Tag Archives: the writing process

Countdown to SpeedPoets 10th Birthday Bash

This week is a big one… 

Tonight’s gig at Riverbend Books is almost sold out (a few tickets left so get there early!!!), tomorrow nights gig at Confit Bistro is being filmed for Channel 7’s The Great Southeast and then on Friday night I fly down to Melbourne to feature at The Castlemaine Poetry Reading (at The Guildford Hotel), hosted by Ross Donlon on Sunday, Feb 27.

Big times indeed…

And to add to that excitement, I am counting down the days until SpeedPoets celebrates its 10th birthday on Sunday March 6 at InSpire Gallery Bar (71 Vulture St. West End). SpeedPoets has kicked off the year by revamping their website and the first person to step on to the virtual stage is one of the 10th birthday features, our lovely lady from 4ZzZ’s Waxing Lyrical, Fern Thompsett. Head on over and check out our interview and read her poem Sunset on the Back Steps.

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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 #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 #7 – Noelle Janaczewska

Today the spotlight is shining on Noëlle Janaczewska. Noëlle is an accomplished writer in a number of styles including poetry, plays, performance texts and radio scripts. I had the pleasure of talking to her about her influences, the role of spontaneity the importance of performance and the writing process. Here’s what she had to say: 

 

Noelle

 

What is the role of spontaneity in your creative process?

It’s there, but to what degree, I’m not sure. What I can say is that all my work comes from some combination of interior activity and exterior influences, but the balance varies from one work to another, and from one day to another.

 

Eliot said, “Poets learn to write by being other writers for a while, and then moving onto another one.” Who are the people who have influenced you and who are you reading now?

I spent my early teens wanting to be Joseph Conrad, and my bookcase still has a ‘Conrad’ shelf—or 2. There’s also my battered Penguin copies of Children of Albion, Donne’s The Complete English Poems and Cautionary Tales by Hilaire Belloc—horrible politics, funny verse. I’ve always relished inconsistency and contradiction. More recent influences are Czesław Miłosz, Caryl Churchill, Ira Gershwin, Laurie Anderson and Izumi Shikibu. Right now I’m reading Isaac Newton’s 1659 Notebook (research for a new work) and listening to Lester Young (probably my favourite tenor saxophonist) and Don Byron.
 

Why perform/read your poetry?

More and more of my writing is on the borderlines of performance and poetry. I have a theatre background with a strong interest in music and musical forms, so things like rhythm and refrain, timbre and tone have always been important. And spoken words pieces are obviously composed with voice in mind.
 

I am always interested in the thought processes and practices of writers. Would it be possible for you to share with us your process, in other words, what does Noëlle Janaczewska do in preparation for writing?

A lot of thinking. A lot of walking—not only along the harbour foreshore, but also up and down supermarket aisles. A lot of what may seem like aimless wandering, both mental and physical, but it all helps create what I like to call a dreaming space for the work. I recently read Doris Lessing’s 2007 Nobel lecture, and posted this excerpt on my blog (http://outlier-nj.blogspot.com): ‘Writers are often asked, How do you write? With a wordprocessor? an electric typewriter? a quill? longhand? But the essential question is, “Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write?” Into that space, which is like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas—inspiration.’
 

Finally, where are you looking when you write?

Literally: a computer screen. Figuratively: the world in all its shambolic glory.

 

About Noëlle :

Noëlle Janaczewska’s performance texts, plays, libretti, lyrics, spoken word, poetry, essays, gallery and on-line explorations, and radio scripts across drama and non-fiction, have been performed, published and broadcast throughout Australia and overseas. 

Recurring themes in her work are the history and philosophy of science, colonialism and its legacies, narratives of migration, and the exploration of language. The recipient of 4 AWGIE Awards, her stage plays have won the 2002 Griffin Playwriting Award, the 2001 Playbox-Asialink Playwriting Competition (Songket), and the 2006 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award (Mrs Petrov’s Shoe). Recent productions include: Eyewitness Blues for the BBC, The Hannah First Collection, 1919-1949 for the Zendai Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai and There’s Something About Eels … for ABC Radio National. 

