LONNIE’S LAMENT,  the latest collection of poems by Ken Bolton, was recently published by Wakefield Press. Bolton has been a major figure in the Australian poetry and experimental writing scene for decades.  Whilst he says that he writes ‘to keep awake, and amused’, this latest collection is yet another reminder of how wonderful a writer he is.  

This rather small and slim book is in four sections. Most are new poems, some have been published in other collections before. They are incisively written often as stream of consciousness poems.

The pieces are lyrical, thoughtful,  dreamily associative and easily distracting. Bolton reflects on life in ‘difficult times’ and tries to capture how recognize the feeling of changing from one era to another, describing it as being like, ‘a history of the vanishing present’. The poems explore how we define ourselves and how we think we are perceived by others.

There is a great use of the senses in his . Some of the poems are short – only a few lines – others are several pages in length. There are many references to other poets, art, artists, films and books. Bolton’s poems question the meaning and purpose of life and death.

Bolton’s poems with their loose rhythms and sudden shifts jump fluidly between Europe and Australia – mainly Sydney and Adelaide- and there is repeated mention of a favourite Greek restaurant Bolton used to frequent.

The book’s first section consists of three poems.  The opening extended poem 2/12/08A Poem for Philip Whalen meditates not just on Whalen and his work but on Bolton’s father’s World War 2 service. There are references to many artists including Grace Cossington-Smith, the Bauhaus, Rembrandt, Kirchner, and Apollinaire.

 Life is a series of short couplets over several pages reflecting on the brevity of life, the passing of time and the passing of important loves in Bolton’s life.

The Funnies uses comics as a springboard for social comment and analysis.

The book’s second section is entitled September Poems and comprises thirteen poems. Poems range from The Palm , where the exploding burst of fronds and the Ent- like ‘ tree-ness’ of the palm is captured to The Blues which is a meditation on inspiration and travel. Geography is visually and aurally sharp and evocative.

Rooftop Apartment is written with a painter’s eyes and love of detail. West Hampstead captures the feelings brought up when Australians catch up far from home.

The third section consists of five poems. New Way of Worrying is a stream of consciousness poem – should he be worrying about Life? Old friends he hasn’t seen for ages? He observes other people and speculates about what they are worrying about.

It also captures other people he is observing and their possible worries.

Train Tripping has plenty of Australian references and is about eavesdropping on people’s conversations.

September Song is about the writing of a poem with dreams of giving a lecture on poetry.

What’s Best distills images of a flower and the moon. or is a streetlight?, interspersed with reflections on his partner Cath’s writing.

The final section – All New Tunes – opens with Spirits – which jumps between Sydney and Surfers Paradise and Bolton’s favourite Greek restaurant. Drink and the muse are invoked as are the spirits of old friends.

Maybe For You twists standard expectations of gender and identity and looks at ways of reading and comprehending a poem. There are also many musical references too.

30:11;12 concerns stylistic decisions in Adelaide and Fewer Pages is another exuberant yet thoughtful riff on reading, art and dogs.

You would be able to read this book in one sitting but my recommendation is to read/savour only a few poems at  a time, and then have the pleasure of returning to the book at a later time and having another very enjoyable session.

Publisher – Wakefield Press

Category –  Literature – Poetry

Format Paperback

Size 210 x 148 mm

ISBN 9781743054727

Extent 112 pages

Released March 2017

RRP- $22.95.




Sydney’s premier poetry night, “Word In Hand”, is set to host one of the greatest voices of our time on April 4th with the Windham-Campbell prize winning, Yankunytjatjara/Kokatha poet, Ali Cobby Eckermann.

As an award winning writer and survivor of The Stolen Generations, Cobby Eckermann uses her own experiences to weave powerful and provoking poetry that often shines a light directly on issues Australia continues to try to ignore.

When asked why she writes by Poetry International Rotterdam, Cobby Eckermann said: “I guess I write for both my families, and for my ongoing healing that I need in my life. Mostly though for the Aboriginal audience. It is my biggest thrill when they attend any forum to hear my words. I have been amazed at the reaction from the wider Australian and international audiences to my poetry, which encourages me to keep writing too . . . Poetry has also been the tool to assist my adopted family to understand some of the change that occurred deep within myself. I often say “poetry saves lives”.”

Poet and activist Candy Royalle, who will also be hosting the night, wrote about Cobby Eckermann’s work for The Guardian saying: “Poetry has the potential to pierce through the intellectual and aim straight for the heart. It can move people in ways other crafts can’t. So it is with Ali Cobby Eckermann’s work.”

This April, Word In Hand promises to be a night full of passion, power and pride, and with Ali Cobby Eckermann well on her way to international superstardom, this may be the last chance to catch her in such an intimate setting.

This awe inspiring event at Glebe’s Friend In Hand Hotel will also feature a performance by Sydney superstar Nancy J Dennis whose impressive resume includes: Truth (2012), alongside Cate Blanchett; 2:22 (2008) opposite Michiel Huisman; and the role of Foxy Baker in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby.

