Tag Archives: haibun

Review of One Bowl by Penny Harter

Snapshot Press

Recently, I was invited to write a review of Penny Harter’s first eBook, One Bowl, published by UK Publisher, Snapshot Press. I had my original hesitations, which I explain in depth in the opening paragraph of the review, but after the first reading of the collection, I knew I was in the presence of something extraordinary.

Snapshot Press have made their eBooks available for free on their website in both flash and pdf formats, and I cannot recommend highly enough that you visit the site and download a copy. With all the recent talk of beauty on this site, this is work that will make your heart ache and sing in equal measure.

Here is a section from the review:

Penny Harter is one of our finest living writers and teachers of Japanese forms. With four previous collections and numerous anthology appearances, it was a thrill to spend time with this new body of poems. Harter’s work has previously been described as “direct, lyrical, light-filled” (Catherine Doty) with the power to remind us that “the wheel of existence rolls onward, and we with it, no matter what comes” (Susan Tweit). These descriptions are true of the work in One Bowl.

Written following the passing of her husband, William J. Higginson, One Bowl is an exploration of life’s fragilities. The opening poem, “Estell Manor State Park,” leads us deep into a gray day, where “oaks arced full over trails that faded into green or snaked into a density of swamp and lichened trunks.” As we walk down that trail, a dead limb is tossed “full weight” at our feet and we are left to ask, what if . . . as our heartbeat quickens. It is this moment that opens the reader up to the thinness of life that resonates in Harter’s poems.

You can read the review here and download a copy of the book here. I don’t feel you will be at all disappointed. In fact, I would love to hear your thoughts…

 

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Migrant Moon

It’s Friday night, the moon is beginning to wane and the wind is all bluster. There will be light and I will be chasing it… but for now, settle in to a review by Patricia Prime. As always, Patricia’s review is generous in quoting from the collection – the latest release from Miriam’s Well Press, Migrant Moon by Barbara Mautone Robidoux – to give you a feel for the work. And from Patricia’s reading, it is some very fine work indeed. Read on!

Migrant Moon by Barbara Mautone Robidoux. Miriam’s Well Press. miriamswell.wordpress.com (2012) Pb. 101 pp. ISBN: 978-1-893003-15-6. Price: US$14.00 Reviewed by Patricia Prime

Migrant Moon is Barbara Mautone Robidoux’s second book of poetry. She also writes short stories and is currently working on a collection set on a reservation in northern Maine where she once lived. She now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Migrant Moon is a collection of tanka, tanka sequences and haibun. It shows the poet’s journeys through her travels, her inner and outer life and through the movement of the seasons. What we have here is superb: it’s a collection that doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. Also, seeing the genres together increases one’s awareness that Robidoux’s poetry comprises various strands and feels like a unified body of work.

Robidoux’s use of language can be vivid, but self-explanatory, as in the haibun “Migration”, which is quoted in full:

Three bottle nose dolphins circle the harbor off Nantucket
Island. It is a cold December day and they should be out to sea on
winter migration south. No one knows why they have come into the
harbor. An old woman stands alone on the shore. She watches
and listens.

“they have come for me”
she tells
no one

Yet she also delights in writing simply, but at the same time effectively, as in the first verse of the tanka sequence, “Moonwashed”:

This moon washed town
October snow softens
cold cobblestone streets –
Was the sea
really once here?

Robidoux is often concise, yet even when she’s more expansive, as in the haibun, she is never wordy. She is a skilled raconteur – I would recommend the extraordinary haibun “November” in particular. Here is the first paragraph and following haiku:

In those days we wore red in the woods. Red woolen jackets
and caps over layers of thermal underwear and flannel shirts. I
had a favourite pair of wool pants which my mother kept in her
cedar chest until hunting season. My mother never hunted. Her job
was to preserve and cook the meat after the kill. But even though I
was a girl she allowed me to go out with the men to hunt. I believe
she felt it was an important way for me to learn about the
sacredness of life.

leaves rustle in wind
a doe enters the meadow
silently

Robidoux has a good ear and eye. Her interest in her surroundings is most evident in the archeology of these haibun, both the literal archeology of the landscape and the mythological and folklore archeology of their people. The haibun “Stupa” takes us back into the poorest surroundings:

On the south side, the poor side, the immigrant-laden, gangster-
ridden, bean burrito and Tres XXX’s-riddled side of an otherwise
fancy art mecca in the west, a small group of Tibetan Buddhists
built a stupa. It is a golden pearl in a desert of empty-pocketed
sand. Trailer homes surround it.

