Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Iambic pentameter by Patricia Sykes

I watch myself     how I use my voice     how
much I give away     rebellion weighs
against obedience     prayer against fantasy
rote against the thrill of words that lately arrive

It was hearing a girl recite Ode to a Cabbage
that made me want to write verse myself
I hide my poems like hoarded love
the taste of secrecy is delicious (Nun-

the-Big-Irish gives the girl curry
when she catches her kissing my cheek)
now Mother-of-the-Blackboard 
proving with chalk that poetry has feet    

ˇ/ ˇ/ ˇ/ ˇ/ ˇ/
If a thing is not prayer why must it be sacrilege?
We are children of rhythm as well as of God
I am learning body worship from a girl who
walks beautifully     where else but here

could I rejoice such things?     Father,
are you listening? I'm your little exile no more
You would not know me     I am metric now
My feet are my own     how you will miss me

Posted with permission from Patricia Sykes. From: The Abbotsford Mysteries, Spinifex Press, 2011
TP editor this week: Catherine Bateson.

The Abbotsford Mysteries is a collection of poems which give voice to the complex and varied experiences of girls housed in the Abbotsford convent. As Skyes notes in her acknowledgements, the convent was divided into three 'classes' - St Jospeh's (the orphanage), St Mary's (for country girls and later for migrant girls) and the Sacred Heart (for 'wayward girls' and older women). The stories of these women, gleaned from interviews Sykes conducted with over seventy ex-residents, weave through this powerful collection. But it is also a personal narrative as Sykes and her sisters were placed in the convent after the death of their mother. The poems are vivid, intense and fierce and the language moves easily between wry intimacy and lyrical evocation borrowing its register and intensity from liturgy. You can read another poem from this collection here.

Patricia Sykes is a Melbourne-based poet and librettist. Her poems have won various prestigious Australian prizes including the Newcastle Poetry Prize. She has collaborated with Australian composer Liza Lim to create Mother Tongue, a piece for soprano and 15 instruments, and The Navigator, a chamber opera. These works have been performed both in Australia and in festivals overseas, including the Huddersfield International Contemporary Music Festival, the Festival d'Automne and the Chekhov Theatre Festival. Her two previous poetry collections, Wire Dancing and Modewarre - home ground, were both published by Spinifex Press.  

The Abbotsford Convent Foundation is now a not-for-profit organisation committed to fostering creativity, culture and learning. As well as regular events such as festivals, conferences and art and craft markets, over 100 artist studios are housed there.


Hub Editor: Catherine Bateson is a poet and writer for children and young adults. She is currently working on a novel based on her time in Paris, on an Australia Council for the Arts funded residency programme. Her most recent poetry collection, Marriage for Beginners, was published by John Leonard Press. 

Don't forget to check out the other Tuesday Poets via the sidebar - an inspirational start to the week!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Uncoupling by Jac Jenkins

Ice clasps its thorny cloak with filigreed
brittle lace against my breast
bone. The pin sticks my skin when I inhale.
I stay close to his mouth;
his heat breathes an early thaw
as Winter opens its teeth on my throat.

Spring stitches my scabs to scars, my scars
to silver. I am bare beneath bridal lace
and veil. When I inhale, his hands
clasp me like whalebone; I stay close
to the looking glass so I can see
his beaten knuckles.

Summer loosens my stays. I am
bare and bridled on the burning ground.
My tongue is desert when I inhale. He
is dry bone in the sand, stacked
like pyred sticks. I stay close to his clacking
hands. A loop of gold spins on his ring finger.

Autumn leaves my flesh for the carrion-
eaters. He is dry sand scouring my bones.
I am inhaled by the wind, breathed
out over water, looping and spinning,
close to the opening throat
of the ocean.

Dedicated to Christine de Pizan,
Europe's first feminist

Posted with permission from Jac Jenkins. First published 2013 in Takahē.
TP editor this week: Michelle Elvy

I have known the poet Jac Jenkins since I moved to Northland back in 2009. We've been in poetry groups together and shared flash fiction. Last year we even put our heads together when we judged the 2013 Northland Flash Fiction Competition, hosted by Whangarei Libraries. As a writer of both flash and poetry, Jac knows how to create impact with economy. I admire that most about her writing: nothing ever drags; her poetry catches you from the opening line and takes you by surprise.

And Jac has enjoyed increasing recognition for both poetry and prose in the last couple years, most recently winning the 2013 Takahē Poetry Competition with the poem I posted today. Even better than me writing about Jac's winning poem, 'Uncoupling', I leave it to judge Joanna Preston, who wrote:

 The winning poem, “Uncoupling” by Jac Jenkins, is one I tried to resist, but couldn’t. I was wary of how many of my own personal preferences it seemed to tick – startlingly good images? Check. Vaguely gothic/medieval/fantastical feel to it? Check. As full of song as a Welsh football stadium? Check. (Wish like heck I’d written it myself? Check.) Even now I can’t tell you what it’s about, except by quoting it back verbatim – to paraphrase Wallace Stevens, it ‘resists the intelligence almost successfully’. But I could pull almost any line at random and offer it as an example of lovely workmanship. The way words and images return and modulate – from breast bone to whalebone to dry bones to my bones, from brittle lace to bridal lace to bare and bridled. Intoxicating sounds, and repeated phrases that shift their meaning as they flicker through the poem. A worthy winner, and a poem that still makes me catch my breath. I am envious and in awe. 
You can read all of Joanna Preston's comments in the full 2013 Takahē Poetry Competition Judge's Report here.


Jac Jenkins is a poet and flash fiction writer from rural Whangarei. She works as a librarian but is looking forward to a three-month writing sabbatical in Australia late in 2014, hopefully in a location that challenges her with new experiences and allows her doctor-partner, Alistair, to practise medicine in a different context. Jac’s writing has found its way into the Northern Advocate, Flash Frontier and Take Flight, and she has recently celebrated winning the 2013 Takahē Poetry Competition and also enjoyed success in the Northwrite Collaboration Competition with Alistair. She was also awarded a NZ Society of Authors poetry mentorship in 2012, during which she worked closely with poet Sue Wootton. 


Michelle Elvy lives and works as an editor and manuscript assessor based in the Bay of Islands but is travelling this year in Indonesia. She edits at Flash Frontier: An Adventure in Short Fiction and Blue Five Notebook. Her poetry and prose can be found in print and online, most recently or forthcoming in Poets & Artists, Takahē2014: A Year in Stories (Pure Slush) and Eastbourne: An Anthology (Makaro Press). A member of the NZ Association of Manuscript Assessors, Michelle can be found at michelleelvy.com, and her Tuesday Poem posts can be found at her blog, Glow Worm

* When you've got to grips with Uncoupling, please check out the other Tuesday Poets in the blog sidebar. Riches there. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bogong Moth by Joe Dolce

A Bogong moth
darts out of darkness
to seize fire -
it’s burned away its tarsi,
yet continues to swoop,
kiss, careen, sizzle,
fluttering and candle-banging
like fawn-crazed Nijinski.

I look up from my book
accepting the immortal,
fatal dance
of life and light,
like Icarus’s father
resigned to watch
his flying boy
hurl against brilliance.

When you were a baby
night crying,
often the only way
to pacify you
was to bundle you
in your satin blanket
and walk along
Seventh Avenue.

The percussion of traffic noise,
street lamps, flashing head
and tail lights,
opened your brown eyes wide.
You were intoxicated
and I soon lost you to sleep . . .

O my little son, cocooned there
in that middle-aged man
who hasn’t spoken to me
for years –

what flickering galaxies
do you fling yourself against now
for sleep,
far beyond my reach?

posted with permission from Joe Dolce
editor: Jennifer Compton

Now Joe Dolce is probably most well known for 'that song': Shaddap You Face! And I do play a game of Joe Dolce sightings around the place — a bus driver in Kingsville singing the refrain —and in a UK cop show! Amazing. But now Joe, who lives in Melbourne, has turned his hand to poetry and essays, with frequent appearances at readings and festivals, and in respected literary journals. Anything more you want to know about him, check out his website. The link is below.  


P.S. I am not absolutely sure what a tarsi is but I can guess.

A bogong moth is a big old night flying creature that arrives in hordes when the weather is right. It is supposed to be good eating.

This week's editor is Jennifer Compton, a poet and playwright who also writes prose. She was born in New Zealand but, like Joe, is now a resident of Melbourne. Most recently she won the Newcastle Poetry Prize for her poem Now You Shall Know. In this pic she is open miking in Westword — at the Dancing Dog in Footscray. Pic taken by Michael Reynolds (thanks Michael) who has stolen all the local poets' souls and keeps them in his machine LOL. 

When you've got to grips with Joe Dolce and Bogong moths, do check out the other Tuesday Poets in the sidebar. Great to have you drop by!