Monthly Archives: September 2010

SpeedPoets, Sunday October 3: feat. Robin ‘Archie’ Archbold

Well, I am heading off for the week to walk the city from my mind… and when I return, SpeedPoets will be kicking up a storm.

Brisbane’s longest running poetry event, SpeedPoets keeps fanning the flames of poetry at InSpire Gallery Bar (71 Vulture St, West End). October will feature spoken word dynamo and multiple Slam winner, Robin ‘Archie’ Archbold. The last time I saw Archie perform was at the Goolwa Poetry Festival where he popped a button in someone’s drink. It was very special!

Here’s a clip of Archie performing at the Lismore Poetry Cup:

There will also be the regular live sounds from Sheish Money, free zines, raffles/giveaways and the hottest Poetry Open Mic Section in town. So be sure to pack a poem or two in your pocket and get yourself heard!

SpeedPoets, Sunday October 3, 2:00pm – 5:30pm, InSpire Gallery Bar – 71 Vulture St. West End

featuring:

Robin ‘Archie’ Archbold

Entry is a gold coin donation

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Authors for Peace Event sets Guinness World Record

The Authors for Peace event held on International Peace Day (Sept 21) has officially entered the record books. The event started at midnight on Sept 21 and was streamed live on the interenet for 24hrs, showcasing the voice of 75 poets from across the globe… and as a result the event has entered the Guinness Book of Records.

But what’s even more important, is the sense of unity the event created. I remain humbled to have been a part of this event and I watched for many hours of the day taking in the words and wisdom of the poets who gave voice to the event.

I hope that Authors for Peace continues for many years to come… events like this are needed now more than ever.

Keep an eye on the website for details of future events: http://www.authorsforpeace.com/index.html

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Aural Text Award: And the winner is…

Adam Gibson and his band The Aerial Maps for their 2008 album, In the Blinding Sunlight. Here’s what the judges had to say:

“Adam Gibson’s In the Blinding Sunlight is a poetic triumph. It mixes the exquisite, ethereal language of love with the firm vernacular of the everyday. Beautifully written, beautifully musical and just beautifully executed. The best thing is it is a CD you want to play again and again and again. For me, it doesn’t get better than that.”

– Alicia Sometimes

Here’s a clip of their song The Great Australian Silence:

Highly Commendeds were awarded to Going Down Swinging 25 (double CD issue), A Million Bright Things - QLD Poetry Festival 2009, As If Nothing Happened, And It IsPaul Mitchell & Bill Butler and of course The Stillest Hour recorded by Sheish Money & myself.

I am wrapped to be in such fine company and the other highlight is that Sheish and I have tracks featured on two of the other shortlisted albums (GDS 25 & A Million Bright Things).

Happy times indeed!

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Lorraine McGuigan: Wings of the Same Bird (review by Patricia Prime)

Wings of the Same Bird, Lorraine McGuigan.  Interactive Press, Queensland, Australia.  2009.  76 pp.  ISBN: 978-1-921479-35-9.  AUS$25. 

Reviewed by Patricia Prime

This collection by Lorraine McGuigan was the winner of IP Picks 2009 Best Poetry Award.  The collection is divided into two sections: Part 1: ‘Wings’ and Part 2: ‘Of the Same Bird.’

You are in a safe pair of hands with Lorraine McGuigan.   She provides civilized, thoughtful, well-formed poems without perplexities – poems that do not take risks, yet deliver a balanced criticism of life.  Many of the poems have been previously published a d they confirm her ability as a sound poet who will never let you down, although they may astonish with moments of recognition.  Her poems have the virtues of good prose – clarity and imagery that support a clear line of argument.  She puts into accessible words what many people feel.

Consider the first poem, “Golden Lily,” which is based on “To The Edge Of The Sky,” a memoir by Anhua Gao.  The poem is about looking at a showcase full of “wide-sleeved robes heavy / with gold and silver thread” but what catches the poet’s eye is a small satin shoe.  The poet recalls what she knows about the ceremony of foot-binding which took place in China.  The imagery begins with the robes but then talks about the child with “perfumed feet,” “folded toes,” “the crack of fine bones,” “foul seepage” and “pleated flesh.”  While these are searing images, you could say, poetic, the language never soars.  Yet the message is clear and exceptional and will resonate with many people.

