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Last week I read twice – Wednesday at No Wave hosted in The Wheatsheaf Hotel and Sunday as guest poet at Hills Poets in the Aldgate Pump Hotel.

No Wave is a series of poetry readings held on the first Wednesday of each month, the brainchild of brilliant local poet, Dominic Symes. Four poets are invited to read for ten minutes. I was first, with two relatively new poems on a seasonal theme, followed by one from each part of more than here, then a few more new ones. Next up was Dylan Rowen who shared a brave, poignant poem about his mum and the atmospheric ‘Twilight Men’. After the break was Louise Nicholas, a talented poet and friend, reading ‘At Faber and Faber’ about her recent workshop experience and another on drinking in poetry, very entertaining. Paul Turley closed the set reading a series of short poems, one of which was ‘In the Fish Tank’, a goldfish’s perspective.

I’ve been guest poet at Hills Poets before, so it was great to be invited back. Jill Gower convenes the monthly poetry group, another wonderful local poet with her latest collection, Winkle Pickers & Brothel Creepers, also published by Ginninderra Press. After a poem had been shared by each member, Jill introduced me. I started with both the first and last poems from A bellyful of roses followed by four poems from more than here (a different four to No Wave), but finishing with the same new ones. A break followed with another round of poems from all, spanning a combination of styles, content and meter.

As well as the readings, I have some poems upcoming in Ache Magazine, Coffin Bell Journal and The Poeming Pigeon, about endometriosis, strange encounters and the moon respectively. It’s good to be busy. With words.

I was guest poet last night at the Southern Performers Interactive Network (SPIN) Christmas Concert in a jam-packed program of poets and musicians.

The event was co-organised by Julia Wakefield who I met at a writing workshop earlier in the year. It was a wonderful evening of entertainment, alternating between poetry and music, with the first half MC’d by Maria Vouis and Steve Evans.

Lindy Warrell opened the set sharing some of her Australasian poems amongst other countries, one of which was old age. Rose between Thorns stepped up next performing an excellent cover of ‘Alice’ and ‘Wicked Game’, aswell as some of their own music, followed by the fab Jill Gower who read entertaining poems about a man she met on a train in Europe and a room comparison with a friend.

Then it was my turn. I shared poems from my three chapbooks, giving a little context before each, and one from my first full length collection due out next year. Sharing the endometriosis poems was quite timely as this was the focus of a recent Insight program, so most in the audience knew about the condition.

After the break, guest musician Tim Saunders took to the stage playing a song called ‘Seflie’ on guitar and a Vivaldi rendition on flute amongst others. Steve Evans was up next, another great poet, sharing ’12 Days of Audit’ and ‘Dating Quiz’, both of which drew laughs from the crowd. Street Owls followed, playing covers of ‘Sweet Dreams’, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ and ‘Runaway’, which got us singing along, and Samuel Summer closed the first half who’s recording an album for a Year 12 project and has an amazing voice.

An open mic session followed, which I unfortunately had to miss being exhausted from a ridiculously busy week! But I thoroughly enjoyed myself – caught up with some fellow poets, made some new friends, sold some chapbooks – all in a welcoming and supportive environment. Hoping to spin more in the future.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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