Category Archives: Pin Ups

June Pin-Up Poet Week #3: Julie Beveridge anticpiates the launch of home{sic)

The launch of Julie Beveridge’s third collection, home{sic} is just days away, so of course, the anticipation of it all dominated this week’s conversation.

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ALS: It’s getting very close to the launch of home{sic} at Riverbend Books. What is it that is most exciting you about the launch?

Is it wrong to say going out without having to wear a feeding top? Launches are always strange things to lead up to but wonderful experiences. It is a very weird thing to have people come along and buy your work. It is both very satisfying and a little embarrassing really. Perhaps you get better at that the more you develop as a writer?

I am looking forward to handing the book over mostly, to putting it out there for people to read… to love or hate, to talk to me about or not, for people to want to tear it apart, or get parts of it tattooed on their body they love it so much. It’s exciting to see how people respond.

The work no longer belongs to me, which is the wonderful thing about releasing stuff really.

Also, I’m looking forward to all the other awesome poets who are reading on the night. And my baby being at home, asleep in bed, being very good for his grandparents.

ALS: I have always found the release of a book to be a time of flux…  after the rigours of editing, new poems seem to flutter into existence, making the current work seem strangely distant. Where is your head at, as home{sic} makes its way into the world?

I totally agree… home{sic} is dead to my mind now, which is already consumed with the third (and final) in the series Home Bittersweet Home. The closer I got to the end of {sic} the more I opened up to Bittersweet – I got a taste for the lines, direction and creative outcome I wanted for the work.

Writing is cyclical, like most processes, so it’s natural to start at the beginning of a new creative process while you are at the publishing end of another.

After a fairly long break from a dedicated writing practice, it’s great to be in a place where my poetic eye is taking snapshots again, I feel as though I am writing some of my best work to date, and feel that can only develop if I ride this train with vigour!

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If you have not yet booked your ticket for the launch, there is still time. Here’s both a sneak peek of the cover and the launch details so that you can be there in person to be one of the first people to get their hands on a copy.

Julie Beveridge launches home{sic)

Venue: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford Street, Bulimba.
Time: Doors open at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Tickets: $10
Bookings essential: 07 3899 8555

For all of you who cannot make it, watch this space for a launch special in the coming weeks.

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June Pin-Up Poet Week #1: Julie Beveridge

It’s hectic times here at Another Lost Shark HQ, with the launch of the next Another Lost Shark Publication looming. This time I am thrilled to be publishing Julie Beveridge’s third poetry collection, Home{sic}, which will make its way into the world at Riverbend Books on Tuesday June 19. And with Julie reading at SpeedPoets tomorrow, the timing was perfect to crown her, Another Lost Shark’s ‘Miss June 2012.’

This week Julie and I talk ‘home’ and the link between her previous collection, Home is Where the Heartache is and Home{sic}.

Enjoy,

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ALS: Your last book, Home is Where the Heartache is (2007) was an exploration of domestic menace. How does your new book Home{sic} relate to ‘Heartache’ and further your exploration of the concept of home?

Heartache was really an imagining of what could be happening behind any door of any home at any particular moment.. And yes, the menace that lives at home with us… which I have had a love affair with for as long as I can remember (thanks in part to Roddy Doyle’s The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, Joyce Carol Oates’ Rape, Elizabeth Bachinsky’s Home of Sudden Service and, well anything by Dianne Wakoski – who is the queen of domestic loss, love and longing).

Home{sic} is more of a personal mythology –  to borrow a phrase from Wakoski. I am in a constant state of yearning for home – whether that be here in Queensland, in Tasmania or in the places I’ve been to or imagined myself in. And not even really my actual self, but the me that my private audience imagines on my behalf. These poems are personal, and not about me at all in equal measures, so hopefully the collection creates a world in which a narrative exists – a poetic visioning of infinite potential of one small home.

I don’t think I’ll ever be done with home as a poetic concept… I’ve already started imagining the third piece in the trilogy – Home Bitter Sweet Home… watch this space?

Julie Beveridge is a Brisbane based poet, cultural producer and first time mum. Her work has appeared in print and online journals throughout Australia and New Zealand. Her third collection Home{sic} will be launched at Riverbend Books on June 19.

Here’s a poem from the collection.

