Women’s poetry night

The Not Very Quiet editors are hosting women’s poetry evenings every third Monday in 2018 at Smith’s Alternative in Canberra.

We’ll have featured poets, book launches, open mic and more …

Check out the calendar on Smith’s Alternative website for program details.

Third Monday of the month
7:00 to 9:00 pm

Come early to sign up for the open mic. Each open mic poet is invited to read one poem for up to three minutes.

A review of Not Very Quiet’s first issue

‘Women poets loud and lusty’

Republished from ‘A Poet’s Slant’ blog

For a long and lusty blast of poetry by women from almost every continent in the world go right now to the Not Very Quiet website. We’ve been waiting for it since its announcement early in the year — and it’s here. Congratulations to Moya Pacey and Sandra Renew on their vision and on this first issue full of beautiful and often startling words.

The debut issue was launched on September 25 at Smith’s Alternative in Canberra to a packed house. The Not Very Quiet event with performances and readings by poets from the Canberra region was followed by the launch of new collections by the co-editors: Black Tulipsby Moya Pacey (Recent Work Press) and Who Sleeps at Night?: Poetry of Conflict by Sandra Renew (Ginninderra Press).

Lizz Murphy

Irish-Australian poet Lizz Murphy has published thirteen books, eight of them poetry titles. Published widely in Australian journals and anthologies with publication also in Canada, China, England, India, Ireland, Poland, US. She writes between Binalong NSW and Canberra and is currently The Canberra Times Poetry Editor.

NVQ on Facebook

We have a new Facebook page for Not Very Quiet. Join us … we’ll be posting regular updates and looking forward to your comments.

We’ve chosen this Sulphur-crested cockatoo to represent NVQ on Facebook – it’s a particularly loud and omni-present Australian parrot.

Parrot with white feathers and a yellow crest.

Found in Translation: Women’s Voices From Japan – A Bilingual Poetry Reading

On a chilly Spring night at the University of Canberra, we gather to listen to four Japanese poets and their translators – Takako Arai (with Jen Crawford), Kayoko Yamasaki (with Subhash Jaireth), Harumi Kawaguchi (with Melinda Smith) and Hiromi Ito (with Jeffrey Angles).

This event (part of the Poetry on the Move Festival) is splendid not simply because of the poetry which stands on its own merit in Japanese and in English but because of the way in which it is delivered by both poets and translators (who are all poets as well). Rina Kikuchi (who organised this event and, with Jen Crawford, edited the excellent anthology Poet to Poet: Contemporary Women Poets from Japan) asserts that her selection of these poets was to break the illusion of Japanese women and to discard and displace “outdated stereotypes of their ‘obedient’ and ‘passive’ nature”. These poets were chosen to demonstrate the variety and diversity of women’s voices in Japan and they definitely succeed in doing that.

Each of the poets is completely individual in style. Takako Arai is a petite elegant woman clad in a neat black cocktail dress but her demure image is a façade. This is a poet whose performance is dramatic, lively and haunting. Her poem ‘Dollogy’ leaves us reeling. Jen Crawford’s translation is superb but even before she delivers it we understand at some visceral level what Arai is telling us. The image of the rounded girl doll with her tiny waist in stinking layers of red silk is surreal and appalling but we recognise the profound truth in lines like: “Of course. Girl dolls are the mummies of silk worms / Of course. Girl dolls are the mummies of young girls.” Arai subverts age old images from Japanese traditional poetry: blossoms, silk worms, mountains and the moon are lifted out of Zen serenity and turned upside down. “… Blossoms, then more blossoms from / within your mountain gorge … give me red ones / because I’ll dye them, because I can’t stop. Of course it stinks when you lift / these layers. / That’s / the moon.

Jen Crawford (left) waiting as Takako Arai (right) reads.

Takako Arai with Jen Crawford

There is a lovely connection between Arai and Crawford and in the poem ‘A Lightbulb’ their voices dance together in easy rhythm. Arai is a born actor – her careful and precise movements clearly convey the two characters in this poem. Crawford is more measured but their collective voices create a moment of sharp shock in the lines: “… I grab the neck, / pull at it, grab her breast – / it’s not there / her breast.” Arai’s breathy painful sighs are echoed by Crawford’s softer ahhs. The crescendo comes in the last line: “Turn it on.” It is an intense and fabulous finish and the applause is immediate and heartfelt.

The next poet is Kayoko Yamasaki. She stands before us, a small graceful woman in an embroidered skirt and gorgeous red shoes. Her voice is soft but infused with expression. She and her translator Subhash Jaireth offer us two poems: ‘The Hour Glass’ and ‘Tree’. The gentle repetition of “soft like so’’ in ‘The Hour Glass’ is juxtaposed against the terrifying reality of the surgery and the surgeon’s hand – “meanwhile in the surgery the air / is edgy …” The subtle imagery in this poem: “soft like so it falls we are but sand / grains as light or heavy  coloured / pale red of a pigeon’s scrawny leg” is contrasted with the horrific heart wrenching narrative in the next poem, ‘Tree’. Yamasaki’s low voice delivers the ghastly account of the life span of a tree which stands in a nightmarish war torn landscape of “blood stained clouds and a raven lost in flight.”  We are left open mouthed in horror as the slaughter of chooks transforms into a massacre of children and women.

Subhash Jaireth (left) and Kayoko Yamasaki (right) reading.

Kayoko Yamasaki with Subhash Jaireth

Yamasaki does not shrink from depicting the most frightening and terrible realities of war: “… the man now dressed as a soldier, his hands on his hips / will roar a shameless laugh … and will drink and drink as my stump / will be drenched in the blood of the dead.” Subhash Jaireth delivers the English lines with a ponderous gravitas which balances the delicate timbre of Yamasaki’s voice.

Yamasaki is a Japanese-Serbian poet and it is a real treat to hear her spontaneously speak a third poem in Serbian. Her voice is almost whispery but full of meaning as she utters the last lines of ‘Coming Home for a Brief Visit’. “I gaze / at the face / of my motherland / mine and yet / nevermore / mine.” All of us who are diasporic understand the perfect truth of this poem.

The third Japanese poet is Harumi Kawaguchi who opens her session with a drawled, “G’day mate.” Her translator is Melinda Smith. Kawaguchi is almost translucent, tiny and waif like. Her voice is filled with expression but quiet and steady when reading the first poem, ‘Artificial’. The poem moves fluidly between languages and the sound of sadness and loss, mirrored in the voices of poet and translator, moves us to tears. Kawaguchi’s poems are narratives which unfold chapter by chapter. ‘Artificial’ juxtaposes the happy scene of lake and swan boats, amusement parks and delighted shrieks with the loss of a child. The colloquial command of a mother “Don’t let go of my hand … Keep holding on like that OK?” is followed by the chilling lines: “She was supposed to keep holding on like that / but before I know it, my daughter has disappeared.”

Melinda Smith (right) and Harumi Kawaguchi (left) reading in front of microphones.

Harumi Kawaguchi with Melinda Smith

The story is cleverly structured by these two poets. The breaks come in strategic places and we wait with bated breath for the next instalment of this dream like tale. Was there a daughter? Is this moment of loss as artificial as the lake? Nothing is certain. Like the great Japanese writer, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Kawaguchi confronts our notions of objective truth. The lines: “She isn’t anywhere / It may be she was never here to begin with / My daughter, never anywhere …” fill us with dread. The boundaries between reality and illusion are completely blurred but what is certain is an absolute understanding of the human condition. Kawaguchi is profoundly aware of the universal feelings of fear and loss, despair and searching that exist in all relationships: “Things that have been lost and things that are not there, / things I can’t recall and things I can’t forget, melted and mixed, into / the skin of the water …”

