Launching “Selfish Bastards and Other Poems”

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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.

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Copyright Mike Hopkins 2016

Order “Selfish Bastards and Other Poems”

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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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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

 

1st Prize and Highly Commended in Salisbury Writers’ Festival Competition 2016

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I heard over the weekend that I was awarded first prize in the open poetry competition at Salisbury Writers’ Festival Writing Competition for my poem “My Father’s Blood”. I also got a highly commended in the short story section for “In the Beginning was the Cliché”.

Two contrasting works: one a serious piece recollecting my late father, and the other a humorous take on the English language.

Both pieces will appear in my upcoming chapbook to be published by Garron Press in the next few weeks.

Here they are:

My Father’s Blood

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In the Beginning was the Cliché

  and the cliché was with God and the cliché was God, and oh my God, the cliché was the best thing since sliced bread. And after the false start, when everything in the Garden of Eden was not rosy, what with the sticky patch caused by the low hanging fruit and the snake in the grass, the cliché got the ball rolling again. Everything but the kitchen sink was in the cliché, and through the cliché. And without the cliché there was nothing to write home about.

And God gave the one true cliché to a man who didn’t have a penny to his name, and told him “go forth with this cliché which is the spice of life and the light which shines at the end of the tunnel, and it will overcome the powers of darkness and will make the world go round”. And the one true cliché took the world by storm, though it was a small world, when all is said and done. And the man led the horse to water, and the people followed him to the bitter end. And he said he who comes after me with a cart, will gift you a horse, and he who comes before the horse has bolted must look it in the mouth, but if it is dead, do not flog it nor get back in the saddle.

But the people were young and foolish, and did not stay glued to the one true cliché. The man tried in vain to put the people back on track, but even those that lived in glass houses threw stones at him. They took to false clichés like ducks to water, and the clichés grew like weeds, and were as much like the one true cliché as chalk is like cheese. And so, at his wits’ end, God grabbed the rope that he had given the people enough of, picked up his bat, ball and the one true cliché and went back up the stairway to heaven which echoed with the sound of a fat lady singing.

 

Typology of Stobie Poles

I’m doing a photography course at the Centre for Creative Photography in Adelaide, the second module I’ve studied there. This week, the subject was formalism, and the assignment for the week is to take some formalist photographs. I particularly liked some of the “typological” photographs which the lecturer presented. “Typology is the study of types, and a photographic typology is a suite of images or related forms, shot in a consistent, repetitive manner.”

I set out from my house to search for ideas and the first thing encountered out of my front gate is a large Stobie pole. “Stobies” are a particularly ugly South Australian invention. They are power line pole made of two steel joists held apart by a slab of concrete and were were ‘invented’ by Adelaide Electric Supply Company engineer James Cyril Stobie (1895–1953). In my view, they are a blight on the urban landscape. However, they make a surprisingly interesting subject for typology photographs.

Here is my first cut:

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Absence

This is the fourth 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:

Professor Folsom noted in our video discussion that Whitman encountered many soldiers who, even in the silence of a peaceful night, still heard the noises of Civil War Battlefields, sounds and sensations that never left them. These reverberations crept into the silence of each night, making those spaces unbearably loud. What are the unseen remnants of our modern conflicts and traumas? What losses or absences do you or do we continue to sense from things that are no longer present? In words or images, compose a piece that explores the “phantom limbs” of a trauma or traumas.

—————-

13 Ways of Looking at Absence

I

The child:

fatherless

before birth

II

the teenager:

role models

missing in action

III

the alcoholic:

memories

blanked by oblivion

IV

the drug-taker:

unhinged

unparented

V

the stray dog:

cowered

unleashed

VI

the wandered mind:

unwilling

to be present

VII

the lost keys:

determined

to be overlooked

VIII

the dementia ward:

short-term memories

extinguished

IX

the war veteran:

hope replaced

by horror

X

the aboriginal:

amputated from land

spirit adrift

XI

the abusive priest:

oaths broken

scruples dispensed

XII

the bully’s victim:

confidence lost

trust breached

XIII

the disgraced sportsman:

dreams shattered

image broken

 

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2016

 

Account of a Survivor of an Australian Bushfire

Bushfire

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

This assignment is described as:

“The kinds of oxymoronic reactions that Whitman had toward the war are some of the most difficult to articulate in words—to express how one can both hate and love the same thing, find it beautiful and horrifying, sustaining and devastating.” In words or images, compose a response to an event or experience that invoked this kind of contradiction for you. Consider how craft can call upon contradiction—in form, syntax, diction, metaphor, exposure, or juxtaposition—and employ those elements in a manner most fitting to your experience.

I took some key words and partial sentences from an ABC interview with a survivor of the 2009 Victorian fires, just as Whitman took newspaper reports as the basis of some of his prose and poetry.

—————-

Account of a Survivor of an Australian Bushfire

It was forecast: the worst heat on record. Nobody can say they weren’t warned. The day started bloody hot and got hotter. We knew straight away that this was more than a hot one, it was going to be a catastrophic one. The wind blew up from the west. It was like being inside a fan forced oven. By late morning, the sky was still clear, but somehow threatening. I went inside for a cold drink. When I came out, there was a column of smoke, thousands of feet high. It was a straight column and it loomed right over us, directly above our house. The sun was directly behind it. The column had white edges, like cumulonimbus. And then it was all sorts of colours, but at its heart it was ochre – deep, deep ochre. Balls of yellow fire hit the deciduous trees around the house. Flames went into the trees, smoke shot out. All around the house, the light went golden. Through every window it went golden at the same time. We felt a burning, radiant, ferocious heat, and then it passed. We just huddled together on the floor, waiting to die, but somehow it passed. The only thing that saved us was the sprinkler system on the roof. The fire passed right over us without igniting the house. I don’t really know how.

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2016