Monthly Archives: May 2010

SpeedPoets: Billy Jones + The Stress of Leisure

This Sunday June 6, SpeedPoets roll back into InSpire Gallery Bar (71 Vulture St West End) from 2pm boasting a double feature to make the sparks fly in your frontal lobe!

The poetry feature will be none other than one-time hermit-derelict-wildman, Billy Jones. Billy is an artist, poet and emotional expatriate born in Camden, New Jersey in 1935. In addition to his seven previously published poetry collections and numerous exhibitions, he has kept a journal of drawings, paintings and poetry every day since 28 June 1975. When asked about Jones’ work, fellow QLD legend Thomas Shapcott said, the mystical awareness of larger forces within the quotidian is what makes his work special … a remarkable record of a life spent simply, and deeply.

Here is a poem taken from his 2006 collection, Wren Lines (papertiger media – soi 3 modern poets) and one of his incredible images:

Paw Paw - Billy Jones, Wren Lines (soi 3 modern poets)

                                                                PURE LAND

                                                                frog in bathroom
                                                                sink as I brush teeth
                                                                in oval silky oak mirror
                                                                moves out of way
                                                                of gurgling tap
                                                                chrome green
                                                                with white belly
                                                                spatula suction cup
                                                                fingers & toes
                                                                cascade of fleeting streaks
                                                                in back of the eyes
                                                                skids into shaving bag
                                                                backs in slow peering out
                                                                must live in there
                                                                there goes my overnight bag
                                                                pure land of enchantment

                                                                what is a man
                                                                what is a treefrog
                                                                but this sudden curving
                                                                radiance behind the eyes

And approaching the mic softly will be Brisbane band, The Stress of Leisure. This will be an acoustic gig for the band, featuring Head-of-Leisure, Ian Powne and delightfully flamboyant keyboardist/singer, Pascalle Burton. And as a special treat they will be showcasing songs from their eagerly anticipated third album, The Soft Approach.

If you have not yet had the pleasure, check out the video to House and Garden from their second album Hour to Hour.

As always there will be two rounds of Open Mic, live sounds from Sheish Money, Raffles, Free Zines and for the second time, the SpeedPoets ‘Poetry Rummage Sale’. So make sure you come with some coins in your pocket to take home a bargain or three… all books will be $2 or under!

See you at InSpire this Sunday… Entry is a gold coin donation.

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Darkness in the Light: Willy Vlautin live in Brisbane

Well yesterday was incredibly special… waking to a low grey sky, was the perfect start to a day that would only get better. It was the perfect weather for listening to Willy Vlautin.

Willy has been a big influence on me as an artist in the last decade. For me, the spareness of his writing, resonates in that space between the heart and the pit of the stomach. That space where darkness and light meet, to create an ache that just keeps itching at you, driving you to look deeper inside yourself, your world and the people in it. So with that big grey sky threatening to burst, we pulled on our jackets and headed in to Avid Reader to hear Willy read from his latest novel, Lean On Pete.

As part of the afternoon Salon, there were three other readers programmed from local university creative writing courses. Willy sat in the front row, sipping from his coffee watching intently the three writers who came before him, leaning in to their stories. And when it was his turn to take the mic, he thanked the authors and talked about his love for the independent bookstore. This wasn’t the prerequisite, ‘thank you for having me…’ this was straight from the heart, honest thanks. This humbling sense of honesty, was one of the outstanding features of Vlautin’s reading. There was no rock star ego, just a man and the sweet desperation of his words… words that he has obviously worked and lived hard for.

Vlautin lights up when he is reading and talking about his novels. His love for writing stories is clearly a driving force in his life. When asked the difference between writing stories and songs, Willy smiled and said, if you see me walking down the street smiling, then I’m probably writing stories, if you see me hungover, missing a tooth, then I’m probably writing songs. Vlautin admits to being a ‘bit of a sad sack’, and while there is a darkness in the characters (such as young Charley Thompson in Lean On Pete) he so skillfully brings to life, there is an intrinsic hope in his narratives, and it is this hope that lies in wait for the reader/listener willing to take the journey with Vlautin and his band of misfits.

At the end of the session, Willy signs books and is eager to engage in conversation with everyone in the queue. He doesn’t quite look comfortable behind the table and is on his feet to shake hands often and thank people for coming along to the reading. I get my books signed and talk to Willy about characters such as Walter from his Postcard Series on Richmond Fontaine’s 2003 album Post to Wire and Allison Johnson from his second novel Northline. We talk about these characters like they are old friends and Willy talks of their futures with clarity, he knows clearly what has happened to all these folk. We walk out into an evening that has cleared, our heads full of hope, ready to see Willy shift gears into singer/songwriter mode alongside Richmond Fontaine bandmate, Dan Eccles.

The Troubadour is nicely crowded tonight for a bill which also features local youngsters The Honey Month and Brisbane stalwarts Gentle Ben and His Sensitive Side.

Willy is again in the crowd for both bands and is clearly a big fan of Gentle Ben. Australian music has been a big influence on Vlautin, as it was the Paul Kelly song So Much Water So Close To Home (based on a Raymond Carver story of the same name) that inspired Vlautin to start writing prose.

When it is Willy and Dan’s turn to take the stage, they open with Welhorn Yards from The Fitzgerald. Like so many of Vlautin’s songs, it leaves you at the point of crisis to ponder the fates of his characters:

I saw the yobs and D.O.A but I couldn’t go home
So I went down to the yards and I sat by the concrete wall
And the wind picked up and I fell asleep on the dirt and gravel
At the Welhorn Yards
Harry shook me awake as the wind howled above us and
it nearly scared me to death
From a distant street light I saw the cut on his face and his
blood soaked shirt
“Everything went wrong,” he cried. “I lost the money and I think
J.P is gone. He was just laying on the floor when I ran for the door.”
At the Welhorn Yards, that night at the Welhorn Yards
Harry smoked cigarettes as the wind flurried above us
I gave him all the money i had and i gave him my ID and coat and
watched him disappear down the road
I sat back down and fell into the uneasiest of sleeps
the worst nightmares of sleeps
Where a madman came after me
His hair was on fire and his eyes were bleeding
and he said he was going to kill me

From there on in, the setlist is any Richmond Fontaine fans dream, featuring songs from their back catalogue such as:

Whiteline Fever (from Safety, 1997)
Out of State & Western Skyline (from Winnemucca, 2002)
Barely Losing, Two Broken Hearts, Post to Wire & Always on the Ride (from Post to Wire, 2003)
Incident at Conklin Creek (from The Fitzgerald, 2005)
$87 and a Guilty Conscience That Gets Worse the Longer I Go, I Fell Into Painting Houses in Phoenix Arizona, Moving Back Home, Lost in this World & Capsized (from Thirteen Cities);
and a swag of songs off the new album We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like A River including, The Boyfriends, Maybe We Were Both Born Blue, 43, Two Alone & Lonnie, which features one of my favourite ever song lines:

I ain’t going to worry about you anymore
You can keep living that hard if you want to
but the only point that you got now is dying
I saw your aunt in the store, she couldnt keep from saying
horrible things about you, but the thing is they’re all true

Vlautin and Eccles are the perfect pairing on stage. They look at ease with each other and at all times are in sync, Eccles’ guitar flourishes rounding out Willy’s well strummed rhythms.

One of the real highlights for me was their performance of three of the postcards from Post to Wire (here’s a link to one of them). The tail-between-legs, apologetic ramblings of Walter to his good friend Pete showcase Vlautin as one of the most innovative musical storytellers of this or any other generation.

At the end of the night the room is smiling, one of my friends looks at me and says he has written three new poems in his head, and we are all then out into a night filled with stars, Vlautin’s words illuminated in all of us, lucky enough to have been in the room with a truly gifted artist.

For those who couldn’t make it along, you can listen to an interview with Willy live from the Sydney Writers Festival here.

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Three Moments of Anticipation

#1

Well, I don’t have to wait long for the first event as tomorrow, singer/songwriter/novelist & Richmond Fontaine front man, Willy Vlautin, hits the stage twice in Brisbane and I will be there to catch both performances.

At 4:00pm, Willy will be reading from his latest book Lean On Pete and talking about the writing process at Avid Reader (tickets available here). This for me is the real treat, as Vlautin is one of those rare, outlaw writers, who is farming the rich vein of Americana, much like Steinbeck and Carver, delivering tales from a fractured society, without softening any of the blows. Vlautins prose is achingly real, capturing the unique voice of the fringe dweller and their struggle in all its ragged beauty.

