Burning the donkey (PS Cottier)

Posted on December 19, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

Burning the donkey

We were suspicious from the start.
What decent man brings a wife
pregnant as a pudding
into a new country, unless
he wants the child to be
a kind of hidden penny,
a nice little earner?

She was obviously mad,
whispering something about
a visitation, from behind
an annoying, coy blue veil.
We weren’t sure if she meant
secret police (who are unbelievably
common, in the places these people
supposedly come from,
breeding like cane-toads
in their vivid crops of lies).
She mentioned flashes and wings.
As I said, a few bats short of an attic.

He even admitted that he wasn’t sure
if the kid was his, or at least
that’s what we think he said.
It was hard to source a proper interpreter,
if, indeed, the language was real,
rather than a melange of all things foreign,
stirred like another pudding,
to be tongued off a soon-to-be silver spoon.
Mike said he thought Aramaic
was a perfume for men,
and we all had a good laugh,
but there was absolutely no whiff of that,
I can assure you.

It turned out to be a boy,
born in necessary seclusion,
though Mike said all the lights
turned themselves on
the moment the kid drew breath.
That was undeniably weird,
and a further example
of their lack of thanks
expressed in clever sabotage.
Lawyers even brought in presents,
breaching clear regulations.

Their poor excuse for a boat,
which had evaded all detection
and wound its feral ways to Darwin
despite navy, barnacles, tides and policy,
overladen with stink and sick and
God knows what else,
was towed back out and burnt.

All in all it was nothing remarkable,
although my skin is itching,
itching like an alien.
A nice little souvenir, no doubt about it.

The press should really leave it alone,
and focus on some bigger issues -
a Test begins tomorrow.



Slashed into the sea,
it smiles between Gladstone
and the Cape York tip.

Whiter than a ghost’s teeth,
it still grins and beckons
and whispers of what was.

Such colours grew there,
opalescent and alive,
and the flutter of fins

cruised the coral jungle;
parrots and striped teams
scrummed over living rock.

Now there are these teeth,
whitened into brilliance
by industrial stupidity.

The reef a skeleton —
or a jaw stuck forever
in a bleached rictus.

And what burnt Hamlet
to soliloquise on death
bracketing our shore?

Two thousand kilometres
grinning white forever,
and rumours of fish

corralled into memory’s shoals.



PS Cottier
lives in Canberra, where she rides poetry and writes bikes. Some of this appears at pscottier.com

of home and other closely guarded things (Justine Poon)

Posted on December 15, 2017 by in Heightened Talk


dawn begins a golden thread
circling the dark earth
and coils us back from dreams
like deep sea divers
inside diving bells

                                                breaching surface, breath-fog
                                                                        clearing from the glass,
                                                                            dripping off
                                                        water and sense memory –

my sticky skin in summer, the fan
moving teeming currents of odour –
food, motors, hot and desperate prayers
for money and more of it and now,
damp wooden walls and bleach for the mould,
sour milky grief, soap suds and cotton
on the bloody birthing bed –

up, out of bed and up the stairs
into the dry, winter morning air
to feed the birds already waiting
on the balcony.
everything smells clean here
and the kitchen has been freshly
done and varnished. there are
few soft surfaces in which the
old world can hide but still
I find them sometimes. I leave
crumbs on the faux-granite
getting bread for birds and I
know this will annoy my daughter-in-law
when she wakes. beyond the
kitchen window, the dark blue
dawn is changing, like a blush endlessly
drawing across a face: the clouds go
lilac and pink and apricot, not unlike

                the muted hues of mountain watercolours, although
                   in some temples of Guangdong, the gods and their cavalcade
                     of semi-enlightened consorts, animals and minor mischief-makers
                       lined the walls in murals of such colours –
                         you would not believe that human hands could mix pigments so bold.
                           every day firecrackers stained the ground scarlet, the acrid smoke
                             making your eyes water, and my cheeks felt feverish
                               as I scrawled our names on paper, wrapped it around the
                                stem of a grapefruit and flung it over a sprawling tree, dangerously
laden with love.