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van diemens land

canyon precipice
jagged merciful

sharp extension
endures grooves

my fingers rest in
or slip out of

whether I climb or fall
nothing patient as these cliffs

rocks call to me at night
knowing I’ve always wanted to

fling myself off something
into something else

Tasmania
heart shaped and irregular

chains my memories
convict dogs that don’t get fed

hungry for the brink

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April Pin-Up Poet Week #2: Andy White on the art of collaboration

The collaborative process, is something that continues to inspire me, so I thought I would ask our April Pin-Up, Andy White what it is about working collaboratively that continues to light him up. And remember, if you want to have some of his songwriting magic rub off, he is running a workshop here in Brisbane at the end of the month. Here’s the details:

What: Words & Music with Andy White: a songwriting workshop
Where:
Queensland Writers Centre, Level 2, State Library of Queensland, South Brisbane 4101
When: Saturday 21 April 2012
Time: 12pm – 6pm
Cost: $75 / $65 (concession)

For further details visit the QPF website, or to enroll email sarah.qldpoetry@gmail.com

Now, over to you Andy…

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Collaboration is obviously very important to you. Can you tell us what it is about the collaborative process that keeps you seeking out new artistic partnerships?

Co–writing totally changed the way I write. I only wrote by myself until I made friends who were used to co–writing – one was in a band, one a solo artist who’d also been in bands all his life. Both had brothers – I didn’t. One was a deep soul man working on instinct, the other a songwriter working on a mix of intellect, ability and talent. Both with amazing voices.

Starting off writing with friends is a good idea. You’re ‘in’ each others’ lives. You know their hopes, fears, enthusiasms and pet hates. Their emotional history and the tragic or ecstatic state of their family and love lives. It’s not a stretch to start jamming and writing down lyrics which come to mind.

If you’ve never co-written before, it can seem daunting, but even if you’re wary of it I can’t recommend it highly enough. Here are some of my co-writing experiences:

1.    With close friends. As ALT, Tim Finn, Liam O Maonlai and I started playing shows in Dublin and hanging out at nightclubs. Or was it the other way round? One time we tried to get into a nightclub and things went decidedly pear-shaped … after many hours of deepest Dublin adventure we crawled home and wrote ‘Many’s The Time’ together. Four years later we ended up with an album ‘Altitude’, recorded in Melbourne, which still sounds fresh today. We toured the world (playing two of our best shows in Van Gogh’s Earlobe, Brisbane) and called it a day. One of the most exciting things I’ve ever done – and writing with two such talented guys who were friends too was very special. Here’s a track from the album:

2.    I was on a songwriting course put together by ASCAP (one of the US versions of APRA) and IMRO (the Irish version of APRA). Lot of famous writers there. We drew names out of a hat and I was teamed up with a laid–back American very used to co–writing. From Nashville. We talked about Dublin. He had a riff. I wrote our conversation into a lyric and we put the chords together. Recorded it and you’ll find ‘Hysteria’ on Kieran Kane’s ‘Six Months No Sun’ album and my self-titled album. The video was shot in Dublin on the canals and around Temple Bar before it was done up for tourists. Oh, and features Finnish dancing girls some of whom are bearing artificial limbs.

3.    With Allison Russell, a wonderful singer and writer from the Canadian group Po’ Girl. I brought chord sequences and lyrics, and she brought backing vocal lines which made unique melodies of their own, turning the songs into duets – plus lines and rhymes I would never have thought of in a thousand years. A woman’s point of view. The other side of the sky. You can hear one result of these writing sessions in ‘If You Want It’ from my last album Songwriter, although the whole album is based around these songs. The video for this track stars a dinosaur and a snail.

4.    A songwriting duo which started with a friendship has been perhaps the most successful of all these partnerships. Two is definitely the ideal co-writing partnership (even with ALT most of the songs were written by either Tim and myself or Liam and myself). A few years after ALT subsided, Stephen Fearing and I met in Winnipeg and became firm friends. We have a shared Irish background (he grew up in Dublin, me in Belfast) although he moved to Canada when he was a teenager. The two of us played together, touring Ontario playing principally my songs. Then we started completing each others songs, and this graduated to writing songs for others – and for fun – ending up with 15 or 16, most of which were demo recordings, and all of which sounded like a duo album. We’d written the songs over a period of nine years, so we recorded it quickly and it was released last year in Europe and Canada as ‘Fearing & White’. This was the most exacting experience of all in terms of the co–writing process. A combination of all of the methods described above, Stephen brougt an exacting meticulousness to the process which was really valuable. On a pure songwriting level it’s the most fully realised (though ‘Altitude’ is hard to beat for fun).  Here’s ‘Under The Silver Sky’:

So if you’re thinking of co-writing, or simply jamming with your friends, remember that it:
•     develops your style
•     takes you places you never imagined you’d go
•     challenges your songwriting habits
•     makes you rewrite more
•     gives you constant feedback as you write
•     forms a bond between the co–writers which can last forever

But most of all, ladies and gentlemen – the songs:
Lennon/McCartney
Jagger/Richards
Elton & Bernie
Rogers & Hammerstein
Lieber & Stoller
Mozart & the guy who wrote the libretto for The Magic Flute

Need I say more?

