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Plumwood Mountain image

Coffin Bay

I went to my first Dead Poets Society meet last night hosted by Dymocks to hear Alison Flett talk about Carol Ann Duffy.

Held each month, local poets pay tribute to infamous ones, originally those deceased although clearly they bend the rules every so often to capture the brilliance we still have. Being Scottish in common as well as amazing poets, Alison spoke about Duffy’s life and loves; how she fell into poetry at sixteen by meeting Adrian Henri, one of the Liverpool poets, after whom she wrote ‘Little Red Cap’ which Alison read, a clever poem relating Duffy’s journey into adulthood with Henri as the wolf.

This poem was from Duffy’s The World’s Wife, an ingenious collection from the perspective of the women behind famous men, from which Alison also shared ‘Frau Freud’, a witty piece reflecting on the male member.

Alison also read ‘Hive’ from Duffy’s latest collection The Bees published in 2011 along with ‘Premonitions’, a poem about Duffy’s mother whose death caused a hiatus in Duffy’s writing for about 10 years.

Alison finished by sharing some of her own beautiful poetry, including one of my favourites ‘Vessel’, the title poem from her chapbook in the Southern Land Poets series by Garron Publishing.

The talk was followed by a raffle and an open mic session, where readers share a favourite poem by the tribute poet and one of their own inspired by them. It felt good to be reacquainted with Duffy’s powerful and emotive work; it’s clear to see why she’s the current UK Poet Laureate.

Next month is D H Lawrence, whose novels I’m more familiar with than his poetry, so I may just mosey on along to that one too.

To celebrate 21 years of publishing, Stephen and Brenda Matthews of Ginninderra Press (GP) held an open day at their house in Port Adelaide yesterday.

Ginninderra is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘throwing out little rays of light’, which is exactly what GP does, by giving voices to so many writers since its inception in 1996 in Canberra, reflected in its philosophy:

We believe that all people – not just a privileged few – have a right to participate actively in cultural creation rather than just being passive consumers of mass media.

A follow on from a similar event in Melbourne earlier this month, it was packed as predicted, with many familiar faces, in their beautiful home that looks out onto the Port Adelaide River and which houses the press. Most attending lived in and around Adelaide, but some had travelled interstate just to be there, a credit to this award-winning publisher.

Stephen kicked off the proceedings before handing over to Brenda to MC the running sheet of readers. I shared a poem from my chapbook, Smashed glass at midnight, the first in GP’s Picaro Poets series and being my debut collection will always feel special.

The commitment, time and dedication Stephen and Brenda put into their work is demonstrated in the beautiful books they publish – ‘A day in the life of GP’ provides an interesting insight into what this entails.

I’m both thrilled and honoured to be part of the GP family, and will always be incredibly grateful, like so many others, to Stephen and Brenda for enabling my work to be.

Supported through Crowdfunder and published by Nine Arches Press, Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back is an invaluable addition to disability literature.

Edited by Sandra Alland, Khairani Barokka and Daniel Sluman who themselves have disability, the anthology examines D/deaf and disabled poetics from personal, social and political perspectives, culminating in a beautifully rich collection of voices.

Split into ‘Bodies’, ‘Rules’, ‘Maps’, ‘Dreams’ and ‘Legends’, the experiences of those with physical, mental and emotional challenges are shared through poetry, essays and photos to:

showcase a diversity of opinions and survival strategies for an ableist world.

It’s gritty stuff; confronting perceptions of people who are considered and/or observed to be different. Some work is followed by a short biography offering further insight into its contributors. And there are a plethora of conditions both visible and unseen – deafness, absent limbs, MS, mental illness, autism, rheumatoid arthritis to name a few – stripped bare and laid out in indelible forms.

The idea for the anthology came from a desire to create a UK equivalent to the American anthology Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability. Interestingly, this has recently been achieved here in Australia with Shaping the Fractured Self: Poetry of Chronic Illness and Pain, developed as a companion to Articulations: The Body and Illness in Poetry in the US. This is an expanding field; one we should all make time to explore.