Apr '18 2
I've rescued today's poem from pages 88 and 202 of The Devourers and Marie Tarnowska respectively, both by Annie Vivanti Chartres.

Notes of ruin

Dreamy young mind
a fortune-teller’s fool:
as crystal flashed her gaze
soothsayer lifted a veil
and, by superstition or intuition,
she believed the words.
Bird-thought poison touched her gold-bright spirit.
Her fair kindness and silver smile
turned to notes of ruin.
Now she is a room with doors shut.
Now, sullen little grim girl’s eyes –
hand, lips, brow trembling –
notice strange sorrow
discern dark sinister moments
but never notice the miracle at the window of her memory.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '18 1
I’ve written a poem a day each year from 2012 to 2015, but in 2016 I needed to concentrate on finishing the PhD and last year, well, I was having a little break. So now I’m back in the write-and-publish-a-poem-every-day-in-April saddle.

This year I decided to do something different: each day I will write and post a rescued poem using the same two source prose texts. You can read about the rescue process here. Rescuing a poem is about writing a new poem from two pages of text from two books following a strict, repeatable process.

It will be interesting to see if any themes emerge, given that the base vocabulary and style will be consistent. I chose books of which I had electronic copies so that I could eliminate the transcribing element of the rescue process. I can simply copy and paste the pages of text from the books, which makes rescuing much less onerous to do daily.

The two books are The Devourers and Marie Tarnowska, both by Annie Vivanti Chartres. She was born in London in 1866, of Italian and German parents, and in 1892 she married the Anglo-Irish journalist and lawyer John Chartres. (You can read more about her here.)

I've rescued today's poem from pages 302 and 67 of The Devourers and Marie Tarnowska respectively.

Don’t leave

Pale perfect
face of a woman:
tired in foolish laughter.
Big sour
spine of a man:
deep, in angry silence.
This, this is the darkness of that world
where ‘sorry’
is the sacred missing,
where shapeless hatred and careless jealousy
devour the mute cry of hope.
This, this is the darkness of that world:
she cannot step into the fast blue sky of morning,
she cannot stop the wild stars of an evening.
When she shivers, a breath of air might kill her.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Dec '17 23
I’m absolutely thrilled that the delightful Jerome Rothenberg has featured my rescued poetry on Jacket2, a leading online journal that offers commentary on contemporary poetry and poetics. You can read it over here.

Jerome is an eminent American contemporary poet who started his career as a translator of poetry. He is also a highly regarded poetry anthologist, editor and poetic theorist. One of the most well-known anthologies for which he is responsible is the beautiful Technicians of the Sacred, a collection of poetry and incantations from indigenous peoples around the world.

You can read more about Jerome on the Poetry Foundation website. Thank you, Jerome.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Oct '17 10

Rear Admiral Kevin John Scarce AC, CSC, RANR, 16th Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, presents me with me parchment on 2 May 2017. As he shook hands with me, he whispered: "That sounds like a really interesting thesis". But I bet he says that to all the doctors.

I've been asked several times what I've been working on in the creative space for the past while.

So this is what I've been up to: I was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide in March this year, and I graduated in May. What a wonderful day that was, made all the more special by the presence of my darling sister Susan and her husband Daragh, who came all the way from Ireland for the event!

I gather it's not often that 'fun' and 'PhD' are in the same sentence, but for me it was exactly that: fun, and a real privilege. From the beginning I treated it as a major project, turning up every day to 'work' in my (shared) office at the university (hurray for room 624!). I was fortunate to have two excellent supervisors: Jill Jones, senior lecturer at the university and herself an internationally recognised prize-winning poet; and Professor Dorothy Driver, a distinguished English literature scholar and academic.

I wrote a collection of poetry—87 poems all up—and an exegesis, which is a 20,000-word critical explanation of the context and themes associated with the creative work. The collection incorporates poems in the voice of Grace O'Malley (Gráinne Mhaol—pronounced Graw-nya Wail) interspersed with what I call 'rescued' poems. (My other website rescuedpoetry.com lists the steps of this process I developed, and features several examples.)

Gráinne was a powerful sea-faring chieftain who lived in the west of Ireland from 1530 to 1603. She was 'some woman for one woman'; during this time—one of the most turbulent political eras in Ireland's history—she and her crew traded by sea with Scotland, Spain and Portugal from her base in Mayo.

Irish contemporary historical literature has mostly overlooked Gráinne in spite of her prominent role in politics. She pops up quite frequently in various English political papers and communications, however, because of how irritating she was to the English regime which was busy trying to colonise Ireland at the time. In various dispatches she was called 'the nurse to all rebellions for forty years' and 'a director of thieves and murderers at sea'. It was through subsequent retelling of her seafaring exploits that she came to be known in Ireland as the 'pirate queen'. In the deeply researched biography Granuaile, Grace O'Malley—Ireland's Pirate Queen, Irish author Anne Chambers fleshes out in great detail Gráinne's personal and political life.

According to a letter written in the 1950s by my great-Aunt Angela Russell (née Coyne), sometime in the mid-1800s my great-great-grandfather James Coyne married an O'Malley woman who was related to Gráinne. Of course, Gráinne's direct descendants are more likely to be O'Flaherty or Bourke—Gráinne's husbands' surnames—but that doesn't rule out the possibility that we have a few globs of O'Malley blood running through us! The Brownes, who are the direct descendants of Gráinne's youngest son Tibbott, owned and lived in Westport House until earlier this year.

So, back to my collection of 87 poems: these consisted of 37 Gráinne compositions and 50 'rescued' poems. In the Gráinne compositions I placed Gráinne at different points in her life but also, in a sort of subversion of the idea of straight biography, I situated her in the mediaeval past and in the future via her dreams. I viewed the re-worked and re-created stories from her past and future as a way of honouring her for having been written out of history. I drew on the stories about her that I'd heard as a girl in Ireland, or that were discussed in her biography by Anne Chambers, or mentioned in passing elsewhere.

I rescued the 50 poems from combinations of 17 texts connected to Gráinne—a selection of factual or fictional biographies of her and a small number of contemporary historical texts. The idea behind this was that the rescued voices would echo and complement Gráinne's voice, even if in a removed way.

After three-and-a-half years of researching, writing and editing, I submitted the collection and exegesis in August 2016*. My examiners' reports finally came back in February this year. I agonised and imagined all kinds of (negative) reasons for such a long assessment period. Imagine my amazement and relief when both examiners (one from Ireland and one from Australia) returned overwhelmingly complimentary feedback and remarks.

One of the examiners referred to the manuscript as a 'strong and thrilling poetry collection' and an 'inventive and impressive volume of poetry', and called the poems 'enthralling' and 'strong in voice and polished in their craft'. The second examiner observed that the poems presented 'richly realised moments' in a collection that was 'evocative and technically adept'. I was really delighted to see that both examiners 'got' what I was trying to do with this unusual approach to biographical poetry (and my risky creative approach to the academic exegesis—but that's another story). I was even lucky enough to be awarded the Dean's Commendation for Excellence!

I would love if an Irish publisher published the collection, so at the moment I'm working my way through a list: it's a patient and courageous publisher indeed who agrees to publish the work. The poems combine in a unique way so for example, it's difficult to select a few poems that 'represent' the collection, and submit only those to publishers.

I was rather upset initially by the most recent, particularly detailed rejection letter. Then I decided to be grateful that he took the time to (hand)write his thoughts to me.

So, my optimistic self has decided that I'm another rejection closer to being published!

*Full thesis titles.

Vol 1 Creative Work
Grace Notes
Giving Voice to Gráinne Mhaol, Ireland's Pirate Queen

Vol 2 Exegesis
Saving Grace: Re-Imagining, Re-Placing, and Rescuing Gráinne Mhaol, a Sixteenth-Century Irish Pirate Queen

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Aug '17 15

I'm really excited to be a part of this innovative project masterminded by my lovely friend Camille Roulière and her friend Marianne Braux: these ladies have quite literally brought art to the streets of Adelaide.

Inspired by the Raining Poetry project in Boston, Camille and Marianne - both PhD candidates at the University of Adelaide - used a laser at Adelaide's digital fabrication workshop Fab Lab to create stencils of 18 poems from a selection of Adelaide poets including Jill Jones, Alison Bennett, Banjo James, Avalanche, and Sergio Holas. They then spray-painted the poems through the stencils onto various footpath locations around Adelaide CBD.

The cool thing is, the tagged poetry only appears when it rains thanks to the water-repelling properties of the paint they used to stencil the words to the pavements. The result? If you’re standing on the western corner of North Terrace and Pulteney Street and it starts to rain, my poem will magically appear to entertain you while you wait.

You can read about the project in more detail in this article in InDaily.

This map shows where each of the poems is tagged.

The project will be launched this Friday 18 August, and is supported by the University of Adelaide’s J M Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice.

Thank you for including my poem in this exciting project, Camille and Marianne!

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Jun '17 22
It's been quite some time since my last post - I didn't submit any poems at all in 2016 for publication (slack, I know).

I did send out one - 'I will not mourn you' - at the end of May this year and was delighted that it was accepted for publication in the latest edition of Young Ravens Literary Review. It fitted in well with the theme of the issue, which is 'Prayers for the Planet'.

I'd been hoping to find a nice journal for that poem since I wrote it in 2012, so a big thank you to the Young Ravens editors.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Nov '15 5

I'm pleased that my poem 'Shards of Colour' has found a published home in the latest edition of Transnational Literature.

There's plenty of great reading in this issue and includes poems from my talented fellow poets and friends Mike Hopkins and Ian Gibbins, as well as book reviews by Mandy Treagus, Jennifer Osborn and Gay Lynch.

Many thanks to Heather Taylor Johnson, the journal's Poetry Editor.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 30

The Beast. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

And so, the end is here. The final poem of the 30-poems-in-30-days madness. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment and provide feedback. You don't know how much I appreciated it; knowing you were somewhere with me on that lonely marathon track boosted my energy no end.

Today's poem is a bit Schrödinger-meets-T-S-Eliot. You can read about the Schrödinger's cat quantum mechanics thought experiment here and about Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T S Eliot here.

multiple miaows

Schrödinger's cat
has been let out of the bag;
photos of her
posted all over the internet;
quite the cat-about-town
double-slitty-kitty eyes
commanding your attention;
swish of a stringy tail
and twitch of a whisker
demanding that you
entangle with her;
you love and hate her
wonder who named her
observe her now
in her cute-pussy pose
to determine
her fate.
Here's looking at you, Kitty.
(So who's watching us?)

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 29

Ghostly Ivories. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

And today's poem, penultimate for the month: three spooky little quatrains for you. This poem poses more questions than it offers answers: who or what is possessing whom? or what? and who or what is haunting this poem?

The fourth line insisted on being there even though it seems out of place. The line 'little stitches join this world with the other' is from The Celtic Twilight, a collection of Irish folklore compiled by W B Yeats.


coins that jingle in a dead man's pockets
place them face-up on his still-warm eyes
we think we're alive but are the dead really dead
feet that bleed on slippy prison tiles

who removed the roses I'd placed on the table
scattering petals all over the floor
why was the kettle hot, when I'd been away
who moaned 'always' as I sat here, alone

little stitches join this world with the other
little boy recounts a life already lived
unexpected shadows cast a sudden glamour
what we had hoped for cannot be disbelieved

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 28

The End of Time. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

If I had had a bit more time I might have played around with the layout of this piece. I decided not to, given that the poem is also posted to Facebook, where I have zero control over the layout.


I can count on it.
I can never wait for it
anticipate it
brace for it.
Day may be breaking
light might be fading
night might be closing.
Stars may be high
seas may be smooth
everything fine.
Maybe I hear a Rose melody
sniff a faint trace of Brylcreem
see an MG on the street
see someone wearing a Harris Tweed.
Maybe my thoughts wander
into no-go territory
snap! just like that
my intimate alien takes control
cauterises my heart
slashes the me–world connection
rips out the pain-relief IV
shreds any dignity
unleashes on me
the canker of your absence.
One certain moment.
I can count on it.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 27

To be honest, my inspiration well was running dry today so I decided to generate a few Google Poetics. This involves typing words into Google and allowing it to autocomplete your search, then taking a screenshot of the results. You can read some great examples over here at the Google Poetics website. To quote the front page: "Google writes poetry on subjects that people are truly interested in".

I've typed out the results so that the gems are a bit easier to read!

why / i can / how do / why don't

why are firetrucks red
why am i always tired
why are cells so small
why are oil prices falling
why am i always hungry
why am i so tired
why are flamingoes pink
why are goals important
why am i single
why am i so angry

i can see clearly now
i can't think straight
i can show you the world
i can't sleep
i can't stop
i can't even
i can hear your voice
i can sing a rainbow
i can be your hero baby
i can't tell you why

how do i have the same dream again
how do i have twins on sims 3
how do i have a boy
how do i have a baby
how do i have twins
how do i have an affair
how do i have 2 instagram accounts
how do i have wet dreams
how do i have an organism
how do i have two monitors on one computer

why don't we have both
why don't you play in hell
why don't you love me
why don't you get a job
why don't you speak english
why don't you do right
why don't we do both
why don't we have both spanish
why don't muslims eat pork
why don't we do it in the road

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 26

Holding On To The Rail. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

I was a massive fan of 'The X-Files' 'back in the day' and I've recently started watching 'The Fall' starring Gillian Anderson (who used to play Agent Dana Scully in 'The X-Files').

