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.