two horse race (Ashley Capes)

Posted on November 21, 2014 by in Heightened Talk

FullSizeRender (1)whenever I
catch a glimpse of them warming up for another round of backchat I
feel all the politics run out of me i
n cartoon speech bubbles filled with Z’s and I

swear my tongue is now covered i
n revolutionary posters I
add moustaches and generous splashes of red to them I
see the landscape of Coke and Pepsi
vying for position and I

am sick with the heavy, two-party apathy – thi
s bullshit is like a shovel-blow to the head and I
‘m being offered a big fat price-reduction-placebo ri
ght after and I

hate having no answers because I
like to fix things, even if I

admit, every one of my good intentions i
s more a fleet of oxen-like handymen but I
am determi
ned to set things right as I
trample things instead, well aware that I
move like a lost Stooges routine and so after so many fai
lures I

and end up making so little noise that I

well suspect my vote and my lines never stirred the water.


A Grave Turn (Ashley Capes)

Posted on February 10, 2012 by in Heightened Talk


streets have a saliva sheen, the stones bathing in it. fog is school-pants grey, thick on the tongue. the older trams shudder until they stop and the conductor retires. drunks smirk with red-balloon cheeks, dallying through each step. it is a grave turn. they milk their charm and spend it on ghosts in make-up, loosen their teeth. a clean wind moves the leaves from side to side, the clucking of winter within.


our snapshots –

the photo booth

becomes a grave-marker


Vox: Ashley Capes

Posted on September 18, 2011 by in Verity La Forum


This is a tough question and I hope I can add something relevant here. My first reaction was to ask myself if the e-form was entertaining – which has been and can be something of a ‘charge’ to be levelled at the novel, rather than a simple descriptor. Many art forms survive based on the answer to this question (and sometimes in spite of it) and I’d argue that the novel does live and die on its entertainment value.

And so I wondered if the e-form, if it isn’t always entertaining, is it at least fulfilling some need in society? The blog is useful in a sense of providing information quickly. There, it is surely King, and must be a key artefact. And while the blog is a great communicative tool, it’s not always the best tool to present writing. Consider reading the text of a poem with a mess of distractions, images, colours, layouts, links, pop-ups and so on. All of these factors alter the way a poem is received. Compare that to a clean, white page and there’s something different going on.

But – if the poem being read on that blog was hypertextual or more hybrid in nature (combining text, sound, image etc) then the blog is perfect. Powerful in its flexibility.

Of course, the blog also has the great boon (and great curse some would say) of the internet’s participatory nature. A text presented on a blog alters the Public and Private modes of reading. Reading on a blog can be public (via comments) and you can ‘be seen’ to read certain pieces/poets. At home, with a book, it is only public when you travel with it (bus, train) or write about it. With a blog, you write and read about it at home, in the private sphere (though that division has certainly blurred.)

Switching to the idea of the e-book, I suppose that any e-form needs a cheap, simple device to really take off. For Literature and the novel, I don’t feel like the Kindle or other e-readers can do it yet. Not fully. In fact, there a few steps to be taken. One thing that holds me back from grabbing an e-reader (aside from price), is the question of durability. They just seem more fragile. Drop one enough, step on it, expose it to extreme temperatures, have it stolen, and you won’t be happy. Drop a paper book for instance, and it will be fine, if scuffed. A stolen book might be under ten dollars to replace. A stolen kindle with hundreds of purchased books inside? Now, durability could use a deeper discussion (obviously a digital file has a longer lifespan than paper), but if the e-form becomes part of a new literary standard, it might have to wait until the delivery technology seems as indispensible to the content, the way paper, glue ink and card do for physical books.

At this stage, the e-readers replicate the shell of a physical and traditional book, limited in part by what is digitised by publishers. Because many writers (myself certainly included) don’t always take advantage of affordable digital technology to create fully multimedia texts, the e-reader becomes less than a computer, but more than single book (because it can store so many of them.) In that sense, it’s a hard drive with a screen. Although, perhaps when readers want multi-form pieces of literature, then a piece of portable technology will appear that combines the best features of the computer and the old school book.

All that said, in the grand scheme of the history of the way language is presented, e-forms are so new, that I don’t have the insight to predict much. But I am looking forward to the missteps and triumphs, as both will be pretty damn interesting.



