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australian poets

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The Ventriloquist’s Lament

Let me tell you:

in strangers’ houses
all roads lead to rooms
mirrors turn a blind eye

to undone hair and buttons
the swoop of lambent moths
and other accidental creatures

kitchen tables float like coral
pomegranates stain your
hands blood red for days

space is reserved for

long eyes and afternoons
glancing in windowsills

every day a new photograph
in the thraldom of debt
I grew out of all that dust.

Lindsay Tuggle grew up in Alabama, Kentucky, and Kansas. She moved to Australia ten years ago, and now lives in Austinmer. She has written poetry for most of her life, though she only began writing for publication a few years ago. Lindsay is interested in the relationship between language and place, especially vanished or vanishing places: those that exist now only in the memories of the people who once lived there. Her poetry has been published in HEAT and as part of The Red Room Company’s Dust Poems and Unlocked projects. In 2009, her work was awarded second prize in the Val Vallis Award for Poetry.

Attempts to Get Oats Into this Poem
For Bishop Druitt College, 2012

It was no reflection on my fondness for you, the throwing of the sour milk.
The sound of the silver bucket spread out like a town at the beginning of a
Kurosawa. The milk was hula. The day: ultra marine. You stepped in the mood. Do you still follow bees? I found four in a tea pot …

On the cover of your book is an open locket and within it your relatives?
Cousins? Their faces are small but I can recognise your eyes. With what poems will you describe them this Christmas? Christmas like the name Tony
Tuckson. I guess I see spilled paint across the canvas like a pulled muscle.

We could get a towel, or sit in the sun? There’s a bus! And our reflection in it,
turning. It was my thought today that as poets we should eat good breakfasts.
You? Oats, sliced pear, pepitas, other seeds, natural yogurt.

Luke Beesley was born in Brisbane and is a poet, artist and musician, and has an M.Phil in Creative Writing from the University of Queensland. Luke’s first book of poetry, Lemon Shark, was highly commended in the Ann Elder Award. His second poetry collection, Balance, based on an Asialink Residency to India, will be published in 2012 by Whitmore Press, and his third collection, New Works on Paper, will be published by Giramondo Press in early 2013. He is presently working on an artists’ book of poems and drawings called Seed, which was researched with a Creative Fellowship from the State Library of Victoria. He has exhibited drawings in a number of group shows, and he had his first solo show, ‘Authors’, in 2011. Luke is the singer-songwriter for the band, ‘New Archer’, who play in Melbourne regularly and will release their debut ep in 2012. He lives in Northcote, Melbourne, with his partner – artist and designer, Zoe Miller – and their son, Ari.

Cranbrook, Mid-June
After Martin Harrison

The inarguable harbour proves the point
hit by the low winter sun, we squint
fishing for cutlery, facing the mirrors
in a high-ceilinged room.

We discuss pies and north coast water,
pale meat, dark gravy, Broken Head. Each beach
orchestrates a meeting of sand and water,
a certain mood or consistency, according to sandbars,
light, temperature, rock outcrop—and what to call
the way we gauge the feeling of surrounding water,
its pressures, its tastes and density on our faces,
in our thinking and remembering mouths, summing up this place
and the last, this place and the possible next.
The feeling of a wet face in the open air. These
summer memories persist in their fading.
I watch the unpainted, unphotographed scenes,
where two shadows stand in the shallows
hurling a ball back and forth for eternity. Knowing,
somehow, that they are creating the future with this custom.

It’s the kind of aspect that makes you check
every minute or so, thinking that it might have been a mirage.
That it might have ducked off or returned to its postcard.
In the east, winter deadens nothing of Sydney’s glamour.
The harbour is everywhere; distance in the foreground,
over there, but saturating your gaze no less than lack of sleep.
And something about the light these last few days,
ember-red mornings and evenings, penetrating, silvery mid-afternoons.

Scattered, identical bags, thoughtlessly dropped—
perhaps cars become supplements, parked in perfunctory locations,
fissured into oblivion by beelines, deadlines, getaways, routine. Life.

Strange to see such dedicated early morning activity,
such concern and seriousness in the minds of young men,
such mannered tentativeness and melancholy. I suppose
that’s the pain of adolescence, these adult sensibilities
crystallised in the foreign zones of youth. But it’s never a complete
or chronological change. We simply
become different children in a way, who discover deft, often clandestine techniques
for consulting that distant temperament
on matters of importance: like which treat to choose, or
whether to get up to something simply for the sake of it.
And perhaps we are never more adult
than in those dawning days when the contrast is most pronounced.
When the duties faced later still seem an impressive illusion:
avoidable, symbolic, inconsistent apparitions on the horizon,
to which we temporarily but never more believingly adhere.
At least that’s how it seems, walking amid the quiet activity
on the last day before winter break,
in the stunning, horizontal light, the panorama cut with mirrored surfaces,
sharp, dripping breaks in the outlook, nested coves and grand prospects;
such an unlikely atmosphere in which to reminisce, and yet…

Tom Lee is a Sydney based poet who is imminently submitting his doctoral thesis on the prose fiction of the late W. G. Sebald. He lives in Manly and returns often to the farm where he grew up in Central West NSW. His poetry and poetry criticism has featured in Overland Magazine, Southerly Journal, Blackbox Manifold, Steamer, whenpressed.net and The Reader. His poem ‘Plateau’ was commended in the 2008 Judith Wright Poetry Awards. A selection of his creative and critical work is viewable at tomfredlee.wordpress.com.

