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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.

with a bang! And having missed last week’s readings, I was determined to make this week’s, the line-up simply too good to miss – Matt Hooton, Rebekah Clarkson, Heather Taylor Johnson and Andy Jackson.

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Hosted as ever by the highly entertaining Ken Bolton at the Dark Horsey Bookshop, Matt was first up with a series of questions for the audience – did Anne of Green Gables make it over here? Is Evel Knievel considered an icon here? And were we familiar with the concept of party lines? Setting the scene for an interesting read of his latest short story ‘Is this our inheritance our Lord and is that your voice we hear on the party line?’ We were presented with a scene in which two young boys are watching Evel Knievel perform his stunts on TV during his Korean tour, where ‘there is too much rocket, not enough bike’. What I particularly loved about this was the repetition of a raven image throughout the description of a seemingly ordinary suburban scene – ‘a prescription of ravens’ when the single mother knocks back a few painkillers in the bathroom; ‘an abandonment of ravens’ when Evel Knievel lands in North Korean airspace; culminating in the line ‘the inheritance of ravens goes quiet’. A thought-provoking piece.

Next to take the stage was Rebekah and it was her first time reading here. I knew of Rebekah, but was not familiar with her work. She read a piece of personal non-fiction called ‘Learning to swim’, which had been commissioned by an American journal. It pulled you in from the start, opening with ‘I don’t want to talk about the storm’ where after we learn her daughter was out at sea during it with the story also alluding to a meta-physical storm. And so we hear how Rebekah ‘fake swims’, which is considered an art form, a ‘careful construction of circumstance’, breathing out on the right side only. A memory is shared of her father trying to teach her to swim by literally throwing her in the deep, a somewhat traumatic experience, which ends in an apology from her father, the only time she ever hears one. To progress her ‘fake swimming’ Rebekah joins a swim class ‘full of pissed off women having done everything for everyone’ where she learns bilateral breathing and soon starts to ‘crave the silent underwater world’. Rebekah read well, thoroughly engaging her audience.

And then it was Heather, to whom I could listen for hours! Heather read a chapter from her forthcoming book from University of Queensland Press now in its final stages of editing. Here we find Orion, son of Jean who is in a coma in hospital having been diagnosed with cancer. In his bedroom ‘sunlight splashed the walls’ as he plays with a toy plane, which ‘has to follow the bottom racing stripe otherwise the world will blow up’. Death pervades this chapter, as we learn that Orion’s Nan also had cancer and often talks of dying, so he seeks out ‘Very Viv’, the ‘most fun of all the grown-ups’. When visiting his Mum in hospital, his friend, Juniper, tells Orion that his Mum is going to die (Juniper then gets scolded by her own for saying this). So Orion seeks release in the hospital playground, playing monsters with Juniper and a boy they befriend with an eye patch. Later, driving home with his Dad, Orion imagines they are ‘the only car in Adelaide on a conveyor belt’, pictures the danger and feels he has ‘died many times in his mind’. Big concepts for a little boy, can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

Andy closed the set reading the only poetry of the night. He shared a few from his collection the thin bridge, back in print again from Whitmore Press, and began with ‘Double helix’, which I remember from Heather’s poetry night, a poem about passing on genes with cleverly repetitive lines – ‘genetic screening is not an anagram for suicide’, ‘a disorder of connective tissue sewn into my own’, ‘you can be so lonely you don’t want to be touched’. Next came the poem ‘The platform’ about a young bird being placed out of harm’s way followed by ‘On being sculpted’ by his partner, in which he asks ‘will I ever be finished?’ and ‘who threw that yellow square across the floor; the moon, the streetlight or us?’ Andy then read from his next collection Immune systems, available from Transit Lounge, based on his visit to India, the first a string of statements connected by their strangeness. A ‘schoolgirl yawns’ with ‘henna snaking around her hands’ and ‘In the courtyard’ there is medical tourism as Andy is diagnosed by a man who ‘holds my wrist like a flute’. The last poem shared was about returning to Australia, to ‘wilting leaves and cobwebbed pegs’ and ‘a neighbour hammering a nail into a mortgage’, such vivid images.

It was a wonderful evening rich in literary ‘wowness’, which I know is not a word but I don’t care, it was fab.

 

This is a gem of a book. Edited by Abegail Morley, Catherine Smith and Emer Gillespie, co-founders of Ekphrasis, this anthology of poems reveals new perspectives on Alice in Wonderland from some outstanding poets.

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With an insightful foreword by Ian Duhig, the book formed part of the British Library’s ‘150 years of Alice’ celebration ‘creating a dialogue between one art form and another’. And there are some big names in here keeping the editors company – Sharon Black, Helen Ivory, Sarah Salway, Penelope Shuttle and Tamar Yoseloff to name a few, contributing exquisite pieces. I will draw on some favourites.

In Abegail’s ‘Daisy Chains and Downers’ we find an Alice-esque girl ‘hanging out on Stanley Road after dark’, where ‘clocks untick’ and ‘time slackens’ culminating in ‘You can date me by bone density, scraps / of fabric, the shape my heart makes as it stops’, a beautifully haunting stanza.

In Helen’s ‘Wunderkammer with Escher Stairs and Cheshire Cat’ we fall into its bizarre world where ‘the ladder kinks off into another room’ and the infamous ‘drink me’ bottle ‘shrinks the day / and the cat shapes a cave from her sleeping bones’.

In Catherine’s ‘The Grin’ a child waits outside ‘the Head Teacher’s office, / convicted for day-dreaming in Trigonometry’ as their grin takes on a life of its own, ‘to take its place in the longest grass, / with all the other banished grins, / the smirks, the yawns, the blurted truths’.

In Heidi Williamson’s ‘Disappearance at six o’clock’ Alice is asked to wake up ‘step out of your dream now’, a poem inspired by Stephanie Bolster’s Portrait of Alice with Persephone, where there are ‘clouds in the water / like drowned breaths’.

I could go on but it would be better to read it firsthand. Poetry lovers should get a copy of this collection simply for the quality of work it contains. Non-poetry lovers should also because let’s face it, who doesn’t love Alice?!

East Avenue Books was the venue Thursday night for the launch of three new additions to the Picaro Poets series published by Ginninderra Press, namely Cary Hamlyn, Russ Talbot and Shelda Rathmann.

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Joan Fenney, partner of Peter with whom she owns the bookstore, opened the launch by saying these particular poets are great friends of hers and how delighted she was to host the event.

Unfortunately Stephen and Brenda Matthews from Ginninderra Press were not able to be there so Louise Nicholas shared a note with the crowd passing on their appreciation to the newest members of the GP family.

So Cary was first up with her chapbook Scraping the Night introduced by Sharon Kernot who helps Gary MacRae run Garron Publishing. Sharon mentored Cary for a time and explained how her collection contains a variety of styles and themes – psychological, humour, loss, love – so a little something for everyone.

Cary began with the title poem ‘Scraping the Night’. There is so much to love in this gorgeous poem, which is essentially about a couple getting familiar – ‘moonlight leers through the car window etching the valley of your cheek’ while ‘outside the stars open and shut like clams’. Cary then shared ‘The Neighbourhood is Ajar’ where we find her waiting ‘for the evening to end’ and where ‘time has flattened itself between memory and expectation / it hides behind the clock / like a thief / ready to steal my last good hours’, a wonderful image. ‘Descending into Psychosis’ was next based on a true story of Cary’s schizophrenic flatmate when living in Sydney and is the longest poem in the collection. Here we find Suzanne who ‘in her room at the top of the stairs…wasped between shadows / like a hornet in a web’ part of her descent ‘into her Jungian hell’ which ends with ‘she slammed the door shut / on her sanity’, a brilliant stanza. Cary finished with ‘A Social Worker’s Lament’ inspired by the film Wolf of Wall Street, where she is ‘a glut of compassion…with a terrible need to nurture’ longing to be ‘full of loud-mouthed, shiny charisma’.

Russ was up next with his chapbook Things that make your heart beat, his first published collection, from which poems were read by Jennifer Liston due to Russ’s acquired brain injury from a tumour. This was tear-jerking stuff, to quote Joan ‘poems that hit you in the heart’, and boy they did. Jen began with ‘Ache’, a very clever and poignant piece comparing the physical ache in the arms from holding a baby to the one from remembering – ‘This isn’t the life I chose / it’s the life that chose me. / It’s a good life / it really is. / Just sometimes I’m reminded of the other one’. A stunning poem called ‘Rope’ was next speaking of a relationship ending where the other person is watched as they ‘drift away, your mooring / rope unravelling into the / moonlit water, / not quite holding you’. The next poem ‘Spyder’ was a William Blake satire, with an apology to said poet as a sub-title, before leading us through a lovely little ditty of running into a spider’s web and having to ‘do the spider-panic dance’. Russ’s last poem shared was ‘Your face’, describing how it is more than just the sum of its parts, the final stanza fantastic – ‘Your face is the watch / that tells me / I’m wrong, there’s time’.

Shelda was last to read from her chapbook Fleeting Fragments. Shelda teaches creative writing, is somewhat of an entertainer and on the best selling poetry list, and began with a poem called ‘Birkenhead Bungalow’ about her grandma who is ‘a constant traveller of the night’ haunting its rooms. It’s a poem of sadness and longing – ‘like a lost spirit, her mind wandered, a confused nomad who / repeated the same stories and pined for the past’. ‘Ode to the FruChoc’ was read next and was literally that, ‘fruit centres / of apricot and peach / melt in my mouth / like summer showers’ (there’s also a poem on the opposite page about the Haigh’s chocolate frog, my favourite nibble!). ‘Battle of the Bulge’ followed, a humourous rhyming poem about trying to control the ‘spare tyre’ where ‘at night I indulge in leafy green feasts / in order to fight this untamed beast’. With Shelda’s last poem, ‘Accordion’, props were required – a music stand displaying a photo of an eight year old Shelda with her first accordion and then the instrument itself today. Both the poem and music were very entertaining.

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And there endeth the readings. East Avenue Books is a beautiful little bookstore with a wide range of reading material. Started in 2009, one of its many aims is to make poetry accessible to all, one such way is by posting a ‘Poet of the month’ in the window, one of which was Russ’s whose poem drew people into the shop to find out more about him and his work. If you haven’t already visited, I recommend you do, and indulge in some superb little chapbooks.

I was one of five guest poets invited to read at Payneham Library yesterday as part of the Friendly Street Poet readings and it was a fab line-up – with Thom Sullivan headlining backed up by Cary Hamyln, David Mortimer, me and Russ Talbot, all introduced by the charming Louise Nicholas.

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Now I warn you this is not an in-depth detailed analysis like my usual posts. Mainly because I find it difficult to focus when I know I’ll be up there shortly! But also because I’m going to the launch of both Cary’s and Russ’s chapbooks later this week, so you know, didn’t want to duplicate too much (and then there’s the nervous concentration thing…)

Anyhow, Thom kicked off still basking in the glow of his reading at the Adelaide Writer’s Week a few weeks ago. Thom reads well, there’s a certain quiet strength about him with which he captures his audience and what particularly stood out for me was Thom’s acknowledgement that we poets stand on the shoulders of greats, a responsibility we all share, a profound statement. Thom shared poems he wrote during last year’s National Poetry Month, including ‘Crow poem’ and ‘Living in a draught, which can be found here on his blog.

Next up was Cary who, although not new to the poetry scene, confessed she has not given many readings (like me!). Cary read from her new chapbook Scraping the night, part of the Picaro Poets series published by Ginninderra Press and began with the title poem, followed by ‘Moment of departure’, ‘Time is a hound’ and ‘Future prince’ to name a few, with the titles alone enough to pull you in. Cary’s poems left me with some very vivid images but as said, more to follow about this shortly.

David went up next, reading a selection of poems from his collections, including ‘No wonder’ and ‘Towards evening’ from Magic Logic published by Puncher & Wattmann. David, like Thom, is one of many amazing local poets here in Adelaide and is also adept in his delivery, finishing with a very clever poem about Keats and Wordsworth, who are considered to be part of the thousands of greats Tom referred to earlier.

And then it was me. Louise did a wonderful introduction, mentioning my blog so I thought yes, better post about this event then(!). I opened with a new poem based on our Oodnadatta travels last October, a kind of sestina and probably the longest poem I’ve written to date. I then shared ‘Hoodlums’ recently published in InDaily, followed by three from my collection Smashed glass at midnight and ended with a poem I plan to include in my next collection I’m just finalising (yay!). Think I did ok.

Russ finished the guest poet line-up sharing work read by Jennifer Liston due to his acquired brain injury as a result of a brain tumour. I’ve never read any of Russ’s work before, it was breathtaking, as poems were read from his new collection Things that make your heart beat, also part of the Picaro Poets series from Ginninderra Press. And like Cary to be officially launched later this week, so I’m going to leave you hanging for the detail.

After a short coffee break it was open mic time, where we heard the likes of Ian Gibbins, Martin Christmas (who was also happily snapping away), Judy Dally, Louise Nicholas (the MC) and Mike Hopkins, all of whom were highly entertaining. And there were a few first time readers as well whom the room applauded, something that happened to me at my first ever reading here, which is incredibly endearing and encouraging.

So that’s it. I managed to sell, correction, the dazzling Jules Leigh Koch (who invited me to be a guest poet) managed to sell five of my chapbooks (which made my husband happy when I got home!) and I also had a lady approach me in the break to tell me how beautiful my poems were and how much she could relate to them, which I found very touching. All in all it was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon, set me up for the week it did.

I’ve just finished an open workshop in which poets were asked to explore their own experiences of pain and develop them into poems to share with the group.

Poetry of pain

Hosted through The Poetry School’s online social network CAMPUS, the workshop was facilitated by Daniel Sluman and ran for two weeks comprising assignment, reading, writing time and live chat. Daniel is an amazing poet, whose work often explores the challenge of the body and the pain it can cause, with two collections to his name – his first, Absence has a weight of its own, was published by Nine Arches Press in 2012 and then his latest, the terrible, is also available from Nine Arches Press.

So we were asked to recall the most memorable moments in our lives that have involved pain and note three down. Well once I started, I found it difficult to stop and ended up with over seven on my list! We then had to think about these times in an objective way with a focus on detail and other senses, i.e. not just the sensation of pain, drawing on poems by Matthew Siegel and Sharon Olds as exceptional examples of how pain can be conveyed.

I managed to draft and share three poems, with notes for another five, and poets had to choose one to be work-shopped during the two-hour live chat session. Having this at 4:30am my time (7pm London time), I thought showed commitment to the craft!

It was a really useful exercise and I met some fantastic poets along the way, whom I hope to remain in contact with. Daniel asked if we thought this course could be expanded upon; most definitely, where there’s pain, either physical or emotional, there’s a lot to say and share.