And you ask me from where do I get my ideas? I’ll tell you. I planted these carrots with my sister. We watered and tended them throughout the summer. A few weeks ago I wanted some for a special dinner, so out I went to harvest. As always I pulled gently and out came this pair, one wrapped around the other so tenderly I thought I might cry, or perhaps, place it in a poem.
I really like poetry to be interesting. Audibly, it has to be beautiful or striking, but if I can listen to poetry that is thought provoking or challenging or tells a good story, I am in. That’s why I was particularly pleased to read with Robyn Rowland at the first 2017 event at Poeticas.
What a project the creation of This Intimate War Gallipoli/Çanakkale 1915 has been. But what an important project. I found the poems and the perspective moving.
My travels last year initiated me into an understanding of the impact of war in eastern Europe. For most of my life I’ve been reading or hearing of WW1 & 11 from the perspective of the allies. I hope my poem Post War Recovery ~ Warsaw-Warracknabeal conveys something of what I’ve learnt.
I’ve been a fan of the Artists’ Date long before I read anything by Julia Cameron. Whether I head to a gallery or a beach for an hour or wander up into Central Victoria or along the coast for a day, I feel it invigorating my soul. An added dimension is when I share the day with a creative friend. Catherine Brennan and I have been sharing our creative passions for 30 years, so I was particularly pleased when she opened a second Salt & Pepper Gallery just outside Jan Juc. It’s a wonderful gallery, first of all because it’s a working gallery, secondly because Catherine is such a talented, passionate artist and thirdly cause she is such a genuine and beautiful person.
Catherine has embraced her seaside lifestyle to create beautiful work from the oceanic world where she now lives. I’m happy to come home from a day urgently wanting my pen to be working as well as her paintbrush. Occasionally we come home with something more tangible. Her scarves brighten my winters. her cycle of life sculpture adds harmony and beauty to our funeral home. One of her paintings graces my hallway. It’s bright and vibrant, full of movement and colour. Every day I love it.
All images: Catherine M Brennan Salt & Pepper Gallery
First event of the year and it happens to be in my childhood hometown Camperdown (VIC) featuring two other poets who are also mad for this landscape that I love. What a luxury, poetry of the volcanic plains supported by the brilliant violinist Bert Pratt. The man is a genius with a heart as big as Mt Leura. I’ve been reading bits and pieces from Graeme Kinross-Smith for years but Barry Breen is the man who got me onto poetry. He taught me at school for the last few years. I still hear his voice resonating in my head with the poetry of Yeats and Owen and Eliot. He opened a world to me. I knew this reading would be the last my mother would attend. She who has been my best groupie, my most critical of proof-readers and faithful of readers sparkled on this day. I will be grateful to her forever.
All the years the children were little our shelves filled with picture book, as did the table, bedsides, extra cupboards. I was mad for picture books and used any occasion to indulge my passion by gifting one of my children with a book. This Christmas my 26 year old gifted me with Oliver Jeffers The Day The Crayons Quit. I have read it and read it and taken delight in the surprise and colour and the delight of it.
More than this though I took it as affirmation for the direction my writing was taking. After years of focussing on poetry and an occasional essay, review or speech, I am re-embracing the picture book. That most eloquent of forms with its tight use of words and its capacity for shifting the world just a little bit being given to me by my youngest child.
A great time was to be had at this year’s Castlemaine State Festival. Absolute favourites were staying with my gorgeous friends in “the west wing”, getting to know the new generation of poetry movers and shakers in the central Victorian poetry scene, catching up with the old. Loved the night-time poetry readings, the dinner, being part of the panel poetry chat with Andy Jackson, Nathan Curnow, Mike Ladd and then after that, Mike and I doing the reading, but there were so many good poems and lovely encounters PLUS I LOVE Castlemaine. Roll on 2017 festival!
Words in Winter has been a bit of a favourite over the years for me but this year’s event had two added joys. I was commended in the inaugural Venie Holmgren environmental poetry award for my poem Hygrocybe at the Terang Market and, I was invited to read and speak at Trentham, one of my favourite places on this earth.
The topic is one I am most often invited to speak on: Variations on the idea of doing death better and as usual, I use my poetry to say some of what I want to say. A fantastic interested and engaged audience. I love it when there’s way too many questions for the time frame.
It was fun to meet some of the new faces around town and a delight to meet quite a few from my days of living in Central Victoria. So thanks to Karen McCrea and your team for your hospitality and interest and for Mary and Tom Walsh for further hospitality and sharing your wisdom and experience in this field. Br B’s Bookshop was not there in my time but what a joy to discover it and sitting there waiting for a home was an Estonian novel by Sofi Oksanen When the Doves Disappeared.
After years of wanting to, I finally made it to Berlin, travelled south and then across through the Czech Republic and up into Poland. What I had learnt from history books, anecdotes and documentaries pertaining to Nazism and Stalinism became vividly horrific through these weeks. Conversely I became so much more aware of stories of defiance and resilience and courage.
But there were also stories of intrigue I discovered. I had been alerted to one of these from Anne Carson who has been working on a poetry collection based on the life of Himmler’s masseur, Dr Felix Kerstin.
This weekend Anne’s work was performed at Queen’s College, Melbourne University. This Radio National podcast hosted by Michael McKenzie is a fascinating intro into Anne’s superb poetic biography.
Not so long ago I received an email query on one of the poems ‘Survival Guide’ from my first book In between the dancing.
I have a new project: I am learning a new poem by heart every fortnight. It’s fun! and makes me think more about the author’s choice of words, and I become more aware of the rhymes and alliteration. I’m currently learning “Survival Guide” and just wanted to check with you that there isn’t a typo in its printing in In Between the Dancing. These are the lines:
When you get to the higher slopes, pause
amongst the candlebarks and wrap your
arms around the shredding strips.
I just wanted to check you did not mean shedding? The bark strips are being shed by the tree, but are also shredded by the wind so both would make sense, but because of the word “strips” following, shredding strips is somehow more difficult/awkward to say than shedding strips. I imagine you did mean shredding, because the person is feeling emotionally shredded. I hadn’t noticed this word particularly before when reading the poem silently to myself. It’s a whole new thing reading them aloud, and having them alive inside you, on call, without needing to open a book.
Of course I revisited the poem and then the territory that led to the poem. Shredding is definitely the correct term though I know it is tricky to say, just as it is to go through.
What a beautiful moment: to be led back into one of my own poems by a reader’s response, to be led to reconsider the poetic choices I made at the time, to be challenged to put the effort into learning it that this reader did.
Extracts from the launch of Small Town Soundtrack
Warrnambool Books Dec 2015 by E A Gleeson
“ The book is divided into four sections one of which is called Towns of the Mt Noorat Football League. What an enormous thrill it was to know every district with which this section dealt …not just in terms of geography but also in concept.
We know there are no mansions in Ecklin and we know there are people cutting back blackberry amongst the ferns, just as many of us have perhaps waited for a thousand cows at Occupation Lane. This is poetry with an eye for detail and a voice for truth. We know the country we’re being driven through; Baxter country, Kenna country. Coolahan country, just as we know how legal teams have chipped away at this country or as in the poem Glenormiston why a waterway was named Murdering Gully. We know it but perhaps it is Brendan Ryan’s poetic slant, his particular phrasing, his unmistakable lexicon that makes us revisit with more astute eyes and ears..………
The Australian poet Philip Hodgins has long been considered one of Australia’s most significant rural poets. While he was instrumental in reclaiming rural life as a source of contemporary Australian poetry, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, this work ended with his death in the mid 1990s.
It is Brendan Ryan who has taken the baton, Ryan, like Hodgins, does not glorify farming life or create an idealistic romantic view of living in the country. Ryan tells it as it is and uses the tools of poetry to convey moments, some of which are raw and brutal, others are poignant and moving. Either way this is poetry that has been created with respect and humanity. Both poets write of their characters with tenderness and humility. They write of the physicality of farming in ways that can be disturbing or exhilarating and those of who have lived the life know the sharpness of that knife edge.