I have a new publication out this month. It’s a picture book. It’s nothing at all like a picture book.
Allow me to explain.
Back in 2003, I was an aspiring children’s writer. My aspirations took me regularly to the local library, where I would comb review magazines such as Magpies and Viewpoint – to see what was being published, and by whom, to find reading recommendations, and – let’s be honest – to torture myself with little frissons of envy
One such frisson – more of a seismic tremor, really – occurred when, scanning the review columns, I happened upon the title How to Make a Bird, by Martine Murray.
Instantly, I was a mix of excitement and regret. For I knew exactly what this book must be – a slightly weird, lyrical picture book about someone trying to build a bird from raw materials, about the tangible and the intangible, maybe even the existential. And oh, how I wished I had written it. It felt like a perfect fit for me, rightfully mine somehow. If only I’d had the idea first.
Here beginneth the second in what appears to be a biennial series. It’s my own personal poetry week, very much like the one I held back in February 2010. It’s being held for exactly the same reason: I’ve been invited to guest at Perth Poetry Club and really need some new material to read.
But more than that, I really need to work on the hundreds of fragments that have been accumulating in notebooks and files for years, the many beginnings of poems that sit quietly, waiting for my attention.
In my quest to have some of them ready for this Saturday, when I’ll be reading, I’ve identified a handful that look promising. I’m going to throw the (current) opening lines down here in order to hold myself accountable in a semi-public way. And also because I’m narcissistic like that. I did this last time, and it worked. And I’m all for whatever works, narcissism and all.
So this appears to be the fourth in the three-part blog-a-palooza I embarked on recently with Sally Murphy and Anna Branford.
Yes, I am aware that makes no sense.
I’m adding this coda simply to say that although it was fun, I doubt I’ll be doing something like that again. I have no idea how anyone keeps to a regular posting schedule and still manages to keep up with all the regular aspects of work and life and writing and all of that. Impossible.
I really enjoyed thinking about all those topics, and there’s a satisfying discipline in committing to setting my thoughts in order for public consumption. But when writing time is at a premium, I’d rather be chipping away at stories than composing blog posts.
I did promise the occasional dash of random and I’m not sure I’ve really been delivering. To rectify that, here are two completely unrelated things:
Random Item #1
Surface Tension came out this week. This is excellent and I’m thrilled to see it on shelves. I’m told it received “a cracker of a review” in Bookseller + Publisher, though I’m yet to see it myself. As you do when you have a shiny new book, I’ve taken to picking up a copy, opening it, reading a few lines, sighing, and putting it back down.
Shall we call it Shiny New Book Syndrome? It is an identifiable disorder – I’m sure of it.
Yes, I’ve re-entered the atmosphere.
Last weekend, I read at the Moon Cafe. I scrambled to stitch together some poems that had been lying in pieces for far too long – one a day for the eight days leading up to the reading was my goal, but in the end I managed seven. Which is pretty good, I think. What’s that old saying – “Reach for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars?” Lately, I have been feeling rather more like the more recent re-working – “Reach for the stairs; they’re closer” – but either way, I got seven new poems out of it, so I am very happy.
It was a lovely afternoon – stinking hot on the Moon but I like the heat. I like the weather, actually, and do not like the way we seem to increasingly avoid it via the so-called necessities of air-con and so forth. I do like it when the air is moving, though. An oscillating fan will do me most of the time. It was almost tropical at the Moon, with the humidity and the closeness and the overhead fans and the languid couches, and I loved it. And I think there might be a poem in there somewhere – “Give Me Weather”? Perhaps I’ll scratch that down shortly.
Or rather, at the Moon. If you grow weary of the international excellence and convivial literary atmosphere that is the Perth Writers’ Festival, come up to the Moon Cafe and enjoy the local excellence and so-called ‘op-shop decor’ (to quote the West) of Perth Poetry Club.
I’ll be reading on Saturday 27 Feb, in two slots from around 2pm and there’ll also be open mic for those of you so inclined.
I hope my legs don’t break/reading at the Moon.
Perth Poetry Club: “Where Slams Meet Sonnets”.
The Moon Cafe: 323 William St, Northbridge.
Bet you didn’t realise it was Poetry Week, did you? That’s because i) poetry-related events tend to pass most people by without notice; and ii) it’s only at my house, or more specifically, in my brain. Yes, it’s a self-declared Poetry Week in which I undertake to gather together the fragments of the many poems-in-progress (PIPs?) scattered here and there on my computer and my desk and in the dusty corners of my mind. I’m reading at Perth Poetry Club next Sunday and am weary of cracking open my little book Cleanskin to read the same poems over and over.
So I hereby resolve to complete one new poem a day between now and then. I know I can do this because I have so many poems that are ‘almost there’, that need just that final push of commitment to bring them to completion. And I’ve been resisting it – partly because I have a lot of other things going on and partly because bringing something to completion implies a sort of satisfaction with its final shape, a letting go I’ve found myself reluctant to participate in. It’s not quite a lack of confidence; though it can be confronting to declare something ‘finished’, laying it open to review, I don’t think that’s it in this case. I think it has more to do with enjoyment of the process. I like the openness of a poem in process, of the sense of possibility. Once it’s done, it’s done, and it feels like a kind of abandonment, a shutting down of the process of exploration and association I find so appealing.
I’m deep in writing mode at the moment. I’m also deep in re-writing and proofing and a range of other things. And reading, always reading. I’ve been reading Eireann Corrigan, an author I discovered by accident when I inherited the Writing for Children course at Curtin University from Georgia Richter. Readings from the course’s previous incarnation included a short excerpt from one of Corrigan’s books (a YA poetry memoir titled You Remind Me Of You) – just a few poems but enough for me to immediately see that this was great stuff, and wonder why I hadn’t heard of her before. I haven’t managed to track that book down yet but I did find Splintering – a YA verse novel – and was reassured that Corrigan is as fiercely talented as those first few pages – even the first line, which made me stop in my tracks – had me believe.
Here is that rarest of things – a verse novel which doesn’t sacrifice the focus and richness of language poetry demands in the service of narrative, which achieves, effortlessly it seems, that precarious balancing act or fusion in which both elements pull equally together.
The writers reading this are smiling their wry writerly smiles right now. Because they know exactly how much effort goes into effortlessly.
I’ve been thinking lately about poetry. I’ve been thinking about it and reading it but what I haven’t been doing is writing it. In fact, it’s been well over a year since I wrote a new poem. And I’m acutely aware that this is not a good thing, in ways which can be difficult to define.
In my rambling thoughts about poetry, and my own lack thereof, I found myself thinking about something Mark Tredinnick said at a workshop I attended at the Apropos Poetry Symposium here in Perth last year. I can’t recall exactly the words he used but he spoke about the notion of a poem itself – the work that appears on the page – as being an indicator species for the whole landscape that is the poem. I found this idea immediately compelling, and true, and filed it away in my brain under ‘quirky ideas I may return to later in unexpected ways’.