Today we feature a spoken word performance excerpt by ReVerse Butcher during her feature poet set at the Dan O’Connell (Melbourne, Australia) poetry reading on 11th of May 2013. The poem, STICK TO YOUR SUBJECTIVES, was baked in her brain after being forced to absorb 3 years of Foucault’s writings at university and speaks back to her identity-bending alienpoet persona. She both agrees and disagrees with Foucault.


If you missed ReVerse Butcher’s Collage Poetry you should really CLICK HERE!


ReVerse Butcher is from outer space. She often surfaces publicly on Earth doing a thing called poetry. ReVerse Butcher thinks that poetry should not be looked down upon as a lesser form of literary stimulation simply because it mostly is a solitary pleasure. Poetry can be a group OR solo activity, it often masks its shifting identities, and also frequently hybridises with other genres to better ensure its own survival in hostile territories. You’ll never catch it, unless it wants you too.

ReVerse Butcher finds language both sexy and confusing, so she does with it what any self-respecting alienpoet should do with confusing and sexy things. She cuts it up. Mostly then she glues it to other things and makes cut-ups & collages, better (dis)orders from existing (dis)orders. Not everything she performs or publishes is a collage, but everything that is performed or published is fodder for one.




STACEY: Hi Lucy, thanks for agreeing to answer some q’s. You run an online lit journal called Shabby Doll House, do you want to tell us a little bit about that?


Shabby Doll House (est. 2012) is an online publication that I started in order to showcase work that I felt excited about, but that didn’t seem to have a home. We publish various forms of literature alongside original visual artworks made specifically to accompany the writing. We have published short stories, poetry, tweet compilations, gchats, watercolour paintings, .gifs, photographs, collages… It is kind of a mix of everything, but I think it has developed a particular style and sense of aesthetic.


I edit the website with Sarah Jean Alexander, and we aim to curate a cohesive collection of work every quarter. The general theme or aim, I think, is to distract or prevent people from feeling lonely.


S: Seems like a good thing for a online publication to want to achieve. What is the submission process like and roughly how many pieces would you get for every issue? Are there particular things you look for when selecting? Read more…

Sherry O’Keefe presents us with 4 vignettes which teach us how to launder our own imagery. This post reminds us constantly to look around ourselves, even the smallest of happenings are ones which can be spun into a poem or a story. Everything has a story. Everybody is their own storyteller.


Sugar On a Rope:

He told me potatoes were complicated. I know this is true because I wrote it on a scrap of paper and saved it in my back pocket. Some conversations later, I retrieved the scrap of paper from the lint trap in my dryer. Apparently I had laundered the words when I washed my jeans. The scrap of paper looked a bit like a former leaf, except I could see these words in faded ink: potatoes are complicated and some poems are born in badness. The trouble is I cannot remember the conversation that produced these quotes. I don’t remember anymore where these words came from.

I don’t always know what to keep and what to let go. I’m not the sort to let anything go. There are scraps of paper all over my house. For example, these are the words next to my kitchen sink: We don’t even need to talk about houses on the hill. As writers we deal with the hanging on and the not knowing when to let go. Read more…

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAFor a short three years of my life, my friends were poets. Maybe not all of them, but the ones who weren’t poets were essayists or novelists, and poetry wasn’t a bad word among us. We all read poetry, went to readings, talked about this new writer or that piece, wrote poems or stories or both. We also bitched about our bosses, celebrated each other’s birthdays, went jogging when the weather lifted above freezing and we felt we’d maybe run out of things to write. We drank, ate, fucked, sometimes danced, went to the movies, gossiped, despaired, told dirty jokes, congratulated one another on our small successes, envied each other the same, talked about our families, caught and missed buses—in other words, we lived our lives like everyone else. Then we all finished grad school and, with MFAs in hand, moved toward the compass point that promised the most luck or the least terror.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAFor me that meant moving back to Seattle where I had a paycheck waiting and friends I’d left behind. Though the job I was coming back to had nothing to do with writing, at least I had a job in a time when economic uncertainty was becoming the norm. And unlike when I up and moved to Minneapolis for school, at least I was returning to a city that wasn’t an unknown. It was comforting to come back to a place I knew, to people I knew.

