the poetry that matters

Ian Gibbins

Ian Gibbins is a neuroscientist and Professor of Anatomy at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia. His poems have been widely published, including in Best Australian Poems 2008, Going Down Swinging, Blue Dog, Australian Book Review, Transnational Literature and Southerly. They have been short-listed for several national awards, including the Newcastle Poetry Prize, the Peter Porter Prize and the Max Harris Prize, performed on national radio and displayed in installations around Adelaide. His first full length collection, Urban Biology, was published with an accompanying CD of spoken word and electronic music in 2012. Ian collaborates widely with artists to promote the common ground between art and science. Examples of his poetry, music and science can be seen at www.iangibbins.com.au.

Extracts fromAn Enquiry into Dreams


Zeus winged it on: “Go, murderous Dream … “ Iliad, Book 2:9


… with blinds drawn, curtains closed, blackberry thickets, stands of swaying palms

… reminiscent, a wall, the protective veneer

… three spiders, eighths, an octet, horsehair cried out, strung past breaking point

… an order for cash, Monopoly money, a command to scatter moths or featherless bats, should you pay

… even have the papers, all too smoothly, the reporter said, like fishing for

… knowing that, a foolish, radio left running on and on, hence, to give

… easy, really, the impression, akin to polished gold, rather, the greeting a waste, tender, tenderly

… and therefore

… and therefore, it goes, unfortunate wording, via coiffured charm, excessive difficulties

… as if a previously rehearsed entry point, full power

… Chiron, Nereids, some mention of Aphrodite, impeach Apollo

… did anyone see a scar?

… this then is how we prepare: prayers, telephone off the hook, red plastic receiver

… gamma rays exit normal range, with

… what definition? procedure?

… blinds drawn sent elsewhere

… dreams will be sent from elsewhere.

Sounds of the Sea


just so much flotsam, jetsam, ankle-deep around trouser cuffs,

unspecified questions, echoes of Pacific gulls, storm-petrels, fairy prions.


coquette, cockle, shell-like, for example:

“Is this where your heart lies?”


probably an illusion, taken within smoke, drawn goat-skin tight,

once monsoon rains pass.


the evolutionary equivalent of holding one’s breath,

a predeliction for secrets.


mother of pearl, fleeting phosphorescence, trails through rockpools,

hand across mouth, a surprise.


neither Marshall nor Stax, vacuum tubes that sway beneath coconut palms,

too far from breaking waves, rips, rushing sand.


a mass approaching death by drowning, an incorruptible promise

enclosed by at least one cable-knit shroud of recognition.


formerly entangled algal mats, now respite after a storm, gales,



spermaceti (?), ambergris (?), perfume persistent, ill-defined, distant,

carried on low Antarctic winds.


here, two points, or rather, scrimshaw dust falling away

as moonflakes on a receding tide.


the period of a swell, circumpolar depression, foundless allure,

remembered only from time to time.

(from "Lessons in Neuroscience") 

Lesson 6: Almonds

But fear itself. But fear itself. Bitter sweet, that aroma, expresso strong, shot

deep with iris blue. But fear itself. But fear itself. Beholden to wintershine,

lost allure, red rosethorn lips, grey quivering predication. But fear itself.

But fear itself. When hairs stand on end. When blanched. When unexpected

turbulence. Should someone dare glance behind. When white petals fall.

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                                                                                                           July 2, 2012