*  *  *

At Mullumbimby primary school Bill Bouveret read us the verse of Henry Lawson and ‘Banjo’ Patterson, and this world was all around us. At the age of ten I’d written my first poem (‘My Bike’), at a time when children were certainly not encouraged to do such things. I’d recited a selection of my own poems at the 1954 Wardell Primary School Christmas Tree, precocious brat that I must have been. My Wilson grandmother was in the audience as I recall, looking equally proud and embarrassed at the same time.

In 1968 I planted a Lord Howe Island banyan tree at East Wardell, at the site of pioneer settlement of my great grandparents. At the last Ballina Council of 2021 this tree was officially recognised as the Shire’s Poet’s Tree.

Location Map for Poet’s Tree at East Wardell

At Mullumbimby High School my English teacher, Wal Wardman, had introduced me to Shelley, Slessor, Shakespeare and Keats at Mullumbimby High. Paul Lamb lectured us on Housman, Hopkins and Eliot at Armidale Teachers’ College, and required us to write some poems. Housman had spoken to me (of sex, death and suicide back on the farm) when I was seventeen. Seeds had been sown.

In 1967 I fell in love with Margaret Macintyre and wrote bad verse. In 1968, while working at Armidale Teachers’ College (from 1968 – 1972), I switched my creative energies from painting to writing poetry. My verse improved as I fell out of love after the marriage failed, and I’ve kept on writing obsessively since that time.

Employment at The Australian Museum, Sydney, quite literally the ‘House of the Muses’, was where my poetry was consolidated. Poetic fragments were conceived in the bath, in bed, or at the traffic lights. I honed my poems on the ferry (the primary quiet-time in my working day), or at boring meetings.

In 1975, after experiencing considerable trouble having individual poems accepted by magazines, I was published under the pseudonym of ‘Eileen’ Wilson in Mother I’m Rooted, an Anthology of Australian Women Poets (my own lesser Ern Malley hoax). Not having had a ‘pater’ meant I had little idea of the ‘patriarchy’ that these middle class city women were all carrying on about. Nor did I like quotas as they distinguished against talent at selection’s edge, and to publish a book of female poets was equivalent to producing a book a brown-eyed poets to my mind, as gender and eye colour were both genetically determined.

This turned out to be a very bad career move in hindsight, resulting in me being sin-binned in certain quarters for two score years and six, necessitating in the creation of Woodbine Press.

The story of my quest to become a poet is told in my three books of Poetic Memoirs: Book One, The Mullumbimby Kid: a portrait of the poet as a child; Book Two, The Melancholy Dane: a portrait of the poet as a young man; and Book Three, Long-Distance Poet: a portrait of the poet as an old fart (the latter being designed as a primary-source for future scholars who may wish to study the Australian Poetry Wars (and the Gender Wars) of the late 20th Century.

I present electronic copies of my books as examples of my poetry/poetic genesis:

Please feel free to download and save these files, share and circulate them. You can do anything except sell them. Printed copies of these and other publications are available through Woodbine Press.

Woodbine Press

Apart from the Feminist backlash about ‘Eileen’, my chance of becoming a published poet (in the pre-electronic days) were somewhat less than the possibility of my being kicked to death by a mule back on the farm. Woodbine Press was established in 1982 as a subsidiary of the legendary publishers of Australian poetry, Edwards & Shaw (who published the first books of A.D. Hope, Les Murray, David Campbell and many more), with Dick Edwards and Rod Shaw (of Edwards & Shaw) as my silent partner. Dick went on to become a friend, and an important father figure in my life.

My first book of poetry, Banyan (1982), was printed with hot metal by Dick Edwards and Rod Shaw, the last book of poetry to come from their press before their retirement. Liberty, Egality Fraternity! (1984), The Dragon Tree (1985), Wild Tamarind (1987) and Falling Up Into Verse (1989) were subsequently produced by Dick Edwards and Rod Shaw, prior to Rod Shaw’s death, the last of this series being dedicated to Dick Edwards, ‘pig-farmer, philosopher, printer, publisher, and poet’.

The layout for The Rose Garden (1991) was done by Dick Edwards. With Dick’s failing health, Chaos Theory (1997) was the first Woodbine book to be produced electronically, and he saw an advanced copy of Cosmos Seven in 1998 (also dedicated to him), just before he died. All subsequent Woodbine books (post 1998) were produced without his invaluable editorial input.

