Thursday, December 28, 2023

Experimental Film 3 — Max Planck subset

This film is also part of a series of poem-films I have been creating as a subset of my Graphology poetry cycle/project that has been going since the mid-90s. As mentioned in the prior posting, these films are subsections of a 'feature-length' experimental movie that is focalised through the poet Hölderlin, glasshouses, gardens, colonialism, AI, animal rights, industrialism and climate degradation, and issues of environment, human rights and 'place'. 

This 'section' arose out of living near the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (oh, the irony!), and investigating the vivisection that ultimately underpins so much Max Planck laboratory research (by varying degrees of separation, or not). Via The German Reference Centre for Ethics in the Life Sciences (DRZE) website, see

Recently, I wrote to one prominent university neuroscientist to object to his inserting electrodes into crows' brains to 'show conscious processes in bird brains'. And though there's been a relatively recent shift in the use/abuse of primates by the Max Planck research facilities (I wrote protest-intervention poems about this horrendous abuse when I was in Tübingen in 2016), the disregard for non-human life goes deep (always 'justified' as being for the ultimate benefit of 'humankind', while disclaiming the suffering of the animals themselves through deploying hierarchical and abusive/demeaning speciesist arguments). For a deeply disturbing article regarding the lengths vivisectors will go to to keep their death programmes functioning, see this

There's also a figurative (and literal via the observatory dome which is almost the omphalos of the institute) astronomical subtext... when I was a child, I wanted to be an astronomer... as the power plant in the 'background' spews waste. The underlying 'soundtrack' or 'voice-under' is Emily Brontë's poem 'No Coward Soul is Mine'.

    John Kinsella

Rental Crisis — an experimental short film

This film is part of a series of poem-films that I have been creating as a subset of my Graphology poetry cycle/project that has been going since the mid-90s. Each film is a subsection of a 'feature-length' experimental movie that is focalised through the poet Hölderlin, glasshouses, gardens, colonialism, industrialism and climate degradation, and issues of environment, human rights and 'place'. This 'section' arose out of being unhomed by machinations within the Tübingen 'rental market' and needing to find shelter elsewhere. But the shadow over one's own life is nothing in the context of global war, rapacity and the displacement of so many (including those whose homes are pounded into blood and fragments, and for whom all 'choice' has been erased).

See here re the ongoing textual, visual, sculptural and aural project, and here. Below is the poem-text used in the film: Rental Crisis (poem for a film) Bone breaker fall makers in the underwriting. Power climb leaf collation to vibrate walls and drive us out of the mouldy crypt. Rental crisis is the annihilation of residence and our discomfort is not a modicum of comparison but a shadow in the shadows, the markers of time we edit into places. Towers to look into, out of reach, grey stone bleeds and retracts its roots. Sea is remembered inland is remembered a heat flare and infrastructural blur, vertigo and buffeting of pump and tracer, skin-shape sculpture of meta or failed divine push out against forest sheltered under eaves and now cut into bog and sediments and conglomerates of old sandstones red texture of silence. Hear the waters rising, hear the dryness, hear the sentinel twisting eyebeams to reach the oscillating shores of Patmos — refuge for some, rebarbative for others. Generosity is the paths of water and reaching shelter. So we left the Neckar for the Mizen, teardrop imploding and lighthouse pulsing out of the picture. Which country would you place us in, standing room only on local trains, steps that retract. John Kinsella

Friday, December 1, 2023

Podcast about The Queen's Apprenticeship, my new historical novel

 By Tracy

Good Reading is currently featuring an 18-minute podcast here on my new historical novel, The Queen's Apprenticeship, which entwines the story of the real-life Marguerite de Navarre with that of a fictional character, Jehane/Josse, who wants to work as a printer.

Here's their description:

"In this episode Gregory Dobbs chats to Tracy Ryan about the challenges facing women in Renaissance France, how inventing a fictional character to complement the real Queen of Navarre opened up storytelling possibilities, and how poetry, journal entries and Queen Marguerite’s own writing have enriched the social and political fabric of this story."

Many thanks to Gregory Dobbs and Good Reading.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

The Lies of Transformers — Against Artificial Neural Networks — ChatGPT and other Large Language Models

I Refuse ChatGPT and Associates


'veil of ignorance'

            Sam Altman



I will never use you

though you have used me.


You have stolen and profited

from my speech and writing,


you have taken my essence

and destroyed my rights.


