Tag Archives: QLD Poetry Festival 2011

Looking Back at QPF 2011

One week on and I still have that QPF buzz… There have been pics and videos of the festival popping up like field mushrooms, so if like me, you are wanting to keep the festival buzz well fed, here’s a few morsels for to savour:

Sheish Money & I performing at the closing night show, Onwards to Infinity

Festival photographer extraordinairre, Elleni Toumpas has quite a few pics up on her site. Well worth the visit!

This video poem, I Statements, a collaboration between Melbourne lads, Alex Scott & Randall $tephens, took out the 2011 QPF Filmmakers Challenge.

Ashley Capes recently posted this clip of his final reading at QPF, a selection of haiku from his delightful, Orion Tips The Saucepan.

And Fiona Bell’s round up on Dada Doesn’t Catch Flies has some great pics and links to explore.

If anyone else out there has posted pics, reviews or video footage, I would love to see/read/listen to them.

Off now to keep the poetry buzz going at SpeedPoets’ Annual Open Mic Championships!

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Onwards to Infinity: QPF 2011 Wrap Up

Day #2 of QPF 2011 was just as thrilling as Day #1. I, like so many others, lined up for the more than seven hours of poetry on offer yesterday, kicking the day off at the Open Mic session, Residue of Midnight. While there were a few ‘word-weary’ heads early in the morning, they lit up as the poetry started to flow.

The Open Mic, was incredibly diverse. There were readings of traditional ballads, poems of protest, poems of peace & poems sampling music lyrics. It was quick fire, with everyone clocking in under the 2minute mark… 22 poets in the first hour!

I then caught readings by Max Ryan, Andy White, Michelle Dicinoski at the session, Midday Arrives and Drinks. Max’s set took us on a journey with a bus full of Beatles fans; took us through the vibrant streets of India; and through the darkness of a rainswayed night. Max is a captivating performer, with that incredible ability to draw you in to his world. And speaking of captivating, Andy White just seems to radiate positive energy on (and off) stage. His reading from Stolen Moments at this session was stunning, giving the audience a taste of the many musical poems in the collection and his version of Samuel Beckett to open the show was as good as I have ever heard it! To close the session, Michelle Dicinoski delivered another powerhouse reading from her debut collection, Electricity for Beginners, a book that must rate as one of the Australian releases of the year.

Next up I went along to The Zen Method of Bingo. Matt Hetherington, opened proceedings and from the first poem, held the audience transfixed. His senryu sequence, detailing the breakdown of his marriage was up there with the best things I heard over the weekend. And when he entered into a call and response with an 8month old in the audience, the room was in stitches. It was, to say the least, a masterful reading. The lovely Julie Beveridge was up next, reading from new work written during our recent time in Vancouver. Her poems bristled with images of departure lounges, fireworks, seals, snakes and morning sickness. I hope to twist her arm to publish one or two of the poems here in the near future. Chris Lynch rounded out the trio in this session. Chris also read from new work, blending haiku and tanka with his longer, lyrical works.

And then there was A Crash of Chords. Ashley Capes opened the session dipping into work from his three collections; his poem farm, and the line ‘in the horses mouth, even straw sleeps’ never failing to stop my breath. Then something quite amazing happened… Sheish Money, Jane Sheehy, Anthony Beveridge and winner of the 2011 Thomas Shapcott Award, Nick Powell hit the stage and tore it up. This was the debut of their show, Shift and it was sizzling. Nick Powell had all the moves (and then some) of a young Jagger; while the band, lead by Sheish’s growling vocals and guitar, lay down a rock solid foundation for him to spit out his words. It was passionate, it was fiery and it was damn fine fun to watch! Let’s hope it’s not a one off show.

The final session in the Shopfront Space was aptly titled Among the Last Bright Leaves. The sun was setting in the window, giving the room a beautiful ambience. It was wonderful to hear Aidan Coleman again. This afternoon, he read predominantly from his series, Stroke Poems, forthcoming in his collection, Asymmetry. The intimacy and quiet dignity of these poems resonated with everyone in the room. Asymmetry is definitely a book that I am looking forward to being able to spend time with. It was also a pleasure to hear Ron Pretty. His final two poems, which he tells us were written with a glass of wine in hand on his balcony, were sublime; rich with musicality and perfectly delivered. And finally, Nicola Scholes took centre stage, opening with a long, experimental prose poem, that was a textual rush.

