floribunda front cover pic 1

Drawings by Judy Morris with accompanying poems by Ian Gibbins,

exhibited at the Hahndorf Academy, Hahndorf, 13th June – 26th July, 2015.

Floribunda was originally conceived by Judy Morris as a collection of drawings inspired by native and introduced plants growing in the greater Adelaide region. Judy is particularly attracted to the more unusual shapes and textures of these plants, carefully observing and documenting their emergence and eventual turnover.

The poems in Floribunda were written by Ian Gibbins in response to Judy’s drawings, their titles, and meanings hidden within the formal Latin titles of the plants. They imagine an expedition into unknown, dangerous country, the explorers struggling with the environment and themselves in equal measure.

Here is the poem relating to the title image:

Helleborus x hybridus

– Winter Rose –

Type description

Parenthetic warnings to maintain distance,
deceptively comfortable,
too often prone to swoon.

Field notes

Temperatures fell, vacated sodden nights,
reft seditious drowse, queathed stoney quave.
We should have predicted she would follow
her own route, her singular disjunctive path.
Tough and perpetually feisty, resilient turns
of phrase poised sharp on her perfumed lips.
Yet she surprised us, and faltered, overtaken
by qualm on a cusp of illusion. Pallor dissolute,
her mien a chimera of ghostly translucence,
she withered, cruelled by mysterious fates.
For a moment, she stayed her chrysalis dream,
held our consternation at bay, spurned our
vexed avail. “I have two abiding wishes,”
she murmured through her gid, “bathe me
in freshly budded flowers, abrim with astral
blush; and, before the sapphire moonrise,
cede me, with neither prejudice nor condition,
three embracing breaths of pure unsullied air.”

To see more about Floribunda

Click here

To buy the Floribunda book with all Judy’s drawings and Ian’s poems

Click here

The Microscope Project: How Things Work

TMP How Things Work front cover COVER small

What were we going to do with a collection of decommissioned research microscopes? Two scanning electron microscopes, one almost completely disassembled, fluorescence microscopes, once state-of-the-art, that generated the images underpinning the international recognition of a generation of neuroscientists at Flinders University, a whole room of ancillary preparatory equipment and spare parts?

… and then there was all their supporting documentation: schematic diagrams and plans, manuals, advertising brochures, catalogues, certifications of performance, packing lists.

Some of the texts were so powerful, they needed only to be sampled and edited according to a pre-determined rule. Others formed the core of a new piece of writing. And in cases where we lacked any clear documentation, new texts were invented, imagining, re-imagining how things might have been, who might have been involved, how things might look, how things work…

Over more than 12 months, Ian Gibbins, Catherine Truman, Deb Jones, Angela Valamanesh and Nicholas Folland collaborated with these elements in the unique shared environment of The Distillery to create The Microscope Project, exhibited at the Flinders University Art Museum & City Gallery, 26th July – 21st September, 2014, and curated by Fiona Salmon and Madeline Reece.

How Things Work, features poems, fictions and text sampled from the microscope manuals, schematic diagrams and advertising brochures by Ian. The texts are complemented by full colour images by Catherine Truman, Deb Jones and Ian.

Here are some sample pages:

getting started web
thesaurus book 3.3
Box 11 web1


How Things Work is accompanied by a CD Microscope Music featuring several of the texts set to music generated from parts of the microscopes, their images, or even the texts themselves. Listen to Microscope Music here.

You can buy How Things Work and Microscope Music via PayPay at the Shop.

urban biology

wakefield press / friendly street poets 

ISBN 978 1 74305 099 6 / march 2012

urban biology is Ian’s first full collection of poetry. The poems employ diverse voices: various animals, historical figures, scientists, visitors from elsewhere. They vary in form from barely heard phrases to complex longer works with inter-linked sequences with multiple points of view. The work is informed by science that rigorous, rational and mechanistic. Yet the poems are suffused with wonder and respect, as they explore the limits of language to describe our environment and our emotional responses to it.

Here are a couple of sample poems:

Lullabies, Gardens Road Cemetery

Through the stillness you invoke when the traffic goes quiet,
when the wind falls calm and leaves quiver but do not drop,
you may convince yourself: “Yes, I can hear them.” Perhaps

flowers might have been folded from tissue paper or Chinese silk;
a plaque might once have been a ploughshare, perhaps only one
breath, only one name, unaccompanied, only “Tom”, unadorned.

