Tabula rasa

Hello, world. It’s Davey here.

It’s been a while. In fact, it’s been a very long time, indeed. But, you know how it goes: things got boring; I changed; you changed; we moved apart. Maybe we were missing that frisson that made this whole caper so untold to start with. Well, it’s time to end all that.

Time for a fresh start. After 12 years, 1200 blog posts, countless bios and ‘about’ pages, hundreds of thousands of words, scores of categories, 850 real comments and billions of spam comments, and hundreds of images, links and in-jokes, this site has become not so much a yoke around my neck as a huge albatross dragging me further and further into the realms of dark space.

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 21.34.26
Image: a screenshot of my website yesterday, right after I unpublished all of my posts.

So that’s why I’ve decided to unpublish all of my posts, and start again. This doesn’t mean that the posts have actually been ‘disappeared’ but that, for the moment, they’ve been carted off to another dimension, awaiting further instructions.

I’ve got big plans for these posts—more on that soon, hopefully. For now, it’s time to revel in the mystical ‘hello, world!’ moment that comes with one’s (new) first post.

Tabula rasa.

Update (31 August 2014): Yeah, well … that seemed like a good idea at the time. All systems soon back to normal.

Coming soon … ‘Tanto’

TANTO Screen Width

Long-term readers may recall that in 2011 I set up a poem newsletter project, ‘Poem of the week!’.

As you may also recall, a total of 22 posts were sent to subscribers during the project’s most active period, between October 2011 and April 2012. These posts were then compiled in a chapbook entitled Tjugotvå – twenty-two poems. I still think it’s a great little book and have my subscribers (around 60 by the time the project wound down) to thank for helping make it possible, through their words of encouragement and our interactions via the newsletter.

Well, two years later I’ve taken the plunge again and decided to once again indulge my ‘inner Swede’, a barely three-year-old creature struggling with Swedish customs and language. Maybe it’s because I’ve signed up for Swedish lessons, but I have a burning urge to write into life the strange world in which I live, where characters with names like ‘Åsa’ really do exist.

Åsa Strålande i ‘Tanto’, a new serial work of fiction, takes place in present-day Stockholm, and features locations and practices that will be familiar to residents of Stockholm but which may seem strange to non-Swedes (as may the dialogue, which is almost exclusively rendered in Swedish). However, the story also features several fictional venues and—needless to say—characters and is suitable for all readers over the age of 18. All you really need to know is that Tantolunden (or Tanto for short) is a park on Södermalm in central Stockholm.

The story will only be sent to those who have subscribed to the newsletter. The first episode of ‘Tantolunden’ will arrive in your inbox shortly. I look forward to sharing this strange and mysterious story with those of you who would care to join me on a journey to … ‘Tantolunden’ …

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Version 3.8.3

Footprints Detail Image

36 views of ‘Footprints’

Last year during our travels in Japan we spent some time in Kanazawa. Lovely place, took some beautiful photos there, it was hard to take a bad shot. Anyway, my image gallery from the trip started attracting some interesting comments. One image in particular – a set of footprints painted on a road – seemed to have been singled out for some pretty complimentary responses.

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Animal Collective på Debaser Medis, Stockholm (2012)

I remember Animal Collective

So, here goes.

The thing is, I really got into AnCo at a quite difficult time in my life, just after I’d sold virtually all of my possessions and moved from inner-city Melbourne to the Netherlands. That I would experience some form of culture shock was inevitable, despite my valiant attempts to be cheerful (at least for the first two weeks); that I would end up becoming addicted to AnCo’s music while riding a dilapidated bike around Den Haag was something I could not possibly have predicted the first time I heard their Simon & Garfunkel-meets-the-Muppets track ‘Who Could Win a Rabbit’ on MySpace.

Then again, I guess the current owner of MySpace could never have predicted the demise of that seemingly excellent music service either. But enough about vampiric robber barons.

AnCo MySpace screenshot 21 January 2014
Actual screenshot from AnCo’s MySpace page taken on 21 January 2014. Srly.

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Signage advertising a PC Bang (Internet gaming room) in Jongno, Seoul (2005).

대담시: Audacity

City of burnt grass and black limousines. 

City of nudes and spider lilies, 
     where the grass stands up even though it is on fire, 
     whistling a harvest tune. 

By the railway lines, 
     entropy rules: jagged weeds 
     and mystery melons scramble for space, 
     riddling the rails, 
     disguising the sleepers with their fantastic tendrils. 

Like a smoker's signal, 
     brave and futile. 

Trains slice these ribbons into tendons, 
     timetabling history, scattering seeds, 
     accelerating some abstract chaos. 

Trampled soccer balls like snakeskin or leather on the shining road. 

Dressed as inspectors, 
     we climb the stainless steel stairs, 
     pass the plastic clinic and the coffee mall, 

     then enter the machine room. 

Here, the rumble of traffic is merely a shiver in your bowels, 
     barely shaking the keys. 

Predicting story arcs is what it's all about. 

          good deeds and friendships betrayed. 

The studios will be eating out of our hands. 

     we model alternate scenarios: 

     the prisoner escapes; 
     the can of boiled beef falls from the adjutant's hand; 
     a friendship is consummated in a bloody latrine scene. 

     the streets are viewed as if through 
     the screenshots of an amateur photographer: 

     the perspectives slightly skewed, 
      casting one's eye off balance. 

Jets scramble overhead, but no one notices. 

The flags of a thousand federations 
      burst into the blue sky, 
      unfurling like false spring! 

The sound of trickling water consumes 
     bus drivers and cart pullers alike. 

Insanity is okay, 
     although mistakes are sometimes made. 

Usually, these thoughts disappear. 

Slowly, a city comes to know itself by 
                                                            the bend of a river, 
               the argument of a steel canal. 

Behind us, mountains; 

     cartwheels of conversation,                   


From Imaginary Cities: PC Bangs (2005)

Leaves of Glass: it’s real!

LeavesofGlass_cover front

Yes, in the words of Jersey-based pop band Real Estate, ‘It’s real!’

Seven years in the making.
Trans-continental in its composition.
Green as a blade of grass in its wrapping.

Leaves of Glass is real.

‘But what’s it all about …’ I hear you whisper.

Well, as I’ve explained here and here and here, Leaves of Glass is a book of poems (47 in all) based on actual correspondence between American ‘Dead Poets Society’-inspiration Walt Whitman (W.W.) and Aussie no-hoper poet Bernard O’Dowd (B.O’D.). These two cats wrote letters to each other in the 1890s in which they poured their hearts out to each other and generally raved on.

In fact, to be honest, most of the outpouring and ranting was on the part of B.O’D. For his part, W.W. seems to have enjoyed the attention, and wrote back to B.O’D with a sort of ‘I’m amused but only in a flattered way’ tone, as if he’d known him his whole life. Between them, W.W. and B.O’D. racked up at least twenty letters, although it’s apparent that many of the letters are missing.

All of which possibly does little to explain why I became so fascinated by this weird ‘roaring days’ correspondence. Call me old-fashioned, call me what you will — I guess I just found the whole thing kind of funny and sad at the same time: funny because B.O’D. was so obviously besotted with his ‘revered master’, but sad because the two of them were unlucky enough to have been writing a century too early to benefit from the Internet and email.

Anyway, my book – called Leaves of Glass in homage to Whitman’s Leaves of Grass – takes the correspondence as its cue and features poems about both B.O’D. and W.W. as well as re-writes (cover versions) of their works. It’s published by Puncher and Wattmann and is available via the P&W website and in all good (read: about two) bookstores. Or, if you’d like a signed copy, send me a message.

The first ‘launch’ of the book took place at Bella Union bar, Trades Hall, Melbourne on 1 December. The second will take place at Balmain Town Hall on 14 December. Information about both events can be found here. You can also sign up to attend the Sydney event via the Facebook event page.

Any questions?

Smokin’ Leaves of Glass!

I’m really glad to announce that my second full-length poetry collection, Leaves of Glass, will soon be released by smokin’ Sydney-based publisher Puncher and Wattmann. Long-term readers of this site would know that said collection has taken a few years to finalise but the wait has surely been worth it.

The book, which was inspired by actual correspondence between Walt Whitman and Australian poet Bernard O’Dowd, and which features re-imaginings of both poets’ works, will be available at two P&W events in Melbourne and Sydney in December 2013 – that’s less than two months from now!

