I Review The Special, by David Stavanger, for Mascara

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the-special-674x1024Reviewing is a labour of love, and in this case the labour was a long one — elephantine in fact — nearly two years gestation! Thank heavens this review popped out in the end, of David Stavanger’s intriguing poetry collection, The Special:

 

This book is dedicated to the dead
who are bravely living
(and to those who wake wild-eyed in the dark)

 

So begins David Stavanger’s first full length collection, The Special, published by UQP as wining manuscript of the 2013 Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize. As the dedication suggests, this book is an unsettling read; one feels, intentionally so. The poems deal with what is dark and broken in the human psyche, informed, presumably, by the poet’s own personal and professional experiences with mental illness. This is Stavanger’s first serious foray into the world of ‘page’ as opposed to ‘performance’ poetry (a distinction he eschews), the leap between these two hotly fought over territories no doubt entailing a certain risk of the poems falling flat on the page. Yet while the book may, on first reading, appear somewhat stylistically and tonally ‘flat’, upon deeper reading it becomes clear that this has less to do with Stavanger’s poetry not transitioning well onto the page, and more to do with the nature of what the poet is trying to achieve. When exploring states of mind such as depression or psychosis, an emotionally disconnected, disjointed, or even dissociated style of poetry may indeed be the perfect mode of expression…

 

If this tickles your fancy, please read the rest over at the wonderful Mascara Literary Review, where you can also enjoy their latest issue comprising some of the finest writing in the land. A huge thanks to editor Michelle Cahill, who works hard to support the publication of a diverse range of Australian Literature.

 

Writing to the Wire

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I’m honoured to have a poem published in Writing to the Wire, an excellent new anthology edited by Dan Disney and Kit Kelen (University of Western Australia Publishing).

“Writing to the Wire is a collection of poems by Australians and people who would like to be Australians. It is a book about the idea of being Australian. It is about who we are and who we would rather be. Writing to the Wire offers new ways to understand injustice, to speak out and tell stories. Poetry can show us what we’re thinking and feeling in a way our politics has failed to do.

The seeking of asylum in Australia has been politicised in recent decades. Our national conversation has vilified people fleeing persecution and desensitised the Australian polity to human suffering. We are further marginalising the most vulnerable groups in the world and at greater expense than accommodating refugees in the community. What impact does this have upon our collective ethics and national identity? And if our public conversation is steering us into murky moral territory, where may a dissenting voice be heard?”

There are so many fine and thought provoking poems in this anthology. You can read a book extract here and purchase it here. I strongly urge you to support this important publication!

 

Public Statement by Humanities and Social Sciences Scholars on Australia’s

                              a moral            Prime Minister, Tony Abbott,

                                                           whose human rights

record is profoundly flawed. As academics
                  we are dismayed to hear our Prime Minister deny the ethical
responsibility of this                                     nation

The government’s mandate to ‘stop the boats’  is
 
                                                 profoundly disturbing in the
context of          self-harm by refugee             children,
                            suicide by refugee mothers
                 and other traumatic incidents. In       crisis situations,
                    the moral is not                 expendable.
  

 

*A found poem sourced from a joint letter published in New Matilda on 10 Jul 2014. The letter was signed by 137 academics from across the globe and condemned the Australian Government’s treatment of refugees.

 

Engraft Reviewed in Mascara Literary Review!

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I’m thrilled that Engraft has received its first review, and that it didn’t say anything terrible, and that it was published in such an esteemed journal. My thanks to Michelle Cahill, editor of Mascara, Anna Couani (for not saying anything terrible!) and, of course, to Island Press (Phil Hamial, Les Wicks and Martin Langford) for publishing the book in the first place.

Island were fantastic to work with and I feel honoured to be among the long list of incredible poet’s they’ve published.  Founded in 1970, they’ve made a significant contribution to independent Australian publishing, and I dearly hope that their recently cut Australia Council for the Arts grant will be reinstated so the press can continue.

If you’d like to learn more about the colorful history of Island, take a look at the first and second installment of this article published in Rochford Street Review. It’s a fascinating window into the world of poetry and publishing in Australia over the last 45 years.

And please click over to Mascara to read Engraft’s first review!

 

I Have My Say on Bishop on Poetry Says

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I had a blast talking to the lovely Alice Allan on her new podcast, Poetry Says. We spoke about a poem I’ve become rather obsessed with, Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘Giant Snail‘. I liked the poem so much, in fact, that I wrote one of my own inspired by it! You can listen to the podcast here and read my homage to ‘Giant Snail’ below. And please subscribe to Alice’s podcast! She records a new episode each week.

On Reading Bishop

after Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘Giant Snail’
(for PS Cottier)

A peaceful life is arduous
to attain; desire’s
not enough, nor positive aim —
one side’s withdrawal is always the other’s gain.

What germ inside us inclines towards hate?
It seems to me there must be something
rank and spindly
tangled in the hub of our hearts
disordering their true rotation
until we become beings whose frequency
is attuned to blame.

Therefore, I hold my words
on a parsimonious rein.

Reading Bishop, a distinctive stillness comes.
Like her giant snail I too inch forward
my own amorphous, unguarded
foot absorbing sharp barbs of gravel
avoiding rough spears of grass
as I push, bull-headed, to gain a crack
in God’s sanctuary before sunrise.

Grafitti

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7a3bc954b0f2243401c52a2bbe456476I’ve had an angry little poem published over on the excellent Bluepepper — the place for poetry with bite. This poem certainly has some! Thanks to editor Justin Lowe for his unfailing support.

Graffiti

Degrade degrade degrade yourself
take care to curl up small.
Have I grown
compact enough?
Unfurl me at your peril.

In the lengthening autumn
of my shadow skirl reams of discontent—
Am I sitting meekly?
No? Forbid me speak!

Deface deface deface yourself
until you disappear.
Leave no glyphs to sign this space
(she wasn’t even here).

Poetry & Place Anthology, Launch & Giveaway!

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My poem, Mourning Morning, has been included in an excellent anthology, Poetry & Place. It’s a collection of poems which explore ideas and experiences of ‘place’ in a variety of forms, from free and structured verse to concrete poetry and haiku. I just got my contributor copy in the mail — it’s terrific!

There’s been a virtual launch of the book, with poets reading their poems over at the Poetry & Place website. You can hear my reading here, along with some great readings by others.

A free copy of the anthology is being given away through Goodreads. Just click here and press ‘enter giveaway’ for your chance to receive a copy in the mail. Or hey, even consider buying one! Both print and e-book formats are available.

A big thanks and congratulations to editors Ashley Capes and Brooke Linford. They’ve produced a really beautiful collection.

 

Mourning Morning

My mother’s house surrounds
me in a shroud: the tinkling
of the teaspoon as my father stirs
his tea, his tea; the chug of the washing machine
that never dies. The tubular wind chimes casting
their cool auric spell around us; the complaint
of the floorboards bearing up our lives.
And the busyness, of the birds in bush nearby… I

lie with eyes shucked open, not turning
to what waits to be let in.
I hear the phone shriek—and again—
then footsteps up the hall; the sound
of hesitation at the door—
as I elongate this moment,
try to dwell inside before.

*first published in Bluepepper