Monthly Archives: January 2009

Cohen’s Beacon of Light

cohen

 

Kathleen Noonan wrote today in her Last Word column in the Courier Mail that Leonard Cohen represents hope. Woven throughout her review of Leonard Cohen’s recent concert at the Rochford Winery in Victoria’s Yarra Valley is the uplifiting story of three brothers who have traveled long and far to be there… and I am not referring to distance. Cohen is a uniting force, someone there to right the ‘shipwreck’. At a time where everyone is talking about the ‘rough seas’ ahead, artists like Cohen have never been more important.

Read the full article here:

http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,24975112-5003421,00.html

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Poet’s Breakfast #4 – Suzanne Jones

Time for that early morning wake up call! It’s Poet’s Breakfast with Suzanne Jones…

 

Wake up mum, Weetbix time! 2 year olds have no time for pancakes unless its second breakfast and mums always need time for coffee.

gentle

 
Pancakes

maiden sleepover voyage
her father at the helm
a Sunday breakfast

pancakes

oblivious 
I began to seep
maple trees

saplings at least
until
walling off

at sixteen leagues
I baked
my own

called my father to table
called my mother to table
called my sister to table

pancakes

tomorrow I’ll call my son
and husband to table
we shall sit

a veritable sugar house
and eat
our own.

About Suzanne:
 

Suzanne Jones: Performance poet and co-founder of seZsu, has featured at the likes of Woodford Folk Festival; QLD Poetry Festival; Sydney’s Friend in Hand; and was a member of the first QLD Poetry Slam team; Finalist in the prestigious Nimbin Performance Poetry World Cup 2006-2007; Co-winner of the National Poetry Week Open Mic Championship 2005 and QPF Poetry Slam 2006 and 2007 finalist; she released her first chap book, Pregnant & Tongue Tied in 2006.

Find out more:

www.myspace.com/suzanne_jones

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Where do the Words Come From #2 – Santo Cazzati

The second in the Where do the Words Come From? series takes a look inside the thoughts, processes and intensely musical world of Santo Cazzati.

 

santo-cazzati

 

Influences:

My erstwhile careers as a concert pianist and a free jazz performer-composer left me with the frustrating feeling that I was doing nothing innovative. I felt that the cutting edge in music was in underground club music as produced by post-1984 music technology and played by DJs or in “world music” which challenged the dominant ideas of what constitutes the mainstream direction in music (the “anti-chocko conspiracy”). When I found that my powers of analysis and aesthetic appreciation of this music via a massive CD collection far outshone my ability to actually produce original specimens, I gave up trying to be a musician. But just before I did, I had started to incorporate spoken word elements into my compositions. Removing the music left me with a cappella spoken word. Many of my spoken word pieces have a ghostly trace of absent music. But I have since discovered the brilliant and suggestive music of speech rhythms, subtle vocal inflections and use of pitch variation that we all use to communicate. None of this communication appears on the printed page but can make an enormous difference to how words are intended by their speaker to be understood and how they are actually interpreted by the recipient. This is my number one influence in spoken word performance.

 

Writing Process:

Decide in advance the general shape of the piece you want to produce – length, subject matter, vocal sounds, attitudes. Drink a bottle of wine. Listen to music which is in a related mood. Sit at computer and write uncensored. Then eat and sober up. Go to work the next day. Then look at the crazy stuff written the day before. Retain utterly visionary and inspired grammatical incongruities. Delete all tired cliches. Read aloud, as if in performance, over and over again for several days until you find you are no longer making small changes to the text. This kills two birds with the one stone – you are editing and also practising for performance. Howzat?

 

Where The Voice Comes From:

In primitive times, undoubtedly, indistinct human vocal utterances would have been closer to what we now call “music”. In Ancient Greece, “poetry” and “music” were not distinguished from one another. The word “rhetoric” did not have the pejorative connotation it does today. Rhetoric was the art of convincing and moving listeners with the power, subtlety and expression of your voice. This is almost everything to me. I have issued a challenge to a talented and inventive Melbourne sound poet to see if we can read a page from the Yellow Pages and make it sound interesting and aesthetic just through the use of our voices.

