I’ve had another of those weeks. A week full of joy and richness and some of the world’s best poetry. Until a few months ago I’d never contemplated Florida in terms of its poetry though I know Edna St Vincent Millay lived there. So too did Mary Oliver for the latter part of her life. A workshops group is a lucky dip and I lucked out to be in this room of talented interested and generous people from around the States and then there was Naomi from Israel and myself from Australia. I applied for the Palm Beach Poetry Conference when I saw who the leaders would be. I was lucky enough to be accepted into Ellen Bass’s workshop. I had discovered her work not so long before when I read her poem Indigo. It was a moment for me, something akin to hearing Yeats’ Tread Softly all those years ago when I knew “this” was what I wanted m y life to be about. Reading and hearing Indigo intensified my focus. A new bar had been set and I wanted to write with the energy and brilliance of Bass. I still do.
When I lived in Ballarat some years ago, one of my end of year jobs was an annual guest spot on ABC radio where I was asked to name and talk about the books I loved best in the various categories. The place where I live now does not have a radio station but I still tend to reflect on standouts. If you search back through my blogposts, you won’t be surprised to read now that my standout cover graced the superb novel, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland and was created by Edith Rewa.
It was in the later part of the year that I heard about Lauren Chater’s novel, The Lace Weaver. To be fair, anybody who knows the least thing about me will know how passionately I feel the story of Estonia needs to be told, so it’s possible I was predisposed towards loving this book.
But love it I did. It is beautifully and grippingly written. I am in awe of the research undertaken by Lauren. Most importantly for me, it provided such insight into the subtleties of human behaviour during WW11, and of course, being a poet, I loved the language and motif of this beautiful book.
The title comes from the opening section in my most recent poetry book, a short collection of diverse poems stemming from previous visits to Belfast. The cover on this book Small Acts of Purpose is the work of Irish printmaker, Susan Mannion. I’m hoping the title will travel and sit well as title for the presentation and workshop on Sunday 10th June at the Belfast Book Festival.
Following the presentation, I’ll be guiding writers at whatever stage of poetry writing you’re at, to begin developing a set of poetry of your own. If you’d like to book in, just go to the Belfast Book Festival website and follow the workshop link.
This session runs from 2.00- 4.00 finishing in good time so we can all get to hear Ruth Carr, Maureen Boyle, Mebh McGuckian and Maria McManus
As I write this, I have just come from a Michael Longley & Colette Bryce reading at the Listowel Writers’ Festival. What an extraordinarily special reading. The readings and Michael’s comments afterwards about his Belfast home make me doubly excited to be heading back to this beautiful city.
Every now and again I feel so fortunate as a poet. My poetic life is rich and interesting. It brings me into contact with remarkable people and remarkable stories and ordinary people and ordinary stories, events that are rich and satisfying and places that have me eager to know more of the hearts that beat within them. Estonia is such a place.
One of my earliest blogs archived in January 15 speaks of my first visit here, to Talinn and Haapsalu. This time I’ve been lucky enough to travel southwards and present my work at Tartu, Estonian City of Literature.
It was a joy to meet such engaged, interesting people and to read and then have my work read in Estonian was deeply satisfying. Rauno Alliksaar translated the poems and so on the evening, hosted by Berk Vaher, I presented in English and he in Estonian. Meeting up in Tallinn with Ava, hearing from others who were at the reading and recalling conversations about the importance of keeping the truth of the stories alive affirms me in my poetic work. Now I’m back in the capital Tallinn for the HeadRead literary festival. Ironically Kathleen Jamie, my favourite Scottish writer, whom I also wrote about in Jan 15 is presenting at this festival.
GTG so much to see and hear and do 🙂
One of the treasures I brought back from my time in Canberra was this book, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Rhineland. I found it in the National Library bookshop flanked by Tracy Sorenson and Tim Winton. Had they known, I’m sure they would have been pleased with the fine literary and artistic company. And what a read it is, surprising and riveting and to add to the delight, the prose is perfect and each chapter begins with the artwork of the cover artist, Edith Rewa.
I should be honest and confess I actually bought the book for the cover. It is beautiful. I wanted to have it in my writing space. I was aware of the artistic work of Edith Rewa who takes herself on field trips, sketches what she sees and comes back to her studio to create beautiful designs which ultimately become scarves, purses, tattoos, wall hangings, dresses, exquisite wrapping paper and now a book cover and chapter illustrations.
Last month, many in the poetry community were saddened by Deb Westbury’s death. I am one of many grateful for what she taught and reminded us of. To name what we care about through poetry is one of those reminders. Edith Rewa is doing exactly that through her artistic work and in giving it back to us, reminds us of the worth of every single species.
It was a joy to spend time in Canberra, reconnecting with old poetry and personal friends. I loved reading at Manning Clark House. Manning Clark House is a special venue for its history, its beauty and ambience. I like the sense of dipping into the literary history of Canberra. Many thanks to those whose work keeps the place and this reading running.
I am currently being fascinated by The Petrov Poems by Lesley Lebkowicz. Lesley and I first connected at Wollongong a very long time ago. I remember after one lecture sitting with her and comparing the gender balance in some of the current literary journals. That confirmed my decision to publish as E A. How were we to know that within a few years just about every fact regarding an author’s profile could be detected within moments via the web?
Lesley is a fine poet and this book has the added advantage of historical and cultural intrigue.
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.
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.
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.
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.