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Big Ideas -

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(generated from captions) fresh ideas about the world. On the other hand, they've got to our community. Volunteers are essential get involved in volunteering This is just one way young people can to someone's life. and make a difference It makes me feel young again. why not get involved? So if volunteering is your thing, and I'll see you next time. I hope you enjoyed it, Closed Captions by CSI This Program is Captioned Live. # Theme music I'm Waleed Aly. Hi and welcome to Big Ideas. the underworld, In this session we're visiting

deep into the Jenolan Caves we're going underground, west of Sydney. in the Blue Mountains, of the Sydney Writers' Festival This is one of the first sessions with five Australian poets and others in the Cathedral Cave. reading from some of their own works and the packed stalwart audience It was a tortuous trek for the poets in this spectacular setting. to Orpheus, There are numerous references the ancient Greek poet of poets, in search of his beloved Eurydice. who descended into the underworld This was a literal descent. into the self. Other poems speak of the descent to hear readings from poets - This is a brilliant setting in which bats punctuating the poems. deep within a cave with occasional was inspired by poetry readings This Jenolan Caves venture in Slovenia, held in one of the great cave systems have inspired not far from a cave system thought to visions of the underworld. both Dante's and Virgil's Brenda Saunders, David Brooks The poets here are David Malouf, and Mark Tredinnick. Judith Beveridge, of Orpheus, If you know the Greek legend of the greatest poets and musicians who was considered to be one and prophets even, in Greek legend. if you'd like to call him that his wife Eurydice died He lost his wife -

to try and rescue her and he went into the underworld and bring her back. tradition in poetry ever since And there has been an Orphic that we can be part of that tradition and we're really enjoying this sense into the caves. and we're coming back down there are some beautiful stories If you read about Orpheus that I read that have been written including one

so beautifully where Orpheus apparently played

were drawing sailors to their death. that he drowned out the sirens who to play So I guess poetry has an amazing role how wonderful poetry is. and we're all here because we know more And so I'm not going to talk much to the poet from now on other than to introduce you and let poetry charm you in the way the sirens Orpheus was able to charm right through legend. and charm people So welcome everybody. is David Brooks Our very first poet today whose idea this was to start with. NSW Premier's Kenneth Slessor Award. He was shortlisted for the 2009 literary journal Southerly. And he's co-editor of the national He's been anthologised book The Sons of Clovis as well. and I recently launched his new

David Brooks. So I'm very thrilled to welcome now, (Applause) on the edge of the desert. A young boy is sitting by a fire behind him There's a car through the scrub of the long dirt road pulled off to the side father in it sleeping already. and the tent close by with his It is late evening, nine or ten, and he's long ago eaten: burnt potatoes, tea. toast, baked beans on a tin plate, it doesn't matter what year 1964 perhaps, or '63: stoked earlier He is sitting by the fire to the ancient, fire-gutted log so now it's burnt back before the sun set - he found and dragged there the log is deep alight, Burnt back so that now sees falling towers, he can see a world in it: Forgotten Alexandrias and Babylons, Rangoon, Hong Kong, The night markets of Wuzhou,

and the Gotterdammerung sees Siegfried sees a huge, blood-orange sun black hills around him, setting over the burnt, autos-da-fe, charred ruins, so beautiful they seem to scorch him, faces staring from the flame and the burning of Dresden, Sees the bombing bodies in fire graves, Moon-men and Sun-men in corroboree, Wild midnight carnivals, sees and beakon-fires, sees hearth-fires and bonfires townspeople and villagers fleeing, Etnas in their scoriac flows, docks and homes and factories alight, masts collapsing, sees battered galleons, armadas blazing on the sea, from the glowing embers radiant sunrise breaking as if out of a phoenix-nest. Something rustles in the ti-tree, a wallaby perhaps night bird, or wild dog drawn by the fire, and he looks up from his dreaming, sees the huge darkness of the night unnameable stars, and the vast canopy of unknown,

it will never leave him. a night so infinite, this night, Time and again he will look up luck holding for sixty or for seventy years, and it will always be there: behind him his father sleeping, before him, the fire, in the undergrowth, that something rustling and about him the galaxies turning, a place on earth, the still point of his being, gift beyond measure. the principal Orpheus story - The Orpheus story, of course - is a love story, I would read some love poems today. so I thought and the Orpheus story. One of them is actually about Orpheus It's in smaller print, it is because it's a bit hard to see, so if I stumble, but we'll manage.

of the Orpheus story - It's a kind of reversal you may remember take Eurydice out of the Underworld that Orpheus was told he could and she walked behind him, provided that he led her to see if she was still there, and that he didn't turn around was about to reach the upper world, and just as he and he turned around, he couldn't help himself and of course she was taken back.

There's a marvellous poem by Rilke

out of the underworld, about that walk and that moment, of that story. and this is a kind of reversal a story they told to save face. It was a lie, It was I, not she, lost in the underworld. Eurydice, who had the wisdom, the courage, and the grace to find me, and lead me out of it. And the poetry that calmed the beasts, made trees dance, stopped the stars in their traces - the poetry would have been nothing without the light she led me to. As to the looking back - yes, that too was me. I looked back repeatedly.

That is the point. And so, just once, did she, to fix me with a stare that changed my life so utterly that when I reached the upper air and could not find her anywhere, self-exiled in a second hell, I scoured and scoured the earth for her, forcing the rocks and trees. I spent part of the year in a village in Slovenia, and the house in the village has a very large room, a very dark room, that's a little bit like a cave within the house, called the 'cantina'

where they keep the olive oil and the wine, and the tomatoes, and the eggplants, and this is a poem pretty much about the cantina. It's called The Cricket, which leads to confusion in Australia but...

There's a cricket loose in the house, in the cantina most likely, or hallway somewhere, ridden in in the last basket of eggplants or bucket of dusty tomatoes, its huge blue velvet spasms of sound breaking out just as we have put the dinner things away, filling the cantina night like slow, domestic lightning, turning the bathroom and hallway, the kitchen and the laundry and the drying room into a sudden forest or trellised field under starlight, as if the potatoes, and tomatoes, and the fresh-picked beans in the cantina dark were still lying ten inches down in the warm earth under the midsummer moon, or hanging under silver-shadowed, night-breeze-shifted leaves, not in a plastic milk crate by the wine vat, or a brown paper bag among the empty oil bottles and still-to-be-mended hose. It is almost impossible to find it - every time we make a move in what we think is the right direction

it stops completely, will not start again until we have convinced it we have given up and gone away,

like deer no longer foraging in a cornfield, or pigs no longer rooting in the deep cantina grass - not humans wandering back to the television, and their glass of wine, or, as we really do, standing hearts racing, by the part-opened hallway door, secretly praying for the next outbreak of shock-blue sound, hoping to trick its uncanny early warning system long enough to track the sound line, find the source of this mystical thunder crystal of song, that when at last, by accident, we do so, almost a half hour later,

in a crack by the door jamb, this feral poet, this bellowing sliver of midnight, just one centimetre long. (Applause) Our next poet is Brenda Saunders and Brenda is an artist and writer of the Wiradjuri... ..the Wiradjuri people and also of British descent. Her poetry and articles have been published in selected anthologies, poetry journals and on the Web. And we're really thrilled that today we're actually launching her chapbook Firestick. Thank you. I'd like to pay my respects to the traditional owners of this place, past and present. And I'm reading the first poem about Katoomba and its history. At Katoomba. At Katoomba we hear of forbidden love, Three sisters captured, harnessed.

Their spirits weighed forever in stone Sentinels warn young men from warring clans of tribal law. Danger along the Great Divide. Water leaps down canyons to a fertile plain,

Joins a river turning to the sea. My sisters lined up on the grass, Black marble marks their name or number, Smoothing the dying pillow. They search for stories lost, Sliding years, hope exposed, climbing the ridge, on unknown country, stepping too close to the edge. In the next poem there's some references to names in the central west like Bree which is short for Brewarrina and Dodge City, which was the local name for an Aboriginal reserve because there were lots of rusting cars in the long grass. Payback in '78. At Bree, the Rainbow Serpent flows from sponges In colours pre-mixed in tins. Children reach up to spread the curving back along the school wall, Clamour to track his path in psychedelic spots. The river has slowed down, waiting for rain. They show me a bend in the gouged-out stream. Words point at currents folding in. 'See, he goes under there.' Their gravel voices filled with stories, Legends of canoes lost, paddle steamers taken. Uneasy fingers twist through hair. Check with a sideways look as they whisper his name. Their sleeping giant. 'No-one swims here anymore.' 'Miss-a, miss-a,

them blacks out there gonna burn our town.' Someone had burned the station one night. They'd already torched the only pub. 'Hotel' swings from the liquor outlet now. A no-frills affair. Roller doors down at ten. And we heard talk of kids, good with fire, living on the edge of the next failing town. Goodooga's a crossroad place, shrinking from drought, the end of our outback tour. A lonely petrol pump's the last truck stop to Brissie. All roads lead to places livelier than this. Branch off in dust, heading straight to homesteads, station runs, standing still. The aluminium space fills with children's voices, claiming the rainbow serpent story. Young men, bros, and cars, come in from Dodge, take control of our art in schools, paint the silent magic of the Murrawarri dreaming, leave their pride in an air-conditioned hall. Dodge City's on the edge of nowhere.

Off limits to finger-pointing tourists, or blow-ins like us. This painted landscape is already too old, or too new, for change. Shaped by late-model cars, white goods rolled in dust - useless inclusions in houses that never had power or water.

The people remember centuries of water holes, hidden under grass. Shifting to camps penned up like sheep, they watched other tribes move in, take over towns, living well on their country. Made guerilla war in lightning strikes with the only weapon they knew. (Applause)

Our next poet, David Malouf, is very well-known for his short stories and his fiction.

He's won so many prizes that I won't list them all, but he's been shortlisted for the Booker Prize,

he's won the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Miles Franklin prizes. He's also won prizes for his poetry. He's won the 2008 Arts Queensland Judith Wright Calanthe Prize for Poetry, he's won the 2000 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and, in 1997, he was also named a National Living Treasure in this country. He really is someone who needs no introduction,

but I couldn't help myself. David Malouf. (Applause) I'm going to begin with an earlier poem - it's called Stooping To Drink. Smelling the sweet grass of distant hills too steep to climb, too far to see in this handful of water scooped from the river dam. Touching the sky where like a single wing, my hand dips through clouds. Tasting the shadow of basket-willows, the colour of ferns.

A perch, spoon-coloured, climbs where the moon sank,

trailing bubbles of white,

and school kids on picnics swing from a rope - head over sunlit heels like angels, they plunge into the sun at midday, into silence of pinewoods hanging over a sunken hill-farm. Taking all this in at the lips, holding it in the cup of my hand. And further down the hiss of volcanoes, rockfall, and hot metals cooling in blue-black depths 100 centuries back. Taking all this in, as the water takes it - sky, sunlight, sweet grass-flavours, and the long-held breath of children - a landscape mirrored, held a moment, then let go again.

Uh, this poem is called The Lightness. Not all come to it, but some do, and serenely. No saying what party they are of, or what totem animal walks with them, the curly-browed teenager, Tobias, has his dog. For some, it is stillness. The underground refreshment of water. Some, the fall of a shadow - the shadow, more than the body it falls from. For some, it is their own shadow, seen as not. For some a wound, some a gift,

and for some, the wound is the gift. Words may be part of it, but not these words - these tongue clicks, this tongue. Or the work of hands - the work, more than what's made. When they too become one of the grateful dead, it is the silence they leave in a bowl, in a book, that speaks and may join us. Its presence waist high at our side. A commotion, a companionable cloud, with the shape and smell of an unknown familiar. Call it an angel. At its nod, the weather we move in, shifts. The wind changes, catching the mutinous, struck infant in us, on the off-chance, smiling. This poem is called Last Words. After the age of innocence,

golden brawlers in the arms of demigods, we arrive at the age of reason, credulous, poor monsters, led by a dream team in a mad dance down loud streets into quicksand. After that, it's the age of the seven pills, daily. (Audience laughter) Small mercies restore us, bayside air salt-sweet in our lungs again, we set out for the corner shop, and by some happy chance, it is still there. The same old woman keeps it. When the doorbell shakes her from sleep, through wisps of grey smoke from her asthma papers, 'What's it to be? What's your poison this time, love?', she wheezes. Is it a riddle? If it is, I'm lost. The ancient grins abides the answer. I clench my fist on the hot penny I've brought. A lifetime later, I find my tongue.

If luck is with me today, on my long walk home, may no black cat cross my path. No sweet-talking stranger, no thief, no mischief-maker, no trafficker in last words waylay me. I've got a very small courtyard garden, which I spend some time working in, and this is a poem about that place. I might say that we recently invested in a worm farm,

which was called a 'worm cafe', for some reason. (Audience laughter) The season, when all is scrabble, and surge, and disintegration, worms in their black cafe

a pinch gut Versailles rabble, remaking the earth,

processing tea bags, vegetable scraps, and hot from the press, news from the underworld, the fast lane, to slow food for the planet. Plum blossom, briar rose, co-mingling. Overhead, pure flow. A commodious blue, air-brushed with cirrus. In our wedge of the globe, we call this 'spring'. Elsewhere, it happens otherwise, and in other words, or with no words at all, and a fin-shaped palm frond, and fern in greenhouse weather. But here, we call it 'spring', when a young man's fancy turns fitfully, lightly, to idling in the sun, to touching in the dark. And the old man's? To worms in their garden box. (Audience laughter) Stepping aside a moment, in a poem that will remember fitfully who made it, and the discord, and stammer, and change of heart, and catch of breath it sprang from - a bending down lightly to touch the earth. Uh, I live in inner Sydney, in a suburb called Chippendale,

in a street called Myrtle Street, and this is a poem about Myrtle Street which is a very, um, green place.

A picture-book street, with pop-up gardens, asphalt bleached to take us down a degree or two, when summer strips and swelters. All things green - wood sorrel, dandelion - in this urban suburb, is salad, not weeds. And food for everyone,

including rats, and the phantom night thieves, who, with barrow and spade, under the wind chimes, cart off virtual orchards of kaffir limes. Good citizens all, of Chippendale, and a planet sorer of body and soul that needs saving, and by more than faith healing, or grace.

Good works, and elbow grease, a back set to it, compost bins, the soy of human kindness. In the late splendour of early daylight saving, stars regroup for breakthrough. Miner and honeyeater tuck their head under a wing.

Ants at shift work in their gulag conurbations soldier on, and hunters, clean of hand, and clear of conscience, down tools, troop home, to pork chop plastic packs. Gatherers gather the hugs and mugs of steaming chai The planet saved for another day stokes up its slow burning gases and toxic dust Gold rift and scarlet gash that take our breath away A world at its interminable show of holy dying And we go with it the old gatherer and hunter to its gaudy day though the contribution is small adding our hansel of warm clay...' Just watching that I'm not going over my time. I'm going to read one last poem. It's a poem from Latin. And it's attributed to the emperor Hadrian.

And it's a little poem - a little speech of farewell from the body to the soul that is about to leave it. I'll read the Latin. It's very, very short. There are only 17 very small words. It's regarded as a poem that's impossible to translate and practically every poet in the language has tried to translate it. I failed - many, many times. And what I decided to do in order to try and catch some of the depths of the very simple poem is to translate it seven times over. So, here it is. An address by the emperor Hadrian. It's body to the soul - which is also a love poem. The Latin I'll read, it's got a lot of diminutives. And that's pretty untranslatable, so one has to do something else in the translation. Seven Last Words of the Emperor Hadrian. First of all, the Latin. 'Animula, vagula, blandula Hospes, comesque corporis Quae nunc abibis in loca Pallidula, rigida, nudula Nec, ut soles, dabis iocus.' And these are the seven little poems that try to do it. 'Dear soulmate, little guest and companion What shift will you make now out there in the cold? If this is a joke it is old, old Soul, small wandering one My lifelong companion Where will you go, numb, pale, undefended

Now the joke we shared is ended Little lightfoot spirit Housemate, bedfellow Where are you off to now? Cat got your tongue? Lost your shirt? Caught your death? Well, the last laugh is on you

Is on us Sweet urchin, fly-by-night heart's guest, my better half and solace, you've really done it this time. You've played one trick too many. Fool, you've laughed us both out of breath. If this is one of your jokes, my jack, my jack-in-the-box, lay off. Where have you got to? It's cold out there. And what will you do without me, you sweet idiot? Go naked? Homeless? Come back to bed. What's this, old mouse, my secret sharer? Gone where? Did you think I'd let you slip away without me after a lifetime of happy scrapes?

Who warmed you, clothed you, fed you, paid with laughter

for your tricks, your japes? Is this the one joke, poor jackanapes, dear bugaboo, your emperor does not get? So you're playing fast and loose, are you? You've cut the love knot. Well let's see how you get on out there without me. Who's kidding who? Without my body, its royal breath and blood to warm you,

my hands, my tongue to prove to you what's real, what's not, poor fool, you're nothing. But O, without you, my sweet nothing, I'm dust.' Thank you. (Applause) Thank you so much, David.

Our next poet is Judith Beveridge.

She's the winner of the Dame Mary Gilmore Award, the New South Wales Premier's Award, the Victorian Premier's Award, the Judith Wright Calanthe Poetry Prize and the Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize. (Applause) Thank you. Lovely to be here in this delightful space and in choosing poems to read tonight I tried to think what might be appropriate to read in a cave. Umm, so this being kind of a vast sacred space here's another sacred space. This is set on a railway playform outside of New Dehli and it's called Man Washing on a Railway Platform Outside Delhi. 'It's the way he stands, nearly naked in the winter sun, turning on and off the railway station tap. I have seen people look less reverent tuning Mozart, I have seen hands give coins to beggars appear nonchalant, compared to the way his hands give this water to his body. Don't tell me this is a man released for a moment out of poverty - the penance of each cold drop, a man who wants the smell of his neighbours to vanish from his skin, who wants to taste what is beyond the scum and effluent of the village ditch. And don't tell me each drop he takes to glisten his body

will never be neutral,

though he holds each clear spill with equality. It isn't just the water. It's the way his hands take the water from the tap to his body. It's the way he attends each pour. It's the way he decants the water back and forth, as if receiving instruction for the repetition of the names of god. And it's the way he knows his poverty without privacy,

and the way, though the water is free,

he takes careful litres.' So this is called The Mosquito, Riffs and Plaints. 'I prefer the cicada's stroboscopic glitzy aural brandishings or the bee's legato burr, even the blow fly's whirr when heat keeps the pedal down. The cockatoos pulley-driven clangs of wrecking ball metal against a sky. Amplified. The wind as it knocks and turns, knocks and turns and turns into ruin the slow percussive refrain of the moody, midday rain. I prefer the digestive rumblings of an eructing city drain a frog slow glugs bats incessant chatter the crickets like house slaves singing even pigeons under the eaves doing an all-day funked out coo. I prefer the damaged ringing of my inner ear, everything turning tintinnabula, than to hear this stylus burdened insect pest mimicking a tiny current's hum and hiss. This long-nosed diva floating above my breath. Plump criminal, you idle above the cool pleasure of my skin You hitch up your mouth parts plot crimes above my pulse steal from my cask of good deep red. Look, I know what you courier and it isn't quinine I know how you lie in gally traps in pit latrines at the edges of clear-running streams. You love the horse trough the water butt puddles in unmade roads brick pits, barrow pits you love the dregs in rusted tins. Little aching creature stutter into the night like a tiny violin. You look like one of Liszt hemi, demi semi quavers scrawled across night's long stave. With you I count insomnia's digits All your arias are buzzing in my blood I prefer a storm's drum-fire scud, an afternoon's cloud of slow, distempered midges or the sizzling obituaries of fruit flies above a compost. The loudest of Frank Zappa's riffs zapping anything but noise flying through my head. Mosquito you sing into my ear as if it was your mosque but I'm waiting for you with my aerosols around the back end of spring. I'm waiting, morse-quito, for my hand to slap a message back, just once, loudly and quick as your electric dialect.' Something that would definitely be found in a cave and I believe there are bats in this cave. This one is called How to Love Bats. 'Begin in a cave. Listen to the floor boil with rodents, insects. Weep for the pups that have fallen. Later, you'll fly the narrow passages of those bones but for now open your mouth. Out will fly names like Pipistrelle, Desmodus, Tadarida. Then listen for a frequency lower than the seep of water, higher than an ice planet glacier of Time. Visit op shops. Hide in their closets. Breathe in the scales and dust of clothes left hanging. To the underwear and to the crumpled black silks Well, give them your imagination and plenty of line also a night of gentle wind. By now your fingers should have touched petals open. You should have been dreaming each night of anthers and of giving to their furred beauty your nectar-loving tongue. But also,

your tongue should have been practising the cold of a slippery, frog-filled pond. Go down on your elbows and knees. You' ll need a speleologist's desire for rebirth and a miner's paranoia of gases but try to find within yourself the scent of a bat-loving flower. Read books on pogroms. Never trust an owl. Its face is the biography of propaganda. Never trust a hawk. See its solutions in the fur and bones of regurgitated pellets. And have you considered the smoke yet from a moving train? You can start half an hour before sunset, but make sure the journey is long, uninterrupted and that you never discover the faces of those Trans-Siberian exiles.

Spend time in the folds of curtains. Seek out boarding-school cloakrooms.

Practise the gymnastics of wet umbrellas.

Are you floating yet, thought-light, without a keel on your breastbone? Then, meditate on your bones as piccolos, on mastering the thermals beyond the tremolo; reverberations beyond the lexical. Become adept at describing the spectacles of the echo but don't watch dark clouds passing across the moon. This may lead you to fetishes and cults that worship false gods by lapping up bowls of blood from a tomb. Practise echo-locating aerodromes, stamens. Send out rippling octaves

into the fossils of dank caves then edit these soundtracks with a metronome of dripping rocks, heartbeats with a continuous, high-scaled wondering about the evolution of your own mind. But look, I must tell you these instructions are no manual.

Months of practice may still only win you appreciation of the acoustical moth,

hatred of the hawk and owl.

You may need to observe further the floating black host through the hills (Applause) Thank you, Judith. Our next poet is Mark Tredinnick. Judith has actually described him as one of our great poets of place - not just of geographic place but of the spiritual and moral landscape as well. Well, this is a great joy. I only came in here to get warm. I don't know about you. (Audience laughter) It's a great honour to be here with my friends and elders, these esteemed poets, and with you - thank you for having me. This is a wonderful gig. It's also a pleasure for me, I was going to say,

somebody who seems to be addicted to landscape, to be reading poetry, not just in landscape, but inside landscape, really, so, it's quite remarkable. I very often like to begin a reading with this poem or a poem of somebody else's. This is a poem by Anne Sexton called The Black Art. Today it's remarkably appropriate because it's very black up here. The title is an allusion to poetry itself. I'm just going to read you the first two stanzas. Anne Sexton, you might know, is a North American poet whom we all should know rather better, I think. 'A woman who writes feels too much, those trances and portents. As if cycles and children and islands weren't enough,

as if mourners and gossips and vegetables were never enough. She thinks she can warn the stars. A writer is essentially a spy. Dear love, I am that girl. A man who writes knows too much, such spells and fetishes. As if erections and congresses and products weren't enough, as if machines and galleons and wars were never enough. With used furniture he makes a tree. A writer is essentially a crook. Dear love, you are that man. Alright, now if you find yourself down in an underground place that resembles a Hollywood version of hell and you have a poem called Hell and it makes play with reading Dante, the Divine Comedy, then I guess you should read it, so here it is. This poem is called Hell. It references terza rima, which is the scheme in which Dante Alighieri wrote the Divine Comedy, as you well may know. It's not written, sadly, in terza rima. Hell. 'I've been reading a canto of Dante each night. Each night, line by line, I circle down deeper into the Divine Comedy. It's a hard road even in terza rima and not especially funny. Some nights I drag my feet. Hell, I growl, here we are again.

Beside me my beloved lies already. Why not, I think, jump straight to Paradise? (Audience laughter) I was very recently in Canada where I was being - in a very polite, refined, quiet Canadian manner - feted for taking a good deal of money off them for their international poetry prize and I spent a good deal of time on trains.

Each place, I think, is distinctively characteristic - this is a thing I write very much through my work and it's remarkable to me that I could be standing here now kind of beside and under the country where I spent seven years when only ten days or so ago I was sitting on a train between Montreal and Ontario, writing this. This is called Ontario Slides. And there are three of them. 'Ontario slides past the window. A red-tailed hawk, hungry - but not letting on - circles ploughed fields. Nothing knows how to cast shadow today. The black earth turned, turns grey again in the sunlight and mice run a furrowed gauntlet. Harvested wheat, a bad haircut, all the way to the horizon. The past laid by in high waisted barns. Roofs applied like lipstick. Walls like second-hand suits. Spring greens the birches and the ash finishing a sketch - winter abandoned. Time kills time along the forest edge the afternoon hunts without intent and Ontario walks backwards past my window looking over its shoulder towards Toronto.' Number Two. The train had wi-fi on it, which is remarkable. So, as I say here, I was able to write that and send it to my beloved who is sitting up the back here today. So, Slide Two goes like this - 'I send you this poem by email. The things one can do on a moving train these days! I sit you beside me, my hand in your lap - my words out your window. The woman in the seat in front argues languidly with her boyfriend or someone's boyfriend on Skype. She's right. I can tell. (Audience chuckles) But being right rarely settles it. Sometimes distance is the only thing that will. Lake Ontario, like several small seas whose names have run together lies out the left hand window now and thousands of miles away you wake up tomorrow.' Three. 'We come among suburbs now where a city warehouses its other lives. Ontario stops. Time finds its groove again and city starts up and still the sun's not moved a muscle since we set out.' Just as I was standing out there I had a close encounter with a bat. Brenda thought it was a swallow, but I'm going to go with bat. Because this poem is about bats. And it's called The News of the World, I believe. And for me it's got these remarkably slender lines in it of seven syllables each and it touches upon some beings of my acquaintance named Lucy and Daniel

who are sitting up the back there - hello. It was written maybe two or three years ago, so they have aged some. This describes, well, it's set in the place where we live now along the Wingecarribee, just outside Bowral. It also makes reference to Haiti and the poem was written in the wake of the huge earthquake there a couple of years ago. I think that's all I need to say. 'Just above my head in the mid-January dusk two little forest bats cut cloth for the perfect body of the beloved. In Haiti, one hundred thousand bodies bleed from within the rubble.

Gutters are the only things that runs. In the Wollangambe a boy lies stratigraphied beneath a ledge he felled in a slot canyon of easy virtue. Inside the yellow light inside the yellow house, my daughter, still too young to read, adopts the posture of a yogi on the kitchen bench and says to her brother 'Look at me. I'm praying.' 'No,' he says, having none of this new age Kant, 'You're doing Kung Fu.' (Laughter) It's the evening of the world high up in the sub-penthouse floors of heaven Mercury's found the right side of the bed to get out of again and only a month or two too late. Down one flight in Libra Saturn sighs and shakes his head Venus in a negligee watches the new moon rise and the sun fall down in my house. The roses that you planted outside our bedroom know none of this, I guess. But the light rain that sheathed the afternoon sits on their dark limbs like sweat and on their pink lips like tears. On the news there's another refugee boat coming and a river dying and banks we cannot afford to fail are filching from the children's money boxes again so I call my children outside to watch the bats steal silence from the humoured night, like gasps from a lover. One forgets.

But the body of the world hasn't made up her mind yet. She tries on this look and that. You could die waiting or you could just die or you could try some of whatever it is the bats are on. You could care that little and die that well. Everything dies, nothing dies - that's her story and we're stuck with it. She's not born to care but she seems to like us to notice. There's no moral, just the story and there's no-one getting out of it alive. Just above my head in the mid-January dusk, two little forest bats cut cloth for the perfect body of the beloved in Haiti.' Ah, until about... when was it? 2003 or 2004 or 2005 or something like that, we lived up here in the Blue Mountains, Marie and I, and then the children started coming along. And it seemed as though we needed to live closer to the city, so we did that for a while and then, shortly after that we kind of bottomed out of the city and ended up in Bowral.

But for those seven years I wrote book up near here in the Blue Mountains called The Blue Plateau. And I just thought I should read you a little bit of that. Judy was kind enough once to call this my first book of poetry and I guess in a sense it is.

I'll just read you a little bit from the prologue.

Some Of The Parts, this is called, which puns a little bit. Some. I spell it S-O-M-E. Some of the parts, I am made of pieces and of the spaces between them where other pieces used to be. I am a landscape of loss. Most of me is the memory of where else and who else and with whom I have been and no longer am. And so it is with the plateau, she too is a landscape of loss. We are not, none of us, not I and not this place ever whole, we are never of a piece - who we are is how what's left of us falls back towards some kind of coherence much older than we are. The real book is the one you do not write the one that orders the pieces that remain. And the real plateau is the work to which all the pieces almost amount, the order they all imply. The heath and the iron stone. The escarpment and the late afternoon light. The valley wind and the early summer fire.

The way the plateau came in and the way it's going out again. The first peoples and the second. The time before men and the time of men the time of no men to come. The falling water and the deepening drought. The sandstone and the black cockatoo and the grey kangaroo and the horse and the rider and the fifteen kinds of plants - fifteen hundred kinds of plants and the birds that know the difference. And the valleys' turns of phrase in the mouths of women and the men, most of them now gone. All we can ever know is some of the parts

and here some of them are - each an illusion to the same kind of truth, most of it eroded long ago and born away east by slim and persistent streams.'

(Applause) That was poetry readings from the Sydney Writers' Festival, recorded in the Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.

You can find the extended readings on our website and some evocative music from Bronwyn Kirkpatrick on the Shakuhachi flute. You can also catch up with some great sessions recorded at the Sydney Writers' Festival in the next few weeks. And remember, you can follow us on Facebook and on Twitter. That's all for Big Ideas today, Im Waleed Aly, see you next time. Closed Captions by CSI

This Program is Captioned

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