Good luck!

Andy
12 April, 2012

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April Pin-Up Poet Week #1 (part 2): More Words & Music with Andy White

So let’s keep the words & music flowing… this time Andy shares some insight into the cross over between poetry & lyrics and talks about what participants will come away with from his workshop.

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Is the lyric writing process similar to the way you write poetry? Do the two ever converge?

The little black book can contain both poems and fragments of songs. For me, poems distil one moment or feeling into as compact a form as possible, whereas (interestingly) my songs contain more of a journey within their longer yet more restricted form.

I do love the lack of restrictions in poems and I find myself not rhyming, having irregular line and stanza lengths, knowing this particular piece of writing will be a poem not a song. Sometimes a line in a poem kicks off a song, though not usually the other way around.

Poems can be born in a minute, and generally are captured on the page and stay that way. After publication they are set on the page, even in performance.

Most songs change from show to show, even when recorded. In many cases, interpretation is shared by musicians, there are layers which printed words can’t reach, whereas I always hear my poems as one voice. This isn’t to denigrate poems – sometimes the solo voice is what you want to hear. With a  lot of great lyrics, the production gets in the way.

As I say, the opposite of what you’re thinking is probably true.

What do you hope participants will come away with at the end of the day?

The workshop will be great for anyone who’s got ideas for songs but needs inspired to finish them, or if you have written songs but need feedback from me and your fellow students to take them further (I am always amazed at how quickly songs can take shape and be finessed or finished in a day). Even if you just come with a list of song titles, you’ll come out with a whole lot more.

For those with ideas for songs, it’ll be like having a co-writer or someone working with them to encourage and enable. For those who have songs already, it’s a little bit like getting the kind of one-to-one attention which a record producer gives. This system of working on your songs with a sympathetic, experienced professional before recording them is a tried and tested method. Whoever your favourite songwriter is, chance are that he or she will have worked with a producer on the songs before recording them.

Advice on structure, lyrics, possibilities for instrumentation and arrangement will be a priority. I also spend some time discussing performance.

It’s very important at all levels of the music world to be able put across your song – whether it be at a concert venue, or simply to friends in a room. You’ll find that some simple advice goes a long way. I’ve played hundreds of gigs all over the world and co-written and been produced by the most marvelous people. I like sharing some of this out.

And that’s how I hope it’ll go – friends in a room, sharing. You’ll leave with the songs in good shape for performance, and hopefully you’ll be inspired to start – and, who knows, maybe finish – new ones.

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For an extra treat this time around, here’s a listen to a new poem / song from Andy: In LA I Dream of Books

And here’s those songwriting workshop details again:

Words & Music with Andy White

Where: Queensland Writers Centre, Level 2, State Library of Queensland, South Brisbane 4101
When: Saturday 21 April 2012
Time: 12pm – 6pm
Cost: $75 / $65 (concession)

To book your place email Sarah Gory: sarah.qldpoetry@gmail.com

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April Pin-Up Poet Week #1 (part 1): Andy White talks songwriting

This Lost Shark is extremely happy to welcome aboard April Pin-Up Poet, Andy White who  is packing his neverending tour bag and heading back to Brisbane this April. While in this fine city, Andy will officially launch his second poetry collection, Stolen Moments at Riverbend Books and run a songwriting workshop. To get the ball rolling, I took the opportunity to discuss the songwriting process and how it intersects with poetry.

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April brings you back to Brisbane, a self-described place of poetry for you, but let’s start off talking songwriting. One of the first engagements you have when you arrive is a songwriting workshop. What comes first for you, words or music?

I’ve often asked myself this when I hear a great song. Words or music.

How do you tell a great song? One yardstick for the songwriter is the sinking feeling of wishing you had written it yourself. That you’d had the idea, or even managed one of the lines.

All songwriters know this feeling, especiallly those who have attended a Ron Sexsmith concert or got hold of the latest Elvis Costello album.

The ideal scenario for the songwriter is that the words and music of a finished song are so co-dependent, they fit together so beautifully, the prosody is so perfect, that it’s impossible for the listener to tell which came first. If the words are complex and earth-shatteringly poetic then it’s easy to assume that they came first – but I wouldn’t bet on it. One of the most common ways of writing for musicians is to find a melody and chord sequence (or, more usually, only one of these), and repeating it endlessly whilst finding the words which fit.

