The Free and the Brave


A new poem just published in Arena. A bit overtaken by events, but not without its relevance still.

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Coffee at Dusk

Another of mine, in the form of a naïve defence of coffee and poetry in challenging times.

Coffee at Dusk
What road might poetry disclose, away
and out from under curdled cloud’s suspense?
Not medicine or therapy, but play:
the skipping-rope and hop-scotch back and forth
of metre, patterned sound, display and rule,
a round of kick-the-can to summon back
the raucous aimlessness of youth that knew
no pleasure but the passing of one day
to no end more than honest self-delight.
The body’s pleasure in its own bourrée
that trips it lightly past all pestilence,
unheeding whether fate will wink or pounce.
A kind of clarity that knows itself
against all horror that might else befall.
Let be, let go and dance because this day
will end in night’s uncertainty and sleep,
its airs aswim with fireflies, new stars
and dusk like coffee stirred of black and white.
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Amy Clampitt

Here’s something new(-ish) we can try, while we wait for our sessions to resume (whenever that may happen). I’ll try to upload a poem or two weekly, some from my archive of items we’ve discussed over the years, and other items I reckon you might find interesting. The page has a link below that allows you to post comments and questions, which I welcome and will respond to as I’m able. Let’s see how it goes . . .

Here are two poems by Amy Clampitt, for a promising start. Feel free to have your say, whether or not you’ve been attending out sessions. Enjoy!



Force of reason, who shut up the shrill
foul Furies in the dungeon of the Parthenon,
led whimpering to the cave they live in still,

beneath the rock your city foundered on:
who, equivocating, taught revenge to sing
(or seem to, or be about to) a kindlier tune:

mind that can make a scheme of anything—
a game, a grid, a system, a mere folder
in the universal file drawer: uncompromising

mediatrix, virgin married to the welfare
of the body politic: deific contradiction,
warbonnet-wearing olive-bearer, author

of the law’s delays, you who as talisman
and totem still wear the aegis, baleful
with Medusa’s scowl (though shrunken

and self-mummified, a Gorgon still): cool
guarantor of the averted look, the guide
of Perseus, who killed and could not kill

the thing he’d hounded to its source, the dread
thing-in-itself none can elude, whose counter-
feit we halfway hanker for: aware (gone mad

with clarity) we have invented all you stand for,
though we despise the artifice—a space to savor
horror, to pre-enact our own undoing in—
living, we stare into the mirror of the Gorgon.

The Kingfisher


In a year the nightingales were said to be so loud
they drowned out slumber, and peafowl strolled screaming   
beside the ruined nunnery, through the long evening   
of a dazzled pub crawl, the halcyon color, portholed   
by those eye-spots’ stunning tapestry, unsettled
the pastoral nightfall with amazements opening.

Months later, intermission in a pub on Fifty-fifth Street   
found one of them still breathless, the other quizzical,   
acting the philistine, puncturing Stravinsky—“Tell   
me, what was that racket in the orchestra about?”—
hauling down the Firebird, harum-scarum, like a kite,   
a burnished, breathing wreck that didn’t hurt at all.

Among the Bronx Zoo’s exiled jungle fowl, they heard   
through headphones of a separating panic, the bellbird   
reiterate its single chong, a scream nobody answered.   
When he mourned, “The poetry is gone,” she quailed,   
seeing how his hands shook, sobered into feeling old.   
By midnight, yet another fifth would have been killed.

A Sunday morning, the November of their cataclysm   
(Dylan Thomas brought in in extremis to St. Vincent’s,   
that same week, a symptomatic datum) found them   
wandering a downtown churchyard. Among its headstones,   
while from unruined choirs the noise of Christendom   
poured over Wall Street, a benison in vestments,

a late thrush paused, in transit from some grizzled   
spruce bog to the humid equatorial fireside: berry-
eyed, bark-brown above, with dark hints of trauma   
in the stigmata of its underparts—or so, too bruised   
just then to have invented anything so fancy,
later, re-embroidering a retrospect, she had supposed.

In gray England, years of muted recrimination (then   
dead silence) later, she could not have said how many   
spoiled takeoffs, how many entanglements gone sodden,   
how many gaudy evenings made frantic by just one   
insomniac nightingale, how many liaisons gone down   
screaming in a stroll beside the ruined nunnery;

a kingfisher’s burnished plunge, the color   
of felicity afire, came glancing like an arrow   
through landscapes of untended memory: ardor   
illuminating with its terrifying currency
now no mere glimpse, no porthole vista
but, down on down, the uninhabitable sorrow.

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The MLS and the Coronavirus

Having just returned from a family visit in the U.S., I realise I haven’t posted here for some time. In addition, circumstances have shifted dramatically underfoot in recent months. The advent of the coronavirus has made the suspension of all our sessions a sad necessity. I have cancelled all scheduled MLS sessions until 3 June. That date is a bare guess as to when we might expect to be able to resume.

Really it means ‘until further notice’. I will give advance notification via all the usual channels when I judge it safe for us to resume. I am now self-quarantining: no sign that I have the virus, but no way of telling, either. And Ross House is shutting down for the foreseeable future.

Thanks for all your support! We will return, sooner or later. In the meantime, please do all you can to keep yourselves out of harm’s way, and I hope to see you, safe and well, as soon as it can be managed

All the best,


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A Happy Task!

On Wednesday 20 November, I’ve been asked to help launch a new book by my friend, colleague and publisher Christine Mathieu, the proprietor of Littlefox Press, which is publishing her extraordinary book on the teaching of French to anglophone students, Voyages Syntastiques. In addition to her nuanced and fascinating takes on teaching, Christine leads her reader through a passionate and revealing series of meditations on the role of language in how we see and shape the world around us. Voyages Syntastiques journeys to the very heart of what language is and does, in ways that few scholarly works have achieved with such style and grace.

5.30-7.30 Wednesday, 20 November

Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School

57 Miles Street, South Bank 3006

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The Launch of Engelboc

Only a week to go till the launch of Engelboc.

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The Weathers of Our Time

A large-ish poem of mine, in several sections, has just been published by Eureka Street, under the title ‘Brinksmanship’, as well as another long piece called ‘Meteorology’. These are edgy times, by anyone’s measure, with uncertain weathers gathering in several quarters . . . See the link below.

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Engelboc Launch

Hope you can make it!

My new book of poems, Engelboc, published by Littlefox Press, will be launched at Readings Carlton (as per the flyer below) on Thursday 25 July, from 6.30-8.00 pm.

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Newly Published on the Internet

My first commissioned piece, on trees and their long dance in the human imagination, beautifully presented by

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My Latest Arena Magazine Contribution

‘The Lookout Man (It’s All in Your ‘Ead)’ is a response to Iain McGilchrist’s stunning literary and neurological (he’s got form in both fields) reconsideration of the bicameral brain, The Emperor and His Emissary.

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