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just happens to be me, which is fab seeing as it’s my birthday month!

Following the successful run of featuring a Pocket Poet each month in the window of East Avenue Books, Ginninderra Press have decided to run through the Picaro Poet series, with my collection, Smashed glass at midnight, up next to entice passersby into the shop.

And once again Stephen and Brenda Matthews have done a wonderful job of pulling this together, including some of my favourite poems from the chapbook.

So if you’re about pop in; immerse yourself in the voices of a thousand and more pens.

I was approached by my publisher Ginninderra Press (GP) a few weeks ago to see if I’d like to be the Pocket Poet for December, which basically means your photo, bio and a sample of your work is displayed in the window of East Avenue Books for the month. Of course I said yes! And collected a copy of the poster yesterday.

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Once again GP’s Stephen and Brenda Matthews have done a wonderful job pulling this together, and are experts at making you feel part of the GP family.  Plus, you know, I’ve never been a pin-up before  😉

So pop along to East Avenue Books to stock up on some stocking fillers; the Pocket Poet series, aswell as the Picaro Poet series, would make perfect Christmas gifts.

are an essential part of any poet’s toolkit.  So why I’ve only just joined some I don’t know.  And now I’m a member of three!

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The first is more of a workshop run by Jan Owen, a very prestigious local poet, in which poets share any poems they would like feedback on, discuss the poems produced from the homework task set, any other model poems suggested, techniques, style, etc.  Jan really is a mine of poetic wisdom.

The second group I was invited to is held at East Avenue Books and facilitated by Joan Fenney, co-owner, in which again poets share any poems they have for feedback surrounded by a beautiful array of books, forever a purchase risk where I’m concerned.

The third group, Poetica, also invited me, with the vote to be a unanimous one, so an exclusive group with some of the finest Adelaide-based poets I know (feel very privileged to be a member!).  Again homework is set every month with each member taking a turn to run the session.

Thankfully they’re all held on a different Sunday of the month so no clashes, but they really are a wonderful source of skill, insight and inspiration, generating some very thought-provoking work.  And I’ve learnt, and am still learning, so much about other poets, form, technique, movements, etc., knowledge I feel is enriching the poetry I write.

So there you go, I can’t stress enough the importance of poetry groups.  If you’re not currently a member of one, I would strongly recommend you try to be.

It’s the 20th birthday of Ginninderra Press (GP), and to celebrate the milestone of this prestigious publishing house run by Stephen Matthews and his wife Brenda, a weekend of literary events, in which it was a pleasure to participate.

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Saturday saw a full day at Tea Tree Gully Library, MC’d by Peter Bucklow co-owner of East Avenue Books with Joan Fenney, beginning with Stephen chatting to Joan and for someone who rarely enjoys the spotlight, Stephen was captivating.

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Having graduated from Cambridge with a ‘fascination for books’, Stephen shared his journey into publishing, a path deterred by his career guidance counsellor who suggested teaching instead.  So after taking his advice, and from there into bookselling and eventually into editing, Stephen pursued his desire to ‘give manuscripts a place in our culture’.  He explained how getting published has literally changed peoples’ lives (I can vouch for that) and how print on demand has helped to secure the future of books, and indeed his workload.

Next up was the launch by Debbie Lee of Rays of Light: Ginninderra Press – the first 20 years compiled by Joan Fenney.

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This is an enchanting read, learning how Stephen’s brainchild has established itself firmly in contemporary Australian literature spanning all genres – non-fiction, poetry, fiction, short stories – by publishing ‘little pieces of art’.  Since the inception of their chapbooks in 2014 – the Picaro Poets and the Pocket Poets series – GP has sold 6,000 copies in two years, now that’s impressive.  This book is an invaluable record created by Joan after 15 hours of interview, with eight chapters written by GP authors, as well as a compilation of quotes from members of the GP family.

And then it was time to launch First Refuge: Poems on Social Justice edited by Ann Nadge, in which I’m thrilled to have a poem.

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Former SA Premier and now ordained minister Lynn Arnold had this privilege and did so eloquently.  These poems from 88 GP authors explore social justice reaching into uncomfortable spaces – war, domestic violence, refugees, isolation – leaving nothing unearthed, resulting in a somewhat emotional journey when reading it from cover to cover.  To quote Ann, this is ‘a small book with big teeth, where language has power’.