Or perhaps one line sparks off a chord sequence, and that in turn sets off an idea for a whole verse, chorus, or melody line, and this sequence becomes the model to follow or repeat for the rest of the song.

The correct answer to the words or music question is probably that there are as many ways of writing songs as songs themselves. Each time I’ve finished a song, record it and listen back, I end up with feeling that each song is a unique experience. Sure, some can be in line with others you have written before, in terms of style or subject matter, but really every songwriter is in a sense rewriting the same song over and over.

(James Joyce may have been being flippant with an interviewer, as he was so many times, but I often find inspiration in the fact that he said he spent his life rewriting the same book. There’s a lot to be said for unity of purpose and inspiration).

And I should note in passing that playing and replaying a song while you’re writing and rewriting it – which you do constantly – and listening to it when it’s finished, written and recorded, is an entirely different experience. The more times you can listen back to your work-in-progress the better.

I start writing either with the words, or with the chords/melody line – or a combination of both. Whatever happens next, the lyrics and the music have a fluid interdependence. One will guide the other, and the other will take over and do the same when required.

For me the initial inspiration for a song is usually thought-free and based in real-life experience. I rarely sit down and write songs as fiction. And this includes the rule that If you think it happened, it probably did.

It either comes in a flash – as quickly as you can write it down or record it – or, as with most songwriters, I have a little black book stuffed with scribbled-on pieces of paper ranging from napkins to boarding cards and books of matches. I also have a computer full of roughly-recorded melodic and chordal ideas.

(In the old days you’d call your own answering machine, and return from tour to microcassettes of drunken and/or garbled answering machine messages. Tough to work through them – unless of course you find that your flatmate has erased the lot while you were away).

Some other ‘methods’ of mine, written for some strange reason in the second person (although I have tried not to formulate as such, fearing it won’t happen again if I do).

As well as a sharpened pencil, the little black book and the computer full of ideas are your most trusted writing friends. Between them they already contain a distillation of your life as it is lived. Now you have to sort through the ideas, musical and lyrical, find or make them into the songs or poems they always wanted to be.

(The words themselves will probably sort out by themselves which form they’ll take).

Force yourself to go through everything. The great ideas will shine out, and you probably can remember them anyway without having to look them up (the act of writing them down/recording them has committed them to memory). Make sure you go back and check to get the exact wording or phrasing. That could be where the magic lies.

You may find a verse and chorus or one of either. You might need a middle section. You’ll most likely have to write more, or rewrite what you have. Remember, Leonard Cohen originally had 82 verses for ‘The Future’. As I said, it’s all about distillation.

It’s also good to remember that you have to make your experience real for the listener. Connecting with him or her – though this can be through the music, while you keep the lyrics as obscure as you like.

An also remember that, as in most aspects of rock’n’roll life, the opposite to all of this is also true.
I think of Leonard Cohen, I think of Keith Richards.

Leonard can rewrite forever, polishing and perfecting – this method really works. It’s always worth rewriting – you’ll be doing this live on stage every time you play it anyway. You can regard the recording as a snapshot of that song at a particular time, it’s always a work in progress.

Or the opposite – the recorded version is perfection itself and everything else feeds off it, or is an approximation of it. This is equally valid (think ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’) but perhaps less satisfying for the performing songwriter.

You can write a song straight off. It’ll come out of you from who knows where. Keith spends a lot of his book trying to explain this, ending up saying angels give the songs to him (Bob Dylan talks of some kind of pipe though as with Joyce, half the time he’s probably pulling your leg).

You might find the answer to Keith’s technique in the rest of the book where he immerses himself in the blues and guitar techniques. Devotes himself to the Rolling Stones. Gram Parsons, the open G tuning and massive amounts of marijuana. As with Bob,  there’s a massive amount of learning, musical talent and reading goes into being able to write and record ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ or ‘Tangled Up In Blue.’

The automatic way is the most fun way of writing, where instinct takes over, and looking at all my songs I have to say that some of the best-known ones and my particular favourites have been  written in their entirety in less than ten minutes. ‘The Colour Of Love’, ‘Lisa’, ‘James Joyce’s Grave’, ‘Letter To T’ come to mind. Though, again, it took a lot of reading and searching to get anywhere near James Joyce’s Grave, Lisa or putting pen to paper to T.
Despite this preference for the instinctual method (but of course – it’s the easiest one!) I have found that for me a certain process does stand out as a successful way of working out a song after you’ve got the iniital idea.This might be a line, a title, or a melody or chord sequence.

I often know what I want to say before starting – with a title, a hook line or simply the theme of what I want to express. I find a chord sequence I can play for a long time (easy – I don’t know too many chords). Then while jamming this, I sing whatever I’ve got, trying to start up a verse setting the song up or a chorus which sums it up. Then I see where this leads me and I take it from there.

It’s good to start off with something true. And something which leaves options open and is mysterious. Draws the listener in and attracts them.

After this initial burst, it’s down to writing and rewriting as much as possible till you’re ready to record.

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Words & Music with Andy White

Join award-winning Irish songwriter Andy White for a day’s intensive workshopping of songwriting technique and ideas. Andy will show you ways to start you off or to move your songwriting forward. There is face-to-face time with Andy and the group. You’ll be encouraged to start new work and collaborate.

Whether you’ve got finished songs you’d like to workshop in front of like-minded people, half-finished songs looking for a collaborator, advice or guidance, or if you’ve simple always wanted to write songs but need a push to get started, this course is for you.

Andy White has fifteen internationally released albums and has published three volumes of poetry and prose. He has co-written with the like of Peter Gabriel and Neil and Tim Finn, worked with the great names of Irish music – Van Morrison, Sinead O’Conner – and won Ireland’s top songwriting award. He has also toured the world many times over. Andy is in Brisbane for the April 24 launch of his new book of poetry Stolen Moments (Another Lost Shark Press) at Riverbend Books. His latest album is Songwriter (Floating World). You can visit him at http://www.andywhite.com.

Where: Queensland Writers Centre, Level 2, State Library of Queensland, South Brisbane 4101
When: Saturday 21 April 2012
Time: 12pm – 6pm
Cost: $75 / $65 (concession)

For further details visit the QPF website, or to enroll email sarah.qldpoetry@gmail.com

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March Pin-Up Poet Week #4: Vanessa Page looks forward

Sadly, this week, it is time to say goodbye to our March Pin-Up Poet, Vanessa Page… but never fear, the launch of Brisbane New Voices III is just around the corner, so we will be seeing and hearing lots more from her over the coming weeks and months. Vanessa, it has been a pleasure…

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With Feeding Paper Tigers to be launched on Tuesday April 24, what’s next on the horizon for you? Are there any themes emerging in your new work?

With the pieces selected for Feeding Paper Tigers being drawn from my manuscript the lost art of penning you a love note, I’ve been turning my attention to reworking and refining that collection of poems and adding some new pieces in to the mix. My first manuscript, Memory Bone is still awaiting publication with PressPress and hopefully this will happen some time in 2012. This is a full length collection of my earlier work.

As for what’s on the horizon, I have written a suite of poems that were drawn from my recent experiences in Tasmania and have been working away at a couple of longer poems. Performing my work at various poetry events around the city is helping to keep me on track with writing new material and giving me some time frames to work within. I will also continue to submit my work to various competitions throughout the year, as I seem to be having more success with competitions than with submissions to poetry zines and journals. As an ‘emerging’ poet I think the anonymity factor helps in this regard. It’s a great way of getting my poetry out there to new audiences and again the ability to work to a deadline is great for me as there never seems to be enough time in the day for we single, working, poetry-writing Mums! That being said, I’ll also continue to persistently submit my poems to journals and zines and the like and just keep at it!

I think while many of my themes will stay the same, I am working hard on refining my style and paring my work back to a simpler form. Having had the experience of editing for publication, this process has become easier for me and I have been able to push through that tricky mental space that makes me want to stubbornly hold on to lines that aren’t working rather than just discarding them and coming back to the concept in a fresh way. Lately I’ve been going over poems that have been troubling me, deleting ‘offending’ lines and stumbling blocks and getting those poems working again. I’m enjoying that aspect of reviewing at the moment and the freedom that a bolder approach to my own editing is affording me so that I can move my projects forward.

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Drunk in St David’s Park

Still awake under
Hobart-town’s drooping lids

a grass crackle reveal
over night’s cold sweat

we light the fuse
with ice blade fingers

the two of us
an awkward exercise
in propulsion, footprints
over an old burial ground

displaced
shoulder to shoulder
with emancipist headstones

monuments to new starts;
the same colonial sky

the moon appears
in a half-hearted way

sparkle darkness
flooding under streetlights
as the rain comes again

we run like hell

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And one last time, here’s the Brisbane New Voices III launch details:

Date: Tuesday April 24
Location: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St. Bulimba
Time: Doors open for the event at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Tickets: $10
Bookings: Online at: http://www.riverbendbooks.com.au or call the store on (07) 3899 8555

Copies of Brisbane New Voices are limited to 100, so be there to make sure you don’t miss out!

