Archive for May, 2019

Dark deeds disturb while creative quest engages

THE END OF THE WORLDBy Maria Takolander. Giramondo Poets. $24.FIXING THE BROKEN NIGHTINGALE By Richard James Allen. Flying Island Books. $10.

Maria Takolander’s first book, Ghostly Subjects (2009), with its stylish and often brief poems, was impressive enough, but her second, The End of the World, marks a sudden leap forward in intensity and scope. The title, of course, risks grandiosity, but is ultimately justified. The review copy came with a one-page author’s note, in which Takolander emphasises how much her book is ”inspired by my fascination with history”.

The end of the world, in one sense or another, may be seen in all three of the book’s sections. The first, dealing with pregnancy, childbirth and child-raising, signifies, at the very least, the end of that easier and carefree world that normally precedes children. The second focuses mainly on the impact of Russia’s invasion of Finland at the beginning of World War II. As far as Takolander’s relatives were concerned, that, too, was the ”end of a world”.

The book’s third section ranges more widely, sometimes even into surrealism, and certainly into the grotesque. ”Many of these poems were inspired by gendered ways of thinking endemic to the historical discourses of science, psychoanalysis and religion,” Takolander says.

The poems are no dry exegesis, however. Mostly they tell horrifying stories in suitably intense and metaphoric language, reminiscent at times of Sylvia Plath’s late work. Witch, for instance, in a page and a half, tells us pretty much all we can bear to know about so-called witches in 17th-century England and their executions.

Takolander’s example appears to have been a convenient abortionist, until ”Strange Men Took her from her Warm Sack” and ”Bound her Neck and Wrists and Ankles to a Tree/Stacked with Kindling and Leaves and Forest Lumber/and, as they spoke Loudly of Heaven and Hell, the/Male Essence and the Female Bowel, they Touched/the Pile with their Flaming Torches, and she Found/that she had Never Believed More in the Crucifixion.”

Somewhat less grotesque but no less powerful are Takolander’s Finnish poems in the second section. In Mushrooms, she talks of an uncle who on a midsummer’s night ”raised the flag/of the country defended by his father, who had killed so many/men resembling his brothers and sons. My mother always said/that my grandfather resurrected his enemies with a bottle …”

It may have been more than 70 years ago, but Takolander makes it clear that the effects of such histories are still strongly felt.

The book’s early poems about pregnancy and childbirth are also distinctive, but perhaps slightly less so, given the relative universality of the experience and the existence of much good female writing on the issue. Scattered through all three overarching sections, however, are a number of individual poems, which perhaps are only just in the relevant category, but which are nevertheless highly memorable. These would include, among many others, Takolander’s three Australian poems (Convicts, White Australia and Eliza’s Shipwreck) and some highly distinctive travel poems set in Chile, Peru and Argentina.

Richard James Allen has had a varied and successful career in several fields, filmmaking and choreography among them. In Fixing the Broken Nightingale, he declares he is returning from his ”wild cross-platform adventures” to his ”original creative form – the poem itself”.

Significantly, Allen recalls that his writing began with keeping a diary which ”gradually … became less and less literal and more and more imaginative”. This new book, his 10th, is still essentially diaristic. For the most part, it is a record of his metaphysical intimations, as its section headings imply: Unanswered Questions, Occasional Truths, Flickering Enlightenment.

The religious traditions within which these insights occur is not made clear, although there are hints of Christianity and Hinduism along the way. ”New Age eclecticism” is perhaps a fair description.

Many of the points Allen makes might be more often discovered in works of theology and philosophy, and it is here that some problems with this collection begin. Much of what Allen offers us in Fixing the Broken Nightingale is in what might be called the oracular or prophetic tradition, going back to Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, the poems of Khalil Gibran and the somewhat lesser-known verse of Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage. From there, of course, it goes straight back to the Old Testament.

