Having been invited as a guest speaker in a writer’s festival run by Banksia Park International High School to inspire students to write, this was my first school talk and I must admit, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Mine was the first session in the program after its official opening on Wednesday, with other sessions by a journalist and author taking place next week.  The school is in a part of Adelaide I’d never visited before and Marika, the English Coordinator who’d contacted me, led me to the Resource Centre where a wonderful space has been created for the festival.

About 15 students attended in their lunch break, ranging from 12 to 18 years old, who listened while I shared how I’d started writing, a little about the process I follow, some of my poems, finishing with a few hints and tips for those interested in pursuing poetry.

I asked those who write poetry what they like about it, to which one young boy replied “because I’m creating something”, supporting the idea that the poem is a living, breathing thing.  One girl asked what sort of poetry I write, haiku, sonnet, etc. I replied “free form” – I prefer to write without constraint, to let the poem take the shape it wants, which prompted Marika to make a note to talk to the other teachers about letting the students write more poetry without having to adhere to a set of rules.

The school purchased a few copies of my chapbooks for their library and a couple of students took my contact details, so I’m hoping they’ll be in touch. Events like these are a brilliant way to engage the next generation in writing and provide some insight into taking the next step in their chosen craft.  Fingers crossed they do  😊

Delighted to have a poem here, a thought-provoking collection pulled together by Nina Lewis, the new Worcestershire Poet Laureate

https://worcestershirepoetlaureateninalewis.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/world-refugee-day-in-poetry/

I received my copies recently, and I’m thrilled to be sharing the pages with so many amazing poets and their poems!

Edited by Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright, this anthology is one of many exquisitely produced books from The Emma Press.  Founded by Emma and based in Birmingham, UK, this is an award-winning press, scooping the Publishers’ Awards at the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets in 2016.  What I particularly love about The Emma Press are their themed submission calls on a variety of topics to inspire and create those all-important words. Their motto is “small press, big dreams”, which they make true and then some.

Contributors to this anthology include Carole Bromley, Angela Kirby, Gill McEvoy and Anna Woodford, alongside brilliant new voices, sharing poems about all types of aunties:

the trail-blazing, advice-giving, feast-cooking, fast-chatting, music-loving, gift-giving, high-kicking

so eloquently summed up by Rachel in the introduction. It’s a collection to make you smile.

And a copy is winging its way across the miles to my beautiful nephew as we speak, so he can read the poem about him penned by his auntie 😊

I went to the launch of Shaping the Fractured Self: Poetry of Chronic Illness and Pain on Wednesday, a stunning collection edited by Heather Taylor Johnson, and the first of its kind in Australia from UWA Publishing.

Launched by Peter Goldsworthy, this is an exquisite book; to be absorbed, examined, shared and treasured.  In his foreword, Peter explores poetry as a cathartic process, the ‘cleansing of emotional wounds’, with ‘much hard-earned wisdom and hard-wrung poetry in the pages that follow.’

A plethora of diseases and conditions are represented – cancer, mental health, disability, postnatal depression, ageing and dementia.  Heather herself suffers from Ménière’s disease, an imbalance of the inner ear, and one she writes about here.  But what makes this anthology so special is its structure; three poems from each poet preceded by a narrative describing their illness and the impact it has.

And Heather has gathered together some fine Australian poets – the likes of Fiona Wright, Andy Jackson and Stuart Barnes alongside those who read at the Adelaide launch – Gareth Roi Jones, Ian Gibbins, Rachael Mead, Rob Walker and Steve Evans.

Gareth suffers from migraines, a debilitating condition painfully conveyed in his poem ‘aching’:

hours when simply standing up

is a pickaxe

when the growling dog

won’t let you through the gate.

Ian is a neuroscientist so knows about the body, how it works and how it doesn’t, demonstrated by his brilliant performance of ‘Cataplexy’, a poem which explores this rare condition where extremes of emotion trigger a switch from consciousness into a waking dream-like state.

Rachael was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, states eloquently expressed in ‘What lies beneath my skin’, which opens with:

The ringing telephone ratchets me into tension.

providing an insight into her daily management, when walking the dog offers some relief:

I put myself in the path of wildness

let it fill my long and hollow bones.

Rob’s condition is chronic osteoarthritis, a degenerative bone disease, where in his poem ‘radiology’ (composed with Magdalena Ball), ‘holding our future in nervous hands, we come with X-rays’, likening this process to ‘reading the stars within’, an ‘internal astrology’, a captivating image.

Steve suffers with temporal epilepsy, experiencing Alice-in-Wonderland-type moments of surreal forgetfulness.  In the ‘Body Electric’, he shares what it feels like:

My body is short-circuiting.

a tumultuous journey culminating in the final stunning lines:

And my words are brittle copies

Of what I used to do. My fingers fail.

I just can’t make a fist of this.

These snapshots are enough to tempt anyone living with chronic illness and pain to seek the bigger picture captured in this collection.  And they need not be a fan of poetry to be able to appreciate the unequivocal raw beauty of the afflicted self.

is today! In the US and Canada but you know, nothing to stop us from extending it everywhere!!

Copyright @ http://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org 2017

Initiated in 2002 in New York as part of its National Poetry Month celebration, Poem in your Pocket Day is designed to encourage people to select a poem, unknown or a favourite, and carry it around with them for the day, sharing it with others throughout.

