Tag Archives: Cafe Poets

Guided by Cafe Poets #3 – Jessica Raschke & Gemma White

And the Cafe Poet features keep coming…

Jessica Raschke and Gemma White are both part of the first crop of Cafe Poets. Jessica is currently Poet-in-Residence at Cafe Tulk in Melbourne and Gemma is undertaking her residency at Zappa’s Cafe in South Melbourne.


drama sections          (by Jessica Raschke)

in the broken sections of the drama
lie some jealous little shards
they move themselves as troopers
into veins and dotted red cells
they possess small histories
that are laid down for the shattering
and those broken sections:

they forget their wholes
they relish in their self-destruction

(it was once called self-murder)


not shame not brokenness
only the surfacing of some deepness
a damned public viewing
of a circle of the broken
they are sections
that are inlaid
they are
set in fleshy faces
they are
suddenly relieved
in the broken sections of the drama



About Jessica:

Jessica Raschke is a writer and visual artist with a background in creative, poetic and non-fiction writing. Her visual artwork combines textual and multimedia forms and has been exhibited at Kings ARI, 69 Smith Street Gallery, Centre for Contemporary Photography, fauxPho, Gabriel Gallery and Hunt Club Gallery. Her writing has appeared in Overland, The Big Issue, Metro, Australian Screen Education, Australian Bookseller + Publisher and InPress. Her first poetry collection, Luscious Glass Cage (Ginninderra Press), was published in 2008 (visit www.ginninderrapress.com.au). She is currently the Café Poet in Residence at Mr Tulk Café at the State Library of Victoria. Raschke completed a PhD into the history of multicultural literature and the culture of whiteness in commercial publishing in Australia in 2004. Since 2001 she has taught across a range of disciplines, including publishing and communications, journalism, media studies, creative and non-fiction writing, and cultural studies.





The Joggers and the Immaculate Lands.          (by Gemma White)

In this postcode, the lands are immaculate.
Even the leaves of the trees gleam like
a cleaning product commercial at the
joggers in the park below. Their sunglasses
reflect blue skies, kids in prams, dogs.
I know something they don’t know:
running is not fun. And it will not stop
you from getting old. I’d rather just not run.
They run away from age, from wrinkles, from
weight gain, in long yet futile strides.
They’re out there every day, at all times.
Even when it’s raining, they keep on running.
I guess old age keeps chasing; is neither tamed
by time nor change in weather, and so,
on they must run. Then one day, whilst
cornered in my private apartment of nothing,
looking out over the stream of joggers,
I suddenly get the urge to do something drastic.
I’m feeling trapped. I’m feeling static. I
have to move. Do something. Go somewhere.
Go out. I find myself on the carpet, clad in
clinging black tracksuit, feet shod in white lace-up
trainers, stretching a shoulder, an arm, a quadricep.
I enter the green square like a robber entering a
jewellery store. I look around. No one takes any
notice of another track-suited fiend on the path
to Health and Fitness. I start jogging, slowly at
first, a tad self-consciously. Then I go faster. My
legs enjoy it. They like being used, stretched to
their full capacity. I run like I am running from
something. I run from life. I run like I am free.
I have become. One of them.



About Gemma:

I began writing poetry a couple of years ago, while mooching around Edinburgh, pretending to be part of some Beat-style avant-garde poetry movement (purely made up by myself and a few fellow young writers). What these students turned Serious Young Poets taught me has been invaluable. I realised that poetry can be humorous, chaotic, drunken, glorious, and most importantly, relevant to real life. I returned to Melbourne feeling inspired, and set up a local poetry publication for new writers: http://velveteenzine.wordpress.com/

Recently I have done a few readings of my work on SYN 90.7 FM’s arts radio show, Arts Mitten, which has been great fun. I’m hoping that my café poet residency at Zappa’s Café in South Melbourne will force me to schedule in some more weekly writing time, and that writing in a public space may bring forth some interesting and varied subject matter.


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Guided by Cafe Poets #2 – Anne Collins & Jessica Cook

This Guided by Poets thread, is the second in the Cafe Poets features. All over Australia, poets are bunkering down in cafes thanks to The Australian Poetry Centre and believe me there are some really exciting projects emerging. If you are on Facebook you can keep up to date with all things Cafe Poets here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cafe-Poets/68995496578

I hope to promote each poet and their residency over the coming months. So it is my pleasure to introduce to you, two more of the Cafe Poets – Anne Collins and Jess Cook (cooknkitch).



Heatwave                (by Anne Collins)    
Adelaide, March 2008.

The house waits for the dawn easterly
to billow its curtains cool.
A single sheet feels too hot,
there’s nothing to breathe,
after a sleepless night
my brain befuddles to zero,
my feet and hands swell tight.
Maroon, mineral-smelling blood
gushes wasted from my womb.

Thick and dry as sandpaper
heat burdens every move
one foot in front of the other
almost impossible. My arm reaches over,
to put a cup down on the bench, I pause, stare blank
into the sandpaper haze,
its molecules scratch my face.
The closed-up house swells tight.
I escape into air-conditioned galleries, ponder art,
then sweat at the bus-stop in a strip of shade.
A crisp, high-heeled wedding party, feathered and buffed
perfumes the footpath.
The crowded bus full of tolerance faces the sun, 
moves and stops, jerks –
a woman struggles with her baby, refuses a seat,
a Bluetooth man from Sudan shrugs
and smiles his words into the gritty air.

In the park I listen to writers, ideas and poetry
drift across the swelter
to those fanning metaphors in the shade.
In the middle of the afternoon I’m lost
in the glare of an empty street
squat stone houses frown at parched gardens.
I try to think back to where
my friend’s house sits waiting dark and cool,
fan swirling. I try so hard to think: rehearse
first right, second left – but in reverse
my sense of direction gets stuck.

The heat leaves me heavy-lidded on the couch,
presses on my head as I read
until I surrender to cushions.
Living-room conversation fades as if
someone pressed the volume button.
Dreams come rushing onto the stage.
Did I come all this way to sleep?
The evening temperature is exotic under restaurant palms,
I sip gin and tonic, friends talk about death,
joke that intelligent people are nocturnal.
My shimmer-shirt clings pink,
my legs peel from retro-vinyl chairs.
In the lantern-lit night-park I travel the world in music,
crowds mingle, heat-drugged. I walk home satisfied,
dust in my hair and throat. 

In the middle of the night on the deck
I fix my eyes beyond the hills,
onto a plain of crystal lights
stretched across the mouth of the gulf.
I stop myself from saying it’s hot.



About Anne:

I write poetry, essays, reviews and stories. My  work is published in literary magazines in Australia, the USA and New Zealand.  My two books are The Season of Chance (Walleah Press, 2005) and Seasoned with Honey (Walleah Press, 2008) a four-poet anthology by Lyn Reeves, Mary Jenkins, Anne Collins and Gina Mercer.
I have completed my first week as Poet-in -Residence at Chado The Way of Tea in Hobart. Chado is run by Varuni Kulaskera and Brian Ritchie. It is a beautiful tea house with a performance/exhibition space. While there I’ll be working on my verse novella that has a water theme and exploring the world of tea. During the six-month residency I’m also hoping to work with visual artists and musicians. The first of these collaborations will happen with Brian Ritchie who is a master of the Japanese Shakuhachi flute. People coming into the tea-house will be greeted by the calming sounds of the flute and me reading poetry. Visual artist Marianne Stafford will be working with me to produce some paintings in response to my novella. These will be exhibited at the end of the residency to coincide with a reading from my novella. Varuni and I will also be planning other cross-arts events that will take place during the next six months. 


Excerpt from Project ALICE       (by Jess Cook)


We had shepherds
Then we built fences.

Universals in universes
In unison
while these Gates
These uninvited guests of timely fleshed and textured pastures
Raided shelters and pelted shards of difference to build borders

We guided will
and then guarded against
In dense defence
Fixated tense with molten larvae for armour
Lances standing fortress in a long alarming point of arrest
An inked signature dress
Blotted with besotted blood denches
bleeding gums in bleaching surface
Lines missing crevasse
Stripped Fabric in multiple sizes
Biased stretched with stress and bottle shocked
Shell cracked UN matched labels
wining and dining
With porcupine china
Porcelain spines rattle in shop windows
saving blinks in blanks of purpose
the distortions of being earnest

Falling into chasms where nothing is everything
The levels are flooding
Twin sets are barricading
The macro and micro exchanging
To engage with jungle obstacles
Kaleidoscopic spectacles
Un expected tests of space and time
Chases of tails that wag behind
The turnstiles effects of teatime
The topsy-turvy world
House arrested as blue-black bows bruise the roof tiles
Silken hair falls for straw coloured Stairs
descending to ascend
To a new found land of here.
We’re here.

Innuendo spins a gallery of fun house mirrors
Sprinkling impressions of self portraits
21st century pirates supply restrictive forces
Too many voices muffled with corsets

Ahh ahhhh ahhh ah ahhhhh ahhhh ahhhhhhh (paper bag)

The taught elastic band snaps
As lungs expand
Thoughts expand
To grasp
clarity appears from the invisible
Projections of Alice
Innuendo flashes
Till it’s running so fast it stands still to sight
A neon light tied like a twists of hyper ti died balloons
Holding hands stretched out
Swaying as prayer flags
Looming our existence
Pouring out


There are Infinite possibilities
Rolling with the ever expanding galaxy
Abundance beyond polarity
Beyond strict lines of guide
We find Pink queens in rivers of poles dancing
Flexing the unsigned inking in
parlours tattooed with vanity
Glistening in a fisting of self
Shark Soup
Couped up escorts who pawn
For bait
Bit my tongue chewing bubblegum
The sum of us hung like candy necklaces
Blowing fist of neon in the future no age shall come between us
No strand of fear demeans us
The fuss of fitting extracted with the canines
Leaving wisdoms intact as cattle grates retract
Along with the gates
Who kept the molars in silence
Back road rodents unable to bite in the daylight
Now pouring out of the tea pot
Pissing in the wind
Kissing no ones ring
Blings blinding like arteries get binding
With The deep fried mars bars
Gluttonous gadgets that metabolise
Riff rafs breaking kit kats
Drilling this that’s like
Left foot red left hand red
On twister mats the dummy spats
incisors insisting fabric scissors are damaging
The weave implanted in our knowing
How did we get assembled in lines of silence?
piled up in tips of casts plastered in ahhhhh (opens like at dentist)
whilst men on roof tops have us looking up
chat rooms chatter  (teeth chatter) cold call hook ups
glowing white in ebony wormholes
transportation to motherboards
who hoard our exports to the cyber world
a generation lost in cyber space
looking for love gone mad
the snapping of the elastic band
pulling parachutes for fluttering hearts
pumping adrenaline in all the right places
callous driven out with derby day races
we leapt through the glass leaving faith
without mask.
So many tasks
Only belief remained without question
It leaped out of frost-glazed windows
to frolic with the flock
on Mountains of crevasses
fleshed revellers of interdependence
non-linear perspectives

The lack of point is for
Not against
It becomes experience instead of persistence

So get amongst it
Say ahhhh and charge

Let questions guide you beyond fences

Realise the potential of creation
Ongoing combinations of directions
Interceptions perceptions and more more questions

But knowing


This cuckoo flew
Who grew to new
to know
knowing now
its now.
I’m here.




About Jess:

Jess Cook (cooknkitch) is Cafe Poet at Sydney’s Fair Trade Cafe. She is Director of Token Imagination and a performance poet. Token Imagination is an event managment and promotion company for word/performance art, that includes the monthly event, TOKEN WORD.As a resident artist of The Frequency Lab, she has released an album of poetry/electronic music titled Out of Town on a Horse Called Thursday.

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Guided by (Cafe) Poets – Josephine Rowe, Amelia Walker & Lara Taylor

Poets and cafes have always been a happy match and currently there are a number of poets undertaking residencies in cafes Australia wide, thanks to an initiative of the Australian Poetry Centre. And there are some exciting projects happening as a result.

Over the next few months I will be featuring many of the ‘Cafe Poets’ in the Guided by Poets section of the blog. So it is with great pleasure I present the first three poets in this series: Josephine Rowe (Melbourne), Amelia Walker (Adelaide) and Lara Taylor (Sydney).



Train to South Australia

On a train to South Australia    my face turned to the window    thistles by the rail-line    the land mostly flat and gold    black in the places where there was once water    white cows and battalions of gums as windbreaks    the dusty blue-white sky spread like an old eggshell bedsheet   the moon still out though it’s nearing midday    and I feel I might  be out there somewhere    not draped here my skin sticking to the cracked leather lounge    a warm glass of beer on the kidney-shaped table in front of me    I call my own name very softly    but it’s you that I see    shielding your eyes half-heartedly from the dust    the dead grass sweeping away and cracking beneath your unpolished shoes    for hundreds of ks you’ve kept up    stepping easily over tangled wire fences    ruined farming equipment    yes it’s you that I see    and I want to call out    I want to knock against the double-paned glass    beat my hands against it and shout    Hey    till the glossy crows are startled away and you look up    your pale round face sleepy-smiling    you’re looking up and gently    and I want to strike the window glass and yell out    Hey    but all you hear is wheels and whistles    scotch-thistles puffing Father Christmases across the rail line    all you hear is the dry cracking of the grass    the flit and drone of insects    though I’ve pressed my mouth right close to the frame and screamed for all I’m worth    all that comes out is a sigh    and it sounds like dry grass cracking    it sounds like the sleeve of your jacket    brushing the fabric of your trouser-thigh    as you marry your stride to the landscape    leave me wanting for you    with this dust in my chest and no breath    just my name    traced in fog    on the glass.

(from the book Asynchrony)




Josephine Rowe:

Over the past twelve months I’ve been working on my second collection of short fiction, so I haven’t written much in the way of poetry. I saw the Café Poet Program as a perfect opportunity to switch back into a poetic headspace and rekindle my love of the line break. I’ve just confirmed my residency at Victorian Railway Workshops Art & Antiques – it’s a mixed business run out of an old light-rail station in Albert Park, so I’m essentially writing amongst all of this beautiful old railway paraphernalia. It would be an amazing place to have a reading.

I’d have to say I’m fairly nostalgic for a twenty-four year old. Perhaps nostalgic isn’t exactly the right word in this case, as we’re talking about an era that I didn’t belong to, but I do have a strong interest in pretty much anything from the Victorian era to post WWII. That interest has often been reflected in my subject matter. I used to write a lot about wartime Melbourne in particular; the brown-outs and the ration books and the white feathers all fascinated me.

It will be interesting to see how working from VRW influences my writing. My own apartment is like some kind of 1920s slum-deco time warp, where television is non-existent and my laptop is a complete anachronism. But there are more distractions there, and the coffee isn’t quite as good.



City, Lover, Self
Goodbye Poem for Adelaide, December 2004

I am listening to you breathe,
to the rhythm of your being,
the rush of engines through your dark streets,
your veins, your arteries,
those whispered capillaries of suburbia
perfusing backyards, bedrooms
-the soft tissue organs of your strange scarred body,
city, lover, self.
My feet are intimate with your paths,
every shop glass shines with the ghost of some moment:
things that have been, or could have been,
people I knew, and never really knew,
people I have been, people I could have been…
This comfortable haunting gets loud at times
in your arms it is too easy to rest
eyes shut, warmed by familiarity…
city, lover, self.
I am leaving. Not forever,
for a while.
While I am gone, you will continue
rising and falling with each quiet breath,
your hidden heart will beat, not miss me,
you will dance, will sleep with strangers,
will grow and die and grow and die and die and grow
and so will I.
Tonight, though, we sleep safely one last time,
city, lover, self.

(from the book ‘Just Your Everyday Apocalypse’)




Amelia Walker

Amelia began writing poetry and performing at venues around Adelaide when she was sixteen. Since then she has performed at festivals around Australia and overseas for the 2008 World Poetry Festival. Her second collection of poetry, ‘Just Your Everyday Apocalypse’, was recently launched by ABC Radio’s Mike Ladd and is available for purchase from www.freewebs.com/ameliawalker or by emailing mealzislost@yahoo.com
As a Cafe Poet at Higher Ground in Adelaide, Amelia is spending her writing time working on poems for her Honours thesis artefact. She is studying Creative Writing at UniSA. She also recently organised a full-costume wrestling-themed poetry debate and monster open mike to celebrate Love Poetry Hate Racism 2009 & to launch the Love Poetry Hate Racism global poetry anthology. Free copies of the anthology can be downloaded from http://www.datafilehost.com/download-a8a864f6.html Future plans involve more gigs and workshops.



How to Save the Planet

There’s a mist that is rolling through the thunder
There’s a morning view just waiting to be found
There’s an ocean that is full of bloody currents!
And there is Stillness in a Deep and Wordless sound

There’s a Caterpillar climbing up a strong and silken Thread
And a waterbird just goes his merry way
And there’s a web complete with Droplets that have come into the Light
And there is me and there is you and we are Learning how to play

And I see beyond the Rotten on this Still and Seamless morn
And I listen to the footsteps of mankind
And it feels a little tricky, but we’re all in the same ditty
As we open up our eyes to this, we open up our minds

There’s a hole beyond the Cobweb, I can see it
I can hear it in the sound of morning dew …
And the Busy-ness is leaving as the Wordless takes its Place
And I find a moments Peace which I am sharing Now with You

Cafe Poet Program ‘09
An initiative of the Australian Poetry Centre and supported by the Mortdale Grind Cafe, Sydney, NSW




Lara Taylor:

Lara won her first poetry comp at age 9 with a poem entitled ‘My Horrible Brother’. Her style hasn’t changed much since then; she enjoys a simple childlike use of words to explore complex human themes. In 2006 she won The Literary Prize for a performance at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta for her poem ‘I am looking at the Masses’, an exploration into human pain and the search for meaning. Recent titles include ‘The Flippy Floppy Bunny Rabbit’, ‘The Very Sad Poem’, a comical piece about her desire to have a more elegant vocabulary and ‘From Hiam to Lebanon and Back’.

The Mortdale Grind is a stylish busy cafe in Mortdale, Sydney. Decorated by various awards, saleable artwork and comical cartoons, it serves coffee to a wide variety of individuals from the local area. The ‘Poem of the Week’ is our first project and plans are to create a booklet entitled ‘The Coffee Shop Collection’ later during the residency.


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