Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Far North

Sitting at a computer screen in a Cairns hotel, heat and the sound of bats soaking into my every pore, I am feeling very privileged. The last two days have been spent talking to writers in Townsville and Cairns about some of the challenges they are facing and their vision for the future of writing in their region and beyond. There is great passion in the hearts of the many writers and groups in both areas and it is this that fills me with hope for a bright writing future. I will be mulling over my time here in the next few days and will post my thoughts on the experience early next week on the Arts QLD Blog. But for now, here’s a poem from the trip…

bats in flight
the mango tree takes
on a new shape

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Joyful Noise #1: Lou Barlow

My January flexi-disc arrived in the mail on Friday from Joyful Noise and it features a new track from lo-fi legend, Lou Barlow. Welcome Home is classic Lou… all longing vocal and battered acoustic sound. I feel very privileged to be able to give it a spin, as the flexi-disc series is completely sold out, making me, one of 500 lucky people to have the unique listening experience!

It’s good timing too as Lou has just announced an Australian tour with a date at the Old Museum in Brisbane… if you have never tapped into Lou in one of his many guises – Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh, Sentridoh, Folk Implosion – then here’s a taste of some Barlow brilliance to ease you into your Sunday evening.

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January Pin-Up Week #4 – Michelle Dicinoski on the art of reading

January is all but over, which means that this is the last time we will be checking in with our first Pin-Up Poet for 2012, Michelle Dicinoski. It’s been wonderful featuring Michelle’s work and I am already getting excited about our February Pin-Up. But for one last time, it’s over to Michelle!

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You are one of the featured readers at the opening of The Back Room in February. How do you approach putting together a set of poems for a reading? Readings have become increasingly important in reaching new audiences. What do you hope to create for an audience when you are behind the mic?

I try to tailor my readings to the audience, if possible. But I do have favoured poems, ones that I think are better suited than others for reading aloud. How poems sound is extremely important to me: is there a rhythm that I can connect with onstage, a rhythm that I can use to draw the audience in? This focus on rhythm and pacing began years ago as a way of managing nerves and ensuring I had enough breath. But now it’s become a crucial part of how I read, and it seems to tie in with what and how I write. I haven’t really thought about this before, but a lot of my poems are about suspended moments (a lot of poems are), or swollen moments, and in readings I am trying to step outside time and inhabit the poem in a particular way. So what I am trying to create for the audience is a heightened sense of the poem, created partly through sound and pace, through rhythm and pauses.

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Vestiges

These goose bumps are vestiges
like appendices, whale legs, the blind
eyes of salamanders—
reminders of bodies lost.
Which brings me back to you.

That night was all touch and wonder.
Your scapulae, sharp at my palms,
held shocks familiar and new.
Whoever was charged
with naming the bones
named them surely for you:
the sacred one, the little key,
the cuckoo beak, the spade.

Come back to me
in fifty thousand years and still
at the sight of your walk
something will beat in my blood
bat-winged and fierce
the pump of something ancient launching
something ancient coming home.

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The Back Room at Confit Bistro (4/9 Doggett St, Fortitude Valley) opens its doors for 2012, showcasing the work of local visual artists, physical performers, musicians and poets. With the new Sunday timeslot stretching out from 4pm – 7pm, the poetry section will now feature a short Open Mic section, so if you have a poem or two folded in your pocket, make sure you come along. Spaces for the poetry Open Mic will be limited to 10 and names will be drawn from a hat on the day.

Poetry features for the opening event are January Pin-Up girl, Michelle Dicinoski and Lee-Anne Davie. There will also be live music from The Lucky Ones (feat. Sheish Money), visual art from Olivia Spohr and Tricia Reust and the live raunch of Ms BB Le Buff. And I will be there to keep the mic warm between features with the guitar swagger of Sheish Money to drive it all along.

And to celebrate the opening, Confit Bistro are giving away a breakfast for two. For your chance to win all you have to do is click….(http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Back-Room/170067313082905?ref=tn_tnmn) ….and ‘LIKE’ The Back Room. Winners will be announced at the event.

Date: Sunday February 26
Where: Confit Bistro, 4/9 Doggett St, Fortitude Valley
When: 3pm – 7pm
Entry: Free

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In the fire with A.A. Bondy

Tonight I am off to The Powerhouse to catch A.A. Bondy’s final Australian show. His music is a recent discovery for me, but a very welcome one. I was on my regular monthly trawl through the hordes of music reviews in print and online and read somewhere that Bondy’s latest album Believers, sounded as if Mogwai’s, Come On Die Young had a head on collision with Springtseen’s Nebraska on a deserted highway at midnight. From there I was hooked…

Here’s a taste of Bondy magic, Down In The Fire (Lost Sea)

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Big-Sky Writing

Last Monday I took a drive out into the big-sky country of Western QLD, stopping at Roma to speak with a dedicated group of local writers about their vision for the future of writing in our state. The discussion was rich and it was wonderful to see such a self-sufficient and supportive community. An in depth account of my travels is now live on the Arts QLD Blog, so I invite you all to click on over and have a read.

Two significant issues came up through our discussion – distribution and audience development. Digital publishing and stronger partnerships with festivals were two of the solutions discussed, but we would love to hear from you as to how you think these issues could be effectively addressed. Change only happens when we lend our voice to the discussion, so I look forward to hearing from many of you over at the AQ Blog.

And to close, here’s another poem that emerged on the drive home…

long road
the smell of the herd trembling
in the cattle train

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January Pin-Up Week #3: new work from Michelle Dicinoski

Fridays… staying up late, the tinkle of gin on ice and Pin-Up-Poets… what could be better! This week we get a glimpse of some exciting new work from our January Pin-Up, Michelle Dicinoski.

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I believe you have started some new work recently. Have any themes started to develop? And can you shed some light on how a poem happens for you…

I’ve been writing non-fiction almost exclusively for the last year or two, so it’s been difficult to start writing poems again. More difficult than I had hoped! I am just rediscovering my poetry process, and for me poems happen very slowly. Probably 95% of my writing is revision, so I will write something, and then revise numerous times, over months and sometimes years. But this year I am also hoping to shake up my approach a little, experiment more, and see what happens. It’s way too soon to talk about themes. But I have noticed that dreams and insects seem to be coming up a lot. God knows what that means.

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Pink Cities

You say you sleep with movie stars
and fly with rocket boots.
Circling pink cities
you drink margaritas from a backpack
with a straw that’s worn as spectacles.
Living the dream, my friend.

Maybe that’s all you remember.
Or maybe it’s a cover story.
Listen, do you really know
what goes on in that head of yours?
Nights, you spend eight hours
unconscious in the theme park.
Mornings, you pick yourself up
at the chain-link gate
throat sore from screaming
pockets free of keys and change and
before you can make out their faces
all your companions flee into the street
on footfalls like fists to a pillow.

From the kitchen, the smell of coffee,
the low buzz of radio.
The sweet relief of a warm body
yours, someone else’s,
and one more morning.

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Michelle will be featured in the Arts section of Brisbane News next week, so be sure to check out the issue online.

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Bright the Harvest Moon

I have had a real ‘haiku-headspace’ of late, so it is a great pleasure to be able to publish this review of John O’ Connor’s collection, Bright the Harvest Moon by Patricia Prime.

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Bright the Harvest Moon by John O’Connor, Christchurch. Poets Group, Christchurch. (2011). 100 pp. p.b. RRP: NZ$20. ISBN: 978-0-9582191-6-7.

A consistent innovator, John O’Connor has been a leader in contemporary New Zealand haiku for several decades. His new collection, Bright the Harvest Moon, focuses attention on his unusual blend of typography, font styles and symbols.

The haiku are inspired by traditional influences – haiku written by the Japanese masters – Basho, Buson, Issa, Shiki, and others. Noted for its tenderness and its irony, O’Connor’s work has revolutionized form in New Zealand haiku by taking words from various sources to create haiku to which he has applied his imagination to create new structures that support ambiguity, juxtaposition and humour, as we see in these two examples from After Basho:

Though singing till nightfall –
thinking the skylark
hasn’t sung at all.

In fine rain –
straw coats & willows
toward the river.

Rapturous, yet paradoxically precise and incisive, O’Connor’s haiku are both theatrical and performative. The haiku display his exhilarating sense of language, as well as his predilection for the comic play of typography and font which is sometimes at odds with the seriousness of the haiku. There’s a dynamic play between coherence and incoherence at the heart of this collection. We’re soothed into a welcoming comfort through his grammatically normative phrases – and their meaning. While the originals of his haiku may be familiar to many readers, each of his is original. As he says in his Note: “. . . I have ignored the disjunctive linkage of renga & at times the prescriptions & proscriptions of haiku.”

In After Buson,

 Rising mist.
A thousand steps e c h o
the market sounds.

The long roadside grasses –
a grave-post among them.

The haiku retain all the flash and dazzle of the ephemeral, all the play with which readers of his haiku will be familiar. And it is out of that flickering indeterminacy that O’Connor constructs the humour that drives his poetry. His work gives an aestheticized, meditative turn to daily detail that reflects his knowledge of the Japanese masters and his familiary with the art of haiku.

O’Connor makes haiku that inevitably feel stylish, timeless, and marked by a precise lyrical grace. His love, respect and knowledge of the Japanese masters influences his own work. Always challenging convention and form, this collection of haiku is inspired by, or is his “imitations” of haiku written by Basho, Buson, Issa, Shiki, and others, as we see in the following four haiku:

From After Issa:

Beneath the blossoms
there are no strangers.

Walking to Shinano –
higher & higher
the rice planters’ song.

From After Shiki:

How low the graves
under the grass
of late summer.

After rain –
late sun    touching
the cicada.

His is a highly speculative poetic intelligence, both philosophically elegant and lyrically charged. Meditative and mysterious, his haiku track the subtle moments of consciousness against the background of nature and human nature, as we see in the following four haiku:

From After the Followers of Basho:

So carefully
placing snow on this tray –
“autumn flowers”.

(After Kikaku)

From After Other Haiku Masters:

Delaying my journey
yet again
for spring.

(After Ryota)

The collection uses typeface, typography and symbols as a point of departure to alter our traditional ideas of haiku. Employing fragmentation and ellipsis, allusion and occasional symbols as a springboard that takes us back to the original haiku, but also emphasizes the public nature of personal experience; this is a collection to delight every reader of haiku.

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