Connections & Shared Histories: Sherryl Clark reviews ‘a ghost gum leans over’ by Myron Lysenko & ‘In This Part of the World’ by Kevin Brophy

a ghost gum leans over by Myron Lysenko, Flying Island Books 2021.  In This Part of the World by Kevin Brophy, Melbourne Poets Union Inc 2020

Myron Lysenko and Kevin Brophy have a long history together as poets, as editors of the journal Going Down Swinging many years ago, with Hit & Miss Productions (publishing), and as friends. It seemed fitting that their books be reviewed together, not so much to compare as to have an opportunity to chart their different paths in poetry. It gave me an opportunity to pull previous collections by both of them off my shelves and do a little looking back as well.

Myron Lysenko’s first collection, Coughing with Confidence, created a reputation of a poet with dry humour and dark, wry observations on life, enhanced by his live readings. Since then, while retaining his unique voice, he has continued to expand his repertoire. Lysenko has been focusing on haiku for some time, including the version called rooku, and a ghost gum leans over is his second collection of haiku and senryu.

The poems don’t adhere to the traditional form where the number of syllables (17) must be exact, so this gives them licence to grab the reader in other ways. Lysenko uses surprise and small turns, but more often he employs what I call sleight of hand – a seemingly simple poem has something that nudges at you; you read it again and suddenly you see it. A double meaning or a tilt sideways into another possibility. Working through the poems becomes an adventure, one not to be rushed or skimmed over.

The collection is organised in sections and the first is ‘sarcoma’ where the poems tell of Lucy Lysenko’s journey with a diagnosis of Ewings Sarcoma in 2008. One prose poem in the middle (‘Bloom’) sets the scene for further poems of the devastation of chemo and then remission. The next section is called ‘project 365’ (2016) and charts the breakdown of a marriage over a year, contrasted with other events in the poet’s life and in the world. Again, these are poems to re-read and ponder:

black dog
the bark of a tree
at night

The two sections – ‘in the light’ and ‘in the dark’ – have poems that startle and slap. Life is laid bare:

the typewriter
without a ribbon…

But then:

my brother’s coma
comes to an end –
window at dawn

At times the poems provide a sense of story where several in a row depict ongoing events and experiences; others sit on their own, keen observations of life contrasted with images of nature, as traditional haiku do.

As with any poem where the reader has been where the poet has, an extra meaning floods in:

our car rolls
backwards up the hill
marriage on the rocks

There is a road near Hanging Rock in Victoria where, if you leave the handbrake off on your car, it seems as if your car is going backwards UP the hill. It’s actually an optical illusion due to the countryside around you, but in this case, it adds a hidden layer to the poem.

Sometimes a poem leaves an unspoken line hovering in your mind (my line in brackets):

white lie
the transparent
rock pool shrimps
(I can see right through you)

This also is a benefit of reading more slowly, allowing other lines to be imagined. In one section there are poems dedicated to other people, so of course there is one for Kevin Brophy:

the poet’s deep
understanding of friendship
banksia bush

I googled ‘banksia’ and pondered the photos of glowing yellow candles of flowers.

Along with the haiku and senryu are one-liners which some people call a monostitch. These are more opaque, requiring the reader to re-read and puzzle out, with no line breaks as a signpost (and you then realise how much the line breaks in the poems guide your reading):

A breeze moves the leaf peak hour traffic

As with any collection, there were poems that I didn’t quite connect with, but mostly the small gems caught the light and showed me bits of the world in a different way, something that I enjoyed. I can imagine picking up this book on a regular basis, opening random pages and re-reading a few at a time. There is an art to packing so much into such small poems, creating depths and echoes that linger. They are also poems to share and discuss. I’m now thinking of doing one of Myron’s haiku workshops and writing some of my own!

In This Part of the World is Kevin Brophy’s tenth collection, the 28 poems making a slim but meaty book. Brophy’s poems have always been accessible on a first reading, not deliberately obscure, and then bearing repeated readings that reveal layers and deeper ideas. I opened the book and the very first poem is dedicated to Myron. Brophy makes the connections between them as well, their shared histories going much further than poetry endeavours:

… neither of us can ever be quite over
whatever it was our fathers pressed upon
us in the slow-motion accidents of their lives
histories of the twentieth century screaming
along the veins in their foreheads.

The first section, titled ‘Here’, focuses on poems about the everyday, capturing small moments and observations (which of course most poets do) in ways that illuminate and delight. ‘Butcher Birds, Mt Buffalo’ creates a picture of ‘thick-shouldered’ birds toughened by life in the high country, and mountain seasons ‘blind and ravenous as angels’. Similarly, ‘What the Finch Knows’ brings us a tiny bird in “twisting flight”, “small, bright, neat, fast”, while reminding us of the human threat to wildlife through the wind that “hisses/ like a cruel husband frightening/ his latest wife.” After such portraits, the poem, ‘Flight Again’, about an azure kingfisher smashing into the kitchen window is even more sobering.

‘Back Yard Ladders of Surrender’ turns the idea of humans taking and plundering forests on its head in a disturbing way – here trees just surrender, initially to birds but then also to the axe and the fire:

The trees surrendered long before us.
They said make weapons of our arms,
make stretchers and crutches
snug gun-butts, make boxes of us,
make carts and beams and targets of us,
anything. We won’t fight you or anyone.

Often, a poem will turn something sideways, or shine a light from a different direction, and stop you in your tracks. Brophy does this with whole poems at times. I re-read ‘Stones’ many times, thinking about the images and the idea of “stillness/ is another way of moving/ through the narrow throat of time”.

In the second section, ‘And There’, we are in Palermo and among Roman ruins, up mountains, on rocky roads, in forests; none of these are in Australia, even if not actually identified by place. Each poem transports us somewhere different, yet anchors us with vivid imagery. In ‘What We Walk Towards’ I was struck by “The night like a cave lies ahead./ It will take us in, no-one too homeless for it.” The image of the homeless rises also in ‘Winter’ where they sleep on the streets “with their friends made of cardboard and dog”, piercing reminders of what we take for granted.

The ‘And Back’ section doesn’t so much return us home as to an idea of what home might mean, with many references to the sea or to water. ‘A World Beyond’ suggests we imagine what it would be like if our world was undersea and the earth was ‘another world/ somewhere close beside’. Other references to water appear in ‘The Quiet Day’, an unsettling poem about a 97-year-old and the image of rising water:

…I could hear water lap up to the crumbling
base of my house, floating a generation of drowned beetles
and dead grasshoppers up to the front door.
The few trees left around the house
looked down over the water
up to their knees in amazement.

And also in ‘For Judith’, a poem for Judith Rodriguez, that depicts her wide range of subject matter, finishing with:

though you always reach for the rose in each of us
and with the deep shock of the sea coming at us
you turn your face to the ‘slow politics of justice’
lest we lose sight of something beyond what we are.

The final poem in the book, ‘Ocean/Fishing’, sharply reminds us what the sea can do, even more so the rocks:

They would hand the fisher to the shattered sea,
throw birds into the sodden air,
hide crabs, anemones from the worst of it.

There are several prose poems sprinkled throughout the collection. I found these less engaging, perhaps a subjective reaction from a reader who prefers white space and gaps for myself. Overall, the poems in Brophy’s collection reward second and third readings (and more) and are well worth keeping on the bookshelf and delving into one future day, maybe when we are surrounded by water.

 – Sherryl Clark


Sherryl small

Sherryl Clark has published two collections of poetry and five verse novels for children. Her new verse novel Mina and the Whole Wide World is published by UQP. She was the supervising editor of Poetrix magazine for 20 years.




My poems – Living Senryu Anthology

The senryu were published here:,-myron.html#:~:text=Myron%20Lysenko,1952%20Heyfield%2C%20Victoria%2C%20Australia.&text=He%20is%20the%20Victorian%20Representative,and%20anthologies%20around%20the%20world.

rose petals
she begins to lose
her hair

Creatrix Anthology 2008-2012

missing teeth
the comb also
missing teeth

paper wasp Vol 19 #4, Summer 2014

even after death
each one is different—
leaning headstone

tinywords 23 August 2006

Christmas lunch—
after the presents we continue
our arguments

Creatrix 28, February 2015

pine forest
a naked doll face down
in the mud

paper wasp 21.1, Autumn 2015

a chance to beat my father
at chess

Free XpreSsion XX11.9 Sept 2015

wild wind
she asks me to take

Wild Plum 1:2, Winter 2015

old jogger—
I wave to him
in my pajamas

Prune Juice 17, Nov 2015

news of refugees
the oak leaf crushed
in my hand 

Modern Haiku 47:1, 2016

unstable cliffs
he pulls his daughter away
from the ice-cream van 

Barenuckle Poet Anthology 2015

For H Gene Murtha

bare limbs
not too macho
for haiku

Failed Haiku Vol 1, #3, 2016

our car rolls
backwards up the hill
marriage on the rocks 

Shots from the Chamber Anthology 2016

the way
to a lonely man’s heart

Failed Haiku #6, June 2016

pointed in the right direction
by a blind man

a rosebush grabs my sleeve, Flat Chat Poets, 2005

morning swim
discussing relationships
in the deep end

a rosebush grabs my sleeve, Flat Chat Poets, 2005

echidna tracks

My page at Echidna Tracks:

replacement bus
the widower smiles
at the widow

Myron Lysenko

June 29, 2020

in the leaf-strewn yard
a bare hills hoist

Myron Lysenko

dawn driveway
the last bugle notes float
through birdsong

Myron Lysenko

footy fans
shuffle through elm leaves
fallen scarf

Myron Lysenko

August 7, 2018

2020 AFL Grand Final Haiku Kukai

– smoke and lasers by Rob Scott (Haiku Bob)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2020gfkukai.jpg
haiga by Rob Scott

Well into the future, the year 2020 will need no introduction. Like every legendary age that preceded it, 2020 will go down as a larger than life, deeply transformative time that puts every other calendar year with a dark story to tell in the shade – especially for those who lived through it. Covid-19 shocked, rearranged and reinvented the world. Things we took for granted became nuggets of irrational desire – like going to the movies, having dinner out, visiting our mums and dads, and toilet paper!

More than any city in the country, Melbourne bore the brunt of the metamorphic shock of the global pandemic. Two lockdowns, one lasting 4 months, are testament to that. Collateral damage of the Covid-19 pandemic included the 2020 AFL season. Border closures and quarantine regulations posed the biggest threat to the completion of a VFL/AFL season since WW2. For the first time in history, football was played in front of no crowds, with not a single game (including the Grand Final!)  played in Melbourne after Round 5. Bubbles, hubs, quarantine breaches and the permutations of rolling fixtures and shortened quarters dominated the back pages as we sat on the edge of our couches, crossing our fingers for a meaningful, if not satisfactory resolution to a season no one had anticipated.

With the grand final wrenched away from Melbourne, and with much of the country forced to watch it from their living rooms, it was always going to be a different day. For everyone, including haiku poets entering the 9th running of the Grand Final Haiku Kukai, it was a time of curious anticipation. In true form, they rose to the challenge.

In the days leading up to the game, haiku poets reflected on the poignancy of the event:

as two thirty nears
ghost siren over Punt Rd
my bones feel the roar

Amanda Collins

grand final parade
pigeons strut through
the mall

Myron Lysenko

Grand Final—
yellow and black daisies
on my brother’s grave

Mary Stone

The afternoon of
the first night grand final –
bugger all to do

Clem Byard

grand final day
at mum’s

Glenn Harper

grand final day
the MCG fills
with seagulls

Louise Hopewell

a lone seagull
looks for a chip

Jeanie Axton

Here near St Kilda
I don’t hear any neighbours
barracking at all

Hamish Danks Brown

Some of our haiku poets follow the footy as much, if not more, than the average supporter, and engaged in some of the pre-game banter of the build-up with their uniquely fanatical and humorous offerings:

Eastern Standard Time
– Pop go the Pies
in Gabba Bubble

Bill Wootton

Something in the air
– Tom Hawkins
denies it

Bill Wootton

Late change
AFL rethinks presenting premiers
with Cartier watches

Michael Potter

smoke and lasers
the singer’s
single hit

Glenn Harper

But it’s in the clinches where all haiku poets worth their salt belong, and from the first bounce to the last, they put their heads over the ball and produced the most prolific performance in the 9-year history of this event to date. This year’s kukai generated 450 haiku in total including 330 during the game itself – approximately 3-4 per minute. A blistering pace. The highlights reel is below.

As usual, a huge thanks goes out to the poets all over the country and beyond. It was another cracking kukai. ‘Til next year at the ‘G (hopefully).