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March Pin-Up Poet Week #3: Launching Paper Tigers

It’s almost time to launch Brisbane New Voices III, featuring March Pin-Up Poet, Vanessa Page’s debut collection, Feeding Paper Tigers. This week Vanessa & I continue the conversation and she gives us the low down on the experience of putting together the manuscript.

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The launch of Feeding Paper Tigers is fast approaching. It has been a real pleasure for me to work on the poems that make up the micro-collection; reading through the longer manuscript, the lost art of penning you a love note, to find poems that speak deeply to each other and create something unique as a whole. What was your first reaction to the poems that I selected and how have you found the process from start to finish?

It is a very exciting time for me to see this collection of poems being published and released to the world. The selected poems definitely speak deeply to each other and I think the selection sings sweetly as a little package. My initial reaction to the selection was surprise – and this is because it is always interesting to discover how others see your work, what speaks to them, what strikes a chord. I think the most interesting element is that more than half of the selected poems were ones that came to me very quickly and formed with a minimum of fuss, just a small amount of shaping. In that way, I believe the selection is very organic and stems from some pretty deep and intense experiences and concepts – all of which wanted to be told!

There is a lot of ‘me’ in these poems, which is to be expected being an initial collection. For example, Christmas 1982 has come exclusively from memories of my childhood and Christmas days spent barefoot and carefree in my home town of Toowoomba . When I think of that poem I see it visually, like a collection of memories displayed under an Instagram filter. I think the collection also reflects my preference for simplicity in expression and I am completely enamoured of the idea that something moving and profound can come from a few lines of carefully selected words. Gone #2 is exactly that. A poem of great longing that lingers on long after its been read through.

The process of preparing the poems for publication has been very exciting. While I have had to do a little tweaking here and there during the editing process, I believe this process has helped to fine tune my poems to the point where I have no further ‘itch’ to tinker with them. It is amazing what the omission or addition of a comma can do for a line! It is a pleasure to work with Graham, who has been a fantastic support and mentor to me since I first started writing poetry ‘seriously’ just over three years ago. It is fitting that Graham is responsible for publishing this debut collection of poetry and I am very much looking forward to the launch event and sharing these poems with the world.

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Mistress

It’s in the way the foliage deepens to viridian, each
time you leave

and in how the sky spills over to inhabit
the impressions you’ve left.

these tiny fissures, these sweet little fractures.

I paint what’s left of the afternoon with a brush as fine
as eyelashes

a weeping emulsion, watercolour thin.

In this kind of emptiness, even the sound of a leaf
detaching and spinning back to earth booms.

I am a fulcrum. I am carved from stone.

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Last month Riverbend Books lit up the Brisbane sky with it’s opening event… And we’re set to go again! On Tuesday 24 April the night will come alive with the voices of Victorian singer-songwriter / poet / troubadour Andy White, slam goddess Tessa Leon, Brisbane poet and former QPF director Brett Dionysius, and the launch of Brisbane New Voices III featuring March Pin-Up Poet, Vanessa Page and Carmen Leigh Keates.

Copies of Brisbane New Voices are limited to 100, so be there to make sure you don’t miss out!

Date: Tuesday April 24
Location: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St. Bulimba
Time: Doors open for the event at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Tickets: $10
Bookings: Online at: www.riverbendbooks.com.au or call the store on (07) 3899 8555

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March Pin-Up Poet Week #2: Feeding Paper Tigers with Vanessa Page

It’s Friday night, time to check back in with our March Pin-Up Poet, Vanessa Page.

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Feeding Paper Tigers opens with the poem Five fifty-three am; a poem in which you gloriously extend the metaphor of happiness to ‘night’s belly button, hung low and pale on the edge of day’. I am interested to know whether you wrote a long list of metaphors for happiness and then whittled the list down to what makes the poem really sing? And while we are talking about your writing process, how does a poem generally make it from first draft to being ready for the world?

Five fifty three am was one of those rare poems that seemed to effortlessly fall out of my thought space onto the page. After I had scribbled out the bones of it, I really only had to tinker with the layout and tighten up the wording here and there to get it to where I wanted it to be.

This poem came to me during my early morning commute which usually gets underway at five fifty-three (ish!) am. At that hour in the beautiful Bremer Valley the sky does amazing things and it feels as though you are hurtling through a kind of alternate reality. The senses are heightened and the smallest details are magnified by the simplicity of the surroundings. In this space, it is easy to become completely lost in thought and when this poem came to me I felt a strong sense of calm and clarity which I think translates quite strongly in the finished piece.

