Sunday, 30 October 2016

Halloween Feast by James WF Roberts

Halloween Feast
by James WF Roberts

Here they come
all those little kiddies
dressed in their capes
and their shields,
Princesses and Little Green men,
Spider man and Wolverine.
Their skin oily and loose
from pigging out all night
as they go from house to house.
There’s something about
American life these days
that makes me hungry.

So, many kids, fat and docile
zombified from behavioural drugs
fast food, TV, phones, pads, Facebook
and consoles.
The fatter they are
the harder it is for them
to get away; why would they want to get away
from little old me?

I have cakes,
I have candies,
I have candy-apples
gum drops, gingerbread men
everything a baker can bake
to entice his prey.

And here they all come
two by two this human
anime zoo,
my piper’s song
baked goods wafting out my chimney
they’re floating like a Disney movie
straight to my door

straight through my door
as they gorge themselves
plumper, and plumper; with my baster I drizzle extra
virgin olive oil.

Their skin glisten,  like wet leather
Calm down—calm down!—patience—patience is all  that is required.
Why are they always so eager to jump in the hot tub,
with all of  their little friends?

I throw in some carrots, parsley, potatoes and leaks.
four onions and four flowers of garlic—just for a dash of flavour.
I switch off the light. 

Down comes the lid of my giant pot.

Me and the pastor will be eating tonight!

“Trick or Treat” (a drabble).

“Trick or Treat” (a drabble).
James WF Roberts

Fuzzy. Everything’s fuzzy, out of focus. Head throbbing. What’s that rancid smell? Where am I? What happened? Come on think…think. What’s the last thing you remember?

A muffled scream echoes down a hall way.
Fuck! What was that?  Fuck!
Gunshot rings out. Creaking floorboards. A door slams.
Don’t make a sound. Don’t make a sound!

Heavy foot falls, pound wooden floorboards.
SHIT! Shit! What’s happening…where am I? last thing I remember. Opening the door some kids screaming out “trick or treat”. The world went dark.
Keys are fumbling. Latch open. Dull eyes are staring.
“trick or treat…girlie”. He reaches in. 

The Ballad of Jack ‘O’ Lantern By James WF Roberts

The Ballad of Jack ‘O’ Lantern 

by James WF Roberts

Old Jack, was of the Emerald isle,
they say, he traveled a mighty mile
by sea, over mountains, swampy road
only ambition was to find and build a home.

‘That’s enough for a man’,
he’d say, ‘who wants riches
power or fame?
I’ve a good patch of land
cattle and crop
just a good cigar
a nip of a wee drop’.

But, all did not augur well for this man named Jack
for a drought had come hard and come fast,
his beautiful crop, had turned all to ash,
all except his strong and lucky pumpkin patch. 

Poor Old Jack, started drinking
desperate for cash,
oh, poor Jack fell deep, and he fell fast,
pretty soon all he did was lying and sinning
women and whiskey, dice, card or horse,
he’d make his luck back, by skill or by force.
he’d given up on prayin’, he’d given up all hope,
then he happened by a Spring Heeled Jack
bored and looking for a chance.

Old Jack knew what he was doing
when he offered a game to that stranger,
Spring Heeled Jack, was the Devil, so old Jack knew of the danger
he offered his soul and his strong pumpkin patch,
if old Nick himself would turn all the dirt in Jack’s pockets, into cold hard cash.
Not caring for the warning, or the deal he had made,
with a wave of a hand

Jack soon became the richest man in the land
But, old Jack did get greedy, and old Nick would laugh,
for soon Jack wanted every farm in the land
an angry mob stormed his homestead
where old Jack’s stubborn and greed, knew no end,
a fight broke out, old Jack lost his head.

And now every Halloween he wanders around
every state, every city, every town,
looking for his head, so he can be buried in full, where his body remains.

For all the children say, ‘run, run, run and hide,
if Jack looks you in the eye, you die and take his place,
wandering the land for his lost head.

