Automatic Speaking Engine

Some people have been making sound recordings of me. More specifically of me reading my poems.

Drag down to order CD

Firstly the Melbourne independent record label Drums Records have recorded me reading 25 poems from my book Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call (Pitt St Poetry, 2013). Thanks to Drums Records head Robert Neuman, sound engneer Nick McCorriston and, 2XXX FM Canberra whose facilities we used.

The CD is, spookily enough, also called “Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call“.

You can order copies at $18 each here (put 00031 in the Item # column) – or contact me and I may be able to get one to you. If you order through the Drums Records site I recommend using the PayPal payment option as it is the only really secure method.

A Real Poetry Movie

Secondly when I was in Melbourne recently to do a reading for La Mama Poetica, poet Ken Smeaton (also featuring that night) filmed some of it. He edited it together with the text of the relevant poems as part of his Real Poetry Movies series. The results are available here for your viewing pleasure. The poems in the recording are from the book First… Then… (Ginninderra Press, 2012), plus a new unpublished one called ‘Contemplating the Gap.’

Still from Ken Smeaton RPM showing poem text and poet face

White words in the air – a still from the video

That’s the lot – til next time







































































































































































































Breath, Voice and the Fourth Dimension…Coming to a Town near You

Melinda Smith giving a poetry reading


The title of this post is a complicated way of saying this: I have a few poetry gigs coming up in the second half of 2015 so I thought I would record them all in one handy post.

It would be great to see you at one of them so I can sign all your books. Even ones I didn’t write.


July 31 THIS FRIDAY. Featured performer (with dance artist Alison Plevey) at Canberra Slambouree, performing five collaborative poetry+dance pieces. The Front Cafe Gallery, Lyneham ACT, 7:30pm. $5 entry.


Saturday August 29, Queensland Poetry Festival, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brisbane, Qld.

  • Panel appearance (with Michael Farrell and Karina Quinn): MACHINES CAN DO THE WORK 12:30pm in the Shopfront
  • Poetry reading (with MTC Cronin and David Brooks): KNOW YOUR PRODUCT 1:30pm in the Theatre


Wednesday 2 September Poetry on The Move festival, University of Canberra International Poetry Studies Institute. Panel appearance “The material of poetry”, with Philip Gross (UK) and Caren Florance. 2pm

Tuesday 8 September. Featured poet, with PS Cottier and Owen Bullock, at Poetry at The Gods.  The Gods cafe, Acton, ACT. From 7.30pm. $5 unwaged, 10 waged.


Monday October 5, featured performer at Passionate Tongues, The Brunswick Hotel, 140 Sydney Road, Brunswick, Vic. 7.30pm

Tuesday October 6, featured performer (with Robbie Coburn, Fleassy Malay and Kenneth Smeaton) at La Mama Poetica, La Mama Theatre, Faraday St Carlton, Vic. 8pm

October 21 These were my stars and other poems (joint reading with Alastair Spate). The Henry Lawson Room, upstairs at The Willoughby Hotel, 315 North Penshurst St Willoughby NSW. 7.45 for 8pm

Promotional poster for These were my stars event

North Sydney poetic shenanigans


Wednesday 18 November, Featured performer at BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT! @ The Phoenix Pub, Civic ACT. 7.30pm

Friday 27 November, featured performer at Aspen Island Theatre in the Round, Civic Square, ACT. 7pm.

Mon 30 November, featured performer at Poetry at the Pub, Newcastle. Wickham Park Hotel, Cnr Maitland Rd and Albert St, Wickham NSW. 7.30pm


16 December Featured performer (with Martin Dolan, Suzanne Edgar and Michael Thorley) at Poetry @ Manning Clark House, 11 Tasmania Circle, Forrest ACT. 7.30pm. $5 members, $10 non-members.

Add to Cart

So it appears I have been shamefully neglecting this blog. If it were a garden it would be overrun with weeds by now. There are, as always, excuses, some of them even quite good ones. I have been to many places to read from and talk about my book(s), which has been both gratifying and exhausting. But I feel that the time has come to return with a trowel, some canvas gloves and a great big rubbish bag.

My immediate impetus is to tell the half-dozen of you reading this that my first three books are now all available on Amazon.

(Of course the best thing you can do to get hold of any of my books is approach your nearest independent bookseller and ask them to order it in for you. That way, they stay in business and you save on postage. However Amazon remains the most cost-effective way for non-Australian readers to get hold of my first three books. With those readers in mind, then, here are the relevant links).

Pushing thirty, wearing seventeen cover

Pushing thirty, wearing seventeen


Mapless in Underland

  • First… Then… (Ginninderra Press, 2012) Paperback only (formatting was too tricky for e-book conversion)
First... Then... cover

First… Then…

Alternatively, you can sill buy all three from the Ginninderra Press website, with postage starting from $4 within Australia. Scroll ALL THE WAY down to the authors whose surnames start with S.

And just a reminder that my latest book, Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call (Pitt St Poetry, 2013) remains available on the Pitt Street Poetry site, for only $2 postage within Australia and $5 elsewhere.

Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call cover

Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call

I never did get that selfie with Shaun Tan…

You see I attended my very first literary awards dinner on Monday night. Big fancy do. In an art gallery. White tablecloths, waiters, TV cameras, a souvenir programme – that sort of thing. I had big plans. Almost none of them came to fruition. Not only did I leave selfie-less, I also neglected to conclude the evening face down in the chocolate fountain at the Langham hotel. Circumstances and Ray Martin intervened, shall we say. But I did bring back something for the pool-room from Melbourne on Tuesday morning. I’m a bit short on time so I’ll leave it at that for now. More details and proper linkage to follow.


I always wanted to have the word WINNER on my wall

Be Spoken To

Some words of mine are currently making an appearance in an exhibition at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, on signs crafted and artisan-ed by the amazing Caren Florance (aka Ampersand Duck). The exhibition is called Bespoke : Design for the People and is jointly organised with CraftACT as part of the Design Canberra Festival. Our bit of the five-room exhibition is called Be Spoken To.

The pictures in this post (at least, the first and third ones) were taken at the exhibition launch on 15 November, by Mark Nolan of Chalk Studio. I’m the one with the white hair, and Caren is the one with the glasses.

Melinda, Caren and signs

We have ways of making you be spoken to

The words on the eight Be Spoken To signs were composed with a very limited vocabulary: they use only words which appeared on the eight original signs displayed in the Sign Room of the Suites, Seats and Suits gallery. I just…rearranged them a bit. If you go there you can have fun spotting the words on the original signs, which are displayed on the opposite side of the same room. The words on the Be Spoken To signs are not really poems as such – more like …erm…text-based installations…as they depend very much for their impact on the reader being in the room with them.

Original signs with Caren and Melinda goofing off in front

The original signs, with the original prankstas

Caren used hand-set letterpress, mostly with wood type, and gold embossing powder to come up with an effect that mirrored the black and gold hand-lettering on the original signs.

The results were affixed to authentic ‘retired’ signs taken out of storage (and out of their dust-repellent ‘ghost bags’) for the purpose.

And she even came up with a way to lino-cut the pointing hand symbol (called a manicule).

Sign with manicule


Be Spoken To also includes a a set of four (more traditional) poems on a black and white framed print on one wall of the same room. This is a limited edition print – you can contact Caren if you would like your very own copy.

Partial image of wall-mounted poem

A taster

If you’re going to see the Power of One Voice exhibition anyway, why not toddle off to the back of the Senate side and check out Bespoke? The other four rooms all contain very interesting and engaging craft pieces responding to the original furniture and design elements in the building. The exhibition will be up until November 2015. That’s right, a whole year. Still, best go before you forget…

And while I’ve got you here, don’t forget I will be reading at the Wild Ones event next week (Wed 3rd December from 6pm).

Finally, I am excited to announce that the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards winners will be announced the following Monday, 8 December, at a dinner in the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. In case you missed it, my book Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call is one of five books on the poetry shortlist, in the running for the $80,000 first prize. I was a wee bit excited about that, and still am. You can read the judges’comments here.

The WILD Ones

Coming up on 3 December at The Front Cafe Gallery in Lyneham: Genre-Crossing Mayhem !

I will be reading with Canberra Critics Circle award-winning novella-ist Nigel Featherstone, Allen and Unwin novelist Karen Viggers, (Rebecca James was originally on the bill but had to withdraw so Karen has kindly stepped in in her stead) and political thriller writer Paul Daley. In a very non-boring manner. Which is why the event is called THE WILD ONES. Plus there will be music from the talented Chris Endrey.

Fun starts at 6pm. Does what it says on the tin. It will all be over by 8pm – In fact I am very excited to discover we will be curtain-raising for Jackie Luke and her hammered dulcimer – now THAT sound TOTES wild.

Also, the lovely people at Electric Shadows Bookshop will be there to provide copies of books for purchase, should you be so incredibly moved by what you hear that you simply must have one (or several) of your very own.

Image of The Wild Ones promotional poster

Really Not Boring At All

Making a list and checking it twice

So I had a pretty quiet Sunday last weekend. I spent all morning doing my tax, and most of the afternoon planting some salad vegetables with my eight year old in a pathetic attempt to develop a hitherto-non-existent green thumb. And to stop him asking me so many questions about germination.