Then it was Onwards to Infinity, the final session, of the 15th annual, QLD Poetry Festival. Like Saturday night’s, A Million Bright Things, the mood was upbeat and the poets kept things shimmering from start to finish. Highlights included an impromptu collaboration between Sandra Thibodeaux and Kevin Gillam on cello, another helping of Sawako’s cacophonous, bilingual ‘ant poems’; and Andy White’s rollicking version of Looking for James Joyce’s Grave. It was also a blast to hear each of the QPF Committee Members perform. I had the immense pleasure of asking Sheish up on stage to play the grand piano as we performed our collaborative piece, Let It Rain / Meditations on a day when the river… it was a rush! Then the crowd lifted the roof as Festival Director, Sarah Gory took the stage to close the festival. This was Sarah’s first year with QPF and I personally hope that it the start of a long relationship.

And so the festival was over, leaving us all with the hum of poetry in our bones, and a bounty of memories to live with until next year. I hope that all of the poets heading for home today travelled safe… we miss you already!

 

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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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Stealing the Moment: Talking with Andy White (part iv)

No more waiting… QLD Poetry Festival is here, live tonight (and continuing across the weekend) at The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. That means Andy White is walking down a Brisbane street somewhere, listening to its music. It also means that this weekend is your first chance to get your hands on a copy of Stolen Moments. Good times indeed!

Here’s the fourth instalment of our interview:

So far you have touched on influences such as Brian Patten, John Cooper Clarke, Leonard Cohen, Dylan and The Beats and how they played a pivotal role in turning you on to poetry as an art form. Could you talk a little bit about who you are reading/listening to now? 

It’s difficult to get the time, juggling things all the time. When you’re on the road you get given a lot of CDs, which I usually listen to all at once, and keep the ones I like. This is the main source of new and unheard music for me when I’m not in Australia (when I am, it’s a mix of 24-hour Muse and Triple J, courtesy of The Teenager).

Producing records or pre-producing with songwriters and sorting out their songs, a lot of decisions have to be made about music and words. I find inspiration in people starting off writing or recording. Not usually the material, but the vibe. So to relax, have time off, I find myself going back to the classics and digging deeper into music I discovered when I was younger, finding things I couldn’t have known were there.  Also listening to music I know nothing about and have only an instinctive reaction to – where I can’t analyse the structure and can’t understand most of the lyrics. Jazz. I like Italian singer songwiriters – Fabrizio di Andre, Vinicio Capossela. Usually though, what I am listening to is related in some way to what I am digging in a more general sense.

Jazz is a great example of this. I was in Los Angeles and stopped by a junk shop which had obviously inherited the vinyl record collection of an older guy. He lived in West Hollywood and his albums were in pristine condition. I bought a George Shearing live record from the 50s – so I can hear what Kerouac writes about so beautifully. Also a fantastic-looking New Christy Minstrels album which anyone who’s watched ‘The Mighty Wind’ (the folk ‘Spinal Tap’ – same cast just as great) would appreciate. The Minstrels on the cover look exactly like the New Main Street Singers and I swear there are 15 people sitting on high chairs all playing acoustic guitars and smiling. How could I resist? I also bought a Television album I’d lost track of in red vinyl and an LP of inauguration speeches of US presidents from Roosevelt up to and including Richard Nixon. Nice.

For what I’m listening to in general, here’s what I listened to on the plane journey home from Canada slash LA a couple of weeks ago. Just after I’d visited that store and the evening of the afternoon I wrote this blog http://www.21stcenturytroubadour.blogspot.com/

Installed in United’s economy cabin with its 1970s feel – terrible food, annoyed stewards and an entertainment system designed by John Logie Baird – there’s nothing for it but to settle upright (‘back’ is not an option) and listen to whatever music is on the Pod, read whatever’s in The Bag.

I crank up the hand-me-down iPod I have been given by The Teenager. Since I don’t live by the Pod (I don’t like the ear-things too much and I like hearing the sound of the streets when I am outside) there’s not  too much choice. But at least all of it’s good.

Doctor – the screens. I feel another list coming on.

1. Blood On The Tracks.

Straight to this one. The depth in the narratives and the quality of each line is stunning. Age brings out the depth, for sure, and I’ve learnt that the songs reveal themselves gradually.

2. Andrea’s rough mixes

I am producing an Oslo singer-songwriter, piano-player who’s simply super-talented. Plays the piano and autoharp. She’s got an incredible voice, writes lyrics in Scandinavian style – getting to the heart of the matter with both a quirky touch and without a lot of the baggage songwriters carry around.

3. Tom Waits’ new song

‘Bad As Me’ New song by old favourite. Great lists in this song. Waits is probably the most talented of the old masters (well, he has been permanently ancient for years) whose current output is  as good as it’s always been. Lloyd Cole is like that too –  it’s just that if an album hits you in a particular way at a particular time (like ‘Rattlesnakes’ did for me) it’s impossible for the fan (not the artist) to get back to that place again. Nothing to do with the songs.

4. Twilight Hotel album

Brandy from TH sang with me at Edmonton Folk Festival. This album’s got atmosphere and cool old guitars everywhere. Drums rule the mix – as with a lot of my current favourite albums – Robert Plant, Ray La Montagne.

5. Muse

Hold on. The Teenager must have borrowed the iPod before I left and filled it with the entire Muse catalogue including studio albums, out-takes, live concerts and video footage. I see why they’re huge and (sort of) love them but … five minutes and I’m done. Better take a turn reading …

6. Elvis biography.

‘Careless Love’. I loved visiting Sun Studios in Memphis a few years ago, and Graceland too (see ’21st Century Troubadour’ for a chapter on this visit) but only had my childhood memories of Elvis to guide me. I remember he died the summer punk took off in Belfast and we were busy ripping up t shirts and borrowing safety pins off our mums – and practising in a basement listening to the first Clash album – to really care.

Since going to America and a friend lending me the two volume Elvis-biography-to-end-all-biographies (there will never/should never be another) I have spent hours with this book and its predecesssor ‘Last Train To Memphis’ (more exciting – generally the rise more interesting to me than the fall and especially so with Elvis).

7. James Ellroy

I’m on Part 3 of the trilogy. ‘Blood’s A Rover’. It’s been years now since I read a book by an Englishman. God how I miss proper sentence structure and educated wit. I can’t wait to get back to the latest Martin Amis.

Hang on a moment … (Shurely shome mishtake – Ed)

Here comes Melbourne.

I also wanted to ask what is the heart of invention for you as a singer-songwriter-poet?

William Blake said it all – “Innocence and experience.”

Thanks Graham it’s been a pleasure. See you in Brisbane.

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QPF Filmmakers Challenge + Review of Synaptic Graffiti Collective’s, Memory DVD

Kicking off tomorrow night, QLD Poetry Festival 2011 takes centre stage at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts for three days of the best live poetry you could hope to experience. A festival highlight will be the announcement of the QPF Filmmakers Award on Sunday as part of the session, That Profound Machine (5:00pm, Theatre Space). Last year’s winner was Sara Moss, who is a founding member of the Synaptic Graffiti Collective. Earlier this year, SGC released their second work, a collection of video poems titled Memory.

The delightful Mark William Jackson has spent some time curled up in front of it and has emerged with this to say…

Synaptic Graffiti Collective’s Memory: Video Poetry, A Review

One of my favourite exclamations is “poetry is dead”. It’s not new, it’s been said for over two thousand years, Plato denounced the form around 400 BCE as being evil and encouraging vice in children. Aristotle delineated poetry from rhetoric, and, due to rhetoric’s direct relevance to law and politics, poetry was overshadowed. With each generation it is proclaimed that poetry died with the previous generation.

However, poetry refuses to die; it morphs and moulds into new shapes, takes on the characteristics of current trends, disguises itself like an addiction, and, like the addicted, people refuse to acknowledge its existence until they realise they need help.

Epic narrative poems told tales of war and conquest, which now rate as some of the highest grossing movies. Lyric poetry hid itself in music, anything from ‘Greensleeves’ and Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ through Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan to Grandmaster Flash’s ‘The Message’. But, where am I going with this?

Multimedia. Poetry can sit alone on a page; it can be spoken on a silent backing; pianos, drum machines, kazoos can come behind to add emphasis; and you can throw it all onto a video screen.

Memory is a DVD Anthology produced by Synaptic Graffiti Collective, who are poet Sara Moss and Digital Artist / Musician SCART. SCG provided the canvases and poets Sara, Jayne Fenton Keyne, Stefanie Petrik, Sharmy Pandy, Deb Matthews-Zott, Komninos Zervos, Alana Hicks, Magdalena Ball & Halil I. Karatas covered them in floating images and shook them with powerful words.

