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Friday, 23 December 2011

That night, as I peered and asked questions and chattered my teeth in the bitter desert wind, all the time I could hear the howling of coyotes. It is a sound that begins with a few sharp barks, rather like the whining splash of a horsewhip in the air, and is followed by a long tremulous, singing quaver. By repute this is the loneliest of all earthly sounds.

(- Donald Culross Peattie, The Road of A Naturalist, 1948)

Coyote sound

...the stars were out, populating all heaven with their separate radiance. Their shine tonight upon the upturned faces of my friends was gentle. But how, we wondered, can people dare to believe seriously in astrology?

Have those so confident of Sarurn's cooperation in their affairs ever really looked at Saturn?  It's one thing to catch its twinkle with the naked eye, and another to peer into the astronomer's little mirror and see the ringed planet hung out there in all its giddy and enormous indifference. (Donald Culross Peattie, The Road of A Naturalist, 1948)

Sound of the stars

I did not ask, God knows, to die for my country, but to live in it for a cause large enough to survive all causes...

No use, in days when one ship of state after another went hull-down into the sucking tide, to cling to any loyalty not great enough to fit the day when men shall pledge united loyalty to all other men.
(- Donald Culross Peattie, The Road of a Naturalist, 1948)

Mahatma Ghandi speech

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

For we are all part of Nature; and now in the night, attentive to the grand enduring whole, I heard that the guns in my head were silenced...

Turnstones and plovers sound

I heard instead the sound of sap creeping up, of the wind in a plover's wing as it beat southward to nest.  Life is the battle in which we all fall, but it is never lost.  (The Road of a Naturalist, Donal Culross peattie, 1948)

Monday, 12 December 2011

...the darkness is absolute. It gives me the terrifying sense of vacuum that I have felt in swimming at night....

I am genuinely afraid in a dark sea.  There is no horizon, no certainty of any shore. (The Road of a Naturalist- Donald Culross Peattie, 1948)

We think of night as descending from the sky, but it is, of course, born of the earth...

It is the earth's own shadow, and it wells up from the hollows and cups and pits of the planet.  Like rising flood waters, it last of all engulfs the high places...(The Road of A Naturalist- Donald Culross Peattie, 1948)

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Gypsy and the Wind- Federico Garcia Lorca

Playing her parchment moon
Precosia comes
along a watery path of laurels and crystal lights.
The starless silence, fleeing
from her rhythmic tambourine,
falls where the sea whips and sings,
his night filled with silvery swarms.
High atop the mountain peaks
the sentinels are weeping;
they guard the tall white towers
of the English consulate.
And gypsies of the water
for their pleasure erect
little castles of conch shells
and arbors of greening pine.

Playing her parchment moon
Precosia comes.
The wind sees her and rises,
the wind that never slumbers.
Naked Saint Christopher swells,
watching the girl as he plays
with tongues of celestial bells
on an invisible bagpipe.

Gypsy, let me lift your skirt
and have a look at you.
Open in my ancient fingers
the blue rose of your womb.

Precosia throws the tambourine
and runs away in terror.
But the virile wind pursues her
with his breathing and burning sword.

The sea darkens and roars,
while the olive trees turn pale.
The flutes of darkness sound,
and a muted gong of the snow.

Precosia, run, Precosia!
Or the green wind will catch you!
Precosia, run, Precosia!
And look how fast he comes!
A satyr of low-born stars
with their long and glistening tongues.

Precosia, filled with fear,
now makes her way to that house
beyond the tall green pines
where the English consul lives.

Alarmed by the anguished cries,
three riflemen come running,
their black capes tightly drawn,
and berets down over their brow.

The Englishman gives the gypsy
a glass of tepid milk
and a shot of Holland gin
which Precosia does not drink.

And while she tells them, weeping,
of her strange adventure,
the wind furiously gnashes
against the slate roof tiles.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Romancero Gitano (Gypsy Ballads), 1928, Federico García Lorca

García Lorca describes the work as a "carved altar piece" of Andalusia with "gypsies, horses, archangels, planets, its Jewish and Roman breezes, rivers, crimes, the everyday touch of the smuggler and the celestial note of the naked children of Córdoba. A book that hardly expresses visible Andalusia at all, but where the hidden Andalusia trembles".

