Monday, March 28, 2011

Extra Vehicular -29/03/2011


late hour bike ride
through a quietly satisfied mind

quiet as I get
mindful as I am
satisfied as the shrug
that got me going
and that is gentle's going rate
'round here

keep coming back to myself
to keep coming back to this
that's why they call us

these circles I ride
run rings around
everything I got
there is more of me
than any turn
in my room or a mirror
or a mouth
could describe

this D-lock heart
eyes flashing my torchlight
my legwork like the cable stretch
like fenders rattling out my breath
it's high-time watermark of sweat
across my eyeline

two wheels length
into an asphalt carpet ride
atop waves of green light
daydream by night
pedals are turning into earphones
you use to listen in on
those moments

too much too fast to share
too near to get a good angle on
too perfect to be held for long

in these awkward handle-barred hands.




Monday, March 21, 2011

Morning Period -21/03/2011


wreckage in pyjamas

throned on stubble
and early afternoon funk
clocked unmoving
crumbed dusty skin flakes
lint spills
over a coffee cup ring pattern
echoing a half eaten bowl
music looped over finality

repeated play
of the first unshared morning
into the next
and the next

a closed door
man behind the curtain
unshowered cereal scooping soggy spoonfuls
of wall shadow
into an empty mouth
lump sum swallowing things to say
sunken stares at blinking cursors
facing glare

their photos looking back
ones they both took
but that only he

will bother keeping




Saturday, March 19, 2011

This Place (Cape Reinga) -20/03/2011


The End.

Not a final destination
or the last day on your journey
but one of its definitive edges.

Northern most point
of New Zealand
as far as you go
before ocean
collides with sea
Maori believe this is the point
from where souls depart
to their ancestral homeland

it’s blue until the Earth turns away
behind you
cliffs are running back in all directions
leaving you
calm and alone

Peace is here
in it’s extreme
empty until deadly
like a desert
that makes you want for nothing
except stopping
or mountains that moved
moved you so far back into yourself
you had nothing left
for a return
for the outsiders world

Never been here before
but this place knows you too well
not a place you can stay
no welcomes
or unwelcome
coast that simply doesn’t care
about any wound up
mortal coiling
of your learning curves

This place takes from you
wandering lusts
all your inadequate things to say
filling up with silence
like you really want to listen
like the respect you’d show at a funeral

This isn’t about dying
but this monumental place
growing so big inside you
that the departure
strips you down like death
it depths in your distances
you don’t dare ignore

Whatever happens after
will inevitably
have to be fresh

wherever you go
from here on
has to be

A new beginning.




Thursday, March 17, 2011

BREASTS (Live video with Freaky Meat at The Tool Room, Auckland) -24/02/2011


The infamous mammoglandular frantic rant of a poem performed as the last piece of my second set at the Tool Room, with Freaky Meat. I'm pretty happy with my performance here and the building response from the crowd as it goes on. Following on from the last video clip, there's a lot of unusual camera work here, some of it quite effective.

After my antics, Shane takes centre-stage with the lads as they go on to perform One Eyed Jackson~ a truly not true story, followed a tale of pub-revolt in Westport, a truly true story. Surely.

check them out more-so at:

If you're having trouble viewing the above clip, click on this direct link to YouTube below:




Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kia Ora Koutou Aotearoa (Thank you New Zealand) -16/03/2011


Ok, I know this is stupidly long. The problem composing letters like this is you will inevitably forget somebody, maybe a few bodies. I’ve tried not to, but assuming I screw up and do forget (you), let me start by backing up a little and say one or two general things about New Zealand and the people there:

The friendliness, hospitality and generosity of New Zealanders is such that for the 59 days of this trip, I only spent 4 nights in paid-for accommodation, many times staying with people who had never even met me before.

One time, I got lost in Wellington and when I asked a man for directions, instead of simply explaining my error, he offered to drive me where I needed to get to. That’s the type of generosity that just leaves you feeling both humbled and kind of ashamed too, in a strange way.

So: Thank you Miriam Barr and Renee Liang for trying to introduce me to other poets around Auckland and the rest of New Zealand. It was you two who really got the ball rolling for me, and I could really see the effort you put into putting me in touch with the right folks, which made everything else possible.

Annora Gallop, thank you for inviting me along to the Opononi reading, and your gracious hospitality such a welcoming and friendly bunch in such an idyllic setting, and incidentally, in going North there you gave me the excuse I needed to go all the way to the top, which I may not have done otherwise.

Christian Jensen, thanks for the Auckland poetry live gig and the pre-show slot at the Fringe Festival, for inviting me into your home and giving me my first chance to actually meet all these facebook-friended New Zealand poets I’d been chatting to for months.

