Poetry and such

Five Australian Poets

Can you remember any trauma?

they ask, and I want to say

childhood falls from trees,

delirious, just because you could,

and being pulled roughly back

from dreaming on the Capri funicular.

But I just shrug

and feel the rightness

of withholding these lived jolts that

go right through me.


From: “Right Through Me”, by Lucy Dougan


We cannot return to the earth in a place below sea level, we’ll drown. Here, the sun-bleached tombs hold long chambers and the dead are placed on the top shelves, turning to dust and bones in sub-tropical heat.

From: “St. Louis Cemetery, No. 1, Basin at St. Louis Street, New Orleans”, by Cassandra Atherton


The dark hallway ran with outlandish rumours

of our expertise, who had disabled

the history teacher’s scooter. Where the road

curved past the school he accelerated

straight into the lake among the ducks.


From: “Chicken”, by Paul Hetherington


Each morning I led the children through the little wooden gate to the orchard, and while the heavy dew stained our clothes, we gathered up the nuts, golf ball sized, still clad in the ball gown tatters of their husks. Each morning we ran back to the kitchen, shedding boots and coats, and held our fingers out to the flames. The nut pile grew.

From: “The Walnut Tree”, by Jen Webb


You thrashed out first, hard, with your varsity calves

towards a far granite cheek,

the tiger’s stretch of your body

powerful but ungainly, your torso turning

from side to side like something the ocean was rejecting…


From: “The Hazard”, by Sarah Holland-Batt


All quoted from the anthology: Strange Cargo: Five Australian Poets, edited by Paul Munden (Sheffield: smith|doorstop, 2017)

The poets read these poems at a poetry symposium at Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre on 28 June 2017.




Selected quotations


…the sentience

of trees, stones, what a star might know of it.
Seán Street,  From: To the Star and Back, Camera Obscura (2016)


… life is like a trapeze act: letting go,

hurtling through mid-air,

hands open for the next catch.


Kathleen Quinlan, From: ‘Don’t look back’, Moorings (2016)


…grids of days below
Like frames of film unrolling emptily
Or racks of now unlettered Scrabble tiles.

Kieron Winn, From: Staying with Mabel, The Mortal Man (2015)

From: “109”, by Jay Bernard

A wet afternoon shrunk to a red bus

Slurring past a vast estate.  Scratched windows.

Tinny hits leaking from an earphone.

A chicken bone slides back and forth

In the aisle.


From: Jay Bernard, 2 Bold Poems, Zócalo Poets  2012(


From: “No Peace in Your Deafness”, by Philip Gross

As if released
from ninety years of reticence, the sentences
in grand gestural sweeps, like starlings wheeling,

a high rhetoric
in which only you seem not to know
that the meaning is gone,
regathered elsewhere maybe…

No Peace in Your Deafness, in DEEP FIELD by Philip Gross (Bloodaxe, 2011)



Philip Gross will be giving a reading and a masterclass in Oxford on 20 February:–news.html


From: The Schoolchildren, by Pedro Serrano

Nothing happens, till they face
an obstacle, one by one.
Two or three have made it,
two or three more begin to pull away,
until energy becomes infectious
and their ‘crocodile’ dissolves,
and they cross the road in line. A wisp
is left behind, an enveloping tenderness,
summoning the stragglers, making them realise
the others have gone, the group
is over there now.

Hay dos o tres que ya han cruzado,
dos o tres más que empiezan a desprenderse,
hasta que, como si se expandiera el motivo,
el bucle se despega, vuela, se asimila,
cruza la calle en masa. Queda
un aliento, una suavidad que mece,
que acompaña a los rezagados, que los hace
ver que allá no están, que ya no están, que el grupo
está del otro lado.

From Escolares, by Pedro Serrano; full translation by Sarah Maguire here

Pedro Serrano will be reading at the Albion Beatnik Bookstore on 3 November:–news.html

From: Too Late, by Michael Crowley

Never ending lawns, well-kept flower beds,
two prisoners throwing grass at each other.
A pack of seagulls fighting outside the wing.

One swoops down, its beak open; I can see
its tongue. They hand me his clothes bagged and sealed.

Michael Crowley won the 1st Prize of the Back Room Poets Poetry Competition with this poem.

You can read the full text of the poem and a discussion by the judge, Pat Winslow, on the competition webpage.

Michael Crowley and other winners in the competition will be reading tomorrow evening at the Albion Beatnik Bookstore, Oxford.

From: Bearing Witness, by Jennifer A. MacGowan

What kind of a man

ties himself to the mast

without even a knife in his boot?

It was three hours later

that we noticed him signalling;

halfway to Scylla and Charybdis

before we untied him.

We enjoy a laugh, after all.

Jennifer A. MacGowan will be launching her collection The Weight of Coming Home (Indigo Dreams, 2015) at the Back Room Poets reading in the Albion Beatnik Bookstore this Saturday, 20 June, at 7:30 pm.

From “Flaming June”, by Alan Buckley

Behind a screen

of trees, the feral river charges the weir

then bursts back into view, dark and foaming.

It surges hard, pummels the lower gates.

Alan Buckley will be reading at the Albion Beatnik Bookstore with Back Room Poets members on 9 May:–news.html

From Shiver

From: Borderlands, by Mark Leech

One day the borders will be gone.

Everything will be unedged.

Meanwhile, I’m on the field’s lip

yellow ahead and a green erasure

at the line of sky.

From: Borderlands (original plus, 2015)

Mark Leech read from Borderlands at the Albion Beatnik Bookstore in Oxford yesterday.

From: The Birkdale Nightingale, by Jean Sprackland

… when he calls her and climbs her
they are well designed. The nuptial pads on his thighs
velcro him to her back. She steadies beneath him.

The puddle brims with moonlight.
Everything leads to this.

(Bufo calamito — the Natterjack toad)

From: The Birkdale Nightingale. In: Tilt (Cape Poetry)

Jean Sprackland will be reading at the Albion Beatnik Bookstore tomorrow with Caroline Ashley, Michael Binnie, David Burridge and Mark Leech.