So, let’s get sharing; be it in your office, a bookstore, local park or simply on the sidewalk. If you’re on Twitter, use the hashtag #pocketpoem. For those more traditional folk, reach into your pocket and read out loud!

Seeing as I’m going through a Plath phase, I’ve put ‘Morning Song’ in my pocket to whip out and share on the train or during my lunchtime walk or more interestingly, in a meeting at work…

Having been reacquainted with Sylvia Plath’s poetry recently through one of my poetry groups, I thought I should revisit her only published novel.

The Bell Jar was one of many mandatory texts during my English degree and rereading it some twenty years later, the wow factor’s still there.

It’s a haunting account of a young girl’s breakdown and recovery, drawn from Plath’s own, which began in her late teens.  The protagonist, Esther Greenwood, wins an internship in New York but, unlike her colleagues, she is not wooed by the glamourous lifestyle; quite the contrary, it frightens her.  Bit by bit she unravels, plunders depths and herself, before slowly rising to the surface again.

With its sharp lyrical prose, it’s clear this is the work of an extraordinarily gifted poet:

‘I saw the days of the year stretching ahead like a series of bright, white boxes, and separating one box from another was sleep, like a black shade. Only for me, the long perspective of shades that set off one box from the next had suddenly snapped up, and I could see day after day after day glaring ahead of me like a white, broad, infinitely desolate avenue.’

Losing yourself is a complicated thing; the dysconnectivity rendering you apart from every thing and one around you, reducing you to scattered pieces until there’s seemingly no way of reattachment. Plath eloquently captures this painful undoing and descent of the bell jar, which eventually sealed itself over her own brilliant mind.

just happens to be me, which is fab seeing as it’s my birthday month!

Following the successful run of featuring a Pocket Poet each month in the window of East Avenue Books, Ginninderra Press have decided to run through the Picaro Poet series, with my collection, Smashed glass at midnight, up next to entice passersby into the shop.

And once again Stephen and Brenda Matthews have done a wonderful job of pulling this together, including some of my favourite poems from the chapbook.

So if you’re about pop in; immerse yourself in the voices of a thousand and more pens.

Mind the gap: reading what isn’t there – http://wp.me/p9CkI-1tO

is today! Initiated by UNESCO in 1999, the aim is a simple one – to honour and promote poets and poetry around the world, and to recognise poetry as an international language with the ability to unite.

Copyright @ Slideshare.net 2017

Love it or hate it, poetry is an important historical instrument, an invaluable form of expression, which can challenge, heal, humour and change, but above all connect us to our very existence. Here’s this year’s message from Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO:

Poetry is a window onto the breath-taking diversity of humanity

So I want to share one of my favourite poems by one of my favourite poets with you. Having recently revisited her work, Sylvia Plath is undeniably one of the world’s finest poets and below is one of many reasons why. Plath wrote this poem a month before her separation from Ted Hughes and just six months before her death:

For a Fatherless Son

You will be aware of an absence, presently,
Growing beside you, like a tree,
A death tree, color gone, an Australian gum tree —-
Balding, gelded by lightning—an illusion,
And a sky like a pig’s backside, an utter lack of attention.
But right now you are dumb.
And I love your stupidity,
The blind mirror of it. I look in
And find no face but my own, and you think that’s funny.
It is good for me
To have you grab my nose, a ladder rung.
One day you may touch what’s wrong —-
The small skulls, the smashed blue hills, the godawful hush.
Till then your smiles are found money.

Copyright @ Sylvia Plath 1962

So I urge you to write, read, speak and share to help celebrate all things poetry, not only on this day, but every day.

I went to the launch by Carol Lefevre of Jean Harley was here last night at Dymocks bookshop.

2017-03-03-13-17-52

This is Heather Taylor Johnson’s second novel, Pursuing Love and Death her first published in 2013 by Harper Collins, a domestically rich story with the protagonist suffering from Meniere’s disease, a debilitating condition of the inner ear causing vertigo and tinnitus, which Heather herself battles with. So Heather’s second novel has been hotly anticipated.

Published by the University of Queensland Press, it explores love, relationships and the impact of absence. Jean Harley – wife, mother, lover, dancer – is sunshine in the lives of those around her, but when tragedy strikes they are forced to continue without her. Despite a little unravelling and a few storms, Jean leaves a powerful legacy to abate them. I’ve heard it’s a tear-jerker

Heather is first and foremost a poet, with a number of sole and collaborative collections to her name, and her lyricism is reflected in her exquisite prose.  I recall Heather sharing an extract from the draft of this book last year at a reading with other poets, which has stayed with me, and Heather’s knack for scene-setting is like an intimacy shared, demonstrated by the excerpt she read yesterday from the chapter “Emotional Fishing”. Here’s a snapshot:

Charley sat as far back as he could, feeling out of place, though that was nothing new. His bald head shone under the fluoro lights and the back of his neck itched – an eczema problem that flared up when he was nervous. He kept smoothing his long beard to a point – another nervous tic. One might think he was made of tougher stuff because if this was an eye-for-eye world, here was a man who’d seen things that should’ve blinded him, a man who’d done the sort of things people don’t talk about at the dinner table but read about in newspapers over breakfast…”

Quoted as being “a book to savour” by Hannah Kent, it’s clear this will be another stunning read from an extraordinarily talented writer. A visceral narrative with complex, relatable characters, Heather offers us a world to get lost in, absorb, making us ponder our place in our own.