Erratum and apology
There was a tiny but important
typo in Tim Thornes review of the Ivy Alvarez-edited chapbook We Dont Stop
Here published in the previous issue of famous reporter (no. 37). Thorne quotes the
third stanza of Emily Zoey Bakers "No Hay Banda, There is No Band":
- Sunshine arrives;
- shes a blonde.
- Rita is in the shower,
- Hayworth is on the wall.
- Betty is as sweet as a peach.
"One, admittedly minor,
thing" (Thorne continues) "that appeals to me about this piece (and
others of Bakers that Ive read) is that she can achieve her effects without
abandoning immaculate punctuation. Dont you just love that semicolon at the end of
the first line above? The ending of this poem
Yes, readers might well have
appreciated the semi-colon as much as the reviewer, but for its metamorphosis from
semicolon to colon at some later stage of the publishing process; sincere apologies to
both poet and reviewer.
Anastomoo: New Writing
If you have a spare half hour
or so, you might like to check out the literature site Anastomoo: New Writing. Anastomoo
is edited by the Tasmanian writer Jesse Shipway and sits as an accommodating new location
for you to park your writing. Anastomoo will consider quality submissions in any genre but
pays no cash.
Visit Anastomoo at
Poetry evening: Byron Bay Writers
Festival, July 2008
Saturday evening of the Byron
Bay Writers Festival is packed with eighty or so patrons, an inside event spared the
problems of the previous day when programmed events were washed out by a deluge of rain,
occasioning an attempt by some patrons to seek refunds from festival coordinators. Compere
Laura Jan Shore admits to finding the Saturday evening poetry session the highlight of the
festival. She points deferentially to an empty panel chair, International PENs
Empty Chair initiative symbolising a writer unable to be present due to
imprisonment, detention or disappearance.
First to read is Martin
Harrison, soon to take up a literary residency at the Nancy Keesing Studio in Paris.
When I come back, my readings will be conducted in French, he jokes before
opening with Forest Kingfisher. When I find myself talking about writing
poetry, he observes, I always seem to find myself talking about birds.
His next poem - Nights Paddock - delves into another form of poetry.
This ones about love.
Harrison speaks of his interest
in Arabic poetry and his ambition to be able to one day read Arabic poetry fluently. He
continues with the poem A Patch of Grass from his new collection Wild Bees which
he introduces conversationally with the tale of an experiment outside his Hunter Valley
house, a botanical exercise of counting stones and plants because I felt almost
certain the area was infested with introduced species, plants and weeds; I was pleasantly
surprised to find they were virtually all natives.
- There are slender violets,
- too, which I thought had been
- introduced, but I looked them
- up: theyre native two-toned, purple
- and pale mauve (like lilac)
- interlaced with chickweed
- and couchgrass.
Harrison turns to recent poems
he might have been writing in his twenties, "a sort of guide to a young person: do as
I say, not as I do". Theyre direct, revelatory and to an extent
autobiographical. He concludes with another selection from Wild Bees, the poem
A Word, again, a poem about birds - on this occasion a silvereye
- cup chin, mallow shadings
- under its wings
Yvette Holt, next to read, says
shell go with something a little romantic. It is Saturday. Heres
"Moon Crisper"; anyone familiar with Redcliffe? Theres laughter at
its completion as she next declares shell "try a couple more romance before I
flip you over to social justice!"
Singaporean Cyril Wongs
poetry selections focus on the lives of a couple of gay men whove contracted the HIV
virus. There will be plenty of time for sleep, he reads.
I come from a country
that has strong laws about how to have sex and how not to, Wong continues.
Ironically, though the law states that while two men cannot have legal sex between
each other, two women can do what they like
.. I find myself wondering at the
impact of such laws on Wongs writing and publishing pursuits.
Next to read are the
shortlisted writers local writer Max Ryan, Tasmanian Jane Williams, and
Queenslander Nathan Shepherdson, down from the Glasshouse Mountains - competing in the
Byron Bay Writers Festival Poetry Prize. Williams, whos forgotten to bring along a
copy of her shortlisted poem, will find herself in a pickle if festival organisers are
unable to come up with a duplicate; happily things work out fine. Max Ryan is also without
a copy of his poem - and in any case, declines the offer. Im going to wing it
and if all fails well
. Last but not least is Nathan Shepherdson.
