A huge thanks to Tony Messenger for reviewing Engraft and interviewing me on his excellent blog, Messenger’s Booker. Tony is an indefatigable supporter of Australian poetry and his blog is a fantastic resource. I particularly love his author interviews. Here’s a taste of mine:
Q. Both of your works are very “unsettling” and in “Dead Ottla” (a poem sourced from the letters of Franz Kafka) you say “(Writing is a form of prayer, Dear Ottla,/ a key to the chambers inside oneself:” Your work is very personal, leaving yourself open and raw on the page, is writing cathartic for you?
Absolutely. Especially writing poetry, which expresses the inexpressible best of all, in my view. Basically, when life feels intense, I pick up a pen. I also write to have fun, relax, learn, experiment, grow and communicate – but I’m first and foremost of the Bukowski school:
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
(‘so you want to be a writer?’)
That might sound naff, but that’s why and how I write poetry, and also why I read it. It’s a solace for the soul…
Read the rest at Messenger’s Booker & explore Tony’s blog while you’re there. If you feel inspired to buy a copy of Engraft or HUSH, hit me up!
I’ve been invited to appear at some really interesting poetry events over the coming months.
First up, on Sunday November 5th, is Spirit of the Land, a poetry reading organised by Aussie poet Les Wicks. This reading takes place at the beautiful Many Art Gallery & Museum, not far from my home, and comprises of twenty poets who’ve been asked to write works responding to the art on exhibit. The Northern Beaches of Sydney is not generally known for its poetry, but this event is an exception and is always full to the brim with poets, artists, and those who appreciate both. Good to see!
Then on Sunday November 12, I’ll be reading with the fabulous Anne Walsh and Eileen Chong at the inaugural Girls on Key performance in Sydney. Girls on Key provides performance opportunities for female-identifying and non-gender-conforming poets, spoken word artists and musicians. Event organiser, writer Anna Forsyth, has been facilitating these popular readings in Melbourne, but has now moved to Sydney and brought them with her. Lucky us! Girls on Key will also be running regular events throughout NSW next year, so check out their website for news of future perfomances.
On Saturday 25 November, I’ve been asked by David Gilbey of Charles Sturt University to launch the Booranga Writers Centre latest edition of fourW at Gleebooks. It’s the twenty-eighth year of continuous publication for fourW and many contributors to the journal will be at the launch to celebrate and read their work, so it should be a lot of fun! Details here.
Finally, on December 2, I’m thrilled to be running a poetry workshop and giving a reading at The South Coast Writers Centre Little Mountain Poetry events at Sturt Cottage. These events are organised by the dynamic Rhiannon Hall, and I’m delighted to be reading with her father, esteemed poet Phillip Hall, as well as with local school students, at the evening performance. Can’t wait!
If you can make it to any of these events, or know someone who might be interested, it would be great if you could get along, or spread the word!
masses upon me;
a familiar wait/weight.
I contain it lest it cedes and leaves
a more incisive absence.
Silence as accusation, veiled
self-violation. I try it on,
rehearsing how I might feel if—
This is the white noise
you’ve always prophesised:
a resounding of renounced pain
hope words memory mother.
QPF 2017 kicks off next week and I’m thrilled to be attending and to be involved in a number of events.
These will be co-presented by Verity La and will introduce the journal’s Clozapine Clinic mental health writing project to the Festival. A huge thanks to Festival co-directors Anne-Marie Te Whiu and David Stavanger for inviting us to take part and help shine some much needed light on the critical issue of mental health.
At 10-11am on Thursday 24 August at Brisbane Square Library there will be readings by me, Tim Heffernan, Alise Blayney and Ariel Riveros Pavez along with members of Words on the Street (from Brisbane’s School of Hard Knocks), performing work that draws upon lived experiences in the mental health system.
At 11 30am-12 30pm I’ll be chairing ‘Thieves of Fire’, a panel discussion with Tim, Alise and Ariel about how mental health has shaped their work and how the power of poetry can assist in reclaiming one’s voice in times of psychological distress.
At 6-7 30pm my co-judge Nathan Sherperdson and I will be presenting the Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Award at the Festival’s Opening Night in the Judith Wright Centre. There’ll be drinks and music in the foyer from 5 pm – woohoo!
On Friday 25 August, 12-1pm, I’ll be appearing with Haider Catan, Ariel Riveros and Max Ryan in Before the Sky: Poetry Readings.
This will be followed at 2pm by Pray Ho’tell, where poet and mental health advocate Alise Blayney will screen a short film and talk about the work of her former partner, and late surrealist poet, Benjamin Frater, exploring the relationship between automatic writing and the schizophrenic vernacular.
These are FREE EVENTS, as are 75% of the other exciting things on offer over the four days of the Festival. So if you’re within hollering distance of Brisbane and love your poetry, spoken word and music, come along, say hi, and join the festivities!
I’ve had a poem published in the Canberra Times! Which feels rather exciting as it means that ‘normal’ people (you know, not just those strange ones who buy poetry books) have clapped eyes on it. Wonder what they thought?
A big thanks to former CT poetry editor, Melinda Smith, for accepting the poem, and to new ed. Lizz Murphy for sending through the pic. I’m a big fan of both these poets’ work, so it’s a thrill to be published by them!
I’ve recently had a chapbook—HUSH—published by the wonderful small Australian Blank Rune Press. The publisher, Valli Poole, was a dream to work with—she’s so passionate and particular about what she does, and as a result the books (which she hand-makes) are exquisite. Blank Rune only do a very limited print run, and Valli has told me HUSH has almost sold out. But I have a few copies to sell, so if you’d like one, please hit me up! They’re $15 (which includes postage). Here’s a little taster from the book.
I crop your girth of grief
so it won’t show.
Coruscate your under-eyes
in the hope that hope might grow.
Destain your teeth, raze blemishes,
out damn spot!
Blood the lips, lend bloom
to what’s worn off.
I pray I could move deeper—
sweep the lungs. Restart
the heart, the mind;
unspool the past.
Return us to the prescient game
when my unconscious
conjured you this way.
‘LS06’, 2011, by Michael Zavros. One of five images in this year’s QPF Ekphrasis Award.
I’m thrilled to have been asked (along with Queensland poet, Nathan Shepherdson) to co-judge this year’s Queensland Poetry Festival Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Award.
This award, now in its third year, is named after one of Australia’s premier art dealers, Philip Bacon. The word ekphrasis comes from the Greek ek (out) & phrasis (speak), and is a rhetorical device in which a visual object, usually a work of art, is described by another artistic medium – in this case, a poem under 12 lines in length.
Open to all Australian residents, the award is now accepting entries, and will close at 5pm July 10th 2017. The overall winner will receive $500 in prize money, the runner-up will get $250, and the top 3 poems will be published online at Verity La.
Philip Bacon has selected five paintings from his own collection to which poets can respond. You can download the guidelines, submissions form and images here.
I love reading – and writing – ekphrasis, and look forward to seeing how poets respond to these exciting images. Please consider entering, and don’t forget to check out the website for QPF 2017. The festival, themed Distant Voices, will take place August 24 – 27, and will include 80+ sessions, 120+ artists, and poetry in all its forms. The full program won’t be launched until 21 July, but the website already contains loads of information, and many other QPF 2017 Poetry Awards are already up and running, so check it out!