Lucilia Cuprina — an Ode
(SB Wright)

Posted on April 13, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

first beat of spring
careening down chimney
full bore into wall,
window pane, again

daylight moth snared
by sun – carry on in vain
til spent; flaring,
failing filament
in backstroked spasms
on the sill


life erupts
wriggling free from
bulbous husk,
such plenty that one
might fall,
find some scrap or
cat food bowl.

all life; death
in one space.
all lessons
in its maligned


SB Wright was born in the town of Nhulunbuy in Arnhem Land, though most of his life has been spent in Alice Springs. A graduate of NTU he has spent his adult working life as a security guard, a martial arts instructor, a trainer in an international gaming company and currently works as a primary school teacher.

His work has been published in Tincture Journal, INDaily Adelaide, Eureka Street, Bluepepper, Writ Poetry Review and the anthologies The Stars Like Sand and Poetry & Place 2015.

manifest (Melinda Smith)

Posted on April 4, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

If you must make me,
draw me forth through that
needle’s eye

have a care for this raw skin
what abrades it, how
it may be sliced and sutured

I was pure electricity, pure simian ululation
If you must cage me
box and bottle me

franken-birth me
in a clumsy bucket
you will learn the sorrow of mangle and botch

of the warp and the scorch mark

You will see it is no sorrow

With luck I may multiply

I may layer, matrix, palimpsest
I may go choral, become geology
Take your hand from me

set me among a swarm of eyes
As they move over me
they will mark me, too


* The poem ‘manifest’ won category 3 of the 2016 ANCA (Australian National Capital Artists) Art Writing and Criticism Awards for a creative response to Material Poetics.


ACT poet Melinda Smith
won the 2014 Prime Minister’s Literary award for her fourth book of poems, Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call. Her poems have been anthologised widely in Australia and overseas, and translated into multiple languages.

Melinda’s next collection, Goodbye, Cruel, will be launched on Saturday 8 April at the 2017 Newcastle Writers Festival, where she will also be making a number of other appearances. A Canberra launch of Goodbye, Cruel will take place on Thursday 20 April, with appearances at Muse Canberra & Manning Clark House on the 23rd & 27th.

Melinda is currently poetry editor of the Canberra Times.


Forecast (Jamie Alcock)

Posted on March 23, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

I am under the silence of a silent migraine yet before me are seas of blessed days. click. In the future eagles nest in cardboard boxes and women and children share the sky. click. An artist paints a picture of a girl being raped and spends three years crying. click. He suffers from double vision and earthquakes. click. I demand no effort nor support towards the absurdity of death. click. I demand a voice for women and distinctive ring tones. click. I demand cats on walls and rooftops and for stick men to eat lamb stews. click. I demand an armour of mist. click. I expect morbid criticism of the organisation and of tambourines on the street. click. I encourage the waste of human beings on Himalayan mountains. click. I encourage leeched colour. click. I believe I am an epilogue for spiders. click. I lost a race in heavy traffic with a chav. click. I am under the silence of a silent migraine yet before me are seas of blessed days. click. My mind is filled with sallow fantasies. click. My mind is a rubber puddle as peaceful as purdah. click. I stand at my full lunar height and sea brine blows onto my teeth. click. I taste juniper berries. click. Remember: only cats, engines, and promises purr. click. I am under the silence of a silent migraine yet before me are seas of blessed days.


Jamie Alcock
is from North Wales and lives and works in Devon, UK. He divides his time between writing and working as an outdoor educator with vulnerable young people and adults. He holds a MA in creative writing (dist.) from Bangor University, where he is currently studying for a PhD in creative writing. He has been shortlisted for the Bridport poetry prize, has poetry currently in The Seventh Quarry, a novel extract in The Manchester Review, and a short story forthcoming in Prick of the Spindle.

Rabbit on the Promenade
(Ariel Riveros Pavez)

Posted on March 17, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

Rabbit on the Promenade

in homage to JS Harry

Umwelt of responses
and in the substrates below
a silt of muted action.
There are inaudible gasps
bouncing in echo chambers

from delicate atria
to delicate atria
in a soundproof dugout
which pre-empts any
sour acoustic.

This is my skittish
rabbit’s heart
which hops softly
so my fellow crowd members
won’t fear my paw pound

like I fear hammers creating
this fur face of crushed paper
setting these eyes straight
ahead, up and down,
and any periphery lopped.

This torso the only aligned
part of raw automata
a straight ahead up and down
line. A body made for tunnels.
No slouches allowed.

