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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.

Tuesday saw words with Caitlyn Lesiuk, David Mortimer, Mike Ladd and Carol Lefevre at the Lee Marvin readings hosted by Ken Bolton, a delightful variety and evening.

Lee Marvin 2

Caitlyn was first up reading a piece of prose, which although based in Melbourne felt like we were being drawn into some kind of Salvador Dali-esque world, with striking images of birthing body parts! An eye, foot, hand pushing their way out of women, such powerful images leading up to the protagonist being hit by a tram but the legs ‘kept on walking’. At the end, despite the almost surreal horror, you wanted more, so hopefully at some point there will be.

David read eight poems, six of which were new and then two from his collection Magic Logic published by Puncher & Wattmann Poetry, one entitled ‘not-being and somethingness’, a nice fit with the evening’s theme. David ended with ‘practical aesthetics’, a sex poem as he calls it, which opened with the beautiful line ‘I kiss your intimate architecture’ and developed into an exquisite abstract of lovemaking.

Mike read a new series of poems called ‘Dream tetras’, which in part relayed colours remembered after waking. These were interesting, thought-provoking pieces and Mike is a wonderful reader, having heard him before at a Words@Wall event reading from his Adelaide collection produced by Garron Publishing. Mike ended his set with a poem about skiing in Dubai, an entertaining piece with the repetitive line ‘so let’s go skiing in Dubai’ throughout.

Carol shared a series of work about her garden, a photographic journal called The Art of the Garden Diary published in SA Life, making reference at one point to Wallace Stevens’ poem ‘Thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird’, which I must admit I had never read before (I have now!). With memorable lines like ‘night swallows the deepest colours first’ and vivid images of roses, Carol encouraged us to remember the natural world we live in and must keep alive.

Now I admit, I have only seen a few slam poetry performances over the years so my comparisons are not the broadest, but this group of young dynamic poets was amazing!

  9-Things-You-Didn-t-Know-About-Your-Ears-mdn

 
The show “Aotearoa Speaks – Chewing your Ears” definitely needs to be heard, delivered by some of the best spoken word poets from New Zealand, including national and international slam winners.  In a collaboration of stories from New Zealand, Samoa, Africa and Egypt, these 7 artists deliver a fusion of song, movement and poetry with poignant cultural and social themes that will get you thinking and reflecting long after they’ve left the stage.
 
Having performed 3 nights in Adelaide at the Brighton Performing Arts Centre they are now in Melbourne, so if you can get tickets I can’t recommend them enough. Here’s a little taster…
 
Writing something that means anything.
 
Rule 1: Don’t make it beautiful. Your metaphors are as pretty as an induced labour. Ideas swaddled too soon, let them sit in themselves like a soup.
 

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