Nobody will ever really know why explorers like Burke & Wills sought to break new ground. The point is not to know these reasons however, nor to research the actual stories of said explorers properly. The point is these guys were groundbreaking and their names are now famous. We all seek to parallel explorer’s feats in whatever field we operate in. You me & we. We want to find the new ground & then live there. We want to pioneer. 

This is why I am pleased to announce here what is without doubt an Australian & worldwide first: a poetry blogging battle to the death.

These are the rules, proposed by the poet, playwright, flaneur, & sometimes-blogger, Nathan Curnow (& then carefully checked ny myself, of course):

The tally is of comments posted on our “Blog Battle” posts which remain up and open for three weeks (culminating in the Melb Four W launch). Thereby the competition shall be declared over and the winner annouced.

The poet who receives the most comments on their blog will bask in validation, knowing that it truly confirms their poetic worth, the relevance of their practice and their place in Australia’s literary canon (the variety of commenters will also be taken into account too (so you big fans out there can’t simply comment 100 times, Australian Idol like, to ensure your favourite wins)).

In turn, the loser must abandon their blog FOREVER. 

So, what can I say to make you support my blog & not Curnow’s? Well attacking others is always a good way to make yourself look better. I happen to know Curnow personally, so I think I have to now take this opportunity to reveal a few facts about him. Firstly, Nathan often claims to be related to New Zealand poets Allen Curnow & Wystan Curnow. Why does he do it? He thinks this will somehow open doors for him. He once said to me – in a private conversation he asked me never to repeat – ‘If just a handfull of people mistake my name for that of a famous Kiwi poet, & then buy my book about ghosts, the deceit will have been worth it’. Is this the type of artist you want out there blogging with impunity?

& furthermore, Nathan uses his literary ‘skills’ to get away with even more reprehensible acts. I have in my posession notorised documents proving Nathan does not give money to any recognised charities. None at all. I was at his house once & someone from OxFam came knocking. Nathan answered the door, & rattled off what could ony have been a pre-rehearsed story about all the charities he does support, & about how there had been a terrible car accident that had recently left his wife with two broken legs & many medical bills. The farce ended with Nathan giving the doorknocker the names & addresses of four unsuspecting friends, people he claimed were ‘sure to have lots of spare cash’. After closing the door Curnow lit a cigarette with a pre-polymer $50 (he has a desk drawer full of these & keeps them for such occassions) & laughed in an evil way. I just couldn’t laugh with him.

& finally, we shouldn’t let a vitriolic character assasination end without referring to the ‘poetry’. Is Curnow’s work popular, accessible? Nathan was at Booranga for a residency last year. During that time he wrote one new poem. (I believe it to be only one. Two weeks worth.) We had a workshop during this time, the type of thing where you bring along a new piece, read it, gain feedback etc. Nathan read his Booranga poem in due course. A young girl – possibly 16 or 17 – said after hearing the poem that she ‘didn’t understand any of it’. Her words struck a chord, because where at first I was thinking I was missing something in the poem, & that I should be looking for a deeper meaning, I now saw the the truth. There was no deep meaning in the poem. It was completely incomprehensible. 

& it’s not just the everyday folks that have problems with his work. Simon Patton reviewed Black Inc’s ‘Best Australian Poems 2008’ recently, & he spoke not too kindly of Curnow’s piece. I did think ‘Those Adamant Shapes’ was a fine poem indeed, & I also know Jaya Savige thinks so too, but after reading Patton’s comments I changed my position. I may be paraphrasing very liberally & maliciously, but I believe in this review he categorises Curnow’s style, his way with words, as a ‘veil of sameness’. So. Boring & incomprehensible. A winning combo?

But then what should the poet-blogger really be blogging about? I know for sure it is not the blatant mundane ephemera that Curnow holds up as a shining example of his talents, Thar. It’s just ludicrous. When I think of the best blog postings in the universe, my mind naturally drifts to such posts as blogging / ethers / anti-coterie / installment 1, or cool as a criteria, or the poetic masterpiece i’ll wait in the car. Just compare these things with Thar. Nuff said.

So, all you need to know is your comments matter. Just comment. You don’t have to say anything at all profound. Just let me know you’re out there. (By the way Nathan I think we should disallow the counting of anonymous comments. Fair?) Despite all I’ve written, this will possibly not be too easy. Curnow tends to succeed at things. He has published a book, won some grants, had a few plays produced… Whatever low things he has to do to get the comments, you can be sure he will do them. Only you can stop him. Comment!

Since Curnow posted a little bit before me there has been some time for the online community to have their say. Let’s finish up by looking at a bit of the breaking commentary:


 Marieke Hardy (literary semi-celebrity & noted semi-pioneer of the m-book): ‘I am following this contest. Derek Motion follows me on Twitter, & now that I know about the battle, I will most probably also follow him.’




 Tara Moss (author & snake afficianado): ‘The facebook dance-train is crap. I am not interested in such things. I hope Derek Motion dances on the ashes of Curnow’s blog.’



Kyle Sandilands (living epitome of ‘gaffe’): ‘Nathan Curnow has tuckshop lady arms.’




Kevin Rudd (PM): ‘I’d turn gay for Derek motion.’




(Ps. Comment!)