We put out those pumpkins, every October, to send old Jack on his way.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Release Day: The Siren's Call, issue #29 Hallowe'en.

Release Day: The Siren's Call, issue #29 Hallowe'en.

The 29th issue of The Sirens Call eZine comes in at 167 pages and features short stories, flash fiction, and poetry centered on the theme of Hallowe'en Hell.

It also contains artwork by, and an interview with, Joe Roberts, as well as interviews with KL Dantes, author of Mill's Woods, and Maynard Blackoak, author of Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West!

It's such an honour to be published in such illustrious company.
  Artist, Joe Roberts (@Joe_R_Roberts). Authors: Diane Arrelle, James Austin, Maynard Blackoak, C. Cooch, Stuart Conover, Stephen Crowley, Jessica Curtis, Calvin Demmer, Stacy Fileccia, Marlena Frank, David J. Gibbs, J.W. Grace (Jim Grace), L. Page Hamilton (Laura Hamilton), Jill Hand, Kevin Holton, Patrick Loveland, Kahramanah, Nick Manzolillo, R.J. Meldrum (Richard Meldrum), Jacob Carl Mielke, Otis Moore Jr., Madeline Mora-Summonte, Megan O'Leary, Carl Palmer, Author Lucretia Richmond, James WF Roberts, Andrew Robertson, Rory J. Roche, Nicolas Rose, B. David Spicer (Brian Spicer), Mark Steinwachs, Larry Underwood, J.M. Van Horn, Tim Wellman, Terry M. West, Matthew Wilson, Patrick Winters, and KL Dantes. And of course, our relentless team at SCP: Julianne Snow, Gloria Bobrowicz, and Nina D'Arcangela (plus all the usual assorted suspects/minions who go un-named)

Download it free here today: 

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Glamour Girl (words and images by James WF Roberts)

(Words and Images by James WF Roberts/Red Wolf Press)

The crowd moves as she walks through the room
like Moses parting the Red Sea
her lips hypnotise you
her eyes invite you
Hollywood and red lights
angel and demon
it’s the story of the glamour girl

She moves in you something
you try to hide
she awakens in you
fantasies and make-believe
sends you to the highest peaks
but obliterates your pride

Can change her look and her aspect
like she’s breathing in and out
red hair—old world noir
blonde hair—rock chick all the way
jet black and a singlet top, or leather corset

Red lips
that make you cry
oh those sexy eyes
Glamour girl
breaks your pride

Glamour girl
best friend you can ever
glamour girl
doesn’t give up on you
when the rest of the world
casts you aside

Fierce as a lioness
as gentle as a fire in the night
Glamour girl astounds
glamour girl arouses
glamour girl espouses
All that’s what’s left inside

Model: Ast Rid/Maya Tal

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Twenty Days (a father's Day/ remembrance poem) by James WF Roberts

Twenty Days 
 (a father's Day/ remembrance poem)
by James WF Roberts

Twenty days
until another anniversary passes
twenty days
until I realise
how of us is different
how much of us is exactly the same?
no memories of life before that day,
no memories of what I should remember
glockenspiels and being out of time
vague memories of you teaching
me how to keep it.

Playing Vader’s theme
on your synthesiser when no-body was home
watching you play 1812 on the stage,
the music man,
the carnival, the fame
the whispers
that surround your name.

Small town legacy
a son—can’t live up to in glory
only ever in shame.
I grew a beard to hide your face
in the mirror
but it’ll only ever be the same.

What would life be like
if that day never came
would I still be the same?
forever searching
forever needing
always seeking fame.

Faith and religion
questioning every value
questioning the reason
you died,

the reason why I arrived?
When you were my age
I was born.
when you were my age,
and before,
you seen so much
of the world,
had made a name
be rewarded
found the love of your life
found the greatest person in the world
she became a mother and your wife
will she ever find the bliss she deserves?