You can watch trailers for his last two books Northline and Lean On Pete, with Willy providing the superb backing music on both.

Then in the evening he will be teaming up with fellow Richmond Fontaine member, Dan Eccles for an intimate acoustic performance at The Troubadour (tickets available here). To get a taste of what Richmond Fontaine are all about, check out this footage of Willy playing two songs from their acclaimed album, Thirteen Cities, in a motel room, which by the way is so fitting for Vlautin, seeing many of his characters live their lives bouncing from motel to motel (his first book was called The Motel Life).

Willy plays The Kid from Belmont St and Capsized from Thirteen Cities.

Hope to see many of you Lost Sharks there…

#2

There are some amazing projects underway, focussing on the life and work of the late Richard Brautigan. There is a documentary currently being shot titled For Richard, directed by Paul Swenson and Anthony Lucero and Lucero is also touted to be directing a feature film adaptation of Brautigan’s classic novel, The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966. Let’s hope both of these projects see the light of day, as previously there were plans to make a feature film based on his novel The Hawkline Monster, with Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman touted as playing the cowboys… imagine that!!!

#3

For those who missed the glory of Cohen in 2009, never fear, the great man seems to be taking a leaf from the Bob Dylan tour handbook and is returning to these shores in November this year. Seriously, if you didn’t see him last time, don’t miss this. For me it is a concert experience that i will carry with me forever. My review of his February 2009 concert is testiment to that.

Presale tickets for Frontier Touring members go on sale Monday May 31 at 12pm.

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Riverbend Poetry Series Event #3 featuring Ynes Sanz

The final event in the Riverbend Poetry Series for 2010 is coming up and it is going to be one heck of a celebration! The event will be the launch of the 2010 QLD Poetry Festival program as well as the launch of a new CD – A Million Bright Things – featuring many of the artists from the 2009 QPF Program. And if that is not enough to get the inner poet clicking their heels, there will also be feature performances from the word-spitting, rhyme-spinning Darkwing Dubs, the soulfully elegant Suzanne Jones and the author of some mad and magnificent poems and stories, Ynes Sanz.

I will be posting a feature on each of these artists over the coming weeks, so to kick things off I would like to introduce you (or reintroduce you as it may be) to Ynes Sanz:

Ynes Sanz won the Arts Queensland Val Vallis Award in 2005. Her poem ‘Taken as Required’ was short-listed for the 2010 ABR poetry prize.
 
In 2006/7 Ynes was on the QPF Committee. An experienced workshop presenter, poetry judge and editor, in 2007 she judged the Vallis with John Tranter and Luke Beesley. In 2009 she co-judged the QPF Short Film Competition with Francis Boyle.
 
Her short stories, haibun and other verse can be found online and in print. Some of her children’s poems and haiku are installed in the Children’s Rainforest Hide’n Seek Trail at Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens. Publications include Lady with Weasel, SweetWater Press, 2005; Talking Poetry Blues, 2006 and Fanny the Flying Housewife & other stories: poems for mad and magnificent women, 2009.
 
Ynes is currently working on Flash Harry and other stories: poems about mad and memorable men, a companion volume to Fanny the Flying Housewife.

 

S.W.A.L.K
(Rudolph Valentino, film star)
 
dear Mr Valentino
can I call you Rudolph
I wish I could visit your marble crypt in Hollywood
and if I could I swear
I would put roses in those metal rose-holder things
but I would not wear black like the Mystery Woman
my friends think you are Some Dead Guy
they don’t know you are Forever Young
I wasn’t even born when you got sick
didn’t they have decent doctors back then
my Nanna said the moment you passed away
a light went out of women’s eyes
she says a man these days is just No-Good
and will treat a woman Like A Slave
but I read how your Mamma spoilt you bad
and you will think I’m crazy but I have to know
did you toss your underwear
in the corner like they all do
or did my Nanna make that up
and were they really made of silk
which I hope they were on account of
you deserve Only The Best and even she agrees
or maybe you wore no undershorts at all
and were A Free Spirit or whatever it was called
before it was called Commando Style
sorry if this is embarrassing
yours truly
a fan

You can read more of Ynes’ work at http://www.commonshrew.blogspot.com/  

 

And to make sure you don’t miss out on this wonderful event, full details are below:

Date: Tuesday 22 June
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

These events are always hugely popular, so book early to avoid disappointment!

