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The last Lee Marvin of September at the Dark Horsey Bookshop saw Brian Castro, Jill Jones and Ken Bolton himself read, with Brian up first.

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Having never heard Brian read but having heard about him, I was looking forward to his set. Brian read a piece of prose from his verse novel ‘Blindness and Rage’ written in 33 cantos, which examined the question of authorship – the desire to live anonymously or claim authorship – by a protagonist with little time left. It begins with a letter to Catherine, the protagonist’s neighbor with whom he is contemplating starting an affair, describing that ‘love is ghostly in the first instance’. The piece explored how ‘the heart beats faster when you’re writing a letter, compared to sitting down to a meal or a good Bordeaux’ and a concept called ‘laptop love’ juxtaposed to the ‘agony of delay’ with postal letters. I particularly liked the part when the protagonist spoke about his mother who ‘expressed through the diving bell of her depression’ and another poignant line was ‘the weight of time is sand and the measure of time is writing’. It was entertaining stuff, fluid and delicate, and Brian reads really well, is both warm and engaging, so I hope to touch base with him again sometime soon.

Jill I’ve heard before, and is an amazing poet with many collections under her belt. Jill shared all new work, some quite recent poems, starting with ‘Early thoughts while turning onto Anzac Highway on 14 September 2015’, i.e. the day one prime minister was ousted and another took over. Jill described Adelaide as ‘the city of birds’, which it definitely is, and there was a wonderful line of ‘for a bomb I thought about in a job you can’t manage’, I loved the rhythm in this. The next poem ‘Rack’ was one Jill said she doesn’t normally write, in which ‘the rust has no consciousness but attacks’ and ‘feral boobs that do the dance to attract cash’, conjuring an interesting picture! Next was from what Jill referred to as the impossible manuscript of hers, where ‘even dead leaves aren’t free’ and ‘skin isn’t dancing away’ finishing with ‘you know you lose even if no one is following you’. Jill’s work has enormous depth, provokes introspection, creates intimacy and a certain moodiness, particularly in her pieces ‘River’ and the final one read comprising a series of song titles.

Ken read three poems, the first about Chapman hitting a ball giving a feeling of speed and deflection in a scene to get lost in. Ken’s next poem, ‘Hard pressed’ was what he called a lunch hour poem, which, he explained, actually helped to begin the Australian Experimental Art Foundation, memorable lines being ‘with lights in the sun’ and a ‘skinny ineffectual poem’. Ken finished with an elegy of sorts called ‘Historical dog, goodbye Paolo’ (at least this is the dog’s name I heard!), which lamented the loss of man’s best friend, ‘a handsome blue-eyed husky’. Ken engages when he reads, is entertaining displayed in his line ‘serial killers are inherently repetitive’ raising laughter from the audience. Ken said the piece seemed long and disjointed, but I think this is part of his appeal, as he invites you along on a journey of the inside of his head, resulting in what I think I’ve said before, a stream of consciousness that lullabies.

A wonderful event hosted by the adorable East Avenue Books – a beautiful mix of poetry, champagne, friends and sunshine, what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

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Peter, the bookshop owner, MC’d the event and started by introducing talented local poet Jill Gower to officially launch eight of the 11 chapbooks in the Picaro Poets series published by Ginninderra Press (those from South Australian poets).

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Jill briefly spoke about each poet in the series, quoting specific lines and sharing snapshots of their work to convey the variety and depth the new line has to offer. Next up was Brenda Matthews, editor of the series, and who is a fine poet herself with a chapbook of her own in there (published under her maiden name Brenda Eldridge). Brenda paid special thanks to her partner Stephen, who was lurking in the corner and later, I discovered, prefers to stay in the background, for his advice and hard work in producing the new-look chapbooks. Brenda also made special mention of me, who was the first to be accepted in the new series and got pulled in by the first poem I found out after!

So I was first up and read three poems from Smashed glass at midnight – ‘Admission’, ‘Offspring’ and ‘Visiting hours’ – all of which some of the audience had heard before at my launch and there were a few familiar faces – Jules Leigh Koch, Heather Taylor Johnson and Rob Walker.

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Next up was a reading from Kate Deller-Evans’ collection Open Inspection, who unfortunately was not able to attend, quickly followed by Margo Poirier who read an entertaining poem about Centrelink from her chapbook Wellspring. Zenda Vecchio was up next reading from her collection Luminous, followed by Lyn Williams and Rosemary Winderlich reading from their collections Stray Thoughts and Suspended Lives respectively. Finally it was Brenda’s turn, who shared a delightful piece about how even the toughest nuts can have a soft centre from her chapbook Not what they might seem.

Jude Aquilina, an amazing local poet, was also not able to attend so I brought a copy of her chapbook, Ship Tree, to read at leisure when I have chance to breathe again. I have also been asked to be guest poet at a local poetry group, so watch this space for further details!

My chapbook.  On a bookshelf.  In a real live bookshop.  Must get out more I know.  But thanks Ken Bolton at the Dark Horsey Bookshop!

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And a reminder about the Picaro Poets series launch at 2pm this Sunday at East Avenue Books, Clarence Park – would love to see you there if you can make it!

Lee Marvin readers last night were Andrew Peek, Sergio Holas, Kelli Rowe and Linda Marie Walker at the Dark Horsey Bookshop introduced by Ken Bolton.

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Andrew kicked off the bill and was a tough act to follow. Having never heard him read before, Andrew described his work as bipolar poetry, starting with a poem called ‘On sitting down to that floored version’ in which he compared creating a poem to working in an abattoir, an interesting juxtaposition! Andrew then shared a poem about NSW rain with vivid images of ‘hail like angry fists’ and ‘cars jet-ski around corners’. His next poem was quite poignant given the current refugee crisis in Europe called ‘Everything will heal’ with the haunting line of ‘hearing his story quietly breaking its bones’. Andrew performed like an actor and is incredibly engaging and humorous, demonstrated in his poem for insomniacs in which he listed every aspect of night – spears of stars, partner’s snoring, dump truck noise – then ended with ‘shit, it’s 9am!’ Andrew finished with three short poems about love in his ‘Nature of the victim’ series and a poem in French dedicated to his granddaughter Scarlett on the front row. I was so taken with Andrew’s work I purchased a copy of his collection The Calabar Transcript published by Five Islands Press, which I’m looking forward to diving into.

Sergio was another first time reader for me, but again like Andrew, not to Lee Marvin. Sergio’s work was a series of short poems, statements almost, opening with ‘Spirit one’ about plastic bags floating in the skies of Adelaide and then ‘Spirit two’ in its oceans, simple yet thought-provoking stuff. In ‘It’s irrelevant’ Sergio advises us to get a computer ‘let it do your sums, correct your fails’ and in his next ‘Cave work’ there was a beautiful line of ‘trying to fix, with wasted tools, my reptilian brain’. Like Andrew, Sergio shared a poem alluding to refugees called ‘Dictation test’ and then a cute little poem about a parrot in the park, which ended with the line ‘as a 747 pollutes the canvas, the little parrot blesses enamored people looking out onto the giver of life’. Sergio’s work provides snapshots of life, feeling and thought, little tidbits to make you stop and think, something we quite often don’t do.

Kelli I’ve heard before and apparently started reading at Lee Marvin when she was very young (and is still a youngster!) Kelli read ‘The language of flowers’, a piece of prose based on an academic essay filled with striking images of ornamental cherry trees, almond blossoms and where flowers are humanised to become ‘bone flowers, fragile and suspended’. When Kelli reads she appears small and demure but her writing is far from this – it has impact, pulling you in and keeping you there. I remember the last time she read a piece about a dollhouse and it’s these intricate worlds she creates that are so appealing. The story took a somewhat comical turn when Kelli talked of racing worms and cutting up slugs, with a rather abrupt ending, just when we were getting comfortable, where her friend suggests salting as a better means of slug riddance and then ‘looks at me, looks down at his beer and does not look back’.

Linda’s work I fell in love with when I brought a copy of her little book The Woman, Mistaken published by Little Esther Books (which I should have taken along to get signed!) and so it was wonderful to actually meet her, more so when Ken explained that it was because of Linda these readings began. Linda read prose called ‘I can’t see a thing’ full of naked visceral images where ‘hills vanish like dreams’ and there’s ‘talk of trees’. It was reminiscent of her previous work, a patchwork of hauntings, conjuring up a line for me from one of Helen Ivory’s Waiting for Bluebeard poems in which ‘heartbeats are pressed into walls’, instilling life into inanimate things while balancing references to death ‘when someone goes away, days are eternal.’ And there’s ‘a little book of nothing’, ‘plans drawn wrong’, ‘terrifying visits of early mornings’ and opals mistaken for pearls giving the piece a fairy tale feel, along with a gorgeous line of ‘tender lost days of horror put among soft things’. As with Kelli’s piece, just as we were getting settled in, it ended with ‘and could be a tip, press into my thumb’.

I particularly enjoyed Tuesday’s readings, the breadth and depth of work shared yet at the same time with something held back, a certain restraint, an undertone, a sadness or longing, echoes of my own.

Mark Tredinnick was in town over the weekend to run two workshops at the SA Writers Centre, the second of which I attended to learn about voice in a poem, or quite often, voices.

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I first met Mark at the launch of Australian Love Poems, which he edited and then again in a workshop he ran last year. Mark is a brilliant poet with an amazing track record; winner of the Montreal Poetry Prize in 2011 and the Cardiff International Poetry Prize in 2012, author of Bluewren Cantos, Fire Diary, and several other celebrated works of poetry and prose.

The workshop explored the discipline of fashioning a poem, the importance of form, voice and language, and the linguistic choices poets are forced to make. Why that form over another, why the line break there, why that word instead of this one – these were just some of the questions posed as we examined pieces by John Glenday, Seamus Heaney and Charles Wright.

Mark also shared with us what he believes and how he works, The Gospel of Mark, with some very salient points:

  • A poem is a leaf that tells a tree
  • The words in a poem are only there to keep the silence apart
  • A poem is a sculpture of voice
  • Poetry recasts life’s exquisite spell
  • Each line in a poem is a poem
  • A poem is a window

It was thought provoking stuff that generated fascinating discussion and insight, and certainly for me, another poem to develop. And just how fab are Mark’s business cards, puts mine to shame!

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I gave Mark a copy of my chapbook after as I’m keen to get his thoughts on it. Another participant presented Mark with a bottle of wine from her own winery having attended both workshops, so I recommended he have that open while reading my collection  😉

Ginninderra Press, in association with East Avenue Books, are celebrating their new look Picaro Poets series on Sunday 27 September at 2:00pm.

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Jill Gower will be launching the chapbooks, which I am honoured to have been the first selected for the new series, and there will be readings from poets Kate Deller-Evans, Brenda Eldridge, Zenda Vecchio, Lyn Williams, Rosemary Winderlich and me!

So if you’re around and interested, pop into East Avenue Books in Clarence Park for an afternoon of thought-provoking poetry, gorgeous books, drinks, nibbles and, fingers crossed, some sunshine!

Tuesday’s Lee Marvin had a line-up of Ian Gibbins, Aidan Coleman, Cath Kenneally and Anna Goldsworthy, introduced in full Lee Marvin style by Ken Bolton.

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I’ve never heard Ian read before. A neuroscientist and poet, Ian captivated the audience with his performance (and it was just that, due to years of teaching he told me after). The first poem Ian read was from a collaboration with Judy Morris called Floribunda, in which his scientifically expressed poems are paired with her beautiful pictures of flowers. Ian pauses at just the right moments with the last line delivered dramatically – ‘always lost at sea, find anchorage’. With his second poem Ian selected random words from The Advertiser and ordered them alphabetically, producing a thought-provoking summary of the news. Ian then read a short story, ‘Last shave’, which opened with ‘The ants have returned’ and continued to draw us into a world of infiltration and conspiracy. Ian finished with ‘After thoughts’, a poem that was shortlisted for the Ron Pretty Prize with striking images of ‘fairies running on schedule’ and ‘favourite islands displaced.’ Ian really was a delight to listen to.

Aidan I’ve heard before and read a series of sonnet length poems beginning with ‘Crossing the bar’, followed by six poems about colour, which he felt slightly daunted about sharing with Peter Goldsworthy on the front row (who has, I’m told and have yet to read, written exquisite poems about colour). The series alternated between ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’, opening with a description of a red car compared to a ‘half-sucked Jaffa’, with the next primary installment likening yellow to ‘easy pour of olive oil’ and ‘a tiny Easter’. Interestingly the primary pieces struck me more than the secondary, hence no reference to the latter! Aidan then read a poem called ‘The end of weather’ with a delicious line of ‘summer stops short of nudity’, conjuring beach scenes and heat, and then finished with another two poems, only one of which I caught the title, ‘Jolt’ (trying to listen, appreciate and make notes takes some doing, all while balancing a glass of wine!).

Cath has a variety of guises – art critic and journalist, novelist and poet – and shared a couple of poems from her ongoing Australia – London compilation, the first being ‘Creatures of the forest’, with some beautiful lines like a woman of ‘all nerves and steely perm’ and ‘my legs fizzing with the urge to run’. Cath’s second poem cited parts of inner city London – Marylebone, Baker Street, Highgate, Brick Lane – making us ex-Londoners feel slightly nostalgic! Cath finished her set with a three part piece each told from a character’s viewpoint, beginning in the first person, the second from that person’s sister and the last from their mother. This is the first time I’ve heard Cath read and found her almost breathy style alluring.

Anna, I found out, is Peter’s daughter and read an excerpt from a book she originally shared at the Festival of Ideas a while ago, in which she describes the first holiday her and her partner take following the birth of their first child. The piece is beautifully written and conveys her hysterical (in terms of humour) obsession with their holiday home’s long drop toilet! Lines like ‘clumsiness ticks over into disaster’, ‘the baby must never go in there’ and the repetitive mantra of it would never be her to drop the baby into the composting toilet therefore it must be Nicholas to drop the baby into the composting toilet – fuel her irrational fear of the baby ending up in the composting toilet! Anna takes some extreme measures, barricading her partner into bed with suitcases so she would hear if he stirred and trying to stay awake to prevent her from accidentally sleepwalking the baby into the composting toilet! I do not do it justice, but it was highly entertaining and unfortunately not in stock in the Dark Horsey Bookshop, so I have it on order to enjoy its entirety.

And then I just wanted to end this blog with, you know, something about me. I was told I read very well by Peter Goldsworthy, learned that David Mortimer enjoyed my debut collection so much he has recommended it to his poetry group and sold a signed copy to Shannon Burns to get his thoughts! Enough now. Long post. Exhausted. But happy.

Courtesy of Andrew Noble, photographer extraordinaire !

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Now, I apologise in advance.  This should be a review of the Lee Marvin readings on Tuesday.  It is not.  It’s mainly about me.

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Keeping me company on the bill was Ken Bolton, host of the evening, Matt Hooton and Heather Taylor Johnson.  Ken was up first to read two poems.  I should say what they were about and had planned to make my usual notes but alas, found it difficult to concentrate (sorry Ken!).  Next up was Matt who read a piece of prose after setting the scene of being invited to look at a patch of ancient dirt (that much I remember and it really doesn’t do Matt’s work any justice, useless I am!).  And then there was me.

There were some big names in the crowd – my usual gang of Rachael Mead, Mike Hopkins, Alison Flett and Heather, and then Peter Goldsworthy, Shannon Burns, Mike Ladd and David Mortimer, one of whom told me beforehand they had come especially to hear me read so you know, no pressure.  And just like my launch, initially a bit nervous in the lead up but once up there, calm.  Strange.  I read 7 poems, two of which I had read at the launch, managed to get a few laughs in the right places and left the audience with thoughtful faces.  Result.  All after finding out that two of my poems had been published in the new Friendly Street Poets Anthology launched earlier in the evening at another venue, which was a real surprise and something I knew nothing about, one of which had been shortlisted by Mike Ladd for the Satura Prize (the best poem in the anthology) and then also discovered I’ve been shortlisted in the mindshare poetry awards, the winners of which will read at the Festival of Now in October.  So you could say my head was pretty spaced out, helped/hindered by the two glasses of wine I had had.  But again, apparently, I did good.  And again, really enjoyed it.  This may become a habit.  Why I’m writing in short sentences I don’t know.  Maybe I’m still slightly stunned.

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Now Heather’s set I remember (yay!) because I could relax.  Heather read two pieces of prose with a focus on her mother so emotive stuff, followed by a poem in three parts about coping with Meniere’s disease, a condition Heather herself suffers with which she projected onto Graham, the protagonist in her brilliant debut novel Pursuing Love and Death published by Harper Collins.  The poem was beautifully poignant brimming with sea imagery, with lines like ‘and with a body craving salt you are full of ocean’ to convey the debilitating giddiness associated with the disease.  I have no doubt this will feature in The Fractured Self Anthology Heather is currently pulling together.

So you know, back to me.  I managed to sell some more copies of my chapbook, with requests to sign from above famous poets(!) and left the Dark Horsey Bookshop stocked with a few aswell.  Definitely another night to remember – what a blast!