“Ceremony for Letting Go” is a more domestic poem, calling on the poet’s love for an old cat who is “tired, very, very tired”, to present a multi-layered picture of the devotion one can feel for a pet. It contains the following haiku:

my elderly cat
losing weight day after day
I miss her already

In “Arroyo” Robidoux is a careful chronicler of the hidden history of a small village in the mountains of northern New Mexico:

It is summer evening and the desert heat has not descended
into night. Cholla cactus still hold their bloom. A veteran recently
home from the war in Iraq leaves his shiny red Mustang running
when he goes into the bar to buy a six pack of Budweiser. He has
used all of his severance pay to buy the car and he calls it “Baby.”

The selection of tanka takes us from “spring snows/ three feet deep” to “after tsunami”:

spring snows three feet deep
deer yard out in the orchard
patiently waiting –
frozen apples
fall one by one

after tsunami
funerals held in the streets
four purple irises
with tea leaves scattered
to honor the dead

Several things have accompanied Robidoux on this poetic journey: mysteriousness, musicality, humour, surprises, gracefulness and heart. How these elements work their way into the tanka is a delight for the reader to explore, as see in, as see in this tanka:

our chief is laid out
at the community center
killed on black ice;
asleep in the next room
you dream your own death song

The musicality of the tanka catches the reader’s imagination. The words and phrases have infectious rhythms and harmonies that are always linked to Robidoux’s experiences, as we see in the following tanka:

full winter moon
at Chaco Canyon
light bathes the badlands –
you refuse to remember
our first night together

Her choice of words transforms mundane things into things that exude poetry. As the magic kicks in, you absorb the music, the nostalgia and the narrative:

in the desert sand
poems found
under a full moon –
our long shadows
against the red canyon wall

The second thing that captures the reader is the way the tanka are saturated with humour:

wind down from Denver
blows neighbor’s mailbox open
yesterday’s letter
delivered airmail
to my address

Intimate details glimmer like gems throughout the tanka, but sometimes the tanka tilt into mystery with what the poet holds back:

after thirty years
I cut my long hair
and left you –
fog lifts
with the outgoing tide

There are many poems to love in this book – poems that favour language, narrative and nature as well as music, mystery and adventure. Robidoux has written some remarkable haibun and tanka that can stand as good examples of both genres. You need to linger and let her words wash over you as you accumulate their subtle delights.

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Pushing the boundary of form: A Guest Post by Phillip A. Ellis

A New Poetic Form? Or an Old One Transformed?
by Phillip A. Ellis

One of the joys of being a poet is the chance I have been given to develop and change forms, to work in the older traditions and create something new. In this way, many of our established poetic forms have been created and made possible.

One of the possibilities I find with poetry is its intersection with prose. The concept of the haibun is one that fascinates me, and I was thinking recently of a fixed, haibun-like form that incorporated a short, Western poetic form. So the following occurred to me, a possibility that combines Eastern and Western influences in a way that is unique to modern life.

The steps to take are relatively simple; they are:

1) write a ballade in free verse, with alternation of masculine and feminine endings rather than rhymes, and retaining the exact repetition of the final line (the address at the start of the envoi is optional)–the endings of the octets should be (m = masculine ending; f = feminine) mfmffmfm or fmfmmfmf, and the envoi fmfm or mfmf accordingly; and

2) the three octets should be then translated into prose, with the envoi retained as poetry.

The following is an example written to illustrate the form:

On New Year’s Eve

This is the time I find myself at thought upon the year preceding, on the friendships, events and accidents of fortune met and dealt with. On such evenings thoughts are forwards, upon the year to come, but mine, mine travel backwards in time, remembering the past with silent reveries on friends important, and so my heart acknowledges its debts.

Within my life, I’ve met so many, known so many, felt the force of friendship, knowing the time I had may last a day, a month, a season, year, may last for many, decades, or fall and fade so swiftly, too swiftly, dying a mayfly death; and so it goes. But time is fleeting, and I miss my friends with sorrow, and so my heart acknowledges its debts.

When the year dies, and when the new year rears and promises a newer start, I linger and raise a glass to those I’d known, and lost to time, to old acquaintaces, and, drinking before the risen rockets break in brilliance I think a final thought, a blessing borne upon the winds of time, a benediction, and so my heart acknowledges its debts.

David and Stephen, you may never read this,
and you may never know the poems I make,
but I would never dream these thoughts without you,
and so my heart acknowledges its debts.

**********

And so, that’s it. I haven’t got a name for it yet, but am willing to listen to suggestions; what name would you give it?

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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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QLD Writer’s Week Feature #3 – Chris Lynch

The Writer’s Week features keep on coming… this time I chat to Brisbane writer, publisher and editor, Chris Lynch.

 

What excites you about poetry?

The energy of words slamming together. The layers of meaning in a few chiselled lines. The luminous.

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

The immanence of the world and transcendence of the self. Questions of what is real or what can be known. Moments of weirdness.

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

Poetry is what happens when words are burnt alive.

 

Blood of the Mantis

A ten-year-old boy, I finish wiping out the chalice, disrobe, go out into the church garden to explore. I can’t believe my luck: I pluck the baby mantis from the shrub and place it on my palm. Four slender legs straddle, lightly hook the skin lines. I hold it up in the sun, examine its strange symmetry. The triangular head cocks towards me like a green dog, and I wonder at a creature built to pray, translucent emerald arms as sturdy and as wicked as those of a crusader. A mosquito lands on my forearm. For once, I watch it get comfortable, line up the proboscis, inject, hind legs rising into the air as the abdomen fills with ruby red blood. Over the hill of my wrist: the mantis, stalking. I stop breathing, we pray. Quick as ninja the mantis strikes, makes a meal of it. A small god looks up at me, mouthparts stained in red wine. Did you see that? Did you see that?

set free a mantis
knowing, even hoping,
a bird eats it
 

 

 
About Chris:

Born with twelve fingers in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, I’ve also lived in Australia, the USA, China, and Japan. Prone to crazy ideas, I’ve run off and joined the army, survived Clarion South, walked the length of Japan, eloped, started Tangled Bank Press, and eaten goat testicles. My poetry has appeared in Blackmail Press and SpeedPoets and is forthcoming in page seventeen and Brisbane New Voices. I recently edited The Tangled Bank: Love, Wonder, and Evolution, an anthology of speculative fiction, poetry, and artwork about evolution. You can find me online at http://hydrolith.wordpress.com

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A few days with Salt on the Tongue pt 2

Sunday…

Well the flow of words was again, relentless.

The morning session Kumarangk: Hear the Children Crying was incredibly moving. The session featured readings by Ali Cobby-Eckerman & Lionel Fogarty alongside five new indigenous voices and local elders Aunty Eileen McHughes and Aunty Phyllis Williams. The poems merged to form a dramatic narrative that portrayed both the historical and contemporary ambiences of Hindmarsh Island and the local Yaraldi clan of the Ngarrindjeri. When Lionel Fogarty chimed in, echoing the line ‘but I’m black’, during a poem read by one of the new voices, you couldn’t help but feel a tingling in the base of your brain and an ache in the gut.

I then took myself down to set up for the publisher’s market. This was again an idea, full of promise, which didn’t quite deliver. There were several publisher’s there displaying some mighty fine product – these included Small Change Press, Ginninderra, Dangerously Poetic, Ilura Press, Wakefield Press, Red Room Company, Australian Poetry Centre & Giramondo as well as some individual authors – but the programming (authors reading from new collections), dominated the focus leaving little time for people to browse the ample supply of poetry. I stuck around for the first two hours before heading off to the mighty Friendly Street Poets session.

Friendly Street Poets are proudly the longest running reading in the southern hemisphere. In talking to people over the years I have heard stories of up to 100 people reading in the open mic session at their monthly gathering in Adelaide, so I went anticipating something special… and they delivered. The energy was high and the atmosphere crackling… almost 40 people took to the mic in a quick fire two hours, showcasing everything from japanese forms to ballads; sonnets to high energy spoken word. And the session was MC’ed superbly by a gentleman known as Avalanche… his saxophone jam with Benjamin IQ Saunders to close the show reminded me of the free-wheeling jazz poets of the 50’s and 60’s. It was spontaneous, loose and from the gut. I can’t wait to get back to Adelaide to feature at Friendly Street in November.

