Footy Road-trip



4 AM fill up hilux attendant insists pay first wild man of borneo déjà vu recent rain’s green veneer buffalo horizon glenrowan maccas camo-clad breakfasters stranded replica harbour bridge messaged dog on tuckerbox photo flight of big bikes peels off controversial light rail rugby jumpers not tracky dax shop selling french napery spanish mission’s arch grandmother station chief lived next door collins park’s glaucous cedars wallaby scats opposing supporters join forces underwhelming cathedral recumbent leopard guards stadium pricey GA with no seat disgruntled saints kick in early beer in cans inside ground scoreboard pressure snuffs out hurrah melancholy manuka pool somewhere’s ten days bathroom reno way to go metal detector’s search for key another game in another code no bishop’s daughter’s seventy-something novitiate nun stepmother broken rites broken marriage what deadly hospital implosion investigation outcome mr fluffy’s legacy ice in satellite lone sunday rider onto hills sundowners main street location picnic spot’s souvenir pottery compulsion little clouds clumped under trees fishtailing unsealed twenty ks big trout town’s race-meet next spring big steak sandwich encounter contortionist waitress warriors knights on small screen speak of dead as fire burns common-sense stops here high country plateau rush brumbies brumbies black perry’s peculiar outcrop boats convoy to heritage-train town night-time’s B-double carnival dunny block silhouette slouches toward car the stars the stars what price 64 embassy shrapnel curio gettysburg field maps (reproduction) days 1 2 3 pretty sally dark out there neighbour’s dogs on late night walk

Share This

Review For nothing, more than nothing… For birds, sky… Anywhy by Jennifer Harrison


Anywhy by Jennifer Harrison

Black Pepper Publishing, 2018, 96pp, $24


Review by Mark Prendergast


How do you read Jennifer Harrison? Some critics have emphasized the performative in her work and the adoption of masks to, at once, inveigle and distance the reader. Others highlight questions of travel, positioning Harrison as lyric psychogeographer. Contrary to poet and theorist Aimé Césaire’s claim that “poetic knowledge is born in the silence of scientific knowledge”, Harrison, in an interview with Paul Hetherington,  describes her poetic as an attempt to bridge the “two cultures”: “Trying to find a common discourse between medicine (the body) and poetry (the lyric) is perhaps the major theme in my poems—trying to reconcile these two sides of my life. Because the discourses are so separate, I’m interested in how they interact with, and repel, each other.” This is quite a challenge: not only magnetic resonance imaging but also the Hiroshima bomb is applied science. Nonetheless, as with her earlier collections, in Harrison’s Anywhy the reader will find combinatory matter of varying valencies and densities, keeping on the poet’s dialogue with the nature of knowledge.

Eschewing both scepticism and mysticism, Anywhy continues Harrison’s thoughtful exploration of her materially fluid world. ‘The Anatomy Room’ (an occasional poem honouring those who donate their bodies to science) celebrates the conceptual and material history of this basic science, while allowing its limits: “For every vein you’ve given, you hold something back, above/ inside, something complete, enigmatic like a sign/ that the deaf will not share – something distant like stars in winter/ a knowledge that belongs to a larger universe of time… ” In sonnet form, ‘Brief Reflection on Words’ claims for both science and poetry only proximate truths, subsumed by personal experience which, in turn, might snuff out a whole city’s lights: “science almost intends us to outwit conceit/ but doesn’t poetry make conceit as obsolete/ as that suitcase of paper dolls (so pretty)/ I once carried everywhere, lonely as a city?” In ‘The Exchange, Blackwood Village’, the voice in the poem registers its surroundings (there are always birds in Harrison’s poems, singular or in flocks; at odds or working as one) then sets down what it thinks about them. Invoking Lucretius, and Epicureanism’s disdain for superstition in all its forms, this meditation on time’s wounds allows itself a metrical, rhymed conclusion of sorts, its slippery didacticism lending the collection its title:


Death found my measure in its pill of greed

and I carry the taste inside like a baby, never to birth


more a memory to protect, a shape almost precious…

Not exactly a gift, an exchange…


For nothing, more than nothing… For birds, sky…

For a clock, more than time… For anywhere, anywhy


By Harrison’s light, generosity of spirit is nothing, and, if she is never quite prepared to spill her guts, her poetry offers the reader other consolations.