We realise Kawaguchi’s rare genius when this pair reads the next poem ‘Welcome Home’. Her whole demeanour changes and it is as if another person has entered the room. She speaks at a rapid rate in a voice full of comical animation. This time the narrative is light, bright and very quirky. The story is of a wife who receives an aquarium for her birthday (which is not really her birthday) and ends up living in it while her husband drinks beer and looks “at the aquarium with the / same face he used to watch the TV with. Nothing in his head.”  Both Kawaguchi and Smith bring a vivacious exaggerated whackiness to their presentation of this bizarre scenario but there is also a dark and frightening aspect of marriage being presented here and both poets never lose sight of this. The deadly repetitiveness of an empty relationship is echoed in the lines: “I’m home goodnight welcome home I’m home welcome home goodnight / welcome home welcome home.” The poem opens and closes with the cutely articulated greeting “Happy Birthday!” and while we laugh at the humour of this cartoon like situation we also feel deep discomfort at the lines, “I am full of nothing / When I get broken this time he’ll be on his own, perhaps he’ll / need a trolley, for the day he’ll have to take me / to the large waste drop off.” Once again Kawaguchi gives us a story where nothing is as it seems but everything is crystal clear.

The evening ends with a riveting theatre performance as the final pair of poets take the stage. Hiromi Ito and Jeffrey Angles are pure entertainment. Ito is charismatic, funky and hilarious. She and Angles have an on stage chemistry that is mesmerising. The poem ‘Coyote’ is a tale of Ito’s obsession with American wildlife and by extension with America itself. Angles’ American accent tangles and melds with Ito’s Japanese syllables. These poets are ad libbing yet their dialogue is exquisitely structured and their comic timing is flawless. Angles later admits that it is fun “like jazz.”

Jeffrey Angles (left) and Hiromi Ito (right) reading.

Hiromi Ito with Jeffrey Angles

When Ito orders Angles to howl like a coyote he resists and then obeys. Their repeated delivery of the words, “too cruel” to describe a wild life book from Ito’s childhood is uproariously funny. Everything Ito utters in Japanese is completely comprehensible because of her dynamic vocal expression and her kinetic presence on stage but Angles is absolutely necessary to this performance. He is a brilliant foil for Ito. His light dry American voice heightens the zaniness and force of her poetry.

Their final poem ‘Killing Kanoko’ deals with post-natal depression, infanticide and abortion. This is not easy stuff to speak out loud. Ito’s language is brutal, terrifying and macabre. It makes us squirm in discomfort. We are uneasy because this is grotesque, graphic, frenzied and powerfully candid. It takes real courage to write and perform this kind of poetry.

“Kanoko forces me to deal with all her shit / I want to get rid of Kanoko / I want to get rid of filthy little Kanoko / I want to get rid of or kill Kanoko who bites off my nipples.”

The wild almost manic build up of feeling in these lines is made even more unsettling because of Angles’ male voice translating these very female emotions. Again these poets almost talk over each other and it is hard to hear where one language stops and the other begins.

“I want to get rid of or kill Kanoko / Before she spills my blood … / Congratulations on your destruction / Congratulations on your destruction”

Ito’s face is an impassive mask as Angles utters the translation: “My own self is dearer to me.”

These astonishing poets smash all the stereotypes about Japanese women. Their poetry is startling, fresh and confrontational yet it never loses its connection with the mythology, iconography and history of their culture. We are taken on an unforgettable ride through humour, heartbreak, terror, tenderness and joy in a range of poems which dazzle us in both Japanese and English. The extraordinary performance by these four marvellous women and their remarkable translators is a stunning tour de force.

Anita Patel

Anita Patel is a Canberra writer who has had work published in various journals including Conversations (Pandanus Press, ANU), Cha: An Asian Literary Journal and Mascara Literary ReviewHer poem ‘Women’s Talk’ won the ACT Writers Centre Poetry Prize in 2004.

© 2017

Photos courtesy, International Poetry Studies Institute. © 2017
The Japanese poets featured in this review are included in a new anthology: Poet to Poet: Contemporary Women Poets from Japan, Rina Kikuchi and Jen Crawford (e
ds), Recent Work Press, 2017.

NVQ launch of issue 1

We had a great night at Smiths Alternative! Many thanks to Jacqui Malins for launching Issue 1, to the poets who performed their works and to the wonderful turnout of NVQ supporters.

Watch this space for details on Issue 2. We plan to open submissions from November 2017 through January 2018.

The launch crowd at Smiths Alternative cafe.

Launch at Smiths Alternative, 25 September 2017




My hand misses the glass the way a tongue does a tooth,
returning again and again to vacancy. It wants purpose

beyond tapping, the glamour of the louche, the toast,
the weighted pause. And there are days that I think

shot-worthy, events slipping from my grasp, very like
a glass, crashing. And the smarminess that seems to

emanate from my refusal, no matter how diffidently
I make it, little miss holier-than-thou sipping tea,

everyone needing to be that much louder to fill
the gap, to make it clear I’m not the boss of them.

And the slow slog of it all, the way a day is only a day,
and another to follow, and one to follow that,

in a tedium of accretion, and should I falter, having to
begin again at zero (my God!). And everyone so proud

of me, as if I’d discovered an element, extra-terrestrials,
a way to reel more than just myself back from extinction.

Devon Balwit


Devon Balwit teaches and writes in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of four chapbooks. Her individual poems can be found in places such as The Ekphrastic Review, Poets Reading the News, Autumn Sky Daily, Concis, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Front Porch and more.

© 2017

The camel and the straw

When there’s nothing left to say you eat
knock back the red wine you ordered
begin the cigars I hate.

My mouth is full with all that you said
and I’m too damned polite to do the napkin thing
spit out the one line I can’t swallow.

So I smile
no teeth
while inside I pack up and leave you.

J V Birch


J V Birch lives in Adelaide, South Australia. Her poems have appeared in anthologies, journals and magazines across Australia, the UK, Canada and the US. She has two collections – Smashed glass at midnight and What the water & moon gave me (both published by Ginninderra Press). She is working on her third.

© 2017

on not asking daddy

because he’d say
………don’t you know? don’t you know?
………child child how can you grow!

well I grew, grew taller than most
and my head wobbled, wobbled on its thin stem
and when my father pronounced the root source
of a German word, its Latin derivation
……….don’t you know? don’t you know?
I looked down at his feet
and saw the soil-clogged knots of roots
the gaping holes in the ground
and my gut began its life-long habit
of twinge and cringe that’s triggered by a certain
tone the masculine intones
……….don’t you know? don’t you know?
so when you and I enter new country
you stride ahead charting the vista, Mount This
Mount That, announce the names of plants
hardenbergia lomandra eucryphyia
names are good
you say
……….don’t you know? don’t you know?
I hang back in the silence of the scrub
to watch a mysterious white-throated bird,
savour its tentative fossicking
names are good, yes yes I’m sure
but flowers still flower for me, can you believe it!
and birds appear.

Nicola Bowery

Nicola Bowery’s most recent poetry collection is married to this ground (Walleah Press 2014), and her two previous collections are Bloodwood (1996) and Goatfish (2007). She lives on the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales.

© 2017


after Bruegel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

It took me two days to see the legs, I kept
looking and not finding them. This gave me a thrill –
the world getting on with life, no one
standing still to fete and grieve
a narcissist who wanted too much sun.
I had forgotten it was one of those myths
the big boys have well and truly picked over;
Jack Gilbert going for a glass half full
and forgetting the fall entirely.
When I remembered Auden and Williams
I didn’t want to write my poem anymore,
I put it away, though I now think
there’s still something to say. I see joy:
we all at the centre of our own lives,
a dignified lot for the ploughman, the shepherd,
the washerwoman. And I bet the big boys reached
between their shoulder blades to check
their wax was solid. They praise the lack
of limelight in the frame but I hear
in their words it unnerves them. For most,
life is a landscape we navigate;
it is rare to sit for a portrait.

Lisa Brockwell


Lisa Brockwell lives on a rural property near Byron Bay, New South Wales, with her husband and young son. She was runner-up in the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize in 2015. Her first collection, Earth Girls (Pitt Street Poetry 2016), was commended in the Anne Elder Award. www.lisabrockwell.com


© 2017


The bread knife is large and it’s heavy,
listening to a podcast mention Woody
Allen and Mia Farrow and another
open letter, I am attempting to cut
the cumbersome loaf of sourdough for toast
when I slip and slice my ring finger.
Look, I have almost cut it off. How would I
wear my wedding ring, then? Luckily,
it didn’t happen. Much blood, et cetera.

Lisa Brockwell


Lisa Brockwell lives on a rural property near Byron Bay, New South Wales, with her husband and young son. She was runner-up in the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize in 2015. Her first collection, Earth Girls (Pitt Street Poetry 2016), was commended in the Anne Elder Award.  www.lisabrockwell.com

© 2017

The pretend life

If I lived in the Oak Shadows
trailer park, I’d want to my trailer
to be the color of a 7Up bottle, I’d
want to be beautiful and young. I’d
want to be beloved by someone who
couldn’t live without me. I’d be
tragic, a little dead around the eyes.
I’d live in the space before everything
begins. I’d be no one you know,
a shadow on the concrete, a flash
of color you might see as you drove
by me on your way to somewhere else.

Michelle Brooks


Michelle Brooks has published a collection of poetry, Make Yourself Small (Backwaters Press), and a novella, Dead Girl, Live Boy (Storylandia Press). She has spent much of her adult life in Detroit, Michigan, USA, her favorite city.

© 2017

What’s left of us

We framed you within the guidelines;
combustible, rigid container. No metal.

Your face now made up like pantomime,
wig hair and gaping mouth closed by lever.

Everything that came before has gone,
wetted itself into a dissolve, absent ashes.

My memory hangs like an idle picture book

echoing creaks of another life,
one where we had our conclusion.

Samantha-Jayne Burns


Samantha-Jayne Burns is a poet and lyricist currently residing in London, UK. She is currently studying her MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths University and has been published online in various poetry journals.

© 2017

Reader, I buried him

He’s festering under the fig tree,
the editor who said
that because I used the pronoun ‘she’
the poem should be warmer,
as if ‘she’ can only mean ‘mum’
and then the nicer, cuddly sort,
festooned with beige crochet,
endlessly clutching tea.
I snuck up upon him,
with a shovel I named ‘She’.
And it’s true, you know!
After hitting him from behind
the shovel was quite warm
with my sweat and his thin blood.
And now he is composing no
offensive missives,
and composting rather well.
And the figs, the gentle figs,
well they taste fucking sweet.

PS Cottier


PS Cottier gets up. PS Cottier feeds the budgie. PS Cottier writes. PS Cottier blogs at pscottier.com. PS Cottier sleeps. Do all this, and you too can be Perfectly Serene Cottier.

 © 2017

How to make depression worse

in ten easy conversational gambits, with commentary from a Real Depressed Person in brackets

Come on, pull up your socks! (As if socks are well connected synapses)

We all feel down from time to time (But what if the time is ten years?)

You’ve got to see the glass as half full (Merlot, Methadone or Meths?)

There are those worse off than you (I know that. I’m depressed, not Donald Trump)

Buy yourself something nice! (They were out of nice brains at Brains ‘R Us)

Why don’t you take up a hobby? (Like patronising depressed people, perhaps?)

You’ve got to learn to laugh at yourself! (That’s why I carved a smiley mouth on my wrist)

Just get out in the fresh air and enjoy yourself! (Yeah, I’ll put on my magic sport socks)

Why don’t you just have a good lie down? (You do make death seem strangely attractive)

Every cloud has a silver lining (Every cliché breaks an angel’s harp)

PS Cottier


PS Cottier gets up. PS Cottier feeds the budgie. PS Cottier writes. PS Cottier blogs at pscottier.com. PS Cottier sleeps. Do all this, and you too can be Perfectly Serene Cottier.

© 2017

Stepping over, stepping around

It sounds like a children’s game
played with an energy of rope.
Stepping over, stepping around
I saw someone playing it.
She was wearing a pink skirt
and played it at the station.
A man sprawled, pungent as durian,
at the top of the steepish steps.
Delicately, she stepped around;
a wily politician adept
at avoiding a sticky question.
Longer legs allowed the next commuter,
the one in in the suit, to step over the man.
For a moment he was an equation,
the cool guy in the suit,
and the collapsed man the vinculum
dividing the rear leg from the front.
No need for our dapper stepper
to interrupt his smartphone chatter.

And some of us step over and around
by using him for clever poems —
grounding them in a certain reality —
restrained muggers of another’s pain.

PS Cottier

PS Cottier gets up. PS Cottier feeds the budgie. PS Cottier writes. PS Cottier blogs at pscottier.com. PS Cottier sleeps. Do all this, and you too can be Perfectly Serene Cottier.