Next was a session featuring Glenn Colquhoun, Jennifer Mills, Julie Beveridge and Brook Emery. Jennifer Mills from Alice Springs opened the session, reading predominantly from her PressPress chapbook, Treading Earth. During the weekend, Jennifer has put together an amazing little project called the ‘Sound Atlas’ which takes the listener on an audio walking tour of Goolwa and features new poems by arianna pozzuoli, sandra thibodeaux, emilie zoey baker, barbara galloway, ezra bicks, sarah day, jennifer mills, julie beveridge, ali cobby eckermann, tamryn bennett, jill jones, andrea gawthorne, jillian pattinson, esther ottoway, and stephen edgar. This is a great way to experience the town and the poetry of many of the festival guests.

Glenn Colquhoun was next on the bill and I have to say he blew me away… the highlight, a haka, written in the english language. Glenn warned us that he was quite shy and retiring, so when he ripped through the haka, hands flailing and tongue wagging, it certainly fired the audience up! Glenn is definitely a poet well worth investigating… you can read a selection of his poetry here.

Julie Beveridge was next, reading predominantly from her collection Home is Where the Heartache is, a series of poems themed around the idea of ‘domestic menace’. These poems take us straight to the point of crisis and don’t necessarily deliver us a conclusion. Instead they leave us with the character/s, right in the thick of moment. Her poem, Playing the Market, about a woman in Ipswich who killed her husband and skinned him, is a great example of her word-power and incisively black humour. Julie’s book is available here.

And finally Brook Emery read from his recent collections, Misplaced Heart and Uncommon Light. His work is unsentimental and insightful. His measured, rhythmic reading a perfect close to what was an amazing session.

My head needed a little breathing space, but I was soon back in the Regional Art Gallery to hear Grant Caldwell. Grant is one of those poets who never disappoints. His almost deadpan performance style gives the necessary room for his razor-wit to work its charm. Reading predominantly from his forthcoming collection, it left me anticiparting its mid-year release through 5 Islands Press.

And then there was the Slam. I went expecting high energy and I got high energy. Emilie Zoe Baker MC’ed the event urging us to clap like Les Murray just poked you on Facebook, and Arianna Pozzuoli opened proceedings as the sacrificial poet. While the event was more of a showcase (there was none of the traditional scoring), you could sense each poet wanted to lift the bar when they hit the stage, to take the crown of ‘The Greatest Poet In All The Land’ – oh yes, this was chanted loudly throughout the night!

Highlights included James Griffin’s performance of his stunning (sub)urban ballad ‘Suburbs of the Heart’, Robin ‘Archie’ Archbold’s shirt ripping antics (he managed to pop a button into Arianna Pozzuoli’s wine glass), IQ’s freestyling response to the other poets, riffing off each poem that had gone before him and PiO’s number crunching experimentalism that eventually won him the title. The beauty of this Slam was never once did it become stylistically narrow and the words were always at the forefront… a cracking way to finish the the second day at Salt on the Tongue before heading off to the local RSL for $3.00 Coopers stubbies and the chance to let the torrent of words start to sink in…

The final day offered up many fine readings and before I got on the bus to head back to Adelaide I caught feature sets from Jeri Kroll, Jordie Albiston (her latest collection The Sonnet According To M is wonderfully musical as was her reading), Patricia Sykes, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Emily Zoe Baker, Jennifer Mills, Sandy Caldow, Bel Schenk, Julie Beveridge & Chloe Wilson. So as you can well imagine, my head was full to overflowing with the imagery, words, voices and rhythms of the weekend.

It was a great weekend and I am very pleased to have been a part of it all. There are things I would have like to have seen happen, first and foremost, a greater engagement with the local community as there was a distinct lack of locals in attendance. In fact, on the Saturday morning we got talking with a local walking her dog and she asked why there were so many people in town… I strongly believe that if APC is committed to taking the festival to a regional town every two years (and believe me, I am right behind this as an idea), there needs to be alot more work done in the lead up to ensure the local community is engaged and has a strong presence at the event, otherwise, one could argue that it makes greater sense to host the event in the capital cities for ease of access.