As always, Word In Hand offers the audience more than just a night of inspiring and thought provoking entertainment – it gives them the chance to be involved too, with open mic, games and prizes up for grabs.


Word in Hand with Ali Cobby Eckermann will take place on April 4 between 7 pm and 10 pm at the Friend In Hand Hotel, Glebe.

For more about Word In Hand – April Edition, visit http://www.wordinhand.org/
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Have you ever considered the fate of the humble childhood toy  “Jack in the box”  ?

Well, Rosemary Dobson has:

“He crouches low and supplicant/His elbows knocking on the wood…/He waits the tapping at the locks/He hears the children calling”Jack!”…/They think he sleeps, but how he weeps/His small tears falling with no sound……”

Rosemary Dobson was a distinguished and prolific Australian poet who died in 2012 at the age of 92. Her poetry is somewhat more intellectual and detached rather than visceral…but nevertheless she still writes movingly of the human experience.

COCK CROW puts a handful of her poems in a musical context. Leonie Cambage is the poet’s voice (she trained as an opera singer), Shaun Ng plays Lute, Viola da Gamba and Theorbo, and  Diana Weston plays Harpsichord. Continue reading COCK CROW : ROSEMARY DOBSON IN WORDS AND MUSIC @ MOSMAN ART GALLERY



Above- Jenny Duck-Chong, Daniel Herscovitch on piano, Geoffrey Gartner on cello and Ewan Foster on violin. Featured photo- David Malouf, Jenny Duck-Chong and Gordon Kerry. Photos by Paul Davies.

The first time I ever heard chamber music was in a medieval church lit by candlelight in Dubrovnik, Croatia. It was atmospheric and the acoustics were superb.  Cut to Drummoyne and the challenging contemporary chamber music benefited from the warm acoustics of St Bede’s Anglican Church.

This recital which took place on Saturday 10th September was staged by Halcyon, an advocate for new contemporary music, especially by 20th century composers.

With a career spanning more than 25 years mezzo soprano Jenny Duck-Chong is the Artistic Director of Halcyon. She performed in the first piece, composer Margaret Sutherland’s Woman song, Midnight and Winter Kestrel, based on poems written by Judith Wright and Duck-Chong was sensitively accompanied by Daniel Herscovitch on piano. Herscovitch is Associate Professor in Piano at the Conservatorium of Music. The abstract rhythm and metre of Wright’s poems were equally matched by the dissonance of the intense, bold, long flighted melody that threw out a challenge to Duck-Chong which she easily mastered. She found a balance between voice and words and her diction was excellent so as to wring the emotion from the poems.

This musicianship  was continued in composer Brett Dean’s Literature And A Child Is A Grub, based on Michael Leunig’s prayer poems, which are both whimsical and serious. Duck-Chong ably mastered these contradictory themes.

Composer Roger Smalley’s Piano Trio was performed by Ewan Foster on violin, who currently works with the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, Geoffrey Gartner on cello, who has played ambulatory cello for the Sydney Dance Company’s CounterMove, and who lectures extensively at Universities and Conservatoriums  throughout Australian and the United States. Daniel Herscovitch played on the piano, the titular instrument in this piece. It draws its inspiration from  a chromatic chord of Chopin’s Mazurkas. The work comprised with a prelude cherzo followed by a passacaglia. The Trios performance encompassed hypnotic dissonance interspersed with accessible Chopin like motifs and extracted the delight and complexity of this piece. Composer Andrew Shultz’s Paradise naturally deals with a dystopian world. Performed by Gartner on cello and Herscovitch on piano, this piece is sung by soprano Alison Morgan. Again with a 25 year career span, she has performed as a soloist with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Pinchgut Opera, The Song Company amongst others.  Shultzs’ melodies matching its theme were, for me, the most accessible. I found that I was so enchanted by Morgan’s bell like soprano that I occasionally lost track of Shultz’s lyrics.

I have presented mini biographies of these performers to highlight the calibre of musicianship and to show how they have battled and won  the challenge for audience acceptance of new classical chamber music.

My favourite piece was the whimsical The Domestic Sublime Part 1, composed by Katy Abbott Kvasnica, based on the poems of Christopher Wallace-Crabb. The poet asks us to pause and think about mundane things like shaving, changing beds, and the indoor yacht and spinnaker when you throw out the bed sheet, and coathangers coming to life. These pieces show that new music can have a sense of humour. Alison Morgan sang playfully, accompanied by Herscovitch’s piano chords.

The next piece brought a real sense of occasion to this enjoyable recital. This was the World Premiere of David Malouf’s Three Malouf Songs and it was performed in the presence of fabled author David Malouf and its composer Gordon Kerry. Both they and the audience were delighted by the performance of Duck-Chong, violinst Foster and cellist Gartner. The three songs – Stars, Rock Pools, and The Glass House Mountains had the theme of water interacting with the shoreline. Kerry created music that shimmered like water and brought out liquid motifs on the piano. Duck-Chong’s mezzo soprano beautifully amplified  the glassy piano chords and string harmonies suggesting still and then suddenly shattered water surfaces. Malouf’s songs are intensely atmospheric and the performance captured this. The piece was also performed in the presence of the compositions’ sponsors Denise and John Elkins who applauded enthusiastically.

