Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas and the mystery of the free book...

Seasons Greetings. 

It's New Year's Eve and life has been travelling at a quickened pace for sometime, though I have found time to do lots of reading due to a few days where I was sidelined getting tests at the hospital (I have a cyst on my ovary, nothing too serious). We spent Christmas with family and got some lovely and thoughtful gifts including a Moleskine address book, a beautiful fountain pen (above) and a Hemingway book, True at First Light. We also went and saw Australian singer/ songwriter Darren Hanlon at the Powerhouse on the 23rd for his last Christmas gig. Hanlon was fantastic and we were introduced to American folk songwriter David Dondero, his support act ,who writes wonderful witty but charming songs (we bought three of his CDs).

On the reading front, I have just finished reading Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, it is no Brideshead, but I enjoyed it immensely. I read True at First Light, a fictionalised memoir of Hemingway's time in Africa published posthumously and edited by Hem's son Patrick. It is what it is, an unfinished novel, but very interesting but I feel that this one is for Hemingway fans only. Certainly not in the same league as his other fictionalised travel memoirs like Festiva: The Sun also Rises or A Movable Feast. And last night I finished Persuasion by Jane Austen. It was compelling reading and I always love the many ways she has to describe a characters worth and social standing, i.e. manners, breeding, education, eloquence, attractiveness etc. It is very charming. I avoided English romantic fiction and Victorian literature like the plague when I was an undergraduate. I had a sneaking suspicion that only sickly-looking virginal girls who lived with their over-controlling parents read Austen and the Brontes. But over the last few years my position has not only softened, but changed substantially as I have read more widely and realised my preconceptions/ prejudices  were based (unfairly) on interactions with several girls in first year lit tutorials. 

And now to the mystery of the free book. Amanda Curtin's The Sinkings appeared in the mail this week. There was no return address on the padded envelope and inside the front cover was a slip of paper printed with the University of Western Australia's letter head and the words "with compliments" and no further explanation. I am all for free books turning up in the mail, but I don't for the life of me know how I would be on the University of Western Australia's mailing list for anything, let alone complimentary books. And the envelope was addressed to my new married name (which I have only had since the end of September), so clearly they have gotten my address recently. But how? Curious and curiouser.

Have a great New Years and if you have time check out Graham Nunn's blog, another lost shark, as he goes through a list of Poetry Picks for 2011 chosen by various poets and reviewers. Some great books so far on the list, including Michelle Dicinoski's Electricity for Beginners, a book that I really enjoyed and have just written a review for (will let you know if it gets published).

And finally I thought I would share this great little clip of What are you Doing New Years Eve? by Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (fond via FourThousand).

Monday, December 19, 2011


- reading my copy of Going Down Swinging #32 and looking forward to listening to the CD.
- having just finished Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Hemingway's Festiva: The Sun also Rises and Bill Bryson's Mother Tongue. 
- learning new words: vaguebooking and schadenfraude.
- Haiku traffic signs in New York.
- catching up with friends and family for Christmas.
- the overcast weather.
- reading bad reviews of good books, especially this line about Kafka, "He's got nothing to say, but an overwhelming urge to say it."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Keates commended...

Carmen Leigh Keates: Image courtesy of the artist

Well done to Carmen Leigh Keates for her commendation in the ACT Poetry Prize for her unpublished verse novella Second-Hand Attack Dog.  Read a poem from Second-Hand here and my interview with Carmen for the Queensland Poetry Festival here.

PS. As Graham Nunn notes in the comments, Carmen will feature in Brisbane New Voices III to be released in April 2012!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Poetry inspired Christmas gifts...

Book Christmas Tree Image Credit

It seems like every website I look at and email I receive of late has suggestions for Christmas presents. I thought I might put together just a few poetry inspired Christmas present suggestions:

- An issue or two of poetry Zine-in-a-match-box by Pascale Burton at the Lavender Room.

- A poetry stamped plate with your choice of poem or quote.

- Poetry book ends.

- An inscribed ring.

- A subscription to Australian Poetry Journal, or a copy of Rabbit non-fiction poetry journal, or maybe membership to Australian Poetry or the Queensland Writers Center (there are many journals and organisations that could be added to this list).

- A writing workshop or even a language course in French, German, Spanish, Latin etc. etc.

- And of course books of poetry from you local independent bookstore. Or contact Collected Works bookstore in Melbourne which specialises in Poetry books. I would buy 6am in the Universe, the Selected Poems of the late Benjamin Frater, Grand Parade Poets, $27.95. and Perrier Fever by Pete Spence, Grand Parade Poets $24.95. Both published by Alan Wearne - read an article by Wearne about publishing them here

Feel free to leave further suggestions in the comments!

PS. One more idea. I just saw this on a Paris Blog. The t-shirt reads: “Moi, je veux te dire que je ne te quitterai jamais. Et puis, si tu es triste, je pourrais toujours te donner un peu d’alcool pour te rechauffer le couer. xo”

Which translates to something like: “I want you to know that I will never leave you. And, if you’re ever sad, I can always give you a little alcohol to make you feel better”.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

So deserving...

Graham Nunn is not only a super nice person, the kind of person everyone smiles and nods approvingly about whenever his name is mentioned, but he is also an Australian poetry champion (i.e. he writes and supports poetry). His efforts have been recognised with the 2011 Johnno Award for outstanding contributions to writing in Queensland. Well done Graham! Click to read the Courier Mail's article on Graham and click over to his blog another lost shark to read some of his poems and find out more about Graham and all things Brisbane poetry.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Oh Matisse...

Henri Matisse | Patitcha souriante (Patitcha smiling) 1947 | Purchased 1993 with funds from the International Exhibitions Program | 
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | © Henri Matisse 1947/Succession H Matisse/Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney, 2011

Yesterday I went to the Matisse: Drawing Life exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art. It was beautiful. There were more than 300 drawings, prints and even some paintings. Matisse is well regarded as a painter, but it was just wonderful to see so many of his drawings in one place.