I actually feel uncool and anally retentive for remembering to bring my poem
along, he begins
Itll be some time before
the winners decided. In the meantime, Cate Kennedy takes to the stage with a mix of
serious and funny poems including instructions on how best to eat a mango. Its
a poem not of romantic love but of lust, she explains before relating the story of a
teaching stint at an exclusive Australian private school wherein she read the piece. Some
little time later, a polite email enquiry arrived, Dear Cate, what is your poem
I wrote back: Dear Girls,
Sex, Kennedy continues with a wicked grin.
Another Kennedy poem,
After the Competition Closed, refers to a submission one year to the Newcastle
Poetry Prize and an ensuing correspondence along the lines of please resubmit your
poems because we had our post office box broken into. They were clearly
looking for cheques, Cate continues, but what they found were poems: poems
blown down streets, into storm water drains, lost at sea. Hard hands intent on finding
some other kind of currency.
Ive not been
writing too much lately, she continues, and those few have been about
parenthood; perhaps theyll make a collection at some time? She recites poems
about breastfeeding mothers and pregnancy tests and the way children become your teachers
interspersed, for those of us who need reminding that this is a serious poet with
deep facility for compassion, with a piece or two on topics that include a sobering
reflection on the practice of political repression under the Soviet regime.
The arrival of Morganics to the
microphone effects a complete change of pace. I need you to imagine yourself in a
heaps of drinks, lots of noise. Byron Bay, howre you doing?
Hes hip hop and loud. Hip hop is like cancer, you cant escape it
he says, encouraging audience participation. Now Im old school, but its
. he chants, New world the audience reprises; and with a piece
dedicated to a post-Howard Australia, were going to evolve a little
compassion. [Following is my adulterated version of his words]:
- I like to write
- On the spot
- Not on this spot
- But in this land
- Where were all interconnected
- But some might say not enough
- And thats the sad part of the equation
After two busy but absorbing
hours, its left to Varunas Peter Bishop to wind up the evening. "This has
been a beautiful night: a privilege to listen to Martin Harrison, whom I have known for
almost thirty years and whose collection Wild Bees has become a good friend. The
wonderful thing about poetry is that you can read it again and again and it always seems
to change whereas with a novel, youll often only read it once. When the chips are
down its poetry you really want.
There were 210 entries
from 91 poets for the Byron Bay Writers Festival Poetry Prize. Over a few days we
faltered through the poems, gradually settling on the ones we couldnt let go.
Ive been told to announce the two runners-up first and leave you to guess the
winner. The runners-up, with memorable poems, are Max Ryan and Nathan Shepherdson. And
Im particularly pleased to be able to announce that the winner is someone I remember
very well from her residency at Varuna in 1996 when she stayed in the Ladder Room, Jane
Williams. Whenever you needed to find Jane throughout her residency, shed invariably
be up on the Widows Walk, sitting there writing poetry. Janes winning entry is
a particularly strong poem describing starting points and movements
If theres one thing
I wont forget about this evening, its the wonderfully moving way you poets all
read. Thank you so much to Dangerously Poetic Press for organising this event.
Limericks dont commonly
find their way into the pages of famous reporter, but heres one from Ted
Slade of Hobart.
- Hook or by crook Billy preaches
- To shy cricket fans; so he teaches
Without a Big Book,
And with one beady look:
- Its hop-on-one-leg-reach-for-Jesus!
National Poetry Week
National Poetry Week was
celebrated early in September, and given voice in Hobart at the Republic Readings on
September 7th which coincided with the running of the Poetry Pot, won this year by Liz
McQuilkin with a tongue-in-cheek piece entitled Hair Matters.
- Mum, you need upper-lip waxing
- your moustache is running amuck.
- My husband predictably adds,
- Ill fire up the mower for you.
- Armed with my tweezers and a mirror which
- ten times magnification,
- I stand near a window for maximum light
- to stare, twixt nostril and lip,
- at the forest of hairs that shimmer and wink
- and Thieles title Sun on the Stubble
- assumes a sinister meaning.
- Then theres Spot the brown hair
- as my grown-up children
- gleefully circle my head.
- Can you see one? Yes.
- No. Thought I could
- but its only a trick of the light.
- My halo of grey clings close, it is
- not like the wisps on my lawn-mowing man.
- But Id settle for less if I could be
- the fuzz above my lip
- and a whisker or two on my chin.
A slice of the 2008 Tasmanian Poetry
Friday evening 3rd October:
Compere Chris Gallagher introduces Ken Bolton. Its always weird having your
life recounted in this way, he responds in acknowledgement, I suppose Ive
done all those things. Boltons opening poem asks Who else was
there? before going on to list the names of friends and colleagues, (Anna, Kerry,
John Jenkins, Nigel, et al). Its a poem typical of Boltons approach to poetry,
implicitly connected with the personal minutae of his life; a simple poem on the surface
but hinting at an underlying and integral consonance. Ken follows with
Boundless, written in memory of Sasha Soldatow an email from Pam
says Sasha has died at which point theres a hint of fracture in his
delivery. Or is that my imagination?
Next to read is Janet
Galbraith, formerly of Broken Hill - where for some years she was Director of both the
Broken Hill Regional Writers Centre and the annual Broken Hill Poetry Festival
but now a resident of Maldon in central Victoria. Shes mainly a writer for
performance, admits that writing for the page is quite new for me; but Im
working on it. A number of Janets poems address the effects of trauma on the
individual; that is, the fragmentation and discontinuity of memory, a need for the
expression of language outside mainstream media representations serving only to
sensationalise and trivialise. Janet settles into a bracket of close to a dozen poems with
an animated and engaging delivery - arms sweep, body bows to emphasise the cascade of
words - her patter between poems (this ones dedicated to my beautiful boy whom
I just adore: my blue heeler) a natural flow. Its not a shallow well she taps,
Janets explication of Disappearing Darling relives the experience of
dwelling for years by the river watching it growing lower and lower, it was heart
breaking to watch, and a chance meeting with a Melbourne print maker engaged in a
residency in Broken Hill, doing charcoal images which he recorded with a digital
working well outside his genre, really pushing himself
piece entitled "Slowly Disappearing Darling". From here, my own poem
Galbraiths final poem of
the bracket is Remembering, in five short parts, dedicated to someone I
call "My Reader" because he reads me.
Chris Gallagher remarks that
one of the wonderful things about a festival such as this is that we get to hear poems
instilled with a real sense of place, not just the place we know and I think
thats what comes through so strongly in your poems Janet.
Following a brief open mic
session and a break, Chris introduces Carolyn Fisher to read a poem from her first
collection, The Unsuspecting Sky, due to be launched by Tim Thorne the following
morning. How is it that its taken so long for Carolyns first collection to
appear in print?
- Their faces are generous like their offering,
- Her truth as even as the number of years
- Their country has been at war;
- His smile is the Mozambican sky.
- Watching them is to catch sight
- Of a shore within reach, while floundering
- In the deepest ocean.
[From The Gift]
Next to the microphone is Joan
Webb, with Soul and Following the grand old Duke of York, a poem
inspired by Kevin Rudd. Im really quite a fan of Kevin Rudd, but didnt
like his education policy so I wrote this....
Gallagher introduces David
Stavanger whose opening poem features the refrain Beauty is everywhere,
Baudelaire. Hes full of energy, patrols the floor without recourse to the
page. Ive just flown in this afternoon from the Newcastle Young Writers
Festival. After last night, this is such a relief: all they wanted to do was dance. Here,
I can hear the glasses clinking'.
Stavangers lyricism is
clever and compelling. Old poets dont die / they just get grants he
recites, with the aside This doesnt apply to Ken Bolton; and Young
poets dream / old poets try to sleep at night. Stavanger concludes with an
invitation to anyone interested in further mayhem. The mall tomorrow: cane and
Cuz Co take over the microphone
- and adjoining hotel lounge, it would appear: theres a great deal of interest from
festival and non-poetry patrons alike - with an energetic and brilliantly coordinated
routine the likes of which we see too rarely in Tassie. Cuz Co is South American rapper
Choo Choo, and Wire M.C., a Gumbayngirri descendant from Bowraville in northern NSW who
sees hip hop as the new corroboree for young Indigenous Australians. The pair
combine electrifyingly, which seems as apt a description as any to describe
scribesisterspeaking, the last
of the guest performers for the evening, is a little disadvantaged in that one of their
number missed the plane down from Darwin. Were still working out how we can
perform as a duo. Heres another in a hip hop vein for the fellows who went before
us, they were fantastic!
- Not sure what it meant
- to be from here.
- Something to do with
- Ken Done, koalas, the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
- Justice was something that happened elsewhere,
- Maybe in Africa.
