Friday, September 12, 2014

Like Birthday for Water

I'm turning 50 next month.  Yup, half a century is looming in front of me, and I'm not at all bothered about it. After all, I often get told that I'm aging well, I'm fit, healthy and my life is full of abundance.  One of the reasons that I've aged well is that I make it a point to drink lots of fresh, clean water every day.  However, not everyone has the privilege of unlimited access to clean, safe drinking water.  Millions of kids around the world don't live to see their fifth birthday because they don't have access to clean, safe drinking water. 800 million people still live without clean water in developing countries around the world. Many walk 2-4 hours a day to swamps and rivers to gather dirty water for their families.  Clean water isn't just a thirst quencher. It's a life saver, and a life changer. Clean water means health, income and education - especially for women and kids. Every $1 invested in improved water supply and sanitation can yield from $4 to $12 for the local economy.  So providing clean water for those who don't have access to it is a big deal, and this year, instead of an expensive bash or fancy trip, I've decided to donate my birthday for clean water. Right now, a generous supporter is matching all donations to birthday campaigns until the end of the month, so although I don't turn 50 until October, now is the best time to donate.


Every penny of the money raised will directly fund clean water projects. And when those projects are finished, charity: water will send us proof in pictures and GPS coordinates, so we can see the actual people and communities we impacted (I'll put them up here).  That means we'll know the locations and names of the communities we helped. This year, instead of sending me well-wishes, a card or a gift, please join me and donate, whatever you can afford, to my birthday campaign. Every bit helps, it's tax-deductible, and even a $1 donation can have a big impact, especially if you donate before the end of the month, when every $ is doubled, so please go to https://my.charitywater.org/magdalenas-50th and donate whatever you can.  Thanks so much!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Poetry Monday: Sarah Taylor (slams it)

A few days ago a friend of mine sent me a link to this great motherhood poem by performance poet Sarah Kay:
http://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_kay_if_i_should_have_a_daughter

I loved it and coincidentally had just been discussing the possibility of a Slam poetry session at the 2015 Newcastle Writers Festival.  Slam is such an interesting form - the poem created in the heat of the performance, sometimes never written down, and therefore always different in the play between audience and performer.  It's quite different I think (mostly) to a poetry recital which is meant to be an adjunct or support of the poem designed to be read on the page, in the quiet of a reader's head.  My friend's link to Sarah Kay put me in mind of another slamming Sarah - Sarah Taylor, the 60 year old who won the 2009 Australian Poetry Slam with her ribald "A Disgraceful Old Woman".  A poem that is part of a quartet gathered from "secret old woman's business". 

What can I say other than watch the performance below and feel yourself opening to new possibilities of the form.  I'm hoping I can get Sarah to talk to me about the way Slam breaks down barriers (not only between gender, race, and genre, but between audience and poet), and the utter fun (and perhaps terror) of performing to a scoring crowd.  If you didn't know what a slam was, you'll know after this brief video. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Happy Father's Day (Boat Yard)



Here in Australia (and the UK too), it's Father's Day.   As has become something of a tradition for me, I'm celebrating on my blog with a poem from the father focused book of poetry that Carolyn Howard-Johnson and I wrote together titled Imagining the Future. This year's poem is the poem that gave the book its title, and was inspired by an image (which now graces the cover) that my uncle took of my grandparent's boat year where they lived when I was growing up.  The photo was taken long after they moved away and conveys both the stark beauty of the place, and its abandonment - something left in memory, snow covered and still.  When my grandparents lived there, the boat yard was always warm, noisy, and full of sunlight and freshly prepared food aromas. The poem was written for my grandfather Sam, who was something of a father figure for me.  Happy Father's Day all you wonderful fathers, father's fathers, and father figures.  You're far more loved and appreciated than your children (and grandchildren) tend to articulate. 

Boat Yard

Walking the fuzzy line
between deference and defiance
a cold wind opens the door
you slide
into frictive fictive
present.

Holding onto your absent body
too tightly
I find something
tangible
a heart once broken
beats
beneath my own chest.

The snarl of your lip
against kindness in your eyes
how odd to find you
now
still supportive
so many years after you disappeared.

Snow covers everything
not enough for fairytale glitter
just desolate dust
darkening teal on the horizon
and water
always water
together we swim
through a remembered past
imagining the future.

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:
http://www.compulsivereader.com/sendpress/eyJpZCI6NDk0NSwidmlldyI6ImVtYWlsIn0/

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:
http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/palmy-by-jennifer-compton.html

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: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/175906#poem

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:
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/features/audioitem/4046

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; http://www.compulsivereader.com/sendpress/eyJpZCI6NDg5NiwidmlldyI6ImVtYWlsIn0/

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