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Rouse Hill

Time travelling on the motorways
we watch the landscape change
as cramped steel and concrete
give way to open space

Somehow bare
and more exposed

Billboards tout BRAND NEW LUXURY HOMES
carbon copies of a pre-packaged urban dream
past the outback steakhouse
past the golden arches
Flying high in this distant
corner of the empire

At our destination
vivid white and yellow in the trees
A row of cockatoos
observes what’s on offer
making selections
from a drive through menu of their own

On the old Windsor Turnpike
I look across at Bunnings and realise
I’m standing on the front line
a battle between past and present
History holding the line
as the machine of progress threatens
to swallow it whole

The smell of death lingers on the property
rabbits drowned in the heavy rain
mosquitoes buzzing
Life and death intertwined
in the cycles of the elements

On the hill the house is old and grand
a sandstone monolith
Imposed on the landscape
built by convict hands
to oversee the Estate

Inside the walls scream
stories of countless faces
peering out from the picture frames
secrets betrayed in the detail

Sensory overload
floral wallpaper behind
oil landscapes and family portraits
souvenirs brought home
from Grand Tour adventures
The Sons of the Empire watch over it all

Foreign culture planted on native soil
determined to survive and flourish
just like the estranged plants
in the garden outside

The back doorstep
worn down by weary feet
servants shuffling in and out
behind the scenes
Hidden from view to uphold
the illusion of tranquillity

Catching our reflections
I’m startled
by the figures staring back at me
clothes and hair so modern
so out of place in this room frozen in time
Like living ghosts
visitors from a future that has
yet to unfold

The drive home returns us
to a world more familiar
tunnels and electric lights
Smog and FM radio blasting from worksites

Bulldozers, cranes and hardhats
an army of fluro vests
cutting into the rock
at this intersection of time and place

Clearing the way for the future

Same as the men who cleared those trees
and built that house

all those years ago

_____________________________________________________
Nick Bryant-Smith (AKA Solo) is a rapper, spoken-word poet and one half of the Sydney hip hop act Horrowshow. The duo’s first album, The Grey Space, received wide acclaim and earned an ARIA nomination for Best Urban Albumn. Nick has supported acts such as The Heard, Hermitude and Blackalicious as well as securing spots at Sydney’s Big Day Out, Groovin The Moo, Urthboy and more. Horrowshow’s next album is set for release in 2012.

Charlotte Street

The pavement is a narrow procession
of footsteps returning home in darkness.
There is a raw gas-smell past Island Street,
the rancidness of lamb-fat that clings
to plum-coloured brickwork. A palm tree
rustles perpetually through the windless night
with percussion of heavy plastic.

There is a crumbling border a child might walk
tentatively, giddy with the danger of falling
into fathoms of lantana. As you follow in sequence,
muffling your pursuing steps, you notice
the graded curvature of hairstyle against the nape,
the way jeans shape and angle the leg,
the sculpting of muscle by the tilt of heels.

You pass the private hotel with all
its yellow windows lit, Victorian and ornate,
transient figures flitting within its walls,
a church illuminated by orange spotlights,
the fluorescence of a shop you have never entered -
then turn from the stream of commuters, down
a street which has the same name as your own.

_______________________________________________________
John Hawke is a Sydney poet currently teaching at Monash University in Melbourne.

58, black-most lot, collapsible ceiling and underground lung ward

My dear RG. Crates are melting under enamel and asbestos;
whalers are jumping ship for a slant of this rummy sham. Open the
archive to check the mobility, there’s a rotten panorama of a hundred
years of surplus. First the compositers, bakers, and small-time boiled
sweet bankers stocked the clout; second, the house trapped the labour
‘til it moulded the beams. Bad advice suggests that if you grant small debts to your neighbours—tins of beef, tins of milk, tins of tabacco,
tins of paraffin—you will keep their loyalty and gratitude. My advice:
follow the neighbourhood kids. Born in robbery, tucked into their
dance gear you’ll find notes from the ocean, shanties for mutiny, or
else wetted and folded pamphlets of every non-rum language, calling
for nutmeg, vinegary kippers, split peas and rabbit skins. Your
tendency to vanish must be your favourite toolkit. Away and wharfish,
deep to the buttonhole in capital well, pages 1-800 passim.

_______________________________________________________
Astrid Lorange is a Sydney poet with two excellent books of poetry, Eating and Speaking and Minor Dogs, and her PDF book, Pussy pussy pussy what what (Au lait day Au lait day). Lorange also contributes a regular column about Australian poetry to the internationally acclaimed online journal, Jacket2, and was recently guest editor of Cordite. She’s compleing a PhD dissertation on Gertrude Stein at the University of Technology, Sydney, and it regularly between Sydney and Philadelphia.

