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 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.
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 & Placewebsite. 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.
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.
Judith Beveridge’s Hook and Eye is a collection of previously published poems selected to showcase the highly regarded Australian poet’s work to an American readership. The poems are for the most part imaginatively — rather than autobiographically — conceived, lyrical while still remaining largely outward looking, and full of the sensual imagery and sound-play for which Beveridge’s work is prized. Yet what is most striking about the book, comprised of work written over a twenty-five year span, are the enduring and distinctive spiritual concerns of the poet, and how these inform her praxis.
As Maria Takolander points out in a recent review[i], the book’s first poem, ‘Girl Swinging’, seems deliberately placed to give the reader insight into (perhaps even guidance for entering) the poet’s creative practise.
I often think about
the long process that loves
the sound we make.
It swings us until
we’ve got it by heart;
the music we are.
The process of creation rather than the creation itself is paramount, a process which (like Beveridge) ‘loves’ playing with ‘the sound we make’ and which ‘swings us’ until we come to understand, at a heart level, ‘the music we are’. There is a profound desire for personal transformation: the speaker, longing ‘to be a symphony / levitated by grace-notes’, turns quietly within, ‘listening to myself’ until ‘that feeling comes / of being lifted into the air’. Takolander has convincingly argued that lyric poetry is fundamentally a poetry of embodiment and senses a paradox here in the way the remembered sensations of the girl’s body ‘swinging’ generate the adult speaker’s spiritual disembodiment. Yet it is not merely sensory experience which leads to this state – it is the poet’s attentive focus upon the girl’s sensory experience which foreground a form of mindfulness and lead the narrator of ‘Girl Swinging’ to her own kind of lyric elevation. Beveridge’s poetry could perhaps be called a poetry of conscious embodiment; here, physicality acts as tool for deepening the narrator’s awareness until she rises into a space of ‘…clear singing / …above / the common rattle / of chains’.
You can read the rest of the review over at Mascara. My thanks to editor Michelle Cahill.
A few weeks ago I was fortunate to be part of the 3rd Sydney International Women’s Poetry & Arts Festival, an inspirational event directed by poet, activist, feminist and filmmaker Saba Vasefi. I first read my poetry at this event in 2014, and have since become firm friends with Saba, working with her on the festival each year as its communications editor. Which made it all the more thrilling to have her launch my first poetry collection, Engraft, at this year’s festival on 16 March at NSW Parliament House. It was an AMAZING night — one look at the festival poster will tell you that. What a talented, intelligent and passionate group of women!
In her generous introduction to Engraft, Saba said:
“It’s a great pleasure for me to launch Engraft, the first poetry collection by Michele Seminara. Ever since I’ve known her, Michele has been a poet who is always at the forefront of supporting platforms for subaltern writing and multicultural cohesion. Engraft charts the darker waters of the human psyche, exploring themes of abuse, loss, family dynamics and the role of women as mothers, lovers, artists and spiritual beings. It is Michele’s fierce commitment to witness with clear eyes the challenging and joyous experiences that unite us as women which give the poems of Engraft their power.”
Thank you, Saba, for your heartfelt book launch, and for your work supporting women of all ethnicities to express themselves. The Women’s Poetry Festival is emerging as a unique and important contribution to the literary and feminist movements in Australia, and I am proud to be involved.
If you would like to read some poems from Engraft you can do so here and here, and if you feel inspired to buy a copy (hooray!) please click on the button to the right of this post.
Well it’s done! Engraft has officially been launched, and I couldn’t be happier. The room was full, the crowd were kind, and some books were sold. Phew!
Distinguished poet and critic Martin Langford was generous enough to launch the book, and Rochford Street Review were good enough to publish the speech he gave.
“Writing has a complex relationship with Buddhism. It is so weighted with the dirt and doubt and slew of ordinary living that it can never hope to walk in that territory where one is free of such encumbrances – the territory, that is, that Buddhism aims for. For this reason, some schools of Buddhism dismiss the arts altogether. What the two do share, however, is a common engagement with understandings. They may come at them from slightly different routes, and neither of them may quite have understanding as their ultimate aim – there is a point in Buddhism where one hopes to move beyond one’s understandings, whereas in literature, the aim is usually to take those understandings and work them into some sort of overall aesthetic experience – but both revolve, in important though different ways, around that fragile, verbal confrontation.
I was thinking of these similarities and differences reading Michele Seminara’s new book, Engraft. Many of the poems are attempts to shape the forces at play in experience in a credible and accurate way: in short, to understand them…”
You can read the rest of Martin’s thoughtful launch speech here. Many thanks to him, to fellow poet Les Wicks (whose 13th book Getting By Not Fitting In was also launched on the day), to my publishers Island Press and to all who attended or sent good wishes. I feel very fortunate to have actually published a book, let alone to have anyone read it!