Image credit: Michelle Catanzaro, School of HCA
Welcome to the Poetry Listening Lounge! Put on the kettle and find a couch. In our virtual lounge, you can hear recent works by a gallery of Australian poets, all connected to the Writing and Society Research Centre. This diverse collection gives voice to urgent themes of our times: Indigenous sovereignties, contemporary cultures and aesthetics, ecological injury and repair, intimacy and embodiment in times of isolation.
Featured artists in the Poetry Listening Lounge include W&SRC postgraduates and alumni, leading Giramondo authors, WSU research staff, and young Western Sydney writers from our new literary mentoring program The Writing Zone.
We are honoured to begin with “bushfire in Hawaiian print” by W&SRC Masters student Jazz Money, winner of the prestigious 2020 David Unaipon Award for Indigenous Literature. We are also thrilled to feature “Terra Australis” by iconic Greek-Australian anarchist poet πO; and “This is the Crow with the Broken Caw” by translator and scholar Chris Andrews, which won the 2019 Times Literary Supplement Poetry Prize.
Musical traces of ancestral mother-stories are alive within “May She Know” by emerging Fijian-Australian poet Viniana Rokobili, and in Helen Koukoutsis’s deft villanelle “Balkan Weave”.
This is just a snapshot of the kaleidoscopic work in poetry and poetics being undertaken within the Writing and Society Research Centre. To find out more, you can visit the Centre’s Poetry and Poetics Project digital archive or check out our Doctoral Studies Programs and our MA in Literature and Creative Writing.
“You punctuate your life just to restart the process of finding answers”, writes emerging Vietnamese-Australian poet Duy Quang Mai. Click through (below) to access the audio recordings, read the poems, and discover more about each artist and their piece. Enjoy the lounge, restart the process of finding answers… and please turn off the lamp when you leave.
Click to expand or collapse.
the end of the world was marked with beautiful light we should have known as mega fires surrounded the city and our leaders lounged off shore on beach with shandy hawaiian print
we marvelled the orange air more brilliant and terrifying than an instagram filter our skin glowed and glowed as the horizon and we were together to watch it burn
the age of the idealised self didn’t touch our fingertips the sun hung heavy angry near in a thick sky we choked our photographs were perfect
we looked beautiful at the end of the world and the content was fire the lighting was golden the lighting was lit how predictable that the end of the world would be captured in a selfie
JAZZ MONEY is a poet, filmmaker, digital producer and researcher of Wiradjuri heritage, currently based on the beautiful sovereign lands of the Darug and Gundungurra nations. Her poetry has been published and spoken widely across so-called ‘Australia’ and reimagined as murals, installation and video art. Jazz is the 2020 winner of the David Unaipon Award from the State Library of Queensland, an award that honours and celebrates new literary work by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers. Her first collection of poetry is forthcoming with University of Queensland Press, and she is a student in the Writing and Society Research Centre’s Master of Arts in Literature and Creative Writing. www.jazz.money
© Jazz Money
πO is a legendary figure in the Australian poetry scene. Born in Greece and brought up in Fitzroy, he is the chronicler of Melbourne and its culture and migrations, and a highly disciplined Anarchist who has worked as a draughtsman for forty years to support his family and his art. He is the publisher of Unusual Work by Collective Effort Press, a long-time magazine editor, a pioneer of performance poetry in Australia, and the author of many collections, including Panash, Fitzroy Poems, Big Numbers: New and Selected Poems, and the two epic works 24 Hours and Fitzroy: The Biography. πO’s newest collection Heide (published in 2020 by Giramondo) is the third book in this monumental trilogy.