In an admirable poem about a visit to Beijing, “Taste of Beijing: Sweet and Sour,” the theme is linked with memories and reflections about street people, food and the contrast between poverty and the beautiful dancer at an evening concert.  She concludes,

     Fluid
 in every limb she’s quickly upside

 down, doing the splits, her body
 a perfect T.  Unbidden,

 a skateboard comes to mind,
 its eternal passenger, limbs fixed.

In “A Taste of Sudan,” she tells of a man called David and his escape from a place of captivity through a sewer pipe, where he was “Baptized in the waste / of fellow prisoners.”  In another poem, “Bird-Bath,” about her mother collecting bird feathers, she evokes the budgies kept in the sunroom.  The images are conventional though pleasing, “Seventy years on, this feather: a Pardolote perhaps, / hovering in frigid air, leaving just / a little of itself, for me.”  This is bravely honest in that it touches on the way someone else’s love of birds can sharpen one’s own senses.

McGuigan is at her best when she approaches experience obliquely, for example, projecting herself into the experience of the beekeeper in “Summer’s End,” or into her Uncle Mac’s experience of losing his leg during the war in the poem “Uncle Mac’s Leg:

 Cursing the tangle of leather straps, the shoulder
 harness keeping the brute in place, he throws
 the leg down one Anzac Day.  Beats it till his stick
 snaps.  And weeps.

A fine poem about a man cradling a child killed in an air strike, “Struck,” avoids the tendency to tell rather than show in a tightly composed poem with its control of a sensitive subject:

 Screams hang on desert air, float
 in through windows of sleep

 Nothing can quiet the air.
 Land sinks under the weight.

This final reference to children screaming leaves the reader startled and pondering the futile loss of innocent life during times of war.

The second section opens with the poem “Rainbow (2003),” perhaps suggesting the poet’s love of birds.  Here nature is raw: it’s below zero, the grass is frosted, there’s ice on the bird bath.  The first stanza is about taking the ice from the bird bath so that birds can drink and bathe, and the second is about a “passing lorikeet” dipping its plumes in the water.  The camera is found, but it’s too tale for the bird has flown.  The poet’s attempt to capture the wild is frustrated.  “Coffee for one on the terrace” focuses on a loved one who has spent weeks in intensive care and she wishes to help him,

  Your eyes closed
 against the struggle of it all.

 I’d furnish you with fabulous
 wings, fly you away, and flesh

 warmed by a benevolent sun
 we’d take coffee on the terrace.

Though her work is consistently well-crafted and true to experience, the final lines quoted here show how it can also be illuminated by flashes of inspiration that get to the heart of the situation and character she is describing.  Throughout this section one is presented with family, friends and acquaintances, all of whom are portrayed by the poet with an eye for telling detail.  Consider the small granddaughter who “wants to know yet again about dying.”  (“Signs”).  In another poem she sees herself comforted by her husband where “Our daughters lift / your arms curving them / gently around me” (Coupling”).  The poet is prompted to say in “The Tasting” “Receiving the ashes, I am unprepared.  How could they be so heavy.”  The persona McGuigan projects is that of someone who has led a wonderful and interesting life, surrounded by love and affection.

However, McGuigan can also deal convincingly with difficult issues.  In “Turning back the clock” she writes about someone who has lost a loved one:

    Always

 the punctual one, he kept time
 as though life depended on it.
 Clocks never slow or fast.

 On a whim their bedroom clock
 remains untouched: a challenge
 for him, wherever he now is.

Many of the poems in this section deal with memories and other domestic themes.  In “Remembering,” for instance,

 A business card arriving in our box:
 white, black-edged, blank.  And now
 you are (whisper the word) dead I
 wonder was it Death’s calling card?

And in “Time,” the persona discovers that

 On his bedside table he has left
 The Dictionary of Time, final chapter
 unread.  It waits for the bookmark
 
 to be slipped aside, then a smoothing
 of the page as was his practice.

McGuigan ensures that by and large the reader’s interest is held, as in the final poem “Traveller” where she talks about the “smooth travelling / as you row the spaces between us.”  An unpretentious and honest writer, McGuigan’s overriding concern is to write about what she has felt and understands.  At her best, she achieves an impressive universality.

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Emily XYZ talks about her experience as Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence

Tomorrow night (Tuesday Sept. 21) is the launch of Emily XYZ’s legacy item and farewell party at The Edge, so whether you have RSVP’d or not, I recommend pulling on your disco boots and coming along. Full details of the event can be found here: EVP Launch

With Emily’s time in Australia sadly winding up, I asked her a few questions to get her thoughts on her time as Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence.

How has living in this beautiful city of ours influenced you and your writing over the past couple of months?

Australia generally is a more upbeat place than much of the US right now, especially SE Michigan, where I’ve been living lately. The housing crash, the Detroit auto industry implosion, and the financial crisis all hit the midwest particularly hard.  Australia is in a very different place economically than the US right now.  That alone is nice!  You don’t have the social rifts we are dealing with, either — all the terrible debris of the Bush years.  The US is so polarized right now that forward movement is impossible, and so things are at a standstill.

Being in Australia reminds me that there is hope for the world.  That may sound funny, but it is very encouraging to me the amount of consciousness, on a mundane level, for things like the environment — As a simple example, you have the half/full flush toilets everywhere, which do not exist in the US, I’m sorry to say.  There is also less poverty here, less desperation, and a LOT less gun violence.  It just seems like the place still has a soul, and still cares about doing the right thing.

So all that has a subtle but powerful effect on one’s state of mind.  You find yourself kind of “calming down” here.  I worry less.  Of course, I’m in a special situation as Poet in Residence — visiting artists are treated well — but even so, I find it a very pleasant, civilized place in so many ways.  In terms of Brisbane specifically, it’s an easy city to live in with many things that make daily life good.  Like the Riverwalk, which is maybe my favorite thing here.  It is so unique — I don’t know of any American town that has a walkway like that all along their waterfront!  And it’s so fun — to walk in the air, to see the beauty of the city and the river and the weather.  It just cheers me up every time I’m there.  Just a great thing to have.

So I guess to answer your question, I’m not sure how it’s influenced my WRITING yet — as that is a much bigger, slower-moving thing, an influence on one’s output — but I can say that being here has definitely improved my state of mind.  It’s given me hope.  I feel like maybe Australia is the next great standard-bearer of democracy.  It’s a “young” place in a way that the US is not right now.  You are not afraid to confront things and find answers, or at least take the questions seriously.

You have taken in plenty of poetry events during your residency, so how does the Brisbane scene stack up?

Very well.  There’s a very lively local poetry & writing scene, which I have really enjoyed getting better acquainted with.  There’s a lot to do and participate in if you are a writer, a poet, a spoken-word artist here.  And there’s room for more!  So people should definitely be starting new things, as well.  New readings, new workshops, new venues, new events, new approaches to presenting stuff.  You have to PUT IN to keep the thing growing.  Ask not what the poetry scene can do for you — Ask what you can do for the poetry scene.
 
You have been busy recording some of your new two-voice poems at the moment… what can we expect?

I recorded two new two-voice poems, “EVP” and “A Little Revolution” (which I wrote here) with no accompaniment, then asked two local guys, Darek Mudge (a producer & sound engineer who also plays in the band Disco Nap) and Matt O’Neill (a music journalist who also creates soundscapes; he works w/ a dance duo called Nostalgia) for remixes, which they very graciously did in a ridiculously short time.  I love the remixes, they are very different responses to the original poems but both very cool.  I think the poems are good, too.  “EVP” means “electronic voice phenomena” and is inspired by those recordings people make of background noise in haunted houses; sometimes you can hear hear strange, unexplained speech-like sounds and those are called EVPs.  Peripherally it’s also about confusion & loss. “A Little Revolution” is a fun song, I call it imaginary disco, partly inspired by the Commodores’ song “Brick House,” a funk classic.

Looking back on the residency what have been your highlights… What will you miss most?

The workshop, no question about it.  I’m pretty happy with the writing I’ve done here, but the workshop was the thing I most enjoyed.  It kept me sane and on track, and I will really miss that group of people.  The twitter poem, too — 90 DAYS IN BRISBANE  (@xyzpoem).  That’s been funny, coming up with a poem in 140 characters or less, every day since July 1, the day I got here!

I was also very happy with the performances Myers & I did, especially at QPF and at the Red Chamber during the Brisbane Writers Festival.  And the slam that night was also pretty wild — Been a long time since I was in a room that loud and lively!

Beyond that, I will miss you and Julie, and Pascalle and Ian.  And Ghostboy most of all.  You guys have all been so great. 

And the laksa at Wok Inn on Brunswick St., and the french fries at Burger Urge.  And caramel slices.  And murraya.  And Speedpoets.  And the walk from Story Bridge to the State Library.  And the Wednesday market at Queen Street.  And the roses in New Farm Park.

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Another Lost Shark joins the Authors for Peace Reading

Tuesday September 21 is the International Day of Peace and to celebrate the International Literature Festival Berlin is putting on a day of readings that will be broadcast across the globe.

Priya Basil, one of the key organsiers of the event has this to say about Authors for Peace:

“Art cannot stop wars, but great literature – more than any other art – has the power to help people understand one another better. If we can do this, there’s a chance for conflict resolution and even harmony. The goal of all writers – whatever the causes they support, whatever the themes that preoccupy them, whatever the form or language in which they express themselves – is to negotiate the unmapped territory between us and the other: to conquer, word by word, the distances that seem too vast, too daunting, too unknowable. When writers succeed, readers too are able to bridge differences they previously conceived impossible.”

And I have to say, I am feeling really honoured to have been invited to be one of the readers on the day, I mean, I will be reading on the same bill as one of my all time poetry heroes, Ko Un. You can check out the full list of authors here.

So why not, clear the decks on Tuesday September 21, make yourself comfortable in front of your computer and help map the distance between one another. I will be reading from my latest collection Ocean Hearted as well as a selection of some of my favourite poets at 11:30am (Australian Eastern Standard Time).

Links to the live video stream will be available here (late) on Monday September 20.

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Ashley Capes: Stepping Over Seasons (a review by Patricia Prime)

Stepping Over Seasons, Ashley CapesInteractive Press, Queensland, Australia.  2009.  64 pp. ISBN: 978-1-921479-32-8.  AUS$25.  

Reviewed by Patricia Prime

In his latest collection of poetry Ashley Capes mines the quotidian.  The seasons play an important part in the life of the poet as he moves from “no whispers to quicken fruit” (“dawn”) through the “sagging tent ropes” of “slow moon” to “these / people and their autumn-house hold together” in “autumn-house.”  Detailing the typical emotional routines of life today – marriage, home, a bus ride, a farm, the small town, the intersections and intrusions of the issues of the day, and the occasional time for thoughts about nature, death and God, Capes explores the links between nature and human nature.  He typically writes simple one- or two-page poems with little or no punctuation.  His introspective moments are triggered by rain, the moon, mushrooms, night, sunrise, butterflies, an echidna, autumn, grass seeds, and particularly small town life. 

His style, not surprisingly, is lean, employing one-paragraph poems, or poems with short stanzas.  Within these parameters Capes is good at what he does, while a few poems step outside his normal range: the surreal longer poem “leaking,” for example, or the clever poem “on the road,” contrasting the narrative of driving with the thoughts of what would happen “if they found your body.”  And Capes’ issue poems, few in number but well-constructed, include the poem about the act of writing “take five,” and “black comedy” where the focus is on death:

 or will I, in fact, be able
 to laugh at my body as it’s lowered into a hole,
 for some reason
 in a suit in a box with
 a pillow and my teeth probably
 very clean and maybe
 whitened too,
 in case wherever I’m going
 I’d need a great smile?

Much more representative is “overlook,” regarding great poets, who “romanticize their towns” contrasted with Capes’ home,

 with street corners and marigolds
 painted in vomit

 industrial strength
 cigars, puffing second-hand
 smoke into the sky

 three inland surf shops
 dozens of bars, six fast-food chains
 and one theatre

Capes lives in the world: “from the river / the echo of our fishing trips / and dark lines / polishing the shore.” (“tar and white paint”).

Capes’ language with all its sensuousness is the language of spontaneous overflow.  Factuality goes along with the feelings and the emotions and there is an evident sobriety present in the poems.  He builds his verses, several with headlong continuity and fitting compactly phrase to phrase and line to line, so that his poems present an overall visual impression of clarity.  This solidarity is an aspect of sensibility.  Capes is perfectly aware of the fleeting nature of experience, yet equally aware of its reality.  So he takes things as they come: savours them, ponders them, feels them and fixes them in durable verse, as we see in “bitches brew”:

 once, at the gate,
 bragging about loneliness
 he made a bow out of blue ribbon
 and hung it above her headstone
 murmuring to the wind.

In this particular passage the final effect is aesthetic prompted by stylization of the persona and the image of the headstone in the final line.  Characteristically Capes exemplifies an acceptance of the whole of life, of his own humility – toughly, zestfully, serenely.  In the first part of the two-part poem “botanic,” he writes about the park “full of photographers”  and also full of readers, ibis, people and a “Chinese couple / posing for wedding photos.”  But beyond this tranquil scene lies the city with its sirens, streets humming with threats and the casino.  His equity is in simply being alive to the sights and sounds that surround him.

Capes’ poetry is, in fact, as eminently social as it is personal.  It registers with a touch of irony the people at a hotel pool: “a man opens a window / grunt riding / beads of sweat down his chin” (“royal on the park”).  The poem “by the curve” records with humour the man waiting for a loved one to return:

 a teacup sits on the sink
 shoe-brown
 inside, imagined marks
 where you held it,
 not by the handle
 but by the curve, to fit a palm
 aching from winter

The final poem “the jacket” offers an arresting image of “a filthy spring jacket” left lying on a chair which the reader feels must be of importance to the poet for

 in the jacket
 you linger in traces
 and I rake them with my hands
 collect every scent.

Here is a poet who writes with immense clarity and real verbal music on the main themes of life – love, loss and death – with humour and sensitivity.

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Shortlisted for the Aural Text Award

Received some really nice news this afternoon, the CD I recorded with Sheish Money, The Stillest Hour has been shortlisted for the Aural Text Award.

While I don’t know the complete shortlist, I do know that the QLD Poetry Festival CD – A Million Bright Things is shortlisted, so I know the competition is strong.

The winner is announced on closing night of Overload Poetry Festival this Sunday, September 19. Will keep you posted!

 

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Emily XYZ – new poems & her final Australian reading

Avid Reader’s (193 Boundary St West End) Poetry Month celebrations continue tomorrow night (Thursday September 16) with readings from Tessa Leon, Jeremy Thompson, Bruce Dorlova and 2010 Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence Emily XYZ. This will be Emily’s final reading in Australia in 2010, so make sure you are their to get your last hit.

Details are:

Date: Thursday September 16
Time: 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Venue: Avid Reader, 193 Boundary Rd, West End
Cost: Free
Bookings: Call 3846 3422 or book online at: http://www.avidreader.com.au/index.php?option=com_registrationpro&view=event&Itemid=0&did=86

Here are two brand new poems from Emily XYZ written during her 2010 residency to give you a taste of what tomorrow night will bring…

See you there,

 

 

motionless

 
those clouds are motionless overhead
it doesn’t seem possible
they sit in their white gold ness
unmoved by winds aloft
how is that turning force
suspended / has god told this
airspace position and hold
for a moment / is it an error?
for heaven’s sakes drift
in some direction / your
breath-held pause is most
unvaporlike / you’re not really
mountains, and you’re making
me nervous

 

 

climber
 

he likes to go up
he likes to climb
it’s in his nature
 
he wants to do better in life
he wants to see things from above
he wants perspective
 
the vertical is transcendent
ascent is musical
the ceiling goes underfoot
 
clouds obscure you
but I know you are there
 
I know there is a path, a plan,
an imaginary line in the sky
in the night stars a compass
 
a way in the chasm and the chaos
that must be taking you higher
even as it takes you away
 
rocks are steps that propel you to the top
the top is a place to visit
ambition in the abstract
the summit is relative,
you cannot live there
it is only a place from which you can see
further

 

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Fantagraphics to release lost William S. Burroughs Graphic Novel

Super excited this afternoon to discover Fantagraphics Books will release William S. Burroughs’ lost masterpiece Ah Pook Is Here, a graphic novel created in collaboration with artist Malcolm McNeill in the 1970’s. The work first appeared as a regular comic strip under the title The Unspeakable Mr Hart in English magazine, Cyclops. Sadly Cyclops folded, but Burroughs and McNeill decided to turn the work into a full length graphic novel. Now almost four decades on, we will get the chance to see the end result of the collaboration.

image by Malcolm McNeill

Here’s how Fantagraphics Books are describing Ah Pook Is Here:

Ah Pook Is Here is a consideration of time with respect to the differing perceptions of the ancient Maya and that of the current Western mindset. It was Burroughs’ contention that both of these views result in systems of control in which the elite perpetuate its agendas at the expense of the people. They make time for themselves and through increasing measures of Control attempt to prolong the process indefinitely.

John Stanley Hart is the “Ugly American” or “Instrument of Control” – a billionaire newspaper tycoon obsessed with discovering the means for achieving immortality. Based on the formulae contained in rediscovered Mayan books he attempts to create a Media Control Machine using the images of Fear and Death. By increasing Control, however, he devalues time and invokes an implacable enemy: Ah Pook, the Mayan Death God. Young mutant heroes using the same Mayan formulae travel through time bringing biologic plagues from the remote past to destroy Hart and his Judeo/Christian temporal reality.

Sounds like a must have for the book shelves!

Check out more about the release of Ah Pook is Here on the Fantagraphics Books website.

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