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with a bang! And having missed last week’s readings, I was determined to make this week’s, the line-up simply too good to miss – Matt Hooton, Rebekah Clarkson, Heather Taylor Johnson and Andy Jackson.

Lee Marvin 2

Hosted as ever by the highly entertaining Ken Bolton at the Dark Horsey Bookshop, Matt was first up with a series of questions for the audience – did Anne of Green Gables make it over here? Is Evel Knievel considered an icon here? And were we familiar with the concept of party lines? Setting the scene for an interesting read of his latest short story ‘Is this our inheritance our Lord and is that your voice we hear on the party line?’ We were presented with a scene in which two young boys are watching Evel Knievel perform his stunts on TV during his Korean tour, where ‘there is too much rocket, not enough bike’. What I particularly loved about this was the repetition of a raven image throughout the description of a seemingly ordinary suburban scene – ‘a prescription of ravens’ when the single mother knocks back a few painkillers in the bathroom; ‘an abandonment of ravens’ when Evel Knievel lands in North Korean airspace; culminating in the line ‘the inheritance of ravens goes quiet’. A thought-provoking piece.

Next to take the stage was Rebekah and it was her first time reading here. I knew of Rebekah, but was not familiar with her work. She read a piece of personal non-fiction called ‘Learning to swim’, which had been commissioned by an American journal. It pulled you in from the start, opening with ‘I don’t want to talk about the storm’ where after we learn her daughter was out at sea during it with the story also alluding to a meta-physical storm. And so we hear how Rebekah ‘fake swims’, which is considered an art form, a ‘careful construction of circumstance’, breathing out on the right side only. A memory is shared of her father trying to teach her to swim by literally throwing her in the deep, a somewhat traumatic experience, which ends in an apology from her father, the only time she ever hears one. To progress her ‘fake swimming’ Rebekah joins a swim class ‘full of pissed off women having done everything for everyone’ where she learns bilateral breathing and soon starts to ‘crave the silent underwater world’. Rebekah read well, thoroughly engaging her audience.

And then it was Heather, to whom I could listen for hours! Heather read a chapter from her forthcoming book from University of Queensland Press now in its final stages of editing. Here we find Orion, son of Jean who is in a coma in hospital having been diagnosed with cancer. In his bedroom ‘sunlight splashed the walls’ as he plays with a toy plane, which ‘has to follow the bottom racing stripe otherwise the world will blow up’. Death pervades this chapter, as we learn that Orion’s Nan also had cancer and often talks of dying, so he seeks out ‘Very Viv’, the ‘most fun of all the grown-ups’. When visiting his Mum in hospital, his friend, Juniper, tells Orion that his Mum is going to die (Juniper then gets scolded by her own for saying this). So Orion seeks release in the hospital playground, playing monsters with Juniper and a boy they befriend with an eye patch. Later, driving home with his Dad, Orion imagines they are ‘the only car in Adelaide on a conveyor belt’, pictures the danger and feels he has ‘died many times in his mind’. Big concepts for a little boy, can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

Andy closed the set reading the only poetry of the night. He shared a few from his collection the thin bridge, back in print again from Whitmore Press, and began with ‘Double helix’, which I remember from Heather’s poetry night, a poem about passing on genes with cleverly repetitive lines – ‘genetic screening is not an anagram for suicide’, ‘a disorder of connective tissue sewn into my own’, ‘you can be so lonely you don’t want to be touched’. Next came the poem ‘The platform’ about a young bird being placed out of harm’s way followed by ‘On being sculpted’ by his partner, in which he asks ‘will I ever be finished?’ and ‘who threw that yellow square across the floor; the moon, the streetlight or us?’ Andy then read from his next collection Immune systems, available from Transit Lounge, based on his visit to India, the first a string of statements connected by their strangeness. A ‘schoolgirl yawns’ with ‘henna snaking around her hands’ and ‘In the courtyard’ there is medical tourism as Andy is diagnosed by a man who ‘holds my wrist like a flute’. The last poem shared was about returning to Australia, to ‘wilting leaves and cobwebbed pegs’ and ‘a neighbour hammering a nail into a mortgage’, such vivid images.

It was a wonderful evening rich in literary ‘wowness’, which I know is not a word but I don’t care, it was fab.

 

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