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Tuesday evening saw the launch at The Howling Owl of the second series of chapbooks from Little Windows Press; a small local publisher with ‘little books, big horizons’.

Launched by Jill Jones, an extremely talented and acclaimed poet herself, these chapbooks are exquisite – pieces of art in their own right – and in this limited-edition print run present work by Ali Cobby Eckermann, Kathryn Hummel, Jen Hadfield and Adam Aitken.

Ali read first from The Aura of Loss, a collection of poems exploring the stolen generation and its impact on those survivors who carry its grief. Ali is a Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal poet and author of seven books, including the verse novel Ruby Moonlight. Her poem ‘My mother’s love’ is a painful insight to maternal absence – ‘her touch is devoid and I am frantic’ – followed by a peeling of the self until ‘my fingers now bones dipped in blood I etch the lines of my first poem’, a haunting final image.

Kathryn’s diverse award-winning work spans poetry, non-fiction, fiction and photography, published and performed both here and overseas. Her last collection, The Bangalore Set, delves into her time in India. Among others, Kat shared ‘Wharf’ from her chapbook The Body that Holds, a poem about Port Adelaide where ‘time is a sinew to be thinned between thumb and forefinger’ and ‘rumination has its own magnifying silence.’ With nothing to do, two men wait while ‘between a jacket and its lining a flat light comes’.

Alison read poems from Jen’s chapbook Mortis and Tenon, a fellow Scottish poet whose own work is simply brilliant, while Jen lives in the Shetland Islands. As well as poet, Jen is a visual artist and bookmaker, winning the T.S. Eliot prize with her second collection Nigh-No-Place. Jen has language in landscape, beautifully evident in ‘Two Limpet Poems’ in which ‘above the rockpool everything is tilt or rough glazed in weed like afterbirth’ and where ‘This is no place to turn up without a shell / all that protects us from the press of heaven.’

 

Jill read some of Adam’s work in his absence who lives in Sydney and has had a number of poetry collections published, in addition to short fiction in journals and anthologies. Adam’s chapbook, Notes on the River, are just that; vivid snapshots that explore its nuances as in the title poem where ‘It is not a river but a question.’ A plethora of images flow thereafter, culminating in a favourite – ‘Eels find their way to flood. They dream of babies, stalk the shadows and lay each other down in them.’

With eye-catching covers and painstaking production, these chapbooks really are a gift, and in this series with the wonderful addition of pull out poems to keep handy when you need a little bliss.

Last night The Hearth hosted their ‘Of the Night’ readings at The Jade; an evening of themed writing shared by handpicked local creatives, which I was thrilled to be a part of.

The Hearth Collective comprises Lauren Butterworth, Alicia Carter, Emma Maguire and Melanie Pryor who met as English/Creative Writing PhD candidates and launched a series of themed events based on the old tradition of les veillées – when folk gathered around the fire at the end of the day to share stories, news and company.

Lisandra Linde kicked off proceedings by sharing her firsthand experience of cadavers and a crypt beneath a church in Rome; an interesting piece. Andrew Lee followed who read three intricate poems, which explored who we become at night, providing context after each one. Marina Deller finished the first set with an engaging piece woven with the untimely deaths of both her best friend and her own mum, and meeting her now partner.

After the break saw Melanie take to the stage, one of the Collective’s own, who shared a rather haunting tale about a murder that took place in the vast Australian landscape. I followed with six poems featuring the moon in some way; from an astronomer’s wife to how the moon feels waiting for the sun to set. The evening finished with a short question and answer session, where members of the audience quizzed us on our work, process and the techniques we use to convey ourselves.

Afterwards I was asked by a fellow poet if I had been nervous because it didn’t show. Despite being the last reader and the biggest crowd I’ve read to, I didn’t feel any nerves at all. There’s a certain comfort in art shared by all those there; a beautiful connectivity between readers, listeners, the hosts and a talented musician, Dee Trewartha, who played between sets.

The Hearth Collective facilitated a very memorable evening, so I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open for any further submission calls from them, that’s for sure!

Thrilled to be involved in the upcoming ‘Of the Night’ readings hosted by The Hearth on Thursday 26 October at The Jade on Flinders Street, Adelaide. Maybe see you there…

Meet Our Readers

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.

I went to the launch of Shaping the Fractured Self: Poetry of Chronic Illness and Pain on Wednesday, a stunning collection edited by Heather Taylor Johnson, and the first of its kind in Australia from UWA Publishing.

Launched by Peter Goldsworthy, this is an exquisite book; to be absorbed, examined, shared and treasured.  In his foreword, Peter explores poetry as a cathartic process, the ‘cleansing of emotional wounds’, with ‘much hard-earned wisdom and hard-wrung poetry in the pages that follow.’

A plethora of diseases and conditions are represented – cancer, mental health, disability, postnatal depression, ageing and dementia.  Heather herself suffers from Ménière’s disease, an imbalance of the inner ear, and one she writes about here.  But what makes this anthology so special is its structure; three poems from each poet preceded by a narrative describing their illness and the impact it has.

And Heather has gathered together some fine Australian poets – the likes of Fiona Wright, Andy Jackson and Stuart Barnes alongside those who read at the Adelaide launch – Gareth Roi Jones, Ian Gibbins, Rachael Mead, Rob Walker and Steve Evans.

Gareth suffers from migraines, a debilitating condition painfully conveyed in his poem ‘aching’:

hours when simply standing up

is a pickaxe

when the growling dog

won’t let you through the gate.

Ian is a neuroscientist so knows about the body, how it works and how it doesn’t, demonstrated by his brilliant performance of ‘Cataplexy’, a poem which explores this rare condition where extremes of emotion trigger a switch from consciousness into a waking dream-like state.

Rachael was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, states eloquently expressed in ‘What lies beneath my skin’, which opens with:

The ringing telephone ratchets me into tension.

providing an insight into her daily management, when walking the dog offers some relief:

I put myself in the path of wildness

let it fill my long and hollow bones.

Rob’s condition is chronic osteoarthritis, a degenerative bone disease, where in his poem ‘radiology’ (composed with Magdalena Ball), ‘holding our future in nervous hands, we come with X-rays’, likening this process to ‘reading the stars within’, an ‘internal astrology’, a captivating image.

Steve suffers with temporal epilepsy, experiencing Alice-in-Wonderland-type moments of surreal forgetfulness.  In the ‘Body Electric’, he shares what it feels like:

My body is short-circuiting.

a tumultuous journey culminating in the final stunning lines:

And my words are brittle copies

Of what I used to do. My fingers fail.

I just can’t make a fist of this.

These snapshots are enough to tempt anyone living with chronic illness and pain to seek the bigger picture captured in this collection.  And they need not be a fan of poetry to be able to appreciate the unequivocal raw beauty of the afflicted self.

is today! In the US and Canada but you know, nothing to stop us from extending it everywhere!!

Copyright @ http://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org 2017

Initiated in 2002 in New York as part of its National Poetry Month celebration, Poem in your Pocket Day is designed to encourage people to select a poem, unknown or a favourite, and carry it around with them for the day, sharing it with others throughout.

So, let’s get sharing; be it in your office, a bookstore, local park or simply on the sidewalk. If you’re on Twitter, use the hashtag #pocketpoem. For those more traditional folk, reach into your pocket and read out loud!

Seeing as I’m going through a Plath phase, I’ve put ‘Morning Song’ in my pocket to whip out and share on the train or during my lunchtime walk or more interestingly, in a meeting at work…

is today! Initiated by UNESCO in 1999, the aim is a simple one – to honour and promote poets and poetry around the world, and to recognise poetry as an international language with the ability to unite.

Copyright @ Slideshare.net 2017

Love it or hate it, poetry is an important historical instrument, an invaluable form of expression, which can challenge, heal, humour and change, but above all connect us to our very existence. Here’s this year’s message from Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO:

Poetry is a window onto the breath-taking diversity of humanity

So I want to share one of my favourite poems by one of my favourite poets with you. Having recently revisited her work, Sylvia Plath is undeniably one of the world’s finest poets and below is one of many reasons why. Plath wrote this poem a month before her separation from Ted Hughes and just six months before her death:

For a Fatherless Son

You will be aware of an absence, presently,
Growing beside you, like a tree,
A death tree, color gone, an Australian gum tree —-
Balding, gelded by lightning—an illusion,
And a sky like a pig’s backside, an utter lack of attention.
But right now you are dumb.
And I love your stupidity,
The blind mirror of it. I look in
And find no face but my own, and you think that’s funny.
It is good for me
To have you grab my nose, a ladder rung.
One day you may touch what’s wrong —-
The small skulls, the smashed blue hills, the godawful hush.
Till then your smiles are found money.

Copyright @ Sylvia Plath 1962

So I urge you to write, read, speak and share to help celebrate all things poetry, not only on this day, but every day.

I went to the launch by Carol Lefevre of Jean Harley was here last night at Dymocks bookshop.

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This is Heather Taylor Johnson’s second novel, Pursuing Love and Death her first published in 2013 by Harper Collins, a domestically rich story with the protagonist suffering from Meniere’s disease, a debilitating condition of the inner ear causing vertigo and tinnitus, which Heather herself battles with. So Heather’s second novel has been hotly anticipated.

Published by the University of Queensland Press, it explores love, relationships and the impact of absence. Jean Harley – wife, mother, lover, dancer – is sunshine in the lives of those around her, but when tragedy strikes they are forced to continue without her. Despite a little unravelling and a few storms, Jean leaves a powerful legacy to abate them. I’ve heard it’s a tear-jerker

Heather is first and foremost a poet, with a number of sole and collaborative collections to her name, and her lyricism is reflected in her exquisite prose.  I recall Heather sharing an extract from the draft of this book last year at a reading with other poets, which has stayed with me, and Heather’s knack for scene-setting is like an intimacy shared, demonstrated by the excerpt she read yesterday from the chapter “Emotional Fishing”. Here’s a snapshot:

Charley sat as far back as he could, feeling out of place, though that was nothing new. His bald head shone under the fluoro lights and the back of his neck itched – an eczema problem that flared up when he was nervous. He kept smoothing his long beard to a point – another nervous tic. One might think he was made of tougher stuff because if this was an eye-for-eye world, here was a man who’d seen things that should’ve blinded him, a man who’d done the sort of things people don’t talk about at the dinner table but read about in newspapers over breakfast…”

Quoted as being “a book to savour” by Hannah Kent, it’s clear this will be another stunning read from an extraordinarily talented writer. A visceral narrative with complex, relatable characters, Heather offers us a world to get lost in, absorb, making us ponder our place in our own.

I went along to the launch of Paint the Sky by Kristin Martin last night at Henley Beach.

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Kristin writes poetry and fiction for children and adults.  This is her first full length poetry collection for adults published by Ginninderra Press. Launched by Lynette Washington, the room was packed and thankfully air-conditioned in the forty-degree heat!  Lynette began by reeling off Kristin’s many roles – wife, mother, daughter, teacher, writer and poet – and it’s with the latter hat on that she ‘untangles the world with her words.’

Lynette then read four poems from the collection – ‘Time and Space’, ‘Never Happy with the Weather’, ‘Belonging’ and ‘In the Back of Emily Dickinson’, the most poignant of the four, where even during labour a poet will fight pain to scribble down words that also vie to exist.

Kristin also shared four poems – ‘She Paints the Sky’ done ‘when the stresses of her days on earth press between her shoulders’, ‘The Shed’ a witty fictional poem about her dad, ‘Whistling Kites’ previously published in a Friendly Street Poets Anthology and then possibly my favourite in the collection ‘The Catch of the Evening’, where we find a young Kristin playing cricket with her family in the backyard and competing for catches, the ending simply brilliant:

‘Then, as the mosquitoes herded us indoors,

I turned to grab the stumps and saw the uncontested winner:

our blue gum. It had caught the moon

and was holding it triumphantly

in the crook of a branch.’

This is a comprehensive debut collection brimming with family, love and loss, and fellow poet Rob Walker’s review on the back sums it up perfectly – ‘Kristin Martin reminds us that rare moments between ordinary people are precious gems, and lovingly holds them up to the sunlight.’