The collection offers a variety of sounds and styles of poetry, music and visual stimuli. The common thread being ‘memory’, we are taken through the minds of the poets, their images, what formed and what still haunts them.

The collection opens with ‘Returning’ by Sara Moss & SCART, an almost classical piece, free verse yet balanced. We are asked to question what we have lost, where we have gone after we have given up the hope of returning, what is the cost of a dream? Heart wrenching images accompany the poem, mournful violin lets you know you’re in for a deep ride.

Jayne Fenton Keane’s ‘Blood Sonnet’ takes you through a Matrix stylised, technophilic dream that bruises your retinas with rapid eye movement responses, and teaches you that “hope is the colour of daydreams”.

Sharmy Pandy questions her home in ‘My Home’, is it the memory of childhood, the unknown desires, empty rooms, memories as real as dreams. The images of a young girl playing with her ‘father’ on a lounge, until a grown woman collapses on the same lounge,  but empty. The poet admonishes “don’t ask me about home, I’ve never had one”, unless you’re asking about walls, houses. But no, home is the poet’s father, home was lost February 23, 1990.

Kominos Zervos’ first of two appearances at track 7 is ‘Childhood in Richmond’, which takes us back to the memory of a father, a newly arrived immigrant to Australia who works in a fish and chip shop in Richmond, Victoria. Intermittent rhyme adds to the flow of the poem which has a music without musical background. The toughness of growing up in 1950’s Australia beats along like an elevated heart rate.

‘Sorrow Follows Terror’ is hip and hop, but not clichéd hip hop. This piece is one of the absolute standouts of the collection for me. A short piece at just on one minute that speaks of ghetto imagery, “the sky will never know what you know… the past is dead… sorrow follows terror always into never.”

Deb Matthews-Zott features twice on the DVD. Her second piece ‘Backwards’ is quick flashes of memory, images from across Australia support the memories, soft piano takes you backwards by the hand and Deb’s words gently guide you into memories so generic they are personal to all.

Tracks 12 and 14 are more Sara Moss / SCART poems, though both very different from their initial offering of ‘Returning’. ‘Always Be Running’ screams a protest at the end of the Howard years, the Pacific ‘Solution’, the stitched mouths of refugees, the invasion of Iraq – “this history will not be revised because this is how I remember”, angry driven guitar by SCART supports the protest.

“The Unfolding Night” closes the DVD, but, with its heavy techno beat, opens your eyes, “she burns poetry to the skin of all she touches, she is Stanza, she is fire, follow her as she tattoos the unfolding night.” Speed motion trip images of the urban night leave you both exhausted and ready to rage.

But it is track 13, ‘To Live’ by Halil I. Karatas, with Sara Moss & SCART, that offers the most vivid, wicked memory. Halil recalls his childhood in Turkey, he tells of the disappearance of his father because the father supported unionism, tells of the torture Halil suffered because he spoke out against the military government, tells of his years in jail only to be let out into a mandatory two year military service. Once out of Turkey Halil made it to Australia only to be separated from his family for another two years during his ‘processing’. This video should be compulsory viewing for anyone with a vote.

The only thing I think would add to the experience of the DVD is to be able to hold a copy of the poems, to be able to look back and have the words echo in a reader’s head. I understand that without the support of a grant of some sort, and because the cost of the DVD is at near cost level, that a booklet could not be provided with the DVD, but maybe a downloadable PDF on the Synaptic website?

And now I’ll return to my original point; let them say poetry is dead, because thanks to projects like ‘Memory’ it has morphed again, rebirthed and exciting, it has never been more alive – these are the contemporary equivalent of the Beat Generation’s mimeographed zines.

Memory is available from http://www.scart69.net/synapticgraffiti/Pages/memorydvd.html


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Stealing the Moment: Talking with Andy White (part iii)

Here’s the third instalment of my interview with Andy White. Not long now until, Andy launches Stolen Moments at the 2011 QLD Poetry Festival this weekend at the session, All Is Roar And Crash (4:00pm, Theatre Space, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts).

There are a number of poems in Stolen Moments, such as avenue B and 1925 that show the hardships of life on the road. How difficult is it to remain creative and connected when the exhaustion of touring kicks in?

