Category Archives: Where do the Words Come From?

Simone Felice to tour Australia this July

Now this is the kind of news you want to bring the week to a close! I was fortunate enough to catch Felice play a short set last year as part of Brisbane Writers Festival, and ever since I have been looking forward to hearing him on stage with full band, playing from his extensive back catalogue – Felice Brothers, The Duke and The King – as well as his debut solo album. He really is something incredibly special…

Here he is playing my favourite track off the new album, New York Times live in the ABC Studio during his short trip to Australia last year:

Tickets are available here… now I’m off to let that voice sing me into the arms of this gorgeous Friday night.

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QWC Blog Tour stops by Another Lost Shark

The good folk at QLD Writers Centre have set sail on a blog tour from October to December this year, stopping by a number of sites and asking the people behind them a few questions about what makes them tick. So here’s what this Lost Shark had to say when they came knocking.

 

Where do your words come from?

Quite literally, all over the place. I often think of myself walking the streets of Brisbane (or wherever I am) with a net, trawling through the multitude of images in search of the ones that will have a lasting impact. I am also hugely influenced by music. I have quite a large instrumental music collection – everything from the sprawling post rock of Godspeed You! Black Emperor to the more delicate sounds of Seaworthy. The way these musicians create narrative and visual images through patterns of sound really fascinates me. More often than not, I have music on while I am writing. Sometimes it stays in the background, other times it drives the creation of the poem. And while I am talking about music, I have to mention how much my work with Sheish Money influences what I do. He, more than anyone, has helped me find the music in my writing. My other major well of words are the conversations, stories and snippets of life that are shared between friends, family and loved ones. But most of all, the words come with their share of sweat. Capturing the idea is often the easy part, shaping it is where the real work is.

 

Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

Well I grew up in Mt Gravatt and live in Mt. Gravatt. In fact, I (unashamedly) live five streets away from our family home. My wife often says my history is contained in five streets. And that is true in many ways… I did however, spend several years in rural QLD in the mid-nineties and really loved it. My four years in the little township of Jimna (north-west of Kilcoy) was when I really started to develop a serious interest in writing. All that solitude, fresh air and leafy surroundings really centred me and gave me the time to work on my craft… and to read. There are times when I miss that slower lifestyle, but Brisbane is such  an amazing city to live in and I love having family close by. I was really honoured when Samuel Wagan Watson dedicated the poem Tigerland (from Smoke Encrypted Whispers) to me. Mt. Gravatt (or Tigerland as it is affectionately known) is where I grew up and where I truly feel at home.

 

What’s the first sentence/line of your latest work?

I make a fish from an alphabet

 

What piece of writing do you wish you had written?

Dionysus & the Fire by Steven Heighton.

It opens with the Irish Proverb – Never arm a man who can’t dance.

Tonight
Dubrovnik burning
& one time Lhasa, London in the blitz
& last year in the Gardens of Babylon, just wilted
women’s shawls
widowed with ash, with atoms of a daughter, son
fresh-weaned from this breast of a planet
left hanging

  & the war?
the war is as good as won
  & the brain?
the brain is a smart bomb
  dance

The words of this long poem bristle with energy (this is just the first stanza above). It is a poem I often read at open mics or as part of a live set. It’s the poem I read when I need a kick in the pants or I think the audience needs one.

 

What are you currently working towards?

I am working on putting together a new collection of poems titled Ocean Hearted. I have had this in the pipeline for a while now, but put it to one side to complete work on the CD The Stillest Hour this year. I guess like most writers… I am working toward having more time to write, although I think I do okay.

 

Complete this sentence… the future of the book is…

Safe. The sensory hit of holding a book is something that I firmly believe will continue to mesmerise us for eternity.

 

To follow the tour, visit Queensland Writers Centre’s blog The Empty Page.

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QPF Spotlight #18 – Maurice McNamara

Just one more sleep and I will be revelling in the glory of QPF. Many of the artists have now arrived so I am already buzzing with anticipation. One such artist is Melbourne’s Maurice McNamara. I have had the great pleasure of working with Maurice over the past year and the fruits of that work, his debut collection, Half-Hour Country, will be launched at QPF this Saturday morning, August 22 at 10:30am (full details below). One thing I know is that Maurice is never short of a word, so I asked him, about his writing process and where he finds the words.

 

Maurice

 

Where do the words come from?

Everyone is different. Karen Knight, in her section, talks about writing in the day, evenings for meals, drinks, tv. And how she takes weeks to get lines right. How the first lines are the hardest.

I mostly never write during the day. I write at night, after the drinks, meal, tv. But like her I write to music. I don’t care exactly what the music is, mostly moody. I wear that puppy out, playing it over and over, until I never want to hear that song again.

Unlike Karen I go out every day, shopping, walking, listening to the radio (headphones), looking at people. Mostly I’m alone and swallow up fragments. Sometimes this stuff gets coalesced properly, in the evenings, mostly it doesn’t. The best stuff gets the driver of a special event, a special emotion (below, a poem about my sister’s birthday – something slightly out of the ordinary.)

But trying to write every evening, and missing, means that automatic writing ie. just trying to say what happened, has more practice and kick in it, more unconscious rhythm.

Finding the rhythm: everyone has their own, and practising, the drum finds its owner. When I first started writing poetry, about nine years ago, I wrote over a thousand poems – one, two, three, every night. Fortunately that computer clagged out and I lost most of them. Sentimental, masked in cleverness, un-understandable, cutesy, pathetic, half-baked – I forget my other sins but they were many and various. But even from the start one has a rhythm and themes. (Equally, whatever faults I had then, I’ve still got now.)

My saving, very/very/very slow grace, the fact I went out each week and read, badly, to audiences, who went, ugh, or ho-hum, or what-the? next please. (One time a poet said, I like the font your poems are in – that’s how weak my praise was. At the time I was gratified – that’s how piss weak I was.) Going out to read all the time meant I heard lots of other good/bad/indifferent stuff. The best learning is by example. And just keep on going.

I grew up outside Bendigo, an old gold mining town, but where I was, it was mostly Irish, cut off. Like the Cullinans, nine children – Dinny, Danny, Paddy, Maisie, Bess, etc, so on, most of whom still lived with their mother, though the oldest son was hitting seventy. Some of them had never been to Melbourne. Two army tanks had pulled up in their front yard, at the end of the Second World War, from Pucapunyal en route to… Nothing much changed. In the churchyard on Sundays people stood in the same place, said the same things, wearing suits they’d bought for their wedding. I can’t emphasise how important this was/is to me: the idea of a link back, mysteriously un-knowable; the way they said the same things, their cadence and drawl.

As far as poetry goes, I also belong to two sixties artist/artists – Andy Warhol and The Beatles. I think they could be called the first democratic artists – not dependent on being upper class, un-important, using real things around them. And then, the way you heard songs over and over, radio, radio, I think that changed how people wrote.

Poetry influences: I’m sorry, but it has to be local for me. I’m not academic, I’m not international, and I’m not clever (clever is not the same as intelligent). I don’t want to live anywhere else. This is not a proclamation for bogans, or bush poetry. I don’t want to be provincial. The worst kind of provincialism is aping somewhere else. I want to live in the sort of place that is happening on its own terms. Open and hungry, enthusiastic – that’s what Australia should be. So eat from elsewhere but write our own stuff. Don’t be arch, don’t be removed. Even though most of us live in cities, keep the country in our souls. That’s the genius of Australia – we don’t live in pastoral acres, spires dreaming, the bush infects/scares/makes us. That and the ocean – sharks and snakes scare bullshit away. And temperature: this is a hot country, new world, too hot for languid tempered English. Or French theory. (Or hysterical Americans.)

In my writing I don’t live up to this, but I think about it. In this country we’ve got indigenous, migrants, Anglo-Celtic, all burnt by sun, flood and drought, like nowhere else. Only we can do it.

My theory of poetry: watch the faces of the audience, if they remained closed, turned away, something is wrong. (The best poets have a language, a themness that drags us somewhere else, but is yet, recognisable – oh, to be one of them.)

Poets I get excited by: Eric Beach, Jennifer Compton, Grant Caldwell, Jordie Albiston, Myron Lysenko. Not always and not everywhere: but a surprise, a kick, a relaxation, a floating away. Not very much bullshit in any of them.

That’s the trouble with poetry – because it’s tight, where it goes wrong, you flip out. No patience. But then, you stumble across, and you feel like stroking the armpits of your host. Casual sex. Your armpits smell like cummin. (How do you say that word un-rudely?) I’ve got that with Laurie Duggan; like, love some of the Martial poems, then others leave me cold. Same with Dorothy Porter. Hate poems by poets in search of material, trawling art galleries. ‘My response to the Mona Lisa, waiting for Helen to turn up…’ Then we leapt into a foreign sports car. Please. Enough. (Even in art you’re relentlessly middle class.) Middle class masquerading as rascal, even worse. Brett Whitley, you’re busted. ‘See my lawyer, man’. The best Australian poems I’ve read were by Eric Beach, about his girlfriend with motor neurone, caring for her, published in Salt-Lick. ‘Brushing her hair, ice waterfalls.’ Nothing else even comes close, and originally, he’s from New Zealand.

 

About Maurice:

Maurice McNamara has been involved with the Melbourne spoken word scene for a number of years. His writing is casually lyrical, funny but serious, and aims for a spare contemporary feel. His book, Half-Hour Country, has just been published by Small Change Press.

 

Poem:

 

sister’s birthday

having gone to see
‘my year without sex’
a self-consciously Australian movie
small family details
but at least a story arc
as the Americans say
though, written/directed by a woman
I noticed the husband didn’t complain
when there was no sex for a year
which made him a bit too nice, I thought
though, okay, she nearly died

coming out of the theatre, remembered
sister’s birthday, bought flowers
and rillette, to spread on bread
a French name for the potted meat
Dad used to make
but a French name costs more
I try to remember my sister’s birthday
the same day as Mum’s
this year she would have been 96
(so waxen she looked
laid out on the hospital bed)
sister lives alone and has the sort of casual
Catholic violence I detest
try to forget

drive to Armadale
a thunderstorm!
lights on
blinded by rain
cars drive home

visits of duty
driven by a sort of love underneath
a perfect cup of tea
an event that only happens every couple of years
a confluence of milk/tea/sugar
she listens to talking books
doesn’t watch tv
eyes hurt too much

insulted my girlfriend only in passing
pauses between words
women have powers men don’t possess
though men are obvious bastards
saying I was excited by engines but my girlfriend wasn’t
was sexist
I didn’t have much of a headache
by the time we left

I wish she didn’t live alone
but I can’t fix her life up
I can’t fix my own
I don’t like going back
to where I was before
live in the present
which is uneasy

my girlfriend and I had a stupid argument in the car
I was comparing the heroine in ‘my year without sex’
to Muriel in ‘Muriel’s Wedding’
how they had the same daggy Australian woman thing
not found elsewhere
she thought I was being insulting

my voice became more metallic
exasperated
‘you don’t get it’
grinding on, through changes of lights
she retreated to silence
like Mum used to do with Dad
I felt empty
she did too

 

Catch Maurice at QPF 2009:

 

Saturday August 22 – 10:30 – 11:30am

The First Bullet of the Day: featuring Robert Bos and the launch of Half-Hour Country (Small Change Press) by Maurice McNamara and Dear Rose (Small Change Press) by Nicola Scholes

 

Saturday August 22 – 8:00pm

A Million Bright Things: featuring a short set from every bright thing on the 2009 program plus a feature set from the awesome Neil Murray

 

Sunday August 23 – 11:00pm – 12:00pm

Choreography of Chance: featuring Maurice McNamara, Rhys Rodgers and Santo Cazzati

 

All sessions are held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.

For full program details head to www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com

 

 

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QPF Spotlight #17 – Barbara Temperton

QPF 2009 is just two days away and it is all systems go… so to help get you there, today’s spotlight is shining on Barbara Temperton, illuminating where she finds the words that sing that strange music we call poetry.

 

b temperton

 

 

Influences

I’ve soaked up a large variety of influences over the years: from growing up semi-feral in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, to finally moving south, spending eleven years on the south coast before my current detour to the Mid West coast.

I started to write as a child, encouraged by my teachers, but really didn’t really start seriously until 1983. When I moved to Perth in 1987 I was able to connect with other writers – teachers, fellow students, and members of the Perth writing community –  such as Marion Campbell, Philip Salom, Anne Brewster, Tom Shapcott, Elizabeth Jolley, Dennis Haskell, Tracy Ryan, John Kinsella, David Buchanan, Mark Reid, Morgan Yasbincek, Andrew Taylor, Glen Phillips, Marcella Polain, and many others. A residency at Varuna in 2000 under the tutelage of Dorothy Porter and in the company of Judy Johnston and Felicity Plunkett is a high point. Undertaking my MA at UWA under the supervision of Dennis Haskell is another.

 

The Writing Process

My writing process is painstakingly slow. Getting ideas is one thing … one can accommodate a workman-like approach to the construction of poems, but working in an inspired way incorporates an entirely different process. Inspiration to me is when I become totally involved – emotionally, physically, spiritually, whatever – I’m in there with it – that’s when the work really starts to breathe and occupy my life with an intensity that can last days, weeks, months… if I’m lucky.

My first collection “The Snow Queen takes lunch at the Station Café” in Shorelines came together over a period of about seven years when I was mainly focussed on writing prose. I spent the next seven years working on poems for Going Feral, and another seven plus on Southern Edge. There is always a quiet, anticipatory space for me after I’ve finished a writing project, where I wait patiently for my next obsession to materialise.

 

The Importance of Voice

I know I have a character and a poem when I can hear voice. The means by which that comes about is difficult to explain. Sometimes the voice comes from within, sometimes from without. I collect voices that I come across from day to day, write them down, save them up. Once, at a party, I overheard a friend say “I have found pleasure in skinning rabbits.” As soon as our eyes met she laughed and pointed at me (because she knows me well) and said “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded!” And went on to explain what she really meant. But it didn’t matter, I had already collected the words, the voice. By the time I got home that night I had created the character who was speaking. So, voice can be a narrative position, but can also take many other forms, like sound qualities or structural aspects – line lengths, for example – of a poem. The character I called Traveller in “Jetty Stories (from Southern Edge) had his point of origin outside Port Hedland in 1995. We were fishing on the banks of a tidal creek. My nephew William told me the local legend of a woman who had walked out onto the mud flats at low tide, and who was trapped and drowned when the tide came in. William’s story provided me with the situation, later work saw the development of the Traveller’s character, but the poem did not come alive for me until I had found its voice – not the voice of the character but the voice of the poem – and that didn’t come about until much later.

 

Recurring Themes

About a decade ago I came to the understanding that bereavement in its many forms has been a constant source of inspiration for me, as it continues to be. Wherever darkness exists it has lightness as its counterfoil. That’s the nature of binaries – where there is one there is the other. In poetry, as in drawing, you don’t create a form by drawing the form, you create it by drawing the shadows.

 

How have my feelings about poetry, the reading and writing of, changed since I first started writing?

I don’t think my passion for poetry has changed, I still love reading it and writing it as much as I ever did.

In recent times, due to the demands of work and study, I have had a lot less time in which to write and I really miss the sense of dwelling that came with having an active writing habit.

I love being the poetry advisor for Westerly magazine, reading submissions, making recommendations to the Editors. Back in the eighties, Westerly gave me my first real opportunities at getting my short stories and poems published, so it’s somewhat poetic that I’m in this position now.

 

About Barbara:

Barbara Temperton is an award-winning Western Australian writer. Her poems, song lyrics, short stories, reviews and articles have appeared in journals, newspapers, anthologies, have been performed live and broadcast on radio. Barbara lives in Geraldton, Western Australia, where she works as a librarian and editor, and moonlights as the poetry editor for Westerly. Barbara has also worked on community writing and theatre projects and as tutor in English and Creative Writing courses at the UWA – Albany Centre, Edith Cowan University and Curtin University in Perth. Her second collection of poetry, Going Feral, won the 2002 West Australian Premier’s Book Award for Poetry. Southern Edge her third book, published this year by Fremantle Press, was written for her MA at the University of Western Australia.

 

Poem:

 

From “The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife” (Southern Edge, Fremantle W.A.: Fremantle Press, 2009.)

I

Dawn.
There’s still a bit of south in the wind.
Waves have worried the beach in two.

The keeper’s wife collects driftwood, feathers.

 

There is something about the air,
the intensity of colour,
that awes her. This place
is an X
on her map of moments with God.

Whales exhale beyond the wave line,
flippers and tail flukes slow-arc from the sea.
At the high tide line: cuttlefish, shells, kelp,
and a dead shearwater half-cast in sand,
wings mocked by breeze, the memory of flight.

Another bird, feet at pointe, Degas’ ballet
framed by footprints of dogs and gulls.

Thereafter, another seven,
bills locked mid-cry.

Mist begins its skyward drift with the sun,
horses and fierce riders
thunder through the curtain into day.

Sea’s silver, molten,
the air
taking on something like substance,
as though she could reach out, touch something solid.

She has either left the world
or just stepped into it.

 

Catch Barbara at QPF 2009:
Saturday August 22 – 10:30 – 11:30am

Skies Early Stars: featuring Barbara Temperton, Neil Murray & Kent McCarter

 

Saturday August 22 – 8:00pm

A Million Bright Things: featuring a short set from every bright thing on the 2009 program plus a feature set from the awesome Neil Murray

 

Sunday August 23 – 3:15pm – 4:15pm

Nostalgic by Ambitious: featuring Barbara Temperton, Geoff Page & John Knight

 

All sessions are held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.

