A LYREBIRD

:
SELECTED POEMS OF MICHAEL FARRELL

ED. JARED SCHICKLING

BLAZEVOX[BOOKS]
Buffalo, New York
A Lyrebird:
Selected Poems of Michael Farrell
by Michael Farrell; Editor Jared Schickling
Copyright © 2017

Published by BlazeVOX [books]

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without
the publisher’s written permission, except for brief quotations in reviews.

Printed in the United States of America

Interior design and typesetting by Geoffrey Gatza
Cover Art by

First Edition
ISBN: 978-1-60964-280-8
Library of Congress Control Number: 2017931718

BlazeVOX [books]
131 Euclid Ave
Kenmore, NY 14217

Editor@blazevox.org

publisher of weird little books

BlazeVOX [ books ]
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21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10
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Acknowledgements

16-26 from ode ode. Salt Modern Poets Series, 2002. UK.
28-48 from a raiders guide. Giramondo Poets, 2008. Australia.
50-56 from thempark. BookThug, 2010. Canada.
58-62 from thou sand. Tinfish Press Retro Series, 2011. USA.
64-72 from enjambment sisters present. Black Rider Press Lyrics, 2012.
Australia.
74-98 from open sesame. Giramondo Poets, 2012. Australia.
100-106 from same! same! same! same! SUS, 2014. Australia.
108-114 from the thorn with the boy in its side. Oystercatcher Press, 2014. UK.
116-134 from Cocky’s Joy. Giramondo Poets, 2015. Australia.
136-152 roughly proofed. Sippy Cup, 2015. Australia.
154-160 from “I Love Poetry.” Unpublished manuscript.
“A Lyrebird” appeared in Southerly, 2013. Australia.
“Into A Bar” appeared in Westerly, 2015. Australia.
Contents

fixities climb aboard the transcendent & clutter .................................................................. 15

settlers, regurgitated ..................................................................................................................... 27

breaking hearts on the beach .....................................................................................................49

sunlight spills on the floor of the laundry .............................................................................. 57

edelweiss, the lanthanums, barbary ........................................................................................ 63

not love blossom on the windshield buckets of pink .......................................................... 73

a small transmitter quietly follows the cockle ......................................................................99

you touch a locust & have a vision ......................................................................................... 107

sleeping with moses ..................................................................................................................... 115

roughly proofed ............................................................................................................................ 135

i love poetry .................................................................................................................................... 153
Editor’s Note

Michael Farrell—not to be confused with the Buffalo native and author of Running
with Buffalo, not the University at Buffalo sociology professor nor the area
chiropractor, nor any other Michael Farrell that we know of—is a contemporary
poet born in Bombala, Australia, in the Monaro region of New South Wales. I must
have come to Michael’s poetry while editing eccolinguistics, a tiny zine of stapled
paper that shipped internationally. It was, in any case, the poems, and I would have
the good fortune of meeting him a couple years later, during his time here for a
reading at the Western New York Book Arts Center, on a chilly night nestled snugly
under the Just Buffalo Literary Center in the heart of downtown Buffalo. It seems
some students in the UB Poetics Program had advocated for his visit while he was in
Los Angeles and were obliged. Michael has visited the US on one occasion since
then, for Active Aesthetics: Contemporary Australian Poetry Conference, organized
by Lyn Heijinian and Eric Falci, which brought thirty-three Australian poets to
Berkeley in April of 2016 and produced an anthology edited by Daniel Benjamin
and Claire Maree Stancek (Tuumba and Giramondo, 2016). That trip included
performances in Seattle.

Bombala is halfway between Sydney and Melbourne, in the southeast corner of the
continent. Though it never materialized, in 1903 King O’Malley imagined the area as
the parliamentary seat of Australia. In 2012, around the time I was discovering these
poems, the population of Bombala was 1,200 souls, whose name apparently derives
from an Aboriginal word meaning “meeting of the waters.” Situated on the banks of
the Bombala River, between the Monaro Tablelands to the west and the slow
descent to the South Pacific coast in the east, its principal industries are sheep
grazing and timber, and it is known for its population of platypus. Farrell moved to
Melbourne in 1990, where he still lives, and for all the adventurous experimentalism
infusing his work, the poems reflect a cosmopolitan sensibility that is truly of the
world, inhabiting multiple locales and values, Australian and not. His linguistic play
is sensual, centered in the porous and migratory experience of animals and myths
and household products on global scales.

