Haunting & Laughter – Professor Kit Kelen’s One Year Flying Islands Poetry Manuscript Workshop

  • running from January to December 2024
  • minimum of six participants
  • maximum of twelve participants
  • $500 flat fee (GST free)
  • (possibility of a scholarship for a poet of demonstrably limited means, letters of support may be provided for successful applicants wishing to apply to a funding body.)
  • certificate on successful completion and transcript available

The workshop is to be conducted:

  • online (e-mail, ZOOM, and we may use our own Learning Management System on the Flying Islands website)
  • on the phone
  • with the possibility of a residential aspect (depending on the location of participants;
  • any residential component would likely be conducted in Sydney, Newcastle or Markwell.)

This is a practical workshop that will include:

  • regular writing stimuli/readings/exercises
  • engagement with a range of forms and styles of poetry from a variety of periods and cultures
  • feedback and other forms of response
  • individual as well as group discussion
  • regular guest poet sessions by ZOOM included throughout the year
  • an invitation to daily practice, specifically to write poetry, in conversation with Kit, potentially every day throughout the workshop.

The focus of the workshop will be on the production of book-length collections of poetry by participants.

The theme ‘haunting and laughter’ is not intended as in any way prescriptive or restrictive but rather as a means of suggesting a range of possible engagements with poetry.

Who can apply?

Poets of all levels of experience are encouraged to apply.

Poets not native to the English language are encouraged to apply. (Translation and working between languages can be one of our themes.)

Participation in the workshop is not limited to poets resident in Australia, although the residential potential will probably be enhanced for those who are. Likewise, being in a similar time zone might be helpful.

How to apply

Those wishing to apply to participate in the workshop should send a ten page sample of their poetry, along with a biographical note and/or cv. This sample of work may (or may not be) accompanied by a descriptive synopsis of the idea for a book of poems. These materials should be sent as an e-mail attachment, in a single word file, the name of which will include the author’s name and ‘application
for FI 2024 workshop’. This file should be sent, with a covering note to KitKelen@emeritus.um.edu.mo.

Deadline for applications is Sunday 1 st October, 2023. Successful applicants will be informed in November, 2023. No correspondence will be entertained with regard to unsuccessful applications.


All proceeds from the conduct of the workshop are to fund the Flying Islands Poetry Community’s publication of poetry books. No one gets paid for this.


There is no guaranteed prospect of publication associated with participation in the workshop. Acceptance or rejection of an application for the workshop does not imply any qualitative judgement, but is rather based on an assessment of whether a particular poet is likely to benefit from participation.

About Your Workshop Leader – Christopher (Kit) Kelen, FRSN Emeritus Professor of English (University of Macau)

Christopher (Kit) Kelen is a poet and painter, resident in the Myall Lakes of NSW. Published widely since the seventies, he has more than a dozen full length collections in English as well as translated books of poetry in Chinese (several), Portuguese (several), French, Italian, Spanish, Indonesian, Swedish, Norwegian, Filipino, in Greek – his bilingual (Greek and English) volume a postcard from the fires, a picture of the rains, published by Kaleidoscope in Athens, in 2022. Also in 2022, his bilingual Esperanto-English volume Rompitaj Labirintoj – Bung Mazes was published by the Australian Esperanto Association, to coincide with a painting exhibition of that title held at the Shop Gallery in Sydney. A large scale collection of Kit’s – Swimming in the Storm – has just appeared in Romanian, with launches planned for Romania in early 2023. Kit’s latest volume of poetry in English is Book of Mother, published by Puncher & Wattmann in 2022.

An Anne Elder and ABC/ Bicentennial Award winner in the distant past, in 2017, Kit was shortlisted twice for the Montreal Poetry Prize and won the Local Award in the Newcastle Poetry Prize. In 2019 and 2020 Kit won the Hunter Writers’ Centre award in the NPP. He was also shortlisted for the ACU prize in 2020. In 2021 he won the bronze medal in the Newcastle Poetry Prize. And in 2022 he won the second prize silver medal.

Kit has been writer/artist in Residence in many parts of the world – in Australia, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Iceland, Finland and Cyprus. A number of these residencies have led to book publications, sometimes multiple – for instance Bundanon time produced his books Time with the Sky and To the Single Man’s Hut. Time at the Messen residency on the Hardanger Fjord produced Poor Man’s Coat and a book in Norwegian entitled Glasfjorden (the glass fjord).

As a visual artist, over the last fifteen years, Kit has has had ten solo painting and drawing exhibitions in Australia, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Macao.

Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Macau, where he taught for many years, Kit Kelen is also a Conjoint Professor at the University of Newcastle.

In his scholarly writing, Kit has produced a string of books about poetry, the most recent of which is Poetics and Ethics of Anthropomorphism – Children, animals and poetry, published by Routledge in 2022.

In 2017, Kit was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Malmo, in Sweden.

