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I’ve attended two workshops recently organised through Writers SA – Mark Tredinnick’s The Little Red Writing Workshop and Rachael Mead’s Writing the Landscape.

Mark is an award-winning poet and widely published, however this session focused on craft and technique that can be applied to any style of writing. Participants ranged from academics to creative writers, who were given a crash course in Mark’s fifteen rules and received a copy of his book in which they’re explored in more detail.

Mark shared his extensive knowledge and experience, along with some memorable quotes, such as E B White defining writing as the process of the “self escaping onto the page”, which can apply to both the writer and reader. We looked at structure and rhythm, language and voice, being urged to copy a well-made sentence and examine how it’s constructed. Mark’s message was “writing better means getting out of your own way”, write from rather than of the self and master punctuation to help your audience breathe your story.

Rachael is also a widely acclaimed poet whose work I admire and her session explored eco-poetics – an activist way of writing nature poetry in that it has both agency and impact, providing an ecological rather than humanistic perspective, the essence of her latest collection.

Rachael introduced us to four approaches, explaining that eco-poetry is a challenge to dominant discourse, chipping away at anthropocentrism. We read work by Sharon Olds, Mary Oliver and Judith Wright, poems grounded in place with biological, cultural and physical forces at play. Personal and sensory aspects are fundamental to eco-poetics, macro combined with micro to produce a multi-layered piece that seeks an emotive rather than intellectual response. Rachael’s workshop spanned a morning, but there’s enough material to easily fill a day.

And so I’ve acquired new skills to flex and drafts to develop, and a new awareness of self – the impact it has on writing and the world in which both exist.

is a must have collection. Published by Puncher and Wattmann and edited by Martin Langford, Judith Beveridge, Judy Johnson and David Musgrave, this 658-page book anthologises Australian poetry for the last 25 years.

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Taking 10 years to compile over 200 poets and 500 poems, it really is a landmark publication, a credit to the Australian poetry scene, and includes some incredible poets – Ken Bolton, Jennifer Compton, Peter Goldsworthy, Jill Jones, John Kinsella, Mike Ladd, David Malouf, David Mortimer, Les Murray, Jan Owen, Dorothy Porter, Mark Tredinnick, Fiona Wright, not to mention the editors themselves.

It’s being launched in Adelaide at the SA Writers Centre next Friday, which unfortunately I can’t make (off exploring Noosa), so I promptly ordered a copy. Flicking through for the first time, because this will need endless reads, two poems caught my eye – ‘Grief’ by Elizabeth Allen and ‘Snowflake’ by Anthony Lawrence.

Elizabeth is a Sydney-based poet and her chapbook Forgetful Hands is on my wish list.  Hers is a powerfully poignant piece about her sister, who having lost her ‘Botticelli curls’

‘…has been looking into people like mirrors

but does not know how to make a face

that resembles the pain inside her.’

Anthony I saw at Mildura’s Writers’ Festival the year Sharon Olds headlined, who I was lucky enough to meet.  His poem centres around his mother who cultivates a snowflake in the freezer ‘between the peas and the ice cream’, setting sapphires into her teeth:

‘At dinner I would pretend

to be a good son, and her smile

enameled the table

with points of dark blue light.’

This is a remarkable anthology, to be read, smiled, laughed, cried and absorbed between breaths, bit by brilliant bit.

Mark Tredinnick was in town over the weekend to run two workshops at the SA Writers Centre, the second of which I attended to learn about voice in a poem, or quite often, voices.

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I first met Mark at the launch of Australian Love Poems, which he edited and then again in a workshop he ran last year. Mark is a brilliant poet with an amazing track record; winner of the Montreal Poetry Prize in 2011 and the Cardiff International Poetry Prize in 2012, author of Bluewren Cantos, Fire Diary, and several other celebrated works of poetry and prose.

The workshop explored the discipline of fashioning a poem, the importance of form, voice and language, and the linguistic choices poets are forced to make. Why that form over another, why the line break there, why that word instead of this one – these were just some of the questions posed as we examined pieces by John Glenday, Seamus Heaney and Charles Wright.