Such a provenance can be sensed in the four-line poem, Flickering Enlightenment, short enough to quote in full: ”The question is not how to die but how to live/How to link the miracle in each moment to the next//How to keep the timelessness through so much time/Never enough of course but still a great deal to manage.” These are certainly well-established philosophical and theological issues and what Allen gives us is, no doubt, a truth. The extent to which it is also a successful poem is less obvious. Some readers will see the abrupt change of tone in the final line as witty and ironic. Others may find it awkward. It is not too often we hear ”of course” in the Bible.

More plainly successful are a number of short, relatively literal poems such as Birthplace and My Mother’s House. In the latter, Allen, noticing the proliferating cobwebs in his ageing mother’s house, surmises that the spiders must be ”busy little workers, keeping house like her./ They don’t ask questions either,/hanging on to what seems like nothing.”

Quite a few of the poems, especially in the book’s second section, Unanswered Questions, are about love, sexual love in particular. Sometimes these are effectively physical and graphic, as in travel companion and Act Ten of 13 Acts of Unfulfilled Love. At other times, they risk vagueness and/or sentimentality, as in Act Thirteen of the same poem: ”in another life/you are the love of my life//and in my other life/I bid you welcome//instead of/farewell”. There is a nice sense of paradox here, but one wonders whether that is quite enough.

Those last two lines raise another small but recurrent problem, namely lineation. Quite a few of the poems, though certainly not all, somewhat self-consciously employ excessively short lines, as if that device in itself will provide poetic charge.

William Carlos Williams, who did this first – and effectively, for the most part – has a lot to answer for here.

One can see the problem, for example, in the closing lines of Waterfall: ”the/cascading/in/slow/motion/waterfall/of/love”. Plainly, the poet is imitating the descent of water, but the effect on the reader may not be as hoped.

There are, however, a number of entertaining poems, especially in the book’s first part, Natural Disasters. It is not for nothing that respected poet and critic Vivian Smith has declared Fixing the Broken Nightingale to be ”the diary of one poet’s search for authenticity” and ”an exceptionally engaging book”.

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ANZAC: Vets front up in full force at Belmont, photos

MORE than 600 people packed into Belmont Bowling Club yesterday to pay respects to the fallen and those who served their country.

Scenes from the Belmont Anzac Day service. Pictures: Ryan Osland

DEDICATION: Brothers Petty Officer Aaron Crockett and Major Adam Crockett at Belmont Bowling Club.

A march planned along the town’s main street was cancelled because of lightning and torrential rain.

Scenes from the Belmont Anzac Day service. Pictures: Ryan Osland

Hundreds of people had sought to attend the march, despite the rain.

Scenes from the Belmont Anzac Day service. Pictures: Ryan Osland

Scenes from the Belmont Anzac Day service. Pictures: Ryan Osland

An Anzac Day service was moved from the new war memorial at Cullen Park to the club.

Punters were packed in like sardines, taking every available space.

Belmont sub-branch president Joe Hayes said about two-thirds of people ‘‘went home because of the rain’’.

‘‘We couldn’t fit them all into the club,’’ Mr Hayes said.

Jack Sherry, 93, and Peter Huber, 70, were preparing to march before it was cancelled.

Mr Sherry, a World War II veteran, said the day brought him ‘‘sadness’’.

Mr Huber served in the Indonesian-Malaysian Confrontation or ‘‘Konfrontasi’’, which lasted from 1963 to 1966.

Mr Huber, of Redhead, saw some action in the conflict.

He recalled ‘‘long and hot patrols in the jungle, snakes and burning leeches off my legs’’.

Scenes from the Belmont Anzac Day service. Pictures: Ryan Osland

Scenes from the Belmont Anzac Day service. Pictures: Ryan Osland

Scenes from the Belmont Anzac Day service. Pictures: Ryan Osland

Scenes from the Belmont Anzac Day service. Pictures: Ryan Osland

Scenes from the Belmont Anzac Day service. Pictures: Ryan Osland

Scenes from the Belmont Anzac Day service. Pictures: Ryan Osland

Scenes from the Belmont Anzac Day service. Pictures: Ryan Osland

Scenes from the Belmont Anzac Day service. Pictures: Ryan Osland

Scenes from the Belmont Anzac Day service. Pictures: Ryan Osland

‘‘War happens – it’s a human thing,’’ he said.

Peter Walsh, 75, attended to remember his brother, Brian Walsh, who died in Vietnam aged 29.

‘‘Brian would have been 73 now,’’ Mr Walsh said. ‘‘He was awarded the Military Medal.’’

Mr Walsh said his brother was a ‘‘highly decorated Australian soldier, born and bred in the Hunter’’.

‘‘I come here to help celebrate the most important day on the calendar, apart from Christmas Day,’’ he said.

Lake Macquarie councillor Laurie Coghlan said hundreds attended the dawn service at Pelican.

‘‘It’s getting bigger and bigger every year,’’ Cr Coghlan said. ‘‘It’s grown to one of the biggest services you’ll see.’’

BROTHERS Adam and Aaron Crockett – who served their country in separate conflicts – spent Anzac Day together at Belmont.

The pair were to march together in uniform for the first time, before bad weather ruined the plan.

Aaron Crockett, 33, of Belmont North, served in Afghanistan in the navy as an aviation technician.

‘‘Everyone has their own opinion [of the Afghanistan War],’’ Mr Crockett said.

‘‘We had a job to do.

‘‘We certainly helped them out and made it a better place – now it’s up to them.’’

Adam Crockett, 31, of Belmont North, served in Sudan, Africa, with the UN and had been in the army for 13 years.

‘‘It’s all about paying respect,’’ he said, of Anzac Day.

His brother added: ‘‘It’s a special day to remember those who served before.’’

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Man dies after stabbing at Cessnock

UPDATE:Police have charged a man with murder after a man was allegedly stabbed at Cessnock overnight.

Officers were called to Cessnock District Hospital shortly after 9pm Friday , after reports a man had presented with stab wounds.

The 20-year-old Cessnock man died shortly after.

Police from Central Hunter Local Area Command arrived at the scene a short time after and broke up a brawl in the car park outside the hospital.

Another 20-year-old man was found suffering a minor stab wound to his arm. He received treatment to the non-life threatening injury.

An investigation was commenced, and a crime scene was established at the hospital and a further crime scene was located on John Street, Cessnock.

These scenes were examined by specialist forensic officers.

A third 20-year-old man was arrested at an address in Cessnock. He was taken to Maitland Police Station and was charged with murder, carry cutting weapon apprehension and reckless wounding.

He was refused bail and appeared at Maitland Local Court on Saturday, where he was bail refused to appear at Cessnock Local Court on Wednesday.

POLICE are investigating a murder after a man presented to a Cessnock District Hospital suffering stab wounds on Friday night and died a short time later.

A police spokeswoman told the Newcastle Herald the man, 20, arrived at hospital after 9pm.

He is believed to have suffered a stab wound to his chest.

He died a short time later in the emergency department.

Police arrived to witness a brawlerupting in the hospital car park between a group of males.

Police found a man, also 20, suffering a stab wound to his arm. His injuries are not considered life threatening.

Police attended an address in Cessnock where they have arrested another 20-year-old man.

He has been taken to Maitland police station where he is assisting police with their inquiries.

All three men live locally and the fatal stabbing is believed to have occurred at a Cessnock home.

A crime scene was established at the hospital and examined by specialist forensic officers.

It’s believe the NSW Homicide Squad have been notified.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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Talk of the Town

Edinburgh’s mysterious “modern” half deserves exploring, writes Anthony Dennis.

Iam standing at the lookout on Calton Hill, the irregular Georgian rooftop splendour of Edinburgh’s New Town spread panoramically before me.

My 60-something guide, Ken Hanley, encourages me to clamber up a grassy rise for an even better view on this sunny morning of a city that surely possesses one of the most rousing skylines in not just Britain but all Europe. “I’d come up there with you,” Ken calls to me from below, “but the wind tends to play havoc with my kilt.”

It was Robert Louis Stevenson who declared: “Edinburgh is what Paris ought to be.” He may have been suffering from the sort of giddy Scottish pride that will lead Scots to the ballot box to vote for independence from the rest of Britain in September.

But, from up here, Edinburgh really is extraordinary, vaguely Parisian, even.

The Scottish capital is a city of two distinct yet complementary halves, and yet one of its halves, the New Town, remains as mysterious to many, if not most, visitors as what really lies underneath a Scotsman’s kilt.

Both of the towns are UNESCO World Heritage-listed, yet the New Town is often overlooked in favour of the Old Town. But with Ken’s expert help, a case of out with the Old Town and in with the New Town, I am determined to uncover the New Town and its architectural glories.

My day began in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria Caledonian Hotel, a former railway hotel with a pink Persian sandstone facade.

The Caley, as the locals fondly call it, sits in the middle between the Old Town and the New Town, its rooms affording unsurpassed views of the castle perched atop its herculean chunk of rock with its sheer vertical side.

It is here that I meet Ken, a top Blue Badge guide, decked out in full Scottish regalia, right from his cap, kilt, sporran, long socks and the requisite hint of bare knees. He swears that this is normal daily attire and not a contrivance for impressionable visitors like me.

Across the street from the Caley is the gorgeously lush Princes Park Gardens that mark the dividing line between the two towns. Ken and I stride out across the narrow park that extends nearly the length of Princes Street, the New Town’s busy main shopping thoroughfare and site of a new and controversial tram line.

We pass the grandiose Scott Monument, dedicated to the novelist Sir Walter Scott, who died in 1832. I am not surprised to learn that it is the biggest monument dedicated to a writer anywhere.

It is unlikely that they will receive such tributes, but novelist Alexander McCall Smith set his bestselling 44 Scotland Street book series in the New Town, as did Ian Rankin with his Inspector Rebus tomes, and J.K. Rowling calls the city home.

We head on towards Waverley Street Station, tucked away out of sight in the depression between the two towns and revealed only by its sprawling glasshouse-like roof, passing the Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh’s other grand historic railway hotel, where doormen are dressed in head-to-toe tartan.

Then it is up the slope, where Princess Street becomes Waterloo Place, and on to the 100-metre-high Calton Hill, scattered with strange neo-classical monuments.

It is a much easier hike, Ken points out, than the more well-known and well-trodden Arthur’s Seat, where tourists go to view, ostensibly, the Old Town and its landmarks.

“You can’t understand the New Town without understanding the Old Town,” says Ken, explaining why we need to view them both from an elevated perspective.

The New Town is as old as European Australia, dating from the late 18th century, but the Old Town really is old. Its origins can be traced back to the 12th century.

The New Town’s construction was prompted by a civic desire to address the crowded and unhygienic conditions of the Old Town, as well as to provide a place to house the wealthy in a more refined capital of culture and commerce, a veritable Athens of the north, and a rival, if not in size then in grandeur, to London.

Even today, there is evidence of the elitism behind the vision for the New Town, which was designed as a neat grid by a young Scottish architect called James Craig.

The sizeable and well-wooded “communal” Queen Street Gardens, in the heart of the New Town, can still be accessed only by the residents of the Georgian terraces across the cobbled street.

One of the most beautiful cultural buildings in the New Town, especially internally, is the splendid Scottish National Portrait Gallery, with its Venetian gothic facade, which opened in 1889 as the first purpose-built portrait gallery in the world, and was recently refurbished.

It is an impressive showcase of Scottish endeavour, featuring world-renowned Scots as varied as Robert Burns, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Billy Connolly and Sean Connery.

