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Pam Brown


Pam Brown, since 1971, has published many books and chapbooks including Text thing (Little Esther Books, 2002), Dear Deliria and True Thoughts—both from Salt Publishing in 2003 and 2008 respectively. She has also written for film and theatre. She collaborated with Seattle-based Egyptian poet Maged Zaher on a collection of poems called farout library software  published by Tinfish Press in 2007. Her next book Authentic Local is forthcoming from Papertiger Media. For five years, from 1997 until 2002, she was the poetry editor of the Australian literary quarterly Overland and currently co-edits Jacket magazine. Born in Seymour Victoria, in a parallel life Pam Brown lives in La Reunion, in real life she is currently doing time in Blackheath, in the Blue Mountains, just west of Sydney. Her blog The Deletions can be found here.



Day and night, your poems

for Ken Bolton


              what else am I meant to be doing today

                          I can't stop reading your poems

the wind cools now through a gap

      the sash window up a little 

             the windy air swirls, annoyingly, around my legs

I should put the window down

      the day so bright grey and so breezy

 saying summer's nearly over


                        I have only one hour spare

       before I am to drive over to Fox studios

                           I can't stop reading your poems

                             I like the way you say 'coffee shop'

 it's Australian                   never  'café'

    nor 'bar'  which is what you'd say in old Europe

                        where you take a coffee at a bar   or bar tabac

not that what is said being 'Australian'

       matters more or less, it's the way it sounds

that I like

                                             I've said 'café' in a poem  

                just  to set a neater rhythm

 around thirty years ago  I called a book of poems 'Café Sport'

    after the Italian Caffe Sport in Leichhardt

           though I'd never written anything there I'd drunk

innumerable espresso coffees         brewed by Lucia

   who kept the chess players' grappa

                         under the counter hidden from the law 




                            there's the key at the door to the flat

      the clockyclunky sound of  the lock barrel turning as it opens

and Jane arrives, back from the city,

                 happy with the book she's bought

                              from the Language Book Centre

     'Advanced French Grammar' by Monique L'Huillier

not much time to leaf through it though

           and now       no more time for your poems either

                we're off to Fox studios Entertainment Quarter

    to see a  film     




                    I couldn't stop reading your poems yesterday

      and last night I finished them     reading reading    night and day

                        this morning I've placed the book on top of the portable tv set

         next to this small table - the cover and spine remind me

                                                        of its pleasures

how you blend poetry and daily life

    or, really,

           how you mix thinking about poetry, thinking about everyday life,

        like an easy interaction of light and geometry

   setting an example or, even, a standard

                for me - here in this poem I'm trying to write to yours -


                                                      it should be quiet here today

                   Jane's exercising  in the pool at Easts club

        I imagine her splashing up and down a lane

or standing in a gentle whirl of ripples

                             I'm here in the flat

                                              at the laptop


     a  flock of Eastern Rosellas or Rainbow Lorikeets

                or whatever those plump little coloured parrots are

                                              are squawking in the fig trees outside

the roof man's here

     blowing leaves from the building's gutters with a petrol blower

so -  not quiet

                     as I wonder about that habit in contemporary poetry

         you identify in a poem called 'Coffee'

      how so many poets are fond of using the word 'blue' -

              I'm guilty      -   cobalt blue, saxe blue, small blue view  -

   but I rarely say 'coffee' or 'coffee cup' in a poem

                                                           except for this one

my problem is that so many poets start with nature

    I'm guilty there too

           or      another problem      so many poets                      

      write about politicians who are, really, as ephemeral as nature

    I'm occasionally guilty

              of passing mentions,  snide - written in a fury




                                                        what do I remember ?

         how many lines from the hundreds and hundreds, probably

thousands, of poetry collections I’ve read

              and the poems submitted to the magazines I’ve edited ?

I sometimes think of  some of yours  -

                                        'awake & refreshed

                                           tho with nothing on the page'

    can come to mind almost regularly these days

                         and, for me, a craved nostalgia in

    'Rome's night air outside the window, spelling Rome'


'I don't have a Cruel Theory

                       in my body'

     has become an in-joke between me and myself

'the terrific


       of summer'

           from  earlier terrific days, and your poem 'Day & Night'

  your Berrigan-dreaming drinks with friends   

                           'I think continually of those who were truly great,'

                           someone said'

            there it is now         in the someone said

 your poems to John Forbes     

                         remind me to think of him and of his great poetry    

     and your living friends floating through your lines

                          they're signifiers, ne'er-do-wells in art'n'life and greats

participants all in an array of tasks and pleasures of, mostly, an intellect 

     that stays up that extra hour

                                   so as not to miss the dawn

                        and to later amble down to Hindley Street

 breathing in the pungent air of a coffee shop

                                                            opening for the day



Antipodean Default Mode

they were living in Australia
two heads were better than one
they were living in Australia
across the Tasman Sea from New Zealand
they were living in Australia
where the universe turns on at sunset
they were living in Australia
every minute of every day
they were living in Australia
learning the lesser lesson
they were living in Australia
they were living in Australia
hoping for the best
they were living in Australia
along a slinky desert edge
they were living in Australia
unpacking the national library
they were living in Australia
with biodegradable mousepads
they were living in Australia
everything had seen better days
they were living in Australia
just for the heck of it
they were living in Australia
once in a lifetime
a long lifetime not a short one
they were living in Australia
to forget about you
they were living in Australia
like true blue Americans
they were living in Australia
waking in fright
they were living in Australia
never looking back

(poem written after hearing John Ashbery read 'Default Mode'
at City University New York's Graduate Centre on October 30th, 2008)


Dry tropics

every minute counts

four lines a day
snap frozen


Lorine Niedecker,
what would she have to say 
(‘pick up that bucket’)


my brief career 
as a shopkeeper

my new life
tending the demented


exit gaps stuffed 
with strips of newspaper
against the western chill

‘chill factor’ 
has become
‘feels like’


in a pastoral
blackened eucalypts
might dance

for me, it’s useless
a treeless plain, 
then describing it

continually changing landscapes
are way too much

sickly yellowing weeds,
bogged gullies,
cracking surfaces

ruining pristine reefs 
and so on


the wind gusts furiously,
the verandah lattice
blown from its frame

like living
in a light house

raise the blinds
turn up 
that medina music, 
start keening now


Twenty+ Ways to Teach Poetry
Without Comprehension Questions


Tristan Tzara 
To Make A Dadaist Poem

preparations for the poetry class


dinner out
at the Renee Geyer cabaret,
neon turning blonde hair pink

warm cocktails
in a harbour bar
the old beauty 
of an autumn evening


in a gadda da vida
and other stormy music


a million droplets,


world gone somewhere,
dry tropics


in Bangalow 
revisiting the site
of my truck crash

a new shop
has been built
in the ditch



No worries

                   les nouilles ne sont pas toutes dans la soupe

                    not all the noodles are in the soup

                                                        (Québecois saying)


flat out,

      too tired to die


 flying across

       the country of soundbites,

 sleeping sitting up

              is impossible


bedroom-eyes slumbers on the aisle,

 his casual orange sweater

      emblazoned, kind of gothically,

‘Military Order - Devil Dogs’




  real live mesa on the ground

                miles below



or maybe Nebraska,       


             jet-zone puzzles    like

how IS a mountain formed

       if not volcanically ?


        slow progression




charged-up the camera,

         going on a day tour


pretzel dogs,

    a positive snack discovery


waxed cardboard cups,

       regular means giant




         all day all night

                         on CNN

  economies are tumbling


(Baudrillard would have loved

 this ‘dead cat bounce’

               of stocks & shares)


 the Canadian dollar is a ‘loony’

           (he’d have liked that too)




up in Québec -

      an actual ‘arts constituency’





           I have to ask,

 what’s my ‘social contract’?




 exhorted to

           ‘live better’

  yet feeling worse




watching a photographer

    conceal himself

behind a column,

       then a curtain

    then a large loud speaker,

now I find him everywhere -

        through a potted palm,

 a half empty bookshelf




a spotlight catches

              a few silver hairs

                                     on the back of the neck

of the poet who has been sleeping

through everyone else’s reading




three empty bottles


                           how many years have I put into this,

                                the   meh    of     z  z  z  z   ?




from now on

     I will certainly decline

               invitations to travel far,

I’ll never see China, for instance


                     I don’t really mind

    not seeing anywhere


I’ll meander

                    around some bend

  like Lucky & Pozzo,

      arrive from nowhere

      make a speech

                  and leave


                       only half genuine,

 you disappear before you’re gone


                                          no worries





copyright © Pam Brown