About Lisa D'Onofrio


Looking for an Echo — Lilliput Press 1994
Blowing out the Candle to St Jack — Lilliput Press 1996
Greatest Hits — Lilliput Press 2003

My work has appeared in many magazines, anthologies and journals, both print and online in Australia and the UK.
I have written two plays which have toured around Victoria, Australia, and associate produced a documentary Pluck Me, for ScreenEast in 2002.
I have made several TV appearances both in Australia and the UK, including being commissioned by About Anglia to write and perform a poem.
I have supported John Cooper Clarke and Benjamin Zephaniah, read at various literary festivals including Glastonbury Festival and on national radio.
I have received many grants including two Arts’ Council Year of the Artist Grants in 2000.
My work is informed by issues of identity and displacement, gender and domesticity.
I have recently returned to Melbourne after 17 years in England, working in schools and with community groups teaching creative writing and facilitating literature projects. I am a literature activist and literacy advocate, and am currently directing the Castlemaine Children’s Literature Festival as well as running a literacy project for St Luke's. I have recently perfomed in Poetry Idol for the Melbourne Writers Festival.

This Poem

Posted by Lisa D'Onofrio on 28 September 2011 at 12:21 in Poetry

Tags: australia lisa

This poem wears green eye shadow, and rainbow lipstick
This poem doesn’t own a clock, but knows how one ticks

This poem says – Wham, Bam, Thank You – Sir
This poem sports politically correct faux fur

This poem drives a silver Aston Martin DB4
With fluffy dice, fat wheels and four on the floor

It’s automatic, systematic and culturally clued
This poem rhymes when it doesn’t have to

This poem gives – and gets – oral pleasure
This poem is like, yeah, you know, whatever

This poem is gold-dipped, glitter-dusted and fairy-wanded
It knows a life half lived is a whole life squandered

This poem remembers a time before cellulite
This poem’s a pacifist but loves a good fight

This poem is bound for glory, this poem
Yee haa

This poem salutes irony, sarkiness and farce
This poem swaps showers for long soaks in the bath

This poem eats chocolate, and doesn’t brush its teeth,
This poem swims with dolphins, in the Great Barrier Reef

This poem has a personal trainer, but only for tea
This poem wears a singlet, and watches crap TV

This poem dyes its hair, and shows off its roots
This poem stands on one leg, and plays a small flute

This poem knows
when the writer is locked, and off floats the key
It can be whatever it needs to be.

This poem can fricassee, fillet a fish and quenelle
It’s a plus sized model on the cover of Elle,

It can strip wallpaper, plumb a kitchen and re-invent
But doesn’t give a toss of rocket cos it can only afford to rent

This poem is a greenie eco freaky nerd,
Cos it knows a poem is ultimately just recycled words.

Lisa D'Onofrio

Comment on: This Poem


Posted by Lisa D'Onofrio on 13 April 2005 at 13:50 in Poetry

Tags: broken inarticularity


The cat’s got my tongue
I gave it to her
It was giving me gip
Didn’t need it no more

Wrenched it plain out
With an oven glove and skewer
The hollow feels warm
Like some exotic liqueur

I’m feeling so peaceful,
A skinny–girl Buddha
The thoughts have closed down
Each breath is a prayer

Inarticularity 2

Words had failed me for too long. When they did come out they were frayed and worn, run down and faded. I met a woman in a park once, and she told me that this was the 2nd day in 6 years that she’d spoken. She said it was okay at first, got harder in the middle — then people just forgot about her, which was what she wanted, I guess. She was a broken woman, trying to mind her tongue, and instead she got to hold it for a while. She still looked a little crazy to me, but what did I know, shiksa from the suburbs that I am.
And down the line a little, now I get it. And even though the squeaking wheel gets all the grease, it doesn’t matter — like I need more grease. So I let all of them fly, and off they landed, to cause earth tremors in Guatemala.
In the beginning, my rib cage strained with the weight of all the things unsaid, but soon, and amazingly, speaking stopped being something I didn’t do and silence became something I did. I could hear the softness of my internal hum and that was enough. Maybe I’ll return to words, like the lady in the park. But maybe I’ll learn a new language and I’ll live as free as my tongue.

