Online poetry workshops with Jackson — I’m calling for expressions of interest

If you’re interested in doing online poetry workshops with me, please express your interest. This will help me choose a time and decide what to focus on. It will take only 5 or 10 minutes, and your details will not be shared or used for marketing.

The workshops will include a little reading and discussion, a lot of writing, and some critiquing. Rather than focusing on a theme, I’m more inclined to delve into the craft of writing poetry so that everyone can grow their skills and apply them to writing about whatever they want. It’s also useful — and enjoyable — to look at a broad range of published poems to get inspiration for writing our own.

If the participants are mostly fairly new to poetry, we will focus on technical skills such as diction (choice of words), line break, punctuation, assonance, rhyme, or rhythm. If people are more experienced the focus can be broader — for example, we might cover editing and critiquing techniques, expressing powerful emotions, or making poems memorable.

Personally, I hate workshops where the leader talks and talks! so I prefer to ask questions, get the participants to contribute their own knowledge, then fill in anything that was missed.

I always begin by setting some guidelines (most importantly, no “good/bad poem” judgments, no As or Ds!) and having everyone briefly introduce themselves. This helps frame a safe, equitable, creatively free space where everyone feels valued and included and no-one feels unduly pressured.

There will be a maximum of 10 participants. The cost will be $150 ($125 concession) for five one-and-a-half-hour Zoom sessions, one per week for five weeks.

If you’re interested, please let me know. Your details will not be shared or used for marketing. The workshops will not go ahead unless enough people express interest.

A typical online poetry workshop!

The socks surrender

Socks, after KonMari, sushi-rolled and set
in lines. I am a little girl again,
singing a pattern, stripes and blacks.
Like so many backs. Moslems crouched
in a crowded mosque. Buddhists prostrated
before a statue. Yogis curled
in child’s pose. I am

seventeen again. Bono raises
the white flag. On a Sunday,
Bloody Sunday. This is not
a rebel song. I was blind but now

a little girl again.
To the Divine. One
another. The young
Irish, their hope. 33

years ago. I was blind
singing a pattern.
I was blind
before a statue.

But now

KonMari is a Japanese-inspired method of decluttering and organising devised by Marie Kondo.

From A coat of ashes

“A coat of ashes” and “Poetry, Daoism, physics and systems theory: a poetics”. Jackson’s doctoral thesis is online.

Read my award-winning doctoral thesis A coat of ashes: A collection of poems, incorporating a metafictional narrative – and – Poetry, Daoism, physics and systems theory: a poetics: A set of critical essays
here or on Edith Cowan University’s research repository. The University repository also includes links to poems and other related items that have been published in journals.

A coat of ashes and Poetry, Daoism, physics and systems theory: a poetics

Books relevant to poetry Daoism physics systems theory
Just a few of the books


This thesis comprises a book-length creative work accompanied by a set of essays. It explores how poetry might bring together spiritual and scientific discourses, focusing primarily on philosophical Daoism (Taoism) and contemporary physics. Systems theory (the science of complex and self-organising systems) is a secondary focus of the creative work and is used metaphorically in theorising the writing process.

The creative work, “A coat of ashes”, is chiefly concerned with the nature of being. It asks, “What is?”, “What am I?” and, most urgently, “What matters?”. To engage with these questions, it opens a space in which voices expressing scientific and spiritual worldviews may be heard on equal terms. “A coat of ashes” contributes a substantial number of poems to the small corpus of Daoist-influenced poetry in English and adds to the larger corpus of poetry engaging with the sciences. The poems are offset by a metafictional narrative, “The Dream”, which may be read as an allegory of the writing journey and the struggle to combine discourses.

The four essays articulate the poetics of “A coat of ashes” by addressing its context, themes, influences, methodology and compositional processes. They contribute to both literary criticism and writing theory. Like the creative work, they focus on dialogues between rationalist or scientific discourses and subjective or spiritual ones.

The first essay, “An introduction”, discusses the thesis itself: its rationale, background, components, limitations and implications. The second, “Singing the quantum”, reviews scholarship discussing the influence of physics on poetry, then examines figurative representations of physics concepts in selected poems by Rebecca Elson, Cilla McQueen and Frederick Seidel. These poems illustrate how contemporary poetry can interpret scientific concepts in terms of subjective human concerns.

The third essay, “Let the song be bare”, discusses existing Daoist poetry criticism before considering Daoist influences in the poetry of Ursula K. Le Guin, Randolph Stow and Judith Wright. These non-Indigenous poets with a strong awareness of the sciences have, by adopting Daoist-inflected senses of the sacred, been able to articulate the tension engendered by their problematic relationships with colonised landscapes. Moreover, the changing aesthetic of Wright’s later poetry reflects a struggle between Daoist quietism and European lyric commentary.

The final essay, “Animating the ash”, reflects on the process of writing poetry, using examples from “A coat of ashes” to construct a theoretical synthesis based on Daoism, systems theory and contemporary poetics. It proposes a novel way to characterise the nature and emergence of the hard-to-define quality that makes a poem a poem. This essay also discusses some of the Daoist and scientific motifs that occur in the creative work.

As a whole, this project highlights the potential of both the sciences and the more ancient ways of knowing — when seen in each other’s light — to help us apprehend the world’s material and metaphysical nature and live harmoniously within it.

Read or download the thesis


What time is it?
My feet hurt.
I don’t have a typewriter.
I’ve been reading Beat poetry again, getting lost in it.
I have to make scones for Poetry Kitchen.
Power tools howl on both sides of the apartment.
Cars stumble down the street.
I am thinking this in the I am voice of Allen Ginsberg or Jack Micheline.
All those men.
Outside Simon works with the leafblower clearing up the leaves.
He makes a terrible noise at least once a week.
I wish I were him. His life looks simple. He does the grounds and the building.
I have to bake scones for Poetry Kitchen.
I have to do this. I have to do that.
I want to sit here writing poetry letting my mind think things as my pen records them.
I want to sit with the writing of Jack Micheline enjoying the rhythm of it.
I want to live on the streets like he did begging from village to village with my poems.
A man could do that and retain his dignity.
A man could do that.
A woman has more sense than to do that.
A woman makes a nest to come home to. Somewhere to keep her books.
Micheline can’t have had many books living like that.
I suppose he died happy or perhaps unhappy but we shall never know.
It was the 1960s. The 1950s.
In San Francisco. In New York.
It was a whole different time.
It was McCarthyism and now we have Tony Abbott.
He makes a terrible noise at least once a week.
To maintain my sanity do I have to maintain my apartness?
I don’t have a typewriter.
My feet rest on a synthetic persian carpet.
I bought it in Lifestyle Furniture for two hundred dollars.

From The emptied bridge

This poem was written in late 2013, not long after Abbott became the prime minister of Australia.