Monthly Archives: September 2012

“a 21st century Eve” – review by Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke

Home Is Where the Heartache Is (Small Change Press, 2007)
home{sic} (Another Lost Shark Publications, 2012)
by Julie Beveridge

Reviewed by Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke

For a limited time, all purchases of home{sic} from the Another Lost Shark Store will be shipped with a complimentary copy of Home is Where the Heartache is.


Stars are arguably best left to outer space, but if ten of them fell out of the sky, I would grab nine and a half of them to jointly rate Julie Beveridge’s first two books, Home Is Where the Heartache Is, and home{sic}.  I do it this way because Beveridge’s books are best considered together, as an oeuvre.  Taken in this way, their similarities, and their differences, both in terms of form, and of subject matter, identify her as a voice that is worth listening to, and following for the future.

I will first consider Home Is Where the Heartache Is, then home{sic}, then make some comments about the two taken together.

Home Is Where the Heartache Is is, yes, a dark, at times surreally nightmarish collection of haibun in ways that remind us of those Hieronymus Bosch canvasses:

This house was a steal.  The woman who owned it before me stabbed her
defacto to death and skinned him in the living room.

“Playing the Market”

Yes, Beveridge is, already, laughing: it’s confirmed as the poem continues:

… I remember watching it
on the news and thinking what a shame, that house has so much potential.

In the last poem in this collection, “Solitude: the end and the beginning” Beveridge makes overt what has been implicit all along: her at times oh so wry, dark humour:

sometimes I laugh despite myself,
from a place not so deep within me

Yet there is much more to this book than its humour, appealing though that is.  Beveridge is a 21st century woman, aware that in Australian society of this century there is violence, and you don’t have to scratch too deep to find it.  She acknowledges the truth that most of the victims aren’t male defactos skinned in living rooms, no, they are women, and so often there’s a sexual basis for that violence.  In the title poem, “Home is where the Heartache is:”

She is worth an exploded eye socket and nine dissolvable stitches.

Yes, it is easy to dispassionately admire the vivid description – the woman is there photographically caught before us in all her battered woundedness – but Beveridge challenges us to go deep into the sexual politics, ask ourselves “why.”

There are cigarettes, wine, joints and more to be found within these pages, but it is almost as if they are the props, the enablers, not the underlying reasons for the events depicted.  What are those reasons?  Beveridge sketches, alludes, never falls into didacticism, always prompts us to think.  And always – I return to this – with sharp, questioning humour.  In “Cold Hands Touch My Face,” which recounts an abduction by car by a man wearing mirrored sunglasses:

behind the shades
a murder
of crows feet

Violence, including rape and murder, happens in our society right now.  Beveridge is unflinching in her exploration of it.  Her take is a feminist one, but one that, as a man, I feel included in: the problem is mine as well as hers.  This book is thought-provoking, and in being so, is deeply satisfying.

home{sic} is a book of journeys: we are taken to a number of places on the planet, to both Australian locations and North American ones.  Beveridge’s perceptive powers of observation are acute:

whether I climb or fall
nothing is as patient as these cliffs

“van diemen’s land”

your men hold their cameras like cocks

“song for san francisco”

These are travelogues with hard, sometimes jagged edges.  Yet these edges are leavened with a wisdom that resonates with deep psychological truths:

the longer
you spend
with yourself
the less
alone you
will feel

“a handful of consistencies”

This is part admonition, part acceptance.  Beveridge knows aloneness, and shares her introspective insights on it, but she also knows what it is like to intimately be with another, in all its aspects, from small talk in an airport departure lounge to being:

a factory for future men

“meat and bread”

as she so drily terms being pregnant with her son.  So it is that her intimacies, shared with us, become ours too; we are happy for her, and with her, that she has the peppered roast pork sandwich; her pregnancy cravings,

with 18 weeks before it all truly
ignites

“canada day”

are ours to experience with her.  It is almost as if Beveridge, as home{sic} reaches its climax on the other side of the Pacific, is inviting us to be, if not defacto God parents for her as a 21st century Eve, then, in a secular sense, partakers of her future journeys with her to-be-born son.  This is an invitation proffered with rich humanity, and a powerful, overarching sense of the joy of life.

It is instructive, I feel, to consider Home Is Where the Heart Is and home{sic} together, and as the first two instalments in an oeuvre which surely will continue to unfold over the years ahead.

From the artful haibun of Home Is Where the Heart Is, home{sic} sees Beveridge further exercising her technical virtuosity; in it she uses a number of different forms, from poems in couplets to prose poems.  Often her forms in home{sic} are unpunctuated, the earlier volume’s prose passages are generally traditionally punctuated, but what both books share is a use of ambiguity, often for ironic, and humorous, purposes.

Upon a first three or four readings of each volume, I leant slightly towards preferring Home Is Where the Heart Is, but by the time I had read each volume half a dozen times, the similarities, above and beyond even the ambiguities, below the surface differences in form, were becoming increasingly apparent.

The first book, eschewing all the implicit sexual politics of violence it contains, is in a sense about aloneness, and the struggle to make sense of a too often contrary world.  In home{sic} by contrast, the poet’s persona is with another, yet, on a deeper level, the world is equally vividly strange.

The first volume is overtly about interior worlds.  Beveridge’s second book, upon reflection, under the at times sensuously written travelogues, is also.  Whether it be that meat and bread sandwich, or

mozzarella dripping from my tongue

“song for san francisco”

we taste as well the graphic psychological truth that

homesickness is not a metaphor

“a handful of consistencies”

and it tastes piquant, awkward – it cannot be easily pigeonholed – and ultimately undeniably real.

It is reality in the truest sense that these two books jointly explore.  There are many strange things that comprise our world, too many to easily make sense of.  Beveridge’s poetry becomes her torch; shining light on some of that strangeness, and her light oft-times makes the strange familiar, and the familiar strange.  In so doing, she challenges us to look into the very heart of strangeness.  And if we do that, perhaps, if we are honest enough to accept her truths, we see mirrors, reflecting back who we are inside.

**********

Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke had his first poem published in 1966 when he was seven years old in the mass circulation Australian newspaper The Sun.  Michael’s first poetry hero was John Keats, after he read as a teenager a biography of the English Romantic poet.

At Monash University, from 1977 to 1980, while studying successfully for a Bachelor of Economics degree, he hung out in a part of the library where hardly anyone went, devouring poetry books, and Michael Dransfield became his favourite poet.

To this day, notwithstanding he now has many other favourites, Dransfield’s “to be a poet in Australia is the ultimate commitment” remains seminal.  Since university, Michael has made a point of reading poetry, often in translation, from as many poets the world over as he can.

Michael now lives in Townsville, enjoying the north Queensland tropical sunshine.  He is a valued member of Writers In Townsville Society, whose website is: http://witsnq.blogspot.com/.

If Michael could have one wish, for anything in life, he would give the wish away.

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Lavender Room Zine-in-a-Matchbox Issue #10

This ‘Golden Stapler’ nominated zine has reached its landmark 10th issue and this Lost Shark, can be found lurking inside the pages. For those of you who are not familiar with The Lavender Room, each issue features:

Ye Olde Picture Books – what amazing vintage books have I found in secondhand shops?
Raise High the Salinger – quotes from the dearly departed J.D.Salinger
Thankyou for Being a Friend – my Golden Girls pick of talented friends!
For Want of a Word – want a word? I’ve got one!
Tools in Vogue – what tools have featured in my life of late?
The ebay That Got Away – it’s tough being outbid!
A ‘Pome’ from Pas – for some literary sensation

but to make issue #10 that little bit special The Lavender Room treats you to sneezing, an albatross, fashion and Hashimoto in Springtime!

And let’s not forget that each zine comes with a solitary match to set it all on fire after reading! Pick up a copy here.

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Prepare to be Squished!

Picture books are the first bastion of poetry for all readers, so it is with great excitement that the Nunn / Beveridge clan will be heading along to Black Cat Books at Paddington this Saturday for the launch of the second Squish Rabbit book, ‘Brave Squish Rabbit‘, by local author, Katherine Battersby.

So if you are in and around Brisbane this Saturday, why not embrace your inner child and come along! Katherine will be reading with the musical support of Sir Lady Grantham and local songstress Skye Staniford (We All Want To) will be performing a solo set for the the biggest and littlest of children in the audience. Sounds like fun to me!

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day moon
the first melon
ready for slicing

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10 seconds from every Top 100 song EVER!

Can you believe it! Every ‘Top 100 Song’ (from the Billboard Charts) from the Year 1959 onwards has been cut-up and smooshed together into 17 hours of audio magic. Now, you all know that I am, for the most part, averse to pop music, but this has proved absolutely captivating! Even if you play the year of your birth and one or two other favourite years from your life, this is going to infect you with songs you never dreamed of hearing again and send shivers of cringeworthiness and delight in equal measure right through you. You can even follow along with the chart lists to work out who ‘sang that song’. So get ready to enter the swirl of 53 years of pop music… it’s an absolute trip!

Jump in here!

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Poetry Workshop Discounts!

Discount… now there is a word that rarely fails to put a smile on the face. And this time, it’s a poetry discount… what could be better!

My month long series of workshops, ‘Developing Your Poetry Practice‘ is coming up in October and the good people at QLD Writers Centre have generously offered a discount to all those interested in enrolling. The series will be held on Wednesday nights – October 10, 17, 24, and 31 – from 6pm – 8pm.

The Discounted Price is now as follows:

QWC Members $104 (normally $130)
QWC Concession Members $94 (normally $117)
Non-members $152 (normally $190)

So if you are looking to dedicate more time to your writing craft, have a project on the horizon, or are wanting to learn some valuable new writing and editing techniques, I would love to see you this October… I have already dubbed it ‘poetry month’ on the calendar!

To get the discount, phone QWC on 3842 9922 or email us at qldwriters@qwc.asn.au before booking.

The other great discount on offer, is to David ‘Ghostboy’ Stavanger’sFrom Page to Stage: Writing for Performance‘ workshop. This innovative workshop will introduce participants to the key elements of creating & writing for performance, with a strong focus on writing performance poetry & spoken word; as well as lyrics in response to music, improv dialogue, poetic story, absurdist text for performance art and performance technique. Explore aspects of poetry slam and generating performance opportunities. Over the course of the workshop, participants will write a number of group and individual pieces as well as critiquing and performing pieces for the group.

The one day workshop will be held on Sunday October 28 and is currently being offered at the following price:

QWC Members $99 (normally $110)
QWC Concession Members $89 (normally $99)
Non-members $144 (normally $160)

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On the road with Peter Bakowski

Eternal traveller, Peter Bakowski, is hitting the road from September through to December on an east coast reading and speaking tour, appearing in venues as diverse as pubs, bookstores and people’s homes. And luckily for us Brisbane-ites, he is making an appearance at SpeedPoets on Sunday October 7 and at Avid Reader on Monday October 8.

For those of you have not come across Peter’s work, here is a recent poem as way of introduction:

In my twenty-ninth year of writing poetry

Pondering, pursuing and penning the poem continues to
Engage and
Test me.
Enlivening a poem
Requires concentration, tinkering and to sometimes let go of the steering wheel.

Bravery and a certain ruthlessness are necessary.
Approach each word, each line, each image you’ve crafted with
Kindness but be prepared to kill them off. They must add to the poem
Otherwise they’re just strap-hanging passengers getting in the conductor’s way.
When you’ve finished the first draft of your poem,
Sleep on it. Then re-read the poem. Has your poem got an engine, does it
Keep the reader reading?
If your poem doesn’t contain truth and music, try again in a new poem.

**********

Melbourne-born poet, Peter Bakowski writes clear, accessible poems, uses ordinary words to say extraordinary things. His poems have appeared in literary magazines worldwide and have been translated into nine languages. Peter has been writer-in-residence in Italy, France, China, Western Australia, Tasmania and New South Wales.

He has self-organized and self-financed numerous poetry tours of Australia, some tours lasting three months, some tours covering 10,000 kilometres. Peter also gives poetry readings in private houses to groups of eight or more, anywhere in Australia or overseas.

His philosophy is to be alert to the world and to continue. Visit Peter’s blog.

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Share Your Shelf

The first port of call for me in any household is a person’s book shelves, closely followed by their music collection (however it may be stored – though I have to confess, digital is a bit of a turn off). More than anything, books and music provide an insight into a person’s world… not only do you get to see what a person has valued enough to bring into their home, but you get a feel for what they have whirling around inside their head. Books and music are universal in their appeal, yet every collection, in every household is completely unique. Books and music provide an intimate snapshot of who you are… and that’s just the contents I am talking about! You can also tell a lot about a person from the way they organise their collections.

So you can imagine my delight, when I stumbled across this great tumblr site: Share Your Shelf.

Now you can travel into homes and explore the universe of books that people cherish. And let’s not forget, you can share your own shelves! Here’s one of my favourite shelves…it houses, some of my Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg and Kerouac collection:

So c’mon, why not share one of yours!?

 

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Brisbane Festival Highlights – Mia Dyson, Charge Group & Ghostboy

Brisbane Festival is in full swing and already I have had the extreme pleasure of seeing Mia Dyson, play from her latest album, The Moment. I can’t speak highly enough of this album… it continues to worm its way deeper into my consciousness with each listen. From the opener, When The Moment Comes, Dyson lets you know that she is taking no prisoners. It barrels out at breakneck speed, the line ‘you’ll know what to do when the moment comes’ ringing with even greater truth after Dyson’s recent time in the USA, where she was lured with the promise of big opportunities, but stood tall and stayed true to her sound. It is an album of triumph and her performance last Thursday night was also that… a triumph. In the glorious surrounds of The Speigeltent, Mia mesmerised, charmed and filled the heart of every true listener with hope. I can’t wait to see where she goes from here…

Then for the third time this year, I had the privilege of seeing Charge Group play live in the Metro Arts Alleyway. This band just seems to get better every time I see them, and despite the ‘doof-doof’ spill from The Victory, Charge Group generated an energy that was nothing less than compelling, their songs swinging from angular to anthemic. Their self-titled sophomore release is still my Australian album of the year and is going to take some knocking off. Here’s the clip for their third single from the album, The Jaguar Complex. Seriously, if you get the chance to see them live, take it and be ready to fall in love with their sound!

And to round out my Brisbane Festival experience, I am heading off to see Ghostboy with Sir Lady Richard Grantham and their show, We Love You (as much as everybody else does). Described as a neo-cabaret-comedy-cannibal show, it is bound to have you wiping the sweat off your brow and the tears from your eyes. Nobody takes it to the crowd like Ghostboy, so if you want some truly live art, get your ticket here!

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dinner for one
her finger teases music
from the wine glass

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