2011 Guest Poets
The poems used on this page remain the copyright property of the identified poets. 

Andrew Burke


The poem I wrote for her was for me—all ego—
That’s how I see it now: a masquerade party,
With me posing and knowing, confident confidant.

The imagery was measured, cut
From day’s marble of sun and shade;
And I spoke of her bejeaned arse like a boy

Saying things to shock his mother, cheeky,
Not downright rude. Cheeky too
The curve of breast—somehow the road

Carried my load, red motorbike’s roar
My mating call to her. It is so
Predictable now, looking back … 

I cut away the glissando and the Boy’s Own
Symbolism, I cut out the pose and the poise;
I cut a page down to a quatrain. Will she

See me now? I’m in plain view, ego
Lightened by the light of years, a boy
Leaning on his bike outside her house.
Andrew Burke has published eight collections of poetry, including Pushing at Silence, Whispering Gallery and Beyond City Limits. His most recent book is a revised edition of Mother Waits for Father Late (Picaro Press, 2010). He has worked in advertising and academia and in addition to poetry he has written book reviews and, in a previous decade, plays and short stories.

Sandra Thibodeaux

Tiling with Care

To lay tiles well, you must get down on your knees and pray
that the many things that can go wrong won’t,
and be forever cemented into history.
Having learnt this lesson slowly,
I’ve become obsessed with tiles.
Dili is plastered with them.
I have to pick out the crooked ones,
the times when grout was badly wiped,
the time—the shock—when grout wasn’t used at all.
In the Xanana Reading Room
red and ochre curls reflect the Portugese brush,
the cracked empire.
High on a colonial hotel
someone has lain pebbles in a glorious mistake
before riots gutted the building.
On a gravestone,
the face of Jesus miraculously appears
on tiles that are perfectly aligned.
The mother and baby wrapped beneath
might at least be consoled
by the care it took.

Sandra Thibodeaux is Australian Poetry’s Poet in Residence for 2011. She has published three collections of poetry, with the latest of these being Extinctions (PressPress, 2010). Sandra has performed at festivals across Australia and in SE Asia, and has been awarded grants and prizes for her poetry and, also, her plays. Sandra is relishing the challenge of being this year’s Poet in Residence. Her role as ‘ambassador for poetry’ has been interpreted by some journalists as ‘laureate’. Not known for wearing herbs on her head nor for respecting authority, Sandra has taken it upon herself to write poems that politicians can either use or take to their lawyers. So far, she has penned two for Julia, one for Paul Henderson and one for Anna Bligh, and has recently faced her biggest challenge – writing a poem for Sarah Palin.


Miles Merrill


Maroon sky sees day burn out. 
Starling, the coin-flipping pawnshops daughter,
hums a street corner tune.
High heel daggers 
etch concrete hearts.
Her coat, a red lilly
black boa trim 
spider gauze stretched over a pink stem.
The throng of heads and bags, 
surge with purpose direction. 
A 143 legged street all hunch, duck, jerk, 
under a pistol echo. 
A gun flatulates at speed's sound
in a back alley underground.
Crowded sidewalkers doubletake look around, 
like a stuttering caterpillar.
Starling , unstartled , smacks bubbles she's chewing. 
One leg a pillar grinding hearts in the ground;
the other supporting her lean against the wall.
She makes no move at all. 
Cept' flippin' heads flippin' tails.
She smirks and knows; as a burned wind blows, 
smelling of matches and metal;
she's going unnoticed tonight.
Consumers and consumed all pass her by.
Yet she smiles between bubble gum smacks
"There's one thing I know" 
smacking, grinning, flipping,
"That back alley bullet stops one cock
keeping me awake with its stale crow. 
Hi! How ya doin. My name's Kate."  
Starling says, "Lookin for a date."
I glance at the cherub. 
my mouth fires "nope".
Miles Merrill writes and performs monologues, poems and stories for venues and festivals internationally. His productions  The Night Words Festival (Sydney Opera House 2008) and Slamming (Sydney Festival 2005) won outstanding critical acclaim. Merrill directs the national literary performance competition- The Australian Poetry Slam. He publishes on CD, DVD, online and in print but is best experienced live. www.milesmerrill.com
“Hip and hilarious… Wild wordplay reminiscent of Gil-Scott Heron, Lenny Bruce, Ginsberg and a tincture of Woody Allen.” Chicago Reader

Andy Jackson

The bike itself

The black bike someone left, locked up,
is daily deconstructed by theft.  With each 
walk past, you think – I could do with that, 
a simplification, where what's lost isn't up to me.  
Without knowing it, this is Coburg's version 
of a zen koan – where has the bike itself gone?  
A mynah swoops and clips a pigeon, a plastic bag
becomes a flag on a fig-tree and a young man 
stares into his laptop's dim, flickering screen.
Now you can't walk past the half-demolished 
house – no roof or walls, only an empty frame
surrounding a fireplace.  Memories not even
lavender-patterned wallpaper can hold onto
lift into the sky, like pollen or dust in reverse.

Andy Jackson's poetry explores the emotional, social and political dimensions of embodiment and identity, and has been published in many print and on-line journals, including Heat, Going Down Swinging, Island, Blue Dog, Mascara and Stylus.  He has featured at Australian Poetry Festival in Sydney, Queensland Poetry Festival, and the Newcastle Young Writers Festival.  His poem Secessionist won the 2008 Arts ACT Rosemary Dobson Award for an Unpublished Poem.  His collaborative performance with puppeteer Rachael Guy and cellist David Churchill (Ambiguous Mirrors) was awarded the City of Yarra Award for Most Innovative Work at the 2009 Overload Poetry Festival.  He was an Emerging Writer in Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre in Perth in 2010.  He is currently the Librarian for Australian Poetry and the co-convenor of the La Mama Poetica series of readings.  His first full-length collection of poems, Among the Regulars (papertiger media, 2010), was Highly Commended in the Anne Elder Award and Shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize.  In 2011, he will be an Asialink resident at the University of Madras in Chennai, India.

•	Publisher – papertiger media
•	Blog - http://amongtheregulars.wordpress.com/
•	Ambiguous Mirrors on YouTube (excerpts)
•	Interview and poems at Verity La (online literary journal)

Susan Austin

Driving her Home Drunk

Broken console,
Dusty dashboard. 
He pauses to belch before worming the key into the ignition.
Outside the pub there was the stumble 
into stained bucket-seat relief – 
escaped provocations, 
skins safe against seats.

Now the highway
where relief has long since sped away.
He fumbles to change the station to classic hits. 
Her eyes camp on the ripped vinyl window-frame,
taking in the dim-lit road, lightly wet
the white lines that appear, disappear 
the forested edges that come close before swerving away.

A moment of lurching light-pole fear.
He doesn’t notice her jump
but grips the wheel,
frowning with the effort of focus.
She clutches her seat-belt and thinks
about self-respect and whiplash,
jealous of the car in front holding the road steady.

Susan Austin is a 33 year-old poet, mental health occupational therapist and eco- socialist activist. She grew up in Qld and now lives in Hobart. Her first poetry manuscript “An Undertow of Resilience” was awarded First Commended in the Best First Book category of the IP Picks 2011 competition. 

She has had poems published in the magazines Semper, Heretical, Famous Reporter, Blue Giraffe, Poetrix and Poetry Matters; in the newspapers Fraser Coast Chronicle, Green Left Weekly and The Tasmanian Times; in a Tasmanian young writer's initiative The Brew; in a TAFE anthology “Poems from the Dig”, in a Fellowship of Writers Tasmanian anthology “Net of Hands” and in the Poets’ Republic. 

Susan has been a featured poet at the Republic Readings, a Poetry and Politics event, a Tasmanian Living Writers Week event and the “Net of Hands” launch. Susan was commended in the FAW Norma and Colin Knight Poetry Award 2007 and won equal first prize in the Terri and Hal Moore Poetry Award 2007. She won second prize and a commendation in the FAW Norma and Colin Knight Poetry Award 2009. 

Her poetry often explores themes of mental illness, relationships and human resilience. 

Petra White

St Kilda

Sleepless seagulls fleer under floodlights,
they are caught like souls in light as in a net,
thoroughly winging their ways
around and through a day-dreamt freedom.
In a practice leap from love you stand
nowhere-they-can-find-me, bare feet in sand,
imagining a perfect loneliness, the soul a
self-stolen ship, breathing around the coast,
horizon-close, or sliding into darknesses
too vast for you to manage, depths too deep;
and then you want a cage of light, a finite hug
to swing you back to shore. The tidy beach,
a sliver of world, blinks its toy lighthouse,
something cries, 'come home, come home'.

Stripped to the soul, squatting at the shoreline,
thoughts prey like sharks but never bite,
no voice inside your skull sounds right.
O listen to the tiny waves crash their hardest,
as a lap-dog yaps its loudest to be loud.
Pitched past pitch of grief: how far is that?
Easy as tides, the tears ride out, words are water,    
sorrows are wide as the long silk sea.
Nor be consoled nor fear. Let down your tangle
of worries, wash them in salt as wounds
love to be washed. Say you are the furthest-
out fool, lost beyond losing. Sing, and sing,
but stay where you are and wait to be found,
sleeplessly smiling (at grief!) in the floodlight.        

Petra White was born in Adelaide and lives in Melbourne. Her first
book, The Incoming Tide (John Leonard Press 2007) was shortlisted in
the Queensland Premier's Literary Awards. Her second, The Simplified
World, was published by John Leonard Press in 2010.

Graham Nunn

Bird Watching
It's too long girl. Too long
since I sat in that cloistered
room overlooking the river and let
the fever rise in me, as the old stereo 
charmed birds from their branches
and you into my arms. How they sighed 
and resisted. On those nights, you
would put your hand over mine
and whisper, can you hear the eels
stirring off their bed? I would lie
there, unbruised by the soft
knuckling of their movement, the weight
of your body, spreading through bone
until our music was just about to burst.
In the flash of silence, I would watch
the birds at our window, bobbing 
with the song left in them — 
your eel-dark hair shaken loose, the thrum 
of water, binding our fingers.

Graham Nunn is a founding member of Brisbane's longest running poetry event, SpeedPoets. He blogs fiercely at Another Lost Shark: www.anotherlostshark.com and has published five collections of poetry, his most recent, Ocean Hearted, published by Another Lost Shark Publications in July 2010. His debut CD, recorded in collaboration with Sheish Money, The Stillest Hour was recently shortlisted for the Overload Poetry Festival's Aural Text Award.

Les Wicks

For Lake Pedder, dammed for electricity generation 
1.       Over the browns and
ginger of that month.
Rain on the day, gangs of
silver mist
First light ink-brush fingers
combed the distance / soothing
the arch back of stone.
2.       They are waiting
for the word
in weatherblown, torn khaki plastic.
in angry fusillade dropping from the clouds against
the obdurate calm of the waters,
as like opposing elements
this downpour is no relation
to the lake's still
or the earthbound beard of ice clinging
brittle beneath overhangs.
& other human stuff
bounce off the pink sand.
3.       Some have dived to find the hidden shore,
pressed fingers on the old beach.
And sunsets still bring rose to the water
as the lake lies buried beneath itself.
For 35 years Les has been a figure of substance in the Australian literary community.  He has been a guest at most of the nation’s literary festivals, toured widely and been published in well over 200 different newspapers, anthologies and magazines across 14 countries in 9 languages. Stylistically, the poet sits between camps. Seen as both a “stage” and “page” poet, his work is a mix of accessibility and dense language use. He is a master of capturing the vernacular. Poems are both humorous and fierce, often in the same poem.
Equally well known is his work as a publisher and editor.  Most people will remember Artransit which put poetry and art into Sydney & Newcastle buses but that is just one of dozens of similar roles: some predictable like literary magazines while others range as far afield as publishing a poem on the surface of a river. Coming out of this depth of experience is one of the best-known poetry workshop templates in the country.  From Hobart to Byron Bay to Perth, Wicks has for years been enthusing and challenging developing writers in his Plan to Be Published program.  

Martin Harrison

Rainbow Snake
for Peter Jacob

The blue vase keeps winking at me.
Painted blueness does that to the eye.
Its blueness is a wilder sea, obscured
by curves and sheen. Blueness back of the surf,
with a gull hovering on water’s moody heave.

Past sunset streaks, the vase gapes into air,
all ear to what might drown in it,
now turning sapphire in the shifting reds
which race across this gathering dark.
Now it gleams with lamplight like a snake

Camouflaged in the glitter of midday heat.
It takes the passing wings of flickering steps.
The vase stands there, shining, on the table.
Parts are like islands in a shadowy wash.
The body’s razor-bright in changing dusk.

Sunset behind it deepens with a mallee glow.
Re-fired by skylines, it comes from the earth,
a bulb, taut, marked, sinuous. Each side’s
again that snake. It bends time. Until about to soar,
pure thing, burnished as desert, it builds rock-towers. 

Martin Harrison is a poet and essayist and author of seven books of poetry. 
As well as poetry his work includes radiophonic composition, literary review and critical essay.
He has written extensively as a reviewer and critic, with articles appearing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Times Literary Supplement and Australian Book Review.
His poems have been published in many Australian magazines and internationally in journals including Poetry (Chicago), Poetry International and the London Review of Books.
He was awarded an Australia Council Established Writers Fellowship 2003-2004 and won the Wesley Michel Wright prize for poetry in 2002.
He currently directs the Writing and Cultural Studies area in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at University of Technology Sydney.