Brett Dionysius

B R Dionysius directed the Queensland Poetry Festival from 1997-2001 and is currently the co-editor of papertiger: new world poetry #04. In 1998 he was awarded the Harri Jones Memorial Prize for Poetry by the University of Newcastle. He has co-authored an artists’ book, The Barflies’ Chorus (Lyre Bird Press, 1995) and two solo collections of poetry, Fatherlands (Five Islands Press, 2000) and Bacchanalia (Interactive Press, 2002). He was short-listed in the 2002 Mary Gilmore Poetry Prize for Fatherlands. He has been recently living in Melbourne, Australia, and will be re-routing back to Queensland soon.

Letter to Liz & Kim

Dear Liz & Kim how’s it going? Thanks for your letter
Dated this September. Letter writing was never an old
Habit of mine – too afraid to put that much down on
Paper about myself…left it to poems instead…lack of
Self-respect? I’ve been remiss myself these last few years
Have been quite Les Murrayesque. You know his ‘black
Dog of depression’ time when his crystal mind clouded
Over, a squall of emotion bottled up. Not sure what his
Was over though I suspect poetry related.  Mine was a bit
Like that too, perhaps less circumspect. I’m afraid I won
My father’s red head rage so snake match-strike. Mostly
Work correlated though, my beef with the world, no real
Job in three years of looking post-qld fest, puts dignity &
Relationships through the wringer, like my mother’s Simpson
In its washing shed scared me; siblings said it snatched hands
& feet, I was the youngest (still am) & vulnerable to jest!
But I haven’t been laughing hard like when I was a kid,
The fun all sucked out of this little black duck. Sorry, being
Melodramatic now that I’ve started yapping on about work…
Les once had a job in the PS, but chucked it in & said ‘I’m
Going home forever’ – to write & he did. Wish I could have
Said the same thing, but he was lucky his wife supported him.
We’ve done it hard, but then so has everyone, all our friends
The ‘writing poor’ I call them! Let me list my exciting new
CV additions – pallet repairer, (that was all right learnt to use
A nail gun), batcher (I wouldn’t eat KFC coleslaw if I were you),
Data entry operator (for a modelling agency, bonus got to see
Some sexy shots!), process worker (where’s the cheese?), process
Sorter (shit of a job, literally) & briefly, truck jockey (you know
The guys who run along beside the garbage trucks & collect
Recyclables! Only lasted two shifts: 12 hrs non-stop, no breaks
& 1 sprained ankle later). Good to hear about Thom the World
Poet back in Oz. I still have strange photos of him, beanie clad,
At airports around the world. I remember fondly the Café Yartz
Poetry gig he ran in Northcote in ’92 when Melb poets left egos
At the front door. He is our modern Socrates…. teaches poetry
Sedition! Gods, that was foreverago! Good to hear about your
Flock too! Ours has grown only by one, though Sylvie squawks
Enough for a nest full. Which reminds me, a family of migrants
Moved in with us too, a pair of blackbirds & four chicks spring
Hatched in a nest only three feet off the ground. They share
The same shy & cheeky characteristics as oz spangled drongo
But sadly high winds & rain evicted them last week. I found two
Chicks tree scattered & Wright Bros flight hopping, but then this
Week none, only a pool of feathers & cul-de-sac cats high strung.
I’m glad Jen’s well. Doing half the job myself (or less even?) I can’t
Imagine how single mums manage full-time; identity becomes
Milk laden & possessive doll of childhood. Good friends knock
Down walls put up by social stigma though: barriers fall & fall.
Hope your folks are well, my mum’s got osteo in her knee too
Half a century of social tennis & she can’t stop those winners.
Age sidelines us I guess; a flick of time’s wrist & we’re beaten.
Love to visit the US one day. I’d scratch a NYPD squad car –
Just to see if it was real! Kim, you have skills that I can only
Dream of in my masculine afterlife, you know the one where
I’m savvy with all things mechanical & instruction manuals
Come with a sense of rhythm. What do I expect? Only got
My learners at age 32! Can’t wait to toast your new house
Though, Euphoria’s the place to be – might be sooner than
Later too. D-Day’s not far off…. we’re catching a tornado
Back home. Strange, small, powerful word that one. So put
On your ruby shoes. We were over the Bris-vegas scene,
But never really jumped into the Melbourne one either.
Too troppo, too many arses to lick, maybe just that huge
Chip on the shoulder stopped me, the one from factory
Work. Only four readings in two years between us…time
To cut our losses & run. Liz, Melbourne’s the same same,
Still fucking in its back alleys. Ask the lifeless ganglands.
We’re definitely NOT over the hump, so Brissie here we
Come (again). The non-friends I’ve made here won’t miss
Me, only the imaginary ones. I was a ‘Corona Brother’ to
Marky-Mark, never did find out if he was married, had kids?
We dragged each other along Bell Street after work, our 2.0
Litre whines InVISYible. Good to hear you’re both keeping
Busy, though Kim, more house-poems & less house please!
You know us…we’re all festivalled out, but yeah, the South
Brisbane Sailing Club’s where it all began, clandestine love,
Poetry & all that stout! Liz, spoke to Ian today…his problem
Straightened me out, more of a father figure than he knows,
Next drinks’ my shout! Been turning him into a hard poet,
Through landscape limericks mostly e.g. ‘there once was a
Young man called Ian/who was particularly good at peein’
Etc. & donut hole theory…don’t ask it’s something Einstein
Would have thought up, if he’d been eating sweet dough &
Perving at chicks on the tram instead of daydreaming up time
Travel; hey, how’s my seventies sugar moustache look? Our
New motto: ARE YOU HARD? Liz & Kim, we have lucked
Out, Sylvie’s a dream - sleeps, drinks & (now) eats well; she’s
A farex queen! Today, she monstered her spoon – she’s an
Ashley & Dionysius all right, part cherub, part hired goon!
Well, that’s enough from me…letter writing’s possibly a
Quicker regime, but then again, I’ve had some months to
Live with these lines. Our presence up there is assured. Lots
Of love Brett, Mellie & Sylvie, Kiss. Kiss. Kiss. Kiss. Kiss.