There are a few photos that I want to upload, so I will try and get myself organised to post them tomorrow…

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Postcard

The bed is unmade. A few books are stacked on a shelf near the window. By the side of the bed, a carved wooden table holds up a bowl of objects: a penlight, a matchbook, a deck of cards. Next to the bowl is an unstamped postcard of the Jack Evans Porpoise Pool in Coolangatta. My brother picks it up and flips it over, looks at it without expression. He turns and gazes out of the window for a few seconds, then places the card face down on the table and moves on. I stretch over to read the card. It is addressed to our father. I recognise the writing, the gradual lean of letters. I follow the movement of words, jumping from one to the other, knowing, with every line, that this is my Great Grandmother’s handwriting. Maybe this was the last thing she wrote? Maybe the last thing she touched? Then I have to stop thinking. I mustn’t imagine the words she was going to write. I prop the card up against a book. It stares back at me, never sent, never filled in.

packing boxes
the stories
she took with her

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Poet’s Breakfast #5 – Beverley George

This time for Poet’s Breakfast, we enter the intertidal world of Beverley George, so grab a cup of tea, and let your mind unwind… this is a breakfast landscape to lose yourself in.

 

 

lagoon sunrise –
the pelican’s bill keeps time
with my teabag

We live between an ocean and a freshwater lagoon.

The ocean is beyond tall houses on the other side of the street. The large freshwater lagoon is five metres from our back door.

I watch moorhens; egrets; cormorants; herons;  four species of duck.

It is the pelicans I love, when they are here, rather than being busy; flying west, flying north, being somewhere else.

At 6 am, heating the jug for my fresh lemon juice in water, I look for them. When they are present, plummeting from the north headland, folding onto the water, fishing, my day-start takes on a contemplative mood.  Breakfast is no longer something to merely fit in, or not.  It exerts its own weight amd circumstance.

In the kitchen, on our open shelves below the plate rack, there are five breakfast bowls from Kyoto.  The bowls are inexpensive but they have been shipped here, after my return, in a black lacquer box with slanting divisions, as carefully packed as if they were porcelain.

The bowls do not match in colour, but they tone. I take down one at random. Any one. That is at the heart of the ritual. Any one. No premeditated thought of which to choose, or memory of the last one I used. It’s like crossing fingers, not walking on cracks.

I scoop into the bowl the same brand of natural yoghurt, add blueberries or fruit in season. Wait for a pelican to drift into the water space I am watching, between boughs of melaleuca. 

I wish I could say inspiration strikes me in this quiet time, but it rarely does.  It’s just time out, a space for me, before the day begins.

Still facing the lagoon I find a teacup. Pour water onto tea.

 

About Beverley George:

 

beverley-george

Beverley George lives between the ocean and a freshwater lagoon and dabbles in most forms of writing. She is the founder and editor of Eucalypt, Australia’s first journal for tanka only and past editor of Yellow Moon 2000-2006 and the Society Of Women Writers NSW (Inc) Newsletter 2004-2006. Her seven international first prizes for haiku and related genres include the British Haiku Society James W Hackett Award 2003 and the Tanka Society of America’s International Contest 2006. She is president of the Australian Haiku Society. Her first book for children, Sneeze Power, was published by Blake in 2006.

 

Find Out More:

Eucalypt www.eucalypt.info has reviews of her tanka collection, empty garden and an article on tanka first published in “Five Bells”.

Beverley was the featured poet January – July 2008 on Tanka Online, a teaching site for tanka. An interview by Jeanne Emrich and a selection of Beverley’s tanka are available
http://www.tankaonline.com/Interview%20George.htm

Simply Haiku vol 4 no 3 has an  interview of Beverley by Patricia Prime and examples of her haiku tanka and haibun. http://www.poetrylives.com/SimplyHaiku/SHv4n3/index-issue.html

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A conversation with Patricia Prime

Digging through some old (and not so old) magazines and journals last night was a really productive experience… The Strange Conversations I posted last night really lit up the memory sensors as did this interview I did with Patricia Prime (first published in Simply Haiku and then in Takahe). Enjoy!

 

Graham Nunn Interviewed by Patricia Prime

 

PP:  Your poetry seems to contain many references to your family and your personal experiences.  Literary scholars usually distinguish between the author and the persona or speaker in a poem.  To what extent would you say this distinction applies to your poetry, or, to put it differently, how much of Graham Nunn is to be found in your work?  Here, as an example, is your poem “The Party’s Over”, which seems to recapture one of your own experiences, but could equally apply to any young party-goer:

the last song has played
the crow is calling
and we’ve run out of ice
the girls have all left
ands are drowning
in plastic cups
the ex-wife is pinned
to the dartboard
the dog has jumped the fence
/the fence holds in emptiness/
morality is covered in dust
and I sit
staring at the walls
empty of sound
for the moment

GN: I agree that there is a lot of me in my poems. I am not afraid to show myself, but I do try to write from a broader perspective, to let the reader into the poem. You can be too personal and there are some poems that I certainly don’t take out of the bottom drawer. The struggle between the author and persona is something that all artists experience. I remember hearing Nick Cave speak once about his album The Boatmans Call. He said that he liked the album less and less as the years passed as he could see too much of himself in the songs. Personally, I love the songs on that album for the same reason Nick dislikes them. They are songs that reveal the author, but allow the listener to make their own connections and create their own reality. This is something I try and do with my own work.

 

PP:  Do you think that the reader often identifies with the speaker in your poems?

GN: I hope that the reader can identify with my poems, interact with them, bring their own life experience to them and on some level, make the stories their own.

 

PP:  Would you consider yourself to be a “confessional” poet”?

GN: Not at all… I certainly share some truths about my life experience through my poems, but in no way am I writing these as confessionals. Writing for me is not a cathartic experience. It is a means of taking a story, an idea, a feeling and putting together the right words to allow the reader to experience it in their own way.

 

PP:  You seem to start out from a simple thought or idea but the imagery you use is often complex, full of projections, transformations, shifts of perspective.  So you make demands on your reader’s imagination.  Is that an important part of your craft for you?

GN: I like to think that there is a simple core at the heart of all my poems. Something tangible for the reader to hang on to, but I also like the reader to have to open their eyes and mind to get the complete experience. Language should be used to challenge the imagination and have the reader engage with the poem’s subject on a deeper level.

 

PP:  I detect you are inspired by the ordinary things we as humans do, that we pretend not to notice.  To what extent would you say your work conforms to this pattern?

GN: I am in love with the ordinary. My partner actually refers to me as vanilla.Too many people spend  their lives searching for the extraordinary, when there is beauty in the boiling of  a kettle, the opening of a door, the pattern of dust on the window sill. I like to live simply and enjoy the small things. I find that this helps to keep my senses sharp.

 

PP:  Are there poems you wouldn’t publish because they’re too intimate, too personal?

GN: I think everyone has a stash of poems that they wouldn’t publish for some reason. Sometimes for me it is beceause they are too personal, but more often than not it is because they just don’t translate for anyone else. They don’t have the space to let anyone else in. And let’s face it… some are just not up to scratch!

 

graham-nunn-reading-at-leonard-cohen-tribute

 

PP:  I find many glimpses of humour in your work, so I was wondering how important humour is for you, with regard to your work?

GN: Humour is not something I ever aim to achieve in my writing. I have never actively set out to write a funny poem. Humour is something that naturally finds its way into my work at times. I live a very happy existence and love to laugh, so it is only natural that my sense of humour shines through at times.

 

PP:  How much attention do you pay to stylistic elements?  In what ways do you work on syntax, phrasing, finding the right words to communicate your story?

GN: I certainly pay more attention to the finer details now. I used to be very much about getting things down and putting them out there, without a whole lot of editing. More the first thought, best thought approach, but I have started to move away from that in recent years. Now when I write, I still try and turn off the editing brain, but once I have it down, I like to put it away and then come back to it a few days later, see if it still resonates. If it does, I like to pull it apart, look at each word and see how it is working, examine line breaks, the poems appearance on the page. I guess it is much like a mechanic approaches a car engine. I want to fine tune it, so that it performs the best it can on and off the page.

 

PP:  It would be interesting to learn more about your method of working.  Is there a strict time scheme you stick to when writing?