My wet nose touches
another wet nose
and white whiskers
twitch on pockmarked
cheeks. Red eyes as a

skittish rabbit. The home
is proof of damage. It’s
quiet here. Outside the grass
blades swash my floppy ears.
It’s a clash of waves

cotton battles till the
punched hugs
and small slide
of wet noses.
There’s much activity here

the grass blades rattle,
the busy prowls and promenade predates
are like a pocket turned inside out
and lint falls like a feather
(there was a bus ticket too).

I ate at a restaurant with lah-di friends
nibbled on crispy wafers
caramel flan for dessert.
I put my money away and counted my
approving recollections of a city outing.


A Poet Knows When

Right up against me
before sleep
after waking
I carry carcass.

It taps me on the shoulder
I lug it from room to room.
It tells me the Vedic line
when I will join carcass earth.

When the meteorite lands
on its feet
it drags me like
repulsive lovers can

declaring undying
alarm buzz
it thrusts its cunt at me
I kiss its bare bone breasts.

It’s ten it says,
set the wake up
for then, the port
of entry in ten years

and when I arise
without bladder organs
with calcified face
torso tilted with rattle coin

I latch on to the next
keeler. The one for me
who wakes and sleeps
in dread in a canoe called bed.



Ariel Riveros Pavez is a Sydney based writer. His works have appeared in various publications including Contrappasso, FourW, Journal of Postcolonial Text, Social Alternatives and Southerly. He also has a chapbook through Blank Rune Press, Self Imposed House Arrest, and appears in their anthology Forgetting is So Long: An Anthology of Australian Love Poetry.

Trainwreck (Miguel Jacq)

Posted on February 28, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

Worlds away in the grey
harbour of St Nazaire
my second cousin reveals

railway tracks encased inside
shipyard walls — an over-engineered

defence of resolute rust;
the only steadfast structure
predating the city around it.

Years later at airports we’d discover
that grand-père also wore medals
embedded in his chest.

Having out-stared him, this gaping
and twisted maw of mid-scream metal
now locks eyes with me.

Have I interrupted like Medusa?
Does the war rage on?

But I am not my grand-père.
Home is a shore far from here:
another invaded country

with a history for covering up
conflict, carpeting the dust.

It’s me who is immobilised.
Fixed to the stones of a place where
horror is a head of snake-steel

gnawing its way out of concrete
into collective memory —
not even a train line to
Tullamarine yet.



Miguel Jacq is a French-Australian poet from Melbourne. In 2016 he won the Nillumbik Ekphrasis Poetry Award, and was shortlisted for the New Shoots Poetry Prize. You can read more of Miguel’s poetry on his blog.

Bivouac (Charlotte Guest)

Posted on February 17, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

The terms of our
arrangement are revised
every three days. You
trace my bones, protruding
through my skin, as we
recap the clauses, their causes,
and intended effects. Let’s

press together the bodies we live in,
and, in doing so, express a great deal.
Let’s let in a modicum of wildness.
Let’s select for each other new monikers,
and mine our histories. Let’s act out
attentiveness to language, small acts
of understanding, setting all else aside
to erect a shelter under each other’s
smells, each other’s sounds.

All we want
whittled down
to this night, this bed,
these woven fingers.



Charlotte Guest is a Western Australian writer and Publishing Officer at UWA Publishing. Her writing has appeared in Griffith Review, Overland, Westerly, Voiceworks, Cordite, Writ Poetry Review and elsewhere.

How to live in a world that is burning (Omar Sakr)

Posted on February 3, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

1. there are many kinds of vision.

2. the nurse said getting glasses has been on her
to-do list since 2008         It’s a long list
but also, the world is burning
and what is the point of seeing all the colours
fire can become    if it all turns to ash

3. I haven’t figured out how to live
         in an unburned world

4. the nurse can’t see distances
It is the curse of our lazy, entitled generation
she laughs. This is her second shift of the day
and it is getting hard to see how not to laugh

5. the older patient beside me can only see distances
Between them

I hover in the void

6. I am constantly hard here

and not just because I suspect the gay couple
have been sucking each other off in the showers
a fluid exchange of themselves

7. in the void I am envy

but I am bled every day anyway
   & watching the red river
snake out       reminds my body
it is alive    & dying

  8. how can such a thin tube contain all the countries
  in my skin         so many mountains of fire

9. how can the world be burning &
               drowning at the same time

10. how can I be burning & drowning
at the same time   It is hard to see
through all these watery flames

11. the ultimate goal of hardness
is to soften   as the ultimate goal
of fire   is to change      no matter the cost
everything burns

                      12. every moment is designed to answer
     the question: who among us is a phoenix?