All through school
always compared to you
I’m just a mediocre
middling wanna be
when it comes to you

But on this father’s day
I’m trying to remember your voice
trying to remember what your face really looked like
trying to remember anything at all.

I look at Oedpedial father son relationships
how can they hate each other so much?
don’t they know how g-d-damn lucky they are?
they still have each other?

And, I get to thinkin’
what would I be like as a father?
How do we be something you never had
or when you had it, didn’t appreciate it?

On this father’s day,
I still see you from behind
strange round man, legs like a spider
playing the pedals on the organ
playing an Elvis song

I am 34—never married
no children—that I know of
though the claim’s been made before
what will happen in six years time?

it’s only twenty days
until we remember
the worst day of my life
but strangely the best?
is that my defining memory
my drive, my obsession
trying to build a legacy?

Saturday, 3 September 2016

RED WOLF PRESS: Don't Breathe--Horror movie review!

RED WOLF PRESS: Don't Breathe--Horror movie review!: Don’t Breathe " It’s sick, terrifying, brutal and totally engaging. It punches you in the face and keeps on punching until your...

Don't Breathe--Horror movie review!

Don’t Breathe

"It’s sick, terrifying, brutal and totally engaging. It punches you in the face and keeps on punching until your left dazed and confused—but in a good way" James WF Roberts, Red Wolf Press. 

4 out of 5.
Review by James WF Roberts

Sometimes the best way to see a horror movie, is in a dark cinema, surrounded by ohhs, and ahhs and ‘oh shit, ‘that scared the shit out of me’. Looking around at the people hiding behind their popcorn, jumping having that pop-corn strewn all over the sticky, chewing gum, bubble-gum, ice cream, soft drink stained carpet. There’s a spectacle about seeing a horror movie at the cinema, a spectacle that in our post-broadcast, private streaming world, we hardly get to experience anymore. There’s that anticipation of the all important first-jump scare.  That out of left-field moment, when we all jump out of our seats, scream and look away, then nervously laugh and admonish ourselves for acting so childishly in public. I didn’t look up this film on the web, didn’t look at any trailers, didn’t do any research at all. I saw the poster, that was enough to draw me in.  The title also drew me in , ‘Don’t Breathe’ well that actually didn’t draw me in as to make me furious, been working on an a spoken word erotica piece called ‘don’t breathe’ for sometime now….thanks Hollywood there goes that idea.
First thing’s first about this film. This is not a ‘found-OMFG-AM SO over found-footage-crap already’; this is not a film done with handy-cams, and jerky movements because we have no budget and we have to go for that edgy-indie film school verisimilitude. In fact it doesn’t even feel like a horror film. It doesn’t have that very in thing of setting up the usual suspects of characters, slutty girl, dim-witted blokey/jock character (that I secretly enjoy watching being mutilated in all the teenage slasher films—pay back time bitches!), the whimpy nerdy guy who dies too early, the virgin/sage young woman, none of these troupes are on display here. Instead you get an inventive, punchy, un-distracted simple, but effective ‘horror in a house’ rollercoaster that is well paced, controlled and doesn’t let up once the action really begins.

The plot is basically, Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex and Money are three Detroit thieves who get their kicks by breaking into the houses of wealthy people. Money gets word about a blind veteran who won a major cash settlement following the death of his only child. Figuring he's an easy target, the trio invades the man's secluded home in an abandoned neighbourhood. Finding themselves trapped inside, the young intruders must fight for their lives after making a shocking discovery about their supposedly helpless victim.