Around 5pm my partner took our other son, the ten year old, out for the evening. Around 6pm I got a text from my good friend @hackpacker:

“Congratu-bloody-lations ! You are shortlisted for the Prime Minster’s Literary Awards !”

Oh. I thought. Am I? Wait….WHAT ?

I refused to believe him until he texted me a link to the press release.

Then I sat down and had some heart palpitations.

I couldn’t ring my partner as I knew he was in the middle of driving to his destination. My eight year old was playing in the front yard and couldn’t care less about such things. I was alone in a silent house with some very very big news.

Eventually I did make contact with my partner, who when he finally returned brought home a bottle of champagne. The sort we don’t usually drink because we are not extravagant types. And we shared the whole bottle.

Image of champagne bottle and two full glasses

Not extravagant at all

Once I calmed down (about 24 hours later) I realised many things. One of them is that I am a fan of all the other poets on the shortlist (Sarah Day, Jakob Ziguras, Stephen Edgar and Geoff Page), so whoever wins I will be happy. No, really. If I were a horse I would give me about 50-1, so this is also helpful thinking.

Another thing I realised is that because in my day job I am a public servant, I am legally prevented from commenting publicly on political matters. So while there has been plenty of discussion of panel composition, etc elsewhere, not to mention discussion of the policies of the Abbot government in general, you will not be getting any of that from me. I’m just making it clear that I am not ignorant or naive, merely obliged to silence on some things.

The final thing I realised is that sometimes, it really is worth buying the expensive champagne.

PS. My favourite bit of the press release is the bit where it says

These thirty books have become part of the contemporary Australian literary canon

Bit soon for mine, I thought. Which is, incidentally, called Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call (Pitt St Poetry, 2013). Just because I haven’t mentioned that yet.


Reading in Sydney 13 September

Apologies for the long silence. Long story. Poems to follow. Happy National Poetry Week !

On the good news side of things, I am pleased to announce that I will be giving a poetry reading in Sydney on Saturday evening 13th September, at the Stanley Street Gallery in Darlinghurst.

Reading and signing

It is a double reading with poet Nicola Bowery. Nicola will be reading from her brand new book married to this ground, and I will be reading from Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call (Pitt St Poetry 2013), and also possibly from First… Then… (Ginninderra Press 2012) and from some unpublished new material.

The event kicks off at 5pm. There is a $15 cover charge which does include a glass of wine.

Here is a Facebook Event for the reading, and here is a link to the event details at City of Sydney What’s On.

The reading is organised by Poetry Alive, which is Nicola and her partner Harry Laing, who will MC. Should be a fun night, and the formal part of proceedings should all be over by 6.15pm, so you can start your evening in Darlinghurst and then kick on to wherever your other plans take you.

Love to see you there !

First… Then… wins award

I’m very pleased to announce that my next-to-last book, First… Then…, has won the Poetry category of the ACT Writing and Publishing Awards, for books published in 2012.

Many thanks to the publisher, Ginninderra Press for nominating it, and to the judges Judith Crispin and Michael Farrell for picking it. The judges’ citation was: “[First…Then… is an] emotionally brave and truthful testimony of raising a child with autism, elegant poems across a range of diverse styles, unashamedly feminine, humorous and lively forms.”

Image of award certificate and sticker

The evidence

The awards are administered by the ACT Writers’ Centre, and were presented last night at Gorman House Arts Centre. Also nominated in my category were books by Suzanne Edgar and Leon Trainor. Very gratifying to win in such a strong ‘field’.

If you would like to find out more about the book, it has its own blog where you can browse the poems and find out how to get your hands on a copy.

Merry Christmas !

Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call

Picture of the book Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call by Melinda Smith

The book itself

Hello, world, here is my latest book – and my first with Pitt Street Poetry. Just in time for Christmas / the holiday giving season !

The book was launched last week, with many kind words, by Geoff Page in Canberra and Mark Tredinnick in Sydney, and is now making its way, a copy at a time, into pool rooms everywhere.

If you were not able to be at one of the launches, and simply must have one of your very own, allow me to recommend a couple of strategies:

  • Front up to your local independent bookseller and demand that they order you in a copy from Pitt St Poetry; or
  • Visit my Pitt St Poetry author page, which has a link to their online shop. Only $2 postage and handling within Australia and delivery is generally within two business days.

There is also a Melbourne launch in the offing, but this may end up being in early 2014. I will post details when I have them.

If you already have the book, why not post your review in the comments below ?