Tag Archives: recurring themes in writing

QPF Spotlight #15 – Adam Phillips

Adam Phillips is an emerging poet, harnessing his love of bush verse to address the stories and topics of our time. I shine the QPF Spotlight on this young storyteller to find out where he finds the words…


adam phillips



The works of Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson have always been my greatest influence. In recent years, Lawson’s red blooded poetry has been most inspirational. I’ve found myself drawn to the goodwill that is ever-present in his voice, despite his troubled life.

The early bush poet, Henry Kendall, paints some of the most beautiful scenes of the Australian bush I’ve ever read. I often turn to the American naturalist, Henry David Thoreau, when a dose of earth and sea is needed. The Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, who served me well while travelling through India, has also impacted on my writing too.

Songwriters like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Paul Kelly are always thereabouts, along with many other balladeers with a story to tell.


The Writing Process

A poem can start in many ways but I never try to force the words or assign a time to write. Sometimes I just hear or read a word that appeals to me and I craft a phrase or line around that word. Other times, a certain experience or pang of passion triggers some form of poetic release.

I always store poems in my mind before writing them down. Only when I’m happy with the rhyme, structure and subject matter do I push the pen. I prefer to write poems in one sitting otherwise it feels as though you’re returning to a moment that’s had the life sucked out of it.


The Importance of Voice

I remember an introduction to a Henry Lawson anthology that described his poetry as having ‘axe marks’ all through it but such was the beauty of it. I took comfort in that and still do. It is important to write poetry. To put on the woodchoppers singlet, have a swing and tell the stories that need to be told. 

A dear friend of mine gave me this quote from an old Persian poet which read ‘the great religions are ships, the poets are the lifeboats – every person I know has leapt overboard’. I’m just a sidestroker to the lifeboats, only I’ve got a few things to say on the way.


Recurring Themes

The natural world is generally a feature in most of my poems. I have a real passion for the environment and my poetry tends to reflect this. Even if I’m writing a city based story, there seems to be this inherent longing for the landscape that always creeps in somehow. Being an avid bushwalker brings themes of space and distance into the fray.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last two or three years travelling so I’ve written quite a lot about travel experiences. But every foreign yarn is countered with a story about home or life in Australia. In fact, some of my favourite work comes from that outsider’s perspective, seeing my homeland from afar.


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

The first poem I wrote was about playing mud football with my mates. My early poems were very simple and I haven’t veered too far away from that idea over the years. I’ve definitely become a more rounded person and had more life experiences than when I first started writing. Accordingly, the potential subject matter has become much broader but in saying that I happily wrote a sequel to that very first poem just recently. The reasons for writing haven’t changed.

I can appreciate different forms of poetry now but the blinkers are still on to a large degree. The vintage verse of the early Australian poets that got me into poetry is what reminds me to keep going.


About Adam:

Adam Phillips is a local Brisbane poet who competed in the 2008 Poetry Unearthed competition and had works published in the ‘Poem of the Week’ competition in 2008. He has performed at numerous functions around Brisbane and also recited his poems on radio.

With an eye to the natural world, Adam’s poetry calls upon his love of classic Australian bush verse to address the stories and the topics of our time.

by Adam Phillips

A cooee from the cliff edge cuts the treeline with its pledge
Strips the bark and loosens leaves or so the wayward man believes
Through the mangroves and the mud carrying his strains of blood
He calls across such virgin space with misery to match the place
Then to the cliff a countered sound renews the dreaming on the ground
And chance lifts off a southern sea to dance a great corroboree
Fire breathes and smoke billows and the furthest skyline glows
With each flame as old as sand – the story of us and our land

A cannon shot towards the shore misses what it’s aiming for
The tall ship squints with just disdain, what little force for such terrain!
Along the wall of shoal and rock waves bunt in and spit with shock
At colonies and regiments, European sentiments
And now where council parks are found tributes touch the coastal ground
Children chirp and play at ease, families picnic with the breeze
A row of pine slowly grows and the furthest skyline shows
With each tree cast over sand – the story of us and our land

A cooee and a cannon shot is all a broken man has got
To bridge this distance and this time, so much harder in our prime
This northerly is chasing down to find you at the edge of town
And meet with all your sweet finesse, wrap you up in wilderness
And steer you on the secret path where distance in the aftermath
Reduces to our human touch, fingers never meant so much
Until the new wind duly blows and the furthest skyline knows
With each footprint swept from sand – the story of us and our land


Catch Adam at QPF 2009:

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 – 2:00pm – 3:00pm

The Singing of the Earth: featuring Adam Phillips, Geoff Goodfellow & Neil Murray


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


Filed under Where do the Words Come From?