Yes, perhaps you can hear them: hushed below widow-maker gums,
buttressed figs, under tussocks, dandelions, iron wrought by sadness,
these wistful strains, the lullabies of the barely born, a mother’s song,

after Father, finally, unremittingly, never returned; perhaps you
can hear her incantation, embedded in oxide and earth, whispered
on this eternal November the fifth, nineteen hundred and forty-six.

Departing the Gardens, perhaps you can ignore hints of gristle, caul,
marrow, sinew. Perhaps you can ask a translation of polished marble.
Perhaps, out of silence, you can tally the miles old lullabies have slept.

~ originally published in page seventeen 8, 2nd prize in their national poetry competition, 2010 ~

Middle of the Road 

This is nothing like
magnolias floating in a bowl of mercury

schools of flying-fish beneath
a glittering Tommy Ruff sky

conversations between spider orchids
barely audible through the thornbrush

barely audible through
the tangle of cassette tapes

the twisted telephone wires
the finger-picked notes

folded, refolded
in the glove-box of my car.

This is nothing like
the broken white line

that divides my fluttering attention
that stills the butterflies

barely audible, trapped
within the pit of my stomach.

~ originally published in Blast 7, 2008 ~

urban biology is accompanied by a CD, urban biology – audiodraft, that includes a selection of poems from the book performed by Ian accompanied by his own electronic music. Listen to it   here

Buy the urban biology book or the urban biology – audiodraft CD with PayPal at the Shop.



ABN 39 580 050 698


fb15: Floribunda 

floribunda front cover pic 1


19 full colour plates by Judy Morris, 13 poems by Ian Gibbins, 32 pp
21 x 21 cm, paperback, published June 2015
ISBN 9780646937892
A$22.50 including postage (Australia wide)

Buy it here



mp14: The Microscope Project: How Things Work

TMP How Things Work front cover COVER small


Large format, 17 poems, 72 pp
Full colour images by Catherine Truman, Deb Jones & Ian Gibbins
Flinders University Art Museum, 2014
ISBN 978 0 9925472 1 9
A$35.00 plus A$5.00 postage & handling (Australia wide)


ub12: urban biology


45 poems, 96 pp
Wakefield Press / Friendly Street Poets, 2012
ISBN 978 1 74305 099 6
A$19.95 plus A$5.00 postage & handling (Australia wide)




CD 014: Microscope Music


15 tracks, total playing time: approx 50 min, 2014
A$10.00 plus A$3.00 postage & handling (Australia wide)



CD 010: urban biology – audiodraft


12 tracks, total playing time: approx 50 min, 2012
A$10.00 plus A$3.00 postage & handling (Australia wide)



CD 008: not absolute


20 tracks, total playing time: approx 60 min, 2009
A$10.00 plus A$3.00 postage & handling (Australia wide)


in case you were wondering…

Ian Gibbins was born and bred in Melbourne, not far from Caulfield Racecourse. After completing a PhD in Zoology at Melbourne University, he spent two years in Pharmacology Departments in the USA, before coming back to live in a hilly suburb of Adelaide, South Australia. For a long time now, he was a neuroscientist and Professor of Anatomy in the School of Medicine at Flinders University. Along the way, he managed to pick up an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. In March 2014, he retired from his academic position to spend more time writing poetry and electronic music, produce videos, build a few websites, windsurf, and cook… Nevertheless, he has been awarded Emeritus Professor status at Flinders University.


Ian has been internationally recognised for his research on the microscopic structure and function of the nerves that monitor and control the activity of the internal organs, with over 100 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters. His work used sophisticated microscopy techniques to see directly how different types of nerves connect up with each other, as well recording the electrical behaviour of nerves as they communicate via these connections.


Education is an important part of being a scientist. Ian taught a wide range of topics to medical students, science students and anyone else who is inclined to listen. Topics covered include how the brain works, how we move, the biology of bone, and how we develop. Students seemed to like his classes and occasionally gave him a teaching award.


Language helps makes us human. Yet it often fails to adequately describe things we know or feel. Much of Ian’s poetry explores this failure of language. He has only been writing poetry seriously since about 2007, but was well tutored back in student days by Chris Wallace-Crabbe, amongst others. Ian has been surprised to find his poems getting published and doing well in various national competitions. Highlights so far include being selected for Best Australian Poems 2008 and short-listed for the The Australian Book Review Poetry Prize 2007, Newcastle Poetry Prize 2010 and Ron Pretty Poetry Prize 2014. urban biology (2012) is his first full length collection. In 2014, he published The Microscope Project: How Things Work and Floribunda in 2015. Ian performs his poetry regularly around Adelaide and beyond, often accompanied by his electronic music and videos.

electronic music and videos…

Bleeps, sweeps and samples commonly emerge from Ian’s computer, sometimes accompanied by words he has recorded. He also can knock out a fairly decent boogie-woogie on a piano with enough keys. His electronic music / poetry mixes have ended up on ABC Radio National (All in the Mind; Poetica), Going Down Swinging, and Cordite and form a key component of The Microscope Project. His videos have accompanied his exhibitions and performances, with several now published on-line and exhibited internationally. He’s also picked up a couple of public art commissions for his videos, one for the Adelaide Convention Centre, and one for the Adelaide City Council. He has performed at various pubs, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival Fringe (2013), the Adelaide Fringe Festival (2014-2016), and the Queensland Poetry Festival (2014). In 2015, he won the Studio Instrumental section of the SCALA Festival Of Original Music competition, for his piece Caza.


As Professor of Anatomy, Ian has been privileged to access, explore and explain the intricacies of the human body. The study of human anatomy has a long and complex social history, something he is often asked to speak about. Even now, how we understand our feelings for our own body and those of others is still full of mystery. For several years, Ian has been collaborating with artist, Catherine Truman, to document how we appreciate the body and communicate our representation of embodiment to others.

art, science and the public…

Art and science share much more than they differ. Both aim to explain the world and our place within it, even if they use largely complimentary approaches. Ian has collaborated with artists extensively in recent years to explore and reveal this underlying common ground. He regularly gives public lectures and performances on various aspects of neuroscience, anatomy and the arts in venues such as The Gov and RiAus. Highlights include the Australian Book Review lecture; not absolute and The Microscope Project, both major collaborative installations at the Flinders University City Gallery in Adelaide; contributing text to Australian Dance Theatre’s productions Be Your Self & Proximity; and musical performances with Ronnie Taheny.

For many years, Ian has been on the advisory group of the Adelaide Festival of Ideas (AFOI).  In 2015, the Adelaide Festival of Ideas Association Inc was formed as a not-for-profit group to run the AFOI. Ian is a Board member and AFOI Program Group Convenor. As such, he was one of the key people organising and running the incredibly successful 2016 AFOI.


For details of Ian’s creative work, follow these links:

Published poetry

Featured poetry performances

Anthologised and short-listed poems

Videos, published and exhibited

Public art

Popular articles and reviews

Public lectures on art and science

Collaborations with other artists


For a public record of most of Ian’s scientific publications, follow this link to PubMed.


Doing poetry around the place …



Ian windsurfing…

Seaford (pic Russell Hunt)




Video poetry combines text, images and sound in different ways. Some of Ian’s videos have been part of his live performances. Others are digital works that explore the limits of language. Several have been published on-line. accidentals (recalculated) was a finalist in the 2016 Carbon Culture Poetry Film contestsensurious was short-listed for the Red Room Company New Shoots Poetry Prize 2016, while situs inversus and catclaws were selected for screening at the 5th International Video Poetry Festival, Athens, 2016. Canine was selected as an official entry in the 2017 Juteback Potery Film Festival (USA).

Ian also has contributed videos to art-science installations including Not Absolute, The Microscope Project, Floribunda and, most recently, Body of Evidence, which commissioned two of Ian’s video works for the Adelaide Convention Centre. 42nds was commissioned as a public art work, projected in Rundle Mall, Adelaide, by Adelaide City Council and the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT).

To see all Ian’s videos, click on the vimeo button. Click here for a listing of what has been shown where.


If you are interested in video poems more broadly, check out Moving Poems (which has featured several of mine!).


Rearrangements was originally performed at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival Fringe in 2013 with Kerryn Tredrea, Tracey Korsten and Cindy Macdonald. The first poem in the sequence won the Friendly Street Poets 2014 Satura Prize.


Bayside Reporter was published in Australian Poetry Members Anthology, 2014 and selected for Moving Poems: the best poetry videos on the web.


Editor’s Selection was published in Overland Photonic, 2014.


SPSS was published in Cordite Poetry Review, 2015.


Cataplexy was published in e•ratio 21


Some of Ian’s videos from the not absolute project are here.


The starting point for much of Ian’s poetry is that language fails us all too often: the feelings and experiences we cannot put into words; half-remembered details of events in our past or imagined in our future; missed fragments of conversations… So how can we portray, reproduce, explain these failings using only the language we have?

The poetry covers many styles. It often consists of inter-linked sequences with multiple points of view. The language itself may be vernacular, or archaic, based on latin and old english roots, or it may have technical elements, derived from the world of science. More and more, Ian is using sampling and translational techniques to generate new texts from found sources.

Recently, much of Ian’s writing has been project-based, often in collaboration with other artists, resulting in sequences of poems, images, audio and video with specific style and content suited to the project.

Ian’s work has been widely published in-print and on-line. Several poems have been short-listed for major prizes. To date, he has produced three books of poems: urban biology (2012); The Microscope Project: How Things Work (with Catherine Truman and Deb Jones, 2014); and Floribunda (with Judy Morris, 2015). Each of these books has an accompanying CDs or electronic music installations.

Performance is a big feature of Ian’s work, often accompanied by his music and videos. Apart from regular appearances around the Adelaide live poetry scene, he has featured at the Queensland Poetry festival, the Adelaide Fringe Festival, and the Adelaide Cabaret Festival Fringe.

Ian often works collaboratively with other artists including musicians, dancers, and visual artists. This has led to several productive projects, including The Microscope Project, Floribunda, and two collaborations with the Australian Dance Theatre: Be Your Self, and Proximity.

Click here for a complete list of Ian’s published work.

Field Guide was shortlisted for the Australian Book Review Poetry prize in 2007 and was selected for Best Australian Poems 2008 (Black Inc). It is included in urban biology.


Field Guide 

1 Preface 

I could, if you prefer, create a list
like a birdwatcher, concealed
in a reedy hide, with binoculars,
field guide and record book, a mnemonic
of migration lines, our lines of sight,
a cladogram of our evolving past.

2.1 Comb jellies (Ctenophora) 

Our nerve net
our eightfold
metachronic prisms
ripple through the rain of light.

2.2 Spotted eagle rays (Myliobatridae) 

If we had feet, we would dance;
if we had hands, we would hold them.
Instead, we reel and dip our leisurely trefoils.
We have stars on our backs;
they travel with us,
untouchable reflections of an untouched sky.

2.3 Parrot fish (Scaridae) 

With all their fancy feathers
I suppose the lorikeets and rosellas
can be as brash and noisy as they like.
I would rather take my time
and, gliding between the staghorns,
arrive in rainbowed silence.

2.4 Hawksbill turtle (Chelonidae)

Down here among the soft corals,
the ocean moves less.
Ever so slowly, I eke out my oxygen,
await the incoming tide
to clear their unguents, their crèmes,
and salve my shadow-sharp eyes.

3.1 Blue tigers (Nymphalidae) 

Somewhere between the clouds and the earth
unaccountable corridors of attraction lure us,
tasting the eddies and wakes of falling leaves,
of the trails left by every one of us,
until we metamorphose, finally, into cool
ether streams, veiled with weeping mists.

3.2 Black fruit bats (Pteropodidae) 

This would be a great place to hang around
making bad puns and not much better jokes,
were it not for the mosquitoes, thirteen to the dozen,
twisting and turning us back to front
and upside down, the webs between our fingers
itching in expectation of sweet and sticky flight.

4.1 Sooty shearwater (Procellariidae) 

You really have to agree
that when the southeast trades blow so hard,
when the air stings with so much salt
that the sun turns as white as a pearl,
when the landlost cry for their atropine and ginger,
you can see all the way to Alaska.

4.2 Striped dolphins (Delphinidae) 

We have no knowledge of aerodynamics,
fluid flow, or the diffusion of soluble gasses,
but from below the clicking interface of our sonar horizon,
we jump
we jump
we jump.

5 Index 

Awash on the reef,
calcareous impressions,
days at an end,
enforced retreat,
quiet taxonomy,
secret unhurried returns.