Omar Sakr is an Arab Australian poet and the poetry editor of The Lifted Brow. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Island, Overland, Meanjin, Cordite, Tincture, Mascara Literary Review, Going Down Swinging and Strange Horizons, among others. Anthologised in Best Australian Poems 2016 and Contemporary Australian Poetry, Omar also placed runner-up in the Judith Wright Poetry Prize.
His debut collection, These Wild Houses, is out now with Cordite Books. It will be launched on Friday 10 March at The Alderman in Brunswick.

Winter (K W George)

Posted on November 30, 2016 by in Heightened Talk

rain-1479304_960_720-1A man in a black suit on a white windswept beach. Wind snatching an umbrella, turning it into a batwing. Hands so cold and trembling fingers don’t work. Tingly feeling when you’re getting the flu and lying limply on the sofa, the dog’s wet nose nuzzling your palm. The stillness of the house on the first day back at school. Sudden roar of the footy crowd as you pass the stadium; shadows lengthening and a chill in the air. Sun on lemons in a blue bowl on an old oak table. Ripples on a lake and on the far side a lonely rower dipping his oars in golden water. Smell of baking Anzac biscuits. Coconut. Rain pattering the corrugated roof, gurgling down gutters. Stewed apples and cloves. Plump sultanas and the tang of peel. Cinnamon. Pushing soft buttery pastry with your fingers. Crunching crusted sugar between your teeth. Deep in the country the cold stiffness of sheets in a motel bed. A semi-trailer passing through, gearing down, the echo lingering long after the headlights have leapt across the ceiling. The vast night sky, sprinkled with stars like tacks on tarmac. Gossiping grain silos huddling for warmth on the horizon. In the dark and thickly-wooded forest, light drip drip dripping from the sky. Scratchy picnic rug under your back and shadows dappling your face. A grey hair not noticed before. The distant muted sounds of children, playing. Taste of tea in a plastic mug. First coffee of the day, and the pleasure when the barista remembers your name. Soft poached eggs on smoked salmon with wafers of toast; caviar popping against your teeth. Waking to the sonorous silence of snow. Pipes creaking, cracking. Sound distorted. Suspended from the chair-lift, skis dangling, and dropping a glove. First skier on the run, any run; the shush-shush of skis. Peeling off the beanie—hair hopelessly flattened. Red pram perambulating along a grey gloomy street. Walk through the park, kicking up dank leaves. Fingers fastening on fluff and a discarded movie ticket in the depths of your coat pocket. Sunday afternoon, someone burning off and the acrid smoke twisting and twirling towards twilight. Coals aglow in the grate. Ruby port in a crystal glass. Up the stairs, along the narrow corridor, the solitary walk to the room under the eaves and the high bed and the heavy covers, and the soft rumbling snore of traffic. Rainy day and the smell of urine in the subway. Beggar’s fraying, overlong sleeve. Gutters wetly splattered with cigarette butts, and a black limousine oozing down an oily city lane. In the doorway, a glimpse of the blanched bare feet of a child. Knotted hair. Bitten fingernails. Fragile and mottled elderly skin. The hesitancy of the rasping voice. Wispy white hair. Bone structure of a bird beneath your hands. Behind the door, the brown cardigan with leather-covered buttons hanging, helpless, on a hanger. The silence of a coffin on the workbench in the shed. Curls of shavings questioning the dark earth. Chisel with a worn handle, lying motionless. At peace. And the light. The light streaming through the high casement window.



K W George
is a Brisbane-based writer. She studied creative writing at the Queensland University of Technology, and has a master’s degree in Australian Gothic Literature. She has been published in Meanjin, Tincture, Going Down Swinging, WQ, and three Margaret River Press anthologies. In 2015 she was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards in the Emerging Author / Unpublished Manuscript section.




Token (Anne Elvey)

Posted on November 9, 2016 by in Heightened Talk

fish-709886_640A scale catches the light. A gold coin
and a gold fish flash in the moat
of a university house. I am torn by this
writing whiteness, the attempt to read

myself otherwise, an urge to get out
of the way. The page is neither clean
nor blank. A seedpod falls from an imported
elm. The wind takes dry pennies

for a spin. Urban peak hour. The place
is all we have for now. The page
is asphalt, gravel, dirt. The line
is red and grey and, broken it signifies

corrugations of intent, a currency too far —
of people and fish and seasonal water.



photo credit: Monica Williams

photo credit: Monica Williams

Anne Elvey
is managing editor of Plumwood Mountain journal. She holds honorary appointments at Monash University and University of Divinity. Her publications include Kin (Five Islands, 2014) and This Flesh that You Know (Leaf Press, 2015). White on White is forthcoming from Cordite Books in 2017.



Posted on October 28, 2016 by in Events, Heightened Talk


The Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Award, now in its second 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 under 12 lines in length.