I’m also happy to say that I’ll be in attendance at these shindigs in order to read some poemz, sign autographs and mainline champagne. I’ll post more details soon but I’m looking forward to catching up with loverz of all things Whitman, O’Dowd and Oz-po.

In the meantime, here’s a teaser: ‘O Kitteh! Meh Kitteh!’, a LOLCats transliteration of Whitman’s ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ that may or may not appear in the book.

Invisible Moon

there has to be an invisible moon
over on the other side of the sun
gravitationally drawing me to you
how else can i explain these forces
lifting me out of my dreams to float

like a silver balloon out our window
behind the dunes & under the beach
beneath the pavement & the rocks 
in my head & the stars full of music
i am its puppet now floating in space

its honey power rising in my veins
because each night i lie beside you
we’re walking on some other moon
neither of us knows its secret name 
it simply rotates at the same speed 

at which it revolves on a toothpick
tempting me to open up the window
to leave the curtains wide open
the doors unlocked & the radio on
playing ‘Hey Moon’ over and over 

until it’s as if we know each note
a starfield swirling slowly into zero
already full draped in white shadow
guiding us through the afternoon
my lips mouthing a weird loon-song

on some high cliff north of sound
otherwise what’s making me blink
speak to us in jazz notes only moon
without twilight we’d see no light
without the moon surfers would just 

be dudes with beards going ‘wow, man’
and here it comes: this pure wave 
that dares to engulf me breathing
solid & yet empty at the same time
so glassy & perfect is this cylinder

what a perfect moon that made it!
how else am i to explain the paths
that burn fluorescence as we walk
hey moon, i’m wearing sunglasses
but i can still feel you, feel me

come take a walk on the moon babe
& let’s make ours an incredible one
this thump-thump? our tiny hearts
you feel that moon? we feel you too 
rising like a science-fiction version 

of ourselves over the horizon wow
pulling us in with its silver strings
i can hear it calling out to me o hai
as a radio wave across the universe
about to rise ... about to set over us

our hearts about to go boom boom ...
i can see it shining through your eyes
we’ll walk in slow-motion on stardust
tuck a moon-beam behind your ear
& everything else will just disappear

To be honest …

… when I posted that picture yesterday, I didn’t realise it would be automatically shared with Facebook, and so I’m a little surprised at all the hits and likes it’s generated (nerd reveal: I was just testing the ‘image’ post format).

So, for those who didn’t make the connection, the thing that ‘happened’ was that I got married, on 10 August 2013, in sunny Stockholm. The picture was taken at a significant moment during the ceremony. I’ll leave you to work that out.

Generally, I’m very wary these days of posting anything publicly online about my private life (okay, let’s have the argument about the NSA and surveillance of Facebook another day) but I was prepared to make an exception for such a wonderful picture.

Now, onto my next post, so that I can increase my average for 2013.

The Next Big Thang

Poet Ivy Alvarez, whose latest book is Mortal, invited me to participate in this self-interview blog meme called The Next Big Thing, where I get to share a little more about my next book.

Writers participating get to answer 8-10 questions (about their book/blog/their writing), and then tag 5 other writer friends to post their own “next big thing” the following Wednesday. Ivy’s instructions were for me to post by or before Wednesday, 19 December.

Rather daringly, I’ve followed Ivy’s re-arrangement of the original order of the questions.

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dress young

you dress young but then you doubt it 
take a look at the band & think
who are these idiots? you remember 
dressing young & feel slightly allergic
to music while all around you (idiots!
fawning over you & new order yes now
i remember the way you dressed when
	you were younger (although not
as young as your sister was the night 
	you accompanied her to bikini
kill at the wollongong youth centre (would
	'chaperoned' be a better word? 
you remember kathleen hanna shoving
	an old-school telephone down 
the front of her undies you remember what
it felt like to feel old as cool blasts
of chill-wave air smacked your face head-
on ... you were too old to remember
the proton energy pills but nevermind
	i mean forget it i saw the future in
a room full of moshing girls & the minor 
	threat of sk8rs hanging outside
(bored boys who told stories about sk8tn
	& shit (did they also dress young -
you betcha (of all people! you grow old, you 
grow old you shall trade in that dud 
album by bob mould for a second-hand copy 
of theatre of gnomes who knows 
shakedown’s finale like me (i’ve seen spew 
coming out of a port kembla sky 
it’s just steam some idiot once claimed (yeah
there’s nothing polluting about it ... you 
grow old but continue to dress young like some
fifty-year-old drunk wearing okanuis
extra bitter still got it still yearning for that 
	clayton’s moment (whatever it was -
nevermind redux dress young grow old & die 


first published in Page Seventeen (2010)

Between Empires

Ten years ago, almost to the day, I spent three weeks travelling in the USA, the UK and Germany. During that time I wrote a series of poems, entitled Between Empires. While many of these poems have been published individually, the collection itself has until now remained secret.

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From the Archives: the curtains

This is possibly one of my oldest unpublished poems, probably dating from around 1992. I remember showing it to a girl I was going out with in the late 1990s; she read it and then exclaimed “But what does it meeeeeaaannnnn???!” We broke up shortly after that.

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SIPRI Yearbook 2012: its part in my downfall

Heh, heh. Well, not really. But in the spirit of Spike Milligan, one could say that the last six months, during which I’ve been working at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) as an editor, have well and truly opened my eyes to what’s goin’ ahn in this crazy, mixed up world.

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The Happy Farang (2nd edn, 2012)

Listen to my words of wisdom … mashups welcome

Audio: ‘Why “But is it e-lit?” is a ridiculous question’
Download [mp3, 22.3Mb]

During the recent K&D Stylings North American Tour, I took a detour to attend the Electronic Literature Organization conference: Electrifying Literature / Affordances and Constraints, which was held at West Virginia University in Morgantown.

Actually, it wasn’t so much a detour as the second leg of my itinerary but WGAF. Anyways, I also presented a paper at the conference, and that’s what this post is really about. As you can see from the image above, my audience was vast. Again, I tell a squeaky little lie. This is what the auditorium looked like ten minutes before my panel started. Which was still at the godless hour of 8.30am on Saturday 23 June 2012.

Thankfully, a few hardy souls ended up arriving to witness me, Alexandra Saemmer and Clara Fernandez-Vara go through the motions. Overall, I was happy with my presentation, which was on the subject of Cordite Poetry Review, the journal of which I used to be the Managing Editor, and its status (or otherwise) as a work of electronic literature (read the full abstract). I don’t have much to say about the content of the presentation itself, but hope I’ll be able to draw something coherent together for the EBR thread dedicated to the conference.

The conference itself was really inspiring—although as usual it just wasn’t possible to catch everything I wanted to see, even for an academic community as small and well-defined as the e-lit scene. Highlights for me included Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux’s brilliant discussion of Dwarf Fortress, the goofy UnderAcademy College ‘panel’, the Taroko Gorge remix panel, Stephanie Strickland and Nick Montfort’s presentation about code commenting in Sea and Spar Between and Florian Cramer’s provocative keynote speech.

I also really enjoyed taking a few days out from an otherwise manic three city tour——NYC, Montreal and Chicago in less than three weeks: never again!——to experience the … serenity? … of Morgantown. So my personal highlights included an impromptu country hoe-down at the local brew pub, the quaint old fraternity and sorority buildings on campus and … most of all … the infamous Morgantown PRT!

Anyway, I’m quite serious about welcoming mashups of my talk. You can listen to and download it above. Use the feedback button on the right hand side of this page if you’d like to send me an mp3. Or if you’d just like to say hello. It takes all sorts.

Morgantown personal rapid transit

You have to admit that some of the most untold ideas ever have come out of France: Henri Leconte, Minitel, Daft Punk and, best of all, Aramis. So, imagine my delight when I travelled to Morgantown, West Virginia in July and discovered one of the world’s only extant personal rapid transit systems, still in operation!

The Morgantown PRT is a pretty dinky little system, really, but just as described in Bruno Latour’s Aramis, or the Love of Technology, you’re able to choose which station you go to, and your own personal pod will bypass any intermediate stations in order to get there!

My personal highlight, apart from taking a ride in one of these canary yellow future pods (check out the pics in the gallery below!), was spending an evening sitting on the balcony of the Morgantown Brew Pub and watching them glide by in the darkness, a sight I was pretty unsuccessful in capturing with my camera, as you can see in the banner image above.

Anyway, as someone who’s tried to write a PRT into a still-unfinished novel, the whole experience gave me some much-needed inspiration.