- Full stop. Next chapter.
[from full stop. next
Launceston Poetry Cup 2008: Sat 4th Oct
Steve Davis stands solitarily
at the bar, buying a drink. A woman approaches, waits beside him to order, eyes Steve
appraisingly. Excuse me, [opening gambit], you wouldnt happen to
know whos in charge of the gong this evening I suppose? [knowing full well
whod be holding the hooter].
Thatd be me,
Steve replies equably, knowing full well shes aware wholl hold the hooter,
hasnt he been doing it for yonks? [Counter gambit].
A brief silence, another
appraising glance and a grin. Could I buy you a drink? [Too late, Steves
Steve suppresses an involuntary
smile as he turns to leave. [En passant].
The Poetry Cups drawn
twenty-two entries, about average for the festival. Its been preceded by a
performance from scribesisterspeaking as well as by hip hop duo Cuz Co. Welcome to
the Launceston Cup section of the Tasmanian Poetry Festival, intones Festival
Director Cameron Hindrum. As you may have noticed, were competing tonight with
a very important sporting event: the sheep dog trials being held next door at York Park.
Every poet has to jump through a hoop on their way out the door! And dont forget
that after the Cup you can make your way to a party not at my place where
Tim Thorne will regale you with his catalogue of rather colourful festival stories.
Hindrum outlines the rules for
the Cup, including the popular, singularly conceived rule four. There is no rule
collectively, as one get to decide who is the winner, he concludes.
Bribery isnt going to work, though feel free to try.
A hand dips into a hat. First
cab off the rank is Luke Zyl. Luke heads stagewards falters, retrieves his glasses
and advances to the microphone to launch into Face Off. Contestant
number two is defending champion Yvonne Gluhas; an early appearance for the cup holder,
thus a big hurdle to overcome. How could you do this to me? she implores with
her opening line which leaves open the question of whos doing what to whom.
Youre out of here, (sounds serious), cavity and decay
(aaaah! the cookie crumbles - or is that the tooth?) Out damn tooth / out.
Yvonne earns strong support but it remains to be seen whether shes been drawn too
Joan Webbs focus is on
government changes to the legislation on trespass. She invites the room to join with the
reprise after every fourth line dont wander in the bush tonight, a
clever strategy assuring an active audience involvement.
Bruce Penn laments the early
departure of his father from his life. This poem is probably / the most honest thing
Ive ever written /, Bruce admits. Its called Things I learnt from
. Then follow long seconds of stony silence, greeted initially with
sporadic chortles of amusement that build to a crescendo of applause. Penn rocks back and
forth, glances left and right, up to the ceiling and down to his shoes. H-o h-u-m. He
checks his watch, fingers tapping coincident to the passage of time, before turning
beatifically to Steve Davis to be rewarded by the screaming of the hooter in his ear.
Marie Stannus remarks on the US
social systems singular lack of compassion. America, God save your heart /
your purse is now open wide. Perhaps Obama will win in November and change the
countrys course, Marie. Christine Attwells contribution is similarly
politically inclined, refers obliquely to recent Tasmanian poltical occurrences, to the
plotting and bullying thats left the poor little mate in a terrible
state; while Colin Berry passes judgement on an unsavoury aspect of religious faith,
remarking on the way a poem sometimes comes at you like a priest in speedos / like a
priest in my speedos.
Next contender is Ross Clark.
Q-u-e-e-n-s-l-a-n-d-e-r!!! Sometimes Im kept awake, Clark
admits, by your bare skin, by the jazz of your breathing and
heartbeat. A serious poem, a love poem; it goes against the grain of the usual
punning poems entered in the Cup, the out there attention grabbers.
Clarks is a tender declaration of love: sometimes Im kept awake / by
knowing the day will claim you / too soon too soon.
Kim Neilsen-Creelys ditty
of a dalliance between a young woman and ageing farmer draws an appreciative response, but
nowhere near the level of support for Taz, the next competitor, who introduces a subject
viewed vexatiously by most in the room.
and all the while, the mills are
pulping, she reads. Hindrum suspects something must be wrong; weve had
about a dozen readers and thats the first poem about the pulp mill.