The Disappearing is a new app for iPhone, iPad and Android that (literally) explores poetry and place. Beginning with a collection of over 100 poems about Sydney, the app creates a poetic map charting traces, fragmentary histories, impressions and memories.

Along with previously unpublished poetry, The Disappearing features exclusive videos of readings and interviews with poets. Users can upload their own poems to The Disappearing, preserving ideas, emotions and experiences about their own environment that vanish over time.

Explore Sydney streets or upload your own memories of place – Download The Disappearing – The Red Room Company’s free poetry app for iPhone and iPad or for Android.

I guess poets are all trying to swim in the same stream – the same stream as Shakespeare and Yeats and Sappho and Hughes and Carson – and whatever strokes we make, large or small, are a striving to be part of that same vast human conversation.
- Candy Royalle

The Scrimmage

There is violence here
an abundance of it
fists and elbows and tongues that lash out
ankles and knees that fight to keep balance
________this is violence.
There are gestures of thrusting hips
arms extended
anger exposed
speed enticed by wheels of rubber and steel
sounds of strained voices
________this is violence.

Apparently there is no fresh meat here.

These skates are worn
by bearers of flesh experienced
to the feel of burning skin
red raw from fishnets rubbing surfaces exposed
to the elements of an unforgiving floor
________this is violence.
One body is lost on the battle field.
A veteran flat on her back
cries out in agony
for she has been winded
________wiped out
________________wrecked.

All her sisters
on the same side and opposing
All her sisters
fall onto bended knee
________________stationary
- except for their wheels
which continue to turn
sighing in their trucks
perhaps the thoughts of those that wear them
(getupgetupgetupgetupgetup)
as stripes flock about her
flapping squawking
placing hands with the lightness of feathers
upon her panting body
she rises with a cry
and all applaud
________this is violence placated.

The scrimmage starts again
the circle is skated
and if there were ice
it would be thin
For:
bones be brittle
and tones be laden
with frothing spittle
declaring the calls of an imitated war
and the reasons (or lack of) for
________this is violence.

____________________________________________________________
Candy Royalle has a practice that combines performance, monologues, poetry, storytelling and written poetry.

Wollongong Illawarra Roller Derby formed in January 2009, and have been a key force in the establishment of the Eastern Region Roller Derby Leagues.

J and I get to talking, I ask her how long she’s been an astronomer. It doesn’t seem
to me like something you just stumble into. There is a moment, she tells me, for all astronomers, a moment of realisation, or epiphany, I suppose. The moment when you first notice – really notice – the vast night sky above in all its wonder and mystery. How it hangs there like a question, an invitation, a vast, glittering sphinx’s mask. They call the moment “First Light.”
- Kit Brookman

The Theory Of Everything

1.
Stars
hang there
like broken glass in night’s gut.
They are slick along the sky,
the night is choked with them as a city is with light.
The dead grass is made metal
by starlight,
my shadow batters the earth
when I had been ready to put it in my back pocket
for the night, but the brightness
demands it show its face.
The wind presses on
like a weary muscle.

The crunch of my boot
is that of a man
making himself real by noise.
I realise that I am borrowing
a stranger’s night, one that’s silent
and chill and marked by signs I don’t understand.
I half expect
to see my double wander out
like some shredded wraith
from between the silverskinned gums
and shake his head,
his hair slick with dew
and a face made deadly by secrets
I should not have tried to share.

2.
Saturn
is a bright toy
engraved, silver-shot on the blank lens.
Its rings are sharp as eyelashes,
they hang there perfectly,
like someone had dropped a spinning top
and left it whirring for a few billion years.

3.
Sun
is a red razor it
splits night’s eyelid
and the starred iris pops, light
gushes in
and swallows the broken pieces of night
with blue-sky daylight.

__________________________________________________________
Kit Brookman is a Sydney-based poet, actor and playwright.

The Astronomical Society of New South Wales was formed in 1954, and is the largest and most active astronomy club in the state.

i’ve been inspired by pia’s practice and the conversations that i’ve been having with pia about tekhne ghosts huanted media and the strange things that she does with electrictiy and i’m particularly taken by this phrase she has of letting the non-human life live so letting something which might not meet human definitions of living or which might not fit into a rigid binary of non-living and living but nevertheless to let those things live to let the ghosts of electricity live i do have an interest in what you might call the art of ghosts which is another way to say what the activity of the dorks at dorkbot is is that it’s the art of letting the ghosts speak for themselves
- Nick Keys