(P.S. - 3 of the blackbird chicks survived & are doing well!)

The Picture of Baldwin in a Prospect of Kiwis

he had some trouble, but baldwin
mounted that giant fibreglass kiwi
en route to the real ‘thang’ but it was
sleeping much like wellington so like
that weird english village out of ‘the
prisoner’ all cubist architecture & good
manners left over from 19th century he
could walk the city in a couple hours but
never get out always ending up at te papa,
or ferret books offending maori gods & their
papier-mâché penises accordion suspended
over his head, his reference to oz birds fucking
making waves like a bangladeshi ferry too
overcrowded - irony, metaphors & langue
waifs who never learnt to swim or doggy
paddle, waters guarded by dulcet tones of
deities who reviled the salmon leap of poetry.

no one was interested in oz poetry only oz
politics grabbed headlines the down to the wire
race a shambles after all & baldwin stranger in
a strange land found relief in pornographic bakery
chocolate something corny he could least swallow
like the colossal fibreglass weta he thought was
a giant cricket but less impressive were the birds
turtledove pest oz pigeons revered in aotearoa
for their pinkness around the gills & baldwin
upset that he didn’t mount it (weta) or the hefty
tuatara he spied in the mall closest living relative
to dinosaurs & ‘terrible lizard’ of jh’s industrial
relations platform living in UV hell, primeval
darkness where kiwi’s snored – miniature grey
‘snuffleuphagi’ flightless & oz workers’ rights
dead as stephen islands’ wren, lighthouse cat
killed last thirteen dropped off front door gifts.

tragedy is written distinct & small said baxter
from jerusalem or wherever small g god existed
but audiences didn’t turn up for the election of
oz poets - preached to the converted like a greens
dinner styx valley a dead loss for labor geniuses
no coin for chainsaw wielding ferryman, foot &
mouth an exported pollies disease even trevor
chappell made a go of it post-under arm delivery
& don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,
even if she’s banshee-esque poetry gig weary &
shocked as mid-80’s big john studd seeing andre
(a monster even baldwin could mount) enter stadium
& wrest championship belt from hard poets’ hands.
baldwin equally disturbed by smokers eating in nz cafes
& cambodian horned squirrel’s plastic toy zoo demise –
some hobbit’s bad idea of a joke & oz poets choking on
green fairy bones. & baldwin no g. johnston adds roxanne.

