The Stars Like Sand

Highly Commended, 2015 ACT Writing and Publishing Awards, Best Poetry Book. 

Following up on our award-winning Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, IP has released an anthology of even wider scope showcasing the best in Australian speculative poetry from early times to the present.

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Highly Commended, 2015 ACT Writing and Publishing Awards, Best Poetry Book. 

Following up on our award-winning Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, IP has released an anthology of even wider scope showcasing the best in Australian speculative poetry from early times to the present.

Co-edited by renowned editors Tim Jones and P.S. Cottier, it features a virtual Who’s Who of Australian poets including Judith Beveridge, Les Murray, Paul Hetherington, John Tranter, Diane Fahey, joanne burns, Caroline Caddy, David P Reiter, Peter Boyle, Alan Gould, Luke Davies, S.K. Kelen, Peter Minter, Jan Owen, Dorothy Porter, Philip Salom, Samuel Wagan Watson, Rod Usher, Jo Mills … and many more!

Travel to the stars and beyond in this anthology by Australia’s leading poets. Witness the end of the world, time travel to the future near or far, or teleport with a fairy or witch.

Ghosts, dreams and strange creatures breed and mingle in these pages.

Poetry has never been so mind-bending, or so entertaining.

P.S. Cottier

PS Cottier, aka P.S. Cottier, aka Penelope Susan Cottier, is a poet, writer, anthologist and book reviewer who lives in Canberra. She has a particular interest in speculative poetry, having co-edited The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry with Tim Jones (IP, 2014). A short collection of poems called Quick Bright Things: Poems of Fantasy and Myth was published by Ginninderra Press (2016), and her poetry has appeared in Canada, England, India, New Zealand and the United States, as well as in Australia. PS Cottier was awarded a PhD for a thesis on images of animals in Dickens by the Australian National University, and she also completed a law degree in Melbourne. She has worked as a tea-lady, union organiser, university tutor and lawyer, but now writes full time. She wrote a PhD on animals in the works of Charles Dickens at the Australian National University. Her books are Triptych Poets , The Cancellation of Clouds, A Quiet Day and Other Stories , and The Glass Violin . Monstrous is her fifth collection of poetry.


A vision from the future appears to the creature as he runs

Vacanti’s mouse

The nude mouse grows
a human ear on its back,
seeded with a herd of
cartilage cow cells.
Is the mouse still a mouse
carting this foreign flap
elephantine on its spine?
Does the person who
wears the cowmouseear
listen for the rampage
behind the rhubarb of chat?
If she chews gum,
does a rumen erupt
inside, like Ripley’s
puissant alien?
Monstrous the tales
for such an ear;
Monstrous the listening.
Every sound an echo of an echo
straining to hear a progenitor.


The belly of the gnome

Round not because of ale,
not because of bratwurst,
but with a growing egg.
Like platypus, like echidna,
all young gnomes hatch.
Dubious, concrete glee
must be maintained,
batch after hatted batch.
The layer is always a he.
His stomach splits like a smile;
egg drops onto merry boots.
Overnight, the wound will heal,
the youngster breaks the shell
with a handy tool – spade or rake.
Some ask the frogs they ride on
to kick the shell into submission.
Some tunnel out with pipes,
as they are born to tobacco,
or its cuter accoutrements.
Those who see the process
have never lived to tell,
but are found, clutching chests,
as if their hearts were gnomes,
also anxious to explore.
Convenient toadstools provide
solutions for the gnomes,
salves that cause hearts to flutter,
flutter, flop and stop.

I sip my wine so cautiously.
I know the gnomes will come.



Some may call them summer-spots, but they are not,
although they may manifest themselves when the sun
bakes us into compliance. Each freckle is a small drawing,
carefully inked while we doze, indicating what will grow,
eventually, and take wing. If our eyes were keen enough,
microscopically adept, we might decipher the tiny glyphs.
This one is Pegasus, but Pegasus with a shedding disease
rendering him far less than bird, just a disappointing pony.
He will clip-clop through predictable, grimy suburban dreams,
paddocks of misery dragging after him like a poxy peacock’s train.
That one, on that exposed shoulder, is a full Brexit of portraiture,
disastrous, yet achingly slow. The creature it represents
lurks in the future, almost recognisable as someone we once knew,
but different, different in the way a beer-glass distorts,
screaming like Munch’s bloke crossed with a fairground clown.
We will meet him, surely, in an alley, late one glassy Friday night.

