“Rage to order” shortlisted for Australia’s Porter Prize

Happy to announce that my poem “Rage to order” was shortlisted for the Australian Book Review’s Peter Porter Poetry Prize. It appears in the March issue along with the other three shortlisted poems and the contest winner, Amanda Joy’s “Tailings.”

From the judges’ statement: “‘Rage to Order’ is a poem of vertiginous self-consciousness: its extremity of feeling countervailed by the pressure of silence it makes felt. Like Gerard Manley Hopkins in ‘No worst, there is none’, this poet brings experience to a pitch in language at once pared back and wild with its play of repeating words and sounds.”

Poems from Collaboration with Left Coast Chamber Ensemble

As part of this local chamber music series, Benvenue House director Tanya Tomkins commissioned me to write an original poem in response to Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht. This somehow evolved to include a translation of the Richard Dehmel poem that inspired Schoenberg and a craft talk on my process (which included references to both David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and the children’s cartoon Avatar). An engaged, passionate audience made the whole thing a lot of fun, while Left Coast’s performance bright out the authentic feeling in Schoenberg’s early piece.

Below is the translation (preceded by Dehmel’s German original) and my poem “Five Kinds of Light,” after Schoenberg and Dehmel.



Zwei Menschen gehn durch kahlen, kalten Hain;

der Mond läuft mit, sie schaun hinein.

Der Mond läuft über hohe Eichen;

kein Wölkchen trübt das Himmelslicht,

in das die schwarzen Zacken reichen.

Die Stimme eines Weibes spricht:


„Ich trag ein Kind, und nit von Dir,

ich geh in Sünde neben Dir.

Ich hab mich schwer an mir vergangen.

Ich glaubte nicht mehr an ein Glück

und hatte doch ein schwer Verlangen

nach Lebensinhalt, nach Mutterglück

und Pflicht; da hab ich mich erfrecht,

da ließ ich schaudernd mein Geschlecht

von einem fremden Mann umfangen,

und hab mich noch dafür gesegnet.

Nun hat das Leben sich gerächt:

nun bin ich Dir, o Dir, begegnet.“


Sie geht mit ungelenkem Schritt.

Sie schaut empor; der Mond läuft mit.

Ihr dunkler Blick ertrinkt in Licht.

Die Stimme eines Mannes spricht:


„Das Kind, das Du empfangen hast,

sei Deiner Seele keine Last,

o sieh, wie klar das Weltall schimmert!

Es ist ein Glanz um alles her;

Du treibst mit mir auf kaltem Meer,

doch eine eigne Wärme flimmert

von Dir in mich, von mir in Dich.

Die wird das fremde Kind verklären,

Du wirst es mir, von mir gebären;

Du hast den Glanz in mich gebracht,

Du hast mich selbst zum Kind gemacht.”


Er faßt sie um die starken Hüften.

Ihr Atem küßt sich in den Lüften.

Zwei Menschen gehn durch hohe, helle Nacht.


– Richard Dehmel, 1896



Two people walk through a bare, cold wood.

The moon keeps pace with them

and draws their gaze. It slides across the tops

of the oaks; no cloud obscures its glow.

The points of the boughs reach for its light.

The woman speaks.


I’m carrying a child, and not yours.

I walk in sin beside you. When I say sin –

I mean a sin against myself. I lost

the thread of happiness (I mean the possibility

of believing in its possibility). And yet I longed

For some meaning: a mother’s joys


And duties. And so – I dared.

Shuddering myself into a stranger’s arms.

Willed it, and made it a blessing. But life

has its ways of getting back at us.

Call it revenge: so here you are.


She walks, trips, makes her way onward.

She looks up; the moon is still there.

It sees her. It is drowning her in light.

It does not stop its seeing.

The man speaks.


May the child you conceived

Be no burden on your soul. Look

how the universe shines, on you

and on everything. We float together

on a cold sea. But even now that glow

moves inside you. It moves

from you into me, and me into you.


It will transfigure the child, a child

born with my light inside it.

And you have brought the light into me,

made me new, reborn in your glow.


He wraps his arms around her full hips.

Their breath entwines in the cool air.

They walk together into the high, bright night.


tr. Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet
Translation commissioned for Benvenue House performance of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, December 2012



it is ours driving up and over the heavily canted bridge, ours at night

not sleeping, ours sitting late in the office         staring into screens

we hear it

stumbling along the long rows of trees, moving to drown it out

stopping just enough to step forward

again into it

ours late nights up again with a sick child, terrified and amazed

at the headlights’ calm survey of the blinds, ours plunking it out on the keyboard

once again from the top despite a cascading lack of talent

for whatever miracle we have been asked to perform

it is lifting

and falling, it is a means

of being in the world                 (having lost the intermediary word:

body struck mute and radiant           seen)

in the theaters in the balconies of scuffed velvet           on the late-night couches

alone or together, swimming in irony or indulgence       under the flickering screen

and still through it all the tidal pull—

it makes a place               to pour ourselves into, it has shaped

our cells, it is handed back and forth

(sometimes contraband sometimes insistent offering)           and we submit

ourselves to it,

we feed it into our ears and our eyes

in a tangle of cables and tubes          under the overturned truck       on the riverbank

where they have given up the search
where the baseboards

have been scrubbed away under so many mops

where the ice

forms around a hole in the road


in the closet, in the box, under lock and key, under duress

alone in a room in front of a window

gathered with others at the altar of our celebration

waiting on streetcorners and in the backs of cars

sweeping the kitchen floor, glass slipped through our fingers

on the train holding an extra ticket

in the nursery           in the departure lounge           afterwards deep in the ordinary

time of strip malls and medians, kicking stones

around the shore of the half-dead lake       it is

broken and filtered and coming through despite what stones we pile up around our heads

it pushes us into the world with its insistent hands


poem commissioned for Left Coast Chamber Ensemble performance of
Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, December 2012