Launch speech, 'Famous Reporter 31' - Hobart, 30th Nov 2005

I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to launch FR and endorse literary journals in general.

When Ralph asked if I’d launch Famous Reporter 31 I must admit my first thought was a poet does not a public speaker make ... so taking the (relatively) easy way out I’ll be speaking from a poet’s perspective and using plenty of poetic licence…

At another recent launch, that of Pete Hay’s poetry collection silently on the tide - also published by Walleah Press - Pete remarked that he could write and not be read but that he couldn’t not write. For those of us who can’t not write or for that matter not read – for those of us for whom words are the drug of choice, publications like Famous Reporter offer more than just a distraction from our day jobs, they are a reminder of our compulsion (some may say duty) to respond artistically to the gift of life. We may indeed be compelled to write irrespective of being read but surely underpinning the many and varied states we find ourselves writing in – some less desirable than others – is some kind of hope … otherwise why bother?

Almost twenty years ago my first poem appeared in The Small Times – a canary yellow sheet of A4 paper folded into quarters, typed up, published and edited by someone who identified her or his self only as Trixie. The two people with whom I would have liked to share this tiny achievement – (my parents) – were not an option due to their catholic sensibilities and my poem being placed next to another poem in which the male poet was getting to know the son of God in the most biblical sense. Still – the thrill of seeing that first poem in print, alongside other poems, planted the first seeds of validation and allowed me to entertain the possibility that words had lives to lead outside of my own head and heart. Writing is a lone pursuit yes but any print forum whether a broadsheet or a literary journal such as FR creates its own sense of community.

Famous Reporter has been doing this for almost twenty years. What do I like about this publication? Its staying power for one thing. From its humble and courageous beginnings as a slim short story journal in 1987 to a publication today that offers a forum for poetry, haiku, fiction, essays, reviews, memoirs and more recently web blogs.

I like the cheek and titillation of the title Famous Reporter. I like the professional but heartfelt look, feel and read of it. I like that there are no editorials. Nothing to suggest we are being told what or how to read.

In the most recent issue of five bells Margaret Bradstock reviews issues 29 and 30 of Famous Reporter. She writes ‘Famous Reporter publishes a significant representation of Tasmanian poets, a rich tradition in itself but isn’t parochial about it – good writing from anywhere in Australia is given a fair hearing…’ and I should say also from overseas as issue 31 attests to with writers from USA, New Zealand, England, Malaysia, Canada and Wales.

I believe issue 31 offers something for the heart, the mind and for those of us cheeky enough in post-modern times to lay claim to having one … the soul. In her memoir recalling her mother’s dying process, Marlene Conlan illustrates the limitations of words to convey great need in lines such as – ‘Somehow she had grasped that she was dying. She wanted to say her good byes. She wanted to say them so badly that she got stuck in a loop bye bye, see ya, bye. Over and over again.'

Claire Gaskin’s philosophical poem ‘Thinking of you Neruda’ poses such questions as ‘why does urgency never seem like a waste of time?’ and ‘is all desire in the moment?’

A slightly modified version of Martin Hawe’s launch speech of the haiku anthology waters meet haiku is worth reading for its evocation of the awakening powers of what he describes as ‘haiku moments’. A lovely inroad for those new to haiku and I should think a warm confirmation for those to whom the writing form is familiar territory.

In Karen Knight’s poem ‘Living the tree house person test’ these hope-filled, challenging lines

                I draw trees that won’t come crashing down on me
                forgiving trees

In his address ‘Refugees and Australia’ John Kinsella writes ‘I do not always paint a rosy picture of the Australia I am part of. I believe it is soaked in injustices. I write of the land and with a fascination for those who work it, but I also write of its bigotries’. Motive here seems to me best illustrated when Kinsella (as pacifist) responds to the taboo of criticising Nation during the Iraq war by stating simply ‘My allegiance is to humanity. To life.’

I’m a relative newcomer to Tasmania but over the last few years I’ve attended a number of Famous Reporter launches and one thing seems clear – this is not only a respected publication, it is a loved one. And as we all want the best for our loved ones, I’m sure you don’t need my encouragement to continue in your generous support of Famous Reporter.