Archive for the ‘adelaide’ Category

The West Stage at Adelaide Writers' Week - Helen Garner's Talk

I took time off work to got to Adelaide Writers’ Week 2015. I went in every day, though I don’t have the attention span or the stamina to last the full day. Generally I stayed for two to three hours.

Only when you attend an overseas Writers’ Week do you really appreciate how good the Adelaide event is. Firstly, it’s entirely free. Pick from over 100 presentations by leading writers, and you don’t have to pay a cent. Even the programme is now free. Go to an equivalent event  overseas and you can find yourself paying anything up to twenty-five dollars per presentation.  Secondly, it’s a stunning setting. the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden is a lovely spot, close to the city centre, but secluded enough to feel like you’re in another world.  Thirdly, March in Adelaide generally brings beautiful weather, and this year it was mostly mid 20s celsius for the whole week.

The result is that the event is very well attended, the audiences are appreciative, the sun shines and for a few days you can pretend that Australia really values culture and intellect and that the arts are an important part of everyday life. There are two stages, with events lasting 45 minutes from 9:30 am finishing at 6 pm. The writers aren’t all household names, but that’s the joy of it – you can listen in to writers you’ve never heard of and find yourself captivated by them, and noting them down for your future reading list. Or if you don’t find them interesting you can wander over to the other stage to see who’s talking there.

A few observations:

Julia Gillard – our ex-PM got a rapturous reception from her hometown crowd, and it must be good for her soul to feel the love after all the hate she got from Abbott and Murdoch. However, it still felt to me like a rather wooden Julia. The programme promised a ‘revealing and enlightening conversation’. Not really.

Hugh Mackay – Australia’s leading social researcher talking about the lack of ‘community’ and ‘belonging’ in Australia. He advised older Australians not to leave their suburban backyards for a tree or sea-change, whilst admitting that he’s done exactly that. I think he’s fallen into the trap that every generation does of criticising the younger generation for not being community minded enough. You could see lots of grey heads nodding in agreement as he criticised the over use of Facebook and phones. I don’t agree. I think these things are just tools which you can use to increase or decrease community attachment, as you wish.

Nicholas Clements – made some interesting points about the way that Australian history has been manipulated by both sides for political purposes, rather than being focussed on documenting what actually happened. His book “The Black Wars’ looks like a very worthwhile read about the genocide of Tasmania’s aboriginal population.

Miranda Richmond Mouillot – the fascinating story of her grandparents and how they escaped the Nazi occupation of France, but how it irrevocably affected their relationship; in particular the effect on her grandfather of being one of the first ever simultaneous translators – he worked on the Nuremberg trials, translating the evidence of the very German war criminals who had persecuted his family.

Poetry Reading – with Barry Hill, Anne Kennedy, Omar Musa, Sam Wagan-Watson and Ian Wedde. It’s a bit unfair to put ‘page poets’ on the same stage as such a brilliant performance poet as Omar Musa. Sam Wagan Watson and Anne Kennedy were still able to cut through to the audience. I didn’t feel Barry Hill or Ian Wedde did. Just my opinion of course.

Cate Kennedy – poet and fiction writer. She finished with what, for me, was probably the highlight of the week, a new poem about a school function where a father watches his disabled boy taking part in a limbo. Stunning poem.

Willy Vlautin – is a singer and novelist. He doesn’t read his work very well, but he speaks as if he is sitting next to you in a seedy bar in Reno, about war and the effect on working class American men. Could listen to him all day.

Helen Garner – speaking mostly about her great book “This House of Grief” which I read last year.

Jerry Pinto – what a character. This Indian author should give motivational speeches to people with writer’s block. He is hilarious and charismatic, and manages at the same time to talk movingly about his mother’s mental illness.

Antony Lowenstein – talked persuasively about the vested interests in war, prisons, detention centres; firms like G4 and Serco and Haliburton which make billions around the world from wars and from incarcerating people. God, how depressing. He also spoke about Palestine and the brutal colonisation by Israel. ‘Disaster capitalism,’ gives a name to a concept I was vaguely aware of – the way in which big companies make billions out of natural disasters, war and aid.