QPF Spotlight #3 – Jane Williams

This time around I shine the QPF Spotlight on Jane Williams and ask her where the words come from.


Jane Williams



Leonard Cohen and Sylvia Plath were strong influences through my teens and into my twenties. Also Emily Dickinson and e.e cummings. Bruce Dawe has been an Australian poet I have returned to again and again over the years. At the moment the American poet Stephen Dunn keeps me company. I tend to fall in love with a particular poet’s work and carry it about with me like a secular bible or a how to manual until I’m sated. Then I turn to someone else …


The writing process

I’ve always been a note taker so carry pen and paper about most of the time, jot things down as they move me. An image, part of a conversation etc Initially stream of conscience stuff. The notes are filed away for development which happens sooner or later or not at all. My writing is largely mood driven so I’m not a very disciplined poet in that sense but fortunately I tend to be moved to write more often than not. I think my being moved to write is different from my being inspired to write, though both are equally valuable. I associate inspiration with reading the work of other poets – Look what they‘ve done! I wonder if I can do that! Being moved to write is a more direct, instinctual response to life. As for poems that ‘write themselves’ they’re the exception not the rule. These days most poems go through weeks and sometimes months of revisiting. As a result I have many many more notes then I do completed poems or even poems in progress. This may also have something to do with a challenged attention span.


Where the voice(s) comes from

Writing is among other things a compulsion for me so maybe the voice is also the impetus. I think it comes out of a longing, which is deeper some days than others.


Recurring themes

I remember the first poem I wrote in my early teens about a homeless man dying in a city street. It would have been highly derivative and cliché ridden, in short a bad poem … but in terms of a theme, many of my poems still have a broad social commentary hallmark to them so I guess it’s fair to say I have a bent in that direction. My catholic upbringing and an interest in the human experiences of our spiritual leaders and those people we see as heroes have influenced a number of poems in my first two books. A high hope that we equal more than the sum of our physical parts seems to be an underlying theme. I love the language of poetry, its musicality, wordplay and all the specifics of crafting …but meaning making and intent are also important to me.


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

One of the biggest changes has been learning that this writing business is a life’s work, so not to be too impatient or hard on myself. The difference between creativity and productivity. Also discovering the drafting process is a natural progression, and not the hand of suppression I think I feared it was when I was much younger. I like to think I’m more of an eclectic reader these days but I imagine I’ll always rotate my favourites.




The unwritten law of living


everything worth anything
must break
it is the unwritten law
of living


any favored piece
of crockery or glassware
how long did you think
it would last

one quarter
of our body’s bones
are in our feet
mind your step the signs read
but feet soldier on oblivious

of all the rules worth breaking
do not fraternize …

no x-ray will show the number
of breaks a heart can outlive
such knowledge it is rumored
could kill us



About Jane:

Jane Williams is the author of three collections of poems and one of short stories. Awards for her poetry include the Anne Elder Award and the D.J. O’Hearn Memorial Fellowship. She lives in Hobart. www.janewilliams.wordpress.com


Catch Jane at QPF 2009:

Saturday August 22 – 1:30pm – 2:30pm

Phosphorescence at the Edge: feat. Jane Williams, Paul Magee and Rob Morris


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 – 12:15pm – 1:15pm

Venus Walked In: feat. Jane Williams, Zenobia Frost & Noella Janaczewska


Sunday August 23 – 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Just Kissed Goodbye: feat. Janet Jackson, Angela Costi, Jane Williams, Neil Murray, Elizabeth Bachinsky, Geoff Goodfellow, Paul Magee, AF Harrold, Hinemoana Baker and the QPF Committee


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


Filed under interviews/artist profiles, Where do the Words Come From?

Where do the Words Come From #7 – Skye Staniford

SpeedPoets rolls around again on Sunday April 5 and this month’s music feature is Brisbane songbird Skye Staniford. Skye is a member of local music outfits,  ‘We All Want To’ and ‘Golden Virtues’, who regularly collaborate with Brisbane’s Ringmaster of Debauched Cabaret, Ghostboy, so I asked her the big question… Where do the Words Come From?

