On Retreat at Glenbarr

I spent the weekend (16-18th April 2021) on a meditation retreat held at a beautiful old homestead in Strathalbyn, about an hour’s drive from Adelaide. I’ve done several retreats over the last ten years or so, including a ten day Vipassana retreat in Battambang, Cambodia, and various 2-5 day retreats in South Australia. This one was run by Anna Markey, of Coast and City Sangha, at Glenbarr homestead. I met Anna before Covid when she and Ken Golding ran a climate change themed retreat in Victor Harbor. I liked her approach and sporadically attended her sessions in Adelaide until Covid forced a halt. Her approach is unlike others I’ve experienced, in that she does not recommend trying to avoid or ignore your thoughts during meditation — rather, she espouses recollective awareness, whereby you allow your thoughts to occur, and briefly journal them at the end of the meditation. In this way, over time, you become aware of your predominant patterns of thinking. The weekend was mostly spent in silence (apart from dharma related discussions), and without any electronic distractions. There were multiple meditations each day, mostly forty-five minutes long plus a short journaling session after each meditation.

I haven’t been writing much since the start of Covid, so this period of quiet isolation was an opportunity to get back to poetry of some kind, however basic. As part of my post meditation journaling I wrote a haiku-like (not all strictly haiku format) poem related to either the meditation or the discussion.

Glenbarr Homestead was built in 1842. It has a huge personality of its own, and is home to a range of very active wildlife. On the first evening, for instance, a bat came into the meditation hall and swooped over our heads for several minutes before being enticed outside by turning all the lights off except for an external lamp. A huge flock of correllas made regular flights over the property, and there were numerous unidentified animals to be heard running around and over the roof.




Meditation One:

what is the sound

of one bat flapping?


The Heritage Wall:

Its sounds are impervious

to our passing thoughts


Meditation Three:

The roof is alive

to the sound of footsteps


Even your own mug

can teach you a life lesson

about attachment


A meat-eater’s tee-shirt:

how can a vegan respond

in a skilful way?


Need a more Buddhist

response to the barking dog

than “Shut the Fuck Up”


Scott Morrison’s path

is less of The Middle Way

more The Muddle Way 


Sounds of the Sangha

Throat clearing, yawns and snoring

test my compassion


He was too far out

all his life, not sleeping

but meditating


The discussion group

wanders off the eightfold path,

falls over a cliff


St. Leonard Cohen

let me burn the fuel

of my agitation


May I witness the

causes and conditions

of my grumpiness


Each chattering thought

is like a corella’s squawk

saying “Look at me”


__________________________________
Copyright Mike Hopkins 2021

Book Review: The Application of Pressure by Rachael Mead

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The application of pressure by Rachael Mead

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is, in equal parts, an insightful, jaw-dropping, hilarious, horrifying novel about the lives of two paramedics in Adelaide, South Australia. Mead leads us through the careers of two paramedics, Joel and Tash, from their initial training through to their becoming veterans of the profession. She does this using fairly self-contained chapters, each recounting part of a day in the life of the heroes of the book. And heroes they are. After reading this book, you will have a new-found respect for this profession, because Mead pulls no punches in describing the blood, gore, faeces and other bodily fluids they deal with on a day-to-day basis. She also sheds light on the vast range of people treated by paramedics, from the innocent victims of car crashes to the druggies and domestic abusers. But she does this by placing front and centre the humanity of the paramedics, the toll on their personal lives and the mental strain on them and their partners. She also leavens it with a healthy dose of humour – at times a wry humour, at other times outright belly laughs.

This is Mead’s first novel, and all the more impressive for that. But she is already an experienced and highly-respected poet and reviewer. This experience is evident in the quality of the writing, the depth of characterisation and the easy flow of her story-telling. You can count on the authenticity of the stories because her husband is himself a paramedic, so she has an unparalleled level of insight into the life of what Australians simplistically refer to as “ambos”.

Above all this is a rollicking good read which you will not want to put down.

Tip: never again refer to a paramedic as an ambulance driver. But read this book and if you ever need to call emergency services, you will hopefully be in the capable hands of a Joel or a Tash.





View all my reviews

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

Poets, Pizza, Crowd-Sourced Poetry and Requests

Last night (Friday 17th Jan 2020), I performed in the beautiful new pavilion at Coriole Winery, overlooking the majestic McLaren Vale vineyards. A large and raucous crowd, fuelled by the excellent Coriole wines and fed by pizza from the newly constructed pizza oven, gave a warm reception to me, Sarah-Jane Justice, Emilia Haskey and Alison Bennett. The evening was MCd by the lovely Jude Aquilina who interspersed the performances with poems of her own and of others, including a new and very moving one to her partner Brenton, who had been fighting the bushfires on Kangaroo Island.

I tried something completely different as part of my set last night. I distributed clip boards amongst the crowd and asked them to write one liners about behaviours that make them want to shout “Selfish Bastards” at other people. I thought I might get one or two suggestions or none at all, but was inundated with contributions. Clearly there are a lot of selfish bastards out there. At the end of my set I incorporated most of these lines into my “Selfish Bastards” poem. It was a lot of fun. There were lewd, rude, funny and insightful lines from the audience. Just a  few of my favourites:

“People who holiday in Hawaii”

“People who dump me Xmas Eve (fuck you Dan)”

“People who don’t believe in climate change”

“People who think sex ends when they’ve orgasmed”

“Carnivores who eat all the vegetarian pizzas”

“People who’s mobile phones ring during poetry readings”

“People who know they’ve had more pizza than the rest of us but keep on eating it” (with accompanying diagram!)

Anyway, the poem itself went down well, and the whole evening was great fun. Many thanks to Jude Aquilina for the invite and to the wonderful management and staff at Coriole Winery for hosting the event. If you’re ever in McLaren Vale, pay them a visit, not just because they support the arts, but also because they are lovely people, their wine is world-class and the winery is such a beautiful spot.

Two people asked me for copies of poems I read which are not yet published, so I thought the easiest thing to do would be to put them here on the blog where they can access them and pass them onto friends. One is my sensitive little love poem to Donald Trump (for Tom from Norfolk – have fun in India). The other is my take on Philip Larkin’s “This be the Verse”, mine being titled “This be the ReVerse”, for Margret without an “a” – hope your children are the ones you deserve.

======

Donald Trump, I Love You Man

Oh Donald Trump, I love you man

Your orange skin face and your bright golden hair

Your peppermint breath and your predators glare

Your hair surfs your head from one side to the other

like a baby hamster in search of its mother

I love how you hold up your neat thumb and finger

like you’re summoning thoughts through the hole in your sphincter



Oh Donald Trump, I love you man

I love the way you don’t read no books

You got all your wisdom from working with crooks

No need for long words, no speech hi falutin

Your message is simple, just trust Mr. Putin

We trust you’re the man to clean up this mess

We don’t trust you more but we distrust you less



 

Oh Donald Trump, I love you man

You’ll keep those illegals from crossing our borders

with their nachos and tacos and cheap Margaritas

You’ll build a huge wall and you’ll send them the bill

and if they don’t pay you’ll nuke them to hell.

Real ‘mericans will get the great jobs that they do

Like mowing the lawn and cleaning your loo



 

Oh Donald Trump, I love you man

I’ve heard the fake news of your sexual disgrace

with cute Russian hookers who piss on your face

And the stuff about groping and grabbing of pussy

Your businesses bankrupt, your real estate dodgy

But you wouldn’t waggle your horny old trumpet

In Russian hotels, with weak bladdered strumpets



 

Oh Donald Trump, I love you man

You say you can see that the future is dark

some say that’s because your head’s up your arse

You did it the hard way, you started with nowt

Apart from your billionaire Daddy’s hand out

You’re not polite and you’re not genteel

And you pulled off the greatest old snake oil deal

that’s why, Donny baby, our love is for real.

That’s why Donald Trump, I truly, madly, deeply love you man


=====================

 

This Be The ReVerse

after Philip Larkin’s “This Be The Verse”

 

They fuck you up your sons and daughters

They mean to, yes of course they do.

They blame you when they shouldn’t ought to

Denying all that you hold true.



 

And we fucked up our Mums and Dads,

Complained of absence and neglect.

Our rebel instincts drove them mad,

We thought them gormless, dull, inept.



 

We place the blame on those before.

We pass the parcel in reverse.

But here’s a truth you can’t ignore:

You get the children you deserve.





----
Copyright Mike Hopkins 2020

Gig: Wednesday 2nd October 2019 at The Wheatsheaf Hotel.

NW OCT

The monthly No Wave readings are a sort of heir to the long-running Lee Marvin readings which stopped a few years ago. Curated by Dom Symes, Banjo James and Olivia De Zilva, they usually feature four invited poets. Each poet reads for ten minutes with a break between the second and third readers. The Wheatsheaf is a great pub, serving a wide selection of their own and other micro-brewery beers, wines and spirits. Always a nice buzz at these readings. Get along if you can. $5 entry.

———-

Instapoetry

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I did a short workshop on Instapoetry with Kate Larsen recently, at the Guildhouse in Adelaide. Kate is / was artist in residence at ART WORKS. From her bio:

Kate Larsen is an Adelaide writer, arts manager and non-profit/cultural consultant. One of Australia’s best-known social media poets, her alter ego Katie Keys (or @tinylittlepoems) has written and posted a daily poem on Twitter or Instagram for nearly a decade. Her work has been published or commissioned by Arts Centre Melbourne, the Australia Council, Kill Your Darlings, Overland Journal, and anthologies, magazines and blogs in Australia, Singapore and the UK.

and she says:

The internet has given birth to an exciting new world of digital poetry. Putting your poems onto Instagram (or other social media platforms) can connect you to a vibrant online community and expose your work to a much broader audience.

The workshop was a succinct introduction to ways of putting your words, usually along with an image, onto a social media platform. Kate mainly focused on using the Over app to do this, and within a remarkably short time, had most of the twenty or so participants posting a fresh poem on Instragram.

Some Instapoets have developed huge followings and gained greater exposure and financial benefit than would have been possible following the traditional publishing path. The most famous is Rupi Kaur, an Indian born Canadian poet, writer, illustrator, and performer. There is much debate in the poetry community about the merit of InstaPoetry, but it cannot be denied that it has introduced poetry to an audience that it would not otherwise have reached. The downside risk as that poets will be tempted to “write for clicks” rather than for quality, resulting in a plethora of “Hallmark card” / inspirational poems.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a series of short poems on the theme of “The President’s Mirror”. InstaPoetry is a perfect medium for exposing these poems to a wider audience. I’ve started reformatting them for Instagram, and am posting one a day for the next month or so (one example shown above). You can follow me on Instagram here  or via the Instagram app. The latest posts are also shown on the right hand side of this blog.


copyright Mike Hopkins 2019

Paroxysm Album Tribute Gig – Nevermind, Nirvana

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Friday 19th July 2019 at 19:30
Broadcast Bar
66A Grote Street, Adelaide, South Australia 5000

Six writers / poets (including me) will give their response to tracks from Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album.  This is one of a series of gigs run by Paroxysm Press over the years, in which they invite writers to perform their work in between blasting out tracks from the chosen artist. I’ve taken part in previous gigs which featured Kate Bush and the Divinyls. Kerryn Tredrea of Paroxysm Press curates these events and always picks interesting albums and an eclectic mix of writers. The results are often zany, unpredictable, edgy, chaotic, inspired, fresh and entertaining.

The Facebook event is here

This description of Paroxysm Press will give you an idea of the sort of evening to expect:

“Paroxysm Press rose from the gutter of the Australian music scene in 98’. It’s been fighting tooth and nail ever since to publish the type of hard edge, honest and high impact writing we all love and live for ourselves.

Poetry and prose, ‘shotgun’ fiction, rapid-read novellas; tight, slick, hard hitting spoken word that can hold the stage and keep an audience on their toes even in front of hundreds of drunken music fans. The Paroxysm Crew carry with them a passion, a stubborn anger and a strong awareness of their need to entertain that sees them now among the best authors this country has to offer.

Paroxysm Press simply refuses to die; we will not back down, we will not go away. Every year we get bigger, every year we expand our audience and (most importantly) our much valued, much loved cult following. Like-minded writers from around the world now gather here with us to fight for the power of words. Bigger name authors stand by our side even when the rewards are less than they can receive elsewhere because they too believe in the hard, tough, true to life material we publish. They see Paroxysm fight against a world it can never beat – but they stay anyway – because they can see the fire in our eyes.

Paroxysm Press : ‘too stubborn to die’”

Poetry Season #1 – “Shine”

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The Wavy Path

I’ve just started a course with talented poet and all-round great guy Andy Jackson. Andy is based in Castlemaine, New South Wales, so the course is run via email. I, and nineteen other lucky students, split into two groups of ten, receive a detailed prompt and poems to read on a Monday morning, and respond with our own poems by the Friday.  Then we give feedback on the other poets’ work in our group, and finally Andy gives us his detailed feedback. The course runs for six weeks. This is the end of week 1 and so far it looks like it’s going to be really useful and instructive. Best of all, it forces me to write, and I usually need to be forced.

So I thought I’d post my weekly poem here. They will all be first draft, though not quite as first draft and instantaneous as the poem a day napowrimo poems. And I’ll likely be concentrating on prose poems, which I want to write more of this year.

The prompt for the first poem, greatly summarised, is “summer”. This is my response:

capture
Image:COP Biodiversity and Landscape https://www.flickr.com/photos/copbiodiversityandlandscape/35687633296

Caution – Rabbits hitch-hiking

Near Ridge Park, Adelaide is a traffic sign, which used to warn of elderly people crossing. For some weeks now, the sign has been upside down (see above). It’s on Glen Osmond Road, near the bottom of the south-east freeway. It would be one of the first things people driving from Victoria see on arriving in Adelaide. (For non-Australian readers, there is a fair bit of animosity between Victorians and Adelaideans). I often wonder what they might think of the sign, especially if they’ve looked at optical illusion pictures. On the other hand, they probably just see an upside down warning of elderly people ahead.

 

Caution – One-Eyed Rabbits Hitch-Hiking

Caution – One-eyed rabbits smoking cigars

Caution – One-eyed rabbits line-dancing

Caution – Abusive two-finger gestures ahead

Caution – Abusive two-finger gestures combined with A-OK gestures ahead

Caution – Abusive one-balled rabbits ahead

Caution – Elderly people helping each other across the road whilst doing head-stands

Caution – Elderly Inverted Line Dancers Ahead

Caution – Fancy cocktails with two straws ahead

Caution – One eyed rabbits drinking fancy cocktails ahead

Caution – One eyed rabbits spitting out fur-balls ahead

Caution – Double Fuck off back to Victoria

Caution – Bad shadow puppetry ahead

Caution – Rabbits cleaning their ears with Q-Tips

Hey Victorians:  Fuck off back to Melbourne and take your bloody one-eyed, one-balled, cigar-smoking, fur-ball-spitting, cocktail-drinking, line-dancing, hitch-hiking fucking rabbits with you.

 

Glen Osmond Road, Myrtle Bank


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018