There were some problems in the plot and in the story, some minor dumbarse things that everyone does in a horror movie, it wasn’t the case of summoning the devil by playing with the Ouija board, or digging up an Indian grave-yard, there are just some naff things that these characters who are supposed to be thieves constantly do, talking about DNA residue after we see one of them walking around a house they break into at the start of the film, urinating, kind of defeats the purpose of being discreet. What works in this film is the pre-house build-up. The exposition of Rocky’s cruel and miserable life with her mother and her sister and the mother’s new boyfriend.  Though some of the dialogue about their plans of escaping to the California seemed a bit clunky at times, the dialogue and the backstory for the most part seemed quite realistic. I think the strengths and the weaknesses of the film are the same beast—that double-edge sword, the realism of the protagonist’s and antagonist’s back story and current situation is what puts the meat on the bone of this story, but it does dither a couple of times almost becoming a farce.

But, I am not going to get into minor plot mechanics that annoyed me. There’s something in every film that bugs the shit out of me.

There is some really, really sick and twisted shit going on in this film, that is almost out of place, but then it pulls back and snaps and you’re like ‘oh shit!’. There are a couple of really, really brilliantly executed fake-outs that took everybody by surprize, especially when you feel quite sad for one of the characters towards the end of the film. There’s a brutal and disturbing twist at the three-quarter mark of the film, which I will not spoil, but there’s a recoil and moan in the audience when a particular instrument is shown sitting, waiting to be used.
I recommend this movie for fans of horror, fans of thrillers and for people who want to get a movie done right. But don’t just take my word for it.

I give this film 4 out of 5. While not perfect it’s better than most horror films, I’ve seen for a very, very long time. It’s sick, terrifying, brutal and totally engaging. It punches you in the face and keeps on punching until your left dazed and confused—but in a good way.

My one hope with this film is that it is a standalone film and not the beginning of a franchise or a series-as I think it would ruin the whole concept of this film if there was a sequel.

Don't Breathe has received positive reviews from critics. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 87%, based on 120 reviews, with an average rating of 
7.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Don't Breathe smartly twists its sturdy premise to offer a satisfyingly tense, chilling addition to the home invasion genre that's all the more effective for its simplicity."

On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating, the film has a score of 71 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.

Dennis Harvey of Variety called Don't Breathe "a muscular exercise in brutal, relentless peril that should please genre fans."Jim Vejvoda of IGN awarded 8.8/10 and wrote, "Director Fede Alvarez delivers a lean, very mean thrill ride with Don't Breathe, tapping into several primal human fears and further establishing himself as one of the genre filmmakers to keep an eye on in the years ahead.

"Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film 3 out 4 stars, writing: "This is some weird, twisted shit. Don't groan when I say Don't Breathe is a home-invasion thriller. Director Fede Alvarez is as good as it gets when it comes to playing with things that go bump in the night." 

Steve Pulaski of Influx Magazine gave the film a B grade and stated, "Don't Breathe is as taut as it is twisted, suspenseful as it is sick, and nerve-wracking as it is nasty. It's the first horror film of the year that I've seen that doesn't rely on cheap jump-scares, and when it does, actually gives you a reason to jump." 

Kyle Smith of the New York Post also gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, saying, "Apart from its thin characters and occasional trite moments, as well as a silly attempt to set up a sequel, Don't Breathe is just about perfect." Amy Nicholson of MTV wrote in a positive review, "Alvarez knows the size of his ambitions. He's written one great ghoul, surrounded him with targets, and simply let him let rip.

Sources IMDB and Wikipedia and youtube. 

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Melbourne Bitter (James WF Roberts)

Melbourne Bitter
(James WF Roberts)
Drinking a Schooner of Melbourne Bitter
at the bar of the Penny Black,
Dylan’s on the PA, or can we still call it jukebox?
“Mama take these guns off me,
 I can’t shoot them anymore”

Band’s setting up their gear,
with all the bands on the Brunny tonight
they’ll be lucky to get a good crowd here in.