For full program details head to www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com

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QPF Spotlight #15 – Adam Phillips

Adam Phillips is an emerging poet, harnessing his love of bush verse to address the stories and topics of our time. I shine the QPF Spotlight on this young storyteller to find out where he finds the words…

 

adam phillips

 

Influences

The works of Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson have always been my greatest influence. In recent years, Lawson’s red blooded poetry has been most inspirational. I’ve found myself drawn to the goodwill that is ever-present in his voice, despite his troubled life.

The early bush poet, Henry Kendall, paints some of the most beautiful scenes of the Australian bush I’ve ever read. I often turn to the American naturalist, Henry David Thoreau, when a dose of earth and sea is needed. The Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, who served me well while travelling through India, has also impacted on my writing too.

Songwriters like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Paul Kelly are always thereabouts, along with many other balladeers with a story to tell.

 

The Writing Process

A poem can start in many ways but I never try to force the words or assign a time to write. Sometimes I just hear or read a word that appeals to me and I craft a phrase or line around that word. Other times, a certain experience or pang of passion triggers some form of poetic release.

I always store poems in my mind before writing them down. Only when I’m happy with the rhyme, structure and subject matter do I push the pen. I prefer to write poems in one sitting otherwise it feels as though you’re returning to a moment that’s had the life sucked out of it.

 

The Importance of Voice

I remember an introduction to a Henry Lawson anthology that described his poetry as having ‘axe marks’ all through it but such was the beauty of it. I took comfort in that and still do. It is important to write poetry. To put on the woodchoppers singlet, have a swing and tell the stories that need to be told. 

A dear friend of mine gave me this quote from an old Persian poet which read ‘the great religions are ships, the poets are the lifeboats – every person I know has leapt overboard’. I’m just a sidestroker to the lifeboats, only I’ve got a few things to say on the way.

 

Recurring Themes

The natural world is generally a feature in most of my poems. I have a real passion for the environment and my poetry tends to reflect this. Even if I’m writing a city based story, there seems to be this inherent longing for the landscape that always creeps in somehow. Being an avid bushwalker brings themes of space and distance into the fray.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last two or three years travelling so I’ve written quite a lot about travel experiences. But every foreign yarn is countered with a story about home or life in Australia. In fact, some of my favourite work comes from that outsider’s perspective, seeing my homeland from afar.

 

How have my feelings about poetry, the reading and writing of, changed since I first started writing?

The first poem I wrote was about playing mud football with my mates. My early poems were very simple and I haven’t veered too far away from that idea over the years. I’ve definitely become a more rounded person and had more life experiences than when I first started writing. Accordingly, the potential subject matter has become much broader but in saying that I happily wrote a sequel to that very first poem just recently. The reasons for writing haven’t changed.

I can appreciate different forms of poetry now but the blinkers are still on to a large degree. The vintage verse of the early Australian poets that got me into poetry is what reminds me to keep going.

 

About Adam:

Adam Phillips is a local Brisbane poet who competed in the 2008 Poetry Unearthed competition and had works published in the ‘Poem of the Week’ competition in 2008. He has performed at numerous functions around Brisbane and also recited his poems on radio.

With an eye to the natural world, Adam’s poetry calls upon his love of classic Australian bush verse to address the stories and the topics of our time.
 

A COOEE AND A CANNON SHOT
by Adam Phillips

A cooee from the cliff edge cuts the treeline with its pledge
Strips the bark and loosens leaves or so the wayward man believes
Through the mangroves and the mud carrying his strains of blood
He calls across such virgin space with misery to match the place
Then to the cliff a countered sound renews the dreaming on the ground
And chance lifts off a southern sea to dance a great corroboree
Fire breathes and smoke billows and the furthest skyline glows
With each flame as old as sand – the story of us and our land

A cannon shot towards the shore misses what it’s aiming for
The tall ship squints with just disdain, what little force for such terrain!
Along the wall of shoal and rock waves bunt in and spit with shock
At colonies and regiments, European sentiments
And now where council parks are found tributes touch the coastal ground
Children chirp and play at ease, families picnic with the breeze
A row of pine slowly grows and the furthest skyline shows
With each tree cast over sand – the story of us and our land

A cooee and a cannon shot is all a broken man has got
To bridge this distance and this time, so much harder in our prime
This northerly is chasing down to find you at the edge of town
And meet with all your sweet finesse, wrap you up in wilderness
And steer you on the secret path where distance in the aftermath
Reduces to our human touch, fingers never meant so much
Until the new wind duly blows and the furthest skyline knows
With each footprint swept from sand – the story of us and our land

 

Catch Adam at QPF 2009:

Saturday August 22 – 8:00pm

A Million Bright Things: featuring a short set from every bright thing on the 2009 program plus a feature set from the awesome Neil Murray

 

Sunday August 23 – 2:00pm – 3:00pm

The Singing of the Earth: featuring Adam Phillips, Geoff Goodfellow & Neil Murray

 

All sessions are held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.

For full program details head to www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com

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QPF Spotlight #3 – Jane Williams

This time around I shine the QPF Spotlight on Jane Williams and ask her where the words come from.

 

Jane Williams

 

Influences

Leonard Cohen and Sylvia Plath were strong influences through my teens and into my twenties. Also Emily Dickinson and e.e cummings. Bruce Dawe has been an Australian poet I have returned to again and again over the years. At the moment the American poet Stephen Dunn keeps me company. I tend to fall in love with a particular poet’s work and carry it about with me like a secular bible or a how to manual until I’m sated. Then I turn to someone else …

 

The writing process

I’ve always been a note taker so carry pen and paper about most of the time, jot things down as they move me. An image, part of a conversation etc Initially stream of conscience stuff. The notes are filed away for development which happens sooner or later or not at all. My writing is largely mood driven so I’m not a very disciplined poet in that sense but fortunately I tend to be moved to write more often than not. I think my being moved to write is different from my being inspired to write, though both are equally valuable. I associate inspiration with reading the work of other poets – Look what they‘ve done! I wonder if I can do that! Being moved to write is a more direct, instinctual response to life. As for poems that ‘write themselves’ they’re the exception not the rule. These days most poems go through weeks and sometimes months of revisiting. As a result I have many many more notes then I do completed poems or even poems in progress. This may also have something to do with a challenged attention span.

 

Where the voice(s) comes from

Writing is among other things a compulsion for me so maybe the voice is also the impetus. I think it comes out of a longing, which is deeper some days than others.

 

Recurring themes

I remember the first poem I wrote in my early teens about a homeless man dying in a city street. It would have been highly derivative and cliché ridden, in short a bad poem … but in terms of a theme, many of my poems still have a broad social commentary hallmark to them so I guess it’s fair to say I have a bent in that direction. My catholic upbringing and an interest in the human experiences of our spiritual leaders and those people we see as heroes have influenced a number of poems in my first two books. A high hope that we equal more than the sum of our physical parts seems to be an underlying theme. I love the language of poetry, its musicality, wordplay and all the specifics of crafting …but meaning making and intent are also important to me.

 

How have my feelings about poetry, the reading and writing of, changed since I first started writing?

One of the biggest changes has been learning that this writing business is a life’s work, so not to be too impatient or hard on myself. The difference between creativity and productivity. Also discovering the drafting process is a natural progression, and not the hand of suppression I think I feared it was when I was much younger. I like to think I’m more of an eclectic reader these days but I imagine I’ll always rotate my favourites.

 

Poem:

 

The unwritten law of living

 

everything worth anything
must break
it is the unwritten law
of living

day
bread
vows
egg

any favored piece
of crockery or glassware
how long did you think
it would last

one quarter
of our body’s bones
are in our feet
mind your step the signs read
but feet soldier on oblivious

of all the rules worth breaking
do not fraternize …

no x-ray will show the number
of breaks a heart can outlive
such knowledge it is rumored
could kill us

 

 

About Jane:

Jane Williams is the author of three collections of poems and one of short stories. Awards for her poetry include the Anne Elder Award and the D.J. O’Hearn Memorial Fellowship. She lives in Hobart. www.janewilliams.wordpress.com

 

Catch Jane at QPF 2009:

Saturday August 22 – 1:30pm – 2:30pm

Phosphorescence at the Edge: feat. Jane Williams, Paul Magee and Rob Morris

 

Saturday August 22 – 8:00pm

A Million Bright Things: featuring a short set from every bright thing on the 2009 program plus a feature set from the awesome Neil Murray

 

Sunday August 23 – 12:15pm – 1:15pm

Venus Walked In: feat. Jane Williams, Zenobia Frost & Noella Janaczewska

 

Sunday August 23 – 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Just Kissed Goodbye: feat. Janet Jackson, Angela Costi, Jane Williams, Neil Murray, Elizabeth Bachinsky, Geoff Goodfellow, Paul Magee, AF Harrold, Hinemoana Baker and the QPF Committee

 

All sessions are held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.

For full program details head to www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com

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Where do the Words Come From #8 – Sophia Nugent-Siegal

Sophia Nugent-Siegal is an exciting new voice, who released her debut collection ‘Oracle’ at the ripe old age of 16. She is one of the featured poets at the upcoming Riverbend Books: Poetry on the Deck event on Tuesday April 28, so let’s take a look at where Sophia finds her words.

 

sophia-nugent-siegal

 

Influences:

My biggest influences have been the dead—the great poets of the English language, particularly Shakespeare, the Metaphysicals and Modernist authors such as T.S. Elliot, and the characters that populate my historical calling (who wouldn’t be inspired to verse by the Muses of the Hellenes or the Holy Spirit of the Middle Ages).

 

The writing process:

My writing process mostly takes place in my head before pen has got within a mile of paper, so that when I finally do start writing, the poetry tends to come fairly easily and needing little revision. This process means that I write rarely but when I do I can be very productive – writing, for example, about thirty poems in four days and then not writing again for up to a year.

 

Voice:

My voice is somewhat impersonal, even when there is an “I” who can be seen to roughly correlate with me. I often take on dramatic masks such as mythological or fictional characters or write without any definition of self whatsoever. In another way, of course, my voice is startlingly personal, as I possess a distinctive style that represents my own unique interests and ideas, if not personality.

 

Themes:

History is probably my most consistently recurring theme—I have never written a poem that does not include time and the past as significant factors. It has also been mentioned to me that blood, red earth and birth make more than their fair share of appearances in my work.

 

Feelings/change:

I started writing poetry ten years ago, when I was seven years old, so obviously my feelings about an awful lot of things have changed since then. My poetry however seems to have undergone more of a process of evolution, and my analysis of it more an intellectual sharpening, than my feelings about the act and purpose of writing changed. I still aim for beauty and power, I still aim to fight against mortality, and I still write as much about a universe of the quick, haunted by their predecessors as much as I ever did.

 

The Flight into Egypt, Book of Hours (France, Paris, c.1440-c.1450)1

This refugee family treks into a strangely familiar Egypt
The baby wrapped up into a Canopic jar
His precious body and blood protected by golden swaddling bands

An angel follows with a small bag
And a heavenly sceptre
He walks a step behind the donkey

How tiresome for him who can run with the quick and the dead
Whose speed outpaces that of light
Who must be both a wave and a pulse
To walk a step behind this donkey who walks a step behind an old man
And carry a small bag
Joseph carries bigger, as does Mary’s donkey
So what does the celestial carry-bag contain?

