Maxine Beneba Clarke

is the author of The Hate Race and Foreign Soil. She is a winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry.

By this author

Poetry December 21, 2019

When the decade broke

             the stroke of midnight, december thirty-first, nineteen ninety-nine,     was going to end the world   at the hospital,      they brought generators in   even the food service staff were kept till late evening   none of us would …

Poetry December 14, 2019


the prime minister has killed the department of the arts                 and is rolling arts in with rail and roads   all of us have encountered   enough art                      to know            the devastation, in …

Poetry December 07, 2019


my grandma, she loved diana:                     the people’s princess, after all   she’d say                           that was no accident;                   how convenient …

Poetry November 30, 2019

The panther

                     quick-footed and poor-visioned,   sumatran rhinos       (unless raising young calf) prefer                 to live alone   in solitary ease,                    and singing their shadow     in the …

Poetry November 23, 2019


temptress   the redhead          on the matchbox is all charcoal lash       she wears a do it smile, like eve’s                    to adam       alarm   most arsonists, they say,    …

Poetry November 16, 2019


the blood-truth is:   it’s much less about the camera            and much more to do with the body that it’s worn on   the body with the baton hanging from its belt, the body in blue, the body on the cop beat clenching fists around a point-blank pepper-spray …

Poetry November 09, 2019

Waltzing Matildas

a lot can go down along the 200 red burning       metres of track between the victory lap            and the starter gun        on the podium, tommie smith and john carlos could bow their heads          for civil rights, and raise …

Poetry November 02, 2019

Permanent Closure: a found poem


Poetry October 26, 2019

Last Octobers

then it’s full-bloom calendar-crash                           mama-carves-the-pumpkin tired-in-the-bones tinsel in the aisles choose your tree early here we go round the                               trick or treat time just …

Poetry October 19, 2019

Jacqui’s law

they say the people’s senator         from tasmania has the deciding medevac bill repeal vote   so, quite simply, we are asking:                      does senator jacqui lambie know   that hamid khazaei      died from compounding …

Poetry October 12, 2019

The Gospel of Peter

 a poem constructed from the words of Peter Dutton     african gangs have taken over the streets, melburnians are afraid to go out to eat                                  …

Poetry October 05, 2019

Spring break

the bell rings at two thirty, an hour too early: playground a-teeming, kids whooping with glee   mums all where’s-wallying this way and that, as dads dig in lost property for this term’s stray hat   kids spill from demountables, halls, ball courts …

Poetry September 28, 2019


so hear us out,           we invite that australian guy:   the PM with the big head who loves god, and hates migrants   we put on a state dinner,      all the trimmings, bells and whistles: get his wife and melania          all smiling, …

Poetry September 21, 2019


for greta thunberg                 on fridays, our children are bursting train carriages backpacked full of hope   wielding placards bedroom-made from flattened cornflake boxes     and upcycled tomato-stakes                 …

Poetry September 14, 2019


no rain in sight,                      all hot south-westerlies            spring-tinder   grey smoke, coiled                       around the cowering sunshine coast   amanda wheezed, and sucked her ventolin     dad called …

Poetry September 07, 2019

Home to Biloela

it chilled the blood                it felt different, this time when the deportation vans arrived     they lived next door          and were just like us: he worked the abattoir (bloody tough)   the wife: smiling away          when …

Poetry August 31, 2019


september germinates,                                            determined                          all sure-quiet-beautiful and fern and jade unfurl     in furrows dug with fothergill                     …

Poetry August 24, 2019


There once was a shock-jock, annoying:

foul-mouthed, sexist, racist, not-toying.

He got his last warning,

the public were scorning.

And the sponsors, they walked – that was buoying!

