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

Episode 3: PS Cottier

Posted on September 24, 2016 by in Verity La Poetry Podcast

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podcast2 (1)
Alice and Michele get straight into it with Canberra-based poet PS Cottier. Does entering and judging literary competitions put you on a special level of Dante’s Inferno? Is there a hierarchy of poets and poetry? And why do so many poets succumb to writing ‘misty cow poetry’?

Penelope reads her poem from Plumwood Mountain, Reading the Frog Economy, along with Denise Levertov’s To Live in the Mercy of God, and her own poem published on Verity La, All the blond Jesuses. We end with a recommendation for Samuel Wagan-Watson’s Smoke Encrypted Whispers, and grapple with a definition of speculative poetry (and whether snobbery exists around it).

And if that ain’t enough, you can go here to enjoy more of the poems and reviews Penelope has published on Verity La, plus, read a rather intriguing interview

Missed our earlier episodes? Listen here!


lushpup_140304__web-2-1P.S. Cottier is a poet, anthologist and writer who lives in Canberra.  She wrote a PhD at ANU on animal imagery in the works of Charles Dickens, and co-edited The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry. Her latest publication is a chapbook called Quick Bright Things: Poems of Fantasy and Myth. Her blog as pscottier.com is updated with a new poem nearly every Tuesday, and she even reads poems in public.


Alice Allan’s poetry has been published in previous issues of Verity La as well as in CorditeRabbit and Australian Book Review. She is the creator and convenor of the Verity La Poetry Podcast, as well as producing her own weekly podcast, Poetry Says.

Thy poetry and thy pathos—all so strange! (PS Cottier)

Posted on August 29, 2014 by in Heightened Talk


The found poem hates the way
the egregious disruptions of fashion
have shaped his hideous form;
a misshapen picaresque, he lurches.
He is angry as blackbirds in a pie
croaking of their wonderful fortune
to be mere ingredients, gimmicks,
encased in another’s recipe.

Found poem finds himself quite
unsatisfactory. Gone all lovely
fantasies, the shimmy of catwalk.
They brushed aside the dreamer
in his dreams
, and left him lumpy,
daggy, and bereft.  He would soar
O singing heart turn hawk.
None of that here, no, just

remnants; bits of discard —
here an ear and there an ape.
The Baskerville-shaped shadows cross the floor.
Poem scratches someone else’s metaphors
that pull his skin right out of shape.
All thumbs he tries to text himself
a message, but random eyes can’t focus.
“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear.”



  • Thy poetry and thy pathos—all so strange!— from Ada Cambridge ‘A Dream of Venice’
  • egregious disruptions of fashion from Peter Porter ‘St Cecilia’s day 1710’
  • a misshapen picaresque from John Kinsella ‘hydrography’
  • They brushed aside the dreamer in his dreams from George Essex Evans ‘The Master’
  • O singing heart turn hawk from Douglas Stewart ‘Turn Eagle, Lark’
  • The Baskerville-shaped shadows cross the floor from Peter Porter The Puppy of Heaven’
  • “If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear.”  Mary Shelley Frankenstein

Note 1: the poet has sometimes changed punctuation and line breaks, and almost always meanings

Note 2: the creation of this monster was inspired by a discussion at Under the counter or a flutter in the dovecot


100 holes in my bucket (PS Cottier)

Posted on May 3, 2014 by in Heightened Talk

Knitters togetherI will never:

1. Bungee, shouting yolo

2. Use the acronym yolo, except in this poem

3. Scuba at sea (it feels like choking even in the swimming pool)

4. Have a dress made in Paris

5. Be thin enough to have a dress made in Paris

6. Be rich enough to have…well you know by now

7. Crunch ortolan with teeth of prey

8. Tango in Buenos Aeries wearing orange tango shoes

9. Tango

10. Waltz like that sweeping scene in War and Peace that prefigured the last glorious flyover (in the film)

11. Forget that I visited Tolstoy’s estate and donned slippers fluffy as guinea pigs to shine the wooden floors

12. Waltz like Cinderella dropping a shoe like a solitary glassy dandruff

13. Open for Australia in cricket

14. Play for Australia in any sport whatsoever (though croquet is not yet kicked into touch)

15. (Censored)

16. Fly in a fighter plane

17. Set foot on the moon

18. Set anything on Mars

19. Escape the surly bonds of earth, or the merry ones, for that matter

10. Skydive screaming yolo (see bungee above)

11. Appear on the cover of any magazine, with the possible exception of Poets ‘R Us

12. Have another child

13. Be a defender put on Buddy Franklin

14. Be an attacker trying to evade Cyril Rioli

15. Play AFL at all

16. (Censored)

17. Climb a mountain higher than Mount Kosciusko (Mount in Australia means hill elsewhere)

18. Own a gun

19. Shoot a gun

20. Hold a gun

21. Wear sunglasses like Tom Cruise in Top Gun

22. Jump (I can’t let both feet leave the ground at once which arguably ties in with my inability to mark Buddy Franklin)