This evening I reached for The X-Files Book of the Unexplained, which was a present from an ex-boyfriend. (Well, he was my boyfriend when he gave me the book!)

And so, today's offering, bringing together exes and X-Files.

The Ex-Files

Mulder: "Ask an important question and you're on your way to the pertinent answer."
Scully: "Imagine a miracle and you're half way there."

Alternative dimensions.
Crisis after crisis.
Debunking myths.
In a messy space.
In search of the truth.
No tangible evidence.
Out there.
Questions that remain unanswered.
Smoke screens and salvage operations.
Strange and unexplained.
The truth is out there.
Threats and paranoias.
Trust no-one.
Unfinished business.
Unidentified extras.
Unusual encounters.
Weird nature.

I want to believe.
Leap of faith.
Miracle man.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 25

Mirror image. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

I've always been able to handwrite 'fluently' in mirror writing; today I discovered that it's not possible to do it in Word 2007 without using horrible WordArt. I also found that most online tools don't offer a true mirror function; they flip and switch, but some letters still face the 'normal' way. The closest/best tool was this one here but the resulting text is still not a true mirror (it has turned some of the lower-case letters to upper case; and all the commas, as well as the accent on the 'e' in cliché, are facing the wrong way). In spite of these challenges, here's a thought for today.

éʜɔilɔ ƨƨɒlǫ ǫniʞool

bnim ɿuoy nɘʜW
,ƨǫniʜƚ ƚƨiwƚ oƚ ƨɘbiɔɘb
,ƨǫniʜƚ ɘƚɒɔilqmoɔ
,ƨnoiƚnɘƚni ƨ'ɿɘʜƚonɒ bɘɿʜƨ
,ƚnɘmɘǫbuႱ oƚ qmuႱ
ɘmiƚ ƨ’ƚi nɘʜƚ
.ɿoɿɿim ɘʜƚ ni ʞool oƚ

And in case you haven’t a mirror close by:

looking glass cliché

When your mind
decides to twist things,
complicate things,
jump to judgement,
shred another's intentions,
it's time
to look in the mirror.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 24

Crazy. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

I was hunting around for a writing prompt; a commenter to this article over here suggested drawing a card from a card deck called Oblique Strategies and using the text as a starting point. I downloaded the free Oblique Strategies app that allows you 'draw' a card, but cycling through them I decided to collate a selection of the strategies themselves – slightly modified here and there – into today's poem.

How many sides does a line have?

Listen to the quiet voice.
Listen in total darkness
or in a very large room, very quietly.
Do the words need changing?
Use your own ideas.
Retrace your steps;
move towards the unimportant
into the impossible.
Are there sections?
Where is the edge?
Go to an extreme, move back to a more comfortable place
and remember to consider transitions
but change nothing; breathe more deeply.
Trust in the you of now
then distort time:
what were you really thinking about just now?
You can only make one dot at a time
but this gives the game away:
a line has two sides.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 23

Creative Cat. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

Today is William Shakespeare's birthday: he was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, in 1564, so I thought I'd have a bit of fun. There is a school of thought that subscribes to the idea that playwright Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare, was in fact the author of the Shakespeare plays. (Academics distance themselves in horror from this idea.) In Ros Barber's fabulous prize-winning verse novel, The Marlowe Papers, Marlowe considers his past and faked death; a book definitely worth reading.

In today's poem I've mixed some plays by Shakespeare with one by Marlowe, included some Shakespeare references, invented some Elizabethan-sounding words and constructed a few good curses from here. Sincere and abject apologies to the experts. And if this poem sounds clichéd, it's because most clichés in fact originated from the Shakespeare back-catalogue.

i. am. will. any other name smell this sweet?

It will
all be well in the end, you said,
but what a tale I heard this winter's eve
while dreaming of midsummer nights:
penmanship from the grave!
We were but two gentlemen of proximate hamlets;
now marlovians make much ado about nothing.
There'll be a massacre in Paris
and Denmark ransacked
before this tempestuous plot takes hold.
What comedy of errors; mark my words:
this defamation shrew needs to be tamed.
I will
spear those who drag my bardic name
in the scurling gutter
mingling it with his scurvy moniker,
the pribbling, flap-mouthed ratsbane.
What a piece of work! Such vaulting ambition!
He may lead his merry wife a dance
around the globe
(and well she may like it) yet
I will not
yield my labours of love
to that saucy, pox-marked plague-sore.
I will go measure for measure
to claim my writes
and dance on the grave
of that yeasty, wart-necked varlot.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

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