Poetry Australia 32
The poems

  Just imagine it is 1970 again:

  Poetry Australia number 32:

  Preface to the Seventies: the poems

— PDF: You can read the A5-sized PDF format of this article here.
— Provenance: Printed in 1970, Scanned and Edited by John Tranter in 2014.

The poems in the February 1970 issue of «Poetry Australia» are copyright and it would be too difficult to obtain copyright clearances for them, more than forty years after publication, so I shall publish the only first eight lines of each poem here, a small proportion of the whole 80-page magazine, which falls within the doctrine of ‘fair use’. Published here under the Creative Commons licence Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives: CC BY-NC-ND. Bear in mind that due to the intractable problems of converting poetry from the page to a blog computer screen, line indents will inevitably be compromised.

p 05: Walter Billeter: The Symbol

The birds,
stilting on summer rust grass,
before they took off
for their flight toward evening.
Was it a symbol?
On the horizon
a bleeding sun died —
no cloud bandage could help.

p 06: J.S. Harry: ‘One, in the the motel…’

One, in the motel,
bleeds, and cannot be stopped.
Endlessly, the flow
saps, reduces the span.
Across the highway
hessian-coloured sheep
drift, halt,      drift and eat.
Neon-green paddocks’ long-grassed spring

p 06: Brian Ridley: The Quarrel

In my skull a spectral ship twists and flounders.
Your still, opaque eyes project your grey figure
In pigtails, limbs thrown and silhouetted in outrage
From your torso. Soundlessly you scream. Your tiny lips
Tear wider into my cheek. On the nerve-ends of my teeth
My concrete tongue plays to distraction. The dry wrinkles,
The first courses beneath your eyes have nothing
To give back to us. They wait, and more sand will wash

p 07: Brian Ridley: Marcus Flavius Recounts His
Friends’ Love
(For Geoffrey Lehmann)

I have been told that when their meeting was young
They caught themselves out many times. It was said
They shone with each other’s form, and in their pool,
Bucking and leaping, they dived like dolphins, churning
Their bath of love long after their guests had arrived.
Some later admitted, as they quaffed the heavier wine
Of their hosts, that conversation had become slack
And they were taut in trying not to recognise a tic

p 08: Nicholas Hasluck: Mining Strip

Stones rattle in the pits
on the red ridge.
Children wait for dinner.

The old chev
stands on blocks
with belted hub-caps;
harnessed to gaunt derrick
and red ridge.

p 08: Vicki Viidikas: Spring Moon

Shadows fall off in the night
and two hands form a band
of grey, muted black, furred edges.

A cat is squatting in a corner,
eyes tilted to the moon.
Out there people are talking

And joke, corkscrewing their voices
into the blanket —

p 09: Michael Dransfield: Webs

the cobweb room
beneath the eaves
a rafterplace where shadows stay

in it live
a spider, a lover,
a murderer
the game is not chess not life / call it

p 10: Michael Dransfield: Chopin Ballade

Upon the yellow lattice of parchment
lines of lettering are inscribed. If
you have attained the erudition, you
translate these dactyls into jeremiads.
In place of the elaborate
black script, you will see
extraordinary hallucinations. Where stood a ‘T’,
a gaslight on its iron standard;

p 11: Dennis Davidson: Your Hand

Tonight the snoring city sweats with drugs,
Sea-spittle is blown against the windscreen
And my snug car shivers in salty night.
My hand recalls another hand. The beach
Is sour, the distant lights of Melbourne shrink.
I come to swig my heady loneliness,
Get sick on memories. I twist the key
Hard, like a nun killing desire, and stop

p 12: Alan Wearne: Jill

Yes, yes, I’m a new track, a trick…
kept sprite, a wisp,
    (all this with trust, but:
    O you pussy! watch.) I’ll watch,
till prayer and reveries, (gone into twilight,)
   are once, slip —
     ays, days,

p 12: Terry Gillmore: Waiting

we all wait
within change
to take off the edge of being

    to step to the road
to the sound of passing cars
constantly invading the skin

the body to ache dry

p 13: David Rankin: Beatitude

the long scarf
twists twice at the neck

her eyes
are moist with excitement

a wide raw leather
belt loops from her hand

she has some knowledge
of his repairs to her mouth

p 13: David Rankin: Very Old Poem

the drift of clouds
and rain
follows me
behind the willows

the portrait of
the peacock
I carried
for so long

p 14: Leon Slade: All-Bran-Le-Ta

When our son brought it in with the milk,
the morning news had icing on it.
It’s holiday (happy birthday, Queen Elizabeth),
but frosted mornings bring pressures to
bear, so I got up, leaving you to lie in the arms
of your electric blanket, while your breath left
you slowly in a gentle huff.

Crazy Melbourne tries like mad

p 14: Patrick Alexander: Iguana

For Tennessee Williams
Tied by fraying selves to isolated stakes
we are fatted for the kill —
gods of vindictive hunger wait; yet almost, I can smile.
For it seems I struggle in a year of dearth —
for any god to be a thin and bony course

Not proffered by my trapper much fattening,
all wild morsels gone from my small circle,
it is ironic that some kinder god, in tenderness

p 15: Philip Roberts: Typewriter

A new kind of traitor, this machine:
smug and gap-tooth-faced invention,
and accommodating to a fault.
You have no umlaut for your words?
no tilde? no accent aigu?
Your love can’t be freed from its English?
Fear not, friend, by the stratagems
of Mr. Alpha’s Typewriter Shop

p 16: Ian Lightfoot: sam

i know what i would do
if i was tall like people:

i’d go to kindergarten and punch
Billy and Sally and Enrico
and run into Miss Taylor just
when she was carrying the softdrinks

then i’d run out onto the middle of the road
because cars don’t hit people very hard

p 17: R. J. Deeble: Biafran Soft Clocks

  See footnote [1]

With so many children with so little skin
between them isn’t now the time to adjust
our calendars to include the minds that

        move their mantles beyond death. To
        find that lay-by systems on fluffy toys
        are no longer enough to tell us what our

heads are doing at the third stroke
How do we feel about Christmas when

p 18: J. Frow: “we watched them…”

we watched them from the iron bridge:
shoals of breeding carp,
orange, like rinsed gold,

or soft and dark brown.
drained of spawn
they basked in the brackish, sunlit creek

or moved beneath
the plaited profusion of weeds —

p 18: J. Frow: “more than anger…”

more than anger
joined us.

all night the cats
squirmed through the yellow wind, the floor
listened to the rain beat, we became,

drawn through strange passages of burning,
wood darkened by one disruptive, bitter flame.

crusted with red ash, slowly our persons
caved inward.

p 19: J. Frow: the Vigil

it is softly raining on the city.
delicate, crude, your limbs shift,
bones slide under skin,
the grey diffuse with darker movements.
the beam of a clothesline
juts from a flat roof,
angled in the obscure light.
below, in the square,

p 20: John E. Tranter: The Moment of Waking

She remarks how the style of a whole age
disappears into your gaze, at the moment
of waking. How sad you are
with your red shirt, your features
reminiscent of marble, your fabulous
boy-girl face like a sheet of mist
floating above a lake.

Someone hands me a ticket

p 20: Carl Harrison-Ford: The Flag

(after Pentti Saarikeski)
the blood runs from the head back to the veins
“stiff as a window the flag stood out in the wind”
the trains were all on time
in the cities the workers watched clocks
in the distance there was the horizon
the summer pools of water on the roads
      are optical illusions

p 21: Carl Harrison-Ford: Closer and Closer

The journey to love
   the desert music
      the descent

   not as the pull
      of images but as

the journey
at that time

p 22: Mark Radvan: The horse in the junk-yard

sea-bright smiling
i am the utter anvil of my rock-hard breath
i am the death of every creature
i am the dying in the factory yard
who will come to me when i am singing?
who will tend my wants
and the annoyance of my fingers tapping?

          every life green dark sea

p 23: Nick Battye: The Asylum

The arid radiance of an angel
hesitates on the wall.
The Marquis beds down Napoleon
kindly:           keeps
the birthday present of the purring
drum sticks to himself.

p 24: John Blay: Man of Letters

He sits before his incomplete portrait,
forgotten by the artist; a half-face
and shadow, the pencilled “This man of Letters”.
From the stairhead his wife and would-be
mistress bellows the arrival of dinner guests.
Cries of introduction, voices down the hallway,
footsteps thump toward his dream
perhaps tonight will see his Boswell in.

p 24: Rhyll McMaster: On a Glass Slide

It grows a little,
pulls, or is stretched.
The tiny granules surge
and the blunted pseudopod moves forward;
The amoeba, breaking its back to make a foot
finds what it did not know;
A new form becomes clear
under the microscope’s unstartled eye;

p 25: Roger McDonald: Heartbeat

a bird risen to 10,000 feet, who
meets the mad balloonist in a twist
of blue fingers, then semi-conscious
rolls and tumbles downwards, butterflying
on stunned bone, loose in whistling shafts of air,
hospitable to the idea that clouds
or wishes get things back where they all started.

p 25: Roger McDonald: The Enemy

The enemy conspires to end
Heart-beat, grass-growth, clouds
And the life of the wind.
He wishes to extinguish
— among all things —
The life of the sun.

In the present campaign
His weapons are notions of spring —

p 26: Nick Battye: “pressed hard”

pressed hard         to the arctic sledge of reindeer
herding light

where sedge grows from its own strength
and houses stand because of the cold

we in the long dark
making handcrafts under tallow candles

touch         and occasionally         speak

p 26: Michael Parr: Poem Against Solitude

the wood of our words…

as deciduous as winter: The turtle of solitude with
its instincts awry

here are the roofs empty of sparrows…

Mecca has been captivated by

of leaping dogs

of wooden asylums…

p 27: P. A. Pilgrim: “on the timeless sea”

on the timeless sea
we sail
in a rusted clipper
going no place
in particular
just out to pass
the time
of day

p 28: P. A. Pilgrim: “easter poem anytime“

upstairs from the penthouse
ten flights higher than the sun
someone on the windowledge
begs to be excused…
as he hurls down the ashes
                and sack cloth
as reminders of
            how much he’s suffered

p 30: Wilhelm Hiener: Upton-Smith at Forty

The siren sings: “Come on Upton,”
Slurring my name. “Take me first.”
And I, confined by ties, school,
Family, strain till I burst
My eardrums and cannot hear
Her husky cry. (A partiality
For slim-built birds with gravel
Voices had patterned all my days.)

p 30: Paul Burns: The Old Man

Old man,

remnant of my past,
of the days of the child who ate yellow mushrooms,
you squat in your cushioned corner,
your pale eyes reaching out
in the quiet, wanting to talk,
remembering my month on silver crutches.

p 31: Paul Burns: A Girl From Another World

On her desk lay folders of history and hate;
a fountain pen copies other men’s knowledge.

Love poems unwritten linger in his mind,
his cramped fist hastening up spectres of the future.

She walks down a road of crunching blue metal,
not looking at the dead moonlight marsh.

He stares in dark coffee lounges at masks of death,
furtively fixes a needle with a dream.

p 32: Suzanne Hunt: Evening Ferry

The city looked tonight as if a bushfire
had passed through. The black dark limbs
of the bridge, and a thousand coals glowing

among the buildings. The butt of a tower
at Greenwich burnt white against the horizon.
Pinchgut sailed in silhouette along the lights

of the expressway, and ebony rolls of smoke
dispersed into a sky still glowing pink, where

p 32: Robert Gray: Landscape 3

Wandering down,
with my back to the afternoon,
around the heavy cattle on the road,
in the slanted sun.
The fields are blowing like fire —
the air become for me
at such hour
full of singing, cries, and pennants

p 33: Robert Gray: Travelling

Travelling all day, at evening
the road is hauled away
slowly from the river. — that pale, cold tea
we’ve watched for hours.
It plunges now and
surges over
the long and shuddering
roots of a mountain range.

p 34: Franco Paisio: Game

Out of the black wreath of my body
you grow the flame
I know your lips and I know your hand
on this will-o’-the-wisp
and I know your name

I name my madness
when the flame
touches your blood

p 34: Peter Carthew: Cancer ’69

It was an absurd grave we dug
burying nightingale and dove

winter came willowless
with Cain’s napalm

artificial orchids
rebeautify the tomb

beneath the warm gun
that rests on the moon

p 35: Michael Dugan: Childmemory

Down past Macartney’s farm
beyond a wilderness of waist high thistles,
willow trees caressed the creek.
We would come to the willows
along a secret path of our own making,
to leap into their feathered greenness
and, clutching handfuls of whiplike branches,
would swing, eyes closed, above the stream,

p 35: Also available from South Head Press:

Open at Random, by Bruce Beaver
I Learn by Going, by Craig Powell
Poems for a Female Universe, by Norman Talbot
Eyewitness, by Rodney Hall
Two Houses, by Grace Perry
Letters to Live Poets, by Bruce Beaver

p 36: Frederick C. Parmee: Walk in the Night

Moving out from isolation
with clocks ticking time
to the countdown of a people’s history
we walk to strange meetings

stiff in the joints
and using awkward muscles
with care
we learn again to walk upright

p 37: Frederick C. Parmee: Release

From the scarlet letter
to the ultimate freedom
beyond the reach
of rule or retrenchment
this revolution
releases the flood

these shining shells
of our bodies sweep

p 38: Jennifer Maiden: The Scent

I’m afraid to say I don’t want you
          The sky looks like white cologne
I grow with a sleep
That is driven down like smoke from the hills
The night dries in my throat with an old dense scent.
          Death explained to me once:
          “I do not take the people
Who have somewhere else to go…”

p 38: Jennifer Maiden: The Wedding

With my ear on her rib to hear
the slow heartdark beat of her dream
I meet the periphery of night
                    Behind my shoulder
And the Pointers glare encased
In the window like hot quartz in water.
                    An austere unhooded moon —

p 38: Jennifer Maiden: The Factory

Metal from metal, metal shapes metal
Metal eats metal, metal wastes metal
Is rebuked by metal, designed by metal
Metal rules metal. Metal pays me
One thousand three times a day I kick
Metal and metal issues forth, the same.
They say repetition enforces Truth
And ritual is Divine, and here am I

p 39: Jennifer Maiden: Climbing

This shadow at my shoulder doesn’t shed
        The substantial night.
The rope twists all breath
        From the mountain
             As simple as a bed
Far above life in heavy wind you might
Fall beyond the common cliff of death.
With all my side and ear adhered to stone

p 39: Kerry Leves: Slug

I am brown and gradual: softness,
Pushing through slabs of cold air.
I am aware of the gut of the earth,
Digesting ice of last night’s rain;
My wet body-heat melts frost
Into trickles. My work is this track.
It is silver, silver…

I’m a pulp-mouth, sucking. I am death

p 40: Robert Adamson: Your Magazine Husband


So finally after strolling along
through whistling constellations above your peaceful roof
three years,
          I saw you coming over the ether from the edge
          of your world, & remained silent.
          Through with striking
the dome of my brain & hoping for music,
I watched you approaching, like one of those floating-women

p 42: Robyn Ravlich: 1910: Homage to Marinetti

At night
          the intense vibrance of the arsenals
lit by the glare of electric lights

voracious railroad stations
             devour smoking monsters

bridges, giant gymnasts,
             span the rivers

p 43: Peter Skrzynecki: Theorem

The last evening of winter passes down its light
Against the fallowed earth and sandstone
That burns red among ferns and gravelled ditches.

Light moves across the stones, through ghosts
Of trees and leaves that burn white in the morning
Of a black frost, as rivers of mist swirl and gather

Where shadows pass beyond the stalks of dry corn
And charred grasses: encircle black stagnant pools,

[On the following pages are articles by

Link: [»»] Rodney Hall: Attitudes to Tradition in Contemporary Australian Poetry
Link: [»»] Thomas Shapcott: Hold Onto Your Crystal Balls
Link: [»»] James Tulip: The Australian-American Connection
Link: [»»] Ronald Dunlop: Recent Australian Poetry
[Not included here:] Donald Gallup: T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound: Collaborators in Letters]

[1]  Biafra, officially the Republic of Biafra, was a secessionist state in south-eastern Nigeria that existed from 30 May 1967 to 15 January 1970, taking its name from the Bight of Biafra (the Atlantic bay to its south). The inhabitants were mostly the Igbo people who led the secession due to economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions among the various peoples of Nigeria. The creation of the new country was among the causes of the Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Nigerian-Biafran War… After two-and-a-half years of war, during which a million civilians had died in fighting and from famine, Biafran forces agreed to a ceasefire with the Nigerian Federal Military Government (FMG), and Biafra was reintegrated into Nigeria. [Wikipedia] Though largely forgotten now, the Biafran famine was a very newsworthy topic in 1970. JT

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