After lunch there was a session about being a writer, editor, reader, a panel discussion with Jude Aquilina, Zenda Vecchio and Brenda Eldridge (aka Brenda Matthews) facilitated by Louise Nicholas.   Jude used to be a telegram writer and then pursued her passion for poetry by giving workshops, readings, judging competitions and editing manuscripts.  Zenda only became a writer recently, enjoys telling stories and believes ‘reading and writing to be two strands of the same rope’.  Brenda does what she loves every day, is flexible with her time and energy, and knows when her head isn’t in the creative space, deadheading roses makes more sense.  When asked what their definition of a professional writer is, their answer was when you make a living from it, with reading an essential component.

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The next session looked at the impact of modern poetry – accessible or too obscure?  Graham Rowlands shared some useful insights and read a poem by Michael Farrell, a poet regularly published in national broadsheets and whose work can often be difficult to decipher due to its ambiguous nature.  Ian McFarlane shared some of his own work, explaining how it has helped him personally and how he prefers to connect with an audience rather than confuse it.

The last session of the day was about how and where writers, specifically Tony Fawcus, Jill Gower and Helen Mitchell write, facilitated by Maureen Miston.

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Tony is a self-confessed poetry addict who writes continuously, reaching blindly for his notebook and pen in the dark so as not to wake his beloved.  Jill likes to write sitting at the table of a café using beautiful notebooks to encourage her to do so, sharing how the likes of D H Lawrence, Ernest Hemmingway, Philip Roth and Jodi Picoult prefer to write.  Helen writes in her study but finds inspiration outside, carrying a Sony recorder with her and using eavesdropping as a skill.

This was a jam-packed day covering a variety of thought-provoking topics, one I left happy to prep for the following day’s readings from the social justice anthology at East Avenue Books.

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As usual the bookshop was packed yesterday afternoon, with Peter once again hosting proceedings, introducing Ann to explain how the anthology came about.  Several poets read their poems, including me, and I felt honoured to see my poem quoted from in the introduction.  The anthology is a riveting read, one for anyone interested in social justice issues and the varied perspectives evoked.

And this concluded the celebrations.  There was also a dinner cruise in Port Adelaide, home of GP, on Saturday evening which I unfortunately couldn’t make but heard it was wonderful, made more so by the appearance of the local dolphins.

East Avenue Books was the venue Thursday night for the launch of three new additions to the Picaro Poets series published by Ginninderra Press, namely Cary Hamlyn, Russ Talbot and Shelda Rathmann.

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Joan Fenney, partner of Peter with whom she owns the bookstore, opened the launch by saying these particular poets are great friends of hers and how delighted she was to host the event.

Unfortunately Stephen and Brenda Matthews from Ginninderra Press were not able to be there so Louise Nicholas shared a note with the crowd passing on their appreciation to the newest members of the GP family.

So Cary was first up with her chapbook Scraping the Night introduced by Sharon Kernot who helps Gary MacRae run Garron Publishing. Sharon mentored Cary for a time and explained how her collection contains a variety of styles and themes – psychological, humour, loss, love – so a little something for everyone.

Cary began with the title poem ‘Scraping the Night’. There is so much to love in this gorgeous poem, which is essentially about a couple getting familiar – ‘moonlight leers through the car window etching the valley of your cheek’ while ‘outside the stars open and shut like clams’. Cary then shared ‘The Neighbourhood is Ajar’ where we find her waiting ‘for the evening to end’ and where ‘time has flattened itself between memory and expectation / it hides behind the clock / like a thief / ready to steal my last good hours’, a wonderful image. ‘Descending into Psychosis’ was next based on a true story of Cary’s schizophrenic flatmate when living in Sydney and is the longest poem in the collection. Here we find Suzanne who ‘in her room at the top of the stairs…wasped between shadows / like a hornet in a web’ part of her descent ‘into her Jungian hell’ which ends with ‘she slammed the door shut / on her sanity’, a brilliant stanza. Cary finished with ‘A Social Worker’s Lament’ inspired by the film Wolf of Wall Street, where she is ‘a glut of compassion…with a terrible need to nurture’ longing to be ‘full of loud-mouthed, shiny charisma’.

Russ was up next with his chapbook Things that make your heart beat, his first published collection, from which poems were read by Jennifer Liston due to Russ’s acquired brain injury from a tumour. This was tear-jerking stuff, to quote Joan ‘poems that hit you in the heart’, and boy they did. Jen began with ‘Ache’, a very clever and poignant piece comparing the physical ache in the arms from holding a baby to the one from remembering – ‘This isn’t the life I chose / it’s the life that chose me. / It’s a good life / it really is. / Just sometimes I’m reminded of the other one’. A stunning poem called ‘Rope’ was next speaking of a relationship ending where the other person is watched as they ‘drift away, your mooring / rope unravelling into the / moonlit water, / not quite holding you’. The next poem ‘Spyder’ was a William Blake satire, with an apology to said poet as a sub-title, before leading us through a lovely little ditty of running into a spider’s web and having to ‘do the spider-panic dance’. Russ’s last poem shared was ‘Your face’, describing how it is more than just the sum of its parts, the final stanza fantastic – ‘Your face is the watch / that tells me / I’m wrong, there’s time’.

Shelda was last to read from her chapbook Fleeting Fragments. Shelda teaches creative writing, is somewhat of an entertainer and on the best selling poetry list, and began with a poem called ‘Birkenhead Bungalow’ about her grandma who is ‘a constant traveller of the night’ haunting its rooms. It’s a poem of sadness and longing – ‘like a lost spirit, her mind wandered, a confused nomad who / repeated the same stories and pined for the past’. ‘Ode to the FruChoc’ was read next and was literally that, ‘fruit centres / of apricot and peach / melt in my mouth / like summer showers’ (there’s also a poem on the opposite page about the Haigh’s chocolate frog, my favourite nibble!). ‘Battle of the Bulge’ followed, a humourous rhyming poem about trying to control the ‘spare tyre’ where ‘at night I indulge in leafy green feasts / in order to fight this untamed beast’. With Shelda’s last poem, ‘Accordion’, props were required – a music stand displaying a photo of an eight year old Shelda with her first accordion and then the instrument itself today. Both the poem and music were very entertaining.

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And there endeth the readings. East Avenue Books is a beautiful little bookstore with a wide range of reading material. Started in 2009, one of its many aims is to make poetry accessible to all, one such way is by posting a ‘Poet of the month’ in the window, one of which was Russ’s whose poem drew people into the shop to find out more about him and his work. If you haven’t already visited, I recommend you do, and indulge in some superb little chapbooks.

A wonderful event hosted by the adorable East Avenue Books – a beautiful mix of poetry, champagne, friends and sunshine, what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

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Peter, the bookshop owner, MC’d the event and started by introducing talented local poet Jill Gower to officially launch eight of the 11 chapbooks in the Picaro Poets series published by Ginninderra Press (those from South Australian poets).

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Jill briefly spoke about each poet in the series, quoting specific lines and sharing snapshots of their work to convey the variety and depth the new line has to offer. Next up was Brenda Matthews, editor of the series, and who is a fine poet herself with a chapbook of her own in there (published under her maiden name Brenda Eldridge). Brenda paid special thanks to her partner Stephen, who was lurking in the corner and later, I discovered, prefers to stay in the background, for his advice and hard work in producing the new-look chapbooks. Brenda also made special mention of me, who was the first to be accepted in the new series and got pulled in by the first poem I found out after!

So I was first up and read three poems from Smashed glass at midnight – ‘Admission’, ‘Offspring’ and ‘Visiting hours’ – all of which some of the audience had heard before at my launch and there were a few familiar faces – Jules Leigh Koch, Heather Taylor Johnson and Rob Walker.

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Next up was a reading from Kate Deller-Evans’ collection Open Inspection, who unfortunately was not able to attend, quickly followed by Margo Poirier who read an entertaining poem about Centrelink from her chapbook Wellspring. Zenda Vecchio was up next reading from her collection Luminous, followed by Lyn Williams and Rosemary Winderlich reading from their collections Stray Thoughts and Suspended Lives respectively. Finally it was Brenda’s turn, who shared a delightful piece about how even the toughest nuts can have a soft centre from her chapbook Not what they might seem.

Jude Aquilina, an amazing local poet, was also not able to attend so I brought a copy of her chapbook, Ship Tree, to read at leisure when I have chance to breathe again. I have also been asked to be guest poet at a local poetry group, so watch this space for further details!

My chapbook.  On a bookshelf.  In a real live bookshop.  Must get out more I know.  But thanks Ken Bolton at the Dark Horsey Bookshop!

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And a reminder about the Picaro Poets series launch at 2pm this Sunday at East Avenue Books, Clarence Park – would love to see you there if you can make it!

Ginninderra Press, in association with East Avenue Books, are celebrating their new look Picaro Poets series on Sunday 27 September at 2:00pm.

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Jill Gower will be launching the chapbooks, which I am honoured to have been the first selected for the new series, and there will be readings from poets Kate Deller-Evans, Brenda Eldridge, Zenda Vecchio, Lyn Williams, Rosemary Winderlich and me!

So if you’re around and interested, pop into East Avenue Books in Clarence Park for an afternoon of thought-provoking poetry, gorgeous books, drinks, nibbles and, fingers crossed, some sunshine!