Tag: bushfires

Life can be so full of surprises

In the wake of the devastating 2019-20 bushfires that raged across so much of eastern Australia for weeks, I wrote a poem that raged against prime minister Scott Morrison’s total failure to show any kind of genuine leadership, or even common decency, empathy or humanity.

The poem was a piece of writing sparked by the words submitted in that week’s Word Expo – a word game I’ve been playing now for well over 10 years with writers from around the world, although these days limited to Australia and New Zealand. Writers submit a word, one that’s not been previously used, and from the disparate list invited to create a piece of writing. It can be anything – poetry, anecdote, story, script – the only criteria is that at least three of the submitted words are included.

While I still hesitate to describe myself as a poet, poetry is often what emerges from this weekly list of words. And most of the poems are political, often relating to a situation that’s been dominating the media in some capacity. It’s quite cathartic to vent one’s anger, frustration or despair at whatever is occurring that week in the state, the country or the world.

In January 2020 it was Australia’s bushfires, and the breathtakingly unbelievable discovery our PM had deemed it OK to quietly creep off to Hawaii with his family while half the country was engulfed in flames. His reasoning for abandoning communities whose homes had been destroyed, and landscapes, forests, animals scorched and decimated, and exhausted firefighters and volunteers, was because he ‘doesn’t hold a hose, mate’.

My poem was in the form of a letter and entitled Dear Mr Morrison. Once written it joined others in a bulging portfolio I keep in the filing cabinet, and that might occasionally be rolled out for a reading at the monthly Poetry Pedlars evening. But after spotting a call out for contributions for an anthology – planned as a fundraiser to support sanctuaries overwhelmed with wildlife victims from the fires – I offered this one, since it fitted the climate change/bushfire theme essential to submission requirements.

My poem was accepted, and the anthology was duly published in 2020. It includes impressive and moving comments and personal accounts and hopefully raised significant dollars to aid the rescue and recovery of the millions of animals and birds injured and displaced as a result of those terrible and disastrous fires. While I was not unnaturally pleased to see it in print, it never occurred to me that publication in this modest tome might prompt additional interest.

So an email seeking permission to use an extract from Dear Mr Morrison, from Australian academic Eve Darian-Smith who is based in the US, and was writing a book on the global response to climate change from a world where right-wing governments were on the rise, was completely unexpected. And she was terribly apologetic that she couldn’t offer me any payment, should I agree to her request.

To say I was gobsmacked is an understatement! Needless to say I agreed. Who wouldn’t at such an unlooked-for opportunity!

Publication was scheduled to be in early 2022, and I was promised a copy of the book. Late last week it arrived, and sure enough that extract is included (on pages 57 and 58 actually).

Sometimes you never know how, or with who, the words we write will resonate and find their own life in the world. It’s highly likely the idea for the poem was born on a Thursday, so it could be argued this particular ‘child’ was always likely to have ‘far to go’!

I’m in shock!

I still feel a bit of a fraud when it comes to my attempts at poetry writing as I don’t really consider myself a poet at all. I started writing poetry after being invited years ago to join an online weekly word game played by a few writers. Most were based in New Zealand, and the instigator and coordinator of the game is a Kiwi, but initially there were a couple from South Africa as well. The idea is to create a short piece of writing – anything from essay, anecdote, story, script or poem – from the words submitted by contributing players each week. Previously used words are not allowed, and the selection is completely random but at least three of the submitted words must be included. Sometimes this can prove quite challenging – especially if only three people played, providing just three words! There’s no obligation to play every week, but those who miss five in a row forfeit their place – although they can re-join at any time.

For reasons that remain unclear to me, poetry is usually what emerges from these disparate words, and over the years most have been political responses to whatever might be happening in the country or world at that time. Writing them provided an emotional release during the pulp mill campaign, allowing me to pen a scathing reply to whatever aspect dominated the week’s headlines.  Some will be included in the book. Poems are entirely instinctive, and follow no accepted style or form, but they have a rhythm to them even if they rarely rhyme in the traditional sense.

So they’ve become something of a social and political commentary over the years, and friends who are way more accomplished in writing the poetic form than I am, have also been generous in their praise and appreciation, even suggesting I should consider publication. Although largely sceptical and reluctant to claim a talent I don’t altogether feel is deserved, I have occasionally followed their advice and achieved some publishing success in several small press publications.

