… the thing with feathers

The most incredible poetry book (or book for that matter) that I’ve devoured this year so far is Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter (Faber and Faber 2015). Just as its cover advertises, it was vivid, dark, hilarious, surprising and unforgettable. Reading it was an important step in trying to make sense of my father’s death from leukaemia in June. If I hadn’t been able to write most days, I’m not sure I’d have made it through the months before and after either. I read poems to Dad in hospital (and played him Edith Piaf, Dave Brubeck and The Girl from Ipanema), played cards and talked, talked, talked about living and dying and childhood and watercolour painting and gardening and places he’d been or we liked, and beautiful or obscure things that had occurred to him as he spent long days and nights looking out at the Brisbane River but wishing he was home and his wonderful life could go on.

wisteria

This is the poem I read at the end of my eulogy.  I wanted to capture Dad’s optimism.

Orenda

I want to get home to paint the trees, you say

they’ve been there right in front of me

for years and it’s time I did –

you hear the mana rustle in their leaves

Pan-vital even now against the white sheets

in the sterile room –

long ago you told me the wisteria

was bonsai-like because clay clogged the soil

but you have the painter’s orenda

bad blood won’t stop the flow of blossom

to the last branches

or the sun dancing always

at your back.

I’ve had a few poems published this year (and very late last year) – and I’m ashamed at how long it is since I posted any updates. They are Nostalgia in Australian Poetry Journal, Nothing Bad in Deep Water Literary Journal, By Return In Pressure Gauge, Still Life with Captions in foam:e, Why Do Sea Otters Hold Hands? in Imbolc Best of Print Anthology, Dark Room in Grey Sparrow, The Fernery in Antiphon and most recently, two poems – The Bells and Complication in Poetry Salzburg Review.  My grateful thanks go to the editors of these publications. These are silver linings in what has been the hardest year so far. But speaking of silver, here is one more poem about Dad that I was reminded of as I walked to Elephant Rock (and on to Currumbin Rock!) each day during the past week with my boys. This is how I remember Dad back 40 years in that place:

Pentimento

for my father from Tugun Beach

Is this heat dripping

through the tube to you

as well as blood,

into those arms

that tunnelled sand

and rode breakers?

I see you at the shoreline,

shoulders square,

beaded in silver,

a salt god

counting waves in sevens.

It’s not the sun playing tricks:

you are vivid beneath the glaze.

 

A Christmas Tincture …

tincture-16

It’s been a little quiet on the poetry front (well, mine, anyway) so I’m so pleased to have a new poem – Replanted – in the latest edition of the excellent Tincture Journal. Thanks so much to poetry editor Stuart Barnes (and do read the interview with Stuart in this issue, btw, where he talks about his new poetry book, Glasshouses, and all things poetry).  Buy a Tincture for Christmas if you are looking for stimulating fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction over summer …

 

 

Poems in Shetland Create

Thanks so much to Angie Spoto and Kirsten Boswell for publishing my poems in SHETLAND CREATE Issue #1 Home (Mangold Press, Glasgow). The work featured in this issue explores the many nuanced meanings of home. I’m always happy to keep my Scottish connections active!  It does seem strange, somehow, to have a poem about the cane fires that were such a colourful part of growing up in Maryborough, Queensland included in this collection but I’m delighted about it.

Cane Fires

Childhood was burnt winter air,
smoke-hazed sunsets,
the rush to remove clothes from lines
as soot rained like black snow.
An angry front raged across the river,
devouring fields, tinder-dry,
bandicoots and snakes fleeing
only to be scooped up by birds.
We danced with charcoal feet
under cold skies, ash still falling.
Later with skin scrubbed pink
I’d watch embers through glass,
last orange specks
against a scorched silhouette,
forever a slave to sweetness

shetland-create-cover

Blocked in Barcelona

 

I’m hoping the ripples and curves
of walls and minds
will unglue my head:
the blue tiles weeping
from the serpent roof,
sheets of green and orange light,
holy windows and Star Wars pillars,
eyes and lips and chins
moving on the cheeks
of Picasso girls,
sculptures cascading in sky,
even the script scribbled in chocolate
on my coffee

(Published earlier this year in Nutshells and Nuggets following a short trip to Spain in January)

Sagra Familia

Highly Recommended in Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize

Elephant RockFacebook doesn’t always feel like the right place to share my poetry so voila!  I’ll post published poems here from time to time. Feel welcome to comment and keep in touch. It also seems an ideal opportunity to show off my father Lex Frank‘s astoundingly beautiful watercolour paintings which have always surrounded me. My house is full of them! The one on the header is Elephant Rock at Currumbin where I spent lots of time as a child and now return to whenever I can with my own boys.

Last week, I was thrilled to bits when my manuscript Dancing with Charcoal Feet was Highly Recommended in the Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize for an unpublished manuscript at the opening of the Queensland Poetry Festival. The winner was Shastra Deo for her manuscript The Agonist which I’m looking forward to reading when it’s published by UQP next year.  I met some inspirational poets at the festival, reconnected with friends and relished the chance to be immersed in words, voices and ideas for four days.