Mike Ladd

Mike Ladd was born in 1959 and grew up at Blackwood in the Adelaide Hills. After completing a Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy at Adelaide University, he began to publish his poetry widely in Australia. In 1980 he formed “The Drum Poets”, a group of musicians who perform his poetry using conventional instruments, found objects and pre-recorded sounds. In the early 1980’s Mike Ladd travelled in Europe and Africa. Whilst in Senegal, he made recordings of the traditional poet-praise singers known as “griot”. In London he worked for the BBC and the British Institute of Recorded Sound. Returning to Adelaide, Mike began work with ABC Radio. After working as a sound engineer, he became a producer within the Radio Arts department and is currently producer and presenter of the Radio National poetry program “PoeticA”. “Close to Home” (2000) published by Five Islands Press, is Mike’s third book of poetry, his earlier publications being “The Crack in the Crib” (1984) and “Picture’s Edge (1994). Mike’s poetry has been translated and published in several different languages, and his writing for radio has been broadcast in many countries including the UK, Ireland, Canada, Finland, Germany and France. Mike has always been interested in collaborations between poetry and other disciplines, and has made poetic works for live performance, radio, photography, film, installations and the internet. In 2000 he was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to spend time at Churchill College, Cambridge, studying the relationship between poetry and radio. He has conducted many poetry workshops and master-classes for the South Australian Writers’ Centre and regional Arts councils.


He said “lie back
look out the window”
while he snipped
and then (I swear it!)
chatted golf –
his slice/the splice
and tapping the balls in.

Out the window
was only sky,
a loose bit of gutter
flapping in the breeze –
“budget cuts”
was all I thought.

Afterwards he sprayed this stuff
worse than fire,
but I was glad –
a triumph over nature,
the human will
and all that guff.

Still glad next day
though the sack swelled up,
apple sized, purple, a witch’s fruit –
I practised a spell,
“no more rubber, no more pills,
no more rubber, no more pills”.

Then bad dreams all week –
trains smashing through the kids
as they sat in our yellow Ford,
big trucks that kept on coming,
me left on clifftops
with empty arms.

From Friendly Street No. 20

Poem for 2 Brickies

Iambic below,
from stack to flick –
soft strong/soft strong/soft strong.

The mirrored trochee stands above,
strong soft/strong soft/strong soft –
catch to second stack.

Between the two,
the material
made weightless –
caesurae of an afternoon.

From clothbound hand
to clothbound hand –
each earth-fired book
placed to wait
on its invisible shelf of air.

From Friendly Street No. 24

Dawn of a Scorcher

Being in light –
false angels in these
low suburban houses,
their galvo dreaming.
The hose left running
all sleepless night.
Spaciousness in the brief
cool under the trees,
calm, fantastically bright –
the paddler pool so orange
it seems to be burning.
Lawns dotted with fallen fruit,
too much, in paradise.
Willie wagtails
countdown to the day,
the sulphur crests
far-travelling cry,
stone chips, flakes of white.
Thoughts are fat men on couches.
A radio half boasts the degrees,
faking sympathy.
Snipped threads
of bright gum tree cilia
all over the ground,
the lorikeets stitching
another summer together.

From Friendly Street No. 26