The poem itself is sprinkled with metaphors for happiness and was definitely inspired by that feeling of serenity and the empowerment of casting off negativities ‘like dried earth’, in order to strip things back to a simple and beautiful state.  I think what makes this poem ‘sing’ is the magnification of the detail to create a whole that reads like one giant exhalation.

Much of my writing process follows this ‘formula’. I am a writer who is very inspired by the natural world and by what I see and experience. Poems will very often start from a moment of clarity, an interesting observation or an emotion inspired by visual elements. Once the concepts are down I do like to take a lot of time to perfect each piece with both word selection and the way they balance and sit on the page. I like to revisit older files and will often take a line I love from an older piece and craft something new from it. I am, in that respect, a bit of a recycler of my scribblings and the process of picking over older poems that (for whatever reason) did not quite work before has often led to unexpected new pieces.

It’s hard to say how long a poem takes from the initial concept to the finished product. They are all different. Some of them tumble out sweetly, like five fifty-three am and others, like Chrysalid, will have had numerous incarnations before the combination finally clicks.

I’ll also not only silently read the drafts over and over to check the flow is there but I like to read them aloud to make sure they sound as good as they look on the page. Usually a piece is finished when I’ve gone through this process and there is no line or word or phrase that I keep stumbling over. As soon as the bumps and kinks are ironed out, it is ready to share with the world.

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Five fifty-three am
For Peter

Happiness is this simple.

It’s the morning rubbing the last of a dream from its eyes
as day-broken birds open their throats to the light

It’s a weather beaten shack at a romantic lean, knee-deep
in mist drawn like eiderdown over still-sleeping fields

It’s night’s belly button, hung low and pale on the edge of day
where dawn is kindling, like tiny kisses on your lover’s shoulder

Your car slides along the Amberley road in confessional box
calm, and twenty thoughts fall away from you like dried earth

All the world breathes in, and out

It’s this simple.

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You can read more of Vanessa’s work at: http://vanessapage.wordpress.com

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March Pin-Up Poet Week #1- Introducing Vanessa Page

March is here and that means it’s time for a new Pin-Up Poet! So I thought I would take the opportunity to invite Vanessa Page, one of Brisbane’s exciting new voices to join us for the month to talk about her forthcoming release and some of her recent successes.

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You have recently been successful in some high profile awards, most notably being short listed in the Arts QLD Thomas Shapcott Award for an unpublished manuscript and the PressPress Chapbook competition. What have these awards done for you as a poet?

For me, the most important aspect of being shortlisted for the Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Prize last year was the validation it represented for my work. Listening to the feedback from two of the judges – Felicity Plunkett and Justin Lowe at the Queensland Poetry Festival opening was very motivating, and being shortlisted in itself for such a prestigious award was fantastic. Results like this has really helped me to maintain my enthusiasm and desire to keep on working at my poetry in a disciplined way.

As an emerging poet, one of the best things I have been able to do for my development is to consistently prepare works for competitions and awards. Not only does it mean I’m working to ongoing deadlines and thus required to commit the time to refining my work but I am also exploring avenues for getting my work out there for others to read. As a working Mum, time is a precious commodity so ongoing feedback and encouragement through award results has helped me maintain focus and commit to dedicating my time to writing more often. I also like the idea of my work being viewed and critiqued anonymously, particularly as an emerging poet who has not had a great deal of my work published yet. Competitions offer this opportunity and have been a great platform for me to hone my craft and reach an audience. Now with some good competition results behind me, I hope my work will begin to find its way into more publications.

The PressPress Prize result in 2010 was extremely important for my development because it was the first manuscript I had put together and the first time I had submitted a manuscript anywhere. It helped in terms of letting me know I was on the right track and that my work had merit. Thankfully the Shapcott result verified that it wasn’t just beginner’s luck and it has been a great stepping stone for me with my first micro collection Feeding Paper Tigers being launched next month as part of Brisbane New Voices III.

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Anomie

The rain keeps coming.

Overnight, the broken
awning outside his bedroom
has become a form of water torture

drip, drip, drip, drip

This big old house
swells in downpour sheets

shadows in the crooks
of its knees and elbows
and spiders under its eyelids

he’s alone and silence
plays him like a music box

wounded thoughts
alate creatures blown from
a sepulchral mouth

The odd things she left behind
in this big old house
a cuckoo clock, potted rosemary
this emptiness

festive baubles
endemic beyond New Year

but he hasn’t the strength just yet

The rain keeps coming.

He rolls over, attempts
sleep on a misplaced ocean
back lit through venetian blind slits

drip, drip, drip, drip

That broken awning -
he might fix it tomorrow

if the rain stops coming.