Now however, I’ve recently received an email from a US-based Australian academic, so maybe it’s time to have more confidence in my poetry-writing ability. University of California academic Eve Darian-Smith is seeking copyright permission to use an extract from a poem included in the ’From the Ashes’ anthology, published early last year as a bushfire fundraiser to assist wildlife sanctuaries care for burned and displaced animals.

The planned book is: “. . . . Planet on Fire: Climate Change and Global Free-Market Authoritarianism” which examines governmental policies and neoliberal logics that prioritize corporate interests over those of citizens and the environment. The book is to be published by the University of California Press, [in 2022] which is a non-profit scholarly publisher. The book is based on scholarly research and is intended for sale to libraries, scholars, students, and interested general readers on a non-profit basis.”

Now you know why I’m in shock!

Just ‘Wow!’ to echo the response of one of my friends when I told him!



Under the cloak of Covid there are real fears the Morrison government is operating far too secretly, and attempting to push through legislation that has not been through proper processes, or been subjected to the scrutiny it would normally face. With attention focused elsewhere as people worry about their job, or lack thereof, of simply trying to keep their heads above water, financially speaking, it’s no wonder people are not paying close attention to some of the Coalition’s suspected slippery deals. It’s also no wonder that people are becoming increasingly suspicious. Myself included which prompted me to pen this piece earlier today.


you expect us to listen
and heed what you say
warn what could happen
and how we might pay

but why should we hark at
or take note of your words
and stay physically distant
away from the herd

you don’t heed those directions
you just conveniently ignore
that such instructions are mutual
even if they’re a chore

so you go to the football
stand close, clap and cheer
but say parliament can’t sit
‘cos you’d all be too near

large gatherings at funerals
or weddings – no longer allowed
nor are marches or protests
all pose too big a crowd

mixed messaging Scotty
it’s not a good look
and come time for elections
we’ll remember you took

time off on leave
left the country by stealth
when our country was burning
you cared zilch for our health

when shamed into returning
you showed no remorse
just annoyance you’d been rumbled
while fires took their course

so why should we trust
what you say, or believe
you deserve one more chance
when you lie and deceive

© 2020


This disconcerting summer

It’s been a strange summer alright. And a challenging one. Since writing my last blog post in the middle of what has been a catastrophic bushfire season across much of the mainland, followed by floods in other parts of the country, and now the new and unknown reality of coronavirus – or COVID-19 – most of the world is now living in lockdown, physically isolated from family, friends and work, and existing in a surreal kind of silence.

The pandemic has certainly changed the face of Australia, and although it’s concentrating the minds of our leaders, most state premiers have risen to the challenge very well. Others not so much, but it’s been surprising and encouraging to note, (after a rocky start in the case of PM Morrison), that Tasmania’s premier, and Scotty From Marketing, are handling the crisis efficiently and with authority. I’m no fan of either man, but credit where it’s due and they do appear to be steering the state and the country well at the moment.
Certainly these extraordinary times put into perspective the mundane and micro nature of the personal everyday. Those raspberries and tomatoes that were proving to be so tardy back in February have more than made up for their production delay in the weeks since. The natural world shows scant regard for the concerns of humanity, and both crops have forged on regardless. Until a few days ago picking them was a daily task that took at least an hour, such is their time-consuming abundance, but the dessert of raspberries we’ve now enjoyed every evening for weeks has been a joy. Unsurprisingly, tomatoes have also been a fixture in all but a very few of our meals – with the exception of breakfast.

As anticipated processing tomatoes has also been a regular item on my To Do list during the past few weeks, so the freezer is now full to capacity. Few meals are served without tomatoes featuring somewhere on the plate, and although friends and neighbours have thankfully helped relieve us of some of this excess bounty, there are few signs production is slowing. It makes up for their earlier tardiness of course, but I will not be upset when I can finally declare this particular harvest over.

Lockdown life is otherwise proving no hardship, which is my good fortune, and I’m well aware of that fact. We have space to move, a garden to keep us exercised and occupied – and plenty of tasks indoors to catch up on. And quite apart from anything else there are books. Plenty of them, and for the first time in years, a bit more time to read them without feeling guilty.

And, even more importantly, there is time (and fewer excuses!) to write my own major project, even if in my determination to catch up on some of those aforementioned tasks, it’s taken a little while to settle down to doing so on a regular and determined basis.