Tag Archives: A Million Bright Things

spoken in one strange word 2012: The Saturday Wrap

The 16th annual QLD Poetry Festival: spoken in one strange word filled the Judith Wright Centre with a sweet rush of language… that language came in the form of poetry, music, film, conversation and community.  From the sparks of Friday night’s showcase, Tongues of Flame, the crowd surged back for the Saturday morning program, which opened with one of my personal highlights, a conversation with 2012 Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence, a.rawlings and Robert Adamson.

The session was titled ‘Since Beginningless Time‘, and in the hour-long conversation, I talked to Robert about his passion for fishing, the Hawkesbury River, birds and Bob Dylan; and to a.rawlings about the language of water, tackling the QLD ornithological lexicon and how she applies the concepts of reduce, reuse, recycle to her work. It was illuminating and both artists were incredibly generous in their responses; Robert happily telling stories,  including one about how, as a boy, he stole a rifle bird from Taronga Zoo to capture its image on paper and how he elaborately cared for it by using a number of electric frying pans to provide heat and humidity in the cage; and a.rawlings playing us a recording of the Coral Sea from her recent trip to Arcadia Bay on Magnetic Island, alongside a recording of a hot spring in Iceland, while talking about the unique quality of their cadence. The hour came and went all too soon, but the large audience that had gathered happily charged off to the bookstore to do some ‘informed shopping’ and then hit the first reading of the day, a session with its title taken from one of Robert’s books, Reading the River.

Reading the River was a celebration of all things Brisbane; a live collage of photographs and poetic snippets swirling on the big screen, while Michelle Dicinoski, Chris Lynch, Carmen Leigh-Keates and Ella Jeffery, read poems from the vast QLD canon (including works by Val Vallis, Jaya Savige, David Malouf, Samuel Wagan-Watson, David Rowbotham, Gwen Harwood and Judith Wright) as well as their own work. It seemed an absolutely perfect way to opening the first full day of readings, grounding us all in the extraordinary beauty of this great city and its almighty river.

From there, I caught the session, Strands on the Pillow, featuring Kathryn Lomer, Ray Liversidge and Nathan Curnow. Kathryn opened with a sequence of poems about some of her favourite places in Tasmania; her eye for natural detail, drawing the whole audience in to her world. After talking with him extensively in the lead up to QPF, it was a great pleasure to hear Ray read from his forthcoming collection, No Suspicious Circumstances; my personal favourite, his poetic portrait of Dylan Thomas. And then, what followed was for me, one of the readings of the festival… Nathan Curnow read a selection of poems from his latest collection, Radar (a two-in-one collection alongside Kevin Brophy published by Walleah Press). Not only was the work incredibly strong, for example…

she leaps like a turtle
swims like a victim
can’t trust herself to float
she throws like a creature who has just discovered
the basic mechanics of their arm

but she delivers babies
and sometimes a baby  comes falling
head-first toward the ground
then she will make that catch
that terrifying catch

she doesn’t know how to drop them

(from the poem, The Midwife)

but he was present in every word… his delivery, the perfect mix of relaxed and confident. It was really something!

Next up, I danced between the two sessions, Run of Verses and An Accidental Grace, taking in Northumbrian come Emu Park resident,  Paul Summers, whose physical energy matched that of his poetry so perfectly; an epic reading from Cameron Hindrum, which brought joy to the words that fill the pages of his debut collection, Private Conversations, which I had the great pleasure of publishing; and from New Zealand, Marty Smith, whose poems kicked as hard as the horses she wrote about. The run between the two rooms was most definitely worth it!

And after a quick stop at the bookstore (the wallet is definitely haemorrhaging), I again made the run between two sessions… starting by diving off The Edge of Chaos, with a superb reading by David Stavanger. No one, and I mean no one, can read a poem and interact with the audience as seamlessly as David does and it is a real pleasure to watch. Then I zipped off to The Phrasebook of Silence to catch the last of Jill Jones, a reading by another of the New Zealand guests, Nicola Easthope, who gave us a big-hearted set of poems about her Orkney Island heritage; and to close a reading from the masterful Robert Adamson. Robert’s work has had a profound impact on me, so to have the opportunity to speak with him and hear him read his work on the weekend was somewhat of a dream come true.

Then it was time to eat… something that is often forgotten when you are being sustained by words… but only food would suffice with the one two punch of A Million Bright Things and Pierce the Salty Darkness looming!

