Dimitra Harvey’s ‘Cicadas’

Spring unrolled skies like runners of pink muslin, breezes
steeped in honeycomb. Set out flowers in pastry
blues and glacé reds; summer simmered at the season’s
edge, began to smoke. That’s when I found their shells
everywhere — like pods of blown sugar, trimmed
to the trunks of bloodwoods, blue gums.

Yolk light streaked tower windows. Down Dixon Street,
the grills hissed, spitting oil. Plane trees offered their leaves
to the pavement in helpings of ginger and oxblood. I watched
strangers champ down fists of minced squid, or tighten
the nooses of their scarves, as lanterns swung
like pomelos from the eaves of tea rooms, and the dusk
slung up its meathook moon. This was Chinatown
on a Friday night — the markets packed. The scent of burning sugar
lured me from my mother to a stall where toffee
oozed in an iron pot. A woman was rolling
a knot of it to a worm. She jutted one end in her mouth
and blew; and as the sugar ballooned, she began
pinching and pulling it, shaping wings, a square
jaw, a long torso coiling round itself — all the while
filling it with her breath as if creation were a kind of
mouth to mouth — then she took the end from her lips
and tweaked it shut. Deft as a doctor’s
stitch she embedded a skewer, tilted the dragon
towards light so it shimmered, copper-bronze.
I watched as she made a horse, a rat — my tongue watering,
even though I knew they were not for eating.

Now rummaging at weeds on my knees
in the veggie beds, my fingers scrape the crisp
toffee abdomens of cicada shells. I press aside
drooping leaves of eggplants — the fat fruits,
black as hearses, nodding, glinting offhandedly.
I pull oxalis, dandelion from their roots. Throw
the first in a pile for the worms, heap
the latter by my knee for later:

Stir eggs and dill, diced shallots, grated feta and kefalograviera
until combined. Add a dash of olive oil, salt. Fold-in diced
chard and the wild greens you pulled from the hedgerow, the side
of the road — like the peasant grandmother who lived through famine
and three wars, raised twenty children, and knew that everywhere
the earth makes offerings of nourishment. Line your cooking tin
with pastry thin and pale as a cotton shroud. Anoint with olive oil. Now
spoon the mixture evenly across your tray and cover with more pastry.
Puncture the top with a fork or skewer — so steam — like the soul
through the mouth at death — can escape. Cook till golden.

For weeks, the air throbbed with their love songs, their
jackhammer dirges, as they bred and died, became banquet
for lizard and bird. I’ve imagined that moment of revelation:
seventeen years tucked in the dirt, sucking root sap, then —
the sudden insistent urge to burrow up and out… Exposed
to light and the swiftness of air for the first time, the old self
ruptures, peeling back — wings unfurl, silent
gossamer. Sometimes I find one, the shell
not entirely sloughed, the crisp, veined wings only
partly unfolded. My eyes track the conveyor belts
of ants: they till the corpse, ferry
morsels to the nest.

I ready the ground for sowing. Swing the mattock round again,
tear up another sod. A butcherbird probes the edges of opened
earth and plucks up worms purple-red as sopressa. Skinks
tongue crickets by the irrigation runnels. A kookaburra drops
from the shed then wings north — a marsh snake thrashing
in its beak. Above rotted orange peels, celery tufts, the skins
of pumpkins heaped on the compost — fruit flies hover like tossed
confetti. Westering now, the sun spills her brandy down
the hills; mosquitoes bore for my veins’ hard liquor.

Dimitra Harvey’s ‘Cicadas’ Read More »

from Dominique Hecq and Béatrice Machet’s “Crypto”

Virtu L

ce qui ne se voit pas n’existe pas
objet toi       Le plus visible
                Le plus accessible
                Le plus vite possible 

tout entier dans son image 
comme Narcisse
sans reste aucun
mirez-moi ca

transparence absolue 
        transparence tue
Virtu L

which is not seen doesn’t exist 
object you the most visibLe 
        the most accessibLe
  the most readily possibLe

entirely whole in one’s image
like Narcissus 
nothing left over
behold id

absolute transparency 
dead muted transparency 

from Dominique Hecq and Béatrice Machet’s “Crypto” Read More »

Philip Hammial

Philip Hammial grew up in and around Detroit, Michigan, where he spent his teenage years getting into serious trouble, a juvenile delinquent with too much imagination for his own good. After three years in the engine rooms of US Navy ships he went to Olivet College in Olivet, Michigan, and then to Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, where he ‘discovered’ poetry, art, philosophy and history. Graduating with honours in English Literature and Philosophy in 1963, he went on to travel the world for a total of ten years, visiting seventy-four countries and working in three – Denmark, England and Greece.

