratives with pieces more tender or direct. As with all great poetry, Human Batteries is revealing, there’s a clear sense of vulnerability to some of the poems and an almost thematic ‘questioning’ of the permanence of relationships runs through the collection.

As if in opposition to such questioning, the mechanical and the constructed in Coburn’s imagery seems to stand in defiance – reliable, strong, lasting. In the face of other trials presented in the book, struggles with the self and with love, poems where animals might be friendlier than humans, the mechanical is also something to draw comfort from. This sense of permanence or strength is clear in There Are No Strangers especially, where “homes [are] suspended on brass hinges”.

I asked Robbie about his use of such imagery – cogs, ticks and hinges play a recurrent role in Human Batteries – asking if he could discuss where it comes from, if he was surrounded by machinery as a boy?

RC: I grew up on a farm so there were always lots of different machines around; cars, tractors, mowers. And my Dad was a horse trainer so we had this huge horse-walking machine on our property that I used to love watching go around. So I was around machines, but I’ve always been attracted to the little details in things, which is why I think I like those ideas and write about them.

You know, although the door itself is the main thing, without the hinges it would just be a rectangular piece of wood that wouldn’t have any use to us. Everything has a place and a purpose so things will function properly in the big picture. I don’t intentionally make it a recurrent theme in my imagery, but it’s definitely something that often appears in my work.

AC: Actually, there’s a lot of linking or extracting small details from experiences in the collection, what sort of process is that for you? Difficult, natural? Fun? I often feel like poetry is a battle to extract meaningful small detail from our lives.

RC: I think I write poetry as a way of making sense of all this. Ultimately life is fairly    uncertain, so I agree with you entirely that poetry is a way of dissecting the great    human trial. I see writing as an impulse we don’t have a choice about or control over. I know I’d write no matter where I was in life, I’d always return to it because it is a part of who I am and why I live, as I’m sure is the same or similar case for most poets.

The finer details have always resonated with me, for better or for worse. So it’s a natural process and somewhat therapeutic, but can also be difficult when confronting negative aspects of memory. Little things just niggle like a loose tooth and often plague my mind more so than the bigger picture. But it’s also great to remember smaller details- they’re personal and mean so much more, really.

Not all experiences in the collection favour what might be considered ‘small.’ Larger moments also feature – fantastic opener, Love poem, is one of the best examples of a piece that takes no half steps:

You are to me as water is to fish;
During those days black cloud was my sky, I fell in love
an accident, like all miracles, that lasted and still lasts.
What resonates most is the urgency

and where the narrator, who is dispossessed of a location in the poem by the clever use of the word “somewhere”, experiences acute loneliness as he “shudder[s] in a silent bedroom somewhere”. It’s a powerful moment that sets the tone of the collection most convincingly.

Elsewhere the use of repetition creates a thematic and rhythmic consistency both at the level of a single poem and across the collection, such as in 3am or in The murder, where death, towers and black reappear in increasingly threatening states – acting as dark metaphors for the blindness of love, a theme also seen earlier where the narrator admits to “Owl-blind eyes”.

In fact, Human Batteries often uses animals, in particular birds, as representational tools, something I asked Robbie about – I wondered if they featured in earlier drafts of the collection or whether they were a conscious choice?

RC: I’ve always had an obsession with birds; the imagery you can create when describing their appearance, movement, behaviour, interactions, etc. They create beautiful metaphors that can go either way; light or dark. I don’t really think about it too much, but I’d definitely say it is a conscious thing. Many of my favourite poets write frequently about birds, from Poe to Ted Hughes to Robert Adamson.

Horses, which also feature in the collection, don’t seem to conjure up the same thing for me, although it is interesting that they don’t. When I started writing poetry I would often use them as they were what I knew and instinctively thought of, I suppose, but horses feel more restrictive when being descriptive, ironically like the animals themselves in comparison to the freedom of birds. They do always find their way back into my work from time to time though.

AC: The idea of movement/stillness in your poetry is interesting too – I felt there was a sense of stillness in the objects and often the narrator, which contrasted with the animals. It leads me back to the title actually, what do you feel are our batteries as    humans?

