Newry State Forest, 31 March

 Newry State Forest, 31 March

‘Destruction of world’s forests increased sharply in 2020’. The Guardian, 31.3.2021

‘simply squint/ till words do as bid.’ Kit Kelen 

Checking GIS coordinates, but which coupe?  

In search for the endangered Scrub Turpentine 

and the Native Guava shrub, bush bashing

just find a cicada casing with a Lantana floret.

Neanderthals took care of the sick and the dead, 

pollen clusters of different species of flowers 

seed a grave in Shanidar cave, Iraqi Kurdistan. 

They knew Mother Nature invoked passionately 

by D on the forestry track, working to save us all.  

The late afternoon sun is a brilliant sea urchin

spiking like a virus or the Greek sun god Helios 

shown with rays shooting from his head, no –

more exactly starbursts, an optical diffraction 

light shredded by the blades of a small aperture.

The trees like vertical slatted blinds procure privacy 

for the sun-drenched distant hills. I can see the sea,

my legs are bleeding, a flock of Yellow-tailed

Black Cockatoos are crying in the lazy distance.

Newry State Forest, 31 March Read More »

The hornbill observation station The Straits of Malacca

After reading Kit’s these flying islands 

and misreading Hornbill for Hornball (Kit’s poems flow quickly, like the stream that has appeared in our garden) and Hornbills have a rasping sound a little like cicadas)

Poem written 2019. ‘Sail on’ Wolf and Gina

The hornbill observation station         The Straits of Malacca   


They are seated stoned, gazing on blue vibrations

inlaid with shallow mirrors. The tireless tide

is backing off from torn mangrove transitions.


They are not yet intimate with lives around them,

200 species of birds and 500 types of butterfly

or are these redundancies when love is kicking?


An old Chinese proverb says, ‘knowing the names

of things is the beginning of knowledge’.

We are waiting for the Hornbills commuting to roost.


Pneumatophores spear through kneeling mud,

the first in South East Asia to spring from the sea,

inheriting tags like Langa, Langka, Langapura.


I ask how they live on this island that crumples cloud.

Wolfgang’s hand is off the tiller, moored his yacht,

lives in this row of dwellings called Purple Haze


and has found work as a sparky in the new marina.

Gina adds quietly that she works on herself.

‘I’ve given that up’, I smiled, most possibly a lie.


Unable to recognise a missed opportunity,

I flow with no sense of a transect, unable

to a quadrat over time and places, or


tally a discrete muster of people (named),

adventures, artefacts and unexpected

spectral junctures orbiting the circumference.


I talk travelling days, index wildest countries,

complain how age bullies me to safer harbours.

From having timeless fun, time lines my expression,


anxious that green threads unravel leaf by leaf,

tree by tree by forest, drop by drop, river to ocean.

I write, donate and occasionally demonstrate.


Wolf is Austrian, heading the opposite direction.

Gina is from Switzerland’s Italian corner.

I describe crossing the language border,


gardens abruptly sag and tangle, houses relax,

Ticino Merlot for lunch, arousing eloquent

laughter, contingent, unpredictable, infectious.


We’ve lost the destination Odysseus fought to reach,

home is a concept eddying in currents of the modern

that propel ‘a restless itch to rove’, as Dante put it.


I try to remember the name of the commune

we explored above Lake Maggiore, ‘Monte . . .’?

Where they abandoned meat and clothes, where


Isadora Duncan danced naked, Tillich, Steiner,

Lawrence, Ball, Klee, Jung and Kafka ate lettuce

and Herman Hesse lived for months in a cave.


A Hesse novel squats in their rented shack,

‘Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, Glass Bead Game?’

They giggle. They have no idea, it’s in Spanish.


The dream of happiness is readily forgivable

but how come the future keeps failing the past?

Are many wheels turning? Are ghosts hungry?

A Wreathed Hornbill shoots the margins,

wiry frame clamped to oversized black wings

trailing the burnished goitre and solid bill.


‘Where are the rest?’ I demand.

