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Introduction to Michael Farrell (Part 2) [Introduced by Thomas Moody]

In 2019 Michael Farrell edited the anthology Ashbery Mode, a collection of over sixty Australian poets whose work has been inspired by John Ashbery. The anthology is as much a testament to Ashbery’s range (both form and tone) and durability as it is to his inimitability. Ashbery’s influence is noticeable in Farrell’s own poetry, the two poets share a penchant for playing with form. 

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“Good Fortune” borrows much of its formal restrictions from a sestina: six, six-line stanzas followed by a tercet. But Farrell disrupts the traditional sestina: instead of repeating the end words of the first stanza in sequence throughout the poem, he repeats the opening words, while maintaining the traditional pattern. The shift in placement alters the dynamic of the poem, which assumes a “push” force, rather than the “pull” of a traditional sestina, in which we know where we will end up, we just don’t know how we are going to get there. The irony of Farrell’s adaptation of the sestina is that the opening up of the end words to variation does not alter the form’s overall effect. We still know where we are going to end up: right back at the beginning.

Good Fortune

Suddenly I was a banker with a magnificent desk

Yet it seemed that after years of success and luck

Everything I’d worked for was about to disappear

Due to mismanagement or fraud or the economy

Thanks to good fortune however, it turned around

And I kept the desk with its four kangaroo legs


Suddenly I was a farmer with a magnificent flock

Yet it seemed that the good seasons and high yields

Everything I’d taken for granted had now collapsed

Due to climate change or bureaucratic guidelines

Thanks to good fortune though, I was able to sell it

And it became a sanctuary for sheep with wooden legs


Suddenly I was a toymaker with a magnificent factory

Yet it seemed after years of innovation and record sales

Everything had become unpopular and old-fashioned

Due to multinational pressure or the cheapness of plastic

Thanks to good fortune or rep, I got a new commission

And became a maker of robots with weaponised legs


Suddenly I was a priest with a magnificent window

Yet it seemed that the amount of joy and worshippers

Everything that seemed right in the world, was dwindling

Due to scandals and competing with Twitter and Satan

Thanks to good fortune or God’s grace, or Coca-Cola

And the thirst for promotion, I became a Coke on legs


Suddenly I was a porn star with a magnificent action

Yet it seemed that the decades of sex and recognition

Everything that’d once been a stud’s due, was over

Due to ageing or cams and the rise of amateurism

Thanks to good fortune or surgery I literally became

A donkey and could do so much more with four legs


Suddenly I was a kangaroo with a magnificent head

Yet it seemed that after years of a cushioned existence

Everything in the building including me was obsolete

Due to mismanagement or asbestos or the economy

Thanks to good fortune I was reprieved (and relieved)

And went to the home of a creature with two legs


Suddenly no-one believed in magnificence any more

Yet everything that once had legs was due to return

Thanks to good fortune and the decline of the circle

November 01, 2023

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August 24, 2023

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July 15, 2023

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June 19, 2023

June 14, 2023

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May 17, 2023

May 03, 2023

April 27, 2023

April 23, 2023

April 12, 2023

March 29, 2023

March 15, 2023

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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