Order “Selfish Bastards and Other Poems”

Cover final

My new poetry chapbook Selfish Bastards and Other Poems will be published in late September 2016 by Garron Publishing.

You can order a signed copy now and pay via Paypal – I’ll post to you as soon as available.

Within Australia – Selfish Bastards and Other Poems – $8 including postage.

Overseas – Selfish Bastards and Other Poems – $10 including postage.

Click on the “Donate” button below to order and pay for your copy:

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Mike Ladd launches Garron Publishing’s series, ‘Southern-Land Poets 2016’

Rochford Street Review

Garron Publishing’s series, Southern- Land Poets2016 was launched by Mike Ladd on 6 October at the Halifax Café, 187 Halifax St., Adelaide, SA.

mikeladd-enhanced Mike Ladd launches the Southern-Land Poets 2016. photography by Rob Walker, 2016.

Garron Publishing is the creation of Gary MacRae and Sharon Kernot. Their Southern-Land Poets series, featuring contemporary South Australian poets, is now up to its twentieth chapbook. It’s a nice format. Having only twenty-two pages tends to focus the minds of the poets on finding a theme and keeping the selection tight.

alisonflett-enhanced Alison Flett reads from Vessel. photograph by Rob Walker, 2016.

The Garron tradition is that each chapbook has a title poem, so let’s start with Alison Flett’s Vessel and other poems. The title poem is a knockout and it’s great to see long-form poetry getting a run here. ‘Vessel’ is a highly visual poem, incorporating multiple reflections and…

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Parking the Bus


To park the bus –  metaphor – to play very defensively, to get a lot of players behind the ball, to have no attacking play, to make it almost impossible for the opposition to score, as if a bus  is parked in front of the goal. Tactic attributed to José Mourinho when manager of Chelsea.


For José. After Henry Reed

To-day we have parking the bus. Yesterday,

We had conning the ref. And tomorrow morning,

We shall have how to waste time. But to-day,

To-day we have parking the bus: the scent of liniment

Sweat and fresh-mown grass drifts across the pitch,

And to-day we have parking the bus.

This is the ankle breaking tackle. And this

Is the studs up tackle, whose use you will see,

When you are given your boots. And this is the offside trap,

Which in your case you have not got. The coaches

pace on the touchline with their frowns and foul language,

Which in our case we have not got.

This is the goal line clearance, which is always performed

With an easy flick of the foot. And please do not let me

See anyone using his hand. You can do it quite easy

If you have any strength in your foot. The injured

Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see

Any of them using their hands.

And this you can see is the dive. The purpose of this

Is to fool the ref, as you see. We can dive

Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this

drawing the foul. And rapidly backwards and forwards

The forwards plummet and the midfielders plunge:

They call it drawing the foul.

They call it drawing the foul: it is perfectly easy

If you have any strength in your foot: like the shirt pull,

And the high tackle, and the shoulder charge, and the trip,

Which in our case we have not got; and the physios

with their magic spray, and the balls going backwards and forwards,

For to-day we have parking the bus.

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2016



For the second time this week the corpse of a possum hangs from the Stobie pole out the front of my house. I call the power company to come and take it down. The power man arrives with his cherry picker, rubber gloves, boots, ladder and overalls. He stands, looking up at the corpse suspended between pole and wire. “Second this week” I say. “He nearly made it”, he says, “just touched his tail on the wire, shorted himself out; still, only a possum eh?”.“Yeah”, I say, “only a possum on his way to run all over my bloody roof when I’m trying to sleep”. That night, a replacement possum stomps above my head at two a.m., promoted from the ranks to front line service.


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2016

Garron Publishing Southern-Land Poets Series Launch

A review by the lovely Julie Birch of the launch, last night, of the Garron Publishing chapbooks of 2016.

J V Birch

Last night was the launch of the Southern-Land Spring series from Garron Publishing at the Halifax Café.  And the place was bursting at the seams, with people flocking to hear the latest work from some fantastic poets – Mike Hopkins, Alison Flett, Steve Brock, Judy Dally and Louise McKenna.


MC’d by Gary MacRae from Garron Publishing with Sharon Kernot on book sales, which incidentally went like hot cakes, Mike Ladd introduced the line-up, another outstanding local poet.


First to read was Mike from his ingeniously titled Selfish Bastards and other poems, a collection described as a ‘parody of parodies’ and so naturally Mike read the title poem, which required audience participation.  My favourite line has to be ‘Poets at poetry readings who go over time with their boring bloody confessional poems about their boring bloody tragic lives – Selfish Bastards!’ (shouted by the audience). …

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Book Review: The Vegetarian by Han Kang

The VegetarianThe Vegetarian by Han Kang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

*Spoiler alert* – describes elements of the plot of the novel.

Despite the title, this is a novel, not a cookbook, and it is not so much about a vegetarian as about a woman with severe anorexia and mental illness. The book won the Man Booker International prize 2016. The author, Han Kang is from Gwangju, South Korea. The translation from Korean is by Deborah Smith.

To me, the book is somewhat cold and dispassionate. I never really felt involved with any of the characters. The story is told in three parts. The first part tells of Yeong-hye’s loveless marriage to an autocratic, chauvinist husband, Mr. Cheong, and her decision to become vegetarian. The decision sets off a series of destructive events involving her husband, her parents, her sister and her brother-in-law. It would seem that vegetarianism has a long way to go towards being accepted in Korea. The second part takes us into the sister’s marriage, and the brother in law’s artistic obsession. This section climaxes in the full breakdown of relationships. The third section looks at Yeong-hye’s mental illness and descent into physical and mental breakdown.

Some of the coldness of the book may come from it being translated from Korean. I’m not doubting the translator’s skill, but it may be that there are more subtleties and more colour in the original. Or maybe not. The book describes a still highly paternalistic society. Yeong-hye’s anorexia is clearly a reaction to her upbringing, her oppressive marriage and the rigidity of Korean society.

This is not an enjoyable book and I am not sure I would have picked it as a major prize winner. The writing is, to me, a bit heavy-handed, and the plot, at times, stretches credulity. It does however provide interesting insights into a paternalistic society and the mind of an anorexic.

View all my reviews

Launching “Selfish Bastards and Other Poems”


The launch of my chapbook  “Selfish Bastards and Other Poems” will take place at the Halifax Cafe in Adelaide on Thursday, October 6th, 2016. I am in the illustrious company of Alison Flett, Judy Dally, Louise McKenna and Steve Brock, the other poets in the 2016 Garron chapbook series. It could be a big night.

If you can’t make the launch, you can order copies of “Selfish Bastards and Other Poems” here, and I will post to you as soon as they arrive from the publisher.

Grim and Grimmer. Film Review “Sunset Song”

Spoiler Alert – This review reveals key elements of the plot of “Sunset Song”

Terence Davies is perhaps my favourite film director. He makes beautiful films. They often draw on his own childhood in England. They often prominently feature damaged male characters. He unashamedly disavows any need to entertain or please his audience. When asked why his films are often slow and dark, he said “They are a gift”. I don’t find his films boring or dark. Visually they are stunning, and the soundtrack is carefully constructed to complement and lift the film.

So where does that leave “Sunset Song”, his latest film, about a rural Scottish family at the outbreak of the First World War? This is a longish (2 hrs 15 mins) film based on a novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon.  The Scottish landscape is stunning, although I’m not sure the sun shines quite that much in Scotland. The story follows Chris Guthrie, from childhood through to married life. She is played brilliantly and convincingly, I thought, by a relatively inexperienced actor, Agyness Deyn. To my ears, her Scottish accent was convincing. All the roles, in fact, are well-played with the possible exception of Chris’s husband, the confusingly named actor Kevin Guthrie.  The scene where he returns on leave from the front did not convince me at all.

There is a lot of violence in this film, without too much blood. Chris’s father is particularly abusive to her brother, who submits unflinchingly to the violence. Chris’s mother is victim to the father’s sexual violence, which is eventually too much for her. Chris herself is unscathed until her war damaged husband takes out his anger on her. Unlike her brother, she does not submit meekly.

Other than some happy times immediately before and after her marriage, there is not much light in this film. However, I suspect it is a film, like Davies’ others, that will linger in my consciousness. His determination not to lightly entertain us is front and centre in this film, as is his preoccupation with the damaged male psyche, the pointlessness of war and the negative influence of organised religion.

In cinemas in Australia now (September 2016)


Pictures from Abandoned Buildings

I wandered past a nursing home not far from where I live recently, and noticed a side gate ajar. Peering in, I realised the home was abandoned.

Inspired by an idea from the photography course I’m currently doing, I went back with a camera and tripod. It was quite an unnerving experience (as well as illegal of course). I wasn’t sure what I might find around each corner, behind each closed door. Clearly I was not the first intruder. Here are a few of the photographs.


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2016

Incident at the Exercise Park

This is the fifth assignment for the MOOC, “Whitman’s Civil War: Writing and Imaging Loss, Death, and Disaster“, through the University of Iowa.

This assignment is as follows:

In words and/or images, compose a piece in response to a memory of conflict, war, loss, or trauma that includes two or three central sensations: perhaps a sound that corresponds to or contrasts with a sight, perhaps the feel, noise, and smell of a place. 

I was walking one evening last week, through a nearby park used in the evenings for dog exercise. Out of apparently nowhere, a chicken appeared in the middle of the park. All hell broke loose. I’m pretty sure the chicken jumped the fence from a nearby house owned by an elderly Italian couple, who keep chickens in their back garden.

I’ve killed two birds with one stone here (pun intended) – I was meant to write about my trip to Mildura Writers’ Week last month, to share with fellow travellers Heather Taylor Johnson, Gay Lynch and Louise Nicholas. They all managed to write about Mildura, but I cheated and wrote about a chicken instead. Thanks to Heather, Gay and Louise for reviewing this poem. The version here is 2nd draft.

Incident at the Exercise Park

Blue Heelers, Poodles, Terriers, Retrievers,

all bustling eagerness, romping,

rolling, off leash on cold evening grass.


Drenched air, lemon scented gums,

a yellow glow from the old-folks home washes

over the iron fence. Cars sweep by, headlights

beaming, wipers swishing.


Above the smell of rain, of overcooked greens

and thickening gravy, of grass and gums:

the sudden presence of chicken.

Bemused, disoriented, strayed

from some backyard run into foreign territory.


A madness grips the animals,

a predatory reflex: chase, kill,

taste flesh. Everything is bark and bite,

hunter and hunted; a churning

of legs, ears, teeth, a helter-skelter

of fur and feather. The panicked bird

fleeing the snap of teeth.


In the cacophony, owners bark orders, call

hounds to heel. A man leaps into the whirl,

whips the stunned chicken from the chomp

of jaws, shields it under his jacket.

The clamour subsides in a fug of wet fur

and drooling maw. Charges are muzzled,

collars clipped to leads; a smear of blood

wiped from nose, a feather plucked from lip,

warnings delivered against ever again behaving

like animals.


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2016