Sunday, March 31, 2013

Poetry Monday: Anna Kerdijk Nicholson

Just by way of one last reminder (here on this blog anyway) that next Saturday from 2:00pm to 3:00pm, I'll be talking about The State of Australian Poetry (state, states, status, standard - with such an amazing group of people, anything can happen) with David Musgrave, Jean Kent, Philip Salom and Anna Kerdijk Nicholson at the The Lock-Up Cultural Centre (Gallery) on 90 Hunter St as part of the inaugural Newcastle Writers Festival.  This is a free event, and you, of course, are invited to join us. I've been profiling my the wonderful poets that are joining me next weekend here on the blog and Anna Kerdijk Nicholson is the last (but definitely not least). Not only does Anna work as a lawyer, but she's also the director of Australian poetry and an amazing poet (which completely undermines my theory that poetry and law are opposites).  Her latest full length poetry book Possession, which won the 2010 Wesley Michel Wright Prize and the Victorian Premier's Prize for Poetry, is a poetic exploration of the voyage of James Cook in the Endeavour 1768 -1771, and moves through time and space to give us a very different kind of history - one that cuts, burns and ultimately moves us in ways that no prosaic narrative could.

The following poem, "Desert", published in Cordite 41, Transpacific, goes deep into the heart of the Australian desert.  The voice is deeply Australian (though Anna is a migrant, like me), delicate and sharp at the same time, reminding us of the transience and beauty of nature coupled with the sharp, angry politics of detention and fear.  Following is a snippet, but you can (and must) read the poem in full here:
allows wildflower murders the momentary, untouched granular, hidden
has emu-light, river gum, sockets of stone huts, is always being left

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sublime Planet Begins Celebration of Earth Day 2013 - Free Kindle Book

For the next 4 days, March 29 through April 2, Sublime Planet is free to download at Amazon!  The book features exquisite photography by Ann Howley, and award-winning ecological poetry by me and my co-author Carolyn Howard-Johnson.  You can hear me read the title poem here:

Kristin Johnson has just published the following wonderful review: "Delving into this collection of poetry feels like starting from the famous ... image of Earth from space, and then jumping headfirst into a Google Earth armchair voyage to distant corners and familiar spaces, a verse trip into scientific and emotional depths. No security checkpoints needed here, no airline tickets, no cruise ships. Your passport is imagination, issued by the mind and the world. The passport stamps read "...the crocodile icefish/has an oyster-white heart--not red" (Howard-Johnson's "Transparent Love Song"), or "Ten metres high/cracking the bleached dunes of memories" ("These Heavy Sands"), or other free verse exotic ports of call. This poetry has the 'Wow' factor, and it's clear that these two inspire each other, their quiet but penetrating observations on our fragile yet vibrant planet meshing and complementing each other. This book of poems does more than a hundred shrill eco-screeds to awaken us to concern for the world, for water scarcity, for the Pacific Garbage Patch and trashtrees, for endangered species and tree victims of forest fires, the changing of the weather. Our planet is poetry, as this collection so adroitly proves."  But don't take her word for it.  Go grab yourself a copy here:
It's absolutely free (but not for long!).

Thursday, March 21, 2013

World Poetry Day

In case you need an excuse, today is World Poetry Day.  According to UNESCO, the purpose of the day is to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world.  Why should you care?  Poetry is one of those arts that not only promotes linguistic diversity, but encourages new forms of expression, new ways of bridging the gaps between us, new meaning.  So in honour of the day, I offer you the title poem from my new book which I've written in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson (and which will be launched, with much fanfare, on Earth Day 2013, though advanced copies are available now).

I'll read it to you if you want here:

Or you can read it yourself below.  Once you read mine, I'd like you to share yours in the comments below.  You can share one of your own poems, or a link to a poem you love by someone else, or just talk poetry.  Let's open a poetic dialogue.

Sublime Planet

After so many years of silence
we’ve gotten used to it
exobiology a forgotten dream
lingers in the morning
then dissipates into routine
plenty of life forms to extinguish here
the daily rush to build, bank, close
always moving
towards a future already put to bed.

With all those arrays sitting pretty
dishy ears across the globe
desperate to find
what we instinctively suspect
but just can’t prove
the sound too faint
timeframes out of whack
communication hard at the best of times
it would be so fine to see your face at my door
without proof there’s nothing
but desire
flung across the universe via wormhole
a song of hope
and inexplicable loneliness.

The mediocrity principle
chemical scum, to be precise,
seems likely enough
sublime as we are
Yosemite snowstorm at dawn
Aurora over Antarctica
the number of possible habitable planets
grow daily

sifting hungrily through light curves
to find anything at all
even a whiff of bacteria
bug eyes and antenna shining
your tiny human heart racing
with fear and possibility.

Somewhere among 125 billion galaxies
in the observable universe
never mind the rest
the multiverses that line your pockets
full of zero sum extraterrestrials
visiting before we were ready
leaving their mark, and maybe even DNA
a thumbprint ancestor
you hope will find us,
youthful and charming,
smiling back, ready
to share.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Poetry...Wednesday: David Musgrave

David Musgrave is a poet, novelist, critic, academic, publisher, and key literary light, supporting and promoting Australian poetry through his work as board member of Australian poetry Limited, through his teaching activities, and in many other ways, not least of which is his own poetry.  In addition to an award winning novel Glissando, David has published five books of poetry, including To Thalia (2004), On Reflection (2005), Watermark (2006), Phantom Limb (2010) and mot recently, Concrete Tuesday (2011).  He has also won many many awards, including this year's highly respected Newcastle Poetry Prize for his poem "Coastline", a tender,  moving piece that takes the reader on the most familiar kind of journey - a simple walk, yet one which is elevated to the mythological:
And so I kept on walking, finding in a word the future and the past in ever-repeating series bearing a kind of fruit

Into the present.  And as I walked, I came to resemble Achilles racing the tortoise, never
overcoming, in the end, a calculus of ever decreasing lengths.

If you want more of this poem, and I know you do, you can find it, along with the other shortlisted and commended entries in the book also titled "Coastlines" which is available from the Hunter Writers Centre.  This playful, linguistic richness can also be seen in his poem "A Glass of Water" which can be read and listened to here:

The protean transformation of the couple is handled in a way that is both subtly humorous and moving as we slide between inside and outside, darkness and light, right-side up and upside-down.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sublime Planet now out!

The new poetry book is now out, and I'm particularly excited that all proceeds from the sale of this book, which has been written to celebrate Earth Day, are being donated to the World Wildlife Fund.  

Sublime Planet
Coauthored by Carolyn Howard-Johnson and Magdalena Ball
Photography by Ann Howley
ISBN: 9781482054705
To order e-book or Kindle:
To order paperback:

This collection of ecologically oriented poems traverses a wide terrain, moving from the loss of species to the beauty of the natural world, from drought to the exploration of alternative planets. It's an exhilarating collection that breaks boundaries and leads the reader deep into the personal heart of perception. Released by award winning poets Carolyn Howard-Johnson and Magdalena Ball to celebrate Earth Day, this is a collection of poetry that weaves the personal with the universal.

"Sublime Planet begins with Carolyn Howard Johnson's love poems to the living world, rapturous poems, expansive in spirit yet precise in detail: ‘An impossible moth,/dark eye at its center, opaque//helicopter blades buzz and blur... .’ In Magdalena Ball's darker meditations, hurt and thirst have entered the world facilitated, in part, by the machinations of civilization. While Howard-Johnson's poems praise, Ball's seem to sound a low warning. I recommend Sublime Planet particularly to those individuals who reside on the planet." ~ Suzanne Lummis, UCLA poetry instructor and LA's unique contribution to the poetry world

Monday, March 11, 2013

Poetry Monday: Philip Salom

The full program for the Newcastle Writers Festival is now up at: and I'm busy enjoying some of the most vibrant poetry that Australia has to offer with a pile of new books that I've purchased and taken out of the library.  Next up is Philip Salom, author of, among many other things (some 12 poetry collections and 2 novels) The Keeper of Fish and Keeping Carter, both written with a heteronym (an imaginary character). However, the poems I have been reading come from A Cretive Life, which just happened to be sitting on my bookshelf, as yet unread.  How could I resist such serendipity?  I think I could easily write an essay on every poem in the book, including the powerfully intense sequence "Preservation: Things in Glass" which won the 2000 Newcastle Poetry Prize, but instead I'd like to give you a tiny excerpt from the title poem, which, as you might expect, is a reflection on both the notion of creativity, and perhaps "ac'cretive" as in accretion or a growth in size:

Well, it's all right for him
living in atonal jungle, each whisker
trembling like a tuning formk.
The crotchets are flying up
like waterbirds lifting in a rush
of music from the surface of a lake.

I suspect this may be a reference to the composer cited in the epigraph, whose typo 'How strange and exciting it is living the cretive life' gave rise to the title.  The last bit of poem is "Australia" - full of the sensations of the natural world, eucalypts, and the struggles of the artist, "neurotransmitters going/dry as paint left out in tins." Though there are books to read, I suspect I'll be dropping into A Cretive Life for some time to come, exploring its extreme depths, memory, loss, perception, and above all, the way we make meaning through the creative (and the cretive) process.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Poetry Monday: Jean Kent

As some of you may know, I'll be running a session at the Newcastle Writers Festival, Saturday the 6th of April on "The State of Poetry in Australia" with David Musgrave, Jean Kent, Philip Salom, and Anna Kerdijk Nicholson.  I'm not sure I'll have time to read the latest book by each of the poets on the panel, and it's not mandatory for me to do so, but considering the quality of the people on our panel, I'm happy to have an excuse to try.  These poets are some of Australia's most dynamic, exciting, and powerful poets (and that's saying something - not that I'm biased or anything), so I'm not only going to be immersed in wonderful words in the lead up to the festival, I'm going to be sharing them here every monday.  First on the list is Jean Kent, a poet I've had the pleasure to meet on a number of occasions, since she lives reasonably close to me.  Jean's work has won a swag of awards, including the prestigious Josephine Ulrick and Dorothy Porter prizes.  Her latest book is Travelling with the Wrong Phrasebook, published by Pitt St Poetry, and launched in 2012 by Judith Beveridge. The book is something of a rich, delicate travelogue, taking the reader through Paris, Lithuania, and back to Australia.  The poems combine, in a way that Kent seems to have mastered, an intensely focused domesticity with the wonder of discovery. The scenes in these poems are as  familiar, and at times, comforting, as our own kitchens, and as unusual and alien as a foreign language.  That Kent manages the balance perfectly is part of her great talent:

So much gets lost
Between the words on one page with their scythes
And floating hats, the letters alive like the air in the forest
With gnats and bird swoops and antler hooks

I have a feeling that this is going to be a rather extraordinary conversation.