local by Anna Couani

‘I’ve walked the same street’ by Anna Couani

From Local

I’ve walked the same street
many times
for decades
living in the village
even if it’s the city
and times before
carefree barefoot summers
on the dirty asphalt
never a shopping street
reminiscent of the barefoot summers
of childhood
on the dusty dirt roads
now paved
that endlessness
of school holidays
and this place
filled with creative lives
when before that was only starting
and then we were just learning
trying to figure out what to do
now it explodes round us
then my faint hope
of having an artistic life
associating with artists
realised on these streets
tucked away in the corners of the village
basement studios
writers in coffee shops
and a street full of live music
since retail died

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local by Anna Couani

‘Ideas for Novels 7’ by Anna Couani

Sydney gives you space to breathe
with its up and down hills
and huge liquid ambers

skinny peninsulas
deep deep harbour

lost in the crowd

trams that live on
in Australian novels

my generations
in the inner city

a blessing
a curse

the city as it is lived

the Greek kids
four brothers
who built canoes
from corrugated iron
and tar
to sink like a stone
in Rose Bay

the glittering church windows
of John Radecki
Polish great grandpa
nestling like forgotten jewels
in corners of the city
only discovered by us atheists
fifty years later

Mum and Dad snapped in Lee Street
just as it is today
with the old stone wall
the steep slate roof
looking like Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck
in Spellbound
especially as they were doctors
and the shot was in black and white
the excitement of the CBD
all of us walking those streets
different feet
different decades
across 140 years

Uncle Con’s café in George Street
long and narrow
and Con, ex-army cook
frantic at the grill
way down inside
how did he stop customers
from running off without paying?

John Radecki’s stained glass factory
in Dixon Street
near today’s Food World food court
when the buildings were entirely blackened
and grandma toiling to keep it afloat
struggling with her heart condition
and her proud husband

Uncles George and Con
later on
with the fruit barrow
just outside
the old Anthony Hordern’s building
spinning those paper bags
carrying change in those leather aprons

Auntie Nellie in the Oceanic Café
for 65 years
on the other side of Central Station
Mum on the till
pregnant with me
strange she was taking time off her own work
and 10 years later was working just up the hill

those Poles and those Greeks
the place more like an American city
for us
seemed like we were in the wrong movie

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local by Anna Couani

A review of “Local” By Anna Couani

Reviewed by Beatriz Copello

Source: Compulsive Reader www.compulsivereader.com/2022/03/12/a-review-of-local-by-anna-couani

Jon Anderson in Understanding Cultural Geography: Places and Traces, Routledge, 2015 said: “Places come by their meanings and identities as a result of the complex intersections of culture and context that occur within that specific location.” Local, a fascinating book of poetry by the well-known artist and poet Anna Couani is about place. Place in Couani’s poetry is about Sydney and the Inner City and she has the knowledge, the experiences and the connection to allow us to say that she has a ‘sense of place’.  That sense of place not only stems from the poet but also from her parents and grandparents’ experiences, memories and attachments.  The poem “Earliest Memories” is a clear example of subjective memories or using the cliché ‘walking in her ancestors’ shoes:

my earliest memories of Glebe
my parents’ memories
of first meeting at Sydney Uni
studying medicine
my father recruiting Mum for the Labor Club
bastion of progressive politics
a heady mix of ideology and romance
Mum lived with her sister in as rooming’ house
in Arundel Street
run by Miss Sherack, the hoarder 
of Depression era handkerchiefs, men’s underwear
and walks
common Glebe pastime
walk to the city, walk to Paddington
walks through the Uni especially
my own feet trading the same footpaths
30 years later
down all the way to the water

Anna Couani’s artwork illustrates local. Her life as an artist is also married to her poetry, evident in many of her poems. The joy of mixing with other inner-city writers and artists is also apparent in the poetry as is the fact that artists and poets are never too far from politics. The past of the inner city, how it was and how it is, is brought to light … nostalgia? … loss? … anger? is all made clear in the following excerpt from the poem titled “ibis sanctuary”:

the ibis sanctuary was there
before the new excavation started
and before that
there were ugly two-storey flats
and before that
there were workers’ cottages
before that it was an ibis sanctuary

Couani, in her entertaining narrative poetry, sees, reflects, describes, ponders and imagines. Vivid images, poignant lines, and a sense of balance moves the reader from place to place. The poet gives a voice to images. It impressed me how she is able to bring the personal into the poetry without sentimentality. The following poem titled “the flats in Leichhardt Street” illustrates this but also the strength and determination of the writer:

escaped from family trauma
dropped out of Uni, age 20
out of 4th year Architecture
a soft landing with my gentle partner
in hard places
finally found the flat with the dark blue lounge room
just near the old mansion
down in Leichhardt Street
that wound down to the water
turning off Glebe Point Road
exactly where the taxis do a U-turn
as I had done three years before
driving taxis out of the Red Deluxe depot
in Kings Cross

The last poems in the book are titled “ideas for novels” and go from 1 to 10. In these poems the reader enters moments, fragments of time, the land, life and culture. In local Couani gives a voice to images and place, she is an observer, a witness, the reader will be absorbed in her poetry. local is a ‘must read’!

About the reviewer Dr Beatriz Copello is a former member of NSW Writers Centre Management Committee, writes poetry, reviews, fiction and plays. The authors poetry books are: Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations At the Edge of a Dream, Under the Gums Long Shade, and Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish), fiction books are A Call to the Star and Forbidden Steps Under the Wisteria. Copello’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many feminist publications.  She has read her poetry at events organised by the Sydney Writers Festival, the NSW Writers Centre, the Multicultural Arts Alliance, Refugee Week Committee, Humboldt University (USA), Ubud (Bali) Writers Festival. 

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Common or Garden Poets #13 – Angela Costi inviting Denise O’Hagan

The Apricot & The Lemon Tree


at the edge of the village

come to an oak much older than me

that’s where I’ll seek advice

      Kit Kelen 


tenant 1 planted the couple while tenant 2 and 3

nurtured their growth and here I stand, tenant 4

before their arthritic leaves & brittle branches


unlike the owl and the pussycat they are stuck

too close and deep rooted with a stubborn sense 

of belonging to a land they’ve failed to interpret 


once gardens were ballrooms of sweet & bitter

fruit throughout Melbourne’s Northern yards 

expecting Mediterranean weather to migrate  


now these replica orchards are starving for genteel

seasons, expecting to be washed with lukewarm 

hose each night, even when sky drizzles or sprays


with no strength to stretch their limbs, with no

plump, sun-kissed balls of juice for birds & jam

with no smell for dressed salads or fragrant tagine


they offer a time-warp of cravings & nostalgia

in the back yard, encircled by concrete and brick 

ignoring the bottlebrush with its bright red offers



by Angela Costi 

Common or Garden Poets #13 – Angela Costi inviting Denise O’Hagan Read More »

Common or Garden Poets #11 – Kit Kelen inviting Angela Costi


inviting Angela Costi


fragments revised from ‘the village is a garden’ at Mesana

Paphos District, Cyprus


                                                   and I have something to tell you

                                                   which not even I must hear

                                                                     – Yiannis Ritsos



such an honest morning


sun has washed white

what is that tiny bird swings through

under vines in a courtyard glimpse?


it’s an all-day rooster

proclaims from tin shade


tiny lizards

to whom I’ve had no formal introduction

are faster than

call their colour 


a breathless hill’s

good for the heart


I go a little way on

at the edge of the village

come to an oak much older than me

that’s where I’ll seek advice




the olive


abundance, peace and glory


what lives in the olive

is just this season


a certain flit of feather, fur

say opportunity


wide boll of gnarl

our ages blur


flutter adjustment

in the branches


what lives in the olive

a thirst set aside

light throws itself at us


the old ones

writhe themselves around


all cleft

and strong with standing


like a dare to wait

and taste the fruit


it’s bitter now

but you can have my patience


let the blade be with the branch

let the shape be minded



and leaf

is song too


a hill lives in the olive gnarl

whole skies have gathered 


rain fell


let this bark be shot of sun

twig fall to winter fire of night


the tree so many lives

it’s accident and cause we’re here


a wrestle with itself

frozen yoga seems


because we can’t see time

tree’s made of


bend with the breeze

as often laden


think calmly as the tree




a picture of the stillness


a gnarl of stump

could be alive

points its all directions


saw my first snake today

dusty black yay long


add this to the list

of those on the way


flies to me gathered

as movement as sweat


do I deny them hope?

surely I will lie down to die?


a breeze lives in the shade

flutter and the tree takes off


I walk like a ghost through this knowledge

nobody knows I am here




rising to all occasions


pigeons explode from an ancient tree

this happens now and then


there are other days

over the skysill


other worlds

deep in the heart

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Anna Couani

Anna Couani is a Sydney writer and visual artist who runs The Shop Gallery in Glebe. Her recent publications of poetry (7 books in all) are Thinking Process, Owl Press 2017 and Small Wonders, Flying Islands Press 2012. She co-produced The Harbour Breathes with photomonteur Peter Lyssiotis. She was involved in the small press with Magic Sam magazine and Sea Cruise Books with Ken Bolton, Red Spark (with Kit Kelen & Mark Roberts) and co-edited various anthologies – Island in the Sun 1 & 2, No Regrets, Hidden Hands and To End all Wars. She edited a chapbook for Cordite called Falling Angels.

She was in the No Regrets Women Writers Workshop for 12 years and was an officer of NSW Poets Union for 10 years, organising readings at New Partz in Newtown, The Performance Space and other venues. She spent her working life teaching art and ESL in secondary schools, mostly in Intensive English Centres where she produced booklets of student writing and visual art and conducted collaborative script writing for plays written and performed by her students.

She has shown her artwork in various group shows at The Shop Gallery with The Pine Street Printmakers.

Links: www.annacouani.com

Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications

Small Wonders

translations and ink drawings by Debby Sou Vai Keng

In National Library of Australia

Some time ago I was staring through a microscope at a sample of seawater from the Great Barrier Reef. Affixed to the slide, long thin active strands of streaming protoplasm explored this barren and flattened landscape, groping for detritus, microscopic signposts. This new landscape is foreign, less than a millimeter deep and blasted from beneath by a white light as hot as a drowned sun. Tracking the strands, I found their origin, an individual amoeba reaching out from inside an elaborately sculpted shell, hundreds of body-lengths away from the tips of these exploratory strands, called poetically pseudopodia or ‘false feet’. The maligned outsider scientist Sheldrake argues that ‘the sense of being stared at’ is real, and the extended mind behaves like pseudopodia. Not only does light enter our eyes or other senses, but the mind reaches out through them, touching that which is distant, drawing together those objects, people, landscapes, even memories it has explored, generating a vast synthesis, a view of the world that centers on a unique space-time address and connects web-like to all it has touched.

The poems in this book are like that. From the centre of a web of extended mind the poems reach out, like protoplasmic strands, across time and space, touching simultaneously the near and the far, Kochi in India, the arms stretched towards Turkey, between lovers-to-be who stare out at the same eye level from different Sydney buildings, protoplasmic strands delicately touching the past, the personal, familial, political, macroscopic or microscopic, probing the relationship between surfaces, the interior, the exterior, the individual and the collective, between whole cities and the minutia of urban landscapes, extending between cultures, lovers, philosophies, art movements.

Review – Virginia Shepherd Rochford Street Review rochfordstreetreview.com


local concerns itself with the local environment of Glebe, an inner city suburb of Sydney and with other areas of the inner city. Some of the poems were written as part of 366 Poetry Project. It traces the author’s family history and connections to the inner city and also addresses issues of colonisation and the dispossession of indigenous people in Sydney. The book contains 13 artworks by the author.

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Chan Lai Kuen 陳麗娟:亡星之城

Chan Lai Kuen (a.k.a. Dead Cat) was born in Hong Kong. She graduated from the Chinese University of Hong Kong with a degree in English, and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University (taken in Hong Kong) with a degree in Fine Art. Her book of poetry Were the Singing Cats (《有貓在歌唱》2010) was awarded Recommendation Prize of the 11th Hong Kong Biennial Awards for Chinese Literature. Prose collection Kyoto that Cannot be Reached (《不能抵達的京都》) was published in 2015. Bilingual poetry selection City of Dead Stars is published in 2014. Chan also creates works of visual art.

Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications

City of Dead Stars

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Nathan Curnow

Nathan Curnow is an award-winning poet, spoken word performer and past editor of literary journal, Going Down Swinging. His books include The Ghost Poetry Project, RADAR, The Right Wrong Notes and The Apocalypse Awards. He has recently taught creative writing at Federation University, and toured Europe in 2018 with loop artist, Geoffrey Williams, performing in Poland and opening the Heidelberg Literature Festival in Germany. He lives in Ballarat and is the current judge of the annual Woorilla Poetry Prize.

Links: nathancurnow.weebly.com

Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications

The Right Wrong Notes

The Right Wrong Notes is a selection of poems from my previous collections: No Other Life But This, The Ghost Poetry Project, and RADAR. Also including some more recent pieces, the collection represents fifteen years of writing about family, fear and love, with Dan Disney describing the poems as ‘suffused with sensuality and sense-making but also, most importantly, generosity’.

It was launched in Ballarat by Robyn Annear, and in Melbourne by Alicia Sometimes.
Cover Shot by Michelle Dunn Photography

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Nicholafei Chen 陳飛:物語獵人

In 2015 Nicholafei Chen was undertaking a Masters degree in creative writing at Macau University. He was also providing a range of translation services. Born and raised in Guizhou, Chen is a story hunter, a traveler, a graphic designer, a photographer and, most recently, a cultivator of succulent plants. This is all despite having been told by a fortune teller that he would be a diplomat. in 2015 Fei was a Resident Tutor at Henry Fok Pearl Jubilee Residential College in the University of Macau. (His biography will be updated as more information comes to light.)

Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications

A River Sings Tales of the Village

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