Alongside performance, Noëlle has published in anthologies, arts journals and on-line magazines. The poems she wrote for Kathryn Millard’s film Travelling Light feature on the soundtrack CD, and in 2006 The Wayzgoose Press published her long poem Dorothy Lamour’s Life as a Phrasebook. Find out more about Noëlle’s work at www.outlier-nj.blogspot.com and www.noellejanaczewska.com

 

Poem:

 

LOCAL CUSTOMS: TIPS FOR REFUGEES

 

Don’t be rushed to buy something when you see a sale,
Here there is always being a sale of some sort.
When you are standing in line keep your good distance
Or the person in front of you will be offended.
It’s quite normal to say ‘see you later’, even if you won’t.

Pink colour is here associated with girls, blue colour with boys,
Green, yellow, orange and grey colours are unisex.
Many people here are keeping animals inside their household;
You will cause upset if you don’t treat them like members of the family.

For your dishwasher use detergent specially designated for that,
Ordinary dish-cleaning soap makes too much foaming.
Pizzas are very popular for people of all ages and lifestyles;
You can get cheese pizza, vegetarian pizza or pizza with meats.
Additional servings are called ‘seconds’ and are offered once.

Keep in mind you can’t walk anywhere you like to,
If you walk at inappropriate place the police may give you a ticket.
In front of Australians you should avoid talk in your native language,
They don’t like it and are thinking you might be hiding something. 

 

Catch Noëlle at QPF 2009:

 

Saturday August 22 – 1:30pm – 2:30pm

Spine of Lost Voices: feat. Noëlle Janaczewska, Elizabeth Bachinsky & Jessika Tong 

 

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 & Noëlle Janaczewska

 

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 #6 – Fiona Privitera

Spotlight #6 takes a look at local shining light, Fiona Privitera. Recently, I have had the pleasure of working with Fiona as part of my residency at Cosmopolitan Cafe and am mighty happy to announce that I will be publishing a chapbook of her work (alongside another local poet Jonathon Hadwen), so keep your eyes out for details about its release. For now, over to Fiona …

 

fe privitera

 

What is the role of spontaneity in your creative process?

Spontaneity is the result of many hours of reading, researching, talking, thinking, dreaming and writing. Also as important is the role of mistake in a work-  an example of this is a line which began as “the slipping sunlight…” in my notebook, but I typed it as “the slipping sun slight…” which worked better within the poem.

 

Eliot said, “Poets learn to write by being other writers for a while, and then moving onto another one.” Who are the people who have influenced you and who are you reading now?
 
Yesterday I finished reading Story of O by Pauline Réage. It might take a few more days to sink in. It is about a woman whose lover takes her to a house where she is whipped and made use of by all of the men there, and then she is given to another man by her lover and that other man becomes her ‘master’. The book refrains from becoming vulgar however, and has some really interesting things to say about desire and control, desire and possession, about submission, about how much one will do for the pleasure they receive in letting another take pleasure from them in whatever way they see fit.

O must be open all the time. She is to wear no underwear, never close her legs, always have her mouth slightly open. O’s body may be a possession of her master to use and lend as he sees fit, however, her free will is never compromised, as at any stage O is free to leave. I really see it as an extreme version of all erotic relationships; although in most relationships the ‘master/servant’ roles vary from moment to moment, day to day, and you could say the real master is always desire itself. I would recommend reading it.

I would say that I have been more influenced by particular books and poems than by whole bodies of work by any particular author. Novels would be Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino and Silk by Allessandro Barrico, for their poetic, simple, concise use of language. I have just re-read My Lover’s Back by mtc cronin- what a great collection. The first poem, Lovers, I must have read 30 times over and each time it is just as brilliant. And I really like the stanza you wrote in On One Hand

Why do they do that?
Shut mad men in a dark place
where they will ripen

I have been influenced and inspired by poets I have met and ones I have seen perform- Rowan Donovan, Mel Dixon, Sean M Whelan -the list could go on and on.

