A Small But Explosive Book: Moya Costello Launches ‘Cactus’ by Stevi-Lee Alver

Rochford Street Review

Cactus, by Stevi-Lee Alver (Rochford Street Press 2016), was launched by Moya Costello at the Bangalow Heritage Museum & Tea Rooms on 30 April 2016

steve 2 Stevi-Lee Alver at the launch of Cactus

Thank you Nancy, for the welcome to country (Bundjalung nation). I do feel a great sense that this country has made and is making Stevi-Lee. The Mirning and Wirangu nations border the Great Australia Bight: Cactus mentions both the Koonalda cave, in Mirning country, and, of course, Cactus Beach in Wirangu.

This launch, this setting of this book into the world, is an exciting moment for the Writing Program of Southern Cross University (SCU), and we are very, very proud of Stevi-Lee. And it’s also a moment when I think teaching is a privilege.

I’m just going to give you a little bit of history. But being history, Stevi-Lee most probably has a different version of it.

I remember, distinctly…

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Living Twice Squared: Stevi-Lee Alver Observes Eileen Myles at Sydney University

Rochford Street Review

Eileen Myles performed at the Footbridge Theatre at the University of Sydney on Thursday 26th May 2016

Eileen Myles. Photograph Poetry Foundation (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/) Eileen Myles. Photograph Poetry Foundation (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/)

Experiencing Eileen Myles perform at the University of Sydney last week left me floating in an indelible cloud of jouissance. It wasn’t as simple as hearing her read or the sound of her voice, it was interacting with a corporeal performance of poetry. It was witnessing a body becoming the beat of a poem, an act that changes something in the room, shifts directions, alters perceptions, tattoos the air with words.

It felt as though there was a collective transformation as language, moving through the flesh of a poet, generated a bodily response within the audience. When introducing Myles, Kate Lilley couldn’t have put it better: “an event with Eileen Myles is no ordinary event, in this country or any other… It’s a page-turning, hanging-out…

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Rochford Street Press announces the publication of ‘Cactus’ by Stevi-Lee Alver

Rochford Street Press

Cactus by Stevi-Lee Alver ISBN: 978-0-949327-03-1. $7.50 (plus $1 postage).  Cover design by Narelle Adair. Release date  1 April 2016

CactusRochford Street Press is proud to announce the publication of Cactus by emerging writer Stevi-Lee Alver. Based in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, Stevi-Lee has had her fiction, poetry, and reviews published across Australia and the United States. In 2014, while studying at the University of Massachusetts, she received the Class of 1940 Creative Writing Award for poetry. She was one of the winners of the 2014 Questions Writing Prize for her short-story ‘Phoenix’. She received the 2015 Southern Cross University award for Excellence in The Arts and has published a number of reviews and articles in Rochford Street Review. Stevi-Lee currently works at the North Coast Cancer Institute and studies at Southern Cross University. Cactus is her first book.

Cactus Beach: famous for its left and right hand breaks…

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[after the painting of the same name by Daniela Bradley, 2012]


The mother so distressed, a plover pecked her son, was compelled to campaign. Blood was drawn she said, and invited me to join her Facebook page, ‘The Conservative Management of Pesky Plovers’.


Initially, the mother posted only occasionally, offering titbits of advice such as, ‘an eggless-nest is a simple fix: pick it up, bin it.’ Now my newsfeed is swamped with these posts. She updates her status about twenty times a day, with things like, ‘omnivorous disease-causing plover-poop covers everything,’ and ‘whatever you do, when a plover attacks, don’t lie-down,’ and ‘lock-away your birdbaths the plovers are coming.’

The mother and her son live (four doors down) in the white fibro house, with manicured lawns and flowering star-jasmine.


The manager of IGA is also the local Australian Seabird Rescue volunteer. He told me the Egyptian plover is referred to as the toothpick-bird. Egyptian plovers, unlike our awkward black-helmeted yellow-masked plovers, wear black as if it were a fashion statement. Only segments of white separate their jet-black crowns, masks, backs and breast-bands. And wear tinges of blue (on their legs and wings) with pride and importance, like interns masquerading surgical scrubs. On the Nile, Egyptian plovers earn their keep by cleaning crocodile’s teeth.

I think they should be called croc-bytes.

A float of crocodiles is the collective noun for a group of crocodiles.


Recently, the mother uploaded a picture of herself, pegging out washing. For protection she wore a plastic ice-cream container on her head, red flag jetting out the top. In conjunction with the photo was a microblog-thesis.

l Remove plover-eggs from within and around your yards. Wear rubber gloves. Fasten a washing-basket to your head, use tea-towels as cushioning. Ensure gloves are on securely, head’s protected, dog’s locked-up, and go outside. Go to nest (on ground somewhere). Make no sudden jerking-movements. Pick eggs up, usually 2 or 3 brown-speckled sandy-coloured twenty-cent-piece size eggs. Take eggs to sand dunes, be sure plovers are following. Scrape a shallow depression in sand, lay eggs.

It had  like, I didn’t Like2 or Share .


The manager tells me that sometimes plovers strategically feign injury, dragging a sandy-coloured wing along the ground, attracting and distracting potential predators. Sometimes, instead of swooping and piping, plovers just carry-on behaving casually, pecking in the sand, pretending to eat, as though there were nothing worth protecting. He says the truth unfolds when someone or something gets too close to the fuzzy grey-hatchlings.

