Tag Archives: pied hill prawns

The next big thing (for me anyway)

Ashley Capes invited me to continue a self-interview (started by Ivy Alvarez) to talk about my latest book/blog/writing. Cheers Ashley. You will find his own interview about his newly released book between giants hereI’ll now tag five other writers to talk about their writing so stay tuned to hear about them soon.

It thrills me to say that I do have a book to talk about (my first – launched in September this year) and Ashley was the superb editor for it

What is the title of your book?

That zero year – by Tiggy Johnson and myselfThat zero year

What genre does your book fall under?


and Attempted-Parenting – is that a genre?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

It’s (almost) a conversation of poetic portraits touching on topics of birth, family, love, loss and grief from a husband and wife’s perspective.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The whole thing may have started halfway through a Speedpoets gig in Brisbane. I had just stepped down from the open mic (in fact I may have just read a version of On a hunt for my face) and Tiggy mumbled something about doing a project together.

We wrote the project through 2012 and performed the poems plus a few extras at the 2012 Queensland Poetry Festival, which is also where we launched the book.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

My poems range from early versions in 2010 through to the rigorous on-demand 2012 writing regime demanded by Tiggy, ‘You’ve got to write a response to this poem… now!’

Actually, Tiggy really taught me how to write intentionally on a given subject. That was foreign to me. It’s been a fascinating exercise working together on this project. The majority of work in That zero year is from the past 12 months.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?


The death of my son, Isaiah, in 2007 inspired me to start writing in the first place. Writing has been pivotal in helping me process the grief and pain of losing him.

My wife Rebecca, who I get to share this smudge and scream journey of parenting is also a major inspiration to me. And of course my boys, like all children, are able to show me the world through their tears or Tigger-leaping eyes. I love being a dad to Jonah, Isaiah, Noah and Josiah.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Independently published. You can get your hands on one by emailing myself or Tiggy.

What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?

My sister has just had her first baby so I’m sending her That zero year along with Graham Nunn’s The first thirty and other poems and Julie Beveridge’s Home{sic} as a Brisbane/Tasmanian taste of parent-oetry.

I’ve also got to mention Nathan Curnow’s The midwife from his latest book RADAR which is a contrast of (un)co-ordinated movements of his own wife catching babies. It’s a piece in praise of midwives, which I’ve also attempted in my poem The home midwife (see below).

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Steve McQueen – because sometimes parenting is sitting in a confined room and throwing a ball against the wall, while plotting escape.

Did I say that aloud? I didn’t really say that did I? Will family services come to get me?

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I love how Tiggy’s and my poems weave around a thin narrative from the vastly different perspectives of man and woman. There are topics like death of a child, home birth, marital frustration, burnt hands, hospital rooms, kids on flights, sewing and fishing with kids and breastfeeding at 2am. I hope you get your hands on a copy and enjoy something from it. Here’s The home midwife for you to get a taste.


The home midwife

She pulls up in a hatchback
carries a leather case swollen
with years in and out of waters

a little vial of rose oil
and herbs transferred through bellyskin
to help the body yawn.

She walks down a hallway
to brew a pot of raspberry leaf
fennel, stinging nettle

and chats between the heavy breathing
makes a joke about stir frying the placenta
but doesn’t laugh.

No phone code or knife sharpening
for spine on spine, head up bottom down
or umbilical wrapped around the neck

she has whispering hands;
chinese point massage to coach
an aquatic half somersault
and unfurl the ribbon.

She reads faces too
guides a father’s hands
to be in on the magic of catching skin
slippery as water

it’s a black art
to let a baby happen
in your living room.


Call-Back-Poet! Yeewwww!

SpeedpoetsSpeedpoets Call-Back-Poet

Hop over to the Speedpoets website to check out my new poem ‘The home midwife’ I read at Speedpoets open mic last month. I was stoked to be called back up to the mic again to read a couple more poems. August Speedpoets happens this Saturday 4th at Brew, 2pm.

