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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

 

Influences

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.
 

A COOEE AND A CANNON SHOT
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

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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

 

Influences

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.

 

Poem:

 

The unwritten law of living

 

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

day
bread
vows
egg

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

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Where do the Words Come From #8 – Sophia Nugent-Siegal

Sophia Nugent-Siegal is an exciting new voice, who released her debut collection ‘Oracle’ at the ripe old age of 16. She is one of the featured poets at the upcoming Riverbend Books: Poetry on the Deck event on Tuesday April 28, so let’s take a look at where Sophia finds her words.

 

sophia-nugent-siegal

 

Influences:

My biggest influences have been the dead—the great poets of the English language, particularly Shakespeare, the Metaphysicals and Modernist authors such as T.S. Elliot, and the characters that populate my historical calling (who wouldn’t be inspired to verse by the Muses of the Hellenes or the Holy Spirit of the Middle Ages).

 

The writing process:

My writing process mostly takes place in my head before pen has got within a mile of paper, so that when I finally do start writing, the poetry tends to come fairly easily and needing little revision. This process means that I write rarely but when I do I can be very productive – writing, for example, about thirty poems in four days and then not writing again for up to a year.

 

Voice:

My voice is somewhat impersonal, even when there is an “I” who can be seen to roughly correlate with me. I often take on dramatic masks such as mythological or fictional characters or write without any definition of self whatsoever. In another way, of course, my voice is startlingly personal, as I possess a distinctive style that represents my own unique interests and ideas, if not personality.

 

Themes:

History is probably my most consistently recurring theme—I have never written a poem that does not include time and the past as significant factors. It has also been mentioned to me that blood, red earth and birth make more than their fair share of appearances in my work.

 

Feelings/change:

I started writing poetry ten years ago, when I was seven years old, so obviously my feelings about an awful lot of things have changed since then. My poetry however seems to have undergone more of a process of evolution, and my analysis of it more an intellectual sharpening, than my feelings about the act and purpose of writing changed. I still aim for beauty and power, I still aim to fight against mortality, and I still write as much about a universe of the quick, haunted by their predecessors as much as I ever did.

 

The Flight into Egypt, Book of Hours (France, Paris, c.1440-c.1450)1

This refugee family treks into a strangely familiar Egypt
The baby wrapped up into a Canopic jar
His precious body and blood protected by golden swaddling bands

An angel follows with a small bag
And a heavenly sceptre
He walks a step behind the donkey

How tiresome for him who can run with the quick and the dead
Whose speed outpaces that of light
Who must be both a wave and a pulse
To walk a step behind this donkey who walks a step behind an old man
And carry a small bag
Joseph carries bigger, as does Mary’s donkey
So what does the celestial carry-bag contain?

Souls perhaps
Or merely hell
The future to the New Jerusalem
With a dead hand refilling with rivulets of flesh
And raising itself up
Or maybe the angel carries
The ultimate baggage
Sin and the fiery angel Death
The weeping Adam and Eve
Whose sweeping nakedness waits
For a double rebirth

Behind the family and their otherworldly servant
Lies what passes for the Nile
A rowing boat snails along it
A castle guards it
And a city lies poised upon its banks
Reflecting and refracting
Waiting for time to throw it downstream

This family is fleeing murder
This family is fleeing tyranny
This family is not going toward but away
Away from the red mouth of slaughter
And the more numerous red mouths of its work

So whether they carry sin or the apocalypse in their overnight bag
Behind them the farmer digs holes
Not looking or searching
Simply opening up

 

1 An illuminated manuscript from The Medieval Imagination, an exhibition at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, in 2008

 

About Sophia:

Sophia Nugent-Siegal is a young poet whose interest in mythology, art and history is woven into work with a contemporary focus and edge. Sophia has won many national young writers’ awards (she is a 3-time national award winner in the Taronga Foundation Poetry Prize, and has also won the FAW Young Poet of the Year and Mavis Thorpe Clark awards). Her first book, Oracle, provides a fresh, sharp and contemporary insight into the continuing resonance of the Classical world. Recent projects include a collection based on illuminated manuscripts of medieval texts from an exhibition at the Melbourne State Library in 2008.

 

Queensland Poetry Festival, QLD Writers Centre & Riverbend Books are proud to present the second Poetry on the Deck event for 2009. Join Sophia Nugent-Siegal (Oracle) on the Riverbend deck alongside Longreach poet, Helen Avery (Seduced by Sky), Rosanna Licari and Philip Neilsen (Without an Alibi).
 