Alarm in a plover’s voice is warning mistaken for anger.

Martyr n. 1 a person who suffers or pretends

to suffer in order to obtain sympathy or pity.

2 (foll. by to) a constant sufferer from

(an ailment)


The manager questioned the mother’s status, ‘Plover Spurs are Poisonous,’ asking, ‘isn’t the boy killing plovers in this clip your child?’ And posted aYouTube video on her page.



The post promptly disappeared.


Perhaps the plover should take a leaf from the Osprey’s book, and build nests on top of light-posts and mooring-pylons.

A duet of ospreys is the collective noun for ospreys.


A few nights ago, when the manager was leaving IGA he found a plover, neck wrung and de-winged, between the windscreen and wiper-blade of his car.

A wing of plovers is the collective noun for a group of plovers.

Martyr n. 3 a person who is put to death for

refusing to renounce a faith or belief.


Dozens of rotten eggs were hurled at the mother’s car.


The manager used to live in Adelaide where he worked with Mr Percival, the pelican from the film Storm Boy. He tells me that after filming the movie in 1976, Mr Percival spent twelve-years at Marineland aquarium, then lived at Adelaide Zoo until, in September 2009, he died from old age. Thirty-something. The zookeepers called him Gringo.

A pod of pelicans is the collective noun for a group of pelicans. A squadron of pelicans is the collective noun for pelicans in flight. A raft of pelicans is the collective noun for pelicans on water.


Superglue was squirted into the locks at IGA. It took the manager three-hours to pry open the sliding doors.


Plover nests were raided. Eggs were smashed.


Silently, we stood watching plovers collect and carry away pieces of shattered shell in their pale-yellow beaks. The birds continued coming back again and again, yellow lidless eyes scouring the sand, until the last unhatched fragment had been carted away.


Martyrdom n. 1 the sufferings and death of a

martyr. 2 torment. martyrise v.tr. & refl.

make a martyr of. oo martyrisation n.



[1] Bradley, ‘Martyr’, painting in ‘An Implicit Inheritance’, exhibited Lismore Regional Gallery, April-June 2013, http://www.danielabradley.com.au/project/the-martyr/

Martyr, from An Implicit Inheritance, was first published in Coastlines 5: An Anthology of Creative Writing from Southern Cross University, 2014.



Specialling the Special: Stevi-Lee Alver reviews ‘The Special’ by David Stavanger

Rochford Street Review

The Special by David Stavanger. University of Queensland Press, 2014. 

Screenshot 2014-11-06 14.55.20Within the health system the word “specialling” implies that, for various reasons, a patient is provided with one-to-one care. The Special is concerned with the practice of specialling that takes place when people, at risk of harming themselves, are placed under continuous supervision. This occurs generally in prisons and psychiatric hospitals and is colloquially known as suicide watch.

The Special, initially propelled by urgency and speed, becomes obfuscated by unperturbed acceptance. The sentiments fuelling this collection are, if not obfuscated than at least, restrained by a seemingly transparent nihilism described by Stavanger as, ‘the loss of agency, the Seroquel / mandala, the thoughts that walk.’

This nihilistic tone meanders the entire collection, which is comprised of a prologue, Axis I to Axis V, and an Appendix. Drawing on professional and personal experiences, Stavanger’s poetry playfully embodies desolation, allowing voices…

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The Restraint of Meaning: Stevi-Lee Alver reviews the #concrete issue of ‘Australian Poetry Journal’.

Rochford Street Review

Australian Poetry Journal Volume 3. Issue 2 # concrete. Edited by Bronwyn Lea

APJ-3.2_Front-CoverThe diversity of contributors and the perceptivity of criticism make this an approachable and compelling introduction to the form and history of concrete poetry. For those same reasons, the #concrete issue of the Australian Poetry Journal is also an amusing read for those acquainted with the movement.

Bronwyn Lea, in her final volume as editor, has selected pieces that place more emphasis on the role of the reader and revisit that century-old phrase: a picture is worth a thousand words. Lea, in the forward, summarises the poetic intention perfectly when she says, “concrete poems ask readers to look simultaneously ‘at’ and ‘through’ language.”

In this issue, the pieces attempt playfully to free language of its burdensome obligation as the transmitter of meaning and ideas. The common aim of concrete poetry is to enable semiotics to stand…

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What is Power: Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church

Child Sexual Abuse & the Catholic Church: a discussion at the Byron Bay Writers Festival


Photo: Cath Piltz Chair Janet Steele, child abuse survivor John Saunders, journalists David Marr and Joanna McCarthy. Photo: Cath Piltz

In 1996 John Saunders – author of Sexual Abuse Survivor’s Handbook – walked into the local police station and reported he had been sexually abused as a child.

In the gruelling proceedings that followed, John’s sexual abuse claim was dismissed on the basis that Saunders was made to feel special by the perpetrator, therefore enjoyed the interactions, and therefore is not considered a victim of sexual abuse.

In an emotionally charged session at the Byron Bay Writers Festival, Saunders violated every aspect of the gag order placed on him by the Catholic Church after receiving insignificant compensation.

David Marr – journalist and author – revealed that American victims of abuse are compensated $1,000,000, by the Catholic Church, whereas Australian victims receive approximately $60,000. The difference in compensation is due to the fact…

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