The Novelist and the Poet

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Well I’m pretty happy to be going back to Blarney Books and Art in James Street, Port Fairy on the evening of the 15th March, 5.30 – 7.00 pm.

I’m even happier to be sharing the stage with Meridith McKinnon, author of The Thai Wife, that book that a whole lot of us read last year and could not put down.

When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by your host Jo, and Dean, a glass of wine or juice, a delicious platter and the novelist and the poet each eager to get to meet you.

When you’re ready you can choose a front row seat, a comfy lounge chair or one at the back that’s not too far away from the nibbles.

Meridith and I will talk and listen and answer questions and read from our work. The conversation we have together will not be so different from one or two that we’ve already had as writers of different genres learning about the approaches and processes of the other.

We will be looking forward to audience questions but if you’re someone who would rather sit back and absorb, that is fine too. When its all over we’re happy to talk to you individually or sign books.

I have not been to an event at Blarney Books that I have not enjoyed. I hope you’ll feel the same after March 15th.

Getting stuck into a good book

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I often buy books from a sense of good will: supporting the struggling author, admiration for what has been undertaken and achieved, gratitude to a bookshop for hosting book talks. Sometimes I buy them as a possible model for my writing. These four factors all contributed to how I came to own Into the World. There are not heaps of book events near where I live, so when one occurs and I’m free, I’m keen to attend.

Yesterday having seen the promotion for Stephanie Parkyn at Blarney Books, Port Fairy, I gathered a trio of friends and along we went. Stephanie is one of the most natural presenters I’ve listened to. She is gifted with a strong voice, an appealing manner and an enthusiasm for her subject that is contagious. She was only a little way into her talk when I was glad I’d bought the book.

This morning I began reading Into the World. I was reminded of the experience of reading The Rose Grower by Michelle De Kretser way back in the early 2000s. I was fascinated by the story, in love with the detail of and blown away by the stunning prose. I could not understand how (at that time) all Australia was not talking about De Kretser.

Stephanie Parkyn writes like a poet, her prose is spare and beautiful. After reading the first chapter, I carried the images of the young woman, Marie-Louise Girardin, leaving her child. I could feel the soggy warmth of the milk leaking from her bound breasts as she cradled her child for the last few minutes, see the tiny downy hairs at the top of his forehead as she kissed him goodbye, smell the rank of this part of Versailles as she hurried away.  I walked along the South-west coast of Victoria wondering about the women who had traversed this sea while daringly living as men.

I carried too that joy of being utterly absorbed in a story and an eagerness to get back to the book. It was such absorption that led me to read The Rose Grower three times before I met someone who had also read it. Another thrill for me is that satisfaction that comes from sharing ideas on a read book. At the event yesterday, I watched others purchasing Into the World. Now I’m wondering if their reaction is similar to mine.

I’d envisaged myself back against a sunny cliff as I read into the book today, but wind is pounding waves at cliffs, rain is splattering and the temperature is dropping. A perfect soundtrack for reading this particular book.

Artist’s Dates in Melbourne

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There are few things I enjoy more than an artist’s date in Melbourne. Everything seems an inspiration: the beautiful old architecture the interesting new architecture and the ugly architecture in between. I enjoy the sauntering in alley ways and through the State Library and galleries. I love it if my day can end with a book event and I’ve squeezed in quite a few of these this summer.

I often call into the Immigration museum and this last visit I delved into the display on Bonnegilla, such a feature in the lives of some of the Estonian people about whom I am currently writing.

I had never heard of or seen the sculpture of The Reuniting Family created by Michael Meszaros. It is at the foot of the Rialto Towers on Collins Street. I was so moved when I saw this work. Meszaros has captured so poignantly the emotions of the family members reuniting after the father has “paved the way” in Australia.

We are familiar with this story yet I am struck by what happens to me when this sculptor conveys so compellingly this one family’s experience… one sculptor, one painter, one poet, one storyteller.

The joy of launching a book

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I am thinking of how much I love launching books. The truth is, I love going to book launches, other peoples’ …hearing the story behind the book, discovering some of the significant people and then a new book with all its promise and possibilities.

I have just launched my third book, Small Acts of Purpose and have loved each of the launches it has had. There have been three launches in Victoria. Each of the three outstanding launchers has taken a completely different approach; Anne M Carson in Melbourne, Helen Durant in Terang and last week, Mary Kerr in Port Fairy. Each was the perfect choice, for the venue, the audience and me. I relish the way each highlighted different poems, different appreciations of the book and in each case, I treasure their creative friendships.

And so now my third book of poetry is making its way in the world. This year I will take Small Acts of Purpose further afield, first to Canberra, then Estonia and onto Belfast where the first section is set.

Of course I hope they like it but in the meantime, I’ll relish the comments that have come in by text and phone call and the occasional card. I am glad the readers are finding something in it for themselves, which I think highlights the universal power of the humanity we share which is far more important than the location of particular poems.

It has taken me four years to complete each of my three poetry books, The next one is due in 2020. Now that I am writing more, perhaps it will be finished sooner and where will I be then. Will I be?  A question for the third section in my book on mortality. Every thing changes.

Launching in Port Fairy

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What better way to spend the first weekend of the New Year, than, after a a leisurely day of lunching or swimming, coming along to our shared book launch at 4.00pm.

Ray Liversidge and I are launching our new books on Saturday at Blarney Books in Port Fairy. We’re hoping you’ll come along at 4.00 so there’s time to say hello and share a drink before the launches.   I’m also hoping to catch up with heaps of relations and friends. Don’t worry if poetry is not you thing, the wine, courtesy of Louise North Wine Merchant, will be excellent.

Ray’s book, stems from a travelling discovery some years ago at Oradour-sur-Glane, a French massacre site, and is sure to appeal to those of you with a respect and empathy for WW11 victims. Many of the  poems in my book, Small Acts of Purpose also begin from a moment of intrigue. The book begins with a section on Belfast, a city I love and ends with a blessing for my daughter-in-law.  In between are poems for those I admire and some who have died, a few funny ones and some celebrations of the beauty around us.

So come along and help us celebrate.

Saturday 6th January

4.00 for 4.30 Launch

Blarney Books, Port Fairy

Poetry by Committee

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There’s a lot to love about the communal aspects of doing Christmas in good company, which is how I feel about doing poetry in good company. The dearth of cricket bats did not prevent the family cricket match from being a main feature of the day.

I am a big fan of workshops that work and the honesty of critical friends. But this Christmas I discovered the value of a family workshopping a poem. The particular poem was Autumn in Tartu which I hope will eventually become part of my Estonian Collection. I was inspired by the photo essays of the Estonian photographer, Tonu Runnel. What a talent, but he captured in image what I had tried for with words but it was my adult children whose eyes and ears were working overtime on this poem. I know it’s better for their input. It interested me how each saw such different aspects in the poem. There wasn’t a lot of agreement in the editing process, in fact there was a lot more volume than agreement.

Next time I visit Estonia it will be springtime, hardly suitable for autumnal research. I guess I can write another poem…or I could take another trip.

Creativity in Camperdown

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I first met Robyn Emerson at a dinner at the Snout in the Trough. I think we talked a lot. Such a joy to discover someone so into living an artistic life so fully. It was months later when I had the chance to attend the series of creativity workshops she was offering. So over a month a small group of us participated in a range of artistic activities, reading, meditation and most importantly sharing our own creative ideas. The most valuable thing of all for me (and I know others felt this too) were the other group members, some of whom were known to each other professionally, others not at all, but each of us driven by that insistent creative force. There are many things I loved about launching ‘Small Acts of Purpose’, but having that group of now friends there, as well as members of previous Creativity workshops was one of the highlights. There is so much of the creative act including the self doubt that occurs in solitude that makes the public response to the final creation so valuable to the artist. The Corangamite creative community is one of the most supportive and enabling I have encountered in all my years. May we treasure that.

Nellie Plummer~ Terang cellist

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Nellie Plummer’s cello playing is a highlight of funerals, book launches and some Sunday artistic events. The cello is one of my favourite instruments, so to discover that one of our employees is a fine cellist was a true joy. Nellie’s performances are always pleasurable but her willingness to play at my launch recently was a true highlight. Have Loure and Ave Maria ever been played so poignantly?

Launching Small Acts of Purpose

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It’s a week till my newest poetry collection goes out into the world. My daughter Siobhan will start proceedings after Kris’s welcome and then Anne M Carson will send it on its way. I’ll have something to say and I’ll read you some poems.

The venue is Collected Works. I think about all the places I’ve travelled from to end up there. It’s a poetic home for me and, hundred of others.

There’s been a bit of on-line discussion lately about the value of launches. Economic value is not as important to me (luckily 😉 as the gathering of friends families and others interested. I’ve worked on this creation for four years. I’m happy to celebrate its arrival and I’d love it if lots joined with me in the celebration.

Small Acts of Purpose

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A poetry book seems to take about four years to create….well that’s how long it takes me. First there’s the years of creating poems. Then the leap of faith when one compiles a manuscript and sends it off. I learnt this year what a thrill that acceptance email was. Though I had published two books previously, had had several shortlisted in international competitions and had workshopped most of the poems with critical peers, I think we are always seeing the flaws.

But acceptance came and after the months of editing and re-editing, the next email has come. The manuscript is ‘in press’.

And now I am living in that brief interlude when what’s done is done but the work of putting it before the world has not quite begun.