I am heard, with my father’s voice I fight with hands from my Bu The same tilted middle finger I am seen, with my mother’s detailing I walk this life with the legs of her Ratu, I am the shape of the land of Suvavou I am the name of the Nakelo people I am part of the life of the Lomai Viti Province
I am able to create The way of life So that she is able to hear the voice of my Nau So she is able to see her Bu in the mirror So she can see the lines that cried for her She will be the flower from heaven sent to stop the tears She will blossom, Noqu luvequ will carry on the love She will run through this life If I do not reach there she will
May she know where her voice came from May she know her name, the land of her Yaca May she turn through the life of the unturned, truth of her ancestors May she have her own voice to carry, and there is where her Tai will be May she look through the reflection of her Bu flowing down her cheek
I am, She will, May She
VINIANA ROKOBILI is an emerging Fijian-Australian poet and Education student at WSU who is part of The Writing Zone, a mentoring program for young Western Sydney writers and arts workers in the Writing and Society Research Centre. Rokobili writes: “I am a Fijian, born and raised in Australia, with traditions of my father and mother that shape my sense of belonging, my thinking, and my writing. I want to motivate my fellow Fijians and Pacific Islanders to be able to express their pain through writing. My passion is to motivate individuals and inspire other Pacific Islanders from the Western suburbs.”
© Viniana Rokobili
This is the crane that little cranes built until it could start to build itself. At seven sharp, the slewing unit swivels the jib, and a crow flaps off. The shadow of a chain sweeps over bungalows labelled in flaking gilt: Sunny Corner and Corfu Palace with its giant shining burrawang and a fruit offering by the door.
Yawning and joshing, the hi-vis bros buckle on their toolbelts and converge to fill out the artist’s impression where people are empty white spaces treading the ruins of futures past. Where’s Matiu? At the training centre doing the course he was teased about last week: Dogging, Theory and Practice. By five, he’s smiling, ticket in hand.
From the bus he spies the resting crane. Homeward, over the Tasman, creamy jumping castles of vapour inflate. The Ides of March are come, and autumn. It’s the empire of development but currawongs alight on the slabs of the counterweight and sling the shots of their cadastral song to steeple to stinkpole to Norfolk Island pine.
CHRIS ANDREWS teaches at Western Sydney University and is a member of the Writing and Society Research Centre. He is the author of two poetry collections: Cut Lunch (Indigo, 2002) and Lime Green Chair (Waywiser, 2012). He has translated books of fiction from Spanish and French, including César Aira’s An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter (New Directions, 2006), Selva Almada’s The Wind that Lays Waste (Graywolf, 2019) and Kaouther Adimi’s Our Riches (New Directions, 2020). His critical study Roberto Bolaño’s Fiction was published by Columbia University Press in 2014. “This is the Crow with the Broken Caw” won the 2019 Times Literary Supplement Mick Imlah Poetry Prize and was first published in the 20-27 December 2019 issue of the Times Literary Supplement.
© Chris Andrews
A travelling show of ‘plastinated’ human bodies is passing through Sydney. The posters show a skinless man arched like a dancer, with nerves and tendons fanned out where there should be hands. His eyeballs seem to stare right at you no matter where you stand; his expression seems slightly sad, but maybe that’s just my impression. I saw one of these exhibits about twelve years ago: on a date. It’s hard to be flirtatious around flayed corpses but I was infatuated, and the very strangeness of that day has prevented the memory from fading. There was sadness then too – even amid the romance – and the contorted displays of human remains were flaking slightly at their edges: the plastic was scuffed in places. That’s what my mind captured: gauzy filaments at the end of what were once a person’s fingers, flickering in the air conditioning. I picture this image now as I pass a billboard for the new exhibition on my way to work. It’s autumn again and the air is perfumed with decomposition. It smells of change – a mulchy bouquet that induces the urge to burrow. Walking to work, a gust floods my senses with realness: my body’s alive in a living world. The feeling links to my childhood. There was sadness then too.
