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East Avenue Books was the venue Thursday night for the launch of three new additions to the Picaro Poets series published by Ginninderra Press, namely Cary Hamlyn, Russ Talbot and Shelda Rathmann.

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Joan Fenney, partner of Peter with whom she owns the bookstore, opened the launch by saying these particular poets are great friends of hers and how delighted she was to host the event.

Unfortunately Stephen and Brenda Matthews from Ginninderra Press were not able to be there so Louise Nicholas shared a note with the crowd passing on their appreciation to the newest members of the GP family.

So Cary was first up with her chapbook Scraping the Night introduced by Sharon Kernot who helps Gary MacRae run Garron Publishing. Sharon mentored Cary for a time and explained how her collection contains a variety of styles and themes – psychological, humour, loss, love – so a little something for everyone.

Cary began with the title poem ‘Scraping the Night’. There is so much to love in this gorgeous poem, which is essentially about a couple getting familiar – ‘moonlight leers through the car window etching the valley of your cheek’ while ‘outside the stars open and shut like clams’. Cary then shared ‘The Neighbourhood is Ajar’ where we find her waiting ‘for the evening to end’ and where ‘time has flattened itself between memory and expectation / it hides behind the clock / like a thief / ready to steal my last good hours’, a wonderful image. ‘Descending into Psychosis’ was next based on a true story of Cary’s schizophrenic flatmate when living in Sydney and is the longest poem in the collection. Here we find Suzanne who ‘in her room at the top of the stairs…wasped between shadows / like a hornet in a web’ part of her descent ‘into her Jungian hell’ which ends with ‘she slammed the door shut / on her sanity’, a brilliant stanza. Cary finished with ‘A Social Worker’s Lament’ inspired by the film Wolf of Wall Street, where she is ‘a glut of compassion…with a terrible need to nurture’ longing to be ‘full of loud-mouthed, shiny charisma’.

Russ was up next with his chapbook Things that make your heart beat, his first published collection, from which poems were read by Jennifer Liston due to Russ’s acquired brain injury from a tumour. This was tear-jerking stuff, to quote Joan ‘poems that hit you in the heart’, and boy they did. Jen began with ‘Ache’, a very clever and poignant piece comparing the physical ache in the arms from holding a baby to the one from remembering – ‘This isn’t the life I chose / it’s the life that chose me. / It’s a good life / it really is. / Just sometimes I’m reminded of the other one’. A stunning poem called ‘Rope’ was next speaking of a relationship ending where the other person is watched as they ‘drift away, your mooring / rope unravelling into the / moonlit water, / not quite holding you’. The next poem ‘Spyder’ was a William Blake satire, with an apology to said poet as a sub-title, before leading us through a lovely little ditty of running into a spider’s web and having to ‘do the spider-panic dance’. Russ’s last poem shared was ‘Your face’, describing how it is more than just the sum of its parts, the final stanza fantastic – ‘Your face is the watch / that tells me / I’m wrong, there’s time’.

Shelda was last to read from her chapbook Fleeting Fragments. Shelda teaches creative writing, is somewhat of an entertainer and on the best selling poetry list, and began with a poem called ‘Birkenhead Bungalow’ about her grandma who is ‘a constant traveller of the night’ haunting its rooms. It’s a poem of sadness and longing – ‘like a lost spirit, her mind wandered, a confused nomad who / repeated the same stories and pined for the past’. ‘Ode to the FruChoc’ was read next and was literally that, ‘fruit centres / of apricot and peach / melt in my mouth / like summer showers’ (there’s also a poem on the opposite page about the Haigh’s chocolate frog, my favourite nibble!). ‘Battle of the Bulge’ followed, a humourous rhyming poem about trying to control the ‘spare tyre’ where ‘at night I indulge in leafy green feasts / in order to fight this untamed beast’. With Shelda’s last poem, ‘Accordion’, props were required – a music stand displaying a photo of an eight year old Shelda with her first accordion and then the instrument itself today. Both the poem and music were very entertaining.

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And there endeth the readings. East Avenue Books is a beautiful little bookstore with a wide range of reading material. Started in 2009, one of its many aims is to make poetry accessible to all, one such way is by posting a ‘Poet of the month’ in the window, one of which was Russ’s whose poem drew people into the shop to find out more about him and his work. If you haven’t already visited, I recommend you do, and indulge in some superb little chapbooks.

I was one of five guest poets invited to read at Payneham Library yesterday as part of the Friendly Street Poet readings and it was a fab line-up – with Thom Sullivan headlining backed up by Cary Hamyln, David Mortimer, me and Russ Talbot, all introduced by the charming Louise Nicholas.

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Now I warn you this is not an in-depth detailed analysis like my usual posts. Mainly because I find it difficult to focus when I know I’ll be up there shortly! But also because I’m going to the launch of both Cary’s and Russ’s chapbooks later this week, so you know, didn’t want to duplicate too much (and then there’s the nervous concentration thing…)

Anyhow, Thom kicked off still basking in the glow of his reading at the Adelaide Writer’s Week a few weeks ago. Thom reads well, there’s a certain quiet strength about him with which he captures his audience and what particularly stood out for me was Thom’s acknowledgement that we poets stand on the shoulders of greats, a responsibility we all share, a profound statement. Thom shared poems he wrote during last year’s National Poetry Month, including ‘Crow poem’ and ‘Living in a draught, which can be found here on his blog.

Next up was Cary who, although not new to the poetry scene, confessed she has not given many readings (like me!). Cary read from her new chapbook Scraping the night, part of the Picaro Poets series published by Ginninderra Press and began with the title poem, followed by ‘Moment of departure’, ‘Time is a hound’ and ‘Future prince’ to name a few, with the titles alone enough to pull you in. Cary’s poems left me with some very vivid images but as said, more to follow about this shortly.

David went up next, reading a selection of poems from his collections, including ‘No wonder’ and ‘Towards evening’ from Magic Logic published by Puncher & Wattmann. David, like Thom, is one of many amazing local poets here in Adelaide and is also adept in his delivery, finishing with a very clever poem about Keats and Wordsworth, who are considered to be part of the thousands of greats Tom referred to earlier.

And then it was me. Louise did a wonderful introduction, mentioning my blog so I thought yes, better post about this event then(!). I opened with a new poem based on our Oodnadatta travels last October, a kind of sestina and probably the longest poem I’ve written to date. I then shared ‘Hoodlums’ recently published in InDaily, followed by three from my collection Smashed glass at midnight and ended with a poem I plan to include in my next collection I’m just finalising (yay!). Think I did ok.

Russ finished the guest poet line-up sharing work read by Jennifer Liston due to his acquired brain injury as a result of a brain tumour. I’ve never read any of Russ’s work before, it was breathtaking, as poems were read from his new collection Things that make your heart beat, also part of the Picaro Poets series from Ginninderra Press. And like Cary to be officially launched later this week, so I’m going to leave you hanging for the detail.

After a short coffee break it was open mic time, where we heard the likes of Ian Gibbins, Martin Christmas (who was also happily snapping away), Judy Dally, Louise Nicholas (the MC) and Mike Hopkins, all of whom were highly entertaining. And there were a few first time readers as well whom the room applauded, something that happened to me at my first ever reading here, which is incredibly endearing and encouraging.

So that’s it. I managed to sell, correction, the dazzling Jules Leigh Koch (who invited me to be a guest poet) managed to sell five of my chapbooks (which made my husband happy when I got home!) and I also had a lady approach me in the break to tell me how beautiful my poems were and how much she could relate to them, which I found very touching. All in all it was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon, set me up for the week it did.