Richard James Allen is an Australian poet, born in Kempsey, New South Wales, on the unceded lands of the Dunghutti Aboriginal People. His writing has appeared widely in journals, anthologies, and online, and he has been a popular reader at multiple reading venues, over many years. His latest volume of poetry, The short story of you and I, was published by UWA Publishing in February 2019. A suite of recent poems, Minimum Correct Dosage, commissioned by Red Room Poetry, was published in December 2019. Previous critically acclaimed books of poetry, fiction and performance texts include Fixing the Broken Nightingale (Flying Island Books), The Kamikaze Mind (Brandl & Schlesinger) and Thursday’s Fictions (Five Islands Press), shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry. A new book, More Lies (Interactive Press), in print, eBook and audio book form read by him, in 2021.
Former Artistic Director of the Poets Union Inc., and director of the inaugural Australian Poetry Festival, Richard is the creator of #RichardReads (https://soundcloud.com/user-387793087), an online compendium of Global Poetry, Read Aloud, and an editor of the landmark anthology, Performing the Unnameable: An Anthology of Australian Performance Texts (Currency Press/RealTime).
Well known for his multi-award-winning career as a filmmaker and choreographer with The Physical TV Company (http://physicaltv.com.au/), and critically acclaimed as a performer in a range of media and contexts, Richard has a track record for innovative adaptations and interactions of poetry and other media, including collaborations with artists in dance, film, theatre, music and a range of digital platforms.
The recipient of numerous awards, nominations, and grants, as well as multiple opportunities for presentations, screenings and broadcasts, he graduated with First Class Honours for his B.A. at Sydney University and won the Chancellor’s Award for most outstanding PhD thesis at the University of Technology, Sydney.
Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications
Fixing the Broken Nightingale
In National Library of Australia
Nearly 40 years later his tenth book of poetry, Fixing the Broken Nightingale, from Flying Island Books, is a journey from the comical and personal to the profound and provoking. Fixing the Broken Nightingale moves through five sections of poetry plus a prologue and epilogue, each focusing on a theme and creating an overall snowball effect from the internal to the universal.
In the first section titled ‘Natural disasters’, Allen gives the reader a quirky glimpse into day-to-day life, love, and creativity. It is as if Allen has sat down with the reader in a busy coffee shop after many months distance and plunged into discussions of lost umbrellas, tattered books, street-walking drug addicts and lucky pennies.
Throughout the second section, ‘Unanswered questions’, Allen holds our hand through a lifetime of love, stopping to focus our attention on sex and suffering through visceral imagery and structure. Form becomes an important technique in poems such as ‘Cradled in the elbow of time and space’, and ‘It doesn’t take long to forget’, a prose poem of energetic run-on sentences in oppressive block-text.
Sections ‘Occasional truths’ and ‘Flickering enlightenment’ confront death, aging, and insignificance. Here Allen takes each reader’s head in his hands and gently repositions our view, looking out of ourselves and making us feel small and dark like, ‘being inside / a cathedral built / of souls’ or falling ‘between the hand and the heart… because it’s easier than answering such questions’.
Allen describes his final section, ‘A scheme for brightness’, as an affirmation of art (that ‘Behind the thin mask of art / is the nothing. Nothing.’). However, it speaks also as an affirmation of love. The reader is led to consider that throughout the previous sections’ heartache and loss, what is ultimately important is ‘the greater love that passes through us, that binds all things’.
Fixing the Broken Nightingale first comically points a finger at the reader’s chest and then directs their gaze to the dark firmament of death, doubt, and smallness above them, leaving you with a feeling of having sped through life in a mere hundred pages.