23. Start a blog comment or a post with ‘Speaking as a Mum’

24. Play a musical instrument competently

25. Enjoy a ten-volume fantasy series

26. Write a ten-volume fantasy series

27. Reread À la recherche du temps perdus (I perdued enough temps doing it once)

28. Mistake Jonathon Franzen for Tolstoy

29. Mistake Richard Dawkins for Reason

30. Confuse faith with certainty

31. Eat dog

32. Eat cat

33. Eat durian (brain set in Anglo too early)

34. Forget what it is to be depressed

35. Suicide (that is a prayer)

36. Give up alcohol

37. Understand fatalism like a Russian

38. Write a poem about feelings which includes the word ‘weep’

39. Attach a sticker to my car that says ‘I grew here. You flew here’

40. Whinge about school fees (although you should see the last bill)

41. Forget what it is to miscarry.

42. Forget what it is not to miscarry.

43. Write a book called Carrie (I think it’s been done)

44. Judge a book by its genre

45. Sell the film-rights to anything I write

46. (Censored)

47. Forget how luck has lifted me like a player to a mark (compare and contrast with 22)

48. Remember my anniversary easily

49. Regret the final time I menstruate

50. Forgive those who (censored)

51. Write a really long poem (longer than this one)

52. Lift as much as the young men in the gym, even those with execrable form

53. Become obese again (also a prayer)

54. Drive a fast lap at Mount Panorama in Holden or Ford (or even Peugeot)

55. Think that owning a European car is a sign of sophistication

56. Give up wanting a Citroën DS

57. Engage in lively debate about computer software

58. Lose my interest in sex

59. (Censored) (Sorry that was predictable as the shearing of narrative sheep)

60. Vote National

61. Start a sentence with ‘I’m not a racist, but…’

62. Ignore cruelty

63. Be brave

64. See a cockatoo without smiling like a crest

65. Surf

66. Learn to listen without nodding or frowning or making little noises (I can be annoying)

67. Remember names

68. Speak fluent French

69. Read À la Recherche du temps perdus in French (It keeps rearing up though and recapturing me)

70. Read Tolstoy in Russian

71. Forget the liberation of escaping school and starting university

72. Use the word ‘undergraduate’ as an insult

73. Listen to music as avidly as when I huddled under my blankets with a transistor

74. Tell young people that they don’t know how lucky they are

75. Direct a film

76. Star in a film

77. Watch an entire Academy Awards ceremony

78. Try cocaine

79. Recite Monty Python at parties

80. Memorise all the characters in Game of Thrones (for they have names)

81. Throw myself into any social situation without a little bit of me sitting on my shoulder, half parrot and half albatross, warning and criticising

82. Write a perfect sonnet (limerick is quite likely)

83. Become a mindless gatekeeper at the Estate of Poesie (aka Downtown Abbey)

84. Write a poem without a single hint of pun

85. Cook a really good meal

86. Sell as many copies of a book as the worst-selling cookbook in the land, the land being Kyrgyzstan

87. Visit Kyrgyzstan, though I have been to Uzbekistan (boasty boasty cheese on toasty)

88. Eat bacon

88. Have maple syrup on that bacon

89. Write a cookbook called Pigging Out or Snout and Proud

90. Become a knitter

91. Wear a homemade beanie on the front of my bacon cookbook

92. Forget the taste of sausages unpolluted by tofu

93. Finish this poem before lunch

94. Include the word ‘weep’ in this poem

95. Include a recipe in this poem, except in as much as it is a recipe

96. Pass this recipe on as an heirloom

97. Worry too much about my appropriateness or market or sales

98. Lose my love of words (another prayer)

99. (Censored)

100. End this poem with a wise saw or a blunt one

So, to sum up:

Yolo. Yolo. Yolo.









My Stalker (PS Cottier)

Posted on March 1, 2014 by in Heightened Talk

Shop windowSee her reflected in those shop windows?
Mumbling grey granny, disrespected elder,
spectacled and zimmered, inching so fast,
faster than she should.  Faster than breath.
Ninja quiet now, with crochet belt,
and a handbag roomy as a coffin
(her teeth, broken gravestones,
long since fell into gape of mouth).
She follows me to the gym.
Hear her now, on the cross-trainer,
knee knuckles clapping like castanets?
One Direction strains, but professional youth
can’t muffle that sharp clack of bony dice.
She comes into the toilet, into the cubicle,
with her array of specialised tools
rummaged from that hideous bag.
Thursday, she iced a single curly hair:
decorated me like Miss Havisham’s cake.
I groaned at that visitation from the crone,
the witch whose white is no good at all.
Biddy, fussbudget, battle-axe,
beldam sans merci, stop this stalking!
Quit knitting me into that pattern
of shapeless grey cardigan, weaving me
into you on that inevitable frame.
Fearsome old woman, begone!

All the blond Jesuses (intriguing new poetry from the extra-clever and wonderfully unique PS Cottier)

Posted on November 6, 2012 by in Heightened Talk


drouin_schoolboys_playing_cricket_drouin_victoria_1_6174076512You see them wriggle free of windows,
lithe as silver fish, but golden-haired.
These Jesuses, blond sons of blond Marys,
head out the door to play cricket,
with leather and willow in sudden whites.
St Dorothy joins in, and its all fruit
and flowers and UK May, as Jesuses
bloom like jonquils on the soft field.
Sometimes a Jesus will stop for a while,
and an almost-frown appear. He recalls
another day, when he was darker skinned,
darker haired, and his reaching hands
caught iron, not the ball flicked to slip
like an idea. Oranges smile like cut suns.
The stumped Jesus reconciles himself
to this easier gig, amongst teammates
all as blond and as quick as wit itself.
He scampers between wickets, wood kinder
than when he cried, and slumped and died,
before the dark cave, and its inconstant rock.