LOUISE CARTER is a doctoral candidate at Western Sydney University and a member of the Writing and Society Research Centre. Her poetry has appeared in Best Australian Poems, Cordite, Meanjin, Westerly, Other Terrain and Seizure. Her poem “History of Sadness” won the Highly Commended Award in the 2020 Blake Poetry Prize. She lives in Sydney and works at Sappho Books in Glebe. louisecarter.net.au
© Louise Carter
CHRISTINE LAI is a writer, photographer and poet who has an avid fascination for observing the conventions of everyday life, and is invested in the space that language occupies in the relationships we form with others. She seeks to capture moments of liminal space, places where time seemingly stands still; the in-between. Christine is part of The Writing Zone, a mentoring program for young Western Sydney writers and arts workers in the Writing and Society Research Centre.
© Christine Lai
Take the measure of wooden speech with a wooden tongue The sound waves crash in, like a handful of grasshoppers Take the nails and bang them into the weeping painting The kids are shouting what they’re for: it’s making noise Making noise and drinking milk with a magnifying glass
The ancestor’s dead from reading books and breathing From boxing vegetables and reading books and breathing The cardboard boxes are in his brain in tiny mirroring bits From the vein in his forehead to the vein in his toe they run They run like children to the school milk and the myths
Out of the crush they would say of him, mad as a string The trees would say different phrases when they saw him Out of grace, they never were, they would mimic Umback The leaves in his hair were the marks of a bush comedy A bush comedy so good it could run forever without seats
The little version of the novel, every novel he read at night That he played out with his bosses, with strangers, his wife The wife has another ancestor with the same name, related That the lightning spilled down the hill in hot liquid form A form that was repeated and parodied in the hill’s plants
Take this string and wrap it round the painting as if alive As if alive and attempting to survive out there in the bush Take the clock and time the boy who went to get the milk As if you can get milk from a large white rabbit that makes The sound of death, chewing grasshoppers like a machine
MICHAEL FARRELL’s previous collections include living at the z, ode ode (shortlisted for the Age Poetry Book of the Year Award), BREAK ME OUCH, a raiders guide (published by Giramondo in 2008), thempark and thou sand. His second collection with Giramondo open sesame (2011) was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Award for Poetry. I Love Poetry won the 2018 Queensland Literary Award for Poetry and was commended in the 2018 Wesley Michel Wright Prize. He was the winner of the 2012 Peter Porter Poetry Prize.
“Black Coffin with Milk” was first published in the January 2019 issue of Poetry magazine, established by Harriet Monroe in 1912 and now hosted by the U.S. Poetry Foundation. The poem also appears in Farrell’s 2020 collection Family Trees (Giramondo). This audio recording is sampled directly from a Zoom video seminar held on 31 July 2020 to launch Family Trees, within the Writing and Society Research Centre’s ‘Room to Listen’ online research seminar series.
© Michael Farrell
A homely loom laced with wool at the heddles clacks – bangs, clicks and rattles. My mother sings Slavic songs as she weaves and pedals
away her girlhood. Shuttle speed trembles – a dowry of blankets and couch-covers born of a loom laced with wool at the heddles.
Rich reds and greens on the floor of a stable – bedside to cows and lamb. My Greek mother sings drunken songs as she weaves and peddles
away her maidenhood. Her voice travels north to Roupel – memory and mourning. A homely loom laced with lamb’s wool – cradles
graves and villages of rock and pebble in honeycomb – basket – twill. Ghost women join her in song as she weaves and pedals.
Gaida voices mistaken for that of rebels. Muzzled – Hellenised – scorned. My Greek mother sings drunken songs as she weaves and treadles on a homely loom laced with wool at the heddles.
HELEN KOUKOUTSIS is an Associate Lecturer in Literary Studies in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts and a member of the Writing and Society Research Centre. She was awarded a PhD from Macquarie University and a commendation from the Vice Chancellor for a thesis of exceptional merit, and she specialises in nineteenth-century American literature, especially Emily Dickinson and her cultural milieu. Helen’s current research project on Dickinson and nineteenth-century Buddhism was funded by a Researcher Development grant at WSU.