In 1972 he arrived in Sydney on a tourist visa and nine months later was granted a residents visa. He is now an Australian citizen, married with one child, a daughter born in 1997, and has been living in the Blue Mountains since 1994. He has published twenty collections of poetry, one of prose and is the editor of 25 poetes australiens, an anthology published in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec and Paris. He is also the editor (with Ulli Beier and Rudy Krausmann) of the seminal Outsider Art in Australia. As the director of The Australian Collection of Outsider Art, he has curated or helped to organize twenty-six exhibitions of Australian Outsider Art – in Australia, Germany, France, Belgium and the US. In 1979 he became the editor of Island Press. Possibly the oldest small press in Australia still publishing poetry, Island was founded in 1970 by Philip Roberts and has published forty-seven titles to date. Hammial is also an artist. He has had thirty-three solo exhibitions and his work has been included in seventy group exhibitions.

Two of his poetry collections were short-listed for the Kenneth Slessor Prize – Bread in 2001 and In the Year of Our Lord Slaughter’s Children in 2004. He has represented Australia at four overseas poetry festivals – Poetry Africa 2000 in Durban, South Africa; the Festival Franco-Anglais de Poesie, Paris, 2000; The World Festival of Poets, Tokyo, 2000 and the Festival International de la Poesie, Trois Rivieres, Quebec, 2004. In 2001 he had a one month writer-in-residency at the Fundacion Valparaiso in Mojacar, Spain.

A member of the Woodford Bush Fire Brigade between 1995 and 2003, Hammial fought many of the fires that raged through the Blue Mountains during those years. An environmental and human rights activist, he has worked as a volunteer for the Wilderness Society and for the Free Tibet Action Group.

Links: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Hammial

Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications

The Beast Should Comply

Translator Song Zijiang

In National Library of Australia

Philip Hammial Read More »

Huang Lihai 作者, 黃禮孩

Huang Lihai was born in the 70s in Xuwen county, the southernmost tip of the Chinese mainland. His poems have been included in more than one hundred anthologies and he has published a number of poetry collections, including I Know Little about Life, Feed Rainbows to the Birds and Who Can Outrun Lightning. He has written essays and critiques on art, dance, film, and poetry. In 1999, he founded Poetry and People journal and in 2005 established the Poetry and People International Poetry Award. He has won a number of prizes, including the 8th Lu Xun Literature and Arts Award, Phoenix TV’s Annual Artist Award, the Lebanon International Literary Award and the first Hai Zi Poetry Award. He is currently the editor of China and Western Poetry Magazine.

Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications

Feed Birds Rainbows

Translator(s) 譯者, 客遠文Kit Kelen, 宋子江Song Zijiang

Huang Lihai 作者, 黃禮孩 Read More »

Gail Hennessy

Gail Hennessy was educated at Our Lady of Mercy College Cronulla and graduated from the University of Sydney with a BA degree in 1959. From 1960 to 1988 she lived and worked in Canberra with her husband and five children. During the 1970s and 1980s her poetry was widely published in regional and national newspapers and literary journals. She was an active member of the Canberra branch of the Society of Women Writers.

In 1988 she moved to Newcastle.  During the 1990s she committed herself to academic work in the field of Australian/Aboriginal studies, graduating in 1999 from the University of Newcastle with a Masters degree by research into the autobiographies of Aboriginal women. This work led to her successful PhD thesis of 2004, ‘Testimonio: Witnessing my Mother’s Life in Twentieth Century Australia’. After completing her thesis Hennessy returned to poetry and has been successful in a number of competitions and anthologies. In 2009 she produced a collection of old and new works under the title Witnessing which derived from her PhD work. (Biography provided by author to the National Library of Australia.)