Lisa D'Onofrio

Poet's comment: Two poems inspired by Bronwen's piece, Broken. The first is more traditional, a black look at being silenced, with the narrator paradoxically taking control by giving up with communication. The second is an extension of the theme, using a similiar style to Basketcases 1 and 2. Bronwen's piece made me think about 'scratching' i.e. scratching the surface, which led to records and being recorded, which led to voice.

Comment on: Inarticularity

Basketcase 2

Posted by Lisa D'Onofrio on 10 April 2005 at 13:22 in Poetry

Tags: basket

it started with sharp pencils and I got no joy from that/ so then I tried a needle but that was no good, pin pricks/ and didn’t go deep enough dots not lines I needed lines/ so then went on to compass but I couldn’t drag it across,
you see, it could only dig and I didn’t want to dig I wanted/ to cut across, in
long fluid lines, I wanted to create lines, etch them in, cross hatch them/ and make them flow, I wanted to see the blood bubble out I wanted the line of grey to turn red and then finally white/ rosered rosewhite mirror mirror the shoe never fit/ I wanted to raise my shirt and press myself on a white white wall and print myself on it, red white, reddy rust against/ white, I wanted to print myself, / The wall absorbing and repelling the lines stark and fresh/ I wanted to leave an impression/

sessions lasted five minutes or less, they were intense a burst of activity in an otherwise dull and protracted and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow life a flurry
an action a swift and easy slash a release and all the while I imagined my body against the cool surface of the wall, if I pressed hard enough I would become the cool surface of the wall hidden behind the wardrobe, become the wall flat and simple and undemanding

Lisa D'Onofrio

Poet's comment: This piece began with me wanting to continue the themes brought up by Basketcase 1. I completed the words while Bronwen worked on the piece, and this process seemed to work for us. Previously we had discussed some ideas. I was thinking about skin and the way bodies hold memories, and I kept returning to the the phrase 'written on the body'.

This is a sequel to Basketcase 1

Comment on: Basketcase 2

u figure

Posted by Lisa D'Onofrio on 2 December 2004 at 22:59 in Poetry

Tags: figurative

u figure, by Lisa D'Onofrio View image

grew her
to fat, so she filled the room
when i walked away. her curves her hollows
became me, forever and before we had
met, i had always been the
jam in her
with each
lip–smacking and the letting fly of
lumps she weighted me, we left each other
waiting, and no one under
stands there was less
of her to

Comment on: u figure

For M (who painted the bathroom floor blue)

Posted by Lisa D'Onofrio on 2 December 2004 at 17:49 in Poetry

Tags: bathroom blue

For M, by Bronwen Edwards View image

It had felt the slap and
tickle of feet —
bare and wet
the cat, the mat,
the thud, the pat
and now, its colour drained,
it had settled under the steady stroke of just two pairs.

She knew this blue.
It had played beyond her lids
while chopping fruit, and spreading bread
or hanging clothes
while gazing out the kitchen window,
descaling fish
defrosting the fridge,
leaking time.

At 4am,
more paint than skin
she is rocked to sleep
her toenails dreaming in blue

and wakes, excited –
shrieks at the scene
it was not meant to be like this,
so again she mixes, tastes, examines
and goes to sleep
anchoring the room with her paint–splashed clothes.

On the third morning
knowing that the colour matches the one that lives in her head
she isn’t surprised to see
the bath tub sailing down the corridor
the towels waving behind.

