Monday, December 14, 2015


Welcome to the first instalment of Reverberations, where Australian poetry aficionados respond to the Australian poetry that most moves and inspires them. 

In this edition we meet Sydney-based freelance writer Ariane Beeston. When I first hooked into the twittersphere in 2014, Ariane was one of the first people to follow me. I was constantly impressed by her tweets quoting Australian poetry and her enthusiastic engagement with other Australian poets. Knowing she was passionate about this country's lyricism, I approached her about opening Reverberations. In many ways, Ariane inspired me to begin this new phase of The Ultraviolet Range

I love what Ariane says here. I wholeheartedly thank her for her honesty.

In my last year of high school I studied the poetry of Gwen Harwood. She was the first Australian poet I fell madly in love with. As a seventeen year old, although I couldn't relate to a lot of her writings on motherhood, death and grief, I knew I was reading something special. And while I still have my clumsily annotated high school edition of her selected poems, the meaning I've found in her words, the colour and beauty, has only increased with time.

and when I am seized at last

and rolled in one grinding race
of dreams, pain, memories, love and grief,
from which no hand will save me,
the peace of this day will shine
like light on the face of the waters
that bear me away forever.

- At Mornington 

It was motherhood that drew me back to Australian poetry for the first time since high school. I suffered a severe psychotic depression after my son was born and for a little while was completely unable to read. One of my doctors suggested I try reading poetry- perhaps smaller chunks of text would be easier for my brain to decipher.

Via twitter I discovered Felicity Plunkett and her book Vanishing Point (UQP). It was one of those wonderful times in life where the right book finds you at exactly the right moment. Her poems spoke to the increasingly painful feelings of identity, loss and transformation I'd been wrestling with for months while I was so unwell. They were like little lifeboats helping anchor me to motherhood and all the changes it brought.

I plaited my fingers around her throat

and released a song she would drown in.
I called her into my fresh fecundity
wanting to remember girlish breasts with pink nipples.
At the edge of the room, out of the world's line of sight
we would smoulder quietly under the cover of maternity...

Later she would whisper to me of everything your birth

would silence,
her pristine days and wild nights...

- Delivery

Earlier this year at the Queensland Poetry Festival, I discovered the lovely Melinda Smith. She read from her 2014 Prime Minister's Literary Award-winning collection Drag Down to Unlock or Place an Emergency Call (Pitt Street Poetry) and her poem Given had me gasping. I could have written the exact same words.

Then: eight months of the black dog.

I crawl back from cold hell
that no one understands
out of quietest, loneliest lands.
Now you seem newly-made,
or is it me, new-born?

With poems entitled bitterweet, Don't worry e-happy and song of the anti-depressant, Melinda's collection is also hysterically funny and witty.

I've lost count of the number of copies of Kathryn Lomer's Night Writing (UQP) I've given to friends and family. There's an exquisite lightness to it that makes it easy to read, even for those who don't normally read poetry. It's hopeful, insightful and multi-layered - full of poems about love, madness, parenting and grief.

The biggest stars, or the closest, ripple

silver lines across the bay.
One falls, brief and burning, like a love affair, a life.

- Night

David Stavanger's The Special (UQP) has been another favourite. It's dark, weird and gritty, but playful at times, too. There's an edginess to his poetry that's unlike anything I've read.

It's hard to let people in.

How do they get back out?

At the moment, it's David Brooks' work that I'm devouring - his beautifully erotic, dry and intelligent poems from Open House and The Balcony. And there are still so many of his earlier collections left to enjoy.

She is

writing a message
with her tongue on my neck
in a language I don't understand.

- The Balcony

Ariane's writing has appeared in many publications including Daily Life, Essential Baby, Essential Kids, The Motherish and Role/Reboot. She is not to be left unsupervised in a secondhand bookstore. You can find her on twitter - @ArianeBeeston 