Koukoutsis writes: “At the end of the recording of this poem, my mother (Marika Gavriel) sings a Bulgarian folk song taught to her by her father. She often sung this song, she said, whenever she wove on the loom as a young girl growing up in Greece. Although the use of a Slavic dialect was forbidden in Hellenised Greece (post 1909), my mother and her family continued in secret to use the Slavic language they had spoken for generations. She has forgotten most of the song, but what remains is this short verse that I have reclaimed for posterity. The song tells of the pleasure of wanting and wishing to be invited into one’s home, to sit and drink wine or Raki (Bulgarian drink) with friends/family and contemplate (drunk) the future.”
© Helen Koukoutsis
Heart. I’m here thinking back to the summer hours around you, jewelling with gnats, of the sour apple & pineapple tang. The iPhone I’ve promised myself to throw away & these faceless books, stout – as if they are whole bodies, dismembered & forgotten. Of life’s make-ups, I think back to the potassium, membrane & enzyme in my biology class. Now in the market’s seafood stall, the sublimation of dry ice is bedding those dead fish. How warm how warm you tell me? Our dialogues are crumpled. A sore resembles clichés they say. But it does, still does. The gold on my hands is gone, the self wastefully spent & the ink has whitened these pages, languishing into air. So I went. I went to have my torso bent. Again, I went to exit you, distilling the shower till I sleep, loving you on & off & on & off.
Heart. I prefer the years leaving their skeletons, prefer myself still here. Once, I actually believe the sky means enough other than blue. At times, I prefer my hands begging, in a morning undone. I prefer today. I prefer today anyway.
iii. /ˈkwɛstʃ(ə)n/ /mɑːk/:
Heart. That suppose the comma will do, the full stop is alright. Combining together, they give you a question mark. I think about this now. How you punctuate your life just to restart the process of finding answers. Heart, you tell me, how beautiful? How gorgeous?
DUY QUANG MAI is a seventeen-year-old writer and international student from Hanoi, Vietnam who is completing his HSC in 2020. His poetry has been published in The Lifted Brow, Cordite, Eunoia Review and Poets in Revolt!, and by the Red Room Company. His debut chapbook Homeward was published in 2018 by the Sydney Story Factory. Duy Quang Mai is part of The Writing Zone, a mentoring program for young Western Sydney writers and arts workers in the Writing and Society Research Centre.
© Duy Quang Mai
after Tony Tuckson
I arrived by the pink bark-stripped eucalyptus tree last Sunday and went straight to bed. I slept in the pink light of a eucalyptus tree. Sleeping was easy until I dreamed the bark stripped from my own pillow, owl-embroidered childhood pillow, collected in dream lichen florescent and waiting on kindling, something I could possibly trace back to a family tree, to the nomenclature of an arborist’s labour. Apples while the sound of the river refused any softening. I sat close to its stereo. Woke up in pins and needles. To acknowledge the fireplace here and the fireplace in the sound of the second home of my childhood. Smoke flooded the house, the brickwork at poor angles, a shout ricocheting off the river as I made the bed and prepared breakfast simply and with turned eggs and the eye of the e.g. always drawing on emotion caused by repetition.
LUKE BEESLEY is a poet, artist and singer-songwriter. His fifth poetry collection, Aqua Spinach (Giramondo), was shortlisted for the 2019 ALS Gold Medal. His poetry has been published widely in Australia and internationally and has been translated into several languages. Luke won the WSU Dean’s Thesis Prize for his Doctorate in Creative Arts (2019), which he completed in the Writing and Society Research Centre. He lives in Melbourne. www.lukebeesley.com
“White Lines on Pink” was published previously in Island Magazine (2017) and in the collection Aqua Spinach (Giramondo, 2018). Aqua Spinach is the manuscript Beesley completed for his DCA at Western Sydney University.
