Tag Archives: QLD Writers Week

SpeedPoets Call-Back-Poet #7: Jo Brooks

I am now officially counting down to next Sunday’s (November 4) SpeedPoets Open Mic Championships. It’s been another incredible year and I have no doubt, the 8 poets who were ‘called back’ will be breathing their finest into the mic when there name is called. So let me introduce you to another one of these poets, Jo Brooks.

If we are to mark the passing of
This Precious Life
Do not invoke
a minute’s silence
That time would turn
hearts into clocks,
beats, breaths, debts, receipts
But I cannot commemorate
in peace and sterile quiet
Though some may seek comfort
in the circumference
Some may find control
in measured emotion but
it is not commensurate
with the chaos and commotion
of those last unholy moments
belief, doubt, depth, reprieve
and these silent seconds
are no communion
For I know
This one did not go quietly


Jo Brooks doesn’t like to talk about herself in the third person. If you’d like to hear her fumble through a first-person introduction, head to http://speedpoets.com/2012/03/17/march-call-back-poet-jo-brooks/


2012 SpeedPoets Open Mic Championships

Date: Sunday November 4
Location: Brew (Lower Burnett Lane, Brisbane City)
Time: 2:30pm – 5pm
Entry: Gold Coin Donation
More details at www.speedpoets.com


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SpeedPoets Call-Back-Poet #6: Cameron Logan

Known to some as ‘The Maximalist’, Cameron Logan has been delivering performances that combine science, surrealism and a razor wit on stages from Bellingen to Brisbane. He has poured his wordy concoctions into the ears of SpeedPoets’ audiences for several years now, and will be bound to deliver a set of Shakespearean proportions when he hits the stage in November as part of the 2012 SpeedPoets Open Mic Championships.

Mental Health Warning

Mental health warning: Discontent is bad for you.
Discontent will fuck you up like syphilis.
Reality check bounces to the forlorn beat
of a broken man
and I, can
only plead indifference.
Bled out, and blinkered
from trivial things, like
and sudden onset protest voting syndrome.
Lazy nights of high-brow banter, G and T and fair-weather philanthropy will not. Save. Anyone.
Mental health warning: National calamity may cause everyone to become an expert on everything.
If you can’t wax lyrical about climate change and public assets then what… Good… Are you
To listen… to the bickering of colleagues and wonder if you could EVER stop caring,
COULD EVER ATTAIN a sense of peace that transcends anthropological footnotes, that,
breaks free from restraints man-made and theocentric.
A severance.
From killjoy Nietzsche and dime-store nihilism,
wrathful God and vengeful Dawkins,
And I
Can’t even consider prayer.
Medicate yourself with culture,
And break even with those around you.
Swing, gently swing and roll with the clear night sky
that beats out the benevolent rhythm of joy and, shallow contentment,
Faster now, FASTER,
CLIMAXING guitars and jazzy violins as the night wears on with youthful screams of
atonal ecstasy and gay abandon.
For those… who find one another. No more
No less
To feel the arsenic kiss of outrageous fortune as she envelops you in a cloud of delicious discontent,
Salute the setting sun!
Salute the drunken clergy!
Salute the revelers, the entourage, the sacred prostitutes who ply their wares behind stained glass to the rhythmof Gershwin’s Rhapsody.
Look upon creation.
And see.
That it’s mostly good.


Cameron is a hybrid of farm labourer and perpetual arts degree monkey. He enjoys slam poetry, page poetry and most garden varieties of spoken word. He likes long walks across arctic tundra and shouting at people in cafes. In his spare time he tries to think of the least original thought in the world.


2012 SpeedPoets Open Mic Championships

Date: Sunday November 4
Location: Brew (Lower Burnett Lane, Brisbane City)
Time: 2:30pm – 5pm
Entry: Gold Coin Donation
More details at www.speedpoets.com


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SpeedPoets Call-Back-Poet #5: Andrew Phillips

It’s been such a massive couple of days… first up, I want to thank everyone who was there to celebrate the launch of The First 30 and other poems on Sunday. I was overwhelmed by the turn out and the love in the room was especially big. Reading those poems to the backdrop of babies chattering and kids playing was such a thrill. I will be posting Nathan Shepherdson’s launch speech and some photos later in the week, so will share a few more of my thoughts on the event then. Right now, I want to share some words from SpeedPoets Call-Back-Poet #5, Andrew Phillips. Andrew is the co-author (with Tiggy Johnson) of That Zero Year, a collection I was privileged to write a blurb for. This is how I summed it up:

From the sudden weight of Thirteen weeks to the biting complaints of Fishing, That zero year screams with joy. These poems form a dialogue of love and loss; unpicking stitches in the family weave to welcome us to the bedside table of these most private moments. Here, we witness breath-taking devastation – the missing knee in the chest, the remembered rub of a belly – and wide-eyed wonder – a smile wriggled through to the toes. That zero year is an unflinching celebration of breath and blood. Phillips and Johnson know what it is to be alive and we are richer for it.

It was wonderful to have Andrew read at the launch of The First 30 on Sunday, so to feature his words here, is again, a  real pleasure.

moment, for a currawong

too heavy for air
between cathedral roots
of a black booyong
wing bent back
it floats in the decomposing leaves

its expression; noble
as the way it stood
in suit jacket
yellow eye
to the forest workers
who will massage
 everything back to soil


Andrew Phillips grew up surfing, rock climbing, scrambling through rainforest in South East Queensland and never ever read poetry.  ‘It must be some kind of bug bite on a steep traverse through a council library.’ In 2012 he performed at the Qld Poetry Festival and launched ‘That zero year‘.


2012 SpeedPoets Open Mic Championships

Date: Sunday November 4
Location: Brew (Lower Burnett Lane, Brisbane City)
Time: 2:30pm – 5pm
Entry: Gold Coin Donation
More details at www.speedpoets.com


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SpeedPoets Call-Back-Poet #4: Nicola Scholes

It’s Friday night, time to chase the light, so before I drift off into the blustery Brisbane night, here’s the 4th poet in the SpeedPoets Call-Back series, author of Dear Rose, Nicola Scholes. Nicola has been a regular SpeedPoets contributor now for many years, so it is an absolute pleasure to be sharing her words.

Aniseed Balls (I Wish to Resign…)

I wish to resign from my position of slavery and subservience

I wish to resign from the 24-hour factory turnaround cogs in the brain

I wish to resign from hungry stomachs starved spirits drained drudgery

I wish to resign from a partitioned life, computers printers faxes photocopiers are not made out of grass, and it’s no fun running round them

I wish to resign from this machine angst: the toner has run out, it’s as thin as my blood, the printer is out of paper, it’s as empty as my head aches need paracetamol the air is conditional, the stapler has cracked its last

Do not worry about me, I will go like Bartleby to my grave besides I’ve still got a filing system at home, I’m going to clip my winged articles

Goodbye to the paper moon and the cardboard stars I have cut you out for too long

Don’t ask me to flex my muscles under your corporate clock

I’m giving you my notice now—21 days I’ll expect some fuss, a morning tea, don’t disappoint your clients

It’s no good paying me when you spend it too

Don’t try to intimidate me with your red-necked fluffed up self-importance

Don’t cock-a-doodle-do down my neck: you’re too late, at the end of the day it’s just one of those things

I won’t lose sleep, run up and down steps for you, I won’t speed on the highway for you, miss my breakfast for you, this is the ugliness we’ve created lethargic prisoners numbed by re-runs, smiles, words, thoughts, movements, (how many times have I scaled this carpet?), burning off steam on the wheel of ambition, counting the dollars, editing our emotions, ticking off our lives, saving our energies for some day—is the weekend really as fantastic as we hope it will be every Friday afternoon, running out of the offices, satchels flying…

Somewhere—we know—the faxes are left on.  Our fates are being printed out in a perfect typograph, and all the yellow rejects will fill the bins on Monday.


Nicola Scholes is the author of Dear Rose, which won the 2009 “Dreams Ain’t Broken” Small Change Press Chapbook Competition. Nicola’s poems have also been published in various anthologies, books, magazines, and journals, including The Australian Library Journal, The Broadkill Review (USA), Cordite Poetry Review, Finger, Forge (USA/UK), Hecate, Hibiscus and Ti-Tree: Women in Queensland (Hecate Press, 2009), holland1945, Page Seventeen, Poems in Perspex: Max Harris Poetry Award 2007 (Lythrum Press, 2008), Social Alternatives, Stylus Poetry Journal, and Verity La. Nicola performed at Queensland Poetry Festival in 2011, 2009, and 2008, and has also been an actor in Brisbane community theatre. She has published two articles on Beat poet Allen Ginsberg as a part of her current PhD research: “Adapting Kali: Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Stotras to Kali Destroyer of Illusions” in U.S. Studies Online, and “The Difficulty of Reading Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish Suspiciously” in M/C Journal.


2012 SpeedPoets Open Mic Championships

Date: Sunday November 4
Location: Brew (Lower Burnett Lane, Brisbane City)
Time: 2:30pm – 5pm
Entry: Gold Coin Donation
More details at www.speedpoets.com


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SpeedPoets Call-Back-Poet #3: Carmen Leigh Keates

Just back from a great new Poetry Open Mic gig at Little Prince Espresso and feeling very lucky to live in this city. For those keen to fill their ears with words, the next gig there is scheduled for Thursday November 15.

And of course there is SpeedPoets on Sunday November 4. One of the many features at the gig will be Carmen Leigh Keates. Carmen has had a big year, publishing her first collection, One Broken Knife as part of Brisbane New Voices III, featuring at Riverbend Books and QLD Poetry Festival and being the Call Back Poet at the April SpeedPoets gig. She is currently writing a series of poems about Russian Filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, so I thought I would share one of these works:

Flocks of Eider
(Watching Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev.)

When it snows
in the cathedral the snow is
feathers. Some say
it is an embarrassing oversight
while others think this is
poplar fluff floating by to
subtly mark a change in season.

Maybe it is flocks of eider
gliding overhead where
the frescos used to be.

Or ectoplasm streaming
like bandages in the wake
of the ghost of Theophanes.

Perhaps the film is actually
on the sea bed and the sky
is the water’s surface refracting
all Russianness into a kind of
woven papyrus of light
from which our Kirill reads
in his mysterious hood

and from his mouth the bubbles
need no translation for us to recognise

incapacitating self-suspicion.

(for those of you keen to check out the film, you can watch it free online here)


Carmen Leigh Keates was born in Brisbane. Her verse novella, Second-Hand Attack Dog, was commended in the 2011 Alec Bolton Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript, and her poem ‘One Broken Knife‘ was commended in the 2010 Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize. Carmen is undertaking her PhD candidature at the University of Queensland, for which she is writing poetry about the films of Andrei Tarkovsky.


2012 SpeedPoets Open Mic Championships

Date: Sunday November 4
Location: Brew (Lower Burnett Lane, Brisbane City)
Time: 2:30pm – 5pm
Entry: Gold Coin Donation
More details at www.speedpoets.com


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SpeedPoets Call-Back-Poet #2: Chloe Callistemon

Tonight it is my pleasure to introduce, Chloë Callistemon.  Chloë was ‘Called-Back’ in August by the 2012 Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence, a.rawlings after she delivered an assured reading of her poem, Monstera. She has been a SpeedPoets regular for the past couple of years, so it will be good to hear her stretch out and perform a set at the November gig on. Here’s a burst of Chloë’s words to make your night sing.


a child
is built with a house
as red earth is levelled
heart beats
with the squeeze
of earth pressed into bricks
against concrete-hardened
calloused hands
as walls rise to rooms
until spring breaks
in a swarm of fireflies
as the house pauses
to watch a comet

into the world
into the bones of a house
to the sound
of mattocks on stone
in sawdust
filling the cracks
up slate steps
to blinding sky
into wet concrete
each foot and hand and knee
pressing this earth
a home


Chloë Callistemon can be found more often behind a camera than a mic but occasionally puts away her lenses and pulls words instead. Her writing can be found in odd corners and folds and she is quite chuffed to be amongst some wonderful poets part of a project genuinely trying to do something — Harry Owen’s upcoming anthology For Rhino in a Shrinking World. Follow the project or help at: http://rhinoanthology.wordpress.com/


2012 SpeedPoets Open Mic Championships

Date: Sunday November 4
Location: Brew (Lower Burnett Lane, Brisbane City)
Time: 2:30pm – 5pm
Entry: Gold Coin Donation
More details at www.speedpoets.com



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SpeedPoets Call-Back-Poet #1: Marisa Allen

Last week was QLD Writers Week, and though it has come and gone, I am still celebrating! Throughout this week, I plan to showcase some of the poets who will take the stage as part of the SpeedPoets Open Mic Championships on Sunday November 4 at Brew (Lower Burnett Lane, Brisbane City, 2:30pm – 5pm). Each of these poets was ‘called back’ to perform again at the end of an event as a result of their startling performance. So let’s kick things off by showcasing the work of Marisa Allen (aka Bremen Town Musician).

if i was a Buddhist i would tell you there is no shame in sorrow

retangle the light
i dig ditches into your confused pulse, become dust in the red eye of a flare.
the wayward chase of a burning blaze will deny pathway’s illuminated by a skittish dawn. pull down (from the sky, home of gods and harpies) the great thunderous hammer, with which we drove oak nail’s fashioned from sticks into fence post’s for a corpses tunnel.
the wreckage of a pulsar is scattered points.

sliver of heart muscles molten centre.
shaking – shivering – strobing in slipvision
wrung from the flesh heated oil from fine cuts of fat delay it’s thumping echo make a marshland of thickened solar ash, disturbed by solar wind
scattering the stuttered debris after the blast, splintered fragile honeybones decaying in a workman’s midday slump.
forces that made you leap towards brilliantine air stopped the beat forever. we stayed at this end place. adrift in time. full to the brim of sorrows. glistening. exposed. without a place to rest.


Marisa is a multi disciplinary artist working in words, sound and visuals who has performed nationally and abroad. Her sublime and visually illustrative poetry performances have appeared at the 2007 , 2009 and 2011 Queensland Poetry Festival and the 2011 Brisbane Festival Under the Radar, combining experimental sound works with spoken word. She was a Woodford ‘Wordfood Slam’ finalist (‘07/08) and has also performed at the Village Festival in Yeppoon QLD (’08) and the Riverbend Poetry Series readings (’10) in Brisbane.

Her chapbook ‘Fire in the Head selected works 1995 – 2006’ is published through Outsiders press, edited by David ‘Ghostboy’ Stavanger. Published in Going Down Swinging, Cottonmouth, Speedpoets Zine and Outsiders.

Along with poetry she has collaborated in live spoken word and recordings with violin for Shane Koyczan (QPF ‘07). Marisa is the front woman for the Qmusic award nominated avant folk, experimental blues act Bremen Town Musician as violinist, vocalist and songwriter and the band performed at QPF 2009 & 2012. She has toured throughout the United States as violinist to American/ Icelandic country folk act The Foghorns (’07) and has performed solo at SpeedPoets, Outsiders and various venues throughout Queensland since 2005.


2012 SpeedPoets Open Mic Championships

Date: Sunday November 4
Location: Brew (Lower Burnett Lane, Brisbane City)
Time: 2:30pm – 5pm
Entry: Gold Coin Donation
More details at www.speedpoets.com

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QLD Writers Week Feature #7: Nathan Shepherdson

It’s the final day of QLD Writers Week 2011 and what a great week it has been. We have explored the big sky country of Western QLD, felt the pull of the Brisbane River, looked into the dark corners of Fortitude Valley and tasted the salt of the Pacific as it hits the headland at Byfield National Park. And finally, we walk through the landscape of Nathan Shepherdson’s mind and into the majestic Glasshouse Mountains.

Words instead of geography

Am I the wrong poet on the right bus? I don’t consider myself a poet of place. Even as a general question it’s a difficult one to answer? An Italian friend/poet/translator Massimiliano Mandorlo recently asked me to send him books by Queensland poets. In the end I took the easy way out and sent books published in Queensland by poets living in Queensland at the time of publication. Some of the poets still lived here, some didn’t. Others lived here, but were not born here, and still had very strong connections elsewhere. Only a couple were born here and still lived here.

In Italy dialect is solidly built into the language, so regional traits can be very distinctive. Matt Hetherington tells me he can pick a Queensland poem because it often mentions mangroves. I’d never thought about this myself, but did find one example in my own work:

this mangrove seed
is a four page book
full of waxy definitions
of its own green

This verse comes from my Marian Drew piece. It’s not emblematic usage more botanical metaphor. (I’d been looking at a seed while watching my son swim at Mooloolaba). Tom Shapcott still associates and is widely associated with Queensland. His most recent book is called Marcoola. His head is an archive of facts and experiences relating to Queensland. He hasn’t lived here for over 30 years, but is one of this state’s best poets.

So the question of place in my work does not have a simple answer. I am a poet living in Queensland, not a Queensland poet. (This question of course was asked by Graham Nunn who to my mind is a Queensland poet living in Queensland). I’m just as likely to be wandering around in a language or a landscape. I live at the Glasshouse Mountains. A remarkable place. Remarkable because of what they are and what they represent. If there is a place for them in my work, it’s to remind me of my insignificance. I accept that I am dust with a pulse and a temporary passport. It’s easier to witness something if you’re not there. We invent perception to invent ourselves.

Taking stock as at 9.08pm on 6th October 2011, the sum total of lines in my work describing the mountains is four. The lines are from i had a dream i was talking to Lawrie Daws on the phone:

volcanic cathedrals
encircled by the fossils of worshippers yet to be found
gargantuan punctuation
marked out in a sentence that reads the curve of the earth

This signals a type of failing in my creative process. The lines do not name the mountains. They have wonderful names – Beerwah, Ngungun, Coonowrin, Tibrogargan among others. Considering them as words instead of geography, they come from a different language, and my culture was an invading one from a different hemisphere. Now eight years after writing the poem I see a small syllabic crossover between Tibrogargan and gargantuan. The second starts where the first ends. This simple statement could apply to cultures, languages, time, individuals, or breathing. Maybe that’s where I am. Breathing too is a constant and enjoyable presence in my life, but I don’t necessarily need to describe it on a regular basis. The landscape I live in describes itself very well without my intervention. I’m pleased to be part of what I don’t belong to.

The four lines come from a long poem focussing on the painter Lawrence Daws. Perhaps in a splintered way I was supplanting my descriptive inabilities into his success? Daws has incorporated the Glasshouse Mountains into his work with profound skill and intelligence for over 30 years. However Daws acknowledges that where you are is also a metaphysical point of departure. Talking about his 1978 work View of the Himalayas from the Glasshouse Mountains, he says “This is my spot, from here I can look out and see the whole world, you know. That’s why I did (this) painting. This is a place where I can feel free to move in any direction, and react in any particular way. ….I like to be able to ramble mentally”.

In one way my poem was an attempt to understand the process of painting, but I couldn’t avoid what Daws painted. It’s not uncommon to record what something looks like, but it is uncommon to capture what it is. To work out what something is (in this case a landscape) you have to dismiss yourself in the presence of something that is virtually eternal. Daws understands the temporal nature of creativity and the thoughts required for its production. He had to become the chair he was sitting on in order to get the best view.

Lawrence Daws and Geoffrey Dutton were very close friends. Geoffrey Dutton also lived at the Glasshouse Mountains in his later years, near the base of Coonowrin. Here are the opening lines of a poem he wrote about that mountain:

Magma that froze
In the volcano’s throat . . .
Even geology
Turns into poetry.

Dutton moved here in October 1991. My wife and I also moved here in 1991. Unfortunately I never met Dutton. In his autobiography Dutton states simply “Working here is working in paradise”. Dutton obviously had a more straightforward relationship to this landscape than I do, as his beautiful sequence Moving to the Glasshouse Mountains attests. Perhaps either with brush or word you need to remove yourself from the landscape before there is any hope you will find (or attempt to find) yourself in it?

Twenty years later I’m still here. In geological time this is only a moment. In that moment I am still accompanied by my wife and now also accompanied by two children, four books and a dog. Inside my work-day train I am delivered to Brisbane by stainless steel envelope. I see a back-view of Tibrogargan from my house, and from the train look directly into its mythological face. The sky has it under surveillance. It’s a dark-stone mirror on which I reflect but in which I cannot be reflected.

Perhaps there is a fragment of Kierkegaard in my view when he says “Just like plunging a finger into the soil to recognise what land we’re in, I poke my finger into life: it has the odour of nothing.” I don’t see this as a negative. The magnitude of the cycle we’re a part of allows us no opportunity to compete with it.

So is the place where you are right now depicting your presence or your absence? Which would you prefer? Somewhere else could also be here if it consents to your invitation. The landscape flies over its own memories. You just happen to be in some of them. 



In the best tradition of self-contradiction I felt dissatisfied with the fact I had only written four lines about the Glasshouse Mountains in twenty years. The mountains are an important part of my daily life. I do walk around them as an adjunct to either creating or resolving certain (or uncertain) thoughts. So I used Graham’s question as challenge to respond. Taking stock (again) as at 11.01 am on 8th October my Glasshouse image repository has increased in size but is still small. The following work was written yesterday. . .

what odour in light (glasshouse triptych)


what odour in light
before it was stone

a handful of mountains
purchased before memory
when clouds carried new water
or reconciled invented gas
into chemistries of licked chance
folding all as if soil
was a fresh conglomerate
of egg whites and lava
in a sunset beneath the earth
where red would not be abandoned
within an endless speech
of unmeasured violence
a temperature is set in space
with enough breath
to rehydrate an ocean
and recognise the brittle grey
where energy sufficiently departed
allows the footprint of an insect

on its death
a mountain
extends it death

and to this point
is complete time
found in a leaf


in what magnitude
is landscape a skin
grafted to an eye

words made over
in the wrong language
before which
i present myself
in order to be expelled

this is the place
we lift up rocks
looking for tongues
in the hope
of never finding them

i followed their names
back to the mountains
but knew without question
they would not speak to me
if i spoke to them

a mountain
has the luxury
of hiding
in its own form

and this lungless family
knitting tears into creeks
have suffered our thoughts
into farmland


tear holes in space
until bones
fall out of the seasons

mountains sing
in a voice
only fossils will hear

trees will burn anyway

when an ant
finds food
it finds itself

on rhyolite & trachyte
shadows divorce the sun
until they’re in love

we murder absence
with our presence

we crawl into a cave
and find silence
dining on flies

thoughts are mortar

the lifespan of an apostrophe
depends on its ability
to abbreviate more than words

landscapes occur
in the memory
of a climate
without memory
is evidence just
conceived in the fact
that it is here
following itself in to
chasing itself out of
regenerating graves

this language
is an introduced species

the mountains move
when we’re asleep
whisper their faces
onto elastic maps
that will never exist

nathan shepherdsonoctober 2011


Nathan Shepherdson has won the Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize twice (2004, 2006), the 2005 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Award, 2006 Newcastle Poetry Prize and 2006 Arts Queensland Val Vallis Award. His first book Sweeping the Light Back into the Mirror (UQP 2006) won the Mary Gilmore Award in 2008. In 2008 he released ‘what marian drew never told me about light’ (Small Change Press) and his most recent collection, Apples with Human Skin was published in 2009 by University of Queensland Press.


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QLD Writers Week Feature #6: Helen Avery

Day #6 of QLD Writers Week is here and once more, we are looking westward, into the ageless landscape that Helen Avery calls home.

Old Beyond Age

The world is intense.  It has always been my best friend so I have never been afraid of solitude.

I have always immersed myself in whatever place I happen to be in.  I spent much of my childhood belly up to the sky, belly down to the earth and I have never lost the need for that kind of  intimacy.

So the places that inspire me most are those where I happen to have spent the most time on skin to skin terms.  I’ve been a farmer for most of my life so the earth has never been extraneous. I have worked with it, on it and my dependency has been entire. I have travelled over it and my eyes have always been open.

 I live on the other side of the coastal ranges where the landscape rolls out like a worn swag blanket. I like dust and mud beneath my feet.  I like laying my hands against trees and stone.  I like learning the names of plants and of the processes of creation that laugh at our paranoia about measuring time in fractions of seconds. I love the feeling of enough space around my shoulders that I can see the curve of the planet against the rest of space.  I love the spin of seasons so subtle I can scent change on the wind and feel it on my skin.

It’s not about beauty or lack of beauty.  It’s about awareness of where we are and the absolute exposure of the mind and the senses to this.  It’s about somewhere old beyond age, something battered and wrinkled and unashamed and beautiful and vibrant beyond belief or definition.

