SCAR TO SCAR: A Collaborative Chapbook with Robbie Coburn

Standard

scar-to-scar-front-coverI’m thrilled to announce the publication of a new chapbook written in conjunction with my dear friend and stellar poet, Robbie Coburn. Scar to Scar was conceived when Robbie sent me a poem and I replied, in kind, with a poem I ‘found’ within his, re-ordering his original text as a form of poetic alchemy.

Our collaboration developed over the next few months, in part due to the impetus of Kit Kelen’s Project 365+1, which requires writers to publish a new poem every day for a month. Before we knew it, Robbie and I had enough poems to fill a small book, and so we did! The result is Scar to Scar, which has just been published by the excellent PressPress.

Thanks to Robbie for sharing his beautiful words with me, and to Chris Mansell, from PressPress, for publishing them. This book is very close to my heart and it’s wonderful to see it out in the world.

I’ll be doing an unofficial launch of Scar to Scar at The Wollongong Writers Festival this coming Sunday 27 November, as part of the Mad Poets Panel along with poets Tim Heffernan, Ariel Riveros Pavez, Alise Blayney, Phillip Page and David Stavanger.  It should be an amazing afternoon of poetry and performance!

You can find out more about those events here and purchase Scar to Scar from PressPress here. And to whet your appetite, here are the original pair of poems which started it all…


Scars

Robbie Coburn

within landscapes
sealed off   and positioning the body

you watch the breath enter the stilled atmosphere.

along the blade    poised
against your palm
where blood begins to run,
the framed nature of panic
is forgotten.

the wound is only preservation, remember.

when the skin begins to fail
blood draped along the decayed bone-lines
a pulse will run along the nerve ends.

you corner the vein and drive the object in again
finding a point of collapse —

with the same impulse the passage will lead you back.
for a while the red painted on your arm
feels distant
your body does not belong to you.

in this   there is

permanence.

 

Counter Scars

Michele Seminara 

the cry of my voice is enough

to collapse skin.

becoming survival
you cross    a passage
preservation wounds
forgotten.

the panic of blood
against blade along poised palm

stills.

my breath enters

your sealed

landscapes
within.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Reviews for Engraft

Standard

1engraft_cropped_cover_02-12-15-2I’ve been lucky to receive a number of very positive and thoughtful reviews of my poetry collection, Engraft: one by Mary Cresswell in Plumwood Mountain; another by Magdalena Ball in The Compulsive Reader; and a third, by Alyson Miller, in Cordite Poetry Review. My sincere thanks to the reviewers and to the editors of these excellent journals — Anne Elvey, Magdalena Ball and Kent MacCarter, respectively. Below is an extract from the Cordite review:

In ‘Sky Burial’, a poem about ‘the secrets inside / that we shamefully hide’, Seminara offers a provocation: ‘So listen / why don’t we share them? / Cut our guts open / and air them?’ It is an invitation to confession, but the visceral imagery is also a confrontation, an insistence on exposure which characterises much of Engraft, Seminara’s debut collection of poetry. Indeed, Engraft is often focussed on conflict and opposition, on a brutal pulling away of surfaces to reveal – and at times, even revel in – pain, loss, and confusion. The consequence of such fierceness is a series of uncomfortable realities: the cruelty of love and birth; the violence of frustration; and the disappointing failures of self. In cutting open that which is hidden, and allowing ‘birds of carrion’ to feed on what is found there, Seminara constructs a hopeful, albeit macabre vision, in which ‘dark feelings’ might ‘transmute […] to food’. This suggestion of transformation and consumption (and even of transubstantiation) is gothic in nature, yet an apt metaphor for creativity; a kind of vampiric leeching. Certainly, in explicitly drawing on poets such as Shakespeare, Dickinson, Plath, Hughes, Bishop, and Lowell, as well as Kafka, Duras, Solzhenitsyn, and Joyce, Engraft is both polyphonic and parodic, including letters, prayers, homages, re-mixes, erasures, ekphrases, and found poems. The combination of so many modes and voices ought to be jarring, yet a synthesis is achieved in a repetition with difference that is as concerned with tradition as it is renewal.

You can read the rest of the Cordite review here, and buy a print or ebook copy of Engraft here.

I Review The Special, by David Stavanger, for Mascara

Standard

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

Standard

Writing_in_the_Wire_REV

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!

Standard

1engraft_cropped_cover_02-12-15-2
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

Standard

elizabeth bishop

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.