It’s been a long time since I was here
this early in the day,
Hippie chicks,
backstreet poets,
leather-clad bohemes
With their meagre poems
in corner store bought
they’ve all just written the greatest
poem, that will never be heard.
From Dylan the music jumps to Heroin Girl.
was it an illusion the last time I heard this song here?
dancing on the floor with you
higher than Jupitar
me drunk and horny,
you in a singlet top and jeans
on a winter’s night, young looking
waif-like, everyone thinks
you’re underage,
as we pashed and dry fucked in the middle
of the Everclear song that was written about you
Robert Plant’s mournful serenade
‘Baby, baby,baby I won’t leave you’,
‘when the summer comes along…”
Cliché acoustic Tommy-like strum
before the feedback and the multi-tracking
kicks in.
What I wouldn’t do to get high tonight
stumble down Sydney road
wake up in some woman’s bed,
usually a married woman’s bed
(the desperate, the horny and the bored
flock to me).
I can see why my late old man
used to love this beer,
Melbourne Bitter does taste better
than Vomit Bombs—Victorian Bitter
and Carlton.
Tastes like a beer should
English or European,
two back  Canadian backpackers
two young hot girls
are arguing what Stairway to Heaven is
really about—all I want to say
isn’t it a pair of stockings or pantyhose with
ladders in them?

And the Hurdy-Gurdy man is sad
Fuck Donovan’s a depressive fuck!
I should be stoned
or getting blown listening to
this song,
just for the words
to not make me ache
so much.
Debating whether
to have another schooner
or go home
or just stay out
“here comes the Rolly Polly man singing
songs of love”.
Now John Voight as a Rent Boy’s dancing
in my mind,
‘Coz ‘everybody’s talking at me,
but I don’t hear a word they’re sayin’’.
Get a another Schooner
the American blonde pouring the beer
takes it back after the pour,
“that’s a little too much head”.
I can’t resist,
“I could say something but I shouldn’t”.

She retorts like shot through a gun,
“yes but that would be too easy…”

Monday, 25 July 2016

Judas’ Stain James WF Roberts

Judas’ Stain

James WF Roberts

Tangled webs
guilty rides all over
and you hate yourself
for confessing all to
the guy she’s lying to,
but she’s turned you into
that ‘other guy’ you’re so desperate
no to return.
When the come for you at night,
a virtual banging down your door
begging you in tears,
just to make it all, alright
and there’s something about her
that makes you think of the other
one again—you say to yourself
if I save this one,
maybe I’ve been redeemed.

And she uses the same line
as the one before her did,

dangling you just above the water
hypnotised by Narcissist;
Dorian Gray is laughing
she twisted in the knife,
her back up plan
to burn you both,
keep everyone on their toes,
but the lies are so easy to crumble
she’s not quite the same level
sociopath as the one before her was

And she uses the same line
as the one before her did
fake bruises on her body
hide the ones on her soul,
she may talk the talk
walk the walk

but there’s too much at stake
when kids are involved,
and you tell yourself
you’ve done the right thing
by telling the wronged man
all the shit she did

but you still feel so guilty
you still hate yourself
how many showers
wash away
the familiar Judas’ stain?

And she uses the same line
as the one before her did
fake bruises on her body
hide the ones on her soul,
she may talk the talk;
but maybe it’s all revenge
for the games played on her,

so who’s lying to who?
Who’s crying to who?
cutting ties,
severing the wound
why can I still feel it bleed?

but you still feel so guilty
you still hate yourself
how many showers
wash away
the familiar Judas’ stain?

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Nandan Road, East, Shanghai, July 2016.

Nandan Road, East, Shanghai, July 2016.
James WF Roberts

The rhythm of the city
traffic and J-walkers,
scooters and electric motor bikes;

sitting in a tiny little bar, fag on my lips,
my third pint of Tsingtao in under twenty minutes.

An American blonde’s playing pool,

a young Chinese couple on a date
are giggling and playing darts.
All night convenience stores
serving dinner, selling double distilled
vodka and gin, for under $30 AUD.