 

Recurring Themes:

The theme, if you can call it that, which recurs repeatedly in my spoken texts, is the aural structure. You should be able to listen to my pieces, have no clue what the hell I’m talking about, or perhaps be quite antagonistic to the subject matter, and still appreciate it as a sound structure. I’ll never forget the utterly moving experience of competing in a poetry slam with poets who recited their work in Greek and Arabic. I did not understand a word (other than the really obvious like “megalo” and “Iraq”) but was deeply moved by the richness of the intonation patterns, phrasing, metre, timing, raw vocal individuality – in other words, the music of it all. Having said that, there is a strong recurring influence on the subject matter of my pieces and that seems to be some kind of countercultural critique of the stupid mainstream society we are surrounded by, whether this is reflected in the economy, politics, our sexual relations, our chance day-to-day encounters. I think I am so addicted to irony that I am incapable of a single sincere utterance. But that is a kind of sincerity, is it not?

 

How My Feelings Have Changed?

The absolute best thing that happened to me was when I stopped wasting my time in the soul destroying pursuit of sending written poems to journals only to be published half a dozen times while receiving form letter rejections in the hundreds. When I turned to spoken word and not printed word, I found a regular and appreciative audience which meant I had a chance to develop an individual and innovative perspective as an artist. Instant response of a live audience is tangible. But even if you do get published, it is almost impossible to gauge that audience response.

 

Poem:

Santo Cazzati is only a spoken word artist. His texts do not disseminate in print or any other kind of written form.

 

About Santo Cazzati:

Santo Cazzati is a spoken word artist. The son of
Italian immigrants to Australia, he emerged from past
lives as a classical concert pianist and avant garde
jazz musician to teach at an elite Melbourne private
school which must remain anonymous in order to protect
those concerned. He performs in a range of styles,
from fast rhythmical delivery to slow atmospheric
meditation, often with a strong world music influence
and critical ironic distance.

Links to Performances

1) At ABC Online, hear “first prize ($10) winning” piece, “Ballet Class”, from Jan 2009 Babble Poetry Slam.

http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2009/01/13/2465163.htm?site=melbourne

2) Other Babble performances can be seen as well as heard. Click on the two thumbnails “Mafia Slam : Santo” for “Rental Property Inspection” and “The Poor Struggling Landlord”. Or on “Zombie Slam : Sacrifice” for “Bulgarian Rhythms”.

http://www.youtube.com/babbleslam 

3) Appearances on television programme Red Lobster include “Telly And Phone Talk” in Episode 177 and “Silk And Bamboo Charanga” in Episode 180. These pieces are on late in the 30 minute programme and unfortunately it seems that you cannot fast forward to the spot but can in any event see other poets performing in Melbourne’s grass roots scene on the way.

http://www.redlobster.davidmcl.id.au

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Desert(ed) Island Poems #5 – Matt Hetherington

It’s time to take that lonely trip again people… so man those oars and together let’s paddle to the Desert(ed) Island of Matt Hetherington.

 

matt-hetherington

 

I could be really cheeky, and say that the first two I would take would be John Anderson’s the shadow’s keep (37p), and Nathan Shepherdson’s what marian drew never told me about light (26p)…These are both actually considered to be SINGLE POEMS and are truly two of the richest works I know, plus Graham here has been involved in getting the last one published…but that’d be impossible to reproduce here, and they’re BOOKS, dammit.  So, to be brief to the brief, here’s ONLY ten.  And there’s only 3-and-a-half Americans!

 

Leopold Sedar Senghor – Night of Sine

A politician who at least wrote good poetry!  Plus here in what I think is at least his third language…I know I don’t fully comprehend this poem – which is certainly part of why I’m so drawn to it – but I keep going back to it.  It’s a Senegalese/French sensibility, but the sense of peace amid darkness here is unique in my experience.  And yet familiar.

Read the poem here: http://www.point-editions.com/sedar.html

 

Paul Celan – The Straitening (trans. Michael Hamburger)

“Poetry is what gets lost in translation”, said Robert Frost, and that’s as good a definition as I’ve heard.  If one poet exemplifies that adage more than any other, I would reckon it’s Celan.  Difficult, verging on baffling at times, driven by the power of the WORD (in all that word’s suggestiveness, and to the point of obsession with etymological uncoverings)…put simply, he wrote like no other poet.  Born in Romania, a Jew writing in German, his first poems were published in 1947, at the age of 26. This is a later work, uncharacteristically lengthy (part of why I chose it), and I won’t comment on it, other than to say it’s the perfect sort of poem for a long desert(ed) island stay, and should really be read (like all his poetry) with a good German-English dictionary alongside the original and translation, together with lots of time and patience.

Read the poem here: http://www.artofeurope.com/celan/cel7.htm

 

Denise Levertov – A Solitude

This haunts me.  Many, many levels of insight under such apparent plain observation.

 

Charles Bukowski – see here, you

No man has the testicular fortitude to write quite like Monsieur Buk, although certainly many have tried, and continue to try.  He makes it look extremely easy, this poetry malarkey, but that’s part of the greatness of the guy: you try writing like that and you invariably end up with crap.  And in this poem (from the last poetry collection he finished while alive, I believe), he knows how special he is – and how special you’re not – most probably, and he’s just telling you that truth plain and straight.  Ok, maybe rather enjoying it, too.  It’s strangely damn fortifying to be reminded of this aspect of artistic endeavour – what we do is in many ways so insignificant, and always in some sense a failure, and hats off to Hank for pointing to that.  Every time I read the last line I always kind of chuckle.  Hope I always do.

 

Jennifer Compton – Very Shadows

Just ‘cos it’s from a really good book (called Blue) and it’s my favourite poem right now.

Read the poem here: http://www.book.co.nz/compton.htm

 

T.S. Eliot – The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

To me, one of the few ‘classics’ that live up to the hype, and probably the first poem I really fell in love with.  Still trying to shake off its influence, but if I’m stuck on an island, I suppose I could just forget about that particular anxiety, couldn’t I?

Read the poem here: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-love-song-of-j-alfred-prufrock-2/

 

Andre Breton – The Spectral Attitudes (trans. David Gascoyne)

For me, this piece perfectly illustrates the magnificence (as well as a little of the banality) of Breton and, more importantly, the principle that seems to lie at the centre of the Surrealist and Imagist enterprise, something beautifully expressed by the French poet Pierre Reverdy in 1918: “The image…cannot be born from a comparison but from a juxtaposition of two or more less distant realities. The more the relationship between the two juxtaposed realities is both distant and true, the stronger the image will be – the greater its emotional power and poetic reality.”  I also kind of felt that if I was going to put a Surrealist poem in here it should be a longish one, and that it should be by the movement’s self-appointed Pope.

Read the poem here: http://www.jbeilharz.de/surrealism/gascoyne-translations.html

 

mtc cronin – Slow

Like Ashley Capes said in the first Desert(ed) Island Poems installment, about William Carlos Williams’ “This is Just to Say: “Simplicity often strikes me – that and openness or accessibility.”  This has all three of those qualities, and a few more!  I’d take it with me to an island because I wouldn’t want to forget those virtues – as both a human being and a writer – or about the truth of easiness, ease, eroticism, and tenderness.  I love this poem and I want to marry it.

 

Harold Norse – Mysteries of the Orgy

Bukowski said of him: “He can’t write a bad line.  I’ve never seen one.”  Well, he couldn’t have been looking too hard, because like just about everyone remotely connected to the Beats, he wrote plenty.  But not too many in this poem.  In the section of her diaries later published as Incest, Anais Nin made consensual sex with her father seemingly ok and even romantic – Norse does something similar with orgiastic sex (admittedly a bit easier, I suppose.)  I love the depth, the joy, and the cosmic awareness of this poem.  On a desert island, it might have to serve as my only reminder of all the things I missed out on, and still can’t seem to have.

 

David Prater – betty conquers all

I’ve never chortled as much reading a poem.  Isn’t that enough?

Read the poem here: http://www.papertigermedia.com/hutt/hutt2_5/prater.htm

 

About Matt:

Matt Hetherington is a writer and musician based in Melbourne.  His first poetry collection was Surface (PRECIOUS PRESS, 2004), and his latest is I Think We Have (Small Change Press, 2007.)  He is on the board of the Australian Haiku Society, can’t live a week without listening to Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew album, and loves cooking with home-made vegetable stock.

Find out more:

http://www.myspace.com/mattheth
http://www.smallchangepress.com.au/
http://www.haikuoz.org

 

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Speak Out: Poetry and the Spoken Word (part 3) an interview with alicia sometimes

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with the Dr. Seuss lovin’ Tim Sinclair about all things Spoken Word. This interview with alicia sometimes continues to dig deep into the world of the spoken word, the opportunities for publication that exist and the art of performance. Questions by Clint Creagan.

alicia-sometimes

Some people have suggested that the term ‘spoken word’ is used by those  who are afraid or ashamed to call the work ‘poetry’. What are your  thoughts on this? 

Spoken word is a term that is used because it encompasses far more than just poetry. Poetry is often literature in a metrical form, usually verse. There are endless definitions and types of poetry just as there are many descriptions and forms of spoken word. Spoken word is spoken. Not sung or in print form. Spoken word can be just the sound of a repetitive voice, a speech, a rant, a monologue, a dialogue, a scream or text fused with music, sound or samples. I would call any poem read aloud as spoken word but it is usually a term that is referred to when the piece is completely off the page – performed, rehearsed and experimented with sound (especially voice).

Spoken word is not just a cool word for poetry. Neither term gets the movie going public to stop what they’re doing.

 

What opportunities are out there for spoken word artists to have their  work published? 

The best opportunity is under their noses. It is so cheap and easy to record your own work today. Recording studios are not thousands of dollars any more and it is both accessible and necessary to record your own work: to become producer, musician, work in collaboration and get your pieces out there. Many bands do it, so should spoken word artists. Spoken word pieces have had top 40 hits. If you can’t name them it’s because they didn’t market it that way – it’s called hip hop, rap or simply not given a name. Websites are great for promotion also.

Many performers will go from performing their work at many poetry readings to having their own shows. Again, the term ‘spoken word’ is often left out – most will call it a play, monologue, cabaret, performance etc…
 

Do you think we will see more opportunities for the publication of  performance poetry in the future? 

Yes, because artists won’t rely on the journals, magazines or anthologies to come up with an idea, they’ll do it themselves.
 

You have performed your work and been published many times. Do you think  your performances and your published work have complimented each other?  

In many cases the work is completely different. I started out performing spoken word with musicians (playing bass and speaking is kinda hard to do but it was fun). I did that for 5 years before I even attempted ‘reading’ my work. I am more interested in being published for the page than I was back then. I like the challenge and the difference. With print I have the chance to change and edit, on stage it’s more of a instant buzz or an instant death. Both compliment each other because my performance work is often very different in style and content than my print poetry. I get to have different depths.
 

Do you consider that some of your own poems are written specifically  for performance and would therefore not work for the page, and vice versa?

Some poems wouldn’t work on page because they are meant to be spoken – by using gesture, pauses, subtlety, timing, immediacy, feedback etc Some wouldn’t work on stage because they rely on texture, visual cues, word plays etc. Others work for both. I like the fact that words can be that different.
 

What makes a good performance poem? 

Communication with audience. Learning the work. Thinking about the piece and understanding it the way an actor would with words from a play. Sincerity (even with humour). Confidence.

 

Can a good performance draw attention away from bad writing? 

Yes but if it takes attention away from bad writing then perhaps it could be a great performance piece. What is bad writing? If someone gets up on stage and says a very simple sentence like ‘My underpants are on fire’ (hardly Shakespeare) and receives giddy applause then what makes it bad? If the way the performer expresses themselves is in context, humorous or meaningful etc then it can be fantastic entertainment. Is it a poem? Maybe not, but who cares? Poetry critics? If it was spoken, it’s spoken word. Is it genius? Well, if it made you smile, cringe, think etc, maybe. Crap writing plus crap performance equals bad audience reaction. Crap writing on the page is naked and so is a performer standing in front of an audience in front of a mike. The audience will tell them soon enough. If they’re listening.

Nothing kills great writing faster than it being performed in a horrible, dull or bland way. This is because the author is not thinking about the medium that they’re using. I’ve seen it happen with amazing writers. You’ll lose people.

 

What do you see as the benefits of performing your own work? 

Immediate feedback, chance to enhance the work, a chance to have fun. I love performing, don’t have to wait until the piece is ‘published’.
 

As a previous editor of Going Down Swinging you have had a first hand account of what it takes to record and publish spoken poetry. What difficulties did you find in this process? What are the benefits? 

With other people’s work the difficulties are actually getting the performers from out of their hiding places. Once in the studio, most writers are amazing: in their originality, creative drive, experimentation and enthusiasm. They are often surprised at the endless ways of layering their work and creating full pieces.

When authors submit their own work often their pieces are badly recorded (you’d never hand in a poem on dog eaten pages) or are simple ‘dry’ readings which can (not always of course) sound average and uninteresting. You can tell they’ve never listened to other recordings. The hardest problem though, at first, was actually receiving the work .

 

Some people have suggested that much of the performance poetry we see  today, tends toward what stand up comedians are attempting, which relies on timing and wit, but is one dimensional in its range. What are your thoughts on this? 

Again, I think that poetry at ‘readings’ MUST be entertaining. Poetry/spoken word doesn’t have to be loud or hammed up or bedded with music but it must be interesting. Too many poets forget their audiences, it is a different medium to the page. Not better or worse or one dimensional. Just think of the times you have been most impressed, involved or entertained at a poetry reading – it is often because the performer was funny, insightful, unique, engaging etc (even controversial). Are people that afraid to laugh?

 

About alicia:

alicia sometimes is a Melbourne poet/writer/musician. She is co-host of 3RRR’s spoken word and books show, Aural Text, and has performed at many festivals and venues both locally and internationally. She has also performed in front of fish, on a tram, across the Nullarbor, with a stuffed horse and on ABC TV’s Sunday Arts. She was co-editor of Going Down Swinging for six years. Her first book is kissing the curve (FIP)

 

Find out more:

http://www.aliciasometimes.com/
http://www.myspace.com/aliciasometimes

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Jumping the Poetic Hurdle – what can we learn from the music industry?

All this music talk has got me interested in how the literary establishment can learn from the music industry. We all remember the death of the music industry articles that were circulating at the start of this decade, how the industry was haemorrhaging with the invent of Napster and other download technology. Well the Jumping the Poetic Hurdle interviews I did recently tell a similar story… So, this Lost Shark has been doing some reading and thought these articles were well worth sharing. We may stand to learn alot from what the music industry has been through.

Can the publishing industry learn from the music industry?

Why Amazon Should Try a “Radiohead Experiment” on the Kindle

What If the Kindle Succeeds?

What the literary establishment must learn from Hip-Hop

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Where do the Words Come From #1 – Karen Knight

This Lost Shark is always seeking answers. Dialogue keeps us moving forward. In this series, I am asking poets where the words come from – the influences, the process, the themes, how it’s changed. Tasmanian poet and collaborator, Karen Knight is first to respond.

karen-knight

Influences

I started writing from a very early age due to a strong family influence. Both parents were artistic. Dad was a piano and singing teacher and composer. Mum was a singer and a speech and drama teacher, they both wrote poetry and short stories, so there was never a shortage of books and music in the house. Both brothers played guitar and at one stage my youngest brother brought a euphonium into the house.
When I was 12, I wrote some lyrics to a piece of music Dad composed and it was published by Allans, in sheet music form, so that was pretty exciting. 

Around the age of 15, Dylan Thomas’ poetry had such a profound effect on me that I decided then and there I wanted to become a serious writer. The Beat Poets, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin guided me into the literary world and I had my first poem published by Poetry Australia when I was 19.

Nowadays I always listen to music when I write. Groups like Massive Attack, Left Field and Portishead certainly put me into the right frame of mind (I like the dark stuff). For a few years now there have been two poets, Billy Collins and Matthew Sweeney who have had a similar effect on me that Dylan Thomas had when I was younger. I always want to write when I read their work. I used to jot down my drafts on paper, but now I like to feed the computer, I can see the structure/shape of my poems a lot quicker this way.

I don’t have any political influences and landscape not very often, except when I am commissioned to write something that relates to landscape and then I suprise myself as to how much it does influence me, sub-consciously.

When I was in Scotland a couple of years ago staying in a pod at the artist’s retreat, Cove Park, which is in the West Coast area, the landscape inspired me greatly and I had no problem writing about it, because it was different to anything I’d experienced before. The hills, the lochs, the black faced sheep, the Highland cows, the wild blaeberries, etc. In some parts, the farmed trees were so dense, your eyes had to adjust, because it was like looking at them through 3D.

 

The writing process

I usually agonise as to how to start a poem and the titles are always difficult for me, as I love quirky titles, especially one word titles and I also love deceptively simple words and images in poetry, so I try keep that in mind when I’m writing down the first drafts. I usually hone in and craft the initial idea as quickly as possible, but I usually find there are two poems in what I’m trying to say so I have to work through that raw process, then put the poem aside and come back to it each day with new eyes and a fresh approach, preferably in the mornings.

 I would love to say that the words just flow for me, but they don’t, they never have and I lack confidence in my ability at times, which can be damaging. I like to read the work aloud as it helps me with the rhythms and patterns. And even when I think it’s finished I usually send it to two close poet friends of mine who have great skill in picking up on the tiniest details. They give their valued opinions and constructive criticisms. There are usually changes to be made, particularly with line breaks and grammar, they’re not my strongest points as I’m usually too swept up with my images to worry initially about the structure.  So as you can see, it’s a long, drawn out process and sometimes it takes me weeks to write just a few lines and certainly a long process to get it to the final stage of sending the work out to a publisher.

I’m also very reader conscious which can be agonising at times.

My favourite place to write is Varuna- The Writers House in the Blue Mountains. I swear there are creative ghosts up there guiding my hand, but it’s probably because there are no distractions and they have a resident cook.

I relate strongly to Philip Larkin’s description of his daily routine as – work all day, then cook, then eat, wash up, telephone, hack writing, drink and T.V. in the evenings. I almost never go out.

 

Where the voice(s) comes from

My emotions trigger the voices and that’s usually somewhere deep in my psyche that elbows me when we’re ready. It could be something I’ve read, heard or seen, it’s unpredictable. I remember when I heard Walt Whitman inviting me to buy an old National Geographic Book that was in a Red Cross bookshop window. I went in and bought it for 10 cents and there was an incredible spread about him and his life, things I didn’t know about him, he was a voluntary wound dresser during the American Civil War, he donated his brain to science and when he died, a young laboratory assistant dropped Whitman’s brain and it had to be thrown away. It was riveting stuff to come across and for two years I researched Whitman’s life and the American Civil War until I finished my previous collection Under the One Granite Roof – Poems for Walt Whitman (Pardalote Press, 2004)

 It’s an incredible rush when something like this happens to you, where a whole collection of poems can arise out of reading an article. I wish it could happen all the time.

 

Recurring themes

Definitely birds keep popping up all over the place throughout my poetry. I have a great affinity with birds and have always had them as pets, rescued and reared many wild birds and set them free, so they appear subconsciously throughout my collections, even in my new book Postcards from the Asylum (Pardalote Press) it’s been pointed out to me that there are quite a few references to birds. So there is definitely recurring themes in my work. I like to work with specific themes now, particularly since I started applying for grants, as it’s easier to sell your idea if you are focused on one theme.

 

How have my feelings about poetry, the reading and writing of, changed since I first started writing?

Poems I wrote in my teens were way too obscure, too dramatic and too surreal. I was hiding beneath my words and in love with the idea of being a writer. I dressed accordingly, read all the trendy books, wanted to be seen with writers, be linked romantically to poets, but I didn’t put enough time and effort into the writing process. I needed life experience to sort me out, which it has.

I don’t read as much poetry as I used to. But now and then I will go through a phase where I come across work that will have an incredible impact on me for e.g. Luke Davies is high on my list at the moment, not only his poetry but his novels. I’ve just finished reading ‘God of Speed’ and couldn’t put it down. ‘Totem’ is one of the finest poetry I’ve read in ages. I’m also always eager to see any new works from Ian McBryde as he never disappoints.

I think T.S. Eliot got it wrong when, in terms of philosophy and society, he said that the modern world was complex and various, so therefore poetry also had to be.

Billy Collins has taught me a lot about writing poetry. He imagines he has someone in the room with him, who he’s talking to, when he’s writing, and he has to make sure he’s not talking too fast or too glibly. He writes about simple, every day things, but with such depth and empathy, he shatters you with his summations. These are the goals I hope to achieve as I continue writing.

I suppose I keep trying to follow Dylan Thomas’ philosophy on writing poetry, that it should make the toenails twinkle. I like to stir the emotions in my readers. I  believe that poetry should touch other human beings, not just to entertain, but to give comfort and stay with them for a while.

I like to make other poets envious.

 

It’s a Girl-Interrupted Dream

The inmates love me, they think
I’m a rainbow-flavoured icecream.

Ladies-in-waiting scrub my restless skin
and put away my loved-out jeans.

I get to watch the same Paul Newman
movie             every week.
I read the Penny Dreadfuls
from the one-shelf library,
stamped ‘donated by the
Australian Red Cross’.

I have my own room, with a double-locked
door and all the boiled mutton I can eat.
On Sundays, the anxious ones
show me cowboys and Indians
with roast gristle and three veg.

On river picnics I sit with a long-termer
and consider the strength of the current.
There’s talk of a cure for this lunatic calm.
Everyone has a lagoon breakout
now and then, their sandbanks
crumbling like halva.
Finally, I’m part of this mad scene.

(from  Postcards from the Asylum, Pardalote Press)

 

About Karen:

Karen Knight’s poetry has won her many awards, including the Dorothy Hewett Flagship Fellowship from Varuna, The Writer’s House. Since the late 1960’s, her poetry has consistently appeared in literary journals, newspapers and anthologies, including Best Australian Poems 2005. In 2007, Karen travelled to Scotland on a three week International Writers Exchange funded by Varuna and the UNESCO City of Literature in Edinburgh. She has written five collections of poetry to which she has received three Arts Tasmania grants and an Australia Council grant.  Her current  collection, Postcards from the Asylum (Pardalote Press) won the 2007 Arts ACT Alec Bolton Award for an unpublished manuscript. Karen often collaborates with other writers, visual artists, painters, scientists and musicians. Some of her work has been translated into Tamil and set to music by a New York composer. She has recently completed a collaborative work Twinset (Knucker Press, UK)  with Scottish writer, Dilys Rose.

 

Read a review of Postcards from the Asylum here
Purchase the book here

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Queensland Poetry Festival presents: Poetry on the Deck

Queensland Poetry Festival, QLD Writers Centre & Riverbend Books are proud to present the first event in this years Riverbend Books Readings. Join us on the Riverbend deck and enjoy the sounds and imagery of award winning poets Anna Krien (2008 Val Vallis Award) and Felicity Plunkett (2008 Thomas Shapcott Award); global traveler Alan Jefferies and emerging Brisbane voice, Jessika Tong.

Date: Tuesday 24 February
Location: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St. Bulimba
Time: Doors open for the event at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Tickets: $10 available through Riverbend Books and include sushi and complimentary wine. To purchase tickets, call Riverbend Books on (07) 3899 8555 or book online at www.riverbendbooks.com.au

Spaces are limited so book early to avoid disappointment!

About the poets:

felicity-plunkett

Felicity Plunkett’s manuscript Vanishing Point won the 2008 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Prize and is forthcoming with UQP. She is an Honorary Research Consultant at the University of Queensland, where she teaches literature and poetics, and a widely-published reviewer. She has a PhD from the University of Sydney. Her poetry has been published in journals and anthologies including Best Australian Poetry 2008, The Best Australian Poems 2008, Heat, Southerly and Blue Dog, and was awarded Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg prizes in 2006 and 2007.