There is no need to justify this volume, whose qualities I’d rather leave to the
reader’s discernment. There’s no use cataloging the fact that, from all we can tell,
Michael Farrell is a shining star among contemporary Australian poets, with three
books published in the highly regarded Giramondo Poets series. His humor, biting
wit and empathetic politics, knowledge of an international avant-garde and
engagement with the gay body and identity should ingratiate the work to an
American audience whose poets are deeply invested in something similar. After all,
Australian and US poetics haved already enjoyed fruitful transnational and cross-
cultural exchanges. James Tulip describes in a 1986 issue of the Australasian Journal
of American Studies how, since the 1960s, Australian poets “have increasingly turned
away from England and Europe to American models for inspiration, challenge and
competition,” sending conference and residency invitations to their “radical
cousins” here. David McCooey writes in his entry for the Oxford Research
Encyclopedia of Literature, “The Public Life of Contemporary Australian Poetry,” of
the “discourse of decline” Australian poetics shares with other Anglophone nations.
Pam Brown’s claim in 2005 that “central to contemporary Austrialian poetry is the
work of a poet who did not exist,” referring to the anti-modernist hoax poems from
the 1940s of invented author Ern Malley, reflects the cultural zeitgeist over
authorship that affects literary discourse here. Flagship Poetry published an
Australian poets issue a month after the Active Aesthetics conference, edited by
Robert Adamson, while 2016 also marked the twenty-year anniversary of a double
issue of Poetry devoted to the same, edited by John Kinsella. It seems like only
yesterday that the University of Pennsylvania acquired John Tranter’s Jacket.
A note on the table of contents and how the body of work is or is not represented,
however, does seem necessary. Each chapter title comes from a line or title in one of
Michael’s poems. Not all lines are complete and some ignore enjambment, and I
have adjusted punctuation and capitalization where typography, extracted from
context and a significant part of the poems’ makeup, got in the way of an elegant
frontispiece. I chose them at random, even haphazardly. “roughly proofed” and “i
love poetry” (i.e. “I Love Poetry,” an unpublished volume of new work) correspond
to the titles of the books from which those poems are culled (roughly proofed appears
in full). Otherwise, except for one, no chapter title is taken from a poem in that
chapter. They refer to lines or titles from poems in other chapters.

Each chapter is a selection from a unique book. They situate the poetry in
chronological order according to year of publication in book form. In selecting
poems I proceeded from front cover to back without rearranging their order of
appearance. Therefore any arc across this book is not of my making, even if some of
the weave is. Two books, BREAK ME OUCH (3 Deep Publishing, 2006) and Long Dull
Poem (STALE OBJECTS dePRESS, 2014), are not represented here, and neither is
any of the poet’s critical writing.

Lastly, though I don’t think this selection—an act of deletion and transformation, to
be sure—is necessarily representative of the poet’s oeuvre, my hope is that it serves
as an invitation and enticement to further reading and discovery of an essential
English-language poet emerging from a lively Australian poetry scene. To that end,
I would like to thank Michael Farrell, Geoffrey Gatza and BlazeVOX for making this
contribution to the American poetic milieu a reality.

JS
Lockport, NY
January, 2017
breaking hearts on the beach
news from the erstwhile

brown bookmarks arent an excuse, nor are art jots.
we drive the attendant away with pens. you were at the market.
how often i have thought of you showering,
picking on people, on weekends –
& your partner? is she finally over your moodswings?

there is no homosexual milieu that i know of,
so im a parasite, like in line of beauty.
fitzroy has called at last.
we had to disobey all the signs,
as patriotic as stopping for commonwealth drunks,
& teenage creeps that touch their blurry others.
so i thought youd like to guess,
from beneath your chemical peel, safe.
the others someone you dont know,
i hate questions except about the country.

in the message a grain, a remembrance,
of the rod & the differing menus that had parted you.
we wank-thanked, the prizegiver
i saw your head in a garden shed your brain on,
an express, nothing i could do.
but undress my dummy
wash his salvation-army threads. im going to put away substitutes,
let boredom besiege me as it may.
the short afternoons extend indefinitely & the books lie
on the bed where i threw them sore eyed.

