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So it appears I have been shamefully neglecting this blog. If it were a garden it would be overrun with weeds by now. There are, as always, excuses, some of them even quite good ones. I have been to many places to read from and talk about my book(s), which has been both gratifying and exhausting. But I feel that the time has come to return with a trowel, some canvas gloves and a great big rubbish bag.

My immediate impetus is to tell the half-dozen of you reading this that my first three books are now all available on Amazon.

(Of course the best thing you can do to get hold of any of my books is approach your nearest independent bookseller and ask them to order it in for you. That way, they stay in business and you save on postage. However Amazon remains the most cost-effective way for non-Australian readers to get hold of my first three books. With those readers in mind, then, here are the relevant links).

Pushing thirty, wearing seventeen cover

Pushing thirty, wearing seventeen


Mapless in Underland

  • First… Then… (Ginninderra Press, 2012) Paperback only (formatting was too tricky for e-book conversion)
First... Then... cover

First… Then…

Alternatively, you can sill buy all three from the Ginninderra Press website, with postage starting from $4 within Australia. Scroll ALL THE WAY down to the authors whose surnames start with S.

And just a reminder that my latest book, Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call (Pitt St Poetry, 2013) remains available on the Pitt Street Poetry site, for only $2 postage within Australia and $5 elsewhere.

Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call cover

Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call

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 poem of mine on ABC Radio National’s Poetica

Those of you who live in Australia may be familiar with the Poetica program on ABC Radio National, produced by poet Mike Ladd. It is broadcast on Saturdays at 3pm with a repeat broadcast the following Thursday night at 9pm.

I am very pleased to say that my poem ‘Roadside Memorials‘ will form part of the May 11 program, which is a feature on the villanelle in Australia.

Picture of roadside memorial

‘another kind of road sign, small but clear’

(If that technical name is unfamiliar, it may help to know that a villanelle is a highly structured poem in (mostly) three line stanzas with two repeating refrain lines appearing in turn throughout. Think Dylan Thomas’ ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’.)

Now I’m not privy to the full schedule, but I believe you can expect to hear villanelles from Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Stephen Edgar, Suzanne Edgar and Michael Thorley among others. So lots of reasons to tune in, really.

And in case you were wondering, it won’t be my voice reading Roadside Memorials out on Poetica. The ABC are in the happy position of having trained actors available to do that job. Having read my own work on radio – and to camera – before, I know from experience that it is extremely difficult to produce an effective ‘read’ without the instantly available feedback of a live audience. Frankly I don’t know how the professionals do it, but I’m very grateful one will be doing it in my stead with this poem.

So why not make a date with your radio – Sat 11 May 3pm or Thursday 16th May at 9pm. Or, for about a month afterwards, you can visit the Poetica site and listen via the audio links, or download the program as a podcast.

Thanks for listening 🙂


Wedding Sonnet

This is an older poem of mine (first published in Pushing thirty, wearing seventeen, 2001) but I’ve had a few requests for it lately so I’m popping it up onto this blog to save me having to email it all over the place. It was originally written for the wedding of a dear friend, but has since been to four or five weddings and is shortly to go to more. If you think you would like to use it at your wedding, please ask me first (using the comments field below).

Wedding Sonnet

I’ll never shed a new light upon ‘love’
– my weeks of feeble flickering outshone
by centuries of flaming words upon
bright pages. Over and above
that fire, I have one tiny spark to cast,
and that’s to testify the truth of this:
the joy lime-lit by all those songs, that bliss,
you give to me each day, from first to last.

Today we marry, bathed both in that glow.
Today we marry, and tonight we leave
this smiling ring of lights, and inch away
to dimmer places fewer torches know
along a winding path. But I believe
two candles are enough to light the way.

(c) Melinda Smith 2001


The year I was fifteen
when the Show came to town
I went all on my own money.
I won at the laughing clowns,
had a whole fairy floss
to myself
and went on the gravitron
without throwing up.

Walking home afterwards, I left my girlfriends
at the corner,
headed uphill alone to the rectory.
The grassy side of the street
muffled all footsteps: the first sound I heard
was a whump between my shoulder blades.
Hot, shocked tears
stung into my eyes.
I whipped round, wheezing.
Rolling at my feet:
a half-eaten apple.
Twenty steps behind:
the Year 10 boys in a mob.

I could still feel the apple
in my back, a spreading
target-shape of stunned skin.
          ‘Hey, priesty-girl.  Goin’ ta church?
          Run home and cry to Daddy’.
Lava rose in my chest, hotter
even than tears.
My mouth opened
every swear word
I had ever learned
spewed from me
piling up
with the apple crumbs on the ground
until I was knee-deep
in filthy

The street went very quiet.
Fifteen bum-fluffed jaws
dropped into the silence.

From Mapless in Underland, Ginninderra Press, 2004

Spring Street

One block long (and almost as wide)
the peeling houses and mangy lawns
faced each other all down the road:
a workers’ parade of ‘semi-detacheds’.

At one end, like a mislaid chunk
of ancient wedding cake, still sat
the town’s first Council Chambers (sunk
by then to the status of Sunday School).

From there to the cheapie patho-lab
behind steel bars at the other end
was property of the Spring Street Mob:
our one-road realm all afternoon.