There is no common good

for all your semantics —


I do not like your

consuming personalities.


So, you won't let me hide

behind my veil of ignorance? —


you eat suns even at night.

We shovel the planet


into your boilers

so you can finance


the pleasure centres

of your advocates. Liar.


I knew you before you arrived —

slipping in under the warning


thresholds — you maker

of dead weather and fire,


psychic panel beater

of iambic pentameter.



            John Kinsella



Thursday, November 23, 2023

Two Experimental Films

                 John Kinsella

I have been working on poems responding to experimental films since I first started publishing poetry over forty years ago (many of which appear in the third and final volume of my collected poems, Spirals, due out in February 2024), and I have long planned to make a longer experimental film. I have been accumulating video fragments for this film over recent years as well as accruing other 'materials' related to my 'life-work' Graphology cycle (particularly the poem-photo and poem-drawing works) which will be part of the imagined whole. In the interim, here are two very short films relating to some of the focuses of my poetry work at present. As with the planned longer work, one of their prime and obvious concerns is the irony (and paradox) of using 'the technology' itself to create anti-consumer and anti-industrial texts of 'witness'. They are inevitably documents of culpability.

The two films are set in the 'new' botanical gardens in Tübingen and are concerned with issues of collecting, intrusion, 'artifice' re/per/vs. 'nature', containment, ecological vulnerability and manipulation, power stations or, ironically, power plants (there's one next to the gardens and they dot the city). The spoken texts are poems written as part of an ongoing sequence, but also specifically for the films. Their iterations differ (mainly in terms of repetitions, verbal sound interventions etc) from their typographical versions. If they are 'hard to decipher', that's okay as far as the film itself is concerned. 

In fact, the first 'botanical' film is one of two versions: one (the one included here) has a morphed sound track so the words are lost in the processes of the film itself, while a second has clearer words, phrasing etc... i.e. you can decipher the speech patterns (and that can be viewed here). 

I see this making (to use a favourite Karl Wiebke term) as an act of collaboration with broader discourses around gardens, colonialism, collecting, environmentalism, industrialism, the propaganda and propagation of 'science' and 'discovery', 'leisure' and capitalism. And yes, there are touches of Lynch, Brakhage and numerous other film-makers, but with very different emphasis and maybe very different textual politics (and different use of scare quotes, or not!). I see these films as poems.

Power Plant Botanical Reflux

Glasshouses Only Have Exteriors

Last week, poet and critic Rod Mengham was my guest here in Tübingen, and he presented half-a-dozen collaborative films that he's created with artist and film-maker Marc Atkins over the years (Rod makes and speaks the texts, Marc makes the visuals). They are all unique and incredible in their own ways, and Where Suns Lie, which is 'about' two British nuclear power plants and their impositions in the sea/natural world, is one of the most intense and haunting anti-nuclear documents I have seen. It is a mesmeric and uncanny documentation of a brutal architecture and behaviour that literally erode the psyche. Rod's delivery of the text is as addictive and flattening as many of the filmic images — the lap of the sea, the shifting of shingle, the erosion of the biosphere. Rod talked about how there was a literal emergency at one of the plants while they were making the film. 

Each Atkins-Mengham film is a piece of art that also critiques the processes of making art — full of echoes that reconstitute collective and personal memory, filling instances with lost or missing instances, and transfusing a literal place with what could be or was there, what is absent, and what might be. They are poem-films of embodied and transmogrified metaphor-chains.

Friday, November 10, 2023

On the Attacks in Israel by Hamas and the ‘Vengeance’ Response by the Israeli State Against Gaza

            John Kinsella



I wrote this a few days into the ‘war’. Now, weeks later, I feel I must post it. The personal nature of it is a result of my trying to come to grips with the unfathomable, and is not intended as a ‘pronouncement’. I have no more right than anyone else to express a view outside a situation other than through my own humanity and responsibility to others.


As pacifist my position is always very clear.

I utterly condemn the horrendous crimes of Hamas (and the entire organisation — one that has ruled through the barrel of the gun), and I understand the need for people to see 'justice' over what happened (though, for me, justice never involves more killing). I also believe the Israeli craving for vengeance is wrong, entirely out of control and fed by powerful vested interests. I deplore violence in all its forms and only care for the sanctity of people in this. All people.


