Blackbox Manifold

I’m really pleased to say that three works from my Leaves of Glass MS – namely, ‘Cute’, ‘Rivet’ and ‘Swagman Ted’ – have found an electronic home in UK-based online journal Blackbox Manifold. I’ve almost lost count of how many of these Whitman (left) vs O’Dowd poems have now been published, but I’m starting to think a critical mass has been reached. Whatever that means. My thanks to editors Alex Houen and Adam Piette for taking an interest in my work, and a cyber-hai to my fellow contributors, including Mary Noonan, Matthew Sweeney and Ron Silliman. Check it.

New poems in Jacket!

The last time a poem of mine appeared in Jacket was way back in 1999, when Cars (for Bruce Beaver) was published in issue 8. While it makes me feel old to say that I’ve waited eleven years to see another of my poems in Jacket, the wait has been more than worth it!

Pam Brown has guest-edited a little feature for Jacket #39 on Rewriting Canonical Australian Poems which, as the name suggests, consists of works that re-write ‘canonical’ or well-known Australian poems. In the feature you’ll find works by David Brooks, Justin Clemens, Michael Farrell, Duncan Hose, John Tranter and moi.

I’m really chuffed that three of my poems have been selected for the feature, all of which are re-writes of poems by Australian ‘proto-nationalist’ and poet, Bernard O’Dowd. In case you didn’t know, I’m a bit of an O’Dowd tragic, meaning that I’ve written quite a few poems about his life, most of them inspired by his correspondence with Walt Whitman.

And so, without further ado, here’s the link to Red Dawn Ward, Oz and “The Campfires of the Lost”, three re-writes based on O’Dowd’s ‘Dawnward’, ‘Australia’ and ‘The Campfires of the Lost’, respectively. For those who are interested, you can now read the full text of O’Dowd’s Dawnward?, the collection in which these poems were first published in 1903, online.

VWC, Kurungabaa, Southerly (IWD)

Things have been pretty quiet in the Dreamnation of late, thanks mostly to my new life as a web editor and writer for NIMD, a political organisation in Den Haag (The Hague). Nevertheless, my old life as an Australian writer continues to come back to haunt me in the form of Zombie publications, both in print and online.

Actually that’s not entirely true: it’s first of all my previous incarnation as an Australian writer in Seoul that’s catching up with me, in the form of an article in this month’s Victorian Writers’ Centre newsletter entitled ‘Year of the White Tiger and Steam: David Prater describes his name-changing three months in Seoul’. While the article doesn’t actually ‘reveal all’, seeing my residency described in print does make it all seem less ‘unreal’, if that makes sense. It’s also nice that they’ve included an extract from my poem, Turtles for Myron Lysenko in the issue.

Another more surprising ‘re-animation’ event occurred two weeks ago when Wollongong-based surf literature magazine Kurungabaa contacted me by email to say that two of my poems – ‘Storm Girl’ (draft) and ‘Merry Weather’ – would be forthcoming in their next issue in print. As someone who lived in Wollongong as a teenager, and who even after a week-long surfing course could barely manage to kneel on a surfboard, it’s somehow gratifying that two of my only-vaguely surfing-related poems have made the cut.

It’s kind of ominous that the date of publication for Miscellaneous Voices: Australian Blog Writing 1 is April 1, particularly given that this is also the launch date for Cordite Poetry Review’s next issue, the undead-inspired Zombie 2.0. On the other hand, it’s great that two of my poems, namely ‘(On The Tomb Of) Agnes Smedley’ & ’I couldn’t agree with you, more’ (first posted here and here) will be included in the anthology and thus return from the dead in print.

In other dead poet news, two of my ‘Leaves of Glass’ poems – ’Gang Languid’ & ‘Algae’ – are forthcoming in Southerly‘s special poetry issue (69.3). Leaves of Glass is a book-length MS based on correspondence between Walt Whitman and Bernard O’Dowd. Three more from the same series – ‘Dawnward’, ‘Oz’ & ‘The Campfires of the Lost’ – have also found a home, but more on them soon. The Southerly issue will be launched at the University of Sydney (in the John Woolley Building Common Room, in fact), where twenty years ago this week I first started out as a student of English, and then Australian literature.

The return of the memory of myself as a tragic young (still seventeen, in fact) poet, moping around the corridors of the Woolley Building, penning painfully adolescent verses in the style of Kenneth Slessor or William Blake, fills me with a kind of cringe-worthy fakestalgia. The truth is, twenty years ago, when Southerly turned fifty, I’m pretty sure I never even heard about it. The magazine itself was just a concept to us – something that got produced at some upper echelon of the University, and which we were made to understand quite obliquely that we would have to wait a good twenty years to ‘get into’.

But all of this is just self-preening in the end. Today, on International Women’s Day, rather than just congratulating myself on all of my own publications, I’d like to salute the editors who made all of the above possible – all of whom just happen to be women.

Therefore, in the spirit of Oscars (TM) acceptance speeches, first of all, I’d like to thank Robin Deed of the Victorian Writers centre, who invited me to write an article for their newsletter. Thanks also to Rebecca Olive from the Kurungabaa editors’ collective for accepting my poems for publication in that journal. Miscellaneous Voices: Australian Blog Writing is edited by Karen Andrews and I’m grateful to her for her patient responses to my queries. The guest poetry editor for Cordite’s Zombie 2.0 issue is Ivy Alvarez, a fantastic poet and blogger, who also put me onto Kurungabaa in the first place via the excellent Dumbfoundry (RSS). Finally, props to Kate Lilley, Southerly‘s poetry editor, who first introduced me to contemporary American poetry in a course she taught at the University of Sydney in the early 1990s.

Happy International Women’s Day!


Drones of Prole

the drones of prole patrol the moon 
that satellite of filth - 
their lanterns mark the greasy poles 
its dark side pepper (salt

with futile cries & lunar dews & sad 
stories drones will tell of
extra-terrestrial rents & arbitrage by 
mammon's earthly (hags

o'er those captains of industry whose 
gold we gleefully polish
in our dull second-class illusion we will 
rise above the (swill

for life is complicated by the fact we 
all must die but also 
by the fact that tungsten's rare & bitumen 
scarce as well

still we pave our lunar (roads & the drones 
of prole asssemble 
until someone flicks a switch then via 
teleportal shoots them 

& thus arriving new on the moon they're 
sent to work the mines
or steer the portal ships that bring the lunar 
riches back to earth

to feed the new (machines that give us birth 
we're programmed 
to repeat then fade like instrumental tracks 
the germ of human 

struggle manufactured (soup & on the drones 
of prole do seethe
in chatter & in bits ‘twas ever thus & thus 
shall be their role 

to us (resist as we look up through mists 
to see the moon's dim 
gulf of proletaria - that new eureka 
for the (proles

B. O’D. (date)