There were the Brewers, who, if you ‘crawled’
would let you go on their slip’n’slide
all the way down their muddy backyard
in the merciless summer hoildays;

and ‘no-bath’ Mick, with snot-nosed sisters
sporting rag-doll hair; and Kim
who got the trampoline for Christmas
and split her head on Boxing Day;

and the Snells, who everybody knew
were far too closely interbred
(each year a wobbly girl or two
would pop out a child to her brother or dad).

We used to have raucous games of cricket
– the ‘our end’ kids against the rest –
with no ‘LB’, and a steel bin wicket.
Any front yard was six and out.

I remember the time the boys got caught
exploding the Hennessys’ letterbox.
The flames had leapt to fourteen feet
(or so the ropable mother claimed).

My brother said ‘Bullshit!’ (Lord preserve us –
he said it that way to the cops as well).
He still got off with community service
(always could dodge what was coming to him).

But we don’t own it any more –
the home have lost the families
they held; the yards fenced in; new doors;
and one or two ‘done up’. Who knows

the paths of all those countless Snells?
There’s none here now. The vacant block
has sprouted flats. A bright sign sells
them: ‘Home for Confused Elderly’.

From Pushing thirty, wearing seventeen, Ginninderra Press, 2001.

Dusk drive to Orange in the rain – the Cargo Road

Coming home again for Dad’s sixtieth
I leave the Canberra flat on a grey Saturday
to roll north through a thickening rain.

Hours later, as the car climbs the back of the tableland,
muddy water streams down the tattered road
and the potholes fill with milky tea.

Rags of cloud drift low over the orchards;
the town’s dusk lights wink in the next valley;
the bruised sky blots the mountain out.

I remember it in different weather –
the fires that scorched the mountainside
and left it bald for for years; the hail

that took the apple crop, but brought
a bumper year to every roofer,
set panel-beaters up for life;

the snows that cut off the Sydney road;
the plague of mice out west.
                                                              It’s strange
but even after twelve years gone

I can open the Central Western Daily
and know a face on the wedding page
or turn to the In Memoriam

and recognise a name. They’ve been
here all this time – anchored, it seems
in trades; the abbatoir; a child.

I, unencumbered, drifted off
to push my papers in another town.
I’ll never live in this place again.

Perhaps, time come, I’ll stay a month
to execute a will, and sell
the house – no more.
                                            But every year

when the car drops down the last long hill
on the Cargo Road, and the home-made signs
shout ‘CHERRIES FOR SALE’ in red and white

it feels a lot like coming home.

From Pushing thirty, wearing seventeen, Ginninderra Press, 2001


‘Where have you been, girl’?
‘Over the road, Mum.’
‘What do you do at the Fosters’ all day?
‘Nothing, Mum, nothing…

me and Sean Foster
played doctors and nurses
under the covers
up in the top bunk
under his red-and-blue
racing-car sheet-set

our thin, bony-shouldered
gangly foal-bodies

touching and smelling
peering and feeling
rubbing and humping…

nothing, Mum, nothing –
we were just playing.’

From Pushing thirty, wearing seventeen, Ginninderra Press, 2001


Rowdy, Chooka, Simmo, Roo,
PJ, Wardy, Macca too –
they strode the playground, bronzed and tall:
heroes, lions, legends all.

These boys, these men-to-be, had made
a very special kind of grade –
they’d cracked the footy hopeful’s dream
and made the Western Region team,

a sacred brotherhood which brought
an immortality of sorts:
all those who had ascended thus
were fawned on by the rest of us.

Big Macca couldn’t spell his name
but he was worshipped just the same,
and from the Senior Study portals
he dangled whimpering lesser mortals –

secure, his place as Chosen One
who walks forever in the sun,
never to be any less
than loved, and feared, and greatly blessed.


But, back then, none among us knew
that after passing singly through
the great white gate of graduation
old idols, starved of adulation,

thrown out alone, sans audience,
would never again seem so immense;
and age steals even the speed and skill
that made them kings of Footy hill.

Their immortality of sorts
a dusty file of sports reports.
Their path to greatness paved with tar:
the road to the job at the abbatoir.

Oh, some went out in a blaze of glory,
legends right to the end of their story –
forestalling ignominious failure
in a howling scrum with a semi-trailer.

But most have suffered their god-like statures
to be shrunk to the sidelines of Sunday matches –
barracking fiercely for Dave and Bevan
in the mortal clash of the under-sevens.

From Pushing thirty, wearing seventeen, Ginninderra Press, 2001

Mother Love

Wave after wave, the ocean counts the cost
by piling sheets of water on the sand.
I dreamt before your birth that you were lost.
I think I have begun to understand.

By piling sheets of water on the sand
the sea offers its body, slice by slice.
I think I have begun to understand.
I love you knowing sorrow is the price.

The sea offers its body, slice by slice,
heaving itself onto an empty beach.
I love you knowing sorrow is the price.
I start a task whose end I’ll never reach.

Heaving itself onto an empty beach,
the sea still finds the energy to give.
I start a task whose end I’ll never reach.
I give you life, not knowing how you’ll live.

The sea still finds the energy to give.
I dreamt before your birth that you were lost.
I give you life, not knowing how you’ll live.
Wave after wave, the ocean counts the cost.

from Mapless in Underland, Ginninderra Press, 2004