Monthly Archives: May 2011

The road ahead…

Last night at Confit Bistro will go down as one of the best gigs I have ever been part of. Straight up, I want to thank everyone who could be there (and everyone who wanted to be there). The energy in the room was sparking all night and the smiles beaming back from the floor shone brighter than the lights. And the performances…

Fern Thompsett brought the spirit of emily xyz into the room, with a stunning performance of her poem, Interview with Syd Barrett, Janaka Malwatta kept the beat going with his superb Jazz Man, David Stavanger growled like a dog in a storm and breathed like a dying asthmatic as he belted out Tom Waits’ What’s He Building In There? and his own, When the Devil Comes for Tea, Nathan Shepherdson took us on a T-Rex trip with his piece, Bolan Variations and Sheish Money spilled a little ‘Blood on the Tracks’; his versions of Simple Twist of Fate, If You See Her Say Hello and You’re a Big Girl Now, were unforgettable. To quote Bob, they twisted like a corkscrew threw our hearts.

So again, thank you… it was amazing to stand up in front of a room filled with people I love and do the thing I love. It will make the trip out to Blackall this afternoon fly a little faster. And of course there’ll be no phone or internet out in the beautiful west, so will be back with news early next week.

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The longer you live, the better you get

So said Bob Dylan at the tender age of 27 and indeed, he just keeps getting better! Here’s a link to the Smithsonian’s top 10 Dylan Moments. I am sure many of you out there have your own and I would love to hear about them. My number one is definitely seeing Bob backed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers aged 15 at Lang Park. That night is forever in my heart and mind.

I also just had to share another of the BBC tributes… this time a show dedicated to the eternally magnificent, Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. For me, the album has taken on even greater significance with the death of Suze Rotolo earlier this year. On the show, the best of the British Folk Scene reinterpret the album. here’s the playlist:

Blowin’ in the Wind by Seth Lakeman; Girl from the North Country by Thea Gilmore; Masters of War by Martin Simpson; Down the Highway by While and Matthews; Bob Dylan’s Blues by Ewan McLennan; A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall by Karine Polwart; Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right by Ralph McTell; Bob Dylan’s Dream by Martin Carthy; Oxford Town by Coope, Boyes and Simpson; Talkin’ World War III Blues by Billy Bragg; Corrina, Corrina by Cara Dillon with The Scoville Units; Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance by Rory Mcleod; and I Shall Be Free by Rab Noakes with Fraser Speirs.

 So Bob, I hope you are celebrating your 70th in style.

The first day of my forties has been wonderful… my lovely wife presented me with the limited edition box set of Okkervil River’s new album, I Am Very Far this morning and it is just magnificent.

It comes in a wooden box and features a print, hard cover lyrics book, 7″ single of two demos, a letter from Will Sheff, the album on deluxe vinyl and CD. I am going to savour this one…

I also managed to set off the fire alarms at my school today and have the whole place evacuated while cooking potato rosti’s. We discovered the fire alarm in is super sensitive!

And tonight we are off to have a Thai feast at our local restaurant.

Yep, feeling really blessed.

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Rambling with Max Ryan (part II)

ALS: That last line really sends me Max… captures so beautifully the notion of ‘a birth and a death’ that you mention. By experiencing the show, the teens lives have altered, been forever changed… and with all change, something of our former selves is lost. Loss is another recurring image in many of your poems. Before we lose each other again contains some of my favourite lines in the collection: ‘I’d hear your name on a stranger’s tongue’ and ‘all our blood beats to the drum/ of a hunter who can never rest’, make the hair on my neck prickle. Loss is something we all experience, so I am interested in how it influences your writing.

MR: Thanks for pointing that out. It makes me realise another element of that last line… the man remembering is forever captured by the spell of another time and place, even imagination or the world it conjures implies some kind of loss…

Loss is at the heart of all poetry, methinks. Something Michael Dransfield says:

to be a poet what it means to lose the self to lose the self

I guess I don’t see this loss as necessarily a calamitous thing. Keats seemed to be pointing to something like that in his notion of Negative Capability: because the poet (not the person) has no fixed identity, is in a sense lost to the sureties of worldly existence, he/she is made open to the experience of ever-changing life. Also, the art of haiku in a sense necessitates this loss of self which is why it’s truly a humbling art.

But yeah, there’s a fairly strong theme of loss and an attendant sorrowful tone in Before the Sky. I remember being struck with that when I first saw the proofs and Judy Johnson, who edited the book, had placed two elegies at the start. Maybe I’m particularly drawn to the subject… I couldn’t say I’m an especially moribund person, there’d be few people alive who hadn’t been made aware of how precarious this existence is. There’s a beautiful section in the film What Happened to Kerouac? where Allen Ginsberg speaks about Kerouac’s death and (I can’t remember his exact words) explains how we mourn for existence because we know that this very place is it, it won’t come again.

Before we lose each other again is my first attempt at a villanelle. The title implies that the woman is one I’ve known before and am destined to meet (and lose) again and again. The form of the poem with its recurring lines and cyclical, incantatory cadences is ideal for such a theme. Without going into a discussion of transmigration of souls or somesuch, I think there’s often this recognition when we encounter certain special people that we somehow know them in an entirely uncanny way.

Kieran Ryan (on the Kid Sam album) says it nicely in the song Mirror Drawings:

I’ve been around once or twice now
Come around a few times more
but I can’t always recognise you
in all your different forms

streets of jogjakarta touches on something similar:

the rooftop thrums with rain
as she comes back to say goodbye
calling you to go or stay
like she once did in another time

Going back to the villanelle, the image of the hunter is of course a symbol for death or mortal fate, the thing we can never escape. So the very thing that pursues the lovers, the knowing that ‘one night the hunt will end’ instills a kind of desperate passion in their lovemaking. The ‘faceless hunter’ beats the drum and we can only dance to it:

and all our blood beats to the drum
of a hunter who can never rest

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Rambling with Max Ryan

Quite some time ago, I posted a long interview with award winning poet, Max Ryan. Max has just released his second collection, Before the Sky, so we decided to start rambling all over again…

ALS: Your latest release, Before the Sky, is brimming with musicality. In the collection we ride the bus home after seeing The Beatles, with the shell-shocked girls in the back (Journey of The Beatles Fans); we hear Keith Richards, choogling away on open G (Keef); and we sing for the cohort of the damned as the radio is turned off (Rimbaud Blows the Whistle). I have spoken to you before about your love of music, but I wanted to ask you specifically about how you came to writing Keef and Journey of The Beatles Fans.

MR: Whoo… I guess you mean poems with a musical or music theme.

The last time I saw the Stones, a woman actually prostrated when Mick introduced Keith. Keef started off as some kind of paeon to the man himself but it ends up being just as much about the narrator, some one who’s a contemporary of K and sees his life as moving in some kind of parallel to his. Of course our narrator’s life, like most lives, is a compromised one…he gives up rock and roll to run a lawn-mowing business, splits up with his wife in contrast to K who ‘got rid of Anita’. In the end though the last line describing K’s phenomenal riffing power (‘dead on time’) seems to bring the two together. Keith is, after all, mortal. Isn’t he?

Journey Of The Beatles Fans came from an idea I had for yonks for a poem about seeing the Beatles all those years ago. Tried many times to get it down but it always seemed to trail off into a ragged vision of us teenyboppers riding home on the bus to and from Newcastle. Last year I was reading Geoff Page’s marvellous 80 Great Poems where he was discussing TS Eliot’s Journey Of The Magi. Most of you will remember it’s a dramatic monologue by a Magus (one of three) describing his trip to witness the nativity. The mood is weary and defeated as the three travel through hostile arid lands:

With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly

The seminal event is brushed over in a few lines with the Magi

…not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

Anyway, it all fell together: I got the idea that the actual journey to the concert and the effect it had on those pubescent pilgrims was the heart of the matter. Basically, I planted my poem in Eliot’s even using the same metres and his litany-like depiction the journey. The mood in my wee saga is definitely up-beat on the way down to the show:

With us with our ears pressed to scratchy radios, ringing out
It won’t be long yeah yeah yeah

After the climax:

And JOHNPAULGEORGEANDRINGO ran on, not a moment too soon
Bestowing Grace; it was (you could say) the only word for it.

the mood shifts to something similar to that experienced by Eliot’s Magi of a sense of something gained but also lost, a birth and a death.

It would be hard to equal Eliot’s powerful final line:

I should be glad of another death.

But the Beatles fans, or at least one of them, can celebrate the journey because, although there’s still the sense of dislocation and not being able to fit in, the imagination relives the unconditional joy of knowing that something way beyond anything he’s seen before is about to happen:

I was still on that bus, heading for the show.

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Let The Cameras Roll… the QLD Poetry Festival Filmmakers Challenge

For the past five years, the Queensland Poetry Festival Filmmakers Challenge has  been exploring the place where poetic expression and audio-visual technology collide and submissions for the 2011 Challenge are now welcome! 

QPF challenges filmmakers, video artists, poets, and all multimedia practitioners to create a short work (5 mins max); a record of poetry performance, a video text manipulation or something entirely different. We are looking for originality; creativity; a piece that shows your understanding of the many varied and wonderful possibilities of language. 

