Friday, October 30, 2015

'Breaking the Days' launch, Melbourne

OK, I can now update details of my next book launch:

Breaking The Days will be launched in Melbourne by Alison Croggon at The Alderman, 134 Lygon St, Brunswick East, on Saturday 21st November, 2.30-4.30pm.

Welcome, one and all!

You might be interested to read some of my thoughts on putting the book together a few posts back on the blog.

I hope to have a cover pic available soon.


November -- JJ doing poetry in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney

It's a busy November for me, as it turns out. As well as marking and administrivia stress outs, I'm dancing poetry around Australia, even in the current home town.

First up, because it's confirmed, and it's, urrm, first up, I'll be reading in Adelaide at the first Lee Marvin reading for November alongside David Mortimer, Heather Taylor Johnson and the maestro, Ken Bolton himself. So, that's Tuesday 3rd, November at Dark Horsey, the usual 7.30pm for 8pm.

The full Lee Marvin November program, a pretty tasty one for the beginning of the summer season, is as follows:

November 3rd 
Jill Jones  •  Heather Taylor Johnson  •  Ken Bolton  •  David Mortimer

November 10th 
Cath Kenneally  •  Naomi Horridge  •  Gretta Mitchell  •  Shannon Burns

November 17th 
Jelena Dinic   •  Mike Ladd 
•  Alison Flett  •  Peter Goldsworthy

November 24th 
Francesca da Rimini  •  Steve Brock  • Rachael Mead  •  Ken Bolton

Then, I'll be in Melbourne for the launch of my new book, Breaking the Days, from Whitmore Press. The venue and time is still to be confirmed, but it will take place on Saturday 21st November, afternoon or evening. Alison Croggon will do the launch honours. My thanks again to Alison and to Anthony Lynch and the Whitmore Press crew.

And then, I will be in Sydney for the November Rhizomic reading at Mr Falcon's on Glebe Point Road. That's Wednesday 25th November. Further details when they are available.

Maybe I'll get to other parts of Australia, if they'll have me, in future years.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Big crowd of poems 2015

The list of contributors to The Best Australia Poems 2015 has been announced. I'm there (yay), amongst a big crowd. I'd prefer to call it a Big Crowd of Australian Poems, or something, rather than 'the best', because it's never gonna be that, because it can't. Still, that's an argument that's been rehashed a number of times. 'Best' is marketing speak, as we all know.

There's a few names on the list that I don't know and some poets whose work I'm not yet well-acquainted with. That's all to the good.

There's six (only!) South Australian poets - Steve Evans, Thom Sullivan, Geoff Goodfellow, Rachael Mead, Jude Aquilina, Jill Jones - unless one of the unknown-to-me folks is also living here. Slightly surprising, given I'm aware of good stuff published in the last year by other SA poets, or at least written, going on what I heard at the Lee Marvin readings I was in town for during 2014-15. I mean pretty damn good. But editors make choices and Geoff Page, editor of this and last year's volume, has made his. From memory, the call-out, like last year's, asked for poems that were 'reader friendly' (which reader?), or something along those lines, as well high quality (which is, obviously, debatable - we debate it all the time). And not over 60 lines.

It'd be interesting to see what would happen if Black Inc ever chose a South Australian to edit rather than someone from the primarily Melbourne-Sydney axis (Geoff Page is from the ACT, I know, but that's along that axis, only a three hour drive to Sydney). Or another woman editor - there's only ever been two, Dorothy Porter and Lisa Gorton, and then, they only edited one volume each. Or someone on the much younger side. Lisa Gorton did double duty in 2013 as the youngest editor so far (I presume I am right in guessing near enough her age), as well as being female.

Simply looking at the list of poets, it has a very mainstream even conservative-leaning feel. Although, there I am (and a number of others who don't lean that way). Or have I gone soft in my old age? Heaven forfend. Certainly, my poem isn't the accepted imagey/metaphory, deep and meaningful, 'elegant' piece. But, neither is it, on the surface at least, syntactically complex. For me, indeed, it was an experiment, but that's a story for another occasion. And, of course, it is hard to know what to make of the selections until one actually reads the book, stating the obvious. So, although I'm doing a bit of a prejudge (but who ever doesn't?) and I have a niggling feeling I know what will be said by reviewers about this depending on which side of the various poetry fences they stand (that's pretty much the case for most Australian poetry book reviews anyway), I am always prepared to be surprised, by my reading of the book itself and its reception. Besides, 2016 will roll around soon enough, and who knows what surprises (or not) that will bring.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Late night thoughts on the blogging thing

I decided to take a break, a continuing one so far it seems, from Facebook, a few months ago. I miss the exchange at times but, in the end, it wasn't good for my health. That is a long story and not worth going into further. I've gone back to this blog, fitfully it may seem, but possibly fairly regularly. I did try tumblr, by the way, but didn't seem to get into the swing of it. Twitter is an unknown and untried world and remains so, for now.

The advantage of a blog over Facebook and other insulated social media platforms is that it doesn't require a subscription to read it, and the posts are much easier to track and recover/re-read. This was a frustration I had with Facebook, though probably not the primary reason I left. Indeed, I have darted back (reactivated is the technical term, I believe) once or twice for a brief five minute foray, simply to check on something posted on x date and/or about y bit of business. No-one noticed.

