Skip to content

Content From Issue: Volume 5 Number 2 (August 2018)

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So


by Bonny Cassidy

The sound of rain: a constant, pink noise that hurtles behind these poems. Like the elemental soundtrack to a Bill Viola film, water clattering on stone.

The deluge holds a fundamental role in myths of apocalypse, but in those it comes tinged with judgement—a cleansing function, like fire, to reset order on Earth. It’s the sort of rain that Travis Bickle yearns to see in Taxi Driver, to wash down the Babel-like modern metropolis.

In the poems I’ve selected for this issue, however, rain brings a different set of associations. It starts in the mountains of Indonesia, as worldly cares and toxins gush down to the city. In Renée Pettitt-Schipps poem, ‘Thought from a Motorbike in Heavy Rain in Ciumbuleuit’, a rider experiences a levitating moment of release while descending closer and closer to the ‘drains’. For with rain, comes plastic: a new element and a newly mythic emblem of destruction.

Many of the submissions to this issue rehearsed a familiar position of lament, elegy or grand fatalism in the face of habitat destruction and climate change. I was looking for a more constructive response to these issues and the way we describe them. Pettitt-Schipp’s poem relaxes into gravity, for example, whilst ‘Elegy for Microplastic’ by Jack Bastock dispels the half-life of degrading plastics by pitting them against the longer-lived ‘cosmos’. Read these poems alongside Allan Lake’s ‘Plastoral’, a counter-pastoral that documents the conspicuous pollution of waterways by plastic bottles. Lake piles them up into a clinging, bobbing landscape of their own, bringing to mind Louise Paramor’s assemblages of domestic plastic items. What style, then, can be salvaged from these materials? John Clare is dead, so what perspective can poetry bring to an orison of plastic?

One way of reading Lake’s document poem is in the spirit of bad environmentalism, an admission (and sometimes an exorcism) of multiple idealogical positions that pass through each of us. It is a refusal of dogma in favour of ambiguity, and it requires the audience to work out a conclusion. Helen Moore’s ‘Making Inroads, Two Voices’ expands on this approach in her consideration of a paved world: the seamless mass of the SUV contains as much healing power as the plantain, both of them able to overcome bitumen’s suffocation of earth. Less ambivalent is ‘hibiscus synthesis’, by Maria Sledmere. Sledmere is dancing at the end of the world, but this is no apocalypse-porn: rather, the poem becomes an innovative recipe, a way of making do with new techne, synthesising species that may be lost. Don’t panic, Sledmere seems to be saying, keep inventing.

This freshness, this ability to express a scene of dread with hope, is seemingly magical. There is hardly anything mystical about it. Murray Bookchin questions what he calls ‘mystical ecologies’ that promote an ideal of ‘“wilderness” as distinguished from humanly altered areas of the planet’ and that view climate disasters or mass suffering such as famine as kinds of retribution dealt by Gaia upon fallen humanity.[i] We have seen the danger of this reductiveness locally, in the ‘black and green’ debates between Indigenous land owners and activists, recently explored in Timothy Neale’s Wild Articulations: Environmentalism and Indigeneity in Northern Australia. Many of the poems here seek to complicate the binaries of human / natural or urban / wild. Some of them view these concepts critically; others, like Giles Goodland’s ‘A River’, represent a spectrum of organic expression that offers refreshment to feelings of frustration or disappointment in destructive human activity.

The other peril of mysticism in ecological thinking lies in creating ‘socially harmless surrogates for dealing with the authentic problems of our time.’[ii] The passive goodwill and concern of privileged middle class writers and readers (and editors!) makes a mockery of Micronesians losing land to rising sea levels, or Ngarrindjeri woman arguing for their protection of Kumerangk. In this light, poetic mysticism comes close to the dark magic of capitalist and politically corrupted media in creating harmful alternative realities that infect the population when they are believed.

I wanted to see what other ways contemporary poets might represent the possibility of ecological agency than these. Each of these poems uses the power – and the privilege – of expression as a way to invoke and affirm human agency in the face of compromised ecologies and their obscuration for capitalist and domineering ends. As Les Wicks concedes in ‘Iron Rain’, ‘To be true is ridiculous’—and yet. The ‘pack or herd’ society of humans is able to harness itself to more powerful possibilities, to reflect and to redirect, indeed, to ‘restore’ futures.

Bookchin argues that ‘ritualistic behaviour must be practised knowingly, indeed, more so than has ever been the case in the past because the mass media have made us terribly vulnerable to new methods of social control.’[iii] The poem is a form of ritualistic behaviour: the poet invites us into the illusion of language, spell-like, for a window of time; within that duration we participate in the social contract of language (regardless of the mode) in good faith. In Annette Skade’s ‘Brownfield’, the speaker ‘scratched a form in the grass’ as a kind of sanctuary, a circle. When it works, this intensified, concentrated ritual of communication re-energises belief in collective power, even if that collective is comprised of merely poet and reader. When it works, we readers believe in the reality of the poem for a few minutes. And it’s precisely this limit, this return to the authentic problems of our time, our non-poetic reality, that makes the poetic space all the more charged with potential.

The showers are still pouring, onto ‘The Gulf’ by Chantelle Mitchell, where ‘ones and zeroes that rain down upon us in a steady never ending stream’ are just as much a concern as dying coral. In this poem, the urgency around one climatic event – the degradation of the Great Barrier Reef, for instance – is floated on a competing market of concerns about environmental health, personal wellbeing, and media veracity. It is an unusual trick, this panning-out, this turning-up of the volume against a focalised issue. You might read it as a symptom of millennial anxiety, you might also read it as a deceptively gradual reminder that dying coral is a social problem. These poems attempt to speak for themselves, reducing the canvas of global crises to little lives, local challenges, individual struggles.

In ‘you, your light’, Mitch Cave uses the intimate genre of a love poem, finding in romance a new way of seeing bodies and their potential. None of these poems represent ‘sacredness’ because this meaning is difficult to communicate to an open audience where profanity or ignorance intrudes. However, these poems do contain some of the qualities of the sacred, invented anew by each author for their own ritual. One such quality is ‘excessive meaning’: these poems ‘exist both to represent something in the world … and also at the same time to articulate something far less tangible but more directly relevant and involving’. This quality produces a ‘social’ experience of collective belief.[iv] Stuart Cooke’s remarkable, sweeping ‘Late World, Humid’ is one of those epochal poems of hard yearning. Typical of Cooke’s current baroque style, the excess of its tropical ecology accumulates a series of ‘facts’ that cannot be ignored; in their continuous morphing of one thing into another they gain momentum and velocity—squashing down the final lines, which suggest defeat (‘can’t’) as well as a statement of triumph. The telluric weight of these facts is heavier than ‘the heavy west’, which is no longer consuming but being fed. In the turn of a line is the turn of colonial legacy, suddenly reduced and needy. This idea is answered by ‘cellular sovereignty’ in ‘golem’ by Rory Green; a poem that imagines the deeper tug of persistence within damaged ecologies. For Green, the mangrove is a perennial structure that will rise to meet its second nature, swallowing the forms back into its creative mud.

A large number of submissions were poems of defeat or despair rather than seeking empowerment through form and language. Jennifer Mackenzie’s ‘Ganesha Lost to View’ is an exception to these myths of disintegration. While the poem’s title and narrative suggests the overturning of the Panjan islanders’ spiritual locus, actually Ganesha resists the invaders’ brutality as long as possible; it is the extended moment of resistance that I responded to in Mackenzie’s vision. Resistance, even when it seems to end in defeat, is often written out of histories and here Mackenzie reminds us that it can reveal the weakness of the successor. Likewise, in ‘Smashing it all to pieces and bringing it all back’, Georgina Woods alludes to the history of Bunjil, imagining a new story of a wedge-tailed eagle rearranging the urban environment, leaving people ‘meandering’ in shock as birdlife returns to restored habitats.

Bookchin asks vaguely (and directly echoing the Romantics) for the integration of poetry and science; but how does this illuminate the poems in this issue? His argument for an improved integration of human technology with more-than-human ecologies invites poetics into the constructive zone. Perhaps it is that charged moment of ‘utopian thinking’ permitted by the poetic space, where anything may happen, that is needed to invigorate science. Its lack of consequence, its harmlessness as a testing site for possible realities, is precisely its usefulness as one of many responses to lived struggles. We need the impossible.[v]

I was attracted to poems that questioned their own magic capabilities whilst enacting them. Little traces of doubt, like a crack in the voice, make the poets’ persistence all the more moving. Kate Middleton’s ‘Ghosts’ permits the surface of evaporating, ‘standing water’ to invoke a memory of greater flows. Adam Stokell shows us the actual in ‘Guidelines’ – drolly listing the incredible brutalities we can expect in neocolonial Australia – and, with a volta, turning back upon them with the ‘scrummed enjambement’ of a poem. It is a small, imaginary triumph, but we are cheering Stokell as he summons the agile text to do his bidding. By comparison, ‘In remembrance of disappearing towns’ is a sequence by Claire Albrecht from which I’ve chosen just one poem, ‘camberwell’. Here, the poem participates in a verbal pun of ‘locking the gate’ against voracious mining expansion into farming land. The act of locking happens once in the farmer’s refusal to submit, and a second time in the poem’s witnessing of this refusal; like binding a spell, the poem reinforces and delivers its subject. The second last line, ‘like a storm closing in’ is ambiguous—does it describe the encroaching mining, or Wendy’s steadfast reversal of power?

In ‘If the phone rings don’t answer it’, Magdalena Ball figures knitting as a stay against ‘uncertainty’. It’s a metaphor for the poem, which, Scheherazade-like, must continue looping and talking a protective screen while the sinister phone rings. The speaker admits to the fallibility of this defence: ‘as if’. We feel the fragility of this momentary delay. Similarly, in the prose poem, ‘The Tree I Call Tiger’ by Elizabeth Tyson-Doneley, there is a peripheral sense of impending trouble, that someone will ‘mind’ the speaker’s need to metamorphose in and out of first and second natures; but in its wonderfully freeing conclusion, albeit perhaps a lonely one, ‘nobody minds at all’ and the speaker has gained an ability to walk through the walls that separate them from the more-than-human. These two poems illuminate Aden Rolfe’s invocative, daring ‘Those that at a distance resemble flies’, which also incants the hypothetical ‘if’ as a creative and destructive weapon against empire and its legacies. Balancing the poems that ward off the loss of habitats, water and food resources, are those that ward off social ecological dissolution.

In his 2006 essay, ’Australia is not an island’, John Mateer invites a paradigm shift in Australia’s neocolonial images of environment:

If Australia is appreciated as a network of islands, the colonial metaphor for acculturation—that is, the ‘development’ of the Land with all its attendant technologies of picturing the landscape, clearing the bush, dispossessing the Natives—can be replaced with another, more ethical set of metaphors, a collection of terms more in keeping with current experience in this region. Those metaphors would be those of travel: art as magical and commercial cargo, culture as the trading of information and values, galleries as airports or trade fairs, the practice of the artist as a means of diplomacy and as a technique of survival after marooning or shipwreck.[vi]

In this issue we have poets from Canada, Ireland, England as well as Tasmania, the Central Coast and more. Rather than being nationally related, the worlds they make in their poems share Mateer’s sense of an archipelagic human society. Poetry becomes a tool for warding off isolation. As Giles Goodland puts it in ‘Atlas’: ‘Here’s to everything that is not us’. This highlights the influence of Deborah Bird Rose on the way I’ve interpreted these poems’ ideas and images. Specifically, her belief in the ability of humans to renovate their ontological and historical traditions has guided my choice of poems that search for psychic and expressive resources of patience, self-reflection, change.

Humour makes these poems possible. The theme of this issue incited poems of parsimoniousness and anger; a place where folks felt permitted to put other humans in their place. But a charm is supposed to be persuasive; we should feel its changes taking us over. In ‘Splash’ (the title reminds me of the hedonism in Luca Guadagnino’s film A Bigger Splash, whose namesake is David Hockney’s famous painting of a vapid LA swimming pool), Les Wicks’ speaker has thrown their lot into the ocean. This is a post-Forbes, post-Howard review of Sydney coastalism, in which ‘life & decay metastasise equally’. It’s not so much relaxed and comfortable as itchy and watchful. At Cronulla in southern Sydney (adjacent to Cook’s landing point at Botany Bay), the status quo is in a condition of flux between applause and justice. This is my hometown, where once settlement was taken for granted but now, post-riots and in a new era of growth, its identity is rapidly changing. Wicks’ poem seeks comfort in the littoral environment, taking guidance from its motion.

With a more wry tone, Judy Annear’s ‘kd’ alights fleetingly on a promising illusion of language—for a phrase to be other than it is, a wishful projection onto the words presented to us. Compare this to Shari Kocher’s stealthy celebration of the poetic space as ammunition. Kocher argues for a peaceful resistance that happens in the body and the mind; an intellectual virus as the poem lands in us. Her control of pace and structure delivers the first contagion. Read it with ‘Immiseration’ by Marian de Saxe, whose ‘firm, scrawny arm’ writes its message of resistance upon water—resistance through immersion in the virtual reality of poetry, not with fingers in ears but with a hunger for the energy that may be found in poetry’s microcosmal focus. De Saxe illustrates Jennifer Maiden’s concept of poetry being able to provide ‘trochaic’ (on/off) release from too much reality, in order to return to it.

While we’ve been reading, the rain has stopped.


[i] Murray Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy, AK press, 2005, 17.

[ii] Bookchin, 20

[iii] Bookchin, 54

[iv] Ken Gelder and Jane M Jacobs, Uncanny Australia, Melbourne University Press, 1994, 99.

[v] Bookchin, 106-107

[vi] John Mateer, ‘Australia is not an island’, Meanjin 65.1 (2006): 89-93 (92).

Published: July 2018
Bonny Cassidy

is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Chatelaine (Giramondo, 2017). She coedited the anthology, Contemporary Australian Feminist Poetry (Hunter Publishers, 2016) and is Feature Reviews Editor for Cordite Poetry Review. Bonny leads the BA Creative Writing at RMIT University, Melbourne.

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So


by Annette Skade

The place was riddled with shortcuts,

tunnels of shoulder-high green

we scarpered down. Under foot

startled hares fluttered

like pigeons taking off.


We scrabbled in muck beside

the rubble of farms long gone,

grubbed up bits of blue and white,

boles of bleached clay pipes,

hollow stems light as bird bones.


We laid walls of brushwood

end to end, tall stalks

of willowherb to thatch a roof,

scratched a form in the grass

to go to ground in before we flew.

Published: July 2018
Annette Skade

is from Manchester and lives on the Beara Peninsula, Ireland. Her first collection Thimblerig was published in 2013, following her receipt of the Cork Review Literary Manuscript prize in 2012. She has been published in various magazines in Ireland, the U.K. and the U.S. and has won and been placed in several international poetry competitions.

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So

Iron Rain

by Les Wicks

Lightly go to each abyss

I am your country

just by being here

the weaponry of smiles

that handshake bear trap.


“Our people” are more complicated nowadays

with children as strangers &

BFFs in Iceland…

but somehow still the same.

Beauty is embedded in my spine.

I have learnt to embrace the shards

that make up each human transaction.


There is war, always contemporary & refreshing.

As we march towards certain defeat

we leave behind the neuroses & debts –

the daub that plasters

what we thought was shelter.

It’s instinctual, shaking out the shit,

no more choice than

the mutton bird migration

or a cuckoo’s thieving.


David debates whether we are pack or herd.

To engage you must obfuscate.

To be true is ridiculous, all those rules

were written down

the book was banned

but I remember the word restoration.

Published: July 2018
Les Wicks

has toured widely and seen publication in over 350 different magazines, anthologies & newspapers across 28 countries in 13 languages. His 13th book of poetry is Getting By    Not Fitting In (Island, 2016).

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So


by Les Wicks

Hard to be deep in a Sydney summer.

Kids at the Cronulla surf carnival slash at the water while

a pod of dolphins refuses to worry.

Unburdened planes take off –

they’re all empty because no one is leaving this.


Even I have energy & the water fountain

is sponsored by ANSTO[1].

Each evil will die sooner or later than me,

I look up as the fish applaud.


Regrets have the crusty veracity of scabs.

Why didn’t I ever keep a real job? I

could have started a cult, was

a half-good railworker for a while.

Inner city,

but near the coast

social equity

but I was never social.


In my head

life & decay metastasise equally, something

akin to justice

before a jury of gulls.

[1] Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation

Published: July 2018
Les Wicks

has toured widely and seen publication in over 350 different magazines, anthologies & newspapers across 28 countries in 13 languages. His 13th book of poetry is Getting By    Not Fitting In (Island, 2016).

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So


by Giles Goodland

Therefore, we came to this shore,

labelled in blue, jagged and isolate,

on the table. A book which jaws away

while the dumptrucking moon troubles

the streets in first gear.

If I stare hard through the thin air I see my

vast and craggy knees. Being light

in the sawn eye in our hands

lost selves call from their seas.

Convener of dreams, tax exile of sureties,

my hands are wide,

walk through them.

We do not see how

it can be dreamed against,

voice echoing down palace walls,


the stone that sinks home is not strange

in any person we look

for the significant defining act;

their heads lean forwards and agree


that screw of tornado-wrath

descending, torqueing,

is wheel of Phaeton’s war car,

that there is no in in infinite, observe

the bubble-beaded glass

raise it from the table: here’s to

everything  that is not us.

Published: July 2018
Giles Goodland

has published several books of poetry including A Spy in the House of Years (2001), Capital (2006), What the Things Sang (2009), The Dumb Messengers (2012) and The Masses (2018). He works in Oxford as a lexicographer and lives in West London.

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So

A River

by Giles Goodland

Edge the pain towards the child:

a matter of years. Nevertheless

snow fades upon so much that is laid,

the endless stretched-out plans.


They hit us with small fists and we fix them

into beds as if to apply this to life.

We’re afraid they’ll come out indifferent

as if there was ever a coherent child

or a unified fly


the lung inversely tree hangs

between early morning’s porch-

light, shows the dim way behind

the steps. Blank leaderless rain falls on us

as we wait for human shapes.


Lost dogs run before they melt, before

light splotches the road and

fragments of conversation pace at pathfoot.


When the road is quiet you hear

the storm-drain whisper.

The blush in that

field grows,

the truer lie bends in


that catch the moon is sky to

kindles, it seems objects are


river of inside, inspection, that silts

her wrists and wraps herself in ribbons.

Published: July 2018
Giles Goodland

has published several books of poetry including A Spy in the House of Years (2001), Capital (2006), What the Things Sang (2009), The Dumb Messengers (2012) and The Masses (2018). He works in Oxford as a lexicographer and lives in West London.

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So

If the phone rings don’t answer it

by Magdalena Ball

The day I pretended to learn to knit

my mother-in-law trained chilblain

fingers to cast-on, blue skin against the

click clack of metal needles


I didn’t tell her that my aunt already

knitted heaven and earth

was paid in silver dollars and rum

laughing like a pirate sailing the mobius strip


until the day the phone stopped ringing

those newspaper men, always pushing you

against the wall, pulling out too late, cutting back

paring plummy prose into tidy stockinette


my mother kept her loops small

I called it an uncertainty, a storm pattern

smooth, hard worn, in silk, mohair and wool


a skin I couldn’t pass on, paca de seda

I went for neutrals myself, watching for signs

greys, beiges, dark brown, with bucolic names like Barn Owl

Wood Dove, Appalachian Stone


as if the country-inspired warmth of that

scarf could provide any protection

wrapped tight against a coming blizzard

when my call finally came.

Published: July 2018
Magdalena Ball

is a novelist, poet, reviewer and interviewer, and is Managing Editor of Compulsive Reader. She is the author of two novels and three poetry books, the most recent of which, Unmaking Atoms, was published in 2017 by Ginninderra Press. She has also co-authored six poetry chapbooks. Visit her at

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So

The Tree I Call Tiger

by Elizabeth Tyson-Doneley

I imagine myself walking out of work. Not even packing up my stuff, just picking up my bag and walking out. The sky is a billowing skirt of blue. I can feel the curve of the earth underneath my feet. The road changes from bitumen to dirt, buildings transform into trees. Fences metamorphose into grasses and shrubs. Wires become long, sticky vines with seedpods. Laneways become glittering streams.

When the gum trees gather around me, kookaburras sitting in pairs and the brush turkeys digging, my clothes unfasten and slip off my body. I walk along the bush track up to the tree I call Tiger, and place my hands on its patterned trunk. It speaks warmly to me, the leaves rushing overhead with knowing. The clouds shift quietly across the sky, and my hair grows five centimetres longer. I stay there until the tree has finished talking, until my clothes have returned to my body.

The creek is dancing across the rocks. I heard there used to be platypus. I sit by the sparkling water, my breath deep and slow. When I feel better, I go back. I swipe my card against the electronic doors and walk in through the secure entrance. The office smells of coffee and instant noodles. I worry for a second that I’ll get into trouble, but nobody even minds. Everybody says ‘Hello’ and nobody minds at all.

Published: July 2018
Elizabeth Tyson-Doneley

is a writer of plays, poetry and memoir living in Brisbane. She has written and performed in the plays The Magnificent Girl and The Seven Year Chaos. Her micro-fiction appears in the Spineless Wonders anthology Landmarks and her poetry has been included in several Poetry d’Amour anthologies. She has trained and worked in theatre and film production as a writer, director, performer and production designer.

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So

in remembrance of disappearing towns

by Claire Albrecht

3. camberwell


I’ve been to wendy bowman’s farm

crushing wet wildflowers

and touching the proud face

of a pregnant cow

hearing the burst of a stream

below and the soft touch of her

feet to the lucerne

inhale a fly here and there

spit into the soil

and I stand quietly on

uneven feet while wendy and

mum and dad talk about the

encroaching mines


I am a child but still

I understand the anger in

her strong forehead, in the

frantic sway of her gesturing

this is real land, this is

alive and we can touch

and taste and

produce from its breath

and its heat, from all sides

the mine comes

like a storm closing in

she will not be swept away


Published: July 2018
Claire Albrecht

is a Newcastle based poet and PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle. Her current work investigates multimodal forms and the connections between poetry and photography in contemporary creative practice. Claire’s poetry appears in Cordite Poetry Review, Red Room’s The Disappearing, and Overland Literary Journal.

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So

Late World, Humid

by Stuart Cooke

that fire shape, exploding into brush, tree shimmer

begging beach, beech sprayed

with moonglow

chopped out quick

-ly by the northern beat

in a bit

nursing out loud, that

peaked lyre


pine who, cunning curl

goes woop, copiously

copious laurel grafting tune, brush tune

to air, where

emergent adders rough apple

the black-

breasted buttons swallow wedges, rare yellow

bellies walk the sticks, talk the end

—it all ends any place, it all ends


to clashed out orbit, underground sun


eats distance, it all ends, sewn up

with flocks of leaves, so

this early loom

this starlight caught in mist

it dries tiny and rays

it croaks, it


can’t facts slip out

and feed

the heavy west

Published: July 2018
Stuart Cooke

has won the Gwen Harwood, Dorothy Porter and New Shoots poetry prizes. His latest collection of poetry is Opera (2016). He lives on the Gold Coast, where he lectures at Griffith University.

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So


by Adam Stokell

Given hundred-watt vulnerability of anything furred and
pouched on the block to surreptitious rifle-fire popping in from
just over the humpty fenceline where neighbours god love ‘em
are graziers

given bicentennial proclivity of said stalwarts to cram lumed
ute when pissed and bored and take up arms against ‘stray’
marsupials pestering local sheepwrecked paddocks with their
pangs and who’d have thunk finding none left turn lit attention
to these acres ‘let go to ruin’ where said pouched mammals still
dare being not sheep

given sorta faunal terra nullius kinda still winks at culling by
said salts of the earth just making an honest living a bit of
harmless fun ensuring easeful sleep

given proposed ‘watering down’ of already dispirited State gun
laws will permit said pillars to deploy even musclier rifles
replete with kid you not silencers

given scarcity of living khaki words to work with along said
arid fenceline consonants to coax into scratchy verses of
bracken sagg prickly Moses casuarina obfuscating all that hops

given no rain nor standing water nor urine sufficient to utter
dream-words dense and drippingly blind as blackwood swamp
gum silver wattle native cherry

concoct scrummed enjambement of dry spent words all slipped
bark dropped branches dangerously anted twigs a screen of
nonplus drab as Latin woven and stacked and casting a profane
spell of cover across said margin like an iron curtain or if you
prefer a text

Published: July 2018
Adam Stokell

Adam Stokell’s poems have appeared in several Australian journals, most recently in Cordite, Meanjin and Pink Cover Zine. His first poetry collection will appear in September 2018 with A Published Event/The People’s Library. He lives at Slopen Main on the Tasman Peninsula.

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So

Ganesha Lost to View

by Jennifer Mackenzie

400 sampan+

carrying soldiers

made shore at Panjan island

only a few fishermen appeared in front of

their armed adversaries, the rest having fled


the mangrove trees

flourished in such tropical balm


hidden in their density

an unfinished Ganesha

a scattering of chisels lay near

its curling trunk

‘Spit on it!’ someone ordered

‘Touch its trunk, it has no sakti!’^


nervously, they touched the statue

nervously, they knocked it down

cold to the touch  abandoned  just a lump of stone


heaved   rolled   pushed

through the brambles & roots of the swampland

up a small hill &

out to sea


it took a long time

+small boat

^divine power

* derived from an episode in Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s Indonesian language novel, Arus Balik [Cross-currents] (Hasta Mitra, Jakarta 1995), set principally in fifteenth century Java.

Published: July 2018
Jennifer Mackenzie

is a poet and reviewer, focusing on writing from and about the Asian region. She has participated in a number of literary festivals and conferences, including the Ubud, Irrawaddy and Makassar festivals. Her most recent book is Borobudur and Other Poems (Lontar, Jakarta 2012) and she is currently working on a collection of essays, ‘Writing the Continent’, and a poetic exegesis of the work of Pramoedya Ananta Toer, ‘Navigable Ink’.

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So

Smashing it all to pieces and bringing it all back

by Georgina Woods

Aquila audux folds its umber wings with

regal eye on me in offering.

I kneel in trembling thanks and take

the power to dismantle engineering.


Wing-whoosh reefs up concrete from the creeks.

Talons grip the bark of fallen stags and

hurl them over drains to curb the water.

Blade of my beak tears the weeds away.

Cry from my throat summonses cedar saplings

in the streets. Decades are pouring from me

raising trees. I flex cellulose

against the steel, and steel retreats.


Hunting over roads, my glower tears

asphalt and I roll the chunks aloft

between my thighs and shed waste to the soil.

I work the sticky balls down to pitch

marbles that drop harmless to the ground.


Water-fowl fluster at my passing shadow.

Squall and shriek in circles as I dive and

concrete cracks and shatters. I’m the eye of

bird-whorl as the flooding reed beds rise and

water claims back the wading lands.


In my wake, the flocks return and settle.


Crowds of people stare in awe but soon

grow quarrelsome. My mantle-tearing slows them

down and bows them round, meandering.


Elders and kids, I hope, will be delighted

at the birds’ return. As for the rest,

they may carp, but none would ever

choose to put it back.

Published: July 2018
Georgina Woods

is an activist and poet living on Awabakal and Worimi land in Newcastle. She has a PhD in English literature from Newcastle University and works in environmental advocacy. Her poems have appeared in OverlandVisible Ink, and the 2016 Aesthetica Creative Writing Anthology and Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology.

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So

Making Inroads, Two Voices

by Helen Moore

… and thou Waybroad, mother of herbs / open to the east, mighty within / over you chariots creaked / queens have ridden over you / brides have moaned over you / over you bulls gnashed their teeth / all these you did withstand and resist / so may you withstand poison and infection / and the foe who fares through the land. – from ‘The Nine Herbs Charm’ (Anglo-Saxon)



King of the roadway, I am

ubiquitous – a black crust

baked in the devil’s kitchen.

Nowhere to hide, I conceal

cracks, seams, corral everything

within my smooth arena –

endless empire, S.  U.  V.



The Sun bubbles up the lane

& I am poised, a strong bid

for liberty – healing bud

measuring her craft.  So what

if my quilted tips dip in

molten bitumen?  Plantain’s

way is broad, treats many ills.

Note to poem:

Plantain, Plantago lanceolata, is a medicinal plant known to Anglo-Saxons as Waybroad.  S. U. V. stands for Sports Utility Vehicle.

Published: July 2018
Helen Moore

is an acclaimed ecopoet based in Scotland. In May 2018 she gave the INSPIRE lecture at the Hay Book Festival, based on her winning essay ‘Is love the answer? Personal and planetary wellbeing through the lens of poetry.’ Helen’s third poetry collection, The Mother Country, exploring personal, social and ecological disinheritance, is due in 2019.  FFI:

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So

you, your light

by Mitch Cave

i dreamt there were fireworks last night

reminded me of how

you are cathedral or

then i am grace in sandstones

because i know

how to breathe like lanterns

do and why

i am becoming bats


i am drought

my skin


or then you are forest

enveloped with wind

or i am the morning of you

illumined with century

we are like driftwood

here is mouth


if the coastlines our bodies endure

beg for water

my hands sense

become milk

how to dissolve breath

like mountains

your lungs



like the sound a house makes

after burning itself to death


and know

that is how we evolve

Published: July 2018
Mitch Cave

is based on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. His work has appeared in Australian Poetry Anthology, Cordite, Rabbit, and numerous others.

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So

Thought from a Motorbike in Heavy Rain in Ciumbuleuit

by Reneé Pettitt-Schipp

three o’clock above Bandung

and it rains

driving out ghosts –

motorbike men

in plastic-sheet raincoats

spectres unfurling

wet’s breath dissolving

valley and peak


in day’s new weight

we are lighter, each

drop a drawing down

and release


drains spill

fill with loss, sorrow, anger

net careless remarks

draw pesticides, suicides

plastic and poverty

sends them liquid-racing

to city


while for a  moment

in the mountains we

are free

Published: July 2018
Reneé Pettitt-Schipp

lived on Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands for three years, inspiring her first poetry collection, The Sky Runs Right Through Us, shortlisted for the Dorothy Hewett manuscript prize and released by UWA Publishing in February 2018. Reneé currently lives in karri country in Western Australia’s deep south. See further:

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So

The Gulf

by Chantelle Mitchell

coral is a dying thing, an empty tin of Sardinian diced tomatoes, floating down to where the Merri and the Yarra meet, or: ‘the love boat smashed up / on the dreary routine’.

coral is a dying thing, and F is a painter nosing at the broken tile with the tip of her sneaker, third floor bathroom of local library; steady stream of piss stopped a while ago

coral is a dying thing, and so is ‘God, the King, Matter, Miracles and Morality’

coral is a dying thing, whilst winnicott is coming up in conversation more and more and with him the subsequent desire to embrace and just be good enough at things to move forward in this stream all by myself

coral is a dying thing, but that was a blackened evening and weary with cold. the scream was maybe a sob, but deep, rich and tonal, punctuating the moments before dull sleep. smells like fresh asphalt, the cry of bad news, or an echo on the receiving end, blurting out a particular kind of loss too early into conversation, like sticking your finger in a gunshot wound.

coral is a dying thing, but the first floor of the library is holding small group-led poetry readings marking off community engagement funding requirements.

coral is a dying thing, whilst the poetry reading attracts f//ive figures, two of which are swipe card officiated employees

coral is a dying thing, like finding out that bioluminescence is linked to the stress of the human body pressing down on some kind of living microorganism, microstructure invisible in the waves

coral is a dying thing but so is self immolation in green cinema fields

coral is a dying thing, and so is small talk about alex garland with a name like ‘to ornament’, and so is coming back and not remembering yourself all made up here in CGI

coral is a dying thing, a vanilla milkshake delivered in the rain by a precarious worker, taking hold of the reins of a stolen scooter in this, the age of the gig economy, while a figure sits and stares out at the ocean painting a lighthouse compulsively in the storm

coral is a dying thing, and the afterlife is a beach or maybe it is syria but it is a dying thing and it is an earthly thing and it is putting your paypal details at the end of a sentence on a public forum

coral is a dying thing, while we speak about ways in which our kids can thrive but only when data is broken down into readable levels of macronutrients, only when data is rendered timely and distinct from the other ones and zeroes that rain down upon us in a steady never-ending stream, like your boss repeating the phrase data dump until a bright green radioactive man brings down data death on us all

coral is a dying thing, something said into the phone, but the phone that links you to schizophrenics future and past … waking up at three in the morning to tell trout fishing in america that the world has ended actually and there will be no watermelon rebirth in this here the future

coral is a dying thing and the sound of the cry in the street was like coral but coral is no longer that fleshy pink tone seen at the back of the throat or that vivid nauseous blue written into pass agg text messages to yr last very polite fuck but it is a bleached and political tone a tone of neglectfulness a type of loss akin to Bob Brown’s last very satisfying joint a loss that Donna Harraway would cats cradle with Latour a type of loss that seventeen year olds could speak to very articulately applying ANT in crumbling old hallowed halls backed by online networked powerpoint mark II presentations

Published: July 2018
Chantelle Mitchell

is a 25 year old emerging curator and researcher, with an interdisciplinary approach to engaging with the interweavings of ideology, structure and place within the Anthropocene / Capitalocene / Chthulucene.

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So


by Allan Lake

A few millenia after God finished creation week,

awhile after Eve & Adam chose Snake as mentor,

precocious descendants created plastic and verily

they saw that it was a thing that might remain

true to purpose forever.



Five plastic bottles bobbing along the swollen,

mid-downpour Elwood canal, colourful heads

screwed on, unlike so many of their kind.

Dutiful citizen would have discarded the caps,

crushed the bodies with hard sole then,

inflated with righteousness, placed them

in the proper recycling bin but, behold –

an accidental installation that upstages

ducks and ducklings, Mr and Mrs Swan and

their downy, diminishing-in-number cygnets.



Two two-litre fruit juice bottles,

three smaller fizzy-drink bottles.

(Detail would amount to advertising)

So like a family, my family.

We had three small fizzies and none

was ever taken by dingo or kidnapper,

although one was allergic to cats,

like much of Australian fauna.

Buoyant bottles in a flood-prone part

of marvellous Melbourne, oblivious,

in heavy rain. Entirely unnatural so

without natural enemies. I hadn’t seen

them there before or on the ornamental

pond in Elsternwick Park or down

at the beach or up a gum tree near

the herons’ nest – not this bunch anyway.

I may never see them again; however,

the impression, without rationale, was indelible

as they were literally being swept away.


Could have taken a photo but the rainy rain,

lack of any purpose.  It never occurred to me

then and I never carry a camera anyway

so I couldn’t have, even if I’d felt inspired.

No beauty, no meaning, no symbolism

worth teasing out, writing a song about.


I noticed plastic bottles full of stale air,

not diamond rings. Please, do not imagine

little mounds of glittering, likely stolen,

diamond rings within those bottles

or you may lose semi-precious time

constructing stories of hapless ice addicts

who stashed their haul on a ledge beneath

a bridge, before the once-in-a-decade rains.

None of that happened, at least to bottles

I saw. Not then anyway.

While walking, I chanced upon five

similarly directionless plastic bottles

of no fixed abode that I felt moved

to mention. That is what happened.

Published: July 2018
Allan Lake

Originally from Saskatchewan, Allan Lake has lived in Vancouver, Cape Breton Island, Ibiza/Spain, Tasmania, W. Australia & now calls Melbourne home. He has published two collections; Tasmanian Tiger Breaks Silence (1988); Sand in the Sole (2014) plus the chapbook, Grandparents: Portraits of Strain (1994). Lake won Elwood Poetry Prize 2015 & 2016, Lost Tower Publications(UK) Poetry Comp 2017 and Melbourne Spoken Word Poetry Festival/The Dan Competition 2018.         

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So


by Judy Annear

may you

be self-luminous

I mis-read

may be you will be self-luminous

a line from an

apocalyptic poem

with a title

I play back again


−dear echo−


the implication

that we

will all radiate those


on a plundered planet

or those

heading to another


propelled by solar

burn out and

self-made disaster

he envies dead pan

the chance to see

beyond the



he observes the maybe

I wish for the self-luminous

Published: July 2018
Judy Annear

is a writer and curator based in Sydney. She was initiator and one of 16 writers for Exquisite consequences 2016 ( She has been published in Cordite 53 & 83,  Australian Poetry Journal 6, no 2 (2016), and pastsimple 14 (2018). Her writing can also be found at

Back to issue
From: Vol.05 N.02 – Make It So

Notes on a Sunday night before sleeping

by Shari Kocher

A gecko slips under the fold

where cushion meets cushion on an old

corded sofa perfect for reading

and as I read I half-expect a flurry

of fine lizard feet on ankles, bookish

hands or neck, yet what happens next

is even finer: that portal latched to darkness

swings on webs which humming-

birds collect inside my chest,

where starlings build their crystal nests

out of their own saliva. Here I rest,

spanned by bats and ropes of notes

that plant the singing egg in each to

each: a thousand airborne nests

the size of human baby-hearts

in utero rapidly pumping. But then,

and here’s the hook, I read how

these caves, once discovered, soon

descend into the sending of children up

for bird-egg soup collected in a sack

sold on the black market for some

outrageous sum by the tonne,

enough to build cathedrals

in the mouth of darkness, and yet

prairie owls coat their doorsteps

with simple dung, and dung beetles

become a walking larder, rolling

their own cocoa-coated eggs away

and I think of the bamboo rat who

harvests the freshening shoot by pulling on

a ceiling root and hauling underground

the ripening stalk for later. How a poem

should be no less a bean

the handy size of a small grenade

gnawed by teeth packed with stardust

and the stealth of dung stowed in

careful cosmic caves inside the heart

grown mutinous, resistance swarming

into life with the pin pulled out

already bursting into flower.

Published: July 2018
Shari Kocher

is the author of The Non-Sequitur of Snow (Puncher & Wattmann 2015), which was Highly Commended in the 2015 Anne Elder Awards. Recent awards also include The University of Canberra Health Poetry Prize (2016) and second and third place in the Newcastle Poetry Prize (2017 & 2015).

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.