Making the cut

You knew – you must have
known – how deeply you could cut
with that knife of yours.

Life is dropping crumbs
(which the birds will eat) – no point
hoping to get out

alive. Gratitude
counts for a great deal, you know …
but then, who’s counting?

Strictly speaking, only the syllables are correct. Does it still count as a haibun? But this piece (seventeen three times) playfully (suggestively) (arbitrarily) offers up a sampling of the cuts and connections that came to mind whilst reading something else. (And here I give thanks to Derrida.)

On New Year’s Eve

In 2011, Ouyang Yu, from Victoria (Australia), won the Community Relations Commission’s award for his book The English Class. Picture: Adam Elwood.

Ouyang Yu reminds me, as I read,
of my lunch today
at a familiar Chinese restaurant.
In my mind’s ear
there are fragments of voices – familiar
sounds, yet incomprehensible –
the laugh-laced talk
of three young Chinese men
sitting down to eat
where usually they serve.
Today they are not in uniform: it is
holiday time, and they are relaxing.
I look across the room at them,
smiling and waving; they respond
with grins and greetings.
As I am getting up from my meal,
the boss crosses the floor
and we shake hands.
“Happy New Year,” we say.
“See you next year.”

(31 December 2012; amended 02 January 2013)


Ouyang Yu (born 1955) is a contemporary Chinese-Australian author, translator and academic.

Ouyang Yu was born in the People’s Republic of China, arriving in Australia in 1991 to study for a Ph. D. at La Trobe University which he completed in 1995. Since then his literary output has been prodigious. Apart from several collections of poetry and a novel he has translated authors as diverse as Christina Stead, Xavier Herbert, Germaine Greer and David Malouf among others. He also edits Otherland, which is a bilingual English-Chinese literary journal. (Wikipedia)


Ouyang Yu. 2012. Loose : A wild history. Adelaide, SA: Wakefield Press.

“The novel combines fiction with non-fiction, poetry with literary criticism, diary with life writing, with multiple stories weaving in between, told from different points of view by different characters.” (Wakefield Press)

Creatures becoming other creatures

Courtney Collins: The Burial (cover)

Courtney Collins: The Burial (cover)




[Jessie] lay down on her back and watched the clouds passing over. There were forms racing cloud to cloud and she could see creatures in those forms and creatures becoming other creatures, each thing changing and nothing ever visible for long. (Courtney Collins, in The Burial [p195])  


Google Books

Book’dOut (review)

Allen & Unwin (publisher)

See also:


Collins, Courtney. 2012. The burial. Sydney: Allen & Unwin

It’s best if I lose myself

The Spaces Between (cover, featuring 'The Painted Bird' by Shane Cotton)

The Spaces Between (cover, featuring ‘The Painted Bird’ by Shane Cotton)




‘I’m a ceramic artist,’ the German woman said.

‘Do you have to think when you’re making a pot?’ Kraik drew an invisible circle on the table top. ‘Imagine its shape?’

‘It’s best if I lose myself,’ the woman said …

(Russell Haley, in The Spaces Between [p184])


Haley, Russell. 2012. The spaces between. Auckland: Adastra

Cantillation signs – “black-limbed curlicues”

example of biblical Hebrew trope

example of biblical Hebrew trope (from Wikipedia article on “Cantillation”)

“In the holy tongue, cantillation signs are called taamin, which also means flavors. These little flourishes above and below the letters not only score the melody of the text, they bring out its essence. In time, you, too, will savor the holy verses.” (Zalman, in Anouk Markovits’s novel, I am Forbidden [p54])

… In Josef’s sleep, the black-limbed curlicues scuffled and spun threads he could not unravel, Zalman stories within Christ stories amid which Josef searched for a last letter, a first letter, that spelled a lost word. (I am Forbidden, by Anouk Markovits [p54])

“Cantillation signs guide the reader in applying a chant to Biblical readings. This chant is technically regarded as a ritualized form of speech intonation rather than as a musical exercise like the singing of metrical hymns: for this reason Jews always speak of saying or reading a passage rather than of singing it.” (from Wikipedia)

Anouk Markovits has such a remarkable power to weave words. “But the wonder of this elegant, enthralling novel,” as Susannah Meadows so aptly puts it in her review for The New York Times, “is the beauty Ms Markovits unearths in the Hasidic community she takes us into. She remains largely nonjudgmental about the most difficult-to-grasp practices of the Satmar sect, while showing how even the most fervent believers struggle with the letter-of-the-law faith.”


Markovits, Anouk. 2012. I am forbidden. London: Hogarth

For links to reviews and related material, see The taste of clouds, (07 Nov 2012)

And always the changing light

An Equal Stillness (cover)

An Equal Stillness (cover)




And always the changing light:
silver, pewter, moth wing,
oyster shell.

Greys in Jack’s eyes too:
moonlight, unexpected
sunshine, seen through rain.

(Francesca Kay, in An Equal Stillness)

Francesca Kay’s novel (which I have just read) is at times pure poetry – which is why I have presented this two-sentence citation as a poem.

Kay, Francesca. 2009. An equal stillness. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson [pp 181-2]

Declaring a new world

A page of a copy circa 1503 of the Diwan-e Shams-e Tabriz-i

A page of a copy circa 1503 of the Diwan-e Shams-e Tabriz-i


Do not be satisfied with the stories that come before you.
Unfold your own myth.

Speak a new language so
that the world will be a new world.

The work is always inside you.
This knot does not get untied
by listening to the stories of other people.

Everything in the universe is within you.
Ask all from yourself.

(Mawlānā Jalāl-ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī).

The text of this post has been assembled using quotations from poetry by Rūmī. 

The image depicts Shams of Tabriz (Rūmī’s spiritual master) as portrayed in a 1503 painting in a copy of Rūmī’s poem dedicated to Shams. 

Summer ends now

… up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour
Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?

(Gerard Manley Hopkins, Hurrahing in Harvest (Vale of Clwyd, Sept. 1, 1877)

The first day of March. The Hopkins quote seems inescapably apt. “Summer ends now,” it begins.

No photograph today. The images in the sonnet are vivid enough.

“The Hurrahing sonnet,” noted Hopkins in a letter, “was the outcome of half an hour of extreme enthusiasm as I walked home alone one day from fishing in the Elwy.”

Red light district

red light district (20 Sep 2011)

red light district (20 Sep 2011)

We all seem to see the world
differently. And, as we grow and learn,
the world transforms and transforms
into something we hadn’t 
expected (or suspected).

And yet the earth still goes
around the sun, and the moon
around the earth.

Somewhere in the deep beyond of
reality – where things really are
the way they are – nothing changes.

No, stop! I mean to say that
there is no change. There’s just
nothing, and that nothing is

Oh dear, it still isn’t clear, is it?

Sumer is icumen in

fig leaf (13 Sep 11)

fig leaf (13 Sep 11)



And from the fig tree learn a parable: When the branch thereof is now tender, and the leaves come forth, you know that summer is nigh. (Matt 24:32, Douay-Rheims Bible)

This image dates from mid-September – the first month of spring in the southern hemisphere. And now, as the old song says, Sumer is icumen in.

There are a number of versions of the song on YouTube – including one said to be by the Hilliard Consort, which one user says is “the best version I’ve heard on YouTube so far and doubt it will be surpassed.”