Date: Tuesday 28 April
Location: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St. Bulimba
Time: Doors open for the event at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Tickets: $10 available through Riverbend Books and include sushi and complimentary wine. To purchase tickets, call Riverbend Books on (07) 3899 8555 or book online at:

http://www.riverbendbooks.com.au/Events/EventDetails.aspx?ID=2199

The first event for the year was a huge success, with tickets selling out quickly, so book early to avoid disappointment!

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Where do the Words Come From #5 – Paul Squires

I was recently shuffling some papers from one pile to another and came across the quote – ‘Inspiration is a word used by people who aren’t really doing anything.’ (Nick Cave)

Paul Squires is never one to stand still, so let’s take a look at where he finds the words…

 

paul-squires

 

Influences:

 

The Pornography of the Self

I have a red rubber nose and bright red fingernails,
a green felt hat and an oversized geranium.
I have a history of Abbie Hoffman,
a box full of astonishing connecticons,
assistance apparent from mysterious sources,
a Chinese Puzzle Box
and several spies with flowerpot eyes but
because you asked so nicely,
(the grass is damp but
i will still sit on it i
have a new book of
haikuschmaiku
written by worldfamous
masters of modern haikuschmaiku
so i will sit
on the damp grass
on my fat arse
and read it.)
I could be waving a polkadot flag and creating revolutions of clownish
mayhem, throwing flour bombs at the smugly complacent and
confabulating the hypocritical but because you asked so nicely I will
just sit here on this damp grass staring blankly into a mute mirror
and practise the pornography of the self.

“Revolution is not something fixed in ideology, nor is it something
fashioned to a particular decade. It is a perpetual process embedded
in the human spirit.” Abbie Hoffman.

 

Process

 

Star Sign: Rover

All art is improvised, you can fiddle with the aftereffects, but you
cant escape the influence of Jackson Pollock. You can cut and paste
and blur and hide behind and elucidate all you like afterwards but in
the act of creation, all art is improvised, like life, and all art is
in some way performance art. These are common and self evident truths,
and in the past I would put punctuation round them and place them
gently in the mouth of some unnamed character like a cigarette and
then reiterate with an image after rotating on a pivot from a
smokescreen to a mirror and then rewrite for rhythm, look for a
confluence, knit around it, make a poem in other words like a craftsman whilst pretending to be a magician, or vice versa, but now it seems so reductionist, an entertainment rather than a revelation, i am my own dog i used to say, perhaps i’ll buy a puppy,

 

Voice

 

got a rolls royce

‘cos its good for my voice,
anyone can write maudlin introspection
looking into a goddamn mirror, sir ian, he said
clattering up from his chair and tossing
kings and pawns and chequered boards across the room,
play that Amsterdam Song again
the one in which squalls approached and not a man objected,
slamming his drink down on the piano in F.
and leaning in smelling of salt fish, absynthe
and the last trace of some Egyptian cigarette,
so close his whiskers brushed my cheek and whispering,
have you seen the piano player, my dear,
his gift was only in his hands,
as he closed the diamond clasp around my throat
leaned back and smiled
or has he disappeared,

 

Themes

 

So i said,

to him, Terry, mate, you are supposed to be creating a fucking
revolution not whispering in the halls of academia. Fuck’s sake, man,
get a grip, haha, said F. placing his frothy glass immaculately on the
centre of your belly where despite the many tides and storms stays
immaculately upright, though tilting, it’s good to be home,
Haha, I am back, my love, I have a gift, he says, leaning down and
kissing your nipple like tasting a strawberry, a new tattoo, it’s a
crouching tigger hidden dragon tattoo, schimply schplendiferous
looking down at you,

 

Change

 

The True Legend of Paul Squires.

(Wikipedia Page, first draft, freehand doodlings of sunonhead after
falling asleep in the sun on Sunday Morning.)
The only known photograph of Paul Squires was taken decades ago. He is
sitting on the beach behind his house at the time making a sandcastle
with something long and white hanging out of his mouth. At high tide
it was possible to throw a line from his back verandah into Moreton
Bay. He only ever caught one fish, impaling a squiggling prawn on a
laser sharp hook and throwing it into the bay then feeling the warmth
of the fire and staring blankly out into a vast smooth ocean
reflecting an infinity of stars. There is Orion, the hunter when
Whack! a flathead grabbed the prawn as it tumbled into the channel and
ripped off into the depths. The fish is wriggling and squiggling under
his hand and a sharp knife flashes in the other and the rhythm of the
fish slows and there is a silence. This photograph was taken that
afternoon.

