J

from Judy Johnson’s “Exhibit”

Cliff Walk

Cliff wind has a particular 

whistling sound like a gas bottle

released a quarter turn – 

gulls tumble in its slipstream

wallabies are fastened to 

the grass by their ears.

Here on the high side 

we squint the miles of absolute blue

and watch the white knots of diving birds

unravelling to stitch the sea.

In this ritual of circles

the trees are intertwined. The tracks 

we tread, dreadlocks on a leviathan’s head.

Below is the spiral heart of palms

And grass trees growing crooked spears.

And lower still, beneath the waves

the constant swirling helix of blue blood

whooshing through a vein.

Rae Desmond Jones

Rae Desmond Jones (11 August 1941 – 27 June 2017) was an Australian poet, novelist, short story writer and politician.

Rae Desmond Jones was born in the mining town of Broken Hill in the far West of New South Wales. Although many of his poems and stories are concerned with urban experience, he always felt that desert landscapes were central to his language and perception. He wrote in colloquial language, which sometimes exploded in powerful narratives packed with ambiguous sexual and violent imagery, especially in his earlier poems and some of his novels. His original and bleak vision was frequently mediated by gusts of earthy humour and unexpected sensitivity and honesty.

He became a popular mayor of Ashfield, an inner Sydney Municipality, from 2004 to 2006, and during that period held together a broad coalition of Labor Party, Green and Independent representatives. He said that for him “poetry and politics are mutually contradictory, and he finds consolation from each in the arms of the other.”

Links: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rae_Desmond_Jones

Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications

Decline and Fall

When I got a hold of Rae Desmond Jones’ pocket-sized collection Decline and Fall I knew from the moment I opened it and began reading I was in for an interesting and affecting ride. Yes, I’m a fan, and I was excited at the prospect of a small gathering of his previously published works (this was, of course, prior to his recent New and Selected Poems, It Comes from All Direction Grand Parade Poets, 2013).

To those who read Australian poetry, Jones is a fascinating presence, who has carved out his place in our literature as a unique, important and challenging voice, simultaneously relevant and visionary, often writing outside of the usual subjects or taking them from an obscure angle, and addressing those that are so often shied away from. Just look at Jones’ infamous poem “The Deadshits”, for example, which narrates a gang rape through the eyes of one of the perpetrators. Not Wordworth’s usual choice of subject, that’s for sure, but this is what distances Jones from the pack and makes him increasingly special, if that’s the right word. Although this poem is not included in Decline and Fall, there are plenty of others that address the unaddressable in a way that is intelligent, beautiful, humorous and more often than not, haunting.

Continue reading review by Robbie Coburn at rochfordstreetreview.com/2014/01/10/let-there-be-war-between-us-robbie-coburn-reviews-decline-and-fall-by-rae-desmond-jones/

Alan Jefferies

Alan Jefferies grew up in Cleveland on the Queensland coast. He published his first poems in 1976 and since then his work has appeared in magazines and newspapers in Australia and overseas. He holds degrees in Communication and Writing from the University of Technology, Sydney and for many years worked as a librarian and teacher at the Workers’ Educational Association, Sydney.

Between 1982 and 1992 he lived in Coalcliff south of Sydney in a house which was a meeting place for writers, poets, artists and musicians.

In 1998 he moved to Hong Kong where he lived for almost ten years. He was one of the initiators of a spoken word event called OutLoud, which takes place on the first Wednesday of each month at the Fringe Club in the Lan Kwai Fong District on Hong Kong Island. In 2002 he co-edited an anthology of work from the readings called Outloud: an anthology of poetry from OutLoud readings.

He has published five books of poetry in Australia including Blood Angels: Poems 1976-1999 (Cerberus, 1997). In October 2004 his bilingual children’s book The crocodile who wanted to be famous, based on the real-life crocodile (Pui Pui) that visited Hong Kong, was published and attracted widespread interest from both the Chinese and English press.

His most recent poetry book Seem, is a bilingual edition English/Chinese (translated by Iris Fan Xing), and published in Macao. His work has also been translated into Arabic, Romanian and Uzbec.

The poet Ken Bolton has recently written that Jefferies’ poems “continue to evince a kind of spiritual, slightly mystical openness or suggestibility in a language that is demotic, cool-ly neutral: epiphany with no signs of struggle or effortfulness, no rhetorical war-dance”.

Links: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Jefferies

Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications

Seem

trans Iris Fan Xing

In National Library of Australia

in the same breath

Judy Johnson

Judy Johnson has published five full length collections and several chapbooks. Her books have won the Victorian Premier’s Award and been shortlisted in both the NSW and WA Premier’s Awards. She’s been awarded the Wesley Michel Wright Prize 3 times. Her latest collection is ‘Dark Convicts'(UWA publishing, 2017) a poetic exploration of her African American First Fleet convict ancestors.
Her Flying Islands publication is ‘Exhibit’, 2013.