the gunpowder smell fades.
looking at the sky, now an opaque nuclear blue, cloudless and
unveiled, bare,
and yet not endless but a domed ceiling
of painted plaster which the eye hits and then
stops –
how can this be natural? this flatness holds no
promise and resists the murky imprint of
life boiling over in excess. my daughter-in-law
tells me that everything here is natural, better,
and she takes
the pouch of powdered dye out of my hand before
I can dump it into a pot
of brined and boiled eggs,
the eggs are fine, she says, and anyway the kids won’t eat them,
she fishes one out of the speckled ceramic pot and takes a bite,
just like ma-ma used to make. they’re going through a phase and
only want to eat pancakes and eggs Benedict.
too rich for breakfast.
I made these for their birthday.
they won’t eat. trust me, I’ve tried.
have you?
she takes out a Teflon pan and bagels and
bottles of sauce from the fridge and slides
out the slimy fish that looks raw to me
from a packet,
and this is the first
of a thousand dismissals
of the day. the little granddaughter,
almost grown now, walks in, sees the bobbing eggs
in my pot and beams, thank you por por! and
I feel my life expand a little again.

* * *


gaps widen in my bones,
fill with sea water,
                          I am swimming to her,
                              her letter and her face,
                                  held every night in my hand
                                      as we were apart,
                                          she has been written into my palm,
                                              the lifeline, the headline, the heartline; all,
smuggling myself, they might call it now,
with my body as the boat
and my hands and legs the captain,

he wakes, limbs achingly curled around
her absent body.
was it years? yes, it was years
between the four years they had known
each other first and then swimming to her
with a ring tucked behind his teeth.
that time seems both a snap and unimaginably
long, filled with days of hauling bok choy
out of water at dawn, taking them to market,
eating one meal in the evening with his mother
and then again the next day and the next, even
the soldiers he heard were getting sleepier
in their patrols, which was when he took his chance
to find her. the real life of wartime occupation is now
the fodder for soap operas where flash forwards
and some powder in hair suffices for endurance.

when he arrived in Hong Kong and married her,
he was told to leave those country manners behind, so he did,
and for another thirty years they lived in wooden houses
built from scrap that clung to the umber foliage of Lion Mountain.
when the whole town burned to cinder she saved the children
and their doonas and they were warm that night, at least.
they were glad, he saw, that their home was ash and that
they would be migrating into the high rises;
they wanted to be millionaires, not refugees.

he didn’t talk; he never talked much, which was why
instead of replying to her letter, he had swum
to her instead. when his arms opened in the
water he had felt the breadth of the sea and that measure
of his body making a clear path to her
was all that he could offer. now, their children
snap and shut their ears up when she talks
of what they call old times. he will be her witness
always but he says nothing to make them see
what life was like. it wasn’t good to be
the youngest son of a man with eighteen other
children and three mothers under one
roof in a peasant’s house. they don’t want
to know about those things, he knows, and so
he lets it all be erased.

it has been years again now,
since she flew to their child’s child
and was captured there.
he will swim again, he thinks,
foot on the metal step of the plane,
into the air;
outside the window, clouds bob in half formed shapes –
                         I sifted mud through my lungs for love,
                              and that was most dangerous;
                                  my blood rang strong in the saltwater
                                      and was loud to sharks and snipers,
                                          but the earth-god I carried with me kept me
                                             safe and steady and has done so ever since.
                                              I will show up wet and bleeding and propose again,
                                                  start this new life like the last.

this time is nothing, mere hours,
they bring cards around and nearly
everything in his suitcase
is forbidden. who is guarding
                                                  the shoreline this time?
she and I will have to hold the soil in us close –
for as long as it will take
the both of us to find the scraps
to build this new place
into home.


Justine Poon writes poetry, fiction, and law and humanities scholarship. She has been published in Going Down Swinging, the UTS Writers’ AnthologyLip Magazine and Demos Journal. In 2017, Justine’s writing was commissioned to feature in the Greater Together exhibition at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. She is completing a PhD at the Australian National University on refugee law and critical theory.