A Love Supreme (Ashley Capes)

Posted on December 31, 2010 by in Heightened Talk

you are trying to sleep

and I am Coltrane’s sax

steeped in sound


Liner Notes:

the Above is a Link Poem

the poetry is sufficient

we all have our associations


with every word & idea

these are just some of the possibilities

Words by Capes

Links by Patric

stamped flat stamped
(Ashley Capes)

Posted on July 27, 2010 by in Heightened Talk


in my office between classes

I rage at flat things: the sea,

the land, the hard, flat dollar coin

and all its friends,

the road too short by far

and my feet, fingernails and thumbs

sleeping, none of them wings,

I rage at the flat things

until my voice is stamped flat

stamped like the stamp of a soldier’s liberating

boot; I rage until all my dreams are flat

I rage so quietly that animals come close

I rage so well that people congratulate me

I rage so far that distant mummies wake in

their class cabinets, I rage at the rainbow slinky

for no other reason, than that it is on my desk,

I rage so that you notice and go away

I rage at flat things like the paper kipple

growing over me, I rage at words I cannot fix

I rage so deep that Hades lets Persephone go back

for more flowers and I rage so much that

it flattens my soul, now like a leaf

as it turns in the breeze,

and no-one left to chase it.

an interview with Ashley Capes

Posted on July 27, 2010 by in The Melbourne Review Interviews

Some writers draw you into each story or poem, and in these instances it’s cinematic, even if it’s not a particularly good film. There’s this one experience, and this is all that we’re looking at. There are directors that defy that singular experience and we watch each film in isolation but also as part of that director’s oeuvre. At the other end of the spectrum there’s the great HBO-style show, where it’s not really about individual episodes or directors, but the flow from one week to another, and further, into months and years. It’s not about scenes or plot twists anymore, but a way of looking at the world and a way of feeling it, that we want to tune into. The aesthetic becomes compelling. The moods and insights become epiphanies that we eagerly wait for. Ashley Capes is this kind of writer.


I’m not someone that believes in ‘natural’ poets. I’m too aware of how much reading goes into developing poetic awareness, and how many hours at the page go into developing a feeling for the craft, and then how many years of living with poetry go into creating a poetic weltanschauung, but despite all that, occasionally a poet will strike me as being a ‘natural’ poet. Every time I read your poetry I’m struck by the grace and ease with which you present each poem. So tell me about the work, the sweat, and reassure me that there have indeed been lost months (if not years) where it wasn’t all quite so natural.


Absolutely. Writing is supposed to be one of those careers with long apprenticeships, and certainly I’m not finished, but it’s been close to fifteen years now. Although, probably only ten of them have been ‘serious years’ where I’ve been writing, reading, editing, submitting, being rejected, being published and repeating the process over and over.

Probably the most important part of the last ten years, has been the submitting. There’s nothing like scores of rejection slips to get you thinking critically about your own work, to get you thinking how to communicate better.

The reading is a big part too. I read as much contemporary small press poetry as possible, as well as my older favourites from the world stage. And I read a lot of haiku too. Reading and writing haiku, more than any other genre, was where I really began to strive for the ‘economy of words.’

So it’s great to hear you describe my pieces as having ‘grace’ and ‘ease’ because I want them to read that way, even if writing them is a much more difficult process. I remember spending around six years on one poem, which started out as a twenty-two page kind of Beat-rant. As I worked on it, I’d cut it down, take some time away, come back, often with months or years in between. Eventually I wrangled it into something closer two pages and it had evolved into a more direct piece, though it did retain a feel for what it once was.  Another piece, written for the Street/Life issue of Stylus Poetry Journal, I managed a draft in an hour or so, then spent the next few weeks before the deadline reworking the opening and the last two lines. The first two paragraphs went through around fifteen versions before I arrived at something I felt worked.


You seem to have an admirable resilience and adaptability. Some writers feel even the smallest suggestion of correction as a personal affront to their integrity as artists and to take rejection as a personal offense to their honour. That’s a bit of an exaggeration but I have in fact known a few writers that very much embody that medieval mindset. I’d also suggest that we can be surprised, even when we think we’re completely beyond it, and feel devastated at suggested corrections or a particular rejection. What are your thoughts on literary adaptability and artistic integrity? I’m also wondering how you negotiate rejection.


I learnt pretty early how much rejection is involved with writing and it seemed utterly pointless to give up just because things were tough. Actually, it’s probably because things were tough that I managed to improve.

Yes, I’ve come across that same mindset at times. It seems counter-productive. And I agree, we can be surprised, it’s one of the best things about writing. I love getting feedback that allows me to step back from a piece and see something new in it, or where something different could lie. So perhaps artistic integrity is adaptability? The ability to adapt, alter and improve your art, to change – a poet’s dedication to this ethos is perhaps the core of artistic integrity. (Just add in something along the lines of ‘never let a major corporation use your work for advertising’ too.)

I like the term ‘negotiate rejection’ as it can certainly be a negotiation with yourself or your ego. Sometimes you’re just so confident that a piece is right for a particular publication, and then bam! back it comes with a polite ‘no’, or even worse, no reply at all. And sometimes, when you’re lucky, with a useful reply as to why it was a ‘no.’

With most rejections, I think to myself ‘damn it – but no, this is a good thing too, I can look at this poem again and send it somewhere else.’ And sometimes that second look involves a further edit, and sometimes it doesn’t. But either way, the work is sent out again. I treat rejection as an opportunity. It’s probably one of the best motivators for me. I’d been submitting to GDS, for instance, for around six years I think, before I had work accepted for their latest issue. Every rejection made me think to myself, ‘one day I’ll write something good enough’ and when I finally did, it was fantastic. Glad I never quit, actually!