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

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.

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


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


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



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:

Collage 2016-08-20 16_54_28

Friends with Drinks


Les (Murray) between drinks

The dynamic Kathryn Hummel has a project going, called “Friends with Drinks”. If you have anything artistic to contribute on the theme of drinking with friends anywhere in the world: words, images, whatever, have a look at her tumblr page and submit, submit, submit. Kathryn kindly published my “Art of Boozing” yesterday:

The Art of Boozing (after Elizabeth Bishop)

There is also a Facebook page and a SA Writers’ Centre blog page

Submission are via the tumblr page.


Getting Liwulis with Joshua Ip

Joshua Ip

Joshua Ip is one cool guy, and he knows how to run a workshop. I’ve been to quite a few poetry workshops, and sometimes come away disappointed. The disappointment can be caused by a number of failings – maybe my own failing to stay engaged and to concentrate, or the failing of the workshop presenter to stay on topic and cover the required ground in the time available, or the failing of one or more participants to listen rather than to talk endlessly about themselves.

Josh has been touring Australia, appearing at poetry and writing festivals in the major cities. He tells me it is no problem for him to sell 2-3,000 of his poetry books in Singapore! (F**k me, how many Australian poets sell that number of books – count them on one hand I’d guess).

The workshop I did with Joshua yesterday (6/9/2015) on Asian Forms (of poetry), suffered none of those failings. A good group of participants fully engaged by a guy who knew his subject, knew how to put it across, listened intently to his students, kept the subject entertaining, and covered a lot of ground in the three hours available.

I’ve heard of haiku, and renga and tanka and ghazal and pantuns, but I’d never heard of empat perkataan or liwuli. Great to come away from a workshop with new knowledge.

Josh got us to attempt each of the forms he covered. I particularly enjoyed the liwuli, which is originally a Chinese form, but has been ‘appropriated’ by South-East Asian poets, in a playful and mischievous way (so Josh says anyway).

A liwuli is a 3 stanza poem. The first stanza must be 31 syllables, and be an imperative, a set of instructions. The second stanza is 14 syllables, broken into 3 lines (no specific number of syllables per line). The 3rd stanza is 10 syllables, and must be a question or questions. Josh suggested that each stanza must ‘move’ to three different places, express three different emotions. Traditionally, the title is in the form “Liwuli: this is the title of my poem”.

You can also reverse the order (i.e. 10, 14, 31), and that becomes an ‘iluwil’, and you can pair a liwuli with an iluwil. I got the impression from Josh that Asian poets like to play with variations of these forms, and, amongst his peers at least, not take them too seriously.

In the limited time we had (about 5 minutes I think), I came up with this first cut of a liwuli:

Liwuli: How to Drown a Cat


Take it by the scruff

block your ears

do not look into its eyes

have the bucket of water ready

the water must be ice-cold


Innocence is subjective

look at

the bigger picture


Was your heart as cold

as the ice water?

Josh’s website is at: Joshua Ip

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

Two Gigs in One Night – How did that happen?

This is the first, at 6pm Wednesday 26th August 2015 at the Halifax Cafe with cycling partner and writer extraordinaire, Heather Taylor Johnson:


and the second, starting 90 minutes later, just up the road from the Halifax Cafe, in James Place (off Rundle Mall) at the Coffee Pot, where, along with 12 other poets, I’ll be channelling Kate Bush.