My early books of poetry had all been graced by the delicate pencil drawings of Elizabeth McAlpine, until she contracted breast cancer. Asteroid Belt (2002, without illustrations) was dedicated to Elizabeth, who died in 2006. Some of her illustrations were recycled in Collected Poems (Kardoorair Press, 2002) and New Selected Poems (2010).

My exploits in publishing have essentially been a labour of love. Amy Witting’s Travel Diary (1985), John Carey’s Strip-Shopping for the Unemployed (1999), and John Ryan’s Tales of New England (2008), were also published under the Woodbine imprint. Now with the wonder of the Internet I hope my books may find a greater audience in the wider world, and that some of them become collector’s items sometime down the track.

Since 1982 I have published thirty books (through Woodbine Press, Hale & Iremonger, Kangaroo Press, Rainforest Publishing, Kardoorair Press, and the Royal Botanic Gardens Trust – of verse, about verse, prose works, and social histories of the Sydney Gardens and Domain), as listed below:

I was a guest on ABC ‘Poetica’ (3 December 2005, repeated 26 January 2008), in an episode called ‘A Stroll Through the Gardens’, talking about Poetic foci (plus poems) in the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney and the Sydney Domain: The ABC’s reference is at this link ; an audio of the program is here:

A reading at Montsalvat is at this link

Books by Edwin Wilson:

  • 2020, Family Tree: Old Friends, Rich Relations, family history, available for free downloading, at Downloads, on this Website (Woodbine Press)
  • 2020, Stardust Painter-Poet II, an upgrade of my 2015 book, with all the new significant paintings since 2015, also available for free downloading, ‘at Downloads’, on this Website (Woodbine Press)
  • 2019, Long-Distance Poet: A Portrait of the Poet as an Old Fart, a limited edition of Poetic Memoirs, Book Three (Woodbine Press)
  • 2018, Synthesis, a selection of my poems set to a complete collections of the pencil drawings of the late Elizabeth McAlpine (Woodbine Press)
  • 2017, Lord Nelson, Uncle Oliver and I: the Life and Death of Oliver Bainbridge, a much-expanded version of my 2013 Monograph (Woodbine Press)
  • 2015, Stardust Painter-Poet (Edwin Wilson: Paintings and Poems), larger-format Art Book of both my paintings and my poems (Woodbine Press)
  • 2014, Mullumbimby Dreaming, Art Book of Mullumbimby paintings and poems and Catalogue to an exhibition at Tweed River Gallery, Murwillumbah (Woodbine Press)
  • 2013, Oliver Bainbridge – Lord Nelson’s Great Grandson? (Woodbine Press)
  • 2012, New Collected Poems: 1952 – 2012 (Kardoorair Press)
  • 2012, second edition The Mullumbimby Kid (Woodbine Press)
  • 2010, New Selected Poems (Woodbine Press)
  • 2009, My Brother Jim, (Poetry, Woodbine Press)
  • 2006, The Melancholy Dane: A Portrait of the Poet as a Young Man (Poetic Memoirs, Book Two, Woodbine Press)
  • 2004, Poetry of Place, (Social History, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain, Royal Botanic Gardens Trust)
  • 2002, Asteroid Belt, (Poetry, Woodbine Press)
  • 2002, Anthology: Collected Poems (Kardoorair Press)
  • 2001, Cedar House, (Gothic Novel and Australian ‘Wuthering Heights’, Woodbine Press)
  • 2000, The Mullumbimby Kid: A Portrait of the Poet as a Child, (Poetic Memoirs, Book One, Woodbine Press)
  • 1998, Cosmos Seven, (Selected Poems, Woodbine Press)
  • 1997, Chaos Theory, (Poetry, Woodbine Press)
  • 1993, The Botanic Verses, (Poetry, Rainforest Publishing)
  • 1992, The Wishing Tree, (Social History, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain, Kangaroo Press, out of print)
  • 1991, The Rose Garden, (Poems, Woodbine Press)
  • 1990, Songs of the Forest, (Rainforest Poems, Hale & Iremonger)
  • 1989, Falling Up Into Verse, (Poetic Handbook, Woodbine Press)
  • 1987, Wild Tamarind, (Science fiction, Woodbine Press)
  • 1986, Discovering the Domain (Ed.), (Social History, Hale & Iremonger, out of print)
  • 1985, The Dragon Tree, (Poetry, Woodbine Press)
  • 1984, Liberty, Egality, Fraternity! (Novel, Woodbine Press. Please note ‘egality’ is a word derived from ‘egalitarianism’)
  • 1983, Drawn from Life (Ed.), (Catalogue to an early exhibition of Botanic Art, Royal Botanic Gardens, out of print)
  • 1982, Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney (Ed.), (‘Guide to the Gardens’, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, out of print)
  • 1982, Banyan, (Poetry, Woodbine Press)

