Monday, August 22, 2016

Poetry Monday: Michel Faber’s Undying

I was working on a novel that seemed to be progressing well - right through my mother’s illness - writing chapters on the airplane, in the hospital after her kidney was removed, or at her house late at night through a jet lag haze in between taking her to the bathroom. But once my mother died, I couldn’t write prose anymore.  It seemed wrong: inappropriately linear; too beholden to cause and effect.  Only poetry worked for me, and poetry was a lifeline - a way to inhabit the entirely new space of grief and explore the complexity of the pain I was feeling. So I understand Faber’s move away from fiction and into poetry in the wake of his wife Eva’s death.  His new book, Undying, is almost like a memoir, centred around the last few weeks of Eva’s life, through the worst of her treatment and a remission, and that terrible space of mourning in the weeks and months after Eva died.  The poetry sometimes undermines itself with little rhymes, but mostly it’s a powerful expression of Faber’s anger, grief and sense of loss as he begins to make sense of life without his wife.  I sat blubbering through the book, crying right through to the end, which is transcendent:

And it is not for me
to show you that death is not the end.
But you left lucencies of grace
secreted in the world,
still glowing.  ("Lucencies (2)")

One of the poems that hit me hardest was “Don’t Hesitate to Ask” which you can hear Faber read on ABC Adelaide:

By way of a taster, here is a tiny bit of it, though I urge you to listen to the whole thing: 

since you offer, 
Would you mind driving me
headlong through the universe
at ten million miles an hour,
scattering stars like trashcans
scorching the sky?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Poetry Monday: Round the campfire with Les Murray

Les Murray is arguably one of Australia’s best known poets.  His work sits very tidily in the gap between eco-poetics and bush-poetry, is wholly accessible, and often luminous with insight.  If ever there was a poet whose work should be recited over a campfire, it’s Les Murray’s.  Murray will be reading some of his poems to a relatively intimate gathering at the St Alban’s Writers’ Festival on Saturday the 17th of Sept around 9pm. The event is free, and I would think, the only one of its kind anywhere.  You can be part of the gathering, and many more literary events in this most intimate of literary festivals by dropping by:

In the meantime, here’s a sample from “Vertigo”, a poem from Murray’s latest collection Waiting for the Past.  For the full poem, just click on the title or visit:

"Later comes the sunny day when
street detail whitens blindly to mauve

and people hurry you, or wait, quiet."

Compulsive Reader News for August is out

I nearly forgot to mention that the new issue of Compulsive news has gone out.  The latest issue has reviews of new books by Wallace King, Joel Deane, Cynthia A Graham, Roland Albrecht, Robin Gregory, and Mary Kay Andrews, as well as interviews with  Tiffany McDaniel, Dane Cobain, and my podcast show with Joel Deane.  We also have several giveaways, music reviews, chess, and a literary round-up, as usual, of the big lit news.  If you haven’t received your copy, you can grab one here in the Compulsive Reader Archive.   If you would like to subscribe just drop by Compulsive Reader and sign up.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Poetry Monday: Verity La’s new poetry podcast (and Phillip Gijindarriji Hall)

Ooh I love me a good podcast. Verity La has just started up a new poetry podcast,
adding a bit of audio depth to their already wonderful free creative arts magazine. The inaugural podcast features Alice Allan interviewing Phillip Gijindarriji Hall, who talks about his time with Diwurruwurru (The Borroloola Poetry Club), and reads from his poem “Concourse for the Borroloola mob”:

"true god, we really are an arterial kaleidoscope
                                  of silt-laden language." 
Hall also reads one of his favourite poems, Dorothy Hewett’s “Inheritance
“I have travelled a long way from my origins...”  

If you’re not familiar with Verity La, you should be. Managing Editor Michele Seminara does a wonderful job, is warm and inclusive, and the journal publishes a new (free) creative piece each week, including lots of poetry, and is always stimulating, fresh, and exciting.

To listen to or download the 30 min podcast, drop by here:

Monday, July 11, 2016

Poetry Monday: Joel Deane’s Year of the Wasp

I’ve just finished my first (and definitely not my last) reading of Joel Deane’s Year of the Wasp.  I’ll be writing a much longer review shortly, but can’t wait to talk about it.  The book is relatively short at 55 pages, but is dense, rich, intense.  The poems focus around the central theme of aphasia: Joel’s 2012 stroke and his struggle not only to renegotiate his language but to reevaluate the world and what it means to make sense in the aftermath.  The result is stunning, moving imperceptibly between the personal and the political, and creating new meaning in the gaps between language and sensation:
                 Night rain sweeps
from the west,
wearing a slip
                of silken smoke
                                   to mask memories.
For more, you can read three excerpts from Year of the Wasp at Verity La:  Joel and I will be chatting on air early next month at Compulsive Reader Talks.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

New Compulsive Reader Newsletter for July is out

Happy July.  The latest issue of Compulsive Reader News has now gone out.  This issue contains 10 fresh reviews including Hazel Smith’s Word Migrants, Researching Creating Writing by Jan Webb, Local Time: a memoir of cities, friendships and the writing life by Inez Baranay, Cure by Jo Marchant and lots of others.  There are also two music reviews, two interviews, and the usual welter of literary news on prizes like the Sunday Times Literary Award, the Bailey’s prize for Women’s Fiction, the Forward Prize for Poetry, as well as new giveaways.  If you didn’t receive your copy, you can pick one up in the archive.  If you aren’t a subscriber, you can do so here (for free, of course):
photo credit: Books - livres via photopin (license)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Poetry Monday: Hazel Smith’s Word Migrants

I’ve just started reading Hazel Smith’s Word Migrants and am already hooked by the richness of the poetry’s presentation: performative modernity coupled with an almost painful intimacy:
Before you disappeared my aloneness was the vibrations of a coastline, I could feel the pitches of the waves beneath my feet. Now the soles of my feet sink into the sand.  And it sticks. (“The Disappeared”)

Smith's The Writing Experiment is one of the best writing manuals available for teaching writers the techniques of experimentation (I use it regularly), and it’s fascinating to see some of those principles in play in Smith’s own poetry as she explores topical issues include the refugee crisis, climate change, political and social abuses, aging, grief, and the nature of privilege and power.

The poems I’ve read so far maintain a lovely delicacy, drawing the reader into worlds which are often dystopian (all too real at times), but also playful, experimental, enlivened by sound and an awareness of the space on the page, exploring the nature of language, semantics, referentiality, and genre, without ever losing their immediacy, contextual relevancy, or coherence.  Here’s another little sample:
Every conversation is a gentle misfiring
   An abacus points beyond method or counting
      An exchange derails, eyes averted, glancing (“Encounter”)
I’ll be reading more deeply over the next week or so and will follow with a full review at Compulsive Reader.  In the meantime, you can found out more about Hazel Smith here: