I was thrilled to find out a couple of months ago that two of my poems were selected for inclusion in Driftfish.

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This is a Zoomorphic anthology of poetry, prose and pictures about marine life – to celebrate it in all its fantastical forms and to commiserate it in its dwindling numbers. Hundreds of submissions were received from around the world and I was lucky enough to be one of its international contributors, thanks to poetry editor Susan Richardson.

Driftfish is Zoomorphic’s first print anthology in which they aim to convey the magazine’s core principle: “to defend non-human species, we must reconnect our imaginations to them.”

The launch was yesterday at ONCA in Brighton, UK as part of its current exhibition Do you speak seagull? and I was one of four to Skype in to read. This was a first for me and unfortunately, no doubt due to our temperamental connection, I wasn’t able to hear them and had to go by visual prompts to begin reading! The main thing however, was that they could hear me perfectly, and I was shown around the room to claps and waves afterwards thanks to Ellie, ONCA’s tech guru.

A copy of the anthology is swimming its way to me as we speak, so if you’re interested in the stunning life the oceans hold, grab a copy and dive in!

I was approached by my publisher Ginninderra Press (GP) a few weeks ago to see if I’d like to be the Pocket Poet for December, which basically means your photo, bio and a sample of your work is displayed in the window of East Avenue Books for the month. Of course I said yes! And collected a copy of the poster yesterday.

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Once again GP’s Stephen and Brenda Matthews have done a wonderful job pulling this together, and are experts at making you feel part of the GP family.  Plus, you know, I’ve never been a pin-up before 😉

So pop along to East Avenue Books to stock up on some stocking fillers; the Pocket Poet series, aswell as the Picaro Poet series, would make perfect Christmas gifts.

There is never enough time to read everything you want or indeed have, and my collection of books, like my wish list, is forever growing.  This particular book had been lying on our coffee table for a while unread. Until yesterday.

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It’s a verse biography by Maureen Gibbons about a homeless woman called Lily Harrop, locally known as the “Butter Lady” due to surviving on sachets of butter, who was found dead in Perth’s Kings Park in 2001.  Part of the current Rabbit Poets Series, it’s a captivating read and is in fact the first verse novel I’ve read in one sitting, especially as I’m not a big fan of this genre.

Told in the voice of Pats, an old friend searching for an explanation for Lily’s death, it’s a moving elegy deftly weaving delicate moments and childhood memories with voracity and flashes of madness, as Pats pieces together Lily’s life before she died.  Upon finding Lily’s campsite in the park, Pats describes it as ‘a space of wild grass, sweet smelling freesias – a skin of silence –’

The butter fetish seemed to stem from when a young Lily and Pats worked in a corner shop, cutting, weighing and wrapping slabs of butter.  Now Pats imagines Lily furtively snacking on the fat, ‘feeling its vicious warmth in the back of her throat’.  And it becomes clear that Pats looked up to Lily as she surveys one of the many park’s gardens – ‘The scents are wild, untamed like the parts of Lily I longed to emulate…’

Halfway through the slimline book I found a snapshot that for me sums up the elusive troubled “Butter Lady”, relayed by one of the early morning walkers:

‘The day before her body was found,

she crossed my path.

She was grey and thin and carried

a rag-bag. I sensed she wanted to speak.’

Today marks the start of Mental Health Week, running until Saturday 15 October with World Mental Health Day tomorrow.

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The week is about shining the light on mental health by educating and engaging people through interactive events across the state, including community festivals, art exhibitions, music, theatre and seminars.

One such event is the Festival of Now, coordinated by the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia in Light Square on Friday 14 October, to bring the mental health community together, showcase the creativity used in the healing journey and reduce the stigma still associated with this multi-faceted condition.

Two of my poems, ‘Beautiful thinking‘ and ‘Session time‘, have been shortlisted for a Mindshare Poetry Award, which I’m thrilled about, but unfortunately I can’t attend the event because I’ll be interstate.  But I’ll be sure to check in after to catch a roundup of the day’s program.

So get involved wherever and however you can to help promote mental health, and keep yours healthy.

Last night was the launch of the Southern-Land Spring series from Garron Publishing at the Halifax Café.  And the place was bursting at the seams, with people flocking to hear the latest work from some fantastic poets – Mike Hopkins, Alison Flett, Steve Brock, Judy Dally and Louise McKenna.

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MC’d by Gary MacRae from Garron Publishing with Sharon Kernot on book sales, which incidentally went like hot cakes, Mike Ladd introduced the line-up, another outstanding local poet.

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First to read was Mike from his ingeniously titled Selfish Bastards and other poems, a collection described as a ‘parody of parodies’ and so naturally Mike read the title poem, which required audience participation.  My favourite line has to be ‘Poets at poetry readings who go over time with their boring bloody confessional poems about their boring bloody tragic lives – Selfish Bastards!’ (shouted by the audience).  Mike’s work is clever, witty and engaging, and there’s a very poignant poem in the collection called ‘My Father’s Blood’, which won a first prize at this year’s Salisbury Writers’ Festival.

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Next up to the mic was Alison reading from Vessel and other poems, and again like Mike Alison read the title poem, two of its three stanzas, which I’ve heard Alison read before and just love.  The poem is about a girl, with each stanza marking a different chapter in her life, beginning with ‘She is small.  The sky does not yet come down around her.  It is still contained in a blue strip at the top of the page’, epitomising childhood.  Alison reads like a dream, fashions poems brimming with feeling and soul, which both haunt and enrapt with their quiet beauty.

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After a short break, Judy shared some poems from Lost Property and other poems, a collection about her late father, her relationship with him and the impact it has on their family dynamics.  Judy started with ‘My father on a January morning’, where we see him ‘hunched on the sea wall’, hiding, ignoring, clearly not wanting to be there, ending with ‘refused an ice cream, cast a shadow’.  Judy’s poems belay the quite often heartbreak of parental relationships, lives spent, moments lost, asks the question, how did we come to this?

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Steve read next from Jardin du Luxembourg and other poems, a collection about travel and his time spent in Europe.  In Steve’s poem ‘Still Life’, he compares writing poetry to ‘a bowl of lemons’ where ‘you need the optimism of the lemon’ and ‘the ability to lend yourself like the humble lemon to season other parts of your life’.  A clever thought-provoking piece, leaving us poets with a literally tantalizing image – that ‘one day you have enough lemons to live off alone.’

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To finish the set Louise read from The Martyrdom of Bees and other poems, which draws on her nursing career.  Louise also started with the title poem and like Alison read two of its three stanzas, where a bee ‘alights upon his arm, testing for sweetness on the inside of it, as if it is the pale throat of a flower before the white hot pain’ and then later, they become ‘airborne tigresses, poised to kill.’  I particularly liked ‘A Nurse’s Meditations in the Sluice Room’, where ‘ your contempt is like a needle waved in my face’ to the final stunning lines – ‘I have carried my anger in your bedpan – now I open the tap, rinse it away.’

These chapbooks are exquisitely rendered pieces of art, both inside and out, and once again provide perfect poetic snapshots, a credit to the South Australian poetry scene.   

With National Poetry Day around the corner (Wednesday 6 October), I want to share a couple of thought-provoking quotes I’ve discovered recently through my poetry groups.

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It’s often very easy for a poet to ‘tell’ rather than ‘show’ in their work, so this from Anton Chekhov is a beautiful reminder:

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Chekhov was a 19th century Russian playwright and short story writer, who had a unique talent of that time to recreate and express what it means to be human.  So I’ve printed this out in fancy writing and stuck it to our fridge to remind me every time I get milk, juice, wine, etc. to show and not tell.

Another quote to catch my attention was the following by Francis Ponge, speaking about poetry:

“You have first of all to side with your own spirit, and your own taste. Then take the time, and have the courage, to express all your thoughts on the subject at hand (not just keeping the expressions that seem brilliant or distinctive). Finally you have to say everything simply, not striving for charm, but conviction.”

Ponge was a 20th century French essayist and poet heavily influenced by surrealism, who developed a prose poem form which meticulously examined everyday objects.  I like the self-exploration in this, the hunt to find a different angle from which to engage the reader.

As a poet I’m continually learning, developing and honing my skills, and participating in workshops, groups and courses is a fundamental way to do this.  In addition to reading, editing, researching, experimenting, critiquing, sharing…you get the drift.

Another fantastic series from a fine publisher

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The launch of my chapbook  “Selfish Bastards and Other Poems” will take place at the Halifax Cafe in Adelaide on Thursday, October 6th, 2016. I am in the illustrious company of Alison Flett, Judy Dally, Louise McKenna and Steve Brock, the other poets in the 2016 Garron chapbook series. It could be a big night.

If you can’t make the launch, you can order copies of “Selfish Bastards and Other Poems” here, and I will post to you as soon as they arrive from the publisher.

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are an essential part of any poet’s toolkit.  So why I’ve only just joined some I don’t know.  And now I’m a member of three!

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The first is more of a workshop run by Jan Owen, a very prestigious local poet, in which poets share any poems they would like feedback on, discuss the poems produced from the homework task set, any other model poems suggested, techniques, style, etc.  Jan really is a mine of poetic wisdom.

The second group I was invited to is held at East Avenue Books and facilitated by Joan Fenney, co-owner, in which again poets share any poems they have for feedback surrounded by a beautiful array of books, forever a purchase risk where I’m concerned.

The third group, Poetica, also invited me, with the vote to be a unanimous one, so an exclusive group with some of the finest Adelaide-based poets I know (feel very privileged to be a member!).  Again homework is set every month with each member taking a turn to run the session.

Thankfully they’re all held on a different Sunday of the month so no clashes, but they really are a wonderful source of skill, insight and inspiration, generating some very thought-provoking work.  And I’ve learnt, and am still learning, so much about other poets, form, technique, movements, etc., knowledge I feel is enriching the poetry I write.

So there you go, I can’t stress enough the importance of poetry groups.  If you’re not currently a member of one, I would strongly recommend you try to be.

It’s the 20th birthday of Ginninderra Press (GP), and to celebrate the milestone of this prestigious publishing house run by Stephen Matthews and his wife Brenda, a weekend of literary events, in which it was a pleasure to participate.

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Saturday saw a full day at Tea Tree Gully Library, MC’d by Peter Bucklow co-owner of East Avenue Books with Joan Fenney, beginning with Stephen chatting to Joan and for someone who rarely enjoys the spotlight, Stephen was captivating.

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Having graduated from Cambridge with a ‘fascination for books’, Stephen shared his journey into publishing, a path deterred by his career guidance counsellor who suggested teaching instead.  So after taking his advice, and from there into bookselling and eventually into editing, Stephen pursued his desire to ‘give manuscripts a place in our culture’.  He explained how getting published has literally changed peoples’ lives (I can vouch for that) and how print on demand has helped to secure the future of books, and indeed his workload.

Next up was the launch by Debbie Lee of Rays of Light: Ginninderra Press – the first 20 years compiled by Joan Fenney.

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This is an enchanting read, learning how Stephen’s brainchild has established itself firmly in contemporary Australian literature spanning all genres – non-fiction, poetry, fiction, short stories – by publishing ‘little pieces of art’.  Since the inception of their chapbooks in 2014 – the Picaro Poets and the Pocket Poets series – GP has sold 6,000 copies in two years, now that’s impressive.  This book is an invaluable record created by Joan after 15 hours of interview, with eight chapters written by GP authors, as well as a compilation of quotes from members of the GP family.

And then it was time to launch First Refuge: Poems on Social Justice edited by Ann Nadge, in which I’m thrilled to have a poem.

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Former SA Premier and now ordained minister Lynn Arnold had this privilege and did so eloquently.  These poems from 88 GP authors explore social justice reaching into uncomfortable spaces – war, domestic violence, refugees, isolation – leaving nothing unearthed, resulting in a somewhat emotional journey when reading it from cover to cover.  To quote Ann, this is ‘a small book with big teeth, where language has power’.

After lunch there was a session about being a writer, editor, reader, a panel discussion with Jude Aquilina, Zenda Vecchio and Brenda Eldridge (aka Brenda Matthews) facilitated by Louise Nicholas.   Jude used to be a telegram writer and then pursued her passion for poetry by giving workshops, readings, judging competitions and editing manuscripts.  Zenda only became a writer recently, enjoys telling stories and believes ‘reading and writing to be two strands of the same rope’.  Brenda does what she loves every day, is flexible with her time and energy, and knows when her head isn’t in the creative space, deadheading roses makes more sense.  When asked what their definition of a professional writer is, their answer was when you make a living from it, with reading an essential component.

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The next session looked at the impact of modern poetry – accessible or too obscure?  Graham Rowlands shared some useful insights and read a poem by Michael Farrell, a poet regularly published in national broadsheets and whose work can often be difficult to decipher due to its ambiguous nature.  Ian McFarlane shared some of his own work, explaining how it has helped him personally and how he prefers to connect with an audience rather than confuse it.

The last session of the day was about how and where writers, specifically Tony Fawcus, Jill Gower and Helen Mitchell write, facilitated by Maureen Miston.

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Tony is a self-confessed poetry addict who writes continuously, reaching blindly for his notebook and pen in the dark so as not to wake his beloved.  Jill likes to write sitting at the table of a café using beautiful notebooks to encourage her to do so, sharing how the likes of D H Lawrence, Ernest Hemmingway, Philip Roth and Jodi Picoult prefer to write.  Helen writes in her study but finds inspiration outside, carrying a Sony recorder with her and using eavesdropping as a skill.

