Thursday, October 23, 2014

we want poetry back

the messengers had children
the messengers had children
oh / greying guards at
the gates of lyric / saying
not on my watch
sonnets trained on the horizon
that’s right / the messengers had children

oh / old white men
who shot the messengers
& those (some come even
coloured or with breasts)
who bow to same

oh / you who killed poetry
marched pentameter poised across
the slaying fields of tongue
is a new dawn
the messengers had children
& the street poets have come
is a new dawn
the messengers had children
& those children have guns
is a new dawn
the messengers children have
become the messengers
& we / the messengers
want blood

you who guarded lined scrolls
& metaphored our distant dots with
squinting iambic eyes
but forgot to look (& after all
what kind of poet can’t see behind him?)
& while you slept we scaled
back fences / braved body rot
& still twitching casualties in
a beat battalion tip-toe
across forbearers screaming bones

oh / old white men & those
(some come even come young
coloured or with breasts)
who bow to same
we want poetry back / we
are the children you
left wailing / without a backward glance
oh / but when you cut down word
the roots undergrounded
& grew

& oh /real poets / you did not think to drown
the messengers children
did you?



This poem is from my collection Gil Scott Heron is on Parole (Picaro Press, 2009).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

to ferguson, love from palestine











she / stands
on the west bank
maybe twelve years of her
holding up a sign

it says
to ferguson
love from palestine


they spray tear gas there too
exactly the same kind

if the radio is right

in ferguson missouri
they kill brown boys
with empty pockets
& both hands in the air
too / even as they are falling
to their knees / even
as they are screaming
don/t shoot

the girl could once imagine
running away / to
silence / in the skies
to birdsong / better days

now she knows

being brown anywhere
would be exactly the same

after all

hunger killed more people
than ebola / today
anger / killed more people
than ebola / today

colour killed more people
than ebola / today

they are isolating africa
the whole world is a-flail

they don't know
what she knows

that ferguson is the west
bank / the west bank
is sierra leone

they don't know
what she knows

colour killed more people
than ebola / today

she is standing in the west
bank / holding up a sign

it says
hatred
is also contagious









Thursday, October 9, 2014

the child my teacher once was

at age eleven
behaviour that might have
in kindergarten
been seen as mis-
guided or understood
can be a strong indicator
for psychotic tendencies
in adulthood

years later
missing family parakeets
are found
dismembered
beneath the floorboards
of a child molestor/s boyhood room

in class five
a child who sat right
at the back of the class
-geographically and academically-
a boy whose name
has long since flown
my memory
started a new game
a theatre he only played
with me

              this is not a poem
              about child abuse


hey blackie
hey blackie
hey blackie


he would launch soggy paper
spit balls / at my shoulders
across my desk / into my hair

for almost a week
the whole class
fixed eyes from the front
so steadily / i
honestly believed
even the kids who liked me
couldn't see / or
hear a thing

hey blackie
hey blackie

hey blackie

i weathered the hail
for four days
before deciding to tell the teacher

                  this could well be a poem
                  about a child abuser

the teacher / angry
asked me why i/d left my chair

hey blackie
hey blackie

hey blackie

when i explained it to her
she giggled / behind her hand
and said

well i guess
that/s what you are

she was the teacher
and therefore
she was right

                perhaps this is a poem
                about child abuse


this might be a poem about the child
my teacher once was
& how those early tendencies
break through

years later / missing
childhoods are found
buried beneath bureaucracy
in a primary school teacher/s room

                 this is not a poem 
                 about child abuse

this is just a poem
about a boy whose name
has long since flown
my memory
and a brand new game
he only played / with me

This is an edited extract from the poem 'in karikatur australisch deutsch' from my poetry collection 'nothing here needs fixing' (Picaro Press, 2013)





Monday, October 6, 2014

No Singular Revelation

"Australia is a country colonised by a United Kingdom which owes a large part of its wealth to the brazen and systematic exploitation of people of colour, both through centuries of slavery and otherwise. We are a nation founded on the genocide, degradation and dispossession of black Indigenous inhabitants. We are a nation which enacted unthinkable assimilation policies on its Indigenous people, and which still continues to fail Indigenous people in areas such as health, education, literacy and life expectancy. For many decades we lived under the White Australia Policy – a system, only dismantled some 40 years ago – which openly preferenced immigrants of European origin over immigrants of colour. Queensland’s Aboriginal Protection Act (1897) provided the blue-print for South Africa’s racial segregation laws: put simply, we are the country which exported apartheid to South Africa"

My personal essay on racism in Australia has been published by Right Now.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Disrupted - Perth Festival of Ideas








I'll be involved in the Perth Festival of Ideas at the end of this month, in the live writing project Memory Makes Us, and also taking part in the Dangerous Speech panel. The program for the festival looks really interesting, and can be viewed here. See you west-side!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Special Delivery


Nine or so writers are gathered in my hotel room, overlooking one of Sydney Harbour’s moonlit wharfs.  I’m chatting to Jeff Sparrow and Jacinda Woodhead, who edit the journal Overland.

“So what are we going to do about this book industry awards thing?” Sparrow asks.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who’s recently announced cuts to the arts industry that will seriously affect Australian writers, is giving a keynote speech the next evening at the Australian Book Industry Awards. Group protest plans have been widely discussed but ultimately abandoned.

“I printed a copy of the petition. I’ll just give it to him, since I’ll be there anyway,” I suggest.

“You can’t do that!”


I glance around the room. Miles Franklin shortlisted author and short-fiction master Tony Birch has just donned the pristine white storytelling bathrobe; philosopher John Armstrong – Alain de Botton’s latest literary collaborator — is ordering another expensive bottle of white on my room tab. At this point, hand-delivering mail to the prime minister seems feasible.
Read the rest of my portrait of the prime minister in The Saturday Paper here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

In Conversation at Gleebooks


Omar Musa
& Maxine Beneba Clarke
in Conversation
@ Sydney's Gleebooks
Wednesday 1 October, 6pm 


Join us for a very special ‘in conversation’ between two of Australia’s most exciting debut fiction writers, Omar Musa, a Malaysian-Australian rapper and poet from Queanbeyan, and Maxine Beneba Clarke, a widely published Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean descent. Just as comfortable on the stage as on the page these two formidable authors come to fiction from a performance background, as spoken word performers and slam poets. They have an impressive publication history that includes short fiction, essays and poetry books and (in Omar’s case) hip hop albums.

Booking details here.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Now Read This

NOW READ THIS - Omar Musa & Maxine Beneba Clarke

The Wheeler Centre
6:15PM - 7:15PM, Monday 22 September 2014
Further details here

Maxine Beneba Clarke won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript for Foreign Soil, a stunning short-story collection whose settings span the world, from Footscray to Sudan, Jamaica to London. Compared to Nam Le’s The Boat in its virtuosity and ability to transport the reader into very different characters and settings, it’s both fierce and engaging, putting displaced people at its centre.
Award-winning slam poet Omar Musa has performed extensively around Australia and the world. His ground-breaking debut, Here Come the Dogs, is a hip-hop verse novel that offers a rare glimpse inside the world of Australia’s multi-ethnic youth.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Readings New Australian Writing Award - Meet The Shortlist.

If Foreign Soil were made into a film, who would you like to see in the starring role?

"....I'm thinking to play the character of ‘Maxine Beneba Clarke’ in the semi-autobiographical story ‘Sukiyaki Book Club’ either BeyoncĂ© or Halle Berry would be the most obvious choice in terms of looking quite similar. Yet, even though they’re both stunning enough to play me, I’m not sure they’re edgy or feisty enough and so the answer would probably be either Eartha Kitt circa 1957, or Grace Jones circa 1980. (Insert your eye-roll here.)

In all seriousness, the most amazing thing about Foreign Soil ever being made into some kind of series would be all of those incredible parts for actors of colour in Australia: Sri Lankan, African, Chinese, Sudanese, West-Indian, Black British, African-Australian, Anglo-Australian. It would be the casting call of casting calls..."


Readings has interviewed the shortlisted writers for their New Australian Writing Award, including myself. You can read the interviews here:
Maxine Beneba Clarke
Michael Mohammed Ahmad

Luke Carman
Christine Piper
Ceridwen Dovey
Fiona McFarlane

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Colored Soldier


Performing Langston Hughes' The Colored Soldier at Overland Literary Magazine's war poetry event at Melbourne Writers Festival last week.

Monday, September 8, 2014

doing the dirty

for eighteen months now
prose & i
have been doing the dirty

it feels so good

until i remember
poetry