On the traumatic origins of Machiavelli’s The Prince

I have been watching Medici: Masters of Florence and The Borgias over the last fortnight, and remembering some of my knowledge of Renaissance history, which I have never formally studied. Both series take some liberties with history, but nonetheless present a fresh account of these remarkable times. Of all the figures of Italian Renaissance history... Continue Reading →

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The floating life within

In the 1980s or 1990s I wrote down on an index card, this observation from Robert Musil An essay is not the provisional  or incidental expression of a conviction that might on a more favorable occasion be elevated to the status of truth or that might just as easily be recognized as error ... an... Continue Reading →

The political ghosts of literature

I have been reading some fragments of Maurice Blanchot - The Madness of the Day, The Writing of Disaster, some of the essays assembled under the title of The Gaze of Orpheus - and trying to make sense of the discrepancies in his story, and how it has encountered my own. Certain phrases from Blanchot,... Continue Reading →

The slow death of my history

Over the last couple of months I have been reading history.  Simon Sebag Montefiore's The Romanovs: 1613-1918, Orlando Figes A People's Tragedy: the Russian Revolution 1891-1924, and Ian Kershaw's Rollercoaster: Europe 1950-2017. All of this reading has been valuable and fascinating to me. The intricate catastrophes of the Romanov dynasty, the myriad tragedies of the... Continue Reading →

Poem: South Ward

I have made many visits to mental health hospitals over the years, almost all of them in support of my mother who suffered for most of her adult life from severe mental illness. The experience of these institutions humbles the mind. It teaches us how each of us is a "preposterous hodgepodge, uniquely arranged" - in the words of the great Inga Clendinnen who knew the gulf between the experience of the well and the sick - "a more significant division in any society than class or gender or possibly even homelessness."

Poem: The monstrosity of power

Today I am posting a newly written poem, "The Monstrosity of Power".   The monstrosity of power Eyes make an abyss, and we swim in pain. The iron staff, tipped in blood, Discarded on Persian carpets, Extinguishes the last truth of this dynasty. The scrawled notes instructing murder In the margins of decrees, Urging the... Continue Reading →

Poem: Gould’s humming

One of the most mesmerising artworks that I know of is Glenn Gould’s 1981 recording of the Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg variations. Close to the end of his life, wracked by pain, madness and addictions, Gould crouches over his keyboard and enacts a magical reworking of this masterpiece. He plays the variations at half the pace... Continue Reading →

Poem(s): To my errant mind

The following poem, "To my errant mind," was originally published in my collection, After the Pills, which you may purchase here or here. To my errant mind Your dreams grow like a twisted gum. Years were lost When the market crippled you. This dusty room is the archive Of your failed state. Now you forget little things –... Continue Reading →

The meaning of a coup

Barely a week ago Australia was gripped in political drama - a clumsily organised coup was unseating a Prime Minister. News stations had rolling 24/7 coverage of panels of journalists talking to unfolding events. Breathlessly they read out texts from conspirators on-air, while claiming no part in the fiasco that has become Australian politics.  There... Continue Reading →

The Abyss and cultural rebirth

"It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure." Joseph Campbell "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you."... Continue Reading →

Poem: Faith

Faith Reading the early history of the Christians Fails me Standing alone in a Siberian church Saved from Communism Holding icons from 300 years ago Fails me The contrition of the mighty The passion of the fallen The tongues of the chosen ones All fail me Stoic Marcus. Zen Basho. Modern masters. These mark a... Continue Reading →

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