Vandemonian (Arc, 2013)

Tasmanian Tiger

Vandemonian (Arc, 2013) focuses on Van Diemen's Land and its inhabitants - human and animal, newcomer and Aborigine - to piece together a fragmentary history of Tasmania.

"a humanist vision of nightmare handled with great wit and linguistic exuberance, erudition brought to life with the full force of feeling. A remarkable and somewhat shaming read.” William Bedford in The Warwick Review

“a thrilling, fascinating collection of poems; read it in one sitting for the most intense experience of the voyage.” Kay Syrad in Envoi

“One of the striking dimensions of Forshaw’s book is that, whilst acknowledging his source material, he writes in a manner that seamlessly and organically presents themes, subject matter and historical detail in an original fusion that communicates a fascinating story of cultural collision […] a finely fettled piece of poetic art.” Michael Woods in Iota

on the Ned Kelly Hymnal section:
“The ‘Hymnal’ poem achieves real dignity out of its mix of filmic, modernist detail and grave statement.” Ken Bolton in Jacket


For further details of Vandemonian, together with fuller reviews, poems and a film of Cliff reading, please see the Arc website, where you can also order the book.

For a recent Australian radio broadcast featuring Cliff's poems about the Tasmanian Tiger visit Shadows in the Scrub at ABC.

Click here to see the ex­tin­ct Thylacine or Tas­manian Tiger on film
Tasmanian Tiger

Loop (62 seconds of the extinct Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger on film.)

Within the box, it growls, it twists,
scowls through its repertoire of tricks,
ignores the camera — or gurns up close, turns
again, to flop, to gnaw that paw-trapped bone.

It paces out its trap of light; one hundred reps
while hindquarters zither bars of sun;
claws cage’s mesh, hangs stretched
as if to take the measure of itself.

You saw. You see. And what we’ve got is what was shot:
short clips, fragments caught and stitched
together in a loop of black and white.

Nine lives? Not quite. It’s down. It’s out.
It’s on its feet and born again. Like a repetition
compulsion, like… like reincarnated light.

Old Hairy

And here he is, ‘Old Hairy’,
red and skinny, tough as boots,
four thousand years old if he’s a day;
forever flat out and in pursuit

of . . . whatever. The chase goes on and on.
That endless prey’s his last: the one
that’s slipped its skeleton through a crack in stone,
a white shadow in the rock that’s worn him down
to skin and bone. That’s skin? That’s bone?

(To the south, earth shifts, Tassie breaks free:
distant cousins in cold high woods, cut off by sea.)

Dry as parchment, brittle as sticks:
Mummified mainland thylacine,
found base of shaft, Nullarbor Plain, ’66.

In inverted commas

Others are Disney-flat, out-run cartoons
who’ve failed to burrow into tarmac,
who’ve found it far too hard, too black.
At this one’s mouth, a speech-balloon
where asphalt’s slick and almost pink,
as if someone’s scrubbed long and hard at red
daubed words, the rumour’s near indelible ink.

Haunches, muddied pelts, dithered paws,
little fangs gnawing on the camber;
snouts punctuated by inverted commas of claws:
irony or speech marks, a question mark of tail,
rising like the intonation you get round here.

So politely put. But a question nonetheless.
Demands sometime, sometime quite soon, you answer, “Yes.”

Ned Kelly

from A Ned Kelly Hymnal (after Sydney Nolan)

That’s him, that awkward shadow, that black, that’s Ned.
He’s painted out as if already dead.

Sometimes, it’s just a blank, that slit for eyes.
You look right through the man to clear blue skies.

Sometimes, that void’s red-tinged with fire or dawn:
the burbling billy-can, the day’s first yawn.

Sometimes, the clouds in that gash blush with dusk:
sky buries its burning cheek down in the dust.

Sometimes, there’s a flash of silver, say sardines:
that peeled-back strip you’ve keyed along the tin.

He has no eyes in the back of his head, of course.
Sometimes, he rides away (Black gun. Black horse.)

into another picture. What’s forged by smith
from black’s still fire-lit then, and riding into myth.

Tiger chapbook (happenstance, 2011)

An earlier version of the Tasmanian Tiger sequence first appeared as Tiger (HappenStance, 2011).

A Ned Kelly Hymnal, chapbook

A earlier version of the Ned Kelly sequence appeared as A Ned Kelly Hymnal ( A Paper Special Edition, 2008).

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