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I am one buoyant, if not slightly nervous, poet!  But pressure can be good; it shows just what you can do.

happy by the sea

Tuesday night’s Lee Marvin saw Shannon Burns flying solo and having heard Shannon read before, I went along to hear him again, grabbing a copy of the free booklet he had put together for the event.

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Shannon’s writing spans many genres – poetry, short story, essay, academia – and in 2009 he won The Adelaide Review Prize for Short Fiction. And so Shannon treated us to a range of pieces, beginning with a poem published in Southerly a couple of years ago called ‘Greek’. Set in a summer garden, there’s a real sense of place as he describes an interaction with ‘an olive-skinned man with dark eyes and a flat face’ with an undercurrent something is about to happen.

Shannon’s second piece was a satire about memoirs written in the voice of a professor of comparative literature. ‘His Memoir’ explored the professor’s view of this form, how some are endurable but those produced by the lower class are just not readable, a very witty, ironic piece.

Before reading the first story he ever had published in Wet Ink, Shannon felt it got out there too early and too easily, which I think many writers can relate to, myself included, when they look back at a piece and maybe even see how it could be improved. The short story described the adoption of his new stepsister and how after, he splashes her at every puddle opportunity.

Shannon went onto read ‘In the Year of Our Lord’, again a humorous piece about his experience at university, although not the protagonist but his friend Shaun, followed by a poem about the rapper Kayne West, being an ardent admirer and describing him as a truth-teller not always telling the truth.

I enjoyed Shannon’s poem ‘A Hobby’ looking at the impact, literally, books can have and then was captivated by ‘Needing and Burrowing’, the third piece of a larger body of work describing an attempt to draw language out of a being with hands, ‘drumming her nutshell so it seems to purr.’

Shannon finished his set with ‘Australian Crawl’, a short story published in Overland a few years ago that provided a snapshot of Thomas Brown, a teacher trapped in a life he longs to swim away from which he finally does, a piece that Shannon said made him a readable writer.

Listening to Shannon was fascinating, being shown the different facets of his writing mind, my clear favourites being ‘A Child in the City’ and his last piece, both left an imprint.

So this week’s Lee Marvin readers were Tom Sullivan, the host Ken Bolton (standing in for Kelli Rowe who was unable to make it), Irmina Van Niele and Gareth Roi Jones.

Lee Marvin

Tom, I found out a while ago, actually works at the same place I do albeit on a different floor, but I have never heard any of his work before. Tom read a number of poems all new, which is really the whole point of these readings, to experiment on the audience. The first was a powerful piece called ‘Threshold’ followed by a 7 part series ‘Vox’, with some delicious lines – ‘drinking desolation like tonic’ and ‘night with its carriages of hours’. Tom also shared a pair of poems, ‘Swoon’ and ‘Blush’ written with fellow writer Gareth also on the bill, and then a further three poems with too many memorable lines to fit in this post, but one of my favourites being ‘unrelenting cutlery of rain’.

Ken read two long (compared to my work!)  narrative poems and began by telling us that he doesn’t like to write a poem if he knows what he’s going to write, which I thought an interesting statement and began thinking if this applies to me…Anyway, the first poem was called ‘Tale of Two Cities’, the setting a coffee shop in which the protagonist mused over the staff and people passing by outside. This was followed by the second part ‘Clocking On’, which began as a response to a friend called Pete. Ken reads well, using the familiar to engage his audience by sharing things they can relate to.

Irmina, of Dutch heritage, began by explaining how her writing reflects her artwork and is often a response to particular life events. Irmina read a piece called ‘Mother Island’, in which she described her somewhat difficult relationship with her mother and the influence she had on her in her youth. Again there were many wonderful lines – ‘endless support to my endless mother’ and ‘her madness is slippery’ stood out, as did her reference to her mother as a ‘child mother’. Irmina’s piece struck a chord with me, many parts mirroring my relationship with my own mother. The piece finished beautifully – ‘where there is a sliver of time and she is calm, something can possibly be said’.

Gareth ended the evening reading two poems, the first, ‘Astral Travelling’ he worked on with Tom, which described a regression through his ages, a big picture down if you like. It began with a series of astronomical terms, and again haunting lines like ‘you, the centre of black holes in hearts everywhere’ and reminded us that we live in ‘the driest state in the driest continent on earth’. Ending in his heart, it made you think about how small we are in such a gigantic system of life. Gareth finished with a poetic monologue ’52 Hertz’, about the song of a whale of unidentified species that can only be heard at this frequency.

Well it’s that time of year again when the Lee Marvin Readings start up. Running every Tuesday in alternate months at the Dark Horsey Bookshop, poet and host Ken Bolton always delivers an eclectic variety of readers.

Lee Marvin

The first evening was with Matt Hooton, Kelli Rowe, Shannon Burns and Rachael Mead. Canadian writer Matt read a piece of prose that centered around his grandpa, the kind you could get lost in, as did Kelli in her piece about a dollhouse. Shannon also read prose, his window imagery stayed with me, so Rachael was the only poet of the night and regardless of being a friend (really!), my favourite. Rachael read a series of poems about the overland walk she made with her husband in Tasmania earlier this year. These were striking pieces, drawing you into moments of wilderness, haunting in their beauty – her work is inspirational.

The second evening saw regular Steve Brock, Jim Moss, Susan Hawthorne and another of my favourites, Alison Flett. Steve read a variety of pieces of varying length, one notable one about walking along the Torrens while waiting for a call from the hospital to say his wife had come round from surgery, the river representing his consciousness, the ducks his thoughts. Jim read poems literally comprising lines from well-known songs, cleverly done and entertaining. Founder of Spinifex Press Susan read poems from her collection Lupa and Lamb, an intriguing series of real and imaginary texts. Alison was at her dazzlingly best, reciting three poems from a series called Vessel, in which the body is just that – sometimes full, other times empty – with intimate evocative imagery.

Unfortunately I’m not able to make next Tuesday, missing the likes of Jill Jones, Peter Goldsworthy and Jelena Dinic, but definitely plan to attend the final evening in May when another poet friend Louise Nicholas will be reading.

This was the byline for the recent set of Lee Marvin Readings that take place every Tuesday of every other month at the Dark Horsey Bookshop – they get your attention. Hosted by manager and poet Ken Bolton, the evening offers a snapshot of four selected poets’ work and I finally attended for the first time this week!

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I’ve been meaning to go for a while and there is no excuse really, seeing as it’s only a 5 minute walk from where I work, but the particular pull this time was Jennifer Liston, a wonderful poet and friend who it’s been a while since I’ve seen. Jen was third to read, preceded by Steve Brock and Sam Squires, and followed by Cameron Lowe.

Steve is a widely published local poet who’s presence drew a captive audience as he read some amusing pieces about his youth, with his most recent collection, Double Glaze, published by 5 Islands Press.

Sam is a student currently studying at Flinders University recommended to Ken, who is always on the lookout for new poets to add to his roll call, thus it was his first time reading and he did amazingly well.

Jen started her set with a very entertaining piece about finding that elusive nugget of gold in the hills and a ‘found’ poem called “The smoothest place is right here” from James Joyce’s Ulysses, which conveyed some particularly vivid imagery. Jen also read some of the work she is currently developing for her Creative Writing PhD at Adelaide University.

Cameron had traveled from Geelong to attend and read from his collection Circle Work published by Puncher & Wattmann Poetry, including a six-part piece called “The skin of it” in which intimate fleeting moments were captured and shared.

It was a wonderful night. And yes, being in a bookshop I did purchase some (and also won one as a prize due to my entry ticket being printed on both sides!), and again it was great seeing some familiar faces – Rachael Mead, Alison Flett, Mike Hopkins and Louise Nicholas – all of whom, along with the poets reading, were captured in action by regular poet photographer Martin Christmas.

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