Who does the inking? Some say it is an alien, armed,
or an octopus, clutching a tool in each convenient tentacle.
Personally, I believe that each spot is injected by a cockroach,
taking revenge for all the traps, all that kitchen-laid pain.
The freckles will birth themselves into air: tiny puppies,
whelped into the future, sucking on fear and disgust.
There is no escape from the skin-maps, pointing where they will.
Our noses detect the provenance, painting air a clutching brown.
Far from cute, further from lovely’s farthest shores,
our skin itches with a colony of a thousand pregnant clouds.

Tim Jones

Tim Jones is a poet and author of both science fiction and literary fiction who was awarded the New Zealand Society of Authors Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature in 2010. He lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Among his recent books are fantasy novel Anarya's Secret (RedBrick, 2007), short story collection Transported (Vintage, 2008), and poetry anthology Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand (Interactive Press, 2009), co-edited with Mark Pirie. Voyagers won the "Best Collected Work" category in the 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Awards.


Impertinent to Sailors

Curved over islands, the world
dragged me south in a talkative year

slipping Southampton
as the band played a distant farewell.

It was better than steerage,
that assisted passage: ten pound Poms

at sixpence the dozen, promenading
in sun frocks, gathering for quoits,

angling, in an understated way,
for a seat at the Captain’s table —

while I, a child, roamed decks, became
impertinent to sailors.

And the heat! My dear, there never were
such days — rum, romance,

the rudiments of ska. Panama beckoned,
locks pulsing like the birth canal.

We passed through, to be rocked
on the swells of the quiet ocean,

its long unshaded days
of trade winds, doldrums, Equator —

then a cold shore,
a bureaucratic harbour,

and the half of a world
it would take to say goodbye.

Now What?

A good question
here in the living room
at quarter to three.

All the others
are in bed.
They’re drawn in pairs

& yet again we’ve drawn the bye.

Have a coffee — Thanks.
What’s on the telly? Static.

A penny for your thoughts;
I’ve wrung the last
thin juices out of mine.

Have another orange, go on,
be a devil.

Stuff a chilli up your nose,
see a doctor, read a book,
save the world in fifteen minutes.
Put on your hat & coat & gloves

then take them off again.

Family Man

My double relishes his freedom to move
through narrative and time. You’ll find him

in the trunks of burned-out cars,
in the cat seat of history, riding pillion

as the motorcade fails to take the bend.
On the red carpet, just behind the stars,

he whispers poison in each lovely ear.
He’s the sine qua non, the ne plus ultra,

the hand chained to the plague ship’s tiller,
the indispensable figure of the fifth act.

But now he’s taken to hanging round the house,
not picking up, showing the boy amusing tricks

and games to play with string. I’m bored,
my double tells me, and:- how can you stand

to live this way? I look into his empty face.
You’re the one who chose to fall in love, I say.

Read more on Google Booksearch

ISBN : 9781922120786
ISBN: 9781922120786, 9781922120793
Page Length: 196





ePub, pdf

Customer Reviews

1-5 of 3 reviews

  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    P S Cottier and her New Zealand co-editor Tim Jones have assembled an ebullient landmark anthology that attempts to embrace a very broad church indeed. An impressive matrix of ‘big names’ in Australian poetry allows plenty of space nevertheless for the minor poets, who contribute some of the best pieces in the diffuse speculative genre. The poems surprise and delight, lending the anthology a broad appeal.

    – Judges’ Report, ACT Publishing Awards, 2015

    July 25, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    I can’t argue with this collection; there is a lot to like about it. The editors put out an open submission call for Australian spec poetry writers and mined Australian poetic luminaries for a semblance of the fantastical, reaching back to Banjo Patterson. What we get is a collection of highly readable poetry, although there are two aspects: the purely spec, and the literary with a dash of spec. The latter is always the stronger.

    For example, Boyle’s The Museum of Space (2004) is more about that big empty stuff that holds our lives than it is about the backdrop for rockets. However, we get this: “Why are water and sand always used to / measure time passing? They must then be the one substance— / what never gets dry, what never gets wet, the absolute embrace / that says, Wade into me.” For me, lines like that take my breath away.

    Oh, there’s plenty of pure, unambiguous spec work in here, make no mistake. As a collection of purely spec poetry, it’s like any good spec magazine, one that is having a particularly fine issue, full of poems that close the hatch, at least, even if they don’t take off. However, what makes this book sing are the poems that don’t even get on board Serenity.

    While I don’t love this collection, I do like it very much. I’m not sensitive enough to tell you what cultural issues mark out the Australian mind, but if you’re an American, I think you will sense a slight difference, and that by itself might be enough to entice you to buy it. All in all, if you’re reading Star*Line, you will like this book, and if you collect these things, then it should go on the respectable shelf, near Holding Your Eight Hands.

