Tuesday evening saw the launch at The Howling Owl of the second series of chapbooks from Little Windows Press; a small local publisher with ‘little books, big horizons’.

Launched by Jill Jones, an extremely talented and acclaimed poet herself, these chapbooks are exquisite – pieces of art in their own right – and in this limited-edition print run present work by Ali Cobby Eckermann, Kathryn Hummel, Jen Hadfield and Adam Aitken.

Ali read first from The Aura of Loss, a collection of poems exploring the stolen generation and its impact on those survivors who carry its grief. Ali is a Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal poet and author of seven books, including the verse novel Ruby Moonlight. Her poem ‘My mother’s love’ is a painful insight to maternal absence – ‘her touch is devoid and I am frantic’ – followed by a peeling of the self until ‘my fingers now bones dipped in blood I etch the lines of my first poem’, a haunting final image.

Kathryn’s diverse award-winning work spans poetry, non-fiction, fiction and photography, published and performed both here and overseas. Her last collection, The Bangalore Set, delves into her time in India. Among others, Kat shared ‘Wharf’ from her chapbook The Body that Holds, a poem about Port Adelaide where ‘time is a sinew to be thinned between thumb and forefinger’ and ‘rumination has its own magnifying silence.’ With nothing to do, two men wait while ‘between a jacket and its lining a flat light comes’.

Alison read poems from Jen’s chapbook Mortis and Tenon, a fellow Scottish poet whose own work is simply brilliant, while Jen lives in the Shetland Islands. As well as poet, Jen is a visual artist and bookmaker, winning the T.S. Eliot prize with her second collection Nigh-No-Place. Jen has language in landscape, beautifully evident in ‘Two Limpet Poems’ in which ‘above the rockpool everything is tilt or rough glazed in weed like afterbirth’ and where ‘This is no place to turn up without a shell / all that protects us from the press of heaven.’

 

Jill read some of Adam’s work in his absence who lives in Sydney and has had a number of poetry collections published, in addition to short fiction in journals and anthologies. Adam’s chapbook, Notes on the River, are just that; vivid snapshots that explore its nuances as in the title poem where ‘It is not a river but a question.’ A plethora of images flow thereafter, culminating in a favourite – ‘Eels find their way to flood. They dream of babies, stalk the shadows and lay each other down in them.’

With eye-catching covers and painstaking production, these chapbooks really are a gift, and in this series with the wonderful addition of pull out poems to keep handy when you need a little bliss.

Last night The Hearth hosted their ‘Of the Night’ readings at The Jade; an evening of themed writing shared by handpicked local creatives, which I was thrilled to be a part of.

The Hearth Collective comprises Lauren Butterworth, Alicia Carter, Emma Maguire and Melanie Pryor who met as English/Creative Writing PhD candidates and launched a series of themed events based on the old tradition of les veillées – when folk gathered around the fire at the end of the day to share stories, news and company.

Lisandra Linde kicked off proceedings by sharing her firsthand experience of cadavers and a crypt beneath a church in Rome; an interesting piece. Andrew Lee followed who read three intricate poems, which explored who we become at night, providing context after each one. Marina Deller finished the first set with an engaging piece woven with the untimely deaths of both her best friend and her own mum, and meeting her now partner.

After the break saw Melanie take to the stage, one of the Collective’s own, who shared a rather haunting tale about a murder that took place in the vast Australian landscape. I followed with six poems featuring the moon in some way; from an astronomer’s wife to how the moon feels waiting for the sun to set. The evening finished with a short question and answer session, where members of the audience quizzed us on our work, process and the techniques we use to convey ourselves.

Afterwards I was asked by a fellow poet if I had been nervous because it didn’t show. Despite being the last reader and the biggest crowd I’ve read to, I didn’t feel any nerves at all. There’s a certain comfort in art shared by all those there; a beautiful connectivity between readers, listeners, the hosts and a talented musician, Dee Trewartha, who played between sets.

The Hearth Collective facilitated a very memorable evening, so I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open for any further submission calls from them, that’s for sure!

Thrilled to be involved in the upcoming ‘Of the Night’ readings hosted by The Hearth on Thursday 26 October at The Jade on Flinders Street, Adelaide. Maybe see you there…

Meet Our Readers

Just want to share an insightful post by Worcestershire Poet Laureate Nina Lewis, in which she shares some thoughts and poems on mental health (one of which I penned myself)

World Mental Health Day in Poetry

 

Today is World Mental Health Day, and this is an initiative led by Mental Health Australia to challenge the perception of mental health issues and encourage us all to view them in a positive light, in a bid to reduce stigma and enable more people to seek support.

 

 

Mental Health Australia aims to:

promote mentally healthy communities, educate Australians on mental health issues, conduct research into mental health and reform Australia’s mental health system.

And their Do you see what I see? is a clever concept, using strong visuals to highlight that we all see things differently and should work together to find common ground.

Mental health is defined by the World Health Organization as:

a state of well-being in which every individual realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community.

As Beyond Blue states, mental health is about wellness rather than illness.

For me, mental health is a delicate thing to be balanced and weighted against whatever life throws at it. Sometimes it’s tough and exhausting, so I write to help mine and travel, taking time out when I need to.

So, make a mental health promise to yourself today; it’s just as important as the physical one.

 

Just like you

 

She tries to fit in

pulls at her mouth to make it a smile

blinks her eyes hard to clear out the clouds.

 

She even pretends she’s alive

puts a bird in her heart so it chirps with a beat.

 

But she can’t seem to shut up her sadness

it speaks when she thinks that she is.

 

Copyright © J V Birch 2013

Bird watching – J V Birch

is today!  This is all about people connecting in a meaningful way to help anyone struggling with life’s ups and downs, which I’m sure we can all relate to at one time or another.

R U OK? is a suicide prevention charity in Australia, and its goals are simple and things we can all do to:

  • boost our confidence to meaningfully connect
  • nurture our sense of responsibility to regularly connect and support others
  • strengthen our sense of belonging because we know people are there for us
  • be relevant, strong and dynamic

Suicide, like mental health, is a delicate thing not often discussed, so take the time to connect by asking someone R U OK? And not just today, make time every day.

Thrilled to be in the first issue of this journal. In fab company too 😊

uki-nsw-portrait-for-side

The camel and the straw – J V Birch

Blackberrying – J V Birch

This is a beautiful collection, in which some thirty-one poets share their work

‘to celebrate elephants in the hope that people will find a way to safeguard those that manage to remain.’

Elephants are a multitude of things to many. In here they are muse; inspirational beings to be treasured, protected, respected, admired. But on these pages, there is also grief, fear and anger over the destruction of their habitat and the poaching of their ivory. I will never forget an image I saw of an elephant whose face had literally been sliced off for its tusks. How anyone can commit such an atrocity is beyond human capacity, and yet not it seems.

The proceeds from this anthology help orphan elephants via The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which runs the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world.  And I will leave you with a poem by Valerie Morton, who is also the publisher, as well as one of the many fine poets featured.

 

The Elephant on my Mantlepiece

(after Salvador Dali)

 

floats on spidery, footless legs

of desire, its body

carrying

 

a heavy burden, tottering as if

the world could fall

into the sand

 

or float away into the thin air

of temptation

tight-tailed,

 

straining to carry the world’s sin,

shackled only by gravity –

a reminder

 

that without the uncertain nature

of survival, man’s lust

and greed

 

will end its very existence.