Monthly Archives: November 2010

Final SpeedPoets for 2010 this Sunday (December 5)

SpeedPoets wraps up nine wordbending years this Sunday December 3 at InSpire Gallery Bar (71 Vulture Street, West End), with a gig that is bound to leave you more satiated than being left alone with the christmas ham!

Softly spoken, poetry sojourner Nick Powell will read from his brand spanking, limited edition chapbook and the honeyed voice of Shelley Evans (The Horse Darkly), will deliver a spellbinding set of acoustic songs.

You can get a taste of Nick Powell’s work here at Cordite and here at WordPlay. And here’s a clip from The Horse Darkly’s debut album, Getaway Car:

There will also be the regular feast of Open Mic, live sounds from the SpeedPoets engine room of Sheish Money, free zines, raffles/giveaways and much, much more!

So make sure you are there to raise a glass to Brisbane’s longest running poetry event, as this will be the last gig until March 2011 when it will be time to celebrate 10 years of SpeedPoets… big times ahead.
 
SpeedPoets, Sunday December 5, 2:00pm – 5:30pm, InSpire Gallery Bar – 71 Vulture St. West End. Entry is a gold coin donation

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Electricity & Atmosphere: an evening with The Church

Last night at The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, a packed house walked out into the still-warm night, with their synapses well and truly lit. In the 2 and a half hours that had passed, The Church had hand picked the soundtrack to the last 30 years of our lives.

For me, the long-term memory was in overdrive… I have not missed the band in QLD (and have travelled many times interstate) since 1990, when I donned my green, pink and black paisley shirt (that one still hangs in the cupboard), black stovepipe Lee’s and Ripple-sole shoes and stepped excitedly into Transformers (on Elizabeth St., now some British Pub I think…) to see The Church supported by another local hero of mine, Grant McLennan. Memories like this were constantly flashing through my head last night as the band played a song from each album in their heady career, starting with Pangaea from last year’s Untitled #23, which recalled a hellishly steamy November night at The Zoo, when the band tore through an epic set to launch the album.

Then it is the fluid groove of Space Needle from Uninvited Like the Clouds (2006), that fires up memories of a night at The Troubadour, where we all walked out smiling with a copy of the limited edition album Tin Mine in our hands, followed by Ionian Blues from the seriously underrated Back With Two Beasts album, which never really got an official release.

We then get a language lesson from the ever dapper Marty Willson-Piper as the band dips into El Momento Siguiente and pulls out the gem that is Reptile. Even in stripped back, acoustic mode, Kilbey’s bass line snakes its way into your chest to delivers its venom.

Peter Koppes then takes the mic for Appalatia from Forget Yourself followed by the timeless opening riff of Unguarded Moment from the first of their acoustic albums, El Momento Descuidado. The band are well into their stride and Kilbey is in raconteur mode, regaling the crowd with stories of playing Warnambool and the manager racing upstairs after a gig to tell them to get back on stage as the crowd were rioting as they had not played said song.

We are then treated to the epic Invisible from After Everything Now This, with the band rising to a glorious crescendo and Kilbey riffing on Kevin Ayers’ Decadence, which the band covered on A Box of Birds, followed by the lush guitar sounds of Louisiana from 1998’s, Hologram of Baal. An album that has a very special place in my heart… the first time I heard this album I was to say the very least, ‘relaxed’, and it has forever worked its way into my fabric.

The mid-to-late 90’s was undoubtedly a difficult period in the band’s history and Kilbey is not backward in introducing Magician Among The Spirits as a miserable album, but tonight’s version of Comedown is absolutely joyous. The first half of the set is then rounded out by My Little Problem from Sometime Anywhere… and I am back in 1994 at Grand Orbit (what a shortlived venue that was), excitedly watching Steve & Marty in acoustic mode, thankful that they were still making music after threatening to split a couple of years earlier.

The second half of the show opens with the gorgeous Mistress from my all time favourite Church album, Priest = Aura. After seeing the band tour on this album at the now sadly defunct Metropolis (I think the last time I saw Kilbey play his famed milk-white electric bass), I wondered whether I would ever see them again, which makes tonight even more special. And speaking of Metropolis, this song followed, with Marty giving it some Spanish flair.

It was at this time (with tongue firmly in cheek) that Kilbey started to discuss the success graph of the band and the next album, 1988’s Starfish, definitely saw the graph skyrocket. And tonight they give us a classic version of the anthemic, Under the Milky Way. To put it simply… Starfish got me through Year 12. In the head of a 17 year old at odds with the societal pressures of school and becoming a man, Starfish provided much needed solace. Can’t ever thank them enough for what it did for me.

Then it’s headlong into the paisley era of Heyday. The set list has had its surprises, but none bigger than Already Yesterday, which after some on stage chatter, they agree, they may never have played before this tour. It sparkles, still possessing a youthful shimmer.

The Remote Luxury LP is next and this time it’s Marty’s turn to take the lead vocal, on 10 000 Miles Away. The 3 strong guitar/mandolin sound is sublime, stirring the crowd for the final numbers of the night.

From Seance its the sublimely gothic Fly and then its straight into another Church classic, Almost With You from their second album, The Blurred Crusade. Peter’s guitar solo is as sharp as ever. Anyone that hasn’t played air guitar along to this just hasn’t lived!

And finally, we are back in 1980, delving into Of Skins and Hearts. We know it’s not going to be Unguarded Moment, so it is a real thrill when the band lock into the slick bass groove and jangly guitar of Tear It All Away. It’s a classic way to finish off 30 years of time travel…

But the band are incredibly generous, coming back to treat us to a cover of The Smashing Pumpkins song, Disarm, a rocking version of Space Saviour and finally a full-tilt jam of their 1990 classic, Grind. This has always been a live favourite and tonight they don’t disappoint. Steve and Tim, providing the rhythmic engine, for Peter to lay down a luxurious bed of keys and for Marty to cut loose (I am sure he was finding new notes on the fretboard), before tonight’s journey reaches its conclusion.

Great art is an amazing thing… it changes you, becomes part of you, so while tonight’s show is over, the life of each of these songs (and the countless others that weren’t played) have taken on a new meaning. I know my stereo at home  (and in the car) is about to become very familiar (again) with the atmosphere and electricity of The Church… ah yes, there are many new memories to be created.

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Pinsky, Poetry & Questions of Division

In my recent trawling of the interwebs, I came across this post, which (initially) explores the question of whether poetry divides people. When faced with this question, I couldn’t help casting my mind back to last night at Confit Bistro and answering with an emphatic ‘no’, as the crowd that gathered was buzzing… brought together by the art of poetry. It was a night where the crowd felt united by the force of the words (and riffs) that resonated throughout the room. In no way, was poetry dividing this room.

And after reading the post in its entirety, I also felt that Pinsky had united the authors thoughts (and the 300 strong crowd of students) about the unique power of poetry. I agree wholeheartedly with Pinsky’s view that poetry ‘operates on the human scale’ and is ultimately ‘a physical thing – the human body the instrument which plays the notes provided.’

And last night, the instruments were playing some fine notes… it was a pleasure to share the stage with Trudie Murrell, Rob Morris and Sheish Money. One of my personal highlights was getting to drum with Rob & Sheish as they belted out a version of the Tom Waits classic, Come On Up To The House.

While I wish I could share with you footage of last night, Tom’s original is a mighty fine way to setlle into the this warm Friday night…

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Patricia Prime reviews Shadow Play by Gavin Austin

Patricia Prime is a powerhouse of a reviewer… it never ceases to amaze me, the number of books she so lovingly critiques. Here is a recent review of Gavin Austin’s collection, Shadow Play.