There is no question of the colonial militarism and motivation of right-wing Israeli governments. I am fully aware of the dispossession and ongoing losses and oppression of the Palestinian people and believe this must be addressed in concrete and just ways. I believe in the right of Jewish people (and peoples) to share that space which is also their historic and spiritual homeland.


With all of this in mind, I deeply believe in the broader principles of shared space, in peaceful co-existence — this cannot exist under the present system of apartheid and the exclusionary control of space. I come at this as someone who refutes all notions of states and borders, and also all settler-colonialism. I have a lifelong, strong affinity with Jewish people, an association of which I am proud, and through which feel I have grown as a person. I also (always such a complicating word in the context) count friends on both ‘sides’ of the constructed divide. I also fully support the Palestinian people. I have seen direct evidence (from students and others) of the wrongs suffered by families — the loss of homes and lands, the loss of the very records of their lives.


I am horrified by the antisemitism I encounter in day to day life, in the press, online, and in disguised ways. I am equally horrified by the use to which some (if not many) are putting the vengeance retaliation approach within and without Israel. I am horrified by the mistreatment of the Palestinian people. I am horrified by the act of genocide the Israeli government, its war cabinet, the IDF, and the capitalist powers that support it are meting out to the Palestinian people.


I care for the people of Israel and the people of Gaza/Palestine and all of humanity. I care for the children and peace. I do not care for militarists and those filled with hate. People may not like my pacifist position, but I mean it and would stand between the murderers and their intended victims without lifting a hand — I speak with my body and soul. Many people I know directly and at a distance are being affected by this situation of abject horror and terror. I offer my support to all those who need it, and will never turn my back on anyone. The murder must stop immediately. This began with mass murder and continues with genocide — the blame and annihilation of a people being made guilty by association. Every code of human decency is being violated.


I will never agree (in any shape or form) with violence. Hamas is a violent organisation who deserve no respect on any level — they are murderers who control the people they purport to represent. The IDF murders as an act of destiny. The gap between the two is incredibly small and abstract. Flattening Gaza is NO ANSWER and becomes a murderous genocidal crime in itself. Hamas must be exposed for what they are — a destructive force to the people they purport to represent. Concurrently, the Israeli military and all those who enable their ‘vengeance’ (the so-called ‘right to self-defence’ scenario, when what is meant in the circumstances is the right to destroy people who are not attacking them) are equally culpable and pernicious. All militaries are, as are all military ‘approaches’. Always.


Humans need to deal with humans without violence. Humans need to share between themselves, appreciate and respect cultural difference.


I feel very passionately about justice and the sanctity of life. I have seen too much hate in my life and am fully committed to offering any other way through I can in my own minuscule way. I am for both Palestinians and Israelis, without regard to ‘states’, military structures, and martial control. And yes, I emphatically believe the Hamas attack was an attack against the very spirit of humanity itself, not a genuine attempt to overcome the wrongs and oppressions experienced by the Palestinian people for so long. But this grievous wrong does not justify a grievous wrong against innocent people — levelling a city is not right under any circumstances. Murdering children is murdering children. Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters are right-wing killers and haters. The sick irony is that the Israeli state ‘speaks’ to Hamas, and Hamas ‘speaks’ to them. This is the absolute tragedy of it — speaking with no conversation, only death.


It should be remembered that hate is never far below the surface. Here in Tübingen as this horror started to unfold, someone violated stones from a former synagogue near the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Church on Berliner Ring. In damaging stones — the death-echoes of Nazism never far below the surface — there is an expression of a willingness to damage a people. This awareness should be taken into consideration at every turn with regard to how issues and wrongs are so easily broadened into generic patterns of hatred. It is a brutal reality in itself, and a ‘spectre of death’. Concurrently, bursts of Islamophobia segue with an uncritical support of the IDF. It’s nonsensical, brutal, and diminishes all humanity.


There are so many people working hard across communities to bring true justice and healing. Poetry is part of this, and I praise those poets who work so hard across languages and cultures, across Arabic and Hebrew, to bring dialogue, peace, and mutual growth.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The Queen's Apprenticeship is now out: a historical novel of Marguerite de Navarre and 16th-century France

 By Tracy

“An enthralling novel of passion, literature and power, bringing to vivid life the story of Marguerite de Navarre – an ardent defender of the arts – and in doing so also giving voice to those who were often disregarded in the dramas of the time.”

