I couldn’t read until I was 9 years old, I stared at the words and imagined all sorts of things, longingly filling in the blanks for myself. I pretended to read out loud, I loved the sound of words and how it felt when I was telling a story, but the idea of words was something I only ever enjoyed in private, in places where there were no consequences. School was a treacherous place, and words were hostile, they humiliated me, they played cruel tricks. At the age of nine, after weeks of unsuccessfully tackling the classic b and d problem (confusing one for the other that is), in a fit of intense frustration, I marched up to the white board in front of my entire class and wrote ‘Amy is dumb’, or that’s what I meant to write, what I had in fact written was ‘Amy is bum’. There was of course much laughter, the creation of a new nick name ‘Nunn bum’ and an ongoing practical joke involving a peanut butter sandwich left on my chair. Okay so not my finest moment, but one that began a strange and significant chain of events. This was the moment I quietly promised myself to get even one day, to use the enemy’s weapons against them, wreak havoc, to show them all.

At the age of 12 I moved with my family to Australia, where unfortunately dyslexia is barely recognised within the education system. I was put into a ‘special needs’ class with children who had severe mental disabilities, and spent my days feeling utterly lost, isolated and deeply ashamed. After a few years of my mother pleading with teachers and doing everything in her power to bend a very rigid system, it eventually became clear that my best option was to live with my father back in London for a trial period, where I could attend a dyslexic school. Read more…



University of Queensland Press, 1999.

There’s this book of poetry I take with me to every single poetry workshop I run. It’s Steven Herrick’s young adult poetry novella, A PLACE LIKE THIS. My mum used to buy me books sometimes – she’d give them to me after school in the car. This was one of those books. A PLACE LIKE THIS was published in 1999 by Queensland University Press. It’s the companion volume to Herrick’s other YA verse novel, LOVE, GHOSTS, AND NOSE HAIR, but you don’t need to know that to enjoy its story. The cover is so reminiscent of the 90’s I almost expect The Ferals were occupying the space beneath that sepia corrugated iron backdrop.

As a high school student, there where times when felt like I couldn’t write poetry because I limited myself to thinking poetry was only the rhyme and rhythm available to read and dissect in the classroom. In senior years were asked to pull apart poetry until it didn’t mean what you thought it meant anymore – until it was only techniques and metaphors you argued in essays. By year 12 I could differentiate between the poetry I was asked to practice my thinking on in the classroom, and the poetry of my home-life. Home-life poetry was the stuff I could imagine to, relate to, and marvel at the music of, because there weren’t guidelines or rubrics instructing me otherwise. Two things made this happen for me: growing up, my mum used to play Pablo Neruda’s poetry, read by celebrities including, but not limited to, Julia Roberts, Glenn Close and Madonna, on a CD on repeat in the car everywhere, all the time. It only competed with Vonda Shepherd in her basement bar with its brooding lawyers on the Ally McBeal soundtrack, and Eva Cassidy’s Songbird. By year 12, when I didn’t understand a poem, the Neruda CD taught me to read work aloud and listen to my own words. I learnt to love Margaret Atwood’s JOURNEY TO THE INTERIOR– an old HSC ‘journeys’ text, that way. Also, my Mum bought me A PLACE LIKE THIS, and the book switched something on for me.
Read more…

When I was a student in a Master’s program, I found I’d been accepted into a prestigious program for fiction and had also gotten a fellowship at another brand new program in poetry. I went to my professors, begging for advice. It seemed to me the first time in my life I faced such a big decision and actually had multiple good options, rather than a series of lesser evils. I went to my major poetry professor and asked him what I should do and he said, “You should be the first person to turn down the Prestigious Program,” and he did make that sound appealing. I went to my major fiction professor and he said, “The question is really simple: Do you ever want to make money from your writing?” His implication was clear: everyone knows poets don’t make money. But then, literary fiction writers (with those rare and bewildering exceptions) rarely make all that much either.

I’d like to say that at that moment I thought of the donor of a small prize I’d won earlier. She was a little old lady who wished to remain anonymous but the faculty made sure I got to meet her. She told me about how she’d met Robert Frost when she was an undergraduate, that she had picked him up at the airport for a reading at the school, and how kind and gracious he had been to her. That was one of her main reasons for funding the award. I was very grateful to her (and to Robert Frost for being so civil, so unlike the more common model for poets). The prize allowed me to buy a printer and some books, all of which I still have and rely upon. Read more…

Milkweed Editions, October 2010.

Milkweed Editions, October 2010.

