NaPoWriMo 2018 – #28 Q & A With a Ghost


Nearing the end of the month and running out of ideas. Here’s a draft inspired by reading Anne Carson.

Q & A With a Ghost

after Anne Carson

Q. Do you sleep?
A. Yes but there is no day or night
Q. Do you stay there forever?
A. Forever has no meaning here
Q. Do you eat?
A. Yes, but what we call food you might call inspiration
Q. What about sex?
A. Yes, but without the physical bit
Q. Do you have language?
A. No but we understand each other perfectly
Q. Is there such as thing as the Bardo?
A. There is a place like that. We call it the waiting room.
Q. Do you ever see your past life?
A. It plays on a big screen every Saturday.
Q. Are there saints?
A. and devils too
Q. Who do you report to?
A. The choir director
Q. So you have singing?
A. I’m a soprano
Q. and poetry?
A. Dear god no.




Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Image: Mike Hopkins

About NaPoWriMo

(Some / most of these could be rightly described as “chopped up text”. But that’s how first drafts often look.)


NaPoWriMo 2018-#18 – It’s 2 p.m. and a Woman is Screaming at Me


Today I’ve been feeling a bit wiped out so didn’t start writing until about 4 p.m. I tried a few different exercises, none of which worked, and then decided to write about this incident in Vietnam. Very much first draft.

It’s 2 p.m. and a Woman is Screaming at Me

It’s 2 p.m. and a woman is screaming at me

on the phone, I don’t know why

I put it down

and drink my tea.


It’s 2:30 p.m. and a woman is screaming at me

under my balcony

like some demented Romeo

but I don’t think it’s love.


It’s 3 p.m. and a woman is screaming at me

rattling my thankfully

padlocked gate

saying I’ve ruined her business.


It’s 3:30 p.m. and a woman is screaming at me

and the penny

drops: she’s from the restaurant

I left a 2-star review for on TripAdvisor.


It’s 4 p.m. and a woman is still screaming at me

out in the laneway

I call the restaurant, and a man says

“Yes, that’s my wife. I feel your pain”.


It’s 4:30 p.m. and a woman is not screaming at me

I’ve taken down the TripAdvisor review and see

that every rating for that restaurant

is 5 stars.



Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Image: Barry Schwartz

About NaPoWriMo

(Some / most of these could be rightly described as “chopped up text”. But that’s how first drafts often look.)

NaPoWriMo 2018 – #17 His Photoshopped Life

photoshopped life

Yesterday I started my two week stay at the wonderful Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland. Now I have no excuses for not writing. This one is new today, but I’ve had more time to work on it. Hence it’s longer than most, which probably means it needs a good edit.

His Photoshopped Life

Now that he’d left Vietnam

he could Photoshop his memories,

rose tint them for public consumption,

make them suitable for family viewing,

crop the New Year’s Eve incident,

the altercation with the restaurant owner

and anything to do with women.


Now that he’d left

he could filter the green tinted anxiety

of daily dealing with surrounding strangeness,

the life-threatening traffic,

the challenge of just crossing the road,

the fear of being bribed by police.


Now that he’d left

he could tone down the times

when there was nobody to speak to

except waitresses and barmen

and his Vietnamese was too pathetic

to get beyond “Xin chào” and “Cảm ơn”.


Now that he’d left

he could sharpen those bits

where the kids were delightful,

where they chanted “Hello TEAcher”

and “Goodbye TEAcher”

and unpacked his bag for him

and repacked his bag for him

and hugged him at the end of class

and cried when he said he was leaving.


Now that he’d left

he could erase the smartarse teenagers

who wanted a young, square-jawed American teacher,

who completely ignored his only three rules:

  1. Turn off your phone 2. Speak English 3. Be nice.

He could cut out the time he shouted:

“Does anyone here actually want to learn English?”

and they all laughed and chanted “I do TEAcher”.


Now that he’d left

he could highlight the camaraderie,

the nights sitting on benches,

drinking beer, eating phở so cheap

that it was almost free,

of riding three up on a motorbike

down back lanes, dodging the rats and the dogs

and yes, even going to a karaoke bar.


Now that he’d left

he could get back to normality.



Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Image: originally Mike Essl  with minor modification by Mike Hopkins

About NaPoWriMo

(Some / most of these could be rightly described as “chopped up text”. But that’s how first drafts often look.)

