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I went along to the launch of Paint the Sky by Kristin Martin last night at Henley Beach.

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Kristin writes poetry and fiction for children and adults.  This is her first full length poetry collection for adults published by Ginninderra Press. Launched by Lynette Washington, the room was packed and thankfully air-conditioned in the forty-degree heat!  Lynette began by reeling off Kristin’s many roles – wife, mother, daughter, teacher, writer and poet – and it’s with the latter hat on that she ‘untangles the world with her words.’

Lynette then read four poems from the collection – ‘Time and Space’, ‘Never Happy with the Weather’, ‘Belonging’ and ‘In the Back of Emily Dickinson’, the most poignant of the four, where even during labour a poet will fight pain to scribble down words that also vie to exist.

Kristin also shared four poems – ‘She Paints the Sky’ done ‘when the stresses of her days on earth press between her shoulders’, ‘The Shed’ a witty fictional poem about her dad, ‘Whistling Kites’ previously published in a Friendly Street Poets Anthology and then possibly my favourite in the collection ‘The Catch of the Evening’, where we find a young Kristin playing cricket with her family in the backyard and competing for catches, the ending simply brilliant:

‘Then, as the mosquitoes herded us indoors,

I turned to grab the stumps and saw the uncontested winner:

our blue gum. It had caught the moon

and was holding it triumphantly

in the crook of a branch.’

This is a comprehensive debut collection brimming with family, love and loss, and fellow poet Rob Walker’s review on the back sums it up perfectly – ‘Kristin Martin reminds us that rare moments between ordinary people are precious gems, and lovingly holds them up to the sunlight.’

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.

I was one of five guest poets invited to read at Payneham Library yesterday as part of the Friendly Street Poet readings and it was a fab line-up – with Thom Sullivan headlining backed up by Cary Hamyln, David Mortimer, me and Russ Talbot, all introduced by the charming Louise Nicholas.

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Now I warn you this is not an in-depth detailed analysis like my usual posts. Mainly because I find it difficult to focus when I know I’ll be up there shortly! But also because I’m going to the launch of both Cary’s and Russ’s chapbooks later this week, so you know, didn’t want to duplicate too much (and then there’s the nervous concentration thing…)

Anyhow, Thom kicked off still basking in the glow of his reading at the Adelaide Writer’s Week a few weeks ago. Thom reads well, there’s a certain quiet strength about him with which he captures his audience and what particularly stood out for me was Thom’s acknowledgement that we poets stand on the shoulders of greats, a responsibility we all share, a profound statement. Thom shared poems he wrote during last year’s National Poetry Month, including ‘Crow poem’ and ‘Living in a draught, which can be found here on his blog.

Next up was Cary who, although not new to the poetry scene, confessed she has not given many readings (like me!). Cary read from her new chapbook Scraping the night, part of the Picaro Poets series published by Ginninderra Press and began with the title poem, followed by ‘Moment of departure’, ‘Time is a hound’ and ‘Future prince’ to name a few, with the titles alone enough to pull you in. Cary’s poems left me with some very vivid images but as said, more to follow about this shortly.

David went up next, reading a selection of poems from his collections, including ‘No wonder’ and ‘Towards evening’ from Magic Logic published by Puncher & Wattmann. David, like Thom, is one of many amazing local poets here in Adelaide and is also adept in his delivery, finishing with a very clever poem about Keats and Wordsworth, who are considered to be part of the thousands of greats Tom referred to earlier.

And then it was me. Louise did a wonderful introduction, mentioning my blog so I thought yes, better post about this event then(!). I opened with a new poem based on our Oodnadatta travels last October, a kind of sestina and probably the longest poem I’ve written to date. I then shared ‘Hoodlums’ recently published in InDaily, followed by three from my collection Smashed glass at midnight and ended with a poem I plan to include in my next collection I’m just finalising (yay!). Think I did ok.

Russ finished the guest poet line-up sharing work read by Jennifer Liston due to his acquired brain injury as a result of a brain tumour. I’ve never read any of Russ’s work before, it was breathtaking, as poems were read from his new collection Things that make your heart beat, also part of the Picaro Poets series from Ginninderra Press. And like Cary to be officially launched later this week, so I’m going to leave you hanging for the detail.

After a short coffee break it was open mic time, where we heard the likes of Ian Gibbins, Martin Christmas (who was also happily snapping away), Judy Dally, Louise Nicholas (the MC) and Mike Hopkins, all of whom were highly entertaining. And there were a few first time readers as well whom the room applauded, something that happened to me at my first ever reading here, which is incredibly endearing and encouraging.

So that’s it. I managed to sell, correction, the dazzling Jules Leigh Koch (who invited me to be a guest poet) managed to sell five of my chapbooks (which made my husband happy when I got home!) and I also had a lady approach me in the break to tell me how beautiful my poems were and how much she could relate to them, which I found very touching. All in all it was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon, set me up for the week it did.

Amelia Walker and Mike Ladd were this month’s featured poets hosted by Friendly Street at the Halifax Café, two fantastic local poets who I thought complimented each other very well.

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Introduced by the lovely Jelena Dinic, Amelia was first up, but not before distributing a piece of paper to each table with a request to write down five things (in our case, five abstract nouns). Amelia actually started with a poem by someone else, something she often does apparently, and it just happened to be one of Kathryn Hummel’s who has recently returned from India where she published her second collection, The Bangalore Set. The poem focused on winded birds whose ‘feathered tips articulate their shock’, a vivid image.

Amelia had her first collection published at the tender age of 19, Fat Streets and Lots of Squares, essentially about Adelaide which has proved very popular with teachers in schools. Amelia shared ‘Him’ from the collection about a well-known local character who walked up and down Rundle Mall in white gum boots, referring to him as ‘an isolated hiccup’ and she ‘had heard from a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend, he does it for a laugh’. Amelia then read an updated version written now at the age of 32 called ‘For Johnny’, where he is ‘real like fairies’ with a ‘body dressed in loud undress’, a far more introspective piece that asked questions, culminating in the memorable line of ‘a made in China koala always monkeying your back’. This was followed by another new poem about an old poem inspired by the war memorial on North Terrace, which spoke of looking after soldiers in a nursing home, ‘with brushed teeth and perfect parts’ these were ‘old men unhinged from time’.

Amelia then collected the paper from the tables, put them in order and created a poem before our eyes. Beginning with our abstract nouns, for example ‘homesickness’, she connected each with a colour, an animal, a place and a time, producing some very thought-provoking lines. This was clever stuff and further enhanced the fact Amelia is an amazing performance poet who captivates her audience.

Mike read old work, from his second, third and fourth collections, which is what these readings are about, the antithesis to the Lee Marvin ones. Mike started with a poem called ‘Vasectomy’ where the doctor ‘chattered golf, his slice and splice, tapping the balls in’ which his, after, swelled to resemble ‘a witch’s fruit’ culminating in the poignant image of ‘me on the cliff top with empty arms’. Mike’s next piece was a ‘Poem for two brickies’ who threw bricks to the other with movement reminiscent of some kind of dance as they ‘placed to weight on an invisible shelf of air’. ‘Waiting room’ was just that, where the walls were ‘duck-egg blue’ and a girl was ‘scratching her name with a 20 cent bit’. Mike then shared four poems in one about water, which ‘has no voice tonight’, where ‘water cats’ loitered and resembled Siamese from whom you could ‘drink their eyes’.

Mike had written some semi-surrealist poems about objects inspired by a surrealist artist whose name I didn’t quite catch, one being ‘Dreams of a pillow’ in which the pillow imagines being ‘hard and sharp’, and another simply called ‘Spare chair’ which plays ‘wooden horse in secret’. Mike moved onto more naturalistic pieces – ‘Murray bend’ where ‘sand fire colours warm the eye’ in a ‘big fish dreaming place’, and ‘Parable of a farmer’ written in long lines to symbolise those made by cattle traversing a field so that ‘shambling cows turned hills into verse’. ‘Spinal unit’ Mike wrote after his partner fractured her spine, where ‘beds are altars for flowers’ and ‘patients brace for their separate nights’.

Mike finished with some beautiful snippets about vegetables in ‘A vegetative life’ – beetroot, asparagus, potato and parsnip, the ‘pale digits of the damned’, and red onion that he told ‘you contain infinity and make me weep’. Mike was just as engaging as Amelia, no doubt honed from his years hosting ABC’s radio program Poetica. This was a brilliant line up.

Yesterday I was guest poet at Hills Poets, a group who meet once a month in picturesque Stirling up in the Adelaide Hills. Invited by convener and poet Jill Gower, this was a first for me and I found it to be a very civilised occasion set in the Library Room of the Stirling Hotel.

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Normally a group of about 12 there were nine poets this time who, facilitated by Jill, took turns to read either one or two poems they had brought along. And there were a variety of pieces, with some poets seeking feedback while others simply wanted to share and be heard.  I felt particularly drawn to the vibrant nature in Jill’s work who read poems from her Ginninderra Press pocketbook Garden Delights.

Jill introduced me just before the break, and I had a 10 minute set in which I read six poems from my collection Smashed glass at midnight and then three others, one of which was included in the recently launched 2014  Friendly Street Poets Anthology Silver Singing Streams.

I believe they went down well, and as I did at my launch I gave a bit of context before reading each one to explain a little of how and why they came into being. I managed to sell a few copies of my chapbook after and hopefully left the group with a few things to think about.

Wednesday saw Rachael Mead and Peter Goldsworthy reading at the Halifax Cafe, two really big names in the literary scene, introduced by the lovely Jelena Dinic.

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First up was Rachael, whose work I just adore.

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Rachael is such an amazingly talented poet, conveying the relationship between humanity and the natural world in stunning sequences. Rachael began by sharing some poems from her overland trek series, the first called ‘These clouds that cap the world’, with delicious lines like ‘our whole worlds hanging from our collarbones’ and ‘hair netting sky’, and then onto day two enforcing the strong sense of place ‘as the dark falls wildly over everything’. Next up was ‘Polar tent’, which Rachael wrote after doing some field work in the Antarctica, threading images of the winds, the cold and eventually sleep in engineered darkness.

Rachael has just had a new collection of work published by Garron Publishing, The Quiet Blue World and other poems, part of the Southern Land Poets series, and so read ‘The Lake’ from her ‘Lake Eyre cycle, which incidentally has recently been set to music. Again so many dazzling images – ‘ankle deep in sky’ and ‘we are flying in the lake’ – we are there with them with ‘no edge, just here’. Having braved a shark diving experience Rachael shared two sonnets about the Great White from her chapbook, beautifully rendered pieces where the ‘density’ and ‘blackness’ of the eye becomes the focus. A couple more were shared from her chapbook, including ‘Behind locked doors’, a haunted poem about a cemetery with its ‘lonely scratching of the living on the locked doors of the dead’, and then Rachael book-ended her set with another from her overland series, ‘The wild grammar of leeches’ where, after a long awaited swim, they ‘edit her body’ with commas and apostrophes, what a wonderful comparison. Rachael read beautifully and produces exquisite pieces, I can’t praise her work highly enough so you’ll just have to buy her chapbook.

Peter began by reciting some colour poems with his eyes closed, encouraging us to do the same, in aid of the charity Sight for All.

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Beginning with the orange of lanterns in the dark and peel under fingernails, Peter took us through ‘a yolk yellow sun’ to violet, which is ‘more iodine than violin’ where all we can see is ultra. It was a poignant performance. Next Peter read some older poems from a 1988 edition of Ash magazine, a very clever one of the day in reverse ending with the alarm and ‘Penis sympathy’, a humorous poem about other parts of the body keeping that one happy! Peter’s next poem ‘Journey of the Magi’ was based on a trip taken on The Ghan, where ‘a dollar ring stuffed in a suitcase buys amnesia’ and then shared one of his favourites called ‘The Blue Room’, which had ‘clear aquarium air’ and was also referred to as ‘the morning room’ and ‘the wide waiting room’. In ‘Statistician to his love’, a husband explains to his wife how more men kill in the bedroom whereas women favour the kitchen, a stream of facts that ended with ‘the person to avoid the most is mostly you yourself’, a powerful line.

Peter also shared poems from his recent collection, The Rise of the Machines and other love poems, published by Pitt Street Poetry, where ‘there is a bed of lovers ten thousand years thick’. In his poem ‘Australia’, Peter tells us about ‘forest fur itchy with green public lice’ and read a few Haiku before finally surrendering to requests to read ‘Dog day’, about an owner’s feelings towards its canine friend, who laps at a ‘cloak of liquid enchantment’ as the owner steps from the shower and then ‘dreams of fresh granny kill’, hilarious. Peter has been published widely so whatever you pick, you won’t be disappointed.

Now, I apologise in advance.  This should be a review of the Lee Marvin readings on Tuesday.  It is not.  It’s mainly about me.

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Keeping me company on the bill was Ken Bolton, host of the evening, Matt Hooton and Heather Taylor Johnson.  Ken was up first to read two poems.  I should say what they were about and had planned to make my usual notes but alas, found it difficult to concentrate (sorry Ken!).  Next up was Matt who read a piece of prose after setting the scene of being invited to look at a patch of ancient dirt (that much I remember and it really doesn’t do Matt’s work any justice, useless I am!).  And then there was me.

There were some big names in the crowd – my usual gang of Rachael Mead, Mike Hopkins, Alison Flett and Heather, and then Peter Goldsworthy, Shannon Burns, Mike Ladd and David Mortimer, one of whom told me beforehand they had come especially to hear me read so you know, no pressure.  And just like my launch, initially a bit nervous in the lead up but once up there, calm.  Strange.  I read 7 poems, two of which I had read at the launch, managed to get a few laughs in the right places and left the audience with thoughtful faces.  Result.  All after finding out that two of my poems had been published in the new Friendly Street Poets Anthology launched earlier in the evening at another venue, which was a real surprise and something I knew nothing about, one of which had been shortlisted by Mike Ladd for the Satura Prize (the best poem in the anthology) and then also discovered I’ve been shortlisted in the mindshare poetry awards, the winners of which will read at the Festival of Now in October.  So you could say my head was pretty spaced out, helped/hindered by the two glasses of wine I had had.  But again, apparently, I did good.  And again, really enjoyed it.  This may become a habit.  Why I’m writing in short sentences I don’t know.  Maybe I’m still slightly stunned.

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Now Heather’s set I remember (yay!) because I could relax.  Heather read two pieces of prose with a focus on her mother so emotive stuff, followed by a poem in three parts about coping with Meniere’s disease, a condition Heather herself suffers with which she projected onto Graham, the protagonist in her brilliant debut novel Pursuing Love and Death published by Harper Collins.  The poem was beautifully poignant brimming with sea imagery, with lines like ‘and with a body craving salt you are full of ocean’ to convey the debilitating giddiness associated with the disease.  I have no doubt this will feature in The Fractured Self Anthology Heather is currently pulling together.

So you know, back to me.  I managed to sell some more copies of my chapbook, with requests to sign from above famous poets(!) and left the Dark Horsey Bookshop stocked with a few aswell.  Definitely another night to remember – what a blast!

Wednesday saw a collaboration between wonderful local poets Mike Hopkins and Heather Taylor Johnson at the Halifax Café, reading a few poems written on their recent jaunt to the UK where they cycled, yes cycled, around the Yorkshire Dales.

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Introduced by Ian Gibbins, responsible for Friendly Street Poets communications, Mike was first up beginning with a poem ‘From Wensleydale’ (after Jen Hadfield), which was inspired by the place names they came across during their trip. A clever poem with a strong sense of the great outdoors followed by another called ‘Hills’ and ‘Walls, the latter closing with the gorgeous image of ‘the land’s flanks stitched with drystone ribs.’ Mike also read a piece called ‘Burning the Bartle’ about the annual tradition in a village they stayed in where an effigy of Bartle is burned – ‘Bartle the sheep stealer, Bartle the pig thief, Bartle the giant’ – and finished his travel poems with ‘The Fox and Hounds’, describing a typical British pub with its eclectic name and clientele. Mike is an entertaining poet, telling it how it is, wonderfully conveyed through the poems ‘I could yet turn into’ where he describes a recent eye test, ‘Taking off Tony Abbott’s clothes’ a hilarious commentary of just that, and finished with a piece about the kind of poems to avoid reading aloud, which left very little!

Heather opened with a poem called ‘Feet’, one of two poems written while away, which painted an almost surreal picture and yet was literally grounded. Using a theme of perceptions, Heather then read ‘How to identify an author at a reading’, a stunningly simple description, followed by poems about pregnancy with the fantastic line of ‘a belly that is feral with what it’s done’ and a three part poem that examined being pregnant from the outside, inside and bottom up, beautifully poignant. Heather has a lullaby voice, woos us into her world where ‘The kitchen floor’ gives us visceral images of home and heat and in ‘The cake is done, I am done’ a relationship is cooling. In ‘The sick room’ we watch as ‘he offers to feed you spoonfuls of himself’ and then takes us on a journey with poems about traveling through South America. Heather finished her set by advertising her ‘Fractured Self‘ anthology, a collection of poems that will focus on the different facets of human nature when impacted by illness, a brilliant concept and one I plan to contribute to.

Words@Wall, the event hosted by Friendly Street Poets, has changed a little. Mainly there’s no wall now. In its place a beautiful antique mirror complimented by a funky cube-enclosed gas fire on wheels and wonderful wooden floors. This is the cosy and eclectic interior of its new venue Halifax Café, where Alison Flett and Ken Bolton, introduced by Jelena Dinic, had a captive audience.

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Alison I could listen to for days. With her Scottish lilt and soft tones, when she reads she can take you away. Alison shared poems from her ‘fox’ series – one of several possible chapbooks she is planning to publish with fellow poet Jill Jones. Each poem varied in length and perspective, but with always a fox at its center. Some explored the European forest myth, one was in the voice of the fox and with memorable lines like ‘a pencil line of silence’ she experienced when seeing a fox up ahead at the roadside when her family didn’t, this is a collection that will no doubt prove very popular.

This was first time I had heard Ken read. Used to hosting such events in the Dark Horsey Bookshop Ken was entertaining, and began with a new poem called ‘Dark heart’, of which its closing line of ‘but didn’t’ still resonates. Ken then read a series of older poems about seemingly everyday things, his friends and one that had developed after he’d found a blank page with the words ‘Dear Lori’ scribbled on, the unwritten letter of which became a poem. Ken’s work has been described as a ‘stream of consciousness’, which indeed it was, and we were invited along for the ride.

After work on Wednesday I went along to the regular Words@Wall event to hear Louise Nicholas and Judy Dally read some of their poetry.

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Hosted by Ian Gibbons of Friendly Street Poets, the set was a very entertaining one, in fact probably one of the most engaging poetry performances I have ever experienced!

Due to several recurring themes in their work, Louise and Judy took turns to read, which resulted in a wonderfully intimate atmosphere where the audience were invited to step into their lives for a while.

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They began with poems about mothers, swiftly followed by fathers, their styles quite different but very complimentary. Other themes included nostalgia, love, travel and then with both having a teaching background, school. Some pieces were funny, some poignant, but all were spoken with a certain ease as if we were the old friends that Louise and Judy are.

And in true style I purchased a copy of both of their collections – Louise’s chapbook entitled Large recently published by Garron Publishing and Judy’s At Sixes and Sevens printed by Always Printing, along with a collaboration of work that Louise did with Jude Aquilina, Woman Speak published by Wakefield Press. Now, which one to read first…