For the most part, I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. I don’t mean with poetry, or with prose, but with life. Most days, there’s a devilish beast at the bottom of my spine telling me I’ve got it all wrong. What have you done with your life? Little selfish word-eater, time-waster, navel gazing narcissist. Get a real job. Help someone. Do something. Solve problems. Grow up. But other days, especially when I’m on the road and sharing poems with strangers, I think it’s all going to work out, and that in some ways I am helping, even if just by pointing at the pain and the joy and saying “Yeah, me too. I see it, too.”

The most recent poetry tour was 1335 miles, 11 events in 8 days, and 9 total days of car travel. When traveling with 2 dear friends and poets, Adam Clay and Michael Robins, and writing a poem every day for National Poetry Month, and meeting up with other knee-deep poetry makers on the road, it does begin to feel like, well, like dropping acid. Everything feels a bit more psychedelic and nothing’s not moving or breathing or shoving itself into a poem. No abandoned cow, no unsung greasy grackle, no roadside attraction unworthy of more words. How good it is to leave your small safe room where the majority of the work gets done in quiet reflection, risk the unknown city’s welcome, risk the bloat and glutting of road-miles, and go Willy Loman some poems.

Packed and ready to go!

Suitcase packed with SHARKS IN THE RIVERS.

Read more…

vw84cover_largeQ: Voiceworks published your poem ‘Darlings’ in issue #84 PULP. How did you find the process?

I was so thrilled to see ‘Darling’ find its first home in ‘PULP’. That issue was published a little while before my 25th birthday, so I was almost but not quite too old to be sending poems to Voiceworks! As for the process, Voiceworks is very hands on, and I so admire the time and energy the editors put into their writers’ work, especially young and emerging writers. On the other hand, I’m inclined to feel that work should be accepted or not accept as is; that there’s something sort of tricky about accepting a piece of writing conditionally, with suggested edits, especially where such edits are extensive or significant. I suppose this depends on the writer and their experiences, and whether they’re looking for feedback, or to workshop what they’ve written. And honestly, who doesn’t love a reader—someone who will read your work closely and offer a detailed response of some sort? That Voiceworks also offers feedback to both successful and unsuccessful contributors is something else I really appreciate. 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…










Verandah is a literary and visual art journal published in Melbourne, Australia. Founded as a student-run publication, the first issue launched in 1986. Originally situated beneath the shade of the vast verandah’s surrounding Victoria College, a place in which the journal takes its namesake. The publication puts emphasis on new and emerging writers and fosters creative talent and skill. It honours the work of Deakin University students, but also calls for submissions from across international writers and poets. The journal also gives out prizes according to category. The Matthew Rocca Poetry Prize was named after a dedicated student of Deakin, who unfortunately passed away during a year of study, his parent’s have fossilised his love of poetry within this prize.

2013 will mark its 28th year in print and editors are currently seeking submissions of short literature and poetry for publication later this year. Your closing date is June 1. We are honoured to extend this invitation to Metre Maid readers and look forward to reading your submissions. Submission fees are fed back into the publication at no profit to the University or volunteer staff.

For guidelines, check out www.deakin.edu.au/verandah

This years editors are Hayley Ryan-Elliot, Jonathan Lawrence, Kyah Horrocks, Lauren Hawkins and Leizl Bermejo





Last year I had the words ‘you that sang to me once sing to me now’ tattooed on my right inside forearm. This was not a mid-life crisis act but was overwhelmingly to do with poetry.
The quotation is the first line of a poem by W. S. Merwin ‘Song of the Nomad Flute’ is a poem which appears in The Shadowsof Sirius,[i] a collection which was published in Merwin’s 80th year. I’ve read and re-read this collection, finding new lines and images that sing to me on each reading. When I embarked on my year of learning poetry by heart, ‘Song of the Nomad Flute’ was the first unrhymed poem I learnt. I followed it with another from the same collection – ‘Good Night’, which has some intricate repetition in it and appears to be a farewell to a beloved dog (although I wouldn’t mind having it read at my funeral!).

But my admiration of the individual poems in this book did not impel to me have that line forever inked into my skin. It was the more the collection as a whole and the age at which Merwin published it. Over the last few years, this collection, more than any other, has come to exemplify for me the kind of unapologetic poetry a poet should write and keep writing.

I think there are times in every writing career when a writer reaches a pause. It isn’t exactly writer’s block. Nor is it entirely a period of evaluation. Perhaps you’ve balanced a day job and family life with the private job of writing for a number of years. Perhaps you’ve given writing precedence in your life and you look around you to find that your friends have other lives, plan holidays and do more than window shop. You wonder why you’re writing when you could do so many different things.

When I paused, it was more like fatigue  –   but fatigue with the anxiety that surrounds writing. I was tired of trying to make time  every day to write. I was tired of wondering whether what I was writing was good enough. I wondered whether or not I was pushing my own boundaries. I knew I wasn’t submitting work regularly. I’d let elements of my writing life slip while I attempted to finish other writing projects that clamoured for my attention. At the end, I was simply exhausted by my own mouse-on-a-wheel anxieties.