Poetry, Post New Collected Poems

I was bitterly disappointed when New Collected Poems (my beautiful book brought out just prior to my seventieth birthday) was essentially ignored by the Literati (except for one good review in The Australian Writer). So much anxiety, hope, energy, ego and aspiration is invested in each small book of poems, these precious children of our laboured nights. Imagine how you would feel if your ‘Collected Works’ (derived from many such volumes of ’emotional investment’ produced as the result of sixty years of application to the craft of verse) had been ignored (which paradoxically was even worse than being mauled, as I’d been mauled before). Horace had referred to the ‘touchy race of poets’. It’s a jungle out there, this poetry scene, and as Ted Hughes had said, ‘you expect to be mauled… [as it] … goes with the territory’.

The Australian poetry scene has always been so incredibly ‘politically-correct’ (and even more PC than thee) and faction ridden (see my ‘Open Letter to Live Poets, Literary Editors, Reviewers, Academics, Students, Minister for the Arts type staff, Literature Board Funding Committee Wallahs, Publisher’s Assistants, and Organisers of Literary Festivals’, as found in the hard-copy version of my New Selected Poems (but left out of the electronic version)). From my perspective so much of the Australian poetry scene (since the 1970s) had been taken over by ‘Revisionists’, each going to the same parties and Conferences and reviewing each others books.  And sadly as far as I was concerned it seemed as if ‘they’ had long memories, and ‘had kept a little list’. The seventies and the eighties were a terrible time for a ‘live white male’ to try to break into the poetry game. In my Open Letter I had said ‘one gets much closer to truth as one approaches life’s finishing tape, as one fears failure less, as one has less to lose, and is less worried about what other people may think. Mark Twain [had] said you get closer to truth when you are dead, and preferably dead for a long time’. It is still my hope that my work will be ‘revised’ one day, when this current crop (myself included) has long been scythed. On being passed over so many times for the Queensland Poetry Festival I had had enough, and retired (hurt) from Poetry Australia, to focus on my paintings.

I’d read somewhere that Judith Wright had ‘retired’ from writing poems when she turned seventy. In truth I was exhausted after such a long and sustained mental effort; my stamina levels were much reduced, I was essentially ‘post-poetry, and far too mellow to write good verse, but still have a strong impulse to paint’, (New Collected Poems, x), but felt I was getting better as a painter.

My Art Catalogue, Stardust Painter-Poet (Edwin Wilson: Paintings and Poems), was picked up on Henry Lawson’s birthday, 17 June 2015, which I took as an auspicious day. Many of the significant paintings in this book were done post 2003, after my retirement from paid work, as part of my artistic ‘late-flowering’. This book was the inspiration of my 2016 RAS ‘Exhibition Stardust Painter-Poet’, that was opened and positively reviewed by John McDonald, art critic, Sydney Morning Herald. lift me out of the squabbling world of Australian poetry, that I should be assessed on both my paintings and my many books.

A number of lesser poems have trickled out since the publication of my New Collected Poems: ‘Recognition Test’; ‘Ah Am the Way’; revised last stanza of ‘Strangler Fig’; ‘Anima Poem’; ‘Summer Storms’; ‘Deep Time’; ‘Forty Years’; and ‘Skara Brae’, ‘Brunswick Heads 1940s’ (a development of ‘Summer Storms’, as published in The Bryon Shire Echo, 29 July 2015, p. 12); ‘New Spectacles’; ‘Tidge Has Gone with Tractors’; ‘Pumpkin Girl’;  ‘Mangrove Poem’; ‘Flower Poem’; ‘Famine Orphan’, ‘Perspective’ (two new stanzas); ‘Humanity’; ‘Crows Nest Derro’; and Pumpkin II’.

At this stage I can’t see myself bringing out another volume (of my ‘late poetic flowerings’), so I have included them here (in chronological order), as an addendum to my New Collected Poems (for citation purposes):

Recognition Test

(18 June 2012)


I failed a recognition test

the other day

with Lindy C,

having failed another one

of the young man

from Robin’s Nest,

now jowled and bald –

and having just replaced

my Website photograph

made me reflect aloud

how Margaret Dawn

had been restructured

over time.


Having failed to recognise Lindy Chamberlain on TV (who had been rather rather sexy when young), my wife Cheryl had shown me a photograph of the actor who played in Robin’s Nest, a TV show of a young man with a dolly wife running a restaurant with a one-armed Irish waiter. He had not aged well.


Ah Am the Way

(Management Review)

(14 August 2012)


Ah am the way

Ah am the light,

when black is white

and white is black

(no shades of grey)

Brothers and Sisters

you have strayed,

if you repent

and follow me

you will be saved –

when all the bunnies hop

to each buzzword or phrase.


Written as a result of having seen so many management reviews, with all their associated pseudo-religious jargon and bullshit,  in a long lifetime of work.


Strangler Fig

(19 June 2013)


High from a tree’s moist cleft

a probing radical of hair,

an easy-rider networking in air

as roots adhere in warp and weft;

embracing host in bane caress

as consequence of truth or dare;

some cookoo-flowering affair,

this property is theft.


Revised first stanza of ‘Strangler Fig’, as used in Mullumbimby Dreaming, p. 24


Anima Poem

(14 July 2014, incorporated into ‘Pumpkin II’)


You are my anima

and I your animus,

when I was driven

by a ruthless Muse

to be my star –

when loneliness

knows more than most,

that I am

what I am.


A poem with Jungian overtones.


Summer Storms

(4 November 2014)


Summer at Brunswick Heads

black sand burnt

lettuce seedlings

when the sun made fire

with a lens –

fruit bats at night,

toe-biters crunching

under the street lights –

into this crucible

of rot and mold

I wilt even in shade

on enervating afternoons –

yearning to summer storms,

for cyclones even,

just to ease

the static in the air –

for cleansing rain,

that rainforests may be.


Memories of the intensity of summer heat in childhood at Brunswick Heads.


Deep Time

(22 December 2014)


In human forms of measurement

a cubit was a forearm’s length,

a hand a hand, a foot a foot;

a yard three feet

(the outstretched arm

from nose of king),

humanity is less than skin,

a file-stroke on a fingernail –


when time was measured

by the sun, the season’s turn,

deep-time beyond imagining;

an ancient bubble

in a core of ice,

a saw-toothed graph

that we trespass

on mother earth.


A Great Push launched in ’55

to haunt our atmosphere and seas,

as  grapes fermented by the yeast

fruit out-of-season on the vine,

denial funded by dead plants

when time is being/being time,

this poem is written as a test.


A poem about deep time and climate change.


Forty Years

(28 April 2015)


To have grown old

together you and I

my little copper head,

as quick to laughter

as to tears,

sheet anchor, goad, and ballast

to life’s turbulence,

with two score years

of valency to help

domesticate my Muse –

freedom eschewed,

the double-bond of coupling

propitiated with ‘yes dears’,

no more to loiter

on some shady path

but knuckle down

to some career –

a granny now

knit one and purl,

who loved the granny

and the girl.


A poem to 40 years of marriage to Cheryl.


Skara Brae

(6 May 2015)


Down from the Ring of Brogdar

and the Odin Stone,

snug from the arctic howl

in elevated ground

close to the eating sea;

a Neolithic hamlet

honeycombed in shells,

turf-roofed, with central hearth

and beds, rock-cupboards

set in dry-stone walls –

and not some Movie Set

of Hobbit-dom

but the Real Thing –

gave me goose bumps

to think my Danish kin

had reached this edge

of continent,

why did they go?


Back in the bus

we look at new-born

calves and lambs,

so recently released in fields

tucked up against

more dry-stone walls –

same same construction

used in Skara Brae.


Poem inspired by our visit to Skara Brae, Orkney Islands, May 2015, and ‘sister’ poem to ‘Neolithic Church’, ‘Arthur’s Stone’, and ‘Bog Man’.


