MICHAELA McGUIRE APPOINTED SYDNEY WRITERS’ FESTIVAL ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

MEDIA RELEASE: Thursday November 10, 2016

The Sydney Writers’ Festival Board of Directors is thrilled to announce that Michaela McGuire has been appointed the Festival’s new Artistic Director and will take over the curation of the Festival into its 20th year. McGuire is the current Director and Co-CEO of Melbourne’s Emerging Writers’ Festival and will leave her role to come to the Sydney Writers’ Festival in December.

McGuire brings a wealth of book, writing, festival and publishing knowledge to the Festival through her work as a journalist, author, director, programmer and curator. She has written three books and is also known for co-founding the successful salon, Women of Letters in 2010. She has programmed and hosted over 160 sold-out shows all around Australia, as well as in the United States, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Indonesia and New Zealand.

The Chair of the Sydney Writers’ Festival Board, Deena Shiff said, “Michaela brings new energy and perspectives to the task of curating the Sydney Writers’ Festival. We are confident that Michaela’s wide interests and ability to present both established and emerging writers will surprise and delight our audiences.”

McGuire, excited by the new opportunity and programming task ahead said, “I’m honoured to be joining the passionate team at Sydney Writers’ Festival. I’ve always admired the Festival’s commitment to celebrating storytelling in all its diverse forms, and I’m thrilled to have the chance to find new and playful ways to continue that fine work.”

“As SWF heads into its 20th year, I hope to program a celebration that befits the organisation’s reputation as a world-renowned literary festival, and also introduce a new generation of audiences to the smart, eclectic, passionate and surprising voices that inspire the national conversation.”

McGuire replaces outgoing Artistic Director, Jemma Birrell.

In other Sydney Writers’ Festival news, Executive Director Jo Dyer has been promoted to the role of CEO. Dyer will also join the Board of Directors. The 2017 Sydney Writers’ Festival returns May 22 – May 28.

Visit the festival’s website at Sydney Writers’ Festival.

#SydneyWritersFestival is Australia’s largest celebration of literature, stories and ideas. Every year, the May Festival brings together the Australia’s and the world’s best authors, leading public intellectuals, scientists, journalists and more.

For further information, please contact Benython Oldfield, Publicity Manager, Sydney Writers’ Festival. 0410 355 790 contact@zeitgeistmediagroup.com

POETRY MASTERCLASS WITH ANNE KELLAS

‘Outside your comfort zone’, with Anne Kellas – a prelude to the Tasmanian Poetry Festival (30 Sept-2 Oct)

Saturday 24 September 2:00 p.m.– 5:00 p.m.
Location: Launceston ( venue TBC)
Fees: $85 (Tasmanian Writers Centre members $55)
Bookings: http://www.taswriters.org

Description:
A poet must constantly look for new ways to explore and engage with poetry, in order to develop and grow. This masterclass is designed to encourage the more experienced poet to step outside their comfort zone and go into the unknown, uncomfortable edge of their creativity. To go on this journey, you will need to bring along a poem in progress (and, if possible, an early draft ). This half day masterclass will include some opportunities for feedback.

Anne Kellas is a writer, editor, and mentor to poets. Anne’s passion is teaching poetry, which she has done in Hobart for the past 25 years. In 2014 and 2015 she lectured in poetry (a spring school unit) at the UTas. Her most recent collection is The White Room Poems (Walleah Press, 2015).

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Tasmanian Poetry Festival 2015 – lineup

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The lineup of Guest Poets for the 2015 Tasmanian Poetry Festival in October has been announced, and will this year welcome to Launceston:

Ivy Alvarez
Irish Joe Lynch
Lyndon Walker
Anne Collins
Conrad
Duncan Hose
Caitlin Maling
Billy Marshall Stoneking
Ali Cobby Eckermann

More details regarding Guest Poets and the Festival will be released on the Tasmanian Poetry Festival website over the coming weeks and months.

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Review, ‘Sydney Morning Herald’: Kathryn Hummel’s ‘Poems from Here’

Good to see Geoff Page’s review of Kathryn Hummel’s recent poetry collection ‘Poems from Here’ [and Caitlin Maling’s ‘Conversations I’ve Never Had’, published by Fremantle Press] in the Sydney Morning Herald, December 19th, 2014.

The reviewer notes the devotion of the first of the book’s three sections, to the countries of the Indian subcontinent. ‘Poems such as Gentlemanwallah are written by someone who has moved past the first shock those countries inevitably generate and is now able to be both more observant and dispassionate’. Many of the particular poems Geoff refers to were written a year or more ago, but Kathryn’s interest in the subcontinent continues. She’s spending the 2014 – 2015 Christmas and New Year’s break in Nepal after having launched the book at the Hay Festival Dhaka in Bangladesh in November 2014, and returns to Bangladesh as a guest of that country’s National Poetry Festival in February, 2015.

[image: Kathryn Hummel]

[image: Kathryn Hummel]

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Clifden

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Back in Dublin this morning after a quick visit to Jane’s rellies in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland – a busy couple of weeks. Woke up to a foggy Galway morning, Sunday week ago – didn’t sleep at all well after hitting the sack just after midnight and being awoken by a woman conversing animatedly below my window as she strolled down the avenue. Checked the time – 3:15am – the woman’d disappeared but I note the swans still patrol the river. Needed to catch a bus to Clifden at midday to meet Jane where we hoped to hear Oz poets Robyn Rowland, Teresa Bell and John Foulcher read as part of Clifden Arts Week.

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Caught up with Jane who’d spent the past three days with her sister, a few miles up the coast. We’d an hour up our sleeves but wanted to make sure of the venue, the Station House Theatre; found it and peered inside the foyer … heard reassuring sounds so assumed we had the right place, which was confirmed a moment or two later when poet and performer Teresa Bell, whom we’d met the week before, emerged from the stage wing to say hello and briefly expound on the difficulties of co-ordinating a theatrical recital at the same time as manouvring a cello. Took this on board, without being privy to the finer details 🙂

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Three o’clock arrived, Robyn Rowland – first to read – opened with words of thanks to an audience who’d bothered to turn up when the inclination may as well have been to stay home and tune in to the national football championships live on tv. ‘There’s plenty to compete with poetry at 3pm on a lovely Sunday afternoon … so I thought I’d start with a poem about … sex. And next, a poem about death. These may well be the themes I’ll pursue for the afternoon… And: could we turn the lights up? I hate it when I can’t see any faces in the audience!’ Strong poems from Robyn who – to quote Ron Pretty – ‘handles passion and laughter, politics and loss with equal confidence’, whose work ‘is very sensual and encompasses a broad range from the political to love affairs that go astray, death and cancer.’ Best for me is a particularly sustained and moving, longish poem broaching relationships with her parents.

If I were to toy with water as a metaphor, I’d probably suggest Robyn’s reading as akin to myriad beams of colour and light playing through eddying streams; with John Foulcher’s poetry, by contrast – ‘I wonder if we might have the lights lowered again please?’ – a trickling brook of carefully considered observations of the moment … and Teresa Bell’s a rushing torrent: deep and fast-flowing, troubling, mysterious. Teresa’s dressed in red velvet and clutching a cello, I don’t play the instrument she says ‘ … but I’ve always wanted to walk onto a stage with a cello, wearing red.’ “I don’t call myself a poet,’ I later learn, on googling Teresa’s name, ‘I write; I suspect like most people do – often and everywhere. I believe in ‘miswanderings’ and have never made or followed a career plan. I have to write. I’d go pretty mad if I didn’t. This means it leaks into everything and I’ve been lucky to find ways to publish and earn money in the area.” (seacliffcoast website).

Checking the books for sale in the foyer, I note John Foulcher’s Pitt Street Poets publications include one termed a ‘pocket size’ book, a size Jane particularly takes to. For my part, the format invites questions … are longer lines necessarily cut to accommodate the smaller-page format? How difficult is agreement with authors over line lengths? [This has been central to my concern with e-books, which I’ve fiddled with in the past: that it’s a form necessarily excluding poetry with longer lines which is not at all the same for essays and fiction with text simply running on). The pocket size appears ideal for chapbook productions with the smaller format bulking it out.

We’re sold on John’s poetry, purchase a copy of his 2012 collection the sunset assumption. Most poems in the book were drafted during a residency at the Keesing Studio in Paris during 2010 and 2011. ‘I’m not opening it till we’re in Paris in a couple of months’ time,’ Jane says.

John mentioned how it was John Knight’s health problems some years back that provided the impetus for the setting up of his poetry imprint, Pitt Street Poetry, in order to publish fine writing – an ambition for which he’d always yearned.

My own take on what it meant to publish (I said in response) was, ideally, to work towards being in a position to take on projects dear to me, whenever they arose. ‘Not a bad position to take,’ John agreed.

Joined at the table by Robyn, conversation turned to current newspaper headlines reporting changed directions for the Catholic Church. Robyn and John discuss the new pope with interest and some approval, noting the problems he faces and ruminating on the impact of Cardinal George Pell in the Vatican…. I’m not at all surprised to realise they’re au fait with developments in the church, I’ve caught the drift of John’s poetry and come across reviews such as that of Peter Pierce in ‘The Canberra Times’:’Foulcher’s The Sunset Assumption confirms his status as a thoughtful, melodious poet, one of seriously investigated religious beliefs, one morally attuned to the need for and the compromises of such beliefs.’, and other findings including Robyn’s launch of the book back in 2012 where she notes ‘This book is rather about spiritual living and history; about light and dark but not always in an oppositional way. It concerns our beliefs about religion and about art, and also about the rightness and wrongness in historical moment and politics’. Though I haven’t much of a religious inclination, I appreciated the conveyed sense of a shared comfort in mulling over questions of faith, a refreshing contrast (for me at least) to the many brook-no-argument approaches from the other end of the spectrum.

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# # #

Stayed overnight with a friend of Robyn’s who generously offered to put us up in her lovely and spacious house on a spit overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Wandered down the lane in fading light to take a few photos, then – exhausted – slept ten hours. Obviously needed it. Headed out the door at a reasonable hour to stroll round to Robyn’s house for breakfast.
‘Which way do we head to Robyn’s once we get to the bottom of the driveway? To the left?’
‘That’s right.’
‘And which direction did we head on our walk last night?’
‘To the right… You know, for a woman who can offer seventeen various interpretations of the colour purple, you haven’t the vaguest notion of direction!’
‘Is that right!!!’

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QPF funding?

Just checked in on Brett Dionysius’ facebook page and learnt – someone’s commented – that the Queensland state government’s cut off funding for this year’s Queensland Poetry Festival – [say it isn’t so!] – a decision being termed ‘the end of an era’. Very sad if that’s the case. QPF’s a fine festival – well let’s just say that’s how I’ve found it, the past two years I’ve attended. But anything’s on the cards with Campbell Newman’s new Liberal government’s lack of largesse over arts funding dollars, especially when it plays out alongside the plagiarism controversies of a few months ago.

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