Federico del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús García Lorca

Exquisite Corpse and Surrealism- Source: "Dada & Surrealist Art," by William S. Rubin

Among Surrealist techniques exploiting the mystique of accident was a kind of collective collage of words or images called the cadavre exquis (exquisite corpse). Based on an old parlor game, it was played by several people, each of whom would write a phrase on a sheet of paper, fold the paper to conceal part of it, and pass it on to the next player for his contribution.

The technique got its name from results obtained in initial playing, "Le cadavre / exquis / boira / le vin / nouveau" (The exquisite corpse will drink the young wine). Other examples are: "The dormitory of friable little girls puts the odious box right" and "The Senegal oyster will eat the tricolor bread." These poetic fragments were felt to reveal what Nicolas Calas characterized as the "unconscious reality in the personality of the group" resulting from a process of what Ernst called "mental contagion."

At the same time, they represented the transposition of Lautréamont's classic verbal collage to a collective level, in effect fulfilling his injunction-- frequently cited in Surrealist texts--that "poetry must be made by all and not by one." It was natural that such oracular truths should be similarly sought through images, and the game was immediately adapted to drawing, producing a series of hybrids the first reproductions of which are to be found in No. 9-10 of La Révolution surrealiste (October, 1927) without identification of their creators. The game was adapted to the possibilities of drawing, and even collage, by assigning a section of a body to each player, though the Surrealist principle of metaphoric displacement led to images that only vaguely resembled the human form.

Manifesto del Creacionismo

"La poesía soy yo..."

- Vicente Huidobro

Make a poem as nature makes a tree...

- Vicente Huidobro

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Travelling Northward (from Tu Fu 713-770)

Screech owls moan in the yellowing
Mulberry trees.  Field mice scurry,
Preparing their holes for winter.
Midnight, we cross an old battlefield.
The moonlight shines cold on white bones.

Screech Owls

The South (from Wang Chien 736-835)

In the southern land many birds sing;
Of towns and cities half are unwalled.
The country markets are thronged by wild tribes;
The mountain villages bear river-names.
Poisonous mists rise from the damp sands;
Strange fires gleam through the night-rain.
And none passes but the lonely seeker of pearls
Year by year on his way to the South Sea.

Chinese Bamboo Flute

In old Arabic poetry...(from Czeslaw Milosz, "A Book of Luminous Things")

In old Arabic poetry love, song, blood, and travel appear as four basic desires of the human heart and the only effective means against our fear of death.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Sea and the Man (from Anna Swir)

...The eternal sea
will never learn to laugh.

Seen from Above (from Wislawa Szymborska)

On a dirt road lies a dead beetle.
Three little pairs of legs carefully folded on his belly.
Instead of death's chaos- neatness and order.
The horror of this sight is mitigated,
the range strictly local, from witchgrass to spearmint.
Sadness is not contagious.
The sky is blue...

Daybreak (from Galway Kinnell)

On the tidal mud, just before sunset,
dozens of starfishes
were creeping.  It was
as though the mud were a sky
and enormous, imperfect stars
moved across it slowly...

Friday, 24 June 2011

Wild Geese (from Mary Oliver)

...You only have to let the soft animal of your body
    love what it loves...

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Dragonfly (from Gary Snyder)

Dead on the snow
How did you come so high
Did you leave your seed child
In a mountain pool
Before you died

Living (from Denise Levertov)

The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer.

The wind blowing, the leaves
shivering in the sun,
each day the last day.

A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily

moves his delicate feet
and long tail.  I hold
my hand open for him to go.

Each minute the last minute.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Ah, not to be cut off... (from Rainer Maria Rilke)

Ah, not to be cut off,
not through the slightest partition
shut out from the law of the stars.
The inner- what is it?
if not intensified sky,
hurled through with birds and deep
with the winds of homecoming.

There are whorls here at the tips of our fingers...

Winds stick out here.  It is the same way on the toes of our feet, and Winds exist on us here where soft spots are, where there are spirals.  At the tops of our heads some children have two spirals, some have only one, you see.  I am saying that those (who have two) live by means of two Winds.  These (Winds sticking out of the) whorls at the tips of our toes hold us to the Earth.  Those at our fingertips hold us to the Sky.  Because of these, we do not fall when we move about.

