Saturday, May 31, 2014

Compulsive Reader Newsletter out for June

In case it's still sitting in your spam box, or en route - it takes a day or two for all 10,000 of them to go out, the June Compulsive Reader newsletter has just gone out (mate, it's June here in Aus) and you can grab a copy from the archive here:

This month we've got a great batch of new reviews (and more still on site - I only include 10 in the newsletter but there are about 20 new ones since last month!), lots of literary news including the  Arthur C. Clarke Award winner, the RSL Ondaatje Prize finalists, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, and many others, 3 new book giveaways (I love giving away books, even my own dogeared favourites - for reasons I don't entirely understand), and a link to the new podcast interview with Carmel Macdonald Grahame (and yes, you can get there by just clicking on Carmel's name here).  If you're not a subscriber, well, just become one - it's free and pretty simple.  Just drop by and put your email and name in - I don't ask for any other details and don't use the email address for anything other than the monthly newsletters - no one else will get your details either and you can unsub anytime. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Poetry Monday: Michael Brennan

I've been reading Michael Brennan's Autoethnographic.  It's a strange, somewhat confronting experience. These little prose poems pack a punch, taking me places I'm not always keen to go, and opening doors philosophically, linguistically, and at times, viscerally.  They're mini-stories that use fairly standard sentence structure, but break past that into what is often hallucinatory, forcing the reader to look under the skin, beneath the surface of dialogue, conflict, characterisation and plot, and find something a little more complex and rich.  Here's one example from "Authentic":
There is no one to save us from these microbes, the shuffling deck. So many points on/our horizon we could launch out from the/random mutation we share.  Onwards then, until we find each other ready-made and to order.
I've only just begin plunging into this book, which is as fun as it is intense.  The sensibility is very modern, moving between the joy and terror of the circus, to social networks, texting, global warming, Tag Hauer watches to the Dalai Lama. I've still got a a long way to go with the book, but I'm finding the reading quite exhilarating at this stage.  If you want more, here's a complete piece from the book titled "Who is Alibi Wednesday":  that takes a rather shocking (and moving) look at the migrant experience: "When you feel the blade's tongue lick your throat,/you are still giddily scratching surfaces, falling in love with the city."

Cognitive dissonance here we come. Autoethnographic is Brennan's third full length collection. He is a lecturer in the Faculty of Policy Studies, Chuo University, Tokyo, and is the director of Vagabond Press, and the Australian editor of Poetry International Web.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Poetry Monday: Poetry for Mother's Day (freebie)

This Mother's Day will be bittersweet for me.  Sweet, because I have three wonderful children and a terrific husband who will be celebrating the day with me.  Bitter, because it's the first Mother's Day ever where I am unable to phone my mother, send her a gift, or thank her for being wonderful.  I will, of course, spend the day, as I have done every day since she passed away on the 30th of January this year, thinking about her, missing her, and perhaps writing about her.

At my mother's memorial, I grabbed a copy of the poetry book Carolyn Howard-Johnson and I co-authored from her bookshelf, and read a poem from it about how I used to climb into her bed as a young child, and how safe it felt to me (my own children did the same when they were younger...).  I've reprinted that poem below. Of course, I'm not the only one in the world who has lost my mother.  She Wore Emerald Then was released the week of the death of Carolyn’s mother, so the book, which has always been tied to Mother's Day, has a certain poignancy for both of us.  Carolyn and I are going to be running another freebie this year at Amazon.  If you don't already have a copy of She Wore Emerald Then, which features beautiful photography from May Lattanzio, please go and grab a copy for free here:  anytime from the 5th to the 9th of May (US dates).

If you're a mother, or if you have a mother (and that's all of us, even those of us whose mother is no longer alive), please have a happy Mother's Day, even if that happiness is tinged with longing, because every beautiful moment has a kind of permanence to it, even as it disappears into the transience of time. 

Mother's Bed
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.