Burrow at Old Water Rat Publishing

Where Mental Health Meets Crisis: The Geography and Psychology of Place (Under Threat)

We are a bi-annual e-journal publishing poetry and other micro texts each February and September. While our focus is what it is to live with poor or good mental health, we are very interested in where this intersects with such priorities as: ecocriticism & ecopoetics, postcolonialism, ekphrasis, progressive religion & secularism.

Phillip has lived with depression for a long time. For over twenty years he was a teacher, sports coach and hike leader, often working with disengaged teens. He has never been very successful at achieving a ‘work/life’ balance, and loved his job a little too much, so carried many emotional loads. As a young adult he was also rocked by three bereavements in the space of a few years. All of this reached a crisis in late 2014 with a breakdown and suicide attempt, a period of hospitalisation, and a diagnosis of severe depression, PTSD and high levels of social anxiety.

Phillip continues to live with poor mental health, and it defines too much of his experience. This e-journal is our act of defiance.

Jillian has experienced depression first hand and as a carer. As a teacher of adolescents, she often finds herself on the frontline of identifying and referring young people to find support for their mental health. She believes that mental health is as important as physical health and is passionate about breaking down the taboos surrounding mental illness.

As a reader and English teacher, Jillian has spent decades reading, analysing and sharing poetry. She now spends down time surrounded by poets and footy fanatics and regularly lends her ear and eye to workshopping and editing both.

Burrow is a poetry journal, but it is not aimed at any elitist or exclusive readership. Poetry is best when it is for everyone!

So, when you email through a poem, include with it a single paragraph essay that outlines some of its context, origins and sources. This paragraph will be published with your poem, as a welcome mat if you like, greeting your audience with some possible reading paths.

As an example of what we like to read:

A valetudinarian’s ‘crisis’ in a time of COVID19

to the progressive bluegrass of Punch Brothers arranged in the old-fashioned way

               (on a magic carpet

               around a single mighty mic)


I am more indebted than ever to my partner safe at home

               but also, more a cock on the lookout

               whose ensemble overdrive is measured

               in teaspoons of vegemite or crushed garlic

               or in mugs of strong black coffee hiding

the bottle of pre-noon comeuppance that makes bearable

the reels and jigs of perfidy and moonshine

                                            soaked up in a sofa’s distressed leather:


I am unshaven, daggy

in worn black and grey tracksuit and

holey woollen socks, shying away from the world

dog-tired from that damned earworm jingle

                                     of what             I’ve become:


               I wish to look at home

in check or plaid or flannel, to be practised

with power tools and solvents whilst commiserating

in a convivial evening’s ‘Hops of Guldenberg’

or amidst other such booze-soaked hymns

               but all I now get is an empty inbox

               as I turn over and over to ‘punch brothers punch

                                                with care’.


‘A valetudinarian’s ‘crisis’ in a time of COVID19’:

Punch Brothers is an American progressive bluegrass band made up of Chris Eldridge (on acoustic guitar), Paul Kowert (on double bass), Noam Pikelney (on banjo), Chris Thile (on mandolin) & Gabe Witcher (on fiddle). Music is a vital part of my life, and along with my family, has got me through many tough spots. Unfortunately, I am not always grateful of their help, which I sometimes confuse with meddling interference – depression is a stink.

Jillian and Phillip Hall

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