Thursday, September 24, 2020

ModPo 2020 Analysis: The Poets Light But Lamps by Emily Dickinson


It's ModPo time again!  I've participated in the, by now famous, Modern and Contemporary Poetry (“ModPo”) course since it began in 2012.  Every year is different, informed by the many changes in our lives, in the world, and in the overall material that comprises the course, which are ever expanding. One of the many things I like is how the essay subjects continue to change, so that there are new poems to dive into. This year, the Emily Dickinson poem is number 930, "The Poets light but Lamps".  My essay follows.  If you haven't joined ModPo, I heartily recommend it.  It's free, there are no constraints (you can do as much or as little as you want - now, or throughout the year), it's open to all levels, and it's very engaging!  

The Poets light but Lamps--
Themselves — go out —
The Wicks they stimulate
If vital Light

Inhere as do the Suns —
Each Age a Lens
Disseminating their
Circumference —

“The Poets light but Lamps” is one of Dickinson’s shorter poems - with just two quatrains of no more than 5 words per line with a very regular syllabic structure of 6/4/6/4 for each of the quatrains. There is no punctuation other than the em(ily) dash which adds space without slowing the reading down, thereby energising the piece, as it draws the eye forward. The poem ends with the dash, which, except in the work of Dickinson, is rarely used for the ending of something, and hints at the ongoing nature of the work - visually indicating that this is not an ending as such, but something that will continue - poetry being immortal. 

The dash also provides a visual representation of a wick, thereby picking up the “Wick” in the third line, stimulated by the Poet’s light - or the light of poetry. Unusually for Dickinson, the first word of each line is capitalised. Assuming this was Dickinson's intention rather than the work of an overzealous editor, this creates a regularity that is also strengthened by capitalisation's emphasis as it creates a mirroring of "The Poets" with "The Wicks". There is also an alliteration between "If" and "Inhere", thereby linking lamplight with sunlight. The poem utilises an extended metaphor conflating the work of the poet (a lamplighter stimulating a wick - perhaps the impetus for the poem) with the Sun itself - or Suns (?) - some broader category of star shine than simply our own Sol. 

Three words stand out for the number of syllables they contain and seem to connect to one another: stimulate, Disseminating, and Circumference. Though there are all quite different words, without too much in common other than the scientific quality and the multisyllabic sound, but they also provide a sense of sonic expensiveness, as if the very nature of these longer words were able to extend the reach of the poet - moving outwards from the point of stimulation in an expansionary way, spreading outside of the circle of life. You could almost visualise the light (of poetry) spreading in that way through through the work and outwards from it. 

“Inhere” is an unusual word which means “to exist essentially or permanently in”, as in inherent. It’s possible to read the first line of the second stanza as relating to the vital light of poetry as being part and parcel of what we need to survive - as life-giving and in need of dissemination by each age. The one word which doesn’t quite fit semantically is “If” which is a point of uncertainty in the overall piece adding in a condition that could undermine the work’s thesis. If the light is not vital then perhaps there is no immortality - perhaps only some poetry is vital and work that is not vital can be forgotten. Or, it may be that the condition is one that sits with the reader. ‘If’ the reader judges the work as vital, then there is a mandate to disseminate the poetry for the sake of humanity, vital poetry being as necessary to life as sunlight, against the ephemeral darkness of each age’s fashion.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Compulsive Reader Newsletter for September is out

The September Compulsive Reader Newsletter has now gone out. This month's issue features three great giveaways including Anthropica by David Hollander, The Holy Conspiracy by Kristi Saare Duarte, and The Rehabilitation of Thomas Mark by Tom Crites. We also have ten terrific new reviews/interviews, and a full literary news roundup from around the world. If your copy hasn't arrived or you want a preview, you can click here to view it online.  To sign up, visit: http://www.compulsivereader.com.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

CR Newsletter for Aug


The Compulsive Reader newsletter for August has now gone out.  This month's newsletter contains a bunch of new reviews including The Nail in the Tree by Carol Ann Davis, Knitting Mangrove Roots by Kerri Shying, and Becoming Lady Washington by Betty Bolté, as well as interviews with Jane Novak and Jaylan Salah and 3 new subscriber book giveaways.  If you're a subscriber a copy should be on its way.  Or you can 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Compulsive Reader July Newsletter


The Compulsive Reader Newsletter for July has now gone out with the usual roundup of literary news, fresh reviews and interviews with authors Ronnie Scott, Carmen Radke, and Gleah Powers. We also have 3 great new book giveaways for subscribers. If you haven't received your copy as yet, you can grab a copy in the archive here:
http://www.compulsivereader.com/sendpress/email/?sid=MA&eid=MTUyNTc
If you'd like to subscribe, just go to http://www.compulsivereader.com and sign up on the upper right hand side. 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Compulsive Reader Newsletter for June

