Monday, March 31, 2014

You're Invited: New Flying Island Books from two superb poets

This Friday, April 4th, the wonderful Jean Kent and Judy Johnson will be launching their new books Exhibit and The Language of Light, both published by Flying Island Books from 5 pm to 6.30 pm, and you're invited.  The event will take place at:
The Press Book House
462 Hunter St

These two poets will launch each others books, in what I expect to be a rather wonderful session (and aren't the covers beautiful?). 
MC: Karen Crofts, Director, Hunter Writers Centre
RSVP: or

These Flying Island books contain a selection of poems from Judy and Jean, with translations into Chinese by Iris Fan.

Judy Johnson, who launched my own Black Cow novel some years ago, has been writing and publishing poetry in Australia for twenty years and has won a number of prizes including the Victorian Premier's Award, Wesley Michel Wright Award (twice), Josephine Ulrick and Val Vallis Prize. In 2011 she was awarded a month's long residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland as a part of the Varuna Alumni Exchange Program. She taught Creative Writing at Newcastle University for several years and is currently working on a book of narrative poetry supported by a Literature Board Grant.

Jean Kent, who was one of my panelists at the NWF last year, has published four collections of poetry. The most recent is Travelling with the Wrong Phrasebooks (Pitt Street Poetry, 2012). Her books have been set for study at university and in secondary schools. Awards she has won include the Anne Elder Prize, Dame Mary Gilmore Award and Wesley Michel Wright Prize for books, and the National Library Prize, Josephine Ulrick Prize and Somerset Prize for individual poems. In 1994 and 2011, she was awarded residencies at the Literature Board's Keesing Studio in Paris, where she completed some of the poems in this selection.

I personally count both of these poets as mentors and hugely inspirational.  They're writing is always powerful, distinctive and rich, and having both together in one session is a treat. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Slightest Hint of Magic: Kate Forsyth

As many of you will know (probably all too well as I keep cracking on about it), I'll be 'in-conversation' with Kate Forsyth next Saturday at the Newcastle Writers Festival. Kate is an amazing writer whose work seems to bridge every genre gap. She's written some 26 books, some for children, some for adults, and some that work perfectly for both children and adult.  A number of her books are true fantasy, rich with magic and myth, adventure and quests. Others are historical fiction, love stories, fairy tale re-tellings, picture books.  Kate also writes, and has had published, a number of essays and articles, and even poetry. 

Whatever she writes seems to have a touch of magic in it - sometimes just the magic of epiphany and character transformation, and sometimes overt magic of the sort that comes with high fantasy.  No matter how much magic Kate has in her work, it's always natural, subtly handled, and integral to and integrated with the plot.  Her latest novel is The Wild Girl, which I've reviewed here: The Wild Girl is set during the Napoleonic Wars and tells the story of Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told Wilhelm most of the fairy tales that made him famous.

Next weekend, Kate and I will talk about a wide range of things, including her 'creative journey', how she manages the balance between publishing and research, about what draws her to fairy tales, about the "silent" but fascinating women in history, about storytelling and what it means to be a professional storyteller, the conjunction between reading and writing, and many other things.  There will be plenty of time for the audience to ask Kate their questions and interact with us.  To get hold of tickets, either drop by here: or you can spend a little more and chance a sell-out, by getting them at the door.  Either way, I expect this to be a fascinating and enjoyable session with just the slightest hint of magic.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Anthony Lawrence gets intimate

I hope you're not getting tired of my continual harping about the Newcastle Writers Festival (4-6 April), but I have to admit that, as we're inching closer to the date, I'm getting pretty excited.  Not just about my own sessions, which I've been talking about over the past weeks (I'll do one final blast on Kate Forsyth shortly), but also about all the other interesting events taking place over the two days. I'm particularly pleased by how many poetry sessions there are. The Festival is poetry rich, with some of Australia's finest poets leading workshops, talking poetry, and reading their work. One of those poets is Anthony Lawrence, who will be reading love poetry in the intimate setting of The Press Book House (462 Hunter St), a charming bookshop/cafe in the heart of the city. The session runs from 11:15am on Saturday

Lawrence has published 13 poetry books, including, most recently, Signal Flare which was published in 2013 by Puncher & Wattman, and has won a swag of awards for his work, including the Josephine Ulrick Award, the Queensland Premier's Award, the New South Wales Premier's Award, the Newcastle Poetry Prize, the ABR Poetry Prize, and the Gwen Harwood Memorial Award to name just a few.  For a little taste of Lawrence's work, you can listen to him read on the wonderful ABC Radio National show Poetica (which I recommend):

To grab tickets to this event, or find out more, drop by

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Poetry Monday: David Musgrave

This is not the first time I'm writing about David Musgrave.  David was also on the poetry panel "The state of Australian poetry" that I ran last year at the Newcastle Writer's Festival, and I'm very much looking forward to working with him again. This is not only because he has the best collection of poetry themed t-shirts I've ever seen, but also because he brings to the table a vast depth of experience, as reader, editor, publisher at Puncher and Wattman, and award winning poet. Last year I included a very tiny snippet from his 2013 Newcastle Poetry Prize winning poem "Coastline", so this year I thought I'd feature his 2012 Blake Poetry Prize shortlisted poem "Nine Crab Barn".  You can read the whole of it here:  (and I urge you to do so - it's a poem that combines wry humour, pathos and beauty in just the right amounts), but to encourage you to read it all, here are two stanzas:
Now I've profiled my entire poetry panel, and I think you'll agree with me that the session is bound to be pretty amazing.  We'll be talking about many things - the dynamic between reader and writer, editing vs censorship, on what it means to be a modern publisher of poetry, and a modern author of poetry, on the notion of a 'critical edition', on the relationship between editing others and writing your own work, on poetry advocacy and much more (keeping to our allotted hour will be the hard part).  The session is free, and there will be plenty of opportunity for audience participation, so please do come and join us on Saturday the 5th of April at 1:30pm in the Mulubinba Room at Newcastle City Hall.  No need to pre-book - just show up, but don't be late as it's first come first served and last year the free sessions filled up fast (I know because I couldn't get into a few of them myself).  Looking forward to seeing you there.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Poetry Monday: Rob Riel and Picaro Press

I've got something of a soft spot for Rob Riel's Picaro Press.  Not only have Picaro objectively done wonderful things for poetry publishing in general, publishing some 300 titles of Australian poetry (plus a few essays and plays) from both established poets (including some of Australia's biggest names like Judith Beveridge and Bruce Dawe) and emerging ones, but they also published my own first poetry book Quark Soup.  Rob was an amazing editor - encouraging, light of touch, but full of insight - also helping to design the Kandinsky inspired cover and coaching me through my first public readings.

That was rather a long time ago, but Picaro is still going strong, with a philosophy of keeping their prices (including postage) extremely low and their quality high. By all accounts, their Wagtail series has a strong ongoing subscription base (and no wonder, with Rob's partner Judy Johnson as editor).  I doubt that Rob and Judy have become millionaires from the press, but they've managed to survive for many years with very little (if anything) in the way of grants, and have curated and fostered a thriving and regular connection between readers and writers that has been very powerful.

Rob is, of course, one of my panelists at the upcoming Newcastle Writer's Festival, and like all of the panelists, is not only editor, but also a fine poet himself, having had two of his own collections published: For as long as you burn (Five Islands Press) and Rogue Perspectives (Island Press). The last time I chatted with Rob (not long ago - we are often at the same events) he told me he was working on a sci fi novel which is very exciting for those of us, like me, who find the conjunction of poetry with science fiction to be one of the best reading experiences.  I'm waiting impatiently.  In the meantime, there's always Wagtail.   

Monday, March 10, 2014

Newcastle Author Event: Jenny Blackford

My friend and fellow local poet Jenny Blackford is releasing her new new poetry book 'The Duties of a Cat' published by none other than Pitt Street Poetry, featured a few weeks ago. Jenny will be joined by poets (all amazing) Jean Kent, Judy Johnson, Christopher Pollnitz & Rob Riel.  This is an opportunity to get a taste of the upcoming poetry sessions at the Newcastle Writers Festival. Rosemarie Milsom Newcastle Herald Journalist & Newcastle Writers Festival Director will be MC for the evening.
About the Book:
The Duties of a Cat
Twelve feline verses with line drawings by Sydney artist Michael Robson. These poems celebrate the essential nature of the cat, friend & alien, following in a long & proud tradition of feline verse from a distinguished lineage of poets.
About the Author:
Jenny Blackford won the medal in Classics at the University of Newcastle, branching to a career in computer networking in Melbourne. These days she is back in Newcastle and writing full time. Her short stories are published widely: by Random House, Cosmos magazine and in anthologies such as HarperCollins Dreaming Again.
An historical novel The Priestess and the Slave (Hadley Rille Books) appeared in 2009. Her poems are in Westerly, The Pedestal Magazine, Midnight Echo, Star*Line, Eternal Haunted Summer, Dreams and Nightmares, Strange Horizons, Quadrant and Dolly.

Enjoy a glass of wine and listen to some fabulous poetry.
RSVP Essential on (02) 4969 2525 or
Venue MacLean's Booksellers, 69 Beamont Street Hamilton Newcastle
Date 14/03/2014
Time 6.00pm
Cost Free
Bookings 4969 2525 or
RSVP 12/03/2014
Hosted By MacLean's Booksellers

Poetry Monday: Christopher Pollnitz

If you read last week's post you'll know that one of  the wonderful people joining me for the How Do Poets Survive session at this year's Newcastle Writer's Festival is Christopher Pollnitz.  Pollnitz is not only a fine poet himself (as I'll be showing you in a moment), he's a lecturer in English at Newcastle University, as well as being a noted Lawrencian.  We're not talking about Lady Chatterly's Lover here.  Pollnitz has edited one of the most critical editions of D. H. Lawrence’s Poems, and he is now working on Volume III, which features Lawrence’s draft and uncollected poetry (something I can imagine as a massive undertaking that is as much creation as curation).  He is also one of the original founders of the very well-respected Newcastle Poetry Prize.  Pollnitz' own work has been published by Rob Riel's Picaro Press which we'll be looking at next week.  Just for a taste, here is one stanza from Pollnitz' poem "Satin Bower Bird" which can be read in its entirety (along with other work) in the December issue of Mascara:

"Black Prince of the undergrowth, to me his crackle
and hiss seem off-station, but you and he have a
thing together.  As I finish each two litres
of juice, you put the lids out in the garden
and your pretty boy comes again and again carrying
awkwardly off in his beak the royal blue baubles." 

Dare I say that the influence of Lawrence's work on Pollnitz is strong - involving the same taut observation, the same anthropomorphism, the same meta-poetic twist as the awareness of human conceit and the artistic process is played against the natural world.  Here is Lawrence's "Eagle in New Mexico" which is taken from the sumptuous hardcover edition of The Cambridge Edition of the Works of D.H. Lawrence: The Poems by Christopher Pollnitz (click on the cover to be taken to the Amazon page for the book - it's quite a beautiful thing:

“Fly off, big bird with a big black back.
Fly slowly away, with a rust of fire in your tail,
Dark as you are on your dark side, eagle of heaven.

Even the sun in heaven can be curbed and hastened at last
By the life in the hearts of men.
And you, great bird, sun-starer, heavy black beak
Can be put out of office as sacrifice bringer."

It's no small compliment.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Poetry Monday: Pitt Street Poetry

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while will know that last year, in the lead up to the Newcastle Poetry Festival, I ran little profiles of the people who were joining me on my poetry panel - tasters if you will.  This year the topic will be "How Do Poets Survive", and I'll be chatting with David Musgrave, who was also on my poetry panel last year, Christopher Pollnitz, Rob Riel, and John Knight of Pitt Street Poetry.  This is a free event held onMulubinba Room - Newcastle City Hall, and knowing the work of the amazing poets and poetry publishers who are joining me to discuss the topic of publishing poetry and the dynamic between poet, editor and publisher, I am confident in saying that this will be a session well worth attending, full of lively, topical chatter and lots of opportunity (as with last year) for audience interaction.  Today I'm going to kick off the series with a little profile on John Knight's wonderful Pitt Street Poetry press.
Dr John Knight

Anyone who writes poetry and wants it published will be well aware that there aren't very many traditional publishers out there, and most of them are doing it more for love than for the (somewhat less than copious...) financial rewards. The love is often considerable and the resulting collections exquisite, as is clearly the case with PSP, who started up in 2012 with two collections: Travelling with the Wrong Phrasebook by the amazing Jean Kent (who was on our panel last year - you can search her up in the archives for more on Jean and her work), and Light Pressure by John Foulcher.  Since then, PSP has grown rapidly and now aims to publish 4-6 new collections a year, as well as pocket-sized editions of out-of-print classics from the last fifty years. They've got some pretty big names on their books already including the likes of Luke Davies, Ron Pretty, and Mark Tredinnick- just a few of those you might have heard of, though there are plenty more upcoming poetry collections from names familiar and new, with an eclectic mix of e-books, inexpensive pamphlets, paperbacks, and beautiful casebound illustrated and autographed editions that make lovely gifts. As both writer and reader of poetry, I'm so glad that publishers like PSP are continuing to put out the good stuff.