Nathan Curnow’s latest collection, The Ghost Poetry Project (Puncher & Wattmann), is based upon his stays at ten haunted sites around the country.  He has featured widely on ABC and with further assistance from the Australia Council is writing a new play based upon convict stories and escape myths.



Sails and Anvils


Travelling to Australia’s most ‘haunted’ house


Upon arrival I will be the working poet cocked

for inspiration, directing my hosts with a pen’s arrow

from the signs of my splitting headache.  Inside

the plane the cabin of my head is rocked by

turbulence.  Great sails and anvils are bright

arctic pages, the story of a doomed expedition. 

This is the lesson—do not stay with poets

the night before flying out, drinking ensues

and they just want to have sex or complain

about their rejections.  I left them moaning,

friends of mine, making love like friends,

bearing all but their vocabularies, competing

in wild noises.  Aren’t we all falling, our egos

packed with a plastic whistle to draw attention?

If the plane lands safely there is a rental car

waiting, some compartment I can crash in. 

Another brittle booth, certain to betray me

when the impact finally comes.  I am cranky

this morning, hurtling toward the chapter of

my decline.  But with a pen and a pose I go

to work as if spirited by questions of ‘soul’.

I just want to get off.  Go, get fucked. 

We are turning into cloud.





Love Note On Serviette


Inspired by an account of the ‘prisoner’ who in 1899 threw a love poem

weighted by a stone over the wall of the Fremantle Lunatic Asylum.


my own fond love
this portion find your path
I feel myself beyond myself
am able to choose this rock
to traffic these words
put your cold on me
gazing forever upward
throw me something
I love you I love you
lavender is making sense


notice the rocks
I have practiced this
promise me yourself
I found a secret passage
beneath the Peppercorn trees
it is forbidden by the Pope
instead he blessed me
with a hole in the wall
I have imagined
that you wave
much like you throw
throw me something
be my gracious garden
your voice climbs over
a lavender ladder
do you want to
hear me breathing
I am feeling myself
the stiff sin of a sinner
the Pope is always watching




The Frame Around Us  


Following my night in a ‘haunted’ hearse


again my weight on the edge of your bed,

words fall like empty shells, your ticking clock is

Pinocchio’s face, hands point to always speak the truth


my up-late brainteaser, I beg you to tell me

but your body is a ruthless mime, signalling all 

that you refuse to say, scared the words will turn to flesh  


a shrug of your shoulders, you are locked,

it is late, I am so tired of this coming and going,

one day I will tell you of this grand adventure, what it did


and did not achieve, these long road-trips,

a night in a hearse cocooned in my sleeping bag,

I saw shadows spill over the ceiling’s canvas, slide off


above my head, slowly at first, each one fell

the way I have become my poems, retreated to

my cluttered desk, I am disappointing to meet in person


stranded by language, designed for answers,

neat squares on a page of black, filling the boxes

with crude solutions, revising, we are grubby crosswords


down and across, the hands of your clock

trim away the night, as if time decides the rules

of the puzzle, keeps changing the frame around us 


just lie down, we are safe for now,

it takes more than courage and words, waiting

to tell you of all I have seen, tonight I will not budge



(These poems are published in The Ghost Poetry Project, Puncher and Wattmann, 2009)