This is one for my book ’21st Century Troubadour’ (published in Ireland I hope to bring it to Australia next year) which almost has the creative spirit of exhaustion as its guiding principle. The book is centred round an Irish singer-songwriter who travels the world carrying an acoustic guitar and accompanied by a bag so heavy it’s “currently showing up on Google Earth as a small island.”

It’s such a major theme that it spills over into the poems. However, poems are not perhaps the place for the kind of Dickensian hyperbole which most of these adventures require. They’re more for the moments in which the world caves in and you feel you’re being taken down in the process of this collapse. It’s a tangible feeling and one which most travelling musicians experience.

The fact is that creativity is more likely to come out of a scenario in which every nerve in your body is shredded from the schedule, the promoter is a crazed transvestite ruling his own kingdom with the help of a rod of iron and a smoke machine, the sound system is swimming in beer, the check-in girls at easyjet don’t want to let you off paying excess baggage and everyone in one particular LA shoe shop thinks you’re a member of U2 when all you’re trying to do is catch the bus to the next gig.

(Although I must say in passing that U2’s beshaded lead singer referred to me as “a legend” in an interview in New York last month. I wonder if he’ll ever read “o god let me die after bono”).

All of this is the real life glamour of the road. It’s tough, but it sure is sexy. It’s a big part of what I love about what I do, and it’s what people are interested in asking about. Something underneath the skin is what excites people. Everyone knows that the celebrity tittle and tattle is just that – concocted by a paid PR person in an office somewhere. I’d rather be on a Greyhound than in the First Class lounge. Though I wouldn’t mind stealing their sandwiches.

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avenue B

hauling gear
past second-hand stores
and dusty cafés

I saw the man
I once was
smoking outside
a coffee shop
leaning back in a straw chair
inhaling

he glanced at me
just for a second
our eyes met
and I looked away

straining and sweating
concentrating on
keeping the wheels of

the bag
the case
my guitar
a ukulele

from falling off the kerb

eyes down
the only way
forward

nobody’s getting off this planet alive
declares the woman in front of me
to anyone who’ll listen

I’m listening

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Stealing the Moment: Talking with Andy White (part ii)

Andy White launches his second poetry collection, Stolen Moments (Another Lost Shark Publications) on Saturday August 27 in the Theatre Space of the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts at 4:00pm as part of the session, All Is Roar And Crash. This is one of many events not to be missed at this weekend’s QLD Poetry Festival.

Here’s the second part of our chat, including a poem from the collection to whet your appetite! For those of you who aren’t able to be there in person this weekend for the launch experience, stay tuned for details of how to get your hands on a copy of the book post-launch.

Now, over to Andy!

Do you have a favourite ‘Brisbane poem’ in the collection? What are your memories of writing this poem?

I don’t have a favourite, it’s a bit like the Steve Martin ‘I never smoke marijuana’ sketch. Or having to decide what your favourite time of day is. I’d instinctivelly say ‘breakfast’, but if you pressed me then I’d have to add ‘late at night’. My mum would chime in with ’11pm’ (the time I was born – unsuspecting that this could qualify as ‘early in the evening’). ‘Lunch’ sounds good although sadly it’s an outdated concept. ‘Early afternoon’, ‘late afternoon’ and all of ‘the evening’ have got to be up there in the reckoning too.

So, even though the poem where the chinese spacecraft lands on the magnolia tree – and the one which sticks like frozen marmalade on burnt toast – come to mind, if I’ve got choose one it’s:

*************************

in brisbane, when it rains

it’s 3:43 in a brisbane suburb
and I am staying in a
poetry house
bare-walled
uncomplicated

all around me
many-shelved bookcases of delight
containing the true holy writ
of the beat generation

on the radio
people discuss
drought statistics
water solutions and
a pipeline from the north

the rain starts swiftly
not separate drops but
a deafening sheet of water
confounding drought statistics
blowing talk of pipelines
into the middle of
next week

and just when you think it can’t
the rain on the roof gets louder
and just when you think the poem you are reading
with its list of mundane details
can’t get any longer
it increases in length and adds another verse

and the mundane details improve with each
repetition and you end up
so severely
impressed
you doubt your own
verbal sanity

for lord I have heard the word and
I have felt its power
I have witnessed public anger
private animosity
emotional severing and
passive acceptance of
the verb the adjective and the
non-rhyming conjunction