In the heyday of blogging, in the early to mid-2000s, the platform was alive with poets and poetry, and certainly exchanges (who remembers web 2.0?). This included comments and responses amongst us all. Times have changed, as they obviously do. I've not had one comment, nor sign of one, since coming back to this in 2015. Nor, I admit, have I gone to other blogs and commented. I have gone to other blogs but have wondered what I would say. And a lot of the people I previously interacted with regularly seem to be doing other things, online or off-line. As I obviously was. I hope they are all thriving in whatever they are doing.

I live now in a small city where conversation is scarce if one is, effectively, an outsider (I don't count classes as conversation, they are different exchanges, valuable as exchanges, but of a different kind). Conversation happens, thankfully but rarely, and my thanks go to the few here in Adelaide who take time out to chat and discuss things of mutual interest.

Thus, I count this space as where I talk to myself, which I believe is a human and necessary thing to do, as well as somewhere to record what I have been doing and writing and/or what has interested me. I don't fool myself that it is a space for anything more than that. Also, it occurs to me that what I'm currently doing is not much different to what I was doing way back when, except that it emerges more from my own internal to-and-fro rather than a broader communal working. The one thing that may be a positive, apart from the purely archival (which is not to be dismissed), is that this blog still has a public presence, it's not an interior or private space. I don't know who visits these days, but I know there are 'visits'. Just as other bloggers don't know I visit them, though I do. This is something I am continuing to think about and is another way of saying I haven't gone completely away.

Mascara is fresh

The latest issue of Mascara Literary Review has just been published, with the theme of Between Black and White. I have a small poem therein, Bright Yellow Black. There are many other good things to read as well, including a terrific short fiction by my friend and fellow Adelaidean writer, Shannon Burns.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Making 'Breaking the Days'

I am currently involved in the various tasks in getting a book ready for print and release. The book, at this moment, is called Breaking the Days, and was a joint winner of the Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize last year. The other winner, Tracy Ryan, has already published her volume in late July.

But back to this process. Because they are tasks, things that you do to make something. My initial task was to complete the manuscript after having the initial 150 lines (or so) being chosen last year. And thanks to Whitmore Press folks for offering this ongoing opportunity to poets, and, of course, for picking my manuscript last year.

I did, in fact, have a longer manuscript idea I was working from, so I knew the field of poems I would be playing with. Mostly, though not entirely, they were a series of writings I had done during 2014, and to narrow it down, mostly during the first seven or eight months of that year. I have since included a few newer 2015 poems and reworked one or two much older poems. Overall, I was aiming at a different feeling in this book, a kind of stripped-down, more direct, at times dead-pan atmospheric. But always with something ambivalent, de-centred, or strange in the mix. It remains to be seen how that approach will be read, both of itself, in the context of my own work, and within current poetry in general.

The poems, apart from a long sequence, all fit on one page. Thus, it was at one level easy to decide what kinds of poems from this field would get into the book. It still took some time to select, order, edit and, in a couple of cases, rewrite. Every poem in the winning manuscript is there, however, pretty much as originally submitted.

The original title wasn't quite right - Breaking the Plates. Well, in a sense it is exactly right, and I liked it, still like it, but I could see how people could latch onto it as a kind of feminine domestic, ie something easy to dismiss, the usual yadda-yadda. My work's been dismissed like this in the past. The male domestic, of which Australian poetry is chock full, never gets named as such, nor receives such short shrift. So, the plates were out (they are still in the poem from which they came), and the days were in. The poems are deliberately daily, quotidian Adelaide, and the 'a' vowel sound remains, so that worked fine.

But, obviously, a manuscript is never the end of book making. Books, publishing, these are collective tasks. People are working together to get an actual thing done, made. Thus, editing, proof-reading, type and book design, cover image, front and back matter (sourcing endorsements, bio notes, etc), thinking about a launch (or two, and where, by whom, etc), all requiring the work of a few people. So, I and others are within this complex of tasks, though a fair way down the track.

I began keeping quite specific notes about this book, once I had got back to Australia at the beginning of the year; some of them are simply to do lists, but also a lot are a kind of thinking through what I thought I was doing with this book. It has been a useful process, and I may put something together from all of that once the book is out. I'm not sure why I began doing this. It may have had something to do with being out of Australia for nearly six months. It may have had something to do with the fact this book is more of a particular time and mood than my other books. It may have something to do with doubt or with simple curiosity.

There's no date yet for a launch. It will most likely be in Melbourne, in mid to later November. There's still work to do.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Work in Cordite

There's a new poem from me at Cordite, just this week, called Bearing False Witness. It's part of their latest feature issue called Umami, edited by Luke Davies. My poem comes from an ongoing series of prose poems I've been writing on-and-off for many years. Occasionally one of them gets published. I have thought, from time-to-time, of putting them out in a small book, but I suspect that won't happen. So, catch 'em if you can.

Speaking of Cordite, there's another recent poem of mine there as well, called In My Shifts, published as part of their (also) current TransTasman issue, edited by Bonny Cassidy. My irregular blogging past meant I hadn't noted it here until now, as I haven't noted a lot of things here over the last couple of years.