Tag Archives: Poetry Readings at Riverbend Books

February Pin-Up Week #4: Ross Donlon Catches Poems

February has but a handful of days left, which means Summer is also all but gone… It is also time to say goodbye to our February Pin-Up Poet, Ross Donlon, but never fear, he will be hear in Brisbane before the month is out performing at Riverbend Books and SpeedPoets. And he is also running a workshop while he is in town, which is what we got to talking about this week.


I wanted to ask about the workshop you are running in Brisbane titled ‘Catching Poems’. What can participants expect to come away with at the end of the day?

Yes, I’ve begun to call my workshops ‘Catching Poems’ picking up on what someone said – I forget who, ‘The world is full of poems. They just need an edit.’  The class will be writing poems to begin and reading poems aloud in the last session.

I have a couple of mantras I put on the board and one is by Frank O’Hara : ‘Follow Your Nerve’.

So the aim is to have the class come away with a number of drafts from short bursts of intensive writing following some ideas and stimulus and models I supply. Ideally there will be ‘useful lines’ or ‘useful passages’, even a ‘useful phrase’, they they can then take home and build into a finished poem from the exercises.

It is not a class where poets will be pondering and mulling for an extended period of time and chatting with me. Others are put off or lose concentration with that muttering, I think. I do ‘go around the class’ and invite poets to read their ‘best bit’ be it a  phrase, or line, or sentence or pasage – more as the class develops and poets become more relaxed. So, if the class goes away with, say 6 ‘useful bits’ in 6 different kinds of poems to work – that’s what I’m after.

I was at the last launch of a major Australian literary journal. There were six readers, including me, but an observer present said that only three of us could be understood. The rest were too fast and  / or indistinct because they were too far from the mike. Diction is helped if the pace is right. So I think this is a useful skill to learn whether for reading poetry – or at your wedding!

So in the last session we will do microphone  technique and reading for an audience where each person reads a poem they have chosen (not their own)  using the mike. I will model what I do, then  it’s likely each poet will go through their poem a couple of times with me offering some advice.

In sum, I hope the class will take away: some useful drafts / some new poems and names to follow up / some ideas about reading technique.

I’m also happy to do a Q and A if there’s time about my experiences as regards publishing or reading or anything else about writing and reading poetry.

There are still places left in the workshop, so for those lucky enough to be able to attend, here are the details:

Catching Poems w/ Ross Donlon

Join award-winning Victorian poet Ross Donlon for an all-day session, giving poets ideas to catch and edit poems as well as tips and practice on how to read for public performance. This is a hands-on workshop using both formal and more open structures, so poets can expect to take away a number of drafts. There will be time for writing and sharing. The afternoon session will also include tips on mic use and public performance techniques with flexibility for other interests which may arise from the early session.

Ross is published in both newspapers and academic journals and has read at festivals both in Australia and England. He has won prizes both for the written and spoken word, including the Launceston Cup, premier spoken word event of the Tasmanian Poetry Festival and the Wenlock Festival Poetry Prize (U.K.) judged by Carol Ann Duffy, English Poet Laureate. His latest book, The Blue Dressing Gown and other poems, is published by Profile Poetry.

When: Sunday 4th March 2012
Time: 10am – 3pm
Where: Room 1.A, State Library of Queensland
Cost: $65

Please contact sarah.qldpoetry@gmail.com for further information or to enrol in the workshop.


At Haberfield Demonstration School

I was with the boys in our group
at the meeting place, a peppercorn tree,
eating lunch inside the shadow.
The peppercorns’ bright, spicy scent
remains in memory
the way it stays on fingers with the stain.

Soon I would be ready for the Big School.
Boys were separated from the girls’
asphalt playground of rectangles, circles and squares.
Boys played wars up
and down a sloping paddock beyond the classrooms.
We heard the cries a continent away.

Suddenly the talk came to fathers and what they did.
As turns edged around the circle like a clock
I discovered that I could not speak.
What was it that could I not say?

The bell saved me as I was falling.
A huge part of who I thought I was
had avalanched, as if a shelf dropped
from a mountain.

I was an obedient child
but I ran home from school then to Nan,
my family skittled by a missing pin.

We sat on her bed and looked at photographs
and a face the size of a fingernail.
Bill. From the war.
She fanned out pictures like playing cards.

It was a summer’s day.
The bedroom’s lace curtains glowed in the heat.
Wind blew sweet scent from Peek Frean’s biscuit factory.
The bitumen noise of cars rushed down our street.


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February Pin-Up Week #3: Ross Donlon on the art of reading

February is racing along and the Brisbane Poetry Scene is set to explode with a number of gigs over the coming weeks. One of the featured readers at said gigs is our February Pin-Up Poet, Ross Donlon, so this week, I asked Ross about the art of reading.


On your first visit to the Tasmanian Poetry Festival, you took out the coveted Tasmanian Poetry Cup which is awarded to the poet who receives the loudest audience response. I have had the pleasure of seeing you read on a handful of occasions and you always seem to be incredibly ‘present’ in your work. What is it you love about being in front of an audience and what kind of experience do you hope to create for them?

I was thrilled to win the Launceston Cup, only the second mainliner (if you’ll pardon the joke) to do so at that time – Lauren Williams, a poet I greatly admire, was the other. I enjoy the reading experience, especially, of course, if you get a sense of connection with an audience. I have read to nobody at all – and did read (seriously – in Shepparton), with 5  other poets reading to an audience of 2 (Ceduna) – as well as larger crowds. Once I sold 6 books to an audience of 4, so I was very pleased about that. I’ve come a long way from the man aged 25 who couldn’t speak at his own wedding for shyness. Of course, sometimes the chemistry is all there on both sides, sometimes not quite. Festival crowds are generous I’ve found. Sometimes the small inner sanctum type audience is harder to reach.

I came to teaching eventually, which was the key for me – facing classes of Year 9s makes you find things in yourself – I found that part of my thing was to sometimes ‘play’ with the audience/class in that show teachers do – and I did some lectures for Yr 12 texts, taught professional writing at Deakin and Melbourne unis, so all of that helped.

Frankly, I do like to entertain at a reading, meaning I do like to throw a lighter or humorous (we hope) poem into the mix. It seems to me that a more thoughtful or discursive poem has a chance of being heard more if you’ve just made people laugh – and I’m on about the total experience of being human, so some light in the dark – and I like to display range of form and content. I’m an emotional poet but interested in social commentary (Geoff Page described me in a review as ‘Swiftian’ – I loved that).

I am not an intellectual poet but I want to be understood without sacrificing craft.

I like to give an audience a good time but push them emotionally or share an experience in a new or fresh way, if that makes any sense.


Ross will feature at both SpeedPoets and the first Riverbend Books Reading for 2012. Here are the details for Riverbend, and believe me, this is an event that regularly sells out, so make sure you book your ticket soon!

Queensland Poetry Festival, QLD Writers Centre & Riverbend Books are proud to present the first event in the Riverbend Poetry Series for 2012. The February event features local poetic powerhouse, Samuel Wagan Watson and winner of the 2011 Val Vallis Award, Rachael Briggs alongside vibrant Central QLD poet, Kristin Hannaford and recent winner of the Wenlock Festival Poetry Prize (UK), Ross Donlon (VIC).

The Riverbend Poetry Series is one of the state’s finest, so be there to get the 2012 readings off to a flying start!

Date: Tuesday February 28
Location: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St. Bulimba
Time: Doors open for the event at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Tickets: $10
Bookings: Online or call the store on (o7) 3899 8555


And since it was Valentine’s Day this week, I will leave you with one of Ross’s love poems. The simmering, with her.

with her

and at last she comes to bed
the blue nightie
caught below her knees
and as she bends –  like a girl picking flowers –
her breast moves with the movement down
her hair falls to one side

there’s a scent of rose and jasmine
and her nightcream glows
as she switches off the light
and climbs towards me
while I wait in my singlet and skin
with a useless book and glasses

nearly sixty
yet we slide beneath the sheet
like children slipping beneath the first wave of summer
and it’s she who turns  first
to fold her hair before it’s caught
as I turn to hold her
my palm floating across her back
pausing then stroking again – like soothing  something young and wild
shifting her thigh across mine
kissing her lips like a kiss before sleep
when it’s really hello how are you tonight?
as she sighs and says
this is nice
and our bodies move together
like an answer


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QLD Program Launch Feature #3 – Janaka Malwatta

Word on the street is, tomorrow night’s QPF Program Launch at Riverbend Books is a sell out… that’s right, 100 tickets already in the hands of 100 lucky people. And I stress the word lucky here as the line up is nothing short of scintillating! Sheish Money & Jane Sheehy will add their distinct rock’n’roll flair to the night; Betsy Turcot & Eleanor Jackson will set your heart and mind racing with the rhythm of their words; Michelle Dicinoski will send sparks flying with the launch of her debut collection, Electricity for Beginners; and Janaka Malwatta will make his feature debut, reading from his debut collection, Kavi.