Glossopteris (Sophie Finlay)

Posted on December 4, 2017 by in Arrests of Attention, Heightened Talk

bands of earth
etch the transantarctic ranges
cold geological burials

we are linked through the exoskeletal —
cambrian shells coil, mineralised bodies, the trilobite

and then there is glossopteris —

the unremarkable permian tongue — (found on dead explorers)
that mapped the world’s temporality
when deciduous forests spanned continents

now dredged
fossilised sunlight fuels consumption

antarctica pours
its skin off
whorls the oceans

in the tendency of all things
to decay
to turn to disorder,
entropy feeds the system

the crust furls
rivulets reach into liquid
and with nascent strands,
find pathways to collapse

‘Antarctica, Entropy and Fragility’ by Sophie Finlay


Sophie Finlay
is a visual artist and poet from Melbourne. She has been a finalist in the John Leslie Art Prize, the Mt Buller Art Prize, and winner of the ‘She Who Inspires’ Art Prize, Walker Street Gallery. She has received a highly commended certificate in the WB Yeats Poetry Prize and her poetry is published in the anthology Shaping the Fractured Self, UWAP, Cordite and Meanjin.







Night Drive (Nike Sulway)

Posted on November 24, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

In early autumn
we are driving home together
midnight fog steaming
up from some unseen fault
in the world
the headlights catch
at a dead wallaby
humped over the unbroken centre line—
you step out on the road
bend close and touch the death
in her maternal body
you put down your hand
and feel
the small, enduring life of her child

You take a towel out of the back seat
lift the dead mother
wrap her
nurse her on your lap while we drive.

I set out
speeding down the range
the smell of blood and death and life
smearing across us as we urge
the phone to ring
urge a stranger to
tell us where to take her
this dead mother–this dying child

As the road straightens I steal a look
at your white face
at your strong hands
bare-knuckling on her ankle
rage and hope wrestle through you
Look, you say, holding out her warm foot,
So beautiful
Your hand cups her pouch
I can feel it moving, you say

When the call comes we
are almost down the range
illuminated with relief
at the news that someone
will meet us by the side of the road
a silver Rav near the RSL—a man
who knows what to do

drug dealers meet by the side of the road
in the dark of midnight
but this
is a wholly different exchange
you lift her body—a roadside pietà—
and he leans towards you
pulls back the flesh of her pouch
and squints at the squirm of pink life
she is carrying—
the life you have carried down the mountain—
You did good, he says. Alive, he says.

We drive up the range—streetlights
reappear, an owl
goes trailing through the dark
beside me, you unravel with relief—you touch
my hand—in that moment
everything is silent

Years from now
I will remember this moment
the blood on my shirt and my belly
the dirt and death and life on your hands
the rank flavour of an animal’s blood
pooling in the warm car—
each time we passed beneath a streetlight
I saw you again, and each time, it was
as though you had come back from death
or from some other dark and distant place
I remember thinking—
as each new part of you came into the light—Oh
there she is
(burning, always burning)
my love
(burning, always burning)
my life.



Nike Sulway
is the author of a handful of novels, short stories, and a few poems. She has received a number of literary awards, including the James Tiptree, Jr Award, which is for a work of speculative fiction that explores and expands our understanding of gender. She lives and works in Queensland.

The running doll (Tricia Dearborn)

Posted on October 31, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

the doll in my dream
is one of those old-fashioned plastic dolls
with arms and legs that move

but this doll has no arms
no head

as it runs, its naked torso
turns rhythmically from side to side
almost as if its body
were saying no

as it turns you can see into first one
armhole then the other

the doll is hollow, its chest

armless, the doll
can’t push away

headless, it can’t
understand or strategise

lungless, mouthless
it can’t cry out

how easy to stoop and catch
a running doll, to make it
do what you want it to do



Tricia Dearborn’s work has been widely published in Australian literary journals including Meanjin, Southerly, Island Magazine and Westerly, as well as in the UK, the US, New Zealand and Ireland. Her work is represented in anthologies including Contemporary Australian Poetry, Australian Poetry since 1788 and The Best Australian Poems. She is on the editorial board of Plumwood Mountain, an online journal of ecopoetry, and was Guest Poetry Editor for the February 2016 issue. Her most recent collection of poetry is The Ringing World (Puncher & Wattmann, 2012). She is currently completing her third collection, Autobiochemistry, with the support of an Australia Council grant.