I love her laugh, it’s fresh as fresh,

brief encounters need not be trivial.

Names are cerebral but absorb possessive breath,

a Black-hooded Oriole hooks gold behind us

sweeping out the remnants of blushed light.


The hornbill observation station The Straits of Malacca Read More »

Poem written on the back of the boarding pass

 World Poetry day today

‘It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.’ WCW

Flight QF 2101            8.3.2021            Extract  

                                      Poem written on the back of the boarding pass

From the air, creeks reveal themselves, dark veins
draining the landscape, wandering uncertainly
a brief revelation before we climb into ribbons
of grey-white clouds, the horizon smeared pink.

Cloud free, the rivers and creeks are painted
with mist, some dendrite sharp, others languid
snaking. There’s so much water floating here
on the edge of the driest inhabited continent.

Now the sun positions himself to show the creases
in the wooded mountains, the land buckled,
tempting the word wilderness, but down there
lie scattered ruins of old tracks, rock shelters, sacred
trees, ceremonial sites, hunting grounds that look
so far away from up here. A wide valley spills sour
milk everywhere, small white dots, tombstones
are cherished homes, sheds or barns, fragments of
our immense footprint on the planet hard to realise.

And your absence is almost visible.



We were close to flooding our ground floor on Friday. Natural disasters focus you on the news. I have just read that people within low-lying properties in Bulahdelah have bene told to evacuate due to the Myall River rising. Thoughts go to Kit and Carol and hope they are secure in their beautiful property.


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Love Poem


Love poem                                        13 Feb 2021

I am relieving myself, a natural start to a new day
over Japanese Irises, watching a low, sharp light
tightly focused by the foliage, solar rays must be photons
not waves. This red eye rising over the raucous ocean
gives us everything, even the BCC cut out of my back
a couple of weeks ago. I think of our garden, our love,
how I should write a love poem every day, tallying
the magic conjured daily, because 600 million years
away our star will discharge so much solar radiation
that silicate minerals (90 percent of Earth’s crust)
will rapidly weather recasting the carbonate-silicate cycle.
Carbon dioxide will fall below the level needed to sustain
C3 photosynthesis used by trees. Though, some plants
use the C4 method, enabling survival at concentrations
as low as 10 parts per million, but eventually plant life
will become extinct, leading to the extinction of nearly all
living beings since plants are the bedrock of the food chain.

I end my contribution to the nitrogen cycle, zipper up,
notice the ‘clumping’ Black Bamboo is starting to run amok
and stray into the Irises, Austromyrtus and Club Moss,
a fern that popped up two years ago. I should survey
our garden in days, and love in heartbeats, every second. 

Love Poem Read More »

Today (Feb 2) is World Wetlands day

Today (Feb 2) is World Wetlands day 

In response to your comment yesterday Kit, I was down among the mangroves early, and could hear the Great Egret’s feet sucking on the sand/mud at each step.

FYI. Your beauty (a credit to Grinling Gibbons’ limewood work) is a Double Drummer, our largest and loudest (earplugs needed up here on that 7 year cycle, the loudest insect in the world). The large ones all ‘strafe the ear’ – wonderful phrase. 

Accuracy? Cognitive Naturalism (Allen Carlson) can take things a little far. Gary Snyder begins the poem ‘What You Should Know to be a Poet’ with: ‘all you can about animals as persons / the names of trees and flowers and weeds / names of stars, and the movements of the planets / and the moon . . .’ . 

I’m writing letters this arvo, re logging. As Suzi Gablik writes in The Reenchantment of Art, ‘The great collective project has, in fact, presented itself. It is that of saving the earth – at this point, nothing else really matters.’ 

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                             for J.L. (and Necks fans everywhere)Looking out into a forest of flowering Pink Bloodwoods
and peeling Blackbutts, I hear Vertigo for the first time.

Two decades after Sex the usual groove is bushwhacked
by a tinker’s percussion and electronics out of the blue,
cicadas work an industrial background accompanied
by woodwind from the Miners, a piping King Parrot and
Lorikeets improvising avant-garde, high-register shrieks.

Then, through the cover of trees, the neighbours join in.
Norm is drilling metal, forcing a basketball hoop onto the frame
of his hand-made palm house assembled from scaffolding.
In the west, Graeme is on his chainsaw demolishing
a bamboo forest planted by the previous owners.

The origins of cosmic music are not always attributable.
Tomorrow, I will go down to the estuary at first light and listen.

Acoustemology Read More »

Jan 1 2021

A new year ahead, full of potential, energy and disappointment with moments of clarity and elation no doubt for Flying Islands poets.   

Jan 1 2021

Alone. Moon brimming as she parachutes
into the Nature Reserve, the estuary now
a wasteland of sand and sticks and logs
and stingray hollows, new lagoons formed,
the river has shunted north a hundred metres
another place entirely, in just a day.

Clouds slip through the fingers, the radius
extreme, the movement incessant
and my feet slip on the ribbed sands
and I look 360, focus slips from trees
to moon, to water in low tide quiescence
to sky’s blooming choreography.

We are never alone. A Striated Heron flies silently
across the old mouth, black on black,  sounds
of laughter carry down the river, a party
of overnighters, seeing in the new year with alcohol,
their togetherness out of sight.  A golden crinkle
reveals where Helios is hiding and will arise.

When he does the beam zips down the sea
and along the flattened river to anoint me
and my lens, my work, this solitary concord by river,
sea and sky, a vast altar offering Magpies flying down 
to rifle the stretched beach and silver whistling fish
clearing invisible hoops in the two new lagoons.

I jump ephemeral infiltrating tributaries, my right knee 
winges, so many people died last year, the ones
I knew had cancer. None of the 1.8 Million
strangled to death by COVID I knew that I know.

Life intensifies on a small butterfly flying the wrong way
out to sea, its wavering flight seems uncertain, in the last
days of 2020 an earthquake killed people, a landslide
killed people, a volcano might have killed people, what
lies beneath the soil and sand is ready to surprise. 

We live in a continual state of war, war on the Coronavirus,
the war on terror, a war on drugs. Vehicles killed people,
and bombs, bullets, missiles, knives all killed people.

I’m alive, standing on a sleeve of schist some think
could be classified as living in some minimal sense,
on an island, a huge island from an aerial perspective,
Gumbaynggirr stories explain the details.

Another year, a new year not really, this estuary
measures time differently, by the tides,
by pluralities and patterns of rainfall, climate
change, human engineering ‘solutions’.

Can this text ever enter this world of magic, of tidal
imperatives, bird animations and fish ripples, mollusk
tracks and crabs, their hidden lives surrounding me,
their sandy spoils and bings, and the stingrays’ absence?

Space written, instead of place, a hand-held camera
has no sense of the text, no sense of my weight sinking
into the Earth each step. I holster the machine, breathe
arms out, horse stance. This year is one that will age me.

I have been to so many countries, landed here and now
have no wish to be anywhere else. This enormous room
is home, my strategy is a quiet life paying more attention
to the intimate details, not a new year resolution.

Experience has fallen in value, amid a generation which from 1914 to 1918 had to experience some of the most monstrous events in the history of the world . . . A generation that had gone to school in horse-drawn streetcars now stood in the open air, amid a landscape in which nothing was the same except the clouds and, at its center, in a force field of destructive torrents and explosions, the tiny, fragile human body. Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin, ‘Experience and Poverty’, Die Welt im Wort (Prague), December 1933. 

Jan 1 2021 Read More »

Xmas Day 2020

Xmas Day 2020

Congratulations to Kit for being prodigious, inventive and an effective whirl of quarks, bosons and tachyons, and to all Flying Island authors and readers.

I am concentrating on natural aesthetics, given the ecocatastrophe we are sliding into.

Twenty years ago Suzi Gablik wrote ‘The new questions that are being raised are no longer issues of style or content, but issues of social and environmental responsibility.’ (The Reenchantment of Art, Thames and Hudson,1991, p4).

May 2021 be a creative one for you all.


