MORTON

Poetry & Photos by Lorne Johnson

morton

I’m into heightened experiences. Often going to great lengths to get the most out of my book selections. Thrills like reading Sautet in a coffee shop in Paris, Bourdain in Vietnam to simply sitting on a tree stump in the wondrous Southern Highlands of NSW reading Lorne Johnson’s poetry chapbook Morton in Morton National Park. A bridge too far perhaps? Never!

Gunnin’ down Sheepwash Road, one is taken aback by the scenery, especially wondrous for us stuck in the city. The Bowral-set in their vintage boy racers hold up traffic with time travelers. Stories of old timers that come to light later like Sassafras 1903 & A Gold Miner At Yalwal, 1933. The history of the place is a great study of internal explorers and identities of colonial NSW, the dispossession of traditional country of the Yuin People with many significent sites of Aboriginal mythology and culture. No stranger to the area, older generations of my family where evacuated to Exeter during the war. It’s a small town in the Wingecarribee Shire close to Morton. Loads of stories of the bush and encounters with its wildlife relayed to me by my mother. This is what may have triggered my curiosity.

On Saturday, I was the first to arrive. Good idea to start early. Nature is on the move as the day warms up and the walking tracks get busy on the weekends especially at my entry point of Fitzroy Falls. The area Morton covers is huge. It contains 200,000 hectares of unique species of flora and fauna found in the area. It is a birders paradise. It took a while for the buzz from these city ears to open to the quiet. You stand and wait to hear where the whistles land, look up and scan the trees for birds you’ve never seen. There are trees for special diets, fussy rare birds. As one walks, the occasional look down is welcomed, for unsuspecting lizards sunning on the edges of the tracks are often too blissed to notice walking boots. Twisted branches are used to dart from. Morton is a tangled mess and aftermath of storms and fire. Branches weighed heavy with wind splinter, wildflowers, insects and human interference. I can see exactly where the poems come from.

Lorne’s poetry is another way to discover Morton and its guide to secret destinations and his love of birds. I know I will find Honeyeaters, Satin Bowerbird’s that are partial to ‘Smurfs‘ and ‘Ansell wrappers’ to swoon the hearts of potential mates. His anthropomorphic and humourous scenarios say a lot about himself, ‘sipping grog from a gumnut’ and ‘diggin’ Miles‘. Musical tastes beat fresh in a few stanzas, meeting his reflection in anothers nest. Superb Lyrebirds actions hints at a city boy’s eyes. Macleay’s Swallowtails and the unknowing help of a common wombat during one of the areas fires, just a few of the beautiful observations you’ll discover.

Inside Morton, one is secluded in nature but surrounded by bustling country towns, some with dubious environmental agendas. Coal mines, polluting factories and hunters. A Reaction to a 2012 Hunting Proposal poem is met with a level head, reading the personality of culprits and possible problems that may occur. If this poem was read out at the council meeting, the NO’s would be unanimous. You won’t be bored with Yet Another Poem Featuring Gum Trees, Lorne knows these guys inside and out, he has such a beautiful take on things. He has a very colloquial heart, written in a different language but that’s because no where in the world, other than here, would you encounter a Dusky Antechinus or a Greater Glider, in places like Billy Bulloos Canyon or Dungeon Creek. You have to know what a wobbegong is to understand all the treasures here. I especially have never heard a Swamp Wallaby described more perfect.

Lorne’s poetry is a medicine, a timeless message to explore and find yourself in the beauty of the bush. My close encounter with these poems, honeyeaters, parrots, wildflowers, waterfalls and a fork in the trail certainly enriched my weekend.

You can find Morton via Pit Street Poetry. They have done a sublime job in the design and print quality of this beautiful chapbook. The pictures have that lovely real gum haze, Lorne’s photographs remain true to eyes, simple compositions and taste of Morton’s jewels. If you want to connect with Lorne you can visit his blog and also on twitter

Lorne Johnson Poetry Reviews

MOONRISE by Ella Chappell

I’ve had time to notice the moon more lately. Weekends away from work, my depth perception filters out further now. I look up and out more for natures clock, rhythms that get lost to me inside the trappings of the daily grind. A poetry book that has sneaked into my night is Ella Chappell’s Moonrise. Between The Moon And Me There’s A Zinnia has me recalling the NASA project, the new nature. The zinnia bloomed in space, and its outcome’s having us all pondering a world we wont get to see. Down on earth, Ella is spinning plants into lines that hook into me. I’m latching onto theories that I can comprehend. Every now and then, one wonders if this poetry is sat in places that I cannot find any meaning in. At first it felt like reading the quantum physics of intimacy. It may have been too personal. I felt I was somewhere I shouldn’t have been, watching, listening, hiding in the void. But this poetry needs to be alone with you for a while, take you under the sheets. It’s my third time in the warmth and personal space of this poet. Each time, I am even more gobsmacked at the images, the beauty, the understanding of all of this.moonrise2

I’m this poem, which took all of time till now to create

We head through phases of the moon. Longitudes and time add another measurement of space between thoughts here. They have a mathematical edge, a sparkle in a cosmic dance. There are bees  and lots of family and lots of love and links with eternity. 20.13, 90% waning gibbous is just part of her moon diary of feelings, her stories, our natural flow. My Childhood Vs Donald Trump is a brilliant parallel of lives, of thoughts, of opposites. His vulgarity perplexing. There was one poem that shook me, made my eyes go wide with amazement. Blue buttercups is a mania of happiness which I adored, ‘post-euphoric sweat so thick it slips off his neck‘ one can only reflect this poems lust for life.

The night shots, a reflection of lights from many sources, really suits the chosen prose even though the daylight is paramount. This poetry book was published by Rosie Sherwood from As Yet Untitled publishers who specialise in limited edition, handcrafted literary works. Moonrise is available via their website.

As Yet Untitled Ella Chappell Poetry Reviews

GWIL vs MACHINE

I wanna wanna wanna make a fanzine…

 

Damn catchy that. Trapped in my head now. That’s the kind of thing that happens when I search round for any info on my review subjects. My latest, man of mystery, punk poet and original member of the ‘muy guay’ underground band, ‘Irreparables’, Gwil James Thomas.

So delighted to see the many places his work has appeared. Loads of zines, articles online, backs of doors, loads of personal journals and finally, through the stapled and bloody deft fingers of Martin Appleby. This is another fine release from ‘Paper&InkZine‘ Towers and chance for a brief encounter with this compiled work written between 2013 & 2016. This will surely be a warm up for some meatier compilations. As an admirer of his thoughts – reviews in Zines & Journals like Push, Paper & Ink & Hand Job – one won’t be deterred by time. It will come when it comes and so, for now, get treated to this compact taster, Gwil vs Machine.

gwilFirst I dig the typewriter offset and obscure mentions of dead punks. I also want to ‘bring back free toys in cereals’. Absolutely. My growing pains have become ink, completely sold me and I’ve just turned the first page. I have read a few of these before, enjoying them again as I did then. A jack of everything, this guy lists them all out for us in The Mule’s Early Retirement, finding worth in all the pain and crap one puts up with slugging it for ‘delusional power hungry cunts‘. With Gwil, there is a delightful poeticism in his straightforwardness. Lots of poems breeze through nature, poems for ants, where he has been or where he is heading. A traveller’s bag of stories, side of the road laments. Absolute freaking solid beauty like San Sebastian Poem, you are there, and for a moment you too want to find a similar fate. The Man Who Wasn’t Feeling Himself delves back to a childhood memory and with the years of that image returning formed into a fine memorial, understanding what really happened, interpretation far from truth. Humans hide so much away from each other, they make light and life moves on.

Gwil rides his imagination through the night, you can tell these are the poems that helped him sleep, that cleared a restless mind. There are poems that also black and white it. Reflecting On Everything That I Loved About Your Art Exhibition, don’t want to give the poem away, but two words say it all. Gwil loves the sea, the words wade just like a swell at times, a shanty, beautiful rhythms to cause a sigh. It has been a wondrous glimpse and the more times I read the louder his voice becomes. We all need to fight the machine.

Now for the bad news. This one has sold out! (boo goes the crowd) but I hear there may be a round two soon. Just contact Martin if you are interested in a copy.

 

 

(intro line lyrics by The Irreparables /featured image introduction by Gwil James Thomas)

 

 

Gwil James Thomas Poetry Reviews Zines & Journals

Heroin Haikus

American writer William Wantling only hit my radar a few years ago. His poem Poetry was an absolute soul opener for me. Amazed how the violence of a dying man could be reported as a poem, a piece of art, without diminishing the sadness or respect for this loss of life. Told myself this is someone you need to get into. Wantling died of heart failure at 40 back in the 70’s and never really received the exposure and respect that the likes of his peers got back in the 60’s. He did have a real presence with more independent underground publishers and those in their cliques. It is still the case today with independent publishers Tangerine Press. They popped works by Wantling a few years back which are still available via their website.

heroinThis compact piece of poetic history, Heroin Haikus, was released in October. It sits on my desk and has been picked up many times, by many hands, starting the ‘never heard of him’ conversations. Not really traditional Haikus, they have an air of close enough, his poems are loose and direct, that is standout here. Ten succinct pauses, seventeen syllables, maybe a word game to relieve the boredom and diminish the pain of being trapped, coping with life inside. These haikus of broken rules say so much.

I love its emptiness and the original drawings by Ben Tibbs, the inked cockroach, a fish eye view of busting cops, holding a gun like a limp dick in his hand, Wantling’s mind detached. This realism is repeated in his larger pieces and there are collections that you will find on Tangerine Press’s website if you want to explore more. Heroin Haiku’s is printed on good quality cream stock in piercing black ink. It can take you a minute or an hour to read, depending on how much you want to see into it. It is a fine addition to my poetry shelf.

 

 

 

Poetry Reviews Tangerine Press

Exclamation Marx!

On a cold Sunday, cocooned in my morning blanket, poet Neil Laurenson sent me a message. “Would I like to have a look at his poetry?”. I wasn’t going anywhere, so trapped in fact, I could hardly move. So I said “yep, no worries, I’ll take a look”. A few minutes later a big block of red and that iconic face flashed into view. The words Exclamation Marx! stamped hard. Dad joke or manifesto? I would soon find out. The whole thing seemed a little dated. Brexit was storming and I wasn’t really sure of what was coming my way. ‘Wait a minute?’ I thought, pausing for what seemed like an eternity. The traffic stilled, the birds ceased. It was so quiet, you could hear a pun drop. Yep, cool! I wriggle in my pillow and read on. I am a big fan of the pun, that painful past time that can turn a roomful of people into a cringing mass of spasmoids. Seems Neil can’t help himself. It is only a person of high standards, left leanings and straight out talent that can get away with it page after page. Somehow he pulls it off. Though Neil doesn’t seem to get it right with politics, with the missus, or his god for that matter, at least he can turn it his way with a few punchlines. Sometimes, just when you think he has a brilliant thought, where no turn of phrase can be tampered with, Neil just can’t help himself. Like a game of jinx, he said it last, so I am stuck here until the end. In under an hour I was lost in it, just enjoying it for no other reason than the sheer spontaneous stupidity of life. I was trapped in a room with the Trotskyites and hey nothing wrong with that. Some pieces felt throw away, best heard delivered rapid fire on an open mic, but some really had me smiling. So yes, there is a lot of comedy in this poetry, like rally’s down my local town hall in the 80’s. we are advised at the start ‘TO BE READ ALOUD’. I like that, but my inner voice can turn it on and assume the persona required. It starts with a cute play on words in an education system that is far removed from the ideologies of the left. It’s pomposity and thought process very droll. It does have a poeticism to some punchlines, I would love to have more moments, like Death In Basingstoke, “the cat watched the halo of flies above the mouse he had killed three days ago” There is of course more recent findings and I don’t mind a little blue, the jab in the ribs. My favourite being The Ringmaster’s Confession “for three and a half years I have wanted to swing from her chandeliers” ooh er missus, smirks aplenty. Lots of stabs at past and current pollies, the uncovering of Thatcher’s papers and her aversion to dildos, well hung parliaments and the rest. I like it when Neil shows his absurd side. Like in Spoke Too Soon and what happens when you swallow acorns and the tender wind in the willowesque play of Mole. Exclamation Marx! is not something that I would dip in and out of regularly, but Neil Laurenson, the poet from Worcester, definitely made the sun stream a little brighter through my blinds that day. You can connect with Neil via twitter, you can support Neil by purchasing via Silhouette Press