Come inside (Saddiq Dzukogi)

Posted on October 17, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

A Small Bridge

My body becomes a room no one lives in
while I wait to read it to myself

at the courtyard, standing before
a plant wrapped in my stare

lips on a yellowing leaf caught
in the jazz of branches, I swim

through the lingering chlorophyll
of a fading tree, leaking

a brackish desire, struck out
of an evening sky dust floating

softer than air, the body becomes a room
that opens a small bridge that unlocks a small

world, the tree a skeleton
with the right amount of clorophyll

to photosynthesize, what is going seaward
circumvents the air, the warmth of children

playing, the sound of people
dismantling a canopy, to be free

means to hold everything, dreams, lovers
and still hold nothing, something like the moon

pressing over a lake, finally showing
her face, half my scars

are like my father’s, my grief still floats

in my eyes, a body becomes a room
full of silence


Come inside

Pilgrim, sit beside me,
in an uncluttered pail,

I shall serve you
my grief as food,

eyes’ salty water
as wine. Be ready

like fingers inside a
hollow pocket:

you’ll know the inside
of my body,

the sidewalk
everyone tramps,

a lock the welcomes
many keys knows

sometimes keys
do not listen. Blunt or sharp

the teeth unfasten
me, the ephemral

minutes of resistance,
a wax with no candle-

thread to burn;
come, pilgrim—a firehose



Saddiq Dzukogi studied at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria. He has poems featured or forthcoming in literary publications such as: New Orleans Review, African American Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Juked, The Poetry Mail, Chiron Review, Vinyl Poetry, ELSEWHERE LIT’s anthology of contemporary African poetry, The Volta, Construction and Welter, among others. He was a guest at the 2015 Writivism Festival in Uganda as well as at the Nigeria-Korea Poetry Feast in the same year. Saddiq is the Poetry Editor of online journal, Expound, and a three times finalist in The Association of Nigerian Author’s Poetry Prize. Saddiq lives in Minna, Nigeria. He can be found @saddiqdzukogi.

Sestinas (Pete Spence)

Posted on October 3, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

Image credit: Pete Spence

Variations on a Theme

a serpentine trail through the day
no straight lines between the dots
clotting up the veneer and pageantry
and hoops of thickening sound
like varnished shadows of purpose
roosting among the flags and waste

watching the growth of waste
overbalancing the day
as if time had purpose
is there room to join the dots
or a place to beckon sound
awash in a fury of pageantry

clouds in a flutter of pageantry
scoot with the wind across the waste
and centuries of eroded sound
reflecting shadows as the day
falls between the gathered dots
juggling arbitrary purpose

slyly the stealth of purpose
shadows the epigram of pageantry
too busy joining the dots
to notice the forecast of waste
accumulating and coveting the day
in a feverish plethora of sound

heavily blanketed by sound
the faceted stains of purpose
greet again another day
afloat and filled with a pageantry
caustic and ebbing waste
on an assemblage of dots

in vitriolic disdain dots
carve monuments of sound
out of a plateau of din and waste
impersonating purpose
cloaked in the frayed pageantry
clogging the estuary of day

a line of dots lift the stucco day
above the waste of certain purpose
gripped by sound and passing pageantry


