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Amelia Walker and Mike Ladd were this month’s featured poets hosted by Friendly Street at the Halifax Café, two fantastic local poets who I thought complimented each other very well.

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Introduced by the lovely Jelena Dinic, Amelia was first up, but not before distributing a piece of paper to each table with a request to write down five things (in our case, five abstract nouns). Amelia actually started with a poem by someone else, something she often does apparently, and it just happened to be one of Kathryn Hummel’s who has recently returned from India where she published her second collection, The Bangalore Set. The poem focused on winded birds whose ‘feathered tips articulate their shock’, a vivid image.

Amelia had her first collection published at the tender age of 19, Fat Streets and Lots of Squares, essentially about Adelaide which has proved very popular with teachers in schools. Amelia shared ‘Him’ from the collection about a well-known local character who walked up and down Rundle Mall in white gum boots, referring to him as ‘an isolated hiccup’ and she ‘had heard from a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend, he does it for a laugh’. Amelia then read an updated version written now at the age of 32 called ‘For Johnny’, where he is ‘real like fairies’ with a ‘body dressed in loud undress’, a far more introspective piece that asked questions, culminating in the memorable line of ‘a made in China koala always monkeying your back’. This was followed by another new poem about an old poem inspired by the war memorial on North Terrace, which spoke of looking after soldiers in a nursing home, ‘with brushed teeth and perfect parts’ these were ‘old men unhinged from time’.

Amelia then collected the paper from the tables, put them in order and created a poem before our eyes. Beginning with our abstract nouns, for example ‘homesickness’, she connected each with a colour, an animal, a place and a time, producing some very thought-provoking lines. This was clever stuff and further enhanced the fact Amelia is an amazing performance poet who captivates her audience.

Mike read old work, from his second, third and fourth collections, which is what these readings are about, the antithesis to the Lee Marvin ones. Mike started with a poem called ‘Vasectomy’ where the doctor ‘chattered golf, his slice and splice, tapping the balls in’ which his, after, swelled to resemble ‘a witch’s fruit’ culminating in the poignant image of ‘me on the cliff top with empty arms’. Mike’s next piece was a ‘Poem for two brickies’ who threw bricks to the other with movement reminiscent of some kind of dance as they ‘placed to weight on an invisible shelf of air’. ‘Waiting room’ was just that, where the walls were ‘duck-egg blue’ and a girl was ‘scratching her name with a 20 cent bit’. Mike then shared four poems in one about water, which ‘has no voice tonight’, where ‘water cats’ loitered and resembled Siamese from whom you could ‘drink their eyes’.

Mike had written some semi-surrealist poems about objects inspired by a surrealist artist whose name I didn’t quite catch, one being ‘Dreams of a pillow’ in which the pillow imagines being ‘hard and sharp’, and another simply called ‘Spare chair’ which plays ‘wooden horse in secret’. Mike moved onto more naturalistic pieces – ‘Murray bend’ where ‘sand fire colours warm the eye’ in a ‘big fish dreaming place’, and ‘Parable of a farmer’ written in long lines to symbolise those made by cattle traversing a field so that ‘shambling cows turned hills into verse’. ‘Spinal unit’ Mike wrote after his partner fractured her spine, where ‘beds are altars for flowers’ and ‘patients brace for their separate nights’.

Mike finished with some beautiful snippets about vegetables in ‘A vegetative life’ – beetroot, asparagus, potato and parsnip, the ‘pale digits of the damned’, and red onion that he told ‘you contain infinity and make me weep’. Mike was just as engaging as Amelia, no doubt honed from his years hosting ABC’s radio program Poetica. This was a brilliant line up.

I haven’t had much time recently to focus on writing but seeing the Lee Marvin line up for Tuesday at the Dark Horsey BookshopMike Ladd, Alison Flett, Jelena Dinic and Peter Goldsworthy – my priorities quickly changed.

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Mike read more from his Dream Tetra series, developed using phrases he remembers from his dreams, which he then inputs into Google to see what it generates. Mike began with ‘Dream Tetra No.4’ centered around the line ‘the crack in the crib’ and featured a priest as ‘a black-cloaked grandfather’. He then followed with ‘Dream Tetra No.8’ preceded with an apology to any German speakers in the audience and then described his mum who is ‘alive today in her aloneness’, a beautifully poignant statement. ‘Dream Tetra No.10’ explored the concept of emoticons and how it would be wonderful if we could plug our heads into a machine to show our current emoticon, an interesting idea.

Alison was up next to share what she described an experimental set, which is exactly what these readings are about. Alison has recently been awarded a writers grants from Arts SA and is using this to develop a collection about home and belonging, and the connection to land. Her poem ‘The map of belonging’ explored the sense of being lost, ‘finding yourself landless’ and asked thought-provoking questions like ‘where do your belongings come from?’ ending with ‘the hulls of boats will always be filled with bodies’, a haunting image. Alison’s next poem, ‘Colour difference’ compared the Australian yellow to the British yellow an interesting comparison culminating in a buttercup. ‘Five ways to dream a country’ was a five part series with ‘bare feet ticking on bare floorboards’, followed by ‘Songs of the outback’ featuring road kill and distance, making even the horrendous sound stunning.

Jelena began by explaining how, being from Serbia, English is her second language, and that she wanted to be a doctor but no, her parents insisted she be a poet! Jelena’s first poem was simply called ‘Back’ and indeed was about going back home, what she saw and felt, quickly followed by ‘Hotel room nightmare’ featuring ‘illusions of faces in places’. ‘Gypsy travels’ opened with the line ‘her golden feet lost in direction’ and continued the vivid imagery with ‘a caravan of wishes’. In Jelena’s next poem, ‘Skin-kissed’, she shared her experience of dealing with psoriasis, a debilitating skin condition causing her to spend time ‘scrubbing and scrubbing her mermaid body’. ‘Duck’ Jelena read first in Serbian and then provided a translation, where the duck ‘carries the restlessness of water’.

Peter book-ended the session by reading excerpts from a novel he’s been writing for 3-4 years and which, he confessed, he has been annoying his partner with. Before however, Peter read from part of a series which posed that age-old question is there a god and described how ‘church bells sing in the far blue itching’, evoking an almost traditional country scene. Turning to his draft novel, Peter shared a section about a blind cop returning home from hospital following an “accidental” overdose, but not before collecting his dog from the dog’s home. With lines like ‘soft eggs of the eyes’, ‘half a packet past nine’, ‘the nib whispered across the pad’ and how an underlying growing anger causes ‘a volley of barks’, this was atmospheric gritty stuff, which I look forward to being published.

 

 

 

from Karen Dennison of Smashed glass at midnight on Abegail Morley’s The Poetry Shed.

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A beautifully written piece, insightful and thought-provoking, you may need to get yourself a copy  😉

Yesterday I was guest poet at Hills Poets, a group who meet once a month in picturesque Stirling up in the Adelaide Hills. Invited by convener and poet Jill Gower, this was a first for me and I found it to be a very civilised occasion set in the Library Room of the Stirling Hotel.

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Normally a group of about 12 there were nine poets this time who, facilitated by Jill, took turns to read either one or two poems they had brought along. And there were a variety of pieces, with some poets seeking feedback while others simply wanted to share and be heard.  I felt particularly drawn to the vibrant nature in Jill’s work who read poems from her Ginninderra Press pocketbook Garden Delights.

Jill introduced me just before the break, and I had a 10 minute set in which I read six poems from my collection Smashed glass at midnight and then three others, one of which was included in the recently launched 2014  Friendly Street Poets Anthology Silver Singing Streams.

I believe they went down well, and as I did at my launch I gave a bit of context before reading each one to explain a little of how and why they came into being. I managed to sell a few copies of my chapbook after and hopefully left the group with a few things to think about.