© 2017


with a feminist nod to ‘Fern Hill’

Oh I sang like the sea
When I was young and supple
And innocent with lust

Thus was my season
Spring, in its tulips, in its cups
All butter yellow atop the freshest green

Spring. The golden sap
Ran sugar-fine and pleasure tasted
Heady, pulsing where the skin
Touched air, spectacular desire

The way it was so long ago
When love was green and golden,
Easy in the windfall light

Here on the other side, Indian Summer
Deep red and bittersweet
Ripening to rot. Was that the all of it?

What now at sixty-five
As mercy edges further south
Every leaf and seedpod
……Rattling its bones

Star Coulbrooke


Star Coulbrooke, Poet Laureate of Logan City, Utah, is co-founder and coordinator of Helicon West, a bi-monthly open readings/featured readers series, and Poetry at Three, a long-standing local poetry writing group. Her poems are published widely in lit mags and anthologies. Her 2011 chapbook, Walking the Bear, is available online (through Digital Stacks in the University of Utah Marriott Library). Her newest poetry collection is Thin Spines of Memory. Star is director of the Utah State University Writing Center.

© 2017

through all

her fast walk
military organization
and bossy manner …
leaves my drifting
dreamy self in tatters


through all
the comings and goings
of my siblings …
my mother and father
seated at the table


marshall the children
across the pedestrian crossing …
but the children keep
their own untidy thoughts

Anne Curran


Anne Curran lives in Hamilton New Zealand. She writes Japanese short form poetry when time and inspiration allows. She loves the idea of a writing space that provides for women’s creativity to prosper in print. Thank you to editors, fellow writers and mentors for their encouragement.

© 2017


Fish and Fowl

After Bruce Goold’s Flying Fish, 1994Manly Art Gallery


You choose the same meeting place
over and over and I wonder

what prompts you to become a regular.
Is it the view? It doesn’t take much
imagination to see the choppy waves

below as an alpine rendezvous
but you’ll have to show initiative

if you want our love to live.
Granted, you are a handsome brute
with beautiful bulging eyes

and a body, sleek as a torpedo.
Variety spices my life

but a cool palette, somewhat pallid
apart from dashes of red, is scary
considering thoughts of bloodshed.

We’re open to attack from below
and above. I don’t want to end up

on someone’s dinner plate, and no matter
how clever your aerial manoeuvres
one day you could leave me up in the air.

Jan Dean


Jan Dean’s writing credits include Meanjin, Southerly, Newcastle Poetry Prize anthologies and The Australian newspaper. Her pocketbook Paint Peels, Graffiti Sings (Flying Islands 2014) is in English and Mandarin, and With One Brush (IP 2007) was short-listed for the Mary Gilmore Award. Formerly she taught visual arts.

© 2017

Perimenopause as sweat lodge

I am a blushing bride
of transmutation, dewy-skinned
for a new reason

blanketed by the same layer
of lush, laden air
my lover fended me off from

when my palm relished
her intermittently luscious biosphere
I am a hothouse orchid

trembling on its stem
catch me ever
paying for a sauna again

Tricia Dearborn

From the sequence ‘The change: some notes from the field’.

Tricia Dearborn’s poetry has been widely published in literary journals and is represented in major anthologies including Contemporary Australian Poetry and Australian Poetry since 1788. She is on the editorial board of Plumwood Mountain, and was guest poetry editor for the February 2016 issue. Her most recent collection is The Ringing World.

© 2017

Myth Making

Some things – it’s as if we might have made them up.
Like the night we camped on a hill in Donegal, above
the sea and under a clear sky, watching the Perseids
smear sudden streaks of brilliance across our holiday

and it was like eternity or timelessness or time
or something; our two young daughters, awake
after midnight and watching with us. They both
remember too – I’ve asked. Even after twenty years,
light is still seared across their retinas; the night when …

Moyra Donaldson


Moyra Donaldson is a poet and creative writing facilitator living in Northern Ireland. She has published six collections of poetry, most recently Selected Poems (Liberties Press 2012) and The Goose Tree (Liberties Press 2014).

© 2017