A Million Bright Things has become a QPF institution… a session that showcases one poem from every poet on the program; the ultimate poetic sampler you might say. I have had the immense pleasure of MC’ing this wordy behemoth since its inception back in 2008 and it has become well known as my annual cardio workout!

Tonight’s event had something a little special too, opening with the debut performance of a.rawlings’ Sound Poetry and Visual Poetry Project, Gibber. This was a complete rush… there was a live twitter stream featuring writers from across the globe (including my lovely wife, Julie Beveridge, and past QPF guests, Tim Sinclair and emily XYZ), sound recordings sampling the natural poetics of Queensland’s vast landscape; guest poet, Nicholas Powell reading his poetic response to Gibberbird, Q, Without My Female Typist; local poets, Chloe Callistemon & Tamara Lazaroff sounding off; Maja Jantar collaborating live via skype; and of course, a.rawlings intoning, speaking, gargling, whispering and making an all round glorious cacophony as only she can do! The performance was filmed, so hopefully this appears somewhere soon and when it does, I will be sure to link it.

And then we were into it… the full-on swirl of some 40+ poets, each lighting up the mic with what they do best… and it all happens in just under 90mins. It really is the most amazing high! But the night doesn’t end there!

Its a quick rush to the bar and back into the shopfront space, to catch what is for me, the second highlight of the festival, the session, Pierce the Salty Darkness, featuring Bremen Town Musician and Max Ryan & Where Were You At Lunch. Bremen Town was in a slightly stripped back mode, featuring driving force Marisa Allen on violin and vocals with two different drummers,;the absolute standout, the closing track where Allen makes her violin roar and quiver over the hypnotic drum beat of Mayuresh Sathe.

Then to bring the night to a close, Max Ryan and WWYAL rumble on stage and deliver one of the most rollicking sets ever seen at QPF. The band are fierce, Pete Emptage on bass shaking and hollering like a tasered man, Samaan Fieke squeezing the most out of every guitar string and Kishore Ryan, making the kit sound like thunder; while out front, Max Ryan is in full-throated glory, his words rattling in the four chamber of the audience’s collective heart. The love on stage is big, and throughout the set, they don’t miss a beat, delivering us home with the exquisite beauty of the title track off their debut album, Before We Lose Each Other Again. Their album is going to be on repeat this week, and I have no doubt will make my top 5 of the year!

Singing, ‘Before we lose each other again…’ I walked out into the Valley night, knowing I had witnessed something extraordinary and smiling at the prospect of coming back tomorrow to do it all again!

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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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Burning Bright: Day #1 of QPF 2011

Day #1 of QPF 2011 was an absolute thrill from start to finish. I took in over seven hours of poetry starting off the day by attending a tribute to the late David Rowbotham, featuring Paul Sherman, Ross Clark & my lovely wife, Julie Beveridge. Helen Avery also performed in that session and read from many Australian classics… that’s right, think Patterson, think McKellar. Taking in some of our heritage was the perfect start to the festival.

Then things shifted tempo and I was hitting the skins beside Sheish Money with Ashley Capes up front belting out his words. I know there was footage shot of the gig, so maybe, just maybe, it may surface sometime soon. Brisbane locals John Koenig & Carmen Keates rounded out the session, John delivering a set of poems that conjure the Australian landscape, many of which can be found in Brisbane New Voices II and Carmen reading a sequence from her unpublished verse novel Second Hand Attack Dog, a no-holds-barred account of life on the road in an unsuccessful band (The Dick Candles – so beautifully Bris!).

Next up I caught Tim Sinclair who has been digging in the dictionary for words such as Afflatus and Lopsided and penning poems in their honour (check out his debut ebook, re:reading the dictionary), Amanda Joy, who delighted with a selection of poems from her latest chapbook, Orchid Poems and Chloe Wilson, who read from her debut collection, The Mermaid Problem, closing the session with her poem, ‘Hold That Tiger’, where the tiger takes a bite from her trainer and licks itself clean.

The next session for me was one of the highlights of the day… Image Back to the Word, featuring Aidan Coleman, Sawako Nakayasu and Cindy Keong.  Aidan’s images are tight and crystalline, with the power to transport you from the deeply intimate to the hilarious in a breath. Sawako, well, she has blown the audience away every time she has stepped on stage. Her poems a rush hamburgers, ants, eyeballs and strange happenings. Can’t wait to hear her again today. Cindy Keong closed the session, reading from a series of poems inspired by her recent work in Tanzania. Coupled with a backdrop of stunning photography, her performance showed the intimate relationship between image and word.

