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What a wonderful title for a collection of poetry! Penned by Jules Leigh Koch, I went along to the launch of it yesterday evening at the SA Writer’s Centre.

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This the fourth collection of poetry from Jules, a long awaited one by all accounts that took several years to write before being published by Interactive Press based in Queensland, as this talented poet doesn’t release poems into the world lightly (and believe me, they are well worth the wait!). The event was MC’d by none other than Rachael Mead, who did a beautiful job of introducing Mike Ladd, another fantastic local poet, to officially launch the new book.

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Mike described Jules as a man of metaphor, quoting a few brilliant examples – ‘the blood clot of sunset’, ‘the artificial lake is as calm as a sedative’, ‘a construction site is shoveled in with shadows’ – and there is even a poem in the collection to cement this fact, ‘After Love-making I Think in Metaphors’. Mike read a piece called ‘Funeral Flowers’, which having read it again I think may have a few connotations, alluding to love, sex, illness and death. Mike also echoed something Rachael had said – that no one writes the moon, rain and sky like Jules does, and it’s these gorgeous images running through the poems that make them so appealing.

Jules started off by thanking Robert Rath for the cover image, who is an amazing photographer and was there helping to snap the launch. Jules then read several poems including ‘Rachel’s Insomnia’, where ‘her eyes are unpicking the moon from its black canvas’ and ‘her every moment is a vase on the edge of a shelf’. In ‘On My Third Attempt at Leaving Her’ ‘the morning is unpacking itself as shadows are being swept beneath furniture’ and in one of my particular favourites, ‘The Ropes and Pulleys’, ‘sunlight has torn itself along my bedroom wall with the same single-mindedness as a ladder runs down a woman’s stocking’.

These are just a few of the striking images between the covers.  I could go on but I won’t, because I strongly urge you to buy a copy – this is a stunning collection that will haunt you for days.

Wednesday saw Rachael Mead and Peter Goldsworthy reading at the Halifax Cafe, two really big names in the literary scene, introduced by the lovely Jelena Dinic.

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First up was Rachael, whose work I just adore.

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Rachael is such an amazingly talented poet, conveying the relationship between humanity and the natural world in stunning sequences. Rachael began by sharing some poems from her overland trek series, the first called ‘These clouds that cap the world’, with delicious lines like ‘our whole worlds hanging from our collarbones’ and ‘hair netting sky’, and then onto day two enforcing the strong sense of place ‘as the dark falls wildly over everything’. Next up was ‘Polar tent’, which Rachael wrote after doing some field work in the Antarctica, threading images of the winds, the cold and eventually sleep in engineered darkness.

Rachael has just had a new collection of work published by Garron Publishing, The Quiet Blue World and other poems, part of the Southern Land Poets series, and so read ‘The Lake’ from her ‘Lake Eyre cycle, which incidentally has recently been set to music. Again so many dazzling images – ‘ankle deep in sky’ and ‘we are flying in the lake’ – we are there with them with ‘no edge, just here’. Having braved a shark diving experience Rachael shared two sonnets about the Great White from her chapbook, beautifully rendered pieces where the ‘density’ and ‘blackness’ of the eye becomes the focus. A couple more were shared from her chapbook, including ‘Behind locked doors’, a haunted poem about a cemetery with its ‘lonely scratching of the living on the locked doors of the dead’, and then Rachael book-ended her set with another from her overland series, ‘The wild grammar of leeches’ where, after a long awaited swim, they ‘edit her body’ with commas and apostrophes, what a wonderful comparison. Rachael read beautifully and produces exquisite pieces, I can’t praise her work highly enough so you’ll just have to buy her chapbook.

Peter began by reciting some colour poems with his eyes closed, encouraging us to do the same, in aid of the charity Sight for All.

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Beginning with the orange of lanterns in the dark and peel under fingernails, Peter took us through ‘a yolk yellow sun’ to violet, which is ‘more iodine than violin’ where all we can see is ultra. It was a poignant performance. Next Peter read some older poems from a 1988 edition of Ash magazine, a very clever one of the day in reverse ending with the alarm and ‘Penis sympathy’, a humorous poem about other parts of the body keeping that one happy! Peter’s next poem ‘Journey of the Magi’ was based on a trip taken on The Ghan, where ‘a dollar ring stuffed in a suitcase buys amnesia’ and then shared one of his favourites called ‘The Blue Room’, which had ‘clear aquarium air’ and was also referred to as ‘the morning room’ and ‘the wide waiting room’. In ‘Statistician to his love’, a husband explains to his wife how more men kill in the bedroom whereas women favour the kitchen, a stream of facts that ended with ‘the person to avoid the most is mostly you yourself’, a powerful line.

Peter also shared poems from his recent collection, The Rise of the Machines and other love poems, published by Pitt Street Poetry, where ‘there is a bed of lovers ten thousand years thick’. In his poem ‘Australia’, Peter tells us about ‘forest fur itchy with green public lice’ and read a few Haiku before finally surrendering to requests to read ‘Dog day’, about an owner’s feelings towards its canine friend, who laps at a ‘cloak of liquid enchantment’ as the owner steps from the shower and then ‘dreams of fresh granny kill’, hilarious. Peter has been published widely so whatever you pick, you won’t be disappointed.

