Waiting for thunder and poems on the wireless

My long poem waiting for thunder is up and ready to be read at The Camel Saloon. Have a drink, leave a comment and hang around for a while…


cats on the radioAlso, me and five other Adelaide poets will be reading for Nature Loves Courage on Three D Radio’s graveyard shift this week, Thursday from 11pm. If you’re awake, tune or listen in online!


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Nik Coppin and the context of race

6020_nik-solo_EFUL_GUIDEThe material in Nik Coppin Is Not Racist concerns an incident during Coppin’s last visit to Adelaide during the 2012 festival, wherein the mixed race Englishman was abruptly cut off air, thrown from the studio and subsequently labelled “racist” in print by local radio host, columnist, and middle class white guy Peter Goers.

Coppin’s use of this material for his 60 minute 2013 Adelaide Fringe set in the Austral’s “Red Room” is effective. His quick-fire, conversational story telling doesn’t overflow with obvious jokes or easy one-liners, but that can be refreshing and, particularly with this sort of politically and socially important material, more appropriate. The humour in this show comes from a building sense of farce and frustration at some of the racially abusive insults Coppin has copped from both white and black (but rarely Indian, he says) aggressors who label him “mongrel” or “half-caste” for his joint English-Barbadian heritage.

The set’s one big punch-line, of course, is Coppin’s recount of the events surrounding his 2012 interview with Goers. This story occupies the show’s second half and Coppin does an effective job of keeping his audience eager to find out more about the “ridiculous events” and “bizarre developments” in question.


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Two Poems

Two of my poems are now ALIVE over at DEAD SNAKES. Suicidal writers and dropped pocket watches: read ‘the truest thing’ and ‘tide-swirl’ after the link . . . sexy, sexy snakes.


‘the truest thing’ has previously appeared on now defunct e-journal Australian Reader. In fact, it was my first poem to be published back in January 2011, for which I’m grateful to editor Phillip Ellis. His web-site is below.


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Greetings from the Camel Saloon

One of my photographs (from a few years back) has been featured on the “postcards” section of Camel Saloon, a literary tavern for “dromedaries, malcontents and jewels in the world.” Check it out and leave a comment at the the link below. Also keep an eye on the Saloon for some of my poems appearing soon.

Johanna Beach, Victoria


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Mark Niehus – Poet & Artist

I’ve just written up a bio for my good friend and great poet Mark Niehus. He’s been doing some exciting things with art and words recently and has a new book due to be released soon. Read all about it and check out his website below . . .

Mark Niehus is a poet who anchors words on the exploration of self, but not just his own. “We are all born / and thrown against this world,” declares the opening poem of his first book. “And everything is  normal to someone, / something you hate / someone loves. / Something you disbelieve / someone would die for. / The ugly is beautiful, / the feared are faithful / and nothing is something / to someone / somewhere.” Conversation and discovery are the basis of Mark’s approach to experience in art, poetry and life; moving at the heart of things with a thought, an image; the right question asked, in something like the right way, over drinks at that bar you know.

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The Individual


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The Imperfect President (plus Comedy in Politics and the Deficit of Trust)

Often, the politically informed get particularly cynical about casual hero-worship directed at figures like Barack Obama. While I agree with their sentiments, it’s also undeniable that Obama is one of the most intelligent and progressively minded Presidents in American history (yes, I know, he’s still behind Carter – but this baby just won a second term!)

Criticisms about foreign policy and the exercise of American power are legitimate and important, but the fact is that whoever holds the reigns of U.S. government will likely be implicated in drone strikes, civilian deaths, direct or tacit support for unsavoury regimes and/or a variety of other international law breaches that, as I’ve recently been reminded by one Facebook post, would see Obama (along with every other post-war President) hanged by the standards of Nuremberg.

The fact is, American Presidents, along with all leaders and those who participate in any form of position-taking, must be judged by their actions in the context of choices, which are constrained by political reality, institutional power and systemic inertia. Obama’s re-election is of course the better result when compared to a Romney Presidency, beholden to lunatic Tea Party fanatics. But Obama can surely be judged a genuinely good President in numerous ways, not least of which are the symbolic and practical support he’s given to socially progressive causes in the United States like health care, gay rights, women’s issues and, in a combination of domestic and foreign relevance (remember that Cairo speech), not-hating-on-Muslims-quite-so-much in the wake of 9/11 and Bush’s “War on Terror”. While it’s not everything, of course, rhetoric and symbolism do actually matter.