Parallel Lives
Whoever first conceived the idea that there is a parallel between the arts
and our bodily senses seems to me to have grasped one fact very clearly,
namely that both possess a power to make distinctions which enables us
to perceive opposites, alike on the physical and on the aesthetic plane.



We were driving through the country
of reverse Friesians, not pied, as the cattle
from Bowenville home (proto-Thessaly),
those enlarged butcher-bird/mammalian
minus feathers (Darling Downs sane stock)
but opposite; big white stripe through the guts,
made me think of Brendan Ryan’s cover,
for Why I Am Not A Farmer, Melbourne under
milk siege engines & his fatherland, Panmure
we drove through once, bronze Falcon strong.
Our parallel lives, sense differences in stone,
grass cover & spirit mending walls.
“Our big ideas pulled back into line.”


Anyhow, things were reversed then.
I was riding with Melissa, Plutarch
Minter, Carson, Malcolm, Forbes, Fulton
along for the drive. She didn’t see them
inverted - I had to draw a mental picture.
Dairy cows turned inside out; alien evisceration.
A mutilated Grampians close encounters
of the bowl-cut kind at Pomonal Country
Market, a man selling childhood fossicking
memories - his father’s mineral collection
atom by atom, sadhu-palmed us his australite
anthology, musket-shot sized space pellets
& monthly social magnetism, fudge square.


That was when the reverse raven showed up.
A kookaburra, rap-rap-rapping at the A-frame’s
door. Anti-Poe & towel clad we answered its
too human call. We’d been inside for hours,
letting go, our skin overturned by merlot, too
cold for beer. Electric blanket, leather couch,
combustion fire, our sex was Spartan before
our Athenian drive changed lanes, overtaking
on a steep hill, we stopped: limbs radiator hot.
Things cooled down eventually, the Pharlap
heart-sized log stifled our flame & literary
debate seized the engine of our holiday.
Poetry gave us a headfuck: nevermore.


It was closer to the city that we found nature.
On a curve of highway M8 English paralleled,
balanced between two ‘real’ ravens, guard rail
strung, a wedge-tailed eagle, golden juvenile.
Aristander divined this one? Zeus’ Australian
messenger went unsung. The Melton Bypass
via our reverse refidex was really El Alamein.
Our tongues a battle-map desert fox wrong.
Ammo & fuel spent, code broken we defied
this anti-oracle, hearts implicated in coup.
Rommel, Demosthenes we took poison too. 
But there’s a cure for driving into distance.
Alexander’s & Marc Bolan’s odd beauty
so cool & fashionably dead.


Anyhow Brendan was braver than I was.
Got his arms Ghosterbusters slimed pulling
new calves, dairy-breeched, Ahab father
rope-tied & unstoppable. The white noise
of winter days, crickets’ shrill whale song.
The reverse crucifixion of calf-pullers, this
aluminium peg leg on a greasy concrete deck.
While quiet Ishmael me read books, threw
rocks at cattle trucks & hid from dehorning
ritual. Bone executions & crows weighed
down with veal fortunes, marked bully calves’
annulled modesty tossed on red sliprail grass.
Our manes cut off for rural mourning.


Now we sit & write in razed Thebes.
The house of Pindar kept for sentimentality.
& later, we kill the ‘Black’ Cleitus who saved
us at the Grannicus, that small act a blemish
on our parallel landscapes. History silted up.
Our thought-kingdom dispersed amongst
ambitious Generals, propping up our memory.
Your relatives turned out in Warrnambool,
mine in Brisbane, there were omens aplenty.
A skein of Southern Right on your horizon,
a humpback of semi breeching on Anne St.
Though I think, I’m more tyrant than you—
suits my artistic purpose?  Dionysius to your
Dion: the West our aesthetic Syracuse.