Tag Archives: 2012 QLD Poetry Festival Program

QPF 2012 Feature Artist: Tylea (part iii)

With only one day left until the official opening of QLD Poetry Festival: spoken in one strange word, I catch up with Tylea to talk songwriters and find out about her closing night performance.

ALS: Last time we spoken, you mentioned Grant McLennan and Dave McCormack as two songwriters who are important to you. If you had to choose one song from each of these artists to listen to, which would it be and why?

Tylea: I could listen to Cattle and Cane all day by Grant.

I  grew up in Bundaberg and my family and forebearers had a long history with the Fairymead Mill.  Cattle and Cane is the kind of song you feel you have always known.  It just makes sense and works on many levels for me.

I also love David McCormack’s songwriting because of his sense of humour.  I wish I could roll with the punches as much as David.  He’s  a wonderful character.

ALS: And lastly, what are you most looking forward to about performing at QPF 2012?

Tylea: I have invited Pascalle Burton (Pas) to help me out with my set.  We have concocted a sound/guitarscape piece inspired by Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit.  I am not sure how my part will turn out, but I have enjoyed spending a bit of time with Pas and am looking forward to unleashing the uncertainty.  I hope it will be okay.

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QPF 2012 Feature Artist: Tylea (part ii)

ALS: QLD Poetry Festival has long been passionate about showcasing songwriters and their lyrics. Do you have any tried and true process for writing lyrics? Do they tend to inform the music or is it the other way around? And who are the songwriters in Brisbane that create a stir in your world?

Usually, I start writing on an instrument and some lyrical ideas will flow from there.  Each instrument can kind of dictate what type of mood the music/lyrics will have.  For example, if the music idea starts on piano, it will pretty much have a mellow, sadder feel for me.  And so melancholic lyrics will usually come soon after or simultaneously.

At this stage of the writing, I try not to interfere or judge too much as it creates blocks.  The most important thing is having that creative flow and to get a rough structure done with the words and music together – while you are feeling it.  You can always critque the piece  later on down the track, but at that precise moment of writing, I try really hard not to criticise or ask questions.  I guess it’s the only time in my life where I feel like I don’t judge myself.  That’s why I love it so much.

I think I prefer to write starting with music first as it tends to “open the door” on  possibilities to the lyrics. I can write vice versa but music first is the way I prefer.

The songwriters… Grant McLennan & David McCormack.

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QPF 2012 Feature Poet: Ray Liversidge (part v)

It has been a real thrill talking with Ray Liversidge this past couple of weeks and I am now looking forward to seeing him step on to the QPF stage so that I can hear his ‘dead-poet-portraits’ come to life. Ray and I wrap up our conversation today, talking the art of collaboration and future projects.

Catch Ray Liversidge live at QPF 2012 in the following sessions:

Strands Upon The Pillow (Sat 25 Aug 1.30pm) and Unseen Strings Connecting (Sun 26 Aug, 2pm). Ray will also read as part of A Million Bright Things, along with every other artist on the program, on Saturday August 25 from 8pm.

ALS: As I have mentioned before, with No Suspicious Circumstances, you collaborated with artist, Kathryn Bowden. I would love to hear more about how you worked together to produce the book and how you found the experience.

RL: When I first set out on this adventure of writing about dead poets it was always my dream to have illustrations of the poets to complement the poems. I did think that the dream would remain just that as it is hard enough to get a book of poems published let alone have the luxury of it being illustrated. Well, the planets aligned when I found Littlefox Press which is the publishing arm of Alice & Co run by Christine Mathieu. They specialise in books which may not be suited to the commercial requirements of larger trade publishing houses.

Kathryn would consider herself more of an artist than an illustrator, however she accepted the challenge of producing the portraits of the poets. We sourced photos and images of the poets and Kathryn insisted on reading my poems and even undertook research to find out more about the poets. The best way to describe our working relationship is to say that we were on the same page from day one! I couldn’t be more happy with the illustrations, and working with Kathryn and Christine has been the most exciting, satisfying and enjoyable experience of my writing career.

ALS: Will you be incorporating Kathryn’s images into your live performance of the work?

RL: Yes. Unfortunately, the book will not be ready for the festival, but at least the audience will get to hear me read some of the poems and see the relevant illustrations projected on a screen.

ALS: With No Suspicious Circumstances due for release, what projects are you currently working on?

RL: I have recently finished a 400 line poem on an incident which took place in Oradour-sur-Glane, France, towards the end of WW2. I am currently doing reseach for a poem on a 4th century martyr. I’m experimenting with the long line… And so it goes!

**********

Ray and I both agreed it seemed most fitting to sign off with a poem and one of Kathryn’s images.

The path ends where the wood ends

Like Dylan, you died in your thirty-ninth year.
Like Dylan, born with the same name, the same
Urge to live the writer’s life, however austere.
Yet, to you, nature was no metaphor, feigned
Or fabled dingle; but dell, down, wind and rain
Of your beloved Hampshire. Robert Frost moved next door.
So did the war. More than a hundred poems came.
In one you stepped out … into an April morning, called
Into a dark and cloistered wood on your last Wordsworthian walk.

[Edward Thomas was born in 1878 in London to Welsh parents. Although a Georgian poet he wrote with a modern sensibility about the impact that time and war have on country life. Thomas enlisted in 1914 and was sent to France in early 1917. On the first day of the Battle of Arras on 9 April 1917 he was killed by a bomb blast.]

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QPF 2012 Feature Poet: Ray Liversidge (part iv)

Ray and I keep the co0nversation rolling, talking festivals and their importance.

ALS: Speaking of influential poets, how does being part of a festival such as QLD Poetry Festival, affect you as a poet?

RL: I have been involved in several festivals over the years such as the Melbourne Writers Festival, Tasmanian Poetry Festival and Overload Poetry Festival. I see them as a wonderful opportunity to meet and see poets who you have read and not read, and heard of and not heard of. I’m not sure how it affects me as a poet. You sometimes hear of major writers whineing that their agents make them attend festivals. However, for us lesser known writers it’s a chance to be part of the Commissariat of Poetry.

ALS: Are there any poets on the program that you are particularly excited to see?

RL: There are some familiar names on the program and a lot I’m not familiar with so, as I say above, it’s a great chance to rub shoulders with the known and the unknown.

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QPF 2012 Feature Poet: Ray Liversidge (part iii)

Last time I spoke to Ray Liversidge, there was talk of Spenserian stanzas, so let’s pick up that thread and keep the conversation rolling.

ALS: Can I ask what drew you to the nine-line Spenserian stanza as form?

RL: Without sounding wanky I wanted to set myself a challenge. I have written poems using traditional forms before but have not attempted anything on this scale. As I see these portraits as ‘biography as a thumbnail sketch’ (Peter Porter) I thought it might be interesting to discipline (punish?) myself by using the same poetic form for all 30 poems. The traditional Spenserian stanza uses a specific rhyme scheme and has the first eight lines in iambic pentameter and the last as an alexandrine. That final line of six feet gives the poem a stately and meditative movement which I thought ideal for  writing about the lives – and ultimate deaths – of the poets. However, my poems are not Spenserian stanzas in the purest sense as there is a mixture of rhymes and half-rhymes, and I employ a syllabic count for the lines rather than the traditional five and six beat metre.

ALS: I am also interested in whether any of the poets you have written about have become influences since discovering more about their lives and work?

RL: Several of the poets (Dylan Thomas, Rimbaud, Plath and Crane for example) were huge influences early on in my writing, but one learns – and indeed needs – to move on from these giants of the literary world. As I said in an earlier answer, it was a joy to discover and read poets who I hadn’t read before or for a long time but I can’t say they have had an affect on any poetry I wrote during the time I was writing the portrait poems or the ones I’ve written since.

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QPF 2012 Feature Artist: Tylea (part i)

QLD Poetry Festival 2012 is looming large and the program is bursting with stars! One such star, is Brisbane singer-songwriter, Tylea, with whom I have had the pleasure of catching up with this past week to talk about her return to the live stage and the experience of parenthood.

ALS: 2012 has seen you return to the stage after several years away from the sweaty spotlights of beloved Brisbane venues such as The Zoo. How has your life as a mum influenced the way you approach the stage and the songwriting process?

Tylea: Becoming a Mum has totally changed the amount of time I can give to my songwriting.  The same motivation and need to write is very much still alive, however, I am have more time constraints and practicalities of family life/work which can come first.

Every and any moment I have to work on music is entirely precious.  I used to take the time I gave to it for granted.  Now, I simply have to be  satisfied, regardless of the amount of time I can give it – even though I would like to find more time to give towards the process of songwriting, as it definitely keeps me balanced mentally.

I still absolutely love performing and  I appreciate the “still” time on stage.  Many pent up emotions come out into the performing space because that’s where I can allow them to come out.  Before motherhood, these emotions used to spill out everywhere and anywhere into my everyday life and be very mentally draining.

ALS: As a new dad myself, I completely understand your new found value of creative time. Have you written any songs that directly speak about your experience of becoming a mum?

Tylea: There actually aren’t a lot of songs I have written which directly speak about my experiences as a mum, but there are a couple which relate to my mother.  Once I had my first child,  it occurred to me how much my mother gave to us a family and how much we all took her for granted.  Mum is a fantastic seamstress and she used to make all of our clothes.  She’s a very unassuming, kind and gentle lady.  One day we were visiting her in Bundaberg and she was making my daughter a pair of pyjamas. She came out of the house to where we were sitting on the back patio, stretching the waist band of the pants she was making, and she said, “Tylea, do you think these will be too tight, or too loose?”  Well, those words ended up becoming a song lyric and is an ode to her.  All she has ever done, is to try and please us.

ALS: I have seen you perform many times and it is also an emotional experience for the audience. As a performer, you have an incredible ability to draw the audience in and break down the barrier that the stage can sometimes create. I imagine that this can be exhausting, but at the same time incredibly uplifting. Are there any gigs for you that stand out as particularly memorable?

Tylea: I guess everytime I am on stage, I look it as an opportunity to connect with people and to make friends and understand others.   There are a few occasions where I have felt absolutely floored because it’s seems as if I haven’t connected with anyone after I have cried my guts out.

I used to run a very short lived songwriters club in a share house in Morrisey St Brisbane with my flatmates in the mid 90’s.  It took weeks to clean up and paint the space, and prepare it into a mini venue called Klub Kaos.   My flatmates made curry, we bought beer, hired a PA.  I got to perform at the first show and remember everyone being quiet, still and being in the same space. I played on a stage I’d made out of packing pallets.  The best feeling was from bringing all of our friends together …. The high I felt from that little gig is something I have always remembered.

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QPF 2012 Feature Poet: Ray Liversidge (part ii)

Let’s pick up the chat I started with Ray Liversidge last week, by talking about Yu Xuanji and the voices of the dead!

ALS: I loved that you made mention of Yu Xuanji in your response. She is a poet that I have only discovered recently by stumbling across an ebook of her complete poems. A poet from the late Tang Dynasty, it seems there is not a lot of reliable information to be found about her. What was it about her life that drew you in?

RL: As you say details about Yu Xuanji’s life are very sketchy. My research showed that during the Tang Dynasty women had a fair amount of freedom of choice and social mobility compared to earlier and later periods. Yu Xuanji played a number of ‘roles’ in her very short life such as concubine, nun and courtesan. She seems to have been a free spirit who was unflinching in what she did and I admired that about her. Many of her poems dwell on sorrow, loss and longing, however she never feels sorry for herself and celebrates the joy of living even if it involves pain and suffering. There is a playfulness about her poetry which I love. She died when she was only 25 but she was obviously a mature woman. However, the flirty, mocking tone of a lot of her poems suggests she loved playing the little girl!

NB: You can download a 120page ebook of Yu Xuanji’s complete poems here. And there’s some interesting reading about here life here.

ALS: I am also interested to know whether each poem you wrote in some way took on the voice of its subject?

RL: I think it would have been a mistake to imitate the cadence, rhythm, tone, etc of the poets I have written about as the portraits could easily have become like cartoons or caricatures, and this would have been very disrespectful to those poets. Having said that, the opening poem on Dylan Thomas deliberately echoes his “bardic, bawdy hwyl and yawp, syntactical high jinks”. Of course, there’s a huge nod to Whitman in that line too! Within the constraints of a nine-line Spenserian stanza – in which all the poems are written – I was more interested in capturing the essence of their lives and work.

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QPF 2012 Feature Poet: Ray Liversdige (part i)

As I have mentioned, QLD Poetry Festival 2012 is only weeks away, and I have the great privilege of interviewing several of the featured artists as a preview to what you can experience at the event. The interview with Max Ryan and WWYAL is currently rolling and now, I chat to Melbourne based poet, Ray Liversidge about uncovering the lives of dead poets.

ALS: Your latest book, No Suspicious Circumstances, collects together a series of poems that look deeply at the lives of some mighty fine poets whose words live on despite their passing. It also features portraits of each selected poet by the incredibly talented, Kathryn Bowden. How did you go about selecting the poets you wrote about? And though I am certain, you already had a great deal of insight into the lives of these poets, what were some of the surprises you discovered in your reading?

Ray Liversidge: When I first thought about the book the principal criteria I set were that the poet be dead and:

1. Have taken their own life

2. Have been killed by circumstances out of their control; and

3. Have died because of intemperate living.

With some poets such as Emily Brontë, Keats, Rimbaud and a couple of others I have taken liberties. Nevertheless, as Peter Porter said of Auden, my aim was to take on the challenge of ‘selecting the crucial moments in the lives of people and civilisations and forcing home their psychological truth’ – to channel the spirit of these poets, if you like.

Once I had set the criteria, I had to decide on which poets to include. This was not an easy task as there are so many poets which fit these criteria – especially the intemperate living ones! Selecting the obvious and well-known poets would have been easy; however my research revealed that there have been many talented poets who have not got the credit they deserve. So, one of the aims of the book is to pay homage to some of those lesser known and largely ignored poets, and in doing so enrich readers’ lives and my own by exposure to their writing, lives and times. I plan to have a biographical note in the book explaining what attracted me to the poets I have written about.

The life and work of poets like Dylan Thomas, Rimbaud, Plath and Keats were well known to me so there were no surprises there. However, as I said earlier, during my research I came across poets who I had never or half-heard of. It was a surprise – and a pleasure – to discover and read poets such as Charlotte Mew, Christopher Smart, Sidney Keyes and Yu Xuanji.

*****

Gravity and waggery

In the Age of Reason you just had to be mad:
Cross-dressing as Mary Midnight, hitting the bars,
Praying in public places, being a lad,
Punching out poems of unconditional praise.
‘I’d as lief pray with Kit Smart as anyone else’,
Dr Johnson declared – but he was not your quack!
When Anna runs off with the kids you return to grace
Your prison walls with poems. Crazy, or not,
We give thanks for your song, and the adventures of Jeoffrey the cat.

*****

Christopher Smart, born in 1722 in Kent, England, spent several years in asylums mainly because his habit of praying out loud in public was considered irrational behaviour. His ‘A Song to David’ is considered one of the most original and powerful religious poems of the eighteenth century. Smart died penniless in a debtors’ prison on 21 May 1771.

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Introducing 2012 Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence a.rawlings

The arrival of the Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence is always an exciting time, so it is with great pleasure that I welcome Canadian interdisciplinary artist a.rawlings to our shores for the next few months.

After chatting with her over lunch the other day, it looks like she has a full-on schedule that will see her traveling north to the tropics and west out to big sky country to harvest sounds and visuals for her legacy piece that will be launched as part of A Million Bright Things on Saturday August 25  at the QLD Poetry Festival (the full program is online here).

But before she heads off on her explorations, she is running the first of many workshops at QLD Writers Centre this coming Sunday, July 1. There is still room for anyone interested in enrolling in her Ecopoetics workshop where she promises new work will be devised through an exploration of contemporary poetic forms such as erasure and collaborative cut-up. The workshop is just $15 and runs from 6pm – 8pm. To book a spot email Talina McKenzie: qldpoetry@gmail.com

Here’s a.rawlings in full performance mode, collaborating with maja jantar from their Centre for Sleep and Dream Studies project:

Can’t wait to see her back on stage! To keep up with her residency, I recommend checking out her site: http://qldpir.tumblr.com/

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