Neatly Beyond the Articulate

are clouds articulate
are grooves? the neatly
folded air nods warily
as a hem runs past aclutter
muttering in technicolour
with a full range of gestures

collecting the outlines of gestures
is easier than collecting the articulate
where everything is in technicolour
slowly gathered and neatly
compiled and stacked in a clutter
of daybreak jogging by warily

filaments of light fall warily
on the shadows of gestures
dissolving into a clutter
beyond the articulate
recently fallen neatly
into dreams in technicolour

though scheming in technicolour
should be taken warily
with a grain of salt and neatly
in a little water that gestures
as if  articulate
exclaiming in the mess ah! clutter

is sound soluble? O clutter
of densely packed technicolour
are dreams articulate
or inclined to gather warily
a variety of gestures
to violate fiction neatly?

remnants of sunshine are neatly
stowed away among a clutter
of disused gestures
pale and drained of technicolour
amid the mess the air is warily
amused at a cloud that seems articulate

now being neatly beyond the articulate
a frown gestures explaining in technicolour
the use of a clutter scattered warily



Image credit: Norma Pearse

Pete Spence was born in Ringwood in 1946, into a poor and struggling family. He survived Pink’s Disease to have a childhood that dreams are made of. Pete started writing in his early teens, destroying such novice work years later, now to his regret. He was first published in Makar magazine in the early 70’s, then for ten years did no writing whilst attending to numerous adventures (e.g. sapphire mining in Queensland and New South Wales). In the early 80s he was published in Meanjin with a poem written during a New Year’s Eve party (as-it-was-happening, à la Frank O’Hara, who in Pete’s view then was top dog!).

In 1984 Pete began Post Neo Publications, a fiasco that produced a handful of good books by Australians and an American (Hannah Weiner). Three main areas in his work developed at this time: visual poetry, mail art, and traditional writing. The writing split into three different styles, one inspired by the New York School, one by the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E School, and an odd group of things that don’t fit into any school. His first published book was FIVE Poems (Nosukomo 1986).

Through 1989 to 1996 Pete made a number of films, some screened internationally at Oberhausen (Germany), Viper (Switzerland, in a programme with Stan Brahkage) and festivals in Australia, with screenings in the UK and Melbourne in 2011. His recent adventures include learning to paint (very Rothko!) and making small three-dimensional works with wood à la Louise Nevelson and Ben Nicholson. He lives in Kyneton, Victoria with his partner of many years Norma Pearse and their son Perren.


Posted on September 26, 2017 by in Arrests of Attention, Events, Heightened Talk

Queensland Poetry Festival’s Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Award, now in its third year, is named after one of Australia’s premier art dealers. All the paintings used in the competition are personally selected by (and from the collection of ) Philip Bacon, the patron of Queensland’s only ekphrastic prize.

The word ‘ekphrasis’ comes from the Greek ‘ek’ (out) and ‘phrasis’ (speak), as well as the verb ‘ekphrazein’, which means to call an inanimate object by name. Artistically, ekphrasis is a rhetorical device in which a visual object, usually a work of art, is vividly described by another artistic medium — in this case, a poem of under 12 lines in length.

Michele Seminara and Nathan Sheperdson announcing the award winners at QPF 2017

This year’s Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Award judges were Nathan Shepherdson and Michele Seminara. First prize went to Dael Allison, second prize to Magdalena Ball, and Joe Dolce and Maddie Godfrey were highly commended.

The judges commented that ‘because the award is for a twelve line poem, its constraint can be both a challenge and an advantage. This is counterbalanced by the fact that the poets have five paintings on offer as their subject. For the poet and reader this allows a multiple lane approach. All the shortlisted poems are works whose sum is greater than their descriptive parts. It’s not a simple process to make successful poetry from artworks that are already high calibre images of self sufficiency. The insight and contemplation of the poet invites us to step inside and outside of each frame. This was particularly evident in the case of Dael Allison’s winning poem, ‘Gethsemane, Bribie Island 1958′, which impressed the judges by responding not only to the artwork, but to the life of artist Ian Fairweather. The judges were struck by the analogies Allison’s poem drew between the last reclusive years Fairweather spent on Queensland’s Bribie Island, and Christ’s final night spent praying in the garden of Gethsemane. This multi-layered approach was what ultimately set the 1st prize winning poem apart.’

