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June 4, 2018


Australian poet: A. Kissane Flannel Flowers

by N@ncy

Cressida Campbell’s woodcut of Flannel Flowers


  • Author: Andy Kissane
  • Title: Flannel Flowers
  • Published:  Island Magazine nr 152
  • Genre: love poem
  • Trivia: Poem analysis is not easy…
  • I have much to learn.
  • #NeverGiveUp
  • Trivia: Poem is at the end of the review.
  • The poem is NOT online so I took a photo of it from Island Magazine



  1. I spent hours dissecting  Flannel Flowers by Andy Kissane.
  2. I do it for the sheer joy of learning “what makes poetry tick?”
  3. I have started to develop a list of steps to take while reading a poem.
  4. The list needs improvement… I learn as I go along.
  5. Still  logical language does not always express
  6. …the core of the poem.
  7. The poet uses images to arouse emotion in the reader.
  8. I was absolutely stumped by  one image in this poem.
  9. So what did I do?
  10. I emailed the poet and asked him for help!
  11. Nancy:
  12. I have a question.
  13. Line 22:  Could you please explain to me the image
  14. “…green tips rising like madrigals”
  15. I cannot figure this out!
  16. Andy Kissane was so gracious to give me a
  17. …the ‘key’ to his poem.!
  18. Andy:
  19. “If you have a look at the images online for Cressida Campbell’s woodcut of Flannel Flowers it might help. The end of the white petal is green tipped. It’s really just the idea that the flowers are so exuberant that it felt to me like they were breaking into song. Hence madrigal… a song sung in several voices.


Who is Andy Kissane?

  1. Andy Kissane is a Melbourne-born, Sydney-based writer.
  2. He has won several awards for his writing, including the
  3. Sydney Writers’ Festival Poetry Olympics
  4. Publisher’s Cup Cricket Poetry Award
  5. Harri Jones Memorial Prize for Poetry
  6. BTG-Blue Dog Poetry Reviewing prize.
  7. In 2011, his book Out to Lunch was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize
  8. …one of the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards
  9. You can read all about Andy’s writing on his website


Who is Cressida Campbell? (1960)

  1. She is an Australian artist born in Sydney and
  2. lives in her home studio in the Sydney suburb of Bronte.
  3. Campbell developed an interest in woodblock printing
  4. when she studied in 1980 at the Yoshida Hanga Academy in Tokyo.
  5. She is one of Australia’s most successful artists.
  6. Campbell begins by drawing a design on a piece of plywood,
  7. carves the outlines with an etching tool, and
  8. completes the image by applying successive layers of watercolour.
  9. In the final stage she moistens the picture with a thin
  10. spray of water and runs off a single impression.
  11. The result is a work on paper and a
  12. wooden block, mirror images of each other.
  13. A piece can take weeks to complete.
  14. If Campbell’s modest subjects are compelling to the eye,
  15. ..this is largely due to her skill with composition,
  16. but also because every still life, every interior is like a short story.



What is the title of the poem and what does it mean ?  — Flannel Flowers

  1. Flannel flower is an Australian wildflower that grows in coastal heath.
  2. It is a  delicate  flower is so named because of the soft woolly feel of the plant.
  3. Flannel Flower almost begs to be touched and felt
  4. …since the petals of this flower resemble
  5. …the sensuous texture of flannel.
  6. You can imagine why the poet has chosen this flower
  7. …to express his longing…
  8. “..I long to feel your fingers press into my back, the flannel flowers
  9. …somersaulting in riotous joy…”


First line of the poem:

  1. “So we haven’t had sex for three months —
  2. Should I be worried?”
  3. In just one sentence the poet reveals worrisome
  4. …thoughts because of the lack of
  5. emotional intimacy as well as physical contact.
  6. The poet made me curious to know…
  7. what happened in this man’s life?


Last line of the poem:  (this is the last 2 stanzas lines 31-36)

  1. as I ease my way into this blok — slowly
  2. slowly– each carved line a gesture I refuse
  3. to explain, how I long to feel your fingers press
  4. into my back, the flannel flowers somersaulting
  5. in riotous joy, the blue sky lifting & lifting, our
  6. breath escaping in gasps — wordless and resinous.
  7. The poem is a bit cyclical, returning to the start at the end.
  8. The poet gives us a moment of closure.
  9. The narrator is reveling in his joyous thoughts of
  10. …emotional intimacy  and we notice a change in his attitude.