Poetry August 17, 2019

Contradictio in adjecto

most of us,     it seems ridiculous now, were there to save all life                         from hostes humani generis   which we’d learnt,       way back in week two of class meant the enemies of mankind     twenty …

Poetry August 10, 2019

Wolf pack

                    we have determined                     he, and he alone,                                                             is responsible        …

Poetry August 03, 2019

A starting wage

                         and we were all waiting for that golden age,                      of fourteen and nine months and a starting wage   a paper route, stacking shelves at franklins, or working checkout at the safeway sweeping …

Poetry July 27, 2019


                                              this month   we know now what the body does                                        for the second time   falling     at eighty …

Poetry July 20, 2019

The rate

caught skint                     at the iga counter   frantic hands searching threadbare jeans                     sorry, guess i’m short on change today                     forgot my card as …

Poetry July 13, 2019

Section 116

in grade eleven, our legal studies teacher fired up the overhead projector   and fuzzy grey handwriting shone                                         on the classroom wall   the constitution: separation of …

Poetry July 06, 2019


no one likes a politician   no matter how good you are, no matter how hard the job, no matter                how you serve the public   and whoever you love, and whatever you’ve done   the press, they’re like bloodhounds        …

Poetry June 29, 2019

Proportionate force

                                            i the president is tough on immigration,                       he is building the mexico wall   and the smell of despair is unbearable, in …

Poetry June 22, 2019

Things about dying

in my home state, now, by law                 those leaving us can tread gently: usher themselves towards the light in the dignity they see fit   and i can’t remember all of their names they and i were strangers                …

Poetry June 15, 2019


first, the Ministry of Truth doctored language their words weaponry, loaded and aimed: asylum seekers became illegals they said detention centres, not jails   then the Ministry of Peace           tweaked the …

Poetry June 08, 2019


baked redbrick,    in the darwin heat dry palms whisper,    in the stifling breeze   bloke says                mate, we were sure it was fireworks   ruddy face shock-blank,    mouth set grim                   …

Poetry May 25, 2019


silence,                   all across the mourning fog     dark winter has descended     birds flee to warmth from branches, gnarled   and hope                    drifts on the wind   crisp leaves                 …

Poetry May 18, 2019


so we’ll go to the polls         lined round winter street corners pushy leafleteers         shoving how-tos in our hands   we’ll elbow past smiling placards         and straight-talking spruikers still wearied with the bickering   …

Poetry May 11, 2019


folktale has it          new arrivals, they’ll throw any queen or kingdom              into spin   angered uninvited guests will conjure curses   horses are saddled: messengers dispatched far and wide to burn the spinning wheels   firstborns, …

Poetry May 04, 2019


– for natalina angok   they are the women                  whose bodies                  don’t quite make front page     they are carefully measured outrage        when it happened   they weren’t walking home …

Poetry April 27, 2019


with his right arm raised in holy rapture   and the invited camera man angling the frame   shirt creased shadow-dramatic      like a gentileschi   and hallelujah light catching               his face, just-so   the prime minister …

Poetry April 20, 2019

Liber Pauperum

on the western façade      the archangel michael grand wings aloft, was weighing souls   and the serpent hissed down      at eve, regal and adam   as thomas the apostle put a hand                 to his brow   and ash wind dusted     …

Poetry April 13, 2019

The Changemakers

the pollsters are gleeful         saying                 abbott’s time has come     things, they are about to change around warringah way     cause 28 has finally had his run   and we, the people         better …

Poetry April 06, 2019


the upholstery that adorns the lower house                    they called silver-eucalypt green   and when all’s razed to ash after fire season                      the heat     cracks open the seed             …

Poetry March 30, 2019


and by the end no one dared to say his name     so we called him          nineteen   because of how they said it all began   that nineteen votes let a man into the halls of parliament who invoked the crimes of nuremberg   whose words …

Poetry March 23, 2019

Lenticular Cloud – for Christchurch

across the tasman through a westerly      in ōtautahi, aotearoa   land of the long             white     cloud   lives a tiny creature warbling, flightless   unlike any         endothermic vertebrate   the great spotted kiwi loves …

Poetry March 16, 2019

Hotel Alice

        on march 21 the people’s feet thundered seven thousand through the township    of sharpeville chanting izwe lethu come hell or mandela they would fell the passbook laws sixty nine dead without one     dispersion warning wailing …

Poetry March 09, 2019

The Drover’s Dream

As PM, on the hill, while the polls all favoured Bill, I, stressed, rested my eyelids for a time. Was a daydream, I assumed, no bloody way it could be true: the parade-of-the-departing that sashayed by.   There waved Julie, in red shoes (Manolo Blahniks …

Poetry March 02, 2019


and if hell exists       hail mary, full of grace then surely they have lived it   and     hail mary, mother of god     there is a special place inside the vatican for men like pell   whose shadows fall over communion goblets …

Poetry February 23, 2019


before despair hits before the shame before scanning job sites and uncertainty   it’s shiny writing on the wall                                     reading centrelink             named like it’s the …

Poetry February 16, 2019

Frankly Speaking

oh come on geoff wilson’s not my cousin cousin   he’s my grandfather’s cousin’s grandson unremoved     frankly speaking i barely know the bloke we have the same last name but the link is     ...confused          …

Poetry February 09, 2019


he calls them               union thugs                 the prime minister-unelect who got the job with a dirty knife and a smug lopsided smile                 a small-hearted bully who will only fight to …

Poetry February 01, 2019

The monsters are out

the monsters are out and the women of melbourne              we're leaving early again sending are you home? texts glancing over shivering shoulders keeping friends on the line until the key’s in the lock oh sisters         …

Poetry February 02, 2019

Ancient Giants

                   we’ll say the summer right before was blue-green algae bastard took the bony bream      and silver perch reckon it grew from heat and farming run-off cyanobacteria is what they said                    and …

opinion February 02, 2019

Ancient Giants

                   we’ll say the summer right before was blue-green algae bastard took the bony bream      and silver perch reckon it grew from heat and farming run-off cyanobacteria is what they said    …

Fiction December 22, 2018

Louisiana heron

A new short story from an award-winning author.

Culture December 15, 2018

Author Melissa Lucashenko aims for the heart

Melissa Lucashenko’s latest novel, Too Much Lip, exhibits a sharp defiance inspired by the author’s discovery of a gutsy family matriarch. She talks about family, country and mysterious mergings of fact and fiction. “I’ve only once started a novel I didn’t go ahead with. A novel is a huge undertaking, so I’m loath to rush in. It’s like waiting for fruit to ripen. There’s a certain berry that ripens at Easter, and there’s no point looking for it at Christmas time.”

Portrait August 11, 2018

Playwright, director and dramaturge Declan Greene

In the writing room with playwright Declan Greene

Culture May 26, 2018

Ai Weiwei’s lens on humanity

The artist Ai Weiwei refuses to shy away from tragedy or grief, working with an uncomfortable proximity between art and subject. He speaks on the release of his film on the refugee crisis, Human Flow. ‘It’s not just understanding. It requires you to find a language, so that you can give dignity to the subject matter.’ The line is cotton-thin.

Portrait April 07, 2018

Rapper L-Fresh the Lion

How hip-hop offered a language for a Sydney Sikh and lead him to take the name L-Fresh the Lion.

Life February 24, 2018

Black History Month

As the US celebrates Black History Month, a reflection on African diaspora Australians and the indelible mark its forebears left on this country.

Portrait February 03, 2018

Poet Alan Wearne

Lunch with ‘that’ teacher, poet Alan Wearne.

Portrait November 18, 2017

Black Lives Matter in Australia

Maxine Beneba Clarke on the Black Grapevine and the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Life October 07, 2017

Hurricane Irma and St Maarten

As yet another hurricane menaces the Caribbean, the author tracks its frightening progress towards St Maarten.

Portrait July 15, 2017

Author John Safran

Waiting for Peak Uncomfortable Gonzo with John Safran.

Life June 17, 2017

Roxane Gay and Mamamia

Roxane Gay and nonfiction authors like her will continue to open up their own lives, in the hope of changing those of others. May we not remain silent in the face of ignorance, stupidity or distress.

Travel May 27, 2017

San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan’s rich mixture of cultures, colonial and indigenous, invites immersion in the Puerto Rican capital.

Portrait March 25, 2017

Writer and activist Jeff Sparrow

“When we meet for our ackee fry-up, he’s just returned from a trip to the United States, researching for his recently published biography of Paul Robeson. He talks of the tragic unease of researching an African-American icon in Charleston around the …”

Portrait March 04, 2017

Artist TextaQueen

Getting to know TextaQueen through her first survey show, Between You and Me.

Portrait February 11, 2017

ABC host Jane Hutcheon

Maxine Beneba Clarke reflects on the interviewer as she appears on One Plus One.

Portrait December 23, 2016

Writer and activist Tasneem Chopra

Tasneem Chopra on the nativity.