Congratulations to the shortlisted and winning poets, and thanks to Queensland Poetry Festival for allowing Verity La to publish the poems and artworks that inspired them.

Ian Fairweather, ‘Gethsemane’, 1958

Gethsemane, Bribie Island 1958 (Dael Allison)

after ‘Gethsemane’ by Ian Fairweather 

evening draws sludge-grey over bribie’s huts and bungalows. soon men will lie
in attitudes of the dead, night a purpose to give themselves up to. all day black
cockatoos – yellow-tailed and red – gossiped in the island pines, cracked cones
hard as olive pits, dropped them to the sand. sharp points pierce my naked feet.
how to convey geometries of this lonely place, trampled paths, grubs burrowing
oblivious under bark. can abandonment be measured on cardboard? lamp-light
makes time and colour fugitive, load the brushes before the kerosene runs out.
paint an offering, a chalice of wine or blood, poisoned in hindsight. all things
can be renounced: jam-jar, row-boat, life – that grand obsession. escape fades
into distance. mopokes hoot three denials, no knowing if they watch, or sleep.
line and resolve circle and meet at the point of surrender, marked with a cross.


Agony in the Garden (Magdalena Ball)

after ‘Gethsemane’ by Ian Fairweather 

it’s here, just this spot, soft breath of life against my cheek, insistent, the way you
break into angles against my hips, your lips moving unwilling through the maze
darkness comes from within, inherent, so when night finally arrives, this grove of
olive trees resolves to lines and shapes, your eyes shaded by the weight
blood tears, the world broken into abstraction, there is nothing I wouldn’t do now

scale the walls you’ve placed around yourself, find you in the spaces the cracks
where starlight bends, where nothing is visible, not even your face, sensing only
the edge of your jaw, your shrugging shoulders, thin as a ruler’s edge, tortured
into the confines of an ever repeating death, waiting, slipping, your prayer
layered in green tissue, envy, solace, and just this spot, waiting always for
another word, another breath, the trees creak sweet agony, soft, ready to submit

Garry Shead, ‘Homage to Rembrandt’, 1999

Homage to Shead (Joe Dolce)

after ‘Homage to Rembrandt’ by Garry Shead

Come now, Erato, and I’ll tell you, not
of Matthew’s angel, Jacob’s wrestling,
the Shepherds’ vision, or old Abraham’s
entertainments, departures from Tobit
and Tobias; nor will you see phantoms
of the Master’s darkness, the three of four
children dead (with their mother), seductions
of nurse and maid, the pauper’s burial;
not chiaroscuro’s light and umbra,
but Boyd’s Tinkerbell muse, held by a leg,
the painter’s eyes closed, about to be slapped,
Saskia/Judith watching at the door.

Michael Zavros, ‘LS06’, 2011

Three Winters (Maddie Godfrey)

after LS06, by Michael Zavros

I am not thinking about his hands, only how promises turn cold
like forgotten tea cups on bedside tables. I am thinking about
all the warmth I have held without knowing its shape, how empty
palms wait like tarmac. I lost so many lovers like house keys
I stopped locking the door. Knew that the wind would prove itself
a companion, of sorts. I am not thinking about those Roman remains,
excavated skeletons still holding hands after two thousand years.
two thousand winters. I am not thinking about you as skeleton,
all the ways you remain. I’d invite scars of soil beneath my fingernails
just to excavate the shape of your hands. it has been three winters.


Too Late for Taxidermy (Joe Dolce) 

after LS06, by Michael Zavros

No nerves, arteries or veins,
no Versace, dressage or pretty boys,
Lion Skull Number Six,
free of bare ass,
stares outward, turbinate bones
of nasal cavity,
once enhancing a hunter’s sense,
now immune to cologne,
bodiless, six hundred pound bite,
clamped tight,
hearthole in the head,
bone bowling ball trophy.