Tjugotvå (2012)


From the Archives: “He Carried Oranges”

I have absolutely no idea what this prose fragment was supposed to be about but I do know that it’s been fifteen years or so since I cared one way or the other. I was probably reading too much Borges at the time.

Aldo said, in his very own voice, meet me here at half to nine in the morning – here at the top of the stair, by the locked door, when the sunlight creeps through the street doorway below, at the bottom. I am here now, here in enough time to see my normal self rushing across the square, gripping a perfect orange in my hand, my satchel thrown roughly over my shoulder, my hair still wet, the water freshly drawn from the well.

That is not myself, merely an imaginary person. Aldo is also imaginary unless he turns up now. The wooden stairs creak beneath my feet, the passageway in semi-darkness.

The table in the house, scratched and scorched by the years, my mother seated by the window, smiling as I place the orange in my bag, along with my books, along with my secret books. She calls me to her, holds my head in her hands: everything will be fine now, this is our new home, this is where we will stay. We can smile now. Go. Peace to you, she says, touching my cheek. I return: Peace.

Then walk out the door, wishing I had said the better word.

Half to nine, ahead of time, I watch the village wake. I head for the square, where the old church, with its catechisms and seasons, has been abandoned. The Town Hall replaces it in the people’s consciousness – a clock has been installed there, the only one for miles around.

Only here does time really exist. Here, in this sunlit stairway, by the locked door, the cobblestones faintly visible through a door downstairs.

The day awaits me, stirring half-excitedly like dogs in the street. My aunt’s dogs, wrestling in the dust in front of her house. She sits reading beneath a tree as wizened as herself; reading to me, from the book. My mother need not know of my tuition, nor of the old words I am learning.

When my father returns from the war and I am able to greet him in the old fashion, imagine how much greater my mother’s happiness will be. Reunited with her lover and with the ties that bind her to me and to him and to my aunt.

There is nothing I want more than to make my mother happy. So I sit and I read; so we sit and speak to each other in what for her are half-remembered mutterings stolen from elsewhere, such as my father and my uncle also used.

Some time in the past, yes.

Learning to copy the strange symbols scrawled in the books she has stored away beneath the winter clothes in her trunk, by the stove in the kitchen, beside the pile of wood I have chopped for her.

My uncle’s cold, blunt axe.

Today, after I have finished here, I will go to her house. We will sit beneath the old tree and I will listen, we will talk, we will read, I will write in the dirt at her feet. I read with enthusiasm; my aunt tells me I am progressing well.

My mother does not talk to my aunt.

Her brother is dead. She is all alone. She is waiting to wake up.

I often sleep. Often she will let me doze until mid-morning. I wake to find her sitting at the window with a faraway expression on her face. But today I have not been dozing; the sun has not been crawling across the room towards me. The boy with the orange clasped firmly in his sweaty hand is not me today. It is not yet the time for me to be late.

I hear the bells strike the half hour. At the same time Aldo’s boots begin stomping up the stairs.

But it is not Aldo. It is an old man I do not recognise. He rests for a moment at the top of the stairs, unaware that I am standing by the door.

You must recognise him! He is the old man whose teeth are cracked and yellow. He sits every day by the woodpile, wearing an old grey suit that is too short in the legs. He wears a yellow flower in his lapel and at night he wanders through the village, prowling.

He is the type that mothers tell their children not to talk to.

Take the image of this man, by whom you are so repulsed, and explode it. Posit him in a narrative, along with yourself and as many of your friends as you wish, until it becomes unbearably complicated.

When he looks up, his face is flushed and unshaven. He sees me and is startled – then smiles and walks towards me.

So you’re the young man. More a statement than an expression of curiosity.

Mandarin seeds on the window, the rats dancing mainly in the drain. The new moon last night was slowly making itself apparent. The fonts were full of Antiqua.

Never trust the story-taker, tour-guide, lie-maker. There’s a dead man, look at that! And a monkey, strapped in Parliament.

They buy coconuts in the marketplace. Why? They change the language. Why? They build water fonts all over the place. Why?

In every town square (why?), in every courtyard (why?), in every.

Do not buy coconuts, do not prance in the marketplace. Your fonts are filled with rust and your blood will wither.

Father! I exclaimed, you are now real.

Mother, I thought, do not cry, I am progressing very well.

UPDATE: the good folks at Going Down Swinging have cross-posted this piece on their site.


From the Archives: What a Bird

This is one of my all-time favourite poems, mostly because it’s just so daft. I probably wrote it in the late 1990s – it has a real ‘I don’t give a fuck’ feel about it.

well you've got birds & then you've got birds
haven't you? take your wedge-tailed eagle 
for example - what a bird you've got there!
whereas your common blue budgie - well he's

not so much a bird as a parrot is he compared
with your ibis your swan your albatross i mean
your budgie just doesn't cut the mustard does he
that's why you've got to keep him in a cage coz 

he wouldn't last five minutes in the wild what 
with all your other birds doing the rounds i mean 
your currawong your rosella your seagull your
bilby yes mate even your marsupial's more 

bird than your budgie another prime e.g. being
your koala - now he'd instill fear in your bravest
budgie - what a bloody mismatch eh? what a bird
is your koala - a bird's bird if ever i saw one

what a beautiful bloody bird! what a bird!


Yikes! Where did the time go?

‘Regular’ ‘readers’ of this ‘blog’ would be excused for thinking that I’d fallen under a bus, given the absolute lack of any kind of update for over a month now. But the contrary is true: far from having fallen under a bus, I’m actually – ah, whatever.

The truth is, I haven’t had a whole lot to blog about recently. My new job has occupied a lot of my time, as has socialising with colleagues from said job and, when it comes down to it, who wants to hear how many Jäger shots I’ve had in the last thirty days?

‘And yet’. (I’ll explain the significance of this phrase one day). To answer the question posed by Big Star in the title of their song ‘What’s going ahn?’, I can say the following:

(1) I’ve had an academic article published

Hot on the heels of my post-doc research at BTH in Karlskrona, I’m excited to say that ‘Flash points: Reading electronic literature as a metaphor for creativity’ (PDF), an article I co-wrote with Maria Engberg, has now been published in the latest issue of TEXT Journal. To be exact, it’s a part of a special issue entitled Creativity: Cognitive, social and cultural perspectives, edited by Nigel McLoughlin and Donna Lee Brien. So that’s untold.

(2) I’ve presented a paper in Bristol on the subject of myself. Or, um …

A couple of weeks ago I travelled to Bristol, UK for the final ELMCIP seminar, on the subject of E-literature in/with Performance. I presented a paper entitled Davey Dreamnation and the Performance of Self. Here’s the abstract:

Since 2002 I have maintained a series of personal websites (now amalgamated into one website: that explore questions of personal identity and performativity through the character of Davey Dreamnation, a failed rockstar and comic alter-ego. The performance of this character (what could be described as a form of avatarism) brings with it various notions of play, irony and humour that are not necessarily often associated with the performance of electronic literature. This presentation seeks to engage with notions of performance of the self with reference to (and critical appraisal of) theoretical notions of performance as expounded by Butler and others. The performance of character in an online space which is heavily mediated by its form (that is, the blog format and its attendant proprietary structures and limitations) raises questions about human interaction with personal websites ‘performing’ as actors in their own right – that is, as co-creators, the performance of which influences other users’ readings of character and identity. This presentation will offer a glimpse into the workings of one such character, with reference to archived screenshots, audio files, text extracts and character analysis, with the aim of offering a humorous yet serious examination of the playfulness of online performativity. The presentation will also take into account and address some of the issues raised in the call for papers, specifically the usefulness of performance studies in blog environments. Finally, both the presentation and the accompanying paper will seek to offer themselves as examples of performance writing about electronic literature.

And here’s a pic of me and Davey during the delivery of the paper:

(3) My poem Övergången has been ‘analysed’ online …

THis is kind of nice. William Fox, who tweets as @readism and who runs a Tumblr of the same name, has written an entry analysing my poem Övergången, from the chapbook of the same name. Have at it:

The authoritative voice works well because it gets at how confidently we can trace the narrative of our social successes these days. It’s therefore no surprise that the poem hits the ground running – the opening line is in dactyls that are promptly broken up by a line break & the more awkward phrase ‘very quickly now’. The smoothness of my own commute is always determined by the extent to which I don’t think about how quickly I want to get it over & done with. On a tram / train this is easily achieved. I think this ‘transition’ is a special case because the poet’s probably walking the streets after dark (‘It’s already too late to plead…’) & more than likely through a city. This makes casual & indifferent mannerisms even more imperative, if only to avoid getting the shit kicked out yourself. It also makes you yearn for the ‘ignorance’ of non-self-consciousness, or to be a ‘special case’ (i.e. to be so deliriously shitfaced that you don’t care if people laugh at you).

Read the rest on your own.

K. So, that’s not bad: three cool things have happened. And here’s three more cool things that are destined to happen at some stage in the future:

(4) My poem ‘Wireless’ is going to be published in Overland

Not much I can say about this right now, except that I’m rather chuffed that Overland poetry ed. peter Minter has chosen this poem for inclusion in that erstwhile journal of the progressive left in Australia. Wireless first appeared on my blog last year. But don’t let that stop you from checking out Overland’s cool new website.

(5) ‘Clouds Afternoon Jazz Sprinkles’ finds a home … of sorts

My poem ‘Clouds Afternoon Jazz Sprinkles’, dedicated to poet Jill Jones, will be appearing soon as part of a special project. And that’s all I’m saying for now.

(6) I’ll be giving a paper at the ELO conference in June

No, not that ELO. I mean the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO) conference, Electrifying Literature: Affordances and Constraints, which is taking place June 20-23 in Morgantown, WV, US of A. My paper, whose semi-absurd title is “Why ‘But is it e-lit?’ is a ridiculous question: the case for online journals as organic, evolving works of digital literature”, will be part of a panel called Practices: Definitions and Pedagogies for E-Lit, and will be delivered at the godless hour of 8:30am on Saturday 23 June. Here’s the abstract:

Cordite Poetry Review (, an Australian journal of poetry and poetics, was founded in 1997 as a print journal but since 2001 has appeared only online. Over the last ten years, as the magazine has grown in size and reach, the question of Cordite’s status as a journal has become more vexed. Can it be regarded as a ‘proper’ literary journal, in the way that other, offline journals are? Is it truly electronic, given the relative absence of works on the site that explore the possibilities of the online space? Or are these merely ridiculous questions, the posing of which reflects a pre-online hierarchy of prestige? Why do these questions exist in the first place? If we assume that any work or collection of works available online is automatically digital in nature, then the issue instead becomes one of whether or not sites like Cordite function as organic, interconnected and hypertextual spaces for creative expression. The inclusion of electronic literature works in the magazine for the first time in 2011 brought into focus the problematic nature of categorization. This presentation will explore the evolving nature of the Cordite site in order to demonstrate the highly complex and sometimes chaotic nature of journals and magazines in the online realm, and to therefore argue for a rejection of the binary characterization of new media literature communities as either ‘electronic’ or ‘static’. In doing so, it is hoped that the presentation will stimulate discussion of the ways in which electronic sites for literature embody the contradictory capacities to organically evolve, mutate and disappear.

I’m looking forward to meeting my fellow-panellists Clara Fernandez-Vara (whose paper is entitled “Electronic Literature for All: Performance in Exhibits and Public Readings”), and Alexandra Saemmer (“The (problematic) issue to evaluate literariness: Digital literature between legitimation and canonization”). I’m also just looking forward to being in a seriously hot and humid place this summer!

So, that’s all for now. Maybe I’ll see you again in a month or so when I’ve got some more news.



Neenish tarts, bus shelters, Wagga Wagga and me

Never thought I’d use these four ‘terms’ in the same sentence but there you go – if life was a Venn diagram, there are several shaded areas in which me and neenish tarts would intersect.

For those who’ve been living under a rock for the past century or so, a neenish tart (see picture above) is a delightful Antipodean invention featuring a pastry base, jam and cream filling and distinctive, two-coloured, almost-yin-and-yang-style icing. It’s the kind of cake you’ll find in any halfway decent country town bakery, and one that (courtesy of my mother’s fondness for them) I’ve developed a fair hankering for over the years. Matter of fact, I could murder a neenish tart right now.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Wagga Wagga. It must have been over a year ago that the Booranga Writers’ Centre in Wagga Wagga, Australia (publishers of the magazine FourW, in which I’ve had a few pieces published over the years) put out a call for poems to be displayed on bus shelters in the town. The call for works immeditely ‘piqued’ my interest, as we say in the industry, as I’d spent a fair bit of time in Wagga Wagga as a young grasshopper, either driving through or else strapped into a dentist’s chair.

While my memories of Wagga are not all fond, I wrote three poems and sent them off. The first one (brace-face) was about getting braces in Wagga Wagga. The second one (“Riverina”) was about playing Aussie Rules in Wagga. And the third poem, the one they accepted, was about a neenish tart. It’s called, surprisingly enough, ‘neenish tart’, and for the benefit of all non-residents of Wagga Wagga, I’ve pasted it below:

Neenish tart

There used to be this cafe around here
somewhere – maybe it’s still going, do
you know the one I mean? You could buy
a good neenish tart there, with inch-thick
pastry and an ooze of too-sweet jam. Then
there was cream they must have laced with
sugar and icing to die for. I used to live in a
town to the north of here, it doesn’t matter
which one. What matters is the neenish tart,
the one my mum used to buy me whenever
we drove through Wagga Wagga on our way
home from time trials or footy, it depended
on the season. That tart always tasted good.
I especially loved the icing, it reminded me of
yin and yang. I wonder if it’s still there. One day
I’ll come back and walk down the main street,
ask a few people if they remember the place.

                             Maybe you do?

The sentiments in this poem almost make me feel a little bit teary now – I remember the taste of that neenish tart as if it was yesterday. Recently, I got an email from Derek Motion, the director of Booranga, informing me that

” … the second groups of poems will be going up shortly in bus shelters around Wagga Wagga. We have been able to procure an extra 4 shelters to use for the project, so all 8 poems will be on display at the same time. To celebrate this event we’ve planned another event – a bus tour of all (or selected) shelters, featuring poetry readings on location, with wine / refreshments at the terminus. We will be holding this event on Saturday 14th April, with the bus departing from the Wagga Council Chambers at 2pm.”

While I unfortunately won’t be able to make it to the launch, the idea of a bus tour sounds like a great one and I really wish I could be there. As a kind of substitute, Derek sent me this photo of the bus shelter where my neenish tart poem is currently living.

It’s almost like being there, don’t you think?


Poem of the week newsletter: twenty poems in!

If it seems like an age ago that I posted the first installment of my poem-of-the-week odyssey, that’s because it was. Despite my best intentions of posting one poem a week to my newfangled newsletter service, I’ve unintentionally skipped a week here and there. Only now can I state, with utter conviction, that I am twenty poems in!

As you’ll see from the track listing below, the ten most recent poems have careered between subjects, including snow (‘snö’), the moon (‘Hey, Moon!’), David Bowie (‘A New Career In A New Town’), Sun Ra (‘another kind of sun ra’), Valentine’s Day (‘Voor mijn Valentijn’), mystery trains (‘Silverpilen’), birds (‘a little bird tells me’), starsigns (‘starsigns’), Ethiopian superstars (‘(On the tomb of) Ephrem Tamiru’ – pictured above) and plain old heartache (‘Coaxing the heart to heal itself’).

Admittedly, it’s been kind of hard to come up with a new idea, much harder than I thought it would be. It’s clear, looking back, that in some weeks I was very, very on, while in others … meh. What’s even more clear to me is that you can’t please everyone all of the time. Some poems I thought might electrify my (now 57) subscribers passed by without even a whimper, whilst others attracted surprisingly generous responses. My thanks again to everyone who has signed up.

My plan now is to write four to six more poems and then make a little half-way-through-the-year chapbook to send to all of my lovely subscribers. I guess that’s my cue to whack in a little link to the page where you can sign up if you dare!

That track listing again:

Hey, Moon!
A New Career In A New Town
another kind of sun ra
Voor mijn Valentijn
a little bird tells me
(On the tomb of) Ephrem Tamiru
Coaxing the heart to heal itself

Quotes to Remember (14)

“After a while she realized she’d made a mistake: the sort of mistake that would never have occurred if she hadn’t been so tired. She tossed the calculations aside. She lit a cigarette, and noticed her hands were trembling. Christabel Barlow, she told herself, you’re damn-all use to anyone in your present state; you need a good sleep, a good meal and a new face; and then perhaps you’ll think straight instead of in ever-decreasing circles. But how can I eat and sleep, she thought, when so much is at stake and time’s running out, not only for Ken and Jim but maybe for hundreds of thousands of others, all over the world? And her eyes strayed to the top drawer of her desk and the little tube of tablets which she’d already delved into twice. I know, she thought, I’ll be like the nymphos in the pulp magazines: I’ll have a benzedrine and a bath.”

DONALD G. PAYNE (aka Donald Gordon/Ian Cameron/James Vance Marshall), Flight of the Bat (1963). Payne is probably better known as the author of Walkabout.


From the Archives: Desmond

I think I must have written this poem some time in the early 1990s. I have absolutely no idea what it’s about but I really like the concluding couplet, for some reason (and in fact I think I’ve even re-used it in other poems over the years as well).

desmond rejects the setting out of arguments 
he is neither analytical or lateral 
he dips his hand into a pool of water 
& it is cold 
just a moment ago it was dry 
it was also in my pocket 
my button remains there 
my belt keeps my trousers up 

desmond's house falls on him 
blue-green drops
there’s the sound at last 
of bombers falling in the grass 
will they ever retrieve the sky?
he kills a mosquito & stares at himself 
there is no need to be concerned 
a wheel churns in the gravel 
& disrupts somebody’s feet 
screwing neatly into the sky 
desmond follows all of this eagerly 
desmond forgets the earth 

the ivy wastes hold yesterday’s rain 
& crawl like a bereaved remainder


From the Archives: Aussie Eats

“I wonder how many of our young district people could tell me what Nardoo is. No doubt most of them think wheat was the first thing ever grown in this district from which bread was made. They forget the Nardoo which still grows and is not even noticed. A new people populates the land and knows it not.”
“GREYBEARD”, Gow & Gow’s Quarterly Gazette, (Barellan, NSW), No. 1, January 1924

CLINT MALVERN couldn’t help sighing when he walked into Aussie Eats. He took off his hat and let out the biggest sigh he could muster, then he sighed some more. It was no use, though. The place was empty. The Galaga machine offered an occasional melancholy beep to the two stools squatting like reversible salt and pepper shakers in the corner. The insect-like spaceships hovered over the glass window of the bainmarie, casting an alien shadow on the trays of lettuce, tomato and cucumber. As the demonstration game came to its predictable conclusion, Clint looked on glumly. The tractor beam carried the fighter off into outer space, from whence it would not return, unless he (or someone else) put twenty cents in the slot. The countdown wound its way down to zero. Game over.

The smell of oil emanating from the deep fryer, as if in response to the absence of truckies and kids, occupied literally every cubic inch of air. The rotating fan suspended from the ceiling did its best to keep the odour moving but it had been too hot that Friday afternoon to make much difference. Everywhere, chickens stood still in their coops; fleas, in search of cooler climates, emigrated from dog pelts; and altar boys refused to attend Mass, judging (wisely) that they would surely boil to death in their pre-Vatican II outfits.

Clint looked away from the game and saw the oil-spattered Chiko Roll advertisement on the counter; beneath it, on a metal tray, a stack of potato scallops, pre-cooked.

— Hi Clint, called the young girl, Sam, from the kitchen. I’ll be with you in a minute.
— Sure.

Clint peered through the bainmarie glass to the spot where Sam shovelled flour into a huge mixer. He admired its steel stirrers, its important-looking controls — speed adjusters, pulse and the like. Suddenly the coolroom door opened. Out strode Old Mrs Liebermann, Sam’s aunt, dragging a giant sack of potatoes. Clint waved to her.

— Hey Auntie Coral, they for me?
— Ha ha, good one, boy. Come through and make yourself useful. I’ve got something for you.

She stood up, groaned and exited through the side door, presumably heading for the back office, from which her father, Old Laurie, seldom ventured nowadays. Clint looked at his watch, shrugged and squeezed past the counter, stepping carefully across the greasy floor of the kitchen. It was a transgression not of personal, familial or proprietorial territory – rather, a familiar ritual, performed at various times by virtually every man, woman and child in Dulton.

Clint picked up a tea-towel and began drying the bainmarie trays with a nonchalant air. Sam grinned.

— You’re a natural.
— Yeah, right.
— Where’s your dad?
— Next door getting drunk, last I heard.
— Ah.

The old bastard’s pissing the family fortune up against that crawling vine out in the beer garden at the Commercial, thought Clint. Family fortune, indeed. The Commercial Hotel! Full of deadheads and alcoholics, not to mention the crazy bastard who couldn’t say anything except “Go the Bombers! Windy Hill! Go the Bombers!” over and over again. He used to barrack all the way up and down Farrar Street, a white line of froth at his mouth.

— So, Grog Malvern, Jnr. got sent to buy chips for his daddy, did he?

Sam pouted as she spoke, teasing Clint while she poured water into the mixer. She grinned again and he couldn’t help smiling back.

— Got it in one. Catch.

He threw the tea towel at her head and bolted for the still-open coolroom door. Sam evaded the flying cloth easily, watching it slap into the wall next to her. Putting on a kung fu fighter’s voice, she peeled the towel off the wall and wound it up, intending to use it as a whip. Slowly, with soft meow sounds, she crept towards the coolroom doorway, where stood Clint, shivering and laughing.

— Wanna fight … he challenged.
— Fight me … Sam purred, grabbing a handful of his shirt.

All of a sudden Clint’s face was tense and hot. Little did he know but Sam was just about to try and kiss him full on the lips.

— Samantha! Leave the poor boy alone! shouted Aunty Coral, reentering with a tray of something.
— Auntie, Sam moaned, exasperated.
— I’ve got no time for your mischief today, young lady. Now go out and check on your grandfather.
— Sieg Heil! Sam shouted, petulantly.
— Samantha!
— See you at the basketball, Clint?
— Ah, maybe.

What just happened, Clint wondered, his mind racing. I have absolutely no recollection of what just happened.

— Gee, don’t get over-enthusiastic or anything.
— Oh yeah, and it’s so exciting to watch a bunch of amateur girls dropping balls. Yeah, can’t wait.

Why did I say that?

— Well, it’s better than playing with model aeroplanes!
— Shut up, the two of you! yelled Mrs Liebermann.

The walls reverberated with the echo of her booming voice.

— Now, she continued, passing Clint the tray, give this to your father and tell him it’s a gift from Laurie and myself. And this, she said, drawing a string of rosary beads from her apron, is for your mother.

Old Mrs Liebermann slipped the beads smoothly into the pocket of Clint’s ice-blue Midford school shirt with a meaningful look. Then she plomped herself back on her stool and resumed the potato peeling.

— Well then, see ya, Clint said, though he didn’t know exactly who he was addressing, not to mention why.



I lived in Solna, a suburban hub just to the north of Stockholm, for the past four weeks.

Gosh that’s interesting.

But seriously, now that I’m over my little bit of Karlskrona nostalgia – not to mention the monumental (though strangely non-material) process of resigning as the editor of an online poetry journal – it’s probably time for me to start writing in the present, about real things like, you know, all good bloggers should.

Nah, whatevs. Here’s four pictures of the same view out my apartment window instead.


From the Archives: Last Night Betty Extender (audio)

It seems like a long time ago that I wrote the poem ‘Last Night Betty’, and it seems like an eternity since I listened to this slice of mixed up toe-jam. Featuring unauthorised guitar licks from ELT, and a drum beat from a nifty little app called the Rapmaster that I’ve not been able to find again. Strap yourself in and be prepared. It doesn’t get much loopier than this.

Listen to Last Night Betty Extender (6:59)


My Cordite Top Eleven!

As some of you no doubt know by now, I’ve formally stepped down as Managing Editor of Cordite Poetry Review to make way for a new editor, Kent MacCarter. In this post, I look back on my years as editor, and pick my top eleven choicest moments from what has been a thrilling, exhausting and ultimately life-affirming rollercoaster ride of love and passion. Or something.

*wipes away tears*

1. Cordite 29.1: Haikunaut

I first met Haikunaut co-editors David G. Lanoue and Keiji Minato at a conference of the World Haiku Association in Ten’ri, Japan in 2004. We really hit it off and it was also a delight to meet up again in Sofia, Bulgaria the following year. Fast-forward to 2009 and the need for a Haiku-themed issue of Cordite became clear. What started out as a mini-feature blossomed into a collection of over one hundred haiku in English, Japanese and Bulgarian. Haikunaut was our first issue to feature poetry in non-Western scripts, and it remains one of my favourite Cordite issues of all time, not least because it has embedded the word ‘haikunaut’ in the English language – also (hopefully) for all time.

2. Cordite 31.1: Post-Epic

From the shortest of forms to the longest – Cordite is nothing if not consistent. Or binary. Or both. After guest-editor Ali Alizadeh slayed all comers with his selections in the Epic issue, we decided to switch things up, with a selection of Post-Epic poems written, a line at a time, by our readers. It didn’t take long for the resident Cordite commentariat to latch on to the idea and, within a short space of time, over one thousand lines of poetry had been written. Just wow.

3. Cordite 21.1: Robo

Okay so this one’s a little obscure; in 2005, Nick Whittock came up with the idea of a Robo-poetry competition as part of his job at the St. Kilda library. He and I acted as judges, and we published the winners as Cordite 21.1: Robo. As Michael Caine would say, “Not many people know that.” In any case, I think it’s a very cute little collection of poems.

4. Cordite 16: Search

This one is also going back a bit in time; I think it must have been 2002 or 2003 when I was a member of the Poetry Espresso online poetry mailing list. List moderator Cassie Lewis invited me to be poetry editor for a month, and I invited list members to send me poems ‘composed’ using search engines. The result was Cordite 16: Search. While I’d like to think this issue came out long before Flarf was even thought of, the truth is rather more prosaic. Still, I think it’s a really cool issue, with some amazing pieces, including Carlie Lazar‘s stone-cold classic, ‘A Prank Call to John Howard’.

5. Cordite 23 & 34: Children of Malley I & II

We knew we were onto something when in December 2005, just after the release of Children of Malley, we received an email from Jen Jewel Brown, one of the contributors to the issue, in which she said: “May I say that, fun aside, these poems respresent an enormous mind-fuck of the first degree? That is to say, they really really get me off. Poetic excitement continues, courtesy of all Malleys and their intellectual whirlpools, and the brilliance of Cordite for dreaming this up and editing it.” It’s probably the most fitting testament I can think of to the editorial genius of Liam Ferney, who originally suggested the idea and then went on to select some awe-inspiring poems. Of course, the fun didn’t end there, with a protracted series of revelations as to the identities of the poets in the issue, who had chosen noms de Malley such as Flannery O’Malley, Sylvia Malley, Ouyang Malley and my personal favourite, Ern Malley’s Cat. Five years later, Liam reprised his role as Chief Malley Expert with Children of Malley II. This time around, the speculation as to the true identities of the Children of Malley was even more fierce. Stay tuned for Children of Malley III in 2015!

Image: the cover shot for Children of Malley (2005) by Flannery O’Malley (aka Adrian Wiggins)

6. Haikunaut Island Renga & Zombie Haikunaut Renga

Around the time of our Haikunaut issue, something very strange and wonderful happened. Co-editor Keiji Minato posted a series of essays on haiku and other short forms including renga, and then suggested a special Haikunaut Renga with himself as moderator. Just as would happen in the Post-Epic issue, we invited readers to leave their comments on the post and Keiji would hand-choose each of the thirty-six verses required to make the renga. We were completely overwhelmed by the response: over 1200 comments were posted, and the resulting Haikunaut Island Renga remains a staggering testament to crowd-sourced poetry. While the follow-up Zombie Haikunaut Renga, with Ashley Capes at the helm, only attracted some 600 comments, that’s still six hundred comments. Come on!

7. Cordite 22: Editorial Intervention

It may appear by this stage that my top Cordite moments have more to do with my own role as editor than with anyone else’s efforts. While that’s certainly not true – and I’d strongly recommend you check out the full list of Cordite issues to see for yourself the depth and range of talents involved in the journal – when it comes down to it, the job of an editor is a fairly thankless one, and you’ve frankly got to take every opportunity to blow your own trumpet. This was the philosophy behind Cordite 22: Editorial Intervention, which featured a selection of poems by Australian and international poetry journal editors. Because they’re awesome.

8. Cordite 33.1: CC the Remixes

Our thirty-third issue was the first to be issued under a Creative Commons license, which was kind of fitting, as its title was Creative Commons too. We made the poems in the issue available for download and then invited contributors and readers to remix the words in whatever style they liked. Our guest poetry editor for the issue, Alison Croggon, read through all of the remixes before making her selections, the result of which was Cordite 33.1: CC the Remixes. I really enjoyed this issue, although I can’t really explain why now.

9. Cordite 30.0 & 30.1: Custom | Made

I have no trouble explaining why I liked this issue: I was thrilled to bits when joanne burns agreed to edit the issue, and in fact I can reveal that the day this issue was released, Cordite achieved its highest ever number of hits. Cordite 30.0: Custom constituted a stellar assembly of poems and poets, and Cordite 30.1: Made was the icing on the cake, with each of the contributors to the issue re-mixing each other’s works. You can tell I’m into the remix concept, right?

Cordite 32: Zombie 2.0

Including this fabulously weird issue of poems was a real no-braaaaainer, heh heh. Reprising Terry Jaensch‘s original Zombie issue, published way back in 2003, guest poetry editor Ivy Alvarez managed to creep out pretty much everyone who came near Cordite 32: Zombie 2.0. Did I mention braiaaiiinzz?

11. Cordite 35: Oz-Ko

Another no-brainer. Some might say that Cordite 35: Oz-Ko should be at the top of this list but I’m not that into numbers and, besides, life is one big circle anyway. That being said, if there’s one issue of which I am the most proud, it is Ok-Ko. Originally conceived as a straightforward selection of twenty poems in English and Korean, Oz-Ko ballooned into three separate issues featuring over one hundred poems (eighty of which were in both English and Hangul), a series of features and interviews, beautiful images, poets’ tours of Korea and Australia and (hopefully) a long-lasting sense of inspiration and exchange. Ever since first travelling to Seoul as an Asialink resident in 2005, I had harboured a dream of producing such an issue. My second Asialink residency in 2009, during which I met and interviewed Ko Un, only fanned the flames. The fact that we managed to pull off such a feat is down to the hard work of the editors, translators, poets and arts administrators involved in the project. The same can be said for my time as Cordite’s editor. I seriously don’t think I will ever be involved in such an extraordinary adventure again.

*gives up trying to wipe away tears, looks back with pride and amazement instead*

Naturally, with over two thousand posts published on the Cordite site since I became editor in 2001, there is an awful lot of untold content that is not covered by this quite arbitrary Top Eleven. You can check out the Simply the Best: Cordite’s Top Thirty Posts for 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. If that’s not enough, why, just click on a random post. What have you got to lose?

Words are bullets. Poetry is code.


Cordite 37.1: Nebraska

Released in conjunction with the Cordite-Prairie Schooner co-feature, Cordite 37.1: Nebraska is a tribute to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska album, presented by Sean M. Whelan and Liner Notes. Online now.

Side A.
1. Nebraska – Neil Boyack
2. Atlantic City – Josephine Rowe
3. Mansion On The Hill – Omar Musa
4. Johnny 99 – Gabriel Piras
5. Highway Patrolman – Samuel Wagan Watson
6. State Trooper – Eric Dando

Side B.
7. Used Cars – Jessica Alice
8. Open All Night – Josh Earl
9. My Father’s House – Alicia Sometimes
10. Reason To Believe – Emilie Zoey Baker
11. Born in the USA – Ben Pobjie*

*Bonus track

Liner Notes – Sean M. Whelan


Work: A Cordite-Prairie Schooner Co-Feature

I’m very pleased to say that Work: A Cordite-Prairie Schooner Co-Feature is now online, and available for your cerebral delectation. But what is Prairie Schooner? And what do I mean by ‘co-feature’? And what the heck is ‘cerebral delectation’ anyway? Continue reading →


From the Archives: “What’s Wrong With You?” by the Mike Oldfield Five

Back in 2004 – God, how old does that make me! – I participated in a poetry slam as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival that involved teams of four doing group pieces and random solos. I was fortunate enough to be part of a team called The Mike Oldfield Five, which featured Richard Watts (R), Paul Mitchell (P) and Andy Jackson (A), as well as me (D) and … Mike Oldfield. Our piece was called ‘What’s Wrong With You’ and we came in second on the night behind a bunch of couche tards wearing cowboy hats. Anyway, enough about history. Imagine this …

R: What’s wrong with you?
A: Who?
R: You!
P: Me?
D: Who?
R: You two.
A: Ah, Watts?
R: Yes.
P: What’s?
D: Wrong
R: With you two?
A: What’s wrong with you?
P: What’s wrong with you?
R: What?
D: What’s wrong with you?