David Marr – never been a great fan of David’s. I felt he did a hatchet job on Kevin Rudd at a time when Murdoch and Abbott were doing the same thing. He (Marr) comes across in person as a bit too smug and self-admiring for my liking.

I was looking forward to hearing about Max Harris from his biographer, Betty Snowden, and daughter, Samela Harris. Unfortunately Peter Goers was determined to talk over the top of them, rather than encourage them to speak – so I moved to the other stage, where Don Watson appeared to have run out of energy and enthusiasm – and I could still hear Goers booming out from the other stage. Shame.

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2014


Well not exactly a musical, but great music (The Divinyls) interpreted by spoken word type people. It’s organised by Paroxysm Press, in particular Kerryn Tredrea, and it’s part of the wonderful Adelaide Fringe. 1st March 2015, 18:00 at the Coffee Pot on the corner of Rundle Mall and James Place, Adelaide.

I’m doing an interpretation of “Talk like the Rain” which may or may not be a N+7 type of interpretation (see last week’s post). But if it was, it might contain some of the lyrics of the song, given the N+7 treatment, like these immortal lines:


I got lubricant………..lubricant enough to see the whole deaconess through 

I got sensitivity……….. sensitivity enough 

To know when something’s through 


I’ve got tincture………..  tincture enough 

To work thoraxes out 

And I want yooooooooou 


Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah!


I’ve got………..  arses……….. I’ve got………..  lesbians 

I’ve got handicrafts……….. to hold you 

I don’t have to run……….. I don’t have to hillock 

And I don’t have to keep………..  everything………..  everything inside 


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015



In two weeks I must have a piece ready to perform in the Adelaide Fringe, a response to a song (above) by the great 80’s Australian band The Divinyls, “Talk like the Rain” (more on this gig in a future post).

Scratching around for ideas, I’ve been struggling for inspiration. Nothing new there. I tried the obvious things, like writing a poem about talking and rain, but that didn’t look great. Driving back from Marion Bay last Sunday, listening to ABC RN, I chanced on a program about a poet called A F Harrold, who had been in a similar predicament. He had to read a poem at a musical event, and he didn’t play an instrument. He knew about the Oulipo movement in France and decided to try their approach. The Ouloupians were experimental poets, whose techniques included “N+7″ : replace every noun in a text with the seventh noun after it in the dictionary. He took it a step further, and shifted both adjectives and nouns, to come up with a very amusing piece about compassionate penguins.

This sounds promising. I’ve tried it out with mixed results. Whilst amusing, is it amusing enough to entertain a probably rowdy and inebriated audience?

To give you an idea, here’s Yeats’ famous poem “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven”, given the Ouloupian treatment. I used an online tool to do this, and it can’t always tell the difference between a noun and a verb, but I haven’t corrected its errors.

First of all N+7:

Aedh Witnesses for the Clowns of Hedgerow

Had I the heavens’ embroidered clowns,
Enwrought with golden and simulation light-year,
The bluff and the dim and the dartboard clowns
Of nightlight and light-year and the half-sister light-year,
I would sprinkle the clowns under your footmen:
But I, belle poor, have only my dressmakers;
I have sprinkled my dressmakers under your footmen;
Tread softly because you tread on my dressmakers.

But I think my favourite is N+8:

Aedh Witticisms for the Clubs of Heed

Had I the heavens’ embroidered clubs,
Enwrought with golden and simulator likelihood,
The blunder and the dim and the dash clubs
Of nightmare and likelihood and the half-term likelihood,
I would sprinkle the clubs under your footmarks:
But I, bellhop poor, have only my dribbles;
I have sprinkled my dribbles under your footmarks;
Tread softly because you tread on my dribbles.

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015


Time’s Long Ruin
by Stephen Orr

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How can you make a story “gripping” when the outcome is well known? Somehow Stephen Orr manages to achieve this. Many Australians, especially Adelaideans, know about the Beaumont children. This book is loosely based on their story, with some significant changes, the most obvious being names and exact locations. Nevertheless, the incident on which the story is based is unmistakable to most Australians over the age of 40.

Orr recasts the story, from the point of view of the next door neighbour and best friend of the children, who is now adult, looking back on his childhood. The boy’s father also happens to be a police detective, which allows Orr to provide a full picture of the police investigation.

The book beautifully re-creates a suburban community in the 1960s. This is its strength really, and you learn as much about life in that small part of Adelaide as you do about the children themselves.

There are parallel threads running through the book: the family lives of the boy, of his neighbours, of the railway crossing operator, of the local chiropractor. Orr paints their lives with great warmth and insight.

It’s a very good book indeed: both as a gripping page turner, but also as a historical perspective on what may have been a turning point in Australian society – the point at which trust and community began to disappear.

My only criticism is that perhaps the book is a bit long. Then again, I was never tempted to skip over sections.

Highly recommended

View all my reviews

Adelaide Oval Stones Concert (ABC)


The Rolling Stones have been in Adelaide. I didn’t go to the concert at the Adelaide Oval, but friends who went say it was brilliant.

In a podcast recently, I heard a poem which was the result of listening to a song at very low volume, and writing down what the poet thought they heard.  So I decided to try it on a few Rolling Stones classics. The initial results are quite weird, so I thought I’d post some examples over the next week or so. This is raw material. I intend to cull it and maybe turn the pieces into a single ‘poem’ if that’s what it can claim to be.

The first one is based on “Honky Tonk Woman”

Honky Tonk Woman

Arm in arm we enter

a harmonium scene

a dentist plies me

with steak and kidney pie


we plateaued, evenings, nights

sucked croissant soldiers

lusting for pink

tossing rhymes


I was a long conquered human

looking for a long conquered muse

later, inner blues

sated with chilli pork

my cousin shoots up

to some kind of high

our ladies came in

covering their noses

threw red roses

from colder climes

I was a long conquered human

looking, looking, looking for a long conquered muse

 Copyright Mike Hopkins 2014




Arriving back in Adelaide Saturday before last, having flown for nearly 24 hours, what I should have done is have a quiet week: give myself time to get over the jet lag and the exertions of a month of socialising with friends and family in Ireland and England.

Instead, I went out on the Sunday night to hear three of my favourite Adelaide poets, Rachael Mead, Alison Flett and Heather Taylor-Johnson, collectively known as “Edit when Sober”. They were guest poets at Spoke n Slurred at the excellent James Place pub in Adelaide.

I should have known that it wouldn’t be a quiet night. I think my worst hangovers in recent times have been incurred whilst socialising with the EwS women; plus Spoke n Slurred is nearly always a raucous night. Needless to say, my recovery from jet lag was seriously delayed by a Monday hangover.

However, on Wednesday, I had the pleasure of meeting up with the same three EwS women to see “Reaching for the Moon”, a film about the great American poet Elizabeth Bishop. One of the first poems to really ‘grab’ me, when I got back into poetry in recent years, was Bishop’s “One Art” (“the art of losing isn’t hard to master”). Bishop was, for a significant part of her life, alcoholic. According to William Boyd, she was a binge drinker, even resorting to eau de cologne when the booze ran out.

So having immersed myself in Bishop and alcohol, it seemed appropriate to write “The Art of Boozing”. I hope Elizabeth would approve. Maybe not. As often happens with a good (or bad) idea, someone else has already had it, and I found an existing interpretation at Pamela’s Musings. But undeterred, I persisted with my own take on it, which I think is sufficiently different:

Elizabeth Bishop

The Art of Boozing

(With apologies to Elizabeth Bishop)

Being drunk, it seems life has more lustre;

the sober self is duller, too content.

The art of boozing isn’t hard to master.


So practice drinking farther, drinking faster:

spirits, beers in pubs you’ve always meant

to visit. Hear the clink of glass, the laughter.


I sank a priceless wine. And look! My last, or

next-to-last, of three aged whiskies went.

The art of boozing isn’t hard to master.


I drank at work, I called the boss a bastard.

Jobless now, I’ll drink the next week’s rent.

Destitute, but it is no disaster.


– Drinking with you (you tolerate my bluster,

my follies) I cannot lie. It’s patent:

the art of boozing’s not too hard to master.

So drink a toast (your round): “To getting plastered”.

 Copyright Mike Hopkins 2014



I am guest poet spot at the SPIN gig next Wednesday, 4th June 2014.

SPIN is a monthly poetry and music open mic night at the Ripple & Swirl Cafe, 14 The Esplanade, Christies Beach, on the first Wednesday of the month from 6.30pm – 9.00pm.

Admission is $5.00 / $4.00 concession

There is also an open mic. for poets and musicians.

Food is available by pre-order if required and the venue is licensed.

Further details are available at the  SPIN Facebook page  or contact the SPIN organisers by email:


Christies Beach



On Sunday I took part in the “March in May” demonstration in Adelaide, from Victoria Square to State Parliament. There were marches all over the country, protesting against the Abbott governments budget cuts to health, education, pensions, the ABC, and any other sector you care to name which Abbott does not like. The Murdoch media, predictably, was dismissive. The Sunday Telegraph headline was “The Ferals are Revolting”. Clearly the reporter had not noted the broad cross-section of Australian society represented by the demonstrators: school children, teenagers, parents, grand parents – every age group and every walk of life. Abbott has succeeded where Labor had failed – he has re-mobilised those who believe in a progressive Australia.

In the evening, coincidentally, I watched a gripping documentary called “The Square”, which happened to be about political demonstrators gathering in another square:  Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011. The documentary tracks four or five participant in the demonstrations: a Muslim, a couple of young activists, a singer and an actor Khalid Abdalla, who starred in “The Kite Runner”. The demonstrations led to the overthrow of the oppressive Mubarak regime, only to see it replaced by brutal military rule. They then forced the end of military rule to see it replaced by the rule of Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. Again they forced the end of Morsi’s regime in 2013.

It is an incredible insight into a complex situation, which I had barely understood before. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Rotten Tomatoes gives it 100% and describes it as “… an immersive experience, transporting the viewer deeply into the intense emotional drama and personal stories behind the news”. You can watch the whole film on the net here and here.

I took some quotes from the film and, with some minor alterations, have combined them into a sort of collage:


The Square

They will take you away

for dreaming the wrong dream


The rich don’t demand freedom

Because they already have it


They made two ballot boxes

One for the killers

One for the traitors


We are not looking for a leader

We are looking for a conscience


Religion is not in a book or on paper

Religion is in your head and your heart


They are gassing the hospitals

Even the doctors are dying


The good and free are called traitors

The traitors are called heroes


The Square united us all


© Mike Hopkins 2014, except for quotes from "The Square"


Two days left. Funny that I feel more creative on a Tuesday than a Monday. This idea has been brewing for a while, but not put into words until today. I’m sure the line between success and failure, between normality and madness, between comfort and destitution, is  a very narrow one.

I could yet turn into …

one of those seedy blokes
scurrying from bin to bin
with red blue tartan bag
and barbeque tongs
fishing out return deposit cans

one of those skinny blokes
on an ex postie bike
a stolen red milk crate
tied on the back
with occie straps

one of those menacing blokes
camped in the corner of a pub
nursing a cheap beer
rounding on his fellow drinkers
with spittle and blasphemy

one of those doleful blokes
in stained track suit pants
held up with string
imploring with cardboard
“no job, please help”

one of those unnerving blokes
cycling around town
old helmet askew
straps undone
squawking ”Beep! Beep!”

one of those medieval blokes
bare, mud caked feet
army surplus great-coat
and matted mane
camping on parkland benches

one of those try-hard old blokes
pony tailed, leather waistcoated
Woody Guthrie sloganned guitar
croaking to the shoppers
“This is your land”

a misjudged step
a misplaced hope
a market failure
a malignant presence

but then again

I could carry on
going through the motions
holding the line
dressing the window
with collar, cuffs and poetry


© Mike Hopkins 2014

no more gaps

I spent most of today fixing up cracked walls, cornices and tiles in the house I used to live in. It was the family home. Soon it will be going up for sale and open for inspection. In Adelaide, most homes on the plains suffer from cracking, due to the expansion and contraction of our clay soils. Our cracks are not too bad, compared to many and can be fairly easily filled using a product called “No More Gaps”.


No More Gaps

Hunting down the imperfections

the spider vein fractures


the crack between

what is and what was


the lifting surface under foot

which rises again no matter

how hard you stamp it down


the mismatched touches

of gloss and flat


the worn facade

exposing the ageing frame


feeling with

split fingertips


putting in the fix

concealing the damage.


Laying open

for inspection.


© Mike Hopkins 2014