Elsewhere, with nary another tourist in sight, I pass 17 Heriot Row with its red door, once a family home of novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, one of Edinburgh’s most famous sons. Another of his residences is a B&B.

I call at the Georgian House, in Charlotte Square, a few doors from Bute House, the Scottish First Minister’s discrete terrace.

The Georgian House is run by the National Trust for Scotland, allowing visitors to gain a sense of what it was like for privileged citizens of Edinburgh to live in the New Town its early days.

A characteristic feature of New Town buildings, and one that has survived to this day in local building codes, is the black wrought-iron work used in the gates and fencing of terraces.

But perhaps the most curious New Town feature is the plethora of bricked-in windows – Pitt’s Portraits, as they became known, named after the eponymous prime minister.

Now heritage-protected, they are a legacy of the tax avoidance in which home owners indulged to cunningly circumvent the government’s practice of calculating tax based on the number of windows in a building.

Eventually, as I head into Randolph Crescent, with its serpentine row of terraces creeping up a gentle incline and dating from the early 19th century, the afternoon begins to merge with the early late-autumn evening.

It is growing cold and beginning to rain in this “city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas”, as McCall Smith once rhapsodised of Edinburgh. “A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again.”

Anthony Dennis is Fairfax Media’s national travel editor. He travelled as a guest of Railbookers, China Southern Airlines and Visit Britain.



China Southern has regular flights to London, via Guangzhou, from Sydney and Melbourne. Australians on the Canton Route travelling to other destinations can now opt for a Guangzhou stopover with a visa-free stay for up to 72 hours. Phone 1300 889 62, see csair苏州美甲培训.


Railbookers offers tailor-made rail holidays throughout Britain with a six-night holiday to London and Edinburgh starting from $930 a person, including accommodation in centrally located hotels with breakfast daily, rail travel and seat reservations. Book before June 30, 2014, and save $100 a person. Phone 1300 550 973, see railbookers苏州美甲培训.au.


Through Railbookers, the 241-room Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian, Princes Street, is a short walk or taxi ride from Waverley Street Station, where trains arrive and depart from London; see thecaledonianedinburgh苏州美甲培训.


visitbritain苏州美甲培训; whc.unesco.org.

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Pleasures and pain

Bundestag glass dome in Reichstag. Hackescher Markt in the Mitte district.

The bonhomie of present-day Berlin casts into sharp relief its sinister past, writes Diane Armstrong.

It’s a warm autumn evening on a lively Berlin street, and my partner and I are sitting at an outdoor table of the Monsieur Vuong restaurant, eating red duck curry and chatting to a friendly German couple at the next table.

All around me there is an atmosphere of bonhomie and it’s unsettling to realise that just across the road, where the shoe boutique is having its end-of-season sale, the Ledzetler family – Itzak, Deborah and their two young daughters, Susanne and Amelie – were dragged out of their apartment and deported to Auschwitz and murdered in 1943.

I know this because while walking towards the restaurant, I looked down at the small brass plaque set into the pavement that commemorates their fate. Five thousand of these “skipping stones” have been placed all over the city, poignant reminders of the fate of the Jewish Berliners whose lives ended so brutally.

So as I enjoy the Vietnamese meal, German friendliness, and the cosmopolitan buzz of today’s Berlin, I’m forced to confront the city’s dark past while enjoying its contemporary pleasures.

This is my first visit to Berlin and, as I find in the days to come, this city has courageously confronted its past.

I discover this while staying at the Adina Apartment Hotel in the very heart of historic Berlin, in the Mitte district. Once a down-at-heel working district, Mitte has become the cultural and historical centre of Berlin and contains many of its remarkable historical sites, memorials, and museums.

Walking is the best way to get the feel of a city and being able to walk from the Adina to most of Berlin’s highlights is an ideal way to get my bearings.

It’s thrilling to come face-to-face with iconic structures such as the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag, and as I walk towards them I struggle to recall what I have read about their long history and their historical significance.

