Monthly Archives: October 2010

QLD Writer’s Week Feature #13 – John Parke

Still a couple more features to round out my QLD Writer’s Week series… lucky #13 introduces John Parke.

What excites you about poetry?

I find it the best way to capture the essence and emotion of a story. Recently, I have started using poems as the basis for short films that incorporate footage, photos, animation, and music. There is plenty of scope to get the creative juices flowing in this approach.

What are the themes that interest you/ that you like to explore in your writing?

I am using poetry to capture the stories of the commercial fishermen of Wynnum Creek on Moreton Bay. They have fished from the creek for 150 years and were responsible for the second largest annual catch in Queensland. Around 150 fishermen worked from the creek in the 1950s. Today there are only 8 fishermen left and their stories haven’t previously been recorded.

Charles Bukowski once said, ‘poetry is what happens when nothing else can’. How does a poem happen for you?

I find a topic for a poem and let my subconscious ‘chew it over’ for a couple of weeks. I then often write the first and last lines for the poem. find a start and an end for the poem. Then I think through the journey the poem will take. Finally, I fill in the details. Often the first draft of a poem takes about half an hour to write and then I revise it over the few days.

 

The view from the front steps

Our homes have nestled here since 1900
on the creek bank, watching boys become men.
 
Watching boats crafted to master the waves, in search of mullet,
watching nets tarred and fish sorted.

You were part of our family.
We shared our lives together within your walls and around you.

Those first tentative steps in the nursery rejoiced with glee by all.
The familiar smell of the Sunday roast, the laughter of welcome guests.

The slipway now a relic
Our memories, rubble.

The menacing truck collects its load
our kitchen, lounge and our past bound for Coffs.

It will return tomorrow for our bedrooms
and the corridor where we once played.

My hand on my cheek
brings small comfort.

Our family homes are gone.
They now build duplexes that surround me.

The grief so heavy is not mine alone
but that of our forebears.

What will tomorrow bring
to this place where we once built boats?

 

About John:

I live in Manly and am assisting approximately 60 unemployed people in the local area and Bay islands to establish their own business. My career has focussed on community development initiatives using a capacity building approach for both Indigenous and no-Indigenous communities. At present I am establishing an initiative called the Friends of the Fishermen of Wynnum Creek. The initiative involves collecting and making available stories (particularly through poetry) and images of the fishermen to the general public.

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Triptych Poets #1 (Blemish Books) reviewed by Patricia Prime

Here’s a review of the recently launched Triptych Poets #1 from new Australian Publisher, Blemish Books. A big thanks to Patricia Prime for sending this through.

Triptych Poets: Ray Liversidge, Hilaire & Mary Mageau.  Blemish Books, GPO Box 1803, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.  www.blemishbooks.com.au  2010.  76 pp.  ISBN: 978-0-9807556-1-9   RRP: AUS$15

Reviewed by Patricia Prime

The poems in Triptych Poets are divided into three sections: Things to (and not to) do, Ray Liversidge, Things Mended, Hilaire and Moments in a Journey, Mary Mageau.

The poets of this collection show themselves impelled to experiment: the poems are vigorous and successfully innovative.  Ray Liversidge’s energetic poetry teases the reader’s receptiveness: not only momentarily: with a found poem, a poem punctuated by slashes and a lengthy poem, “The divorce papers,” which is divided into eight parts.  Here is part 4 “Envoi”:

          In thy beauty is the dilemma of flutes
         e e cummings

         There are no love poems;
         only lyrics on love gone,
         or going, wrong.  I know
         no sonnets written in
         celebrations of your beauty
         (just blank verses of cruelty);
         no lines to your eyes,
         limericks to your lips,
         similes to liken you to
         one thing or another.

         These days I find myself
         Lip syncing to songs about
         I’m-losing-you-blues.
         The days write themselves.

Hilaire inclines more than Liversidge to a frolic of words though.   As with Liversidge, the playfulness is perfectly capable of serious resonance, mingling, as in “Listen and Repeat” darker suggestions with the idyllic:

         Madame Fong ruled the language lab,
         doubly exotic in crepe de Chine
         and discreet jade jewellery.
         Cupping a hand expectantly
         around her petite and foreign ear,
         a coquettish tilt to her head,
         she trilled
         Ecoutez et repetez.
         Clunk of tape machine. 

Mary Mageau’s haibun and tanka prose presents patterns in prose and poetry which draw the reader into a reality in which nature, human nature, music, travel, history, Australia and convicts have their part to play.  In “Winter Magic,” for example, the focus is on a child peering through a window at hoar-frost:

 Ice shapes resembling small fir trees stretch across the glass, while delicate  snow flowers sparkle around them.  Lost in its beauty, I move through this crystal  garden as my warm fingers trace up and down, leaving a smudged pathway . . .

This is the kind of childhood scene in which many of us will have participated.

As well as poetry, Liversidge has published a verse novel The Barrier Range.  His poems in Triptych Poets are written in clear, narrative free-verse, and explore a corner store, relationships, a lawn mowing neighbour, a painting, familial faces and more.  His poems are muscular – unfailingly terse, disarmingly simple, often funny, as we see in “Goya’s dog”:

         You think is it swimming or sinking?
         You obey the dog blindly and mimic
         Its movements.  And you? You dust
         For animal prints, suggest the ‘lonely pooch’
         Sleep outside its frame of reference.

There are triumphs too, clearly observed, sharp and small – “Care for nothing except poetry” (“Things to (and not to) do”).  Liversidge is hungry for experience – “I’ll be poured out like used water.  Then, like water, / which always finds its level, settle, recycle.”   (“The baby and the bathwater”).  He is unafraid to serenade us with “You found your touch just once.  Once was enough, / Our paintings hang together – mine below, yours above.”  (“The painting”).  This is a poet who offers considerable honesty and a deal of expertise in his verse.  His subject matter is traditional in all its rampant, unmitigated strength.

Hilaire hoes a different row.  Her poetry has been widely published; she has published short stories, a novel and was awarded an Emerging Writer’s grant by the Australia Council.  Her spare, delicately paced lyrics depict a poet with a vivid, exacting eye.  Her lyrical gifts are considerable.  Her poems linger in the mind and her images are tantalizing – “In truculent teenage, / ten bucks bribed us / to do less than our share, / saving the hankies till last.” (“Ironing for One”) and “stands padlocked and shuttered, / without a plaque, not for sale.” (“the house by the well”).

For me, the most successful of her poems “The Colonel’s Daughter’s House” epitomizes the inherent beauty of this poet’s work, a glimpse of the shifting unease she brings to her poetry:

         It is six months since the ambulance
         beat its slow retreat
         from the colonel’s daughter’s house –
         down the lane,
         along the B road,
         no siren just
         a faint pulse of blue light
         struggling against the sun.

Mary Mageau is an award-winning composer and writer.  Her writings in the Japanese verse forms of haiku, tanka and haibun are included in several anthologies and journals.

Mageau is even more ambitious than the other two poets.  Not just linguistically.  Her haibun and tanka prose play with prose and poetry.  She sees them as elements of equal force, recombining discourses from a myriad experiences and recollections. Life here is lived.  Landscape, history, personal experiences, memories are this poets’ themes.  All this is subsumed in her inventive approach to language, individual words, pacing and phrasing.

In “The Persistence of Memory” she recalls her father’s final words – “’take something before you leave, to remember us by.’”  In “Point, Counterpoint” she teaches us about music:

On my desk lies the music for a fugue.  Its opening line of single notes     threads  across the page.  Played first by one hand then the other, accompanied by a  variation of itself, multiple lines wave a texture of horizontal strands.

In the tanka prose piece “Home Again” she recollects a memory of childhood evoked by the familiar scent of jasmine:

         winter afternoon
         a grey washed sky
         on the wind
         the fragrance of jasmine
         from a woman’s perfume

Suddenly I’m in the bedroom of our family home standing at the window, enjoying  the heady scent of five star jasmine that grows over our back fence, admiring the  lace pattern of the curtains.  In the next breath, just as I expect to hear my  mother call, ‘It’s time for bed now,” I’m back in a bleak city fifty years away.

In “The Armistice Way (Parts 1 & 2)” the history of the “rugged Australian hinterlands” is explored.  In Part 1, for example, she tells us how returning servicemen named their settlements after battlefields:

The scenery of these rugged Australian hinterlands lures us to Amiens Road and  its string of villages.  Baupaume, Pozieres, Passchendaele and Messines became returning soldiers’ settlements, each bearing the name of a French battlefield.  Though these places were established in 1918, little remains of them  today.  Immigrants now cultivate the delicious stone fruit and grapes here for the  region’s wineries.

It is obvious that this is a wrier of impressive agility and insight.  You may delight in her juxtaposition of poetry and prose.  You may drift through the strength of history, nature and human nature tumbling through the work.  You may wonder where she is taking you on this journey.  Mageau might reply, on a

ginko walk
           ringing with resonance
   of bell birds

The day ends with a late afternoon meditation.  Time for our ‘walk about’ in nature to dream, touch, smell and capture a last haiku moment.  Armed with notebooks and pens we set out, as a sliver of pink and gold widens on the rim of  the horizon

setting sun
                each eucalypt wears
     a golden halo

 Our pace quickens as rich foliage deepens into shadow.  The bush suddenly falls  silent, the horizon flames into orange red, the open sky provides just enough light  to guide us back safely.

        (“A Poet’s Journey”)

All three poets in this collection beguile us with their insights.  There is, I think, a journey here for anyone – for everyone.  The paths are all clearly marked:  Liversidge’s lives, Hilaire’s sweet lyrics and Mageau’s marbled truths.

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Tidal Notes

I

drinking cask wine
and smiling at her
I inhale the warm summer perfume
of her dress
II

light purrs into the grass
on days like this
I see all men
as brief as birds
III

dusk feathers the day
into vague bits of dream
while the pulse in my neck taps
trouble          trouble
IV

naked night swim
our drunken limbs
fumble over moons
of flesh
V

softening skin
our bodies
dance in time with
the river’s heartbeat
VI

skipping stones
across a glass river
each bounce
shatters silence
VII

bird song lost
in the air of morning
we drift home with
the outgoing tide

 

* this poem was written collaboratively with Cindy Keong. You can view more of Cindy’s work here: http://clk27.wordpress.com/

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QLD Writer’s Week Feature #12 – Marilyn Roberts

Still a few more features to keep the QLD Writer’s Week celebrations going… feature #12 showcases Marilyn Roberts.

What excites you about poetry?

I crowd myself with pens, and paper and notebooks, in which and on which I
scrawl, scribble and play. Sometimes the play of words come unbidden, finding tiny cracks that I had not know were niggling at the very edge of my conscience. Sometimes I dig and find nuggets of thoughts that just lead, and lead and into intricate musings. This tiny poetic thoughts help me recognize myself and others. The give me courage to express the world as seen through MY eyes. They give me a chance to say the unsayable, think the unthinkable and and the courage to let others know THIS is where my mind takes me, on colourful rambles through the epoch and ages that make up my life.

What are the themes that interest you/ that you like to explore in your writing?

I don’t follow themes, they follow me and seem somehow to always come back to ME. If today I start to write a Halloween type poem, I am never surprised that somewhere in there I am discovering something about me or my relationships to others and the world. My experience of choosing a rather difficult life, with quite a bit of tragedy, colours all that I write. Some people become victims of their lives and take on the role survivor as an atonement, I like to think that I been given a world to explore in poetry, particularly performance poetry, other voices, the voices of of those who aren’t.

Charles Bukowski once said, ‘poetry is what happens when nothing else can’. How does a poem happen for you?

I am a messy writer, I like to reach out for a notebook and grab a pen,
usually something bright and colourful and just go for it. I have a large array
of notebooks, coloured pens and highlighters. Sometimes I write words meaning nothing, going nowhere, and sometimes I simply draw coloured lines and sometimes some of those words jump off the page and begin a poem, that leads to a place of discovery and acceptance and joy.

 

The Visitor

It’s just outside the little town.
    The Land of the Not-Forgotten.

Follow out beyond the pub,
          the men all drunk and rotten,
    and up around the village school
where laughter skips all day
and echoes of a class of mates
can still
be heard at play.

Then out around the banyan trees
and well beyond the pool
where sunlight
broken splashes through a dive,
I fancy ripples still.

And keep the mountain on your right
    the canefields to your left.
And past the stacks
    and steam and lights
keep heading for the west.

And there you’ll find the houses mean
they fall away
  in drunk despair.
The shoulders of the road will cease
  and sink
your pathway to impair.

You travel light,
    it’s just as well
      now through the gates and straight to hill.
You have a climb, ’tis hard to reach the top
    where marble vaulted palaces
peer out to guard the lot.

Oh! On your way, though,
    would you mind
    there is a spot that you should find?
It’s halfway up and near the tap
  and there you’ll find my little chap.
He’s resting now, but as you’re bound
    you’ll find him sleeping undergound.

Tell him I’ll come,
I’ll come for him
when my time is done.
But tell him that it’s not quite yet
  my race is not yet run.
And tell him that we miss him
  I have so much to ask.
But
    tell me first why you make this trip
    you must have some odd task?
And tell me why you go at night?

What’s that! Accompany you?
I look an awful fright.
And I really am too tired now
    just let me have some sleep.
  Perhaps a nap and while I do
    return my soul to keep. 

 

 About Marilyn:

I love to write – any eavesdropping from the universe will do, regardless of its source. I pop them into journals of all shapes and colours spreading across my house. But it is the magic of story, in its many forms, and its ability to bring the inside out (or is that the outside in?) and make deep connection that truly inspires me. As a librarian my life has been immersed in story; ‘selling’ story and telling story and encouraging others find and share their own stories. As a professional storyteller and workshop facilitator I have thrilled as songs, poems and stories have sung to the listener’s heart. I am still  urprised when I’m writing just how much clarity and healing I get although my poetic writings as the “Nag Hag” aren’t exactly about finding peace!!!! Writing for me is profound experience of giving a story a chance to be relived.

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QLD Writer’s Week Feature #11 – Vuong Pham

Feature #11 in my QLD Writer’s Week series showcases the words of Vuong Pham.

What excites you about poetry?

I am enthusiastic about poetry because I strongly believe that it is the highest form of written communication through use of clever and intended purpose. For example, poetry steers away from societal norms of: “red hot sex” or mind-numbing sayings like: “I miss you so much it hurts”. So I do strongly believe that poetry expands the imagination not just for the individual, but also for society as a whole. Also, what excites me about poetry is the happiness, understanding and knowledge I obtain from reading and writing poetry.

What are the themes that interest you/ that you like to explore in your writing?

Love.

Nature.

I like experimenting with Shape Poems.

Charles Bukowski once said, ‘poetry is what happens when nothing else can’. How does a poem happen for you?

Poetry comes to me instinctively, whereby words, thoughts, ideas ‘hit’ me spontaneously. When this occurs, I then progress the poem through a continual process of editing.

 

Elegant Night
 
As I ponder the peppered and salty skies of royalty, I behold
Mirror-light curls and carves on the moon-dyed
Willow trees and velveteen seas.
Yet so soon in the horrific horizon ghostly clouds haunt closer.
Moreover, I feel that Cupid is marshalling his archers near,
To laden me with lead-headed quarrels.
For I shall nay glimpse such pearly elegance upon firmament.
 
Naught to feel love’s venom throughout veins flow,
Nor pain on one’s feet with a walk measured and slow,
Like the naivety of an octopus in the jelly jar and not the sea,
Or like the feeling of the ravine’s minuet of sadness
Amongst so much societal gaiety,
These instances of blazing lust detain:
Again – Again – Again.
 
And now, shipwrecked, on the generous shore
Of weeping willows and sighing seas, I witness
How a wandering hermit crab outgrows its cabin—
Moreover, I feel once again that my heart is a shell,
Not precious or beach-like, merely
A shelter for someone else to occupy.

 

  About Vuong:

Like Atticus Finch, I am unwaveringly dedicated to doing what is righteous and beyond my capacity with humility and genuine empathy. I am a first year high school Teacher of SOSE and English. Funnily enough, this is also my first year of writing poetry and I am immensely enjoying it. I have been reading and studying poetry ever since grade 9, and now my “poetic tongue” is finally coming to life! Here’s my poetry website: http://versesoftheinnerself.blogspot.com/

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QLD Writer’s Week Feature #10 – Cindy Keong

Many of you will be familiar with the work of Brisbane-based poet and photographer, Cindy Keong. Feature #10 showcases gives us a taste of her latest writing all the way from Tanzania, where she is currently working as a volunteer.

What excites you about poetry? 

For me poetry is a busy person’s literature.  I am always fascinated with the impact of a how a few stripped back words in a poem can explore both the complex and ordinary everyday concepts or ideas.  Poetry for me is another way of looking at life, relationships, concepts and ideas as if seeing them for the first time.

What are the themes that interest you / that you like to explore in your own writing?
 
Themes that are accessible always seem to feature in my work.  I love the idea of creating meaning by evoking imagery in the mind of the reader, whether it be an intended meaning or one derived by the readers own experiences.

Charles Bukowski once said, ‘poetry is what happens when nothing else can.’ How does a poem happen for you?

I am profoundly moved by visual imagery the whole picture paints a thousand words concept.  Poetry does the same for me I love the way words attach themselves to images in the mind of the reader or sends you off with inspiration for your own writing.

 

Mzungu eyes

(Nairobi to Arusha)

i

Leaving Nairobi sprawling
peak hour traffic we crawl like
insects over glass

ii

Miles of red dust blankets
a bleached canvas crying for
the artists brush

iii

Zebra sprawled across bitumen a red
ribbon tied around its neck, a vulture
swoops to claim its prize

iv

12 foot Coke bottle stand on the
corner of nowhere, selling nothing,
its neon sign flashing promises it won’t keep

v

5 hours of driving potholes and diverted
highway, our bus a time capsule, as
Michael Jackson plays on loop

 

 About Cindy:

I am a Brisbane based photographer,poet and teacher.  Currently exploring life in Tanzania assisting with a community based education program.  I usually live in breathing distance to the Pacific Ocean which continues to inspire my work. 2010 has been an exciting year with both my poetry and photos published in Page Seventeen as well as being shortlisted for Queensland Poetry Festival Filmakers awards and receiving a highly commended for film submissions at the Melbourne Overload Festival. You can see more of her work at: http://clk27.wordpress.com/

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QLD Writer’s Week Feature #9 – Trudie Murrell

QLD Writer’s Week is winding up, but there are still quite a few features to come. Feature #9 introduces Trudie Murrell.

What excites you about poetry?

What’s not to be excited about?  For me, poetry is life, distilled.    The words on a page are exciting, the sound of it spoken, how a poem can change me.  I am excited to have so much poetry in my life right now. 

Living in Brisbane and writing and performing here I am surrounded by poets who surprise me, share ideas, encourage my writing and give me feedback.  I am reading, writing and hearing more poetry this year than I have in perhaps the past ten.    For the first time in my life, writing is not necessarily a solitary activity and that excites me.

When I work on a poem it swallows me up and though I am living, I am living through its filter until it is finished.  I love the feeling of finishing a poem, knowing that it works.  Poetry catches my ear, it makes me look at things closely, it makes me think and makes me wonder.  I find art and discipline balanced in a good poem.  It is a new and joyful experience to find myself with  people who say ‘yeah, me too.’

What are the themes that interest you / that you like to explore in your own writing?

The human experience.  I like to turn things on their head.  I write about things I see and feel and hope that others can relate.

Charles Bukowski once said, ‘poetry is what happens when nothing else can.’ How does a poem happen for you?

Finally my writing is assuming more of a disciplined routine, thanks to external deadlines.  Previous to this I’d potter about until a poem grabbed me by the shirt front and shook me until I sat down and wrote it out of me. Often I’d dream a poem and wake up to write it.  Now days I am trying to make time while my youngest child has her mid day snooze.  I’m trying to sit at a desk and focus while I write or edit.  Although I can still be found scribbling notes on food wrappers while children demand my full attention, the garden grows wild and the house work has to tend to itself.  I find I come grudgingly to routine – but it is worth it.

 

Waking Salome
 
The minutes stilled and folded
into the old chook shed.
On its threshold the girl,
a red plastic bucket,
the curl and release of
fingers on a handle.
 
Mid morning heat
flattened everything,
the breath from her chest,
the chooks on their nests,
corrugations in the roof.
 
A tentative step,
creaking of feathered
disapproval,
her grandfather’s face
nodding her on.
 
She reached the broody hen;
stab and sting at her temple
and the trail of blood
it’s beak had drawn
crossed her cheek.
 
In her grandfather’s hands,
glossy feathers and a half finished scream,
in her grandfather’s eyes.
only her,
full of his cracked open heart.
 
Triumph coursed cool
through her small
body, whispering
he would kill for her.

 

 
About Trudie:

I am a Brisbane writer, raising three children together with my enormously patient and supportive husband.  For the past twenty-five years I have performed and written plays, poems and prose for adults and children. I find poetry sneaks into everything I do. I have been published for the first time this year.

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