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.

Words in Winter ~ Trentham

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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.

Glimpses into the world of the SS ~ Anne M Carson

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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.

Revisiting an old favourite

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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.

Chasing poetry in Scotland.

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What an extraordinary poetry filled trip through Scotland and Ireland. On Kathleen Jamie’s advice I visited the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh. We were in Edinburgh for the National Association of Funeral Directors Conference and being of the belief that every conference can be improved by an afternoon of poetry I headed into town for one of the afternoons.

Alas when I arrived for the discussion on Tomas Transtromer, the library was boarded up for renovations and despite my best efforts to find the group eventually abandoned the chase. Alas.

One day as she rinsed her wash from the jetty,

the bay’s cold grave rose up through her arm

and into her life.

This first verse is from Transtomer’s poem From the Island 1860 – hauntingly beautiful in the true sense of both words.

 I consoled my self in a bookshop and discovered Jamie’s essays, Sightlines and Findings, so all was not lost though my bag was a little heavier.

I wonder when Australia will have a poetry library.

Listowel Writers’ Week 2015

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Sometimes you go to a writing festival and you feel that life is going to be different forever after. That’s how it was at Listowel. Such a rich few days.

Everything from the easy companionship from events to lunch to other events, the vitality of the pubs and Woulfe’s book store, the decorated windows and the gorgeousness of the town itself.

Not surprisingly the highlight for me was doing the series of Master Writing classes with Peter Fallon. I’ve loved his poetry for quite a while and now I’ve discovered the man; clever, humble, witty, kindhearted and a stunning poet. I think the group of us was so enriched by what he responded to in our poetry and the poetry of others.

I’ve been writing poetry for twenty years, but it is only now that I’m considering the lines of poetry as an auditory unit and from that stems the questions. What is the effect in the poem of this particular line? To achieve …. such and such an effect how should I shape the line, how should this line sound?

And so now I write with my PF eye and ear on what I’m doing. I keep another eye and ear out for future festivals of such quality and my third eye on the work of the writers I met and to whom we listened. Writing festivals at their best provide a way of living that I love; of complete immersion in the moment, a way of soaking it in and carrying it with you when you get on the plane and eventually arrive home and take up the pen at your own writing desk.

Loving the Poetry in Geelong

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FRIDAY 20 March Wool Museum Geelong

What a delight to attend one of the best poetry readings ever from some of the Geelong poets who featured in Best Australian Poems 2014. Fantastic venue and involvement from The Council and the Library. Great to catch up with poetry friends from way back. And what a joy to listen to excellent poetry being read in voices that allowed the musicality of the poetry to do its own thing. But the highlight for me was the interest of the poetry. This was poetry worth hearing.

SATURDAY 21 March Ocean Grove library

A smaller group hosted by the library but a few poems and plenty of chat but where were those readers?

SUNDAY 22 March Camperdown Botanic Gardens

I presented my poems and mini-workshop to the partners of the Lions delegates in Camperdown for the weekend. Hosted by Judi Oakes in one of Camperdown’s iconic settings. An interesting responsive group, a charming host and a stunning setting..perfect for poetry.

International Women’s Day

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Another International Women’s Day beckons with the theme Make it Happen. Each year I wonder about the women who inspired this poem and these girls from Queen Salote College. Where are you now?

International Women’s Day

Women’s voices drift above the palms
across the edge of night, colouring

the Tongan morning with holy songs
a benediction for the waking world.

Filtering through western latitudes
into coffee shops brimming with chatter

the day passes in the telling of stories
the night throbs with the dancing

and stomping of women till the darkness
is full of the sound of breaking glass.

The women who first blessed the day
sit in the glow of the new morning

gouging at coconuts, the white flesh
Falling into a pile of soft wafers.

(In between the dancing)

Signing off on Maisie

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Autographing a book has got to be one of the most satisfying of literary actions. I suppose it’s a sign of acceptance and completion – of accepting that this is what I have been able to do now, of handing the book over, of allowing the created poems to become newly created in the reader’s mind. I am literally signing off.

I listened to Lionel Shriver speaking about her book Big Brother (a very different use of the term from the same named TV series). Shriver argues for the importance of a project; for the heavy person, it might be losing weight, for the novelist, writing the book, but, she asks, what is to happen then?

I think of satisfying poems that encapsulate the notion of project and yet how ambivalent are their endings. In the poem, It’s Late Jennifer Harrison recalls
Miss Wickham (saying)
That every fisherman is unhappy with his catch
And most happy when he has caught nothing
and, as the narrator watches a fisherman journey homewards, recalls another fisherman leaving the beach and the shells of the abalone.
and the light begins to dry over
all that will be abandoned differently.

Bruce Dawe laments that he did not accept the supportive care that was offered alongside his wife’s palliative care (White-water Rafting and Palliative Care).
I’d have found it easier then to simply hold you
instead of bobbing to and fro so much,
for it was you who seemed to be more tranquil
– and I whom death reached out to touch.

Harrison, Jennifer (1996) Cabramatta/Cudmirraa. Black Pepper Press, Nth Fitzroy, Australia
Dawe, Bruce (2011) Slow-Mo Tsunami and Other Poems Puncher and Wattman, Glebe, Australia

I’m happy to let you know that though I signed off on Maisie in 2012, she is now in her second print run. So if you missed out or would like an extra copy, get in touch via the Contact page of this website.