Common or Garden Poets – Post #1 – Kit Kelen inviting Jean Kent

secret no one can keep


for Jean Kent



and now everyone knows


it’s the longer light

the mud to life

(a theory once)


how dare

and flirt


first thing from the veranda

an orchestra tuning

instruments of bright


nor anything regular intended

feathers carry word (which isn’t)


insects cone up, gyre like motes


can’t help the odd paint splash now

flowers all put on a show


a riddle in the turning

how we could come to here


woody thickets of delve

where nectar


parrots in mandarin

brazen sneak


glimpse them wing it too

a rite?


commence thirst


near the zenith

throw cloud by shade

we seek 

and shield the eyes from glare


later in the day

burn off last winter piles


a season as ever

never before!


limber and spit

get your hands on it


try a little nakedness now

dance breeze


dusk dew welcome


it is a week premature perhaps

sprightly and soon sprawl


the secret is out

now it’s Spring!


Common or Garden Poets – Post #1 – Kit Kelen inviting Jean Kent Read More »


JEAN KENT was born in Chinchilla, Qld, in 1951. She published her first poems in a literary magazine in 1970, while she was completing an Arts Degree (majoring in psychology) at the University of Qld; her first collection, Verandahs, appeared twenty years later, in 1970.  Since then, another eight books of her poetry have been published. The most recent are The Hour of Silvered Mullet (Pitt Street Poetry, 2015) and Paris in my Pocket (PSP, 2016). 

Awards Jean has won include the Anne Elder Prize and Dame Mary Gilmore Award (both for Verandahs), the Wesley Michel Wright Prize, the Josephine Ulrick Prize and Somerset Prize. She has been a runner-up for the Newcastle Poetry Prize and winner of its Local Section, and was a judge of the prize in 2013. She has received several writing grants from the Australia Council, including Overseas Residencies in Paris in 1994 and 2011.

As well as writing poetry, fiction and (occasional) nonfiction, Jean has worked as an educational psychologist, counsellor in TAFE colleges, lecturer in Creative Writing, mentor and facilitator of poetry workshops.

With Kit Kelen, Jean was co-editor of A Slow Combusting Hymn: Poetry from and about Newcastle and the Hunter Region (ASM/Cerberus Press, Flying Island Books, 2014).

Her Flying Island pocket book is The Language of Light (2013), a selection of her poems with Chinese translations by Iris Fan Xing.

In 2020, Kit Kelen invited her to converse with him by email for his blog spot, The Daily Kit. Their conversation over six months, covering a lot of topics, including poetry, but also COVID19, the deaths of their mothers, gardening … and some very recent drafts of poems, can be read here:

Jean lives at Lake Macquarie, NSW.  Her website is

Views from the desk, Kilaben Bay

Some Poems


On the verandah of my grandparents’ house,

the day falls asleep around me.

This is the roof of my childhood.

And this, the floor. Tin and wood:

silver-grey, sibling corrugations.

Like platforms for family legends

they wait, rehearsing allegories

as if it is always the end

of a sun-limp day, the lucerne cut,

wheat bagged and a needle in the hessian

beckoning its tail of string.
In the fragrant dusk, soil settles.

Crickets, ants and unseen lives

team over cracks in black earth’s surface – 

years are strung like tales of Min-Min lights

along this world of roof-creaks,

board-sighs, a home paddock barracking

for the far-off calls of dinner plates,

falling tablecloths, cutlery and relatives.
Time melts here. Ghosts with glasses of Scotch

catching the last day’s light in their hands,

bend their knees, ease back

into squatters’ chairs. I wake.

A cool breeze is balancing

beside the verandah rail, roping it

and ruffling off, up into wisteria leaves:

sitting tenants now, under the roof.

Time melts. On the ends of long wooden arms,

ice, moonlit, hugs the air.


 (From Verandahs, Hale & Iremonger, 1990; reprinted Picaro Press, 2009.

Also in The Language of Light, ASM/Flying Island Books, Macao, 2013.)

(The verandah of the old family home, Weeoomba, Qld)


After the tents of war, now the tents of Wallangarra:

one last quarantine before the unfamiliar family

can escape to what they hope will be a home.
Seven days—seven and six a day—

under the sheltering granite ranges, fires

heat drums, the coats of the women skim just high enough

to escape the frost, the men in their new civvie uniforms

stand stiff as saplings, not happily transplanted, yet.
On the bare ground by the railway,

they should be thankful prisoners.  So many huddles—

and in amongst them, this trio who will step away from here

into my family history: one man, his wife …
and a two year old girl, confronting this stranger, her father.
Just beyond the wahlenbergias, the shy native bluebells

at the camp’s edge, are the Pyramids of Girraween:

bald monoliths, made by volcanoes, not men.
Half a century later, I’ll try to climb one …

But it is too early for a returned soldier to brave

that skyline—better to bivouac here, picking bluebells,

waiting at dusk for a wallaroo in its shaggy greatcoat

to do a reconnaissance of this temporary invasion—

negotiate with it for peace.
After the certain attacks of war: now world deaths

from Spanish flu.  In this border camp, learning to speak

with the wary trust of the child, what can my grandparents do

but hope they have outrun the final assault?

In training for a domestic truce,
trust there will be a tomorrow soon, flinging over them

only a tent of sky—as wahlenbergias, those fallen-

sky flowers, cheer the edges of the last road home.


(Published in the Weekend Australian Review, 12th Sept 2020)


Weekends, Paris walks.  Something shifts

underground.  Like a Rubik's cube

slightly twisted

the lines of colours realign, the harmony of humans

gently shudders the city’s symmetrical grid.
Like the still spaces we enter when music

moves us, weekends separate us from the deafness

of habitual days.  More so than ever

here, on the other side

of our usual world —

here, where we live lit up

like cymbals always on the verge

of being struck.  In the Luxembourg Gardens

I am one small vibration in the shivering of the city

toward some Sunday song.  The babble of all the world

is being quietened here —
Poles and Italians, Australians and Africans,

small boys and motorised boats all blend into a buzz

swarming from under the acid-yellow horse-chestnut leaves

toward the end of summer’s silver

hived within the lake.
Weekends, Paris talks with less tension

accelerating its tongue.  Even the tourist buses —

clattering to halts like the abruptly dropped snakepods

of bauhinia trees —

release people who become, after a little time here,

as calm as seeds

waiting to be planted.  We almost believe

we could all belong — as we settle briefly

on these wrought-iron chairs with their ringletted arms

and verdigris-barred backs.  We subside
on seats tattooed all over with holes

spraying sunlight onto the crushed white gravel below.

How many faces

have fallen here —

waiting for Paris light to persuade them

to float back up, to lift

towards it their first foreign shoots?
Weekends, Paris walks.  It stalks us — as gently

as the grandparents we never knew, those ghosts

who passed through a war here

eighty years ago.

Like the nano-shifting of volcanic plates now,

something in us shifts.  Whatever homes we thought

we had brought with us

settle like hidden pockets

in our winter coats — and we join the long lines

of stilled people in black swivelling towards
the slightest caress of sun.  The light,

as it negotiates peace settlements

within this temporary country

of cold shoulders,

is speaking everyone’s ancestral tongue.


(From Travelling with the Wrong Phrasebooks, Pitt Street Poetry, 2012;

also published in The Language of Light, ASM/Flying Island Books, Macao, 2013.)