 —Dominique Wilson, author of Orphan Rock and The Yellow Papers

If you like reading novels set in and around the Tudor court, you might be interested in stories about their counterparts on the other side of the Channel... those who lived in some of the great châteaux of the Loire and in other parts of France – as well as the working people who didn’t.


My new novel The Queen’s Apprenticeship is out this month from Transit Lounge in Australia. You can also get it as an ebook in other countries. It’s the first book in a trilogy of historical fiction set in 16th-century France — and Navarre.


The Queen’s Apprenticeship blends the imaginary story of a young outcast who wants to be a printer’s apprentice with the true(r) story of the writer-queen Marguerite de Navarre, sister to King Francis the First, and protector of many people in France whose thinking fell dangerously outside religious norms of the period.


Marguerite wrote poems, drama and fiction, but is best known for her book of tales The Heptameron, a compelling mix of gender politics, spiritual questioning and bawdy, even scatological humour – an unforgettable read.


Marguerite de Navarre
As the publisher’s blurb for my novel explains, Long before #MeToo, women were telling their ‘unspeakable’ stories, and these two, both rich and poor, are no exception. They come together in the most unexpected of ways.”


The second book in this Queens of Navarre trilogy, The War Within Me, will also be published by Transit Lounge. It tells the story of Marguerite’s daughter, Jeanne d’Albret, during the period of France’s Civil Wars (also called Wars of Religion).

Marguerite's daughter Jeanne d'Albret

Jeanne appears as a child in the later part of the first book; the second book is a fictionalised version of her life and her struggles for the Calvinist cause, as well as her tussles with Catherine de Medici and other players in the turbulence of her times.


For more information about the writing and research behind these books, there is a blog about The Queen’s Apprenticeship as well as one about The War Within Me.




Publisher Transit Lounge also has Reading Group Notes on their website for the first in the trilogy.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Poem Against Herbicides (and agri-poisons in general)


Graphology Paraph 60: atrazine


O glorious atrazine,

            endocrine disruptor,

manufactured in Europe

and loved all over Australia,

knocking out those weeds

            among lupins which test

so high in the protein sampler.


O glorious atrazine,

            passing the carcinogenic

hazards test in regulatory

Schlaraffenland, as out

of Syngenta (HQ in Switzerland,

now owned by ChemChina)

the prospect of ‘previously

            uncharacterised risk’


is left open by pragmatic locals.

            Lupins are cocooned

in their pods, and lupins

are like light-filled ball-bearings

            in the trucks and silos,

and glorious atrazine is banned

in a Europe which loves food security.


Atrazine is readily defended by those who wish to impose it on us, citing apparent low impacts on bees, earthworms and humans. Such studies are egregiously misleading in their lack of depth and avoidance of complicating issues. Further, many argue that Atrazine is, in fact, a major risk to all animal life (and obviously plant life — grass and broad life plant life at the very least). This chlorinated triazine systemic herbicide is banned in Europe (while Europe profitably exports it to places where it is not banned), but used on a large scale in Australia and other countries. To get a sense of the many challenges to its safety approval, just start with the Wiki entry and go from there. It's almost certainly an endocrine disruptor, carcinogenic and carries many other risks. A poem is a nexus of and for activism.

    John Kinsella


Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Who Can Justify This?

 Who Can Justify This?


Kids carrying kids out of the rubble

of a bombed building is the brutal image

of tenderness we need and don’t need to see.


All images gather into deluges of images,

even if it’s a dry flattened landscape. Image piled

on image — the rubble of figurative language.


The kid carrying the kid out of the rubble:

quickening heart synched with faltering

heart, entangled in the materials of building.


The ‘justification’ behind the attack

leaves kids carrying kids out of the rubble.

The constructions of war; the idiom


for kids carrying kids out of the rubble

            of bombed buildings.




            John Kinsella


Friday, October 27, 2023

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Poem Pleading for Peace in Israel and Palestine


Cinnyris osea, who called you 
when the day died?
Palestinian sunbird, 
bird of aspiration.
Bird annihilated sheen 
of blue-green feather-film
foraging in dry air 
and we hear you under 
these conditions, an intense
yearning for an end 
to all violence between peoples. 
and curve-billed sampling
of flowers which are music,
which are conversations,
which love all people
more or less the same.
Cinnyris osea, who 
called you out of the sun
when the day died?
Palestinian sunbird, call peace
over Israel and Palestine,
out of the stones. Quickly. Please.