Portrait November 19, 2016

Author and editor Masha Gessen

Breakfast with fearless Russian journalist Masha Gessen.

Portrait October 08, 2016

DMC parkour at Sydney Opera House

Fairfield’s Dauntless Movement Crew parkour performers.

Portrait September 17, 2016

Confronting Lionel Shriver

Face to face with author Lionel Shriver after her controversial Brisbane Writers Festival address.

Portrait September 03, 2016

Author and poet Michel Faber

Ice cream for breakfast with Michel Faber.

Comment August 13, 2016

Our unnamed racism holds us back

“There is a reason people such as Leak fear and resist the word racism. It is powerful. It is definitive. It carries the inescapable burn of hard truth. ”

Portrait June 04, 2016

High school teacher Ernest Price

In class with trans teacher Ernest Price.

Portrait April 30, 2016

Remembering the sexy MF

The world is still not ready for Prince.

Portrait March 26, 2016

Comedian Aamer Rahman

An audience with Aamer Rahman

Portrait March 19, 2016

Feminist Karen Pickering

Hot buttered buns with SlutWalk Melbourne’s Karen Pickering.

Portrait March 05, 2016

Watching Julian Assange

A videolink with the world’s most famous fugitive.

Portrait February 13, 2016

Emails from the Obamas

Corresponding with the President.

Portrait November 07, 2015

Meeting Frances Adamson, Australia’s first lady in China

An audience with the chic and ever diplomatic Australian Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China.

Portrait October 17, 2015

Best-selling US author Dave Eggers does Literary Vaudeville

What does McSweeney’s founder and editor Dave Eggers have in common with Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

Portrait October 03, 2015

Alex Dimitriades is ‘The Principal’

Alex Dimitriades is back to school and straight to the principal’s office.

Portrait September 19, 2015

Hugh Jackman: the talent

An allotted nine minutes, 3.5 metres from Hugh Jackman.

Portrait August 15, 2015

Heavy traffic

One man's quest to end racism.

Portrait July 25, 2015

The Twain shall meet

On the streets with Iranian author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi.

Portrait July 04, 2015

Kevin Rudd’s nephew, artist Van T. Rudd

Controversial Australian artist and activist Van T. Rudd talks politics and ‘non-gallery’ art.

Portrait June 20, 2015

An intellectual evening with Dr Cornel West

Champion for racial justice Cornel West struts his stuff.

Portrait June 06, 2015

Catherine Deveny’s comedic weals take time to heal

What Catherine Deveny realises she was really wrong about.

Portrait May 02, 2015

Between the covers with The Book Club’s Jason Steger

When it comes to being well read, Jason Steger's up there with the best.

Portrait April 18, 2015

All’s Rosie for bestselling author Graeme Simsion

For Rosie Project writer Graeme Simsion, the journey to overnight success started long ago.

Portrait March 21, 2015

One fine Gay

Every second woman wants to be Roxane Gay – the rest want to be the Bad Feminist's best friend.

Portrait February 28, 2015

Transgender porn pioneer Buck Angel at my table

There are a few surprises in store before the lights go down on Buck Angel at the Spiegeltent.

Portrait February 14, 2015

Why Paralympian Kurt Fearnley is poetry in motion

Newly crowned Australian sports personality of 2014 Kurt Fearnley on what powers him home.

Portrait January 31, 2015

Blind film reviewer Tommy Edison’s ways of seeing

Blind since birth, Tommy Edison has made his mark in a most unexpected field – film reviewing.

Portrait December 20, 2014

Doorstopping St Nick

She thought she'd been nice, but maybe she'd been naughty. Why else would Santa refuse to see our writer?

Portrait November 15, 2014

Watching Paul Barry, the man who watches the media

Just what brings that distinctive smile to Media Watch host Paul Barry’s face? 

Portrait September 27, 2014

A surprise package for Tony Abbott

What's it like to ambush the prime minister in the name of a good cause?

Portrait August 16, 2014

Stolen moments with veteran actor Jack Charles

The colourful life of Jack Charles: thespian, respected Indigenous elder and one-time cat burglar.

Portrait July 12, 2014

The 17th storey

A tragic accident, a life cut short, and the moving memories left behind.