Wind existed first, as a person...

Wind existed first, as a person, and when the Earth began its existence Wind took care of it.  We started existing where Darknesses, lying on one another, occured.  Here, the one that had lain on top became dawn, whitening across.  What used to be lying on one another back then, this is Wind.  It (Wind) was Darkness.  That is why when Darkness settles over you at night it breezes beautifully.  It is this, it is a person, they say.  From there when it dawns, when it dawns beautifully becoming white-streaked through the dawn, it usually breezes.  Wind exists beautifully, they say.  Back there in the underworlds, this was a person it seems.

Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle....

The Wind, in its great power, whirls.  Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours.  The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle.  The moon does the same, and both are round...Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were.  The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood and so it is in everything where power moves...

I wonder if the Ground has anything to say? I wonder if the Ground is listening to what is said?

The land is always stalking people...

The land makes people live right.  The land looks after us.  The land looks after people.

All things can hear and understand our thinking, for all things are capable of speech...

In falltime you'll hear the lakes make loud, cracking noises after they freeze.  It means they're asking for snow to cover them up, to protect them from the cold...


Just as I turned to come back toward camp a small ground-sleeping tinamou sent out his sad call, close to where I was, and he was answered by another.  You know why their evening call is so sad?  They don't like to sleep alone and at sunset each one wanders around aimlessly calling and calling until an answer comes back from somewhere, and then the two move closer and closer together, guided by the calls.  And so they find a sleeping partner.Tinamou Sound

Wolf sound...

Wolf sound

Tired of all who come with words....

Tired of all who come with words, words but no language
I went to the snow-covered island.
The wild does not have words.
The unwritten pages spread themselves in all directions!
I come across the marks of roe-deer's hooves in the snow.
Language, but no words.

We know what the animals do...

We know what the animals do, what are the needs of the beaver, the bear, the salmon, and other creatures, because long ago men married them and acquired this knowledge from their animal wives...our ancestors married animals, learned all their ways, and passed on this knowledge...

Owls often make it difficult to speak Cree with them...

Owls often make it difficult to speak Cree with them.  They can cause stuttering, and when stuttering is going on they are attracted to it.  It is said that stuttering is laughable to owls.  Yet this can work to the Cree's advantage as well, for if you think an owl is causing trouble in your village, then go stutter in the woods.  There's a good chance an owl will arrive.  Then you can confront this owl, question it, argue with it, perhaps solve the problem.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Flesh of Language...

"The rain surrounded the cabin...with a whole world of meaning, of secrecy, of rumor.  Think of it: all that speech pouring down, selling nothing, judging nobody, drenching the thick mulch of dead leaves, soaking the trees, filling the gullies and crannies of the wood with water, washing out the places where men have stripped the hillside...Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it.  It will talk as long as it wants, the rain.  As long as it talks, I am going to listen."
- Thomas Merton


"Lifting a brush, a burin, a pen, or a stylus
is like releasing a bite or lifting a claw."
- Gary Snyder

Thursday, 19 May 2011


"Breeze from the Land Across"
- translated by Dr Aruna Sitesh and Dr Sitesh Alok
 (1945 – 2007) was a scholar, writer and translator. She was the Principal of Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi, (1997-2007). Her short story collection Chhalaang, received the award for The Outstanding Book of the year Award (1997-98) and the Mahadevi Verma Puraskar by the U.P. Hindi Sansthan, Lucknow, 2000. Her many awards and honors included a Senior Fulbright 1991-92, University of Chicago; Visiting Scholar, Rockefeller Foundation Study Centre, Bellagio, Italy, 1993; and an Australia-India Council Grant in Aid (2005) for interaction with Australian women writers. She was Co-editor, of Pratibha India, Quarterly of Indian Art, Culture and Literature (1981-2007).

The Late Dr Aruna Sitesh translated three of my short stories into Hindi. They have been published separately in Indian literary journals(including the Sahity Academy's "Sakshaktar"), but this month they will be launched in a book of Australian women writers' short stories.

