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.

 

 

Wordgathering is an online journal of disability poetry, literature and art published quarterly, in which I’m thrilled to have a poem this quarter.

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Founded in March 2007 by members of the Inglis House Poetry Workshop, the journal promotes the work of writers with disability and aims to develop a rich source for those interested in disability literature.  And Michael Northern, editor in chief, has done an amazing job of producing another enthralling read.

I have endometriosis and mild scoliosis, therefore pain management for both is paramount, which is what attracted me to Daniel Sluman’s Poetry of Pain Workshop hosted through The Poetry School.  This is where my poem ‘Extramarital bliss’ originated, and was developed following an online feedback session facilitated by Daniel, a fantastic poet who also signposted this journal.

Disability literature is growing, and writing about its impact and associated pain can be extremely cathartic, because the challenge is being able to express something in words that takes your breath away.

has just been published in the Pocket Poet series by Ginninderra Press!

What the water & moon gave me cover image

What the water & moon gave me is 20 poems about exactly that; how the moon and different bodies of water have inspired my work since moving to South Australia. And I only discovered this after one of Bill Greenwell’s Poetry Clinics last year, when I realised that the majority of poems I had submitted for feedback either featured the moon or sea. So I delved into my archives, found similar themed poems, edited, developed a few more and voila!

Once again Stephen and Brenda Matthews at Ginninderra Press have done a fantastic job of pulling this together, and in a short space of time too. They make a brilliant team and I feel very proud to be part of the GP family. And I’m rather pleased with how the cover has turned out too. This was a photo I took during our last trip to Robe, which captures the beauty of both rather well I think.

So if you fancy reading some poems about the moon and water (sometimes both), head on over to Ginninderra Press or alternatively, let me know and I can organise a copy for you.

Now onto the next collection…

Published by Lamplight Press, Lampshades & Glass Rivers is an expertly crafted sequence of 20 poems from prize-winning poet S. A. Leavesley, also known as Sarah James.

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Sarah has been published widely. Her debut collection, Into the Yell from Circaidy Gregory Press (also on my bookshelf), won third prize in the International Rubery Books Award in 2011 and her most recent collection, The Magnetic Diaries from Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, was highly commended in the Forward Prizes and has since been adapted for stage. Lampshades & Glass Rivers won the Overton Poetry Prize last year, established by the School of the Arts, English and Drama at Loughborough University where Lamplight Press is based.

Reminiscent of a delicate fairy tale, we meet a young woman called Ada and follow her through love, marriage and her attempts to conceive. There is so much to love in these dreamlike scenes, as they intricately weave Ada’s experiences with those of her grandmother forced to flee Poland during the war, quiet sufferings that hover at the edges as if to keep Ada’s company.

In the opening poem we find Ada and Dave ‘parting & meeting’, ‘meeting & parting’, ‘his dark-haired daring / laying laughter and daisies / in a ritual around her’, while she hears ‘a red-throated song / of sweet days’ long-limbed nights’. The piece is arrestingly placed on the page.

The next to catch my eye was a poem about glass, the third one in, containing the first hint at conception swiftly followed by one of the many stunning lines you’ll find in this chapbook:

Glass for pipettes, petri-dishes and test tubes.

Glass for their soft mouths sharpened by time.

References to Ada’s attempts to conceive continue, the absence of a baby increasing – ‘Red for the passage of blood, wet loss on her legs’, ‘On the hotel bed, / a naked woman lies childless, alone’, ‘…her fate might be re-reeded to birth / a Moses from her womb’s burst earth’ and then this heartbreaking image:

Dave dismantles the crib; the bars

lean at a low angle against the wall,

like failed hurdles.

There are several dominant themes in this collection – glass, fragility, rivers and loss juxtaposed with strength, endurance and woman as nature, with the lampshade battling light to prevent revelation. In one scene Ada is leaving a hotel, with ‘each room, the size of her mind’ and where ‘each guest’s wake / trembles in a sealess wave’ across the lobby’s lights, a dazzling description literally and then in another, she contemplates ‘that all water / is a form of strained cloud.’

I will leave you with one of my favourite extracts, a rich atmospheric snapshot from the halfway poem, in which Ada is revisiting her grandmother’s home where ‘memory stalls on how to say goodbye’:

Night is falling. Below the soon stark dark,

a vixen’s bark to her cubs. Roots burrow

upwards through the earth’s damp skin

 

into the skeletons of scarecrows,

shivering. In this cold: the spark

of beaded eyes, watching the light’s

 

walls crumble to a scattering

of unseen stones. These secret lives

visible only to those who know,

 

like the puddles of tumbled stars

that the days never notice

darting beneath their feet, then off,

 

disappearing to underground streams.

Friday evening I went to the launch of Louise Nicholas’s first full length solo collection, The List of Last Remaining, published by 5 Islands Press.

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The event was MC’d by Jude Aquilina in the stunning home of some of Louise’s friends, with the book officially launched by Jan Owen. Jude and Jan, like Louise, are local poets, stalwarts of the SA poetry scene both having been published widely. Jude began by acknowledging the huge crowd there, and it really was, before introducing Jan.

Jan described Louise’s work as fresh and spontaneous with outrageous originality, combining humour and poignancy culminating in strong endings. There are poems about Louise’s father, mother and children, and Jan cited a few of her favourites – ‘Think of a violet’, ‘Whom the gods love’ and ‘Death by Wikipedia’ before reading ‘How to scale a fish’, a beautiful piece in which Louise links this to thoughts of her mother:

‘Notice the scales – how perfectly shaped,

translucent, like a baby’s fingernails.’

And then comparing the delicate skin of the fish to her mother’s:

‘Like her skin, buried

these past five years

beneath bed-ridden blankets,

 

her knees, when the blanket fell away,

gleaming

as if unearthed in moonlight.’

Louise then took the mic to read four poems after a long list of thank you’s, sharing that this launch was particularly special due to it being on what would have been her mother’s 99th birthday.

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Louise started with ‘Coffin Bay’, the first poem in the collection, describing ‘the day our parents went out in the boat and didn’t come back’, how in their throats ‘hard lumps of fear had risen like gelatin / in home-made ice cream’ and when their parents were finally sighted, how her mother was ‘sitting in the stern as still and serene as the figurehead / from a long-forgotten ship.’

Louise then read ‘Tunnelling into the light’, quite possibly my favourite in the collection (although there are many to choose from!) about the birth of her daughter, where ‘Every five minutes as I prepared our tea that night, / I felt you leaning on the lock of your release’, gorgeously expressed as is this:

‘When we sat down to eat, you too sat down

and waited until I had cleared the table to try again,

then rested once more in the snug stairwell of my rib cage…’

For balance, Louise then read a poem about her son called ‘The black one’, describing ‘a Sunday afternoon’ when she is ‘mark spelling tests’ while he is ‘hung-over, sprawled in front of the television’, a warm homely scene.

Louise finished with ‘Love Laughter’, a wonderful poem where laughter ‘is lightness itself’ advising that for ‘sombre occasions like funerals and other people’s / book launches, best leave Laughter at home / and take her conciliatory sister, Smile, instead.’

The cover image of the collection was taken by Robert Rath, an amazing photographer, and remains a mystery (we don’t need to know everything always). Louise is a fine poet, which is reflected in this collection, where poems have many facets, catching the light as a diamond would, dazzling in their brilliance.

It’s rare I do this – buy a book I’ve borrowed. But this one I wanted to keep. Fiona Wright’s essays on hunger in Small acts of disappearance are just captivating, published by Giramondo Publishing.

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Fiona is also a poet, which shines through when reading this very personal account of her eating disorder, her first collection Knuckled was published in 2011 also by Giramondo. Each chapter is an essay offering a different perspective on her illness at different stages of her life, beginning in university as a physiological issue before escalating into a dangerously intricate disease from she cannot disassociate herself.

Having never understood the concept of anorexia, what drives a person to inflict such extreme discipline on the body, reading Fiona’s experience is the closest I’ve come to ‘getting it’. Below are the opening lines:

I’ll always remember the particular intensity that malnutrition brings on…That alertness of sensation, where every minute cell in the body is awake and alive to the smallest details of the outside world.

This alertness, this finite sense of being, the paring down of the self to increase connectivity, could be compared to the state a poets seeks – an extension of the world around them in which they are insignificant and merely serve as a conduit for expression. Wow. That’s deep I know, but this is the kind of thinking this books provokes.

Of course I’m not advocating restricting nutrition to increase perception (and I doubt I’ll ever be afflicted with such a disorder because I love food too much!), but for the first time I understood the appeal, if that’s the right word. This is further explored in Fiona’s interview, Everyday Intimacies, with Rachel Morley from Sydney Review of Books. In Fiona’s case, this balance of the self against the outside reaches an alarming and life-threatening degree, where she confesses that ‘at my sickest, a lover once folded a blanket over my shoulderblade before curling against my back to sleep’.

Interestingly I briefly discussed this book with a fellow poet the other night, and she too found the chapters on books, about how eating disorders are portrayed in characters, the least interesting, skimming through them as I did. Because the appeal of reading these essays is to get insider the author’s head, gain insight into a real person coping with it firsthand, rather than a fictional one.

Anyway, I just found this book fascinating; it has given me a certain respect for the power of such an illness and indeed for Fiona, for sharing such intimate parts of herself and her private battle with the literary world.

So Tuesday night’s Lee Marvin line up was Alison Flett, Aidan Coleman, Banjo Weatherald and Jennifer Liston, another one not to be missed.

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Ken Bolton’s introductions get funnier and funnier as each writer becomes a character in a film with often hilarious consequences. And again, the Dark Horsey Bookshop was full to the brim with the poets drawing a big crowd.

Alison was up first to read five poems, three from a ‘Five ways to…’ series with the first on ‘Five ways to understand the outback’, urging us to ‘drive hard into the dark’, ‘learn the word house and how it can mean no more than your body’…or ‘how it can mean the world’, and where there’s a ‘rhythm of spent dreams mumbling through the soil’, gorgeous last line. Alison then read ‘Five ways to hear the ocean’ where we are asked to ‘remember the 95% below…the bathypelagic zone’ and to ‘forget shells, they’re empty echoes’ as ‘sky presses a face to the ocean’s window’. Next it was ‘Five ways to breathe in the CBD’ where ‘high above the high rises the sun jellyfishes past’, and there is music and shoes as you add your own steps. Alison finished with two new poems about Antarctica – ‘Idea of North’ and ‘Polynyas’, which are areas of open water in a sea covered mostly by ice. Both were very atmospheric, where the dark and ‘space opening in brackets’ prevailed, and where there is ‘curtained water lifting, revealing us as we are.’ Alison’s poetry is simply stunning.

Aidan was up next who shared all new poems, albeit with some ‘dodgy rhythms’ he warned us (but then these readings are experimental!). These were all short pieces, almost like elongated statements, so I have to confess I did struggle to keep up with my notes, but captured some wonderful lines – ‘a song, no louder than the room, lands with damaged wings’, ‘like toddlers hovering at the margins where dragons used to be’ and ‘I cried on so many levels’. And there were some interesting titles – ‘Oracle’, ‘Draw’, ‘Milk Teeth’, ‘Chain’, ‘Memorial’, ‘Band Aid’ – all finite snapshots in expertly fashioned frames. Aidan then read a four part series called ‘Adventures in Reading’ after John Forbes, where ‘meanings flash past like jet skis’ swiftly followed by a very surreal poem called ‘Nth’, where ‘you crowd into the taxi and the plates fall off’ (I felt like I’d stumbled into a Salvador Dali scene!). Then there was ‘Parent Rock’, a short piece based on the Corona advert of a place you’d rather be and the final poem Aidan shared had the audience in stitches, about when he gets a single encyclopaedia for his twelfth birthday but ‘can’t remember if it was F or U!’

Banjo took to the desk after the short break, an enigmatic writer I’d never heard read before. Banjo began with a poem called ‘Man and Galah’, which had some lovely images, culminating in ‘the driver is wearing a pink polo. We are all Galahs. I’m going home.’ The second poem focused on a scene by a river and a kiss, where the one rebuffed ‘picked up my little body that couldn’t breathe’ as ‘the earth rotates a million moons’. In Banjo’s next one, ‘Garden Island Boat Club’, there are ‘three dolphins by the mooring, lunching’ as ‘waves caress the hull’, and when Banjo’s two year old sister Ivy pokes the eyes out of a catch, it’s noted ‘life is short.’ In ‘A Mile on my Shoulders’ there is ‘dirt for roses’ and a clever repetition of the line ‘I walk in the rain’ throughout. Banjo also read ‘Genocide in the Kitchen’, essentially a poem about not going anywhere, about neurosis and anxieties, which was then juxtaposed with a final short humorous piece called ‘IPhone Orphan’ inspired by the Garden of Unearthly Delights, one of the many annual festival venues here in Adelaide and was literally this – ‘Dad. Dad. Dad. What? This would be a really good place to fly a helicopter.’

Jen finished the evening with a collection of narrative poems from her PhD based on the life of Grace O’Malley, also known as Gráinne, who was a chieftain of the Ó Máille clan in the west of Ireland. Jen gave us a bit of context of Grace’s life, how she married at 15 and had three children, and then met a certain Hugh de Lacy, the subject of the first poem. Jen warned us before starting it was quite steamy, where after Grace finds Hugh washed up on the shore, she initially thinks ‘you haven’t the look of a male man’ but then later, as she nurses him back to health, he becomes ‘a feast to my starved eyes’ and his voice is ‘as deep as 20 fathoms in a swell’. Jen then shared a poem called ‘The Birth of Tibbot’, Grace’s son, where Grace feels ‘the weight of the last nine months drop from between my legs’ as she ‘roars like a banshee’, listening to the rest of her clan ‘muttering their trollopy turkey tongues’, love this line. The final poem Jen read was ‘Birth and Communion 1600AD’ based on Grace’s death as she imagines it, where the swan is a vehicle for the soul and so there are ‘seven beauties…out of moon wet water’ from which a kind of apparition rises, with ‘timeless eyes (that) read my restless mind’. Grace appears to be erased from history and as Ken said after, ‘Jen is reanimating lost history’, in a beautifully haunting way.

I was invited to the launch by Rachael Mead of Mike Ladd’s new book from Wakefield Press, Invisible Mending. It was held at the publishers down a pretty street in Mile End in what’s known fondly as ‘The Laneway’. I’d never been there so was eager to look around, buy some books and of course, learn about Mike’s new work.

Michael Bollen, who runs the local press, MC’d the event inviting Rachael up who did, as always, an exquisite introduction of Mike’s new book. Rachael referred to Mike as ‘loved and lauded’, stating this was his 9th book with his first collection being published at the tender age of 25 called The crack in the crib part of the Friendly Street Poets series.  Rachael explained how this new collection draws many of Mike’s past threads together in a series of non-fiction pieces, a combination of poetry, prose and photos, saying ‘it’s not easy, this being human’. What I love about Rachael is her ability to really connect with the material she’s launching (having experienced this firsthand!) and to share new insights into the poet’s work.

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Mike only read three pieces, beginning with a request, ‘Learn to Speak the Language’, which he recited from memory. This was a humorous piece, an answer to a question posed by a young man Mike encountered on a bus who, on overhearing ‘two women chatting in Punjabi’, states ‘If you come to this country / you should learn to speak the language.’ And so off goes Mike starting with ‘Yeah. You’re right…So how’s your Kaurna?’ (the native language of the Adelaide Plains and one of 150 Indigenous languages still spoken today) before reeling off a number of other Indigenous languages the young guy should try. This was a striking way to highlight ignorance, for Australia, its heritage and culture, and quite rightly received a round of applause.

Mike then shared a poem called ‘Adelaide’, a wonderful finite description of the city, a promotion of sorts – ‘We always have to talk you up, / get your festival clothes on’, ‘I like you best in November / when you spill buckets of jacaranda’ and when it rains after our infamous heat there are ‘chuckles in the gutter / and applause from the rooftops’. My favourite part is where Mike describes the city view from Windy Point (which I discovered only for the first time recently for my birthday dinner) where ‘It’s better up here than Los Angeles, / that hot glitter, all the way to the Gulf’, just gorgeous.

Mike finished with prose, ‘A Country Wedding’, the last piece in the book and one that contains the title. Here we find Mike in Queensland for his nephew’s wedding ‘Now a two-hour flight, it was once a three-day journey, when the children were small.’ The mobile phone plays a significant part, where Mike tries to justify his absence of one – ‘I am not the only one on the planet without a mobile phone’. What stands out for me here is Mike’s sense of place when describing the creek where ‘An hour before, the groom was getting his hair cut…holding a smoke and a cup of tea, like a last man’s wish.’ This is the image I was left with – ‘The she-oaks still look ravaged, as if attacked by blunt axes. But the firetail finches have returned, and the rainbow bee-eaters. There is invisible mending here all around me.’

This is an outstanding book, rich in every way, from it’s sometimes poignant subject matter, in particular Mike’s pieces on his father, to the mediums they’re expressed in. And the cover image was also there in the flesh, literally, a painstaking embroidery of a thumbprint by his multidisciplinary artist partner, Cathy Brooks, which I believe went up for sale after. So I will end by saying this – hats off to you Mike for another stunning collection, every page holds treasure.

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