But once inside the huge glass dome of the Reichstag, I surrender to the aesthetic experience of climbing the steep spiral walkway of this astonishing structure, and gain a new perspective of the city while gazing at the panorama below. Berlin offers an exciting mixture of ancient and modern history. One morning we set out on foot, and by late afternoon we have covered more than 3000 years of history, from Nebuchadnezzar to Hitler, from ancient Assyria to communist East Berlin.

Just around the corner from the Adina, in a shady little park, we pass a memorial to 300 gutsy Christian women who staged a protest to release their Jewish husbands in 1943. Then we cross a bridge on the River Spree, with its sightseeing boats, and reach Museumsinsel, an island that contains five world-class museums. The marvels at the Pergamon Museum include the extraordinary Ishtar Gate with its glazed bricks of a startling lapis lazuli blue, and the 17-metre-high Market Gate of Miletus, is the largest monument assembled in a museum.

In the adjoining Neues Museum, the exquisite sculpted head of Nefertiti is 3300 years old.

Situated on a huge block of land in prime Berlin real estate, also within walking distance of the Adina Hotel, we come to the controversial Holocaust memorial, the location alone of which makes a powerful statement. Walking among its 2711 tomb-like slabs, all of different sizes and set at different angles, puts me off balance and creates an unsettling feeling, as it’s intended to do.

The excellent information centre underneath the memorial traces the milestones of the Holocaust. Among the exhibits are heartbreaking personal letters.

Even now, recalling the letter written by a 12-year-old called Judith chokes me up. “I am saying goodbye to you before I die,” she wrote to her father. “We would so love to live but we will die. I am so scared of this death because small children are thrown alive into the pit. Goodbye forever.”

Walking on, I come to a less obvious but equally evocative memorial. Situated in a square, the Empty Library marks the place where thousands of books were burnt in 1933.

Peering through a glass panel set into the ground, I look down at a large room with empty shelves.

I’ve read that not one of the bystanders spoke up to protest while books were being hurled into the flames and as I catch sight of my own reflection in the glass I wonder, what would I have done?

At night, the memorial is lit up and glows in the dark.

After a day packed with so much walking and contemplating, it’s a relief to stop at Hackescher Markt and join the locals soaking up the sunshine, drinking beer and listening to buskers. This lively plaza of outdoor cafes, restaurants, bars and boutiques is the perfect antidote to a day immersed in the traumatic past.

The stalls are heaped with freshly picked berries, their perfume mingling with the aroma of grilled bratwurst.

Around the corner from the marketplace, the Adina is actually a corner of Australia in Berlin.

There are Aboriginal prints, images of kangaroos and emus in our apartment and Vegemite on the sumptuous breakfast buffet.

It’s unthinkable to leave Berlin without an evening at a cabaret, and we have been recommended the Chamaeleon Club, barely five minutes’ walk away from the Adina, so with Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey and the music from Cabaret running through my mind, we set off, expecting an evening of raunchy dancing and satirical humour.

The entertainers that night are vibrant, talented and exciting but they aren’t Berliners. They aren’t even Germans. They are Australians who are part of a circus troupe called Circa.

The writer was a guest of Adina Apartment Hotels.



Etihad has a fare to Berlin for about $1980 low-season return from Melbourne and Sydney, including tax. Fly to Abu Dhabi (about 14hr) and then to Berlin (6hr 50min with Air Berlin); see etihad苏州美甲培训.


Adina Apartment Hotel has one-bedroom apartments from €139 ($200) a night. There are also two-bedroom apartments. See adina.eu.


Berlin Walks organises half-day walking tours that give an excellent insight into the history, culture and politics of this city. See berlinwalks.de.

For a tour of Jewish Berlin, American Jeremy Minsberg is an interesting and knowledgeable guide; see theberlinexpert苏州美甲培训.

To visit the Reichstag dome, book ahead online at bundestag.de.



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