In Which I Confess To Plagiarising Many Poems (PiatoP#5)


In Which I Confess To

Plagiarising Many Poems

Plagiarising Ross Sutherland

On my way home from the poetry reading,

I call into The Austral for a steadying drink

and marvel at the fact that I, Michael J Hopkins,

have not yet been exposed as a plagiarist.


Even though my bio states that I have been heavily influenced

by certain other poets, that I’ve read widely, that I may be channeling

Gertrude Stein and Kenneth Koch, that I attend séances

where my pen is possessed by the spirits of dead poets,


the critics still praise me as an original talent. In my early period

I would make at least some effort to cover my tracks. Lifting whole slabs

of works by obscure Canadian poets was my favourite gambit. Thankfully,

not many people have a copy of Best Manitoban Poetry 1997.


I just replaced snow with red dirt, Douglas firs

with Blue gums, grizzlies with kangaroos, Pierre Trudeau

with Paul Keating and was careful to remove

all references to Mounties. Over time I became bolder.


I incorporated well-known lines unchanged: I wandered lonely

Shall I compare thee …, It was the man from Ironbark …  But my audiences

smiled at my cleverness and applauded. These days I steal poems

wholesale. I can hardly be bothered to change the title. I won the T.S. Eliot


with a clone of The Waste Land, (opening line: August is the shittest month)

the Blake Prize with a knock-off of And did those feet in ancient time,

set to a mix of cockney rhyming slang and ocker (And ya reckon those plates back in the day…?),

the Montreal Prize with a sonnet commencing Shall I compare thee to a winter’s night?


My proudest achievement is putting a third-century Chinese classic through

Google Translate and publishing it as my own original homage to Tao Yuanming.

SQuadrant described it as poetry of ennui, shifting towards sustained

transcendental inclination. It’s great they can find jobs for these critics.


When people ask me to autograph books of my poetry, I sign

with someone else’s name: Keats, Collins, Armitage, even Heaney.

Think of a poet, I’ve copied them. But people don’t bother to read

the scrawled inscription: All their own work or the badly forged signature.


Ira Lightman will track me down eventually,

but I’ll transfer the prize money to the Cayman Islands and decamp

to a south-east Asian country where poetry is valued more than the poet who claims

to have written it and where they appreciate a genuine charlatan.


Er… © 2020 Mike Hopkins. Image from here

Listen to Ross Sutherland’s poem here

Crackertown (PiatoP#4)


No photo description available.

I’ve started, with a group of friends, writing a poem a week during these strange Covid-19 days. I’ll share mine here, regardless of quality. This is the fourth. 


I’m drinking in Crackertown

because teaching a class of bored, phone-fixated teenagers makes me thirsty

because riding home on my motorbike takes me through Crackertown

because Crackertown is full of cheap bars and cafes and reprobates, lots of reprobates

because of the waft of dope, the construction dust, the security guard who looks like my favourite uncle, the fairy lights around the doors

because the bar staff remember me from when I was here ten days ago and might be the only ones all week to ask “how are you?”

because of the brown-snouted, hairy-backed pig trotting from bar to bar, snuffling nuts dropped on the floor

because of the sense that something outrageous has just happened or is about to happen and I want to be there, to witness

because of the low purr of the fridge full of Saigon Specials and Hudas and the sound of the cash drawer clicking out and in and the shuffling of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese dong

because the fellow teacher, who is a dick, walks in and says “Got any spliff man”

because the bar owner went upstairs and got some

because his wife has the shortest shorts I’ve ever seen

because the amateur singers are really, really good

because I can Shazam the music all night

because the two wasted old expats, skinny as rakes, tattooed on every limb, are throwing roundhouse punches in the street but soon will be hugging each other like lovers

because not once in nine months have I ever seen police in the street but rats every night, rats as big as cats, dozens of them, and most weeks motorbike crashes at the crossroads and still no police

because of more old expat guys gazing through an alcohol haze at half-their-age Vietnamese girlfriends

because I meet N and G at Taco Ngon, just a shack by the side of the road, and we choose from the menu of only four types of taco and four types of sauce and beer at $1 a can which we help ourselves to from an ice-filled esky and line up the empties on the low table on the pavement to show how many we’ve drunk

because the waitress counts our empties and paper plates at the end of the night and pencils up a bill for us and on a quiet night the owner invites me to play some incomprehensible board game which I always lose

because everybody in Crackertown is waiting for something, even the pig and the rats and the security guard who looks like my uncle.


“Crackertown” is a name given to the area around the An Thuong streets near where I lived in Danang.


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2020 except photo from here

I Can’t Swear There Wasn’t Love (PiatoP#3)


This is the third of the weekly poems written during the Covid-19 social distancing. The prompt this week was to write a poem which might be entered into one of several competitions. The subjects included place, water, mysticism and love. I don’t write many (serious) love poems, so this is a rarity. Its also a Golden Shovel, a form invented by Terrance Hayes in tribute to Gwendolyn Brooks. It takes lines from a Gwendolyn Brooks poem and uses each word as the last word in each line of the new poem. So if you read down the last word of my poem it will reveal part of the Brooks poem. And of course, the voice in the poem is not necessarily the voice of the poet.

I Can’t Swear There Wasn’t Love

(A Golden Shovel – using part of Gwendolyn Brooks’ “when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story”)

We undressed

our childhood wounds and

bared the stripes whipped

into our skins and held out

our scarred wrists. I can’t swear there wasn’t love at the

start, or even in the middle. I confess to conjuring a light

in her eyes, to loving the lilt in her voice and

being charmed by the way we flowed

across the dancefloor. It turned into

love of a kind, a shared bed,

a sense of being different and

being outsiders as we lay

in a tight-knit town, clinging, loose-limbed

to each other, mistaking alliance for

something deeper. I took on a

co-star role, but could not sustain the moment

-um or remember my lines. Outcasts in

a city of priests and zealots, we scorned the

wafer-thin piety, the schizophrenic week-end

binges of alcohol and devotion. In the bright

light of Sunday, the mothball aroma of bedclothes

and best suits was suffocating then.


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2020 except image which is from here



What You Missed That Day You Were Absent From Meditation Class (PiatoP#2)


I’ve started, with a group of friends, writing a poem a week during these strange Covid-19 days. I’ll share mine here, regardless of quality. The second is a response to, or inspired by, or in parallel to the poem “What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” by Brad Aaron Modlin here.

What You Missed That Day You Were Absent From Meditation Class

after Brad Aaron Modlin

Rinpoché explained how to breathe, to notice the space between inbreath and outbreath,

and how to locate the part of the mind that sends a shiver down your spine when listening


to Sibelius. He spoke of the wisdom of doing nothing and about waking in a panic at four

every morning. He suggested you think about who you were before you were somebody.


The morning dharma talk was about how combing your hair can be a meditation on loss

or even on grief. After a long sit in silence, he gave instruction on how to study a picture


of yourself as a child – to focus on the area around your eyes and forehead where you may see

your life compressed. There was a question and answer session on how to manage self-esteem


when ‘self’ and ‘esteem’ are delusions, and how to reorganise your mental filing cabinet

(hint: not alphabetically). This prompted him to draw a rough schematic of Shakespeare’s mind


at the time he was writing sonnets. The group discussed how not to scream when sending

loving kindness to world leaders and could the Buddha have been wrong about rage


being impermanent? Before sounding the gong, Rinpoché set the task for the coming week:

to find a good home for the people living rent-free in your head.


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2020 except image which is from here

Poems in a time of Pestilence #1

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) - United States Department of ...

I’ve started, with a group of friends, writing a poem a week during these strange Covid-19 days. I’ll share mine here, regardless of quality. The first was a response to, or inspired by, or in parallel to a poem about Covid-19 written by Simon Armitage here.

Let Me Count the Ways of My Virus …

… it causes men in pubs to speak at less than eighty decibels,

dogs to squeak like mice after three barks,

Americans to stop saying “reach out” (unless singing The Four Tops),

Australians to stop saying “that’s unAustralian”,

and shockjocks to receive a shock

every time they broadcast bullshit.

It turns politicians’ lies into pig grunts,

small children’s squeals into flute concerti,

football crowds’ racist chants into hymns,

sermons into words Jesus might have said,

suicide bombers into peaceniks,

soldiers’ rifle sights into pictures of their families,

dirty water into freshly squeezed orange juice,

cheap plonk into organic tempranillo,

dog shit into buttercups,

homelessness into homecoming,

cheeseburgers into vegan Bánh mì.

It causes bad poets to go hoarse,

spoken word poets to stop rhyming,

poker machines to pay out more than they take.

It amplifies choirs,

cools the Antarctic icecap,

gives pollen back to bees,

skims everything above a million dollars

from millionaires’ bank accounts

and spreads it like fertiliser

amongst the homeless.

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2020 except image which is U.S. Department of State