– Rob Scott (aka Haiku Bob)

playing her role
from the toss of the coin
lady luck

Simon Hanson

Geelong kicks one way
Ablett’s shoulder
goes the other

Rob Scott

each man
has four shadows-
first quarter

Jade Pisani

first goal
all the cat’s eyes
look away

Ron C. Moss

lip reading…
smooth flow
of epithets

Madhuri Pillai

balmy in Queensland
you’d think the pitch invaders
would discard their clothes

Kim Jeffs

quarter time –
more sausage rolls
than the scoreboard

Glenn Harper

it’s an even game
the lagging Facebook refresh
and my vodka brain

Derek Begg

Second quarter –
Cats give the goal posts 
a good spray

Jen Worthington

who scored that goal?
I find the replay in a haiku

Myron Lysenko

my lover
and the football
blue sky danger

Alan Summers

half time . . .
all the haiku poets
kicking goals

Ron C. Moss

Game to be won
Danger and Dusty
move forward

Ian Gostelow

go kukai poets
final half of footy
to find the goals

Ross Coward

momentum change –
she says
its over

Glenn Harper

all of a sudden
it’s close

Bee Jay

one-man supporter
painted in the colours
of the losing team

Adjei Agyei-Baah

Spellcheck hates Riewoldt
Like, seriously hates him
Wonder if he knows?

Ivana Dash

on the sidelines
Annastacia Palaszczuk
stifles a yawn

Kim Jeffs

A neighbour cheering
or is it because Uber
Eats has just arrived?

Hamish Danks Brown

spring moon –
the bald head of Ablett
still centre stage

Rob Scott

tv free house
celebrating neighbours are
my final siren

Lucy Annicka Lysenko


Rob Scott’s report reprinted from the Australian Haiku Society webpage:

Paperbark Haiku WA, Zoom Winter Ginko

Report of a Zoom ginko

Australian Haiku Society

On a glorious winter’s day, 5th August, 2020, in Perth, Western Australia, I contemplated the healing power of the sun as it entered my study windows through thin vertical blinds.  Outside, the succulents were busy showing off their light and shade, their colour and variation; inside, I was preparing for the two hour Paperbark Haiku Zoom Winter Ginko gathering.

View original post 512 more words


Wonderful to see so many Australian Haiku Society members doing so well in contests and with publications. Congratulations to you all.

Photo by Ryutaro Tsukata on

Australian Haiku Society


To Helen Davison for winning First place in the annual Peggy Willis Lyles Haiku Award hosted by The Heron’s Nest and judged this year by Susan Antolin with:

police siren—
a swarm of moths
flat on the wall

Helen Davison

All the selections and judge’s comments can be read here.

Quendryth Young has generously supplied some context to the writing of this haiku…

View original post 644 more words

Myron Lysenko


Born 1952 to Ukrainian parents Stepan and Eugenia in Heyfield, Victoria, Australia. Lives in Woodend, Victoria. Has two daughters, Lucy and Zaidee.

Myron began writing haiku and senryu in the late 1990s. He is the Victorian Representative for the Australian Haiku Society. He is also a member of Melbourne based haiku group Fringe Myrtles, led by Rob Scott.

He has published seven books of poetry, the latest two of haiku/senryu. His small poems have appeared in several hundreds of journals and anthologies worldwide.

Coughing with Confidence 1998 SoftManCon Canberra Australia
Pets & Death & Indoor Plants 1991 Penguin Books Melbourne Australia
Winning and Losing 1998 Hit & Miss Brunswick Australia
I’m Ukrainian, Mate 2002 Alternativy Kiev Ukraine
Winning and Losing Again 2005 Flat Chat Press Greensborough Australia
a rosebush grabs my sleeve 2005 Flat Chat Press Melbourne Australia
a ghost gum leans over 2021 Flying Island Books Macao SAR

Going Down Swinging 1 -15 1980-95 Hit & Miss Prod. Coburg Victoria
Cleeland’s Living Poets Society 1989 Cleeland Press Dandenong Victoria
Poets and Other Endangered 1992 Melbourne Zoo Melbourne Victoria
I thought it was safe 1996 Eastern Riverina Arts Wagga Wagga NSW
Shots from the Chamber 2016 Pomonal Publishing Stawell Victoria

Myron is a publisher and editor in partnership with Kevin Brophy of the small press publishing house Hit & Miss Productions. They co-founded the literary journal GOING DOWN SWINGING which was first published in 1980 in Coburg Australia.

Hit & Miss mainly publish chapbooks and their author list includes Dan Disney, Emilie Zoey Baker, Sean M Whelan, Angela Costi, Nolan Tyrrell, Myron Lysenko, Mary Stone, Ben Oost and Tracey McGuire.

Myron is the leader of poetry and music band Black Forest Smoke, resident
band at the monthly poetry readings in Woodend Victoria titled Chamber Poets. The band released a limited edition 5 track EP It’s Alright 2017.

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