When drunk Squires is known to have claimed the most outrageous things are true, that it is possible to contain actual magic in language but
his definition of actual magic changes with his mood. He claims such
ironic absurdistries as having used the internet to have achieved a
kind of immortality, sometimes through the blatancy of not deleting
anything and sometimes by having transcended the human, since it is a
fundamental aspect of being human to know that you are going to die.
He is waiting patiently to feel that he has earned the respect of his
peers so that he can stop trying so hard, the genre settles around his
shoulders and it requires a mightier shrug as he gets older and the
concretions of age, scars, barnacles. The fact is he no longer wishes
to be reborn, to be better, he only desires the freedom to be what he
is.

Paul’s website – http://gingatao.com/
Or you can listen to Paul perform at the podcast http://gingatao.podbean

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Where do the Words Come From #1 – Karen Knight

This Lost Shark is always seeking answers. Dialogue keeps us moving forward. In this series, I am asking poets where the words come from – the influences, the process, the themes, how it’s changed. Tasmanian poet and collaborator, Karen Knight is first to respond.

karen-knight

Influences

I started writing from a very early age due to a strong family influence. Both parents were artistic. Dad was a piano and singing teacher and composer. Mum was a singer and a speech and drama teacher, they both wrote poetry and short stories, so there was never a shortage of books and music in the house. Both brothers played guitar and at one stage my youngest brother brought a euphonium into the house.
When I was 12, I wrote some lyrics to a piece of music Dad composed and it was published by Allans, in sheet music form, so that was pretty exciting. 

Around the age of 15, Dylan Thomas’ poetry had such a profound effect on me that I decided then and there I wanted to become a serious writer. The Beat Poets, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin guided me into the literary world and I had my first poem published by Poetry Australia when I was 19.

Nowadays I always listen to music when I write. Groups like Massive Attack, Left Field and Portishead certainly put me into the right frame of mind (I like the dark stuff). For a few years now there have been two poets, Billy Collins and Matthew Sweeney who have had a similar effect on me that Dylan Thomas had when I was younger. I always want to write when I read their work. I used to jot down my drafts on paper, but now I like to feed the computer, I can see the structure/shape of my poems a lot quicker this way.

I don’t have any political influences and landscape not very often, except when I am commissioned to write something that relates to landscape and then I suprise myself as to how much it does influence me, sub-consciously.

When I was in Scotland a couple of years ago staying in a pod at the artist’s retreat, Cove Park, which is in the West Coast area, the landscape inspired me greatly and I had no problem writing about it, because it was different to anything I’d experienced before. The hills, the lochs, the black faced sheep, the Highland cows, the wild blaeberries, etc. In some parts, the farmed trees were so dense, your eyes had to adjust, because it was like looking at them through 3D.

 

The writing process

I usually agonise as to how to start a poem and the titles are always difficult for me, as I love quirky titles, especially one word titles and I also love deceptively simple words and images in poetry, so I try keep that in mind when I’m writing down the first drafts. I usually hone in and craft the initial idea as quickly as possible, but I usually find there are two poems in what I’m trying to say so I have to work through that raw process, then put the poem aside and come back to it each day with new eyes and a fresh approach, preferably in the mornings.

 I would love to say that the words just flow for me, but they don’t, they never have and I lack confidence in my ability at times, which can be damaging. I like to read the work aloud as it helps me with the rhythms and patterns. And even when I think it’s finished I usually send it to two close poet friends of mine who have great skill in picking up on the tiniest details. They give their valued opinions and constructive criticisms. There are usually changes to be made, particularly with line breaks and grammar, they’re not my strongest points as I’m usually too swept up with my images to worry initially about the structure.  So as you can see, it’s a long, drawn out process and sometimes it takes me weeks to write just a few lines and certainly a long process to get it to the final stage of sending the work out to a publisher.

I’m also very reader conscious which can be agonising at times.

My favourite place to write is Varuna- The Writers House in the Blue Mountains. I swear there are creative ghosts up there guiding my hand, but it’s probably because there are no distractions and they have a resident cook.

I relate strongly to Philip Larkin’s description of his daily routine as – work all day, then cook, then eat, wash up, telephone, hack writing, drink and T.V. in the evenings. I almost never go out.

 

Where the voice(s) comes from

My emotions trigger the voices and that’s usually somewhere deep in my psyche that elbows me when we’re ready. It could be something I’ve read, heard or seen, it’s unpredictable. I remember when I heard Walt Whitman inviting me to buy an old National Geographic Book that was in a Red Cross bookshop window. I went in and bought it for 10 cents and there was an incredible spread about him and his life, things I didn’t know about him, he was a voluntary wound dresser during the American Civil War, he donated his brain to science and when he died, a young laboratory assistant dropped Whitman’s brain and it had to be thrown away. It was riveting stuff to come across and for two years I researched Whitman’s life and the American Civil War until I finished my previous collection Under the One Granite Roof – Poems for Walt Whitman (Pardalote Press, 2004)

 It’s an incredible rush when something like this happens to you, where a whole collection of poems can arise out of reading an article. I wish it could happen all the time.

 

Recurring themes

Definitely birds keep popping up all over the place throughout my poetry. I have a great affinity with birds and have always had them as pets, rescued and reared many wild birds and set them free, so they appear subconsciously throughout my collections, even in my new book Postcards from the Asylum (Pardalote Press) it’s been pointed out to me that there are quite a few references to birds. So there is definitely recurring themes in my work. I like to work with specific themes now, particularly since I started applying for grants, as it’s easier to sell your idea if you are focused on one theme.

 

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

Poems I wrote in my teens were way too obscure, too dramatic and too surreal. I was hiding beneath my words and in love with the idea of being a writer. I dressed accordingly, read all the trendy books, wanted to be seen with writers, be linked romantically to poets, but I didn’t put enough time and effort into the writing process. I needed life experience to sort me out, which it has.

I don’t read as much poetry as I used to. But now and then I will go through a phase where I come across work that will have an incredible impact on me for e.g. Luke Davies is high on my list at the moment, not only his poetry but his novels. I’ve just finished reading ‘God of Speed’ and couldn’t put it down. ‘Totem’ is one of the finest poetry I’ve read in ages. I’m also always eager to see any new works from Ian McBryde as he never disappoints.

I think T.S. Eliot got it wrong when, in terms of philosophy and society, he said that the modern world was complex and various, so therefore poetry also had to be.

Billy Collins has taught me a lot about writing poetry. He imagines he has someone in the room with him, who he’s talking to, when he’s writing, and he has to make sure he’s not talking too fast or too glibly. He writes about simple, every day things, but with such depth and empathy, he shatters you with his summations. These are the goals I hope to achieve as I continue writing.

I suppose I keep trying to follow Dylan Thomas’ philosophy on writing poetry, that it should make the toenails twinkle. I like to stir the emotions in my readers. I  believe that poetry should touch other human beings, not just to entertain, but to give comfort and stay with them for a while.

I like to make other poets envious.

 

It’s a Girl-Interrupted Dream

The inmates love me, they think
I’m a rainbow-flavoured icecream.

Ladies-in-waiting scrub my restless skin
and put away my loved-out jeans.

I get to watch the same Paul Newman
movie             every week.
I read the Penny Dreadfuls
from the one-shelf library,
stamped ‘donated by the
Australian Red Cross’.

I have my own room, with a double-locked
door and all the boiled mutton I can eat.
On Sundays, the anxious ones
show me cowboys and Indians
with roast gristle and three veg.

On river picnics I sit with a long-termer
and consider the strength of the current.
There’s talk of a cure for this lunatic calm.
Everyone has a lagoon breakout
now and then, their sandbanks
crumbling like halva.
Finally, I’m part of this mad scene.

(from  Postcards from the Asylum, Pardalote Press)

 

About Karen:

Karen Knight’s poetry has won her many awards, including the Dorothy Hewett Flagship Fellowship from Varuna, The Writer’s House. Since the late 1960’s, her poetry has consistently appeared in literary journals, newspapers and anthologies, including Best Australian Poems 2005. In 2007, Karen travelled to Scotland on a three week International Writers Exchange funded by Varuna and the UNESCO City of Literature in Edinburgh. She has written five collections of poetry to which she has received three Arts Tasmania grants and an Australia Council grant.  Her current  collection, Postcards from the Asylum (Pardalote Press) won the 2007 Arts ACT Alec Bolton Award for an unpublished manuscript. Karen often collaborates with other writers, visual artists, painters, scientists and musicians. Some of her work has been translated into Tamil and set to music by a New York composer. She has recently completed a collaborative work Twinset (Knucker Press, UK)  with Scottish writer, Dilys Rose.

 

Read a review of Postcards from the Asylum here
Purchase the book here

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