Dael Allison is a poet, fiction writer, essayist and editor who is undertaking a Doctorate in Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle. Her research focus is the literature of the Hunter region, and her creative project a short-story cycle based in the region. She has won prizes for poetry and essay, including the Wildcare International Essay prize. Her Masters in Creative Arts at UTS (2012) researched modernist painter Ian Fairweather. The result was a volume of poetry, Fairweather’s Raft, published by Walleah Press in 2012.  In 2014 eleven of Dael’s Fairweather poems featured in a soundscape in the ABC’s Poetica program. She has also had two poetry chapbooks published by Picaro Press (2010 and 2013).

Magdalena Ball is editor-in-chief of Compulsive Reader and is the author of several published books of poetry and fiction. Her latest novel is Black Cow (Bewrite Books) and her latest poetry collection is Unmaking Atoms (Ginninderra Press).

Maddie Godfrey
is an Australian-bred performance poet, writer and theatre maker. At 22 she has performed at the Sydney Opera House, The Royal Albert Hall, The Bowery Poetry Club and Glastonbury Festival 2017. Maddie was recently a writer-in-residence at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. She is not a morning person. For more information visit Maddie at her website or on Facebook.

Joe Dolce was born in the USA and moved to Australia in 1979. He is a singer, songwriter, composer, essayist, poet, and the writer and performer of the most successful Australian song in history, ‘Shaddap You Face’, which went to number 1 in fifteen countries. He is the winner of the 2017 University of Canberra Health Poetry Prize, with an 8-part choral libretto, and was long-listed for 2017 University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize. He was shortlisted for both the Newcastle Poetry Prize and Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s Poetry Prize in 2014, and was the winner of the 25th Launceston Poetry Cup. His poetry has appeared in Best Australian Poems 2015 & 2014, and has been published in Meanjin, Monthly, Southerly, Cordite, The  Canberra Times, Quadrant, Australian Poetry Journal, Not Shut Up (UK), North of Oxford (US), and Antipodes (US). Joe is a recipient of the Advance Australia Award. He is presently on staff at the Australian Institute of Music teaching Composition (with special emphasis on setting poetry-to-music). His latest book, On Murray’s Run (Ginninderra Press), comprising 150 poems and song lyrics selected by Queen’s Gold Medal for poetry winner Les Murray, will be launched on Oct 14, at Collected Works in Melbourne. For information visit Joe’s website.

Tide (Jo Langdon)

Posted on September 8, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

‘I just want to remember / in full, ugly color’ — Emily O’Neill

How it felt held under
the pier then released
like trash;

the words that came
after — ‘at least
he’s getting some.’

Joked away
on the long, quiet street —

Here’s a cork of anger
rising up — flotsam

to go no further than pebbles
glinting; the night
stretching out, out.

The waves came barely, barely:
there & gone & gone



Jo Langdon is the author of a chapbook of poetry, Snowline (2012), which was co-winner of the 2011 Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize. Her second collection, Glass Life, is forthcoming with Five Islands Press. Jo teaches literary studies and creative writing as a casual academic, and is the creative non-fiction editor for Mascara Literary Review. She currently lives in Geelong, Victoria.

(Magdalena Ball and Rob Walker)

Posted on September 5, 2017 by in Heightened Talk


‘Blood Oath’: a multimedia collaboration by Magdalena Ball & Rob Walker
(Music credit: ‘Transport to the Heart’ by Martyn Bloor & M Elwell Romancito)


Rob Walker and Magdalena Ball 
live over 1,000 kms apart but they’ve collaborated on several poems, creating synergies in words, sound, and space. Their collaborative poem ‘Radiology’ was published in the Medical Journal of Australia and in the 2016 Best Australian Science Writing. 

Rob Walker  lives in the Adelaide Hills. He writes poetry, memoir, short fiction and occasional music. His latest poetry collections are Original Clichés (Ginninderra Press), tropeland (Five Islands Press) and Policies & Procedures (Garron Press). Find more from Rob at his website.

Magdalena Ball is editor-in-chief of Compulsive Reader and is the author of several published books of poetry and fiction. Her latest novel is Black Cow (Bewrite Books) and her latest poetry collection is Unmaking Atoms (Ginninderra Press).