Saturday, April 27, 2013

Poetry for your mother (freebie too)

Just in time for Mother's Day, She Wore Emerald Then is free, but only until May 1st.  This book was a USA Book News Best Books Award Finalist, and won an honorable mention from the Military Writers Society of America.

JR Mcrae called She Wore Emerald Then:
"A book of finely cut gems to hold, admire, let their multi-facets flash their messages to mind, and the fine sharp edges of each plane hold the image indelibly. The poets take us either side of motherhood and all the pain and joy held in between"
Helena Harper said: "the reader is taken on a journey from the sublime to the commonplace and you can't help but smile".

Here's a sample poem:

In the restless night
when mortality lurks in every shadow
the blanket won’t cover your fear
and morning is a half-forgotten dream
vague and uncertain,
slink into my bed
the pillow holds a mother’s secret
whispered charm
you can sink your head into.

There are no demons here;
no whirlwind of memory and anticipation clouding sleep
only eternal warmth
a shared space
free from the ticking illusion
of time, motion, and change.

Here, where you are always welcome
nothing matters
except this peace
this place
containing every possible now.

For a free copy just visit here:  There's still time to get hold of a paperback version as well, which can be popped into an envelope for mailing.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Life Imitates Art in Tassie

Went to Tasmania for a quick break over the past few days, and although it wasn't my first time, I was struck, as I always am, by the sheer beauty of the place. Launceston is particularly lovely,
with its perfect combination of history (the well preserved old buildings and paved streets) and contemporary trendiness in the shops and facilities. By the time I happened, entirely by chance, on a restaurant called the Black Cow Bistro it felt a bit like fate. Everywhere we went, from the wineries to the shops, we met transplants and tree-changers - people who had left the big smoke to do what my characters did.  Without exception, the real people we met seemed happy and didn't look back, but in 'real life' you rarely get the juicy under the skin backstory (especially not at a brief counter meeting).  None had gone the full self-suffciency route either, but the dream of escaping the 'big smoke' for a bucolic, slower paced lifestyle built around food, drink and farming is obviously one that is relatively common.  Just a few minutes walk (steeply uphill if you take the Zig Zag path or an easy but stunning walk over the Kings Bridge, created in 1867, if you're feeling lazy) is the Cataract Gorge. Though I'm a writer (and obviously not a photographer), it's hard to describe the sheer (shear) beauty of the place but considering its access to the city and the remote ancient setting, it's pretty close to perfect.  As soon as you're hungry there is amazing food and a very cosmopolitan city close at hand. I'm still not over the delicious smoked trout I had at the Stillwater located in the old Ritchie's Mill, just after we completed the walk.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Poetry Monday: National Poetry Month check in

A few weeks ago I wrote a little blogpost on celebrating National Poetry Month and since it's Poetry Monday today I thought I'd check in with my progress.  I've now written four poems this month  and although I can't put them up here, I can tell you that the first three were sent as submissions to Cordite for their Issue 43 which has, as its theme, "masque" and is being guest-edited by the wonderful poet and scholar Ann Vickery. Though I've had reviews published there, and submit to them often (who can resist their calls - they're always so evocative ("Bold Interiors of Poetic Fancy and Brocaded Rewindings, Lyricised run-ons and flirtatious Kinks in the Narrative."), I've never had poetry published there, but I read each issue eagerly, commend it to you, and will continue to submit indefinitely (how's that for a lyricised run-on?).

The fourth poem, titled "Bringing You Back", written for my grandmother, was sent, with some other, as yet unpublished (and re-polished) poems to a newish site called Silent Things.  I always try to send my work somewhere (rather than just publish it myself) as it helps with the all-important curation process.  In my case, I tend to hone more, and read in a more objective way (imagine I'm someone else reading my work) if I plan to send it somewhere. So I think I've met my target.  Nevertheless, I've got one more to write before I focus my attention heavily back into novel 3, and it's a big one. That's my annual entry to the Newcastle Poetry Prize. Yes, it's competitive.  It's worthwhile just looking at previous winners' work as it's among some of the most exciting and enticing work being published today.  First prize is $12,000, Australia's most lucrative poetry prize. There's a maximum of 200 lines, and I think it's probably a wasted opportunity to send short poems, though poem cycles are allowed. It's a reasonably substantial piece of work they're looking for.  If you're an Australian poet, I urge you to enter, not because I need any more competition (it's always a long shot anyway), but because the discipline of writing for such an illustrious, big prize will push you to your literary limits, and that's always a good thing for a writer. I'm thinking that one might be worth getting some extra help with.  The great Jean Kent is doing a poetry workshop at Morisset Library on Wednesday 22 May 9.30am - 12.30pm and though I count Jean as a friend, I'm also a fan and Jean has actually won second prize in the Newcastle Poetry Prize, so a workshop with her certainly wouldn't hurt.  How is your poetry month coming along?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Newcastle Writers Festival Saturday Recap

Yesterday was a big day for me at the Newcastle Writers Festival  and I had the great pleasure of doing
some reading from Sublime Planet at Sprocket's Cafe, and the even greater pleasure of listening to some other wonderful poets reading too, amidst the delicious scent of freshly roasted coffee and pastries.  After that it was straight over to the Lock Up Cultural Centre for a conversation on the State of Australian Poetry with Jean Kent, David Musgrave, Anna Kerdijk Nicholson, and Philip Salom, who all spoke with depth and lucidity about a range of questions as wide reaching as the Australian voice, the importance of indigenous poetry, the impact  of creative writing courses, the impact of the Internet, why we are in a "golden age" of poetry (and the great divide too), the impact of small poetry houses, and lots of advice for readers and writers.  The value of reading literary journals and reading the work of others was mentioned - you could do a lot worse than starting with these four amazing poets, but we did reference this article by Kent MacCarter at Cordite: and Mascara was mentioned several times as well.

I skipped (in my heeled boots) straight over from the Lock up to the Newcastle Business Centre where the crowds were queuing (and a few people were hoping for last minute standing room tickets as the session was sold-out) for my session with Ramona Koval.  I'm now regretting that I didn't hand my camera to someone in the Ramona Koval audience like I did with the State of Poetry session (and big thanks to that photographer, whose name I didn't get but who chased me out of the building to give me my camera back), so I have no photos of my session, but hopefully someone else will put a few photos up somewhere and in the meantime you'll have to take my word on it that Ramona was her usual bubbly, chatty, delightful self, interspersing deep wisdom with tidbits of light-hearted and sometimes poignant biography and reading to us about the Kama Sutra and the ribald antics of the Romans, despite having bronchitis.  The audience was lively and engaged and I'm sure we could easily have gone on for another hour as hands were still waving to ask questions, if the timekeeper at the back didn't gently and subtly tap her watch and wink at me so I was reminded to close the session.

There's still another day of activities at the NWF and if you're anywhere in the vicinity you really must get over to experience the amazing atmosphere, and sessions on such things as writing the thriler with Jaye Ford, Wendy James and Caroline Overington, the David Marr hosted session with Major General John Cantwell on his memoir Exit Wounds, Felicity Biggins' super popular session with John Wiltshire, Amanda Hooten and Miriam Margolyes on Pride and Prejudice (sold-out twice over but I think they've moved the venue to allow for more tickets), and many many more - you can check out the program here:

and if you missed it all, don't fret.  The Festival was so successful, so beautifully managed, and popular that I have no doubt in my mind at all that we'll be repeating it again next year.  I'm already excited about it.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Celebrate National Poetry Month

Happy National Poetry Month.  NPM is a month-long, national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets. By national, the Academy mean US, but I'll take any excuse to spend a bit more time writing, reading and talking poetry, besides, I can be an American poet if American poets are required.

Why?  If you need a reason for something called Poetry Month, it's about giving greater exposure to the art of poetry - increasing visibility and availability and discussion.  Who could argue with that? For me, immersing myself in poetry is the most pleasurable indulgence (even better than eating almonds) and I'm always up for it.

What am I doing to celebrate it?  If you follow this blog, you'll know that this Saturday at 2pm, at the Newcastle Writers Festival I'll be talking about the State of Australian Poetry with some of Australia's biggest, brightest poetry stars.  Some of us are indeed migrants and all of us do a lot of writing about "place".  The notion of what constitutes both a national and a regional voice in poetry will certainly be one of the many topics we'll be discussing.  This is a free session and everyone is welome to join us.  Check out the NWF link above for timings (and you can also join me at 1pm at Sprockets Cafe where I'll be reading a few poems from my new book Sublime Planet which reached #1 last week in Amazon UK for conservation books and afterwards where I'll be chatting about Why we Read with the wonderful Ramona Koval).

I'd love to join the many NaPoWriMo folk who are writing a poem a day this month, but along with everything else going on, I've got a novel in progress and don't want to mess with my schedule for that as I actually find writing poetry more pleasurable than writing fiction (don't tell anyone) and would be all too easily distracted away, however, I'll commit to one poem a week this month, though I might submit them somewhere just for fun rather than put them up here.  However, I'll check in with title and overview just to keep myself honest.

What will you do to celebrate it?  There are many ways you can celebrate.  Join with me in writing a poem a week - it's not a lot to manage and you can check in with me and put a link or details about your poem in the comments.  Let's do it together!  Or you can read a poem a week.  Or a poem a day. Or re-read a poem.  If you want more 30 more ideas, check out the link that the Academy has put up here: