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
together
toward each other
yes?

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 http://www.compulsivereader.com 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: http://www.hunterwriterscentre.org/prize-ceremony.html

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 water.org:

- 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 shower...you 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: https://my.charitywater.org/magdalenas-50th 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."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

October Compulsive Reader Newsletter is out

Fellow readers, the October issue of The Compulsive Reader News is now on its way to you via email.  If you can't wait until it arrives or if (horrors) you aren't a subscriber, you can grab a copy from the archive: 
www.compulsivereader.com/sendpress/eyJpZCI6NTA0NiwidmlldyI6ImVtYWlsIn0/


Of course if you aren't a subscriber and you want to enter our tasty giveaways, you should just drop by http://www.compulsivereader.com and sign up.  It's free, and I only send out one newsletter a month and nothing else.  This month's issue contains 8 fresh reviews and 2 interviews, as well as literary news from around the world including some of the biggest literary prizes from the US, New Zealand, Australia, Nigeria, Canada, UK, and China.  We've also got three new giveaways, including the Charlie Lovett's new novel, First Impressions. (I really liked his first novel The Bookman's Tale and you can hear my interview with him and his little promo of First Impressions here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/compulsivereader/2013/07/16/interview-with-charlie-lovett)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Poetry Monday: Jeri Kroll

Sometimes on a Friday afternoon, as a kind of preparation for poetry Monday, I like to run my fingers along the poetry section of my bookshelf, eyes glazed as if I were feeling braille.  I have so many appealing looking poetry books (and more arriving daily) that I haven't yet read, with names that might or might not be familiar to me.  I'll usually just pick one up that seems to feel right against my hands, and begin reading.  Sometimes the poetry isn't right for my mood, so I put it back and try again.  This Friday I picked up Jeri Kroll's workshopping the heartI was instantly  drawn by the themes of Kroll's work: parenting, aging, the continual bisection of love, grief, and loss, and the relationship between the universe, nature and the human. So much of this work resonated immediately with my own experience and emotions at the moment.  And this was before I knew that Kroll was a NYC girl who spent summers in the Catskill mountains, whose mother was a singer, and who now lives in Australia.  Obviously we have similar reference points, and if she were in NSW, I'd invite her to dinner immediately.  As it is, I'm going to email her publisher (Wakefield Press) and line up an interview (I'll let you know when...). Workshopping the Heart includes selections from her seven previous collections, poems from 2005 to 2012, and excerpts from her forthcoming verse novel, Vanishing Point.  Here's a little taste taken from her poem "Eavesdropping" (how can I resist a poem set at Tidbinbilla's Deep Space Tracking Centre): 

On a noisy planet, Australia rates as quiet.
The radio telescope is set to scan
the silent skies. Scientists link up
around the world.  Soon the whoosh of space 
appears on their computer screens.
They have 'seen' the pulse of emptiness.
They want a new vibration from some extraterrestrial heart.

The universe sounds like a distant wind
with nothing to bang or rustle.
We invent a door, push it ajar,
and wait to hear it rattle. 

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!