Lisa D'Onofrio

Comment on: For M (who painted the bathroom floor blue)

Story of my life and death

Posted by Lisa D'Onofrio on 2 December 2004 at 17:36 in Poetry

Tags: death fortune life

Story of my life and death, by Bronwen Edwards View image

I went to the fortune teller
And she said to me
I don’t mean to scare ya
But you’re coming back
As the worm in tequila

Lisa D'Onofrio

Comment on: Story of my life and death

I have forgotten how to cook

Posted by Lisa D'Onofrio on 2 December 2004 at 17:33 in Poetry

Tags: cook

I have forgotten how to cook, by Bronwen Edwards View image


My fork casts a net
over food prepared for me
by other people’s hands

In floating kitchens
my nets come back empty
the gravy thickens into a dirty puddle

In the supermarket
I am lost
my gleaming ribbed charge and I
wander despondently
trying to decipher
the meaning from the glare

The potato just a thing
with too many eyes
tomatoes plump and mocking

Ladies fingers beckoning with
empty promises
an aubergine cold and hollow

Once comforting in its incarnations

Food in its multiplicities
a strange continent
and my visa application
has gone missing


Something has stirred
carrots greet me
orange with possibilities

Kernels burst from their
silken wrappers,
a cabbage crinkles with mirth

My fingers tremble
with the beauty of the
first cut

that reveals designs
that the recipes do not
I slice thinly, sauté

Add and taste
sprinkle and whisk
We come together

To follow i knead
my cool hands
ensuring pastry with bite.

Lisa D'Onofrio

Comment on: I have forgotten how to cook

Trolley trilogy

Posted by Lisa D'Onofrio on 2 December 2004 at 16:54 in Poetry

Tags: trilogy trolley

Trolley trilogy, by Bronwen Edwards View image


Do the trollies lark
In the trolley park?
Do they muzzle each other?
And cause a spark
Do they maraude the street
When it gets dark
Cruising silently
Silver sharks
Do their ribs hold precious secrets
We cannot start
To understand?


When I am old
And do not care
What other people think
I will collect trollies
Like other women gather china teapots
Or stray cats
I will muster them in my back yard
Where, if they wish
They may bleed
Or pirouette under clouds, or roll aimlessly
The long grass tickling their ribs
Unburdened by necessity
In my back yard
It will be eternally
Palm Sunday


I hate seeing
A lost trolley
Gleaming ribs
Circling seagulls
I want to take it home
Paint it
Tie balloons to its handles
And tell it
It’s ok
To be empty

Lisa D'Onofrio

Comment on: Trolley trilogy

Basketcase 1

Posted by Lisa D'Onofrio on 2 December 2004 at 13:20 in Poetry

Tags: basket decipher open

Basketcase, by Bronwen Edwards View image

it's like tape you see, glittering from a distance, looping through branches and wire fences/
you think – that's so pretty –and for a moment you forget you've seen it before and it draws the corners of your eyes in/
you get up close and see the plastic carcass, disembowelled in the mud, it's innards – brown tape suddenly dull when the sun goes in/
when i felt it the best i can say was it was like that transparent cassette case/
nothing in me put me in a player and push on and nothing will come out/
and i tried hard to think but thoughts blew me away and they thought they could see right through me/
they didn't like that so much was visible i was festooned with workings and words/
here now the insides have been taken out and put on display, hanging from the washing lines, waiting for the light so they can dance/
the stuff i took made me like that case – see through nothing going on here mister and im wearing my insides out still

Lisa D'Onofrio

Poet's comment: This piece represents the first entire collaboration by Bronwen and myself. I had had the image of a basket woven with words in my head for some time, and had discussed this with Bronwen. I then went away and wrote the words while Bronwen worked on the piece. The words are meant to be flowing, but I used a jagged sentence structure to represent the disparity between the narrator and others' perception of her. I love this final piece – in it I feel you can see a real development in both our work.

See also Basketcase 2

Comment on: Basketcase 1


Posted by Lisa D'Onofrio on 2 December 2004 at 10:59 in Poetry

Tags: broken

by Bronwen Edwards View image


Lisa D'Onofrio

Comment on: brekin/up/broken/down