Sunday, August 31, 2014

Compulsive Reader Newsletter out for Sept

Hello everyone.  Just a quick check in to let you know that this month's Compulsive Reader Newsletter has just gone out and will be coming into your email in-box in batches throughout the day (or night, depending on where you are).  If you don't have it, or can't wait, you can drop by the archive:

and grab yourself a copy.  We've got the usual ten fresh reviews, three great giveaways, two new interviews, and of course all the literary news that's fit to print. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Poetry Monday: Jennifer Compton

I first met Jennifer Compton at the inaugural Newcastle Writer's Festival in 2013, when I cheekily sat down at her table in a crowded cafe.  We were both there to read our poetry.  I was on my own, and she was there with two other poets as part of a tour that was nearly finished. I was intrigued at the idea of a touring 'band' of poets, reading in different places, at different events, and cheering each other on as indeed they did, whooping and supporting one another through the performances.  Jennifer read beautifully - performing her pieces with flair and leaving me with teary eyes.  Her poem "Now You Shall Know" won last year's Newcastle Poetry Prize.  Here's a little excerpt, taken from the NPP page.  

But I am an old woman also.  Two old women waking to the new day
that will bring a sudden jolt that is the beginning of the end for her.

I have imagined what I might feel dressing for my mother's funeral,
and as I pinned her lily-of-the-valley brooch to my grey lapel, I knew.

I'll be interviewing Jennifer on the 25th of October at the NPP Poetry Prize Ceremony from 9.45am – 10.30am, and you're welcome to join us there (please come and say hello!).

The following poem "Palmy" (for Palmerston North in New Zealand) comes from her book This City, which won The Kathleen Grattan Award for Poetry:

Here's the title poem from This City:

I am travelling away from my life, towards my life.

This city knows all my secrets.

And that tram, lit from within, waiting at the end of the line.

This city, which is nowhere else.

I'm looking forward to spending several hours lost in This City in preparation for my chat with Jennifer (as if I needed a reason...). 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Poetry Monday: Adrienne Rich

Photo credit: Dorothy Alexander
I can't believe I haven't done a Poetry Monday feature on the great Adrienne Rich.  Today is that much overdue day.  This little snippet here won't be doing the body of her work justice.  There aren't many major poetry awards she hasn't received, including the Wallace Stevens Award for outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry.  She had published some 28 (maybe more) books of poetry, 10 nonfiction, and countless anthologies.  I've been steeped in her work over the past week, re-reading her out of my dog-eared Norton anthologies that I've kept since I was an undergrad (I've got two and they've survived a lot of culls!), and I'm still astonished by how good she is.  I've just ordered a copy of A Wild Patience Has Taken Me this Far: Poems 1978-1981, so I can go a little deeper into her precise, focused world of words.  In the meantime, here are two poems that have particularly taken me.  The first is "Dreamwood", which you can hear Adrienne herself read here:

little excerpt:
"If this were a map,
she thinks, a map laid down to memorize
because she might be walking it, it shows
ridge upon ridge fading into hazed desert
here and there a sign of aquifers
and one possible watering-hole."

The other one is "Planetarium".  You can read the whole thing here:

just a wee excerpt here;

"What we see, we see   
and seeing is changing

the light that shrivels a mountain   
and leaves a man alive

Heartbeat of the pulsar
heart sweating through my body

The radio impulse   
pouring in from Taurus"

You know you want to read more. Go find Adrienne. She's waiting for you, "for the relief of the body/and the reconstruction of the mind."

Friday, August 1, 2014

Compulsive Reader Newsletter for August is out

Our latest issue of The Compulsive Reader news is out.  This month's issue features ten fresh, exclusive reviews including new work by Martha Woodroof, Victoria Norton, Jacob Appel, Jojo Moyes, an interview with Lev Grossman, and more. We also have the usual welter of literary news, two new giveaways, and lots more.  If you didn't receive it, you can grab yourself a copy here;

If you aren't a subscriber, you can go over and subscribe right now at  It's free, and you'll be joining a lovely community of 10,000 or so happy readers worldwide. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Launch of A Slow Combusting Hymn

A Slow Combusting Hymn
 is a brand new, hot-off-the-press poetry anthology featuring poetry from and about Newcastle and the Hunter Region
, edited by the dynamic duo Jean Kent and Kit Kelen. The book's cover features a beautiful painting by local artist Claire Martin.  I am very proud to have a number of poems
included in this anthology, not least of which because of the illustrious company: the anthology includes some seriously amazing poets, and has been lovingly organised and edited by Jean and Kit, who have, as you might expect, done a wonderful job.