And then it was All Roar and Crash as Andy White, Kevin Gillam and Marisa Allen blended their love of music and words – Andy playing and singing as only he can, Kevin splicing bursts of cello throughout his reading and Marisa playing saw and violin. Hearing Andy read from Stolen Moments was a blast. It is a book we are all very proud of. And the session closed with Marisa and Kevin joining forces – cello, violin and Marisa’s powerhouse voice all rising to a tremendous crescendo. So good!

Australian Poetry presented Lines featuring Nick Powell, Eleanor Jackson, Bity Booker and Eliza Hull; a show that allowed the ‘kissing cousins’ of song and poetry to dance a little closer. Kate Fagan also lit up the stage with her amazing presence to open the session with a reading from her forthcoming book, First Light.

And then it was the showstopper, A Million Bright Things… one poem from every poet on the program with me running up and down the stairs to introduce everyone. This gig just keeps getting better and is fast becoming one of the hallmarks of QPF. It crackled with electricity from the get go and held its energy throughout. 42 of the world’s finest in 90 minutes… who could ask from more!

So if like me, you are still wet with the residue of words, get along this morning and belt something out in the Open Mic and then stick around for what I am sure is going to be another mind-expanding day of poetry.

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Aural Text Award: And the winner is…

Adam Gibson and his band The Aerial Maps for their 2008 album, In the Blinding Sunlight. Here’s what the judges had to say:

“Adam Gibson’s In the Blinding Sunlight is a poetic triumph. It mixes the exquisite, ethereal language of love with the firm vernacular of the everyday. Beautifully written, beautifully musical and just beautifully executed. The best thing is it is a CD you want to play again and again and again. For me, it doesn’t get better than that.”

— Alicia Sometimes

Here’s a clip of their song The Great Australian Silence:

Highly Commendeds were awarded to Going Down Swinging 25 (double CD issue), A Million Bright Things – QLD Poetry Festival 2009, As If Nothing Happened, And It IsPaul Mitchell & Bill Butler and of course The Stillest Hour recorded by Sheish Money & myself.

I am wrapped to be in such fine company and the other highlight is that Sheish and I have tracks featured on two of the other shortlisted albums (GDS 25 & A Million Bright Things).

Happy times indeed!

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spoken in one strange word

Last night at Riverbend Books a crowd of 70+ gathered on the deck eager to get the first glimpse of the 2010 QLD Poetry Festival: spoken in one strange word program. And no one went home disappointed, with stunning feature sets from Suzanne Jones, Darkwing Dubs and Ynes Sanz, all of whom will be perfoming at QPF 2010.

The full program (including artist bios) is now available online at www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com and it is a program that I am very excited about!

QPF 2010 features six international artists – Emily XYZ (USA), Jon Paul Fiorentino (Canada), Angela Rawlings (Canada), Ken Babstock (Canada) and August Kleinzahler (USA) alongside more than 30 performers from all over Australia including Andrew Taylor (WA), Kelly-Lee Hickey (NT), Andy Jackson (VIC), Les Wicks (NSW) and Bruce Dawe (QLD) as well as a session paying tribute to one of Australia’s finest poets, Judith Wright and the much loved, A Million Bright Things, featuring every poet on the program.

And while I am speaking of A Million Bright Things, another highlight of last night’s event was the launch of the CD featuring 16 red hot performances from the A Million Bright Things session at QPF 2009. Readers included Adam Phillips, Zenobia Frost and Jeffery Harpeng as well as members of the QPF Committee performing a selection of poems. It was a buzz to hear these poems light up the winter night and to celebrate, I have 5 copies of the CD available for $12 incl. postage to send to the first five people who email me at geenunn(at)yahoo.com.au.

Here’s the track listing:

1. Jane Williams – Attention to Detail
2. Jayne Fenton Keane – A Jazz Poem for Miles Davis
3. Adam Phillips – Gem Cutter
4. Bremen Town Musician – Sailor (filmed live at A Million  Bright Things 2009)
5. Angela Costi – Grandmother Maroulla’s Liturgy
6. Geoff Goodfellow – Blue Sky Mornings
7. Maurice McNamara – Elizabeth’s Baby Cries
8. Brianna Carpenter – Jacqueline
9. Elizabeth Bachinsky – Tips On Performing From My Mother
10. AF Harrold – Beowulf
11. Rob Morris, Sheish Money & Graham Nunn – Vegemite
12. Barbara Temperton – Purl
13. Jeffrey Harpeng – Horse Tail
14. Zenobia Frost – Bathing with Neil Gaiman
15. Hinemoana Baker & Christine White – Talk You Up
16. Neil Murray – Anywhere Tonight

Am looking forward to sending the copies out to some very lucky listeners!!!