Actually, no—it wasn’t. Because from the first day back I realized they didn’t know me.

It wasn’t completely their fault. Even before grad school, I didn’t tell many people about my writing—I wasn’t hiding it exactly, it just didn’t seem to come up. My co-workers were more focused on whether or not that sponsor had signed on to bankroll the new website we’d already started producing or if I was going to that team morale event at the go-kart track. My friends wanted to know whether our skyscraper apartment building really was being demolished because of unsafe construction (it was), how my new old-job was going especially with that commute over the bridge getting worse, if I’d tried that recently opened restaurant that sourced all their food from no more than 360 miles away, and if I was going to so-and-so’s baby shower next weekend or you-know-who’s housewarming party. The couple of times I suggested going to a reading, everyone feigned a bit of enthusiasm; nobody showed.

McGuireAptsDemolitionWhen the layoff rumors came true and I no longer had a corporate job neatly summed up on a business card with a recognizable company logo, I decided to try writing full time—at least until my savings ran out or my husband decided that being the sole breadwinner was overrated. But when people I met asked what I did for work, I was reluctant—no, I was loathe to say, “I’m a poet.” Based on the few times I’d tried answering that way, I knew that whatever fanciful ideas were conjured in their heads about what being a “poet” was, it wasn’t remotely close to the reality of it. So I’d say I was a “writer” and then rush off before they could ask what I wrote. I could have gently corrected their misunderstandings about peasant blouses, love and sunsets, end-rhymes centered down the page, the tears of orphans mixed into our ink wells, but I guess I was tired of doing that. Or maybe I was out of practice after the three years I’d spent not having to explain. Or maybe I felt that even if I tried, even when I tried, it didn’t change anything. It didn’t stop them from telling me how they, too, wrote poetry when they were feeling sad or from abruptly proclaiming, “ ‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, took the one less traveled…’ ” then looking to me for some kind of consent. It didn’t prevent them from asking incredulously if people read poetry anymore or blurting out in amazement, “Wow. Really? I didn’t know that still existed!”

The truth was, neither did I. Read more…

 ’… these short, spare, finely wrought poems work within a complex imaginative structure. They build again in the mind that strange, closed, free place: the house of childhood.’ – Lisa Gorton

‘With wit and shimmering precision Jo Langdon’s poems connect the surreal, imagined world to what is felt. Her music is spare, wounding, hypnotic.’ – Michelle Cahill

Collection Snowline is the beautiful debut offerings of Melbourne poet, Jo Langdon. Beyond the cover lies a transparent page which allows us to find the collection’s title when we press our hands onto it. I love so much this sense of immediacy and discovery. This first echo of texture sets a pace and place for the poetry. The entirety of the book focuses on reflections, memories of familial and first loves. It goes beyond sentimentality and gives body to its subjects. Liner images of animals, landscape and the natural world become seamless and slip between itself and a kind of sleep state.

The opening poem ‘Sleepless’ awakens the collection’s central theme of returning. The lines  that stand out were: ‘The house of love / this haunted hotel, / a ghost road of your / before’ and ‘Heavier things encased / in glass’. I empathise so much with the latter line, there’s a fragility that comes with the uneasiness of sleep and the concept of sleep evades waking life, every inch of it. Like relationships, things inevitably become ‘sleepless’ and then, it’s kind of a muddling through the ‘Clutter of tired / mementoes’, the aftermath that often goes unspoken. This poem addresses those ‘afters’ and the constancy that’s the mind in the middle of the night speaking over itself. Read more…

Amy May Nunn

Amy May Nunn

I wanted to be an explorer. For a long time I had a clear plan, that I would become an Archeologist, escape my family and their art. I would discover tombs and not art. Ocean divers and tomb raiders, these were my people. Growing up I would disappear into the English countryside for hours at a time, eventually developing a ‘Famous Five’ complex, dressing androgynously and insisting that everybody call me George for the better part of two years.  I even convinced myself at one time that the pond opposite our house opened up into the Mississippi and made a raft to float away on, which promptly broke apart and left me with pneumonia. My aspirations of becoming an Archeologist were eventually quieted as I got older (and realised it had very little to do with Indiana Jones), and having been born into a family of artists with sometimes painfully open minds when it comes to my misadventures, romantic, poetic or otherwise, I was robbed of any controversy that growing into a bisexual poet customarily brings.  I feel like becoming a writer was the perfect consolation. It allowed me an entirely new sense of adventure and discovery, one that I could access any time I wanted.