Series Editor for Flying Islands Pocket Poets Series, Kit has mentored many poets and translators from various parts of the world, and run a number of on-line communities of practice in poetry (most notably Project 366 [from 2016-2020]). Kit is a Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW. You can follow Kit’s work-in-progress at the Daily Kitthedailykitkelen.blogspot.com/

“Night War” by Lou Smith from Riversalt

I can hear them
like Formula One cars
on a track around my head
and on my skin the flame
of contusions like tyres
exploding on tarmac.
My left eyelid has swollen
I’ve been sucker punched
during the night-long battle.
I’m a sore loser.
I introduce aids– 
mosquito coils, aromatherapy candles,
citronella oil, the air conditioner–
but they always win.
Welts on my limbs
from bites or scratching,
mosquitoes in the bedclothes–
now that’s just cheating!
I cover my face with the bedspread
my arm out as an offering

2023 Flying Islands Books Launch 5 PM Saturday 4 February 2023

The Shop Gallery, 112 Glebe Point Road, Glebe (on-site, Sydney).

Free event, all welcome!

Poems that fit the palms of your hands

Sharp-edged, wild-eyed, luminous, empowering pilgrimages.

You are invited to the Launch of the new crop of Flying Islands Pocket Books—an extraordinary bouquet of diverse poetic voices in gorgeously crafted volumes that slip easily into your pockets and purses!

The 2023 series, edited by Christopher (Kit) Kelen, includes: Alive in Dubbo by DG Lloyd; Another Day by Kevin Smith; Divertente and other poems by Yannis Rentzos; fierCe by Angie Contini; Sea Skins by Sophia Wilson; Sunday Morning, Here by Jill McKeowen; te pāhikahikatanga/ incommensurabilty by Vaughan Rapatahana; and Text Messages from the Universe by Richard James Allen.

Brian Purcell Estuary Exhibition Launch and Reading with Special Guests

3pm Sunday 5 February, 2023

The Shop Gallery, 112 Glebe Point Road, Glebe (on-site, Sydney).

Free event, all welcome!

To celebrate the launch of Brian Purcell’s Estuary exhibition at The Shop Gallery, there will be a reading focusing on poetry’s relationship with visual art – ekphrasis, typographical, and any other poetry where the visual element is key. It will feature amazing poets from the Flying Islands community: Richard James Allen, Angie Contini, Anna Couani, Christopher (Kit) Kelen, Brian Purcell and Sarah St Vincent Welch.

Vale Jill Eileen McKeowen

09/12/1959 — 25/04/2022 62 wonderful years

It is with sadness that we advise of the passing of Jill McKeowen, one of Flying Islands Poetry Community’s new pocket poets. She succumbed to cancer that she only learned of relatively recently. Her funeral was held on 5 May 2022 at the Pettigrew Funeral Directors’ Chapel Mayfield West NSW.

Jill was an established Newcastle based poet.

What the river told me by Jane Skelton

broomstick orchestra by Jane Skelton

along the lake’s edge   
our burnt limbs scratch at the sky   
rapping in the wind −   
gentle ratapan, a screek   
a soft scrunching of paper
as it passed through us   
we could only receive it −   
dreaming of water   
arms upraised in frozen dance   
amid the whirlwind of fire
our spectral voices   
sing the conflagration   
mimic the crackling   
as the wind brings the burnt reek   
the acrid recall of pain  
waves unburied our song   
our creaking cacophony   
roots deep in midden   
sand falls from shell, bone, graveyards   
old feasts uncovered, old fires
fishing boats glide past   
seabirds, on indifferent trails   
we cry from the dunes   
our terrible scribble is  
crazing the ruffled water 
the wash slaps our dune   
our every wounding, a sound   
the lake whispers back   
its silky repetition   
new growth creeps forward   
our song is nearly over   
twine us in green strength

Yao Feng #15

Xing Hua Temple

why is it the Buddha –
far from the madding crowd on the hill –
sits lounges an air of serenity, over a lotus throne
while Jesus has his blood shed
on a Good Friday cross?
I'll go upstairs with you
and we'll see the gilt-decked Buddha
projecting dazzling gold
in a world of fireworks
you served the Buddha
with incense and prayer
I didn't stoop
to words of long life or good luck
one always ends up hitting the wall
Bodishattvas climb down at last
the rail on which she leans overlooks
inequalities among the world's mountains

(translated by Kit Kelen)


Magdalena Ball – Precarious Inscruitable

When the sea rises to eye level
tears become redundant
every day a baker’s dozen
or more
the red list has 20,000 names
20,000 is a random number
unbounded, like e or Pi
though more finite
0 is usually taken for granted
like the sound of nomatic flocks
passenger pigeons aggregating
flapping, filling the sky in thickened clouds
warbling, dropping, disappearing
leaving a silence so profound
it hurt the ears
until we got used to it
our ear drums morphed
attuned to the sound of the engine
the clack of a keypad
we filled the gap with
gun shot, cash registers
the slide of plastic, the squeal of
pigs heading for slaughter
lathes, hammerings
efficient death is noisy business
a noise we cling to
in order to hide the increasing
silence of
billions of missing
the cardinality             of the empty set

from Richard Tipping’s “Instant History”

Imagine Silence

Imagine silence and 
solitude firm as bread.
Imagine hunger cutting 
first slice, first breath.
Imagine silence answering
each syllable back.
Imagine, alone, around,
yourself the only sound.

from “Riversalt” by Lou Smith

An Evening Swim at Kilaben Bay

Between the wooden slats
of the boardwalk
distant lights of houses
blur in a diffraction of amber
like Venus through drizzle
or in the curve of waves
fanning from shore