Monthly Archives: September 2010

Rain in Blackall

               for Sally

We stand together, our yellow coats
a welcome contribution to the outback
palette of red earth and Mitchell Grass.

Two people immersed in the descending
chords of rain; one having the time of her life.

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Leonard Cohen live at The Paramount Theatre, Oakland CA, 13/04/09

Not long to wait now for all those holding on to tickets for Cohen’s much anticipated return to Australia in November. So to peak that excitement here’s a link to download his 2009 concert at The Paramount Theatre. Listening to it this morning brought back some incredible memories… truly one of the most emotional shows I have ever experienced.

Download the full show at: Waves and Wires

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Saturday Afternoon Mix Tape – The New Folk XVII

Spring is well and truly here (well in Brisbane anyway)… the still crisp air prickles the skin while  the sun gently warms; and the sky’s endless acres of blue stretch out over lush green and vibrant azalea blossoms. And that’s just the view from my front window.

Afternoon’s like this pull you softly into the arms of evening… so as you go on your way, here’s a few songs that have been spinning rapidly in my world. I think they make pretty good company.

Clogs – Last Song

Clogs are a genre-defying blend of classical music and traditional / indie folk. Circling around the collaboration between Padma Newsome and Bryce Dessner from The National, Clogs create profound, otherworldly music that has the strange ability to inhabit your being long after the album has ceased. Last Song comes from their epic 2010 release,  The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton and features The National’s Matt Berninger delivering a vocal that rival’s Cohen for melancholic minimalism.

 

Doveman – Breathing Out

Thomas Bartlett is the artistic vision behind Doveman and his latest opus, The Conformist, is a creative peak of sorts. It is a lush, quietly propulsive album featuring members of The National (all of them in fact at some stage) and while the surface may seem shiny, there are great depths to explore here. Bartlett’s melodic whisper of a voice slips takes you from one hushed moment to another, seducing you with lyrics that slip unknowingly into your mind to reveal a sharper edge. ‘The darkness tells me that I’ve waited long enough…’ Indeed!

 

Peter Wolf Crier – Hard as Nails

Peter Wolf Crier’s debut album Inter-Be has a peculiar urgency about it, each song stretching beyond the limits of guitars and percussion, to create some wide-open spaces. Pisano’s vocals loop, wail and crescendo in a gorgeous mess, as Hard as Nails comes to a close. There are definitely hints of Jagjaguar labelmate Bon Iver’s haunted balladry here, but Peter Wolf Crier manage to maintain a sense of exuberance throughout… even when the lyrics descend into bleaker, more visceral places.

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The National at Sunset Sounds

Tickets for Sunset Sounds go on sale tomorrow, and for me there are two standouts… The National and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.

If, like me, seeing The National perform songs from their 2010 album, High Violet is making you sweat with anticipation, you can get a live fix on youtube as their recent gig (exclusive for VEVO/Youtube) is beautifully shot and recorded and totally worth checking out. I know I have spent many hours listening to it already and will most certainly spend many more…

You can check out the whole show here, but for those inquistive ones who don’t want to jump straight in, take a peek at this…

So damn good!

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Why Poetry? The discussion begins…

Avid Reader (193 Boundary St West End) have declared September, ‘Poetry Month’ and to celebrate they are putting on some mighty fine events. The first of these is a discussion / reading taking place this Thursday night. To pick at the seams of the question, ‘Why Poetry?’ they have assembled Bronwyn Lea, Nathan Shepherdson, Ross Clark, Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence Emily XYZ and this Lost Shark.

Full details of the event are:

Date: Thursday September 9
Time: 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Venue: Avid Reader, 193 Boundary Rd, West End
Cost: $5.00
Bookings: Call 3846 3422 or book online at: http://www.avidreader.com.au/index.php?option=com_registrationpro&view=event&Itemid=0&did=80&shw_attendees=0

Avid’s monthly magazine is also brimming with poetic musings, reviews and other articles. You can download a copy of it from their website: http://www.avidreader.com.au/ but I thought I would post my article answering the question ‘Why Poetry?’ to get the discussion started…

Why Poetry?

Brisbane is definitely a bright star in the poetry sky, hosting major events such as QLD Poetry Festival: spoken in one strange word (August 27-29), The Australian Poetry Slam and the annual Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence Program alongside a number of regular events, including Brisbane’s longest running poetry/spoken word event, SpeedPoets. And now, Avid Reader are throwing a month long poetry party in September, featuring a panel of established poets (incl. Bronwyn Lea, Nathan Shepherdson, Ross Clark, Graham Nunn and 2010 Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence, Emily XYZ) talking about the importance of poetry in our lives and readings from some of the bright new things currently setting the Brisbane poetry scene on fire. So why all this interest in poetry? Well, to give you a short answer, I couldn’t go past this quote from ‘poet laureate of the down and out’, Charles Bukowski:

Poetry is what happens when nothing else can.

For me, what Bukowski is getting at here is poetry’s ability to embrace and elevate all that makes us human. When you hear it, you should be able to see, as if in a flash of lightning, the words crystallise, and if you are open to it, the poem will contain more than images. Poetry invites us to cast off habit and reconsider life with new eyes and at its best, as Emily Dickinson put it, can take the top off your head.

I strongly believe that enjoying poetry is as natural as drawing breath. As a boy I spent many summers sitting beside my father watching Australia’s great fast bowler, Dennis Lillee tear through various batting lineups. Each time the stumps would buckle or Lillee would throw himself into his trademark appeal, shouting ‘Howzat’, my father would look over at my brother and I and say, ‘that was poetry’. Of course my father did not mean that it was literally poetry, he was simply pointing out that Lillee’s bowling had the qualities one normally expects of poetry – grace, surprise, beauty, rhythm. My father was not much of a poetry reader, but he, like all of us, had an idea of what poetry is and should be.

We know this because poetry is not firstly in the words; it is there to be discovered in the current of the river, the rush of the street, the strange angles of a spider’s web, a home cooked meal. Our senses are bombarded with literally thousands of stimulants on a daily basis… poetry is about stripping this back and getting in touch with the things that really matter; finding the truth in the everyday.

When I tell people that I write poetry, a common response is, ‘I don’t really get it’, but the truth is, that is just a reflection of society’s needless mystification of the art. A poem is not an obscure code or linguistic puzzle, if it works, it will speak to you. But remember, it’s a matter of chemistry. Not every song you hear or film you watch will speak to you, likewise, every poem you encounter will not hit the mark, but don’t let that deter you, there is an infinite number of voices and styles waiting to be discovered and when a poem hits, it will cast its spell and make the mind sing; it will engage your imagination and draw you into its universe.

As there are a myriad voices writing poetry today, I thought I would ask a handful of the poets participating in the Avid Reader Poetry Month festivities to get their thoughts.

One of Brisbane’s new voices, Jonathan Hadwen offered this:

“…it’s the way thoughts line up in our minds, a way in which we finally make sense of experiences and situations that have been difficult to understand.  The real power of poetry is in the sharing, as by doing so, we pass on this understanding. Poetry has been around in one form or another since we have had the ability to think and communicate those thoughts, and will be around until we lose those abilities.”

2010 Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence, Emily XYZ responded with zeal:

“Poetry, like all art, is part of the human condition.  The reason people say they ‘don’t get poetry’ is because we are not usually called on to use our minds that way.  Quite the opposite:  ‘daily life’ generally requires us to dumb down and stay in the lower registers of what is possible for the human mind. ‘Why poetry?’ is a question that must be answered anew every few years, and yet the answer never really changes:  because it is resistance to misery.  Because it is a swing against dehumanization and an affirmation of freedom and possibility.  Because it makes jailer-minded people uncomfortable—and that really is something that can (ultimately) (maybe) change the world.”

And, John Koenig answered with a poem of his own:

“trembling under a love blue sky the thesaurus tree bears alphabetical fruit ripening and falling to be caught by slender feminine hands of faith held up in front of inquisitive gun smoke eyes with intriguing lashes curling over the words of sweet sorrow and joyful redemption making darkness and light fill the flowering iris with colour overflowing to flood the optic nerve becoming a raging river running along neural paths synaptic sparks jumping high and igniting the fire of imagination framing the question what does this mean poetry yes that’s right it’s magic”

The one thing each of these responses has in common is the passion and belief in which they are delivered. That is the power of poetry… when it hits, you are never again the same. So why not get along to one of the many poetry events happening in this fine city of ours or to your local independent book store and embark on your own quest to answer this question. The journey could just be life changing.

Look forward to reading other people’s responses to this question,

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Looking back on Ocean Hearted…

This time last weekend, I was in the the thick of QLD Poetry Festival 2010. Fourteen years on, this festival just keeps going from strength to strength. There were far too many poetic highlights to mention… seriously, I couldn’t do it justice, but the real highlight, as always, was the warmth and openness of the festival audience and the artists. Being at QPF is a unique experience and one that I love dearly. My own personal highlight was without a doubt performing in the main theatre of The Judith Wright Centre on Saturday night with Sheish Money & Namedropper, with a backdrop of sublime images from Cindy Keong. It was the strangest feeling…

I had been planning the show for 12months, working with Cindy on the photos, getting the book ready, rehearsing with Sheish and then the band. It was a big process… and then I was up there; the lights hit, the music swelled and I lost myself in the poems; gave myself to them. As soon as we hit the end of the first poem and the band locked straight into the next groove, I knew we were on.

It quite simply flashed by and as Sheish took vocal duties on the last piece – Save Myself / Lessons, I filled with emotion. Sheish and I have been doing this for almost a decade and here we were, surrounded by people we love, still surprising each other, still pushing the creative process. And as the applause rose and we walked off stage, I felt, I had left nothing behind… you can’t ask for anything more than that.

There are already plans to perform this show again, so keep your eyes out for details later in the year.

The photos here were sent through to me by the lovely Angel Kosch (and keep your eye out for official photos on the QLD Poetry Festival website in the coming weeks).

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In the Red Chamber

Just back from a cracking reading held in the gorgeous Red Chamber of Old Parliament House.

The evening opened with a reading from Ross Clark, who read a great new poem, The Death of Jazz (one to keep your eye out for). Next up were Emily XYZ & Myers Bartlett who totally nailed their set, opening with bill of rights: prologue, the whole room reverberating as they echoed, ‘You are called upon to deliberate those things which are essential to liberty.’ Never has a poem seemed so at home… every politician needs to hear this poem! They then went straight into the second part of the poem, Separation of Church and State. So good! Here’s a clip of them performing it at Cornelia St Cafe in 2008.

And to close the night, John Tranter gave us a selection of poems from his soon to be released collection, Starlight: 150 poems. His reimaginings of Charles Baudelaire’s poems from Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) were a real highlight. I totally recommend checking out the selection Tranter has published on his website: Starlight Selection. His reading of Paradise was particularly mesmerising. Can’t wait to get my hands on this collection.

And now, it’s time for dreaming…

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