Xmas Day 2020 Read More »

john bennett

writer, photographer, video artist. PhD ‘A new defence of poetry’. His exhibition ‘First light, from Eos to Helios’ at Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery, 2017, consisted of photographs, video and texts advocating natural aesthetics as a way to connect back to nature. An ABC documentary on this project ‘Poetry at First Light’ was broadcast on Radio National’s Earshot, 2016.

Pocket Diary’, Flying Island Books, 2012

He lives in Gumbaynggirr country and has worked with Aboriginal story tellers, has had Bundanon Fellowship, artist in residence, Macleay Museum, Sydney, and been awarded.Sydney Harbour Artist of the Year (for poetry). 

He served as Artistic director of the Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival for five years and his visual work is being used by Government agencies, local tourist bodies, community groups and a number of arts, festival and environmental organisations.

john bennett Read More »

john bennett ~ example of work

Much is on my website, including a link to my new album based on my daily Pandemic journal, VIRUS 2020.


‘Take ekphrastic inspiration by responding to Olive Cotton’s The photographer’s shadow (1935).’

Here is my effort in any case, perhaps too prosaic, too much information, a tribute when I come to think of it, to a remarkable woman and artist. I wanted to celebrate a marvellous photograph, my favourite of hers.

‘A partial eclipse ~ Olive Cotton, The Photographer’s Shadow, 1935’

I sense her finger crouch, a waft of excitement, tempered
by darkroom apprehension. At first, you would prefer the heads
to align, but that would probably appear too contrived and lose
both Janus and that touch of Bresson’s decisive moment.
‘I don’t believe it’, shouts Max, hands on his head, or mimes
Munch’s Scream in a compact composition, flat origami,
lines and blocks in graded shades. Becoming familiar
with this chemical romance I’m sure this moment took time.
Her arms are sculptural, symmetrical, grounding the image
and they echo the relaxed arms of her model and lover,
her stand-over tactics prevent her nestling in his arms.
Max flops on his back, repetition with diverse consonants.
Thirties beauty was clean lines, fashion, stylish sunglasses
ignoring the beauty Polykleitos achieved using strict formulae
to chisel male nudes, stretching and relaxing athletic limbs
to embody erect perfection. After all, the gods take human form.
The gym body is now ideal but she muddies his torso,
doesn’t care to crop a swatch of swimming trunks
teasing an everyday aesthetic, ordinary glimpses
stretching time and place, if only we paid more attention.
Bush or beach are the Australian locations. Childhood friend
and later husband, Max Dupain, famously exploited the latter
(Sontag stressed, that’s what photographs do). Both children
played with Kodak Box Brownies, Olive’s ‘great awakening’.
The subjects are well known, well, hardly subjects, they float
through history, voiceless and paper dry in this brief eclipse
yet we share their vast circumstance of sky, heat and jaunty light,
the silver presence of the gulls, our noisy abrasive ocean.
One figure prone on earth grain, one ghost in negative radiance,
heads dead centre of the body, ephemeral . . . Have we become
too focused on images? Ekphrasis has been inverted.
100 million Instagram posts shared daily need more poetry.
Look between your legs. Go on, upside down, as blood rushes
to your visual cortex a giant locust hovers and a man vomits
an unkempt beard thirsty for play, surreal, artistic and ridiculous.
Have you decided? Scream or laughter? Rabbit or duck?
We can’t control what we see, mortality, scraps of beach-towel,
one vague nipple. Saccades give the game away. Men go for
the eyes then the erogenous zones, improvising love and eros.
They both loved shadows, increasingly rare phenomena.
If you need a narrative this moment passed, their shadows stretched.
They left and went home for dinner. The country went to war.
Olive left Max for a new husband and his farm near Cowra, and
for children, isolation and poverty without electricity or water running.
I feel sad because the marvellous career of the photographer Olive Cotton
kind of stopped . . . she married another guy and moved to the country.
Shaune Lakin, curator
I was very happy, I loved the space and freedom. I never regretted coming here.
Olive Cotton

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