Damen O'Brien

Damen O'Brien is a Queensland poet. His poetry awards include the Moth Poetry Prize, the Newcastle Poetry Prize, the Peter Porter Poetry Prize (joint winner), the Val Vallis Award, the Café Writers Poetry Competition and the Magma Judge’s Prize. He has been a finalist in many others. Damen has published in journals including Southerly, Mascara, Verity La, Stylus Lit, Rabbit and Island. Damen’s first book of poetry, Animals With Human Voices, is available from Recent Work Press.

The Anatomy Lesson

The bucket of eyes blinks at us. We each choose a bauble, carbuncular, gimleted, unflowered irises, winter buds winking. We draw from the jelly bean jar, jewellery that watches us, observing observers, each to an orb. This is serious work, …

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Eddie Speaks

after Venom, the Movie (2018) I sometimes wonder if I made you up – imaginary friend who will say yes to all that should be no. I sometimes wonder if you sprung from my worst – the secret Id gnawing …

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This side of the water-line everything is beetles, on the other, the kingdoms of crabs, all else are sports, dead-end prototypes, and us. The startling dominance of it, the inevitable reordering to the type: un-shucked, re-burdened, the great evolutionary retreat …

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2022 Queensland Poetry Val Vallis Award Winners

Introducing the 2022 Queensland Poetry Val Vallis Prize winners.

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What is Wrong With the Date?

Go ask the white historians with their shrunken heads, grumbling in their dusty cabinets, or the great collective forgetting, go ask them, spinning in their moral outrage, go lay your hand on Endeavour’s wormy beams, that brought a freight of …

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What Animal Could You Beat in a Fight?

a Twitter Found Poem I’m glad you asked. It would have to be small. Maybe an insect. Not poisonous ones. Would I be wearing body armour? Or some kind of stiffened leather? Do I have the advantage of surprise or …

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Egon Kisch Takes The Dictation Test 1934

I do not speak the language which condemns him. My task is to speak the language of this door, the simple words of yes or no, you may enter here, you may not. Behind me Australia branches and the door …

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Help, I’ve fallen in a fatberg and I can’t get out. I have spelunked the greasy caverns of Johannesburg, I have scaled the dripping chasms under Tokyo, I have seen the tallows glowing under Texas, and now I’ve fallen in …

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2019 Val Vallis Poetry Award Winner

Damen O’Brien is the winner and the runner up to the 2019 Val Vallis Poetry Award, managed by our longtime partner, Queensland Poetry Festival.

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Every day a beetle has its bowl of grass. Every day a nip of mouse is pursed up in the articulated ribs of an Eastern Brown. For each breaking of a Heron’s fast: a nail of Perch headfirst gulleted and …

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Ice and Glass

You will be out of reach upon a wafer shelf of ice, crabbing through dreams with bent knees, while the ice snaps and smokes like a fragile simile. But this has not happened yet. You sit with me, sketching out …

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Logical Fallacies of Alien

generalisation Ripley’s first failure was one of generalisation: that one alien’s elemental viciousness could be ascribed to all. gambler’s fallacy that the late acid savagery of subsequent samples was similarly brutal proved nothing. Repeatedly. divine fallacy the Giger-counter leap at …

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What We Know About Her

the price of freedom is eternal vigilance – Thomas Jefferson What we know about her is what she gives us freely of her own will, one click wrap privacy policy at a time, swiping across the slate of her life. …

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The Land Becomes A Story I Can Tell

Walking home in the unsteady night fragrant with stars, we stepped through fig mush and the sand wrack of yesterday’s high tide, arguing with the beach and maybe we pierced noisily through someone’s story, webbed ragged in this Quondamooka country, …

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The sand hangs in a suspended glaze in Abu Dhabi: a silicon horizon, washing down the sky in glaring white. Moted in it, the falcons spiral on dune thermals and salt thermals, and circling higher, the 737s scrape north. The …

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The Trilobite’s eyes were chipped calcite marvels that had a million years of ocular dominance and then vanished in a blink. Before the plexus of nerves, there were first lapidary conjunctions of a thousand eyes, polished and re-faceted to new …

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