51
former detainees take gold

the press emphasised their
disadvantage. politics had its
head in a television and a chocolate
hand. they were a teatowel

wrung for its tear shaped cash.
it was one for the
lefties & superior nations
like france and germany.

a muslim with a medal emphasised “aussie”
conditions helped them, & the wind was very democratic here,
& like any eccentric with their –
tshirt backward. the coach had hated inflicting

torture on them. without sponsorship selling junk
& sometimes less, was nothing or blank. cathy freeman
cut out & stuck to a wall.
the pb came out of

a vision they had half way down the track.
how, do you feel to be living they
were asked, they didnt answer, it was all in
the eyes dont look. they were happy

the vision was over, & all
the other wouldbe democracies off the track.
a camera focused on their ears,
jokey allusions were made & muffled.

the myth was they ate sixteen weetbix,
& prayed like cathy freeman.
ran around the compound, panting,
catlike, giving former champion now

minister wobbles thinking of their lucky country trajectory.
they were rejoicing on the dais & looking forward
to a whole chicken wiping their hands on immigration papers.
being replaced, by other winners, other winners like clouds

52
& weetbix. some old lifestyler keeps smiling at them.
the ambiguity their english had flourished, against all
odds the odds against poetry but taken by
surprise by their future hungry winner feelings.

53
nephews

a different stripe, from uncles from each other.
theyre a debate of nurture vs nature. theyve been wrestling
are tired & sweaty, resistant to flashes. theyre aware of their sex.
unready to give it away. the lights are on
their shadowed torsos. their bodies have known
alcohol but theres no appreciable damage
not like the uncles light & heavy,
nothings in their professions. their digital watches,
beep beep beep. the nephews ears bend one way,
theyre a range though, their emotions pushing through them & withdrawing.

when they put on the nazi uniforms, they become
neutral & forget about acting feeling the subtle pressure of
the fabric & insignia, noone but you & me watch them.
they are jews in a german summer,
they wonder why the forests are considered moral.
one cap still has mud on it.
they suddenly laugh like on a talkshow
with ellen degeneres. are you a pomeranian?
their pencils scatter their different nerdinesses are in constant flux.

the temperatures too high. they lose their poses.
theyre like painted women i reflect the camera strap supplying the
lack, viewer lack.

54
cold turkey

i was raised in a traditional background youd recognise it,
two trees some rails a dolphin, sun going down,
the usual drug problem. whatre you looking delightedly at?
eventually, sucking it up. if only there were more like you
ready to settle. you were raised in korea & never learned
how to ride, or how to leer. im always strungout,
but nothing. even cooma & wagga begin to seem
appealing a dream of sublimation.
in a room talking to a generalised you.
rubbing & feeling semi anaesthetised, fate, in pieces like parrots,
i couldnt sleep so the doc gave me credit –
this isnt an ad i went to acland street to dance.
eventually shooting up with ajax my bookie.

sometimes i spend all day in the sandpit.
i left home, teddy bear in hand, wolves crying
toowhit toowhoo, dont come in. i only got into the water
to avoid getting into you. this isnt the way it ends;
cold turkey tepid crocodile farm, theres a man coming with speed
with half a bag of love – for half everybody,
& well wake up again, & change sides like pingpong.

55
youve shaved

& i hope the easter
bunny notices the trouble with darlinghurst. all the best ones write arabic
a wild boombox i dont have.
no need to scrapbook. “on a sunday train.”
as smooth, as babes missing father …
outside a fuchsia coloured view. the eulogies get passed around
he ran a circus, but back to the
rest of the world by jet.

zoom a word some
envy those too fatigued to work the beach.
crack a tinny ahh. a beer foam
mo like the holidaymakers. embrace the dead ex with
two mercs, heavenly menage a trois. border collies patrol the border border
magpies defect to us. maggies are
great in autumn, leaves dangle frangipanis war, cockies
merge like anzacs on a hill. i sketched a biscuit
grater trawling through country, jam collected flies in wwi & blew up tanks,
poets wrote on plants, a gallipoli greeting, shotup bits of tin became art
the turks made bead snakes.
we walked a tangible k of death, like gumnuts, or royalty anointing
the cold erotic dead. pyramids rose through the postcard shop the tomb a
serious pleasure
kangaroo icons, zood & stewed, its roundup time we reassess the stock the
troops the work carefully cheerfully unnerving each rock.

56