Sydney in Spring!

It was a buzz to read my poems at The Heroine’s Festival in Thirroul south of Sydney on Saturday! I read ‘Embroidered Map’ about the life of Elizabeth Cook — the poem that appears in Heroines: An Anthology of Short Fiction and Poetry (Eds. Sarah Nicholson and Caitlin White, Neo Perrenial Press, 2018, p 83) , and ‘I Ask Isis’ — a poem about the Egyptian Goddess of the sky and death, and wishing. The festival program was thought-provoking, featuring excellent in-depth interviews with novelists and film makers focused on telling women’s stories. I was pleased to meet Aislinn Batstone who has a speculative story in the anthology and, it turns out, also spent some of her early life in Maryborough, Queensland!  Here we are waiting for the train back to Sydney!


While in Sydney, I took in the John Russell exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW which was breathtaking, rich and beautifully curated. Being there prompted a poem, which I penned on the plane home. Sydney was sparkling in sun, and the food and wine at Radio Cairo on Saturday night was nothing short of amazing.


I came home with a copy of Storyland by Catherine Mackinnon — another writer at the festival — a novel spanning four centuries and five lives set on the banks of Lake Illawarra. Stunning cover incidentally! I’m always drawn to books about place — just finished Danielle Wood’s The Alphabet of Life and Dark mostly set on Bruny Island, Tasmania (I found a copy of it in The Hobart Bookshop earlier this year – it won the Vogel back in 2003) which has a powerful sense of place, and of objects that belong to places. Her writing is both elemental and subtle. It will stay with me.

I also read poems recently at Couplet in the Brisbane Square Library with T J Wilkshire in August – thanks Lucy Nelson at QPF for the invitation – and was guest poet at Poetry@Clancy’s on Tamborine Mountain in July.  I had a fabulous night — love the infectious enthusiasm of the poetry community up there — and drove back up the Mountain again soon after for the launch of Jena Woodhouse’s new book of poems Green Dance: Tamborine Mountain Poems, the first offering from newly established Calanthe Press.

A lot has happened since I last posted here — my monograph about the International Book Town Movement — Regenerating Regional Culture was launched by legend of Queensland publishing Laurie Muller at the State Library of Queensland in April. I have also had poems published in Pressure Gauge, The Lake, morphrog, London Grip, and in two consecutive editions of Popshot Magazine – ‘Satellite’ in the Romance edition, and ‘Turning Point’ in the Truth edition — very exciting as Popshot commissions artists to respond to your work. I picked up copies today from my local newsagency, so it is definitely ‘out there’. In other poetry news, I have found out my dinosaur poem — ‘Brontosaurus Backlash’ — is being included in an anthology for children called Dragons of the Prime (Emma Press, 2019) — fun! The Emma Press books are quirky and beautifully illustrated, so I am delighted. I also had my poem ‘Pockets’ selected for the last issue of The Poets’ Republic in Scotland (guest edited by Hugh McMillan). Here it is:


Keep something safe
Draft a pattern of yourself
During all those hours spent twirling round a post
While your mother looks at pattern books 
Index finger to tongue, the pages turn
You turn; see things in the heat  

Fold your fabric in half and cut 
two pocket bag pieces
The shape you need will be a teardrop 
but with one straight side
You are elsewhere but you turn slowly on the chair
Your mother speaks to you with pins in her mouth 
He doubled you today on his bike
It is the colour of plums

Pockets. Always pockets
You need a seam allowance on all sides 
If done properly, the inside of the pocket design 
Shouldn’t show when you are wearing the garment 
Pockets more private than your skin 
A letter in the one on your right 

Mark where the pocket will go with chalk
Pin the side seams together 
You wear the culottes to the break-up dinner
Chambray with a matching vest 
Red hair ribbons

Use scraps of fabric to play around with colour 
Add something unexpected
Red rickrack trim on the pockets
Where his hands are as they announce the prizes 
You can’t remember whether he had pockets 
You will not see him again
Your mother found the letter 
Stitch the pocket in

This weekend I’ll be hard at work writing my next entry for the New York Midnight Flash Fiction Competition. My last story made the top #15 in its category — my prompts were: genre – historical fiction; place – a printing works; and object – a bone! Who knows what I will be given on Friday inthe next round… the adrenalin certainly kicks in because you are only given a 48 hour window to get the story finished!

In the meantime, Spring is a wonderful time for poetry!


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