Monthly Archives: August 2009

A quick word from the west…

This Lost Shark is enjoying the western waters…

Last nights reading featured some incredible performances – music, dance, poetry – by artists from diverse cultural backgrounds including Japan, China, Iraq, Sudan & Austria. I was honoured to be invited to share the space with such an amazing group of performers. And the event was held at Sunyata Buddhist Retreat… a space, I am privileged to have been invited into.

Today I am off to State Library for a panel on publishing and the future of poetry, before the festival wraps up with a reading at Fringe Galley.

Keep watching these waters… a full update and some photos to come soon…

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Another Lost Shark On Tour

It’s poetry season… having just experienced the delights of QPF 2009, I am now preparing to head west for the WA Spring Poetry Festival this weekend. The programme features WA poets Scott-Patrick Mitchell, Amber Fresh, Amanda Joy, Annamaria Weldon, Peter Bibby, Gary de Piazzi & Deanne Leber. I have never been to WA so I am really excited to head on over and check it all out. The programme is now available online.

Then the following weekend, I am heading south to Melbourne for the Overload Poetry Festival with Brisbane ‘Rock Pig’, Mr Sheish Money. Sheish & I will be debuting tracks from our new CD The Stillest Hour and the mighty Small Change Press will be launching Maurice McNamara’s debut collection, Half-Hour Country.

Then it is back home for a gig at Brisbane Writers Festival on Friday September 11 from 5:15pm – 6:15pm alongside Nathan Shepherdson & Julie Beveridge as part of a Small Change Press showcase.

And finally, I am off to Terrigal (NSW) for the 4th Pacific Rim Haiku Conference.

Indeed, if I was so inclined I could put these dates on a t-shirt and call it a tour. Five weekends of poetry across four states… who could ask for more!

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Poets Overthrow Overland

Check this out folks… Overland Literary Journal will be overthrown by poets from September 1 – 15 to coincide with Melbourne’s Overload Poetry Festival. So, this is your time to get on board and make a racket. Don’t be shy… head on over there and comment til your nose bleeds. Let’s make sure that these 15 days of poetry receive some serious traffic and create genuine dialogue. Let the poet’s voice be heard!

Head on over and check out Maxine Clarke’s first post: If you can’t handle the poetry, get off the blog.

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Just Kissed Goodbye… Some memories of QPF 2009

QPF 2009 may have just been kissed goodbye, but the words of the 40+ artists who took to the stage continue to resonate in the heads and hearts of the thousands who attended. I am certain that these words will form the seed of many new poems, new friendships, new dialogues and to quote Ferlinghetti, ‘give voice to the tongueless streets’. This quote, alongside ‘wake up, the world is on fire’ (Ferlinghetti), and ‘spoken in one strange word’ (Judith Wright) were written in bold lettering across the windows of The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. These words breathed life into the shopfront space, which was a new (and may I add, very successful) venue for QPF 2009 and set the tone for an amazing weekend of words.

From the Official Opening where I had the privilege of reading the winning poem from this years Arts QLD Val Vallis Award for an Unpublished Poem – The Severant by Andrew Slattery, the festival simply hummed. I would love to share with you a couple of lines from the winning poem… words that will undoubtedly stay with me:

We have ammended the world.
As I walk home I unpick the seams from the footpaths.

Each muscle locomotes my frame.
I wear my suit and walk into the vista city;

through the old mine with its pile of coal like a dead whale;
past the doctor who repaired my chest;

past the tailor who sews spines
into standing men as they wait.

Throughout the festival, there are many other lines that etched themselves into the very fabric of my being… here are a few:

Cancer’s what gets us. Got Grandpa. Got Baba.
It turns you yellow in the end. So, I’ve been smoking
again.

(from Celebration by Elizabeth Bachinsky)

 

You suicided all my poetry was written on your skin first
line
second line
third line a tight rope tight knife

(from Chapter 5 by Paul Magee)

 

A scorched afternoon in the Alice
or the meltdown that lavas out of kiddies
when they cannot have a treat.

(from Station Street As A Dark Nickelodeon by Kent McCarter)

 

take with you plenty of water and one mustard seed of faith

(from Mount Wellington by Jane Williams)

 

Be still. I am the Bear from your dreams.

(from Nature Poem by AF Harrold)

 

And as the festival drew to a close on Sunday night, we celebrated another incredible session featuring the voices of the QPF Committee (Nerissa Rowan, Zenobia Frost, Debra Ralph, Alicia Bennett, John Koenig, Francis Boyle, Jodi DeVantier & this Lost Shark) alongside Jane Williams, Janet Jackson, Angela Costi, Paul Magee, Geoff Goodfellow, Neil Murray, Elizabeth Bachinsky, AF Harrold and Hinemoana Baker.

And importantly, we celebrated the many achievements of Festival Director, Julie Beverdige as she announced she would be standing down from the position. Julie has taken the festival to a new level during her two year tenure, building on the success of the first eleven years and putting in place the necessary structure to make QPF sustainable for many years to come.

QPF  has yet again provided some life changing moments for me (and many others). Moments that will fuel me, until we do it all again in 2010.

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Blinded By A Million Bright Things

My eyes are watering, my calves burning slightly, and my head is swimming with words. The Million Bright Things who hit the QPF stage yesterday lit up the Judith Wright Centre with the endless possibility of poetry. Last night for me was a landmark event, with Festival Director extraordinairre, Julie Beveridge, putting together an event which featured every poet on the programme. Forty artists, one by one had their moment in the spotlight. It was high octane poetry, each artist leaving nothing behind as they left the mic and the audience wanting more. And as Neil Murray closed the show, there was that feeling that peoples lives had been changed… the energy bristling, the smiles splittingly wide.

If you are anywhere near Brisbane today, do yourself a favour and let the bright lights of QPF 2009 illuminate you. Kicking off today with the launch of Felicity Plunkett’s debut collection, Vanishing Point and the session, Choreography of Chance featuring Rhys Rodgers, Santo Cazzati and Maurice McNamara, you just know, life will be better for it!

Today’s programme is online here.

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Still untangling the possibilities

Well, Opening Night of QPF 2009 was a stunning display of that strange music we call poetry… as Carol Ann Duffy calls it, the music of being human.

So many highlights… so for those of you who were there, here’s a few moments to help you relive it all and for those of you who weren’t… well here’s a taste of what we experienced.

See you at the festival today… the first bullet of the day, the Small Change Press launch of Half-Hour Country and Dear Rose + a reading by Robert Bos and the skies early stars will reveal the magic of Kent McCarter, Barbara Temperton and Neil Murray. The perfect tonic for your Saturday morning.

 

A short set from AF Harrold

Brilliantly funny, channeling the ghosts of Peter Cook and Spike Milligan, through that Mersey Sound.

 

A short set from Elizabeth Bachinsky from her first book Curios

Punchy and alarming, Bachinsky’s set last night pulled everyone into the often dark world of Valley Girls and Valley Boys.

 

Native Born by Neil Murray

This was a stand out in a set of spoken word and songs from one of Australia’s living legends.

 

Where Shall I Wander by Hinemoana Baker

Words by Hone Tuwhare, music by Hinemoana Baker… she’s got a voice ay!

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QPF Spotlight #18 – Maurice McNamara

Just one more sleep and I will be revelling in the glory of QPF. Many of the artists have now arrived so I am already buzzing with anticipation. One such artist is Melbourne’s Maurice McNamara. I have had the great pleasure of working with Maurice over the past year and the fruits of that work, his debut collection, Half-Hour Country, will be launched at QPF this Saturday morning, August 22 at 10:30am (full details below). One thing I know is that Maurice is never short of a word, so I asked him, about his writing process and where he finds the words.

 

Maurice

 

Where do the words come from?

Everyone is different. Karen Knight, in her section, talks about writing in the day, evenings for meals, drinks, tv. And how she takes weeks to get lines right. How the first lines are the hardest.

I mostly never write during the day. I write at night, after the drinks, meal, tv. But like her I write to music. I don’t care exactly what the music is, mostly moody. I wear that puppy out, playing it over and over, until I never want to hear that song again.

