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Last night I went to the launch of Little Windows at Booknook & Bean, an exciting new line of chapbooks from poets Jill Jones and Alison Flett.  Published in a series of four, poets Andy Jackson and John Glenday helped Jill and Alison fulfill the first quota.

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These limited edition handmade chapbooks are exquisite, developed to get South Australian poets on the map and this they will do.   Alison introduced the series, thanking all those involved in its production, before handing over to Jennifer Liston to MC the event, with each poet sharing three poems from their chapbooks.

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John was first up, joining the event via Skype from Scotland, and began with ‘the apple ghost’, a haunting poem of loss in which an old woman has kept the last apples her husband picked before he died.  There are ‘shelf over shelf of apples, weightless with decay’ prompting the dead husband to roam the home at night and attempt to try ‘to hang the fruit back on the tree.’  The ‘undark’ followed, the first poem in the chapbook, continuing the delicate theme of death where ‘those girls’ have ‘come back’, ‘their footprints gleam in the past like alien snow’ and the light they once had has ‘burned through the cotton of their lives’.  John’s final poem I didn’t quite catch (too busy manoeuvring a crate to sit down!) but I’m glad to have discovered his work.

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Alison read next, sharing three poems from her fox series, which I adore, beginning with ‘fox 1: umvelt’ where he moves ‘in silence through the city’, ‘the pavements are thick with his thick foxy scent’ and after he’s gone, leaves ‘his shadow smoking and stamping in the air.’  In ‘fox 2: corporeal’ aspects of the fox are presented; ‘his eyes are amber planets’, his tail with its ‘bristling quivering tips’, his ‘feet listening to the nothing’, his heart ‘a dark livid thing.’ The human connection is explored in ‘fox 3: liminoid’ when Alison encounters one crossing the road ahead as she walks with her friends from a nightclub, feeling ‘a pencil line of silence’ running between them as they regard one another in the din, and how this ‘gift from the fox’ returns ‘when theres noise all around’, ‘its taut string singing the silence’.

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Andy followed with ‘blue mountains line’, a poignant journey in a train carriage ‘the colour of tendon and bone’, where ‘outside, the mist has lifted and left behind the shudder and billow of mountains’ and ‘that knocking is only an empty wheelchair, wobbling with the motion of the train.’  Andy then read ‘breathing’ posing the question ‘How do I carry this air?’, the scene a cremation described as ‘Theatre in reverse, decomposing you into these vague and pressing sensations in my head and chest’, leaving us with the simple line ‘Breathe out, breathe in -.’  Andy finished with a wonderful poem I’ve heard him read before, ‘what I have under my shirt’, offerings to explain the impact of Marfan Syndrome; ‘a speed hump (your eyes must slow down approaching)’, ‘the shape of my father’, ‘infinite shirts’.

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Jill completed the readings beginning with ‘the wall, the door, the rain’, a thought-provoking poem where ‘there’s nothing I can claim of this world someone keeps giving away’ being ‘white with entitlements and modern footwear while blasphemy accumulates in my dreams’.  Next came ‘big apples leaf summer’ rich with childhood and ‘the kindness of leaves’, as Jill contemplates ‘I am to be diamonds, pick me-ups, queer riddles you do not know’, crossing the playground her ‘confusion was greater than the hills’.  Jill left us with ‘mighty tree’, the final poem in her chapbook, each line a stand-alone statement knitting beautiful images, where at the end she pleads ‘Oh mighty tree fall on me. Make me a legend or a nest. The magpies can pluck my dream. The ghosts can have the rest.’

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This is a wonderfully fresh series, small finite collections presenting snapshots of poetry.  Finishing touches are being applied to the website to enable others to gaze into these poetic windows of brilliance.

 

 

The launch of the Spring 2015 series of Southern-Land Poets from Garron Publishing took place last night at the Halifax Café. These are exquisite chapbooks from some big names – Rob Walker, Jelena Dinic, Aidan Coleman, Rachael Mead and David Ades – each a beautifully presented snapshot of their work.

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Gary McRae, founder of Garron Publishing, hosted the event and began by thanking Sharon Kernot, assistant at the independent press and a writer herself (and who also did a wonderful job of selling the chapbooks) for her meticulous work and commitment, and then Michael Bollen of Wakefield Press for his continued support of the series.

So first up was Rob Walker reading from Polices & Procedures.

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Now working in HR, I can so relate to this title and was looking forward to Rob sharing some of its poems. He began with the title poem, a short piece about hindsight in his teaching career, followed by ‘A drive to work’ ‘on a day when every dewdrop traps a rainbow’, a gorgeous image. ‘Time of your life’ was next, which captured the heady days of youth and then a few poems relating to Rob’s period of bad health, ‘Resolution / D-generation’, ‘Radiology’, and ‘Coming off the tramadol’, with some haunting lines; ‘I am an imperfect copy of myself’, ‘internal astrology’ and ‘racing through a black espresso night’, taking us to where he has been and come back from

Next up was the lovely Jelena Dinic with her chapbook Buttons on my Dress.

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Jelena began with ‘The Last Summer’, a wonderful poem about growing up with memories of ‘before’ ending with the stunning line ‘I learn to drink from the bottle and nothing tastes the same’. Her next poem ‘Crossing borders’ alluded to a time of discontent in former Yugoslavia from where she hails, by addressing a mother about her’ three sons the most wanted’ and how to keep them safe. Having studied art history as part of my degree I loved Jelena’s ‘Portrait of Olympia the Prostitute’ and once again could picture the ‘unattainable stretching herself like history resilient to the centuries’, an elegant comparison. I’ve never heard Jelena read before; she was captivating.

Aidan Coleman was up next just before the break reading from Cartoon Snow.

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Like Rob, Aidan opened with the title poem, which gave us an almost magical frozen land ‘where a blue night is snowing to itself, shushing the owl-wide forest’. The next two I recognised from Aidan’s Lee Marvin reading – ‘Primary’ and ‘Barbarian Studies’ – in the first ‘the teacher chastens gently in lowercase green’ and in the second, ‘kids jostle, shove and swing like wrecking balls’. Aidan finished his set with ‘Ham Radio’, a poem about his father working ‘the difficult braille of a circuit board’…‘until a voice comes clean of static, to talk in a clear bubble’.

Then we had a break where I noted some faces in the crowd – Mike Ladd, Peter Goldsworthy, Louise Nicholas, Jill Jones, Jennifer Liston, Jules Leigh Koch, David Mortimer, Mike Hopkins, Martin Christmas – and a crowd it was, the place was packed.

Rachael, closely photographed by doting husband Andrew Noble, who has just finished building her a writer’s cottage (yes you read that right, I want one!), read from The Quiet Blue World.

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Rachael shared a poem she hadn’t before called ‘White Blues’ about seeing Jack White at Federation Hall a few years ago. This longer piece was loaded with incredible imagery before the concert – ‘In Chinatown, customers with chopsticks lean over steaming bowls like fine-beaked birds dipping into sweet cups of magnolia’, a ‘man’s face is a crumpled tissue of experience’ – and then once inside, they are ‘driven to use (their) bodies as instruments as (they) open up’. Rachael’s last poem, ‘What the fire didn’t touch’, was about her parent’s house in a bush fire, beginning with ‘Mum, who was never late a day in her life, woke up early for her death and missed it’ to the stunning last line of finding her childhood books with ‘the years waiting like pressed flowers between the pages’.

David Ades, skyping in from Pittsburgh at 4:30 in the morning (now that’s dedication!), completed the line-up by reading from his chapbook Only the Questions are Eternal.

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David also shared the title poem from his collection, which compared the relentlessness of questions to baby birds ‘chirruping in their nests, pointed beaks raised upwards, insistent’. His next poem, ‘The bridge I must walk across’ was very apt considering the ongoing refugee crisis, culminating in the provocative stanza ‘I am becoming a stranger inside my own skin, my children becoming the bridge I must walk across’. David’s final poem, ‘A father’s call’ stems from becoming a dad unexpectedly, and describes how over the years he searched for his yet-to-be-born children – ‘I flung my call at your absence’ – a very touching piece.

And so the new series had been well and truly launched in what will be a memorable evening, and with the chapbooks retailing at a mere $7 each, I felt it only right to complete my set (adding to Rachael’s and Rob’s), because they really are an amazing read.

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