 

Shadow Play, Gavin Austin.  Chrysalis, PO Box 613, Potts Point, NSW 1335, Australia.  2010.  76 pp.  ISBN: 978-0-9807612-3-8 (pbk.)  $AU20.00 + p.&h. ($25 posted).

Reviewed by Patricia Prime

In his collection, Shadow Play, Gavin Austin’s poems carry weight, the weight of humanity that is sadly missing from two many practitioners of the art today.  His poems of urban and rural life in Australia speak of love and suffering, often in a domestic setting; comprehensively modulated and adjusted to the situation.

Central to the collection is the urban content.  I can identify with Austin’s description of city life, of, for example, his focus on lovers, sneaking a precious hour from their daily lives:

 You rise from the bed,
 reach for the dress
 discarded to the floor,
 run hesitant fingers
 through tangled hair,
 and hurry back
 to the life you left
 earlier.

  (“Shadowland”)

Austin’s poems reflect the tensions and dangers of city life, as well as the equally vivid pleasures.  There is a constant sense of activity, of relationships and of clandestine meetings, as we see in the poem “Duet for One”:

 I didn’t mean to meet you –
 not then – not now.
 Surely an accident,
 a collision of probability and timing.

“Friday’s Colours” is held together by the description of a meeting with a young woman of the streets:

 A pinpoint stare slow and solicitous
 as a painted talon raking punters’ flesh.
 She probed the coldsore in frayed corners
 of her mouth with a pale tongue,
 licked like a stray cat in a doorway;
 legs splayed in lewd promise.

 Austin is intensely aware of what it means to be this kind of woman, and especially one who is a drug addict, and his descriptions of her are vivid, serious and imbued with foreboding, for there is “Only a wailing siren to cry for Friday.”

Simplicity of language and imagery impact and freshness is resonant throughout.  In “My Window Box,” the poet “four storeys up, / framed in my bedroom window” watches as a lover dresses to leave:

 I say nothing,
 my thoughts scattered
 like clothes across the floor,
 hope
 kicked into dark corners
 to brood with lost socks.

The bleakness of this statement emphasized by the word “hope” isolated on one line indicates the situation in which the persona feels so hopeless.

Even a poem which begins “On these perfect days” (“Summer”), ends with the words “just you, me / and a diagnosis / wedged between us.”

Death also pervades Austin’s Shadow Play.  Although it’s the joyful time of Christmas celebrations in the poem “In the Garden,” Austin explores the relationship between himself and a dying friend.  The sentiment – “You told me you loved me – that I had been a wonderful friend” – is interposed with fundamental questions regarding the questioning of one’s motives, pretence, and resolution.  Austin’s quest for honesty remains paramount.  Nevertheless, he doesn’t offer slick answers to the questions he posits.  Rather, he is an unsentimental observer of what happens:

 Yet I question if I did all there was to be done,
 or if you saw my carefully veiled tears
 as I pretended not to know what you meant
 when you said: ‘the dark vehicle is waiting.’

Loss pervades this section of the book: loss of personal worth, loss of innocence, loss of one’s friends, loss of relationships, such as we see in the poem “Baggage”:

 It is time for me to move on
 the glass in the frame holding
 your picture is cracked but I have packed
 the memories inside my heart

Inevitably his characters may be seen, somewhat, as simply a vehicle for Austin to explore inherent dilemmas, dilemmas fused with urgency now that the poet is able to look back and asses his life so far, for, “Like myself, / you have no answers / only questions.”  (“Scrutiny”)

In the second section, “Rural,” each minute being is necessary to and connected with the earth.  It is this connection with, and empathy for the whole of life that imbues the poetry with instantaneous joy.  Each moment of life, each small every day occasion is embedded within the spiritual:

 Blunt green fingers,
 born of earthen womb,
 reach blindly
 for the nurturing
 hand of sunshine.
 Nearby, the bole
 of an ancient fallen tree
 is shrouded by lichen and fungus:
 the king being returned
 to his kingdom.

