Automatic Speaking Engine

Some people have been making sound recordings of me. More specifically of me reading my poems.

Drag down to order CD

Firstly the Melbourne independent record label Drums Records have recorded me reading 25 poems from my book Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call (Pitt St Poetry, 2013). Thanks to Drums Records head Robert Neuman, sound engneer Nick McCorriston and, 2XXX FM Canberra whose facilities we used.

The CD is, spookily enough, also called “Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call“.

You can order copies at $18 each here (put 00031 in the Item # column) – or contact me and I may be able to get one to you. If you order through the Drums Records site I recommend using the PayPal payment option as it is the only really secure method.

A Real Poetry Movie

Secondly when I was in Melbourne recently to do a reading for La Mama Poetica, poet Ken Smeaton (also featuring that night) filmed some of it. He edited it together with the text of the relevant poems as part of his Real Poetry Movies series. The results are available here for your viewing pleasure. The poems in the recording are from the book First… Then… (Ginninderra Press, 2012), plus a new unpublished one called ‘Contemplating the Gap.’

Still from Ken Smeaton RPM showing poem text and poet face

White words in the air – a still from the video

That’s the lot – til next time






































































































































































































Be Spoken To

Some words of mine are currently making an appearance in an exhibition at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, on signs crafted and artisan-ed by the amazing Caren Florance (aka Ampersand Duck). The exhibition is called Bespoke : Design for the People and is jointly organised with CraftACT as part of the Design Canberra Festival. Our bit of the five-room exhibition is called Be Spoken To.

The pictures in this post (at least, the first and third ones) were taken at the exhibition launch on 15 November, by Mark Nolan of Chalk Studio. I’m the one with the white hair, and Caren is the one with the glasses.

Melinda, Caren and signs

We have ways of making you be spoken to

The words on the eight Be Spoken To signs were composed with a very limited vocabulary: they use only words which appeared on the eight original signs displayed in the Sign Room of the Suites, Seats and Suits gallery. I just…rearranged them a bit. If you go there you can have fun spotting the words on the original signs, which are displayed on the opposite side of the same room. The words on the Be Spoken To signs are not really poems as such – more like …erm…text-based installations…as they depend very much for their impact on the reader being in the room with them.

Original signs with Caren and Melinda goofing off in front

The original signs, with the original prankstas

Caren used hand-set letterpress, mostly with wood type, and gold embossing powder to come up with an effect that mirrored the black and gold hand-lettering on the original signs.

The results were affixed to authentic ‘retired’ signs taken out of storage (and out of their dust-repellent ‘ghost bags’) for the purpose.

And she even came up with a way to lino-cut the pointing hand symbol (called a manicule).

Sign with manicule


Be Spoken To also includes a a set of four (more traditional) poems on a black and white framed print on one wall of the same room. This is a limited edition print – you can contact Caren if you would like your very own copy.

Partial image of wall-mounted poem

A taster

If you’re going to see the Power of One Voice exhibition anyway, why not toddle off to the back of the Senate side and check out Bespoke? The other four rooms all contain very interesting and engaging craft pieces responding to the original furniture and design elements in the building. The exhibition will be up until November 2015. That’s right, a whole year. Still, best go before you forget…

And while I’ve got you here, don’t forget I will be reading at the Wild Ones event next week (Wed 3rd December from 6pm).

Finally, I am excited to announce that the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards winners will be announced the following Monday, 8 December, at a dinner in the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. In case you missed it, my book Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call is one of five books on the poetry shortlist, in the running for the $80,000 first prize. I was a wee bit excited about that, and still am. You can read the judges’comments here.

A foot in both camps

On 1 September I had poems published simultaneously in Cordite Poetry Review (Issue 43: Masque) and Quadrant Magazine.

Cordite Issue 43: Masque

Cordite Issue 43: Masque

September 2013 Quadrant Magazine Cover

September 2013 Quadrant Magazine Cover








(Here is a link to ‘Gora‘ in Cordite; in order to read ‘Bondi Sketches‘ in Quadrant you need to be a subscriber).

Given the very different readerships of these two publications, I wonder if that means I should be feeling very…versatile ?…schizophrenic?..Perhaps I should settle for just plain happy to be reaching a wider audience. And also chuffed to be on the front cover of Quadrant, and name-checked in the Masque editorial with a multi-stanza quote from my poem. Very happy with that.

Found poem: As Whitlam wrote

Some fun follows.

Yesterday I spent most of the day at the University of Canberra, at a poetry symposium organised by UC’s new International Poetry Studies Institute (or ipsi for short). It was a very thought-provoking day with a number of papers addressing various aspects of ‘Poetry, Creativity and Knowing’.

In between taking actual notes and scribbling down ideas to chase up, I also composed a found poem with various phrases taken from the papers and from audience questions.

Given the poem’s title, you may wonder why we were talking about Whitlam* at a poetry symposium. Ah. That would be because one of the speakers, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, made a slip of the tongue for ‘Whitman‘.

I know for certain that other poets present were also scribbling away, including PS Cottier and Lizz Murphy. I wonder if they’re game to share what they came up with ?


Whitlam Pic

‘Well may we say…’

As Whitlam wrote:

It goes without saying

I am going to offend most of the people in this room

I am a concrete, time-bound entity

I want to say something in favour of resurrection

Steady yourself against me here

To whom will I offer this witty little book ?

I acknowledge the elders past and present

I am what you say I am

I am, more often, not to be found

(These are not two stages, but one)

Everybody knows that in fact men think but rarely

Always first press ‘ESCAPE’


*For non-Australian, and younger Australian, readers: ‘Whitlam’ in the title refers to Gough Whitlam, an ill-fated former Australian Prime Minister. No, not the one who drowned, the one who was removed from office, along with his government, by the Queen’s representative, the Governor-General, in November 1975 – a dramatic event still known as The Dismissal. Hence his interest (in the poem, at least) in resurrection, stability, rarely-thinking men, and escape.

Passengers are reminded

The following poem of mine appeared in The Canberra Times last Saturday, 18th May.  It will also be in my new book, Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call, out late 2013 from Pitt St Poetry.


Doors closing. Please stand clear.

Passengers are reminded

The 11.44 Emu Plains service will depart in six minutes

a cigarette butt is stuck to the black spiked heel of my left shoe

This service is experiencing a slight delay due to a sick customer at Town Hall

I have been carrying the lilies too long

This service is experiencing continuing delays due to a sick customer at Town Hall

the petal edges fray to bruised brown, like old lettuce

Customers wishing to travel on the Western line are advised to proceed to platform twelve

my black stockings are bunched and twisted

Customers are reminded

The 13.00 funeral service

will commence promptly at the appointed time

whether I am there or not

This is the 12.09 Lithgow service

First stop –

Rust-coloured crumbs of lily pollen on my black suit

– then all stations to –

my mind is still not full enough

Doors closing. Please stand clear.

(c) Melinda Smith 2013

Pitt Just Got Real


A very quick post today – just wanted to share some good news. I am very proud to announce that my fourth poetry collection, working title Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call, will be published in late 2013 by Sydney publisher Pitt St Poetry.

If you pop over to their website and check out their 2013 poetry list, among the distinguished poets with national profiles and swags of awards, there at the very end is little old me, honoured to be keeping such distinguished company.

This blog contains earlier versions of a number of poems that will be appearing in the collection, including Roadside Memorials – which is (quick plug) being read out on ABC Radio National’s Poetica program next Saturday (May 11) at 3pm.

Watch this space for details of final title, launch dates and locations. And wonder of wonders, it will be coming out as a $5 e-book too. Can’t wait.


A small new poem plus a mention on Whispering Gums


Here is a new poemlet, written during a recent visit to Sydney. It is not strictly a haiku, but it does follow a 5-7-5 syllable pattern:

Halfway to Bronte Beach

here come the sea brides:
surf-drenched rocks off the headland
dripping with thick lace

In other news, I somehow managed to miss this post on Whispering Gums, about women poets from Canberra, back in January.

(Whispering Gums is a high quality blog on books and reading with an Australian focus)

Imagine my amazement – when I finally read the post – at my name being mentioned as one of Whispering Gums’ five favourite ‘capital women poets’, alongside such luminaries as Rosemary Dobson, Judith Wright and Susan Hampton.

Chuffed doesn’t even begin to cover it. I’m thinking that deserves at least a pingback and a recommendation to subscribe to an excellent blog 🙂

Wishing you and yours a happy Easter (if that’s something you celebrate).

Cheers M x

The Invisible Thread

I have been anthologised again. It didn’t hurt a bit.


My city, Canberra is having its centenary this year. In honour of the occasion an anthology of 100 years of Canberra writing has been produced, and I am very proud to be included. The book, edited by the amazingly talented and dedicated Irma Gold, and called ‘The Invisible Thread’, is published by Halstead Press and is available to order from all good bookshops.

Here is a sneak preview of the poem of mine in the anthology, No Bed .

The Invisible Thread has its own YouTube channel, where you can find a really cool book trailer and also interviews with several of the authors whose work appears in the book, including me.

(My interview is here. You may want to read the poem No Bed before viewing the interview – I get asked a few questions about the…er…adult themes in the poem).

The anthology also has its own Facebook page and Twitter feed.

