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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
It’s the year of the blog for me. As I move to less time working, I move to more time writing – a quieter place for me, both metaphorically and literally – a space for reading, writing, being.
……. All week,
squalls, tattered mists:
alder, who unfolded
before the receding glaciers
first one leaf then another,
won’t you teach me
a way to live
on this damp ambiguous earth?
Kathleen Jamie ‘Alder’ The Tree House (2004)