Brunswick Heads, 1940s

(22 July 2015)


Summer time

at Brunswick Heads,

the Lover’s Walks

on Harrys Hill

with monkey vines

on which to swing

and elkhorn ferns and palms,

where Henry went with Jean –

the bliss of climbing orchids

draped with yellow bells.


Sifting through grit

near studded wrecks

at the river bar,

for coloured stones

with smooth inlays

and broken shells

and urchin’s teeth –

detritus sucked up

from the reef

in summer storms.


Green-algal corn flakes

on the tide,

the lapping froth

went up the channels first

where poddy mullet swam;

then filled the little

valleys of the rippled flat,

dissolving the sand castles

of the soldier ants

stacked up like cannon balls.


The great arc of the Milky Way

and Magellanic Clouds at night,

toe-biters crunching

under the street light,

as fruit bats trace erratic

path from star to star,

to come to grief in the telegraph –

I watched them rot away

To scraps of skin and claw

My father looked like this.


A development of ‘Summer Storms’. Edwin Wilson (then known as ‘Peter’) lived for a short time at Brunswick Heads in the 1940s, as outlined in The Mullumbimby Kid.


New Spectacles

(22 December 2015)


Supine with my new spectacles

in fading light –

Bill Bryson

totting up infirmities

in ‘Little Dribbling’,

my spotted hands

with their protruding veins

(rice paper thin)

come into high relief –

hang on in there Edwin.


Written in a state of shock on viewing my old hands with my new spectacles.


Tidge Has Gone with Tractors

(13/14 January 2016, with apologies to Henry Lawson)


Our Tidge has gone to battle now

‘Gainst sand, the great marauder,

Our Tidge has gone with tractors now

Across the Queensland border.


Now who shall wear the cheerful face

In times when things are slackest?

And who shall whistle round the place

When Fortune frowns her blackest?


The gates are out of order now

All problems are protracted,

The dunny door bangs in the storm

Now Tidge has gone with tractors.


Poor Aunty’s looking thin and white

And Uncle’s most un-well;

And poor old Blucher howls all night

Since Ti-idge has left War-del-ll.


We hid the tyres in the cane

When Probate came a-goading,

We’ll never see his likes again

Now Tidge has crossed the Logan.


His crossing had been so left-field

Amidst the larks and skiving,

An angel stopped my mother’s car

To tell her Tidge was dying.


He’s left us in dejection now

Our hearts with him are roving,

It’s glum on our Selection now

Since Ti-idge lies a-moulding.


Banana leaves still flap and tear

as ‘farmer’s friends’ hitch for the ride,

and raindrops hissing on the stove,

the mangroves sighing with the tide.


Intended to be sung after the style of Chrissie Shaw when she sang Lawson’s ‘Andy Gone with Cattle’ poem at her father Rod Shaw’s funeral (her father Rod was a great whistler), reflecting on the impact of our father’s suicide back on the farm (that had been selected by his grandfather, my great grandfather).


Pumpkin Girl

(11 September 2016, revised 26 November 2018)


Having just read your earthquake of a book,

a village rocked with continental certainties

had warped and slipped;

long-waves of after-shocks bend to the core

of our star-cross-ed-ness,

now you have found your own true north –

and how I loved the slender girl

I took to Manly Beach,

the innocence and awkward sinistral

of missionary and budding scientist,

unhawsered to her motherhood –

that women love their children

more than husbands or first-loves

(not wanting to be moored too soon) –

when men go planting pumpkin seeds

the generations turn,

now I am dizzy when I pull a weed;

yet in this tome we are forever bound

and young –

the moon tugs us,

we tug the moon.


A poem to a reading of the manuscript Anne Butt’s Memoir, Pumpkin, whose cover was based on my painting of my friend Lucian Michalski’s ‘Pumpkin Girl’ statue, as read at Saw-millers Reserve Park, 9 September 2016.


Mangrove Poem

(13-18 September 2016, revised 5-6 February 2017, 14 November 2017)


The earth had moved for me

beyond  the Moho line

of my discontinuity,


a long egress

across the nursery

of shrimp and fingerling

each spring and neap,

the waxing cycle of her moon

when oysters spawn,

whose blood is brine –

exposing ribbon-weed and grief,

of muddy Serpentine.


Flower Poem

(A Botanist’s take on flowers, after the style of Erasmus Darwin’s ‘The Botanic Garden’ and ‘Loves of the Plants’ (read in my 20’s), and written after a visit to a perfume factory in France in May  (11 July 2017))


Blooms are the genitals

of unwed plants,

so in-your-face and labial,

a row of cancan girls

in frilly skirts

kicking their heels,

show guide-lines

to their nectary –

enticing sugar-gliders, bats,

and birds and bees and wasps,

night-flying moths,

crazy with pheromones

to seek such Bartholin

with proboscis or tongue –

so fey and so beguiling

we become their pollinators,

flaunt them in our homes

all redolent of musk

and hope and ambergris –

an essence fit for bottling.


Famine Orphan

(to my great grandmother Mary Ann Wilson (nee Riordan) (December 2017)


Barefoot colleen with ass

on a Donegal road

at Molly Blooms *

could have been Mary Ann,

my famine orphan

b. Kilmallock, County Limerick

into the Riordan clan

of Royal Bard claim –

work-housed when her father

starved after the ’tatties failed,

exported by Lismoyne

to New South Wales

in eighteen forty nine;

a refugee from blight

in family line,

alone in Sydney Town

aged sixteen years –

an iron bed at Macquarie Place,

indentured at  the ’Loo. **



Married a ship’s absconder

chasing gold

from the Antagonist

who’d anglicised his name –

‘Native of Denmark, brown hair, lame,

Five pounds reward’,

to Broulee for their honeymoon,

then on to Araleun, where her hat

blew in the mud;

selected at Blackwall ***

and cleared the gallery

and never left –

barefoot and pregnant

in a rough-hewn hut

of slabs of cabbage palm

(with mud in cracks),

dirt floor, reed-thatched,

and children, five

(one male deceased),

their baby Jim my grandfather.



Her brother, ravenous for spread

had claimed his river mile

across from them,

a little Ireland in the sun

when river was the only road –

his baby, Maggie,

never roamed,

and told me River Stories

at her knee,

with bearded Riordans

hanging on the wall

like bushrangers –

her aunty Mary

buried in the Wardell sand

next to my father Tidge

for all eternity,

at least until the oceans rise –

my banyan as the ****

‘family tree’, resplendent

in her Promised Land.


*  At a poetry reading, Molly Blooms, Melbourne, c. 2003, there had been a photograph on the wall of a barefoot young Irish girl on a country road with her donkey

**  Woolloomooloo

*** Irish-speaking Mary Rirdon (Riordan) and her Danish-speaking husband, ‘Charles Wilson’, had selected 100 acres on the Richmond River at (East) Wardell, previously known by the aboriginal name of Bingal, and then later as Blackwall

**** My northern-most Lord Howe Island banyan tree (symbolic of the ‘family tree’, now well advanced), had been planted beside the river at East Wardell in 1968. Third cousin Maggie Riordan had told me my Wilson great grandmother (her aunty Mary Rirdan (Riordan)) had been a Famine Orphan (confirmed by Kay Robinson, November 2017). My banyan had been planted close to their original jetty site, adjacent to where their slab-constructed homestead had been built, where I was later to live for my first five years (when Maggie told my mother it had been ‘unlucky’ to build on the site of the previous residence).



(Two new stanzas (December 2017) for the last poem in a projected selection, ‘Synthesis’, using all of Elizabeth McAlpine’s pencil drawings. ‘Perspective’ (consisting only of the last stanza of this poem) was first published in Banyan (1982))


Here we are

on a lump in space

who circumnavigate

a ball of burning gas –

when plants are conduits

between rocks and consciousness.


A universe of chance

and eating galaxies,

the randomness

of love and death –

and this is my best

synthesis of poetry and art,

who hurtle round a star.


Beyond the star-dust

of a veil nebula is a

filigree of wisdom –

what are our hopes and fears

but aberrations of light?

For all our passion we

embrace time’s patient love.


‘Synthesis’ (Macquarie Dictionary): the combination of parts or elements, as material substances or objects of thought, into a complex whole.



(25 September 2018)


Humanity a school of fish

with pressure cells along

the flank of body politic,

pick up vibrations in the air

the shadow of the roc,

and dart this way and that

avoiding the grey nurse –

beware your wish,

there’ll always be

the predators,

envy and malice

of the scribes and priests,

the isolation ward –

my best advice

surf with a friend.