GN: When I first started to become serious about my writing, I would be really disciplined and set aside chunks of time in my daily routine to write. This approach really worked for me. I would get up each morning, walk the dogs, come home, eat breakfast and then sit down for 45mins and just write. During the last four years, my approach has not been as disciplined, due to the various other roles I have taken on outside of my full time teaching job (running the monthly event SpeedPoets, taking on the role of Artistic Director, QLD Poetry Festival 2004 – 2007, starting Small Change Press), but I always have time marked aside on my calendar to write and I have become much better at finding 5 or 10 minutes in the middle of the daily hustle and bustle to get ideas down. The thing I have always maintained is when I sit down to write, I write. There is no such thing as a blank page at the end of a session. As a writer, I understand that there is no good stuff without bad stuff, so when I do get time to write I make sure I put words on paper and review it later. In that sense, it is like any work… you have some great moments and some that are better forgotten.

 

PP:  Why did you decide to become a publisher?

GN: I am incredibly passionate about getting new voices heard. Small Change Press is all about investing in the local community, and providing emerging poets with the chance to publish and get their work out to a wider audience. Our focus is on poets whose work performs on and off the page, on poets who can connect with a live audience and a reader. Our method of distribution is different to the traditional publisher. We are more about putting our authors in front of people and giving them the opportunity to let their words connect.

 

PP:  You are a publisher of other people’s poetry.  How does the publishing of their poetry affect your own work?

GN: Obviously the people that we have published are people that I have a great deal respect for, as human beings and as poets. Their work inspires me to stay true to what we set out to do as an independent press and that is to publish work that has its own clear vision and unique voice and is capable of translating both to the reader/listener. Being around quality poets and quality poetry, gives me the necessary nudge to constantly develop my own craft.

 

PP:  What are your own experiences with publishing your poetry?

GN: It was interesting publishing my fourth collection through the press in 2007. It wasn’t something that I had planned to do, but it has turned out really well. I sent the original manuscript away to Jacqueline Turner in Canada, for editing, so that David and myself didn’t have to get into any battles over decisions. Jacqueline did an amazing job, which made the whole process really easy. The launches and other readings were a huge success and it was great to be able to have a hands on approach to the whole project as well.

 

graham-nunn-reading-at-qpf-2005

 

PP:  Your biography is quite impressive, and also quite unusual for a writer.  Apart from appearing at numerous literary festivals, teaching, and publishing, you are also the Secretary of HaikuOz.  So, you obviously enjoy working with people and “taking your work out there”.  What is your view on performing poetry?  How much does an audience matter to you?

GN: The live setting for me is just as important as the writing process. I think to do your work justice, you need to pay equal attention to your skills as a performer. When you stand up in front of an audience, you owe it to yourself and to them to make sure you are well rehearsed. I cannot stand it when people shuffle paper, um and ah, shift around nervously and don’t know how to use a microphone. Poems need to perform on and off the page. I love performing and feel that getting up in front of an audience has helped keep my writing disciplined.

 

 
PP:  Do you feel you get a non-verbal response that’s quite strong when you’re reading to an audience?

GN: I love the interaction that takes place in a live setting. It never ceases to send a shiver up my spine. Even after hundreds of performances, standing behind a microphone with nothing more than your words is a rush. Looking into that sea of faces, having the opportunity to take this group of people on a journey. It is a really powerful thing. It is the most incredible feeling when you get that sense that you are all moving together.

 

 
PP:  Do you feel you are taking a risk by entering those different spaces?  Is it quite important for you to take risks as a writer?

GN: Putting your poetry out there in front of a live audience is always a risk. You cannot control how people will interact with your work. That is what makes it exciting, because in the end you can only control the quality of your performance and your writing. The audience to a large extent is out of your hands. For me, taking the risk and getting up in front of new audiences will always be extremely important. I love the gigs where you go and there are only 10 or 15 people there, and the room is big and you have to work really hard as much as the gigs where the room is full, the vibe is up and the audience are right there with you. It keeps everything fresh and in perspective.

 

PP:  Can you say something about your interest in haiku?