Copy of NL - EM - COVER

Poetry Reviews

Hand Job 10

There is a lot of spirit in this issue. I’m sensitive to these things and this seriously vibrates with the stuff. Poetry, photography, short stories and performance, all here. I slowly peel back the clear plastic sleeve to see who’s inside. Hand Job Issue 10 gave a call out for all things a little…um, strange. An ‘Occultist Realism’ theme. You know, something Alistair Crowley could peruse while dunking biscuits in his tea. Jim Gibson and Sophie Pitchford searched far and wide on this one. No stone circle was left unturned. The tin foil hat brigade reject slips were sent out quick, leaving them with a stellar bunch of writers to accommodate the page. CmmNHI7UEAAmKfbSo, we start with Granton Leviathon. I grab my blanket and get stuck in. Like Renwick’s grandchildren, I stare up into the old man’s face and let the tale unfold. ‘Tell us of the Granton People eater’ we whisper. We are all ready for a candle-under-the-chin story, but my ears are settled on what is going on next door. Magdelena is frustrated. Promises of a new home, a new life back in her homeland once they save enough money is not coming quick enough. So she kicks her no good husband out into the cold night. A lighthouse and a six pack is his destination. Will he meet the monster himself? Of course! No one writes domestic squalor with comic accents quite like Joseph Ridgwell can. Funny, edge of your seat and nasty, his Granton Leviathon is a great start. Another component of this surprise package of a zine is the bonus poetry performance CD of artists who have been in this and past issues. Joseph turns on the mic and bursts out first with his do-it-yourself, no airs, no graces, just himself and some chintzy back up tapes. It has all the clunks and amateur fades of a bitter bingo caller. I dig it muchly. 8mm is all tequila and mucho macho, and reminds me of his brilliant novel Burrito Deluxe. He spins a few on this bonus CD, Arose From The Dead, The Kiss and Satan’s Garlanded Pimp, all with cheek, irreverence and fun. I’m excited because I have Raif Mansell in my ears at the same time reading him. I remember other poems of his when I was catching up on the evolution of Hand Job. Bang On is a lesson in synonyms and love ‘the moon was hanging with the sun in the sky‘ a touching poem of a father and daughter, and the influence from all that surrounds them. His soft delivery exactly what the title suggests. A Waiter In Kingston Upon Thames just as thoughtful and hopeful. The Holy Hydron Collider is next forming a weird synchro as I can hear the popcorn festival of Angels & Demons on the background telly as I type. So its links to the Hadron Collider and the god particle is pretty fresh in my mind. Ben Williams confirms that these scientists’ gods are in for a bollocking, theories fly by like short stories, their own gods dangling from their keyrings. Time for some photography and Hand Job‘s own Sophie Pitchford nymphs it in the buds and brambles of nibbled mushrooms and shows us some nature shots. We ask the forest for answers, we see them in the trees and soil. Onto The Shine Of John Donne where ‘everything glistened like the inside of a drunk God’s puppet-theatre’ I’m an avid follower of Miggy Angel‘s work. His poetry, photography and collaborative ventures are exceptional. This metaphysical story on the stairs glows like a dustbin fire and tears into you. No truer tale could teach as much. Besides hosting a premiere performance poetry night called Speech Therapy every month, Miggy is also editor of the wonderful ‘not for profit/for prophecyBurning House Press community. It is a must to explore this supportive and encouraging project. Azeem Ali’s symbols and simulcrae have me staring for a while and ready to tackle Dead Witches and that old chestnut fear of being different. Cody Yeo brings the rituals of both parties through a tight dialogue and brings to the fore the truer evil. Ian Cusack’s The Wicker Man is as mad as putting a toad in your mouth. I love its cantakerous rant. Terence Corless never stops impressing me. So pleased to read his short story Gladys. An intriguing, mystical, sad and joyous mind bomb of a story. Bonus thrill is his aural contribution Taking It In produced by Penny Ashdown with Music by Matthies -LS. Thoughts swallowed when the sensurround kicks in. There is a cool abstraction by illustrator and collager Blair Frame, his contribution If Death Can Fly, So Can I swirls with everyone’s own meaning. Dean Lilleyman reads like a hallucination with Moon Burns The Sun. A ritualistic trance into another realm, shifting shapes raw and instinctual, in and out of his own night sweats. The poem Changeling by Michael Murray skips inside its folkloric beat ‘with crumbs for dreams and a blob of butter where my heart was’, loneliness is a strange creature. Thrilled to see a piece from Dean Cavanagh. This poem I’ve read dozens of times. Like a casino floor of Dante’s that’s been closed for renovations. The dice man’s reflection twists in a modern fury of randomness and manipulation leaving me with a beautiful fear, a calm inside an uncontrollable future. Yvette Robinson and Jennifer Skip’s photography looks like a switched on absurdist revival. Closer investigation reveals a deeper meaning on gender, body image and the media. Their photography from promotion during The Festival Of The Body held in Leeds in March stops me in my tracks. More words and Michael Murray is resurrected inside the vivid world we enter in dreams and vice versa. Onto the world of a cashless society. Paul Case’s story of Mr Fitzjohn’s frustrating transformation in The New Bank shows the futile circle we get ourselves into. The pages now thinning I see Jason Jackson’s name. His childhood once again reminisced. A haunting of Worms so perfectly recalled, where dream becomes real becomes dream, just perfect. The words keep flowing as I pop my headphones back on and get all snug inside Holly Watson’s (The Conventry Conch) The Carboot story. This has me in stitches. Later, she has Nanny Pams Jeans on. Holly sounds exactly how I read her in my mind. The sweet, straight delivery of her own prose has perfect comic timing. She just has to share more of these aurally. Holly is getting quite a fan base with everyone I share her work with. Listening to her read is just a joy. Hollow Hyms – Captain Of the Rant Vs Hair Explosion blasts nice bass beats between a spleen let loose, waxing on the homogenisation of our world, his passion wilted with frustration. The orchestration around the strong lament is enough to take this to the level of an extraordinary recording. CmmNDXPUIAAtSWpIan Cusack pops in between lunch and records this exclusive Universe Of Life. Having read Ian over the years, it is a delight to hear the strength and nuances on the lines he has cooked up. He is a great story teller, his no thrills intros like calling the next patient inside his surgery. Poisoned is grim, but what a story, I adore this CD so much, hands free, all ears. Dean Lilleyman’s I Get Into Town Early, is a piece from his novel Billy & The Devil. I have heard him recite many pieces before, usually uncomfortable squirmers, absolutely fantastic. His latest The Gospel According To Johnny Bender has been launched and ready to check out. Meetings And Tales by Yessica Klein and read by Anya Oderyakova flies over your mind. Words rest where they are needed. Line by line, the delivery is mesmeric. Lay on the grass, let the light in. This is a beautiful collaboration. When I first heard the collaboration of We Bleed Ink I was gobsmacked.  The poetry of Miggy Angel (Words/Voice)  combined with the brilliant sound sculptures of John Freer (Instruments/Production) are mesmerising. Freer’s audio poise is sublime and if they don’t release all the pieces they have in their back catalogue soon this emptiness inside me will remain forever. Their audio piece, The Saint, strolls the pavement until it has the guts to spit the truth. Finally something slips onto the ground. A folded A4, Jim Gibson residing on each side. These two pieces highlight his own skill with prose. You become the observer inside the melancholic haze of childhood, black and white moments. A great way to end this fantastic package of lit and performance that Hand Job has produced. Limited edition so get your hands on one quick.  Also out RPM – A Micro Zine and Children Of Snakehill, all available here.

 

 

 

Dean Cavanagh Dean Lilleyman Hand Job Joseph Ridgwell Miggy Angel Poetry Reviews Uncategorized Zines & Journals

The Mannequins Are More Real Than You – James Knight

Always find it easy to fall into James Knight’s mind, my imagination primed for his latest collection. The Bird King and I have done this dance before. Other words and worlds he has shared over the years. Good news, the Mannequins are back. A wonderful obsession shared with many. Our showroom friends with their stiff manners, perfect dark side smiles. They are the plastic bones that hold this all together. You will find them wondering around the various levels of his mind, and throughout this book. The windows they tap, tap, tap upon are merely his eyes, riding lifts, popping out at uncertain floors. It is a symbiotic relationship. One can’t exist without the other and they need him more than he realises. The Bird is no king without them. A rewriting of Carroll as Dante has Alice and the rabbit doing very strange things. This bad poets’ alternative holes are filled with an even more surreal reality, 13 of them, his only number. Dr Mort is still alive, closing in on childhood, the past dissolves with every mention. The little poems that sneak in like bookmarks are perfect. The first Patience is a whisper from the back room. Larger characters taking over their stage, like Eve. Epic as an aria “Eve spun a web from midnight, God’s words, frail, dry, got caught in it and shivered to dust” A painting, Sistine in its dream, cracks in the tempera. Objectum sexuality has piqued his feathers, his ‘amorous capriciousness reaches delirious heights‘ and a reminder to hide the furniture when he visits. My dream is to see one of The Bird King’s ‘scenes … that no no one has made‘ mirroring his 13 Deleted Scenes From A Film into a visual feast. Too long a wait, he must do it himself via words, his TV Murder Mystery  a gripping story that points the finger at everyone.

Ce6Im2GWAAAtMIz.jpg largeThis is how these stories read. A three year sojourn. Their roots dormant inside a timeline. A series of tweets sunlit to expand or grab and run with collaborators. Writers and artists like Nicky Morlock’s Transformations and the Norse inspired Nine Realms series. Susan Omand’s beautiful colour illustrations in The Mannequin and the magnificent artist Viviana Hinojosa. Theirs is a perfect match of sublime hand drawn visuals and surreal worlds for those who still believe in the magic of illustration and storytelling. Even I couldn’t resist his squawks. James’ nest is hard to resist. As soon as I saw his tweets for the Glitch Witch, my tongue was rolling all over it. James taking my recordings and passing them on to Adam Wimbush to weave into a soundscape that you can listen to here.

Story after story continue. Orpheus and Eurydice and Perdita In Pieces are beautiful. I could sense big shoes coming and I was right. The existential funnymen paint a bleak picture, “For the clowns, sleep is a rehearsal for death. They keep their eyes open and dream of nothing“. Hallucinations a plenty in 13 Circles Of Hell Hidden From Dante But Revealed To The Bird King In A Series Of Hallucinations Caused By Medicine For A Urinary Tract Infection. After reading realise The Bird King seems normal to me, his state of mind one and the same, infected or not. It all makes sense if you follow the Bird King’s path. Maggots and Sea Of Knives all  warm up to his Chimerical Biography, a mission statement for the gang he has created. There are new words for old mythologies, e.e. cummings in upper case and many other sacriliges. A kind of This Is Your Life, celebrating only his mind. The Bird King’s past is all there for us to squirm in and admire. The Mannequins Are More Real Than You is available to download free on Smashwords, so what’s stopping you? You can also pay for something physical via Lulu.

James Knight Poetry Reviews