Xujiahui station,

a labyrinth of Exits and Lines
vending machines
and urban screens,
curving onto the womb
of subway, not manifesto
claims, little Red book
or Marxism—advertising water parks,
Jackie Chan films, Shanghai village,
a water park where little angels
become little devils,
affluence everywhere.
We put our bags
on the conveyor belts
we are scanned and looked up
and down.

On the steps an old blind man
sings a haunting song,
a ballad I can’t understand
until he hears the clink of two Yuan coins
jingle in his jar, “Xièxiè”;
He responds.
I open the mini-can of Tsingtao
no-one seems to care.

I light a real Marlboro,
first real one had in so long.

all night restaurants and ATM’s in self-contained,
old fashioned phone booths;
ICIC, Construction Bank, Bank of China,
Bank of Shanghai.

Walking past ‘beauty parlours’ cough, cough;
where the girls are enamoured with my bright red hair,
“me…me, me number 8…’ she draws around her neck
and her fairly open shirt, than points and draws the Chinese character
of 8, around my chest, close to my heart.

ironically, the number
I am supposed to give
if I want this girl, and this girl only  to give me a full service;
but also the Chinese term for
money…Number 8 makes the world go round;
and hawkers trying to give me flyers and discount cards
for a gym, spa and pool; all I can think of are Romans
and Greeks in towels, discussing Julius or Nero, or Plato
being rubbed down…

Western bar,
end of my street,
Tiger beer on tap,
An American style burger and fries,
75RMB and pints that are only 25.

Another morning rush hour,
another ordered march,
chaotic and free flowing,
animated babies, Giraffe’s
Pandas warn about being too loud
about being rude or taking too long.
I buy my metro card.
buy a Café Latte in a can,
and move against traffic

Those urban screens
tantalise…KFC buckets
and new mobile phones,
Tsingtao ‘taking China to the world’;
but no-one watches,
no-one looks, too busy on WeChat
swapping red envelopes
and finding the best deals
one app to rule all apps.

Homeless woman weeps
pleading with all of us as
we walk on by, ten year old girl
or so, lying next to her asleep.
my heart in my throat as I pass by.
Cops walk past, on their way to their little booth,
they walk past her on the steps,
don’t tell her to move on. 

They just walk on.
Not out of inhumanity,
or indifference, but the practicality,
I’d wager of what can they actually do to
help, or apprehend.

Second day I see them,
different steps, different exit
to the station, this time I notice the boils,
the infection on the girl’s legs and arms,
she seems to only sleep. Her face is covered by
thick long mattered dark hair. My aviators hide
my red eyes,

Do I take a photo like some self-righteous Westerner
or do I just put 10RMB in her jar, I do the latter,
and wonder what will happen to her and her mother,
or grandmother in the future.

(C) 2016 Extract from " Fourteen Days in Shanghai". Red Wolf Press, 2016. 

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Streets of Shanghai No 1.James WF Roberts

Streets of Shanghai No 1.
James WF Roberts

Hazy rain
shimmers the city,
bright neons fuzzy in the
distance. A family of four
one what we would call a mope-head,
young son sitting in front of his dad,
wife and older daughter sit side-saddle,
weaving in and out of traffic. Is this normal
traffic or is it a blood sport?
Three or four boxes of fresh produce
on the handlebars.
Young girls driving motorbikes,
business attire, killer high heels
and a surgical mask.
She is texting while driving,
and weaving in out of traffic.
I wonder if you can bet on this online?

Faded glamour,
that Western cliché,
of ‘yellow music’ champagne and Jazz.
the new woman, sent to destroy family
values, fallen woman, is Shanghai a woman?
Like the poets used to say?
24 hour city
7 days a week.
Can go into a bank on a Sunday afternoon,
the creature comforts in this Paris of the East,
leaves Melbourne and Sydney so far behind it’s not funny.

Walking through a subterranean world
of concrete and steel
Labyrinth of futurism all around.
Super quiet trains. Super quiet commute.
Shanghai’s seduction has begun.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Flashback Friday! Tishani Doshi, 2011 Melbourne Writer’s Festival.