Thanks also to Michael Botur for your great photos from that gig, and your kind words, it was a pleasure to share the same stage as your anthropological self.

Thanks to Mike Rudd for likewise inviting me into your home, and rescuing me from my Metropolitan squalor, for spending time listening to my belly ache and swapping all those war stories with me, but most importantly for bringing me back down to Earth when I lost sight of the common ground we share.

Thanks to Ciaran Fox for putting me up on stage at Catalyst in Christchurch. As I’m writing this it’s early March and still difficult to mention this poetry reading without talking around the subsequent earthquake. Tragedy brings on the tendency in us to romanticise and overlook petty complaints or problems, so it might sound suspiciously insincere to say (now) this was my overall favourite gig, from the enthusiasm in how Catalyst promoted it online, to the turnout on the night, to the quality and variety of the open stage, to the immense and palpable –welcome- I got from Doc, Ciaran, Tril Lion and everyone there.

The vibe of that place just felt lovely, it truly was a privilege to be there. Maybe it’s wrong to say this but –it was definitely on my mind when making the decision to donate to help the people of this city.

A McHuge size thank you to Jane Dixon of the Mussel Inn, for taking the chance of putting a sweaty, dishevelled and unknown interloper up on your nationally-renown stage for a night.

As a result of this gig, something deep has permanently shifted inside me that night as far as confidence and ambition for my work, and the feeling that I can and should take it beyond conventional poetry circles.

Though not to slight those poetry circles, and certainly not ones such as Poetic justice in Wanaka, where Liz Breslin and Laura Williamson put me on for their Rage Against The Valentine, anti-valentine reading.

Of all the readings, this was one where I was given an assignment for, and therefore got very excited about doing. The night was a laugh from start to finish, and probably goes down as my favourite open mike section, to the point I decided to poach a few people’s poems for my next covers gig.

Laurice Glibert, thank you for featuring me at 2011 first NZ Poetry Society meeting, I freely admit I was really floored by the name and expected some arch-conservative literary horror show. Boy was I wrong! Laurice’ own poem about ogling a young waiter steamed the room in a way I won’t soon forget, and the Q&A session afterwards with the other poets was a really nice touch, such a fun night.

Greg Brimblecombe of the Thames Poets Circle was an absolute champ in looking after me, and I had the easiest time in organising a gig with you, yes it was a quiet, but because of that intimate, evening, where barriers between audience and performer truly vanished, which was really cool. Thanks for letting me stay at your place too Greg, and peruse your DVD and amazing book collections. Silly of me not to make more time so I could explore the Coromandel area, but oh well, that’s what next time is for.

Shane Hollands and the other Freaky Meat lads. What a great night we had there in Titarangi, I think our styles married together really well and I have to say of the music-poetry crossover/collaborations I’ve seen (including mine) Freaky Meats has to have been the best, and I’m so glad we’ve got the footage now to prove it. Shane, I feel you and I are really kindred spirits in a lot of ways and thanks so much for not just squeezing me in, but really making me feel welcome and part of the evening.

Now of this stupidly long list there are two individuals I wanted to give special praise to (apropos, one’s a North Islander, the other South) Gus Simonovic and Mary McGill respectively.

These were people who went out of their way (like, Melbourne to NZ via Alaska out of their way) to help make things happen, who not only delivered on what I asked, but did extra, who showed interest in the work and an ability to get it out there in front of enthusiastic crowds, and were just so damn nice about it too, never making me feel like I was imposing. Gus and Mary, simply speaking, you guys rock, and I can’t say enough about how I respect what you each are doing with your art, and admire your energy.

Gus said to me several times that if there were a few people like me in NZ, the whole poetry scene would be revolutionised. Gus, you got it all backwards mate, we need more people like you over there, certainly not me.

At times on stage New Zealand brought out the best in me, and off stage it brought out the worst in me. I had a lot of hopes and expectations of myself on this trip, got high on my own histrionics at times and inadvertently caused offence where none was intended For better and worse, my art comes from places of deep but shifting unrest, dissatisfaction and hunger within myself. For as long as I’ve written and performed, I’ve retained an irreverent attitude to poets, poetry and poetry gigs, and a sensibility for not taking oneself too seriously –and taking less seriously than that, anyone else who does. This is neither apology nor excuse, as I’ve already provided those.

Beyond the koha for Christchurch or however my rants on stage effected people, it’s my wish to leave behind something more. I’m not the first or hopefully the last Australian poet to visit New Zealand (on business), the way was paved for me by many others. However, there certainly was no prescribed way of doing this, no tour circuit as such, and I had to put in a lot of hard work, networking to find poetry, performance gigs and open stages spaces across the country, and now that I have that information I’d really to use it to help others.

So if anyone, either side of the Tasman, would like information or advice about where and how to get around the different parts of New Zealand I’d be happy to share it.

For the few cold shoulders I caught, on the chin, there were plenty others who are open and appreciative of visitors, and in audiences across both islands of the country, overwhelmingly I felt welcome and accepted. Several times I was asked if I’d ever consider moving to New Zealand. My answers each time got less and less clear and required more thought. There was one distinct occasion where I was thrown off completely –temporarily forgetting that I live somewhere else, not this country with a population smaller than that of Melbourne.

I’ve gotten better at travelling light, it’s necessary with all that movement you do touring, packing and unpacking and sooner or later you’ll end up leaving something behind. I wanted to take home the burnt coal air smell of the west coast town I was born in, the taste of L&P, Bluebird Chips, or Speights (though I have found a bottle-o that has Macs beer here!)

What I left behind deliberately was 40 odd copies of my CD, hundreds of lot of smiling faces, and dozens of invitations to come visit me in Melbourne, what I’ve brought back with me is lots of good will from the places I’ve visited and shared my creativity with others.

My experience of New Zealand was broad, rich, exciting, challenging and ultimately fulfilling. There are many more poems I have to finish/edit about my experiences there and still other yet that only exist as seeds in my mind. I look forward to growing them out and sharing them with you, as New Zealand has shared itself with me, and helped me grow.

Thank you poets, artists and friends in New Zealand. See you again some day!


-Randall $tephens

March 16th 2011


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hold, still -14/03/2011


I will hold you outside your comfort zone

against all that squirming struggle
your fearful convulsing
protest cum panic
bad because the brightness of the light
big here above the undergrowth
scared for length of the shadows
weirded-out by the loud noises
the wind howling
at our lack of balance

drag you there
against volition
because listen
I need you
need you to see with me
over this edge
where there’s a ledge
where life is living itself
outside it's own skin
more abundant

I will hold you outside your comfort zone
being your un-safety harness
and your trust
will have to come rough
I have to keep forcing you
to stand on
and look down over
edging across exposed jagged face
of the wall
dangling triumphantly high
way up high in these stakes
from which we might fall

outside the marginal safety
colours here smack of discomfort zone
blood noses
gotten to get deep red into the roses
and mornings in hues of blue
spent with heads that ache
of heart slices
pink scars across starting lines
chalked out false in sweat-rash acts
black outs acted out
wrong turn words of hurt

I will hold you outside your comfort zone
where we can’t retrace ways
going back to our worst days
selfish or self-less messes
we got through
came good
and I left messages
correct in white out fluid
running right down your mirror
so I could reflect on the risk
when saying
out beyond bodily strain

I love you

leave those words stained
across my many names
altering the rules of our silly games
playing at hearts untamed
knowing now
there's no going back to the same-same

I've had to push you
now I have to hold you
outside of your comfort zone

but here I'll hold you
and will hold you
hold you safe

and I won’t let you go.




Saturday, March 12, 2011

Holes -13/03/2011


I came through you

ten fingers but under-towed
came back to sure
shaking out my back arch
chewing on my own jaw
sweating out my tear track
into the groove of a scar

came through
with that crooked line
tried burning you out my blood
for the leech you've been
angry mouthing out your holes into me
where I'd never had them
before sucking out excuses
and spitting out my inside
like mad

I had
to pull at these wounds
while you still covered my skin
had to salt the bloated feeds
off me
bleed myself free
from you

in a grimace
like a four year old's scraped bloody knees
on concrete
lips trembling back tears to give
they're mine and you can't have 'em
posturing like I'm straight-tall
to get over you

must remain
move on now
just sad


than all my best threats spent
and only dark spaces left
as I look up to the night sky

your holes
I fell into
but I have come through
and got back here





Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Live at The Tool Room, Auckland (Video) -24/02/2011


Above is a video of my first set supporting Shane Hollands' band Freaky Meat at a gig in Auckland on Thursday 24th February, at a groovy little bar called the Tool Room.

I'm still getting the hang of video-embedding, so if you're having trouble seeing the video full frame, here's a link to the original on YouTube:

1) Man Alive
2) Buddy Wakefield's "Convenience Stores"
3) Except For Architecture in Helsinki

The camera here is really dynamic, I just love it, though it was really distracting at the time (watch me actually shoo him away at one point and tell him off), the results are unlike anything I've seen before.

Thanks again Shane!

There's a big long-winded thank you letter in the works for the NZ tour which I will blog here shortly, I wanna get that just right first. Meanwhile, I'm off with a friend to go hide in the Blue Mountains for a week.

Anyway, hope you enjoy watching the video as much as I enjoyed performing alongside the band. Cheers