The book will be launched by Rosemarie Milsom on Saturday, August 9th, 10:30 for 11 am 
at The Lovett Gallery, City Library, Laman St, Newcastle.  The event is open to the public, but you need to RSVP at the event page or directly to Jean no later than August 6th:

A Slow Combusting Hymn is a poetic map of Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. It contains poems from 64 poets who currently live in the region or who have strong local connections. The book is published by ASM and Cerberus Press and its production and launch have been supported by the Hunter Writers Centre.  If you'd like to order copies of the book but can't make the launch, just drop a line to Jean: with details of what you want, and she'll take care of you. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Changing the world - week 3

It's been quite difficult for me to blog about the Coursera How to Change the World course I'm doing, for a number of reasons.  The first is that the problems and issues that we're exploring are vast and complex, and covering social goods, poverty, climate change, disease and health care, women;s rights, education and social change in seven weeks is rushed, and at times, feels superficial.  Another is that every time I learn something new, I'm ashamed that I didn't already know it. The world is a small place these days and if my neighbour is suffering, and I can help, I should make it my business.

My son tells me I don't need a university course - I should just spend a few hours on Tumblr, and I've done that and will continue to do so, but there's something to be said for having a formal, well-thought through structure for self-education, and for allowing some time (no matter what else is happening) to read carefully (rather than scan), think through that reading, and then, in a curated way, applying it to a local context where a little effort can actually make a significant positive difference.  How to Change the World is very thoughtfully curated, and despite the grandiose title, Michael S Roth approaches the issues carefully and humbly, acknowledging that he's learning along with us, and always allowing local and engaged activists to have the final say and present an insider perspective using a variety of media, and encouraging students to use a variety of tactics and media in the assignments. This week we've focused primarily on climate change, and though I well knew about the inherent challenges of our changing climate, the course has encouraged me to take a positive approach and to see every thing that I can do, whether it's as simple as assessing and then finding ways to decrease my own (fairly considerable, it turns out) footprint, or getting more broadly involved in sustainability projects, as valuable.  Every week I've begun by thinking "this is an issue that is particularly important to me."  This week, which is no exception, is Disease and Global Health Care, and I look forward to watching the videos, delving into the readings, and then applying the learning in a way that is relevant to my life and uses my capabilities.  It may be small, and a little superficial. I can't deny that I'm still ashamed about that.  But doing nothing or becoming overwhelmed is no solution to shame.  I have to start somewhere, sometime, and here, and now, seems to me to be right. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Poetry Monday: Czesław Miłosz

It must have been some 30 years ago when I went to hear Czesław Miłosz read his work in New Jersey at Princeton.  What I remember most was the intensity of his gaze, the way he lost himself in his words as he read, and power that resided as an undercurrent to the simplicity of his words (especially in light of the literary pyrotechnics I was usually drawn to at the time). It was a relaxing evening, involving, if I recall correctly (memory being entirely unreliable), wine, cheese and very little intimidation or pomposity, in spite of the grandeur of our surroundings and the size of the audience, given Miłosz' fame at the time. I've just re-encountered him and the poem below, through a course at the University of Iowa titled How Writers Write Poetry which I couldn't resist checking out (did I mention how easily distracted I am at the moment?) - you can still jump in - this one is totally ungraded.  The workshops have already spurned several new poems, as has my other MOOC course through Coursera How to Change the World, which I'll be posting on shortly if I can find a moment to summarise my thoughts between all the readings.  For now though, here's are a few of my favourite Miłosz poems courtesy of the Poetry Foundation to start the week. 


Ars Poetica: