Poetry | Judith Wright Poetry Prize 2021 winner, are you ready poem

1911 / governor of istanbul orders stray dogs to be rounded up and exiled to the island of sivriada / hunger and thirst / they eat one another / 80,000 dogs perish / some drown at sea trying to escape / a severe earthquake follows / a punishment from god / the island is now aka hayırsızada / the inauspicious island1 / 2022 / now the accountant tells me hes reading moby dick / tells me i should try to increase my income this year / tells me it hasnt quite grabbed him yet but his son loves it / tells me at this stage a bank wouldnt give us a loan to buy a house in / say / reservoir / my father tells me to become a teacher / on smith street i bump into a friend / 31 / a photographer / works at coles / rainbow lanyard / hes trying to become a firefighter now so that he can become an artist / four days on four days off / 80k and 9weeks holiday / time to read on the clock and play ping pong / sounds good to me sounds too good to me / why dont we become poets to become poets / why dont we show the way / my father tells me to become a teacher / my friend the late great poet was penniless at 40 / told me she shouldve done law like kafka and written on the side / died with a million under her pillow at 69 after quitting poems for a while and giving her body to the institution / left everything to a rich friend / he gave up art at 22 / my father tells me to become a teacher / for the second time and the first time in ten years i have a job with annual leave / christmas and new year we go away / i check my payslip and its not there / i tense up / rear up / email payroll / who are lovely / check your payslips / my partner and our friend and i drive to a place called gobarup to look at a property / 100k for 20 hectares / maybe the cheapest land in the state / feels auspicious / a trust for nature covenant / ants everywhere / they come up at you / you cant stand still / the owner suggests we build a wooden platform 8feet high with moats around the uprights to enjoy calm and the nice breeze above the shrubbery / he loves it / his friends wont come here / his wife stays at the gate / he used to work in a bookshop like me / retrained / hasnt gotten around to constructing this platform but it would unlock some potential / a labour of love / bought it from his uncle whod tried to clear it and farm it but the bush is real and the soils hydrophobic / he wants to pass it into good hands / afterwards at the local pub / horses racing on tv / we buy a round / only a few regulars glancing at us / one of them puffs up and charges at me / nose to nose / reckons i might work in the sex industry / points to my tshirt / planet x noosa heads / wants to fuck someone or someone up / i know what to do / ive seen this before / my body tightens / i try look him in the eye but no good / one goes one way and the other goes another / he sits back down / i want to talk to him now / my father tells me to become a teacher / in the car later my friend / 35 / who is seated behind me / likes that the land is so punk and that split 6ways we could get it for 15k each / which we dont have yet / tells me that after her phd she might have to stop making art in order to afford to live / but how do we live if we dont make art / can you farm ants / art everywhere / my grandpa dies / my father gives the imam money / the imam politely asks about our family / my dad says hesagoodboy but no direction / a writer / the imam says poets write the world into being / are remembered forever / my father considers this / wonders if im a poet / the technician gels my partners belly / our 3year old sits on my lap / sees her sibling 27.6mm long / 9weeks&4days in utero / heart172bpm / the technician says very good / i have six months until writing will have to take a bigger backseat / we will have to get a bigger car instead of an art ant colony / maybe the imams should run australia / maybe we could become imams / just for one day / maybe the imams could become artists / my father really wants me to get a steady wage / my mum is less prescriptive / my mum backs me / you say of course she does / i dont want to beg / maybe we could do this together / reader / are you ready / we can be workers together / why should art and writing be solo / lets start an artists and writers league / seize our own means / pool all money / guarantee an income and a place to live / no more platforms / we be the ants now / no more sole trading freelancing grants prizes tenders agents gallerists commercial jobs casual jobs side jobs shit jobs steven jobs / watch the ants / work in league / a common project / get capitalism out of our bones / refuse / this world is a kind of woeful organised stealing / can we make an alternative / dream the world anew / start with our own material conditions / lead by this example / make something dangerous / an artists and writers league / something beyond an ethical art / a radical art / which is radical life / black mountain and co-ops and unions and aris and zines and a koala logo / art as the risk of creating the new / a public will support us / if we support one another / if we can ban plastic bags and cfcs / we can abandon abns and phds / it would be thrilling / when the average artist earns ____ / when housing costs ____ / why not / how to make a dignified life / lets pool money so we all get wet / into the sea like stray dogs


1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sivriada


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Ender Başkan

Ender Başkan lives and works in Narrm/Melbourne, Australia. He is a poet, bookseller and co-founder of Vre Books press. His book A Portrait of Alice as a Young Man was published in 2019. He is the winner of the 2021 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize.

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