Sitesh Aloke (b.1939) is a creative writer and translator. He has been editing PRATIBHA INDIA, a literary journal from New Delhi for several years now.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Sunnybrook (from Trail of Bones and Godstones)

When we first met
a December windstorm
pelted granite across the gravel
and grazed the string from heat-stinking gums.
Mute black and white cattle sheltered
under the ribs of creaking pylons,
their tails crusted and sour,
and in Darwin there was a cyclone.

I moved into the house
in Holbeche Road
where Maltese farmers grew
pig-eyed potatoes,
and where a high tattered fence surrounded
a secret treeless place
where guard dogs were bred
to have no bark.

The paddocks were tortured with thistles,
the empty tin sheds bent under prickly pear:
the dirt poked full of dry dead things
like an insect Calvary.

The hollowed horses,
Regal and King,
collapsed in the dust, playing dead,
and exploded up to the fence
like the dark spit-flecked male things in dreams.

When the waters broke,
I was wearing rubber thongs.
It was hot, and they stuck to
the scarred soles of my feet.

I remember watching for the postman.
She stopped in a brown mini at ten,
slewing off the road up to the gate.
I would hear the crunch over the voice of Caroline Jones,
would watch through dust-sweet nylon curtains
while the baby tipped rank from my hip,
and I gagged on cold toast.

On Tuesdays,
I pummelled nappies by hand,
filling stone laundry tubs
that smelt of hot-but-winsome days and a grandmother.
Cleansed in scalding water and sunlight soap,
while the baby drowsed in the square shade of the house,
the thick cool of that concrete was the only lust left.

When she was old enough for sandals
we straggled to the letterbox
waiting at every dry pothole
while she threw in a handful
of knuckle-like pebbles,
imagining a splash.

One nostril-drying day,
we went looking for cambungi
behind the brick school at the end of the road
and I saw a man loitering in white grass.
He had salt-pan eyes
and leeched-out cheekbones,
and velvet teeth,
like the bottom of a long-drained bore.
He turned and watched me
scuff past
shoving at the old Steelcraft pram

and after that,
I was frightened:
wondering if he lived nearby-
if he would one day trick and brutalize
and leave in a dry gully
some happy child
skipping along the footpath after school,
a silver coin so moist in her hand,
on her way to that shop, lush and dark,
to buy damp yeasty bread for her mother
and maybe a yellow fizzy drink for herself
that tasted of unexpected seasons in another sweeter place.

I couldn't sleep
worrying about the ugly man
and the murdered child
until the day I realized that
the ugly man was my life,
and the child was me.

(Also published in The Nightjar)

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Trail of Bones and Godstones

The Time It Rained Fish (Esperance Press, 1999)

The Time It Rained Fish (Esperance Press, 1999)

The first Ellen is born near Skibbereen in Ireland during the time of the Great Hunger.  The second Ellen is born in the arid suburbs of Sydney, Australia.  Both women fulfil a destiny shaped by their family curse, the Bauravilla curse, and their failure to find what they are seeking- each other.

The Time It Rained Fish is the story of two soul-sisters separeted by over a century of time and half the world.  But linking them are three generations of Irish-Australian women.  The culmination occurs in Tasmania where the landscape is alien to both and yet permits the impossible- their meeting.

The World as a Clockface (Penguin Books Australia, 2001)

The World as a Clockface (Penguin Books Australia, 2001)

'People are wrong about the South Pole being at the bottom of the world,' said Holmann Schuyler. 'If I drew you a map, it would look like the face of this clock, with the South Pole at the centre...'

The people of Whalers Gate, on the Antipodean island of Esmania, claim that nothing has been the same since the turn of the century.  They say that the wing of an Archangel has been seen over the town, and young Sister Clemence has been beset by visions.  It's been a hard winter, the women have gone sun-crazy, and the watercolour teacher, Lavinia Chomsky, has run off to sea with Captain Schuyler.  Borne on a strange odyssey through mythical lands, they discover a world where time and place are distorted, so that what has been marginalised becomes central, what was once on the bottom now sits on the top.

The World as a Clockface is a captivating and poetic telling of a magical, wide-ranging story, from an exciting new voice in Australian fiction.