The tiny ghost of an archeologist in me was brought back to life last year though, at a wedding in Dorset where I stumbled across the idea for my current project. I stayed in a small town named Lyme Regis, situated on the Jurassic Coast, and quickly learned this sea worn, crooked little place is renowned for it’s fossil laden cliffs. I began to notice the name ‘Mary Anning’ cropping up in the various fossil shops, on plaques and signposts. It turns out she was a local fossil hunter and paleontologist in the 1800’s, and made some of the most significant discoveries of the 19th century, including dinosaurs such as the first plesiosaur and ichthyosaur. She immediately captured my imagination, and researching her became a new and bizarre obsession. Read more…

Ching-In Chen (Photo by Sarah Grant).

Ching-In Chen (Photo by Sarah Grant).

1 ) You asked me to write about queer as genre, poetry as genre – and all I can think of in terms of intersections is failure and scatter.  What Kind; sort; style, asks the Oxford English Dictionary.  I am obsessed with the zuihitsu poetic form, a hybrid Japanese form which utilizes subjective lists, journal entries, juxtaposition, fragmentation, etcetera, to create a sense of randomness which is not really random.  Because it is messy, chaotic, contradictory, it is a form I frequently return to, especially when I do not always know what and how to say.  It is a form which maps and contains my fear.

2 ) “My poetry is often guided by an impulse to fail.  When this is the case, writing is an attempt to salvage something from the mess.” – Douglas Kearney.

3 ) I moved to Milwaukee from California and met five queer Asian people (not me, though I have been referred to myself multiple times – is this a mistake?  Are others mistaking me for me? Do I look like myself?)  This is totally subjective – I moved toMilwaukeefor poetry, not for queerness.  Yet the search becomes what I frustrate, what pushes me to lineate, what creates the next line, what is filled up here.

4 ) What are the essential qualities that make up this loneliness?

5 ) Queer sorts:

One moved with me from California for school.

One I met in a cafe with leafy greens overhead.   We met there because he drank tea, not coffee (my uncle – a handyman – in another life dreamt of opening a teashop).  I think he had been persuaded to meet with me as a recruitment/retainment strategy.  One of us had been tricked to be there?  My mother was visiting, and we talked about whether he would be comfortable if she came along.  She said, you go ahead, I don’t want to make him uncomfortable.  It was a matter-of-fact conversation, and I cannot remember another one about this topic with my mother. Read more…

Sarah Kay & Phil Kaye

I’d never heard of Phil Kaye, but I did discover Sarah Kay some weeks before receiving word that she was in Australia touring PROJECT VOICE. Having been taken by the way she translates stories into spoken word and small moments into significance, I instantly booked tickets for myself and a friend. Dumbo Feather (a magazine about productive people) kindly hosted Sarah and Phil, who brought their semi-collaborative show Project Voice to the Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne. The project was founded in 2004 and is an acronym for “Vocal Outreach into Creative Expression” which supports teens, encourages spoken word as a way of self-expression which, they believe is the key in understanding the world and the self. Sarah and Phil employ theatre, storytelling, slam poetry, song and humour in their performances.

I had happened upon Sarah’s work BROTHER and ASTRONAUT but was particularly enamoured by FOREST FIRES. She performed ‘Brother’ but adjusted the story to how old her brother is, current time. I love how she carefully weaves imagery with the same accuracy as you’d hold a conversation. So, it felt like such a blessing to receive that email that one of my best made discoveries was actually going to do a show in my city. My poetry blood-beat hopscotched against skin. Read more…

Louisiana State University Press

The word “Ephemeron” itself refers to an object of a transitory or impermanent nature, from the same word root as “Ephemeral”. The book is split into 3 parts via Roman numerals. The thing that most distracted me and was most difficult in navigating the book was its e-book formatting. If only the publishers had made more of an effort here! This is why my review only centres closely around 2 of the poems which can be found in Part I.