  (“Eternal Forest”)

Austin takes the objects and the creatures of the Australian landscape, focuses on them, and draws out significance.  The language is informal, the imagery exquisite: “Hazy blue hills like brushed-on cobalt  / blend into the canvas of distant sky” (“Grandad’s Farm”); “Last night’s diamond frost / becomes damp glassy beads.”  (“Winter”); “Pearl clouds scalloped with pink / jostle as they range overhead;” (“The Barringtons”).  In these poems Austin is particularly interested in birds, and writes engagingly of magpies, wagtails, kestrals and the kookaburra.  The everyday is focused on, illuminated, and given meaning, in calm conversational words.  For example, in “Scotch Thistle,” one reads the way in which Austin compares the common thistle to a king fighting slaughter by the hoe.

 He stands tall
 beneath a purple crown;
 weapons drawn
 against the enemy.
 His swords slash and stab,
 draw plumes of scarlet
 from callused hands
 at the assailing hoe.

“March Afternoon” allows Austin to evoke the starkness of the Australian landscape, desperate for water, and the unexpected and unearned beauty of the natural world:

 Beyond the post-and-rail fence,
 by the creek that barely flows,
 the willow trails
 long verdant tresses
 into dark pools
 where dragonflies hover
 above the brown surface . . .

“Night’s Hunger,” on the other hand, is a beautiful love poem in which the lovers “embrace cautiously.”  “The Willow” is a detailed examination and meditation on a particular tree:

 Tall and slender
 she stands by the river,
 a graceful nymph
 swaying her gown of green

Sprinkled throughout the book are some of Austin’s haiku and tanka, several of which have been published in various journals.  Two of my favourite haiku are

 old books
 with his scrawled messages
 mine now

 rock shelf
 afternoon light spills over
 the barnacles

Of the tanka, two I enjoyed are

  after the squalls
 of driving rain
 the sky clears –
 a long puddle
 holds the full moon

 the sun
 beyond distant hills
 slips away
 your voice whispers
 through the gums

The collection is beautifully produced with a front cover photograph by Roger Fitzhardinge and back cover photograph by Grant Fraser.  The book is representative of a kind of strong poetry that is both contemporary and traditional, a personal lyric that can light up the material and emotional world, and give it a powerful resonance.

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Memories of The Troubadour

It’s some sad days here in Brisbane at present, as one of our best loved music venues, The Troubadour, closed its doors for the last time on Sunday night. Live music venues everywhere are under the pump… pokies have encroached on their space, noise restrictions have proved hobbling and the continually rising price of the real estate they occupy is making it difficult to keep the doors open.

Brisbane is infamous for losing venues… Cloudland, Festival Hall, The Alley Bar to name just a few and frankly we just couldn’t afford to lose another one! And as I write this there is word that The Globe Theatre is also looking down the barrel of closing. The only way to stop the bleeding is to get out and see some live music (or poetry for that matter). I know I am dusting off  my dancing shoes over the next couple of weeks and am heading out to see:

Our Talons, Lion Island + Steve Grady @ The Zoo, Wednesday November 24

The Church (30th Anniversary Tour) @ The Judith Wright Centre, November 25

The Lemonheads @ The Zoo, November 30

Am super excited about all shows!

I have also been reminiscing about my favourite moments at The Troubadour and while I can’t narrow it down to one show, these are some of the shows I will have lasting memories of:

Vic Chesnutt – Well, I am forever thankful I got to see the man play… he was assisted onto the stage in his wheelchair, his frame, ghostly thin, but when he opened his mouth, there was a force in his voice, and a sharpness of wit, that hit me in the gut and held me transfixed. His version of Sponge that night is still reverberating somewhere inside me.

The Fauves – They were launching When Good Times Go Good and man, did they go good that night! Coxy was at his ascerbic best and the band were hotter than minimum chips! Fight Me I’m Forty stirred everyone in the crowd from their spot on the floor or their comfy cushion (how I will miss the comfort of that venue).

Lou Barlow – Had just seen Dinosaur Jr a couple of days earlier and the ears were still ringing, so Lou’s lo-fi folk masterpieces were just the tonic I needed. He was in fine form too, bantering with the crowd and playing every song from his then recently released EMOH as well as a stack of Sebadoh, Folk Implosion and Sentridoh tracks. In fact, he played such an exhaustive set, people were calling out for Lou to play some of Jason’s (Lowenstein) songs as well.

And I couldn’t complete this post without mentioning The Gin Club who I saw there many times and who fittingly took the stage for the last time on Sunday night. They made the place their home away from home and never failed to put a smile on the punter’s faces.

So what are your memories of The Troubadour? Let’s keep them alive…

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Poetry @ Confit Bistro

Confit Bistro has provided another much needed venue for poetry in Brisbane this year, serving up monthly helpings of fine food, wine and words. To round off an incredibly creative year, Confit are hosting one final event this Thursday November 25, featuring one of Brisbane’s finest emerging voices, Trudie Murrell, purveyors of poetic rock’n’roll, Graham Nunn & Sheish Money and Brisbane hipster, Rob Morris.

As an appetiser, here’s a poem from Trudie Murrell:

 

Home
 
Close your eyes, 
travel by moonlight wrapped
in the smell of shepherd’s
pie.
 
Back, through piles of
newspaper, cardboard boxes,
decisions made with numbers,
points on a map.
 
Back to the quiet,
back to the sea.
Your grandmother
waits here
I cannot stay.
 
Your legs will ache hollow
with walking,
keep going.
 
Past the weeping
fig with the whispering bark,
its branches
cascading sympathy
to the steps.
 
Eighteen,
of silver, sun
and wood leading 
up to the blue house.
 
Put your cool bare feet on the first,
the second, reach the tenth
step, feel the groove in the
middle smooth, warm.
 
Sit, lay your head in your
grandmother’s lap.  Feel the
moon, the two palm trees,
the mud flats all kissed by the
breeze that reaches your face.
 
Know that a woman sat here at dusk,
eating ice cream,
that this is where you came in,
that you are home. 
 
Open the small
bag of sighs I sent with you
and set them free.

 

Confit Bistro is located at 4/9 Doggett St. Fortitude Valley. Entry to the event is free and their tapas menu is not only super tasty, but very reasonably priced. Doors open at 6pm with the poetry & music firing up at 6:30pm.

So if you are looking for something to do this Thursday (November 25) come along and raise a glass (or two)…

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The Ghost of Pete…

While I was away on tour, I read Willy Vlautin’s recent novel, Lean On Pete. The story is told in the (incredibly authentic) voice of fifteen year old Charley Thompson, as he tries to find his place in a world, that at every turn, seems to wrong him. The two constants in his life are the aging quarter horse, Lean On Pete and a photograph of his aunt, who he hasn’t seen in years. There is a deep ache in Vlautin’s story, his characters are startling real and with Charley Thompson… well you just want to take him home and offer him a hot meal and a warm bed.

The spareness of Vlautin’s language captures the voice of the American underclass, those left by the wayside in this fast-paced, consumer-driven world. Charley’s world is one, where scavenging from bins, sleeping in bushes, stealing from corner stores, hitching rides with unhinged characters and some seriously stark violence are part of surviving, but more, they are part of his deeper search for identity.

What has stayed with me and what continues to haunt me is the way Vlautin reflected Charley’s emotions and the state of the world through the eyes of Pete. As Charley’s silent confdant, Pete’s eyes held all of his hopes and fears. His eyes, so clear, so pure were the safest place Charley had ever known.

Pete’s eyes have come to me many times since closing the book and for me, this is the mark of great writing.

Great writing stays with us, becomes part of our own life story… so what are the images/words/lyrics/lines that continue to haunt you from your favourite books/poems/songs?

Let’s share stories…

Oh, and while we’re sharing, here’s the trailer for Lean On Pete:

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