Tag Archives: shari kocher

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: two poems from Shari Kocher


from Gathering in the Underworld


Monday 13 April (Prompted by Sharon Olds’ ‘Making Love in Winter’, using the nouns: skin, blooms, transom, ovaries, questions; the verbs: is, flying, touch, burns, casts; and the adjectives: loose, dark, motionless – last noun is the title of the response poem)




At birth, the bird flew high and white

and motionless, the eye of the storm not yet

arrived but drawing nearer, the bird

loose in its orb of stillness branching

its wings in the hospital hallway between

the lights going out and the generator

roughly clanking the lights back on, in that

moment of cyclonic noise subsiding, the veil

your mother reached down to touch

between the legs they had raised in stirrups

slid warm, unbroken, and when

she, frightened, drew you to her, only a

makeshift curtain pulled partially

around the trolley on which they had

parked her, alone and shaved, one among

many, young, untaught, she felt

before she saw, like glistening gladwrap,

the bag you came in, and she held you in it,

horrified, in awe, believing in that moment before

the light flooded you with ultraviolet,

that you were gone from her, or dead, or worse,

a creature from another universe, which was

partly true and partly all she could feel through

in that overrun, clamorous place, but then you

reached your curled fist palm-upwards,

and kicked to break that sticky breach of trust

and rushed her skin, which bloomed

beneath you, and in that transom,

your tiny ovaries quickened like stardust

and she saw in your unblinking eyes

not the surprise of the unseen bird

like a torn sail above her, but something pass

wingshadowed through your widened

pupils, and she pitied the mewl you made

and brought herself to love you.



Monday 20 April: Prompt: What repels me? Working from a list of things you dislike intensely – the question of beauty propelled by repulsion inevitably confronts the abject.


Have you got your Action plan ready?

Mould on the windows, all the cooking books

smoked in grease and arsenic. Spores

on Jamie Oliver. Dust so thick it lives

to garnish spaghetti spliced with stink

bugs suppurating the porous ground.

Where once a kind of onion grew, indelible

Rorschach blots bubble through the possum wee

cooking pot, whole towns drowned in porridge

or was it asparagus, for lack of a word?

Maggots at work among the tulips,

like actors planting light bulbs under

centrelink office desks flashing on and off

up-side-down. Nothing weird

about the underworld in Australia.

Give me a worm with a moustache any day,

or a shrieking bat drunk on Tequila.

Ah, do not go gently, my foul

friend, the good old days when vampires

chilled out with retro cooking shows

and grinned friskily at the rule

against garlic in Hades. Renovations

the Addams family could be proud of.

No queues at Sgninnub in Hades, the

sausage sizzle still available with all

the extras, don’t ask questions,

blinking strictly prohibited though

you can shake whatever comes to hand.

Handles, however, are in short supply.

Tomato sauce, sulphur and sinew completely

out of stock. When registering for real estate

in Hades, have your password ready

and your myVogID portal set up

to activate your deathrate with the

myVogAp to track your whereabouts.

All viral carriers welcome, we want you to

socially include yourselves before we press

Incinerate. No, Ruby Princess, you stay

exactly where you are, you beautiful

infernal dream boat, all your working

slaves captured on camera in their glorious

two-by-two styrofoam cells, no Styx©

necessary, no coin discharged. Here’s a

plastic bag, easy enough, just hyper-

ventilate: we’ll take care of everything

at the Swiss hotel or at the marble gate.


Shari Kocher




Dr. Shari Kocher is a poet, creative writer, therapist and independent scholar whose work has been featured in literary journals in Australia and elsewhere spanning twenty-five years. These include Australian Poetry Journal, Best Australian Poems 2013 & 2016, Blue Dog, Cordite, Going Down Swinging, Meanjin, Plumwood Mountain Journal, Southerly, Overland, and Westerly, among others. She is the author of The Non-Sequitur of Snow (Puncher & Wattmann 2015) which was Highly Commended in the 2015 Anne Elder Awards (Australia). Recent awards include The Peter Steele Poetry Prize (2020), The Venie Holmgren Environmental Poetry Award (2018), The University of Canberra Health Poetry Prize (2016) and second, third and shortlisted placements in the prestigious Newcastle Poetry Prize (2017, 2015, 2020). Her forthcoming books Foxstruck and Other Collisions (Puncher & Wattmann 2020) and Sonqoqui: a verse novel in translation (El Taller Blanco Ediciones) are due out soon. Kocher holds MA and Doctorate degrees from Melbourne University, where she sometimes works as a sessional teaching associate and postgraduate supervisor in the School of Culture and Communications.


Paula: Shari Kocher and Joan Fleming have occasionally followed daily poetry prompts as part of a Madrid writers’ group that was doing ‘a poem a day’ for Poetry Month. It inspired me to gather together some local poetry prompts that I will post on Wednesday May 13th.













Shari Kocher’s The Non-Sequitur of Snow – This book is a little gem



Shari Kocher The Non-Sequitur of Snow  Puncher and Wattmann (Sydney) 2015


So then let the Mountain be.

Let the hush of apples and ladders be as they are.

Let the shoes empty that enter the traffic

and release from its flow

the hush of the halo. Let the hush be

a halo. Let there be mourning any time of day.


from ‘Snowmelt’


This book is a little gem. It is perhaps the first Australian poetry collection I have reviewed on a blog devoted to NZ Books but the borders of my blog are porous.

Reading this book prompts diverse reader responses. You never know what effect the next poem will have upon you and I like that. Nonetheless, there are hinges that unify, that hold the collection in a single embrace.

First the initial impact. There is an over-riding sense of simplicity in the spareness on the page, the quietness of voice, the restraint, the vocal elegance. The effect promotes stillness, contemplation, slowness of reading. At this leisurely pace, there is an opportunity for an exquisite absorption of detail.

And then simplicity gives way to complexity, richness, relations, strangeness. Contemplation skews and slants as you shift between the real and the dream-like real. Flavoursome nouns salivate upon the tongue. Recollection is filtered through a surreal undertow. You fall upon the child, the lover, the family, the mother, the sister. Angels, apples, ladders, snow.


crowded in drawers or leaning

precariously by the sink

their metal mouths

pursed and shrinking

the way my mother shrank from us

as if each child that swelled inside her

gouged her out a little more


from ‘Spoons’



Complexity gives way to a poetry echo chamber where words and phrases are picked up from one poem to the next like little loose stitches and rendered in a slightly different pattern. Faint echos that feed into the book’s predilection to repeat. Some poems play with form and smudged repeating lines like offvillanelles. That repetition is comforting. Sometimes it is just a word such as ‘let’ that resonates like the drip of snow melt.

So many poems to love but I especially loved ‘A Letter to Dorthy Hewett’ where Shari pays tribute to the Australian poet she loved at the news of her death. She draws her into the space of her living and writing and talks. That talk drags me into the heart of poetry.

Here are the first and last stanzas:


I’d always imagined

I’d meet you one day

nothing spectacular

just two women

going along the path

in a parallel world …




stripping me bare

they shout aloud

in tongues that flare

the skin around my bones

bidding me, as Lazarus was bid,

to get up and go outside

to keep on loving, and to live.


You will have to track down this utterly gorgeous read and find the missing pieces. It is worth the hunt! After several decades of writing poems, Shari’s debut collection is one to celebrate.


Verge 15 — If all the issues have this vitality, and take you to a verge in such distinctive ways, it is worth a subscription



poetry is the mouthpiece of the unspeakable

Verge is a literary journal published by Monash University Publishing. The Press aims to bring ‘to the world publications which advance the best traditions of humane and enlightened thought.’

This issue is edited by two women with New Zealand links. Joan Fleming is a poet currently writing a doctorate on ethnopoetics at Monash University. Her second poetry collection, Failed Love Poems, has just been released by Victoria University Press. Anna Jaquiery is a Wellington based novelist. Pam Macmillan (UK) have published two of her crime novels. She is also completing a doctorate at Monash University in Creative Writing.

This issue contains poems and short fiction, and includes a number of writers with New Zealand connections (including Emma Barnes, Amy Brown, Lynn Davidson, Rosa McGregor, Lee Posna, Erin Scudder, Steven Toussaint, Sugar Magnolia Wilson).


Joan has written a terrific introduction that sent me down trails of sparking thought in view of my new project on NZ women’s poetry. She introduces the life-blood theme of the issue: errance (‘1. the act of travelling from one place to another without any clear destination 2. a wandering of the mind’).

Such a poetic prompt stands in for the way many writers work. Yes, there is a starting point but you then let go into uncertainty, discovery, uncertainty, electricity. Joan writes: ‘What we know and can’t know is a personal obsession of mine. I try and practice a mode of attuned, sensitive ignorance in my own poetry, as well as in my research.’ The word ‘can’t’ — a tiny hook as though taboo or impenetrable or withheld.

‘Errance’ also stood for the way I engaged with the issue as reader. In a sense (aural, visual), the work is afterness (Post Language) in that it steps out of Language Poetry. A thin, almost invisible guy rope. You enter into murkiness, the unfamiliar, difficulty, miniature theatrical stages, staged heart, aural agility, sumptuous image building, dissolution, elusive meaning, skerricks of story, smidgeons of character, semantic hinges. Aural chords. Visual melodies. Sharps and flats for ear and eye. What binds this collection of writing is an utterly infectious joy of language. A love of the word on the page — of the way this word electrifies that word. Or mutes. Or sidetracks.

I loved the metonymic kick between this word and that word, this presence and that absence, this gesture and that arrival.

Always poetic currency fermenting in the gaps.


Here are some of the poems I loved:

Cody-Rose Clevidence (I can’t reproduce the title correctly as the first word is crossed out) but the poem is from ‘Flung Throne.’ The looping, loping syntax brings you back to the word, then steers you to a pulsing visual tapestry. Hairs raising on the back of my arm as I read this.

Lee Posna ‘Job’s Clouds’ The poem takes ‘cloud’ as its poetic core and then surprises you at every twist and turn. The last line catches you, utterly.

Steven Toussaint from ‘Aevum Measures’ Reading this for me is a Zen-like experience where I get drawn into the moment of a line ( a word, a phrase) and everything stalls. The language — resplendent for the eye, divine notes for the ear. Poetry then becomes transcendental. Uplifting. Leads you elsewhere. Beyond this, for me, the surprising metonymic glints are a vital feature.

Cy Mathews ‘Old Song’ This is like a road poem, a skinny road poem (part fable)  spining down the page where nothing much happens, like that view that is always the same, never shifting, until you spend time and learn to look and there you are nestled in its alluring grip and difference.

Shari Kocher ‘Errancy: A Primer, after Emily Dickinson’ Poems split in two halves with an empty backbone that makes reading variable. You move through honeyed melody and crackling connections. Over that split between left and right. Up down. I acquired a compendium of phrases I want to keep with me for awhile.


Reading this issue it felt as though there is something in the air we are breathing. A poetry mist/spray that gets into our lungs. Motifs echo. Poetry here invites a different way of reading, yet never lets go of eye and ear. And still, in the very best examples, you meet that drumming heart. In the white space, the cracks, the cloudy patches, in the inbetween.

If all the issues have this vitality, and take you to a verge in such distinctive ways, it is worth a subscription. Bravo!