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A Million Bright Things – feat. Barbara Temperton

Reading back over the poems I have posted during the last few days has been a real thrill. Each of these poems, a highlight from what was (and remains) one of the best poetry readings I have ever attended – QPF 2009’s, A Million Bright Things. And the thrills don’t stop there, as each of these poems will be performed at the CD launch this coming Tuesday at Riverbend Books, either by the poet or by one of the QPF Committee. To round things out, here is the fifth and final poem I will feature from the soon to be launched A Million Bright Things CD, by WA poet, Barbara Temperton.

Barbara Temperton is an award-winning Western Australian writer. Her poems, song lyrics, short stories, reviews and articles have appeared in journals, newspapers, anthologies, have been performed live and broadcast on radio. Barbara lives in Geraldton where she is employed as Librarian and editor and moonlights as the poetry editor for Westerly. Barbara has also worked on community writing and theatre projects and as tutor in English and Creative Writing courses at the UWA – Albany Centre, Edith Cowan University and Curtin University in Perth. Southern Edge is her third collection of poetry, written for her MA at the University of Western Australia.

Barbara’s poem Purl, from her collection, Going Feral appears on A Million Bright Things.

 

Purl

If she wasn’t knitting, she says,
she’d be down the road measuring the level
of the muddy brown puddle her husband calls a dam.
And if she wasn’t knitting,
she’d be ironing a dress
for the CWA show she’s supposed to be going to,
pumping fuel by hand from a forty-four gallon drum
into the tank of the car for the long drive into town,
and she’d have to come home straight after,
has to hand-feed the horses, milk the goat.
If she wasn’t knitting, she’d be patrolling the farm
checking fences for breaks and tangled stock,
crow-struck lambs, fly-struck wethers,
inspecting gates
so plagues of emus and kangaroos
gathering at the boundary can’t get in,
watching the clear hot sky – no clouds,
paddocks burned bare by drought.
If she wasn’t knitting, she’d be down in the yards
where her husband and her daughter
are killing starving sheep with crowbars
because they can’t afford the bullets.
If she wasn’t knitting, she says.

 

A Million Bright Things will be launched at Riverbend Books on Tuesday June 22 so make sure you are there to experience what is sure to be one of the poetry events of the year. Doors open at 6pm for a 6:30pm start. Tickets are $10 and include a glass of wine and sushi nibbles. To book your ticket call Riverbend Books on (07) 3899 8555 or book online at www.riverbendbooks.com.au

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A Million Bright Things – feat. Zenobia Frost

Here’s another dazzling local, featured on the soon to be launched CD – A Million Bright Things… ladies and gentlemen, Zenobia Frost!

Zenobia Frost writes poetry in cemeteries, articles at a desk in a backyard rainforest, and to-do lists on receipts, bits of paper, the back of her hand, and flatmates’ spare bits of skin. She writes, edits, and types for a living, and occasionally orchestrates cabaret events that are really an excuse to drink tea. Her work has appeared in Stylus, Mascara, Small Packages, Burdock (USA), Rave Magazine, Famous Reporter, and Voiceworks, and she has performed at the Queensland Poetry Festival, Tasmianian Poetry Festival, and around Australia with the Queensland Touring Poets Program. Her debut collection, The Voyage, was published by SweetWater Press in 2009.

Zenobia’s poem, Bathing with Gaiman is one of the sixteen poems featured on A Million Bright Things.

 

Bathing with Gaiman

Before reading in the bath,
I ease the book’s
jacket off. I

test
the steaming water with one toe
and shuffle off my own dust cover
to step
and slide
in and under,

holding the book above my head
like an umbrella. Then, spread
with my arms leaning on my legs,
I read, turning the pages

with the tip
of my tongue.

Later, while I scrub
idly
or shave my legs
with my right hand,

I realise I’ve gone
cover to cover (or nearly).

The fingers of my left arm sulk
and strain, and I must
balance the book on my head
to flex the lameness out (and again

till feeling returns).
Then I swap hands and finish
my story and scrubbing,

to step out clean and complete,
steeped in someone else’s
glistening words.

 

Zenobia will feature at the launch of A Million Bright Things at Riverbend Books on Tuesday June 22. Doors open at 6pm for a 6:30pm start. Tickets are $10 and include a glass of wine and sushi nibbles. To book tickets call Riverbend Books on (07) 3899 8555 or book online at www.riverbendbooks.com.au

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