Her reply…

In bursts from my mind. Past, present and imagined love. Being. 

Beautiful, tell me more, I said… and she did:





I’m influenced or inspired by many things I come across. It’s a recurring process:

1. Come across ‘thing’. IE: book, album, sauce.

2. Get caught up in the moment of ‘thing’. IE: adopt language of book, begin singing in same style as on album, start putting Worcestershire Sauce on everything.

3. Initial hit of thing wears off. IE: finish book, get bored of album, start questioning the versatility of Worcestershire Sauce.

4. Some element of ‘thing’ weaves its way into me forever ie: A love and gift for using Nadsat, a love and gift for singing harmonies (thanks Simon, thanks Garfunkel), a love and gift for preparing and consuming  an incredible Bloody Mary, and we all know who the star of that show is…

It’s all about the ‘thing’.


The writing process

The pen is romantic but the keyboard is swift. Writing the words and working out how to express what I’m feeling and wanting on the guitar is a very strange ‘thing’. Explain I cannot. I have to jump on any desire to write straight away or it vanishes. I rarely practice. I don’t sit down and go ‘ok, I’m going to write a song now’. When I have done this in the past, the songs have been shit. I’m not extremely prolific but I’d like to think that means I’m a quality over quantity kind of girl.


The importance of voice

I’m a flautist and singer who smokes. I spent a large part of my childhood in hospital, hooked up to machines, with acute athsma. So aside from being insane, I will say that I don’t value and respect ‘the importance of voice’ enough.


Recurring themes

Longing and dysfunction. Satisfaction and contentment. Caring too much or not enough. Infected tattoos.


How have my feelings about lyrics, changed since I first started writing?

I used to be able to hammer out a stream of consciousness filled with mistaken rhyme. I also used to go night swimming on mushrooms. I’m more careful these days – less is definitely more.


Find Out More:




“ Brisbane ’s premier folk and roll outfit” – RAVE MAGAZINE

 Here we have a spearfishing guitarist. He can find a feast on any suburban street. Where we see pavers Reece sees starfruit. Background: Garage, Punk, Stoner Rock. Foreground: Words, Voice, Guitar, Bass, Harmonica. 

Coming up like a hurricane is our Shakespearean Siren and calligraphic enigma. An olde world, r-rolling violinist; Hannah Jane sings sweeter than syrup and looks like a wrapped present in any garment. Background: Classical, Gypsy, Folk. Foreground: Words, Voice, Violin, Guitar, Keys.

To her left we have a wandering minstrel. All legs and mellow, Robbie is a teleported-from-the-seventies cat, a melody-mining machine who loves on the frets like he loves vintage vinyl. Background: Prog Rock, Psychedelic, Experimental. Foreground: Voice, Bass, Guitar, Mandolin.

Then there is the ale-sipping chanteuse Skye, who sings off headlands and relates to the pied piper. She wants to eat a devilled egg and lay across your piano. Background: Blues, Doo Wop, 90’s Rock. Foreground: Words, Voice, Flute, Guitar, Bass, Tambourine.

Lastly, a true gentleman. Radovan holds his knife like a jazz drummer and plays a mean slide ukulele with a ripe pear. A Serbian pimp daddy with the crib to prove it, he reigns on sticks and mallets but draws the line at brushes. Background: Metal, Hip Hop, Heavy Rock. Foreground: Drums, Percussion


Catch Skye live at SpeedPoets when it returns for its second gig of 2009 on Sunday April 5. It all happens at the The Alibi Room, 720 Brunswick St, New Farm from 2pm. The gig will also feature local spoken word/hip-hop artist Dark Wing Dubs and Pru Gell (Northern Territory). There will also be live sounds from the SpeedPoets engine room of Sheish Money, free zines, giveaways and the hottest Open Mic section in our fine city. Entry is a gold coin donation. See you there!

SpeedPoets: Sunday April 5, 2pm – 5pm @ The Alibi Room, 720 Brunswick St. New Farm.


Filed under Where do the Words Come From?

Where do the Words Come From – The Stress of Leisure

For as long as I can remember, I have pawed over album covers/liner notes and put my ears to the speakers to decipher song lyrics. A good lyric is something that never fails to captivate me. So, I thought I would ask Brisbane singer/songwriter The Stress of Leisure where he finds the words.





Obviously, I’m influenced greatly by other musicians, mainly interesting lyricists. My list of influence is vast; from the Arcade Fire to Warren Zevon. I think that’s where the longevity is in the music game, being able to write a good lyric. Writing a catchy guitar riff or instinctive melody is one thing, for the long term you need to keep marrying it with a suitable lyric, or keep up the interesting lyrical ideas. It’s not often discussed, in fact I’ve read several artists I like dismissing the lyric as being unimportant to them. I don’t buy it however, because I do believe they pay particular attention to how the words sound first and foremost. And sooner or later they’ve usually contradicted their dismissive statement anyhow. So for myself, I’m constantly noting an artist’s skill in marrying great lyrics and at the same time I guess, deciding how I’d adapt it to myself.

Brisbane is a big influence on what I write too, in particular New Farm. It’s a place I know well. If you think filmic you can make any place look great, it’s all about what you capture in the frame. And there’s always that artistic license to change a few details. So everything I come across is as relevant as it would be if it were set in the East Village, New York. Why shouldn’t it be? This may not be revelatory for poets or filmmakers I guess, but I think it’s important to have an establishing shot for people to drift into. I really dig using the words; park, apartment, river, street.


The Writing Process

My musical output far outstrips my lyrical output. I wish there wasn’t such an imbalance. But I have a lot of songs sitting around that may have one verse or one chorus in terms of the lyric but are fully formed songs in all other respects. So really, I have this big block of musical spare parts, a lot of incomplete ideas. In rare cases I have fully formed ideas with melodies and they just happen to form as songs. I don’t like to attack things too hard, one out of laziness and two; I don’t want to scare off the idea. But mainly it’s laziness. Usually I don’t like to pursue a song because I feel contented that I have a great idea and that feels good in itself and spurs me on. If a song feels like a winner however, it appears in a kind of phonetic form within the melody and keeps pulling me back. I may then chance on a few key lyrics or phrases and try and form some direction from them. To this end, I’ve found the biggest help for me is deriving titles. Lately, I’ve been getting into the habit of thinking of a title a day and it has really helped me.  So if I have this chord progression and melody I like and then have a look at what titles I’ve generated it just may be all the process needs. In the last week I’ve generated two titles driving to band rehearsal which have subsequently become songs – ‘People in Plastic’ and ‘Death on the Magic Mile’. This doesn’t normally happen, so for the moment I believe in the process. I think people should give me titles as a form of a gift actually. I’d appreciate that.  


The importance of voice

Over time I’ve grown to appreciate my voice and what its capabilities are, and I realize that for people hearing me for the first time it’s the make or break factor. I’m really big on defining a character when I do vocals, and that it has a particular consistency. I know it sounds absurd, but I became fascinated a while back with the various characters Peter Cook could take on and how he would vary his tone and pitch to suit each one, and all the time stay in character (apart from some mirth). I was already fully aware of my own rock n roll stylings and phrasings, and the approaches of various singers, but this was something different. So I guess I started listening to my own voice by doing some spoken word stuff (In Derek and Clive mode) on my recording equipment at home, listening to the way I’d phrase different words. It’s completely barmy, but I gained a lot of confidence from this. In songwriting this is really important, listening to how it comes out. I’m pretty down on a few songs I did on my latest album phrasing wise, mainly because I’m so particular. I guess when you record you have the luxury of picking your best performances, but also the torment of wanting to get it right. And again, I guess you can over think these things. Anybody now wanting to listen to my music and pick out the Derek and Clive influence will be sorely disappointed though, I can assure you of that.

Lots of singers just do this instinctively though, the way they inhabit character. I’m not saying anything new. And they actually do it naturally, because you know, you’ve got your naturals and then you’ve got your peoples like myself who have to plant it cognitively. Nick Cave for instance, and I’m not sure what category he fits into, successfully portrays his characters. From reading about his recording process, it’s usually all captured in the first or second take and I’m sure most would testify he gets it right; it’s definitely not over thought.


Recurring Themes

An English friend of mine remarked on my first album – “one word that comes to mind is ennui”. Another friend noted “I think you need a girlfriend”. So I guess that’s a good starting point for my recordings thus far. I think however, a lot of my music has presented characters that believe “the grass is always greener”. There’s always something better. We’re surrounded by this stimuli – surely that shampoo you’re using isn’t as good for your hair?, look at this drink it’ll cure your loneliness, try this cereal you’ll be friendlier to your work colleagues, are you sure you don’t want to know what’s happening in the world?, naked people look this good but here’s some chocolate, I think you should shave like this, you’re pretty fat compared to me on this poster……..etc. Obviously, it’s not just advertising, it’s TV, Film and whole gamut of pop culture. I’m affected by it and I notice a lot of others are as well.

I’ve always been caught up in the idea of the weekend too. The time to cram in all your leisure pursuits, whatever’s your bag. So I love taking snapshots of people on the weekend, doing whatever. The days themselves have a different energy, especially in the area where I live. I’m not being judgmental when I say this, but some characters almost seem pious with their newspapers spread out in front of them at the local café. And well, you also have the flight of tropical birds in their dazzling array of lycra whizzing around the streets and cafés. It’s like a migration of the species! So yes, I love capturing the weekend and how it brings its various fruits to different peoples.

And as I stated before, I really dig using the words; park, apartment, river, street.


How have my feelings about lyrics changed since I started writing?

Listening to more and more musical artists and taking in more influences, be it a movie or a piece of art continues to broaden my approach and ideas to lyric writing. It has been interesting going to a lot of poetry readings as well in the past three years to note the different approaches to poetry. Somewhere along the line I assume all this information will appear somewhere in my work. I’ve always been conscious of a good lyric though, it’s just I started off really bad and now I feel I’m on the verge of being alright at it. Words have come a bit easier with practice and allowing myself a bit of time. Right now I have the luxury of time and I think it’s starting to reap its benefits in terms of I’m writing the sort of fruity stuff I like. You need time, but what a drag. I wish it all happened quickly for me lyrically and I could just move on to the next song. This is pretty much the way I felt when I first started too.

The Stress of Leisure plays Livespark at the Brisbane Powerhouse on Sunday, March 22 start time around 3pm. It’s a free event and all ages.


Find out more:

The Official Site: http://www.thestressofleisure.com/

Jennifer Sharp Film Clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xd184CMF4xc


Filed under Where do the Words Come From?

Where do the Words Come From #4 – Felicity Plunkett

It has been a great pleasure chatting to each of the feature poets who will read at the upcoming Poetry on the Deck event at Riverbend Books on Tuesday February 24 (full details below). This time I chat to Felicity Plunkett to see just where she finds the words that inhabit her poems.





My writing is influenced by my reading, which has always been central to my life. At school I was introduced to the poetry of Catullus and Virgil by a Latin teacher who realised I was getting bored. I found a copy of T S Eliot’s Selected Poems on the footpath one day on the way to school, then discovered Browning, Plath and Levertov. I don’t remember studying any Australian poetry at school, but later was able to do a double major in English and Australian Literature at Sydney University, which gave me access to inspiring teaching and brilliant poetry.

I’ve been able to work in poetry-related areas, mainly as an academic after doing a PhD at Sydney University, so teaching, reviewing and reading have all remained central. Now I have small children I get to revisit the delicious shapes and angles of great children’s writing, and I also get to re-experience the imaginative richness and absorbency of kids, which is a great reminder about a kind of mindfulness it’s easy to lose. My students inspire me, and I have wonderful like-minded friends to talk about books with. This year I’ve been reading Paul Celan for his gorgeously askew metaphor and his intensity, lots of Americans like Louise Gluck and Robert Hass, and Australians including Judith Bishop, Nathan Shepherdson and the ever-flowering John Tranter. A turning point for me as a poet was a mentorship at Varuna with Dorothy Porter – I learned a great deal from Dorothy about pithiness and intensity.

Odd things influence me – an offhand comment, a row of surgical instruments laid out, and music – there’s an essay in this, but I won’t write it here.

That’s a version of the lineage of inspiration answer that is one way into this question. I think the answer is probably more complex, and involves serendipity, openness, and joy.


The Writing Process

The back cover blurb of the Louise Gluck I’m reading announces that she practises poetry as a species of clairvoyance. I am interested in poetry’s mystery, and Dorothy talked about poetry and the daemonic. Having said that, re-shaping and editing is equally important, so the Romantic and pragmatic hold hands when I’m writing, which can make it very difficult to manage a pen. Pen – I’m a note-taker. Sometimes I have to wait until I get away from a conversation to record something that suggests something else – little flakes and sparks that stir the imagination. I don’t find there’s any one path into a poem. Some seem to emerge fully formed, while others involve a kind of archaeological enterprise. Some poems seem to get shaken down by inverted poses in yoga.


The Voice

I’ve had some interesting conversations about this lately. I use a range of first person voices, not all of which are biographically my own. I also love the second person, and the ways it can make the reader and the poet quite close. I enjoy acts of ventriloquism from time to time. Beyond the technicalities of voice, I do think that truth, however defined, drives powerful poetry, and I do think you have to learn to listen to write.


Recurring Themes

I need to have these pointed out, as I guess they emerge from preoccupations you may not know you have. Vanishing Point is about the body, and the erotic, and about making, and focuses on the life and vulnerability of the body. Maybe the fact that there is a lot of blood in my poetry comes from a consideration of overt and covert violences, though I am also interested in the start and the end of the life of the body. 


Feelings About Poetry

I have always loved poetry’s capacity to give a sense of the poet’s imaginative architecture; their passions and preoccupations. I love the poetic intensity that can light up most subjects, and the main change in my feelings about poetry, as I read and write more, is a deepening appreciation of the risk, adventure and craft of the work of poets I love. I love its capacity to crystallise, and to start a vision, and I love the sensual and textured that finds its way into poems.




John Banville, the fifth Beatle, pesto, cake
(or friand) – anyway, we talked. And
when we didn’t, days felt long. John Banville
with his longer oeuvre my compensation:
burnt CDs; unknotting reef and clove knot,
rolling hitch: the verbal boy-scoutery
of your ever-casual emails: these and when
not these, the things we’d said: the glance you gave,
the way you leant back in the lift one day
and with that, all my floor leant into you
and I was thrown, my skinned knees anchors:

Oh stupid girl! How much of this could be
misprision, missed points, mis-en-scene?
But missing, with its sighs and crumbs, drags on.


(previously published in Blue Dog and Best Australian Poems 2008 – Black Inc.)


About Felicity

Felicity Plunkett’s manuscript Vanishing Point won the 2008 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Prize and is forthcoming with UQP. She is an Honorary Research Consultant at the University of Queensland, where she teaches literature and poetics, and a widely-published reviewer. She has a PhD from the University of Sydney. Her poetry has been published in journals and anthologies including Best Australian Poetry 2008, The Best Australian Poems 2008, Heat, Southerly and Blue Dog, and was awarded Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg prizes in 2006 and 2007.


Poetry on the Deck

Join Felicity on the Riverbend deck alongside the sounds and imagery of award winning poet Anna Krien (2008 Val Vallis Award); global traveler Alan Jefferies and exciting Brisbane voice, Jessika Tong.

Date: Tuesday 24 February
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 www.riverbendbooks.com.au

Spaces are limited so book early to avoid disappointment!


Filed under Where do the Words Come From?

Where do the Words Come From #3 – Anna Krien

Anna Krien is one of the feature poets at the first QLD Poetry Festival event for 2009, Poetry on the Deck to be held at Riverbend Books on Tuesday February 24 (full details below). Her poem ‘The Last Broadcasters’ won the 2008 Arts QLD Val Vallis Award. So let’s take a look at where the words come from…





Perhaps my greatest influence was my primary school teacher Miss Buffham. She noticed that I had somehow managed to sneak through without learning how to read (this was in a fairly hectic and full state school). She quickly bundled me off to this little old lady who made animal brooches out of FIMO and taught me how to read. The next few years were a blur – with a FIMO rabbit brooch and a whole new world opened up to me I simply disappeared into books.


Writing Process

Roll out of bed crack o dawn if possible. Coffee goes on the stove simultaneously with the laptop being turned on. I have a rule (that constantly needs reinforcing) no internet until 1pm. Then with a coffee in hand (white, two sugars) I keep working on whatever is at the forefront of my mind. Because I write in different areas – essays, journalism, short stories, poetry – I have to organise my weeks as to what I am focusing on. My life is a sticky-note. But most of my work, no matter how separated they are, tend to bleed into each other. I guess my ultimate goal is to one day write and publish something that is everything – poetry, fiction, journalism, philosophy, essay, and not give a damn about what genre it is ‘supposed’ to be or how vexed bookshop owners are going to be when deciding what section to put it in.

On a good day I’ll work through to 1 or 2pm, allow myself to check emails, and then start arranging interviews and stories and meetings and read the papers, magazines and a few chapters of a book. Then get ready to waitress at night, or go for a swim, or whatever. On a bad day, well, I get frustrated, feel like a failure, am lonely, and slip into bad habits.


Recurring Themes

There seems to be a lot of driving in my poems. I’m a bit of a poetic petrol-head. When I was little I loved the drive to somewhere. I never really wanted to get there. We had this old orange Leyland P76 that was like being inside a whale as it steered along highways and up apple peel shaped mountain roads. Dad had a collection of dusty melting cassettes and there was one album amongst the Dire Straits, Carly Simon, Roy Orbison, and Pavarotti that used to send me into a kind of spell. Oxygene by Jean Michel Jarre – perhaps one of the first electronic music albums produced. When it played I’d stare out the window and imagine I was outside the car, running alongside it. When the Leyland finally died after a lifetime of overheating and being pushed uphill, my parents bought another P76. Can you believe it? Lime-green this time.

News stories also tend to creep in and out of my poems – tiny in-briefs of affecting truth and alien voices coming out of transistor radios. I like real poems – which is not to say that all the others are fakes, but I personally like poems that startle me with recognition. It’s the journo in me, no doubt. There is also a lot of curiosity and wonder about how things got to be a certain way. The strangeness of science, awkward adaptations between people and their surroundings, the decay of creatures and the environment.


How my feelings have changed about poetry

Is it wrong to say I’m not a fan of a lot of poetry? Probably – but I’ll say it anyway. To be concise, I think there is an excess of bad writing out there posing as poetry – coughed up linguistic fur-balls that are confusing and cryptic, as well as the indulgent self-fascinated bird droppings that are cathartic for its author and painful for the rest of us. Perhaps I am so acutely pained by this because I have my own share of bad writing posing as poetry hidden somewhere in a milk-crate in the garage. At the National Young Writers Festival in Newcastle one year, a few of us organised a Teen Angst panel where we read out the miserable poetry we had all written back in the day and laughed ourselves silly. It was wonderful. I think if a poet can’t laugh at him or herself, chances are their poetry is going to be a pain in the arse.


Some Poems that Stayed With Me

Broken Land by Coral Hull is quite possibly my favourite collection of poetry. Out of print, of course.

David Berman’s Self-Portrait at 28 and How I Met Your Mother

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S Eliot

A Small Mistake, Kevin Brophy’s poem about the class pet hamster.

Electricity Saviour (page 21 of this link) by Sharon Olds

Josephine Rowe’s collection, Asynchrony

Charles Bukowski’s collection The Night Torn Mad With Footsteps

Sarah Holland-Batt’s The Art of Disappearing

The Well Mouth by Philip Salom


A short poem….


Iron Lung

Inside his iron lung
he had sticky-taped
an old poster of the Geelong Cats.
When I mention
the team captain had
left a seventeen-year-old girl
in a hotel room choking
on her own vomit,
he shut the cabinet door
to his chest
and asked me to leave.


About Anna

Anna Krien’s writing has been published in The Big Issue, The Monthly, The Age newspaper, Best Australian Essays 2005 & Best Australian Essays 2006 – published by Black Inc, Griffith Review, Voiceworks, Going Down Swinging, COLORS, Best Australian Stories 2008, and Frankie magazine. Her poem ‘The Last Broadcasters’ won the 2008 Val Vallis Award. Once she had a neurological cat scan, which came back saying she had an unremarkable brain.


Find out more…



Poetry On The Deck:

Join Anna on the Riverbend Deck alongside exciting new voice, Jessika Tong (Anatomy of Blue, Sunline Press), award winning poet Felicity Plunkett (2008 Thomas Shapcott Award) and global traveler, Alan Jefferies (Homage and other poems).

Date: Tuesday 24 February
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 www.riverbendbooks.com.au

Spaces are limited so book early to avoid disappointment!


Filed under Where do the Words Come From?