Frank O'Hara wrote in Personism: A Manifesto that when writing poetry "You just go on your nerve. If someone's chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don't turn around and shout, 'Give it up! I was a track star for Mineola Prep.'" It is a fabulous and often quoted line but it reminds me of how Matisse draws. He just does it. There are beautifully detailed rendered drawings, tonally accurate and technically brilliant, but for me his best works are the ones with the expressive lines, the quick sketches, the portraits with only a few lines. Matisse has a sureness in his lines that you find in great artists like Picasso and Brett Whiteley, the ability to put it on paper with ink and not make a false line. You can see it in Matisse's prints too, there was a number of dry point etchings (where you work directly onto the metal plate with a pointed instrument) and lithographs (where you draw directly into the stone with a wax crayon) and you could see his directness, you could see that they were experimental and that he was "going on his nerve" creating lines that cannot be erased. These drawings and prints have an unmistakable immediacy to them, they are gestural, expressionistic and beautifully brief.

The exhibition runs until the 4th of March 2012 and is certainly worth the $16-$20 entry fee. There is also a studio set up where you can draw, art materials supplied, so give yourself plenty of time.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

On why I feel like a literary detective...

When I interviewed Alan Wearne earlier in the year he mentioned a researcher named Erica Travers who did her PhD in the late 1980s/ early 1990s on Australian poets and interviewed a number of generation of 68 poets, Alan Wearne included. I went in search of her PhD and found it at the Fryer Library at the University of Queensland. It turns out that she had interviewed some 16 poets and produced hundreds of pages of transcripts, but the Fryer library didn’t have any copies. I searched in vain for where the interviews may have been donated.

I was thinking that the interviews would be a great resource for a number of reasons. Most obviously because I am interviewing many of the same poets, but mainly because the only other collection of interviews with these poets is Martin Duwell’s A Possible Contemporary Poetry (1982) which contains interviews from the 1970s with thirteen of the poets included in John Tranter’s The New Australian Poetry (1989) anthology. There are great interviews by Hazel deBerg also done in the 1970s with some of the poets (i.e. Tranter, Forbes, Duggan and Adamson) that are held at the National Library (that don’t seem to have ever been published) and a number of interviews conducted over the years with the poets spread between various journals and websites. But to find a pile of unpublished interviews from the late 1980s/early 1990s was a really exciting prospect. Only thing was, I couldn’t find them.

Then while I was leafing through Alan Wearne’s papers in the Fryer library I came across a note from John Tranter to Wearne about the “Bell Collection” at the Sydney University. The Erica Bell collection. Hmmm... Five minutes on the internet and I had tracked down the illusive Erica Travers interviews that have been collected under her maiden name, Bell. I sent an email immediately. It has been a week and I hadn’t heard back and so today I did the everyday ordinary thing and rang them. The poor librarian I emailed has been away sick, but the lovely lady on the phone told me I could request copies of the interview transcripts through the University of Queensland library’s inter-library loan service. So I have. After all the hunting, it seems a little too easy, but I am not complaining. I am sure there must have been one hundred ways to find where the collection of interviews were, I just hadn’t found one of them! But it did make me feel like a literary detective, just for a little while, and I wonder what happen to Mrs Erica Travers (nee Bell), PhD.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Have you ever?

Have you ever created a Wikipedia entry before? We got an email from uni not so long ago suggesting that folks in the Australian literature realm take up the gauntlet and write some wiki entries on over-looked Australian writers. What a great idea I thought. Anyone can write wiki entries so why not lecturers and PhD students who have done extensive research on these writers? Sounds good in theory. So today I set about writing a Wikipedia entry on Martin Duwell.

Martin Duwell has worn many hats, but they include being the editor of Makar Press, publishing 37 poetry chapbooks in the Gargoyle Poets Series and being the poetry editor at the University of Queensland Press for a number of years. He was also a Senior lecturer at UQ in Australian Studies and Poetics. Duwell was a poetry reviewer for the Australian newspaper from 1989 to 1998, general editor of the Best Australian Poetry series from 2003 to 2009 and has edited further collections of poetry. He has also published a book of interviews called A Possible Contemporary Poetry (1982), he commissioned John Tranter's The New Australian Poetry (1979) anthology and published over 200 reviews and essays. Duwell is still writing and continues to be published in a number of journals, including Australian Book Review, Stylus Poetry Journal and Jacket.  He runs the Australian Poetry Review website where he publishes a review per month and extended essays.

Jacket magazine has called him "Australia’s leading poetry critic" and the AustLit database acknowledges his  "significant contribution to the recognition and development of new poetry in Australia during the 1970s". Impressive hey?

I have been researching Martin for an interview for my PhD and I have also been lucky enough to meet with him a number of times regarding my thesis. So today I set about putting my research into the form of a Wikipedia page and it was a nightmare. I wrote it up and posted it and while I was making changes and adjustments (un-be-known to me) it was being edited by someone else and when I went to post the changes the whole article had gone. Once I had figured that out and replaced the text, it happened again! Then I found where it had been moved to and two thirds of the text had been cut. Then there was a note to say that I had committed editorial "vandalism" by reinstating deleted text. Sigh. So now there is a much cut down and edited version of the article that doesn't really show how amazing Martin Duwell is and what he has contributed to Australian literature. But I guess the beauty of Wikipedia is that other people can now edit it and hopefully fix up the entry somewhat. At least there is a Martin Duwell entry now, right?

PS. I didn't learn my lesson though, I had a go at making a non-biographical article on the Gargoyle Poets Series. That one is still waiting to be approved: