Tag Archives: Riverbend Books

Brisbane New Voices IV: Mother by Vuong Pham

With one sleep remaining until Brisbane New Voices IV makes its way in to the world, I am excited to give you a ‘first taste’ from Vuong Pham’s micro-collection, Refugee Prayer. Vuong’s work is deeply spiritual and celebrates the strength of the human spirit. Mother is the opening poem from his collection, and it too, sets the tone for the remainder of the work. I think you will find the honesty and sense of hope that drives this poem will resonate with you long after reading…

Last tickets can be purchased for tomorrow night’s launch here.

BNV IV Refugee Prayer

Mother

I know now, as I did in my childhood wonder
that my mother dreamed of a paradise
one unbound by war and exodus.

On the living room carpet we sit
I pluck her grey hairs and ask:
‘Mother, what ever was your passion in life?’
She smiles—that eternal smile
a question suspended in mid-air.
Her neck tilts like a sunflower
too heavy to meet the sky.

Gardening is the reply I expect.
My mind’s eye turns to childhood, to shadows
stirring beneath star fruit trees
rows of cherry tomatoes growing over fences
a call to supper while sleeping
amongst lotus-dotted ponds.

‘Teaching was my passion,’ she says, ‘high school.’
I smile in agreement. And as I do
jigsaw-puzzle pieces of memory
lock together, my past made whole.
‘A literacy teacher,’ I exclaim,
she smiles, remembering with excitement
the moment I arrived home from school
with a certificate of improved literacy.

I continue to pluck her grey hairs
our conversation lingers on
as the soft daylight illuminates us.
I know now, as I did in my childhood wonder
about mother’s youth, before the bloodshed in Saigon.

I picture her driving a yellow scooter
on the road to school, the freedom
of her hair, a glimmering smile; spiriting past
street markets, the soothing aromas
of Pho and lychee tea; that familiar
crescendo of rickshaws, bicycles and scooters;
landscapes of water buffalo, ploughing
the flooded paddies from cloud to cloud; each one
picturesque from her classroom window; and all of which
was the city she will no longer call home.

More grey hairs fall, the past realigns itself and
I know now, as I did in my childhood wonder
that the teaching legacy passed down to me—
I knew the responsibilities of providing
for her children outweighed
university-degree teaching aspirations.
That in mind, I tell her:
‘Mother, this week I taught my students Wordsworth
saw thousands of daffodils and thought of you.’
She smiles and I’m taken back to a halcyon-time
in childhood that reminds how she stitched floral
pyjamas, tablecloths, bedsheets together
using a sewing machine for less than $5 an hour
to afford rice, pork, Asian vegetables
and help pay for my tuition
so I could learn to spell ‘persistent’ correctly—
praying that I might speak an unbroken English tongue
and never be confined
to the labours of factories.

I know now, as I did in my childhood wonder
what it must’ve been to mother, there
among the refugee boat’s thrum, the faces
of Saigon watching—eyeballs ribboned with flames
incandescent, a disorder of diaspora animate
in the missile storm.

The homeland was a mist, the cerulean
depths of sea stirred on the horizon like some agitated womb
boats wet as one long vowel, as the city crumbled
and my mother among them fled
with nothing but me, growing inside.

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Brisbane New Voices IV: Women and Cars by Trudie Murrell

With the launch of Brisbane New Voices IV only two days away (Tuesday April 23), the excitement is building like a storm. Once again, if you are anywhere near this fine city of Brisbane, I hope that you are able to join us on the Riverbend Books deck as we welcome this collection into the world. Tickets are selling fast, but there are still some available here.

As part of the ‘build up’, I want to share a ‘first taste’ from both poet’s collections. So let’s start with Trudie and the title poem from her debut micro-collection, Women and Cars. This poem kick starts the collection and its freewheeling energy resonates throughout the remainder of the poems. For me, it is one of those poems that once read/heard, is never forgotten.

BNV IV Women and Cars

 

Women and Cars

For three generations the women
of my family have held
an abiding love for their cars.

No trading up or trading in
for this lot. They name their cars
Bathsheba, Aphrodite, Boadicea, Regina.

Call on them, count on them
trust and depend, festoon them
with tokens of adoration
because their cars are the opposite
of their men.

It’s not about speed
or even prestige —
I don’t think any of us
has owned a car with more
than four cylinders.

It’s about freedom.

A car can mean a quick get away
or at least a change of scene.
It doesn’t matter what
sort of a day you’ve had —

maybe your man
didn’t come home again
or got drunk or dropped dead
or fucked your friend on your favourite sheets —
Egyptian cotton, fantastic thread count
and now you’ve got to burn them.

It doesn’t matter, you still have Cleopatra
the 1973 2-door Celica
and if you have a car you’re free.

It’s a little room
a place where you can go
play loud music and watch things slide by
until you’re somewhere else.

Maybe there’s a touch of the
gypsy in us – we’ve  just traded the horse
for horsepower.

So the next time you see a clapped out shit box
beetling down the highway
woman behind the wheel singing like she means it
kids strapped in the back while the crayons and
board game pieces roll about the floor
forming alliances and rifts
with every undulation of the road

give the lady a wave.

She’s probably one of my mob and even though
she’s barely pushing 100 km/h, in her head she’s flying.
She’s going somewhere, anywhere
and believe me
she’s free.

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Brisbane New Voices IV: an interview with Trudie Murrell

Seven days to go until the launch of Brisbane New Voices IV (buy tickets here), so let’s catch up with the second featured poet, Trudie Murrell as she talks about life, future projects and Women and Cars.

BNV IV Women and CarsBrisbane New Voices IV featuring your micro-collection, Women and Cars is about to be launched at Riverbend Books. When did you first become serious about publishing your work?

I have been writing for performance since 1988 so I know the satisfaction of hearing a live audience respond to my work.  I’m sure it  was around the same time I began to fantasize about my work being published.  I use the word fantasise because it seemed, for a long time, to be something so unachievable and mysterious that I didn’t take any steps towards making it happen.  That kind of thing (publication) happened somewhere else, to other people.  I simply couldn’t conceive that a young regional writer’s work, my work,  could be published.  Who would be interested? I thought I’d have to finish a degree, move to a capital city adopt a strong political voice and write about controversial topics to be published.  Besides, I never felt that my work was polished enough, finished enough for publication.  This kind of limiting thinking stayed with me well into my thirties.  I gathered other reasons for why I could never be published along the way – I was older, I had children, I didn’t have enough time to devote myself to being a disciplined writer who sought out publication opportunities.  I still wrote, whenever I could, I was filling quite a few desk draws with my work, I still fantasised about being published one day, but I didn’t do anything about it.

In 2006 I moved to Brisbane and met you, Graham, at a Queensland Writers Centre poetry workshop you were conducting.  Afterwards, I remember you extended an invitation for us to submit to the SpeedPoets zine.  I decided to do something about it.  Two of my poems were accepted.  This seemed to blow all my theories about publication out of the water.  I was so rattled, I didn’t submit anything else for consideration anywhere until 2010. The Queensland Writer’s Centre continued to let me know about publishing opportunities and competitions through emails and their magazine.  Each poetry workshop or event I attended you, along with others from the Brisbane poetry community continued to ask ‘Where are you submitting?’ Not only that, people were providing me with information about how to go about submitting to publications.  The first time a poem of mine was published in an anthology I was terrified about having to work with an editor. I decided to be honest about my inexperience and asked for her advice and guidance.  Even when I held a copy of the book in my hand I didn’t feel like I was serious about being published – I’d just lucked out.

I guess I became serious about publishing my work when you asked me to be part of Brisbane New Voices IV.  Anyone involved in the Brisbane poetry community knows how supportive and encouraging you are towards fellow poets just as they know your drive, attention to detail and consistency as an independent publisher to produce quality publications. You set the bar high, so I  had to step up.

Women and Cars seems deeply personal. What are the events/happenings/aspects of your life that have made you the poet you are?

Aren’t you supposed to write what you know?  This is what I know, so of course it’s personal, but I come from a long line of story tellers – yarners and bullshit artists so not all of it is completely true, some of it is poetic license.  Women and Cars is my way of weaving a path back to where I began.  It’s a poetry map of how and where I was born,  recording how I got to who and where I am now. I miss North Queensland and these poems help me reconnect with it. It’s also a tool to help me remember I was not always a wife and mother.  It’s parts of my story but not the full story.  I listened to Peter Bakowski speak at Avid Reader last year.  He talked about telling his story in the particular, the importance of writing specifically, not universally, his desire to write authentically about his own experiences and observations so that it might resonate with others. Everything that has happened and continues to happen in my life makes me the poet I am. It’s a vulnerable way to write  and daunting, but it’s something I tried to achieve with these poems. I guess it has to be deeply personal to make the reader want to get into the car a take a ride with me.  I am surprised and pleased that the poem Women and Cars, in particular, continues to resonate with others.

Who are the poets that you return to; the one’s that continue to have a profound influence on you and your work?

I return often to poetry, all kinds of poetry, it has been a part of my life from the earliest time.  My mother loves poetry and would read it with me when I was a child.  I was reading predominantly Australian poets from the age of 11,  Judith Wright and Oodgeroo Noonuccal in particular.  Through my high school years I was reading Shakespeare, the Romantics, the Victorian poets, early twentieth century war poets and (of course, surreptitiously)  Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickenson, Ted Hughes and e.e.cummings. Bruce Dawe, Gwen Harwood, Dorothy Hewett and Rosemary Dobson became firm favourites in my late teens and the 20th century Australian female free verse poets have become my go to poets for inspiration.  A couple of months ago, I was reading Banjo Patterson’s The Man from Snowy River aloud to my 8 year old daughter when we were both overcome with tears at the description of the mountain pony’s decent.  I love any and all poetry that moves me but I love Australian poetry best.

What do you hope readers will take away from Women and Cars?

A few wry smiles and a small windswept hole in the heart that can only be filled with wanderlust and the dusty Queensland coast road.

And looking to the future… what’s next for Trudie Murrell?

I am trying to figure that out.  My husband has requested more poems that don’t involve women and cars.  More discipline in my practice is something I need to achieve.  I am interested in learning more about recording and sequencing and how to overlay that with performing poetry live.  Submitting more poems, starting a blog and finally collaborating with a good friend to bring a musical element to my work are on my to do list as well.  If I achieve any of these things this year I’ll be pleased.

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trudie-poetry-burlesqueRaised in the tropical North, Trudie Murrell has been writing since 1988.  She has spent most of her life in transit along the eastern seaboard of Queensland.  At the moment she lives in Brisbane with her husband and three small hitchhikers.  In the past few years she’s come to the realisation that everything she writes, really wants to be a poem. She’s decided not to fight it … Her poems have been published in The Green Fuse, Macmillan English 9 for the Australian Curriculum, Cordite and on Graham Nunn’s blog Another Lost Shark. She performs her work regularly at various spoken word events throughout Brisbane.

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Brisbane New Voices IV: an interview with Vuong Pham

Brisbane New Voices IV is ready to launch at Riverbend Books on Tuesday April 23 (Buy tickets here), so over the next fortnight, I will be posting interviews with Vuong Pham and Trudie Murrell as well as sample poems from their featured micro-collections – Refugee Prayer and Women and Cars.

So let’s kick things off with a recent interview I did with Vuong Pham.

BNV IV Refugee Prayer

Brisbane New Voices IV, featuring your micro-collection, Refugee Prayer is about to be launched at Riverbend Books. When did you first become serious about publishing your work?

That would be three years ago when I first attended a poetry workshop facilitated by you, Graham. Learning about unlocking my poetic voice and networking with other poets gave me the motivation to persist with my poetry in getting published, first in literary journals; then in literary competitions, which were the building blocks to eventually lead to my first book, Refugee Prayer.

Refugee Prayer seems deeply personal collection. What are the events/happenings/aspects of your life that have made you the poet you are?

I’d say my family has had a huge impact on the type of poet I have become today. My family were refugees that came to Australia with empty-pockets, so they worked hard to establish stability. That persistence and drive to work hard at what one is passionate about in life has been instilled in me from an early age. The practices with which I go about writing poetry you could say are born from reading a lot of poetry to stimulate ideas, and then once the ideas are dappled on the page, I usually go through an ongoing process of editing and re-editing until I’m satisfied. I’m very rigorous with how I want my poems to end up; I remember I spent 6 months just editing one piece until I was finally happy with it.

Also, I’ve always loved English, History and The Arts as subjects throughout my education. I think a major reason why this was so, is because in these sort of subjects, critical and creative thinking is encouraged, as opposed to a subject like Maths, that ask for a more concrete answer. So I’ve stuck with it, and have harnessed my imagination in the form of poetry and the eventual book, Refugee Prayer, for everyone to take in. I remember after school, Mum used to always make us (sister, brother and myself) do English and Math drills, I excelled in English, but found myself labouring in Math.

I was raised in a Catholic family, and have learnt and appreciate the value of God in my life and my poetry. Simple things like praying before a meal to thank God, or even encouraging others in their lives of faith are things that I hold very dear to my heart. God calls me to a life of love, forgiveness and service to others. I am poet who writes to inspire and encourage others, it is my calling, and I have found a restored identity through Him.

Who are the poets that you return to; the one’s that continue to have a profound influence on you and your work?

The great poets, Basho and Wordsworth will always have a special place in my art. For readers who aren’t aware of these poets, they often captured peaceful and evocative moments in nature. Example:

summer grasses
all that remains
of soldier’s dreams

…in three short lines, Basho turned a famous battlefield into a reflection on human vanity.

For Wordsworth, the poem, “I wandered lonely as a cloud” will always fascinate me through its depiction of nature’s beauty. The joy, serenity and solitude Wordsworth captured in that poem fills me with inner peace. Example:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
that floats on high over vales and hills,
when all at once I saw a crowd,
a host of golden daffodils;
beside the lake, beneath the trees,
fluttering and dancing in the breeze…

The moment I read the first stanza I am teleported to that rich, peaceful moment in nature, “which is the bliss of solitude”.

It would be a fair comment to say that I’m a quiet, peaceful poet which reflects the poetry I get inspiration from; I wouldn’t find myself returning to poets that write with a theme of darkness and destruction, though I’m grateful to have experimented and experienced that kind of art to know what not to return to!

What do you hope readers will take away from Refugee Prayer?

I hope readers will come to know Christ through my writing. The book is a story of my family as refugees, the signposts of God’s grace is weaved throughout. If there’s anything you could compare “Refugee Prayer” with in terms of similarity, there’s books like “The Life Of Pi” by Yann Martel or even “The Happiest Refugee” by Anh Do. As I said before, I have found a new identity through Christ, and accept Him as my saviour. Back three years ago, I was living life through my own strength; darkness and angst was a predominant theme in my poetry/life. Ever since I’ve called upon God to enter into my life again, I have found new hope. My life and poetry has become much more abundant and fruitful as a growing Christian. I encourage others to take from the light, and produce art that will shine truth in all its glory.

And looking to the future… what’s next for Vuong Pham?

That’s a good question. It’s a busy time in my life at the moment with many projects in the process of development. I’ll be involved with and have had constructive discussions with project leader, “Mark My Words”, a Christian arts initiative. My involvement with this initiative will be a stepping-stone to a project I have on the running at the moment, called “Steeples”. The project, “Steeples” is aiming to be a publication for Christian writers and artists to submit their works to get published in the form of print and online. That will be functioning hopefully around the start of next year.

I have pretty much finished my second book, which will be a Christian themed book of poems, 10,000 words in length. I’ll be submitting the manuscript into the Young Australian Christian Writers Award 2013. It’s looking good, and I’m really happy with it.

I also have the interest of a respected U.K. haiku publisher, so a book of haiku is expected to be in the making soon as well.

In terms of my teaching career? I’m happy to keep doing Supply Work for now, as it gives me an opportunity to spend more time on the projects I’m working towards. But, once all of my projects are up and established, I would soon be on the lookout for a permanent job teaching English/History/The Arts.

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Vuong PhamVuong Pham was born in Brisbane to a hard working family of Vietnamese refugees. He is now a passionate schoolteacher of English and SOSE. His poetry has received awards in the Ipswich Poetry Feast Competition (2011, 2012); the Inspired by Tagore International Writing Competition (2012); and the Free XpresSion Haiku Competition (2012). Vuong identifies as a Christian and enjoys going to a Baptist Church, including Bible Studies groups throughout the week. Some of Vuong’s hobbies include reading and writing poetry, playing soccer and practising piano. Vuong is currently working on his second book, which will consist of haiku. He blogs at Verses of the Inner Self.

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Launch Countdown: Brisbane New Voices IV

On Tuesday April 23, Brisbane New Voices IV will make its first steps into the world, as featured poets Trudie Murrell (Women and Cars) and Vuong Pham (Refugee Prayer) step out onto the gorgeously weathered boards of the Riverbend Books deck and debut the work from their highly anticipated collections.

BNV IV Refugee Prayer

Working with Vuong and Trudie has been a true pleasure, both of them showing an unflinching dedication to delivering a collection of poems that realised their vision. And as always, the dream team of Benjamin Portas (design), Julie Beveridge (layout) and Ben Aitchison (production) have made that dream real, producing a book that looks and feels like you want to read it… over and over again.BNV IV Women and CarsI will be showcasing work from the collections over the next fortnight in the lead up to the launch and offering a one off Launch Price for ALS Readers, but for now, here’s the details of the launch. We hope you can be there to celebrate!

Riverbend Poetry Series – April 2013

After a sell-out first event in February, heating it up on the Riverbend deck for the April poetry series are three fantastic features and a launch! Joining us is Victorian poet Peter Bakowski, Gold Coast eco-poet Stuart Cooke, UK-via-Rockhampton poet Paul Summers, and the launch of Brisbane New Voices IV featuring local poets Vuong Pham and Trudie Murrell. Come along and let poetry light up the night!

When: Tuesday 23rd April 2013, 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Where: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St, Bulimba
Cost: $10
Bookings: Visit the website to book online or call Riverbend Books on 07 3899 8555

This event always sells out fast, so book early to avoid disappointment!

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Tickets for Riverbend Poetry Series on sale now!

The Riverbend Books front deck has become synonymous with poetry in Brisbane over the course of the last eight years, hosting the annual Riverbend Poetry Series in collaboration with QLD Poetry Festival and QLD Writers Centre. So if you don’t want to be standing on the street, craning your neck (and ears) to get a slice of the action, check out the details below to book your ticket. These events book out notoriously early and the line-up… well, the year is off to a flyer!

Riverbend Poetry Series 1

The first event in the Riverbend Poetry Series features graveyard poet Zenobia Frost,  multi-award winner Anthony Lawrence and two very special launches – Vanessa Page launching her full length debut,  Confessional Box and the Choose Your Own Poetry Adventure amplified e-book launch.

When: Tuesday 19th February 2013, 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Where: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St, Bulimba
Cost: $10
Bookings are essential and can be made by calling Riverbend Books on 07 3899 8555 or via their website.

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Here’s a little bit about the poets…

Vanessa-PageVanessa Page is launching her full length debut, Confessional Box. Vanessa is a Brisbane-based poet who hails from Toowoomba in Queensland. In 2011 and 2012 she was named runner-up in the Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Prize for an unpublished manuscript for The lost art of penning you a love note and Confessional Box. In April 2012 she launched her first micro-collection of poetry Feeding Paper Tigers through Another Lost Shark Publications.

Confessional Box is her second collection of poetry, published by Walleah Press, combining the best of Page’s two shortlisted Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Prize manuscripts, Confessional Box is an extended love letter to place, heart and memory.

“Vanessa Page writes with the complex simplicity of an artist like Paul Klee – her language is ‘skin, papered/over skin’. There is an arresting music to this book, worked at deep pitch, performed with great skill and a compassionate vision.” — Robert Adamson

lawrenceAnthony Lawrence has published thirteen books of poems, the most recent being The Welfare of My Enemy (Puncher & Wattmann, 2011) which was shortlisted for the Judith Wright Calanthe Award and the Age Book of the Year Awards. His books and individual poems have won many of Australia’s major poetry awards, and his work has been translated into Italian, German, Japanese and Slovenian. He lives at Casuarina, on the North Coast of NSW, and teaches Reading and Writing Poetry at Griffith University, Gold Coast.

Zenobia-FrostZenobia Frost is a Brisbane-based poet and critic with a PhD in burning the candle at both ends. In 2012 she was invited to tour with the Queensland Poetry Festival Regional Roadshow; then, in October, she spent a week at Varuna, the Writer’s House, coaxing her debut manuscript into shape. Zen edits with OffStreet Press, Cordite Poetry Review, and Voiceworks Magazine, and she enjoys long walks in graveyards, incisive verse, theatre, and tea.

CYOPA-2Choose Your Own Poetry Adventure, a co-production of QPF and if:book Australia, is a journey through the byways and the streets of the Valley. Weaving language into the physical spaces that we walk around daily, these poetic trails combine language and landmarks to showcase Fortitude Valley in a whole new light.

Choose Your Own Poetry Adventure has three poetic journeys created by three Brisbane poets: Julie Beveridge, Carmen Leigh Keates, and Chris Lynch.

Carmen Leigh Keates’ collection One Broken Knife was published in Brisbane New Voices III, 2012. Her verse novella, Second-Hand Attack Dog, was commended in the 2011 Alec Bolton Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript.

Chris Lynch’s poetry has appeared in Blackmail Press, page seventeen and Islet. He recently edited The Tangled Bank: Love, Wonder, and Evolution, an anthology of speculative fiction, poetry, and artwork about evolution.

Julie Beveridge is a poet and cultural producer. Her collection, Home is where the Heartache is (Small Change Press), was her first collection of haibun. Her follow up collection, home{sic}, was released in June 2012.

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Brisbane New Voices III about to Launch!

It’s a matter of days now until Brisbane New Voices III featuring Vanessa Page & Carmen Leigh Keates will be launched at Riverbend Books on Tuesday, April 24. Joining Vanessa & Carmen on the Riverbend deck will be Slam Queen, Tessa Leon, founder of the QLD Poetry Festival, Brett Dionysius and global traveller, singer / songwriter / poet, Andy White. Following the launch, Brisbane New Voices III will be available for purchase on this site, but more on that later…

For now, here’s the details of where to book your ticket. It’s going to be a night to celebrate!

Venue: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford Street, Bulimba.
Date: Tuesday April 24
Time: Doors open at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Tickets: $10
Bookings: Call 07 3899 8555 to reserve your seat
More details at the QPF website

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February Pin-Up Week #4: Ross Donlon Catches Poems

February has but a handful of days left, which means Summer is also all but gone… It is also time to say goodbye to our February Pin-Up Poet, Ross Donlon, but never fear, he will be hear in Brisbane before the month is out performing at Riverbend Books and SpeedPoets. And he is also running a workshop while he is in town, which is what we got to talking about this week.

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I wanted to ask about the workshop you are running in Brisbane titled ‘Catching Poems’. What can participants expect to come away with at the end of the day?

Yes, I’ve begun to call my workshops ‘Catching Poems’ picking up on what someone said – I forget who, ‘The world is full of poems. They just need an edit.’  The class will be writing poems to begin and reading poems aloud in the last session.

I have a couple of mantras I put on the board and one is by Frank O’Hara : ‘Follow Your Nerve’.

So the aim is to have the class come away with a number of drafts from short bursts of intensive writing following some ideas and stimulus and models I supply. Ideally there will be ‘useful lines’ or ‘useful passages’, even a ‘useful phrase’, they they can then take home and build into a finished poem from the exercises.

It is not a class where poets will be pondering and mulling for an extended period of time and chatting with me. Others are put off or lose concentration with that muttering, I think. I do ‘go around the class’ and invite poets to read their ‘best bit’ be it a  phrase, or line, or sentence or pasage – more as the class develops and poets become more relaxed. So, if the class goes away with, say 6 ‘useful bits’ in 6 different kinds of poems to work – that’s what I’m after.

I was at the last launch of a major Australian literary journal. There were six readers, including me, but an observer present said that only three of us could be understood. The rest were too fast and  / or indistinct because they were too far from the mike. Diction is helped if the pace is right. So I think this is a useful skill to learn whether for reading poetry – or at your wedding!

So in the last session we will do microphone  technique and reading for an audience where each person reads a poem they have chosen (not their own)  using the mike. I will model what I do, then  it’s likely each poet will go through their poem a couple of times with me offering some advice.

In sum, I hope the class will take away: some useful drafts / some new poems and names to follow up / some ideas about reading technique.

I’m also happy to do a Q and A if there’s time about my experiences as regards publishing or reading or anything else about writing and reading poetry.

There are still places left in the workshop, so for those lucky enough to be able to attend, here are the details:

Catching Poems w/ Ross Donlon

Join award-winning Victorian poet Ross Donlon for an all-day session, giving poets ideas to catch and edit poems as well as tips and practice on how to read for public performance. This is a hands-on workshop using both formal and more open structures, so poets can expect to take away a number of drafts. There will be time for writing and sharing. The afternoon session will also include tips on mic use and public performance techniques with flexibility for other interests which may arise from the early session.

Ross is published in both newspapers and academic journals and has read at festivals both in Australia and England. He has won prizes both for the written and spoken word, including the Launceston Cup, premier spoken word event of the Tasmanian Poetry Festival and the Wenlock Festival Poetry Prize (U.K.) judged by Carol Ann Duffy, English Poet Laureate. His latest book, The Blue Dressing Gown and other poems, is published by Profile Poetry.

When: Sunday 4th March 2012
Time: 10am – 3pm
Where: Room 1.A, State Library of Queensland
Cost: $65

Please contact sarah.qldpoetry@gmail.com for further information or to enrol in the workshop.

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At Haberfield Demonstration School

I was with the boys in our group
at the meeting place, a peppercorn tree,
eating lunch inside the shadow.
The peppercorns’ bright, spicy scent
remains in memory
the way it stays on fingers with the stain.

Soon I would be ready for the Big School.
Boys were separated from the girls’
asphalt playground of rectangles, circles and squares.
Boys played wars up
and down a sloping paddock beyond the classrooms.
We heard the cries a continent away.

Suddenly the talk came to fathers and what they did.
As turns edged around the circle like a clock
I discovered that I could not speak.
What was it that could I not say?

The bell saved me as I was falling.
A huge part of who I thought I was
had avalanched, as if a shelf dropped
from a mountain.

I was an obedient child
but I ran home from school then to Nan,
my family skittled by a missing pin.

We sat on her bed and looked at photographs
and a face the size of a fingernail.
Bill. From the war.
She fanned out pictures like playing cards.

It was a summer’s day.
The bedroom’s lace curtains glowed in the heat.
Wind blew sweet scent from Peek Frean’s biscuit factory.
The bitumen noise of cars rushed down our street.

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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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QLD Program Launch Feature #3 – Janaka Malwatta

Word on the street is, tomorrow night’s QPF Program Launch at Riverbend Books is a sell out… that’s right, 100 tickets already in the hands of 100 lucky people. And I stress the word lucky here as the line up is nothing short of scintillating! Sheish Money & Jane Sheehy will add their distinct rock’n’roll flair to the night; Betsy Turcot & Eleanor Jackson will set your heart and mind racing with the rhythm of their words; Michelle Dicinoski will send sparks flying with the launch of her debut collection, Electricity for Beginners; and Janaka Malwatta will make his feature debut, reading from his debut collection, Kavi.

Janaka was born in the Sri Lankan hill capital of Kandy. He came to Brisbane via London, where he spent much of his life. He caught the poetry bug as a medical student in London, and first performed poetry in London at the Stoke Newington International Airport in 2009.  Janaka performs regularly at Speed Poets here in Brisbane and has published a collection of poems entitled Kavi. The poems in the collection are based principally in Sri Lanka. He moonlights as a GP in Brisbane when not performing poetry.

Here’s a recent poem:

Galle Face Green

Galle Face Green is green again,
as green as the day it was first made,
raised on a terrace at the ocean’s edge.
Stone benches so close to breaking waves,
you inhale ocean spray with every breath.
Pampered like a favoured child,
the lawn gleamed in the sun. A quarter mile
of displaced longing, a European promenade
built under Asian skies.

Galle Face Green is green again.
For twenty years closed off, there but out of reach,
a reminder of times before the city was besieged
by bombers in lorries and suicide vests,
and checkpoints stretched down Galle Road
like yellow dominoes, waiting to fall.
Soldiers in flak-jackets replaced promenaders,
barricades against the threat from the sea.
Untended, Galle Face became barren and brown,
green only in name and in memory.
The terrorists never came this way.
The fences have gone now.
Galle Face Green is green again.

The food stalls are back, but they’ve been corralled,
caged like animals in a purpose-built shack.
Twenty years ago, they roamed free on the grass.
We stood in the open, warm rotis grasped
in hungry hands. Children ran as families gathered at dusk,
to let sea air dispel the day’s city dust.
The in-crowd dropped in, on their way out
Blue Elephant dances, then on to Puloas
the food stalls at Galle Face drew everyone out.

The kites have returned, flapping, fluttering, flashes of colour,
competing with seabirds
in seabreeze dances;
it’s a game they always lose.
Pelicans are perched on top of lamp-posts,
surveying with equal disdain
passing tuk-tuks and the fathers of the nation,
preserved in bronze near Parliament steps,
ties and collars unfamiliar restraints
on over ambitious Asian necks.

Galle Face Green is green again.
Courting couples hide from prying eyes
and the fierce sun under giant umbrellas,
or climb down the steps the tsunami assailed.
The risque couples paddle fully-clothed
ankles and shins cautiously exposed
laughing waves chase them back up the beach.
Children splash in warm ocean waters, kites flutter overhead
tourists snap pelicans on lamp-posts perches
and Galle Face Green is green again.

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If you want to try and barter your way in tomorrow night, the details are below. Hope to see you there tomorrow night!

Date: Wednesday 22 June
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/2508/Riverbend+Poetry+Series

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