Kevin Brophy – An Adjective World

Profile Professor Kevin Brophy Live Encounters Magazine August 2017

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An Adjective World, poems by Kevin Brophy

Gloria SMH Press, 2016.Professor Kevin Brophy is the author of fifteen books of poetry, fiction and essays. His latest books are Misericordia (Salt Wattle Press, 2016 – a chapbook), This is What Gives Us Time (Gloria SMH Press, 2016. ) and Walking: New and Selected Poems (John Leonard Press 2013 ( ). He teaches mainly poetry and the art of the personal essay in the Creative Writing program in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. He was a chief investigator with a team of researchers in the ARC funded Discovery Project ‘Understanding Creative Excellence: A Case Study in Poetry’ (2013-2016). He is co-editor of the journal of Creative Writing theory, TEXT ( ). His poems, fiction and essays have been frequently anthologised in Best Australian Poems, Best Australian Essays and Best Australian Stories, and Best Australian Essays: a ten-year collection (Black Inc.). His work is represented in the major national anthologies, Australian Poetry since 1788 (UNSW Press 2011), the MacQuarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature (Allen & Unwin 2009), Puncher & Wattmann Anthology of Australian Poetry (2009), Australian Love Poems (Inkerman & Blunt 2013), Contemporary Australian Poetry (Puncher & Wattmann 2016), and other publications. In 2009 he was awarded the Calibre Prize for an outstanding essay. Kevin Brophy is a past Chair of the Board and present life member of Writing Victoria, Patron and Trust Fund Board member for the Melbourne Poets Union, member of the publishing Executive of Five Islands Press since 2008. From 1980 to 1994 he was founding co-editor of the national literary journal, Going Down Swinging ( ). He has been a recent board member of Going Down Swinging (2009-12), four times a judge for the Victorian Premiers Literary Awards, and through Hit & Miss, the publisher of chapbooks by Melbourne poets. From 2001-2008 he was also a member of the Executive of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs. He has performed and read widely in Melbourne and regional Victoria. In September 2016 his poetry was included in a world premiere performance of ‘Nervous’, a multi-arts project initiated by the sculptor Heather B Swann, at the National Gallery of Australia. In November 2016 his work featured in a poetry, music and art performance in Rome, presented to Pope Francis as an Australian response to the ending of the 2016 Year of Mercy. At present he shares his time between the Melbourne inner suburb of Brunswick and the remote Great Sandy Desert Aboriginal community of Mulan in Western Australia. The following are unpublished poems.


How far is it across the dark floor
of your moonless night?

Have you started out
in a certain direction already
and discovered it doesn’t matter which way you go

because however enclosed or free you are,
there’ll be nothing forever on every side?

I’m thinking you can imagine now
how long it will take you to go
from one side of that darkness to the other.

How much, I wonder, have you forgotten?
Are we already last night’s dream

too shadowy to distinguish from everything
else that was once alive?

I watched you go staring up at the roof of the night
you were sealed inside.

Here, I must tell you, our moonlight
still thins out the night,
our sunsets caress the shadows,
our clouds still act like blessings and curses.

Each day becomes a burning martyr
we watch, wonder at, and turn from.


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An adjective world

When was it that mortal came to be needed to describe men?
And why is flawed used only for those we call geniuses?
Egos became fragile, like Easter eggs and champagne flutes.
Fun is good and clean though that’s ironic these days.
When did God come to need his infinitely redundant Almighty?
Leave a road unmentioned long enough and the next time you get round to it,
it will have gone long and winding on you, dusty too.
Barren old women will be carrying firewood along it.
The good book is distinguished from all others
which must all be the bad ones we should shun.
And yes, the plain truth is a warning sign, as all signs are.
And when was hope ever not perverse?
Remember, too, a mark is what you miss.

Too far

We’re far from the men in ties talking on television.
We’re far from falling stars and fires on the horizon.
We’re far from old ideas throwing new grenades
at city streets of starry fusillades.
We’re far from cities, from valleys.
Night stains the sky a deep shadow.
We run. We hide. We tell our phones what we know,
what we’ve seen.
Our sunflower minds close down as we lie down and dream.
Someone’s missing, someone says, and someone else is hiding,
someone’s run far enough away to think of this.


Bright finches in the morning sprinkle through the tree
the cow was eating yesterday, its strong tongue pink,
its lips stretched for the brighter leaves the cockatoos
had not come down for; last night’s dogs are back,
they drag their hopes like ghosts along with them
and glance coolly at me as they might at taps or trees;
the moon was full, and small as well, in last night’s sky,
the sky that dripped its shadows through the trees
on us sitting out with dogs, silent finches, a fire,
and a world of smoke we put at last to sleep.
The morning finches move in families of fright
among the trees below the cockatoos that rule
the day; children lead dark dogs along the track
to school; someone said (last night) we need a coin
to spin below the moon for luck, a dog to lick one hand,
and this, the next day’s daylight spun round us.

© Professor Kevin Brophy

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