John Kinsella

Note: the Palestinian sunbird (beautiful bird) is the national bird of Palestine (the declaration goes: because it flies across borders to link Palestinian territories). It became the national bird in 2015 due to the Israeli authorities trying to remove 'Palestine' from its naming.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Australia the Warlord

             John Kinsella



It seems appropriate that regret should be uttered at a time of mourning. We have just suffered close personal loss, and there’s something very specific about the way a family deals with such loss in day-to-day activities, in the ‘emptiness’ of the early hours, and in reprocessing the nature of close relationships and what they mean.


And the regret I wish to utter is that Australia has fully committed itself to the path of militarism. The militarisation of universities that some of us spoke out against over the last decade in particular has come to a very rotten fruition under the present federal government. More and more arms companies (in all their tech ideations) are becoming entrenched in Australia, and from AUKUS to the manufacturing of missiles, from high energy yield weapons to sonar guidance systems, the speech of warfare is becoming normalised in Australian public discourse.


What bemuses me, as an extension of grief, is why I’m not seeing activists standing against this. In universities (in Australia and other countries) I have witnessed what amounts to quietism at best, and even in one instance, overt pressure applied by militarists (in various guises) to quell a pacifist voice as such as my own. People so readily accept a new status quo; under the ‘military solution’ approach to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the ‘be prepared’ stance regarding China’s own militarism, the voices of difference and opposition are crushed.


Witness the Australian Labor Party’s verbal attacks on one of their own in Josh Wilson, who along with others was accused of ‘appeasement’ for resisting the acquisition of nuclear submarines. Witness the deployment of war-time prime minister John Curtin as talisman (a racist and a militarist), and as lethal force of persuasion, based on an idea of history as conflict dialectic. ‘Appeasement’ is one of those vox-pop snap-grab terms that twists like the knife it is intended to be: it carries the white feather, cowardice, betrayal, and delusion in its militarist etymologising. As it is used with respect to an arms-race, it seeks to disarm the already disarmed. It’s pernicious and easy. Those who wield it ‘appease’ death and hatred as they do so.


No. It’s time to stand up to this endgaming, to deny the euphemisms of ‘defence’ and position it for what it is. People can get out there and protest fossil fuel usage (as they should), yet they don’t take on the defence industries? Come on!


Every day we are greeted with yet another extension of the ‘military vision’ (essentialised around the idea of ‘pillars’, what’s more), as today I rose out of sleeplessness and processing a lost life to read that Cocos (Keeling) Islands, where I lived for a short while in the mid-90s, is having its runway ‘upgraded’ for military purposes; that this ‘pivot’ of surveillance is necessarily going to become more and more a focus of ‘protecting’ Australian interests (and assets), as well as those of its ‘allies’.


The fate of sea turtles on the Cocos is another aside, of course. The lack of environmental scrutiny and clearances another. And then an article that has sad visuals of boys with their toys, and yet another exploiting military tech company using Indigenous country for their exploits: laser weapons. So many of these companies with their university graduates in enthusiasm-mode are inculcating themselves into the day-to-day functionality of the body politic and the ‘social organism’. An organism that is building-in its own death. What is literature to all this? A mode of decorative mourning? Literature won’t be there in the end because it can only write after the fact and not in medias res? The writing is now, the writing is not accepting the status quo, not expecting to be value-added by peers and official mechanisms. And yet we do, because writing is an extension of the self into the ‘outside world’. We need to work through this.


Apropos of all this, and related because the arc towards military arms dealer status (already was, but now aiming for warlord status) that comes out of the military occupation and oppression of Indigenous peoples: a comment on The Voice and where I stand.


I fully support all Indigenous moves towards the reclamation of their lands and rights, and I support the position of the YES vote as I totally oppose all that the NO vote stands for. However, I think that anything connected with the system of governance (colonial, oppressive) that rules Australia is inevitably going to be compromised and limited by definition (and legal actuality). So YES, of course, but only in itself, not by way of vicariously supporting the colonial militarist system of governance by proxy.


The collective vision of ‘Australia’ is compromised because of its colonial focus, and because it subscribes to an exploitive state-business collaboration, but it will inevitably become even more compromised with its leap into major arms dealer status. War is exploitation on every level, and people who would normally oppose the doings of arms companies quickly become silent at times of conflict (that concern them... whilst ignoring conflicts elsewhere that do not threaten their personal, ideological, profit or well-being status), even promoting, say, the manufacture of arms to send to Ukraine.