Souls perhaps
Or merely hell
The future to the New Jerusalem
With a dead hand refilling with rivulets of flesh
And raising itself up
Or maybe the angel carries
The ultimate baggage
Sin and the fiery angel Death
The weeping Adam and Eve
Whose sweeping nakedness waits
For a double rebirth

Behind the family and their otherworldly servant
Lies what passes for the Nile
A rowing boat snails along it
A castle guards it
And a city lies poised upon its banks
Reflecting and refracting
Waiting for time to throw it downstream

This family is fleeing murder
This family is fleeing tyranny
This family is not going toward but away
Away from the red mouth of slaughter
And the more numerous red mouths of its work

So whether they carry sin or the apocalypse in their overnight bag
Behind them the farmer digs holes
Not looking or searching
Simply opening up

 

1 An illuminated manuscript from The Medieval Imagination, an exhibition at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, in 2008

 

About Sophia:

Sophia Nugent-Siegal is a young poet whose interest in mythology, art and history is woven into work with a contemporary focus and edge. Sophia has won many national young writers’ awards (she is a 3-time national award winner in the Taronga Foundation Poetry Prize, and has also won the FAW Young Poet of the Year and Mavis Thorpe Clark awards). Her first book, Oracle, provides a fresh, sharp and contemporary insight into the continuing resonance of the Classical world. Recent projects include a collection based on illuminated manuscripts of medieval texts from an exhibition at the Melbourne State Library in 2008.

 

Queensland Poetry Festival, QLD Writers Centre & Riverbend Books are proud to present the second Poetry on the Deck event for 2009. Join Sophia Nugent-Siegal (Oracle) on the Riverbend deck alongside Longreach poet, Helen Avery (Seduced by Sky), Rosanna Licari and Philip Neilsen (Without an Alibi).
 
Date: Tuesday 28 April
Location: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St. Bulimba
Time: Doors open for the event at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Tickets: $10 available through Riverbend Books and include sushi and complimentary wine. To purchase tickets, call Riverbend Books on (07) 3899 8555 or book online at:

http://www.riverbendbooks.com.au/Events/EventDetails.aspx?ID=2199

The first event for the year was a huge success, with tickets selling out quickly, so book early to avoid disappointment!

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Where do the Words Come From #7 – Skye Staniford

SpeedPoets rolls around again on Sunday April 5 and this month’s music feature is Brisbane songbird Skye Staniford. Skye is a member of local music outfits,  ‘We All Want To’ and ‘Golden Virtues’, who regularly collaborate with Brisbane’s Ringmaster of Debauched Cabaret, Ghostboy, so I asked her the big question… Where do the Words Come From?

Her reply…

In bursts from my mind. Past, present and imagined love. Being. 

Beautiful, tell me more, I said… and she did:

 

skye-staniford

 

Influences

I’m influenced or inspired by many things I come across. It’s a recurring process:

1. Come across ‘thing’. IE: book, album, sauce.

2. Get caught up in the moment of ‘thing’. IE: adopt language of book, begin singing in same style as on album, start putting Worcestershire Sauce on everything.

3. Initial hit of thing wears off. IE: finish book, get bored of album, start questioning the versatility of Worcestershire Sauce.

4. Some element of ‘thing’ weaves its way into me forever ie: A love and gift for using Nadsat, a love and gift for singing harmonies (thanks Simon, thanks Garfunkel), a love and gift for preparing and consuming  an incredible Bloody Mary, and we all know who the star of that show is…

It’s all about the ‘thing’.

 

The writing process

The pen is romantic but the keyboard is swift. Writing the words and working out how to express what I’m feeling and wanting on the guitar is a very strange ‘thing’. Explain I cannot. I have to jump on any desire to write straight away or it vanishes. I rarely practice. I don’t sit down and go ‘ok, I’m going to write a song now’. When I have done this in the past, the songs have been shit. I’m not extremely prolific but I’d like to think that means I’m a quality over quantity kind of girl.

 

The importance of voice

I’m a flautist and singer who smokes. I spent a large part of my childhood in hospital, hooked up to machines, with acute athsma. So aside from being insane, I will say that I don’t value and respect ‘the importance of voice’ enough.

 

Recurring themes

Longing and dysfunction. Satisfaction and contentment. Caring too much or not enough. Infected tattoos.

 

How have my feelings about lyrics, changed since I first started writing?

I used to be able to hammer out a stream of consciousness filled with mistaken rhyme. I also used to go night swimming on mushrooms. I’m more careful these days – less is definitely more.

 

Find Out More:

http://www.myspace.com/skyestaniford

 

GOLDEN VIRTUES BIO

“ Brisbane ’s premier folk and roll outfit” – RAVE MAGAZINE

 Here we have a spearfishing guitarist. He can find a feast on any suburban street. Where we see pavers Reece sees starfruit. Background: Garage, Punk, Stoner Rock. Foreground: Words, Voice, Guitar, Bass, Harmonica. 

Coming up like a hurricane is our Shakespearean Siren and calligraphic enigma. An olde world, r-rolling violinist; Hannah Jane sings sweeter than syrup and looks like a wrapped present in any garment. Background: Classical, Gypsy, Folk. Foreground: Words, Voice, Violin, Guitar, Keys.

To her left we have a wandering minstrel. All legs and mellow, Robbie is a teleported-from-the-seventies cat, a melody-mining machine who loves on the frets like he loves vintage vinyl. Background: Prog Rock, Psychedelic, Experimental. Foreground: Voice, Bass, Guitar, Mandolin.

Then there is the ale-sipping chanteuse Skye, who sings off headlands and relates to the pied piper. She wants to eat a devilled egg and lay across your piano. Background: Blues, Doo Wop, 90’s Rock. Foreground: Words, Voice, Flute, Guitar, Bass, Tambourine.

Lastly, a true gentleman. Radovan holds his knife like a jazz drummer and plays a mean slide ukulele with a ripe pear. A Serbian pimp daddy with the crib to prove it, he reigns on sticks and mallets but draws the line at brushes. Background: Metal, Hip Hop, Heavy Rock. Foreground: Drums, Percussion

 

Catch Skye live at SpeedPoets when it returns for its second gig of 2009 on Sunday April 5. It all happens at the The Alibi Room, 720 Brunswick St, New Farm from 2pm. The gig will also feature local spoken word/hip-hop artist Dark Wing Dubs and Pru Gell (Northern Territory). There will also be live sounds from the SpeedPoets engine room of Sheish Money, free zines, giveaways and the hottest Open Mic section in our fine city. Entry is a gold coin donation. See you there!

SpeedPoets: Sunday April 5, 2pm – 5pm @ The Alibi Room, 720 Brunswick St. New Farm.

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Where do the Words Come From – The Stress of Leisure

For as long as I can remember, I have pawed over album covers/liner notes and put my ears to the speakers to decipher song lyrics. A good lyric is something that never fails to captivate me. So, I thought I would ask Brisbane singer/songwriter The Stress of Leisure where he finds the words.

 

the-stress-of-leisure

 

Influences

Obviously, I’m influenced greatly by other musicians, mainly interesting lyricists. My list of influence is vast; from the Arcade Fire to Warren Zevon. I think that’s where the longevity is in the music game, being able to write a good lyric. Writing a catchy guitar riff or instinctive melody is one thing, for the long term you need to keep marrying it with a suitable lyric, or keep up the interesting lyrical ideas. It’s not often discussed, in fact I’ve read several artists I like dismissing the lyric as being unimportant to them. I don’t buy it however, because I do believe they pay particular attention to how the words sound first and foremost. And sooner or later they’ve usually contradicted their dismissive statement anyhow. So for myself, I’m constantly noting an artist’s skill in marrying great lyrics and at the same time I guess, deciding how I’d adapt it to myself.

Brisbane is a big influence on what I write too, in particular New Farm. It’s a place I know well. If you think filmic you can make any place look great, it’s all about what you capture in the frame. And there’s always that artistic license to change a few details. So everything I come across is as relevant as it would be if it were set in the East Village, New York. Why shouldn’t it be? This may not be revelatory for poets or filmmakers I guess, but I think it’s important to have an establishing shot for people to drift into. I really dig using the words; park, apartment, river, street.

 

The Writing Process

My musical output far outstrips my lyrical output. I wish there wasn’t such an imbalance. But I have a lot of songs sitting around that may have one verse or one chorus in terms of the lyric but are fully formed songs in all other respects. So really, I have this big block of musical spare parts, a lot of incomplete ideas. In rare cases I have fully formed ideas with melodies and they just happen to form as songs. I don’t like to attack things too hard, one out of laziness and two; I don’t want to scare off the idea. But mainly it’s laziness. Usually I don’t like to pursue a song because I feel contented that I have a great idea and that feels good in itself and spurs me on. If a song feels like a winner however, it appears in a kind of phonetic form within the melody and keeps pulling me back. I may then chance on a few key lyrics or phrases and try and form some direction from them. To this end, I’ve found the biggest help for me is deriving titles. Lately, I’ve been getting into the habit of thinking of a title a day and it has really helped me.  So if I have this chord progression and melody I like and then have a look at what titles I’ve generated it just may be all the process needs. In the last week I’ve generated two titles driving to band rehearsal which have subsequently become songs – ‘People in Plastic’ and ‘Death on the Magic Mile’. This doesn’t normally happen, so for the moment I believe in the process. I think people should give me titles as a form of a gift actually. I’d appreciate that.  

 

The importance of voice

Over time I’ve grown to appreciate my voice and what its capabilities are, and I realize that for people hearing me for the first time it’s the make or break factor. I’m really big on defining a character when I do vocals, and that it has a particular consistency. I know it sounds absurd, but I became fascinated a while back with the various characters Peter Cook could take on and how he would vary his tone and pitch to suit each one, and all the time stay in character (apart from some mirth). I was already fully aware of my own rock n roll stylings and phrasings, and the approaches of various singers, but this was something different. So I guess I started listening to my own voice by doing some spoken word stuff (In Derek and Clive mode) on my recording equipment at home, listening to the way I’d phrase different words. It’s completely barmy, but I gained a lot of confidence from this. In songwriting this is really important, listening to how it comes out. I’m pretty down on a few songs I did on my latest album phrasing wise, mainly because I’m so particular. I guess when you record you have the luxury of picking your best performances, but also the torment of wanting to get it right. And again, I guess you can over think these things. Anybody now wanting to listen to my music and pick out the Derek and Clive influence will be sorely disappointed though, I can assure you of that.

Lots of singers just do this instinctively though, the way they inhabit character. I’m not saying anything new. And they actually do it naturally, because you know, you’ve got your naturals and then you’ve got your peoples like myself who have to plant it cognitively. Nick Cave for instance, and I’m not sure what category he fits into, successfully portrays his characters. From reading about his recording process, it’s usually all captured in the first or second take and I’m sure most would testify he gets it right; it’s definitely not over thought.

 

Recurring Themes

An English friend of mine remarked on my first album – “one word that comes to mind is ennui”. Another friend noted “I think you need a girlfriend”. So I guess that’s a good starting point for my recordings thus far. I think however, a lot of my music has presented characters that believe “the grass is always greener”. There’s always something better. We’re surrounded by this stimuli – surely that shampoo you’re using isn’t as good for your hair?, look at this drink it’ll cure your loneliness, try this cereal you’ll be friendlier to your work colleagues, are you sure you don’t want to know what’s happening in the world?, naked people look this good but here’s some chocolate, I think you should shave like this, you’re pretty fat compared to me on this poster……..etc. Obviously, it’s not just advertising, it’s TV, Film and whole gamut of pop culture. I’m affected by it and I notice a lot of others are as well.

I’ve always been caught up in the idea of the weekend too. The time to cram in all your leisure pursuits, whatever’s your bag. So I love taking snapshots of people on the weekend, doing whatever. The days themselves have a different energy, especially in the area where I live. I’m not being judgmental when I say this, but some characters almost seem pious with their newspapers spread out in front of them at the local café. And well, you also have the flight of tropical birds in their dazzling array of lycra whizzing around the streets and cafés. It’s like a migration of the species! So yes, I love capturing the weekend and how it brings its various fruits to different peoples.

And as I stated before, I really dig using the words; park, apartment, river, street.

 

How have my feelings about lyrics changed since I started writing?

Listening to more and more musical artists and taking in more influences, be it a movie or a piece of art continues to broaden my approach and ideas to lyric writing. It has been interesting going to a lot of poetry readings as well in the past three years to note the different approaches to poetry. Somewhere along the line I assume all this information will appear somewhere in my work. I’ve always been conscious of a good lyric though, it’s just I started off really bad and now I feel I’m on the verge of being alright at it. Words have come a bit easier with practice and allowing myself a bit of time. Right now I have the luxury of time and I think it’s starting to reap its benefits in terms of I’m writing the sort of fruity stuff I like. You need time, but what a drag. I wish it all happened quickly for me lyrically and I could just move on to the next song. This is pretty much the way I felt when I first started too.

The Stress of Leisure plays Livespark at the Brisbane Powerhouse on Sunday, March 22 start time around 3pm. It’s a free event and all ages.

hour-to-hour

Find out more:

The Official Site: http://www.thestressofleisure.com/

Jennifer Sharp Film Clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xd184CMF4xc

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Where do the Words Come From #5 – Paul Squires

I was recently shuffling some papers from one pile to another and came across the quote – ‘Inspiration is a word used by people who aren’t really doing anything.’ (Nick Cave)

Paul Squires is never one to stand still, so let’s take a look at where he finds the words…

 

paul-squires

 

Influences:

 

The Pornography of the Self

I have a red rubber nose and bright red fingernails,
a green felt hat and an oversized geranium.
I have a history of Abbie Hoffman,
a box full of astonishing connecticons,
assistance apparent from mysterious sources,
a Chinese Puzzle Box
and several spies with flowerpot eyes but
because you asked so nicely,
(the grass is damp but
i will still sit on it i
have a new book of
haikuschmaiku
written by worldfamous
masters of modern haikuschmaiku
so i will sit
on the damp grass
on my fat arse
and read it.)
I could be waving a polkadot flag and creating revolutions of clownish
mayhem, throwing flour bombs at the smugly complacent and
confabulating the hypocritical but because you asked so nicely I will
just sit here on this damp grass staring blankly into a mute mirror
and practise the pornography of the self.

“Revolution is not something fixed in ideology, nor is it something
fashioned to a particular decade. It is a perpetual process embedded
in the human spirit.” Abbie Hoffman.

 

Process

 

Star Sign: Rover

All art is improvised, you can fiddle with the aftereffects, but you
cant escape the influence of Jackson Pollock. You can cut and paste
and blur and hide behind and elucidate all you like afterwards but in
the act of creation, all art is improvised, like life, and all art is
in some way performance art. These are common and self evident truths,
and in the past I would put punctuation round them and place them
gently in the mouth of some unnamed character like a cigarette and
then reiterate with an image after rotating on a pivot from a
smokescreen to a mirror and then rewrite for rhythm, look for a
confluence, knit around it, make a poem in other words like a craftsman whilst pretending to be a magician, or vice versa, but now it seems so reductionist, an entertainment rather than a revelation, i am my own dog i used to say, perhaps i’ll buy a puppy,

 

Voice

 

got a rolls royce

‘cos its good for my voice,
anyone can write maudlin introspection
looking into a goddamn mirror, sir ian, he said
clattering up from his chair and tossing
kings and pawns and chequered boards across the room,
play that Amsterdam Song again
the one in which squalls approached and not a man objected,
slamming his drink down on the piano in F.
and leaning in smelling of salt fish, absynthe
and the last trace of some Egyptian cigarette,
so close his whiskers brushed my cheek and whispering,
have you seen the piano player, my dear,
his gift was only in his hands,
as he closed the diamond clasp around my throat
leaned back and smiled
or has he disappeared,

 

Themes

 

So i said,

to him, Terry, mate, you are supposed to be creating a fucking
revolution not whispering in the halls of academia. Fuck’s sake, man,
get a grip, haha, said F. placing his frothy glass immaculately on the
centre of your belly where despite the many tides and storms stays
immaculately upright, though tilting, it’s good to be home,
Haha, I am back, my love, I have a gift, he says, leaning down and
kissing your nipple like tasting a strawberry, a new tattoo, it’s a
crouching tigger hidden dragon tattoo, schimply schplendiferous
looking down at you,

 

Change

 

The True Legend of Paul Squires.

(Wikipedia Page, first draft, freehand doodlings of sunonhead after
falling asleep in the sun on Sunday Morning.)
The only known photograph of Paul Squires was taken decades ago. He is
sitting on the beach behind his house at the time making a sandcastle
with something long and white hanging out of his mouth. At high tide
it was possible to throw a line from his back verandah into Moreton
Bay. He only ever caught one fish, impaling a squiggling prawn on a
laser sharp hook and throwing it into the bay then feeling the warmth
of the fire and staring blankly out into a vast smooth ocean
reflecting an infinity of stars. There is Orion, the hunter when
Whack! a flathead grabbed the prawn as it tumbled into the channel and
ripped off into the depths. The fish is wriggling and squiggling under
his hand and a sharp knife flashes in the other and the rhythm of the
fish slows and there is a silence. This photograph was taken that
afternoon.

When drunk Squires is known to have claimed the most outrageous things are true, that it is possible to contain actual magic in language but
his definition of actual magic changes with his mood. He claims such
ironic absurdistries as having used the internet to have achieved a
kind of immortality, sometimes through the blatancy of not deleting
anything and sometimes by having transcended the human, since it is a
fundamental aspect of being human to know that you are going to die.
He is waiting patiently to feel that he has earned the respect of his
peers so that he can stop trying so hard, the genre settles around his
shoulders and it requires a mightier shrug as he gets older and the
concretions of age, scars, barnacles. The fact is he no longer wishes
to be reborn, to be better, he only desires the freedom to be what he
is.

Paul’s website – http://gingatao.com/
Or you can listen to Paul perform at the podcast http://gingatao.podbean

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