Author photo by artist, Walter Bakowski

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Talking about Mario in the public bar of the All Nations Hotel


all talk

all muscle



in the know

in the dark

for real


my friend

your friend

Well I wouldn’t call him a friend friend.

He owes me

I owe him

Haven’t seen him since high school

Saw him two hours ago

I’ve never seen him with a woman

I’ve never seen him without a woman

Trust me, he’ll show

He’ll never show now

He’ll know that we’ve been talking about him.

On that, gentlemen, we agree.

Monday, July 4, 2011

ABC Radio National "Poetica" special on "Beneath Our Armour", 3pm 9 July

At 3pm, Saturday 9 July, ABC’s Radio National will broadcast a 35 minute “Poetica” special on Peter Bakowski’s volume of portrait poems, Beneath Our Armour”.

In the program Peter Bakowski speaks to Mike Ladd about the genesis of the poems and reads a selection of works. Poems read on the program will include:-

10 Rosebank Terrace, Lower Templestowe

Bernard and Monique

Portrait of the colour black

Portrait of blood

Sylvia Plath writing in her journal


Macau, City of Exiles

Adozindo Fernandes and his family

Portrait of Verna Tan

The program will be repeated at 3p.m. on Thursday, 14 July. The program may also be downloaded via the following link

Peter Bakowski was born in Melbourne in 1954 to Polish-German parents. His second book, In the Human Night, won the Victorian Premier's Award for Poetry. His sixth, and most recent collection is Beneath our Armour, a book of poems made up of portraits of real people such as Sylvia Plath and Diego Rivera, portraits of imaginary people, and of places and things, such as 'Portrait of blood' or 'Portrait of the colour black'. Part of the book was written while Bakowski was on writer's residencies in Macau and at Suzhou University in China.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Peter Bakowski Reads His Greatest Hits

Upstairs above the PAPERBACK Bookshop, 60 Bourke Street, Melbourne, in the Sarah Scout Gallery, at 6p.m. on Thursday 23 June, I'll be reading poems from 28 years of writing, from my last five poetry collections. Any requests please feel free to email me
Please feel free to invite any friends, work colleagues, students, those scared away from poetry at an earlier age.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Eulogy at sea

Earlier this year, Melbourne organization Lines To Time (, affiliated with Melbourne University, invited poets and musicians to compose a poem or song to present at funeral ceremonies for the poor or unknown deceased.
I volunteered. Thus on Tuesday 19 April 2011, I presented the following poem, "Eulogy at sea" as the ashes of ten poor or unknown deceased were cast from the deck of a donated sailing ship into Port Philip Bay.

When a tree

is felled,

there’s one tree less

for shelter, shade and birdsong.

Now that you’re dead

there’s a space

which I cannot fill

with who you were,

because not one of us

can be fully known.

You were born,

you were alive—

let us not forget

our sometimes amazement

at living—

to have lain in summer grass,


or with another,

looking up at the night sky,

trying to understand

galaxy after galaxy,

where each star will die.

Your body,

rendered into ashes,

can be held

in one cupped hand.

Marvel at this too

as the wind and sea

take you

away from

our mortal reach.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Views from my writing desk. No.1

When I lived in London in the 1980's I set myself the apprenticeship challenge of trying to write a poem every Monday, my day off, from my then job of working in a record exporting warehouse.
As my New Year's resolution for 2011 I've reset myself the challenge of trying to write a poem every Monday.
Happily, last month I wrote a four page autobiographical poem, which I'm saving up to enter in a worthwhile poetry competition and also a two and a half page portrait poem about a ficticious woman writer, after having recently read a biography of Enid Blyton.
This week I wrote a poem about a teenage girl with a semi-hoodlum boyfriend but 99% I'm going to delete the poem as the poem is too much, to my mind, "telling not showing". I'm a bit blue about the teenage girl poem not making the grade but I also like being ruthless. I remind myself that the more poems I write the more I can delete. Keep the cream I say. The bottom line is that if a poem fatigues you, seems a bit ho hum, goes over old ground, it's going to arguably be the same for the reader out there.
Be ruthless/hardcore with your own writing.
If in doubt, I encourage you to submit the undecided yay or nay poem to a magazine or three.
If all three lit magazines reject the poem, realize they are telling you that the poem is no go, a yawner, a slag heap of words that no-one needs or can use.
Currently I find myself reading only contemporary women fiction writers. I particularly find myself gravitating to their novels set during the Second World War. I remain particularly interested in the view through civilian eyes.
Reading has given me and continues to give me poems. My own creative focus remains on writing the character-driven portrait poem. To create a believable and intriguing character in a poem continues to challenge, occupy and direct my weekly writing day.
The character-driven poem allows the poet to reveal a voice, a personal history, perspectives and opinions different to their own. The character-driven poem allows a poet to get away from the I I I me me me poem. The character-driven poem encourages you to mine your imagination (theoretically inexhaustible) rather than mine your life experience (possibly over-mined).
Thus I've started on my next book of portrait poems which has a secret title. If I have a good 2011 writing-wise, I may finish writing the book of portrait poems by late 2012. Meanwhile when you are writing a poem, focus on that one poem in front of you. I understand this principle applies to world class professional tennis players. They focus on the one ball in front of them now and don't spend one speck of mental energy on future speculation, the next game.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Missing in action

Although she’s mopping the kitchen floor,
Ella is crying.

Words come out of her husband’s mouth.
Some variation of “Stop now, Ella.”
Ed’s a good man,
keeps his lawn trimmed,
stays away from liquor and the racetrack.

Neighbours bring meals.
Roast chicken, gumbo, lasagna.
Ella remembers her father saying,
“Food is love, the only way some folks can speak.”

Roland’s room.
Ella stands at its threshold,
looks again at the wall poster of Sly Stone
wearing a rainbow-coloured cap,
on stage at Woodstock,
once a hit-maker,
once a hero.

Evenings, after dinner,
sometimes Ed moves towards the record player,
then shakes his head,
knows Ella isn’t ready,
tells himself
that the quiet,
after an eight hour shift at the brewery,
is good.

Ella removes the candlestick holder
from the dining-room table,
to work further on her quilt,
the story of her sharecropper parents
told in panels,
told in thread and stitches,
their days of work and prayer
sewn into a field of cloth.

In the quilt
trees appear.
Trees in which
a girl could hide,
pretend she was a bird,
flying away from her home
of plank and tin,
flying away from the South,
following the moon-lit railway tracks
all the way to Chicago.

From his armchair,
Ed looks up from the book he’s reading.
He cannot see words
only Roland,
lying in mud,
flies crawling his face.

Ed closes his eyes
until the image leaves him.

There is Ella,
still at the dining-room table,
working on her quilt.

Ed watches the threaded needle
dive and resurface,
guided by his wife’s steady hand.