Janaka was born in the Sri Lankan hill capital of Kandy. He came to Brisbane via London, where he spent much of his life. He caught the poetry bug as a medical student in London, and first performed poetry in London at the Stoke Newington International Airport in 2009.  Janaka performs regularly at Speed Poets here in Brisbane and has published a collection of poems entitled Kavi. The poems in the collection are based principally in Sri Lanka. He moonlights as a GP in Brisbane when not performing poetry.

Here’s a recent poem:

Galle Face Green

Galle Face Green is green again,
as green as the day it was first made,
raised on a terrace at the ocean’s edge.
Stone benches so close to breaking waves,
you inhale ocean spray with every breath.
Pampered like a favoured child,
the lawn gleamed in the sun. A quarter mile
of displaced longing, a European promenade
built under Asian skies.

Galle Face Green is green again.
For twenty years closed off, there but out of reach,
a reminder of times before the city was besieged
by bombers in lorries and suicide vests,
and checkpoints stretched down Galle Road
like yellow dominoes, waiting to fall.
Soldiers in flak-jackets replaced promenaders,
barricades against the threat from the sea.
Untended, Galle Face became barren and brown,
green only in name and in memory.
The terrorists never came this way.
The fences have gone now.
Galle Face Green is green again.

The food stalls are back, but they’ve been corralled,
caged like animals in a purpose-built shack.
Twenty years ago, they roamed free on the grass.
We stood in the open, warm rotis grasped
in hungry hands. Children ran as families gathered at dusk,
to let sea air dispel the day’s city dust.
The in-crowd dropped in, on their way out
Blue Elephant dances, then on to Puloas
the food stalls at Galle Face drew everyone out.

The kites have returned, flapping, fluttering, flashes of colour,
competing with seabirds
in seabreeze dances;
it’s a game they always lose.
Pelicans are perched on top of lamp-posts,
surveying with equal disdain
passing tuk-tuks and the fathers of the nation,
preserved in bronze near Parliament steps,
ties and collars unfamiliar restraints
on over ambitious Asian necks.

Galle Face Green is green again.
Courting couples hide from prying eyes
and the fierce sun under giant umbrellas,
or climb down the steps the tsunami assailed.
The risque couples paddle fully-clothed
ankles and shins cautiously exposed
laughing waves chase them back up the beach.
Children splash in warm ocean waters, kites flutter overhead
tourists snap pelicans on lamp-posts perches
and Galle Face Green is green again.


If you want to try and barter your way in tomorrow night, the details are below. Hope to see you there tomorrow night!

Date: Wednesday 22 June
Location: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St. Bulimba
Time: Doors open for the event at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Tickets: $10 available through Riverbend Books and include sushi and complimentary wine. To purchase tickets, call Riverbend Books on (07) 3899 8555 or book online at http://www.riverbendbooks.com.au/Events/2508/Riverbend+Poetry+Series

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Book Launch: Electricity for Beginners by Michelle Dicinoski

As part of Wednesday night’s QLD Poetry Festival Program Launch at Riverbend Books, Michelle Dicinoski’s debut collection, Electricity for Beginners will be launched by Bronwyn Lea.

Book launches are an incredibly special thing and none more so than your very first one. Let’s face it, books are a wonderfully slow process, so when they are finally ready to be sent out into the world, a celebration is called for.

Michelle writes poetry and creative non-fiction. Her first poetry collectionis titled, Electricity for Beginners,  published by Clouds of Magellan. She is also currently working on a memoir, Ghost Wife, that tells her own and other women’s stories about same-sex marriage, hidden histories, and belonging. She recently received an Australia Council grant for a new project about forgetting and obsolescence in the digital age.  

Here’s a recent poem that was first published in Cultural Studies Review.

Friday night another faux-Irish pub
another convocation of the hopeful, the hopeless,
and the undecided.
We watch the covers band struggle with feedback
as the TVs show a soundless montage
of great mishaps in motorsport.
We talk shit like it matters.
Strident debate over Best Celebrity Names:
we argue Netanyahu vs Megawati,
Telly Savalas vs Lee Lin Chin.
Trivia savants, we trade facts like marbles:
an upturned Frisbee holds a litre of beer.
Napoleon and Caesar were born with teeth.
Elite archers shoot between heartbeats.
At this, we quiet,
try to imagine small acts of precision
till the band plays ‘Come on Eileen’
and we form a rowdy chorus
of toora loo rye, toora loo rye ayes.


Other feature performers on the night include, Betsy Turcot & Eleanor Jackson, Janaka Malwatta and poetic riff-maker, Sheish Money. This Lost Shark will also read a selection of work from Jacob Polley, the 2011 Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence as part of the program launch. It is going to be a big night, so make sure you are there to celebrate the launch of Electricity for Beginners and to get a taste of  what’s to come in August when QLD Poetry Festival takes centre stage at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. 

Date: Wednesday 22 June
Location: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St. Bulimba
Time: Doors open for the event at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Tickets: $10 available through Riverbend Books and include sushi and complimentary wine. To purchase tickets, call Riverbend Books on (07) 3899 8555 or book online at http://www.riverbendbooks.com.au/Events/2508/Riverbend+Poetry+Series


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QPF Program Launch Feature #2: Sheish Money

We are edging closer to the program launch of QLD Poetry Festival 2011 on Wednesday June 22 and with the local line-up of Betsy Turcot & Eleanor Jackson, Janaka Malwatta, Michelle Dicinoski, this Lost Shark reading a set of 2011 Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence, Jacob Polley’s work and Sheish Money, the creative sparks will be flying.

It is always a great pleasure for me to kick back and watch Sheish Money in full swing as often, I am standing beside him, dropping my words into his rolling wave of riffs. Sheish is the engine room of SpeedPoets and a QLD Poetry Festival regular, popping up beside the likes of Tracey Morris for impromptu sets, as well as delivering his own bluesy-poetics. His first book, Another Rock Pig, was released in 2007, along with the DVD, Reception, which was shortlisted in the 2007 QLD Poetry Filmmakers Challenge. And in 2010, he released his debut CD, Would Should Could with his band, Namedropper.

Here’s a live shot from the album, recorded at the now sadly defunct, InSpire Gallery Bar as part of Sheish’s monthly gig, Float:

Tickets for the event are now on sale and regularly sell out, so don’t be one of the people standing on the road craning your neck… buy your ticket and take the ride.

Date: Wednesday 22 June
Location: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St. Bulimba
Time: Doors open for the event at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Tickets: $10 available through Riverbend Books and include sushi and complimentary wine. To purchase tickets, call Riverbend Books on (07) 3899 8555 or book online at http://www.riverbendbooks.com.au/Events/2508/Riverbend+Poetry+Series

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QLD Poetry Festival Program Launch: Wednesday June 22 featuring Betsy Turcot

It’s almost time to unveil the program for QLD Poetry Festival 2011! So to make the program launch a night to remember, Queensland Poetry Festival, QLD Writers Centre & Riverbend Books are joining forces one last time this year to launch the 2011 program as part of the 2011 Riverbend Poetry Series with readings by a handful of local performers who will be stepping on to the QPF stage during the last weekend in August (26 – 28). 

Feature performers on the night include, dynamic duo, Betsy Turcot & Eleanor Jackson; Michelle Dicinoski, who will read from her debut collection, ‘Electricty for Beginners’; the rhythmically elegant, Janaka Malwatta and poetic riff-maker, Sheish MoneyGraham Nunn will also read a selection of work from Jacob Polley, the 2011 Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence as part of the program launch. It is going to be a big night, so make sure you are there to get a taste of what’s to come in August and help the 2011 Riverbend Poetry Series finish with a bang!
Date: Wednesday 22 June
Location: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St. Bulimba
Time: Doors open for the event at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Tickets: $10 available through Riverbend Books and include sushi and complimentary wine. To purchase tickets, call Riverbend Books on (07) 3899 8555 or book online at http://www.riverbendbooks.com.au/Events/2508/Riverbend+Poetry+Series 

Here’s a sneak preview at two of our feature artists, Betsy Turcot & Eleanor Jackson, who will be performing as a duo on the night.

Betsy Turcot hails originally from the United States and since relocating to Brisbane, she has contributed her words, her heart and her passion to the city’s vibrant spoken word scene. Host of the popular, bi-monthly “Words or Whatever”, Betsy featured at the 2010 Queensland Poetry Festival as a member of The Broken Records Collective show “Just Like Me”. With her fresh delivery style, Betsy was a finalist in the Nimbin Performance Poetry Cup. With a BA in English literature, she brings a considered measure to the slam performance genre and is committed to teaching diversity through performance poetry.

Long-term lovers

I am speaking the language long-term lovers do.
I am renting the space between tangled limbs.
The unspoken space where heat lives.
I am crafting my love in a french press,
brought to your slumbering head.
Waking your senses,
defenseless as you rest.
How I cherish this weakness.

Have you seen mine?

Another failed attempt screams red between my thighs.
As all the bellies grow around me,
I watch another chance die.
I need your hands to release the pain I hide.

Is this what love is about?
No more infatuation,
no more heat of the moment,
but the space on your back where I lay my head.
Your heart pounding the beat I have read more times than I can count.
Your hands so soft in my calloused palm.
The script of our history already tea-stained long.

© Betsy Turcot


Eleanor Jackson has recently relocated to Brisbane from Melbourne, where she was a regular feature at Melbourne’s numerous poetry venues. Two-time winner of the Midsumma Poetry Out Loud slam, Eleanor has featured at the Overload Poetry and Melbourne Writers Festivals and was the producer of the Melbourne Poetry Map, a series of audio poetry walks supported by the City of Melbourne. Her audio poems have been published in Going Down Swinging and the Cordite Poetry Review, while recordings of her work have been featured on RRR’s “Aural Text”, 3CR’s “Spoken Word”, ABC Radio National’s “Night Air” and the online poetry channel, “IndieFeed: Performance Poetry”. Her poignant, conversational style of poetry is capable of creating powerful quiet.


She stole my every rock and roll, my hymns,
In that she took the ipod when she left,
So I untied my ropes – let sirens sing.

So empty now of jazz or evening swing
I let the house hum silent and bereft –
She stole my every rock and roll, my hymns.

Eventually the winter tuned to spring
I forgot the violation of the theft
So I untied my ropes – let sirens sing

And stalked that record store, “the king of spin”
A shopgirl so deluxe that I forget
She stole my every rock and roll, my hymns

Each week another momentary fling
Transactional, yet sending me to sweat,
So I untied my ropes – let sirens sing

Dancing like a boxer in the ring
I swung out wildly for the hot brunette
She stole my every rock and roll, my hymns
So I untied my ropes, let sirens sing.

© Eleanor Jackson

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A Million Bright Things – feat. Jane Williams

The brand spanking, A Million Bright Things CD is literally bursting with stars… and here is another one of them, Tasmanian based poet, Jane Williams.

Jane Williams was born in England 1964. Her first poetry collection ‘Outside Temple Boundaries’ (Five Islands Press 1998) received the Anne Elder Award. In 2006 her second book ‘The Last Tourist’ (Five Islands Press) was published and she was awarded the D.J. O’Hearn Memorial Fellowship. Her most recent poetry collection is ‘Begging the Question’ (Ginninderra Press 2008). Her short story collection ‘Other Lives’ was published by Ginninderra Press in 2007. She lives in Tasmania. For more information visit: www.janewilliams.wordpress.com

Jane’s poem Attention to Detail is featured on A Million Bright Things.


Attention to Detail

you ask me if I am a lover of books and I say yes you ask me back
to your place to look at your collection and I’m hoping
this is a ploy but once inside I see by lover you mean keeper
the walls are lined with shiny spines in alphabetical order
of subject and author you stand at attention before them
and I don’t know if I’m supposed to salute or genuflect
I don’t do either I just concentrate on moving my eyes
back and forth as if this is a tennis match as if I am a tennis fan
suddenly you say go on then they won’t bite that’s what I’m afraid
of I think reaching with the tips of my fingers only sliding a slim
volume of poetry from its holding you tell me it’s the one
you must have read a hundred times but as I fan its pages
I smell only ink where I would hope to smell blood sweat and
tears the pages are crisp unmarked and clean as false identification
papers the book does not automatically fall open
at a well thumbed well loved favourite all poems here are equal
in perpetuity I think of my own collection mostly second hand
dog eared and as I’m an early morning reader occasionally faintly
vegemite smeared I think of my favourites held together
by a different kind of attention to detail I think of that time
I read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World how it lived
bruised and battered at the bottom of my school bag for months
reminding me what it was to choose to be human I imagine
for the first time us making love but I can’t get past this vision
of you reaching for the surgical gloves this vision of me
still waiting when it’s all over aching cold on a cold slab
I’m sure you know all the right moves but I don’t I’m still learning


A Million Bright Things will be launched 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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