Unlike Karen I go out every day, shopping, walking, listening to the radio (headphones), looking at people. Mostly I’m alone and swallow up fragments. Sometimes this stuff gets coalesced properly, in the evenings, mostly it doesn’t. The best stuff gets the driver of a special event, a special emotion (below, a poem about my sister’s birthday – something slightly out of the ordinary.)

But trying to write every evening, and missing, means that automatic writing ie. just trying to say what happened, has more practice and kick in it, more unconscious rhythm.

Finding the rhythm: everyone has their own, and practising, the drum finds its owner. When I first started writing poetry, about nine years ago, I wrote over a thousand poems – one, two, three, every night. Fortunately that computer clagged out and I lost most of them. Sentimental, masked in cleverness, un-understandable, cutesy, pathetic, half-baked – I forget my other sins but they were many and various. But even from the start one has a rhythm and themes. (Equally, whatever faults I had then, I’ve still got now.)

My saving, very/very/very slow grace, the fact I went out each week and read, badly, to audiences, who went, ugh, or ho-hum, or what-the? next please. (One time a poet said, I like the font your poems are in – that’s how weak my praise was. At the time I was gratified – that’s how piss weak I was.) Going out to read all the time meant I heard lots of other good/bad/indifferent stuff. The best learning is by example. And just keep on going.

I grew up outside Bendigo, an old gold mining town, but where I was, it was mostly Irish, cut off. Like the Cullinans, nine children – Dinny, Danny, Paddy, Maisie, Bess, etc, so on, most of whom still lived with their mother, though the oldest son was hitting seventy. Some of them had never been to Melbourne. Two army tanks had pulled up in their front yard, at the end of the Second World War, from Pucapunyal en route to… Nothing much changed. In the churchyard on Sundays people stood in the same place, said the same things, wearing suits they’d bought for their wedding. I can’t emphasise how important this was/is to me: the idea of a link back, mysteriously un-knowable; the way they said the same things, their cadence and drawl.

As far as poetry goes, I also belong to two sixties artist/artists – Andy Warhol and The Beatles. I think they could be called the first democratic artists – not dependent on being upper class, un-important, using real things around them. And then, the way you heard songs over and over, radio, radio, I think that changed how people wrote.

Poetry influences: I’m sorry, but it has to be local for me. I’m not academic, I’m not international, and I’m not clever (clever is not the same as intelligent). I don’t want to live anywhere else. This is not a proclamation for bogans, or bush poetry. I don’t want to be provincial. The worst kind of provincialism is aping somewhere else. I want to live in the sort of place that is happening on its own terms. Open and hungry, enthusiastic – that’s what Australia should be. So eat from elsewhere but write our own stuff. Don’t be arch, don’t be removed. Even though most of us live in cities, keep the country in our souls. That’s the genius of Australia – we don’t live in pastoral acres, spires dreaming, the bush infects/scares/makes us. That and the ocean – sharks and snakes scare bullshit away. And temperature: this is a hot country, new world, too hot for languid tempered English. Or French theory. (Or hysterical Americans.)

In my writing I don’t live up to this, but I think about it. In this country we’ve got indigenous, migrants, Anglo-Celtic, all burnt by sun, flood and drought, like nowhere else. Only we can do it.

My theory of poetry: watch the faces of the audience, if they remained closed, turned away, something is wrong. (The best poets have a language, a themness that drags us somewhere else, but is yet, recognisable – oh, to be one of them.)

Poets I get excited by: Eric Beach, Jennifer Compton, Grant Caldwell, Jordie Albiston, Myron Lysenko. Not always and not everywhere: but a surprise, a kick, a relaxation, a floating away. Not very much bullshit in any of them.