I have been thoroughly enjoying dipping in to my copy of the book. Some old favourites are here : Alan Gould’s ‘The Roof Tilers’….Suzanne Edgar’s ‘Birth Control’…And there are some new discoveries (for me): Dorothy Auchterlonie Green’s marvellously snarky review, ‘Porn Birds’, for one.

There are two sets of readings from The Invisible Thread anthology coming up in Canberra, one on 14 March in Paperchain Bookshop Manuka at 6 for 6.30pm, and one on Sat 23 March in Glebe Park as part of the Village Festival, starting at 5pm and featuring yours truly among a half dozen other authors.

Why not come along to a reading? Or buy the book ? Or both ? Self – interest aside, I can’t recommend it highly enough – it really is a fun and stimulating read.

Bricolage, Shmicolage – Haikubes will change your life


Dear reader, I am very excited! Thanks to a generous friend, I am now in possession of the secret at the heart of modern (and postmodern) poetry composition : Haikubes !

Take an oddly proscribed set of words, print them on the faces of 61 dice-like cubes (giving each cube one blank face into the bargain), use two extra cubes to produce a writing prompt (e.g. ‘a tirade about’….’my family’), shake, stir, compose in the time-honoured 5-7-5 format, et voila !

For years I have puzzled at my inability to produce work with the opaque, gnomic quality I see everywhere in journals and award-winning collections. Now I know I am not a failure, I simply lacked the correct tools. Happy days! My future is suddenly assured.

First Forays

Here are my favourites from my adventures in Haikubes so far. I have removed the writing prompt information for each poem as I think this satisfyingly increases the obscurity level.

Your fantasy screwed.
Thunder calls over a dead
body : stay inside

This journey home looks
smooth. I travel as a wise
biting finger point.

My god eats his charm.
His smooth lurid cheeks must love
the precious surface.

Pluck what the flock left,
that mouthful of sweet, spat leaves
we shape sleep behind.

Dead moonlight dripping
right into your livid room,
we switch promises.

Before your sour nerve
slips behind you  I switch it
for full, wise watching.

One brother happy ;
next dancing. My empty hand
a return of peace.

She sang her doctor :
Waste, et cetera…
Window too, please. There.

A following grace
Light under the swimming pool
We, last of many

All the way and then some

I even did a sequence where I attempted to use every Haikube. They get sillier as the sequence goes on and the pool of available words shrinks. At the end I had four words left, which I made into a three word poem with a one word title at the end.

Haikube exhaust sequence

It looks logical,
his science of ritual.
Desperate spiral.

Clever stick torture
leaves me flying home ugly,
lips under water

Screwed, I consume peace,
mouthing a villain moonlight;
revolting the heart

He hoped to shiver
through our wild candy surface.
Fortune slips. Sleep, baby.

Cover smooth fortune
with slimy et cetera.
Who sang next ?


Next generation

And then, my five year old went beyond us all: ‘I’m going to compose a nothing poem, mummy’. And he made a robot shape out of the blank faces of nine Haikubes. Is that the ultimate embodiment of ‘the failure to mean’, or what ? Clearly time to pass the baton and stand well back. Oh, and he called it ‘Robot 1’.


But have you considered …?

Don’t think I haven’t noticed that some of the above works are actually quite interesting. This post is not entirely satirical in intent. But am I really the author of these poems, and are they really literature ?? We need a few footnotes to deal with that one (and at least one mention each of Ern Malley and Bricolage).

Language Warning

I should also give a heads-up to any readers considering purchasing their own secret poetry career supercharge weapon….I mean…box of Haikubes, that some of the words are quite filthy. The game is clearly designed to be played between wine time and bedtime. For a further discussion of this aspect of Haikubes, see here.

Your Turn

Whatever their literary and theoretical status, I think we can all agree that Haikubes are fun. Why not try composing your own, and leave them in the comments below ?

Poem in NZ E-Zine Blackmail Press 31

Just a quick post to say that Issue 31 of Blackmail Press is out now and includes one of my autism poems.

Blackmail Press is an electronic poetry magazine based in New Zealand and edited by poet Doug Poole. This issue is guest edited by another New Zealand poet, Vaughan Rapatahana, and the theme is ‘marginalisation’. Interestingly it includes three poets from Canberra (myself, Sarah Rice and Paul Cliff) – a reflection on the peripheral flavour of life in our nation’s capital, perhaps ? Although mine and Paul’s poems were both about ‘difficult’ (and marginalised) children, while Sarah’s was about a different kind of margin altogether.

Anyway, if you’ve got a spare ten minutes, do have a flick through, there is a lot of really good, thought-provoking poetry on offer. Enjoy.