GN: Haiku was my doorway into poetry. In my mid-twenties I got turned on to Kerouac and read Desolation Angels. What stood out to me were the little poems that appeared often at the end of each piece of prose. They really lit the prose up, made everything immediate. I did my research and it wasn’t long until I had devoured Higginson’s Haiku Handbook, Basho’s, ‘On Love and Barley’ and the rest is really history. It is a form that I will never fall out of love with.

 

 
PP:  Following are some examples of your haiku taken from Famous Reporter 33.  Can you suggest the elements you consider go into the making of a “good” haiku?

clear river
the fisherman’s
un-netted reflection

breathless night
the cicadas
shut up

between the dunes
evening mist
piles up

GN: When you boil it down, it comes down to the ability of the poet to not only capture the essence of a moment, but to find the words that transcend the moment and give the haiku that feeling of eternity.

 

PP:  What is your involvement as Secretary of HaikuOz?

GN: I am really privileged to work as part of a dedicated, professional team. My role is to promote haiku related happenings to the community via the website and through the QLD Poetry Festival, I have had the opportunity to able to put on a series of workshops and haiku readings to continue the development of the local haiku community.

 

PP:  You have published a collection of your haiku, A Zen Firecracker.  Do you have another collection in the pipeline?

GN: In 2007 I was Poet-in-Residence at Brisbane’s Royal National Show (The Ekka). I wrote a series of 30 haiku, 10 of which were used as part of some public art projects in and around the Ekka Shwgrounds and the Museum of Brisbane. I am also currently working on a manuscript that will integrate haiku. Always new projects on the boil!

 

graham-nunn-lphr08

 

 
PP:  What led you to writing prose poetry as in the haibun that you so successfully write?

GN: I had a whole series of scribblings, bits and pieces of haiku like writing that wasn’t working just as haiku, so I decided to turn my hand to haibun and the results have been really satisfying. As soon as I started writing, the form brought out the best in the ideas that I had at the time. The end result, Measuring the Depth, was a really important step forward for me. I learned a lot about myself as a writer and felt that I gained a lot of discipline during the writing of that collection. 

 

PP:  Many examples of your haibun that I’ve read are quite short: perhaps one or two paragraphs followed by a haiku.  Could you summarise the reason for the brevity of your pieces?  Here is one example I particularly like which we published in Kokako 6:

 

In a Heartbeat

She slips off her stockings and throws them at my feet.  Pulls her hair back and sits in front of me on the bed.  Tells me it’s $200 straight or $250 for that little bit extra.   My eyes drift out the window.  The sun-bloodied sky is slicing through the hotel blinds, streaming through her hair.  She pours another whiskey and crawls over me.

a heartbeat later
leaving my longing
inside her

 

GN: Brevity is something that I have always admired in all forms of writing. I like the fact that what you leave out is just as important as what you leave in. I like bringing the reader to the poem and then giving them the bones. I don’t like to give too much away. It is important that the reader/audience has room to interact with the poem and move in and out of the images.

 

PP:  You recently published your partner Julie Beveridge’s collection of haibun Home is where the Heartache is (Small Change Press, 2007).  What is it like living in a household containing two writers, both of them working in the same genre?  Do you share ideas, edit each other’s poems or work together in any way?

GN: I love the sharing of ideas that happens in our house. I had the absolute pleasure of editing Julie’s collection. It was a brilliant experience and one that I would happily take on again. Editing someone elses work and having your work edited teaches you a lot about your own writing. I  think that this is something that is sadly lacking in the poetry community. Quality feedback is often hard to find!

 

PP:  Can you identify some poets who have inspired you?

GN: The poets who inspire me most are the people that I work closely with. Jacqueline Turner is a huge inspiration to me. Her work is such a rush. No matter how many times I read her work it is always fresh and exciting. Rob Morris and Matt Hetherington who I have had the pleasure of publishing through Small Change Press constantly remind me of why I love poetry. David Stavanger, co-founder of Small Change Press, is always reminding me of the importance of taking risks. Rowan Donovan, is always there to remind me of grace and humility and my partner Julie is so grounded, so honest. She keeps everything real and is never afraid to shoot straight.

 

PP:   Do you have any thoughts about how to anticipate the future of your work?

GN: I guess I anticipate that I will be doing this until I am no longer able to to do it for whatever reason. It’s like Bukowski said, ‘if you have been chosen, it will do it by itself and it will keep on doing it until you die, or it dies in you.’

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