That’s the trouble with poetry – because it’s tight, where it goes wrong, you flip out. No patience. But then, you stumble across, and you feel like stroking the armpits of your host. Casual sex. Your armpits smell like cummin. (How do you say that word un-rudely?) I’ve got that with Laurie Duggan; like, love some of the Martial poems, then others leave me cold. Same with Dorothy Porter. Hate poems by poets in search of material, trawling art galleries. ‘My response to the Mona Lisa, waiting for Helen to turn up…’ Then we leapt into a foreign sports car. Please. Enough. (Even in art you’re relentlessly middle class.) Middle class masquerading as rascal, even worse. Brett Whitley, you’re busted. ‘See my lawyer, man’. The best Australian poems I’ve read were by Eric Beach, about his girlfriend with motor neurone, caring for her, published in Salt-Lick. ‘Brushing her hair, ice waterfalls.’ Nothing else even comes close, and originally, he’s from New Zealand.

 

About Maurice:

Maurice McNamara has been involved with the Melbourne spoken word scene for a number of years. His writing is casually lyrical, funny but serious, and aims for a spare contemporary feel. His book, Half-Hour Country, has just been published by Small Change Press.

 

Poem:

 

sister’s birthday

having gone to see
‘my year without sex’
a self-consciously Australian movie
small family details
but at least a story arc
as the Americans say
though, written/directed by a woman
I noticed the husband didn’t complain
when there was no sex for a year
which made him a bit too nice, I thought
though, okay, she nearly died

coming out of the theatre, remembered
sister’s birthday, bought flowers
and rillette, to spread on bread
a French name for the potted meat
Dad used to make
but a French name costs more
I try to remember my sister’s birthday
the same day as Mum’s
this year she would have been 96
(so waxen she looked
laid out on the hospital bed)
sister lives alone and has the sort of casual
Catholic violence I detest
try to forget

drive to Armadale
a thunderstorm!
lights on
blinded by rain
cars drive home

visits of duty
driven by a sort of love underneath
a perfect cup of tea
an event that only happens every couple of years
a confluence of milk/tea/sugar
she listens to talking books
doesn’t watch tv
eyes hurt too much

insulted my girlfriend only in passing
pauses between words
women have powers men don’t possess
though men are obvious bastards
saying I was excited by engines but my girlfriend wasn’t
was sexist
I didn’t have much of a headache
by the time we left

I wish she didn’t live alone
but I can’t fix her life up
I can’t fix my own
I don’t like going back
to where I was before
live in the present
which is uneasy

my girlfriend and I had a stupid argument in the car
I was comparing the heroine in ‘my year without sex’
to Muriel in ‘Muriel’s Wedding’
how they had the same daggy Australian woman thing
not found elsewhere
she thought I was being insulting

my voice became more metallic
exasperated
‘you don’t get it’
grinding on, through changes of lights
she retreated to silence
like Mum used to do with Dad
I felt empty
she did too

 

Catch Maurice at QPF 2009:

 

Saturday August 22 – 10:30 – 11:30am

The First Bullet of the Day: featuring Robert Bos and the launch of Half-Hour Country (Small Change Press) by Maurice McNamara and Dear Rose (Small Change Press) by Nicola Scholes

 

Saturday August 22 – 8:00pm

A Million Bright Things: featuring a short set from every bright thing on the 2009 program plus a feature set from the awesome Neil Murray

 

Sunday August 23 – 11:00pm – 12:00pm

Choreography of Chance: featuring Maurice McNamara, Rhys Rodgers and Santo Cazzati

 

All sessions are held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.

For full program details head to www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com

 

 

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QPF Spotlight #17 – Barbara Temperton

QPF 2009 is just two days away and it is all systems go… so to help get you there, today’s spotlight is shining on Barbara Temperton, illuminating where she finds the words that sing that strange music we call poetry.

 

b temperton

 

 

Influences

I’ve soaked up a large variety of influences over the years: from growing up semi-feral in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, to finally moving south, spending eleven years on the south coast before my current detour to the Mid West coast.

I started to write as a child, encouraged by my teachers, but really didn’t really start seriously until 1983. When I moved to Perth in 1987 I was able to connect with other writers – teachers, fellow students, and members of the Perth writing community –  such as Marion Campbell, Philip Salom, Anne Brewster, Tom Shapcott, Elizabeth Jolley, Dennis Haskell, Tracy Ryan, John Kinsella, David Buchanan, Mark Reid, Morgan Yasbincek, Andrew Taylor, Glen Phillips, Marcella Polain, and many others. A residency at Varuna in 2000 under the tutelage of Dorothy Porter and in the company of Judy Johnston and Felicity Plunkett is a high point. Undertaking my MA at UWA under the supervision of Dennis Haskell is another.

 

The Writing Process

My writing process is painstakingly slow. Getting ideas is one thing … one can accommodate a workman-like approach to the construction of poems, but working in an inspired way incorporates an entirely different process. Inspiration to me is when I become totally involved – emotionally, physically, spiritually, whatever – I’m in there with it – that’s when the work really starts to breathe and occupy my life with an intensity that can last days, weeks, months… if I’m lucky.

My first collection “The Snow Queen takes lunch at the Station Café” in Shorelines came together over a period of about seven years when I was mainly focussed on writing prose. I spent the next seven years working on poems for Going Feral, and another seven plus on Southern Edge. There is always a quiet, anticipatory space for me after I’ve finished a writing project, where I wait patiently for my next obsession to materialise.

 

The Importance of Voice

I know I have a character and a poem when I can hear voice. The means by which that comes about is difficult to explain. Sometimes the voice comes from within, sometimes from without. I collect voices that I come across from day to day, write them down, save them up. Once, at a party, I overheard a friend say “I have found pleasure in skinning rabbits.” As soon as our eyes met she laughed and pointed at me (because she knows me well) and said “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded!” And went on to explain what she really meant. But it didn’t matter, I had already collected the words, the voice. By the time I got home that night I had created the character who was speaking. So, voice can be a narrative position, but can also take many other forms, like sound qualities or structural aspects – line lengths, for example – of a poem. The character I called Traveller in “Jetty Stories (from Southern Edge) had his point of origin outside Port Hedland in 1995. We were fishing on the banks of a tidal creek. My nephew William told me the local legend of a woman who had walked out onto the mud flats at low tide, and who was trapped and drowned when the tide came in. William’s story provided me with the situation, later work saw the development of the Traveller’s character, but the poem did not come alive for me until I had found its voice – not the voice of the character but the voice of the poem – and that didn’t come about until much later.

 

Recurring Themes

About a decade ago I came to the understanding that bereavement in its many forms has been a constant source of inspiration for me, as it continues to be. Wherever darkness exists it has lightness as its counterfoil. That’s the nature of binaries – where there is one there is the other. In poetry, as in drawing, you don’t create a form by drawing the form, you create it by drawing the shadows.

 

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

I don’t think my passion for poetry has changed, I still love reading it and writing it as much as I ever did.

In recent times, due to the demands of work and study, I have had a lot less time in which to write and I really miss the sense of dwelling that came with having an active writing habit.

I love being the poetry advisor for Westerly magazine, reading submissions, making recommendations to the Editors. Back in the eighties, Westerly gave me my first real opportunities at getting my short stories and poems published, so it’s somewhat poetic that I’m in this position now.

 

About Barbara:

Barbara Temperton is an award-winning Western Australian writer. Her poems, song lyrics, short stories, reviews and articles have appeared in journals, newspapers, anthologies, have been performed live and broadcast on radio. Barbara lives in Geraldton, Western Australia, where she works as a librarian and editor, and moonlights as the poetry editor for Westerly. Barbara has also worked on community writing and theatre projects and as tutor in English and Creative Writing courses at the UWA – Albany Centre, Edith Cowan University and Curtin University in Perth. Her second collection of poetry, Going Feral, won the 2002 West Australian Premier’s Book Award for Poetry. Southern Edge her third book, published this year by Fremantle Press, was written for her MA at the University of Western Australia.

 

Poem:

 

From “The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife” (Southern Edge, Fremantle W.A.: Fremantle Press, 2009.)

I

Dawn.
There’s still a bit of south in the wind.
Waves have worried the beach in two.

The keeper’s wife collects driftwood, feathers.

 

There is something about the air,
the intensity of colour,
that awes her. This place
is an X
on her map of moments with God.

Whales exhale beyond the wave line,
flippers and tail flukes slow-arc from the sea.
At the high tide line: cuttlefish, shells, kelp,
and a dead shearwater half-cast in sand,
wings mocked by breeze, the memory of flight.

Another bird, feet at pointe, Degas’ ballet
framed by footprints of dogs and gulls.

Thereafter, another seven,
bills locked mid-cry.

Mist begins its skyward drift with the sun,
horses and fierce riders
thunder through the curtain into day.

Sea’s silver, molten,
the air
taking on something like substance,
as though she could reach out, touch something solid.

She has either left the world
or just stepped into it.

 

Catch Barbara at QPF 2009:
Saturday August 22 – 10:30 – 11:30am

Skies Early Stars: featuring Barbara Temperton, Neil Murray & Kent McCarter

 

Saturday August 22 – 8:00pm

A Million Bright Things: featuring a short set from every bright thing on the 2009 program plus a feature set from the awesome Neil Murray

 

Sunday August 23 – 3:15pm – 4:15pm

Nostalgic by Ambitious: featuring Barbara Temperton, Geoff Page & John Knight

 

All sessions are held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.

For full program details head to www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com

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QPF Spotlight #16 – Ten QPF Poets

Just four more sleeps and I will be in poetry heaven… yes QPF 2009 is just around the corner. There are still some tickets left for Friday night’s, ‘A Tangle of Possibilities’ concert so make sure you get your seat booked asap. You can do that online here, or call The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts Box Office on (07) 3872 9000 between 12pm and 4pm.

And to help fill your next few days with poetry, I have put together a sampler from ten of the poets featuring at QPF this weekend. Hope this gets your poetry gland salivating.

See you at the festival!

 

The Violence of Work by Geoff Goodfellow

Ruminations, Allegro & The Swoop by Geoff Page

These are Wobbly Days by Anna Krien

Cheap Red Wine & Why I Write? by Bronwyn Lea

38 ways to stain a memory by Nathan Shepherdson

Death and the Maiden by Jeffrey Harpeng

And this is just the morning, glass to sea-junk: a sacrifice & How do you do, Tuatara? by Zenobia Frost

Getting off the Round-About by Janice Bostok

Of a Place by Elizabeth Bachinsky

One by Hinemoana Baker

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Ekka Days

Well, the 2009 Ekka has come to a close and I am still buzzing with a strange kind of delirious energy. The Ekka has that effect on people. I am not sure whether it is the flashing lights, that distinctive voice advertising dagwood dogs and jam donuts (it seems to be on a permanent loop and is able to be heard from almost any point in the grounds), the heady mix of perfume, sweat and dung, the swarms of soap bubbles pumped regularly into the air, or the mile wide smile on almost every face that passes by, but once you are inside the gates, the sticky fingers of excitement take hold and your inner child is bursting at the seams.

 

ekka haiku - strawberry sundae

 

Our performances (myself and poetic riff maker Sheish Money), on the International Food Hall Stage were a blast and it was a real thrill seeing faces light up in the audience. In the end, that is one of the things that keeps us going. Performing in front of an appreciative poetry audience is great, but turning just one person on in a crowd of people high on that Ekka buzz takes it all to another level. It was also very cool to be joined by the delightful Hinemoana Baker for our final gig. You can read how much she loved The Ekka from her blog post Ekka-stasy.

 

ekka haiku - showtime

 

As I walked out the gates for the last time, I could not help but feel nostalgic… 2010 will see many changes at The Ekka – the Showbag Pavillion will be gutted, the Douglas Wadley Dog Pavillion will be torn down and the iconic chairlift will no longer decorate the Valley sky. I just hope that this change is well managed and that the spirit of the Ekka remains the same. It is a Brisbane icon, and we can’t afford to lose any more of these.

So as I come down off my Ekka high, here’s a few poems that I wrote for a photographic exhibition that was on display in the Errol Barnes Dining Room. If you were not able to get there this year, I hope that these poems help conjure some of the magic.

 

 

ekka haiku - cattle shed

 

 

ekka haiku - shooting ducks

 

 

ekka haiku - secret pocket

 

All photographs taken by Andrea Higgins for Artisan.

 

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