“Those are windflowers glowing in the outer darkness just beyond the gateposts” is the first line of Ephemeron sharing the same name of the collection by T. R. Hummer. The line sets up both the natural world and the other, steeped in the beauty of fauna and body, these first lines begin their meditation. The reality of being pregnant at fifty ties in well with the literal voice of nature as perhaps an ally. It also echoes the perceived insanity of such an immeasurable task at half a century of living.

“I smell them gather above me like ravens


Over the promise my body makes. Black

hearted godhood has left them hungry”

 These lines capture well the strange loss of time and sense when birth is unexpectedly factored into retirement. What I make of this first poem is its innate approach to loss and grief, whilst still being able to “see” the things that do beauty well. There’s a quasi-awareness in both language and subject. The poem addresses “zygote” in a tone reminiscent of an open letter.

 “Listen, zygote. The windflower’s
true name:
anemone. It’s true vocation: to be blowing
Against a wooden gate at 6 a.m.”

I love that image of the otherworldly anemone on the wind. The sense of arcane follows through later in the poem “Interrogations”:


about the way water moves, about light. But the child
pulls her skirt, crying time, time.”




This image is both destructive and striking. The poem features animals to show passages of time: horse, weasel, “fossilized skeletons of dolphins”, boar and even the rifle has a “muzzle”. I have been told I often employ the use of animals as metaphor, this may be why I was taken with this “Interrogations”.  There is a nice twist in:

  “In pinewoods at midnight the trapped weasel, gnawing
its own leg, stops to consider its bitter self-taste”

The contrast between these two moments is lovely. What is most evident in this collection is Hummer’s seemingly effortless expression of grief, absence and ultimately how loss transforms. Like its title, these losses are collectibles. The crises that surface leave remnants of death and disease and Hummer turns these aspects into poetic turbulence. These poems almost stand as proof of existence. Our biology says we exist, our physiology says we exist but this kind of existing goes beyond the carbon imprint. The people in these poems co-exist with the gods. These poems read almost like prose, but are undeniably fluid in movement and breadth. So the poems seem to evaluate, collect and catalog scenarios and crises. Like a stamp or coin collection, each piece (moment) feels immemorial. The sense of déjà vu here is uncanny.

The poem talks about the mother as “the old woman” and muses on the knowledge that “Death” is close and closer. The child constantly brings both nature of life and responsibility back into focus. Other characters that feature are the astronomer: “circle of blood on the eyepiece”, the geneticist who is cut open like an alien, the ever watching man as presumed “husband”, the blind girl “…pass[ing] her hands over / dusty spines like a pianist, like a pickpocket”. What pulls all this together is the bare, wild landscape of the country, “impossible now to understand how familiar it was”. The poems, whilst singular feel like they carry one another with their similar voices and subjects. Part of what makes Hummer such a superstar is that he approaches subjects which confront and inquire into the reader’s conscience. The subjects he chooses are both political and personal. They’re “big” subjects that shout and cry, they get your attention and they waver between strong and weak, brave and wild.


T. R. HUMMER was born in 1950, Mississippi. He is an American poet, critic, essayist, professor and editor. He has published poems in The New Yorker, Harper’s Atlantic and the Paris Review. He has 10 poetry collections and 2 essay collections and 2 Pushcart Prizes. Previously, Hummer has taught at Oklahoma State University and guest edited The Cimarron Review, Middlebury College where he guest edited New England Review and the University of California at Irvine. He is a past editor at The Kenyon Review and currently teaches at Arizona State University, where he lives with his wife and his daughter.


The Dan O'Connell

What is the Melbourne Poetry Scene (aka Melbourne Spoken Word Scene)?