R: What’s wrong with me?
All: Yes.
R: I’ve been trying to put my finger on it for years …
A: Can’t see the forest for the trees …
P: Can’t pin it down …
D: Been fossicking around …
R: Tried counselling, even self help books – although they’re all written for straights.
D: If Men are from Mars, and Women are from Venus …
P: Does that mean gay men are from Uranus?
R: So, now that we’re sharing …

A: What’s wrong with you?

P: Everything is fine. I’m fine.
R: Really? It looks like there’s something wrong to me …
P: No, I’m fine, everything’s okay …
R: the sun is blue, there’s not a cliché in the sky …
A: Ahhh, he thinks he can get out of it with poetics
D: What?
P: Nothing’s wrong!
R: My elbow’s on the barstool …
A: My pot is full of tear ducts …
D: No, really, I’m …
P: fine. Nothing to worry about …
D: There’s really something very wrong with him.
All: What’s wrong with you?
P: Nothing – everything’s okay I’m fine.
D: (more insistent) What’s wrong with you?
P: I’ve told you I’m okay.
All: (aggressive) What’s wrong?
P: I’ve got good points.
All: That wasn’t the question.
P: I know. But they’re sharp.
A: You’re wrong.
D; You’re all wrong.
R; Wrong wrong wrong.
A: What’s wrong with you?
P: What’s wrong with me is YOU CANT HANDLE WHATS WRONG WITH ME!
D: (softly, imploring) Is that what’s wrong?
P: (pathetic) I stabbed him with my good point …
A: There was so much blood …
R; from such a small virtue!

P: Anyway, what’s wrong with you?

Group breakdown: ‘what’s wrong with you?’ repeat to fade …

D: I feel funny.
R: My right hand and I would like to announce our engagement.
A: I am struggling with the concept of subjectivity.
P: Don’t look at the ground beneath my peach!
D: I’m … a penguin!
R: A fairy penguin?
D: No, an emperor penguin.

R: Well now that you’ve got that off your chest, it’s time to ask: what’s wrong with you?

P: Look I’m so glad you asked …
A: It’s a question that’s been bugging me for a long time now.
R: I’ll be frank.
D: There is something wrong with me.
P: I get mistaken for a backpacker wherever I go.
D: It’s a real chore at airports, railway stations and camping stores.
A: Why?
R: Maybe it’s because you look like a tourist.
D: Well what does a tourist look like then?

A: Am I a tourist in my own life?
P: Possibly.
R: I’d be flattered actually.
D: Yeah right.
R: No, I mean it. I’d feel … cultured. Or something.
D: What about you?
A: Me?
D: Yeah, you’ve been pretty quiet over there in the corner.
R: What’s your excuse?
P: What’s wrong with you?

A: No confession you’d expect will exit these lips – in fact, no confession at all.
P: Well, I can tell by looking at you there’s something wrong.
R: I mean, aren’t you uncomfortable?
A: I think I make YOU uncomfortable.
R: I think you’re in denial.
A: You’re projecting.
D: You’re out of line.
A: Yeah, and proud to be.
I’m inevitable, and if all you see is deformity then you’re blind.
R: At the risk of copping another label …
P: Thing is, mate, there’s nothing wrong with me.
A: Nothing at all?
P: No.
All: Oh …

© The Mike Oldfield Five 2004


Cordite 37: No Theme! is now online

Cordite 37: No Theme! is now online and features forty new works by a whole bunch of poets who got super-excited by the opportunity to send us poems on any theme they liked. Or else, um, no theme at all.

From the editorial by Alan Wearne:

An editor’s task should be exhilarating of course, if I hadn’t have thought it possessed this potential I would not have said ‘Yes’ to Cordite when approached. The attendant risks of course are very often those of ego, an editor’s true, but particularly of those you reject. How well I recall when as poetry editor of Meanjin under Judith Brett folk would send accompanying letters to the actual editor beginning Dear Sir … Well, since they didn’t bother to check we couldn’t be expected to publish could we? Mind you since a woman was now editor there were a number of female writers who sent in the kind of verse that assumed that Meanjin was now the flagship of sisterhood, mid 80s style. When one contributor received a note from me suggesting that her work might be shown to better effect as a sonnet I received a furious reply lecturing me as to how the sonnet was a patriarchal verse form, this amusing both the editor and myself.

Continue reading


Six poems find a new home …

Back in October I decided that I’d no longer post new poems on this site, choosing instead to set up a poem of the week newsletter (subscribe today!). One of the reasons for this decision was that despite the fact that not many people visit my site (no, this is not a plea for hits) I still felt slightly awkward sending poems off to magazines under the assumption that they were ‘unpublished’.

In fact, pretty much every poem of mine that’s been published over the past decade has appeared first on this site in some shape or form. So it seemed like a good time to stop doing that and to instead concentrate on writing new poems for my subscribers.

Of course, there remained a handful of poems I had submitted to magazines in the weeks and months leading up to my ‘tabula rasa’. This month I’ve received the great news that six of my little babies have found new homes – four of them in Jacket2, another in the Swedish journal Shipwrights Review and the sixth in online zine Stillcraic.

The poems in Jacket2 are part of a much larger feature on contemporary Australian poetry curated by Pam Brown. Pam’s decision to post poets in reverse alphabetical order means that I’m nestled between Peter Minter and Gig Ryan – a rare thrill! Of the poems, ‘Algae’ first ‘appeared’ in Southerly and is taken from my as yet unpublished collection Leaves of Glass.

‘TL;DR’ and ‘Övergången’, on the other hand, were both written while I was living in Karlskrona and also appeared in my chapbook Övergången. Lastly, ‘Sunshine for Kim Dae-jung’ was in fact composed in Seoul, on the day that the former President of the Republic of Korea died. Read all four poems at their new Jacket 2 home!

I discovered the website of Swedish journal Shipwrights Review quite by accident but was taken by the editors’ emphasis on second-language (by which I assume is meant ‘non-Swedish’) writers. On this basis, I decided to send them some poems, of which they chose my free transliteration of the famous Macedonian poem ‘Т’га за југ’ (‘Longing for the South’). I wrote this poem after returning from the Struga Poetry Evenings in August 2011, and it’s an attempt to describe my own mixed feelings of homesickness and ‘longing’ when it comes to Australia. Read ‘Т’га за југ’ on the Shipwrights Review site!

Finally, my poem ‘Cute’, which is also a part of Leaves of Glass, and which recently found a home in Best Australian Poems 2011, has now been reposted over at Stillcraic, a NZ-based site currently curated by Jennifer Compton. It’s nice to think of my version of Walt Whitman kicking around the online traps …

Apart from one or two forthcoming poems, these are the last to have been published first here on In the future, I’m hoping to be a little more generous when it comes to journals, and will be sending them only fresh poems that have not previously been ‘read’ by either human eyes or crawling bots.


‘Space Invaders’ (1980)

Even if Player One’s ‘Space Invaders’ was the only song to have ever been written and produced in Australia, I’m pretty sure I’d still die a happy man. This stone-cold classic hit the charts in 1980 (although it was released in 1979), and has been ingrained in my consciousness ever since. The video for ‘Space Invaders’ is also very much of its time, complete with special effects intended (I think) to resemble light sabres, kooky little space invaders frog-marching across the screen and a whole stack of dry ice.

If you check out the track on Youtube (double bonus points for the 5:50 12″ remix), you’ll see a link to a bizarre (but touching – the author of the site has now passed away) web page devoted to interpretations of the lyrics to ‘Space Invaders’. Not that there’s a whole lot to interpret, actually. Sing this with me:

Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders
Space Invaders ooooooooooh

Of course, there are more complicated lyrics to ponder. The following ‘explanation’, from the same page, should set even the vaguest of minds straight:

It’s a dark, sunken night,
I see another pale sunrise

(This probably refers to those crazy people who stayed up all night playing)

Surrounded by soldiers, glued to-the screens,

(Meaning all the other space invaders players in the arcade)

Hold back the invaders, their infernal machines.

(“Player One” is getting sick of the repeated gameplay and wants to stop but can’t. The Infernal Machines are the arcade cabnets (sic))

We fight to survive,
Running to stay alive
Our bodies aching and tired
There’s nowhere to hide
Our cover’s been blown away

(There are no more of those green base things to protect your laser, and everyone is tired from playing the game)

They’re closing in on me
Dark forces cold and unseen


Oh my hip pocket nerve, is aching again
I must go back in and fight it out to the end

(He is starting to ache from standing up and bent over playing Invaders)

Just though (sic) this would help.

Enlightening, what?