This was a jam-packed day covering a variety of thought-provoking topics, one I left happy to prep for the following day’s readings from the social justice anthology at East Avenue Books.

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As usual the bookshop was packed yesterday afternoon, with Peter once again hosting proceedings, introducing Ann to explain how the anthology came about.  Several poets read their poems, including me, and I felt honoured to see my poem quoted from in the introduction.  The anthology is a riveting read, one for anyone interested in social justice issues and the varied perspectives evoked.

And this concluded the celebrations.  There was also a dinner cruise in Port Adelaide, home of GP, on Saturday evening which I unfortunately couldn’t make but heard it was wonderful, made more so by the appearance of the local dolphins.

Last night I went to the launch of Little Windows at Booknook & Bean, an exciting new line of chapbooks from poets Jill Jones and Alison Flett.  Published in a series of four, poets Andy Jackson and John Glenday helped Jill and Alison fulfill the first quota.

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These limited edition handmade chapbooks are exquisite, developed to get South Australian poets on the map and this they will do.   Alison introduced the series, thanking all those involved in its production, before handing over to Jennifer Liston to MC the event, with each poet sharing three poems from their chapbooks.

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John was first up, joining the event via Skype from Scotland, and began with ‘the apple ghost’, a haunting poem of loss in which an old woman has kept the last apples her husband picked before he died.  There are ‘shelf over shelf of apples, weightless with decay’ prompting the dead husband to roam the home at night and attempt to try ‘to hang the fruit back on the tree.’  The ‘undark’ followed, the first poem in the chapbook, continuing the delicate theme of death where ‘those girls’ have ‘come back’, ‘their footprints gleam in the past like alien snow’ and the light they once had has ‘burned through the cotton of their lives’.  John’s final poem I didn’t quite catch (too busy manoeuvring a crate to sit down!) but I’m glad to have discovered his work.

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Alison read next, sharing three poems from her fox series, which I adore, beginning with ‘fox 1: umvelt’ where he moves ‘in silence through the city’, ‘the pavements are thick with his thick foxy scent’ and after he’s gone, leaves ‘his shadow smoking and stamping in the air.’  In ‘fox 2: corporeal’ aspects of the fox are presented; ‘his eyes are amber planets’, his tail with its ‘bristling quivering tips’, his ‘feet listening to the nothing’, his heart ‘a dark livid thing.’ The human connection is explored in ‘fox 3: liminoid’ when Alison encounters one crossing the road ahead as she walks with her friends from a nightclub, feeling ‘a pencil line of silence’ running between them as they regard one another in the din, and how this ‘gift from the fox’ returns ‘when theres noise all around’, ‘its taut string singing the silence’.

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Andy followed with ‘blue mountains line’, a poignant journey in a train carriage ‘the colour of tendon and bone’, where ‘outside, the mist has lifted and left behind the shudder and billow of mountains’ and ‘that knocking is only an empty wheelchair, wobbling with the motion of the train.’  Andy then read ‘breathing’ posing the question ‘How do I carry this air?’, the scene a cremation described as ‘Theatre in reverse, decomposing you into these vague and pressing sensations in my head and chest’, leaving us with the simple line ‘Breathe out, breathe in -.’  Andy finished with a wonderful poem I’ve heard him read before, ‘what I have under my shirt’, offerings to explain the impact of Marfan Syndrome; ‘a speed hump (your eyes must slow down approaching)’, ‘the shape of my father’, ‘infinite shirts’.

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Jill completed the readings beginning with ‘the wall, the door, the rain’, a thought-provoking poem where ‘there’s nothing I can claim of this world someone keeps giving away’ being ‘white with entitlements and modern footwear while blasphemy accumulates in my dreams’.  Next came ‘big apples leaf summer’ rich with childhood and ‘the kindness of leaves’, as Jill contemplates ‘I am to be diamonds, pick me-ups, queer riddles you do not know’, crossing the playground her ‘confusion was greater than the hills’.  Jill left us with ‘mighty tree’, the final poem in her chapbook, each line a stand-alone statement knitting beautiful images, where at the end she pleads ‘Oh mighty tree fall on me. Make me a legend or a nest. The magpies can pluck my dream. The ghosts can have the rest.’

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This is a wonderfully fresh series, small finite collections presenting snapshots of poetry.  Finishing touches are being applied to the website to enable others to gaze into these poetic windows of brilliance.