Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Furphy’s Law: As told to an Australian poet.

Do you know Stella Maria Sarah?

She was a lyrebird, dancing in the cultural forest that is Australian literature.

Among the myth of mateship and the dear larrikin;

where we pretend that the only venom comes from our spiders and snakes.

She was a 'happy little Vegemite' who knew all about the insular nature of the bush telegraph.

We dream of our own Lindsay inspired 'Magic Pudding'; one that fills the void that builds with each foray into the abyss that is the quest for acknowledgement.

Blindly worshiping the icons built on Colonial foundations:

The digger,

The swagman,

The drover,

and the mighty battler.

These men pass muster – they had a go.

Now we do the same. Have a go that is, and look for the bludger, the wowser, the dobber –

anyone who no longer quietly serves the Crown.

That black and white harpy, who warbles her dissent at our culture,

has forgotten the beauty contained within the acerbic expectations we have of our people.

She tells a wild yarn in a dialect devoid of the Strine that pulses through her veins.

Where she lives they have the stiff upper lip, whereas we mutely salute those who enforce the ideal –

'keep your bloody mouth shut.'

We whisper, "I'll keep mine closed, if you'll keep yours."

Down here,

where a little hard yakka never hurt anyone,

where our admiration is directed at those who bravely fought the troopers during the Eureka Stockade,

we prefer to create barriers that lock out anyone who does not understand our particular manipulation of the Queen's tongue.

To be a true blue Aussie, that language must be a part of you.

It is a badge of honour that adorns the armour of words that you wear without shame.

Without it, we would much rather hail a man named Kelly, and sing praise to a thieving swaggy, than admit you've got something for us to learn from too.

Friday, July 16, 2010

What epitomises an Australian writer?

A question I know a lot of my blogging friends may not be able to answer, but it is something my next piece aims to address.


To be honest, why not? And the simple fact is that here in Australia 'we', as in the media, our people, our critics, and our education system are so seemingly intent on categorising this 'quintessential Australian Literature / Film / *insert item or genre here*, that we need to spend some more time working out what that is.

The result can sometimes be ironic in its very nature. I am Australian. I was born here, raised and educated here, and I write here. I am an Australian writer. I am an Australian female writer. The very factual nature of my life makes this so. Yet my poems do not describe the Australian countryside, don't marvel over the warbling song of the magpie, nor liken myself to the land. If it did it might be Australian.

And this is where I hit hurdle number one. If Australian poetry can only be defined by its use of the 'Australian voice', recognisable with a metaphoric link to the land, there are a whole lot of Australian poets who may just never be seen as such. Now this is such a shame. We are Australian poets, we use the quintessential Australian voice; we just don't channel A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson in the same way.

Does an Australian poet have to use the iconic references that we as a country clutch at - seeing these icons as being able to clarify who or what it is we are? Is it possible that the Australian voice is much more?

I suggest that the Australian voice is a quietly observant, political dissent. An observation of people and their motivations. A discussion of the impact of the world on who 'we' or 'I' are /am (respectively). Surely this same voice can be found in the Colonial past, the questioning of the role that has been played by the myriad groups that have added their piece to this fair land of ours?

As well-written, and interesting, the 'Australian' poetry that is published and discussed in well respected journals is, it is a shame that it seems to need to list a series of Australian icons in order to be labelled as such. Anything else is poetry. Good poetry admittedly, but not discussed in any great depth for its critique and/ or commentary on our land.

My next piece comments on this practice, and while it uses the 'expected' icons and references to be classed as an Australian poem, in reality it is the intent behind it that makes it an Australian poem. That is, the method of using what you are criticising to make a point that in itself is much, much more Australian than the icons Australian poems are expected to use.

That is why I am an Australian poet. Not because I was born here, raised here and write here. But because my poetry is a version of the Australian voice; it is a discussion of how society does things, and it doesn't need a warbling magpie to do it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Frustrated apologies

Firstly I would like to thank those of you who commented on my last post and it's attached piece Lycanthropy. The problem is, I have no idea what you've said as the post comments just aren't showing up! Gahhhhhhhhh.

