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The Mildura Writers Festival – what an amazing whirlwind experience! I say whirlwind because we drove for about 10 hours for me to attend 2 sessions totaling 3 hours, thankfully with an overnight stay! Next year better planning’s required, mainly signing up for the whole weekend but anyway, it was well worth the drive.

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The first session I managed to sneak into just before it started, having totally forgotten about the half hour time difference, was Peter Goldsworthy’s chat with Sharon Olds. Peter began by asking Sharon how she came to write and so she explained at one point she used to speak to her friend in sonnets after studying Shakespeare at 14, and started writing out of love for it along with music and rhythm, soon having a preference for 6 beats per line. Sharon felt she wasn’t suited to become a scholar having failed her dissertation, and would happily give up everything she’d learnt to write poems, adding that she had, in fact, learnt very little! And this was just one example of Sharon’s gorgeous sense of humour collapsing the audience into laughter.

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Sharon went onto confess she only wrote good poetry after writing a lot of bad poetry and had some nasty rejection letters, one from a literary magazine that replied if you want to write about your children, we suggest a women’s magazine a better fit! And that’s what Sharon is, a family poet, writing about a range of human wealth some find confrontational, a bit too close for comfort. When writing Stag’s Leap published by Jonathan Cape in 2012, Sharon explained she didn’t feel she was still under the vow of marriage and so could write about this very personal experience with a poetic rawness. She added it doesn’t matter if a poem makes her feel vulnerable, as long as it has emotional gravity.

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Sharon read a couple of poems during the session and ended with ‘Ode to the Hymen’, a piece that was both funny and poignant generating loud hysterics that ebbed into thoughtful silence. And that is the power and magic of Sharon. Listening to her was divine, she is such a beautiful person and I wished the session had been longer, but I was absolutely thrilled to have her sign my copy of Stag’s Leap and felt she shared with us all a certain sense of peace, quiet in its power.

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.

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