Crows Nest Derro

(27 October 2018, a poem to Graham Elder, b. Richmond, South Australia, 5 September 1938,

d. in a purpose-built hut behind the Lighthouse Church, Crows Nest, 2 October 2018)


Our village derro

of beanie and scarf

and almost toothless grin,

collected teddy bears

(lined in a row)

to compensate

for wounded soul.


A natty dresser, folded

blankets where he slept

down from my studio,

ordered the junk mail

where a shop had closed;

died in a snug

behind the Lighthouse Church.


What daemons had deflected

his life’s path –

what fortitude

cleft to the bone,

that penury infect

the child he was,

or child he did not know?


Pumpkin II

(4 August, 2019)


Her precious book unsettled

as it warmed my heart,

that skipped at photographs

and turn of phrase,

a fated meeting

at the Police Boys Dance,

Moon River swelled

and flooded banks,

the Universe and I concur

she was my first true love.


For she was Blossom,

she was Spring,

and I was Photosynthesis –

the sun shone on us

for a while, in Gardens

and in the Domain,

then shadows fell

across my Animus

with poets sadly

a conflicted race.


Not having known paternal love

(and not grown in another’s shade),

I bristled at her talk of God

who had not ‘saved’ –

Jean had been gutted

when Tidge pushed delete,

left me shit-scared of

kitchen teas and Tupperware,

and Wedding Bells,

and Cupid’s dart.


And then the sun went out

and I was bleeding on a road

with stoma closed,

and comatosed,

and xylem flow reduced.

When the sap flowed

she’d not remove her top,

put orchids round

her glass sarcophagus,

abandoned to ‘respect’ –


still driven by a ruthless Muse

to find my Star

in premonitions of unknown,

gene-mapping of Drosophila,

she was an orchid flower –

stigma, stamen, style and ovary,

whose Yang was greater

than her Yin –

my Selfish Gene and I retreat

to nip a romance in the bud,


as adjunct to this Crying Game

who loved her Pilgrim Soul –

preserve the ice sheets lest we

drown in fountain-heads of Agape,

and what was done

in our own Seven-Up –

a different girl who

was to be a geriatric mum,

more than a footnote in Aust. Lit. –

take care my Anima, take care.





(28 February 2020)


Walk softly in this scented sphere

a poet’s ashes scattered here,

that we come from the dust of stars

and nature is God’s avatar –

to call a kindred spirit home,

and blest* be all who tend this stone.


* have used the alternative (shorter) spelling of ‘blessed’ to make for a shorter line


The Scream IV

(Stand Little Lass Between Me and the Sun)*

(19 April 2020)


Diogenes was at the beach

replete with sunnies on his nose,

and had not thrown away his towel,

when Olive Cotton came along

(the shadow of a daylight moon)

to hold a lantern to his face,


still searching for an honest man –

and took a photograph of

feigned surprise, the canine

howl of Edvard Munch,

a jetty near unhallowed ground,

as Olive walked across his grave.


 ‘I am Diogenes, the dog’,

he had replied, ‘Don’t steal

my sun because I bite’. 

I’ve known of goose-flesh

all my life,

and the psychology of ‘cold’ –


my father’s bones in Wardell sand,

a lover’s quarrel with the world,

some ‘mute inglorious Milton’

of the farm interred –

a new poem brewing

as heart-burn.


When doctors say ‘I’m here to help’

it’s time to run like bloody hell

from orchidectomy –

the first days of my phoney war

with malware coursing in my blood,

and lymph glands part of the chicane.


‘I’d rather be myself’, I said,

and not become ‘Eileen’

and ‘pass’ on chemo-cide,

let slip the Harpies

and their raven’s call –



*An Ekphrastic Poem (submitted to ‘The Shadow Catchers’ (Red Room Company, 2020)), written on viewing the mock ‘scream’ on the shaded face of ‘The Photographer’s Shadow’, by Olive Cotton, while thinking about Diogenes (as one does), soon after an aggressive cancer diagnosis. When Alexander the Great had sought out Diogenes (on a beach somewhere) and asked what he could do for him, the Philosopher is reputed to have replied, ‘Stand a little less between me and the sun’, thus the slight twist in the sub-title of my poem.

