Sunday, January 4, 2015

Poetry Monday: Poetry for the New Year: Lorine Niedecker (again)

Not long ago I did an interview with the poet Jennifer Compton at the Newcastle Poetry Prize ceremony.  During our pre-interview conversation (and during the interview too), we discussed how poetry “removes the poison” from life’s most painful moments.  This continues to be true for me, both as a writer of poetry and as reader.  I lost my mother rather suddenly around this time last year, and though it never stops hurting - I don’t expect the pain to ever dull - the shared understandings that poetry creates - a sense of beauty from the senseless ugliness of death - does indeed remove the poison.  This beautiful little new years poem from Lorine Niedecker demonstrates this perfectly:

I highly recommend that you click the link and read it. It won’t take you long.  The poem’s brevity is breathtaking. Niedecker writes in her distinctively succinct way (each word packed tight and resonating with multiple meanings) of loss, love, and new starts - the way the loss of a parent is brought home with milestones like new years day, and the way a parental voice continues to ’speak’ through the seeds they’ve planted; through the turning of years and this permanent and ongoing dialogue between parent and child.  I particularly love the last two words, separated in a way my computing skills probably can’t convey (hence the link) and left open for the reader to interpret: the word “spoke” functioning as both noun and verb, uniting past, present and future.

I’ve been participating in a discussion forum on Lorine Niedecker and Emily Dickinson run by the Kelly Writers House, and the poem was presented today by Al Filreis, who is wonderfully curating and driving (or encouraging - Filreis is always Socratic in his approach) these close readings. Coming across a poem like this, in the midst of my ongoing, private grief, is like slowly walking beside the trees on new years day with Niedecker, sharing this beauty and this pain.  There is no poison here.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Compulsive Reader Newsletter out for Jan

Happy New Year!  Our latest issue of Compulsive Reader newsletter has now gone out with 3 (count ‘em!) new giveaways, including a copy of The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You by Ella Berthoud and Susan Eldurkin, Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm, and Tempting Fate by Jane Green.  The Tempting Fate giveaway includes a set of 8 custom wine charts including a purse, a shoe, sunglasses and a goblet.  We’ve also got the usual tasty bunch of new reviews including books by John Cage and Thomas Wulffen, Stefen Zweig, Cheryl Kirwin, and many others, and lots of fresh literary news, all delivered on the first of each month, to your inbox.
If you missed your copy or want a preview, you can get the latest issue here:

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Compulsive Reader Dec Newsletter is out

Hello everyone.  The December Compulsive Reader Newsletter has just been released.  As always we have ten fresh reviews featuring the likes of Simon Armitage, Gabriel Contains, Deborah Rodruigez, an interview with Allen Wyler, and many others.  We also have two great new giveaways, lots of literary news, and enough links to keep your meta-reading going all holiday long.  Drop by the public archive to grab a copy immediately, or watch for it in your in-box:

If you’re not a subscriber, and want to be (it’s free, like all the best things in life...), you can visit: and sign up.  I don’t send more than one newsletter a month and there are always giveaways.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Poetry Monday: Poems of New York

I'm becoming partial to small hardbacks these days.  I'm not sure exactly why, but I know that at least part of it is the simple utility of them - they fit neatly in my handbag, don't overly clutter up the bedside table, and are light and easy to take around.  They're also lovely - all solid and jacketed, with thick creamy pages and a lovely feel in the hand.  Kathryn Fry, herself a fine poet, loaned me this copy of Poems of New York, edited by Elizabeth Schmidt.  Putting aside my great stacks of review copies waiting for attention, I decided to delve in immediately.  I like to read poetry slowly, over a period of time, reading one poem and carrying it around with me, thinking about it and living it for a bit - seeing how it colours my perception, and Poems of New York has been perfect for that.  It has also made me nostalgic, taking me down streets I used to walk, through conversations I probably had, to meals and parties and sensations that are uniquely linked to the city I grew up in, but am now a long way from.  Though small, the book is dense and contains work from writers as diverse as Whitman, Melville, Amy Lowell, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Edna St Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, EE Cummings, Langston Hughes, Auden, Bishop, O'Hara, Ginsberg, Ashbery, and the list goes on, including some modern poets too like David Berman, Melanie Rahak, and Nathaniel Bellows.  There are old favourites in here - poems I've memorised even, and new ones that touch on very modern subject matters.  I could write a little essay on each poem, I think,
or write a lengthy review which teased out styles, moods, linguistic tricks, moments of beauty, and so on, but I think I'll just single out one poem by Nikki Giovanni titled "Just a New York Poem".  I've chosen this one partly because it captured my mood at the time I read it (and I've only just read it), partly because it's in the public domain and appears safe to reprint, and partly, and above all, because it is somehow indicative of New York as it sits in my memory - simultaneously dynamic and full of life, and a place that exists only in time rather than in space.

i wanted to take
your hand and run with you
together toward
ourselves down the street to your street
i wanted to laugh aloud
and skip the notes past
the marquee advertising “women
in love” past the record
shop with “The Spirit
In The Dark” past the smoke shop
past the park and no
parking today signs
past the people watching me in
my blue velvet and i don’t remember
what you wore but only that i didn’t want
anything to be wearing you
i wanted to give
myself to the cyclone that is
your arms
and let you in the eye of my hurricane and know
the calm before

and some fall evening
after the cocktails
and the very expensive and very bad
steak served with day-old baked potatoes
after the second cup of coffee taken
while listening to the rejected
violin player
maybe some fall evening
when the taxis have passed you by
and that light sort of rain
that occasionally falls
in new york begins
you’ll take a thought
and laugh aloud
the notes carrying all the way over
to me and we’ll run again
toward each other

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Compulsive Reader News is out

Hi readers, just a quickie to let you know that the new Compulsive Reader Newsletter for November is now out, making its way to an inbox near you.  The newsletter features 9 brand new reviews (including a film), a new interview, lots of literary news including the Man Booker Prize, the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize, the National Book Prize, Toronto Book Award, Australian Prime Minister's Award, the TS Eliot prize and more, as well as two new book giveaways.  If you haven't gotten yours yet and can't wait, just head over to: The Compulsive Reader News Archive
and grab yourself a copy now.  If you aren't a subscriber, just drop by and sign up.  It's free and we've got a lovely worldwide community of readers (10,000 or so!).  I only sent out one newsletter a month.  Enjoy!


Monday, October 20, 2014

Newcastle Poetry Prize: A Day of Poetry

Next Saturday, I'll be 'in conversation' with Jennifer Compton, who was awarded first place in last year's Newcastle Poetry Prize for her stunning poem "Now You Shall Know".  Jennifer and I will be talking about all sorts of things, including, but certainly not limited to, the impact of winning such a prestigious prize, about her diverse writing practices, the writing "lifestyle", on touring poetry, and lots more.  There will be plenty of information and advice for poets and poetry readers, and of course my conversation with Jennifer is only the start of what looks to be a massive day of poetry going from 9:30am to 6pm full of incredible words, drink, food, and of course poetic camaraderie.   Following my session with Jennifer,  Hunter Writers' Centre director Karen Crofts will be interviewing Mark Tredinnick, who was last year's 3rd prize winner, won first place in 2011, and was one of the judges for the 2014 prize.  Jean Kent, who has a long involvement with the prize and was the 2013 judge (and was a second prize winner in 1997) interviews Judith Beveridge, who is poetry editor of the well known literary journal Meanjin, was judge of the 2006 Newcastle Poetry Prize and is one of Australia's most highly regarded poets.  I'm sure that the insights presented through these conversations will be of great value to listeners (and interviewers!).  There will be plenty of opportunity to interact in these sessions.  I intend to give attendees a chance to join the conversation with questions.

In the afternoon, The Newcastle Poetry Prize Ceremony (winners announced) and A Live Reading will take place at the Delaney Hotel.  Some of Australia's most illustrious poets will be reading throughout the session, and there will be plenty of time to schmooze, interact, and participate.  Drinks are available from the bar, and canap├ęs will be provided by the HWC.  For anyone who loves poetry, I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon. Please drop by and join in the fun!  You can get all the details, and book yourself in here:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Charity:Water Update

Firstly I want to start today's blog with a massive thank you to everyone who has contributed to my Charity:Water birthday appeal.  So far we've raised $1,470 which met my $1k goal.  Yay!  42 people will get clean water as a result of the work we've done to date.  As soon as I get them from Charity:Water, I'll be providing GPS coordinates and pictures of the people and communities we impacted.  Because this is such important work, I'm going to keep the project going through the month of October, and I'm very happy to report that the very generous Virginia Clay has agreed to keep matching donations dollar for dollar. 

Why does this project matter? Here are a few facts provided by

- More than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes. Nearly all deaths, 99 percent, occur in the developing world.

- Every minute at least one child dies from a water-related illness.  

- [The water and sanitation] crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns

- An American taking a five-minute shower (not to mention the average Aussie teenager taking a 20 minute know who you are boys) uses more water than the average person in a developing country uses for an entire day

So thank you, thank you, thank you for helping!  This is really worthwhile work and you're integral to it.  Please drop by the site: and join us if you haven't already.  No amount is too small - just click "Other" and you can enter any amount at all - the cost of a card, a cup of coffee or an international phone call, perhaps.  Every drop makes a difference, and the difference, as my dear muse Gertrude Stein once said, "is spreading."