The scene essentially consists of all the folk who regularly show up and read at the staple poetry venues in Melbourne. They are, of course, not the only people in Melbourne who write poetry – who knows how many secret poets are out there, shamefully writing away in the dark, their tortured faces illuminated by the anemic glow of a Macbook Pro (even Gina Reinhart seems to do it [please god make it stop]). The ‘scene’ doesn’t necessarily represent those whose poetry has been published, many are purely spoken word performers and don’t even want to be published on the page (calm down, it’s radical thinking I know). It’s a grass roots concept and as such there is no established hierarchy, though you may find yourself wielding some influence as the organiser of a gig, but beware that beautiful yet deranged beast that is the Poet Ego (more on this later.)

How to get involved:

You assert yourself in the scene through participation, and it is as much about socialising and drinking as it is about poems. (Pro tip: try to avoid dating poets. Poets dating poets is like crossing the streams in Ghostbusters. It will end gross and slimy, in a bad way.)

As an enthusiastic poetScenester (imagine, high angle MySpace pics with a quill in your cleavage) your dedication to your craft and your skill is rewarded with Features -  featured readings starring YOU! FINALLY. A ROOM FULL OF PEOPLE STUCK LISTENING TO YOUR STUFF FOR TWENTY OR SO ODD MINUTES – HELLO SUCCESS. If you’re lucky, this will be a paid gig. The popular misconception is that features are something you earn just through quantitative participation, as if you keep turning up they’ll eventually have to give you a go. But this is not high school softball and this is without any analysis of what that means and why venues even feature the Features.

Bring it! 

The Feature is an opportunity for a venue to draw in a crowd, the poets are meant to be good at poetry and interesting for the punters. Being the feature is an acknowledgement of the quality of your poetry (whether this be consistently brilliant, or steady improvements) as well as your performance skills. This point is rather contentious with the obvious division between the ‘page poets’ and the ‘performance poets’. Regardless of your personal preference the fact remains that the two require some crossover, but they are not mutually exclusive or both steadfast requirements. Part of the featured poet’s job is to entertain – whether this is through offering solemn or thoughtful verse, or rollicking, shocking performance. The job is to leave your audience with an impact, either something awe-inspiring to ponder or to enjoy through deep belly laughs. The open mic is a democratic system in which anyone may perform. As a feature, you are the entertainment. In media terms, you are the content. You gotta deliver.


Sweet Talkers

Feature gigs are not just for your own vanity. Yes, as poets we are horrendously self-aware, -conscious, -flagellating, -aggrandising, but any artist who respects their craft knows that it is with the craft they must be first concerned. The scene is also a community, which means being conscious and courteous of other poets and their work. If you want the room to pay attention when you’re on stage, pay the obvious respect of listening to others. There is little else more disheartening and goddamn annoying for a performer than a loud, uninterested and ultimately rude crowd. And anyway if you want to be famous, you’ve chosen the wrong path, kiddo. I don’t know when Australia’s Got Talent is on, but you’d have a better chance on there.

It’s important to remember to not let your ego come through your work when at a poetry open mic gig. If it is an explicitly stated five-minute limit, do not exceed five minutes. You might be able to get away with this by charming the room, but remember that the time you use up means someone else won’t get a chance to read, or the evening will run too long, resulting in people leaving and missing the last on the list. Time limits are not designed to restrict your creativity, rather they ensure a well paced event. Remember you can wow a crowd in one minute as well as you can with five.

And finally, enjoy it. The Melbourne scene has so many wonderful gigs in some damn fine establishments, and the poetry from these fine, creative individuals is both hells enjoyable, and consistently inspiring.

Go Forth and Poet!

If you would like to check out some excellent poetry in Melbourne town you can get along to any of these regular events listed on Melbourne Spoken Word, Pam’s Poetry PitchMelbourne Poet’s Union. Keep a look out for this year’s Overload Poetry Festival.

Jessica Alice is a writer, editor and broadcaster from Melbourne. She hosts Spoken Word on 3CR 855AM and is the Poetry Editor for Voiceworks. Jessica is a regular guest on Triple R’s Aural Text and produces a segment on the podcast Nothing Rhymes with RRR. She is currently writing her Honours thesis on the work of contemporary American poet Johanna Drucker. Her most beloved possessions are her bookcase and her Buffy boxset.