I had been to Melbourne to see the Munch exhibition when it was in Australia, and had learnt that the jetty (of ‘The Scream’) was close to a special cemetery for suicides, and Scandinavian angst. My Danish/Irish father had committed suicide before I was born, something that had been all hushed up, but this event had totally altered the pathway of my life.

Just prior to Christmas (2019) after a diagnosis of a Grade IV cancer, and going for ‘quality’ rather than ‘quantity’ of life, I had opted against having chemo-cide or a chemical orchidectomy (both horrible choices, and the source of my own ‘scream’ in this poem, prior to the Coronavirus pandemic looming front-of-mind), while conscious of a greater irony that the latter treatment would have made my poetic alter ego ‘Eileen’ almost a reality, and so much more poetically correct.

At three years off eighty (about the age when Munch had painted ‘Between the Clock and the Bed’), I don’t write poetry so much these days as it disrupts my metabolism and bio-rhythms (and I find painting much more benign), but ‘The Photographer’s Shadow’ had moved me in unexpected ways. I had suspected and now know the ‘scream’ (of Olive’s subject Max Dupain) was part of a ‘staged’ composition of feigned surprise (from the Olive Cotton biography by Helen Ennis), and Diogenes certainly would not have worn twee sunnies.

My (February 2020) ‘Scream’ poem (written in full consciousness of Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ poem, but not in imitation of it in any way), came very quickly (with apologies to Thomas Gray’s ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’ (with its ‘mute inglorious Milton’ reference to my ‘tractor driver’ father), to be polished over a couple of months. 

In some ways I was not surprised (after 45 years of non-inclusion because of the ‘Eileen’ incident, and when emails and calls to the Queensland Poetry Society were not returned), to hear the competition was won by some Feminist Orthodoxy, ‘I Grew Up A Shadow Girl, With a Man Outlined Inside Me’. Say no more.

‘The Scream IV’ (19 April 2020), is my latest version of this developing, and what I think is a powerful poem.


Secular Prayer to an End Game

(3 June 2021)


Some fifteen months out from my OBE*

from one who’s had capacity to do,

and love the gentle rhythm

of my Crowie days ­­–

a morning coffee at my studio,

my Cappuccino Terrace and its

secret gardens, front and back;

was shaken-up after a fall –

no emails from the other side,

and not to see my grandchildren

grow up, and how I’d miss

my wife and goad, my kids, old friends,

a painter’s life –

this symphony of tone,

a mottled shade from the

Photinias in our street,

the new growth of an

Elkhorn’s leaf, and kingianum buds;

my banyan trees at East Wardell,

Chincogan grazed by cows –

give me the grace to navigate

my end game as it flows –

when to accept what I don’t know,

and when to acquiesce.


* Over Bloody Eighty


Poet’s Tree

(22 December 2012)


Doddery and ‘dotting’ in my studio

post-diagnosis, trying

to make each painting sing

with points of textured hue;

to help consolidate a legacy

of books beyond ‘Eileen’,

and day of reckoning –

outflank the bastards

with tenacity and grit –

illiterate Y chromosome,

a long way from the farm.


The Danish farmer and

his Famine Orphan wife,

a split-slab pioneer house

and pioneer wharf,

when river was the only road –

my banyan tree at East Wardell,

and painter-poet’s sacred site.


To a Cousin Who Takes Solace from Dead Birds

(1 April, 2022)

(Bryant Bainbridge)


A sprawling Albatross upon

the strand at New World’s edge,

crumpled and bent, with head

askew as Jesus on the cross,

and feathers splayed as Archaeopteryx – 

diminished bounty of the main

last supper even there to find

as potent of apocalypse?


Scions of salty blood belie –

all who would soar and dream

are drawn to sea and transience,

and beauty that must die –

black box of the Anthropocene

as lines upon the sand.



(modified version of poem written when my mother died, for my friend Alan Torrens)

(20 May 2022)


Consider the lilies

of the field, arisen

from inanimate,

that plants link rocks

with sentience and flesh –

the best spin I could

ever put on death,

to feed our ashes

to the living glebe

that we become a tree –

our minerals now in

flowers, leaves and bark,

consumed by parrots

sugar-gliders, butterflies and bees,

and this will be

our afterlife –

all flesh is gass.