How do I capture this for a reader? If I could, I would write without words, trace poetry on the wind.  As it is, all I can say is that, I try, because it is in me to write and I love words.  If they disappear on the wind like vapour … then that is okay and as it should be. 

by Helen Avery


Heading home

In the pre dawn I leave the ocean
at my back and drive west
looping over the coastal ranges.

Darkness hooks on
the harsh call of the first crows
and is drawn back from the valleys

leaving them drenched in mist and chill
until the sun eases out of the somewhere
ocean behind me and dispenses the day.

Beyond Boguntungun eagles swing
off the tails of thermals and the hills
and the dry scrub roll and flatten.


Helen Avery is a poet for whom a sense of place is as natural and essential as drawing breath. The ‘Outback’ holds iconic status in the national psyche but it is not a museum relic. It is a vibrant part of contemporary Australia. It is the honesty of a natural environment that exposes both landscape and those who live there with stark clarity that drives Helen to write and perform with sensitivity, passion and deep respect.


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QLD Writers Week Feature #5: Gabrielle Bryden

Day #5 of QLD Writers Week, and this time we are pulled from the big sky country of the west by the current of the mighty Brisbane River… Gabrielle Bryden reflects on her lifelong love hate relationship with our city’s river.

The Picnic at Hanging Rock Effect

Place has its place in my poetry. The observation and description of places, the creation of images, the use of references to places, similes and metaphors utilising places, sensory exploration of places – all of these things are important in my poetry.

However, to be honest, my poems are more about the inner space between my two ears (concepts and issues), people and the person, than particular places. This is not surprising given my background as a psychologist. On the other hand, grounding a poem in a real space is an effective way to concretise a conceptual idea and often I will find a specific place for the idea or issue to sit. In other words, the place is the setting to make the idea blossom into life.

This is not to say that place is not important to me. I feel a strong relationship, bordering on the spiritual, with the Australian landscape. I have an intense love of this ancient, worn down land – the bald hills, the volcanic remnants, the wallum, desert lands, rainforest and the list goes on. I have lived overseas several times and each time, after a few months, I felt a great longing to return home – I really missed the natural landscape, particularly the Eucalypt trees.

I can’t explain it very well but I have sometimes felt overpowered by my surroundings out in the bush; insignificant, in awe and in danger – I call it the Picnic at Hanging Rock effect – an eerie feeling that I could simply disappear into the landscape, swallowed up by the spirit of the rock. I like to recreate that feeling in my poems and to highlight the insignificance of the human race, in their place, within the universe.

The Brisbane River would be one specific ‘place’ which has strongly influenced my poetry. I have a love hate relationship with that brown, strong river, which has permeated my dreams for as long as I can remember. I literally dream about the river all the time – flying over the river (hands flapping), swimming in the river, clear water, muddy water – it changes depending on the subliminal message of the day.

I grew up in Indooroopilly and the Brisbane River flows along the border of that suburb. I grew up with stories of the river leaking into my subconscious:

‘Your brother nearly drowned in the Brisbane River when he was four’;
‘It’s impossible to swim across the Brisbane River – you’ll drown trying; the currents are too strong’;
‘John’s sister killed herself, jumping off the Walter Taylor bridge, when she was twenty’;
‘The river water came right up to the Jindalee Bridge in 1974’
‘They found his body on the edge of the Brisbane River’.

The river looks beautiful and powerful and I admire and respect the river but I have never trusted him.

Gabrielle Bryden


Brisbane River

Brisbane River isn’t petite and pretty
like the Cam of Cambridge

he won’t invite you
to gondola

won’t even tell you to take a hike
you are the clichéd flea on bear

he’s got the monumental on his mind
how to shoulder bash Moreton Bay
day after day

how to carve out a name for himself
in ancient sediment
with no sentiment

he won’t care if you
go under.


Gabrielle Bryden is an Australian poet published in a range of books, print and online journals including: Short & Twisted 2010 and Mystic Signals; Ripples, Aspects, Speedpoets, and Extempore magazines; Cherry Blossom Review, Red Poppy Review, Verity La, Asphodel Madness, Sorcerous Signals, Lunarosity, Bolts of Silk, Third Eye, Specusphere, and Poetry24 ezines; and on local and national ABC Radio. In 2009 she won first prize in Ripples magazine’s poetry competition.



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