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an emergency call (Pitt St Poetry 2013), and also possibly from First… Then… (Ginninderra Press 2012) and from some unpublished new material.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 !

National Poetry Week Day 5 -CELEBRATE

Friday, 9 September is CELEBRATE Australian poetry day in National Poetry Week.

Celebrate the joy of Australian poetry however you embrace it. This day should probably involve cake!

– @AusPoetry

How will you be celebrating today ? 

In a celebratory frame of mind, I would like to nominate, and reward, my favourite moment from National Poetry Week so far: 

I have another acrostic poem for you today – just a bit of enjoyable doggerel. The tone only turned out to be quietly celebratory though. The poem gives thanks in a way for the fact that poetry survives amidst all other distractions; that the still, small voice is there always if we care to listen. And it honours those who are willing to do the work of listening, however hard it gets.

  (with apologies to WH Auden) 

Cut off the box, and flush the mobile phone
Erect the tallest palings you can lift alone
Let nothing enter that you cannot touch
Except the talk of neighbours – and then, not much.
Be blind and blank to all electric waves
Revist beds and temples, campfires, graves
Allow your mind to follow like a bird
Try hefting the true weight of every word
Eventually the poem will be heard

So – today is the last themed day in National Poetry Week. The Week itself continues until Sunday September 11, but I will not be blogging here on the weekend as I have two developmentally challenged children to wrangle and a social life to pursue. So I guess for me this is goodbye #NPW2011. It has been quite a lot of fun. Right here on this blog we’ve been writing acrostic poems, stockpiling Australian poetry books against the coming bookshop apocalypse, touring the Australian Poetry Library and contemplating Seagull Poetics, among other things. Hope you had fun too. Let’s make it bigger and better next year !

National Poetry Week Day 4 – LIVE

Thursday, 8 September is LIVE Australian poetry day.

  Be liberated to find poetry and the inspiration for poems in every part of life.


Seagull Poetics

At a poetry festival once, someone came up to me and posed a very interesting question. His friend, a weekend footballer, had recounted a particularly tough game to him and finished with: ‘Mate, when the whistle blew, we all just collapsed on the grass. We were breathing so hard we were suckin’ in the seagulls.’

My interlocutor asked me very earnestly now, was THAT poetry ? I said of course it was (mentally filing it away in the box in my mind marked STEAL FOR LATER). He seemed to want to argue the point with me and I honestly can’t remember much else about the discussion except that it went on until my sandwich order was ready. 

This was 18 months ago and I have been doing a lot of thinking about it since. Why was I so sure that statement was poetry, and why did the person who shared it with me have doubts ?  Now I need to preface this part of the discussion with a warning that I am NOT going to get all academic on yo’ asses. Please don’t click away yet ! Funny Jokes further down ! 

Rather than get way down into it, let me summarise the two points of view thus: 

Not Poetry: author not qualified – no higher degree in literary theory – had not sufficiently researched history and theory of seagulls, sucking, respiration, physical struggle or previous poetry touching thereon – did not intend as poetry – not performed in appropriately poetic setting (i.e. other humans present all awake even if some lying down) 

Poetry: Metaphor – compression – authenticity – vividness – unexpectedness – humour – connection with audience – memorable quality 

After wasting all those words getting here, I think it all boils down to this: poetry, like music, is all around if you listen. If you manage to catch some and write it down and put your name to it, it might then go down on the permanent record as poetry / music that came from you, and it will be capable of being re-performed / re-vived in a similar way each time by different readers / performers. But the stuff that doesn’t get captured that way is no less poetry or music for being ephemeral. 

(And I’ll let you in on a little secret – you don’t actually need to have studied English at postgraduate level to write (or catch) something that can be called a poem.  It might make you more efficient at it – but really all you need is a pulse, a reasonably operational brain, access to a public library, paper and a pencil. And perhaps a decent technical manual like Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled. But shh, don’t tell anyone I told you).

So as you go about your day today, listen to what is going on around you. Can you find something as good as ‘sucking in the seagulls’ ?  Enjoy it for itself – or steal it for later. Why not post it in the comments below ? (use a copyright symbol if you’re feeling vulnerable).

That’s me and my reflective mood for now. Tomorrow is CELEBRATE Australian Poetry Day. See you then !