The winner will be announced at the 2011 Queensland Poetry Festival and the winning entry, along with a selection of shortlisted entries, will be screened at the festival (26 – 28 August). 

And the prize… well, $500 is up for grabs!

This year’s selection panel consists of Jacob Polley (2011 Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence), Francis Boyle (QPF Program Committee) and Sarah Gory (QPF Manager)

Entries close 5pm, Friday 15 July 2011.  Visit the Awards section of www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com for guidelines and entry forms.

Get those camera’s rolling!

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Lenny

I’ve watched this city drown
twice in my lifetime
and the thing I remember most
is the politicians; how they mourn
our loss, clamber through the debris
proclaiming a new start for the wet masses.

Nothing changes.

Life, as it is, remains
watermarked, stories of how high
stretch up the wall.
You never forget what’s lost
and the smell, it never goes away:
the smell and the politicians.

***********************

This poem is based on a conversation with a family friend after the January floods here in in QLD. Lenny lost everything in 1974 and again this year, even though he had rebuilt at a level that was supposedly ‘flood-safe’. I decided to post this, as just yesterday, I received news that the towns of Vicksburg and Natchez are holiding their breath as the mighty Mississippi threatens to burst its banks. It sure has been a year of it… So say a prayer for the people who are under threat.

And a big thanks to emily xyz for also sending through this great clip of Little Brother Montgomery singing Vicksburg Blues. He sure can wail!

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Bob Dylan at 70

I am just back from jamming with Sheish Money in readiness for my 40th Birthday Bash at Confit Bistro next Wednesday night. The riffs and words were flowing and so was the conversation. I won’t give away what we will be performing, but it was a blast tearing into the words of some of my favourite singer/songwriters. The one thing I can tell you (and I guess it’s no surprise) is, we jammed some Dylan tonight.

There’s always plenty of ‘Bob talk’ when Sheish and I are together and tonight was no different. I was raving about Bob’s Theme Time Radio Hour Show on ‘Friends & Neighbours’ and how he drops in quotes by Nietszche and Wilde (‘Good friends will stab you in the front’), plays Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Little Walter, Hank Williams as Luke the Drifter and wants us all to be his friends. And speaking of friends, just this morning, my good friend Ben in the UK sent me through a link to the BBC’s in depth look at Dylan t 70.

And well, I just have to share this with you… for any Dylan fan, these shows are going to thrill you and for those who ain’t, well, they may just turn you on!

Episode 1 is presented by Kristofferson and features interviews with Dylan’s contemporaries Tom Paxton, Jim Kweskin and Dave Van Ronck, who remember his earliest songs and performances; John Hammond, the man who signed Bob to Columbia Records and Joan Baez, who gives a rare insight into her contribution to Dylan’s success.

Bob himself talks about the music that influenced him as a young man, first hearing Woody Guthrie, meeting Peter, Paul & Mary and walking out of the influential Ed Sullivan TV Show in 1963.

Episode 2 features an interview with Martin Carthy, who talks about the influence traditional British folk music had on Dylan’s work, and Peter Asher and Tom Robinson describe the importance of Dylan’s arrival in the British pop charts; John Lennon and Carly Simon realise Dylan’s lyrics mean so much more than anyone else’s; Bob Geldof remembers the first time he heard Like A Rolling Stone and Joe Boyd, stage manager at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival recalls Dylan’s controversial performance.

Episode 3 looks at the making of arguably Dylan’s most influential album, Blonde on Blonde. The episode is titled Nashville Cats and features newly sourced interviews with the key participants on these historic studio recording dates including musicians Al Kooper, Charlie McCoy, Hargus “Pig” Robbins, Wayne Moss, Henry Strzelecki and Joe South. The documentary also features the perspective of Producer Bob Johnston, the man responsible for convincing Dylan to record in Nashville, and reveals the real story behind the supposed symbolism of its famous cover shot care of Jerry Schatzberg, the man behind the lens.

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Taking your poetry places: Wordfood & Australian Poetry Journal

Last night, I took my poetry to a place I never could have imagined… the opening night of the 2011 ICOMS Asset Management Conference. The experience was brilliant! Performing in front of hundreds of people gathered in the main hall of the Gold Cast Convention Centre, people who were not your average poetry going audience, was an absolute buzz. There was a beautiful stillness in the crowd and the faces looking back were smiling and nodding as I told stories and read poems about the gorgeous coastline and my family. It was a chance for my poetryto travel and it travelled well.

So if you are looking for ways to make your poetry travel, here are two great opportunities… the Wordfood Applications close this Friday, so get cracking!

 

WordFood Expressions of interest closing this Friday 20th
 
Online expressions of interest for the WordFood Spoken Word & Slam Showcase that runs as part of the Woodford Folk Festival each year close this Friday 20th May. This is like a “mini word festival” within Australia’s largest and truly electric arts festival. Previous performers on the WordFood bill have included the likes of Sean M Whelan, Bedroom Philosopher, Eddy Burger, Adam Hadley, Tessa Leon, Amy Boddassian, Crazy Elf, Miles Merrill, Bravo Child, Emilie Zoe Baker, Matt Hetherington, Sezsu, Maiden Speech, Nathan Shepherdson, Golden Virtues & Graham Nunn.
 
This year WordFood will be running two showcases: one in a large music/cabaret venue for spoken word / performance poetry / slam; the other in a very small intimate tent called Words for One featuring solo readings by page/contemporary/haiku poets. Artists that have been before are more than welcome to apply again this year.
 
You have to set your own fee for this festival. As the website states: “We invite you to enter your proposed fee, an amount you are prepared to perform for without feeling compromised. Please understand that averaging more than 1500 proposals we do not get the time to negotiate or haggle the fee” To give you a guide, realistic fees for the WordFood events would be $600-$1200 max performance poets for 2-4 x sets and $300-$500 max page/contemporary poets for 1-2 sets. This is approx $250-$300 a performance. SE QLD poets can also choose to apply for a festival pass only (worth $400). 
 
Remember, applications close this Friday 20th May at 5pm:  www.woodfordfolkfestival.com

 

Australian Poetry Journal: SUBMISSIONS NOW OPEN

We are now seeking poetry submissions for the new Australian Poetry Journal. The closing date for the first issue is 4 July 2011.

Submissions must be accompanied by a completed entry form and sent via post or email:

BY POST – to Submission – Australian Poetry Journal PO Box 21082 Little Lonsdale Street VIC 8011. Manuscripts will not be returned.

BY EMAIL – to victoria@australianpoetry.org with the subject title Submission – Australian Poetry Journal. The entry form is to be completed and sent as an attachment to the email.

Submission forms can be downloaded here: as a pdf or as a word doc.

Poems previously published (in hardcopy or online) will not be accepted.
Entries should not be on offer to other publications or competitions at the time of submission.

There is a maximum submission of 5 poems per writer per issue. The closing date for the first issue is 4 July 2011. Entries postmarked 4 July 2011 are acceptable. Late entries will not be considered.

Writers will be notified of the results via email. If you do not have an email address, please include a stamped self-addressed envelope with your postal submission.

 

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Talking with Mardi Lumsden about poetry, lyrics & that Brisbane sound

After a mighty fine re-launch gig, SpeedPoets is gearing up to return to Brew on Sunday June 5 from 2pm – 5pm. Brisbane singer/songwriter, Mardi Lumsden will be bringing her sweet alt-folk stylings to the stage as our music feature, so I caught up with her to chat about the relationship between poetry & lyrics and the state of the Brisbane music scene. You can read the interview over at the SpeedPoets website.

SpeedPoets, Sunday June 5 from 2pm – 5pm at Brew, Lower Burnett Lane, Brisbane City.
Entry is a Gold Coin Donation. 
 
The venue has a strict capacity of 60 people, so make sure you are there early to get your seat in the room!

 

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Counting Down to 40

So there’s twelve days left of my thirties… 

I was talking with a friend the other night, how my twenties were tumultuous and my thirties, a period of settling, so I am now looking forward to diving deeper into the forties and the start of family life.

To celebrate this year, I am performing at Confit Bistro (4/9 Doggett St, Fortitude Valley) on Wednesday May 25. I will be combining my passions of music and poetry and performing a mix of my own words and the words of some of my favourite rock’n’roll poets… think Bob Dylan, David Berman, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave. The venue opens at 6pm with all of the live performances starting at 6:30pm. I will, as always, be joined by guitar-slinging poet, Sheish Money as well as Jazz singer, Sarah Collyer and fellow Brisbane poets, David Stavanger, Nathan Shepherdson, Fern Thompsett & Janaka Malwatta. If you are in town and want to come along, then shoot me an email so I can book you a spot.

And as I share a birthday with Bob Dylan, I always find myself reaching for him on the CD rack at this time of year. This year, Bob will enter his seventies and his sixth decade as a performing artist… can’t really imagine life without him.

So as a treat for all you Bob fans, here’s a link to some Dylan rarities… WPKN have put together a great little 15min segment which features A Fool Such As I (with The Band), a souped-up, rockabilly version of Watching The River Flow and two classic covers. First up, Bob rips through the Stones’, Brown Sugar before finishing with a brilliant version of Neil Young’s, Old Man. You can listen to the whole set here. Bob on!

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