from Issue #8: Poetry by Alex Skovron

Photo (CC) Julien Boulin @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Julien Boulin @ Flickr

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Door Soldier

The flabby bouncer outside Adriano’s
plucks a speck of street from his lapel,
……realigns his feet. He is thinking

About the wirehaired girl, she looked fifteen
though her ID seemed kosher. These days
……they get them forged, easy with Photoshop

And laser printers. He is remembering how
as a strapping punk he once king-hit a constable
……during the Globalization demos

Or was it Occupy? Nobody saw him do it,
but later he learnt the copper had laughed it off,
……which relieved and angered him.

He is wondering what his mum will say
when he creeps in after four again, or maybe
……he’ll sleep over at Lorraine’s, she’s

Always good for an ’im prompt you, she calls them;
mum’s really out of it nowadays,
……sometimes she doesn’t know what day it is –

But he’s deciding no, he’d better turn up at home
just in case she’s on the bedroom carpet,
……forgotten where she left her walking frame

And went for six. She never seems
to injure herself when she falls, although
……he knows it’s bound to happen eventually.

There’s that steelwool girl again, leaving already;
she’s young alright, but cute,
……where could she be off to now?

He fancies how he could follow her, for a lark,
if he wasn’t stuck standing out here
……in front of this shitty pub,

That’s all it is, despite its fancy title,
this dead end of a drinking hole, the haunt
……of try-hard aging poets and snooty chicks.

He hears his knuckles crack, catches himself
recalling a piece of advice his father shared
……in one of his angrier moods.

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Open Slam

Just before he sauntered into the poetry reading
…………..he spotted the girl sitting in the gutter, her head down
as if in the midst of a distraught meditation or
…………..maybe about to vomit. Reluctant to approach her lest
he intrude, or she throw up at the very instant of his
…………..soft solicitous gambit, he stood off a while,
watching her like a jumpy guardian or dubious minder
…………..hoping her intentions, indeed her proper demeanour,
might swiftly clarify; but she simply sat there, not
…………..in the slightest mindful of the middlebrow semi-dandy
calibrating her every twitch, each microscopic shift
…………..and variance in her posture. As he was starting to feel
less fond of this fortuitous project he’d enlisted in,
…………..she suddenly jerked her head sideways and up and
directly into the sunlight behind him, so that her eyes
…………..must have construed a silhouetted figure, clearly male,
backlit in the late-afternoon dazzle of a sun’s
…………..Parthian emblazement before slippage under the slums
to the west of town. If not startled, she registered
…………..still something of surprise, but her kerbside station
refused to update itself. When an auto sizzled past,
…………..its whitewalls too close not to spray muddy droplets
over the basket he only now noticed flanking her,
…………..she arose at last, and he made out the young poet he had
encountered last Thursday in the Rotunda, that
…………..skinny one he’d led up to his shop and slept with.

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Apokryphon

Midnight dream. The bed swims below a roof awash
with the rid remains of hags and queasy clocks.

On the stead a pair of hungover jocks. The guests gather
all over again. The wedding canopy’s lid

is quilted with cartoons in black pen, pastels, and prints
of exotic family trees. Invitees lavishly grin, some of them weep.

A leering urchin passes, waltzing with a broom. Curtains
part, discreet. Soon the speeches will start, the blackening sky

and canopy refill, umbrellas are crisply arranged.
The marriage of pride and gloom. All manner of vows shall be

exchanged, while the un­invited clutter about in a forbidden room.
No tickets please. On the lawn, a slightly familiar singing

among contorted trees, a plinkle of glasses and a tlunk of plates.
Eyes crawl everywhere, looking for links. Sex and seduction

colonize the air, it’s a cocktail turn: he’s itching for some
fingerfood, she scans for drinks. Wait, is that the celebrant

pushing the gates, wearing her tinny sprinkle of professional joy?
Her golden tresses, the way she flings them, gorgeously. Oh boy!

(Among the rhododendrons, behind the drive, a churl wrestles
with a virgin’s brief, watches her arrive. Maybe now

the reception can begin.) But the celebrant isn’t: she’s merely
another guest; rumours fly. The sated couple from the bushes

remingle at the rotunda, offer each other the rosy eye.
On the balcony a tipsy-curvy secretary strips. The midnight dreamer,

disabused, notes how it really is clothes that naketh the woman.
She vanishes behind a vase. Everybody sips.

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ABOUT THE POET

ALEX SKOVRON is the author of six collections of poetry and a prose novella; his most recent book is Towards the Equator: New & Selected Poems (Puncher & Wattmann, 2014). Many journals and anthologies in Australia and overseas have published his work, and his novella The Poet (Hybrid, 2005) was recently translated into Czech. The numerous public readings Alex has given have included appearances in China, Serbia, India, Ireland, and on Norfolk Island. The Attic, a selection of his poetry translated into French, was published by PEN Melbourne in 2013. A collection of short stories is also in preparation.

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from Issue #8: Poetry by Richard Berengarten 李道

Photo (CC) Papooga @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Papooga @ Flickr

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Editor’s note: below is Richard Berengarten’s specially-written preface to the selection from his large sequence Changing, which appeared in Issue 8. The poems themselves are presented in a special PDF, to preserve their unique formatting. Click here to read them.

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From Changing

Changing is a book-length poem composed between 1984 and 2014, whose structure is based on the I Ching. The patterning of this work is that of the spatio-temporal field (Olson). Its compositional strategies are those of correlative thinking or correlative cosmos-building (Granet and A. C. Graham). Its tissue is resonance: cosmic, magnetic, morphic (Sheldrake).

The two groups of poems published here are based on the third and fourth of the sixty-four hexagrams, Zhun, 屯 and Meng, 蒙. The first poem in each group corresponds to the hexagram itself, while the other six relate to each of the lines in the hexagram. The paratext in italics beneath the grey line at the end of each poem connects the text directly to the I Ching itself. The stanza divisions and mises-en-page suggest the stacked form of the hexagram.

The I Ching or Book of Changes is unique among the books of the world and its story is extraordinary. Its earliest known version, the Zhouyi, meaning the ‘Zhou Changes’, was probably compiled or composed during the last two decades of the ninth century BCE. As Edward Louis Shaughnessy wrote in his ground-breaking thesis (1983): “The Zhouji is incontestably the most important work of China’s long intellectual history.” It started its existence as a divination manual or fortune-telling handbook, a function it still fulfils today nearly three thousand years later.

The I Ching is comparable to the Bible for the huge number of commentaries and works of philosophy, literature and art that it has generated. My own fascination with this ancient book goes back fifty years to early 1962, when I was a nineteen-year old student at Cambridge. Over the years, Changing has grown, slowly but surely, out of that fascination.

RB, February 2015

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Click here to read selections from Changing in a special PDF.

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ABOUT THE POET

RICHARD BERENGARTEN was born in London in 1943 into a family of musicians. In 1975, he founded the international Cambridge Poetry Festival, which ran until 1985. He has lived in Italy, Greece, Serbia, Croatia and the USA, and has worked extensively in Eastern Europe and Russia. His poetry integrates English, European, Slavic, Jewish, Mediterranean, American and oriental traditions. His many books include For the Living: Selected Longer Poems 1965-2000, In a Time of Drought, The Blue Butterfly, Under Balkan Light, Imagems 1, Manual and Notness. He is recipient of various literary awards in the UK, Serbia and Macedonia: The Blue Butterfly provided the Veliki školski čas memorial-oratorio for Nazi massacre-victims in Kragujevac (Serbia, 2007), and his poetry has been translated into more than ninety languages. A former Arts Council of Great Britain Writer-in-Residence at the Victoria Adult Education Centre, Gravesend, Visiting Professor at the University of Notre Dame, British Council Lector in Belgrade, and Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Newnham College, Cambridge, he is currently a Preceptor at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, a Bye-Fellow at Downing College, an Academic Associate at Pembroke College, a Fellow of the English Association, and poetry editor of the Jewish Quarterly.

from Issue #8: Poetry by Paolo Totaro

Photo (CC) Alex Cheek @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Alex Cheek @ Flickr

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The question

There was once a monkey who asked who am I?
The answer was not one that would satisfy.
Some time later he climbed down from her tree,
looked at the sky and asked pray, who am me?

If these four words were syntactically incorrect,
they posited a question that took time to reflect.
Later still, not the monkey but her descendants
reset the question: what is our why, our essence?

It was the moment He had waited for. He struck
the Lease, called the Quick Eviction Angels Truck
and both he and she had to leave all the trees

and grassy lawns and the tepid sea-breeze.
Yet, the questions kept on rising to the sky
and I for one still ask who the fuck am I?

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 The architect’s gene

…………………………………………..In memoriam Harry Seidler

The house this mouse built, for herself, mate and brood
is a tunnel, complex, to you and me a pinhole in the ground.
Over there, clay, saliva, dung, the termites’ mound scrapes
their sky. Green tree-ants sew their home in a leaf, one design.

Weaverbirds’ aerial nests, of chewed grass and palm leaves,
pulse against the sunlight. Yes, living things all have innate
sense of roof, of eaves. They don’t boast. Don’t add
to the palimpsest, humbly react to what is internally told.

Humans, however, Pheidías to Seidler, improve on ancestors:
towers, domes, each add to the great predecessors,
build nests great as theatres and theatrical places to rest,

try to move one step, two steps higher on the originality
ladder. Their works may last longer. But all living creatures’
nests do not outlast time. Or man’s other gene. For war.

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ABOUT THE POET

PAOLO TOTARO’s poetry in English and in Italian is published in anthologies by Oxford University Press (Mark O’Connor ed. 1992), Stanford UP (USA 2014), in a 2014 special issue on Australian poetry by ARC (Canada) and Cordite (Australia); in literary reviews including Other Modernities (Milan University 2014), Le Simplegadi (Udine University 2014), CreArta (UTS 1998), Quadrant (2012, 2013), Contrappasso (2013). His Collected Poems (1950-2011) was published in 2012. He won the First Prize at the 1992 Due Giugno literary competition with Storia Patria (Naples and Sydney, 2012). He was a contributor to The Bulletin and other magazines. He has presented his work in public libraries, the Dante Alighieri Society, The Italian Institute of Culture, Manning Clark House, SBS TV and radio, the ABC, and others. His current work explores the bond between poetry, science and myth. He had a role in the foundation of multiculturalism in Australia with his Report to Parliament Participation (1978) as Foundation Chairman of the Ethnic Affairs Commission and his work thereafter. He has held many public positions and was honoured with the Order of Australia in 1988 and the Order of Italy in 2010. As a pianist, he presented the first Australian performance of the Suite op. 145 by Shostakovich (‘On Verses of Michelangelo’) for baritone and piano (Art Gallery of NSW, 1974). He lives on Pittwater, NSW, Australia, with his wife. Part of his papers are with the Mitchell Library.