Tuesday 30 November 2021

Take two: Judith Wright, Collected Poems (1994)

I took this photo in front of a picture by a friend of mine she made in southeast Queensland not far from where Wright and her husband had a holiday home. The island off the coast in the drawing is Mujimba. I know this because I visited mum and dad on the Coast and even lived there for a number of years. Mujimba lies within sight of Mount Coolum, which is shaped like a woman’s breast.

This book came into my collection at some point and I paid $8 for it second-hand. I know this because the amount is written in pencil inside the front on the first page where there’s a publisher’s blurb. I guess that I bought the book after my return from Japan, which happened in 2001, so not so very long after the book first appeared.

In my review I go into detail about what Wright’s poems made me think about while reading. Her poetry strikes me as being good overall, but that’s all I’ll say for the moment. If you want to read a full review please make the effort and subscribe to my Patreon (it’s very good value, I promise). 

Sunday 28 November 2021

Take two: The Way of the Knife: The CIA, A Secret Army, and A War at the Ends of the Earth, Mark Mazzetti (2013)

This was bought new – probably at Books of Buderim – and cost $27.95. The picture it’s taken with is a painting in oils of African violets by Zuza Zochowski. Back in 2013, when the book was purchased, I wasn’t really interested in America’s seemingly endless wars and this probably accounts for the fact that the book was only first read to about page 95. The second time I’ve persisted. 

A full review is on my Patreon. I know I keep plugging away with these links, but you’ll have to bear with me because I love literature but I’d gotten sick of doing all of this work with no reward. Even now I get no financial reward because the subscriptions collected so far only go toward servicing the publishing platform, and nothing gets sent through to my PayPal account. Keep in mind that even if a dollar a month gets through to PayPal it’ll probably be sucked up by service charges on that end anyway. So even though I’ve been asking for money for reviews since February I’ve actually seen not a cent of the money people have so far pledged. The choice is yours. 

Friday 26 November 2021

Take two: Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves, Adam Hochschild (2005)

This book has an Amazon sticker on the back and no other price markings, so I’m not sure where it was bought by me. It might’ve come from Amazon but I doubt it. More likely it’s from an op-shop – but in that case why not a sticker saying “$3” on the back cover? It’s a mystery. 

I chose a photograph of a nude to go with this book, one of my Bruno Schultz Verlags which Elmer Johansen had in his cupboard somewhere and which came to me when Uncle Geoff died. The Danes actually outlawed the slave trade before the Brits did.

For a full review, see my Patreon. It costs almost nothing to subscribe, less than three cups of coffee for a year’s worth of articles. As I read voraciously new pieces’re put up several times a month. I’m currently going through old books in my collection that’d never been read by me, but I also read more recent work. Even if you never read the book I’m reviewing I hope that my words’ll inspire good thoughts for you. 

Thursday 25 November 2021

Tweeting better stories, episode eleven: October 2021

Wanting to find a lighter-hearted way I offer readers this eleventh post in a series.

On 18 October at 5.16am this casual social media comment appeared in my feed:

The following tweet, which appeared on 29 October at 3.23pm, is too strange!


At 6.26am on 1 October I saw this:

On 16 October at 5.37am, this wonderful double match appeared in my feed:

On 17 October at 1.16pm this was visible to me:

The solar system

On 2 October at 5.42am I saw this tweet in my feed:

On 4 October at 6.12am I saw this in my feed:

On 7 October at 6.12am I saw this:

At 2.37pm on 7 October I saw this in my feed:

Art & writing

At 5.12am on 3 October this appeared:

At 10.14am on 22 October this nice double match appeared to me:


On 14 October at 5.25pm this appeared:

On 23 October at 7.43am this double match (about forests and the wilderness) appeared in my feed:

On 25 October at 4.38am this terrific poem appeared:

I saw the following image on Instagram on 30 October at 8.15am:


On 8 October at 5.09am I saw this tweet:

On 12 October at 6.35am this appeared in my feed:

On 16 October at 4.12am this appeared on Twitter:

On 16 October at 5.51am this appeared:

On the next day at 6.55am this appeared in my Twitter feed:

On 28 October at 6.27am this drawing appeared:

On 31 October at 6.41am I saw this:


On 11 October at 7.32am I saw this double match in my feed:

This appeared in my feed on 13 October at 5.55am:

At 4.40am on 25 October this fantastic double match appeared:

On 31 October at 5.50am I saw this:

Love & beauty

On 17 October at 7.08am this double match was visible to me:

On 24 October at 6.08am this appeared in my feed:


On 14 October at 7.38am this appeared:

Wednesday 24 November 2021

Review: The Saving I Need, Poetry Chapel Vol. 1 – Abigail Bucks

A month ago I wrote a general book review about this book. While this was complimentary I felt encouraged to have another stab at reviewing it because of the efforts of its creators to find an audience. I wanted to continue the conversation.

These deceptively simple poems – ‘Fragments’, ‘Jars’ and ‘Growth’ – invite a dialogue with the reader and this is partly because of the domestic settings. So you’re sitting at home and you’re confronted every morning by a pot plant that thrives or otherwise (perhaps it needs fertiliser, perhaps it’s not in the right location in your house – does it need to be put outside?). You might have a cupboard with jars in it for leftovers. 

And everyone is intimately acquainted with the idea of personal growth. My father wrote a memoir titled ‘Growing’ that snaps shut at the time of the family’s move to Sydney at about the time I was born. Dad grew up in Melbourne (as did my mother) but once he’d graduated from university he progressed to a job based in the more northerly state of New South Wales. He of course brought the family with him, adding his mother, who signed over to her spouse the hamburger bar she worked in, got in the car, and didn’t look back. 

Abigail Bucks’ poem dips in the same font of ideas as dad resorted to – though it wasn’t evident to me that he’d grown at all (though I’m biased) – asking her readers to enquire as to how they’ve grown over time. It seems that the idea of progress is universal nowadays, and has been since the 19th century, a time when the broad classifications used to segmentalize history (the Renaissance, the Middle Ages) were first formulated and popularised. It was also the time when advances in learning sparked by a democratisation of reading and writing characterising the former period began to bear fruit in the form of technological innovation. By the end of the century reinforced concrete, electricity, the internal combustion engine – a range of decisive novelties’d altered our understanding of who we were.

What we’re individually capable of, however, as Bucks seems to be aware, ultimately rests upon less tangible foundations. Perhaps faith can help. In ‘Fragments’ it appears in the person of God, something Bucks names in order to make sense of life. We all feel stress sometimes, and even on occasion breakage though “All the broken pieces, / of everything / all around you, / are not meant to be / collected / & carried …” so perhaps it’s necessary to remove the urge to fix everything. Bucks seems to suggest that, even if we could, the objects that resulted would turn out to be imperfect. 

She reprises the metaphor of the container – that in ‘Fragments’ are cracked and turned into shards – in her first poem. ‘Jars’ offers a musical interlude with more referents redolent with meaning (the nod to the unfortunate Sylvia Plath cannot be avoided) but ultimately it suggests the poet’s resilient. What makes her so strong? I wonder if it has something to do with how, by writing poetry, she is able to form outlines that permit colouration, the bringing together of ideas others share to make an offering for all.

Tuesday 23 November 2021

Take two: The Mansions of Bedlam, Gerard Windsor (2000)

For a full review, see my Patreon. I keep plugging away at this appeal having convinced myself of the value of what I write. If nobody values my reviews apart from myself I’d grow down instead of up, and I dream of the sun sometimes. If you can spare a few coins each month to support my writing, all the better. If you cannot, then that’s sad too. 

I took this photo in front of a sketch mum made of some of the participants in a sort of hybrid vacation and study tour of Oxford that she and dad did in the 90s, a time when I was struggling with work commitments and with the demands of a young family. On the day I started reading this book I met a man – who I know to be Catholic because he told me his uncle was a papal knight – on account of some coins I wanted to sell that had come to me as part of my patrimony. I was paid in cash, the last time I ever got anything from dad being when, in payment for some painting work I did on the interior of an apartment he owned in Elizabeth Bay, I was gifted mum’s green Toyota Corolla station wagon. I was very young and thought it generous but with the years I came to understand how miserly my father was, so keeping coins in a bank’s safety deposit box summed up the man.

Monday 22 November 2021

Lanz Priestley commemoration

 It had rained for a week and it would rain for a week more and I’d spent the morning shopping and having yum cha in Campsie with friends. I’d bought box cutters and gardening gloves – I planned to plant things so they could grow and feed me – but caught the bus and tram into town for the event. I left home for Lanz's event at 1pm and got back after five o’clock, so it was a full day for me, one in which I met an old friend. 

I’d once travelled to South American to be with Austin but Martin Place was the only place that the commemoration ceremony could possibly have been held in, the crowd relatively thin – there were probably a few hundred people all told – due to Huey, the weather god. A camera crew roved around among the mourners, others wielded their cameras, and the boys in blue stood off to one side, under the eaves of a commercial building and of the Reserve bank of Australia, which, four years before, had stood sentinel over the Tent City, of which Lanz was unofficial Mayor.

“Barak bukbuk baraken warangumuraj rajita nunga,” the almost-naked man chanted as people came up to the stack of burning gum leaves, giving off their cleansing smoke. The man had a stick through his nose and he talked about meeting Lanz on the Northern Beaches, and of surfing. 

“You’ve gotta help other people in need,” sang Peter Blanch with his guitar. Big city life. 

Later, there was a video shown on a large truck that someone had parked on the pedestrian mall. It wasn’t all about the city. Ethan Pinnar, a truck driver who used the word “tremendously” at least three times, talked about a convoy to Bourke for NSW Bushfire Cleanup. Mary spoke about who she thought Australians were: “We are people that look after each other.” 

Lanz was a Kiwi, but never mind. 

Others spoke about what Lanz had meant to them. There was Glenda and Roy Butler, an MP who illustrated the freewheeling network Lanz could marshal like a crazy general. Then Freya spoke movingly about what she’d lost.

Nicky said, “English is my fourth language.” Carol, Sandra, Melanie, Nicole, Lee Rhiannon. Everyone had been touched in some way by Lanz and it was a real shame that the mainstream media didn’t turn up to report on his death. It would be left to the people who knew him as a man, as a giver, as a motivator, as a mentor, as a friend, as family, as an organiser, a man so contrary and ambitious for the wellbeing of others that he’d go without if it meant someone else could have what they needed. 

Lanz was a man of ideas who inspired by his example and by his words. He was unique, one-off, “iconic” (as someone said). He was the best of who we are.

Austin had to meet a friend at Stanmore but we decided to head to Central to have a coffee. When we got there the café on the Grand Concourse was closed however so I caught the bus home.