How to represent the mind’s indwelling? Two of the poems in Anywhy take up this challenge from radically differing angles. ‘DeoxyriboNucleic Acid’, a list poem of endless possibility, attempts to capture emergent knowledge about the human genome, one of the scientific wonders of the age, in metaphor. The result is a poem of genuine currency: “old stories unheard      those yet to be learned/ a corkscrew infinity      infin   ity   ity      y/ a code twisting      untwisting along its protein wall/ the future      coiled like a hair in a drawer”. ‘Fowler’s Phrenology Bust’ plays on the mind in an entirely different register. As with some of Harrison’s other decisions about form, it is not apparent to me why this poem is divided into sections, and the use of Roman numerals in poetry always strikes me as a little faux Latinist. However, in ironically addressing this onetime pseudo-scientific tool, the poem captures aspects of the mind’s associative logics in contemplating, first, the china bust, then, the other objects arranged beside it on the mantle: “Some part of the brain could be called to breast/ ahead – a bust needs its breast, needs telling/ off from time to time, needs a porcelain/ companion to pitch what’s on its mind”. The poem asks why we decorate our lives with certain objects, observing that, somewhat like reading a poem, it is in converse with these objects that we figure out what we think about things. As elsewhere in the collection, in this ekphrastic poem of sorts, it strikes me that, while often inventively imagistic, Harrison’s default position is self-questioning abstraction, and this abstract aspect of her poetic is one of its great strengths.

When a Harrison poem does travel out into the world it affords an occasion to contemplate the mind in action, registering its attentive care, its global anxieties. In ‘Coorong’, looking toward the loved one is mixed with dread, and the silted river-mouth is tied with a future where even preserved pockets of wildness are lost:


and now as you approach, becoming with each step

once more familiar, I fear the carelessness of tides:


their mandalas, forever undredgeable, settle, shift –

and I fear that the rarest bird, the fairy tern of glass


might shatter inside me and there will be nothing left

of marshland but the endless patience of the past


‘Cnidarian’ is another sidewise love poem. The poem opens, metonymically, with the figure of an elderly widow in care. Broken hearts and melting ice-shelfs bring to light novel creatures that have newly moved into our ken. Harrison never overreaches to assume agape—in her poetry, love is fundamentally familial, co-dependency a value: “love itself/ like coral is tenanted, occupied:/ a trophy without pedestal, a vase/ within the old mind where sorrow shelters/ which we protect from harm with our lives”. Perhaps this is the soundest base from which to build a more comprehensive response to the ecological agonies of our time.

Sitting with the mind and the pictures it generates has been a governing preoccupation of Harrison’s work. If the questions ‘what do you know’ and ‘what have you got to be afraid of’ trouble you, read on with Harrison here and, like those stuck in transit in her poem ‘Grand Final’, mayn’t we “trust the wind will carry us/ forward, somewhere new/ somewhere we didn’t realise we wanted to go”.


Share This

From Crossing Two Rivers



There’s more that could be said about these things

besides your love and if she saw you now

aiming to pin down the grind and pay your share.

Her ready leisure once when she knew you

and her eyes were open on the sandy rug

behind the jade screen still makes you smile.

Surely, dearest, you must be cold in there.

You might have been one of the happy few

but as it was you made a devilish pact

to stay put and haruspicate yourself.

In another time where they speak different

an old man in a singlet punches the air

while his daughter the sparrow of good character

perches overhead in the turning maple tree.



Remembering the fireworks, the christmas tree

that so-called boyish pratfall down the stairs

an enclosed field, an absent middle term

the discounting of all that matters most

that book that sat so long for you that when

you opened it to read it fell apart:

in all your thoughts about authority

you only make the same mistake once more.

On a scorcher take yourself to the deep pool

outside the cave at the base of the gorge

where little birds go flitting in and out

and restore some normal feeling to the skin.

Like serried clouds the as if boys are back

so get riled up sunshine then settle down.



Tell me your story then tell me again.

There was that girl and boy in an old EH

who could not stop until they hit the pole,

the memory of a father twice removed,

that drunk and toothless hag one-time princess

married in the old school chapel, waving goodbye;

the wind-tossed possum in the pear tree,

the little brother who is in big trouble.

Like having survived and died at the same time

you want to leave them be to grieve but can’t.

There is the wombat, ripple-flanked clawed boulder

or Friday night fish and chips on New Year’s Day

or a country song that gets you where you live

and gives its sensible form to a perhaps.

Share This

Back to Authors