Hennessey’s Written on Water (Flying Island Books) was published in 2017. The M Word (Girls on Key) was published in 2018 . It is a memoir about postnatal psychosis, and addresses the stigma around mental illness.

Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications

Written on Water

In National Library of Australia

Gail Hennessy Read More »

Common or Garden Poets – Post #2 – Jean Kent inviting Gail Hennessy


In my Mother’s Garden

   for Gail Hennessy

first thing from the veranda

an orchestra tuning
instruments of bright …

Kit Kelen, ‘secret no one can keep’


For an hour before dawn a secret bird
practises its song.  Nine notes,
a melody neat

as an artlessly tied silk scarf,
too quicky looped &
flung around the neck of the garden

for its labour to linger in my ear.

In this drowsing twilight my dream –
harrowing empty corridors,
seeding departed rooms
with small hopes of finding my mother—

ends with a bunch of hospital flowers,
a bought garden bright in my hands
but no dented metal dipper like hers

offering a rainwater bath before a vase.

Spangled with spiderwebs her garden
makes mazes now—
narrow pathways with more room
for plants than people.

Under the curtaining wisteria
who will take banana peel
to the orchids?  Who will shiver the dew
over the freesias and the thryptomene?

Who will follow her,
snipping and sniffing and accepting
the riddles of sleeping under earth

and waking seasons later

as if the secret we forget could never be
that we’re just flutter-byes,
brief flittery visitors

to these springs, premature
or predictably passing
in a wink?

Remembering our hydrangeas of childhood,
how patiently they waited for summer
to fill heads with sky-blue

I think of the man in Japan
drowned in tears after the 2011 tsunami,
searching for his family in the Fukushima ruins

until, at last, he planted canola,
a maze of rising sunshine,
a place to be happily lost.

Though it will not last forever,
the light is longer there.
It opens the faces of visitors like secrets

everyone is happy to share.
For this season of flowering, at least,
we all know

if we save the garden, the garden may save us.



Common or Garden Poets – Post #2 – Jean Kent inviting Gail Hennessy Read More »


Hello Flying Islanders!

I’m very excited to have been warmly welcomed into this community and blogosphere as an honorary member after launching Steve Armstrong’s latest pocket book of poetry What’s Left.

I’m a poet, and emerging literary critic, living on Darkinjung country on the Central Coast of NSW. My chapbook, A Fistful of Hail, was published by Vagabond Press in 2018.

Here’s a poem from that collection, which inspired the title:


You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed…

Psalm 128:2

Time has scalloped and tightly crimped

the hill’s stone — all the troughs

and rifts of its flanks studded

with cypress, laurels. The Acrocorinth

juts into wind above the yellowed vineyards

and timber pig-sheds, the fish

like wands of garnet or black-spotted quartz

carving the shallows at Vrahati beach.

My grandfather’s people


clusters of bitter-and-sweet jade fruit

from the vines, while time – like a god’s

hand on the hill – tapped off seams

of limestone with the rain’s pick, or pounded out

trenches with fistfuls of hail, lightning.

In the village, pines drip

resin in the brush. I walk

dirt tracks where hens pace for seed. In dusty

gardens, in olive groves, the goats swank

oily beards, the hammered scrolls

of horns, gnashing thyme thickets — the Acrocorinth

pale as whey to the south. From here

I make out the old acropolis extruding

from the hill like blunted teeth; I probe,

till my eyes ache, for Aphrodite’s

temple, nesting somewhere in the high

ridges. The Corinthian Gulf flickers

down a north-east road, and I know

this evening the sun will strut there like a peacock

trailing long feathers across

the water. Soon, I’ll walk back

to my great uncle’s house.

He’ll empty wine from a barrel.

He’ll tell me stories of his brother’s fist.

I’ve seen the x-rays — my mother’s

dented wrist, forearm — all the fractured

bones. And I’ll think of those hands,

coaxing, on the vines; and I’ll think of a god

with a fistful of hail. I’ll drink

the cool, bitter pink liquid, and currents

of sweetness will twist

through each mouthful.


‘Acrocorinth’ was first published in Philament Journal — Precarity, Vol. 22 December 2016; and appeared in The Best Australian Poems 2017.

Acrocorinth Read More »