Nathan Shepherdson announcing the Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Award winners for 2016

This year’s Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Award judges were Nathan Shepherdson and Chloë Callistemon. First prize went to Gail Hennessy, second prize to Matt Hetherington, while Ashley Haywood,  Gabrielle Higgins and Pam Schindler were highly commended.  

Verity La are proud to present all five ekphrasis, plus the artworks that inspired them.


Emily Kngwarreye, ‘Drying wildflowers’, 1990, acrylic on canvas, 152 x 122 cm


The Dichotomy of the Paper Flower  (Gail Hennessy)

After Emily Kngwarreye’s ‘Drying wildflowers’

in the touch of reflected stillness
rhizomes’ under-earth connections
link the knuckle bones of country

scaffolds of roots umbrella into a
blossoming of dried amber, a button
box of circles marbled into pattern

our eyes reach to Braille touch
the dryness of disparate wildness
the daubed precision of reflected stillness

autumn colour scatters to tessellate
an inland vision of sky-pooled water
x-rayed over a skin of parchment


Soon Ago  (Matt Hetherington)

After Emily Kngwarreye’s ‘Drying wildflowers’

we’re here, so let’s meet in the middle for as long as
the sun is warm and doesn’t make a sound
no one’s hiding anywhere, the air doesn’t cover its face
and earth offers soft things so they skin-drink the day
these hands are as busy as flies but
hope you’re not reading too fast
what’s known, what’s always shown, you can feel it
with seeds all around, no need to ask
what’s the point of a circle?  don’t get stuck
like a stick in the muddy, the sky is in the ground


On long walk away from away and waking with the sun  (Ashley Haywood)

After Emily Kngwarreye’s ‘Drying wildflowers’


light]  and          spoor    [who in the?]

                             circling               the lips  of

                  old graves                      futile tussock

                              mounds              and       roots

                              suppering on

                  ash      [smoke in the]

                  to feed  their   heavy      heads

                               [distance] full    of epitaphs

                                                             seeds  soon

                  the belongings of wind                             and [


Drying wildflowers  (Gabrielle Higgins)

After Emily Kngwarreye’s ‘Drying wildflowers’

it  all  moves…
these pleasing still
points of fore and background
though each mark
is felt…like recall

and I can only think of wattle
tangled in my hair…the cubby house
of weighted boughs of it
when I knew my spot


Dorothy Napangardi, 'Karntakurlangu Jukurrpa', 2005, acrylic on canvas,122 x 200 cm

Dorothy Napangardi, ‘Karntakurlangu Jukurrpa’ 2005, acrylic on canvas, 122 x 200 cm


Landscape (Pam Schindler)

After Dorothy Napangardi’s ‘Karntakurlangu Jukurrpa’

I remember arriving with the grasstree spikes
in creamy flower, taller than a man,
the birds balancing to feed
on such cones of sweetness
in the excited air —

the dead in their trees, speaking and sighing,
the wind in their leaves —

the locked and breaking
honeycomb of days

the hooked blanket of the land
the mesh of light
the tongues of the white rain



photo credit: Gina McDonald

photo credit: Gina McDonald

Gail Hennessy has been published widely in newspapers, literary supplements, journals and anthologies over the last forty years. In 2010 her collection, Witnessing, brought many of these published poems together with new poetry. Witnessing followed her Doctoral thesis, ‘Testiminio: Witnessing my Mother’s Life: Race and Identity in Twentieth Century Australia’. She has completed a second collection of poetry soon to be published.

photo credit: Di Cousens

photo credit: Di Cousens

Matt Hetherington is a writer, music-maker, and moderate self-promoter living in Brisbane. He has been writing poetry for over 30 years, and has published 4 poetry collections and over 300 poems.  His first all-haiku/senryu collection For Instance was published in March 2015 by Mulla Mulla Press.   He is also on the board of the Australian Haiku Society.

Pam Schindler is a Brisbane poet, and drew on memories of Moreton Island in writing this poem.  She is the author of one book of poems, A sky you could fall into (2010), and her work has been published in Australian journals including Meanjin, Hecate, Island, and Australian Poetry Journal.  She went to write in a Scottish castle as a Hawthornden Fellow in 2013.


Ashley Haywood is a writer, editor and poet. She has seen her creative and scholarly work published and performed in Australia and overseas. She recently received a PhD for her creative research thesis titled Harlequin Blue and The Picasso Experiment. Some of her most recent creative work appears in TEXT and Spineless Wonders’ anthology Out of Place. This ekphrasis poem belongs to a growing collection of iterations, another of which is forthcoming in Southerly. She is an Associate Editor at Rochford Street Review.