Petit Testament, the final piece, composed by Elliott Gyger, saw both singers harmonising and singing counterpoint to each other. The piece is based on the hoax poems of Ern Malley, (really written by James McAuley and Harold Stewart), spoofing incomprehensible modern poetry.  Duck- Chong and Morgan mimicked the two poets whose voices then create a single musical line and then drop out of unison into polyphomy as though the two poets sought to highlight their individuality.

Symphony Orchestras can only be commercial  if the contemporary classical music they play is a musical score. So the modern Symphonic icons are composers like John Williams and Enrico Morricone. By playing in intimate venues like St Bede’s Church and performing for love rather than money, Halcyon keeps the flag flying for new Australian and international chamber works.




Halycon's Artistic Director Jenny Duck-Chong. Pic by Michael Chetham.
Halcyon’s Artistic Director Jenny Duck-Chong. Pic by Michael Chetham.


“A verbal art like poetry is reflective; it stops to think. Music is immediate; it goes on to become.” W.H. Auden

Each art has a language of its own that can ’speak’ to us. Poetry can resonant within us, its chosen words honed into crystalised form. Music, wordless, can stir, move, shake or provoke us. In song, these two powerful languages are synthesised, the poet’s and the composer’s voices intertwining, shining new light on the words while drawing out fresh musical ideas. Yet no one song or poem speaks in the same way to us all; our responses are as diverse as our human experience.

The songs and cycles in THE POET’S VOICE are the work of contemporary Australian composers, inspired by Australian poets and writers, who explore their shared understanding of our world, our environment and our everyday life with works spanning a period of almost 50 years. Features the poetry of Judith Wright, David Malouf, Michael Leunig, Ern Malley, Christopher Wallace-Crabbe and Andrew Schultz and songs and song cycles by Margaret Sutherland, Brett Dean, Elliott Gyger, Andrew Schultz and Katy Abbott Kvasnica, Roger Smalley’s Piano Trio and the world premiere of Three Malouf Songs by Gordon Kerry.

Artists: Jenny Duck-Chong mezzo soprano, Alison Morgan soprano, Ewan Foster violin, Geoffrey Gartner cello, Daniel Herscovitch piano

Tickets $35/$25
Bookings: http://www.classikon.com
Enquiries: info@halcyon.org.au
For more information go to www.halcyon.org.au

Halcyon’s concert THE POET’S VOICE will be performed at St Bede’s Church, Drummoyne on September 10 at 5 pm.

For more about Halcyon presents The Poet’s Voice, visit http://www.halcyon.org.au
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Tempus fugit. It is one of the preoccupations in the peony of poems contained in the Faber

Tempus fugit, (Latin for time flies), reminds one of the staple cinematic device of calendar pages a blowin’ in the wind to mark the passage of time. Calendars are the flighty, flirty bosom buddy if not kith and kin to the more steady diary, both now somewhat quaint in this digital age.

For cold, hard appointment keeping, one’s tablet or phone is perfectly adequate. However for concise elegance in date data, THE FABER & FABER POETRY DIARY 2016 is an appointment application par excellence. Continue reading FABER AND FABER POETRY DIARY 2016

The Emma Press Anthology of Dance

Rachel Piercy and Emma Wright, writer and editor of The Emma Press
A very talented team- Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright, writer and editor of The Emma Press

“Dance is present at every stage of human life,” declares editor Emma Wright in the introduction to her wonderful anthology.  “From lessons to courtships to celebrations and moments when music just demands a response, dance is an essential part of our textured existence.”

This is a small, delightful book full of contemporary poems about dance in short, staccato bursts. There are forty two poems included from both established poets and emerging voices. What is interesting as well is that four of the contributors (Katherine Gallagher, Hilary Gilmore, Melinda Kallasmae and Lana Faith Young) have links to Australia.

A very diverse assortment of dance styles are included ranging from ballet, Flamenco, street, historical, Irish, ballroom to even in private dancing. Continue reading The Emma Press Anthology of Dance

FRIDA PEOPLE @ The Sound Lounge


Candy Royalle with her backing band Sloppy Joe performing the songs from new album, Frida People
Candy Royalle with her backing band Sloppy Joe performing the songs from new album,

This was a superb night of  high energy explicit poetry and great hip-hop/rap music, challenging and, above all, highly entertaining.

The three warm up acts, which covered the first hour,  included a multitude of inspired poetry pieces.

The  show started with  Gloria Demillo who captivated her audience with her performance.

Anthony Anaxagopou, guest poet from the UK, followed Gloria, delivering hard-hitting poetry, tackling  heavy subjects such as sex, politics, and our place in the world… Continue reading FRIDA PEOPLE @ The Sound Lounge