Ghosts of Technology
- an excerpt

dance is a skill speaking is a skill a skill
i’m not doing very well at the moment language is a
skill rhetoric is a skill and poetry is a skill
so it’s very hard to figure out where the limits of
tekhne stop and start

so we need another story for the origins of humanity
and a different one to the blob one that went
nowhere okay so i’m a bit more relaxed
now so with the blob one we went up to heaven
right we went up to heaven right we were
going up to heaven and zeus was like na i don’t
like that so i’m going to strike these blobs down
with thunderbolts and then he was like
no that will kill them what i’ll do instead
is that i’ll chop them in half right so we he did
was he chopped us all in half so these arrogant
spherical blob creatures that we were who kind of
just rolled around on the ground and masturbated
and ate and were just totally in love with ourselves
right so he chopped them in half and then he left
it up to apollo to sort of stretch our skin over the
top of us re-aligning our limbs and over to the
belly and stitch us up there and so the belly
button is the scar left to remind us of our prior
arrogance which of course then we forgot
and that was the point and so that story is
in fact the origin of the myth of love and
what i like about it is that when humans are made
it means love is there at the beginning of humanity
in this myth which is a very appealing idea
when humans start they start because of love
perhaps what’s no so appealing about this story is
the brutal cutting in half and the implication
that love is loss as well that love is lack
where as i was kind of hoping that the idea of love
was binding was fusion was not bifurcating
putting things into two equal halves
okay so there is the blob story
but there is no tekhne in that and
that’s a problem so there’s another story
another greek story about the origin of
tekhne that is also the origin of humanity: zeus
decides that non-immortal creatures so
mortal creatures need to be brought from night
and into the light and so he goes to prometheus
and prometheus is the titan blessed with foresight
blessed with knowledge blessed with immaculate
memory and prometheus sort of comes with his
twin brother who is also his double who’s
epimetheus who’s not really blessed with
anything or he’s blessed with forgetting he
forgets epimetheus is the dude who always forgets
now zeus says to prometheus okay now that
we are bringing these mortals from out of the
night and into the light it’s your job to give
them qualities it’s your task i bestow the
task upon you to give them qualities and so
prometheus is like okay yeah fair enough
and epimetheus is with him and he begs him
please please let me do it i want to do it
it will be awesome if i do it and prometheus is
like well it seems like an arduous task
so i’ll let him do it and so he lets his little brother
or his twin who is in fact just a double of himself
the opposite of himself but he lets him do it
so epimetheus goes around with a basket of qualities
and hands them out to all the creatures right
so to the zebra he gives stripes and speed
to the lion he gives power and roar these kind
of things and so he does a great job
especially for epimetheus of distributing all the
qualities very evenly and this distribution of
qualities is responsible for the ecological balance
the even chance that things have to survive right
except that when he gets to humans he looks in the
basket and there is no more qualities left so
humans are those things that are forgotten
left naked and forgotten with no qualities
prometheus is like shit i’m going to get in
trouble for this so he decides that he will go
to zeus a pretty mad decision i would have
thought and steal fire from zeus and give it to
humans so he steals fire and gives it to
humans and as a punishment for this zeus
straps him to a rock that’s right
straps him to a rock and an eagle comes and eats
his liver and then the liver grows back
and then the eagle comes back and eats his liver
and that happens for a long time so
prometheus really suffered for giving us fire
so fire is the symbol of technology okay so
in this myth of the origins of humans
technology happens at the same moment as humans
happen so instead of having humans who
invent technology what we get is humans that
are constituted by their technicity
that’s one way of putting it in a sense we are
technological beings okay now this has
some consequences for a lot of binaries in
in in our society that that we rest
that we hold dear to ourselves anthropology
and technology so the human and the technological
that’s a split there’s also nature and
culture
and there’s also subject and object but if
humans are technological creatures from the
beginning that is to say that they are
defined by the fact they are technological then
these kind of oppositions they don’t work so well
okay so the the father of anthropology rousseau
who was a really interesting writer and he
searched for an essence of man an original
and eternal man and he wasn’t a fool he knew
that he couldn’t search for the origins of something
without making a fiction about it so he knew
that he was dealing in a sense with fiction
but nevertheless he was searching for this eternal
figure now he was then accused later on
by nietzsche i think rightly of falling into
the trap that so many philosophers have fallen into
nietzsche called it a family failing a family
failing of philosophers is that they will not learn
that man has become so there is this
search for an eternal being this kind of pure
nature and essence but the reality is
of course that we have always become

_______________________________________________
Nick Keys is a Sydney-based writer, blogger, researcher, website producer and collage artist.

Dorkbot Sydney is a regular social gathering for “people doing strange things with electricity”.