"Books" by Jules Hawk is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Hello readers.  2020 has been relentless, and I’m well aware that I’m one of the lucky ones - privileged, comfortable, surrounded by books. Will it end up being a year of dissolution, transformation or both?  I don’t know and it’s probably too early to tell, but the toll either way has been terrible. So much of what we’re going through right now seems to me to be connected. I want to do more - to help more.  Is my tiny platform the right place?  How do I amplify other voices? How do I make space for much-needed change? I don’t have the answers, but I’m trying to learn and grow, and the best way to do that, I think, is through listening/paying attention to people who know firsthand. For the US, Rachel Cargle’s course is excellent - with simple, actionable items and more extensive resources if you are able to go there. Rachel (https://www.rachelcargle.com) has a whole list of resources here: https://linktr.ee/1thatgotawayy, and you can sign up for the free course at the link. I’m also on the lookout specifically for Australian resources. I have lots of books, podcasts and am reading and listening widely but if you’ve got specific resources that you want to share around climate change, living sustainably, or combating racial and other forms of inequality - both structural and personal including indigenous deaths in custody and the shameful way we treat refugees, please let me know, particularly if they are are in the voices of lived experience that I might be able to help amplify.  What is becoming increasingly obvious is that we all have to work together to make this world a kinder, safer, more inclusive place. I’m ready to #dothework, so hit me up if you’ve got ideas.  In the meantime, June’s newsletter is bigger than usual - I’m trying to catch up with a lot of backlogged reviews, and to get on top of my teetering stack, so we’ve got 15 new reviews instead of the usual 10.  There’s also a big roundup of news, and 3 fantastic new giveaways as well, including fiction, nonfiction and poetry.  If you’re a subscriber, you should have your copy soon (but check spam as the word ‘compulsive’ often triggers the filters). You can also grab a copy in the archive here: Compulsive Reader Newsletter Archive   To subscribe visit: http://www.compulsivereader.com.

Friday, May 1, 2020

CR Newsletter for May

The Compulsive Reader newsletter for May has just gone out.  Wherever you are, I hope you’ve got good reading material. Our newsletter this month includes 11 new reviews and interviews to help keep you in the know about the latest and greatest new books coming out - we’ve got, for example, Sophie Hardcastle’s Below Deck (check out my interview with Sophie here: https://youtu.be/82COIj2UXbw), All My People Are Elegies by Sean Thomas Dougherty, Stanley Park by Sapphira Olson, interviews with Michael Foldes, Kristina Marie Darling, Ashley Kalagian Blunt, and lots more. We also have a big news roundup including some fantastic virtual events happening, and 3 fantastic new book giveaways.  If you’re a subscriber, you should have a copy already in your inbox. If not, you can grab a copy directly from our archive here: http://www.compulsivereader.com/sendpress/email/?sid=MA&eid=MTUwOT

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Compulsive Reader Newsletter for April

Hello from isolation.  I hope you’re all keeping safe and well. The Compulsive Reader newsletter for April has now gone out to all subscribers.  This month’s newsletter includes the usual suite of 10 new reviews including, among others,  Windham Campbell winner Maria Tumarkin’s AxiomaticThe Grace of Distance by Matthew Thorburn, That Strapless Bra in Heaven by Sarah Sarai.  We also have interviews with Carol Mertz and at the podcast, the virtual book launch of Morgan Bell’s Idiomatic, for the people. We also our regular literary news round-up, and three book giveaways (I know you all need extra books right now).  If you’re a subscriber,  you should have it now. If not, you can View it in your browser and head over to Compulsive Reader and subscribe!  It’s free, and you’ll only get one email a month with the newsletter, which will keep you up-to-date, even in iso, on what’s happening in the literary world.  

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Newcastle Writers Festival online!

As I’m sure you will be aware, the Newcastle Writers Festival had to be cancelled this year, however the Festival is getting a second life online with 17 sessions from the original program happening virtually for anyone in the world to attend (no pants required).  Of course this is not the same as gathering together, but many of the sessions will be allowing for audience questions to be sent in, and guests include the likes of Behrouz Boochani, Clare Bowditch, David Leser, Favel Parrett and Charlotte Wood. My own session with Maria Tumarkin, Sophie Hardcastle, and Nicola Redhouse is on Sunday at 4pm (“Blurred Lines”) where, in the space of 45 mins, we will be talking about all sorts of things including the impact of past trauma on the present in their works, narrative as a way of controlling silence, the unique structures in their latest books, dispossession, the impact of the Coronavirus, and lots more!  Each of the authors also will be reading from their work.  Please come and join us, wherever you are! Sessions will be available via Facebook and YouTube all through the coming weekend and you can grab a program here: https://www.newcastlewritersfestival.org.au/storiestoyou/

The sessions will all be free (including those that previously had a cost to attend), but tax-deductible donations to the festival can be made at https://www.newcastlewritersfestival.org.au/donate/.


Monday, March 2, 2020

Festival Season: Scone Literary Festival

The next festival on my calendar is the Scone Literary Festival.

I’m moderating a session on the 
14th of March 2.30pm-3.30pm in the Scone Arts & Crafts Hall titled "Misreporting and Cancer of Mistrust: Bodies and Lies of Science” with Patrice Newell, Julian Cribb and Garry Willgoose. 

This will be a powerful and timely conversation about the role of science communicators, the persistence of misinformation, how we mitigate and talk about the key existential threats that face humanity, the role of government, developing sustainable food systems, survival by respect, and much more. If you’re able, please join us! Day passes and weekend tickets are sold out, but individual tickets are still available here: https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=576771&

Saturday, February 29, 2020

CR Newsletter March

Photo by Renato Abati from Pexels
Happy march, fellow book lovers.  The March Compulsive Reader newsletter is now on its way to you, featuring reviews of new books like Meowku by Patricia Carragon and Flight by Robert Anthony Gibbons, Asylum Garden: after Van Gogh by Alan Catlin, Nina’s Memento Mori by Mathias Freese, and The Land of Last Chances by Joan Cohen. We also have lots of new interviews, including exciting new author Holden Sheppard, as well as two new audio interviews at Compulsive Reader talks.  There are two fantastic new giveaways too, and of course the full round-up of literary news from around the globe.  If you’re a subscriber it should be hitting your inbox very soon.  If not, you can sign up straightaway here: http://www.compulsivereader.com.  It’s free and we just send out the one email a month.  If you can’t wait for it to arrive, you can view it in your browser now.  Happy reading!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Festival Season: IF Festival in Maitland

We’re nearly in that lovely time of year when literary festivals abound. Are there too many? Nah. The questions we’re discussing in these festivals and the ongoing collaboration between readers and writers is more critical than ever. I’ve got three festivals in a row where I’m involved in panels, as moderator and presenter.
The kick off is the inaugural Indie Festival (IF) in Maitland: https://ifmaitland.org  All of the panels are completely free!  There are also a range of excellent workshops (not free but very inexpensive), and keynotes (also free). My sessions are on Saturday the 29th of February.

 I’m starting the day with the aptly titled The Importance of Regional Writers Festivals, moderated by David Graham. Joining me on the panel will be Creative Kids Tales’ Georgie Donaghey, UQld’s Dr Kim Wilkins and UMelbourne’s Dr Beth Driscoll, both highly respected, multi-published academics who are working together on the project Genre Worlds: Australian Popular Fiction in the Twenty-First Century. This session is going to be a cracker opening to the day. The session is followed by a series of Flying Island pocket book launches led by Flying Island’s very erudite Editor-in-Chief (who is launching his own new book on the day) including Michael Crane, Susan Fealy, Clark Gormley, Geoff Page, Kerri Shying, Melinda Smith, Gillian Swain, and George Watt. What a line-up! I’ll be personally launching both Melinda and Gillian’s new books and what an honour that is. My next session is called Just Walking the Dog, which I’ll be moderating, featuring poets Gillian Swain and Brian Purcell. We’ll be exploring the development of poems from initial idea through to release into the world and judging from our initial interactions, this is going to be an incredible conversation, full of fun and insights. Finally, phew, I’ll be moderating a panel on Independent and Community Publishing with Kit Kelen, Georgie Donaghey, and Jennifer Sharpe from Daisy Lane Studios about the different pathways to getting published independently. Come and learn from the best! Once again, all of these sessions are absolutely free of charge (but first in best dressed, so get in early), and there will always be time at the end for questions and audience interaction - you are the most essential part of this! So if you’re able, please come join me on the day - that’s Saturday February 29th around 230 High Street (there are a few venues), Maitland NSW.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Compulsive Reader Newsletter for Feb is now out

Our latest issue of Compulsive Reader Newsletter is now out.  This issue contains 8 fresh reviews including Billie Elish’s latest album, and new books by Jennifer Maiden, Robert Letters, Peter Papathanasiou, Lindsey Warren, Krishna Mohana Banerjea, Roslyn McFarland, and Leanna Petronella, as well as interviews with MBR’s Jim Cox, and Joey L. Dowdy. Of course there is also the usual roundup of literary news/awards, and 2 great competitions.  If you’re a subscriber, you should be receiving it in your inbox very soon.  If you aren’t a subscriber, subscribe here: http://www.compulsivereader.com.  You can also grab a copy online here: http://www.compulsivereader.com/sendpress/email/?sid=MA&eid=MTQ4ODE