Saturday, November 7, 2015


Bonnie View area (Morton National Park, Bundanoon), Erith Coal Mine (Morton National Park, Bundanoon), Badgerys Lookout area (Morton National Park, Tallong), various paddocks between Wingello and Tallong, the dam near stock processing centre in Moss Vale, Gallery Ecosse (Exeter), Jumping Rock Cafe (Bundanoon), 2 Park Road The Corner Store (Bowral), Dirty Jane's Emporium (Bowral), Red Cow Farm (Sutton Forest), Burrawang Pub, Empire Cinemas (Bowral), Sturt Gallery (Mittagong), the top of Mt Gibraltar (Bowral), Cecil Hoskins Nature Reserve (between Moss Vale and Burradoo), The Bowral Bookstore, Stingray Swamp (Penrose), Wingecarribee Reservoir, rainforest between Fitzroy Falls and Barrengarry, Kangaloon Rd (between East Bowral and Robertson), Robertson Nature Reserve, Budderoo Plateau (at very edge of Highlands between Robertson and Jamberoo), Berkelouw's Book Barn (Berrima), Harper's Mansion (Berrima), Stones Patisserie (Berrima), Coffee Culture (Bowral), Seymour Park (Moss Vale), Fitzroy Falls, Carrington Falls, Belmore Falls, Banana Leaf (Bowral), the country behind Sutton Forest Inn, Golden Vale Road (Sutton Forest). LJ, November 2015. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015


I have studied Peter Skrzynecki's poetry on numerous occasions throughout my career as an English teacher in Catholic secondary schools in NSW. I never tire of teaching his honest, ambiguous and almost mysterious work. My students (those who take English in their stride and strugglers) find his work rich and engaging. Much thought-provoking discussion follows a reading of one of Peter's poems; I've had students write their own poems in response to some of his. 

Peter has many fans. The launch of his weighty collection Old/New World, in 2007, at Gleebooks' store in Glebe, Sydney, was one of the most well-attended poetry bashes I've  been to. I remember Peter finished his reading with a line about breathing in and breathing out. Is there any greater poem? 

Peter has published twenty books of poetry and prose. He has won several literary prizes including the Captain Cook Bicentenary Award, the Grace Leven Poetry Prize and the Henry Lawson Short Story Award. In 1989 he was awarded the Order of Cultural Merit by the Polish government, and in 2002 he received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his contribution to multicultural literature. IMMIGRANT CHRONICLE, a book of poetry, was a set text for study on the New South Wales HSC syllabus for many years. His memoir THE SPARROW GARDEN was shortlisted for the National Biography Award. OLD/NEW WORLD: New & Selected Poems was published by UQP in 2007. He is an adjunct associate professor in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts at Western Sydney University. A new memoir, APPOINTMENT NORTHWEST,  of life in a one-teacher school on the New England Tablelands in the 1960s  was published by Five Senses in 2014. A book of children’s poetry, THE RAINBOW BIRDS, will be published by Five Senses in 2015.

What was there before poetry? 

Maybe nothing, maybe everything. Who really knows? I prefer not to speculate. 

Tell me about your childhood/teenage years.

They were  happy years; I had no brothers or sisters but that never mattered. I had plenty of friends living in Mary Street, Regents Park, and environs. The suburb was all bushland, paperbarks, gum trees and prickly scrub. Our house overlooked a reserve and Duck Creek flowed through  it. Birdlife abounded. Lizards. Snakes.

Best of all I was with my parents. When we came to Australia my father worked in Sydney for the Water Board for two years as a pick-and-shovel man while the cost of transportation from Europe was repaid as a deduction from his paypacket.  My mother and I lived in the migrant hostel in Parkes (1949-51). That was the deal with the government. After two years you had to leave. Buy a house somewhere or buy land and build. There was the knowledge, though barely understood by me, that we had done well by coming to Australia.  We were fortunate. My parents were happy and if they were happy, so was I.  They worked very  hard and had the house paid off in four years.

Share with me a story or two from Europe.  

The first memory is of snow. In my memoir THE SPARROW GARDEN (UQP,  2004), there is a chapter called “Snow is Falling”.  My mother was a single mother and after the war she was sent to a Displaced Persons camp in Lebenstedt where she met Feliks Skrzynecki a farmer from Poland who had been in forced labor for five years. They married and he  became my adopting father. You could not have asked for a better father.

I am kneeling on a chair and looking out at  drifting snow. It is falling gently, softly, so fine and powdery it is like a mist. Directly beneath the window is a wire enclosure with a low wooden structure , like a dog’s kennel, subdivided and lined with straw. This is where my father keeps rabbits. They are not being kept as pets. I am not allowed to play with them. These rabbits are kept for their meat. They are bred, fattened and killed. Food queues in the camp are long. People resort to other means to supplement their diet. We can also sell the meat or trade it. I watch the rabbits . The snow keeps falling, drifting.

The second memory involves walking between railways carriages on the journey from Germany to Italy.  We sailed to Australia from Naples. At one point, walking from one carriage to another I saw the broken fuselage of a plane lying in a forest. The trees were filled with dappled light and the broken plane, painted in camouflage colours, resembled a butterfly. The light remains magical, unearthly, as if it appeared on purpose, just to illuminate one small part of the tragedy of war.

Why have you lived in Sydney for so long?

Sydney is home.  In FLAWS IN THE GLASS Patrick White says that for better or worse Sydney is in  his blood.  I feel like that; it is an ambivalent feeling, with all the highrise  building that’s going on. The traffic, the congestion. I sometimes wish I had settled in New England, perhaps Armidale. My first small school was at Jeogla, 50 km east of Armidale. The central west draws me also – probably because  our first home in Australia was in Parkes, in the migrant hostel on its outskirts. Now I have a home in Sydney, my wife is here, my children and grandchildren. Having reached my three score years and ten, and with   health issues arising in recent times, I have no desire to live elsewhere. I feel I belong here.

What are your feelings toward the much-loved and much-studied Immigrant Chronicle after all these years? 

I am still very fond  of IMMIGRANT CHRONICLE and proud of what it achieved. Originally it had a different title and Angus & Robertson turned it down.  About that time UQP was starting its second Paperback Poets series (the coloured covers). Roger McDonald was publisher and Tom Shapcott was the poetry editor. I sent the ms to them. From memory, Tom  and Roger did the selection. Roger and I came up with the title. Roger said the word “immigrant” should be in the title. I liked the word” chronicle”.  I flew up to Brisbane for the meeting. In retrospect, it all came together naturally, without any angst. Since 1975 it has never been out of print and has gone into twenty-two reprints.

Which period of your work are you most proud of?

Fair to say that I am proud of all periods of my work – but maybe a little more of the early years which  were the hardest when it came to meeting publishers and getting manuscripts accepted; but the need to write and express myself was always there, urgent and unavoidable.  Roland Robinson’s press, Lyrebird Writers published my first two books.  Various other publishers followed. UQP published four of my books and keeps them in print. THE SPARROW GARDEN is coming out as an E-book.

Describe your relationship with the natural world of NSW.

My relationship with the natural world is one of respect and honour. Do it proud, as they say, in what I create out of what it offers. Be it land, sea or sky.

Looking back, the natural world of NSW made me a poet. My eyes were opened up to what  beauty NSW/ Australia holds when we lived in Parkes for those first two years. I quote from THE SPARROW GARDEN...”After a sea voyage of four weeks, Parkes meant open spaces, paddocks, sheep, cattle, gum trees, magpies stalking the ground on frosty mornings and throwing back their heads to sing, Parkes meant hot, dry weather, a bushland that I loved walking through, picking at branches of scrub wattle or encountering the scent of eucalypts for the first time....”  

Last year I published APPOINTMENT NORTHWEST (Five Senses) a memoir of my days at Jeogla. A very different landscape from  the central west but just as inspirational. As I was writing,  it became apparent that this was not only a narrative of my days in a small school but also a tribute to the high country of New England with its mountains, rivers, waterfalls and wildlife.  The people, also.

What does the future hold? 

The future ? What  indeed ? Many years of good health and creativity, I hope. I have a book of children’s poetry due before the end of the year, THE RAINBOW BIRDS (Five Senses) that my son has illustrated . I  also have three more manuscripts in my head and perhaps a last collection of poetry to round it all off.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


I am honoured to be part of this year's Little Mountain Readings at Sturt Gallery, Mittagong on November 28 (5pm start). I'll be there with mate and fellow Bundanoon resident Peter Lach-Newinsky, who will also be presenting a workshop on writing poems (he'll be dynamic and inspiring, as always). I will be reading old work and fresh work from my debut collection Morton (forthcoming from PSP). Thanks to Rhiannon Hall, Sturt and South Coast Writers Centre for having me on board. It would be great to see you there. LJ, September 11 2015.

Monday, June 8, 2015


I'm thrilled to announce that my first chapbook, Morton, will be published in 2015 by Pitt Street Poetry. The twelve poems in the illustrated pamphlet look at a wide range of Morton National Park's features. Morton, one of the grandest and most visited national parks in NSW, is minutes from my Southern Highlands home - it always looms largely in my mind.

PSP are also releasing new things from Peter Goldsworthy, John Foulcher, Ron Pretty, Geoff Page and Mark Tredinnick. It is flattering to be among such acclaimed writers. 

Morton follows poetry I've had out in Australian Love Poems, Eclogues The Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology 2007, The Broadway Poetry Prize collection for 2004, The Southern Highlands Poetry Anthology, Meanjin, Island, Islet, Famous Reporter, Poetry d'Amour 2013, Mascara Literary Review, The Disappearing (an app from Red Room Company), Regime, Rabbit, Wet Ink, Memory Weaving, Great Ocean Quarterly, Make Your Mark, Cordite, Uneven Floor, Bimblebox 153 and For Rhino in a Shrinking World. 

LJ, June 9 2015. 

Monday, June 1, 2015


I've not met Rockhampton's Stuart Barnes (only communicated with him via emails and twitter). I'd very much like to. I think we'd have a good chat about poetry (surprise, surprise), layers to Australian masculinity and the evolution of pop and dance music both in Australia and abroad (topics we love). 

Stuart's highly engaging and refreshing poetic voice has both a beat sensibility and an academic feel - there's a looseness, or restlessness, as well as a great sense of purpose. The stuff of his work is snatched from pop culture, history, family, place... you name it. That's not to say it isn't original. Stuart's educational and entertaining poems get me researching, taking notes, telling myself I need to take more risks in my own writing.

Queensland's bloody lucky to have him! 

Stuart is a Tasmanian-born poet and poetry editor of Tincture Journal. In 2014 his manuscript Blacking Out and other poems was named runner up in the Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize. His first collection, Bend River Mountain, an anthology with Robbie Coburn, Nathan Hondros, Rose Hunter, Carly-Jay Metcalfe and Michele Seminara, will be published by Regime Books in 2015. He blogs at and tweets as @StuartABarnes.

1. What was there before poetry?

The consciousness of and fascination with poetry has always existed; the reading of and the tinkering with since childhood; the detailed re/arranging of for seven years.

2. Share with me a story or memory from your formative years.

Winter, a glass-door wood heater, my grand/parents and me, recliners, books.

3. How do friends and family help shape your writing?

From the beginning, and without knowing, my parents have helped shape my writing: my mother gave me picture books in my bassinet (the only distraction the rustling leaves of a nearby almond tree, apparently), a vinyl book at bath time and, when I was a little older, the How and Why Wonder Books, the Bible, a dictionary, an encyclopaedia; both read to me at bedtime. I’m not the first to say it: the key is reading, reading, reading. I’m grateful my parents insisted on it.
            As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Gwen Harwood was an inspiration, instrumental in my becoming a poet. At middle and high school I was fortunate to know a small group of passionate young men whose interests included architecture, film and music; one also wrote: he and I came equal second in what I think was our school’s inaugural short story competition. I was outraged: his was about catching rainbow trout, mine a man dying of AIDS. I still have that story, which borrowed heavily from The Cure’s ‘Pictures of You’ and Auden’s ‘Funeral Blues’. Maybe that’s the origin of my interest in found poetry … My high school Literature teacher Amanda Jackson and English teacher Liz McQuilkin, also a poet, were very encouraging, as was Deborah Rechter, my first year Literature tutor at Monash University. That kind of support was/is wonderful, but it’s vital to nourish it. For many years I couldn’t/didn’t.
            Friends and family continue to help by reading and commenting on drafts and manuscripts, by connecting me with other poets (a couple of months ago a family friend’s brother put me in touch with Welsh poet Ric Hool, who generously provided invaluable feedback about a manuscript). Most recently they’ve been helping by inspiring: I’ve been working on poems about moments from childhood, poems written to the memory of my maternal grandmother, my favourite uncle, three friends. It has taken some time to be able to write about these much-loved people.
            Many years ago, to members of my extended family, uncles and male cousins mostly, writing was ‘a waste of time’, ‘a joke’, I a ‘freak’, ‘weirdo’, ‘faggot’, ‘big girl’, ‘wuss’. I wasn’t impervious to their bullying; I’ve always been determined; their aggression made me even more, I think. For a time I wrote for and with a strong sense of having to prove something to others.

4. What’s the most difficult thing about writing a poem?

Learning to let go of expectation, which aids determining one’s method: for some time I was heavily influenced by part of Ted Hughes’ introduction to Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems: ‘To my knowledge, she never scrapped any of her poetic efforts. With one or two exceptions, she brought every piece she worked on to some final form acceptable to her … Her attitude to her verse was artisan-like: if she couldn’t get a table out of the material, she was quite happy to get a chair, or even a toy.’ I first read this at 30 and placed on myself enormous pressures. Exhausting, yet necessary. 
            Once you’ve determined your method, which is always evolving, learning to accept when a poem’s not working. Learning to put it away—for a day, several, a week, half a year, seven. And learning—gasp—when to let a poem go, which might one day lead to a conversation about learning to let everything—it’s all illusory—go.
            Finally, learning there are no rules.
5. How do people react to you being a poet? 

Melbourne’s worlds away; there I was a very different person, a very different poet, so I’ll talk about my experience of Rockhampton, famous for its cattle farmers, FIFO workers and bewildered tourists. I love living in Rockhampton—the freedom, the proximity to the sea, the glorious, golden 4 p.m. light—but it is a bit of a crucible. The farmers I’ve met have been nothing but blunt: ‘All day all you do’s twiddle your thumbs, chew the end of a pen’: zero tolerance. The FIFO workers have been baffled (‘You make how little money, mate?’) yet respectful (‘Least you’re doing something you love.’). The tourists, most from Europe, have been pretty interested. A drawn-out ‘Oh’, often followed by ‘That won’t pay the bills’, is the most common response from some of the people who work in the local supermarket. The chap who runs the nearby post office is probably my biggest fan: ‘Are you a famous poet yet?’ every time I go in. ‘No, just here to mail a book to a famous poet.’ ‘Roses are red, violets are blue’ was never funny or clever.

6. You have a great love for British band The Cure. Share with me your favourite Cure lyric and explain its power.

I’ve admired The Cure since 1992: ‘Friday I’m In Love’ shimmied from a speaker during American Top 40 one Sunday evening (these days I can’t listen to the track, which swamped every restaurant, café and club à la ‘Glory Box’ and ‘Groove Is In The Heart’). ABC’s rage introduced the band to me in 1990; I vividly remember the ‘Never Enough’ promo: I was intrigued and spooked by Robert Smith’s bizarre and beautiful harmonies, his swooping guitar-like vocals, his alter ego’s black eye shadow and black lipstick (within a few years I was occasionally armouring myself with both). In mid-’92 I travelled to and through Russia with a bunch of Australian scouts, venturers, rovers and leaders; I bonded with T, a huge fan of The Cure who faithfully toted every album to date on cassette. By the time I arrived in Hobart a little over a month later I was smitten, bitten, hooked, cooked, stuck like glue …
            It’s not my favourite lyric (that might be ‘Fires outside in the sky / Look as perfect as cats’, for its absurdity; or ‘So I trick myself / Like everybody else’, a bit of a bowling ball in the stomach; or ‘Oh I miss the kiss of treachery / The shameless kiss of vanity’, for its guilelessness about desire and long-term monogamous relationships) but ‘I went away alone with nothing left but faith’ (‘Faith’, Faith) is the most persistent, the most insistent, and powerful for two reasons: it flays religion and embraces the spiritual. It closes an exquisite record: heavily layered synthesizers, atmospheric six-string basses, songs perfectly sequenced. Faith was written in church, where Robert Smith would ‘think about death … look at the people … [who] wanted “eternity”. … [He] realised [he] had no faith at all and [he] was scared. … [He] wanted to get at different expressions of faith, to understand why people have it, to see if it was a real thing’ (Ten Imaginary Years). As writing Faith spurred Smith to think about his lack of faith, so listening to this particular lyric spurred me to think about mine.

7. What’s your greatest writing accomplishment?

It’s not that I won’t—I can’t, I’m not hardwired to think of my accomplishments in terms of greatness. Three that come to mind have been incredibly encouraging: my first published poem; shortlisted twice for the Newcastle Poetry Prize; my manuscript Blacking Out and other poems named runner up in the 2014 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize.

8. If you had an hour with one Australian poet - living or dead - who would it be?

Dorothy Porter: I would love to talk about Akhenaten.

9. Where will the future take you?

My first poetry collection, Bend River Mountain, an anthology with Robbie Coburn, Nathan Hondros, Rose Hunter, Carly-Jay Metcalfe and Michele Seminara, will be published by Regime Books in 2015. I’m taking my time with another project. I’m looking forward to this year’s Queensland Poetry Festival. Really, I’ll be happy if I can continue to do what I love: write, edit, read.