I’ve never really known how to write about other people without imposing some kind of “treatment” on them. And I guess it’s not possible to completely avoid imposing a “treatment” – but there are “treatments”, and then there are treatments. I discovered a poem called ‘Holocaust’ by an Objectivist poet called Reznikoff which was composed
entirely out of cut-and-pasted transcripts from Holocaust survivors. Reznikoff’s artistic practice is one of selection – not invention. Or rather, invention through various selective combinations – sans commentary or explanation. And really, even when I’m writing from my own life, that’s what I’m doing. Transcribing the way I see the world is easy – what’s hard is knowing what shape what I see should take. So I’ve been building my Wayside Renga by transcribing conversations I’ve been having with five different regulars at Wayside from which I hope to build a layered poem that can capture the imaginative breadth of the place. Layer one will be the transcripts themselves, and the final layer will be a highly compressed mash up of phrases from all five interviewees. The final poem might also feature poems that the interviewees have written themselves.
- Pip Smith

Body in a Sports Bag – an excerpt from Wayside Renga
Pip Smith with Daniel

At about 1 am he is still up
long-thinking about
what to do next.

He goes to her work and stands
outside Bondi McDonald’s. It’s curves
are kind of like being on a rollercoaster.

So round about 6
she finishes her shift, comes out
turns around, and she sees him,

standing outside: baseball cap,
casual jeans. She’s standing
on the edge of Niagara. Can’t go

anywhere but down.
Turns around and says,

nothing.

It’s cold and bucketing outside.
It’s exciting getting all wet.

Cats are outside
sitting on a brick wall
drinking Coke.

The cats drove to Bondi
In the cat car and saw
the whole thing.

___________________________________________________________
Pip Smith writes plays, stories and poems, and is now undertaking a DCA at the University of Western Sydney.

The Wayside Chapel has provided unconditional love, care and support for people on and around the streets of Kings Cross, Sydney, since 1964.

NOTE: Read about THEthe’s collaboration with the Red Room Company here.

Across Australia, each state, city, suburb and street autonomously divides itself into thousands of clubs and societies. Sport, politics, art, craft, collectors: people gather voluntarily, outside the confines of their immediate geography, social class or profession. They gather around a shared passion. As such, clubs and societies are sites of sharing: sharing of knowledge, stories, skills and resources.

Within these shared circles, language takes on a special role. Since members don’t have to articulate themselves for a general audience, vernacular becomes increasingly specialised. Often the assumed knowledge that lies within any given statement is so huge that, to an outsider, conversation at a club meeting would seem like a foreign language. For poetry, these distinctive argots provide fertile fields for experimentation, since every unique language has the potential to inform its own unique poetics.

The Red Room Company (RRC) set out to explore this terrain in 2011 through our major project, Clubs and Societies. We even set up our own Clubhouse in The Rocks in Sydney, complete with bunting, dartboard and our own selection of club records. There, we played host to clubs and visiting poets alike. We also produced an exclusive club pack for new members, with specially designed membership pins (one of the pleasures of being in a club is allowing oneself to get a little obsessive over things…).

The project worked by pairing up 15 poets from across Australia with 15 diverse clubs and societies. Each poet and their club was handpicked by RRC Artistic Director – and Club President – Johanna Featherstone. Poets were chosen both for the quality of their work, as well as their potential to creatively engage with their host club as a kind of Club Poet Laureate.

Poets were asked to open their practice to the experience as much as possible, and we encouraged experimentation and a free interpretation of the notion of ‘poetry’. In some cases, the club’s influence is discernible not only in the poem’s content, but also in its form. Kit Brookman, for example, paired with the Astronomical Society of NSW, collected smaller, imagistic poems–little vignettes – like the singular view through a telescope of a section of night sky. Ali Alizadeh, on the other hand, responded to the lecture-based Existentialist Society with a longer, discursive, almost essayistic poem. Meanwhile, Michael Giacometti, working with the Central Australian Bushwalkers, collected over 20 short poems and haikus, quickly scribbled at breaks along the track: evocations, often humorous, of exhaustion and thirst through the middle of Australia.

Over the next month we’ll present a selection of the commissioned poems, as well as snippets from a research report compiled by Jacinta van den Berg, which investigated links between poetry and clubs in Australia. Within these works, poets represent the customs of clubs in super close-up, like cultures in a petri dish. In contrast, the research project zooms out, considering the role clubs and societies play in the broader social picture, and how that role is comparable (or incomparable) to poetry’s. We hope that readers, whether poets, club members, both or neither, enjoy this selection.

A limited-edition Clubs and Societies publication is also available from www.redroomcompany.org.

THEthe Poetry and The Red Room Company are teaming up to share poems across the oceans. This collaboration introduces new audiences to the works of emerging and established poets from America and Australia. Weekly installments of poems, interviews and artworks will celebrate poetic observations from Brooklyn to Sydney and places between.

The Red Room Company is a not-for-profit poetry organisation founded in 2003 and based in Sydney. Their mission is to provide professional commission opportunities to contemporary Australian poets, particularly emerging voices. They present poetry to the wider community in engaging, unusual ways involving film, audio and installation. Since 2007, The Red Room Company has delivered Papercuts, their national poetry education program for primary and secondary schools. In 2010 the poetry education program was extended to Correctional Centres.