Is the poem divided into parts?

  1. Part 1:
  2. While carving a woodblock the poet recalls his
  3. …lack of intimacy with his partner.
  4. He tells us  a story he heard about a friend’s husband.
  5. Part 2:
  6. While looking at Cressida Campbell’s woodcut
  7. (see foto above) the poet comments on
  8. the striking blue backround in the artwork.
  9. The poet remarks that we all have different backgrounds.
  10. I can only make this assumption after emailing  with
  11. …the poet himself!
  12. Part 3:
  13. While carving the flannel flowers he describes the wildflower
  14. …drooping, twisting, petals flare in the cool breeze.
  15. Here I found the image of green-tipped petals rising up
  16. …as if they want to burst into song filled with love (madirgal).
  17. Part 4:
  18. The poet gives us a snapshot of his parent’s marriage
  19. Line 23-26:
  20. “absence of a cross voice in the house” (father)
  21. “weary resignation” (mother).
  22. There is no perfect model  ‘for how a relationship endures…”
  23. Part 5:
  24. End of the poem:  personal pronoun  ” I  ” is repeated.
  25. Speaking to his lover in this thoughts
  26. while he is woodcarving  flannel flowers into the woodblock….
  27. each carved line is a gesture.
  28. each carved line is motion of hand.
  29. Lines 29-33
  • I have no room for improvement…
  • I ease my way into this block…
  • I refuse to explain how…
  • I long  to feel your fingers….


Define words:

  1. optimism: A tendency to expect the best possible outcome
  2. madrigals: a lyric poem suitable for setting to music,
  3. …usually with love as a theme.  accompaniment.
  4. to cleave: to penetrate; pass through
  5. Hangi To – carving tool used in Japanese woodcarving. his carving knife can be obtained in a range of blade sizes, the hangi-tō shown here being of the standard 6 mm variety.

  1. gesture: A motion of the limbs or body made to express or help express thought
  2. somersault: in which the body rolls forward or backward in a complete revolution.
  3. resinous: polymerized synthetic; relating to resin. In this poem Kissane uses resinous to pertain to the thin-walled product such as surgical gloves or condoms. This is just my guess.


  1. No archaic words of latin root like:  ensconsed or antecedent.
  2. 12 unrhymed triplets (3 lines); line lenght 10-12 syllables; 1 question (first line)
  3. enjambment:  13 lines end in  punctuation – 36 lines end in enjambment– continuing a phrase from one line to another without intervening punctuation. There are 6 x dashes in the poem.  I consider this punctuation (a long comma). It is used to create a sense of natural motion. It helps readers to continue thinking about the idea, which is expressed in one line, and which continues through to the next.
  4. Verb: First 3 triplets are in the past tense:
  5. The narrator tells what happened his past (first line) and
  6. …what has happened  to a friend’s husband.
  7. The rest of the poem is in the present tense.
  8. Juxtaposition works because by putting two contrasting ideas next to each other.
  9. It helps to bring about the importance and specific qualities of each one.
  10. line 15-16 – ‘as ordinary and as extraordinary
  11. line 16 – ‘as birth and death
  12. Alliteration: same first consonant sound close in a series
  13. lines 17 and 34  – ‘flannel flowers’
  14. Rhyme:  Kissane abandons rhyme in the stanzas recounting
  15. …what he heard about a friend’s husband
  16. his woodcarving 
  17. memories of his parents and their marriage
  18. …his comparison between woodcarving and being with his lover.
  19. Adjectival/abverbial compounds ( i.e. cross-legged)  NONE
  20. Images: packages sailing down to the floor like autumn leaves
  21. Images:  green tips rising like madrigals


Flannel Flowers


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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jun 13 2018

    How interesting! I have never studied poetry but I know how I feel when I read this beautiful piece, an at the same time liked your analysis! 🙂


    • Jun 15 2018

      Sometimes the spirit moves me and I really read/analyze a poem But most of the time I just enjoy it. I’d recommend a book about poetry that started me on my search to learn what makes poetry tick? The book is ‘Why Poetry?’ by M. Zapruder published in 2017. You can have a look at my review December 14 2017 if you’re interested. Thanks for you comments!



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