The reality of Obama’s presidency has been disappointing, but we should judge him as U.S. President, with all the constraints, hypocrisies and compromises that inevitably entails. We should judge him as a man who wanted to run for high office with the best of liberal intentions, as somebody who obviously has the insight to know exactly how complicated things really are, but whose position often blunts the better and more precise angels of intention. We should not judge him as Noam Chomsky.

Anyway, well done Mr. President and, in the spirit of examining just how fucked up the current state of politics is and, perhaps, some of the ways it might gradually move in a better direction, please check out this piece on comedy, politics and public discourse I recently penned for EMMI, a great new online home for creative works and social commentary. While you’re at it, be sure to read some of the other features and “stranger profiles” too. It’s a veritable cosmopolitan digital wonderland over there!

4 more years!

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Gillard v Abbott v misogyny v sexism v all-the-other-crap

Might not get a chance to expand on this further in the near future, so here goes:

Noticed on The Drum tonight that we’re still going on about the whole Gillard v Abbott smack down parliament speech and misogyny v sexism v changing word definitions v all-the-other-culture-war-crap-that-is-really-important-but-hardly-anyone-ever-actually-understands-in-full-complexity.

They played a clip of Kevin Rudd suggesting that people saying he’d ghost written Maxine McKews’s new book were engaging in sexism, Judith Sloan went off in one of her savvy conservative obfuscations about the (unimpressive) impact of Gillard’s speech and reiterated that”misogyny” does and should only mean “hatred of women” and, therefore, was totally out of line being applied to Abbott. Lord Jesus and the Holy Father people, I can’t take it any more!

  • Yes, words can alter their meaning over time and misogyny is not exempt. As social understanding of embedded prejudice (as opposed to more direct hate-speech or discrimination) evolves, it makes sense we should refine meanings to reflect this new understanding.
  • Gillard’s speech can and should be appreciated for its innate value and the more general points it made (with force and eloquence) about the continuing prejudice many women still face in today’s society. Nobody seems to be arguing that it wasn’t a brilliant and rhetorically convincing piece of oratory and parliamentary theatre. But its inherent appeal to many women (and men) both here and overseas should not be discounted or ignored either.
  • BUT this DOES NOT mean that its context is not relevant! Nor do 3 million views on YouTube and however many re-tweets necessarily reflect a broad consensus on the meaning or value of a public event. There are plenty of people who aren’t on social media, who are more conservative and would not have appreciated either the tone, the content or the context of Gillard’s speech, male and females alike. The reason so many overseas blogs and news sites ran more appreciative commentary on the speech than our local press is simply: those people aren’t in touch with the context of Australian politics. They were taking the video completely devoid of its local situation and were, thus, only commenting on its abstract qualities as social rhetoric and effective oratory.
  • While the meaning of words can certainly alter over time, one still has to be aware of what their established meaning is when and in what context they are used. While “ misogyny” may already have evolved its meaning for many in the community, I assure you that Gillard’s intention by using that word (particularly in conjunction with “sexism” – implying a differing, more serious meaning by the very nature of her usage) was to brand and tar Abbott with a particularly virulent rhetorical label. The genuine emotion and force of her speech (coming on the heels of Abbott’s outlandish Alan Jones echo) notwithstanding, Gillard made deliberate use of the word “misogyny” in order to imply and deploy its more severe, pathological meaning as “hatred of women”. Now that may very well be justifiable in the circumstances, but friends & fellows on the activist left: please don’t pretend that she/Gillard used the word devoid of thought about its – previous – meaning.

Finally, while I know that many conservative hard-jobs often go on about things like this just to distract from the real issues … how exactly do we differentiate between legitimate criticism and sexist/gendered insults? Overuse of gendered personal pro nouns and turning one’s back on your parliamentary opponent certainly don’t seem to have a gendered monopoly at this point … and with focus-group disciple Kevin Rudd breaking out the misogyny card, I’m concerned for the future of meaningful distinctions.

Ah, good, now that’s over with, I trust we’ll all go back to arguing our progressive social visions and standing up for what’s right, decent, equitable and fair with respect, eloquence, reason and logical public discourse, right?


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