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Vanessa Page is a Rosewood based poet who hails from Toowoomba in Queensland. Her first full-length collection of poetry, Memory Bone, was shortlisted for the 2010 PressPress Prize and is due to be published in 2012.

In 2011 her manuscript The lost art of penning you a love note was shortlisted for the Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Prize for an unpublished manuscript.

Vanessa has performed her work at various events, feature readings and gigs around Brisbane and is a founding member of the Beeble Poets group in Ipswich .

Feeding Paper Tigers is her first micro-collection of poetry and will be launched in April as part of Brisbane New Voices III.

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February Pin-Up Week #3: Ross Donlon on the art of reading

February is racing along and the Brisbane Poetry Scene is set to explode with a number of gigs over the coming weeks. One of the featured readers at said gigs is our February Pin-Up Poet, Ross Donlon, so this week, I asked Ross about the art of reading.

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On your first visit to the Tasmanian Poetry Festival, you took out the coveted Tasmanian Poetry Cup which is awarded to the poet who receives the loudest audience response. I have had the pleasure of seeing you read on a handful of occasions and you always seem to be incredibly ‘present’ in your work. What is it you love about being in front of an audience and what kind of experience do you hope to create for them?

I was thrilled to win the Launceston Cup, only the second mainliner (if you’ll pardon the joke) to do so at that time – Lauren Williams, a poet I greatly admire, was the other. I enjoy the reading experience, especially, of course, if you get a sense of connection with an audience. I have read to nobody at all – and did read (seriously – in Shepparton), with 5  other poets reading to an audience of 2 (Ceduna) – as well as larger crowds. Once I sold 6 books to an audience of 4, so I was very pleased about that. I’ve come a long way from the man aged 25 who couldn’t speak at his own wedding for shyness. Of course, sometimes the chemistry is all there on both sides, sometimes not quite. Festival crowds are generous I’ve found. Sometimes the small inner sanctum type audience is harder to reach.

I came to teaching eventually, which was the key for me – facing classes of Year 9s makes you find things in yourself – I found that part of my thing was to sometimes ‘play’ with the audience/class in that show teachers do – and I did some lectures for Yr 12 texts, taught professional writing at Deakin and Melbourne unis, so all of that helped.

Frankly, I do like to entertain at a reading, meaning I do like to throw a lighter or humorous (we hope) poem into the mix. It seems to me that a more thoughtful or discursive poem has a chance of being heard more if you’ve just made people laugh – and I’m on about the total experience of being human, so some light in the dark – and I like to display range of form and content. I’m an emotional poet but interested in social commentary (Geoff Page described me in a review as ‘Swiftian’ – I loved that).

I am not an intellectual poet but I want to be understood without sacrificing craft.

I like to give an audience a good time but push them emotionally or share an experience in a new or fresh way, if that makes any sense.

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Ross will feature at both SpeedPoets and the first Riverbend Books Reading for 2012. Here are the details for Riverbend, and believe me, this is an event that regularly sells out, so make sure you book your ticket soon!

Queensland Poetry Festival, QLD Writers Centre & Riverbend Books are proud to present the first event in the Riverbend Poetry Series for 2012. The February event features local poetic powerhouse, Samuel Wagan Watson and winner of the 2011 Val Vallis Award, Rachael Briggs alongside vibrant Central QLD poet, Kristin Hannaford and recent winner of the Wenlock Festival Poetry Prize (UK), Ross Donlon (VIC).

The Riverbend Poetry Series is one of the state’s finest, so be there to get the 2012 readings off to a flying start!

Date: Tuesday February 28
Location: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St. Bulimba
Time: Doors open for the event at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Tickets: $10
Bookings: Online or call the store on (o7) 3899 8555

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And since it was Valentine’s Day this week, I will leave you with one of Ross’s love poems. The simmering, with her.

with her

and at last she comes to bed
the blue nightie
caught below her knees
and as she bends –  like a girl picking flowers -
her breast moves with the movement down
her hair falls to one side

there’s a scent of rose and jasmine
and her nightcream glows
as she switches off the light
and climbs towards me
while I wait in my singlet and skin
with a useless book and glasses

nearly sixty
yet we slide beneath the sheet
like children slipping beneath the first wave of summer
and it’s she who turns  first
to fold her hair before it’s caught
as I turn to hold her
my palm floating across her back
pausing then stroking again – like soothing  something young and wild
shifting her thigh across mine
kissing her lips like a kiss before sleep
when it’s really hello how are you tonight?
as she sighs and says
this is nice
and our bodies move together
like an answer

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