It didn’t help that my part-time day job was online-teaching, an isolating occupation. Nor did the state of the publishing and related industries help. It was difficult to maintain faith in my profession when I heard almost weekly of independent bookshops closing down, publishers retrenching editors and abandoning imprints and genres. Who would be left publishing poetry when the dust had settled?

the Shadow of SiriusThen I re-opened Merwin’s collection and read his limpid, spare yet mysterious and intimate poems. I was struck by their fearlessness. Some of the lyric poems in The Shadow of Sirius talk in the ‘unadorned voice of a close companion who speaks softly and urgently, as it were, into one’s very ear.’ [ii] It seemed to me that Merwin, as an older poet, was relaxing into his craft. I was very aware that his apparent simplicity – is the result of a lifetime’s rigorous editing and rewriting. I couldn’t speculate how – or indeed whether – Merwin has arrived at a place where all experiences can be accepted, but I could work on my own fear. The first step for me was being reminded that poetry keeps singing to you if you remain open. In my case it was already inked into my skin. I’m not suggesting you do that! But I have compiled a small do-it-yourself list for anyone who also feels that they are paused in their writing career.


  1. Don’t panic. You might simply need a holiday. Everyone else takes a holiday, so why can’t a writer? Declare a holiday for your writing self. Make sure that you note the start and end of your writing holiday on a calendar or in a diary. (You may, of course, write during this period, but don’t feel guilty if you don’t.)
  2. Make some simple goals – decide, for example, to write one poem a month, or submit five poems to competitions. Write these down and tick them off when you complete them.
  3. Attend poetry readings – hearing other people read their work, reading your own work  and just hanging out with other poets can be enriching and make you remember you are part of a poetic continuum.
  4. Set yourself some writing tasks – call these ‘Doing the Scales’ or any other name that implies practice writing. Schedule these into your day or your week.
  5. Finally, write something quite different. Write a picture book. Write a script. Embark on an interlinked narrative about smart young things living in five different space stations, bookended with sharp haiku that all have to have the word star in them.


May that which sang to you once, sing to you now.


[i] Merwin, W. S., The Shadow of Sirius, Copper Canyon Press, 2008.

[ii] http://thecresset.org/2012/Trinity/Weinert_T2012.html 




Catherine Bateson is an Australian poet and writer for children and young adults. Her last poetry collection , Marriage for Beginners, was published by John Leonard Press. She partially overcame her writing anxieties by joining the Tuesday Poem Blog group and posting a poem on her own blog each Tuesday. In June this year she heads to Paris for three months, courtesy of an Australia Council Grant.


I also drew whale-eating-jellyfish to keep myself sane in the dark days.

I also drew whale-eating-jellyfish to keep myself sane in the dark days.

It’s quite simple: Today is May 4th and I am on poem 28.

Assuming I write two more poems in the next few days, I will have done NaPoWriMo five times. By “done” I mean I’ll have written 30 poems, in quick succession, with no regard for their quality, around April-kind-of-time in five separate years. A NaPuritan might say this doesn’t count. They might decree I have to write exactly one poem, every day, thirty days running starting April 1st, or it isn’t NaPo. Someone a little less hardcore might say that I should, at least, wind up by April 30th. And if that floats their boat then I wish them a good voyage.

But I don’t think it matters. It would matter if, come May 1st, all the grist dropped out of my mill and I a stopped writing. It would matter if, among the wasted days of poetic incontinence, I failed to indulge in an occasional verse orgy. But I’m easygoing. And poetically libidinous. And I don’t mind dragging the affair out.

Embarrassment is part and parcel of the NaPoWriMo business. This year I indulged in love poetry and angst like I never did this as a teen. Obviously I was making up for lost time. For instance:


I don’t just want you to be here

Art by Chris Giles of My Beautiful Paintings

I want to make you be here, tie you
to a string round my wrist and drag you,
not like a puppy,
but like an angry rabbit.


If you always head east, head west,
just drive. Turn up the hi-fi
and try not to think.

You’re thinking.
Don’t think, just keep breathing and blinking,
you’re thinking, you’re thinking, don’t think.

No, don’t blush for me, I’ll own my own inadequacies.

But that’s not all! No, this year I wrote about twitter, xkcd, dinosaur comics, Gotye covers and cat videos. I wrote lovingly of the arcane Gloucestershire tradition of cheese rolling, a sport so dangerous it was banned (but has that stopped the free cheese rolling spirits of Gloucester? NEVER).

These are natives of Gloucester chasing a cheese that is rolling down a hill.

