Kicking off Pride Week 2013 with a beautiful piece of poetry from Chloe Brien. This piece shows us how to see, how to fall head first into a disaster, into love and then learn how to walk without a second shadow.  A perfect way to celebrate the beginning of Pride Week on Metre Maids. We will be featuring more poetry and pieces on Pride throughout the end of June.


Abandoned weatherboard house, room of syringes and
their plastic wrappers. I watch her scrawl poetry
across plasterboard walls of the living room—
kicked in television and carpet depressions
where a couch used to be. Rain of chalk dust, green,
pink and yellow on her shoes, streaking black stockings,
bruising the purple jacket — colours she’d never wear.

I read the poetry she uncurls. I’m not sure if it’s hers
or another’s. In that moment I can’t care. Beautiful,
I breathe. And she says, 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…

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…



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.





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.



Kate Fagan – The Long Moment
Salt Publishing

Kate Fagan is an exceptional Australian poet and musician whose collection, The Long Moment, was published in 2002. Her latest offering is First Light (Giramondo Press) published last year. Her work has appeared in Meanjin, Salt and Calyx: 30 Contemporary Australian Poets. Fagan’s previous works are the chapbooks Thought’s Kilometre (Vagabond Press) and return to a new physics (Tolling Elves). This is a slim and beautiful collection spanning 105 pages, and a work that revisits the former collection.

Think science, music, geology, biology and mathematics. Fagan’s poetic ear is finely tuned and her poems are polished and each is a humble image. Reflect on how these small moments expand outwards and approach complex themes. The first section Calendar starts at April and continues on with 9 prose poems which expands on the idea of organisation on a monthly basis, becoming somewhat of a diary. My favourite lines are from (august) with ‘Emptying over a balcony, slow light recalls the loss of a city.’ There’s something that’s both simplistic about the nature, but also knowing in its grief. Grief, too, is a slow process of gathering oneself. Read more…


Illustration Cover by Hannah FantanAt first glance this collection reminds me of the way MTC CRONIN accounts for each image, the way one might do so with a list, or taking stock of an item. It’s kind of what I love about CRONIN and what impresses me about Christmass’ poetry. The poetry even utilises space beautifully, echoing precisely the metronome pattern of the sea. At the same time this space is precarious within its typography.

At the beginning of this self-published collection released from Scribd. The site is essentially a huge shared library where you can upload original and innovative works, accessible online or on your smart phone. There’s a keen consistency of rhythm and this undercurrent carries each line as an individual, which is very much what the players of this collection rely on. The narrative can be interpreted on different levels or perhaps an intended gathering of all aspects. The title and the way the poem expresses itself makes me think perhaps a homage to Kerouac’s, The Sea Is My Brother.

Some images that caught my eye which I loved were:

a tempest of albatross
and death
a globe beneath
surface of brine

The thing I soon realised is that 666 SHOULD BE THE SEA doesn’t let you up for air, it keeps you under like a careful and practised anesthetist  It doesn’t even give it’s subjects—the crab or the swordfish—pause or mercy. The ocean swallows everything.

666, the enigma of numerical evil represents unknowns. The sea overtakes the highway and Christmass does well in this transition of the sea (the natural) to apocalyptic (the unknown). There’s no sense of panic in this shift, the directions are soft and kind ‘Let the sea in’ almost like a chant. As readers and witnesses we become the sea and the poem proclaims ‘Become the sea, and so become idealess’. Drawing imagery from lines and curves, ‘hooks’, ‘nets’ and put up against an altered nature: ‘symmetrical fish’. The poem tells us to try not to drown, when the odds are against us.

The great thing about this collection is that you can read the first column straight down its margin or you can read across the line. This gives us a two for one kind of bonus and is an exceptional feat in terms of how difficult that kind of thing is to pull.

This poem is mad. It gets mad with the way its been such a glutton: ‘the swell, the hairy-tailed current of the towering / ocean drift’. Read more…

Buy it from Amazon!

It’s the launch party for my teen poetry collection Dog at the End of the World in three days, and a terrible thought has struck me:

I’m going to have to mingle.

Now, I’m sure there was a point in my life where I had social skills, (mostly chatting up graduate students at English faculty events,) but I have no idea how to start a conversation with a stranger if I can’t open with “soooo, tell me about your thesis…”

At this party I’m meant to be the centre of attention: creative, witty, intelligent, engaging. I’m meant to have something to say for myself. I am in terrible trouble.

I tried googling “social skills for poets”, hoping that some helpful person had written a website dedicated to this exact topic. I’m sure I can’t be the only poet out there who doesn’t know how to function in reality. But apparently it’s too niche even for the internet. Read more…

Welcome to the second edition of Ask a Twitter Poet.  This week I was thinking about how often water comes up in my writing.  Maybe because I’m from New England, grew up on the coast, and then lived in New York city before moving to Texas where, well, we’re basically landlocked.  I dream a lot about water, too — last night I had version #34695467y of the recurring dream where my bathroom is flooding.  And so often dreams like this get incorporated into my work.

So I thought I’d ask what other folks find as recurring topics in their work.  Not abstractions like love or politics or the meaning of life, but straight up, concrete images: birds, sand, trees, breakfast cereal. Below are some of the answers I got on The Twitterz:

Read more…

Candlewick Press, July 2012.

There are two things that pretty much guarantee my interest in a book I haven’t yet read:

1. Fairy tale retellings.

2. Ron Koertge.

I have yet to read anything by Koertge that I’ve disliked — poetry or prose, adult or young adult.  And his latest, LIES, KNIVES AND GIRLS IN RED DRESSES, is no less than what I’d expect from a fairy tale book by Ron Koertge.

Cleverly blending the classic, gruesome, Grimm-style folklore with a few modern references, each poem in Koertge‘s short collection is a mini retelling of a fairytale.  Spanning from classics like “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Cinderella” to lesser known tales like “The Little Match Girl” and “Diamonds and Toads,” each poem takes on a distinctive, artful voice to carry the short narrative. Read more…