 

alan-jefferies1

Alan Jefferies was born in Brisbane and grew up in Cleveland. He lived in Sydney and Coalcliff for much of the 80’s and 90’s and obtained degrees in Communication and Writing from the University of Technology, Sydney. In 1998 he moved to Hong Kong where he lived until 2007. With Kit Kelen and Mani Rao he started the spoken word reading OutLoud. In 2002 an anthology of work from these readings was published (Outloud: an anthology of poetry from Outloud readings, Hong Kong). He has published 5 collections of poetry, his most recent being Homage and other poems (Chameleon, 2007). He was recently an invited participant at the ‘Cairo International Forum of Arabic poetry’ and the ‘Tenth International Literature Festival’ in Romania. He now lives in Redland Bay. He keeps a musical alter ego at www.myspace.com/psychicstreetsweepers

 

anna-krien

Anna Krien’s writing has been published in The Big Issue, The Monthly, The Age newspaper, Best Australian Essays 2005 & Best Australian Essays 2006 – published by Black Inc, Griffith Review, Voiceworks, Going Down Swinging, COLORS, Best Australian Stories 2008, and Frankie magazine. Her poem ‘The Last Broadcasters’ won the 2008 Val Vallis Award. Once she had a neurological cat scan, which came back saying she had an unremarkable brain.

 

jessika-tong

Jessika Tong grew up in a small pine village on the Northern Island of New Zealand and has spent most of her adult life in Central and South East Queensland. Jessika has appeared within various literary journals including The Age, The Australian Literature Review, The Westerly, Wet Ink and Verandah22. Her first collection, The Anatomy of Blue was released in December 2008 by Sunline Press. “Astonishingly powerful, her raw imagery says what is often left unsaid or couched in more genteel terms. This poetry drives relentlessly into avoided spaces and territory that remains a wilderness. Confronting and irreverent” (Roland Leach 2008). Jessika is twenty-six and is currently a student at QUT, Brisbane.

 

Watch this space for features on each of these poets in the weeks leading up to this event.

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Poem or Song? – the words of Leonard Cohen

After being blown away by the power of Neil Young this week, I am now hotly anticipating the arrival of fellow Canadian, Leonard Cohen. He has not toured these shores since 1985 when this Lost Shark was just a pup and he has made no secret that this is the final international tour, so to put it bluntly, I am crawling out of my skin to see him.  

leonard-cohen

With so much talk on the site recently about poetry and song lyrics I thought it was a great time to post this interview with Cohen from 2006. With eight collections of poetry and eleven albums to his name, there is arguably no one better to talk about lyrics and poetry. Interestingly, Cohen has never really accepted the title of poet or singer:

“I had the title poet, and maybe I was one for a while. Also, the title singer was kindly accorded me, even though I could barely carry a tune.”

What cannot be doubted, is that his words have mesmerised more than four generations of fans and often defy genre. Here Cohen talks about the different tempo of poetry and song, the inescapable lousiness of growing old, autobiographical writing and claims himself to be ‘one of the fakes.’ As always he illumiates.

Read the interview here.

Then check out this ‘spoken word’ performance of A Thousand Kisses Deep from the recent tour.

Oh yes… I am crawling out of my skin!

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A poem for the President

After the great debate on the site over whether Australia needs a poet laureate, I thought that I would share the reading of Elizabeth Alexander’s poem at the the inauguration of Barack Obama.

Watch it here

I have also included a link to a great article by Jim Fisher on salon.com called How to write a poem for the President.

In the article Alexander says that she has ” truly in (her) head been hearing lines from Walt Whitman’s ‘I Hear America Singing,” and what stirs Whitman’s words in her is how Obama’s “campaign truly belonged to an extraordinary cross-section, not only of Americans … but of people the world over.”

The article raises some great questions: What poet today would allow his or her voice to be yoked to the policy of a presidential administration, even one as popular as Obama’s? At what point would the poetry become propaganda?

Much to think about here and as always I would love to hear your thoughts…

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