Papercuts is Australia’s only national poetry education program. Papercuts promotes the living practice of poetry through a series of workshops with contemporary Australian poets. Through Papercuts, students and educators in primary and secondary schools, correctional centres, community organisations, professional associations and universities, undertake workshops to develop their own poems, poetry collections and exhibitions.

Created by The Red Room Company in 2007, Papercuts is now programmed in over 50 schools across Australia. Originally designed for High School Students, the learning kits have since been expanded to cater to primary students from years 1-6. A diverse range of students have so far benefitted from the Papercuts learning experience, from students with special needs to gifted and talented groups. We have also run a project at Sunning Hill School in the Juniperina Juvenile Justice Centre.

Find out more about Papercuts.

Unlocked is an educational program developed and run by The Red Room Company in collaboration with NSW Correctional Centres. The program aims to unlock the potential of inmates through the transformative possibilities of poetry. Australian poets are taken into the centres to run intensive writing workshops, working with the students on every stage of the writing process, from the initial exercises and experimentations, through the editing and rewriting process, to recording, performing and publishing their work in a professionally designed print anthology. You can purchase a Unlocked #1 or #2 to help support the program.

Piloted in Sydney in 2010, the project has now entered its third year. The most recent Unlocked project was held at the Balund-a Project, a residential diversionary program for male and female offenders between 18 and 40. The program has a strong Indigenous focus, which is also a focus for Unlocked for 2012. Indigenous poet Lionel Fogarty led the workshops, and the students responded with great enthusiasm to Lionel’s work and stories. There was a particular interest in Lionel’s use of language, his mixing of English and Bandjalang dialect. Photos from the project are on flickr, and the next Unlocked anthology will be appearing soon.

In October 2012 Red Room Company poets Lionel Fogarty and Nick Bryant-Smith will be traveling to South Coast Correctional Centre to run an intensive, three-day workshop. Through Unlocked, students can return to the community with recognised qualifications, as a part of the study that they have completed inside. In this way, the value of the project is not just in helping students to come to terms with emotions, past experiences or relationships, but to build practical literacy and communication skills, and the confidence to apply them.

Find out more about Unlocked.

Clouds Afternoon Jazz Sprinkles

For Jill Jones

(1) Clouds
Abercrombie Street, Chippendale

Reading your electrical poems in a Northcote bar
in winter was just too much: like trying to drink
beer sailing freely through the air: free of the glass,
sure, but harder than buckshot to catch between
your teeth. I longed for some o’ that Sydney where
July was windy and wet but not cold. I wanted to
perch in that laundromat on Abercrombie Street
just down from the Reasonably Good Café, chew
on an Incredibly All Right Ham Sandwich™, read
William Faulkner’s Light in August (i-in August!
& simply wait for September’s frangipani blooms
to disappear down the Chippendale lanes like odd
socks above Central Station or perhaps (sure, in
desperation, to close my eyes & also disappear.

(2) Afternoon
Fouveaux Street, Surry Hills

I could pretend to live somewhere else, I guess
but all I can think about is how darned clichéd
Sydney must have been in the 1920s,the futurism
of Bondi travel posters aside (oh undergrad hat tip!
I’d already been there, once, maybe. With a girl.
I just wish I could turn to poetry the dismally banal
warehouse districts (c. bottom end of Fouveaux St.
& surrounds, CTRL+ALT+DEL every whipped
palm tree by the Elizabeth St. entrance to Central,
blow up the blackboard menus outside the faux
‘cafes’ ‘adorning’ streets where journos used to
drink away the afternoon, like the one where we
caught up, once, in a previous carnation. Yeah,
everything was chic & Quadrant didn’t even exist.

(3) Jazz
Atlantic Café, Elizabeth Street

A little bird inside my cranium orders me to write
a poem on the subject of the old Atlantic Cafe but
I can’t do it. Who would care? All they ever seemed
to serve was steak and peas, & I never ventured
inside there anyway. Too busy moping, probably.
Why? They removed the soul of Strawberry Hills
just to make houses from its yellow clay years ago
& the pub that shares its name has since stopped
playing bad jazz. Oh yes, blows away the melody
it does, just like a wind chime. Cue ragged Tibetan
prayer flags. The paper carries yet another article
about th’ Australian poetry, written for the over
68s. Cue Trans vision Vamp, baby. ‘I don’t care’.

(4) Sprinkles
Grace Bros, Broadway

I’m reminded of sprinkles, the way they insinuate
loss, or themselves. That’s insider culture! & how
we insulate ourselves from change (unless it’s the
climate at stake—in which case Sydney blows bum
notes all along ‘Broadway’. What’s left? Do I light
another Craven A? Crack a silver bullet? Or maybe
chomp down on the deadly sausages Bert Newton
ate in Fatty Finn? Gawd, I miss Noni Hazelhurst!
Pardon me while I dream of the days when trams
lit up Sydney’d skies with meteor showers (or were
they sparks? Think I might take another space walk,
this time in the direction of Central Station, pop in to
Our Lady of Snows. Free meals, clouds. Afternoons.
Jazz. Wherever you look, cakes & lots of sprinkles.

David Prater was born in Dubbo, NSW, Australia, in 1972. Papertiger media published his first poetry collection, We Will Disappear, in 2007, and Vagabond Press published his chapbook Morgenland in the same year. His poetry has appeared in a wide range of Australian and international journals, and he has performed his work at festivals in Australia, Japan, Bulgaria, Canada, the United States, the Netherlands and Macedonia. He was the Managing Editor of Cordite Poetry Review from 2001 to 2012. He has also undertaken two writers’ residencies in Seoul, Republic of Korea, and has worked extensively as a teacher, editor and researcher. He currently lives in Stockholm, Sweden.

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.