Greg McLaren

Greg McLaren is a poet, critic, editor and amateur risotto genius who lives in Sydney. His books are Everything falls in, Darkness disguised and The Kurri Kurri Book of the Dead.




After Basho


Kek kek kek kek kek

startled on the edge of a deep sleep

by panicked plovers.


The commerce student

looks up from his PS2

at the crescent-moon. 


Enraged by poetry,

I circumambulate my flat

like Frank Webb in CallanPark.


The raven vanishes

into the under-storey of brush

across the Hawkesbury.


Walking around Petersham

under the full moon –

what? it’s dawn already?


In the thunderstorm,

mid-arvo, currawongs gossip

between the lightning.


Horse and cattle bones

in the overgrown paddock –

the grass and cutting wind.


I walked for miles

and when I stopped,

red frangipani blossoms.


Hugging my knees,

squat on the ground, grieving

for my friend the priest.


The raven on the wire

all day in Petersham,

pining for Petersham.




Chinese poems After Han Shan

(from Burton Watson, 100 Poems by the T’ang poet)




A bedsit is home for this country boy:

cabs and buses rarely drop off passengers:

the street-side trees so still that crows roost here,

the gutter full of cigarette butts and frangers.


I go chocolate shopping on my own,

smoke joints in the park with my girlfriend.

And in this little flat? Books piled high

on my bedside table with the Chinese landscape print.





Fark! Bookshop wages and a constant cough,

stuck alone without friends or family.

There’re hardly any potatoes for the pot

and I boil dust in the Coles brand kettle.


Cracked tiles in the roof drip tumours of rain,

my bed sags in the middle – I can’t sleep.

And you’re surprised I’m so thin?

A mess like this would send anyone spare.





I slaved my arse off over Joyce,

poring stupidly over Finnegan’s Wake.

I’ll be checking bookshop stock figures til I’m 80 –

a mong scribbling away at invoices and returns.


When I ask the I Ching, it says, Look out

my life’s dictated by bad horoscopes.

If only I was like the river red gums,

a pale shade of green even in drought.





I was born more than forty years ago.

Ten thousand or more miles, I’ve been driven,

alongside rivers thick with willows,

across the reddened border of South Australia.


I drank Jim Beam in hope of acceptance,

read the poets, and Manning Clark’s History.

But now, I’m back here in Kurri, head

on an old pillow, fouling my ears with home.





Last year, when I was so poor,

I counted money for cretinous brothers.

So I decided to work for myself

digging out crystals or something.


A smiling foreign critic wrote to me

and wanted to laud me in his Review.

I offered him only what I could,

Mate, you couldn’t afford poems like these.