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QPF Spotlight #18 – Maurice McNamara

Just one more sleep and I will be revelling in the glory of QPF. Many of the artists have now arrived so I am already buzzing with anticipation. One such artist is Melbourne’s Maurice McNamara. I have had the great pleasure of working with Maurice over the past year and the fruits of that work, his debut collection, Half-Hour Country, will be launched at QPF this Saturday morning, August 22 at 10:30am (full details below). One thing I know is that Maurice is never short of a word, so I asked him, about his writing process and where he finds the words.

 

Maurice

 

Where do the words come from?

Everyone is different. Karen Knight, in her section, talks about writing in the day, evenings for meals, drinks, tv. And how she takes weeks to get lines right. How the first lines are the hardest.

I mostly never write during the day. I write at night, after the drinks, meal, tv. But like her I write to music. I don’t care exactly what the music is, mostly moody. I wear that puppy out, playing it over and over, until I never want to hear that song again.

Unlike Karen I go out every day, shopping, walking, listening to the radio (headphones), looking at people. Mostly I’m alone and swallow up fragments. Sometimes this stuff gets coalesced properly, in the evenings, mostly it doesn’t. The best stuff gets the driver of a special event, a special emotion (below, a poem about my sister’s birthday – something slightly out of the ordinary.)

But trying to write every evening, and missing, means that automatic writing ie. just trying to say what happened, has more practice and kick in it, more unconscious rhythm.

Finding the rhythm: everyone has their own, and practising, the drum finds its owner. When I first started writing poetry, about nine years ago, I wrote over a thousand poems – one, two, three, every night. Fortunately that computer clagged out and I lost most of them. Sentimental, masked in cleverness, un-understandable, cutesy, pathetic, half-baked – I forget my other sins but they were many and various. But even from the start one has a rhythm and themes. (Equally, whatever faults I had then, I’ve still got now.)

My saving, very/very/very slow grace, the fact I went out each week and read, badly, to audiences, who went, ugh, or ho-hum, or what-the? next please. (One time a poet said, I like the font your poems are in – that’s how weak my praise was. At the time I was gratified – that’s how piss weak I was.) Going out to read all the time meant I heard lots of other good/bad/indifferent stuff. The best learning is by example. And just keep on going.

I grew up outside Bendigo, an old gold mining town, but where I was, it was mostly Irish, cut off. Like the Cullinans, nine children – Dinny, Danny, Paddy, Maisie, Bess, etc, so on, most of whom still lived with their mother, though the oldest son was hitting seventy. Some of them had never been to Melbourne. Two army tanks had pulled up in their front yard, at the end of the Second World War, from Pucapunyal en route to… Nothing much changed. In the churchyard on Sundays people stood in the same place, said the same things, wearing suits they’d bought for their wedding. I can’t emphasise how important this was/is to me: the idea of a link back, mysteriously un-knowable; the way they said the same things, their cadence and drawl.

As far as poetry goes, I also belong to two sixties artist/artists – Andy Warhol and The Beatles. I think they could be called the first democratic artists – not dependent on being upper class, un-important, using real things around them. And then, the way you heard songs over and over, radio, radio, I think that changed how people wrote.

Poetry influences: I’m sorry, but it has to be local for me. I’m not academic, I’m not international, and I’m not clever (clever is not the same as intelligent). I don’t want to live anywhere else. This is not a proclamation for bogans, or bush poetry. I don’t want to be provincial. The worst kind of provincialism is aping somewhere else. I want to live in the sort of place that is happening on its own terms. Open and hungry, enthusiastic – that’s what Australia should be. So eat from elsewhere but write our own stuff. Don’t be arch, don’t be removed. Even though most of us live in cities, keep the country in our souls. That’s the genius of Australia – we don’t live in pastoral acres, spires dreaming, the bush infects/scares/makes us. That and the ocean – sharks and snakes scare bullshit away. And temperature: this is a hot country, new world, too hot for languid tempered English. Or French theory. (Or hysterical Americans.)

In my writing I don’t live up to this, but I think about it. In this country we’ve got indigenous, migrants, Anglo-Celtic, all burnt by sun, flood and drought, like nowhere else. Only we can do it.

My theory of poetry: watch the faces of the audience, if they remained closed, turned away, something is wrong. (The best poets have a language, a themness that drags us somewhere else, but is yet, recognisable – oh, to be one of them.)

Poets I get excited by: Eric Beach, Jennifer Compton, Grant Caldwell, Jordie Albiston, Myron Lysenko. Not always and not everywhere: but a surprise, a kick, a relaxation, a floating away. Not very much bullshit in any of them.

That’s the trouble with poetry – because it’s tight, where it goes wrong, you flip out. No patience. But then, you stumble across, and you feel like stroking the armpits of your host. Casual sex. Your armpits smell like cummin. (How do you say that word un-rudely?) I’ve got that with Laurie Duggan; like, love some of the Martial poems, then others leave me cold. Same with Dorothy Porter. Hate poems by poets in search of material, trawling art galleries. ‘My response to the Mona Lisa, waiting for Helen to turn up…’ Then we leapt into a foreign sports car. Please. Enough. (Even in art you’re relentlessly middle class.) Middle class masquerading as rascal, even worse. Brett Whitley, you’re busted. ‘See my lawyer, man’. The best Australian poems I’ve read were by Eric Beach, about his girlfriend with motor neurone, caring for her, published in Salt-Lick. ‘Brushing her hair, ice waterfalls.’ Nothing else even comes close, and originally, he’s from New Zealand.

 

About Maurice:

Maurice McNamara has been involved with the Melbourne spoken word scene for a number of years. His writing is casually lyrical, funny but serious, and aims for a spare contemporary feel. His book, Half-Hour Country, has just been published by Small Change Press.

 

Poem:

 

sister’s birthday

having gone to see
‘my year without sex’
a self-consciously Australian movie
small family details
but at least a story arc
as the Americans say
though, written/directed by a woman
I noticed the husband didn’t complain
when there was no sex for a year
which made him a bit too nice, I thought
though, okay, she nearly died

coming out of the theatre, remembered
sister’s birthday, bought flowers
and rillette, to spread on bread
a French name for the potted meat
Dad used to make
but a French name costs more
I try to remember my sister’s birthday
the same day as Mum’s
this year she would have been 96
(so waxen she looked
laid out on the hospital bed)
sister lives alone and has the sort of casual
Catholic violence I detest
try to forget

drive to Armadale
a thunderstorm!
lights on
blinded by rain
cars drive home

visits of duty
driven by a sort of love underneath
a perfect cup of tea
an event that only happens every couple of years
a confluence of milk/tea/sugar
she listens to talking books
doesn’t watch tv
eyes hurt too much

insulted my girlfriend only in passing
pauses between words
women have powers men don’t possess
though men are obvious bastards
saying I was excited by engines but my girlfriend wasn’t
was sexist
I didn’t have much of a headache
by the time we left

I wish she didn’t live alone
but I can’t fix her life up
I can’t fix my own
I don’t like going back
to where I was before
live in the present
which is uneasy

my girlfriend and I had a stupid argument in the car
I was comparing the heroine in ‘my year without sex’
to Muriel in ‘Muriel’s Wedding’
how they had the same daggy Australian woman thing
not found elsewhere
she thought I was being insulting

my voice became more metallic
exasperated
‘you don’t get it’
grinding on, through changes of lights
she retreated to silence
like Mum used to do with Dad
I felt empty
she did too

 

Catch Maurice at QPF 2009:

 

Saturday August 22 – 10:30 – 11:30am

The First Bullet of the Day: featuring Robert Bos and the launch of Half-Hour Country (Small Change Press) by Maurice McNamara and Dear Rose (Small Change Press) by Nicola Scholes

 

Saturday August 22 – 8:00pm

A Million Bright Things: featuring a short set from every bright thing on the 2009 program plus a feature set from the awesome Neil Murray

 

Sunday August 23 – 11:00pm – 12:00pm

Choreography of Chance: featuring Maurice McNamara, Rhys Rodgers and Santo Cazzati

 

All sessions are held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.

For full program details head to www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com

 

 

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QPF Spotlight #17 – Barbara Temperton

QPF 2009 is just two days away and it is all systems go… so to help get you there, today’s spotlight is shining on Barbara Temperton, illuminating where she finds the words that sing that strange music we call poetry.

 

b temperton

 

 

Influences

I’ve soaked up a large variety of influences over the years: from growing up semi-feral in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, to finally moving south, spending eleven years on the south coast before my current detour to the Mid West coast.

I started to write as a child, encouraged by my teachers, but really didn’t really start seriously until 1983. When I moved to Perth in 1987 I was able to connect with other writers – teachers, fellow students, and members of the Perth writing community –  such as Marion Campbell, Philip Salom, Anne Brewster, Tom Shapcott, Elizabeth Jolley, Dennis Haskell, Tracy Ryan, John Kinsella, David Buchanan, Mark Reid, Morgan Yasbincek, Andrew Taylor, Glen Phillips, Marcella Polain, and many others. A residency at Varuna in 2000 under the tutelage of Dorothy Porter and in the company of Judy Johnston and Felicity Plunkett is a high point. Undertaking my MA at UWA under the supervision of Dennis Haskell is another.

 

The Writing Process

My writing process is painstakingly slow. Getting ideas is one thing … one can accommodate a workman-like approach to the construction of poems, but working in an inspired way incorporates an entirely different process. Inspiration to me is when I become totally involved – emotionally, physically, spiritually, whatever – I’m in there with it – that’s when the work really starts to breathe and occupy my life with an intensity that can last days, weeks, months… if I’m lucky.

My first collection “The Snow Queen takes lunch at the Station Café” in Shorelines came together over a period of about seven years when I was mainly focussed on writing prose. I spent the next seven years working on poems for Going Feral, and another seven plus on Southern Edge. There is always a quiet, anticipatory space for me after I’ve finished a writing project, where I wait patiently for my next obsession to materialise.

 

The Importance of Voice

I know I have a character and a poem when I can hear voice. The means by which that comes about is difficult to explain. Sometimes the voice comes from within, sometimes from without. I collect voices that I come across from day to day, write them down, save them up. Once, at a party, I overheard a friend say “I have found pleasure in skinning rabbits.” As soon as our eyes met she laughed and pointed at me (because she knows me well) and said “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded!” And went on to explain what she really meant. But it didn’t matter, I had already collected the words, the voice. By the time I got home that night I had created the character who was speaking. So, voice can be a narrative position, but can also take many other forms, like sound qualities or structural aspects – line lengths, for example – of a poem. The character I called Traveller in “Jetty Stories (from Southern Edge) had his point of origin outside Port Hedland in 1995. We were fishing on the banks of a tidal creek. My nephew William told me the local legend of a woman who had walked out onto the mud flats at low tide, and who was trapped and drowned when the tide came in. William’s story provided me with the situation, later work saw the development of the Traveller’s character, but the poem did not come alive for me until I had found its voice – not the voice of the character but the voice of the poem – and that didn’t come about until much later.

 

Recurring Themes

About a decade ago I came to the understanding that bereavement in its many forms has been a constant source of inspiration for me, as it continues to be. Wherever darkness exists it has lightness as its counterfoil. That’s the nature of binaries – where there is one there is the other. In poetry, as in drawing, you don’t create a form by drawing the form, you create it by drawing the shadows.

 

How have my feelings about poetry, the reading and writing of, changed since I first started writing?

I don’t think my passion for poetry has changed, I still love reading it and writing it as much as I ever did.

In recent times, due to the demands of work and study, I have had a lot less time in which to write and I really miss the sense of dwelling that came with having an active writing habit.

I love being the poetry advisor for Westerly magazine, reading submissions, making recommendations to the Editors. Back in the eighties, Westerly gave me my first real opportunities at getting my short stories and poems published, so it’s somewhat poetic that I’m in this position now.

 

About Barbara:

Barbara Temperton is an award-winning Western Australian writer. Her poems, song lyrics, short stories, reviews and articles have appeared in journals, newspapers, anthologies, have been performed live and broadcast on radio. Barbara lives in Geraldton, Western Australia, where she works as a librarian and editor, and moonlights as the poetry editor for Westerly. Barbara has also worked on community writing and theatre projects and as tutor in English and Creative Writing courses at the UWA – Albany Centre, Edith Cowan University and Curtin University in Perth. Her second collection of poetry, Going Feral, won the 2002 West Australian Premier’s Book Award for Poetry. Southern Edge her third book, published this year by Fremantle Press, was written for her MA at the University of Western Australia.

 

Poem:

 

From “The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife” (Southern Edge, Fremantle W.A.: Fremantle Press, 2009.)

I

Dawn.
There’s still a bit of south in the wind.
Waves have worried the beach in two.

The keeper’s wife collects driftwood, feathers.

 

There is something about the air,
the intensity of colour,
that awes her. This place
is an X
on her map of moments with God.

Whales exhale beyond the wave line,
flippers and tail flukes slow-arc from the sea.
At the high tide line: cuttlefish, shells, kelp,
and a dead shearwater half-cast in sand,
wings mocked by breeze, the memory of flight.

Another bird, feet at pointe, Degas’ ballet
framed by footprints of dogs and gulls.

Thereafter, another seven,
bills locked mid-cry.

Mist begins its skyward drift with the sun,
horses and fierce riders
thunder through the curtain into day.

Sea’s silver, molten,
the air
taking on something like substance,
as though she could reach out, touch something solid.

She has either left the world
or just stepped into it.

 

Catch Barbara at QPF 2009:
Saturday August 22 – 10:30 – 11:30am

Skies Early Stars: featuring Barbara Temperton, Neil Murray & Kent McCarter

 

Saturday August 22 – 8:00pm

A Million Bright Things: featuring a short set from every bright thing on the 2009 program plus a feature set from the awesome Neil Murray

 

Sunday August 23 – 3:15pm – 4:15pm

Nostalgic by Ambitious: featuring Barbara Temperton, Geoff Page & John Knight

 

All sessions are held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.

For full program details head to www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com

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QPF Spotlight #16 – Ten QPF Poets

Just four more sleeps and I will be in poetry heaven… yes QPF 2009 is just around the corner. There are still some tickets left for Friday night’s, ‘A Tangle of Possibilities’ concert so make sure you get your seat booked asap. You can do that online here, or call The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts Box Office on (07) 3872 9000 between 12pm and 4pm.

And to help fill your next few days with poetry, I have put together a sampler from ten of the poets featuring at QPF this weekend. Hope this gets your poetry gland salivating.

See you at the festival!

 

The Violence of Work by Geoff Goodfellow

Ruminations, Allegro & The Swoop by Geoff Page

These are Wobbly Days by Anna Krien

Cheap Red Wine & Why I Write? by Bronwyn Lea

38 ways to stain a memory by Nathan Shepherdson

Death and the Maiden by Jeffrey Harpeng

And this is just the morning, glass to sea-junk: a sacrifice & How do you do, Tuatara? by Zenobia Frost

Getting off the Round-About by Janice Bostok

Of a Place by Elizabeth Bachinsky

One by Hinemoana Baker

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