 

Why perform/read your poetry?

I like the sound of it. Hopefully some other people do as well.
 

 

I am always interested in the thought processes and practices of writers. Would it be possible for you to share with us your process, in other words, what does Fiona Privitera do in preparation for writing?

I find the actual physical act of writing somewhat contrary to my nature. I prefer to be active and social, while writing is sedentary and solitary. It also requires a certain degree of discipline which I lack. I read poems, stories, non-fiction, news articles, spend way too long on Wikipedia, visit my grandmother, do the dishes, walk to the shops, listen to music, sleep, take notes from books and conversations, steal quotes from friends, do the laundry, think, think some more and then finally I write some awful page of rubbish, which, if I am lucky has one line I use as stimulus for a piece or pieces. Exercise seems to stimulate my ‘writing brain’ so I always walk with a notebook. I usually end up writing decent poems about things which I have been thinking of and taking notes about for at least six months. I went through a big writing stage about a year ago, so lately I’ve really become more of an editor as opposed to a writer. 

 

Finally, where are you looking when you write?

Graham, I am looking at the notebook or the computer screen. ( is this a trick question?)

 

Poem:

 

i.

The red dye carmine, which is used
to colour many cosmetics and confectionaries
is processed by crushing dried female
cochineal insects.

She sucks on a watermelon flavoured
chili-coated lollipop and harvests
those insects from the cacti.

 

ii.

Her dress is fine threads of saffron fairy floss.
We lie on the white ground.
The morning is strangely warm and the snow
melts around our bodies.
Her dress melts beneath my hands and in my mouth.
I am full of sugar and we are lying in wet dirt.

Her dark eyes are accentuated by grey eyeliner
the cosmetic company titled Gunshot.
Her cupids bow mouth is sweet, Harlot red.
Her flushed cheeks, Peaches.

Her open palm holds the broken thread of her
beetle necklace; the soft bugs scattered in the earth
and the fire-ant trail of her hair.

She tells me:
Iam a pinata. You have cracked me open
found me full of candy.

 

Catch Fiona 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 – 12:15pm – 1:15pm

Basement of Grins: feat. Fiona Privitera, Janet Jackson & Jayne Fenton Keane

 

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 #4 – Angela Costi

There is just over a month until QLD Poetry Festival hits the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, August 21 -23. Angela Costi is one of the many featured artists at QPF 2009 and this time I shine the spotlight on her to find out about the role of spontaneity, influences and the importance of performance.

 

Angela-Costi

 

What is the role of spontaneity in your creative process?

I’d like to think that my creative process is balanced, albeit precariously, between spontaneity and a thought-inspired response. I like responding to my intuition and the spark within. Often this spark leads to igniting a need to write about a certain thing. This may turn into a passionate pursuit as I read books, rummage through the Internet, discuss with friends, take notes and then embark on the poem. This is how the poem, When Ash and Bone Speaks, came about – through a spontaneous urge to know more about the destruction of Pompeii and its people.

Sometimes the actual process of writing involves spontaneity as I find myself beginning a sequence of every day words and thoughts around a particular image, which grows into another wordscape by allowing my senses to flow and my curatorial guard to relax.

 

 

Eliot said, “Poets learn to write by being other writers for a while, and then moving onto another one.” Who are the people who have influenced you and who are you reading now?

In my earlier years as a poet, the mid 90s, there were three pivotal ‘poetry camps’ that influenced my momentum.

Firstly, there was an urge to explore poets of my heritage, which is Cypriot-Greek, so I spent days reading Sappho, Homer and trying to understand hexameter poetics. I then proceeded into Modern Greek times with George Seferis, Yannis Ritsos, Constantine Cavafy and Zoe Karelli. And then in 1996, Pi O, an Australian-based poet of Greek descent published 24 Hours, which explored the ‘third language’ as he called it – that which describes the language of migrants in Australia. Reading this pioneering book and hearing Pi O read from it confirmed my direction with those poems of mine that were drawn from my cultural roots.