© Luke Beesley
after August Kleinzahler’s ‘Snow in Jersey’
ash is falling on the Lidcombe line on Carriageworks and Regents Park it’s falling on plains of closed-up houses where Greg thinks his summer’s fucked and it’s blowing in from morning westerlies and it’s blown back by arvo southerlies and it’s falling as if skyscrapers were chimneys and the country their crematory animals of ash falling through bodies the lyrebird’s song an office worker’s cough as they jog through the Domain at lunch and it’s falling on woke capital city greenies marching at Town Hall on National MPs whose towns are out of water and it’s falling on Raquel who sits at Coogee on a working holiday from Brazil watching it wash ashore with the breakers and it’s falling on New Zealand glaciers over Chile and Argentina circling the earth to return to Australia and it’s falling on screens and the space they sit between on the dissociative gleam of our media and it’s falling like the ASX on Kochie and Samantha falling like coal-dust from the hands of ScoMo and his dreams of a surplus falling on his Hawaiian holiday and PR stunts falling into rivers to clog the country’s veins falling into stolen land and white National Parks ash is falling falling as relentless as snow as if snow could fall from the ground up
JAKE GOETZ lives by a drowned valley estuary on Gadigal land. His poetry has appeared in Island, Overland, Rabbit, Southerly, Cordite, Plumwood Mountain, Stilts, past simple (U.S.), Minarets (N.Z.) and The Sun Herald. He has twice been shortlisted for Overland’s Fair Australia Prize. In 2019 his first book, meditations with passing water (Rabbit Poets Series), was shortlisted for the QLD Premier's Award. He edits the sporadically published online magazine, Marrickville Pause, and is completing a Doctorate of Creative Arts within the Writing and Society Research Centre.
“Ash in Sydney” first appeared in Island (Iss. 159, 2020).
© Jake Goetz
I wrote a forest I wrote a clearing I wrote a cow eating blood I wrote the long wait on a cliff as doctors came for the writer I wrote draglines I wrote suffrage I wrote fish in canisters I wrote hills rearranged by dry winds I wrote a hymn to birth I wrote documentary I wrote relatives I wrote wrens I wrote a girl climbing I wrote a scientific charter I wrote a boy dreaming of wolves I wrote there is no scenery I wrote a mantis trap I wrote ferns I wrote salty plains I wrote extinction by proxy I wrote the bones of a horse circling a kurrajong I wrote ice I wrote extraction I wrote temperate cells I wrote a meeting of five streams I wrote a flattened hollow still carrying skin’s heat I wrote weeds I wrote survival I wrote core samples I wrote the remains of love I wrote a plastic beach I wrote a book of lists I wrote barricades I wrote brambles I wrote pines dropping out of season I wrote walking into mist I wrote pollution I wrote protection I wrote reading nets I wrote in the arms of strangers I wrote to remember the milky scent of sleep I wrote moss I wrote debris I wrote without pages I wrote broken mechanisms I wrote a nest full of paper and woollen threads I wrote snow I wrote a sea fret I wrote a coal cross I wrote listening to storms I wrote elemental drift I wrote settlement I wrote ash I wrote absence I wrote protea spikes I wrote a cornered earth I wrote baskets of evidence tucked into vaults I wrote drones I wrote colony collapse I wrote a southern horizon’s curve I wrote a catalogue of dust I wrote species decline I wrote drums I wrote data banks I wrote staggered rows I wrote a valley distributing animals and people I wrote descent I wrote nowhere to land I wrote steel boulders I wrote glitches I wrote edges I wrote what more has to appear I wrote in the event of apocalypse press here I wrote determine outcome I wrote asymptote I wrote figure
KATE FAGAN is Director of the Writing and Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University, where she oversees the Poetry and Poetics Project and teaches Literary Studies and Writing. She is an award-winning poet and songwriter whose most recent book First Light (Giramondo) was short-listed for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and the Age Book of the Year Award. Her album Diamond Wheel won the National Film and Sound Archive Award for Folk Recording and she supported Joan Baez on her 2013 tour of Australia/NZ. She directs The Writing Zone and curated the Poetry Listening Lounge.
Part 2 of “The Midnight Charter” was first published in a 2018 special issue of The Kenyon Review called Literary Activism, edited by former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove and poet John Kinsella.
© Kate Fagan