I have a returned follower and one new devotee (thanks), but would really love to reply to whatever it is that you may have said about my writing. Please don't think me rude when I don't, as I can't! My posts may be telling me that I have 2 - 3 comments, but when I click (delightedly as you may well imagine) on them to read, it comes up blank.

Hopefully this situation will be resolved soon. In the meantime, it's back to writing for me as my little girl is having a day at the in-laws.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?

Folklore loves wolves. They are the epitome of evil and are used in literature to symbolise a multitude of evils. One only has to look at the links between wolves and lunacy. Werewolves, Lycans, Wolfs bane ... so many ways to cast aspersions on such a beautiful animal. Humans have used this fair creature to comment on society, to moralise and preach, and to scare the living daylights out of generations of children. Little red riding hood's journey to visit her grandmother is a well know fairytale, and I have used it my newest piece, Lycanthropy.

Hope you like it.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Lessons from the good doctor.

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind. Dr. Suess.

Something more important than realising the truth contained within those simple words is teaching our children to think this way. We teach them that being different is wrong, to fight back when others hurt them, to change who they are to fit into the world that we have allowed to develop.

And then we run off and complain that the world is a tough place and we wish that everyone would stop being so mean to each other.

Dr. Suess was a wise man - a wise man who wrote awesome stories for the people of the world. They don't just teach us how we can manipulate our language, but they show us how we can behave in a world that is full of rules and regulations; how we can be something special without breaking someone else down.

I hope that my child will live in a Dr. Suess world, because that's the one I am teaching her to be in. As an aside, she is cuddling me as I write this, singing 'Where did you sleep last night?' by Nirvana. As far as I am concerned, that little fact is beyond amazing!

So tell me, what happens in your Dr. Suess world?


Gravel crunches underfoot and the stalking footsteps slow in unison with mine.

The path, pockmarked by the claws of the black dog, curves before me.

I can hear the beast as it scratches at the world and breathes into the indifferent lungs of the forest.

I long for the sanctuary offered by the claret stained cloak, and dream of the warmth its arms will lend me.


She treads, softly at first, wary of the shadows that dwell in the crevasses of time.

She listens for the signs the curse is near, but its footfall mirrors her broken gait.

The black dog's presence looms; its rotten breath sulks around her ankles and clutches to her exposed limbs.


An ill-wind calls out to me,

"Who's afraid of the big bad wolf, the big bad wolf, the big bad wolf?

Who's afraid ... ?"

I am.

The wind enjoys the taunt, and revels in my inability to capture it.

Its frenetic whispers stir a great fear inside me that scratches against my glassy chest and reminds me of my fragility.

I must hurry, the wolf is near.


The light from the moon beguiles her, and catches glimpses of her steps upon the ground.

Its silvered light falls into the abyss that trails behind her.

The night offers a mask for her foe; the moonlit path becomes blemished with the accusations of her conscience.

She knows that there is one other on this expedition.


I quicken my steps and look for the light that scars the darkness.

The forest is filled with the rambled musings of the night, and my ears drown in the laboured breathing of the moonstruck dog.

It is a painful scratching that drags its ill-kempt claws through my ears.

I am disoriented by the anarchy that has poisoned the air.


She runs, no longer stopping to pick the wildflowers that line the trail.

This journey is nothing more than a frenzied gambol through a maimed hinterland.

Aware of how close she is to the precipice of exhaustion, a sense of foreboding grows and begins to choke her with its shameful onslaught.

She lacks the courage to see what warms her now, and fears that it is a pelt none would dare to rip from her flesh.

"Who's afraid ..."






I trip.

I stumble.

I listen to the metronomic bedlam that pervades my heart.

A purposeful tread - one, two ... three, four.

I rest; a crimson shroud disguises the beast.

The pursuit continues


She lays curled in the leaf litter, the dew that collects in the discarded foliage acts as a tarnished mirror.

Her breath distorts these impromptu eyes of the forest and she does not see the child who climbs from the tree.

"What beautiful, big eyes you have Mama."

Recognising her scarlet caped shadow, she answers the girl,

"All the better to see you with."

She relaxes, knowing that the child does not mean her any harm.