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Tuesday’s Lee Marvin had a line-up of Ian Gibbins, Aidan Coleman, Cath Kenneally and Anna Goldsworthy, introduced in full Lee Marvin style by Ken Bolton.

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I’ve never heard Ian read before. A neuroscientist and poet, Ian captivated the audience with his performance (and it was just that, due to years of teaching he told me after). The first poem Ian read was from a collaboration with Judy Morris called Floribunda, in which his scientifically expressed poems are paired with her beautiful pictures of flowers. Ian pauses at just the right moments with the last line delivered dramatically – ‘always lost at sea, find anchorage’. With his second poem Ian selected random words from The Advertiser and ordered them alphabetically, producing a thought-provoking summary of the news. Ian then read a short story, ‘Last shave’, which opened with ‘The ants have returned’ and continued to draw us into a world of infiltration and conspiracy. Ian finished with ‘After thoughts’, a poem that was shortlisted for the Ron Pretty Prize with striking images of ‘fairies running on schedule’ and ‘favourite islands displaced.’ Ian really was a delight to listen to.

Aidan I’ve heard before and read a series of sonnet length poems beginning with ‘Crossing the bar’, followed by six poems about colour, which he felt slightly daunted about sharing with Peter Goldsworthy on the front row (who has, I’m told and have yet to read, written exquisite poems about colour). The series alternated between ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’, opening with a description of a red car compared to a ‘half-sucked Jaffa’, with the next primary installment likening yellow to ‘easy pour of olive oil’ and ‘a tiny Easter’. Interestingly the primary pieces struck me more than the secondary, hence no reference to the latter! Aidan then read a poem called ‘The end of weather’ with a delicious line of ‘summer stops short of nudity’, conjuring beach scenes and heat, and then finished with another two poems, only one of which I caught the title, ‘Jolt’ (trying to listen, appreciate and make notes takes some doing, all while balancing a glass of wine!).

Cath has a variety of guises – art critic and journalist, novelist and poet – and shared a couple of poems from her ongoing Australia – London compilation, the first being ‘Creatures of the forest’, with some beautiful lines like a woman of ‘all nerves and steely perm’ and ‘my legs fizzing with the urge to run’. Cath’s second poem cited parts of inner city London – Marylebone, Baker Street, Highgate, Brick Lane – making us ex-Londoners feel slightly nostalgic! Cath finished her set with a three part piece each told from a character’s viewpoint, beginning in the first person, the second from that person’s sister and the last from their mother. This is the first time I’ve heard Cath read and found her almost breathy style alluring.

Anna, I found out, is Peter’s daughter and read an excerpt from a book she originally shared at the Festival of Ideas a while ago, in which she describes the first holiday her and her partner take following the birth of their first child. The piece is beautifully written and conveys her hysterical (in terms of humour) obsession with their holiday home’s long drop toilet! Lines like ‘clumsiness ticks over into disaster’, ‘the baby must never go in there’ and the repetitive mantra of it would never be her to drop the baby into the composting toilet therefore it must be Nicholas to drop the baby into the composting toilet – fuel her irrational fear of the baby ending up in the composting toilet! Anna takes some extreme measures, barricading her partner into bed with suitcases so she would hear if he stirred and trying to stay awake to prevent her from accidentally sleepwalking the baby into the composting toilet! I do not do it justice, but it was highly entertaining and unfortunately not in stock in the Dark Horsey Bookshop, so I have it on order to enjoy its entirety.

And then I just wanted to end this blog with, you know, something about me. I was told I read very well by Peter Goldsworthy, learned that David Mortimer enjoyed my debut collection so much he has recommended it to his poetry group and sold a signed copy to Shannon Burns to get his thoughts! Enough now. Long post. Exhausted. But happy.

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!

Tuesday night’s Lee Marvin saw Shannon Burns flying solo and having heard Shannon read before, I went along to hear him again, grabbing a copy of the free booklet he had put together for the event.

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Shannon’s writing spans many genres – poetry, short story, essay, academia – and in 2009 he won The Adelaide Review Prize for Short Fiction. And so Shannon treated us to a range of pieces, beginning with a poem published in Southerly a couple of years ago called ‘Greek’. Set in a summer garden, there’s a real sense of place as he describes an interaction with ‘an olive-skinned man with dark eyes and a flat face’ with an undercurrent something is about to happen.

Shannon’s second piece was a satire about memoirs written in the voice of a professor of comparative literature. ‘His Memoir’ explored the professor’s view of this form, how some are endurable but those produced by the lower class are just not readable, a very witty, ironic piece.

Before reading the first story he ever had published in Wet Ink, Shannon felt it got out there too early and too easily, which I think many writers can relate to, myself included, when they look back at a piece and maybe even see how it could be improved. The short story described the adoption of his new stepsister and how after, he splashes her at every puddle opportunity.

Shannon went onto read ‘In the Year of Our Lord’, again a humorous piece about his experience at university, although not the protagonist but his friend Shaun, followed by a poem about the rapper Kayne West, being an ardent admirer and describing him as a truth-teller not always telling the truth.

I enjoyed Shannon’s poem ‘A Hobby’ looking at the impact, literally, books can have and then was captivated by ‘Needing and Burrowing’, the third piece of a larger body of work describing an attempt to draw language out of a being with hands, ‘drumming her nutshell so it seems to purr.’

Shannon finished his set with ‘Australian Crawl’, a short story published in Overland a few years ago that provided a snapshot of Thomas Brown, a teacher trapped in a life he longs to swim away from which he finally does, a piece that Shannon said made him a readable writer.

Listening to Shannon was fascinating, being shown the different facets of his writing mind, my clear favourites being ‘A Child in the City’ and his last piece, both left an imprint.

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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