The first session of my second day was Living Poetry, which focused on experience and biography by a panel comprising Andy Melrose, Kerry Nelson, Ross Gibson and Andy Jackson, hosted by Cassandra Atherton.

Andy Melrose is a songwriter who doesn’t consider himself a poet, having recently produced a song for an exhibition, which explored the very topical subject of immigration and being removed from one’s origins. Andy shared the song, ‘Your mama’s music box’, on guitar, a haunting piece with three narrative voices.

Kerry uses vernacular in her work, informed by her grandad who listened to Banjo Patterson and C J Dennis, as well as collaboration and humour. Kerry worked in Aboriginal Affairs and shared a poem called ‘Palm Island Kids’, in which children warned Miss about the “hairy man”, be it literal or symbolic.

Ross spoke about how biographising changes the person being written about as well as the writer, and stressed the importance of finding a bearing, using the example of Henry Thoreau who could recognise a person from across a field by their gait. Ross is currently working on a redact project, which explores the concept of the omitted centre.

Andy Jackson I’ve met before and whose work I love, with his most recent collection, Music our bodies can’t hold, being a series of 46 portrait poems about people with Marfan syndrome. Andy explained how a poet needs to inhabit other people’s lives and to do this, he thought of people as houses, tried to find a way in, sometimes ending up in the garden.

I’ve recently had a collection published about endometriosis, comprising poems which explore different aspects of the condition from personal experience. This session got me thinking about a potential next step.

Speaking in Tongues

Four international poets – Eileen Chong, Omar Sakr, Ravi Shankar and Jen Webb – were brought together for this session, convened by Anita Patel.

Eileen was born in Singapore and is another whose work I admire, reading a poem called ‘Chimera’ from her most recent collection Rainforest, having explained how the characters depicted on the cover are the symbol for rain over forest. Eileen feels a connection to Chinese poetry, but has only ever read them in English, despite being forced to learn Mandarin at school. A point that struck me was how Eileen thought herself a person before moving to Australia, after which time she became an Asian person.

Omar read two poems, one of which was ‘A beautiful child’, a very powerful and moving piece. Omar’s mother is Lebanese, his father Turkish, but having been raised by his mum, his heritage is predominantly Arab. Omar spoke of ruptured belonging and unbelonging, about being happy in his unbelonging space with shards of broken prayer, turning to Arabic when scared. I particularly liked Omar’s observation of language being the least favourite daughter, a powerful statement in patriarchal cultures.

Ravi began by sharing a yoga transcript, followed by his translation, and a poem called ‘Exile’ from his latest collection Many uses of Mint. With South Indian parents who emigrated to the US, his country of birth, Ravi found that responding to languages not understood turned him to poetry. As a student, Ravi both embraced and rejected his heritage, translating work with a colleague, producing multiple versions.

Jen hails from South Africa and grew up in the apartheid, viewing language as political and changeable, speaking both Afrikaan and English. Jen spent some time in New Zealand, which she compared to living with your lovely aunt, and has been in Australia for 26 years, with the belief people aren’t of land, they are not planted, rather moving constantly like water. Being multilingual and bathed in many languages, Jen finds she often picks a word or phrase from a language that suits her at that time.

This got me thinking about my own heritage, which is, as far as I’m aware, just English, albeit infused with my preference for French at school and having a German husband.

Poetry reading

Tonight’s poets were Bella Li, Jill Jones, Paul Hetherington and Sholeh Wolpé.

Having recently purchased Bella’s latest collection Argosy, I was looking forward to hearing her read from it. Bella read parts two and three from ‘Lost Lakes’, the last sequence in the book, followed by three pieces of microfiction, encouraged to fruition by Cassandra Atherton.

Jill’s work I’m familiar with, she’s an amazing poet, reading from her vast array of collections – from Brink, her latest back to Ash is Here and So Are Stars, one of her earlier ones.

Paul’s poetry I wasn’t familiar with it and enjoyed it immensely, as he read from his latest prose poetry collection, Moonlight on Oleander, including the title poem, in which “the moon sits on the horizon like a serious word”.

Having heard Sholeh speak on one of the panels, I was also looking forward to her reading, which she did so with passion, sharing poems from her schooling in Trinidad to a catholic boarding school in Southern England, where “home is a missing tooth”.

This was a rich and memorable line-up, both contrasting and complimentary, one of many credits to the festival.

Having decided to treat myself to a poetry festival a year, this time took me to Canberra for Poetry on the Move hosted by the International Poetry Studies Institute, University of Canberra.

With a focus on Inhabiting Language, it offered an eclectic mix of poets and perspectives, a fantastic few days of being immersed in pure unadulterated poetry. Heaven. Due to the amount of sessions, I’ll summarise those I attended and in the absence of some photos, illustrations are curated from my travel snaps over the years in an ekphrastic attempt!

Lines and shapes

My first session looked at form, the panel comprising Cassandra Atherton, Lisa Brockwell, Owen Bullock and Lisa Gorton, convened by Paul Munden. Each poet shared their thoughts before questions from the audience were invited.

Lisa Gorton spoke of an inward principle of growth, a place where line breaks come up against silence, unformed time and vacancy, structures of hesitation. Owen shared a quote by Lyn Heinjin – form is not a fixture but an activity – there’s link and shift, internal line breaks, a song in the narrative. Lisa Brockwell has a strong preference for the sonnet, finding its metre and form liberating rather than confining, allowing her to access a wilder part of her imagination. Cassandra is a prose poet and passionate about it, sharing the concept of the free-line from Sally Ashton, where stand-alone sentences run from margin to margin separated by a skipped line, using Ocean Vuong’s poem ‘Trevor’ as an example of this.

Jill Jones initiated an interesting debate by saying a poem never really ends. Shane Strange asked if it’s better for a poet to just read their work rather than introducing its form, e.g. ghazal, pantoum, sestina, etc., and Cassandra asserted she can identify a prose poem by how it’s delivered.

To conclude, form is organic and follows content, which it most certainly does for me, unless I’ve been set the task of writing in a particular form.

In between sessions, my neighbour asked if I was studying poetry to which I replied no, I’m a poet! In hindsight I thought what an arrogant response. Of course I’m here to learn and will never stop.

Poet to Poet

The next session was a dialogue about the art of translation between Iranian writer Sholeh Wolpé and Keijiro Suga a Japanese literary scholar, facilitated by Melinda Smith.

Sholeh has translated Attar’s work, The Conference of Birds, a piece comprising over 5,000 couplets, one of which is ‘a morsel of lover’s pain is better than the lovers’. Sholeh wants to be known as a writer, not a translator, as she recreates pieces in which nothing is lost, comparing it to using a scalpel; it must cut to the bone. With poetry building bridges, Sholeh is very keen to share the pearls of Iranian work, otherwise it will continue to be regarded as just a terrorist state.

Keijiro didn’t start writing poetry until his fifties and shared a Japanese translation of the poem ‘In a Country where December is Mid-summer’. Japanese society is monolithic and encourages self-declaration, and so for Keijiro, the word identity is bothersome as he feels country doesn’t define who you are, juxtaposing this with his interest in indigenous work. Keijiro explained how, by having to meet deadlines, he doesn’t have the luxury of thinking.

What I took away is that translation can be flexible. You can bring in elements of yourself and your own interpretation, provided the reader ends up feeling the same way.

 

is a collection of poems about endometriosis, a debilitating condition affecting one in ten women, with an average diagnosis time of seven years from onset of symptoms.

Endometriosis occurs when the tissue lining the uterus, the endometrium, grows in other areas of the body, typically over ovaries, fallopian tubes and in pelvic tissue. During menstruation, the endometrium in the uterus is shed. The endometrial cells that have grown outside the uterus can’t be shed, causing pain, infertility and adhesions.

It’s a chronic condition with no known cause or cure. Diagnosis is by laparoscopy. Treatment is with medication, surgery or both. I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis at 31, which had been masked by the contraceptive pill I was prescribed for heavy painful periods. After laparoscopies, removal of recurring endometriomas and finding the right combination of medication, mine is currently manageable.

And so these 19 poems, thanks to Brenda and Stephen Matthews of Ginninderra Press, explore different aspects of endometriosis, mixing my own experience with those of others, which I hope will help to raise awareness of the condition, albeit a little.

I’ve attended two workshops recently organised through Writers SA – Mark Tredinnick’s The Little Red Writing Workshop and Rachael Mead’s Writing the Landscape.

Mark is an award-winning poet and widely published, however this session focused on craft and technique that can be applied to any style of writing. Participants ranged from academics to creative writers, who were given a crash course in Mark’s fifteen rules and received a copy of his book in which they’re explored in more detail.

Mark shared his extensive knowledge and experience, along with some memorable quotes, such as E B White defining writing as the process of the “self escaping onto the page”, which can apply to both the writer and reader. We looked at structure and rhythm, language and voice, being urged to copy a well-made sentence and examine how it’s constructed. Mark’s message was “writing better means getting out of your own way”, write from rather than of the self and master punctuation to help your audience breathe your story.

Rachael is also a widely acclaimed poet whose work I admire and her session explored eco-poetics – an activist way of writing nature poetry in that it has both agency and impact, providing an ecological rather than humanistic perspective, the essence of her latest collection.

Rachael introduced us to four approaches, explaining that eco-poetry is a challenge to dominant discourse, chipping away at anthropocentrism. We read work by Sharon Olds, Mary Oliver and Judith Wright, poems grounded in place with biological, cultural and physical forces at play. Personal and sensory aspects are fundamental to eco-poetics, macro combined with micro to produce a multi-layered piece that seeks an emotive rather than intellectual response. Rachael’s workshop spanned a morning, but there’s enough material to easily fill a day.

And so I’ve acquired new skills to flex and drafts to develop, and a new awareness of self – the impact it has on writing and the world in which both exist.

Every so often I review my subscriptions to refresh and spread the financial love as it were. I have my constants – Mslexia, Poetry Salzburg, Magma – but it pays to explore other publications, which is how I found SLICE.

Published twice a year out of New York, SLICE combines stunning visuals with themed fiction, non-fiction, poetry and interviews. This issue’s theme is ‘Borders’, be they personal, geographical or meta-physical.

I have a confession – rarely do I sit and read a magazine/journal from cover to cover in one sitting. This one I did. Bookended with engaging fiction – from ‘August’ by Aja Gabel, about a woman post-affair to whom a neighbour’s dog takes a shine through to Tara Isabel Zambrano’s ‘New Beginnings’, describing the delicate dance between a couple who first met at an Indian grocery store – there’s much to absorb to find or lose your own lines.

The poetry’s good too. In Josh Bettinger’s ‘Still Life with Bridge as Handshake of Lands’, inanimate objects are given life existing among us and in ‘Night Water’ by Josie Schoel, people are cyclical trying to connect from within their own orbits.

A gem is the ‘Exquisite Corpse’, a game where one writer drafts the first part of a story with their final line being passed to the next to continue it (I remember doing this at school!). Four writers were asked to play, with their words translated from Arabic, French, Swedish and Catalan to create a unique stitched story, which centres around an Institute given four facades.

So, if you’re looking to subscribe to something new, I’d recommend SLICE, because the images speak too, inspiration for that next writing project perhaps…

How can poetry speak to us if it does not take risks, say something bold and new, make adventurous leaps with language and form?

This was the synopsis of the online course I’ve just completed through the Poetry School.

 

Facilitated by Jennifer Wong, an engaging and insightful poet from Hong Kong, students were encouraged to explore unknown territory, step out of their comfort zone, to experiment with form and technique. Jenny shared work by Emily Berry, Ocean Vuong, Melissa Lee-Houghton, Christopher Reid, Naomi Shihab Nye, David Clarke, Karen Solie and Mimi Khalvati as inspiration, and also provided an extended reading list for those who want to fall further.

We drafted portrait poems, found poems, mirror poems, poems about names, historical happenings, ghazals and pantoums. And once again it was wonderful to connect with poets across the world to discuss work, exchange feedback, and share our own creative practice and inner being.

I participate regularly in the online Poetry School community and would highly recommend browsing their catalogue of courses—Jenny’s running another one, Possibilities of the line, later this year—because it’s always good to broaden those poetic horizons.

Last night I went along to Tenx9Adelaide at The Jade having been invited by friends. I wasn’t aware of this concept and what a brilliant one it is – nine people have ten minutes to share a true story based on a theme. Yesterday’s was ‘A brush with…’

Copyright@Tenx9Adelaide

Stories ranged from a brush with death and politics through to the media and fame:

  • a young boy inadvertently helped coppers retrieve stolen goods from a river and appeared on the news;
  • an anthropologist travelled to a remote Inca community and en route got bitten by a poisonous spider;
  • a detailed description of a robber was shared and only at the end did we learn it was Ronnie Biggs (the description, not the storyteller!);
  • another anthropologist told of how his bike was stolen in Boston and its subsequent retrieval;
  • a woman shared how she nearly lost her life in a flat fire after one of her housemates left a candle burning;
  • another told of her geological trip to Nepal where the shipment of apples was more important than backpacks;
  • a former priest relayed his perilous hike in Japan after agreeing to minister a wedding there; and
  • a comedian shared the time he accepted the gig of warming up the QandA crowd before Julia Gillard came on.

You’ll note that’s only eight; one storyteller pulled out, which resulted in an open mic session where two audience members took the stage to share their two minutes stories – one, having lost both her underwear and swimwear, was invited to climb a coconut tree on a tour (but had to decline being knickerless in a dress), while another told of his amazement at being asked a rather inappropriate question by the media during a press conference about a new hospital.

It was engaging stuff; their stories drew laughs and intakes of breath from the crowd. Some read from notes, others without, but all were perfectly timed (else a horn is sounded!).

The next event is on Thursday 19 July with the theme of ‘Because of her…’ and I’d recommend a visit, to either listen or to share. Do you have a story to tell?

is Daniel Sluman’s second collection published by Nine Arches Press; sharp and unflinching work exquisitely rendered to convey aspects of mortality in all its bleak beauty.

Daniel is a UK-based poet with whom I first became acquainted participating in his Poetry of Pain course hosted online through the Poetry School. Daniel suffered with bone cancer when he was young and in these poems, he shares flashes of the trauma endured brilliantly, as well as those places and events no one wants to speak of.

In the terrible, there is pain and suffering, blood and release, acceptance and love, narcotics and knowing, and a frank realisation of the body’s fragility and the life it contains.

In ‘1991-2006’ we’re shown a fast-forward of father and son travelling in ‘a pounded blue ford’, ‘the faces from our life passing like boarded-up doors’. In ‘morphine’ ‘it waits for me to twist the lid’ and ‘dream of a wonderful weight on the chest sinking further towards the stalling heart.’ And in ‘angels’ there’s a bitterness, ‘as we reel the rope to knot around their chests’, pull and wait ‘for the snap of feather-bone & rib’.

The vessel in which we travel can be subject to ‘strange weather’ (a concept explored in ‘doppelganger’) threatening its delicate balance, and so I want to leave you with this poem, a poignant reminder the barely bearable is often shared:

 

& this is love

 

as she goes limp & falls into my arms

like an important looking letter

I help her to the bathroom

 

& sit on the other side of the door

tearing nails between my teeth

clutching the phone like a safety rope

 

& this is love    how we live between

the side-effects of glittering pills

the wads of her dead hair snarled

 

in the plug-hole    the morning cigarette

that shakes in her hand before her kiss

once again says whateverhappens    I ring

 

the ambulance when her head smacks

the floor    & in the crazed flutter of her lids

I see a million lives for us    each one perfect

 

Copyright @ Daniel Sluman 2015

Check out these two brilliant poems by Jennifer Liston in the current issue of Verity La:

http://verityla.com/deadspeak-jennifer-liston/

cristian-newman-619471-unsplash-1024x684

And do take the time to meet Jen’s rescued poetry http://jenniferliston.com/ (there are some wonderful pieces she’s whipped up and woven using her unique rescue technique).

Inspirational, a skill I intend to explore!

is an exceptional collection by Angela Readman published by Nine Arches Press, one I couldn’t put down for the song calling and still hear.

The Book of Tides is Angela’s third collection of poems, described as salt-speckled and sea-tinged, they lure with their rhythmic magic and ability to weave the other worldliness with the normalcy of now. There are mermaids and fishermen, folklore and loss, love and murder, even a beard of bees:

The swarm began to flow uphill, a dark lace over the apple stuck in my throat (‘The Preacher’s Son and the Beard of Bees’)

each and every poem glittering with a visceral, yet incandescent, quality.

Angela’s work leaves indelible images, the titles alone capitulate these – ‘The Museum of Water’, ‘The House that Wanted to be a Boat’, ‘Our Name in Pebbles’, ‘Confession of a Selkie’ – and with sublime lines like:

Sometimes she stared at wolves chasing the window, landlocked clouds circled the house (‘The Book of Tides’)

and:

My fingers dry and uncurl, flakes fall. I leave freckles on the snow (‘The Woman with No Name’)

and:

The horizon is a closed ballroom where days of the week refuse to dance (‘The Woman Who Could Not Say Goodbye’)

these poems are keepsakes, the kind to net and stow in a sturdy, waterproof box.

The detail in Angela’s work is enviable, as the snippets above demonstrate, down to the quote she selected by Leonard Cohen by way of introduction – “If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick everyday.”

The title poem won the Mslexia Poetry Competition in 2013, but I want to leave you with ‘To Catch a Fisherman’, one of several favourites of mine for its sculpted perfection, like the seashell you found as a child whispering wonders:

 

To Catch a Fisherman

 

The Singer grunts another steel shanty.

Mother puts a foot down on fish skins

bucking the light, an ocean in the room.

 

It’s a fine day to catch a fisherman, let

fog spritz a veil over a squirm of tail, shells

cutting patterns in my chest like dough.

 

I can cut a fisherman out of his boat,

if I sit still long enough, dangle the bait of

a song off the rock to a man looking for a story

 

to reel. There’s none who won’t come,

reach out for a myth to writhe in his hands.

I serenade the speck of my house, sad

 

as a woman who can’t dance, wind rinsing

out recollections of sinking in the bath

pretending to be half-anemone, half-girl.

 

The keel of my voice creaks song

of Mother’s bad back, logs aching to be lugged,

a cold foot in bed inching for a warm sole.

 

She catches the lone fisherman in her net,

a sprat of man who sees me strip off my tail,

harpoon licking the hollow in his neck.

 

Together we bundle him back to the house,

Mother’s laugh is a shoal. It slips over us,

a glint of mermaids bringing the silver home.

 

Copyright © Angela Readman 2016

Archives

Blog Stats

  • 12,829 hits
Deep Wild Journal

Writing from the Backcountry

Poetry in Process

Understanding poetic process from inspiration to final edit

Antarctic Poetry Exhibition

The world's first and only poetry exhibition in Antarctica

Plumwood Mountain

An Australian Journal of Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics

EYELASHROAMING

A blog by Ashleigh Young. A burning wreck

WA Poets Inc

Developing and promoting poets and poetry

Not Very Quiet

a twice yearly online journal for women's poetry

Poet Laureate

Poetry is an act of peace. – Pablo Neruda

Freefall

'She would say to discover / the true depth of a well, / drop a stone, / start counting.' - Andrew Greig

The Hearth

Conversations. Creativity. Ideas.

District Lit

an online journal of writing and art

Nomadic Permanence: Rob Packer's Blog

Places, pictures, food, impressions, thoughts.

Wakefield Press

Wakefield Press blog

Andy Jackson

Poetry from a body shaped like a question mark.

Tears in the Fence

an independent, international literary magazine

Shooter Literary Magazine

Short fiction, non-fiction and poetry