Flashback Friday! Tishani Doshi, 2011 Melbourne Writer’s Festival. 

Sometimes it is good to look back on your recent past, to see how far you’ve come, to see where you have grown as a writer, as a person, to see where you have grown up, grown out or just plain grown tired of things. I was going through my old blog, old website the other day and came across this review and article I wrote about one of my ultimate heroes of writing, a woman whom I have met once and that I read all the time, and who has recently toured around the world, with everyone’s favourite Australian writer/rapper and performer, Omar Musa. I am talking of course about Tishani Doshi. 

The 2011 Melbourne Writer’s Festival, was a turning point for me, for a lot of reasons, I conducted a few interviews, did a couple of readings at some open reading spaces, took in a few seminars—ahh to be working full time again, and have the ability to blow money and throw money around at the MWF, to buy books, to drink, and drink and drink every expensive wine in the Fed Square Bars,  back then I was still kinda running dope between Bendigo and Melbourne, I was the decoy. I wasn’t the driver (dressed in a long black coat and business attire, we had the whole thing rehearsed and worked out to a T; but we were never stopped, never caught by Highway patrol for chasing illusory rainbow coloured Rabbits, that spit fire and had horns, or allowing the car to be carried in the sky by the palm of a giant who had marshy hands like a dirt road (all true by the way) —the driver and I were always off our chops on mushrooms or pot, or a bit of Goey; he would drop me off in the city in the morning, then pick me up in the evening sometime, then of course of going straight home, we would end up at someone’s house pulling bongs, occasionally going to bed with a stoner chick—I think I was the one more actively engaged in doing that, as my ‘friend’ was way too busy watching some stupid conspiracy theory thing on YouTube or playing Eve Online, Call of Duty, or whatever game was happening at that moment in time, and I would be reciting baaaaad, and I mean really, really  bad poetry to whomever was half naked in the other room doing shots with me, I think the only thing I had back then that was of any worth was Echo of You (that doesn’t work to help one get laid, murder poems don’t work to seduce unless you’re Nick Cave or have the figure of Nick Cave) and Speak Softly Lie Still, which has always been my go to piece—still works! 

Now that was a tangent and a half.  So back to the story. I had several very interesting experiences at the 2011 Melborune Writers Festival, I had my first poem published in a world renown literary and art Journal, Rage. Poetry. Dead. (Tribute to Allen Ginsberg); in Verandah 26 Deakin University. And I met a few people who inspired me. It was the first time I had met international writers and could speak to them on their own level—my honours degree had just been completed so I knew what I was talking about in some ways when it came to literature, film, art, religion and philosophy. The most fascinating of the people I met at the festival that year was the amazing, beautiful and extremely intelligent Welsh/Indian Poet and Writer, Tishani Doshi.

Indian poetry is quite a remarkable genre in itself these days, because of the English public school system that has been in operation for well over one hundred and fifty years; classic and metaphysical texts like the Vedas, the Vedanta and of course The Bhagavad Gita, modern  school chorales of poetry recitals, there is a long and illustrious history of poetry and literature that pre-dates most Western culture, and is still more robust and vibrant than whatever we have in Australia and even the UK and the USA.  I was always quite fortunate back towards the end of my first as I call it, when I still had a radio show, that rated highly and ran for eight years and was the only spoken word show in its timeslot in the country that was not censored, or controlled by anything more than the whims of the producer/host and the direction of my ever faithful and robust fans, that we had a lot of interaction with poets in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the UK, South Africa, USA and Africa. So, I knew how incredible a lot Indian poetry in English was already.  Indian poets in English are true word smiths, they really know how to weave and control meter and rhythm.

