Jennifer Harrison is an Australian poet who has performed and published her work in
Australia and USA. She has written three books of poetry and one collaborative
collection. Her first book, michelangelo's prisoners, won the 1995 Anne Elder Award and
her third, Dear B, was short-listed for the 1999 Age Book of the Year and the 2000
Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry (NSW Premier's Prize). Her second collection Cabramatta/
Cudmirrah contains the idiomatic Cabramatta, a long sequence based on childhood
experiences as a Sydney 'westie' growing up in Liverpool where her father, a scrambling
aficionado, owned a motor bike shop in the 50's. Supported by a literary grant from the
Australia Council, her fourth collection is forthcoming from by Melbourne's Black Pepper
Press in 2005. Folly & Grief has taken its inspiration from the traditions of commedia
dell'arte, as seen in the work of the street performers of metropolitan and rural Australia.
Interested in the interface between photography and poetry, Jennifer's photographs
have been exhibited in the Reveries Gallery in Bendigo and her poems in the National
Gallery of Victoria. She convened the reading series 'Writers at the Water Rat' for the
Fellowship of Australian Writers (Vic Inc.) between 2000 and 2001 and co-edited Said
The Rat!, an anthology of writing commemorating that series. Jennifer's poetry has
won many prizes including the 2003 NSW Women Writers National Poetry Prize and the
2004 Martha Richardson Poetry Medal. Her poetry has appeared in The Best Australian
Poetry 2003, The Best Australian Poems 2004 and will feature in The Best Australian Poetry
2005. Jennifer rows with the Dragons Abreast dragon boat racing team and loves being
out on the Yarra River in the Melbourne evenings. The rhythms of dragon boat drumming
combined with the homely stare of the dragon across the water pretty much sum up her
poetic aspirations. Read more about her work by visiting the Black Pepper website.
statue busker, Bourke St mall, Melbourne
These, my ephemera: stone
the brokenness of stone: tor, cliff, rubble -
clear lytic rivers - glaciers cracking
new fevers of ice; frost attacking the moan.
And the desert horizon,
smoke rising from a camp or truck.
The emptiness against which a man leans
as though against a polished car.
Melbourne's granite weather -
skies slicked grey as the fences of Dorset,
grey as a grandmother's Celtic rune
tasting of winter, the smokiness of cashew.
Nothing can crush me.
Neither tourists pressing their love
onto the eyelids of cobbles -
nor the stone moments of rabbits caught
in the head-light freeze of the moon -
neither the quiet crying of a friend
the cancer coming at her like a train -
nor the statue in the mall, vampire-bled by dawn.
The stony head is inside me now
tethered to Marcel Marceau -
uddered by the sun, I am circling
myself, my shadow wreathed on concrete.
Alluvial as gold in water,
children ripple their helium balloons.
With plinth, hat, suitcase, I wrestle
back the anonymity of crowds.
My plaster-of-Paris tux sheds a dandruff
of dust, lapels eroding as I point, blink
in the time it takes. My gaze touches you
roughly, like potch.
Because I echoed the word boy
I became an old, granite-suited gesture -
my eyes those of Sisyphus
unlike any pebble or mountain.
In Myers, the tills are minstrels
anointing the light-boned loneliness
of change-rooms. Escalators drift
past angelic visions of home-ware.
Indifference settles quickly
as you pass, and when I smile,
in the time it takes,
I'm the best frontman you've seen in years.
Now, I wipe away the cairn with a towel,
shoes crushed back into the suitcase -
my bowler hat wrapped again for poets
tipping and doffing from the grave.
In my centre, purple singed,
the desert licks out griffins of moonlight.
Stone erodes to balance the elements
of loss and gain.
Salt-shelled, slippery with moss,
cold as a rubbish strewn plaza
at night - stay a moment, grieving near.
Life is more than easy theatre,
cracks weathered true.
Try not to be soft, daughter.
The brittle stars gleam, trawling for ebony.
The Taste of Hours
Tonight the husk of depression
rebels against the dark's philanthropy.
Nothing floats away.
This action might be enough,
that one too difficult
but the high horse has no stirrups
and the flank, slippery.
See how I walk down the hall
and disappear? How I sleep
in a room of lost garments?
Before the fist in my breast relaxes
what do the lungs demand?
What catches in the trees
when a storm sways through the branches?
Nothing floats away.
Mothers notice their children
invisible a moment before.
I won't be seduced by the taste of hours
but by you, weighing my body down
tenderness piercing bone
where trust lets the nerve through.
And now, they come back -
the A-list guests, and the ghosts, the
Careful tongues in midnight blue
who stroke my hair -
how can it be
Therefore, that prayer
regards me as lost
my eyes in lace, sky-hooking?
I have a noose of hollow air
to weigh prayer's loss
to its lightness
This mortal news - that each day
is daily torn; that death
acts out birth's torsion
Utterance is a private matter, yes,
I pass through a forest each time
I feel the kindness of the sun
Picture me as a recipe, mother,
a theatre or a theatre's knack
of returning fresh from recollection
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