Secondly, in a second-hand bookshop I bought Eight American Poets: an Anthology, edited by Joel Conarroe. This anthology introduced me to Elizabeth Bishop, James Merrill, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, Theodore Roethke, John Berryman, Anne Sexton and Robert Lowell. I was particularly immersed with Elizabeth Bishop and Anne Sexton to the extent that I made it my goal to read every poem they had ever published.

Thirdly, the Melbourne poetry scene in the mid-to-late 90s had a certain loose group of established poets that were frequently reading, accomplished, inspiring and they were encouraging to emerging poets. Some of these poets were Homer Reith, Kevin Brophy, Myron Lysenko, Lauren Williams, Lyn Boughton, jeltje, Grant Caldwell, Shelton Lea, Ian McBryde and Jordi Albiston. Apart form their own work, these poets introduced me to the poetry that influenced them, including Sharon Olds and Vicki Viidikas.

I’ve just finished reading Poems of Nazim Hikmet which I relished and I am three-quarters of the way through Poet’s Choice by Edward Hirsch, which is a collection of his 130 short essays on poets that have undoubtedly had an impact on him and his poetry. They include better-known poets such as Gerard Manley Hopkins and those lesser-known gems such as Thomas James (1946-1974), Dorothea Tanning and Kate Daniels. I’m about to embark on The Goose Bath Poems by Janet Frame who is a renowned New Zealand author.

 

 

Why perform/read your poetry?

Although my poetry has its first relationship with the page it needs to roll off my tongue like second nature. I love reading poetry that reads beautifully and recites beautifully – and that’s what I strive for with my poetry – a seamless relationship with page and stage (which can be difficult to achieve).

Further, because poetry making is such an ancient practice and given that many cultures began poetry as an oral art form, there is that strong unrelenting practice of applying metre, rhythm, pace, tone… qualities that lend themselves easily to ears and listeners.

 

 

I am always interested in the thought processes and practices of writers. Would it be possible for you to share with us your process, in other words, what does Angela Costi do in preparation for writing?

Over the years I have gathered a few rituals, which enable me to enter the writing zone. Often I light a candle. (I grew up in a traditional Greek Orthodox household, where lighting candles was commonplace.) A candle’s flame possibly evokes a sense of company and camaraderie on the journey. I like a quiet place, like an empty house or a library that only allows whispering but then I have used certain music to evoke a mood or a tone of voice. (The music is often without voice or if voice is used it is more like an instrument.) Sometimes I read poetry or I read my notes or I close my eyes to conjure a visual trigger point. From my travels to many parts of the world, I have gathered a large book of postcards and images, which I use to stimulate my imagination.

 

 

Finally, where are you looking when you write?

When I am writing at a deeper, unconscious level, I actually see the images, people, space… I am writing about. In a sense, there is no distinction between me and the world I am creating on the page – my eyes are focused inward and so I do not notice that the kettle has boiled, the phone is ringing, the kids have arrived home, and that I am cold.

Other times, I am very much aware of the letter and word patterns I am creating. I like to see the precision of enjambment, the effect of six or four lines to a stanza, the way one word looks as distinct from another.

And sometimes, I look up and notice the flame is still going strong and I return to my words.

 

About Angela:

Angela Costi is the author of three collections of poetry: Dinted Halos, Prayers for the Wicked and Honey and Salt. Her poems have been widely published, broadcast and produced, including in the US, UK, Greece and across Australia. In 1993 she received a travel award by the National Languages and Literacy Board of Australia to study and undertake an Ancient Greek Drama program in Greece. Since 1993, she has performed her poetry locally, nationally and internationally, including the Melbourne International Arts Festival 1999 and 2005. The Relocated arts project, for which she was the commissioned writer, received the award for innovation and excellence in community, 2002. Recently she returned from Japan, where she was funded by the Australia Council for the Arts and Vic Arts to work on an international collaboration involving her poetry, Japan-based Stringraphy Ensemble and an Ancient Chinese musical instrument known as the Sheng.

 

Poem:

 

When Ash and Bone Speaks

My bedroom is Pluto’s new chamber
with no after-thought nor explanation
he unleashed Death, the mauling is beyond pain,
and Pluto spares no pleas for mercy or lenience
with the ruthless pride of an Emperor, he thrust
a fountain of flame which seared throats to silence
― how quickly he changes my room
the four walls melt into something blacker than night
the ceiling cannot be trusted, with hit after hit
of shooting hot rock it heaves in panic
air is corrupt with a smell and taste of sickness
it aims calculated punches at my ribs and fists my lungs
like a gladiator about to slay a wounded cub.

How long have I been lying on this bed of embers
sizzling me softly, lulling me into its burning arms
― long enough to know my baby has turned to stone,
to know my husband lies buried somewhere beneath me,
to hear my mother, father, sisters, brother…
gasp after gasp, cough after cough, breath till no breath
their final release of the one hope to see our little one
suckle my breasts, as odes are sung to its new future
each one takes a turn to cradle, to croon a lullaby
give a promise to protect against everything wicked and bad.

 

Yesterday, if it was yesterday,
I had my husband’s eager ear
pressed against the full bloom of my belly
insisting he could hear our cherub pattering about
Mama placed a bouquet of sweet wine grapes,
honey figs and caramel dates on my plate
hoping fruit would ease the tender tug and pull of womb
the sun made quiet love to the water in our pool
white butterflies fluttered from flower to leaf
laughter swam easily from our mouths
as we threw a book-full of boys and girls names into the air
I caught the marble smile of Goddess Juno
whispering maternal endearments.

Now I know I was being mocked
basking in delusion, to think I could compare my content
to that of any Goddess, any Priestess, any Sibyl
I should have been aware, alert like the birds, the cats
at the slightest tremor they fled taking their knowledge
I should have looked at that fire breathing cloud and screamed
like the slave girl turning her broom into a weapon
begging then threatening her master to set her free
I should have understood why my insides were pummelled,
Baby knew, my Baby knew, Baby wanted me to say:
Yes, let’s leave!
to the question my family left to me
I became their Fortuna, their one and only chance,
Sweetheart it’s up to you, they said,
all I could think of was the swelling in my tree trunk
legs, the cramps surrounding my spine
the blubbery barge of me hobbling into the frenzy
all I could think about, was me, was only me.
Pluto wants me to feast on dread and terror
before Death takes me, but I am not hungry
I want to feel myself burn into nothing but ash
I want my bones to shrivel into chalk
I want nothing to be left of me at all,
Pluto when you pass me over to Vesuvius
do not make me drink from the River Lethe
I refuse any after-life unless it’s soaked
in the memory of what I have done.

*

Thousands of years later, my memory returns
distorted by legend, embellished by science,
trapped in fossilised moment and glory
they pick at my bones and those of my baby
pour plaster into my ashen grave, resurrect the shape
of horror as they imagine, how awful for me they cry,
tears fall at my feet, while I stare back with hollow eyes,
they bring bouquets of spring flowers freshly picked
from the fertile fields at the volcano’s base
they bring their children, their elderly parents
I hear them say: Isn’t she a beautiful specimen.

 

 

                              In the volcanic ash of Mount Vesuvius, in Pompeii,
                              the skeletal remains of a young pregnant woman
                              were found, specialist DNA biologists determined
                              she was about to give birth.

 

Published in Going Down Swinging No. 27 and in the Melbourne Museum’s Exhibition ‘A Day in Pompeii’ Teacher-Student Guide 2009.

 

Catch Angela at QPF 2009:

Saturday August 22 – 11:45am – 12:45pm

On the Lip of Philosophy: feat. Angela Costi, Angel Kosch & Sophia Nugent-Siegal

 

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

Proscuitto and the Pink: feat. Angela Costi, AF Harrold & Paul Magee

 

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