From the beginning of Countries of the Body, you discover a remarkably well put together book tha has range and scope. It is not just a collection of early works, fragments and ideas running headlong in no particular order throughout the book. What we have here is an atlas of poetic ideas, different forms and vast distances, almost alien cultures entwining, dancing, moving as one entity together.
This collection was nominated and won several poetry prizes including the prestigious Forward Poetry Prize for best first collection in the U.K only adds to the mystique and the promise that Doshi’s work can only get better.

There is a cruel honesty in many of the poems in this collection. There are images that are hauntingly beautiful and savage at the same time. We are given an insight into Tishani’s world that is both Western and Indian, that you might think would be constantly at odds with each other, yet they seem to unite the reader into feelings of hope and longing. Where most writers I would imagine find themselves isolated in one world and at home in the other, Doshi seems to be both at home in the West and in India but also strangely alienated from both cultures.

Tishani’s poems are expertly crafted, economical, visceral and quite graceful. Many of the poems I feel you can tell were written by a dancer, there is a luxuriating, breathless rhythm to it all. Her words are sensitive and emotive down to the very nuance of her subject matter. Physicality and sexuality seem to me to be just bubbling away under the surface of a lot of her poems. As stated earlier each poem is like its own country, its own world that at times seems randomly connected to the poems around it, yet the work together so well.

She has a style of writing that is both panoramic in its layering of images and exact a visceral edge, rather  like a stiletto blade.

There is a transportative earnestness in her words: “I am miles from home, in Mombassa,/ Putting diamonds in my ears/ Like a woman with three names/ Instead of one” or “Rilke is following me everywhere/ With his tailor-made suits/And vegetarian smile” or “I forgot how Madras loves noise — /Loves neighbours and pregnant women/ And Gods and babies”.

But, what I love the most about this collection is the experimental and experiential nature of her writing. She writes about death and mourning. Loss and the staleness of relationships. Poems about the tsunami, insanity, suicide and to a point about child-trafficking and the over saturation of Sex in the West.

Tisnahi seems to be able to stop herself write at the point of almost being self-indulgent. At first inspection of the poems in this collection you almost think there is a bit of random, wilful over-indulgence going on, yet you start reading the poems and those issues seem to melt away.
I cannot recommend this collection highly enough. This is the first poetry collection I read cover to cover in under two hours. By the end of that experience I was short of breath, for I thought every word I read was taking something out of me.

Here is one of my favourites from this collection:

At the Rodin Museum
by Tishani Doshi,
Published in Wasafiri (UK), 2006

Rilke is following me everywhere
with his tailor-made suits
and vegetarian smile.

He says because I’m young,
I’m always beginning,
and cannot know love.

He sees how I’m a giant piece
of glass again, trying
to catch the sun

in remote corners of rooms,
mountain tops, uncertain
places of light.

He speaks of the cruelty
of hospitals, the stillness
of cathedrals,
takes me through bodies
and arms and legs
of such extravagant size,
the ancient sky burrows in
with all the dead words
we carry and cannot use.

He holds up mirrors
from which our reflections fall —
half-battered existences,

where we lose ourselves
for the sake of the other,
and the others still to come.

To listen to my interview with Tishani, for Phoenix Fm Bendigo, please go here: 

****Tishani’s debut collection of poems, Countries of the Body, won the prestigious Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2006. She is also the recipient of an Eric Gregory Award, the All-India Poetry Prize for her poem The Day We Went to the Sea, and was finalist in the Outlook-Picador Non-Fiction competition for her essay, Excerpts from the Journals of a Delusional Widow.

Her first novel, The Pleasure Seekers, was published to critical acclaim by Bloomsbury in 2010 and translated into several languages. It was short-listed for the Hindu Best Fiction Award, and longlisted for the Orange Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Literary award.

(as of 2011) Her latest book is a collection of poems, Everything Begins Elsewhere. It is published by HarperCollins (India), Bloodaxe (UK) and Copper Canyon (USA). Currently Tishani divides her time between a village by the sea in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere.