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Content From Issue: Volume 3 Number 2 (August 2016)

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics

Introduction to “Decolonisation and Geopoethics”

by Peter Minter

Once upon a time I found the ruins of an old house on a hill above the farm. It wasn’t far, just a walk off the verandah and over the fence, through the first horse paddock, down toward the dam through the small stand of tall slim scribbly gums and turpentines, along the well-trodden path around the bee-hives, the usual whiff of honey, moist eucalyptus and cool damp grass, then on further down toward the seasonal creek, through a thicket of acacia to the sighing casuarina forest by the water hole, a still, out-of-sight place of half-concealed verdure under the she-oaks, a cool soft lawn of green grass and she-oak needles running along the dry creek bed.Untitled, Peter Minter I went quietly, deeper along the gully, then went over another fence, past blackberries and rabbit holes and finally up a gently rising track that followed an old white mahogany post and wire fence to the hilltop. There, a wire gate, too broken to open. On the ridge just above, the old house was broken too, its fractured shell hanging onto the hillside like a blasted ship, parts of the bow still standing under shattered Monterey pines. I climbed over the fence and walked along the hint of a path through the grass, up to the ruins.

The house had been pulled apart from top to bottom, the thick, roughly hewn eucalyptus piers left in rows like burial stones amidst the debris of the destruction, a blown about cairn of broken, termite-plagued beams and floorboards, broken bricks and glass, tattered corrugated iron and crumbling sheets of asbestos, tangled wire and plumbing, torn sheets of lino and newspaper cladding in shreds through rotten boards. Two thick piers lay on their sides like old canons. Someone had once started to pull them all out, but the effort to tug them from the earth clearly became too much, the project abandoned. Also Untitled, Peter Minterabandoned and saved from the destruction, an imposing, monumental wall and white fireplace. The hearth, forsaken in the field, but still standing against the wind and rain. Presumably it too would one day fall into the heap, but for now it stood like the ruins of life itself in a monument to decay.

I wandered about here for a while, exploring and photographing the wreckage. What has always stayed with me, along with a sense of late autumnal cold and dankness, is the feeling that I was witness to something deeply symbolic, that the ruined house atop the gently rolling hill was a metaphor for the deep cultural transformation that was emerging all around me. The slow decay of the remains of a lonely farmer’s house, its decline and disintegration, its decomposition and eventual, inevitable assimilation into the environment, appeared before me in a Dantean vision of a transformation of colonial culture, a ruinously fecund metamorphosis of its radical imposition into something new and unrecognisable. This feeling radiated from the rust and decay, the slowly disintegrating partUntitled, Peter Minters of furniture lying around in  the grass, the old cans and bottles. A page from a newspaper caught my eye as it lifted and fell in the wind. Caught up in the splintered, termite-ridden boards, an advertisement from the late 1950s or early 1960s for Persil, a laundry detergent known around the globe, which ironically shouted “Now! Prove it yourself in your own home!” I thought immediately of the trope of whiteness and its widespread use in advertisements of this kind, their easy correlation of domestic, cultural and racial cleanliness. Here, amidst the fragments and leavings, the grass and mud, was a bell tolling through time. At a hinge between the twentieth century and the future, I intuited the possibility of a profound development in the nature and character of the meaning of Australia.

In this issue of Plumwood Mountain, “Decolonisation and Geopoethics”, I have curated a group of works that feel sympathetic to the vision of a decolonised Australia, a place where settler and Indigenous cultures have begun to find an existential common ground that is beyond postcolonial. What does it look like? Here, the question is contemplated solely by non-Indigenous writers. Decolonisation can be shared by everyone, not least the hegemony, for everyone needs to Untitled, Peter Mintertake responsibility for imagining their own unique kind of transformation. In poetry and poetics, we have to think about how non-Indigenous form, western form, romantic form, lyrical form, white form, have a responsibility to current and future cultural conditions. The poets in this issue have already confronted that responsibility, and make poetry that senses and ideates the textures and vectors of an emerging decolonised consciousness in non-Indigenous writing. The renewal is about both form and content—open field, avant-lyrical, polyvalent whole-fragments, two-way decentred recentring, and just good old plain speech. A shared poetics. The country gets involved, speaks through it all, while the imagination dilates to admit everything, from all across the continent, the Pacific, the Indian. The South, all the sunlight after the imperium.

That’s what’s most human about it, how the imagination flowers and grows from the debris, reaches out in new filigrees of testing and speaking and meeting to find niches in the compost, to grow something new from the old, as has always been the way.

The nature of a thing is its character. If a geopoethics is about how we understand and write the nature of nature, the character of habitus, a decolonised geopoethics does it with that something in mind.

I walked away from the ruins, with a few photos in my pocket, a swarm of ideas buzzing about my head like native bees.

Photos by Peter Minter

Published: August 2016
Peter Minter

is an inaugural member of Plumwood Mountain Journal’s editorial board. He teaches Indigenous Studies, Creative Writing and Australian Literature at the University of Sydney. In 2013 his most recent book, In the Serious Light of Nothing, was published by the Chinese University Press Hong Kong.

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics

My Wings, My Excesses

by Jill Jones

My bitumen blood marries cells of red brick dust

through my arms, to sprout bark chips and aluminium.

My breast cracks its bones, its arthritic carbon, my lungs

singing in a Keatsian smear, tinnitus with polyester,

superphosphate and tailings.


It’s not all I have, as I feel it in, as it drips me out.

Wait, there’s more, blue as plastic, and fine as soursob

in a suntrap, girt by traffic and potash, BBQ sauce

and lymph. It’s not all personal nor a definition

of smoke, flakey rubber, failed macadam, or space junk.


My piss flesh flushes a pro rata scenario, a form on a form

of cloud banks. I love my viscera though it all hurts.


Everything that’s killing me is killing me, as if I’m chipping

a small line, pushing excess capacities into wave machines,

with things of sand and tin, a metallic sky that welcomes me

with a high ‘hi’, with strings of helium, holdalls and hemp,

a fertile toast of ancient jackets, a kilt and wings.


There’s a future frenzy blasting my precocious whitened nerves,

some spermatozoid trance in the disco of my drains,

my skin and its sulfates are every day engendered in

the church of carbohydrates, paleolithic junk food.

For surely I can fly this thing, or parachute true.


I extemporise a chorus with my collective diesel which blows

a baguette of taste enhancers, drizzled with asbestos

and joint cement. It clots my breathing, pierces me awake, spinning

in the mist of phenomenon, busy as an overture, a rom com,

or the 60s, shortsighted as Marilyn, or a train through snow.


I have no opinions about nachos or unicorns.

I’m fresh as meat, sugar, or rot.

Published: July 2016
Jill Jones

has published nine full-length books of poetry, including Breaking the Days (Whitmore Press, 2015) and The Beautiful Anxiety (Puncher & Wattmann, 2014), which won the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry. Her most recent publication is a chapbook, The Leaves Are My Sisters (Little Windows Press, 2016). Her work is represented in major anthologies including the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature. She is a member of the J.M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice, University of Adelaide.

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics

Ringneck Parrots Flock Where Snakes Sleep: Passing by Wyening Mission

by John Kinsella

Wandoos link hands to hold the gravel in place.

Salt scalds are edgy with big rains, and incipient

wheat crops welter in a green ghosting of algae.

This is not usual. The mission pillar to post, gates

to say the holy ones came and saw and olives

were grown. But where the snakes sleep,

ringnecks flock which is a miracle in itself.

Clumps of bush, fraternisation of York gum

and wandoo, even ruins of undergrowth

hang on, and high-up nesting hollows

bring energy and boost to the emerald

sapphire of accompanying birds. I’ve not

seen flocks this complete since I was a teenager,

and when one envelops us and we enter its cellular

body — as irritant or germs — its immune system

ejects us and the flock breaks away. Historic

buildings, boutique food label, cultivation

and labour and language drawn to crossroads

where bullet-holes mass and widen penumbra:

eye through crucifix overburdened with light

which blows the aperture, floods the picture.

But in the taints there is brilliance, and scrub

corridors make a weird legacy against the odds.

Can we sustain the notion of the few for the many,

will the largesse of sacrifice sell adequately

to compensate? I am inundated, I am

enveloped, I am gathered up in a rush

of ringneck parrots making the best

of what’s left, so loud, so orchestrated

we can all deny silence, the whisperings

of a savagely eroded gully, roots grasping

spray-percolated air — Roundup Ready —

and fall back into the spiritual plenty of tillage

that has driven snakes deep, deeper

than winter sleep.

Published: July 2016
John Kinsella

John Kinsella’s most recent volumes of poetry are Drowning in Wheat: Selected Poems (Picador, 2016) andFirebreaks (WW Norton, 2016). His most recent collection of short stories is Crow’s Breath (Transit Lounge, 2015). His investigation of “place”, Polysituatedness: A Poetics of Displacement, is due out with Manchester University Press late 2016. He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University and Professor of Literature and Sustainability at Curtin University

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics

‘spatial concretions’ or ‘demappings’

by John Kinsella

Spatial Faultlines: Climbing the Hill Unmapping

Spatial Concretion Unmap 2 JK


Map Fragmentation: Keeping Country Intactfully In Accordance

Spatial Concretion JKinsella


Published: July 2016
John Kinsella

John Kinsella‘s most recent volumes of poetry are Drowning in Wheat: Selected Poems (Picador, 2016) and Firebreaks (WW Norton, 2016). His most recent collection of short stories is Crow’s Breath (Transit Lounge, 2015). His investigation of “place”, Polysituatedness: A Poetics of Displacement, is due out with Manchester University Press late 2016. He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University and Professor of Literature and Sustainability at Curtin University.

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics

Manna Wattle Pushes to Thrive Despite Macro and Micro Global Aggressions

by John Kinsella

The spread of influence up and down the hill

is barely the proliferation, the profusion

of manna wattle. A winter blazing.


Spokes emanating from the ant colony

under the clutch of jam trees opposite

the red shed’s wall-sized canvas door,


halfway to the summit. These mannas

are up against it as much as anything else,

with human majorities stomping on what


can be stomped. I doubt Swift truly

loved ‘nature’ and his Lilliputian

anxiety is more than a focus


on the monstrous phallus

or the Brobdingnagian crevasse,

the gully through which male


and female flower parts might tumble.

When we first arrived, I walked

with handfuls of fruits and dropped


into erosion lines veining from the gully,

and now so many years later, the resistance,

the rise, these acts of being. I walk


amidst their plethora. I walk in amazement.

I shelter from the land-clearers and know

this is no surfacing on defoliated ground


of the next generation that will be mowed

down down. With fallout sickness

more than an act of satire, more


than an act of verbal disgust,

the mannas will push health

beyond the spectrums of aggression —


those spiritless realm where flowers

are decoration and their bodies scaffolds.

Manna wattle lives outside plantations.

Published: July 2016
John Kinsella

John Kinsella‘s most recent volumes of poetry are Drowning in Wheat: Selected Poems (Picador, 2016) and Firebreaks (WW Norton, 2016). His most recent collection of short stories is Crow’s Breath (Transit Lounge, 2015). His investigation of “place”, Polysituatedness: A Poetics of Displacement, is due out with Manchester University Press late 2016. He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University and Professor of Literature and Sustainability at Curtin University.

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics

What The Land

by Michael Farrell

It’s the usual rhetorical question. Don’t begin to

Understand yet, the poem hasn’t quite begun. Quiet. The

Only sound that of words on paper. Still: the

Only movement that of the past, history if

You will. The reading contract (not the writing contract)

Is that you understand that you will feel

Or think something. What the land forms in you

In your mind. This relates to the history

Of reading poetry, and to that of writing it


Money is part of it, take

A step further, killing is part of



We know that


It could probably be seen from the moon if

Anyone was there (up, down, across), watching. The moon’s

A whole other concept

Of land, related to space programs and other exercises

In propaganda, imagination and syntax. We are

In view of it as the sun and stars


Everything seen is implicated. Everything heard and said. Are

You an unbeliever? Or are you the one who

Understands, without reading, my love? Ok, that’s ok

You will never know I asked. The fragmentation

Is complete. So

Is the building. Now the poem can begin

Oh. I am tingling. The wind is

In the ruins. But the sound is not

A message. There is residue

In my teeth, teeth that

Ache for the ground, that

Are part ground. Try to hear what is not

An effect. What makes sense? Not writing. But

It’s the only challenge I want, not when

Or whether people began to see a God, when

That changed, how. If you carry a blue

& white flag that says

Your name’s James Joyce, it makes sense


You come to the city because

You want to show it to your dog


You can’t stay in a hotel so

You sleep nearby. The social seems

Only to be between you. No local sees you


There is nothing ‘going on’. If we step

Outside we feel the mood, while others try to

Escape the mood. A café is not a verb


There are realities. There are things we stopped believing

In when we were seven that haunt

Us forty years later if we make

It like guardian angels


Adopted northern structures. The spines of the

Oak trees reach though power lines. The power lines

Run through the trees. Gold pours into the houses

& other places mining for human feeling, boring holes

In the world. Magazines flap against newspapers. Everything

I thought all day was untrue. Time

Especially. Alarms push themselves out into the air


A poem can’t begin with so much action

Published: July 2016
Michael Farrell

edited an Australian feature for ecopoetics journal in 2009. More recently he has published an article on poetic craft in an Australian context (in Wasafiri), and is also working on an animal species project. Books include Cocky’s Joy (Giramondo) and Writing Australian Unsettlement (Palgrave Macmillan).

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics

Turtle Camp

by Phillip Hall

for my Yanyuwa friends

and two-way learning


On classroom walls we paste

this learning, monitoring

life cycles and health,

in advertisement of eco-calling:


we sit under mango trees, interviewing

family – Yanyuwa bardibardi

an li-Anthawirriyarra Sea Rangers – Maabayny

is Sea Turtle Dreaming, pursued

in the tracks of a turtle’s hauled flight,

and a glaring crystal luminescence

is gasped as air humid and heavy with salt:


each night we will sing

this turtle and hatchling tide – measuring,

tagging, collecting – in a surge

of sustainably flowing law:


the bardibardi conspire,

and recruit me to collect more kids, to press

reengagement’s claim

where self-sabotage grinds

the canvas of those already beaten



camp morning and the chick chacks

flicker from bardibardi to me, while high

on worth I audition the ‘what ifs’

of environmental and medical risks

before the Bing Bong bus to the sea:


a mine’s bullying ‘no entry’ soon disturbs

a sickness site

and iron ore dust suffocates

containment lines

and we are silenced:


we bend round past this port

for a dirt track where the Sea Rangers wait

like popeyes

to ferry us to Carpentaria’s heart:


and soon we’re motoring along

the glass calm waters of the Gulf, dodging

reefs and sand bars with dolphins shooting

through our wake:


Yanyuwa rangers nostalgically

point to ancient Macassan camps and to the sailing

of dugout canoes while bardibardi whisper

into winds: us all forgotten

lil-bit, millad mob who come behind …


on arrival we hoot

up the beach and pitch

our swags under stands of casuarinas

and I again give my eco-spiel about rubbish

plastic ingestion:


waiting for a night’s

science monitoring, I high-wire walk

my team-building initiatives and sports

over a wet tropical paradise that has teeth –

reigning in exuberance to maintain

us whole:


when the tide turns

we fish off a rocky point, casting

for bait before the jerk

of coral trout and parrot fish; knifing

oyster off the rocks; the kids know law, cooking

our feast in a ground oven where it is killed:


and later, from out of the night’s churn

and frothing sea-foam, a pregnant

hauled awkwardness back-handing

dry weight in a nest of sand

and thick clear mucus – a soft-shelled

leathery hoard:


with our field work complete the last turtle turns

and the bardibardi chant, swaying

to the animal’s rhythm

as the kids take small dancing steps, their hands raised

waist high, palms upward, urging

the laboring turtle on –

bawuji barra …

wingkayarra wingkayarra kayikaji ka-wingkala barra …

yuwu wakara nyinku na-alanji wurrbi …





Bardibardi: is Indigenous language (Yanyuwa/Garrawa) in the Gulf region of northern Australia for respectfully referring to older women.

Millad: is Kriol in the Gulf region of northern Australia for the first person plural pronoun: we, us, our.

Yanyuwa: one of four surviving Indigenous language groups in the Northern Territory’s Gulf of Carpentaria.


Bawuji barra …

Wingkayarra wingkayarra kayikaji ka-wingkala barra …

Yuwu wakara nyinku na-alanji wurrbi …


You have finished now …

Go, go, go quickly now …

Yes, you have found it – your true home …

(Thanks to John Bradley, Singing Saltwater Country: Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria, Allen & Unwin, 2010).

Published: July 2016
Phillip Hall

lives in Melbourne’s Sunshine (western suburbs) where he works as a poet and reviewer for such publications as Cordite and Plumwood Mountain. He is a very passionate member of the Western Bulldogs Football Club. He also continues, through his writing, to honour First Nations in the Northern Territory’s Gulf of Carpentaria where he has family and friends.

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics

The watershed

by Chris Armstrong

1 Heading out


Autumn clouds are scouting the mountains

heading for high points on the range


at Weeping Rock and Eagle’s Nest they settle

the divide between sky and forest


the way lovers thread themselves through each other

weaving possumwood and rain


times like this people stay inside, head for shelter

when it fogs in, he goes out


laces up his solitude and walks off track:

camera, cooker, curiosity,


a pack of reasons strapped to his back

walking through snow grass


he picks up observations, has cliff edges in mind,

crosses three rivers before they are named.



2 The first river —Styx River


The Styx River feeds down to a big logging area

of hardwoods from the Point Lookout Road

to Kunderang Brook. He tells me this is where you’ll find

tall-country timbers: stringys like messmate,

brown barrel, silvertop stringys

the big white ones: Shining Gums, Ribbon Gums.

He tells me how his pop used to eat,

his right hand like a pistol,

just a pointer finger and thumb.

Pop gripped the knife like this—

pointer finger stuck out,

thumb tucked around the handle

like he was ready to shoot the kids.

Pop was an old sawmiller

lost five digits to the blade,

two left, three right, which reminds me

my old farrier had three fingers on each hand.

He once told me about the old mill he worked

on the Red Hill Road near our farm;

it was vacant land when I was a kid,

all sawdust, eighty years deep.

My farrier told me the sawdust was on fire

in its heart, smouldering

it could never be put out

burning deep underground,

it would burn for another sixty years.

Now they’ve put houses on top so maybe

he was pulling my leg or someone’s pulling theirs.



3 The second river —Bellinger River


The old man’s beard drips, drips —

turns clouds into rivers where he is


bush bashing, stepping over

nests of light fallen through the canopy


laying broken on the forest floor.

This stretch from Berarngutta to Darkie Point


is the watershed for the Bellinger River

and at this point blood will be the flow.


He is shadowed by views of the valley below

and one particular tree. Despite faint remains of bark


he feels unsheathed in this fatal glen

where cliff meets crown and foliage meets feet


for once upon a time, in this enchanted forest, were those

driven to take a fragile chance, to leap,


to grasp in treacherous aid, the quivering

the yielding branches where a lyrebird perches


mimicking the white tree creeper,

a peregrine falcon, the pied butcherbird,


singing as if telling a selected history of each story

picking out sweet highlights but never giving full account


never true to itself amongst the ferns. What is

a lyrebird’s first song? Is his call hidden among the retelling?


Of course superb these thoughts and the lyrebird

with his polygamous dance scraped amongst leaf litter


displaying a tail of stammering quills like a historian.

The second lyrebird he encounters is the kookaburra


and yellow-tailed black cockatoo in the weeping forest

near an old path that leads to the edge of sorrow


across the broken line of escarpment that hides

the bones of rock fallen from Ngoolungeer


and his third lyrebird, startled out of foraging by these questions,

splits a single note half beautiful, half terror


and something of truth, as if only here

at Darkie Point can the honest alarm call be sung.



4 Writing this out


It is by no means my intention to dwell

upon the subsequent details

of this miserable catastrophe. But,

I must write this out of myself

the way he walks out his cares.

I, too, am sick of the horrid carnage

of repetition, am aching from revisiting

intent and guilt, worn down by truth.



5 The third river —Guy Fawkes River


On his last day of walking, the pack is lighter.

He emerges into one of those empty places up high


a rocky lookout where cool temperate echoes

buffet the rainforest canopy and he walks what remains


of wilderness. He stops to drink at the end

where a rivulet of water decants itself


through swathes of saw-sedge, fallen beech leaves

orange pasted to green moss. The topo shows what this is:


the rise of a river that conjures memories of a walk he took

downstream among brumbies grazing easy flats


wild dogs along the stock route, tall oaks whispering

deserted stockman’s huts, fencing wire strewn,


a peach tree where it shouldn’t be

farmers’ friends poking through his socks


and above all this, the mighty Ebor Falls frozen one winter

like a miracle so you could walk on water beneath icicles.



6 The back wash


These stories break

from the cascade of his thoughts

as shards to cool the comfort

of a Cointreau in camp where the smooth night

conjures the past, and settles on fact

that the Major who named this river

made up his title and laid his pistol inside the Aboriginal’s mouth,

blew the unfortunate’s brains out,

and shrugged off the truth that it was a midsummer

morning manhunt and as leader of a doubtful posse

they failed to catch their real culprits.


On his last day

the Major died

of bronchitis and gentle decay,

took a final breath and then

rode a wagon to town

in a coffin. A bitter life,

and lonely, disinherited from worth,

married late, once and not for long,

loved his station manager’s wife instead

so his adopted and reputed daughter, inherited

three thousand two hundred acres of freehold—

the Guy Fawkes River Run—

with two thousand head of cattle owed to the bank.


So it seems, poets are not the only ones

who live in debt but at least some of mine

will be paid down in words, for I am working here

in the backwash of all that wisdom

and he is walking in it.


The watershed” is a response to a number of massacres, murders and killings in the New England and Dorrigo Plateaus during white settlement in the mid to late 19th Century, including one documented massacre where an estimated 200 Aboriginal peoples were driven off the cliffs of the New England Escarpment at a place called Darkie Point in what is now New England National Park. That same massacre is the subject of Judith Wright’s poem “Niggers Leap”. Several lines in the Bellinger River section borrow words and phrasings from a first hand account given by a local graizer, F Eldershaw, in an 1851 publication Australia as it really was: An Adventure with the Blacks which I subsequently read in Bruce Elder’s Blood on the Wattle, (New Holland Press 2003 p 115) but which was originally published in Baal Belbora: the end of dancing by Geoffrey Blomfield who re-discovered and  published Eldershaw’s writing. The historic details of “the Major” in the final section come from Dardo Arevalo’s Dorrigo and the Carlist Wars Connection.  The line “I am working here in the backwash of all of that wisdom” is from a Mark Tredinnick interview, ABC Radio National, Poetica, interview 12 April 2014.

Published: July 2016
Chris Armstrong

is a writer whose poetry has been published in Griffith Review, Overland, Eureka Street and Cordite, as well as regional anthologies. She won second prize in the 2015 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize and in 2014 was awarded an ASA Emerging Writers Mentorship for her first poetry manuscript.

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics

the sky is on fire

by Scott-Patrick Mitchell

submerged, perth canyon

burns. flocked, flame churns


, turn into vapour, escape via

water clouds between the tide


& field where flight paths fly

, hides sky in sunset death cry


. we see a river aspire to set

course higher, but a saltwater


default sees it caught up in

logistics, how physics transform

Published: July 2016
Scott-Patrick Mitchell

is a Western Australian performance poet. The poem here is from new form he is currently working called slowmo vispo where poetic works are written specifically in regards to photographs. Visit for more information.

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics

Vanua Levu Island, Fiji

by Margaret Bradstock

He paces a few steps, crouches before

a silvery tideline, hands beginning

to dig the black sand. This is the post

of my old house, he says. In the 1960s

it stood back from the seaside

where he’d jump the narrow estuary

and run past mangrove forests,

fringed coconut palms, to school.


With summer’s king tides advancing,

a broad tongue of shallow water

spilling across the land

the children had to swim to school,

families without boats built rafts

the poor man’s ark −

to leave their houses, foundations warping

in the salty soil.


The village was on the move.

At the new site, thirty green bungalows

dot the hillside, gardens and fish farms

keep them busy, more villages earmarked

to relocate, like the old woman

who carries the sun

and the moon in her string bag

to plant in the sky.


Below, abandoned structures remain

as the jungle slowly swallows them;

a warped door flaps open, the canted ribcage

of the old school eaten away by salt

and tropical damp. Trees are few, branches

strewn like giant bird bones, rising sea levels

erode the tangled roots.

How high the mountain.

Published: July 2016
Margaret Bradstock

has six published collections of poetry, including The Pomelo Tree (winner of the Wesley Michel Wright Prize) and Barnacle Rock (winner of the Woollahra Festival Award, 2014). Editor of Antipodes: poetic responses to ‘settlement’ (2011), Margaret won the national Earth Hour poetry competition in 2014, and the Banjo Paterson Award in both 2014 and 2015.

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics

The Phantom Trees

by Margaret Bradstock

“You may be assured planning approval for this project includes strategies to minimise its impact on existing vegetation and the environment.”

– Minister for Transport and Infrastructure


It never ends, this extinction of the planet, until it ends.

Yes, there is outrage. We wrote letters, signed petitions

attended rallies and demos, reinvented ourselves on xerox.

On Valentine’s Day we sent a floral heart

to that tin man, our Premier

but the answer came back the same:

two trees to be planted for every small tree removed,

eight for every “significant” tree, to arrive on trucks

bulk delivered, for mass plantings, silhouetting

a pre-determined landscape.


Will they be Moreton Bays, eucalypts, Port Jackson Figs

or designer trees, fast-growing patio plants

(preferably not native) to break up the ugliness

of railway tracks and concrete high-rise? Few of us

will be here to see the outcome, stand in vanishing shade,

breathe thinner oxygen, in a photosynthesis

more intricate than lungs.


Phantom trees like shadowy stage-props

burgeoning at the edges of their minds.

Published: July 2016
Margaret Bradstock

has six published collections of poetry, including The Pomelo Tree (winner of the Wesley Michel Wright Prize) and Barnacle Rock (winner of the Woollahra Festival Award, 2014). Editor of Antipodes: poetic responses to ‘settlement’ (2011), Margaret won the national Earth Hour poetry competition in 2014, and the Banjo Paterson Award in both 2014 and 2015.

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics

Terrania Creek Fantasia

by Charles Freyberg

So overpowering was the draw of these trees that people risked their lives. A spirit of transformation emanated from the forest.

– Ian Cohen, Greens MLC 1997.


A raindrop’s coldness

clings to my cheek

then scatters to the breeze.

My eyes twist along

a jagged fallen tree trunk

torn open to reveal

a swirling of rings inside

an autobiography

turning to mulch, eaten by moss,

a circling of faces half forgotten

as a chatter breaks the drizzly silence.

Your face is the last, dear friend,

a loop of your words repeating

like drops of rain

searching for gaps in my coat,

their chill settles on my body’s warmth.

I try to squirm

as they enter me more deeply.


I got in a car.

I drove away.

Freeway, highway, town, fields –

until a signpost

a dirt road narrowing,

led me to this towering forest.

I searched for a place to enter –

a chink, a path ……


Inside the trunk’s sodden roughness,

lines meander wildly

unique as my thumbprint.

The pattern is the same – or does it change

just a little with each repetition?

Branches break away, bending,

almost ready to writhe,

until they disappear

into a strangle of vines

each leaf a variation on a heart

heavy with droplets

that glisten grey as spots of light

squeeze through the waving canopy.

The crack of a whip bird, then another,

unseen like the burping frogs.

Almost silence, just the breeze’s whisper

as you stare at me from the shadows,

and a brief smile of sunlight

dapples the crazy sculptured trunk.

Words joust again in a hiss of static.

My lungs hurt

as I draw on a cigarette.

A whip bird cracks,

the frogs are blowing rasberries.


I got in a car.

I drove out of the city.

The dirt road narrowed.

I found a chink

to enter this towering forest.

I walk on.


My smoke drifts in sunlight

as water pooled above

gathers through a gap in rock and falls

churning and pausing, pooling anew –

almost still, a moment of clarity

over pebbles rounded and shining like pearls

except for frothy circles

spreading larger as they spin,

expanding and vanishing

so quickly they’re always there,

renewing and repeating, larger and smaller,

a whisper against the water whooshing

through endlessly polished scales of brown,

a glimpse inside the rock’s black surface.

And always, like a distant drumming,

the sound of the nearby falls –

I look up and search for them in vain

as a whip bird cracks, the frogs burp.

I find instead a tree’s gigantic trunk

and follow it,

past staghorns, the scars of branches lost,

the turquoise tissues of lichen,

skipping shadows of leaves above,

as a bird swoops from layers of fern fronds.

The creek’s voices are bubbling together

like choristers scattered far and wide –

hums, whispers and basses,

a language that cannot be spoken,

but full of such patterns of feeling,

I begin to know what it’s saying.

Circles bubble on the pool

as I sense you beside me,

slowly breathing like me.

Then you vanish

except for your breath and thoughtfulness.

I rise to my feet ….

Published: July 2016
Charles Freyberg

is a Kings Cross poet and playwright. He regularly performs from his collection Dining at the Edge. He has also been published in Meanjin. His poetry features in Peter Urquhart’s the Experiment, a hybrid of dance, music and text, to be performed at the Sydney Conservatorium in August.

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics

South East

by John Hawke

Lightning signs

with a simple cross,

with the swiftness of grasslands

swindled for quarry,


for a beach of burning river sand

hatched by ophidian shadows,

a glanced lizard scudding

on the prismatic surface of water tension,


for the clean face of a wave

thickening with blackness of dolphins.


Wet money gurgles in a swamp

and the oligarch’s easement is guaranteed,

a hireling paid

to scrape and oil his armoury.


Fields of white stubble await the razor’s

grin, the ingress of blighted spirits,

a charring smoulder that reveals

dripping stalagmites of morgue,


dirt bikes yawing on the switchback

precipice past Turnaround Road,

all the young dudes on Maybe Street


taloned logging trucks.

Published: July 2016
John Hawke

is a Senior Lecturer in literary studies at Monash University. His volume of poetry, Aurelia (Cordite Books), was recently awarded the 2015 Anne Elder prize.

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics


by Meredith Wattison

I sit at table 8. I know this because there is a numbered disk hanging from a glass bead and wire monkey’s tail. It sits on the table with a small, delicate white bowl of sea salt. This monkey wears a crown of tiny pink beads, with larger gold beads in a row of six up its centre and across its peaks. It has large pink eyes and a face, or mask, of tiny gold beads. Due to rain, table 8 is pushed into a corner against the, usually open, thick glass partition. I sit on a padded bench, which runs the length of the allotted eating area of this passionately organic large space. The outside tables and chairs are stacked in a dry corner. Their numbered monkeys are hooked, in a row, by their legs, over the horizontal edge of a folded table. Their tails in the air like a naturist cancan. Flooded grey pavers glint and reflect shrubbery and a ghostly, heritage-listed, reset set of hewn beams that tautly tilt and skew a pooling shade sail of aqueous liquors. There are two men opposite me in a passionate exchange about ‘next week’. The staff are fractured, coffee and cake seems complicated. There is a din. They offer a slow, chatty service, nightly cooking classes and a naturopathic dispensary. A chalkboard above the servery is almost Hebraic with a platitude about happiness. A plate comes garnished with something crimson and unknown and sliced kiwi. I also eat its fur. There is a little boy spinning in circles near me, a little car in each hand. His mother and companion, next to me, in diamonds and designer clothes, loudly discuss just how long it will take for someone to speak to you in this town, before anyone knows you, and how having kids helps the process. They could afford and wear Dame Westwood’s perfect, plaid Anglomania tailoring, but not her manifesto, her one thousand and one interrelated decisions about silk, technique and resistance.  His is the ideal tousle of flaxen corkscrews. He is a beautiful child in oversize OshKosh. Exhausted, exasperated, he stands in the open doorway and pees through his baggy, striped pants onto his rain boots. Her reaction is nervous, slow and falsely calm. She does not wish to irrevocably damage his male psyche and changes his offending clothes in the courtyard. I speak, ‘It could be worse.’ She ignores the little puddle he has made. Those entering and leaving through this ancillary door, like fairies, spread his DNA through these exotic, organic aisles, through this town. His trajectory of rich, white privilege has begun. He returns to the table and drives his little cars through a monkey’s legs, beneath its belly and out the other side. And again. Sometimes he crashes them together. His mother reaffirms that he is wonderful and that he has made a bridge. My coffee card is clipped as though I am travelling. After nine coffees the next is free.

Published: July 2016
Meredith Wattison

born 1963, a poet and essayist, her 6 books of poetry are Psyche’s Circus (Poetry Australia, 1989), Judith’s Do (Penguin Australia, 1996), Fishwife (Five Islands Press, 2001), The Nihilist Line (Five Islands Press, 2003), Basket of Sunlight (Puncher & Wattmann, 2007) and terra bravura (Puncher & Wattmann, 2015), shortlisted for the 2016 Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize. Her recent essays have appeared in Cordite, Rabbit and Plumwood Mountain.

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics

Reel to Real

by Dennis Garvey

When you roll the old Sanyo reel-to-reel

recorder you hear her crackly, but flat un-

emotive voice outlining the position of her

people on having their images stolen when

photographed for anthropological purposes …


‘We split / the way you see us’

‘we split’/ your portraits of black faces’

‘we split’ / you pinning us to race an’

not language, law, culture, country’


‘why not you show black bodies in chains?’

‘black heads split? black heads chopped off

an’ sent to museums ‘round the world?’


‘we split those photographs of black heads’

‘we put white space between two halves

of those black heads in photos you take’


‘we spilt your gaze so you don’t know where

to look when you see black faces split in two’

‘all those black photos in books and museum

we send their gaze back to your white eyes’


‘each black face you see now splits your gaze …

do you see black faces have new power?’

‘do you see the real – do you see you too?’

Published: July 2016
Dennis Garvey

lives in rural Western Australia and has written on assorted topics and in assorted forms for many years without too much to show for it other than the occasional journal publication. What is now termed ecopoetics has been a longstanding preoccupation of mine.

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics

Quarter acre

by Alice Allan

We pay for heat, help love

wash, vacuum and surrender.


All I want to know is

why is this my problem?


No junk mail. No hawkers.

Do not ring bell. My children call.


We work hard.

We deserve.


Whatever the mountains

look like from the air—

if they’re icing sugar

or creamy teeth


I just don’t

need to know.


I measure safety

in the span between sirens


and in the distance

a scream carries.


What happens next



the motherly daphne

by the front door


spills her scent to the man

with the leaflets in the pram.


I just don’t

need to know

why its petals

look like teeth.

Published: July 2016
Alice Allan

Alice Allan’s poetry and reviews have been published in previous issues of Plumwood Mountain as well as in Cordite, Rabbit and Australian Book Review. She also records the weekly podcast Poetry Says.

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics

Plantationocene, Kanangra Rd, and Sand Slug

by Louise Crisp

from Providence Ponds




No continuous plantation unit should exceed 1400ha (LCC 1983:35)


Weeks are lost and (I) become disoriented in the endless geometry of pine forests

Tracking the tributaries of Providence in the upper & middle catchment: California,

Honeysuckle, Paisley, Middle and Sandy Creeks appear & disappear as (I) encounter

Continuous plantations incarcerated ponds enduring underground resurface this wet

Winter a yellow scum of pine pollen floats on any pond exposed to the sky between

The green hoardings of plantations plantations plantations plantations plantations pine



Kanangra Rd

The wind is the only thing alive in the triangular black shadows of the pine forest

No wonder –

the plantations evicted more than 300 species of fauna & 700 species of flora

the fallen winter pine needles lie thickly fathomed red along the rows

the early morning freezing cold is held against the earth for hours

longer than it ever was in the open warming bush of hereabouts

at the edge of the road a Prickly Geebung turns back                          Persoonia juniperina

its exquisite yellow petals each flower a miniscule


of the lost



Sand Slug

Well we know that white-Australia is a sad failure, Jim Everett 2014:40

The land lain bare

Band the laird

-s’ sheep

Expanded cleared land & over

Ran the catchment

Ran the land


Erosion saddened deep

Incised the ponds & lower


Infilled with sand:

The slug moves down

Sandy Ck & Providence

Now at Fiddlers




Land Conservation Council (LCC) (1983) Proposed Recommendations – Gippsland Lakes Hinterland Area, Land Conservation Council, Melbourne, Victoria

Harraway, D. (2015) ‘Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Planationocene, Chthulucene: making Kin’, Environmental Humanities, Vol 6, 2015 pp 159-65

Kanangra Rd

Bramwell, M. & Rossack, B. (2006) Biodiversity Action Planning – Bairnsdale Foothills Landscape Zone, East Gippsland Bioregion, Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria, pp 41, 43

Sand Slug

Everett, J. (2014) “Savage Nation” in Southerly Vol 74, no 2, ‘Australian Dreams 1’, pp 27-42

Published: July 2016
Louise Crisp

Louise Crisp’s publications include Ruby Camp: a Snowy River series(Spinifex Press), pearl & sea fed (Hazard Press NZ), and Uplands (Five Islands Press). Her long poem series Providence Ponds was written with the support of an Australia Council New Work grant.

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics


by Dave Drayton

H             S              P             A            C            N            C            G

E             O             A             R            U            E            U            U

A             M            S             O            T             C            T             T

D             E             S             U                           K                            S

O             A             N            D                          U

G             N            G             D             I            W           P            A

O             E             E                            A            H                         N

L                                            T             M           E            P            Y

D            U              J            H             O           N            L            T

E            P              U             E             N                          A           H

N                            S                             D            T            Y            I

S             T             E                            H                          N

I              L             I              D             H           E           N            G

N            E            C              G             O                         E

E            E              E             U           G            I

T             P                             S             S            O           G

H                          A                              E            I            H

E            A            S              C                            N           B

N                           A             T            G           O

A            D            B             S             O                          U

N                          A              T            N             G           R

D           T            G                             G             E           H

U           S             C             U             T           O

R           M                           O             E              S           O

E            B            U            P                                           D

A            L            P             Y             A             A

D            E                                           S             S


in the neighbourhood and around the edges someone

cut the neck up as passage and justice when

tongue cast as going

cut up anything as sleep

Published: July 2016
Dave Drayton

was an amateur banjo player, Vice President of the Australian Sweat Bathing Association, and a founding member of the Atterton Academy. He received his PhD from the University of Technology, Sydney, and in 2014 was awarded the William Blake Prize for Poetry.

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics


by Dave Drayton

A             T             G            S              F              T              F             A             N            M

N            H             O            T             R              O             R             N             E            U

D            E                             A             O             M             O             D             I             D

A             Y             M            O             M                             T

N            B             G                                             R                              T             H             I

O            U             A             L             O             R             A               H            E            N

W           C              I             O             N             O             R              E             R

K            N             O                             W            O              R                           Y

W                                          K              O                             U              E            N           O

I              S             S                             U             U             N                             O           U

S             T             A             I              T              P             D              A            R            R

H            O            M            L                                                               N

P             E             L              T             T             G              Y            T            E

Y             S                                             O             O            O             W           H            Y

O                            T             T             D                             O             H            E            E

U            G             H            A             A             Y             D              E            R

E             I             K             Y             O                              R            E

W           T             S            E                              U             I               E

E                                                           G                             S                             F

R            O            G             I              O            A                               B           O

E            U            O            T              N            R              T              U           R

T            E                             E            E             H              T

H                           S             F                            N              E                             I

E            O                           R              F            T                               T            S

A            F             T            O             O                             D             O

R                           O           M             R                              E                            T

W                                                                          A                            O

E                                                                           L

today we look from out on now to anywhere tomorrow

and from the same eye around there and there again

for neither is good to you up in this mud wish

Published: July 2016
Dave Drayton

was an amateur banjo player, Vice President of the Australian Sweat Bathing Association, and a founding member of the Atterton Academy. He received his PhD from the University of Technology, Sydney, and in 2014 was awarded the William Blake Prize for Poetry.

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From: Vol.03 N.02 – Decolonisation and Geopoethics

Morning Light

by Hannah Clinton


your pressing nail catching

on the Queen’s ivory shoulder


our fishbowl memories

\scorched and

paddling through cracked eggshell and slick bubbles

in a shallow basin


scorched — the


licks the salt stain


greedy     sheepdog eyes

loving; wet

under the sink you found a mothy web

tossed undercover

at the scene of the incident


and, incidentally

as light rays, striking



a heel-dug ditch

in the embankment

a reprise of a lost traveller

the flinching impress of ivy and barbed wire

Published: July 2016
Hannah Clinton

is a Melbourne based writer and recent Graduate of Monash University. Her poems take the Australian landscape, as both a real and imagined place, as a primary point of inspiration. Her poetry has previously been published in Verge 2013: Becoming.

An Australian and international
journal of ecopoetry and ecopoetics.

Plumwood Mountain Journal is created on the unceded lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to elders past, present and future. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the lands this journal reaches.