QPF Interview

The Queensland Poetry Festival is just around the corner. You’ll find the interview with Tiggy and I over at the Queensland Poetry Festival website. Click on ‘Program’ to find all the brilliant artists performing at QPF later this month. I hope you come along to enjoy the weekend festival of words and sounds.  It’ll be spectacular.

Up here

I plant my feet
in steep leaf mould

it threatens
to let go 

I lick the soil
in the air; a mixture
of oxygen, water
and a slit of sunlight

I zigzag like ground locals
this place asks for instincts
lichen give directions

the mug, sleep-sack, bread 
and spuds slice into my shoulder
heavier than thoughts

It’s been great committing to writing the Stinson series earlier this year.  I’ve had a bit of a break and now working on other things.  This one seems to hang up there in Lamington National Park so I just wanted to share it.  I hope to return to all the Stinson poems again one day.  They need plenty of editing and I want to finish the series and get the two blokes down off the mountain.  Thanks to those who have read and shared your thoughts along the way.  It’s been very encouraging.   Andrew

‘Shake hands’ – Stinson series

Their sunken eyes stare
back at me, bodies motionless

and propped against the charred remains
of their flight.  The older one leans forward
and stretches out an arm.  Shake hands.

It’s like grasping a raw piece of meat.

You poor bastards.
I could’ve been here a week ago.

The two of them watch themselves
run down my cheek and fall from my face.

My hands shake. I try to hide my thoughts
but they can read them.

What’s in the bag?
How about boiling the billy?

It’s routine; the movements
of building a fire and brewing tea
that fight the uselessness of shock.

I remember to breathe, collect what I’m doing here
from the damp forest floor, make plans
to get these guys out of here.

What’s happening in the fifth Test? 

John sort of smiles as he asks,
his leg lies out in front of him
open and swelling with maggots.

‘Unprepared to Find’ – Stinson series – 28th February 1937

There’s a gap in the trees.  Long splinters 
of red gum point to heaven.  Below, a wing 

torn off from the charred skeleton 
of pipes that lie in the tangle of rainforest, 

buckled propeller blades are screamed back
and the dead still slumped in their seats.  I hold a vine, 

and stand trying to keep the thing from me. Two days 
searching, and now, unprepared to find it,  

through the unclean air, their voices 
call again,  shake me out of my horror and cold skin.

moment, for a currawong


too heavy for air,
between cathedral roots 
of a black booyong, wing bent back,
floating in leaves, it waits
to sink into earth

its expression
as the way it stood, in suit jacket – the piercing 
yellow eye, closed, offering
itself to the forest workers 
who will massage
everything back to soil 

I’m still working on the Stinson series of poems.  It has been such an interesting exercise, working with historical facts and biographical details from Bernard O’Rielley.  I’ve been struggling to get Bernard near the plane, so I’ve spent some time on rainforest pieces relating to the area of Lamington National Park, where the stinson crashed.

Calamus muelleri (lawyer vine)

How soon did you arrive 
after this giant beech fell
and pulled down a hole 
in the ceiling?  

You scramble for light 
on a rotting forest floor.  From one hundred 
meters you stretch tendrils to climb 
into the canopy with your backward facing
thorns.  Why do you exist lawyer 
vine?  What purpose? Look, my throat 

is jagged sideways, your necklace of needle hooks
rip at my skin, but even as I step back and perform 
a delicate pincer removal, you curl another 
round my back and down my arm, grab my 
pant leg.  I bend down to pick you off 
and again you are holding my hat.  



Stinson series – Sunday 28th February, 1937 (Day 9)


Hands spin the map
to turn the ridge north.  An identical
twin of the last
tangled north
running ridge. It is like 

a fog; no sun, no break
in trees, no view, I climb a fig.  It is
one o’clock, five hours dropping
into gorges, lantana climb 
and lawyer vine across the top, five hours
since I saw that one burnt tree.  

‘Coo-eee’  A human voice 
out here?  

Must be another local
with the same idea
to scratch around
for an airplane.  Better not
respond, confuse the poor 
cocky.  He is two tangled 
north running ridges to the west.  
Where I’m going anyway.  Company 
will be nice.


‘Border Ranges’ Stinson series – Sunday 28th February, 1937


Out of the dust in cameron corner
the border dashes a straight
line for the coast.  Then, 

leaps off the 29th parallel 
to swim upstream, for rivers should
shared.  It bends and twists 

until it climbs out to traverse the great 
dividing range.   A dotted line 
must be its own guide.  So it wanders 

from peak to saddle to granite 
dome, skirting the base of wedding cake 
shaped cliffs.  It is a roller coaster hike and  

before it jumps 
into waves at point danger
it must scramble the subtropical

ridge of the tweed escarpment,
the inside rim of an extinct volcano
still gazing at its own belly warning.

8am on Mt Throakban
waiting for cloud to part,
to catch a glimpse 

of his pencil line
between Archerfield 
and Lismore.

burnt tree on a ridge
his heart rate
on the border


Stinson series – Saturday 27th February, 1937


Sleep doesn’t fall 
for the night
has its own level; 

bent branches, 
screeching vines, tightly 
packed fur, lost in claws,

a tone of howls 
spread across 
an octave, 

clouds swoop, pour a drink
the size of a droplet for every leaf, 
log, black spot hiss on red ember. 

It drips like a light doze
before dawn, broken by a great owl
who has finished its search.  Bernie 

roasts an onion 
then continues his search
for broken wings.


Stinson series – Lamington Plateau: 1829 – Today


These are the hills
Captain Logan walked around;
‘impassable pine scrub
from base to summit’.

These are the hills the O’Reilly’s built
a cottage guest house
to retreat, to cut conservation
into the mountain.

These are the hills
Bernie went scratching
around for the missing
‘City of Brisbane’.

These are the hills
where the Japanese hop
out and breathe, snap rainbow
lorikeets on their Mothers head.

These are the hills
I scramble and take
with me, lose my way
to find something else.



Stinson Series – Friday 26th February, 1937


His brother carved a farm
at the base of the lamington

range.  That’s where Bernie is
among the black spotted pigs

that remind him of tiger cats
who haunt the mountain.

Herb points his finger
up the valley at last Friday

afternoon’s twin engine plane
entering cloud, trying to climb

the downdraft.
‘That was a week already’.

Bernie didn’t see it fly over that day,
he hadn’t seen the newspapers either;

a santa’s sleigh of a plane,
over Coffs Harbour, Nambucca Heads,

Wauchope, Terrigal.  Spare aircraft
search the coast and hinterland

the army head up
the Hawkesbury, then, oil

spotted off Broken Bay.  All Hopes
Abandoned.  Growing Belief

The Stinson
Plunged into the Sea.

Have you ever had a hunch?  It is logic
I listen to, mostly.  Bernie never called it

a hunch.  He just didn’t
think newspapers have a clue.

Stinson series – Tuesday 23rd February, 1937


The flask held less than a quart 
they reckoned.  Heavy, for a city man

on a diet of water, his daily exercise 
to keep John alive. 300 yards 

down to the creek; rocks, lantana,
lawyer vine, mama bird eats 

the berries from a walking stick 
palm.  Today took 

three hours to climb back up 
that slope.  


Stinson series – Saturday 20th February, 1937


leg bone –
aircraft pipe
through canvas


The cyclone moved
off the mountain, moved off
the coast, retreating
from what it had done.  Air

washed of its haze; buildings
in Brisbane and beyond the Glass
House mountains.  We couldn’t see
our mountain held a secret;

flecks of blue through the canopy,
and wandering planes
never circle
our cries and smokey fire.  Westray
couldn’t wait beside the carcass
of yesterday’s flight, his hand burning
to scramble down gullies.  Gone,
in moments, swallowed by green
just the fading sound of a man slipping
through the undergrowth.

Stinson series – Friday 19th Feb, 1937


The pressure drops, the anxious
spin before the storm.  Trees lose
what they can’t hold, limbs 
crack, bring down vines, ferns explode 
and send a squawk up the valley.  
All of this is swallowed

by the howling.  Behind the timber barn,
the girls huddle.  Their udders and fearful eyes 
wait until tomorrow.  Stump to stump, Bernie
crosses the field to the rattling cottage, 
inside, smoke billows
each gust back down the chimney.

Twenty miles west,
below the top of the plateau,
John escapes through a cabin window,
into the rain, pulls out two others
before the engine fuel
takes them all.


ginko – a haiku walk


walking in thongs
along the track
every stick slithers

For the months of October and November I’ve been writing haiku with a group of poets in different locations in Brisbane.  Here’s a few of mine and a link to some of the other ku by the group.

longevity bench
the old man
smokes a packet

white stains
by the ice cream stall
sacred ibis

Here are the links to some of the ginko haiku over at Another Lost Shark.   Kurilpa Bridge    City Botanic Gardens     Brunswick St     Southbank     Mt Gravatt Mountain


Stuff going on (and a fishing poem)

clouds swirl
the brisbane eye turns
with the tide

I’ve been a Pied Hill Prawn.   Not all business, some pleasure, and holidays.  More on that later.  Speedpoet’s went well.  I think.  I wasn’t in the audience so hard to say.  I had a ball anyway.  It was fun reading my poems and the haiku/senryu set with Sheish was sweet.  Sheish played harmonica between each ku.  A cleansing of the palate between images.   Loved it.  Thanks for those who came out especially to support and there were those Speedpoet’s regulars in the audience who were very encouraging.  Cheers.

I’ve been participating in Ginko walks for the past few Sundays.  It’s put on by the Queensland Writers Centre and lead by haiku poet Graham Nunn of Another Lost Shark.  Check out this link to the group’s haiku from Kurilpa Bridge.  Hop around Graham’s recent posts to see some anxious poetry about waiting for their baby to decide to head out.

Here is a poem from my recent time with the family down at the Tweed Coast.

(with children)

The car park is a long piece of gravel
feet are light and the nylon line

must be cast for them.  Patience catches
nothing half way through a tide

that encouraging nibble
would be nice.  Their fish is given up

for casting stones into the river.  Heavy
sinkers are found at the bottom

of the box.  Another hour of biting
complaints and the car park is a long piece of gravel.

Speedpoets November 6th

This Sunday 6th November I’ll be performing at Speedpoets as a feature poet. Yeeewww! The always encouraging Graham Nunn of Another Lost Shark gave me an invitation and I’m really excited about stepping up to read a handful of my poems. It’ll be the longest set I’ve performed. I’ll also be reading haiku and senryu as part of the set (with a little harmonica help on the side from Sheish Money). Can’t wait!

Also performing on Sunday is The Stress of Leisure with an old friend Pascal Burton (poet, artist, musician) and Ian from their recent residency at the Brisbane Powerhouse, AND a new friend (who for some reason insists on calling me Dustin) Michael Cohen who is the other local feature poet performing his humorous poetry.

There is also the open mic, free zines, entry is a gold coin so hope to see you there for the final Speedpoets for 2011 at Brew, Lower Burnett Lane, Brisbane City 2pm.

Finally a ku:

quiet all year until now


I lean on a pandanus
they kept as a souvenir

the boys 
drive cars
in wet sand.

Before kids,

before rendered blocks
and squared lilly pillys,
the beach

and the road

700 metres
of casuarina, pandanus,
acacia and swamp weed.   

Tonka truck labyrinth
thinned crowds
to just mates

and girlfriends.  Surf
A-frames, sit
around night fires

behind the dunes
out of sight.