Monday, October 20, 2014

Newcastle Poetry Prize: A Day of Poetry

Next Saturday, I'll be 'in conversation' with Jennifer Compton, who was awarded first place in last year's Newcastle Poetry Prize for her stunning poem "Now You Shall Know".  Jennifer and I will be talking about all sorts of things, including, but certainly not limited to, the impact of winning such a prestigious prize, about her diverse writing practices, the writing "lifestyle", on touring poetry, and lots more.  There will be plenty of information and advice for poets and poetry readers, and of course my conversation with Jennifer is only the start of what looks to be a massive day of poetry going from 9:30am to 6pm full of incredible words, drink, food, and of course poetic camaraderie.   Following my session with Jennifer,  Hunter Writers' Centre director Karen Crofts will be interviewing Mark Tredinnick, who was last year's 3rd prize winner, won first place in 2011, and was one of the judges for the 2014 prize.  Jean Kent, who has a long involvement with the prize and was the 2013 judge (and was a second prize winner in 1997) interviews Judith Beveridge, who is poetry editor of the well known literary journal Meanjin, was judge of the 2006 Newcastle Poetry Prize and is one of Australia's most highly regarded poets.  I'm sure that the insights presented through these conversations will be of great value to listeners (and interviewers!).  There will be plenty of opportunity to interact in these sessions.  I intend to give attendees a chance to join the conversation with questions.

In the afternoon, The Newcastle Poetry Prize Ceremony (winners announced) and A Live Reading will take place at the Delaney Hotel.  Some of Australia's most illustrious poets will be reading throughout the session, and there will be plenty of time to schmooze, interact, and participate.  Drinks are available from the bar, and canap├ęs will be provided by the HWC.  For anyone who loves poetry, I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon. Please drop by and join in the fun!  You can get all the details, and book yourself in here: http://www.hunterwriterscentre.org/prize-ceremony.html

Friday, October 10, 2014

Charity:Water Update

Firstly I want to start today's blog with a massive thank you to everyone who has contributed to my Charity:Water birthday appeal.  So far we've raised $1,470 which met my $1k goal.  Yay!  42 people will get clean water as a result of the work we've done to date.  As soon as I get them from Charity:Water, I'll be providing GPS coordinates and pictures of the people and communities we impacted.  Because this is such important work, I'm going to keep the project going through the month of October, and I'm very happy to report that the very generous Virginia Clay has agreed to keep matching donations dollar for dollar. 

Why does this project matter? Here are a few facts provided by water.org:

- More than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes. Nearly all deaths, 99 percent, occur in the developing world.

- Every minute at least one child dies from a water-related illness.  

- [The water and sanitation] crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns

- An American taking a five-minute shower (not to mention the average Aussie teenager taking a 20 minute shower...you know who you are boys) uses more water than the average person in a developing country uses for an entire day


So thank you, thank you, thank you for helping!  This is really worthwhile work and you're integral to it.  Please drop by the site: https://my.charitywater.org/magdalenas-50th and join us if you haven't already.  No amount is too small - just click "Other" and you can enter any amount at all - the cost of a card, a cup of coffee or an international phone call, perhaps.  Every drop makes a difference, and the difference, as my dear muse Gertrude Stein once said, "is spreading."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

October Compulsive Reader Newsletter is out

Fellow readers, the October issue of The Compulsive Reader News is now on its way to you via email.  If you can't wait until it arrives or if (horrors) you aren't a subscriber, you can grab a copy from the archive: 
www.compulsivereader.com/sendpress/eyJpZCI6NTA0NiwidmlldyI6ImVtYWlsIn0/


Of course if you aren't a subscriber and you want to enter our tasty giveaways, you should just drop by http://www.compulsivereader.com and sign up.  It's free, and I only send out one newsletter a month and nothing else.  This month's issue contains 8 fresh reviews and 2 interviews, as well as literary news from around the world including some of the biggest literary prizes from the US, New Zealand, Australia, Nigeria, Canada, UK, and China.  We've also got three new giveaways, including the Charlie Lovett's new novel, First Impressions. (I really liked his first novel The Bookman's Tale and you can hear my interview with him and his little promo of First Impressions here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/compulsivereader/2013/07/16/interview-with-charlie-lovett)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Poetry Monday: Jeri Kroll

Sometimes on a Friday afternoon, as a kind of preparation for poetry Monday, I like to run my fingers along the poetry section of my bookshelf, eyes glazed as if I were feeling braille.  I have so many appealing looking poetry books (and more arriving daily) that I haven't yet read, with names that might or might not be familiar to me.  I'll usually just pick one up that seems to feel right against my hands, and begin reading.  Sometimes the poetry isn't right for my mood, so I put it back and try again.  This Friday I picked up Jeri Kroll's workshopping the heartI was instantly  drawn by the themes of Kroll's work: parenting, aging, the continual bisection of love, grief, and loss, and the relationship between the universe, nature and the human. So much of this work resonated immediately with my own experience and emotions at the moment.  And this was before I knew that Kroll was a NYC girl who spent summers in the Catskill mountains, whose mother was a singer, and who now lives in Australia.  Obviously we have similar reference points, and if she were in NSW, I'd invite her to dinner immediately.  As it is, I'm going to email her publisher (Wakefield Press) and line up an interview (I'll let you know when...). Workshopping the Heart includes selections from her seven previous collections, poems from 2005 to 2012, and excerpts from her forthcoming verse novel, Vanishing Point.  Here's a little taste taken from her poem "Eavesdropping" (how can I resist a poem set at Tidbinbilla's Deep Space Tracking Centre): 

On a noisy planet, Australia rates as quiet.
The radio telescope is set to scan
the silent skies. Scientists link up
around the world.  Soon the whoosh of space 
appears on their computer screens.
They have 'seen' the pulse of emptiness.
They want a new vibration from some extraterrestrial heart.

The universe sounds like a distant wind
with nothing to bang or rustle.
We invent a door, push it ajar,
and wait to hear it rattle. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Like Birthday for Water

I'm turning 50 next month.  Yup, half a century is looming in front of me, and I'm not at all bothered about it. After all, I often get told that I'm aging well, I'm fit, healthy and my life is full of abundance.  One of the reasons that I've aged well is that I make it a point to drink lots of fresh, clean water every day.  However, not everyone has the privilege of unlimited access to clean, safe drinking water.  Millions of kids around the world don't live to see their fifth birthday because they don't have access to clean, safe drinking water. 800 million people still live without clean water in developing countries around the world. Many walk 2-4 hours a day to swamps and rivers to gather dirty water for their families.  Clean water isn't just a thirst quencher. It's a life saver, and a life changer. Clean water means health, income and education - especially for women and kids. Every $1 invested in improved water supply and sanitation can yield from $4 to $12 for the local economy.  So providing clean water for those who don't have access to it is a big deal, and this year, instead of an expensive bash or fancy trip, I've decided to donate my birthday for clean water. Right now, a generous supporter is matching all donations to birthday campaigns until the end of the month, so although I don't turn 50 until October, now is the best time to donate.


Every penny of the money raised will directly fund clean water projects. And when those projects are finished, charity: water will send us proof in pictures and GPS coordinates, so we can see the actual people and communities we impacted (I'll put them up here).  That means we'll know the locations and names of the communities we helped. This year, instead of sending me well-wishes, a card or a gift, please join me and donate, whatever you can afford, to my birthday campaign. Every bit helps, it's tax-deductible, and even a $1 donation can have a big impact, especially if you donate before the end of the month, when every $ is doubled, so please go to https://my.charitywater.org/magdalenas-50th and donate whatever you can.  Thanks so much!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Poetry Monday: Sarah Taylor (slams it)

A few days ago a friend of mine sent me a link to this great motherhood poem by performance poet Sarah Kay:
http://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_kay_if_i_should_have_a_daughter

I loved it and coincidentally had just been discussing the possibility of a Slam poetry session at the 2015 Newcastle Writers Festival.  Slam is such an interesting form - the poem created in the heat of the performance, sometimes never written down, and therefore always different in the play between audience and performer.  It's quite different I think (mostly) to a poetry recital which is meant to be an adjunct or support of the poem designed to be read on the page, in the quiet of a reader's head.  My friend's link to Sarah Kay put me in mind of another slamming Sarah - Sarah Taylor, the 60 year old who won the 2009 Australian Poetry Slam with her ribald "A Disgraceful Old Woman".  A poem that is part of a quartet gathered from "secret old woman's business". 

What can I say other than watch the performance below and feel yourself opening to new possibilities of the form.  I'm hoping I can get Sarah to talk to me about the way Slam breaks down barriers (not only between gender, race, and genre, but between audience and poet), and the utter fun (and perhaps terror) of performing to a scoring crowd.  If you didn't know what a slam was, you'll know after this brief video. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Happy Father's Day (Boat Yard)



Here in Australia (and the UK too), it's Father's Day.   As has become something of a tradition for me, I'm celebrating on my blog with a poem from the father focused book of poetry that Carolyn Howard-Johnson and I wrote together titled Imagining the Future. This year's poem is the poem that gave the book its title, and was inspired by an image (which now graces the cover) that my uncle took of my grandparent's boat year where they lived when I was growing up.  The photo was taken long after they moved away and conveys both the stark beauty of the place, and its abandonment - something left in memory, snow covered and still.  When my grandparents lived there, the boat yard was always warm, noisy, and full of sunlight and freshly prepared food aromas. The poem was written for my grandfather Sam, who was something of a father figure for me.  Happy Father's Day all you wonderful fathers, father's fathers, and father figures.  You're far more loved and appreciated than your children (and grandchildren) tend to articulate. 

Boat Yard

Walking the fuzzy line
between deference and defiance
a cold wind opens the door
you slide
into frictive fictive
present.

Holding onto your absent body
too tightly
I find something
tangible
a heart once broken
beats
beneath my own chest.

The snarl of your lip
against kindness in your eyes
how odd to find you
now
still supportive
so many years after you disappeared.

Snow covers everything
not enough for fairytale glitter
just desolate dust
darkening teal on the horizon
and water
always water
together we swim
through a remembered past
imagining the future.