Friday, July 25, 2014

operation bring them home

unites a country
like tragedy

hundreds of bodies
shot from the sky

& an
old white man
square to the camera
talking about
               operation bring them home

the pathos of a nation
shining in his eyes
unites a country
could be
my kid

curly haired
coming home from holiday
burnt teddy flung
from stickered suitcase


from the face of
                my life

unites a country
like tragedy

                today / they are all


                no one will be left behind


one hundred & fifty-one people
fleeing / all kinds
of rockets

have been locked / on an army ship
for twenty one nights

at an unspecified location

in the centre of the ocean

allowed three hours
a day
of light

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The 17th Storey

My text portrait of the extraordinary Matt Richell appears in The Saturday Paper this weekend. 

Robert Watkins has baked a coffee and cardamom cake. He is Hachette Australia’s commissioning editor. He says the marketing director is likely coming. The publishing director is already there. “Our CEO Matt Richell might pop in to say hello.”

I wipe my sweaty palms on my skirt underneath the table, accept a cup of English breakfast. I’m under no illusions: publishing CEOs don’t pop in to say hello to unknown, unsigned writers.

Ten minutes later, on the heels of the marketing director, Matt Richell breezes in, lithe frame riding atop an easy saunter. He gently handshakes a hello, casually pulls out a seat, leans back with right foot balanced on left knee, accepts a slice of cake, jokes about the coffee-kick. He starts talking about his vision for the publishing house, how committed he is to publishing Australian voices. A few sentences in, he suddenly breaks train. “Are those really sleeve cuffs, Robert?”

His commissioning editor leans over, displays the antique silver bracelet-type rings holding his folded shirt sleeves in place. Matt inspects them incredulously, wide white grin flashing in disbelief. Five o’clock shadow. Honest eyes. Measured gaze. He’s alarmingly present, all carefully constrained energy, as if a cricket ball suddenly hurtled this way his hand would calmly shoot up to catch it before his head even turned. Straight-backed, straighter-talking. Unassuming: a sit-next-to-at-the-footy kind of guy. Only strangely so, enigmatically so. Unforgettably unassuming. Like if you did sit next to him at the footy, if he spoke to you about the weather while in the meat-pie line, you’d somehow, inexplicably, remember him. Not just that evening, but for the rest of your life – and you’d be completely unable to articulate why.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Child's Play

the radio is on in the gift-shop
abc national news

my eight year-old is

stares up at me in distress

why are we sending
those boats / back

when we know
those people will be hurt

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Random Foreign Soil Linkage

Lipmag wrote up the Emerging Writers Festival.
The ABC Book Club
video interviewed me at their Sydney studios.
I'll be part of the teaching staff for Writers Victoria's upcoming Memoir in a Year course.
The Age reviewed Foreign Soil last weekend.
The Australian Book Review reviewed Foreign Soil this month.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


ten foot fences burning bodies
desperate people splintered families
bloodied borders barbed wire dreams
immolation mutilation castigation

aryan nation

there are days / when i
am so ashamed
of what this
not-my-country has become

that i
can barely


Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Avid Reader - Brisbane Event

Tonight I'll be in Brisbane, doing a Foreign Soil event at Avid Reader. I'm really looking forward to being in this book shop space - have heard so much about the shop - and meeting the Queensland audience! Details here.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Poet, The Petition & The Prime Minister.

I just realised I haven't posted anything here about my night at the Australian Book Industry Awards on May 23. The guardian has it covered best, I think:

"On Friday night at the annual Australian book industry awards in Sydney, prime minister Tony Abbott was handed an open letter, signed by dozens of prominent artists and writers and previously published on Guardian Australia, objecting to cuts to arts funding in the 2014 federal Budget.
The poet and author Maxine Beneba Clarke approached the prime minister during the event and offered him a sealed envelope. In it, was a copy of her work Foreign Soil, along with an open letter by the editors of literary journals Meanjin and Overland, signed by writers including Anna Funder, Alexis Wright, JM Coetzee, Don Watson, Christos Tsiolkas and Michelle de Kretser."
Read the rest here

Monday, June 2, 2014

Nicholas Walton-Healey's Land Before Lines

One of the most extraordinary experiences of 2013 for me was being photographed for Nicholas Walton Healey's book 'Land Before Lines,' which will be launched tomorrow evening as part of the Emerging Writers' Festival. Viewing the exhibition on the walls of Festival Club last week - 70 portraits of Victorian poets I've raised glasses with, read alongside, argued with, admired, idolised, lauded, criticised, befriended, loved and worked with, was emotional, haunting, moving, enlightening, validating. Be there tomorrow evening. Buy the book. Read each poet's response to their portrait. See how Nick has somehow managed to see all of us for who we are. I guarantee there will never be a publication like it.
(Below: Walton-Healey's portraits of Bella Li, Pi.O and myself)

Interview with Potts Point Bookshop

Filmed last week, during an inner Sydney book shop tour.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Emerging Writers' Festival

I'm proud to be an ambassador for the Emerging Writers' Festival this year. Here's where you can find me over the weekend. Check out the rest of the program here.


Date: Saturday 31 May, 10am – 11am
Venue: Swanston Hall, Melbourne Town Hall
Price: FREE with Writers’ Conference Pass or $15 full/$12 concession
Our five Festival Ambassadors share the writing advice they wish they had known when they were starting out – in the form of five rules for writing, each – as an inspiring guide for the next time you sit down to write. It’s 5 x 5 and you will come away with 25 hot tips.
With Maxine Beneba Clarke, Hannah Kent, Krissy Kneen, Benjamin Law and Felix
Nobis. Hosted by Sam Twyford-Moore.


Saturday 31 May, 2pm
Venue: Swanston Hall, Melbourne Town Hall
Price: FREE with Writers’ Conference Pass or $15 full/$12 concession
What is the relationship between a writer and editor? How do they meet and does the relationship evolve over time? Real life writer and editor duo Maxine Beneba Clarke and Robert Watkins discuss with Bethanie Blanchard their working life together.


Sunday 1 June, 12pm
Melbourne Town Hall

Step into The Control Room where you are in control of the conversation. We put a writer in a room and let you ask the questions. There is no host. There are only the writers and the audience. They bring the experience, you bring the questions. 
 – Maxine Beneba Clarke, Dan Bledwich and Jeff Sparrow (mentorships)