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Friday, May 22, 2015

Rochford St Review: David Brooks' OPEN HOUSE (UQP)

A Place Where You Can Bring Things Together: Andrew Burke reviews ‘Open House’ by David Brooks

Open House by David Brooks, UQP 2015.
open house david brrokes

There are many themes in David Brooks new book Open House, many values of love, many heart felt convictions, many parables and narratives. The collection’s cohesion is the poet’s voice, borne out of colloquial language, stated in an intimate cadence and brought together by true conviction.
The main theme of the collection is man’s cruelty to animals. And this animal kingdom encompasses every living creature – from slugs to elephants. Mankind should live at peace with all creatures. As Francis Ponge once wrote: We only have to lower our standard of dominating nature, and to raise our standard of participating in it, in order to make this reconciliation take place.
Even though some poems here are polemical, they are not blunt force instruments. The poems are persuasive and thoughtful, sharing a belief with the reader rather than wielding language like a bludgeon. But I am saying too much of what they are not: here is an example of what they are – from the poem ‘Phasmid':
They call them Phasmatidae, I think, the genus,
though I might well be wrong;
the species I simply cannot trace: small
stick-like insects so perfectly disguised
you’d think them a part of a eucalypt until,
the wind or some sudden
disturbance of the leaves dislodging them, they fall
onto something not their colour. Match-length
scrolls of bark, they could be, though looking more closely
you think something more delicate, utterly.
Three more verses expand on the theme until this last verse:
The next day the car was gone
and the creature also from my mind until,
driving in again, a few days later still,
and getting out of the car, I saw her
lying less than a metre from me, her hind-part
just crushed by my driver’s-side wheel.
I picked her up, of course, and buried her beneath
the tree from which I’ve always thought she came
and since then, for eleven years or more, I’ve
wondered what could be their name.
One of the great strengths of Brooks style is his clarity of vision. When poetry in English was polluted by faux philosophy and stylistic filigree in the late 19th century, Pound and Eliot et al went to Eastern poetry for a cure – the image was at the heart of the new poetry, the sharp image transporting emotions from the poet to the reader via the page. We hardly notice such a technique in our contemporary poetry until it is used in an exceptionally excellent manner – or the reverse. Here Brooks uses the clarity of the senses to paint pictures which carry vibrant thoughts without force or flippancy.
Almost always there is something
flickering on the edge of our attention, like someone
at the back of a crowd, trying to catch our eye.
Sometimes it delivers its message, some-
times in doesn’t.
…………..This last three months or so
there has been a long row of pumpkins
in a farmer’s field, running parallel to the highway …
Five verses of meditation on pumpkins later, Pumpkins on the Koper Road ends with these lines:
The mystical significance of pumpkins quite
escapes me. But maybe that’s the point: that it’s
one of the businesses of things to go, one of
the businesses of poets to try to hold them.
A simple imagistic poem follows, August:
No wind, and yet
a flock of tiny
to the road like leaves.
Some of these small poems lie in the text like a pause for breath, both physical and thoughtful. There are love poems here, and a small amount of elegies, and some poems near the end of the collection focussed on our relationship with sheep – ‘Reading to the Sheep’ is a delightful poem, prompting many trains of thought (see Emery Brook’s launch speech for more). The Lambs carries much weight in its approach to lambs and sheep as used for tales in the Bible – Brooks’s reading is rich and thoughtful:
and a reminder too, that ‘sacrifice’
means to make sacred: it’s all
to do with lambs, rams, ewes and wethers, it seems to me,
not God,
a way to justify a choice of food
we know to be cruel beyond measure
but for which we nevertheless continue to hanker, though
not just that but – back to the tales – the curious way in
read carefully, we find they admit to it all …
Open House ‘is a place where you can bring things together’, as David Brooks says about poems in one poem. It’s a healthy size at over 150 pages and a multi-level collection, beautifully written
with its own intimate tones echoing long after you have put it down.
– Andrew Burke
Andrew Burke has been writing and publishing in Australia and beyond since the 60s. He holds a PhD from Edith Cowan University, and his current titles from Walleah Press are Undercover of Lightness (2012) and One Hour Seeds Another (2014) Burke blogs at

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How to write a Cover Letter: Ploughshares

You’ve written and revised your story, essay, or poem. The hard part is over, and now it’s time to send out your work. Don’t let something as simple as a cover letter trip you up.

Here are a few tips on writing a great cover letter.
Don’t forget! Submissions for our Emerging Writer’s Contest close this Friday, May 22, at 12 noon EST. The winning story, essay, and poems from the 2015 contest will be published in the Winter 2015-16 issue of Ploughshares, and each writer will receive $1,000.

Submit online today!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Listen to Australian Poets & News


Monday, May 18, 2015


the health food shop
hiding a chocolate wrapper


brewing a cup
to wake up enough
to brew another


eating hot pizza
listening to jazz
mushroom rolls off


minus five Celsius -
dog keeps under
the blankets


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Denise Levertov Should Be More Famous : from The Literary Hub

Saint Joseph’s put a small committee including Warn and Seattle poet Jan Wallace in charge of choosing a tombstone for the grave. They did an admirable job. It’s a huge black rectangle, substantial and dense, and in a pleasant literary font it reads, simply:

Denise Levertov
levertov grave

On top of the stone is a sculpture. It’s by a local sculptor named Phillip McCracken, who both Levertov and her son, Nikolai, had grown to admire; Levertov had visited his studio not long before her death. From a distance, the sculpture looks like a small granite boulder, but as you get closer, you can see the beginnings of shapes erupting from its surface; a smooth concave bit hollowed from its side, a point carved at the base. From one angle, it looks like an arrowhead; from another it’s an egg; from a third it’s a cube. It captures the moment of becoming, that boundless possibility before the shapes take hold and seize your recognition, force you to acknowledge they resemble one object or another. The sculpture is caught in that eternal instant of possibility, evading categorization and identification.

It’s called “Stone Poem,” and it’s absolutely perfect.

Read it all - a very good article - at

Poetry: "I like it when you read to me."

illustration by Cecilia Ruiz
New York Times article on Poetry as an Oral Art -
how recorded performances figure in today's audiophile markets.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Dylan Day: Poet's lost notebook goes on show in Swansea, revealing 'tiny, neat writing of a meticulous craftsman'

Dylan Thomas’ granddaughter Hannah Ellis says she was struck by how “tiny and neat” her famous grandfather’s writing is in a “lost” notebook which has gone on public display for the first time.
The previously-unseen Dylan Thomas notebook, re-discovered after lying forgotten in a drawer for decades, has gone on display at Swansea University to mark the inaugural International Dylan Thomas Day.

Events were being held across the UK and the world yesterday for the first “Dylan Day”, which the Welsh Government hopes will rival Burns Night.

Celebrations got off to a start in the Welsh Dragon Bar in Wellington, New Zealand, where Dylan poetry readings were held while Welsh drinks and food were consumed.

Lots more to read at