RC: I think our source of energy is repeatedly exhausted due to the hum-drum lifestyle that most of us lead. The title refers to love or connection in the sense that a relationship between two people is operated, or run rather, like a machine by batteries- a negative and positive that need to work together or they will counter one another and cause the machine to lose functionality. Due to change, circumstances, misunderstandings etc. I suppose it also links in with the idea of a soul mate: two people sharing the right connection creates a machine that can run infinitely.

The question of functionality also appears in the centrepiece, Two Lies in a sequence, a longer, more experimental poem. Employing more cinematic lapses in narrative it serves to express not only the thematic concerns of the collection but also a tangible frustration, as if time between events and statements cannot or need not be held on to.

Here narrator also expresses private frustration in moments that almost read like a letter to the self – claiming “I don’t miss you (a lie)” – where authorial aside gives him away. It’s a knowing, revealing moment where once again the permanence of things is questioned.

I asked Robbie, what attracted him to long-form poetry?

RC: Long-form poetry allows for me to use a less formal approach to form, and to    create narrative or meaning using somewhat of a prose style, which I absolutely love. I can also experiment more without compromising the poem’s message or neglecting the use of good language – I don’t feel restricted at all. I originally wanted to be a novelist so I suppose it provides a nice bridge between the two art forms for me to stand on! It is something I love to read from other poets and love to write myself if it’s appropriate for the piece.

AC: That freedom must be refreshing – for me, in a poem I feel more constrained in    regards to ‘time’, that the poem ought to be reasonably discrete in terms of the span of time it covers. How do you see or treat time differently between the two forms?

RC: I agree absolutely. Time is a factor that often becomes a restriction. Long form, for me, can be more non-linear. My short form poems can often become too cryptic. Sometimes poetry that is straightforward in structure can be an issue for me as I’m in the habit of darting from thing to thing and sounding mad. Long form, especially when constructed in sequences, seems the appropriate place to explore a variety of different ‘times’ and emotional states. I also use it to break away from the “voice” I naturally produce when writing and take on a variety of voices. Like Ginsberg, I suppose the objective is to speak for “the whole man” rather than the man at one particular time.

Human Batteries certainly reads like more than the man at one particular time – for me it’s a very convincing multifaceted portrayal of the struggle with self and others, one that uses its contrasting imagery and analogy so well. The mechanical and the natural, the digital and the metaphysical, these aspects make individual strengths that make up parts of the wonderful whole.

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I’d like to thank Robbie for being so generous with his time and hope you can find time of your own to check out his work! Human Batteries is available right now through Picaro Press and you can also visit Robbie’s website here and read sample poems from the collection here.

Robbie Coburn’s SOS Review Republished at Rochford Street Review

I’m back with a thank you once again to poet Robbie Coburn, who just let me know that his review of my last collection, Stepping Over Seasons, was republished by Rochford Street Review which is great news for us both I reckon!

Head on over for a read and check out some of the other great reviews of Australian writing – including Robbie’s other review published in the issue – this one of Lucy Dougan’s On the Circumvesuviana.

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Fantastic Mini-Review of ‘between giants’ from Mark William Jackson

Happy New Year everyone, hope it’s going well so far!

Mine has just been boosted by the wonderful Mark William Jackson (check out his new website, Mark’s a multi-talented guy.) He’s also just written a great mini-review of ‘between giants’ on Goodreads, which can be found here. Thanks Mark!

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“Music for Broken Instruments” by A.S. Patric – A Review

Music for Broken Instruments – available to read free here!
by A.S. Patric
The Black Rider Press
April 2010

Review by Ashley Capes

A.S. Patric’s “Music for Broken Instruments” reads as a kind of language-based salve for what Patric sees as a variety of wounds cut deep in our society, injuries he explores at length in this chapbook-length work. Released as the Black Rider Press’ first e-book by poet and publisher Jeremy Balius, the collection is presented in black and white, looking as if it has been typed on paper that’s been crumpled and folded, a touch which shows welcome attention to aesthetic. Otherwise it is presented like a conventional chapbook, in that the collection not a multi-media text.

However the poetry doesn’t feel conventional, instead it’s almost a call to arms – the opening lines of lead poem, King Hit for instance, urge readers to open themselves to experiencing the world and to Thought itself. And our greatest tool as thinking beings, it seems, is the Question – a theme Patric returns to throughout the collection, and one which is cleverly transformed into a poetic device in final poem Q&Q.

These two pieces are a wonderful compliment to each other as opening and closing pieces, both in form and content. Where the urging of King Hit to:

drop a brick
into your soul
kick out the heart
of the old man
wandering, drooling
roaming your head

directs the reader to follow suit through use of its verbs, Q&Q is just as direct, but instead poses questions. And questions may be more powerful, may be more disruptive than a kick, requiring as they do, some engagement on the part of the reader. In fact, this aspect is a key strength of much, if not all of the poetry within, where a challenge is thrown to the reader. Read! Think!

Patric also shows a deft hand with repetition and variation, not only in the bigger picture of the collection, but from poem to poem. We see this especially in poems like Paper targets, A tissue, a tissue and the wry In defence of blind ignorance:

every now and again
every again and now
someone offers you
………………………………….everything
you’ve ever dreamed of
the trouble is
they take it
………………………………….away
more often than not
reconsidering and rethinking
on second thoughts on second
         ………………………………….asking

the poem also demonstrating the importance of layout, which should not be overlooked – as the poems in the chapbook often lead the eye down the page, engaging the reader both visually and verbally. Both Mr. Leviathan goes on a holiday and Kicked in the teeth when I was just coming in for a kiss blues do this wonderfully, adding movement to pieces which already have a startling sense of movement – where Patric ‘leaps’ from one image, thought or mood to another, and does so within a clear set of thematic borders all the while keeping things interesting, such as in Kicked in the teeth…:

………I’ve told you that before
…..the waves and the ocean beneath are real for God’s sake
entering my ears when I’m sleeping
……………….and I wake with a goldfish in my mouth
it’s not what the doctor ordered
……when I told him I was worried
…………all my tentacles looked less octopus
……………..and more fish’n’chip calamari
….and you and your fat oily lips acting like I’m barely even tasty

Mr. Leviathan… is one of two pieces that seem to carry the bulk of the thematic concerns, whereby a deep frustration with modern society’s inability to slay giants, slay the Leviathans of our world, is most apparent. Patric seems to be asking, where have the heroes gone? This frustration comes through in the lexical sets used in the collection, those of war, death and pain, but also of the body and of the ocean for instance, where water is a dark, troubling thing full of monsters or disappointments.

But the tour de force of the collection for me is The meaning of a dream. Here we see the same frustration and uncertainty that keeps Patric probing and questioning, and equally so perhaps, asking the same of the reader, as in the opening – when he purposefully contradicts any idea of authorial-instilled themes or ideas:

I will not make sense
any greater significance is refused
and I will certainly be careful
avoiding any kind of unravelling
satisfying dénouements or conclusions
any and all a-ha moments

something which in turn demands of the reader that they create their own meaning from the text – not unlike a review of course. When I read The meaning of a dream, there are so many little signposts that pop up to convince me of what I see as a bittersweet description of Patric’s disappointment in classic dreams or ideals, like financial security, religion, home ownership, family, and even stability in general:

I’d rather be a mouse
at a feast of metal shavings

Or

just the old man
waving at you
in a cloud of flies
that we used to call God

The impression of dissatisfaction and even loss is also clear from the closing lines of the poem, where the wild pace slows:

divining underground springs
in the outback of your
great Australian dream

But there are lighter moments throughout the collection. In Flick of the wrist the reader gets a nice change of pace, as the force of the collection is broken up with a snapshot of happiness, where a simple coat rack is the catalyst for a moment of respite. A lover in fortuna has a wonderful absurdist bent (‘First thing I’m going to do is grow me a Friedrich Nietzsche moustache’) and A little something stars a cloud as metaphor for a child, a poem which, by virtue of its non-romantic aspects, avoids becoming cloying:

the sunless baby fed by blood
it is able to swallow and dance
before death, before this vast blue world
before and after all our names

There’s a thrill to the challenges posed in “Music for Broken Instruments” – not only to think about the words, images and poems within, but about our role as readers of poetry. What is it to actually engage with a poem, to question it, to do more than simply consume it?

From Q & Q, two questions I liked:

Have we been little things?
……..Have we been voiceless?

Patric has blended his themes and form in a manner which is both pleasing and exciting and I think “Music for Broken Instruments” shows hopes that we won’t be voiceless, which is a welcome change from the nihilist side of poetry, which can frustrate even as it draws our attention to things unsatisfactory.