Monday, 23 November 2020

New from Flying Islands

FOXLINE, Chris Mansell (Flying Islands Press, 2020)

The new book of poems out from Flying Islands!

There are two characters in this collection: the fox, and the farmer. They are opposed but share an existential problem. The more charismatic figure is the fox (female, only once owning 'vixen') who is trying to understand her environment, the role of the farmer, the singing fences, the farmer. The farmer is a solitary figure walking with a gun, trying to get things right. Each have their own good intentions; neither of them entirely comfortable where they are.

Available from Flying Islands

or from me

Read Magdalena Ball's review at Compulsive Reader and listen to her interview

Jean Kent did a great launch speech at Anna Couani's The Shop Gallery in February. As always, Kent is insightful and generous. You can read her words at Rochford St Review here





What came before

Somewhere between Daylesford and Castlemaine in Victoria, Australia, they have a fox problem. Australia in general has a 'fox problem'. Foxes are not indigenous to the continent, and they are predators of the kind that small marsupials were unaccustomed to resisting. Foxes, along with feral cats, and various other creatures which took up ecological niches, took a great toll on the wildlife. 

It is also thought, believed strongly, that foxes attack livestock, often taking only the most delectable parts of an animal. They are not beloved by farmers. There are three ways of expressing their relationship to foxes: traps, guns, poison (1080). Savage traps are not legal, cage traps are ok - except now you have a fox in a trap; 1080 is often used but seen as unnecessarily cruel by some; sand then there is the direct honesty of a gun, though less efficient.

Nevertheless, they are beautiful, alien animals; independent, foxy. In the wild they live for about three years (in captivity, much more), and their social structure depends on the conditions encountered. In some conditions there is only one breeding pair, in others all the females breed. 

They are invaders, but have made the country their own. They know nothing else. The farmer of foreign heritage and the fox are not different in that respect.

Somewhere between Daylesford and Castlemaine there is the foxline: about 200 dead and scalped foxes hung from their heels on a fence by the roadway. So beautiful in the sun.

Looking down the foxline, about 200 foxes deep.
Part of the foxline. All but one still had their tails.

Thursday, 19 November 2020

David Kelly reviews 101 Quads


101 Quads (Puncher & Wattmann/Thorny Devil Press)

101 Quads: A book worth your money and time.
I imagine an event. I’m an archaeologist. I’ve just opened a tomb in – somewhere in the Middle East– and in this tomb which I am the first to enter (Yippity dooo) I find 101 clay tablets inscribed with neat geometrical patterns of letters. I take them back to the University of Euroa Ancient Languages Department and leave them with my good friend, the renowned anthropologist and linguist, Professor Kenneth Slessor. 
A few weeks go by. He invites me over for roast beef, a very expensive red wine and to explain that this was the poetry of a little known tribe, the Berryana. He tells me the poems were composed by a Chris Mansell and that she was one of the more prominent and well known members of the South Coast Poets school. The structured layout is called a Quad and was the invention of Mansell herself. He explains that poets of all persuasion have sought a discipline to heighten their language, their message. He throws a loose quote from Thom Gunn at me:
You keep both rule and energy in view
much power in each, most in the balanced two:
Ferocity existing in the fence
built by an exercised intelligence.
(Poem: For Ivor Winters.)
He explains how the technique of these poems forced some words together to make more powerful expressions e.g swordgore (16th tablet) or slipsimpossible (51st tablet); and how the line breaks would tease the mind and suggest multiple avenues for it to proceed along until it found the one the poet intended e.g. in the 43rd tablet: glorious that t / hought that cap / in hand that ca / pacity for thin / king that justi / and so on.
There was a lot to take in. We rested for a while savouring his famous roast beef and a private label red. “Drink slowly young David,” he cautioned. “Both wine and poetry, I assume.” “Got it in one mate,” he said – a little out of character I thought.
“But what of the red bits?” I asked. He pounced straight in. His theory was that they just added to the visual appeal, or maybe were a poem hidden in the poem but he couldn’t really figure that out: a subtext language, a tribal variation. I suggested, somewhat tremblingly, for this was Kenneth Slessor and I held him in awe, that red was the colour of blood, of life, of sunrise and set and visually its presence added extra life to the presentation like the dappled light effect when sunlight breaks through a tree shadow; thus the red sprinkles and spreads life around the words.
He seemed impressed with my interpretation (as was I). He suggested there were many good poems in the collection but he was particularly fond of tablet 20 when two people rescue a baby bird fallen out of a nest. He was impressed the way the description of the nestling changed from ‘an asphalt coloured thing’ to the more lovable ‘little grey’. Here the universal act of human goodness is expressed in a single act of human goodness. 
I wondered aloud if any of the poems could be lifted from their ‘cages’ and would work as conventionally set out free verse poems. He was wary of this, suggesting that the disruption to reading and subsequent series of ‘aha’ moments were part of their effect, and indeed their meaning: a bit like the fun you have deciphering an e e cummings poem.
What?, I asked, in the same way that James Cagney and Greta Garbo belong in a square black and white screen. That’s where they have their meaning, their genesis. That’s where they live forever. He nodded, conceding, but not totally happy with the analogy.
We could have spent a lot more time on it but the hour was late, the bottle empty and so I headed home. As I was leaving I suggested to him that it would be a great pity if someone had produced such a clever, inventive, original collection; had taken the trouble to compose so many lyrics, so many moments that sparkled but due to the plague of 73 BC had been denied a celebratory launch party and that all those speeches of praise, balloons and streamers, sparkling mead etc. never happened.
He suggested I write a brief note about it and urge people to buy the book of the tablets now called 101 Quads and published by Puncher and Wattman in collaboration with Thorny Devil Press. And so, at Slessor’s request and my own volition, I have. The book contains many references to peculiarly Australian things such as Ned Kelly which may escape overseas readers but it’s mainly universal. And, while the scans presented here [on Facebook] are of diminished quality, the actual book is a first class print job. Poem 20 about the baby bird; poem 52 about nursing home rockers!
You can buy it, with my endorsement, recommendation and encouragement here:
Facebook, September 2020 (101 Quads will come out officially in 2021)

Monday, 1 May 2017


                                     when the war ends
Looking inside (10.5cm wide x 7.5 cm high)

came about because I was doing a reprint of quid pro quad. The smaller contrians seven poems from the bigger collection:
   when the war ends
   he so keen aches
   it is a bird
   unsinge the opal
   a chuckle bird
   he is worried
   overwrought iron

What is a quad? Go to the quad label (or straight to this link on this blog). Or for more background go to the quad page on my site at

Each quarter of a quad on a single page.
The quid pro quad reprint with its daughter, when the war ends.