These are natives of Gloucester chasing a cheese that is rolling down a hill.

This year I sat on the carpet with my mother at 1:38am watching a storm and discussing matricide, then wrote a poem about sitting on the carpet with my mother at 1:38am watching a storm and discussing matricide. This is how it starts:


I sat on the bedroom carpet
with my mother
discussing matricide.

It continues like this -

A mirth of matricides? she said,
a perpetuation of matricides
would that work?

A legacy of matricides, I remarked.

And concludes,

We were waiting for the lightning
to strike the church opposite,
for the cat to squeal and run for the towel basket,
for grandma to pass on.

So now you know.

(Actually I quite like that one. I guess I’m just lucky enough to have a mum who is insane.)

In all honesty I’ve written reams of total gibberish this month. But I’ve never been one to cling desperately to a dead poem in the hope that a wizard will come along with a spell to make it live. I don’t mind writing a bit of dross to get to the good stuff. Actually most of my best poems I’ve typed hurriedly in a moment of procrastination or in a lunch break, thinking they were awful. It’s only later, sometimes months later, I look back and realise they’ve got something worth redeeming. The poems I labour over always come out laboured.

I expect NaPoWriMo isn’t for everyone. I expect I am exactly the sort of person NaPoWriMo is for. The type of person who gets bored easily; who constantly wants to start the next project, and not worry about perfecting the last one; a goal-orientated workaholic; and the type of writer who only has two settings when it comes to editing, tweak and overhaul.

I will leave you with an inspired piece from day 3:

Pirates! Three of them
on the fo’castle
doing a jig:
knees up knees up
clink hi ho!
Not interested in a
whale like me.

If your life is burning, well then poetry is just the ash.
–Leonard Cohen

Words.  God, I love them.  Unpredictable.  Knotted.  Liquid.  Percussive. Baked and flat.  Round.  Grainy.  Leached and slim.

And the silences.  I love them more than words.   Empty.  Heavy.  Thorned.  Sometimes taut.  Sometimes fat.  Glassy and stilled.  Ridged.  Slicked.  Stuffed and flexed.

I wrote my first poem when I was 4.  I would like to say it was mensa material, but frankly, it was terrible.  What I still marvel at is that I was always drawn to this form of expression.  I didn’t know what a poem meant but I loved it purely.  The value of words, their weight, their counterweight.  The vowels, the bones, the muscles.  Weeding through the fat.  Now, I recalibrate daily to stay as much as possible in that original love.  To resist wanting to control the words.  It’s a fight to not domesticate the poem.

Process.  Every time.  Walking into each poem, the moment can turn out to be as small as a second and as big as a bull ring.  For me, it always feels like a blood sport.  Primal but epic.  Personal yet external.  Once I exhaust myself, I can slide into surrender.  Finally, I can give in to the release that builds when you let the poem rise up.  Sometimes it hunts me.  Sometimes it wades.  Sometimes it’s a whisper that I have to grab the tail of and wrestle down.  I like the surprise and letting the alchemy take over.

And then of course, there is the poem that resists me.  For months, I keep catching glimpses.  I know it’s there.  It’ll make eyes at me and poof, it’s gone.  Occasionally, it will come back.  And when it does, I have to be ready for it.  I have to be a snake charmer, very still and seductive, to trap it while it’s doing its dizzy dance.

After that, comes surgery.  Not always but often.  The pruning but not over pruning.  I mustn’t carve out its heartbeat.  That has to stay wild, untamed.  The poem must maintain its ineffable urge that brought it from a thought spark to paper.

And finally, comes the selfishness.  Poetry is my high.  I’m an addict.  Greedy for words.  And even more greedy to be unlocked.  To feel like I’m sitting in the lap of life. In sync.  With secrets dropping from the sky.   I want to burn up life.   And poetry is just the ash.

You see, I want a lot.
Maybe I want it all:
the dakrness of each endless fall,
the shimmering light if each ascent.

–Rainer Maria Rilke

Elena Evangelo.

Elena Evangelo was born and raised in New York City’s Chelsea district to Greek immigrants.

She graduated from Vassar College with her B.A. in English and French. Afterwards, she received her M.F.A. from the USC, School of Cinematic Arts, graduating Phi Kappa Phi. There, she was also awarded The Jeffrey Jones Screenwriting Scholarship and The Ray Stark/ Ted Turner MGM Award. Elena also went on to Paris to study French Theater through NYU.

Elena has appeared in the films G.I. Joe Rise of Cobra and Purpose and is slated to star in the epic East of Byzantium. Her television work includes roles on Justified, Revenge, Body Of Proof, CSI Miami, 90210, Monk…

She is also a published poet and continues to produce and direct films.