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is a must have collection. Published by Puncher and Wattmann and edited by Martin Langford, Judith Beveridge, Judy Johnson and David Musgrave, this 658-page book anthologises Australian poetry for the last 25 years.

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Taking 10 years to compile over 200 poets and 500 poems, it really is a landmark publication, a credit to the Australian poetry scene, and includes some incredible poets – Ken Bolton, Jennifer Compton, Peter Goldsworthy, Jill Jones, John Kinsella, Mike Ladd, David Malouf, David Mortimer, Les Murray, Jan Owen, Dorothy Porter, Mark Tredinnick, Fiona Wright, not to mention the editors themselves.

It’s being launched in Adelaide at the SA Writers Centre next Friday, which unfortunately I can’t make (off exploring Noosa), so I promptly ordered a copy. Flicking through for the first time, because this will need endless reads, two poems caught my eye – ‘Grief’ by Elizabeth Allen and ‘Snowflake’ by Anthony Lawrence.

Elizabeth is a Sydney-based poet and her chapbook Forgetful Hands is on my wish list.  Hers is a powerfully poignant piece about her sister, who having lost her ‘Botticelli curls’

‘…has been looking into people like mirrors

but does not know how to make a face

that resembles the pain inside her.’

Anthony I saw at Mildura’s Writers’ Festival the year Sharon Olds headlined, who I was lucky enough to meet.  His poem centres around his mother who cultivates a snowflake in the freezer ‘between the peas and the ice cream’, setting sapphires into her teeth:

‘At dinner I would pretend

to be a good son, and her smile

enameled the table

with points of dark blue light.’

This is a remarkable anthology, to be read, smiled, laughed, cried and absorbed between breaths, bit by brilliant bit.

I’ve just finished an open workshop in which poets were asked to explore their own experiences of pain and develop them into poems to share with the group.

Poetry of pain

Hosted through The Poetry School’s online social network CAMPUS, the workshop was facilitated by Daniel Sluman and ran for two weeks comprising assignment, reading, writing time and live chat. Daniel is an amazing poet, whose work often explores the challenge of the body and the pain it can cause, with two collections to his name – his first, Absence has a weight of its own, was published by Nine Arches Press in 2012 and then his latest, the terrible, is also available from Nine Arches Press.

So we were asked to recall the most memorable moments in our lives that have involved pain and note three down. Well once I started, I found it difficult to stop and ended up with over seven on my list! We then had to think about these times in an objective way with a focus on detail and other senses, i.e. not just the sensation of pain, drawing on poems by Matthew Siegel and Sharon Olds as exceptional examples of how pain can be conveyed.

I managed to draft and share three poems, with notes for another five, and poets had to choose one to be work-shopped during the two-hour live chat session. Having this at 4:30am my time (7pm London time), I thought showed commitment to the craft!

It was a really useful exercise and I met some fantastic poets along the way, whom I hope to remain in contact with. Daniel asked if we thought this course could be expanded upon; most definitely, where there’s pain, either physical or emotional, there’s a lot to say and share.

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.

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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