NaPoWriMo 2018 – #16 Language App


Der Hund hat eine Ente – The dog has a duck

In recent years I’ve been using DuoLingo (without much success, I have to admit) to try to learn German and Vietnamese. DuoLingo is an app that runs on phones and computers. Part of its approach is to give you an English phrase and its translation, which you then have to speak into your phone or computer. The phrases are mostly mundane (e.g. where is the hotel?) but occasionally bizarre. Today’s piece uses some of those bizarre phrases. There are a number of web-pages discussing the origins of these phrases. There is a link to one at the bottom of this page.



Language App

In Berlin a woman recites

German phrases into a computer.


In Bangalore, a programmer loads her phrases

into the language app.


In Australia, a man downloads the app,

recites these new German expressions.


He loves her voice,

is enchanted by her eloquence.


He imagines a woman gazing at a Paul Klee painting.

asking “Who eats the clock?”


He thinks of her flipping through a Thomas Manne novel,

wondering “Where does the cat run to?”


He suspects she has watched a rerun of “The Blue Angel”

thinking “My husband wears a dress”.


He imagines her at Mass praying for absolution,

hearing a whispered “We know every egg”,


considers her strolling the Tiergarten,

a stranger shouting: “You need a duck”.


He searches for her on Facebook, on Instagram,

finds her on LinkedIn.


Professes his love for her,

for her phrases, for her life.


He tells her:

The clock asked to be eaten.

Cats have no conscience.

Your husband is confused.

Your body is your own.

Ducks are indispensable.


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

How do weird duolingo sentences get generated?


Image: here

About NaPoWriMo

(Some / most of these could be rightly described as “chopped up text”. But that’s how first drafts often look.)

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.


Tram Stop 6

Back in late 2013, I participated, along with several other writers / artists, in a project to write words for a public art project at tram stop 6, about halfway between Adelaide and Glenelg. This is the very grey concrete tram stop:

Tramstop 6 - South Rd


I wrote about it here. The project was organised by Mike Ladd and Cathy Brooks for Marion Council

The project is in the process of being implemented. Here are some pics provided by Mike Ladd. I haven’t dropped by to look at it yet. There will be an official opening sometime soon.

Cycle_IMG_8111_smInstal BB6_IMG_8073





No Skating_IMG_8114_sm






Poem a Day 2015 #30 – Not for You


Poem number 30 for April 2015. The final one. I’ll miss NaPoWriMo, because it makes me write every day.

Like many people, I’m very uncomfortable with the exploitation of patriotism by politicians, and the selective commemoration of some wars but not others. On Anzac day in Canberra, an aboriginal man was prevented from marching. He had a banner saying “Lest we Forget – The Frontier Wars” (referring to the people killed in undeclared wars between settlers and the aboriginal population). He is an ex-serviceman and wanted to march in commemoration of his dead colleagues, but also in commemoration of aboriginal people killed in the frontier wars. A policeman told him “this day is not for you”.

The Australian War Memorial website says that Anzac Day “.. is the day on which we remember Australians who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations.”

Poem now submitted for publication



Read more at  New Matilda


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

Poem a Day 2015 #29 – Cards

Poem number 29 for April 2015. I’ve been messing around with this for a while, and today came up with the card theme, hacked it to within an inch of its life and ended up with this. I think it will re-emerge in a totally different form some time.


the laughter
the lovemaking
the closeness
the rose-strewn days

the workplace bully
the unpaid overtime
the incompetence
the conveyor belt


the joy of birth
a girl in a communion dress
the party games
the picnic rug

the egg-shell tension
the aloneness
the distance
the silences


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

Poem a Day 2015 #27 – Inherent Vice

Poem number 27 for April 2015. Over the weekend I watched a very strange and very (to me) amusing film called “Inherent Vice”. It’s based on a Thomas Pynchon novel and features Joaquin Phoenix (great actor) as a spaced out, hippy private detective operating (I think) out of a dentist’s surgery, or maybe it’s a gynaecologist’s, I’m not 100% sure. Anyway, I marvelled at some of the dialogue, which is presumably Pynchon’s. I’ve taken several quotes from the film, and messed around with them to come up with some loose sort of arrangement of words.

Inherent vice

He was insulated
by secret loyalties
and codes of silence
until she arrived
like a bad luck planet
in his horoscope

she lay on him
a heavy combination
of face ingredients
he couldn’t read

her appetites ranged
from epic to everyday
he became
a hippy-hating mad dog
of Flintstone proportions
a little shit-twinkle
in his eye

gazing on her like
a precious cargo
that couldn’t be insured
but she was working
with a dark crew

by winter
she had removed
every trace of soul
he once had

His last words:
“It’s groovy being insane man”



Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015