To oppose such gratuitous death industrialising is seen as relative, only belonging to ‘times of peace’ and to ‘better circumstances’. A whole ‘realism’/’realistic’ semantic construct is established to control discourse and to bring about an acceptance of a new militarised status quo. Violence is sold as peace, and ‘attack’, ‘defence’, and ‘justice’ are intertwined and made determinate of each other.


But mourning is mourning, no loss is acceptable, and no loss in its essence, in its actuality, is prevented by inflicting loss (and that includes on animals). The broader silence of many writers (especially poets) in particular bemuses me. While many relish there being a ‘leftish’ government in place, it’s a furphy — politics are shown by actions, not words, and the actions of the federal government are militaristic, nationalist in extremis, and citizenship-orientated. For such governments, environment is about functionality (even positive climate-change preventative actions are dressed in economics, common sense and survivalism), not about quiddity or something that might exist in itself outside utility. And to separate the damage of environment from the well-being of people is to create the destructive dualism underpinning the horrors of Western colonialism that has wreaked havoc on the planet for centuries.


Tuesday, August 22, 2023

In Support of the African Communities in Tübingen

We wish to express our absolute support for the African community/communities of Tübingen in the face of the racism it has to endure, especially at times of distress and tragedy. Being 'green' (which Tübingen prides itself on being) is meaningless if human rights and respect for humanity aren't part of the equation. For context, see this article in The African Courier.



Lightning touched a clinic

near where the medical helicopter

lands and then it touched the old botanical gardens.


When a young African man was murdered

in the botanical gardens some months ago,

the mayor aligned cause with refugee status.


The dead man was blamed for his own death.

The man stabbed beneath the trees was said

to have been part of a drug syndicate.


The dead man under the trees which in March

were starting to reach towards their summer leaves

wasn’t numbered as a specimen in the arboretum.


In this ‘green city’ there is a failure of alignment

between cause and effect, and the behaviour

of the storm is placed on the behaviour


of others — behaviour, behaviouralism,

meteorology, shifting blame, enclave — a ginkgo

tree was planted for the 200th of the university hospital.



            John Kinsella

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Working with Russell-West-Pavlov

John Kinsella

The collaboration between Russell West-Pavlov and myself has relied on two material actualities: proximity and interstices. These can be geographical — being in Tübingen — or they can be conceptual, an overlapping of ideas and interests. But they are both material in the sense that we configure them as ‘real’ and expect ‘real-time' occurrences. We might occasionally work with abstraction, and I certainly do in making poems, but ultimately our making relies on pragmatic and temporal actuality. 

Proximity might seem to speak for itself, but it doesn’t. Our first shared qualification of ‘proximity’, as opposed to our own individuated notions, came about across the distance — on a link-up between Schull, West Cork and Tübingen Germany. There was a virtual proximity, and also the proximity of thinking and what we hoped might be achieved by sharing ideas and making discrete writings out of this. 

So, collaboration was very much grounded in the dichotomy and paradox of distance and closeness. Apropos of this, when I have been in Tübingen, we find occasions and to meet and talk and walk and ‘congeal’ our ideas. Sometimes this has taken the form of notes, most often of conversation that shares ideals. When our working together was first mooted in 2016, we discussed the possibility of ‘mini essays’, and how they might form interludes to more explorative and discursive making in the greater context. And that’s what happened, I think.

Interstices are where we overlap in thinking, while sometimes holding quite different ways of seeing and interpreting. That necessarily comes through our different life experiences, our different ‘positions’ qua how we do and don’t interface with the world, in conjunction with our strong overlaps in political, ethical and social views. We also share certain experiences in a proximate ways (complex relationships with ‘Australia’, ‘authority’ etc, the rejection of values that inform our gender-ethnic-class statuses and so on), and this combination of difference and similarity creates those interstices from which we write. Our differences are as strong an informant of our sharing textuality as our similarities.

Though we have written at many tangents to our core ‘themes’, the focal points of our work till now have very much been orientated around time and place — both fundamental themes in both our work across the decades. In part, I am sure these interests are what drew us together. Further, a deep respect and interest around issues of the Global South, and resisting the abuses of capital, wealth and privilege, solidified our approach and ‘content’. And a major overlap on the Venn diagram of concerns is the environment in its spatial-temporal vulnerabilities around intactness.

Very often, in writing poems that relate to the foci of our book, I work in the overtly figurative and allusive. So, a poem that seems to be about, say, seeing or hearing a bird, or observing a tree, is also about the issues we tend to talk about between ourselves (via email, video link or in person). Sometimes I focalise a mutual concern/interest in a different way, and reflect over the independent threads that lead us to shared processing or a commonality that also emphasises difference:

Proximity Reciprocities and Contraindications
for RW-P 
This is return. Used so much, by us. Too much?
The meat ants have new volcanoes on their old range
and, to mirror, sugar ants have raised funnels. Click?
That’s taking liberties. Collecting wood, I hear machinery
of hunting, of tree clearing, of breaking up. But weirdly
there’s a certain intactness, even if a bullet pierces.
Membrane. The stench of herbicide on the air. And from
the hefty paddocks of Victoria Plains, the defcon smell
of pesticide. Early stages of crops. Protection. And NuSeed
signs proliferating in contrariness — their barren seed.
In return we measure change: storm damage, erosion — dry 
more than wet. What’s left behind. Inside the house,
compacted but at different points, new and overlapping
and reconvened narratives. Those who’d have us gone
before arriving again, though ‘before’ is as relevant
as the self-seeded rare tree — where did the seed 
come from? Dormant so long? Blow-in? Birdshit, claw, beak? 
Tail of kangaroo. Signs still here — tracks, scats. And ours.

Another type of poem is a response poem to an idea, text or situation that I send to Russell in the hope that it might prompt something back from him. And yet another is in response to something Russel has said or written, or that has arisen from a shared experience. Often those experiences have been based on walks or journeys around Tübingen in which Russell has imparted a piece of knowledge that has fascinated me, and created a potential for proximities and interstices for future response. 

In the case of the following poem, Russell did (I think) include it in something he was working on — a tangent, but also a shared temporality and a placing it in a zone of mutuality. So, separate and overlapping. Ourselves, and a common body of idea-making and intertextuality. Both of us emphatically believe that no one owns ideas, and that ideas proliferate and overlap and are part of a greater body of thought and works that share a concern for ‘rights’, so having these ‘whispers’ of connection are every bit as important as the more overt textual blocks with our name below:

Failed Narratives of Extinct Volcanoes


On the ledge
of the extinct volcano
facing another extinct volcano —
Georgenberg — sore thumb —
alp-life with villages
and factories, small or large
as families: castle keep,
bare-limbed forest
tries to hold its own
in cold rain, not sleet,
as lookout comes home
to roost, real city
below. Rain eases
into mistranslation,
generative phonology
of migration.
Whose ‘spanner
on the works’
makes production
skilled, well-engineered?
Winding down the cone —
Achalm, yes — lathed
mountains higher
or high enough, 
down into
past oaks, word 

And maybe the most common mode for me is when I am working in my own mental space, and observing things far removed from Russell’s physical location and life, and link some thought in the poem with something he has said or we have discussed. So, the poem is about completely different things — e.g. seeing an echidna and watching the films of Stan Brakhage (Russell and I have never discussed cinema, which makes the ‘linkage’ even more interesting to me... and as the poem below is also part of a completely separate series of poems it creates silent links for me that I find generative and hopefully ‘opening out’ for future discussions and interactions):

Liquid Flow of Echidna from Gravel to Grass Bank — Reflecting Stan Brakhage’s The Dante Quartet (1987) While Painting Eye-Images


To roll and sway and merge
is to paint the path and deny
the tracks of pursuit, to crack
paint of script and rise and part,
push aside marbling and viscosity
of dry and wet, to roll uphill
to sway an orthography a writing 
of blur and merge: qualities
of sky and mouse-excavated 
tailings to nose into sense for
termites deeper than old tunnels
the awakening season for flame
to a-priori its ways into traces
of aquifer-augmentation — yes, beneath
hillside eroded; what reptiles
crossed in ascent or insects
with pre-fossil wings, pause
and sample, test and surge
a quartet out of crescent
of declining sun dazzle
in shadow of spines or spikes
or inverted feathers — inside to fly
bodily further in from the body
of valley while remaining so grounded, levitating
despite ‘poor eyesight’ — such misnomers of biology,
such occlusions of echidna-speak 
as close to ground they absorb and muffle 
our vibrations of passing or breathing hard:
shock-absorber psyches framed by
frames of universalised structures of art-speak,
skincells, hair follicles, applique and palette frescoes
of crossing over, of circumventing a branch,
of refreshing trails laid over a range
of terrains so specific you read
‘only’ into the allegories
the metaphors of consequence
for life overlaying their space — add quick light,
add flicker or flash, texture
to hair root and shadow enfilade
cosmos singing interior 
breaking of forms and refolding
to draw into a surface a logography
of constituents for all-time,
shared prognosis, differing
signatures and tellings, 
ends of lines.

