Pachinko Sunsets and Concrete Flamingos: poems by David Gilbey and Mark Roberts

Posted on February 19, 2016 by in Book Extracts, Events


Australian Studies Conference, Hachioji, Tokyo (David Gilbey)

There are no seats on the shinkansen to Tokyo
so I stand for 300 kilometres, suspended,
at more than 200 kph,
clambering the rope ladder of my friend’s manuscript
from last night’s lasagne and saké
to fiction’s ever-present otherworld.

At the seminar Aust Lit is all kanji to me,
the familiar made suddenly strange.
Titles are stepping stones in a Buddhist garden.
The gods metamorphosed:
Patrick becomes a stone bridge, Judith a purple bonsai maple
and Saint Henry the pebbled stream.
‘Galah’ flies loudly and prettily through our minds.
‘Swagman’ is passed from hand to mouth
like a communion wafer, familiar as a Tim Tam.
I wait for Hope’s vision of Australian emptiness
and (sure as eggs) it comes
written in copperplate chalk
on the blackboard:

In the last session, Priscilla, Queen of Tokyo
rides out again on a fine moist Sunday morning
through a desert of Japanese advertising billboards.
Explorer narratives never looked so good:
Sturt, Leichhardt, Eyre – three wise drag queens
befrocked cocks on the rocks show the false is too true:
every line of mascara and cluster of sequins counts.
Character is destiny – or is it an androgynous angelic kite?
We all keep some ABBA shit in a bottle.
But, if we’re lucky, like Bernadette
we’ll find our Bill.

Museum (Mark Roberts)

There should be a label here directing my thoughts, a catalogue
to read while I make my way  to the underground platform —
here you have crossed an historically significant layer
or just to your right behind the tiled wall
are unknown bones possibly human. A history
dug up and reburied without thought.

This is an old station – a picture on the wall
shows it being built at the bottom of a hole.
There is a steam shovel, workers with picks
& lines of horses pulling wooden carts full of rock.
I have to step over the ghosts of men in hats
and lace up shoes to reach the platform,
but I feel them behind me still
as I sit on a wooden bench waiting.

I hold a book to hide my face and shut out the roar
I read of how:
the box heaved a little
and of how:
the cat took a long time to drown.

An old man sits next to me, he coughs
and blows smoke into my face.  “Chapell’s
heading for the axe, remember Lawry
you’re not too young to remember Lawry?”
I put my book
and ready myself to talk cricket
but he gets up and walks away.

My eyes wander, escaping to the objects
in the hollowed out station.
I attempt to categorise them
accountants, poets, shopgirls, factory workers —
there’s the elderly man in the safari suit
who I saw buy a loaf of bread in Oxford Street
15 minutes ago. He has lost his shopping bag.

My train pulls in and I meet the eyes
of an old woman leaning against the wall
on the opposite platform. She is wearing
a dress that was elegant once — postwar
but is now moth eaten. She looks at me
shrugs and disappears as the carriage stops.

I look back through a sooty window
as the train pulls out into the tunnel.
History is receding, there is darkness ahead.


* ‘Museum’ was first published in Southerly

Other poems by Mark Roberts on Verity La: ishmael and posthumous


David Gilbey’s first poetry collection was Death & the Motorway (Interactive, 2008). Selections of his poems were included in Under the Rainbow (fourW press,1996) and the noise of exchange: Twelve Australian Poets (ASM Poetry, Macao). Some of his haibun have been collected in Downunder Japan and Forty Stories (2012 & 2010, Fine Line Press, NZ). David is a founder of Wagga Wagga Writers Writers, current President of Booranga Writers’ Centre and Editor of fourW: new writing. He is Adjunct Senior Lecturer in English at Charles Sturt University. Three times he has been a Visiting Professor of English at Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, in Sendai, Japan and has been a regular broadcaster/reviewer on ABC Riverina.

Mark Roberts was born in Sydney and has been active in the writing community since the early 1980s. He has been widely published in journals,  magazines and anthologies both in Australia and overseas. He co-founded the occasional literary journal P76 in 1982 and set up Rochford Street Press in the same year. In 2011 Mark founded the online cultural review journal Rochford Street Review and he is currently poetry editor for Social Alternatives journal. Concrete Flamingos is his first major collection of poetry.

There will be a Sydney launch of Pachinko Sunset and Concrete Flamingos on Saturday 27 February, 2.30pm, at the Friend in Hand Hotel (58 Cowper St, Glebe). Pachinko Sunset will be launched by Peter Kirkpatrick and Concrete Flamingos will be launched by Anna Couani. Clean Skin Poems, by Lauren Williams, will also be launched by Ron Pretty on the day.

Group launches/readings of the 2016 Island Press publicationsPachinko Sunset, Concrete Flamingos, Clean Skin Poems and Engraft (by Michele Seminara)—will also take place in Wagga Wagga (Saturday 5 March, 2pm, at Wagga Wagga City Library) and in Melbourne (Saturday 19 March, 2pm, at the Dan O’Connell Hotel, 225 Canning St, Carlton).

You can purchase Pachinko Sunset from Island Press or by contacting David Gilbey at

You can purchase Concrete Flamingos from Island Press or via Rochford Street Press Bookshop.

Matt & Tess in the Wild Weather: Poems by Les Wicks

Posted on January 29, 2016 by in Book Extracts, Heightened Talk


Matt in The Wild Weather

My Summer sits in silence.
She wears this pet name like I
have the power to give it, Tess
is rolling familiar smoke I query
if all this is certain to be seasonal.

She giggles when I put on Creedence
Who’ll Stop the Rain, reckon we’ll make out but
she’s thinking. Worst weather in 10 years
means half the city’s on a sickie. All over facebook –
Dace’s photo at the drowning ocean pool
(we all love cute animals & sick bastards with a grin).
How much longer will she be mine,
there’s howling everywhere today.

I promise to her
in stutter silence
that everything I don’t care about
isn’t her. Is this a guy thing?
Are our bones too angry,
our tendons in knots?
I keep control nowadays (pledge) I’m like
an acerbic cockatoo. I have dug
& swept
& bailed today. This downpour
fits me like a shackle.
I just want to say…


Tess in the Wild Weather

Events aren’t chaos, I wear
my complexities beneath a smile, that smile
is all the makeup I need because I make & hope
for up. Listen to Sigur Ros, find yourself
right where you came from, completely changed.

Outside the blackbutts grizzle in a gale.
Envy the collective mobilisation of leaf litter
the way it builds its gutter dams,
that ludicrous obduracy
of this momentary resistance.
I open the baggie, its brittle verdancy promises
a little with great honesty.
Two Ikea lamps, Indian cushions a
caliginous buzz of life in a dry corner.

You worry too much.
I worry too little. We are
a match.

Have to believe
that a beast will always soothe the broken child.
Perhaps power is a construct, there
are more storms coming that will sweep such constructs
off swimming to the sea.
If this is all nonsense
there is coffee & love known in this world.

Roll another one, I’ve developed
a taste for inclemency.




Les Wicks has toured widely and seen publication in over 300 different magazines, anthologies & newspapers across 24 countries in 12 languages. His 13th book of poetry is Getting By    Not Fitting In (Island, 2016).

Les’s workshops are among the best known in the country. For upcoming Melbourne and Sydney opportunities visit his website.

cover final - front pageThese poems are from Les’s recently published book, Getting By   Not Fitting In. Dire and funny as every life lived, this book prowls around gender, narrative and landscape before pouncing on the journey of Matt and Tess. Nobody quite fits in amidst the quotidian, atrocity, wonder and arrangements.

Getting By  Not Fitting In is being launched by distinguished poet Chris Mansell at Friend in Hand Hotel, 58 Cowper St, Glebe, on Saturday 5th February, 2:30pm. For details ring 9580 4542.

If you can’t attend the launch but would like to purchase a book contact to order via paypal, direct credit or cheque. Alternately, you can order direct from Island at 29 Park Rd, Woodford NSW 2778 (

Some commentary on Les Wicks’ previous books:

“…the mixture of prawn-on-the-barbie, stale beer and thongs suburban, with a sophisticated lyricism and openness to nature… harvesting poetic truffles; line after line seems to have arrived entire.”  — John Watson

“…visual and tonal senses, shown through a series of relentless escapes and endscapes, create a striking depiction of the poet’s perceptions and observations.”
— Matthew Hall