You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Meniere’s disease’ tag.

I went to the launch by Carol Lefevre of Jean Harley was here last night at Dymocks bookshop.

2017-03-03-13-17-52

This is Heather Taylor Johnson’s second novel, Pursuing Love and Death her first published in 2013 by Harper Collins, a domestically rich story with the protagonist suffering from Meniere’s disease, a debilitating condition of the inner ear causing vertigo and tinnitus, which Heather herself battles with. So Heather’s second novel has been hotly anticipated.

Published by the University of Queensland Press, it explores love, relationships and the impact of absence. Jean Harley – wife, mother, lover, dancer – is sunshine in the lives of those around her, but when tragedy strikes they are forced to continue without her. Despite a little unravelling and a few storms, Jean leaves a powerful legacy to abate them. I’ve heard it’s a tear-jerker

Heather is first and foremost a poet, with a number of sole and collaborative collections to her name, and her lyricism is reflected in her exquisite prose.  I recall Heather sharing an extract from the draft of this book last year at a reading with other poets, which has stayed with me, and Heather’s knack for scene-setting is like an intimacy shared, demonstrated by the excerpt she read yesterday from the chapter “Emotional Fishing”. Here’s a snapshot:

Charley sat as far back as he could, feeling out of place, though that was nothing new. His bald head shone under the fluoro lights and the back of his neck itched – an eczema problem that flared up when he was nervous. He kept smoothing his long beard to a point – another nervous tic. One might think he was made of tougher stuff because if this was an eye-for-eye world, here was a man who’d seen things that should’ve blinded him, a man who’d done the sort of things people don’t talk about at the dinner table but read about in newspapers over breakfast…”

Quoted as being “a book to savour” by Hannah Kent, it’s clear this will be another stunning read from an extraordinarily talented writer. A visceral narrative with complex, relatable characters, Heather offers us a world to get lost in, absorb, making us ponder our place in our own.

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.

2015-09-02 15.46.08

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.

FSP-cover-promo1

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!

Different Approaches to Illness as Metaphor in Fiction and Poetry. 

I attended this fascinating talk in the week at the Adelaide University Library given by Heather Taylor Johnson, a wonderful poet and writer from the US now residing in Adelaide.

2014-04-25 15.26.44             2014-04-25 15.22.09

Heather was diagnosed with Ménière’s disease in 1999, a very debilitating condition resulting in a variety of unpleasant symptoms caused by an imbalance in the inner ear. Heather attempted to write about her experience of living with this chronic illness but found herself “frustrated with overwriting and an abundance of self-pity as the final product.” To resolve this she gave her illness to a 63-year-old man called Graham, one of the key protagonists in her highly successful debut novel Pursuing Love and Death, published by HarperCollins.

20140426_084350

Heather read extracts from her book that provided a real insight into what a sufferer can experience during an attack. You could feel Graham’s anger and frustration as he realizes this is going to be a ‘bad one’, and his utter helplessness with no choice but to endure it.

Writing about personal illness can be a challenge, a tightrope walk between communicating its impact (the negative) and coping with it (the positive). Heather magnificently achieves this delicate balance, and read poems from her beautiful collections, Letters to my Lover from a Small Mountain Town and Thirsting for Lemonade, which allude to the disease but don’t linger.    

All in all it was a very inspiring session, certainly one to think about.