    —John Philip Johnson, Star*Line issue 37.4

    July 25, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    One of the most enterprising, unusual and rewarding anthologies of the last year is The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry, edited by New Zealand writer Tim Jones and Australian poet PS (Penelope) Cottier. The key word in the sub-title is defined with an appropriate generality: “the speculative is the area in which we attempt to write what we can’t possibly know”.
    The poets included range from the 19th century to the present, a much narrower temporal span than their poems, which travel millennia into the future and across galaxies. Bearing the latter point in mind, the editors note that theirs is a book “with a wide geography and an interesting fauna”. They continue: “Here be dragons, true, but also zombies (traditional and vegetarian), werewolves, swagmen, poets small enough to fit into pockets, aliens of various sorts, angels, people made mostly of spare parts, or preserved wholly in DNA, and intergalactic tradies.”
    Though the book covers so much territory (and given the list above, unsurprisingly has several poems set in museums and zoos), it is tightly and wittily organised into five thematic sections, each taking its name from a notable nineteenth-century poem. The first, dealing with “space travels and related pursuits”, is “We don’t know where he’s at” (from Banjo Paterson’s “Clancy of the Overflow”); the second, “Howsoe’er anomalous”, concerned with “aliens, weird creatures, surrealism and magic realism”, comes from a poem as strange as any that is to be found here: Barron Field’s “Kangaroo”. Next – with its title from Henry Lawson – is “On the Wallaby (temporal)”, whose subject is “time travel and visions of the end of the world”. It is followed by “The fifth part of the earth” (Field again): “Australia in various lights”. Last is “His ghost may be heard” (Paterson – in a version of Waltzing Matilda – and the ballad is here in its entirety too), whose business is “ghosts, fairies, myths and legends”.
    The collection opens with the controlled whimsy of “Tea and Stars” by the always engaging John Jenkins: “The mouse travelled to the stars/in a blue teacup”. John Dolce’s “Job for a Hyperdrive Mechanic” works with a wry matter-of-factness: “As I recall the ambient temperature/of the angular discharge tub/airlocked the anode rod”. David Adès’ travel to “The Three Moons of Tenoa” ends plangently: “how unimaginable a world/with placid seas, and no capacious moons/to sing serenades by”. Travel is also the affair of S.K. Kelen’s brilliant parody of a tourist brochure in “Flying Toasters”. This of Kursa in Beta Eridani: “booking accommodation well in advance is wise though entirely futile”. This first section also contains “The Last Planet Out” by David Reiter, who is also the publisher of the admirable risk-taking Interactive Press that we can thank for this book.
    As promised, aliens roam in Part Two. Diane Fahey’s “Silverfish” imagines the Thysaurans, while Benjamin Dodds’ “Others” muses of a possible arrival from so-called outer space and then decides “Perhaps they’ll simply pass us by/indifferent in sleek behemoths/on the way to a place less/parochial than here”. Emilie Zoey Baker presents “The Vegetarian Zombie – the undead salad beast” – while there is homage to a master of the weird, H.P. Lovecraft, in Jude Aquilina’s “Cthulhu Calls”. Jan Napier’s “Poets in Pockets” shows how “they shrill and argue/like an aggravation of lorikeets”, while there are poems by Philip Salom and Lisa Jacobson about Daedalus, the space traveller who flew too close to the sun. A number of the poems in The Stars Like Sand were invited. Much to the editors’ pleasure, one of those who accepted was Les Murray, whose superb poem “The Future” begins: “There is nothing about it. Much science fiction is set there/but it is not about it. Prophecy is not about it … Even the man we nailed to a tree for a lookout/said little about it”.
    In this splendid anthology, that entertains from start to finish, we find such colonial poets as J. Brunton Stephens in “The Courtship of the Future” (AD 2876) depicts a world where – even though people coupling have been “taught to draw the whole soul though/A foot of gutta-percha tubing”– sexual misconduct has not been eradicated. Tim Sinclair’s vision of the future in “Silent City” is quietly mournful: “There is no sunrise or sunset in the city,/just a uniform, sourceless glow”. In “The End of the World”, Lawson’s contemporary Victor Daley reveals a peevish and disappointed God who brushes Man off his knees: “With all its glories ripe/The Earth passed, like a spark/Blown from a sailor’s pipe/Into the hollow dark”. The Stars Like Sand shows us, in the work of the more than 80 poets included, much of that illimitable dark, as well as the flights of fancy and hope that can give brief and brilliant illumination. Seek out this book – admirable, and one of a kind.

    – Peter Pierce, Sydney Morning Herald

    July 25, 2023

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