Mark also shared with us what he believes and how he works, The Gospel of Mark, with some very salient points:

  • A poem is a leaf that tells a tree
  • The words in a poem are only there to keep the silence apart
  • A poem is a sculpture of voice
  • Poetry recasts life’s exquisite spell
  • Each line in a poem is a poem
  • A poem is a window

It was thought provoking stuff that generated fascinating discussion and insight, and certainly for me, another poem to develop. And just how fab are Mark’s business cards, puts mine to shame!

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I gave Mark a copy of my chapbook after as I’m keen to get his thoughts on it. Another participant presented Mark with a bottle of wine from her own winery having attended both workshops, so I recommended he have that open while reading my collection  😉

The University of Canberra is hosting a Festival of Poetry from 1-11 September with fantastic international poets in residence, Philip Gross and Katharine Coles, along with a positively star-studded cast including the likes of Mark Tredinnick, Lisa Jacobson and Peter Rose.

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The International Poetry Studies Institute carries out poetry-related research and publishes its findings across the world, along with journal issues and a chapbook series. Their aim is to “develop new communities of poetry and to make new links between poets wherever they are”, and this event will do just that.

Through a series of master classes, interviews, book launches and readings, including announcing winners of the 2015 University of Canberra VC’s International Poetry Prize, the program is jam-packed with opportunities to network, learn and appreciate poetry as the significant literary art form it is.

And if it weren’t for other poetry commitments around that time I would definitely go along, and then could have also ticked Canberra off being the only Australian city I have yet to explore! Alas, timing is everything.

February and March is a busy time in Adelaide – the annual Festival, the Fringe and of course, Writer’s Week.

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And what an eventful week it’s been! Last Thursday I attended a workshop by the inspiring Mark Tredinnick, a non-fiction literary master class that explored the process and influence of writing from fact.  The workshop generated a few ideas, thoughts and writers to research, so a very worthwhile investment I felt.

And then I went to a few sessions at Writer’s Week, conveniently taking place in the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Gardens just around the corner from where I work.  There was a poetry reading on Monday with the likes of Lisa Jacobson, one of the poets shortlisted for the 2014 John Bray Poetry Award with her verse novel The Sunlit Zone and David Malouf, who’s collection Typewriter Music was one of my many purchases from the frequently visited book tent.

On Tuesday evening I attended the monthly meeting of Friendly Street Poets (FSP) at the University of Adelaide where I read two pieces as a first time reader, for which I received a welcoming round of applause that managed to calm the nerves a bit (that and the free glass of wine I had beforehand!).  I have submitted both poems for consideration in the new annual anthology being finalised by the FSP editors so we’ll see how that goes.  I enjoyed the company of fellow poets Pam Maitland, Louise Nicholas and Nigel Ford, all of whom read extremely thought-provoking pieces, some not without humour, and were very supportive of my own performance.  Another noteworthy act was delivered by a group of New Zealand poets over to participate in their Fringe event taking place on Saturday night, Aotearoa Speaks – Chewing your Ears.  If their outstanding performance on Tuesday is anything to go by, this will be a fantastic and memorable evening so very much looking forward to it.

The final Writer’s Week session I attended was another of Mark’s where he was interviewed on aspects of love, birds and nature in his work by Mike Ladd, series producer of ABC’s Poetica.  This insightful chat prompted me to purchase another of Mark’s collections Fire Diary, which I have yet to indulge in.

So now I will take some time to breathe, reflect and do the thing that must be done following any whirlwind of words and wisdom…write, and then write some more!

No time like today to post some love poetry !

 

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So here is the poem I was thrilled to have published by Inkerman & Blunt in Australian Love Poems 2013, edited by Mark Tredinnick.  This wonderful collection is split into sections to capture the full spectrum of love and it’s journey – from those fresh heady sparks to the sometimes unavoidable last remnants.  My poem sits within ‘We outgrow love like other things’…

 

Leaving 

 

Our front door has gained weight

seems harder to close.

I manage our hallway then fold

a paper chained doll.

 

Temptation dropped me off.

He is older, wears suits

peels me undone with deep set eyes.

 

There is safety in here

a promise I’ll always be loved

It’s just not enough.

 

I know this will slice your insides

but I do it also for you.

You need more

than this glossed over longing.

 

I place my goodbye on the table

seven years of tears

line dried, folded in pairs.

 

Copyright © J V Birch 2013

 

Happy Valentine’s Day – spend it wisely  🙂

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