Judy Johnson is an award-winning poet with a special interest in bringing to life little known but fascinating aspects of Australia’s history. Prizes for her historical narratives include the Banjo Paterson Award, which she won three years in a row, and the Val Vallis Award. She has been the recipient of three New Work Grants from the Literature Board of the Australia Council, is currently working on another historical novel. Judy Johnson lives on the NSW Central Coast.

Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications

Exhibit

trans Iris Fan Xing

Camellia Wei 韋靜瑩:許多昨天和一個冬天

Carmellia Wei Jing Ying comes from Guangxi, home of the largest minority in China, the Zhuang. She was brought up in a Zhuang family and was greatly influenced by the native song culture (traditional oral poetry). In 2015 she was completing her Masters degree at the University of Macau.

Links: www.facebook.com/camellia.wei

Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications

Many Yesterdays More than Seasons

In National Library of Australia

Judy Johnson

Judy Johnson has published five full length collections and several chapbooks.  Her books have won the Victorian Premier’s Award and been shortlisted in both the NSW and WA Premier’s Awards.  She’s been awarded the Wesley Michel Wright Prize 3 times. Her latest collection is ‘Dark Convicts'(UWA publishing, 2017) a poetic exploration of her African American First Fleet convict ancestors.
Her Flying Islands publication is ‘Exhibit’, 2013.

Words, after an absence

Tend the graves of photographs

    love letters, dried daisies.

Finger the devotions one by one

    like knots in a prayer rope.

Gather inklings and injuries

    as kindling for fire.

Attune to textures especially

    the soft crystals of silence

in the air above old monasteries.

Listen to which footsteps placed

    on the heart’s risers 

produce a squeak

    and which treads are noiseless.

Accept that the poem already exists

     in no known language

and in perfect order.

And now that your task is impossible

    take the one tool you have.

Try hard to find a way back to the page

    with words.

                 Try harder to do no harm.

Alan Jefferies

Alan Jefferies is a poet and childrens’ author born and raised in Brisbane. He started writing and publishing after moving to Sydney in 1976. 

Between 1998 and 2007 he lived and worked in Hong Kong where he co-founded (with Mani Rao & Kit Kelen) OutLoud; Hong Kong’s longest running English language poetry reading. 

He’s published six books of poems, his most recent being “Seem” (Flying Islands, 2010) (Chinese translation by Iris Fan Xing).

He currently lives in Woolgoolga on the NSW mid-North Coast. 

A new book of poems, “in the same breath”  is forthcoming from Flying Islands in 2021.

Links:

https://poetryozreview.blogspot.com/2020/12/newspaper-poems.html

https://www.asiancha.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=380&Itemid=176

https://www.asiancha.com/content/view/2973/635/

http://www.foame.org/Issue10/poems/jefferies.html

Videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-nQqY-NooE

                                                  from “in the same breath…” (forthcoming, Flying Islands, 2021)

The Truth

the truth is almost impossible to be rid of

you can chop it into little bits

you can wrap it in chains 

and sent it gurgling down 

to some distant ocean floor.
you can strip the flesh from its bones

grind each gristle into fine white powder

you burn it, crush it, you can destroy it 

with the heat of a thousand suns.

but all you would have done 

is make the truth sit stiller,

for the facts aren’t going anywhere
you can dismantle its DNA

forbid its language, 

you can tear down its temples

and obliterate its culture.

you can erase every last trace of it from the earth;

you can even ban it 

from referring to itself.
but you’ll never be rid of it completely 

all you would have done 

is make it grow stronger,

for one day, the truth will come out

and it will be frightening.

from “Seem” (Flying Islands, 2010)

Encounter

I had come to her grave for some reason

an anniversary, birthday, I can't remember which.

And there was this guy doing some work on the plot 

right next to my late wife's grave.

He was putting formwork 

around the perimeter.
"It's the resting place of a Somali refugee"

he explained, his wife couldn't afford a headstone so 

I agreed to put something here.

"Anything's better than a mound of dirt, right?"

“Right”, he agreed.
Eventually he stood up from what he was doing 

and looked serenely at my late wife's headstone;

"Young", he said.

"Young" I nodded.

"Sudden" I said,

“Sudden”, he nodded.
And I could feel the beginnings of a single 

crystalline tear forming in the corner of my eye;

and before it could fall, 

he turned and hugged me-

this tall, dark, beautiful stranger.

from “in the same breath”  (forthcoming Flying Islands 2021)