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.


A poem of mine on ABC Radio National’s Poetica

Those of you who live in Australia may be familiar with the Poetica program on ABC Radio National, produced by poet Mike Ladd. It is broadcast on Saturdays at 3pm with a repeat broadcast the following Thursday night at 9pm.

I am very pleased to say that my poem ‘Roadside Memorials‘ will form part of the May 11 program, which is a feature on the villanelle in Australia.

Picture of roadside memorial

‘another kind of road sign, small but clear’

(If that technical name is unfamiliar, it may help to know that a villanelle is a highly structured poem in (mostly) three line stanzas with two repeating refrain lines appearing in turn throughout. Think Dylan Thomas’ ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’.)

Now I’m not privy to the full schedule, but I believe you can expect to hear villanelles from Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Stephen Edgar, Suzanne Edgar and Michael Thorley among others. So lots of reasons to tune in, really.

And in case you were wondering, it won’t be my voice reading Roadside Memorials out on Poetica. The ABC are in the happy position of having trained actors available to do that job. Having read my own work on radio – and to camera – before, I know from experience that it is extremely difficult to produce an effective ‘read’ without the instantly available feedback of a live audience. Frankly I don’t know how the professionals do it, but I’m very grateful one will be doing it in my stead with this poem.

So why not make a date with your radio – Sat 11 May 3pm or Thursday 16th May at 9pm. Or, for about a month afterwards, you can visit the Poetica site and listen via the audio links, or download the program as a podcast.

Thanks for listening 🙂