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Bob Dylan – 69 years young

I believe we all have artistic beacons… those shining lights that guide us through the years and soundtrack the highs and lows of our lives. For me, Dylan has always shone brightly. His words have circled me for my entire 39 years and I have to say, I cannot imagine life without Dylan. Sharing a birthday with him, well that’s just icing on the cake!

In 1985 I saw my first ever concert, it wasn’t Bob, but it was a man inspired by him – Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band. I still remember the sheer exhilaration of that show, the incredible feeling of having music flood over me in the live arena. The following year, I had my second concert experience… this time it was Bob, backed by the legendary Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.

When I look back on this, I cannot help but thinking I was spoiled. It’s an almost unbeatable one, two punch (three including Petty!). I have since seen Bob five times and live in hope that I have not had my last live Dylan experience. Each time, Bob has shifted shape and delivered set lists that have left audiences guessing. I never would have imagined Cat’s in the Well from Under the Red Sky being the opening number when I saw him last in 2007 (here’s the full set list from the show). But that’s part of the magic…

So to celebrate my 39th and Bob’s 69th, I have dug up a link where you can download a concert from Bob’s ‘Together and Alone’ 1986 tour with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. My memory of this show includes Bob adorned with big bauble earrings and leather vest, Tom smoking one of the biggest joints I have ever seen, Mike Campbell’s shredding solo in So You Want To Be A Rock’n’Roll Star and rousing versions of Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, When the Night Comes Falling, Ballad of a Thin Man and Positively 4th Street.

This concert recorded live in New York on the 4th of July, 1986 features many of those songs… and has stripped back the years and filled me with the same sense of wonder and awe. So here it is in its entirety:

Bob Dylan w/ Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers live in New York

And as a thank you to everyone who posted their favourite tracks on my recent Dylan post, here’s a treat for you… I have rummaged around to come up with clips of ten of the songs as a way of saying thank you.

Enjoy,

Ballad of a Thin Man
Tangled Up In Blue
Series of Dreams

Things Have Changed
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
Subterranean Homesick Blues
 (w/ Neil Young)
Highway 61 Revisited
Romance in Durango

Brownsville Girl
Lonesome Day Blues

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Poetry or Football?

Well the papers are seething today with talk of the first State of Origin which is all set for next Wednesday, but just in case you were wondering what else is happening that night…

On Wednesday May 26, Confit Bistro (4/9 Doggett St. Fortitude Valley) hosts its monthly celebration of live art and food, The Back Room. Confit Bistro provides the stage for local artists and alongside good food and wine, aims to bring art, life, love and the discourse on such into our lives. 

This month features performances and exhibitions by:

Kylie Farrelly
(Local contemporary artist presented by Gallery 2120)

Israel Mukasa
(Photographer & Poet) 
       
Uncle Bobs Bakery
(Creative Artisan Baker)

and

this Lost Shark performing two sets w/ Sheish Money & Jane Sheehyincluding a tribute to Bob Dylan to (belatedly) celebrate his 69th and my 39th.

The bar is open from 6.00pm  and an exquisite tapas styled menu is served throughout the night. There is no cover charge and table seating is limited, so ask yourself… poetry or football?

To choose poetry call (07) 3254 4001 to book your seat!

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The Speaking Page

To get myself ready to ‘grab some world’, I have been firmly ensconced in my reading chair with a copy of Robert Adamson’s ‘The Clean Dark’.

The Speaking Page (the title poem of the second section of the book), has long been one of my favourite Adamson poems, brimming with his classic Hawkesbury River imagery, so I was thrilled when I came out to the computer and discovered this short film of the poem, read by Robert Adamson with images by his long time partner, Juno Gemes.

So if you too need a fix of the ocean and a hit from one of Australia’s finest living poets, look no further than The Speaking Page.

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SpeedPoets Feature Poem #4 – Karlo Mila

I haven’t posted a poem from the vast SpeedPoets archives for some time now, but I am currently looking for poems for the June and July issues, so thought the time was right.

If you have any poems that will light up the page (shorter pieces up to 25lines preferred), please email them in the body of your email titled SpeedPoets Submission, to geenunn(at)yahoo.com.au. You can send up to 3 poems per submission. To give you an idea of the type of poem that graces the pages of SpeedPoets, here’s a poem that featured in the September 2007 issue by Karlo Mila.

 

Brunswick Street
          (For Graham, Jules and Rowan)

Brisbane
your elbows like a
bit of biffo
tigers, dragons whirling
on white skin
 
here
broken green glass
on footpath
makes its way
to a necklace
in shop-window
in one smashing
second
 
the guys go from
hey gorgeous
to fuck off then bitch
in one rowdy
back-turned
moment
 
Brisbane
you met my eyes
everywhere
I went
 
I ate my way
across feta footpaths
skidding on passionfruit
pips, oh the unctuous
Greek yogurt feeling up
the strawberries
 
I’ll be seeing you again
 
with your wet river
eyes and arid mouth
 
haiku flicking in the neon
 
cheers mate
 
and a drink to those
slim volumes of
open handed people
wringing poetry
from your
stone
dry
streets

© Karlo Mila

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2010 Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence – Emily XYZ

Internationally-renowned two-voice poet and performance artist, Emily XYZ has been selected as the 2010 Poet-in-Residence.

Hailing from New York, the provocateur commences her residency on 1 July and will embark on a three-month program involving regional tours, one-on-one workshops with Queensland poets and writers, and will culminate in appearances with her performance partner Myers Bartlett at the 14th Queensland Poetry Festival.

For more information and a schedule of events, visit: http://qwc.asn.au/ProgramsProjects/Projects/ArtsQueenslandPoetinResidence.aspx

If you have never witnessed the magic of Emily XYZ & Myers Bartlett, here’s a couple of clips you should most definitely check out on Youtube.

Emily XYZ & Myers Bartlett perform Slot Machine & Frank Sinatra

Emily and Myers blew minds when they were last here in 2006 and I am sure that this residency is going to see some amazing art created.

 

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The New Folk XIII – Vlautin, Felice & Lanegan

The touring circuit is hitting a mid-year peak, with a glut of great singer/songwriters hitting our shores in the coming months. Here’s a taste of some of the artists I am anticipating great shows from in the months of May, June and July.

We Used to Think The River Sounded Like a Freeway – Willy Vlautin & Dan Eccles

Willy Vlautin is undoubtedly one of the best storytellers to ever pick up a guitar. He has been described as ‘the Dylan of the dispossesed’ and likened to authors such as John Steinbeck for his crisply realised images of characters at the end of their rope. And for the first time, Australian audiences are getting a chance to see Willy (accompanied by Dan Eccles) play live, thanks to the roaring success of his band Richmond Fontaine’s eighth album, We Used to Think the Freewat Sounded Like a River and more importantly his critically accalimed third novel, Lean On Pete. Willy is in Australia as part of the Sydney Writers Festival, but Brisbane also gets a look in on Saturday May 29, with Willy reading and talking about Lean on Pete at Avid Reader at 4pm and then playing a set from the Richmond Fontaine back catalogue at The Troubadour that night. Tickets for both these events are now available and I am sure they are not going to last… artists like Vlautin are a rare commodity.

One More American Song – Simone Felice

Another rare commodity is Simone Felice (The Felice Brothers, The Duke & The King). Felice, like Vlautin, is an acclaimed singer/songwriter, who has also had great success as a poet and experimental novelist (Goodbye Amelia, Hail Mary Full of Holes). One More American song is an example of Felice’s lyrical richness. In the song he remembers Johnny, a boy from school with fiery red hair, who, thanks to the horrors of war has become the king of bottle tops, pushing shopping carts in a parking lot. It is this kind of raw narrative that Felice pens so well. And like Vlautin, Felice is making his way to Australia for the first time too, but unfortunately Brisbane is not part of the tour… Sydney and Melbourne only. Maybe next time…

Bombed – Mark Lanegan

From his days leading Seattle grunge gods Screaming Trees, to cameos with Queens of the Stoneage, Isobell Campbell, Soulsavers & The Twilight Singers, Mark Lanegan’s voice has become a sort after instrument. It has that whiskey-soaked, lived-in-leathery versatility that can stretch effortlessly from blues to country, gospel to full-tilt rock. Lanegan is like a heady mix of Johnny Cash and Charles Bukowski, most at home telling tales of the underworld, where drug deals, petty violence and squalid love affairs are common place. So if you like your stories seedy, get along to one of Lanegan’s Australian shows this July. He plays The Zoo in Brisbane on July 9.

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