A Review & Author Interview on Messenger’s Booker

Engraft_Cropped_Cover_02.12.15 (2)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!

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Upcoming Appearances

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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!

GOK NSW FlyerThen 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.

fourwOn 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!

HUSH, My New Chapbook, From Blank Rune Press

HUSHcoverenhancedI’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.

Facetune

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
I played,
when my unconscious
conjured you this way.

 

I Have My Say on Bishop on Poetry Says

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.

Grafitti

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).

My review of Hook and Eye, by Judith Beveridge, published on Mascara Literary Review

HookandEye.jpgJudith 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.

(‘Girl Swinging’)

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. 

Your fierce face

BabyFaceBlueYour fierce face

on the pillow—
brows spearing down towards
wide bisected koala nose
succulent lips
acute resilient chin.

Tonight you are troubled
by concerns beyond your scope:
baffling sorrows
pervading childhood’s lair…

Felt inside the strident pitch
of your father on the telephone;
the tremulous tone
of your mother’s lullabies.

Felt in the streak of the cat,
the slink of the dog;
felt in the dangerous pulse

of our home.