from Issue #6: Poetry by Stuart Barnes

Photo (CC) Tim Parkinson @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Tim Parkinson @ Flickr


i[]m[ ]perfect

The hair an eyrie that threatens to top
…………-ple the skinny neck that labours to brace
…….the face inconspicuous in spite of
………the flushed Greek nose, the left eye crazier
than Alastor Moody’s, the mouth as red
………….as a paper cut’s blood (ouch!), the ears blue
……zombie war trophies, the comical Ken
……..doll moustache that floats over the gruesome
trunk’s straggly black hair, spindly limbs (the right
…………arm annunciating scars like Billy
……….Corgan’s), the curved average junk deprived
……..of turtleneck, the mole on the inner
…..right thigh (a lump of shit: taunt of so-and-
………so), the ingrown nail on the big left toe.




The holding of golden hands, or the pit
…..stop at what was probably a beat? No, The jungle gym kiss, the cuddle? No,
no. Freedom? No.
…………………………Something more innocent

….triggered her bark at the bone transmitter,
..annoying paranoiac, Guardian—
….self-appointed—of The Lake and The Park.
..The station issued a cagey car.

skin—darkest, purest—the element, they
………..confessed, obsequious porky
who laughed while needlessly taking details,
asked pardon for that woman’s most fatal

…………Fury, ghormeh sabzi, in my gut.
Allahu Akbar! Blindfolded, we fucked.




Stuart Barnes’s poetry has appeared widely in publications such as Assaracus: A Journal of Gay PoetryCordite Poetry ReviewGoing Down SwingingMascara Literary ReviewOtolithsPoetry Ireland Review, SeizureSoutherlyVerity LaThe Warwick Review and The Weekend Australian Review, and is represented in the anthologies The Night Road (Newcastle Poetry Prize 2009), Short & Twisted 2010Time with the Sky (Newcastle Poetry Prize 2010), fourW twenty-three and fourW twenty-four. In 2014 he was Runner-Up for the Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript. He is poetry editor of Tincture Journal, co-poetry reader for Verity La, and slush reader (poetry, flash) for One Throne Magazine. Twitter @StuartABarnes, Tumblr spines, jackets, sleeves (

New & updated edition of Clinton Walker’s ‘Buried Country’

buriedcountryGood news – Clinton Walker‘s classic history of Australian Aboriginal country music, Buried Country, has just been republished in a new and updated edition through US publisher Verse Chorus Press.

A series of Walker’s drawings from Deadly Woman Blues, Buried Country‘s forthcoming sister volume, appeared in Contrappasso #3.

Here is the Press Release for Buried Country redux:

Long before Aboriginal creativity could be expressed freely across contemporary Australian culture, before ­Aboriginal artists, writers, performers and directors were widely acclaimed, it was country music that first gave the original Australians a voice in modern Australia.

It might seem an unlikely combination, but country has always offered a vehicle for the disposessed to tell their stories. Aboriginal country music has a rich history, from the great pioneer Jimmy Little through Vic Simms, Harry and Wilga Williams, Bobby McLeod, Bob Randall and Isaac Yamma to Roger Knox and Kev Carmody, Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter. These pivotal figures and many more are vividly captured in Clinton Walker’s magisterial and compelling account of this unique Australian tradition.

Hailed on publication as “an act of restitution” (Rhythms), a work that “traces new pathways into the songlines of a hidden and resonant Australian musical history” (The Age), Buried Country draws on the author’s extensive research and in-person interviews. This expanded and updated edition is lavishly illustrated with rare photographs and memorabilia, and includes a full discography.

Visit and Verse Chorus Press. You can also buy the book at

from Issue #6: Poetry by Les Wicks

Photo (CC) Beau Giles @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Beau Giles @ Flickr



He sees a woman, his daughter,
fly away.

Knew this fluff bundle this
totter of feathers she flew then fumbled
as do all gristle to the
adolescent mill when bodies
mystify & mirage so
certain about nothing it’s
almost grown-up.

Lost her somewhere around year 9. They became poles,
the magnets spun their unchosen roles
chalk & chilli.

He knows he’s no authority, no man, no failure
despite. These are the deaths each were promised
eat joylessly a caged lettuce
but need as they
think climb
but decline
into wisdom itself
a fraud one can’t discuss.

Lords of fix or fragment –
she the stubborn, judgemental,
opinionated little brat (just like her old papa).
Forgive him
this not-enough
more to come
bungled but unconditional love.

In awe he watches her name, she
builds a sturdy thing with broken eyes,
the School of Scars
has made something impenetrable to him but a
smile’s worth of trouble.
Friends are salved, worthied the mend with days.
Networks emerge newborn from her fingers,
her business busies (that shop in Newtown)
while managing two children (Grandpa’s quarterly visits
those tiny, priceless strangers).
She strides through
a lush crop of episodic
light & sails.

The father leaves life for those who are ardent, their
petty thrills of territory.
But one thing wanted, waits (for her) unfinished
sucking sense from a regretful river outside
always outside
the Last Iconoclast Saloon
at the end of a train line..


.Hindered by the Hearth

Leave our doors
with weight
stop on a tickle
check the mailbox (you do know
it’s the middle of a long weekend?) back upstairs
to verify the heater is cold have you
got your wallet this
leaving will take a while,
maybe have a cup of coffee?
We work hard to fill the question.

Jowled sky
about the courtesies of coal
you say the day is leaden
leading nowhere
the whimlost winter,
this breeder of night,
is subtle. I will convince myself.
Our tracksuits are smeared with belief.



Les Wicks has been published across nineteen countries in ten languages. His eleventh book of poetry is Sea of Heartbeak (Unexpected Resilience) (Puncher and Wattmann, 2013). This year he will be performing at the World Poetry Festival (Delhi), Beyond Baroque (L.A.), Austin International Poetry Festival (Austin), Brett Whiteley Studio (Sydney), Struga Poetry Evenings and RhiZomic (Sydney). He can be found at

from Issue #6: Poetry by Jamie Grant

Photo (CC) Robert Cutts @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Robert Cutts @ Flickr


A walk in the Coal River Valley with Christopher Koch    

Two figures move along a deserted road
at the centre of a landscape of farms
and forest-capped slopes. A single car passes,
its driver raising one finger off the wheel
in the traditional countryman’s
salute. The dust on the road is as real
as the images brought into someone’s
mind, of the estuary and its arms
wrapped around townships and sheep-grazed grasses,
….waters that have flowed

down from mountainsides, long extinct cones
of ancient volcanoes. Of the two
walkers, one is myself, while the other
is a man who wears a cap one might see
on a Greek fisherman, a man with shrewd
eyes and a subtle grin, the delicacy
of an old watchmaker somehow imbued
in his manner, even if that is not who
he happens to be. Over the fields a plover
….tips its wings and moans

like a distant child. The thorny hedges
beside the road flourish scarlet berries
the size of tear drops; over the hillside
rows of grapevines are covered in plastic
nets, that flutter in the breeze like flags. Sheep
move slowly in a field, touching their thick
lips to the dust-pale earth. A stone house, deep
among shade-giving conifers; beady-eyed
swallows in the eaves, swooping in flurries
….like swarms of midges;

small birds among the vine-rows. Another house
beside the road, red brick with a tower
on one corner – and my companion tells
the history behind the tower’s construction,
and talks about crop growth and old wealth.
His knowledge stretches over the fields, a distraction
from his thoughts about the declining health
which means he must suffer from hour to hour.
From far away, a sound of muffled bells;
….a scattering of cows

steeped in long grass; hills named after household
objects, sugarloaf, cap and bonnet, and
beyond those hills the unseen mountains, jagged
as Switzerland; lakes in hidden valleys,
like the waterways of Europe; small towns
laid out and built almost two centuries
before, beside creeks on flatlands and downs.
The earliest occupants of this land
left no buildings or sculptures, and wore rugged
….cloaks against the cold;

and yet while Napoleon was still alive,
while Lord Byron journeyed among the Greeks,
stone walls and bridges, churches and barracks
arose in forest clearings and on the banks
of rivulets – walls that remain standing
to this day. Buckets and watertanks
in cottage gardens; pathways winding
like the quiet voice of the one who speaks
to me now, of politics and income tax,
….the will to survive,

and the hazards of idealism. A hand
gestures as the words take shape in his thought,
about the past and the present. This place
with its contours and its watercourses
has drawn him back whenever he has meant
to leave. A training track for racehorses
behind a modern farm house, shaped like a tent,
prompts a tale. All through his life he has sought
peace: this landscape written over his face,
….Van Diemen’s Land.





New Year’s Eve. A fireworks display
above the harbour; immense crowds pack
the shoreline. Laughter and drinking
and senseless brawls. Policemen make their way
….past fold-out chairs
and picnic rugs, their flashlights blinking.
The noise is like that of an airborne attack,
….with lights and explosions. Stairs

that lead to vantage points are bordered
by shining faces. Among them, a teenage boy
is caught up in an argument
the police have to settle, and is ordered
….to leave. He goes
off, looking for an unlighted easement
that will lead to where he might rejoin
….his friends. To get there, he follows

a stranger, another boy, down
a laneway and into such darkness
that neither can see where their feet
ought to be placed, in a part of town
….no-one visits
in daylight, the rock-scattered, steep
embankment above a long-disused
….railway siding. Some bits

of what is to follow must remain
fixed in his memory. The ground slips,
and then he is tumbling in air,
bouncing off stones and stumps down to the old train
….tracks, where he sprawls
with bruises and broken bones, aware
mainly of the sharpness of shoulderblades and hips.
….Afterwards, phone calls

and ambulance sirens, confusion
and lights and cameras, a person’s broken form
strapped onto a stretcher to be winched
up the cliff face. The next day’s television
….news will portray
the scene, as two faceless figures are inched
toward safety’s open doors. He comes to less harm
….than someone else may

have done, after such a tumble.
Later, in the ambulance, it seems as if
he is in a dream full of blinding light.
His friends come to find him in the hospital.
….“I was immortal,
I once thought,” he will soon write
on Facebook. “Then I fell off a cliff.
….Now I know I’m immortal.”




Make my Breakfast

My cousin’s father phoned her,
even though they were estranged,
on Christmas morning, to complain
about her mother.

She would not cook his breakfast,
he said. He had managed businesses,
negotiated at the highest
levels, terrified his staff,

but still he did know how
to heat a slice of toast.
My cousin drove across the city’s suburbs
in morning sun. Leaves on the great trees hung down

like sheets of discarded gift wrap.
At the top of a long driveway
the house was an empty box, brittle
as cardboard. In the kitchen a tap

was dripping as he sat at the table.
“Make my breakfast,” he repeated.
In those times it was not unknown
for a man to be unable

to boil a saucepan of water. Instead
my cousin went to the darkened bedroom.
A figure lay under the sheets.
Her mother was dead.




Jamie Grant was born in Melbourne and now lives in Sydney. He has worked as an advertising copywriter, a trainee teacher, a publisher’s representative, a bookseller, a proofreader, and as a freelance editor and journalist. He was editor of the William Heinemann Australia poetry series and poetry editor of The Bulletin. He has published eight collections of his own poetry and has edited five anthologies, including 100 Australian Poems You Need to Know and 100 Australian Poems of Love and Loss. His latest book is Glass on the Chimney (2014).