Monday, March 2, 2015

Compulsive Reader Newsletter for March is out

Another packed issue of The Compulsive Reader news has just gone out.  This one includes a little promo on the amazing 2015 Newcastle Writers Festival (more on that very soon!) as well as 10 new reviews or interviews, the usual bevy of book giveaways (I’ve got 5 this month which I’d love to send to you), and some pretty cool advertisements too (even our ads are bookish).  If it’s not already in your in-box, you can grab a copy from our online archive.  If you’re not subscribed, you can do so for free right on the front page of  

photo credit: libr(a)s via photopin (license)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Poetry Monday: Joanne Burns

It’s been a long sleep between Poetry Mondays - sorry readers!  It’s not because I haven’t been reading poetry - far from it.  In fact, tomorrow I’ll be interviewing Philip Salom about his phenomenal and challenging poetry triptych Alterworld, which accompanied me through the Whitsundays.   I’ve just done a bit of a clean-up of my bedside table and behold, there was Joanne Burns’ Brush with its colourful and surreal Ned Kelly-like cover art painted by Joy Hester.  Brush had been there all along, hidden beneath a pile of chunkier bully books.  I picked it up and began reading, and was immediately taken in by the up-to-the-minute sharpness of Burns’ words, the playfulness, the taut and very modern intensity, and how relevant the poems are.  Here’s a bit from the opener, “factoidal”:
does your share portfolio ache
unlock your teeth in the adrenal winds,
the facilitationality of a sea of nomadic desks
doesn’t need to be seen to be believed --
Not once does Burns let the reader off the hook.  There’s plenty of tenderness and playfulness, but always with a reminder of our posturing, our facades, our absurdities, and by ‘our’ I really mean ‘my’.  Despite the sharp edges, it seems like each poem finishes with a little wink - a kind of “get it” that allows the reader to join in the laughter (“It’s neptune or never”).  I’m still reading and intend to take my time, as I like to with poetry - reading a couple of poems before bedtime and letting them unhinge my dreams, then sneaking one during the day, maybe a few more in the afternoon...almost clandestinely, working through them secretly in my head.  If you’d like to sample a bit more of Burns, there are 249 (!) of her poems here at the Australian Poetry Library.  I quite liked “Thief” which you can read in its entirety at:
he would chew
deep through the moon
offering us just the dust
and thread every little star
through the spaces in his thought

Sunday, February 1, 2015

New Compulsive Reader Newsletter for Feb is out!

Hi fellow readers.  A new issue of The Compulsive Reader News has now been sent out and should be hitting your in-box shortly if it hasn’t already.  The current issue has ten fresh reviews including my own lengthy review of Philip Salom’s Afterworld, as well as interviews with West of Sunset’s Stewart O’Nan and Plus One’s Christopher Noxon.  We also have 6 (yes 6!) book giveaways this month, including West of Sunset, Plus OneMiss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell, The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell and more.  We also have all the latest literary news from around the world.  If the email gremlins got to it before you did and you didn’t get your copy, you can grab one from the Compulsive Reader Archive.  If you aren’t a subscriber, you can join us free at

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Poetry Monday: Poetry for the New Year: Lorine Niedecker (again)

Not long ago I did an interview with the poet Jennifer Compton at the Newcastle Poetry Prize ceremony.  During our pre-interview conversation (and during the interview too), we discussed how poetry “removes the poison” from life’s most painful moments.  This continues to be true for me, both as a writer of poetry and as reader.  I lost my mother rather suddenly around this time last year, and though it never stops hurting - I don’t expect the pain to ever dull - the shared understandings that poetry creates - a sense of beauty from the senseless ugliness of death - does indeed remove the poison.  This beautiful little new years poem from Lorine Niedecker demonstrates this perfectly:

I highly recommend that you click the link and read it. It won’t take you long.  The poem’s brevity is breathtaking. Niedecker writes in her distinctively succinct way (each word packed tight and resonating with multiple meanings) of loss, love, and new starts - the way the loss of a parent is brought home with milestones like new years day, and the way a parental voice continues to ’speak’ through the seeds they’ve planted; through the turning of years and this permanent and ongoing dialogue between parent and child.  I particularly love the last two words, separated in a way my computing skills probably can’t convey (hence the link) and left open for the reader to interpret: the word “spoke” functioning as both noun and verb, uniting past, present and future.

I’ve been participating in a discussion forum on Lorine Niedecker and Emily Dickinson run by the Kelly Writers House, and the poem was presented today by Al Filreis, who is wonderfully curating and driving (or encouraging - Filreis is always Socratic in his approach) these close readings. Coming across a poem like this, in the midst of my ongoing, private grief, is like slowly walking beside the trees on new years day with Niedecker, sharing this beauty and this pain.  There is no poison here.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Compulsive Reader Newsletter out for Jan

Happy New Year!  Our latest issue of Compulsive Reader newsletter has now gone out with 3 (count ‘em!) new giveaways, including a copy of The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You by Ella Berthoud and Susan Eldurkin, Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm, and Tempting Fate by Jane Green.  The Tempting Fate giveaway includes a set of 8 custom wine charts including a purse, a shoe, sunglasses and a goblet.  We’ve also got the usual tasty bunch of new reviews including books by John Cage and Thomas Wulffen, Stefen Zweig, Cheryl Kirwin, and many others, and lots of fresh literary news, all delivered on the first of each month, to your inbox.
If you missed your copy or want a preview, you can get the latest issue here:

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Compulsive Reader Dec Newsletter is out

Hello everyone.  The December Compulsive Reader Newsletter has just been released.  As always we have ten fresh reviews featuring the likes of Simon Armitage, Gabriel Contains, Deborah Rodruigez, an interview with Allen Wyler, and many others.  We also have two great new giveaways, lots of literary news, and enough links to keep your meta-reading going all holiday long.  Drop by the public archive to grab a copy immediately, or watch for it in your in-box:

If you’re not a subscriber, and want to be (it’s free, like all the best things in life...), you can visit: and sign up.  I don’t send more than one newsletter a month and there are always giveaways.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Poetry Monday: Poems of New York

I'm becoming partial to small hardbacks these days.  I'm not sure exactly why, but I know that at least part of it is the simple utility of them - they fit neatly in my handbag, don't overly clutter up the bedside table, and are light and easy to take around.  They're also lovely - all solid and jacketed, with thick creamy pages and a lovely feel in the hand.  Kathryn Fry, herself a fine poet, loaned me this copy of Poems of New York, edited by Elizabeth Schmidt.  Putting aside my great stacks of review copies waiting for attention, I decided to delve in immediately.  I like to read poetry slowly, over a period of time, reading one poem and carrying it around with me, thinking about it and living it for a bit - seeing how it colours my perception, and Poems of New York has been perfect for that.  It has also made me nostalgic, taking me down streets I used to walk, through conversations I probably had, to meals and parties and sensations that are uniquely linked to the city I grew up in, but am now a long way from.  Though small, the book is dense and contains work from writers as diverse as Whitman, Melville, Amy Lowell, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Edna St Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, EE Cummings, Langston Hughes, Auden, Bishop, O'Hara, Ginsberg, Ashbery, and the list goes on, including some modern poets too like David Berman, Melanie Rahak, and Nathaniel Bellows.  There are old favourites in here - poems I've memorised even, and new ones that touch on very modern subject matters.  I could write a little essay on each poem, I think,
or write a lengthy review which teased out styles, moods, linguistic tricks, moments of beauty, and so on, but I think I'll just single out one poem by Nikki Giovanni titled "Just a New York Poem".  I've chosen this one partly because it captured my mood at the time I read it (and I've only just read it), partly because it's in the public domain and appears safe to reprint, and partly, and above all, because it is somehow indicative of New York as it sits in my memory - simultaneously dynamic and full of life, and a place that exists only in time rather than in space.

i wanted to take
your hand and run with you
together toward
ourselves down the street to your street
i wanted to laugh aloud
and skip the notes past
the marquee advertising “women
in love” past the record
shop with “The Spirit
In The Dark” past the smoke shop
past the park and no
parking today signs
past the people watching me in
my blue velvet and i don’t remember
what you wore but only that i didn’t want
anything to be wearing you
i wanted to give
myself to the cyclone that is
your arms
and let you in the eye of my hurricane and know
the calm before

and some fall evening
after the cocktails
and the very expensive and very bad
steak served with day-old baked potatoes
after the second cup of coffee taken
while listening to the rejected
violin player
maybe some fall evening
when the taxis have passed you by
and that light sort of rain
that occasionally falls
in new york begins
you’ll take a thought
and laugh aloud
the notes carrying all the way over
to me and we’ll run again
toward each other