And a new one for Russell to respond to, re-process, depart from (‘riff off’), or to leave floating in its own terms of reference... he hasn’t seen this one yet! When we were walking with our sons (Russell sorted the walk), I noticed a log covered in moss that looked animal-like... maybe a massive dog emerging from the side of a ravine. I took photos and pointed it out to Russell, describing what it looked like to me. I said, I will be writing stories about this, and asked him to take a look. As soon as I saw the strange shape, it sparked with ideas and scenarios I have been working with in my recent poetry: the politics of metamorphosis, transition, shifts, mergings... along with my usual concerns for protecting habitats. 

The place was the Seven Mills Forest near Stuttgart, and there is actually a working wood mill near where we entered, and near where I came across this was a hunter’s shooting platform, and that all bothers me. In a way, the animal-plant imagery is a kind of resistance, something beyond the human controls of the area. I did a series of poems and illustrations around the image, but when I got back to where we are staying in Tübingen I immediately wrote what follows. It's not dedicated, and I wasn’t thinking of it in terms of our collaboration when I wrote it, but we were there together, and sometimes such moments can become something else. And in the spirit of metamorphosis, it’s over to you, Russell:

Animal Log Is Cautious But Determined 
These are not qualities of lurk
or weirdness, not cryptic
beyond cryptic colouration,
but its emergence is cautious
and its transition remains
private though it reveals
itself from the bank — moss
hair, wood trunk torso,
branch legs. Hear it speak
over murmur of stream,
hear it deny the hunter
a mortal point of aim.
(April, 2023)

And maybe in writing we might think back to our 2019 walk in the Black Forest and our discussion over its fate... different places, if places in relatively close proximity (especially when compared with my writing of forests near where we live in the Western Australia wheatbelt), across time — one pre-pandemic, one post- (or still during, depending on definitions). One on a short visit from me, and the second at the start of a long stay. Both walks were with Russell as ‘guide’ and facilitator.

With Russ in Neckar Valley: mountain forest walk


The fork feeds back
Up the hill to take
River away from
Its restrictions
Raptor whistle black
Woodpecker call
But without the tap tap
To decode, without
The ratcheting up
To grub the leafless
Beech which holds
Designs on a tolerable
Summer to come,
Of tolerance, specs
Of walkers’ passing
Interest, collective
Breath, body heat
Of Kant’s working out.
(December, 2019)

Or if that doesn’t spark, maybe we can reach back to our conversation around the horror of hunting towers on the edge of fields and forests, and deep in among the trees along the lines of traversal by pigs and deer. I have written many poems around these travesties and manipulations of desire lines, and they have become a focal point for an animal rights campaign involving German forests. What hope do I have? As Russell said on our recent walk, at least you are personally less likely to be shot than in a French forest, to which I glibly and lamentingly asked/replied: Ordnung? 

Here’s one from a walk I just completed... and accompanying the poem is a series of photos taken from deep within the woods which will find their place in the resistance to violence against animals as well as humans, too. This poem refers to an exhibition of Daniel Richter’s paintings I saw the other day: barriers, ‘silent’ guard towers, open and closed zones, and deep ontological and physical threat.



Daniel Richter’s painted towers
survey human lines
of oppression: the watch,
the fence, the zone
of destruction.
The forest is an edge
to escape to or through,
and the forest myths
entangle fate.
The hunting towers
of the forest are not
those towers, and yet
they perform a similar
and equally deadly function.
How you rate an animal
in the schema of persecution,
how qualify rights and history,
will determine your perception,
The lack of critique
resounds with the movements
of swine and deer in the crepuscular
valley. In the folkish fantasy 
of woodsman architecture.
Daniel Richter’s towers
seem to be human lines
of oppression: the watch,
the fence, the zone
of destruction.
(May, 2023)

Now it’s over to Russell, and I am looking forward to where he does and doesn’t go with this, and to what further conversations ensue. And whatever happens, he will take things through proximities and interstices that I will inevitably find surprising and generative! Here's a manifesto of a particular approach to collaborative poetics in medias res.