Sasha Keeler-Coe entertains
with an intense piece about warm embraces and sacred places. Birth with
she invites, but her final words are cut off by the raucous note of Steve
Davis hooter and his accompanying cryptic glance of amusement. Mala
Anthony-Ranus introduces a variation on an old nursery rhyme. One two buckle
my shoe ... its clever and entertaining, interposed with topical political
references. Ill make Obama a has-been, and Seventeen, eighteen,
nineteen, twenty / you may think Im shifty and nifty / but Im all
Melbourne visitor Philton [Phil
Ilton] draws on the metaphorical to disclose how my explorer googled your
accessories, and entered your inbox / but crashed. Hmmm
kinds of things I could say, but I wont Hindrum adds reflectively before
introducing Lois Hoffman whose concern this evening is with hot house love
broccholis, tomatoes ... seeds all sprouting lustily, vigorously.
Tim Thorne, contestant fifteen,
reads a gem about poor Father OLeary cracking the fat again, and whose
techniques are far from inferior / according to Cardinal Pell. As always,
Thorne draws strong support, as well as the obligatory disparagement from a cockily
confident Bruce Penn. Steve Davis plumps for a change of mood with a serious reflection on
watercourses dying in the sunshine, on credit markets being tight; his departure paves the
way for the appearance on stage of Reverend G, aka David Stavanger.
Davids performance is
unrestrained, his poem comes in a rush of words; hes got lewd and lusty on his mind,
hints at swinging upon the vines of her valley just to hear her soaring sighs.
He traverses the room as if its his, deposits his coat across the shoulders of a
female observer and his body on the lap of another. In the melee a handbag flies to the
floor while Stavanger - unwaveringly, still within his sixty seconds - presses on.
Drawn to read next is
Stavangers victim, Ella. Consolation prize? soothes Hindrum. Hers is a
sceptical piece that sees the word as absurd
- Words in Gods kitchen
- Are always pared back
- Fire and brimstone meal
- Swallowed hook, line and sinker
Chaya Mickey projects sinister
shadows flickering to and fro across the page, and then its Nathan
Shepherdsons turn - Queenslander!!! - to take the floor. Shepherdson
stands stock still, says not a word; watches the second hand traverse the dial of his
watch. Do you need a friend? someone asks from the audience, parodying Tina
Feys spoof of Sarah Palin. We dont need daylight saving! comes the
jibe from another. Shepherdsons effecting a ploy memorably trialled by Ian McBryde
at the 2005 festival and wins points for audacity, but is it enough to swing the evening?
If you find the corner in the circle / youre dead, Shepherdson
How long did it take you
to write that? asks Hindrum offhandedly before introducing Joy Elizabeth. Joys
been troubled by the dilemma of deciding on a topic for her cup piece. Try something
original? Something topical? Sex? Politics? The Cups a bloody setup / cos if
you speak Mandarin / youre destined to win.... she decries. The hooter
interrupts before she manages to finish and she sits down, deflated. Next
year, she sighs. Yeah, adds Hindrum soothingly, yeah: you were
speaking my language.
Vicky Riette, the final
competitor for the evening, offers a lament about the traffic confusion caused by one-way
streets and by roundabouts. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that, concludes
Hindrum with finality.
The room remains awash with
gaily coloured cardboard cutouts of poetry from this and previous festivals. Please
feel free to take a poem home with you, along with the flowers on the tables. Mala
Anthony-Ranus offer of a complimentary plant with each purchase of her
newly-launched collection to reduce the books carbon footprint is a nice
touch, a much-appreciated environmentally-friendly gesture. The absence of poems dealing
with the proposed pulp mill up the valley suggests a general comfort with its fate,
perhaps googling gunns asx has taken the sting out of the argument, seen it
succeeded by other concerns - takeovers, interest rates, recession. In its place are the
old stalwarts: sex and debauchery, politics and religion. Colin Berry and Tim Thorne have
trodden similar ground with their forays into religious misdemeanour, but this year
its Thorne who is triumphant. Tim also won the event in 2006. Hes
clearly making up for lost time, opined Festival Director Cameron Hindrum. He
didnt win it at all in the seventeen years he ran the poetry cup, but has won it
twice since Ive been Director.
disappointing is that I probably never will surpass Colin Berrys record of two cups
in two different millenia, Thorne says, regretfully. But by God, I aim to
Maybe you can settle for
winning in two different decades, Hindrum concludes. Now - did I mention? -
theres the traditional post-cup party at the Thornes residence once we leave
here. Tim will probably be drinking champagne from the cup hes won this evening, but
dont mind him