Equal parts late 1970s disco, pre-Bronski-Beat falsetto and Kraftwerk motorik chug, there’s something goofily brilliant about the whole thing, including a virtually two-bit song structure that makes me crave those early arcade games – Moon Patrol, Galaga and the rest.

Indeed, I’ll take my cheesy analysis one step further by stating that without ‘Space Invaders’ there would have been no ‘Great Southern Land’ (the sound-effect from which is very similar to one of the Space Invaders sounds).

But seriously, I just thought I’d post this number in honour of Invasion Day (previously known as Australia Day), because given the events of today in Canberra in connection with the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, the idea of invasion is clearly still very poignant.


Photo Memories: Karlskrona 2011

In celebration of my impending departure from K-Town, here’s a little gallery of images taken throughout 2011 that, for me anyway, brings back some lovely memoreez …


Stockholm Calling

Just like a Californian burrito maker, I’ve been preventing myself from spilling the beans by keeping them strictly under wraps (rim-shot!) but now seems as good a moment as any to announce that I will be moving to Stockholm. In ten days.

For the past twelve months I’ve been living and working in Karlskrona, a lovely ex-Naval town in the southern province of Blekinge. It’s certainly been a big change from the three years I spent in the crowded cities of the Netherlands; in fact, the only place I can think of that I can really compare Karlskrona to is Wagga Wagga – although I suspect Wagga has a few more pubs than K-Town, and is probably a little warmer in the winter.

Work-wise, my stint as a post-doctoral researcher as part of the ELMCIP project has challenged my idea of what literature can and should be in a digital context. Despite having been an editor of an online journal for the last eleven years, it wasn’t until I arrived here that I really considered the myriad ways in which electronic literature can engage with readers (players, viewers, users, co-creators).

As a consequence, I consider the most recent issue of Cordite, which features electronic works for the first time, to have been something of a watershed in terms of my own understanding of e-lit. In this context, it was great to be able to interview my colleagues Talan Memmott and Maria Engberg, both of whom have a great deal of knowledge and experience of digital literature and practice.

This year has also been a great one in terms of meeting other researchers and practitioners in the field of electronic literature. I’ve attended conferences in Jyväskylä, Karlskrona, Ljubljana and Amsterdam (where I also gave a paper), and acted as a co-editor of the forthcoming ELMCIP anthology of European electronic literature. I’m also really looking forward to being in Edinburgh for the final ELMCIP conference in November this year.

On a more personal level, it’s been really fun to experience all four distinct seasons here in southern Sweden, from last winter’s extreme snow and blizzards (strangely absent so far this time around), to spring’s slow awakening, summer’s long and glorious days and autumn’s drop-dead multi-spangled beauty. Karlskrona being a town surrounded by water, it’s also been great to see some of the islands in the archipelago, go for walks along deserted rocky beaches and get lost in seemingly endless forests.

Image: Saltö Strand, Karlskrona

Of course, there’s never enough time in life to do everything on one’s personal ‘to-do’ list but I’m glad to say that I have experienced midsummer in all its ‘songs about frogs and drinking snapps’ glory; witnessed the batty antics of graduating high school students riding around town wearing sailor’s caps in the back of trucks; played some awesome games of kubbspel and mini-golf; tried and rejected the taste of sill, glögg and skagentoast; and been a part of the national celebrations when Melodifestivalen winner Eric Saade came third in Eurovision.

Now, as the nation prepares for another crop of Melodifestivalen losers, it’s time for me to move on once more. The good news, however, is that I’ll be moving to Stockholm, the epicentre of Sweden’s bizarre solar system and the home of the Melodifestivalen final. W00t!

In Stockholm I’ll be taking up a position as a research editor with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), an organisation which, for those who don’t keep up with these things, has apparently just been ranked second in the 2011 Global Go To Think Tank Index Rankings, just behind the UK’s Chatham House and ahead of Amnesty International, the International Crisis Group and any other (non-US) think-tank you’d care to mention.

I’m excited to be starting a new life in Stockholm, and looking forward to sampling the delights of the city’s bars, restaurants and cafes, as well as the multitude of museums, clubs and cultural activities on offer. Nevertheless, while it’s easy to see that Karlskrona lacks most of these things, I will miss being able to look out the window of my house and see the sea; and I’ll miss the laid-back summer days and the picture-perfect islands of Saltö, Dragsö and Langö.

Then again, if I ever win the lotto, I’m pretty sure that the first thing I’ll do with my squillions of kronor is buy a pretty little stuga somewhere on the archipelago, stock it with all manner of food and drink, and then while away my golden years playing kubb, whittling pieces of wood into ornamental pipes and distilling my own mead. Until then, I will take away many happy memories of Karlskrona, and hope to return again.

Hej då.


Postscript: my lecture on self-publishing (November 2011)


Talk about serendipity – just after I published this post I discovered that the entire lecture is now on Youtube. So I’ve embedded the vid below. Personally, I won’t be watching all eighty minutes of it – after all, I had to fricking live it the first time around.

In November 2011 I gave a lecture at BTH on the subject of my PhD thesis. Below I’ve posted some of the introductory remarks I made, as well as a link to the Powerpoint presentation I used. Enjoy!

Hi everyone, and thanks for coming to my lecture today. As you’ve just heard, I’m a post-doctoral researcher here at BTH, working on the ELMCIP project. In order to become a post-doctoral researcher, I of course first had to complete a PhD, which I did at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.

The title of my thesis was Bonfire of the Vanity Presses: Self-Publishing in the Field of Australian Poetry. And it’s this thesis that I’m here to talk to you about today. Over the past few days I’ve been thinking about the best way to introduce myself to you. And I first thought that I could start off by introducing a series of anecdotes about my life, in the style of an old school professor.

If I were to make such an introduction in front of a group of students and staff from a programme in digital culture, I’d probably begin by recalling the first time I ever used a computer, which was the Commodore 64 computer in 1980 at the age of 8. I’d then go on to recall my experience of watching The Return of the Jedi at roughly the same age, on pirated video.

I’d maybe even throw in a couple of references to other old school technologies – like the fact that I lived in a small country town which was the last place in Australia to be hooked up to a manual telephone exchange, complete with an operator who knew where everyone was at any given time of the day, and who would have to manually connect calls using various plugs and sockets.

I’d then go on to describe, fondly, my memory of the first time I ever saw an automatic teller machine. My father having worked as a bank manager, I’d then mention the fact that all of the computers used in the bank were supplied by the Burroughs company, one of whose beneficiaries was the (some would say great) writer William S. Burroughs.

I’d then try and make some connection between all of these things and the fact that I typed my first story on a computer at the age of ten, and have been using computers in one way or other ever since. Nevertheless, I’d conclude my opening remarks by saying that despite all of the changes that have occurred over at least the last twenty years in the way we use technology to make creative works – stories, poetry, music, motion pictures, photography, LOLcats – I still believe in the magical power of the printed word, and the symbolic power of books.

But in the end I decided not to go with such an introduction, and so instead we’ll start here.

What followed was based on an earlier rant entitled Notes Towards an Imaginary Thesis: Stanzaland, which I posted back in 2009. As part of the lecture, I also read a number of poems from The Happy Farang, We Will Disappear and Dead Poem Office. The Powerpoint presentation mostly contains images and probably doesn’t make much sense but I’m making it available here as a PDF, for posterity’s sake.



From the Archives: the original D/DN bio image

To celebrate ten years of blogging (!) I’m introducing a new feature on this site. Amnesia Lane is a fortnightly post featuring words, images and/or sounds from the D/DN archives, with an emphasis on items never read, seen or heard before by the discerning public.

Exhibit A: this rare promotional shot.

This image, which was taken in 1999 by Rachael Antony aboard a cramped wooden boat travelling down the Mekong River, was kindly doctored by a friend who looks remarkably like Kevin Bacon, and who had assisted me in the making of some business cards in 2005. While this version of the Davey Dreamnation business card never did manage to find its way into the hands of a single Korean salaryman, its spirit lives on today. Extra points if you noticed the headphones. And the earring.

I was inspired to dig this shot out after an online exchange with Ryan Paine, who very kindly posted a link to my poem ‘mountains of pai‘ on his blog – a poem which, along with the rest of my chapbook The Happy Farang, I wrote while on the trip where this photo was taken.

Despite the fact that poor old Bingo seems to have no idea what the poem is about, it’s nice to take a trip down Amnesia Lane, back to the days when Pai was just a quiet little town where blues bands belted out covers of “Hey Joe’ without irony.