Courtesy of Andrew Noble, photographer extraordinaire !

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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.

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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.

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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!

Well it’s happened, the launch of my first collection! And what an amazing experience it was!!

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Hosted by The Coffee Pot, which did a great job of catering to everyone’s needs, Rachael Mead did an absolutely fantastic launch for me. I really was quite touched by a number of things Rachael said, and she set the scene beautifully for me to then get up and read six poems from the collection, which from what feedback tells me, I did well! And the crowd liked the fact I gave a bit of context before reading each one, just to explain a little of how and why they came about, so that went down well.

Was I nervous? Yes, but also strangely calm, I think because it was my work and I knew it well, it was familiar, cosy, almost like a safety blanket in case I fell, literally (but I was a good girl and only had one glass of wine before reading, made up for it after though!).

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And surprisingly I sold 30 copies, although I say I it was actually Andreas who was in charge of sales and did it so well. Photos were snapped courtesy of Andrew, Rachael’s partner, so there will be more moments to share and keep and look back on and think, wow, what an incredible night!

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Tuesday saw the last Lee Marvin reading from this series in the Dark Horsey Bookshop, where Ken Bolton introduced Gay Lynch, Cath Kenneally and Louise Nicholas. And an entertaining evening it was.

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I first met Gay at Rachael Mead’s poetry launch of The Sixth Creek roughly this time last year, where she told me about Transnational Literature and encouraged me to submit. Gay writes prose, and shared a short story with us set in a country town told through the eyes of Cecilia, the central protagonist. Listening to Gay, with her dulcet tones and eloquent language was not unlike falling into chocolate – a certain smooth fluid texture leaving you wanting more. And so I have ordered a copy of Cleanskin published by Wakefield Press, Gay’s first novel.

Cath read poems about her recently departed dog, who was either the focus or hovered around the perimeter, and they were touching pieces any pet-lover could relate to, delivered in a poignant, compassionate way. Cath also read a piece inspired by Joni Mitchell, the haunting Canadian singer-songwriter, who I remember most from Love Actually where Emma Thompson’s character is fascinated with her music…I digress.

Louise began with poems about her mother who died with dementia a few years ago. These were brave, emotive pieces, both poignant and humorous, that blurred the boundary between mother and daughter. Louise’s performances never fail to entertain. She provides context, shares with feeling, makes connections, and it’s this raw real intimacy that I find so appealing – she leaves you feeling like you’re old friends. Louise also read a poem inspired by Sharon Olds, which only served to demonstrate her unique encompassing talent. Louise’s most recent collection Large from Garron Publishing is an entertaining read.

I asked Ken, host of Lee Marvin, how he selects his readers. He replied by recommendation usually, but added there’s nothing to stop me from recommending myself. So I did! And he invited me to read at a slot in September!! I am thrilled because these events are ‘a must see’ in the Adelaide poetry scene and to share the stage (i.e. desk and lamp) with some of Adelaide’s finest writers is quite an honor. No pressure

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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.

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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.

Rachael Mead‘s first collection The Sixth Creek was launched on Wednesday at La Boheme and I was delighted to be invited along.

 

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Following an insightful introduction by Jill Jones, a widely published poet and university lecturer, Rachael read a few pieces from her book engaging the audience with her warmth, beautiful imagery and sense of place.

 

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One of Rachael’s poems that stood out for me was Hope is a Perennial.  It’s a powerful piece that highlights Rachael’s strong connection with her homeland, the Sixth Creek catchment area (hence the title), in which thoughts and emotions blend and intertwine with nature, where “Hope is not a strategy” is “cross-stitched” and “circled by forget-me-nots for the wall above the sideboard”.  Another vivid image is depicted in The Animal Within where Rachael describes walking “on legs ripe with indigo blooms from encounters with edges” as she tries to “remember how to live”.

The book leaves you with a real sense of ‘there’, of life and it’s balancing act, of relating to the familiar, a wonderful first collection by a very talented poet that makes you want more and look forward to the next.

On Wednesday after work I went to hear poets Rachael Mead and Jill Jones read at The Treasurer’s Wall in Adelaide’s State Library, one of many regular poetry events organised by Friendly Street Poets.

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Rachael’s work I am familiar with, and she recited a wonderful piece called Lake Eyre Cycle that was published in the Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology 2013, Now You Shall Know.  Split into eight sections, it describes Rachael’s round trip to the lake with her husband in beautifully absorbing imagery, giving you a real sense of ‘there’.  Rachael also read from her first collection The Sixth Creek published by Picaro Press in 2013, which is an insightful assortment of poems about the place she lives in, the surrounding area and the wildlife she shares it with.  Rachael reads with a warmth and passion that takes you in, making you feel like you’re old friends.

The poetry of Jill Jones, I must confess, I am not so familiar with and thus have added her to my list of ‘poets to research’ (although I do recall Jill also being one of the Adelaide-based poets published in Australian Love Poems 2013). Jill also read a lengthier piece comprising six sonnets that get you to think about the planet we inhabit and the way it is falling, followed by a number of short pieces delivered with a wonderful quiet strength.

And then I did the inevitable – brought more books!  So mental note to self: more shelf space required… 

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