I am in a place where
the word is both king and queen
and metaphor is a holiday destination
where the king and queen go
to take a week off from meaning
from the cruelty of
here and now

then the rain eases
the noise on the roof decreases
the decibels descend
and I am drawn towards sleep
my brain racing with images of
czechoslovakia
and spain

paragraphs and public laughs and
poetry and all its worth
spread out in front of me
like an audience
super-sized
around a table

clock says
3:54

love you

*************************

Defying the cliche of the modern poet writing poems after breakfast, the first time I read at QPF I decided to drink red wine and stay up late as late as possible. Not  on ebay buying anthologies or facebook ‘liking’ youtube clips of Steve McQueen, but writing actual poems.

Or maybe it was the fact that I couldn’t pluck up courage to go back into the room where I was staying, where the walls were lined with books – many of them valuable first editions. All of them bearing down on me from positions of power. Intimidated? N-n-no. Challenged? But of course.

I like staying up listening to people talking on the radio. Not chat or phone-ins, but news radio. Like a lot of musicians, I’ve got music going on in my head all the time anyway, so listening to voices talking is good. Doesn’t get in the way (unless of course you want to get rid of the music in your head – in which case, ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ or ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ will do the trick).

I like the crescendo of this poem. Preachers always grab my ear – in a real sense (my Northern Irish background) and a purely dramatic one (Burt Lancaster). It’s got the usual mix of a mangled ‘TS Eliot buys a Happy Meal’ reference, Iron Curtain nomenclature, and a series of seemingly random half-rhymes (really just products of a killer combination of internal deafness and a strange accent).

I can exclusively reveal that the two stanzas in italics are the most rewritten of the whole book, and that ‘my brain/racing with images of czechoslovakia and spain’ are my two favourite lines.

There you go – I got to ‘favourites’ in the end. Next I’ll be making lists. For isn’t that what we guys spend hours doing?

A good list can:

1. Waste a good amount of time so you can put off starting to write a poem.

2. Fill up an equal amount of space as a paragraph containing real depth and insight.

3. Tell you a lot about yourself through your reactions to the list. How attracted to/jealous are you of the person writing the list?

4. Inspire you to write your own list which you can send to the writer of the list with a pithy note attached. He or she will then…

5. Write back with a witty and generous riposte, ensuring a happy ending.

Which this is.

Undoubtedly.

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re:reading the dictionary: Talking with Tim Sinclair

The Countdown to QLD Poetry Festival has hit single digits… that’s right, just 5 days to go! So, make sure you have done the following things:

1. Bought your ticket to Of Rhythm and Rapture, QPF’s opening night extravaganza featuring Sandra Thibodeaux, Sawako Nakayasu, the 2011 Arts QLD P0et-in-Residence, Jacob Polley and acclaimed singer-songwriter-poet, Kate Fagan.

2. Caught up on your sleep (you are going to need it).

3. Got a copy of the program and started planning your festival experience.

4. Read this interview with Tim Sinclair!

I believe you have recently completed work on a new collection of poetry, re:reading the dictionary. I remember many days lying on the lounge room floor, flicking through the flimsy pages of my parents extremely large Websters and marvelling at the sheer volume of words that danced inside it, so the idea of a collection devoted to some of the words that may be facing extinction in the common vernacular excites me greatly. How did you go about writing, researching and putting together the collection?

I like how you say ‘research’ like it was something I consciously entered into! Makes me sound so studious and purposeful. The reality, of course, is a lot closer to what you describe. The lounge room floor approach – a lifelong serendipitous rummage in that ever-entertaining book, the dictionary. The Dictionary, with a capital D; The Book. The archetype, the blueprint, the begetter of all that’s begat, because, as has been pointed out before, between its covers it contains every single book ever written, and every single book that’s yet to be written. All you need to do is figure out the order to arrange those words in. Guess that’s what poets and authors and anyone who works with words are constantly striving to do. Just trying to find the right order.

*************************

Incunabulum

a book printed at an early date, especially before 1501

Breakfast used to be hand illuminated. Newspapers were bard shaped, speech bubbles had punctuation, and everyone spoke in copperplate. Our tea poured with the sound of a waterfall, brass knobs were mandatory, everything was cranked by hand, and the dancing, when it happened, happened in the streets. We bathed in ink and rolled on vellum sheets, our retinas scanned with a seer’s crystal ball. It all came to pass in the days foretold, before the ones and zeroes scuttled into our lives. Behold.

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You have also been hard at work on your second verse novel. I recently read an interview with 2011 Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence, Jacob Polley where he said:

Poetry seems to be the art of suspending a decision, of creating something that doesn’t quite commit to making complete sense, but rather rings or resonates with the truth of complex, lived experience and feeling. In a novel, you write something that, in the very writing, demands that decisions be made about characters and events, about plot.

 So I wanted to ask you, is it a completely different headspace you need to occupy when working on your verse novel?

The simple answer is yes. The longer answer, of course, is yes and no. This one I actually plotted out quite thoroughly beforehand, so I had a very definite structure I was working towards. The beauty of that, of course, and this relates to what Jacob Polley is saying above, is that in some ways, I had made all those decisions beforehand. So when it came to the actual writing, I was freed up to discover all the bits I hadn’t thought of, all the happenstance that occurs when you pull away from control and find out what it is you don’t know you don’t know.

It’s kind of like the best travel plans, I guess. It’s nice to know what city you’ll be staying in tomorrow night, but to have just that amount of structure gives you this glorious freedom to wander the streets randomly all day before you walk into your hotel in the evening.

You also recorded an album, Brothers of the Head back in 2004 which is an absolute trip! As a fellow poet/drummer, I wanted to ask whether you had any plans to head back into the studio and continue your sonic exploration?

No immediate plans, unfortunately. Most of my sonic exploration these days is language-based. Or tapping on the desk and driving people crazy… It’s definitely something I’m going to get back to one day though. I love what music lets you do; what it does to you. It’s so immediate, so visceral. So outside of rational thought.

Weirdly though, and as you’d know well, there’s nothing more mathematical and structured and precise than drumming – literally cutting time up into eighth notes and sixteenth notes – but within that extreme structure is the possibility for such fluidity. It’s something you can’t think about too much, because to the conscious mind it’s a paradox. But it makes perfect sense to the non-conscious mind. To that part that all of us connect to instantly when we sink into a good groove.

You have been part of the QLD Poetry Festival family before in 2008. What is it about the festival that makes it stand out from the pack and what are you most looking forward to about your return visit?

I love this Festival for its diversity, its delight, its inclusiveness, its surprises. I’m looking forward to all of that, and then some!

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Catch Tim at QPF 2011:

Saturday August 27

Alphabet as Architecture, 1:30pm Shopfront Space, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. Entry is Free.

Sunday August 28

Onwards to Infinity, 7:00pm Theatre Space, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. Entry is Free.

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Stealing the Moment: Talking with Andy White (part i)

Andy White’s return to QLD Poetry Festival this year is extra special for me as Jules and I are now holding sparkling new copies of his second poetry collection, Stolen Moments (Another Lost Shark Publications), which will be launched at the festival on Saturday August 27 at 4:00pm in the Theatre Space of The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts as part of the session, All Is Roar And Crash.

So with the festival only 9 days away, Andy and I have been talking poetry…

Many of the poems in your new book, Stolen Moments, were born in Brisbane. As a touring artist you get the opportunity to visit many cities each year, so what is it about Brisbane that gets the poetic synapses firing?

When I was at school I knew I should like poetry. It was one of those things which was in my blood – distilled emotion, the perfect phrase. I didn’t love it, but I knew its worth, as we battled with Heaney and Longley and the Old Victorians. None of them saying much to me. Spike Milligan was better – reminded me of Lewis Carroll and the Beatles lyrics I’d grown up listening to. When we reached third form – maybe your Year 9 – we had an English teacher who thought she was Miss Jean Brodie (without the fascist baggage). Told us to throw the anthologies in a heap in the corner, loosen our ties (yes, all schools in Belfast had uniforms then – evened everything out a little) and tell the class a little bit about each other. Likes, dislikes. Loves, hobby horses. She believed that we only needed to know one poem – ‘Ode To A Nightingale’. Said it was all we needed for now – and we all believed her, hung on her every word. I still love that poem.

But something else happened that year which awoke me to the power of poetry. Brian Patten came to visit the school – a real live Liverpool poet. Someone who knew the Scaffold and probably, by extension, the Beatles. We gathered at his feet and listened. I bought the ‘Liverpool Poets’ Penguin book. Listened to old records of Roger McGough. Then our Miss Jean Brodie teacher was supplanted by a Leonard Cohen-loving teacher, just in time for sixth form and for falling in love. She wore scarves and eyeliner and burned incense in the classroom. And – let me remind you – this was 1980s Northern Ireland with a full-on terrorist war raging outside. The girls in the class talked make-up with her and she told the boys how to talk to the girls. During this time my fascination with the Liverpool Poets’ style didn’t disappear, but listen enough times to ‘So Long Marianne’ in  a darkened aroma-filled room when you’re supposed to be hurrying to chemistry class and you’ll understand my new-found devotion to the singer-songwriter’s version of the spoken word.

Things changed, I went to college.I studied English in England and got familiar with all types of poems – not even the Nightingale could save me from the rest of the 19th century. I saw Ian McEwan read ‘The Cement Garden’ to twelve people in an all-nighter. Sat in lectures listening to structuralists and post-structuralists. Barthes worshippers and Leavisites. Back home the troubles got worse, then better. I had been writing scraps of poems since I can’t remember when. It was always the natural thing to do. Then I saw John Cooper Clarke at a reading in a college disco. Amazing. I’d heard ‘Snap Crackle And Bop’ – but seeing him was something else. I was back in that school room again – charged up about poetry like when I saw Brian Patten for the first time. I went back  to my room, found a litttle black book and started copying poems into it. A friend organised a poetry reading gig and I was away. Reading fast and furious. Slamming before I knew the word. For me it was all about a mix of JCC, Dylan, Beats and the Liverpool Poets, all leaning a little bit towards Leonard.

After I started putting my poems to music, bashing them out with an acoustic guitar, it all changed. Poetry became something either to be considered on the page, not heard, or scribbled real fast – a thought which wouldn’t necessarily turn into a song. My first volume ‘The Music Of What Happens’ collected all my poems together. Written from 1971-1999, twenty-eight years collected in a suitcase and edited into some sort of shape by a novelist friend of mine. I launched the book in Dublin, Belfast and Galway. At the heart of the Irish literary establishment – who all thought of me as a singer. They never looked beyond my album covers, which amused me – I knew I started off with the word on the page, when music was something you listened to on Radio Luxembourg or which granny taught as I tried to keep up with her on the piano or violin. Before I discovered the acoustic guitar.

The next time I was excited by poetry was arriving in Brisbane and experiencing QPF. In 2006, I think it was. It’s as simple as that. I was booked to play but I was encouraged to read too. I got to my feet and didn’t stop for four days. The weekend inspired me to write – I filled books sitting around in Graham & Julie’s house (great I didn’t stay in a hotel that time) in the company of the Beats, Cohen and a fantastic collection of CDs and first editions, happily co-existing and drawing from them.

It’s the company I keep in Brisbane which gets me going, and the collective aspect of poetry I’ve found there. Above all the excitement generated at readings – and not just during the festival. Speedpoets is amazing – the highest standard poetry readings I’ve ever seen. Woodford too – something so right that it anagrams into Wordfood – I found the same electric atmosphere in a huge circus tent one New Year as 2007 slipped into 2008. Not the darkened upstairs of a pub with three or four people huddled round a candle mumbling – this was poetry on a grand stage (even if the work was small scale) with costumes and applause and performance.

It’s this dressing-up too – the way poets act out their poems and know how to speak into microphones and don’t mumble solo into their navels but get up collectively in pairs makes it exciting. Everyone knows it’s hip and relevant and funny and moving they don’t need to be told – just like in San Francisco and Liverpool, poets need a scene – they need a city and it’s not always going to be London or Paris or Sydney. Better if it’s not. That’s where poetry is hip and happening and live and emotional.

Just like poetry is in my head. That’s why Brisbane means poetry to me.

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Dada Doesn’t Catch Flies (but it has caught poets)

The delightful Fiona Bell of Dada Doesn’t Catch Flies, has been firing questions at some of the local artists who will be hitting the QLD Poetry Festival stage. So far she has chatted with Carmen Leigh Keates, Nicola Scholes, Ghostboy & my lovely wife, Julie Beveridge (yes, that’s her arm below).

She has also been posting poems and other morsels for you to devour, so, if you have not yet taken the left turn to Fiona’s site, then now’s the time!

Only 10 days to go…

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