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So Tuesday night’s Lee Marvin line up was Alison Flett, Aidan Coleman, Banjo Weatherald and Jennifer Liston, another one not to be missed.

Lee Marvin 2

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.

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