I had some exciting news recently. My poem ‘Criminals who are no longer criminals’ was awarded first place in the Thunderbolt Prize for Crime Writing, run by the New England Writers Centre. The poetry judge, Les Murray, liked the clarity of the poem’s descriptions, which is particularly cool given that the poem deals with a group of ghosts. These are the ghosts of people convicted of crimes now repealed, including homosexuality and witchcraft, and I wrote of them meeting outside courts.

Chair of the New England Writers Centre, Sophie Masson, interviewed me and the interview can be read at her blog. I talk about the inspiration for the poem, which was the way we (meaning Australia) deal with asylum seekers. Also about what sort of poetry I like, and further details of my life of poetic crime. There is a link to the actual poem, at the Armidale Express.

As usual, Old Book Illustrations provided the perfect image, seemingly dealing with the process of composition.

study

I am now off to buy a budgie with the winnings. No Tuesday Poem from me. Unless you chase the link above, that is.

UPDATE:
The poem can now be read here.

So who is in it?

May 22, 2014

I thought people might be interested to know who is in The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry. So here is the full list:

David Adès, Zoë Anderson, Jude Aquilina, Emilie Zoey Baker, Catherine Bateson, Eric Beach, Judith Beveridge, Jenny Blackford, Peter Boyle, John Le Gay Brereton, Sara Bruxner, joanne burns, Michael Byrne, Caroline Caddy, me, Mike Crowl, Victor J. Daley, Luke Davies, C.J. Dennis, Jake Dennis, Benjamin Dodds, Joe Dolce, Michael Dransfield, Diane Fahey, Mary Hannay Foott, Carolyn Gerrish, Kevin Gillam, Alan Gould, John Grey, Lesbian Harford, Dimitra Harvey, Ron Heard, Eliza-Jane Henry-Jones, Matt Hetherington, Paul Hetherington, Dorothy Hewett, Marilyn Humbert, Lisa Jacobson, John Jenkins, Jill Jones, Raphael Kabo, Melinda Kallasmae, S.K. Kelen, Earl Livings, Chris Lynch, Emily Manger, Catherine Martin, M.F. McAuliffe, Victoria McGrath, Jo Mills, Peter Minter, Lizz Murphy, Les Murray, Jan Napier, John Shaw Neilson, Barry O’Donahue, Jan Owen, Moya Pacey, Andrew Barton Paterson, Simon Petrie, Dorothy Porter, Craig Powell, David P. Reiter, Philip Salom, Janeen Samuel, Miro Sandev, Tim Sinclair, Alex Skovron, Melinda Smith, J. Brunton Stephens, Alan Stewart, John Tranter, John Upton, Rod Usher, Susan Waddell, Rob Walker, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Samuel Wagan Watson, Mercedes Webb-Pullman, Les Wicks, Sean Williams, SB Wright.

Rapt, I am, to unwrap such a group. Lovely pagefellows to lie between such covers:

a thing

I am really looking forward to the launches now. I’ll post the invitation posters again soon, just in case the list has inspired you to come along and hear some of that group read at either of the launches. (I copied the list by hand and eye, just to refamiliarise myself, so please excuse any typos, which are not in the book!)

The indefatigable Geoff Page (was there ever a better surname for a poet?) has just released his schedule for readings at The Gods this year. Here it is:

Poetry at The Gods 2014

Tues Feb 11 & possibly Wed Feb 12 Les Murray (Bunyah)

Tues Mar 11 Omar Musa (Cbr)
John Stokes (Cbr)
Lizz Murphy (Binalong)

Tues Apr 8 Tricia Dearborn (Syd)
Barbara Fisher (Syd)

Tues May 13 Catherine Bateson (Dandenong Ranges)
Dennis Haskell (Perth)

Tues Jun 10 Moya Pacey (Cbr)
Harry Laing (Braidwood)
Geoff Page (Cbr)

Tues Jul 8 Ron Pretty (Wollongong)
Lynn Hard (Syd)

Tues Jul 22 Dead Poets’ Dinner

Tues Aug 12 David McCooey (Geelong)
Maria Takolander (Geelong)

Tues Sep 9 Alan Gould (Cbr)
Michael Thorley (Queanbeyan)
Penelope Layland (Cbr)

Tues Oct 14 Samuel Wagan Watson (Bris)
Judy Johnson (Newcastle)

Tues Nov 11 Jennifer Harrison (Melbourne)
Jordie Albiston (Melbourne)

Tues Dec 9 Stephen Edgar (Syd)
Judith Beveridge (Syd)

You can see that there is a melange of local and interstate poets, starting with Les Murray. Les always attracts a huge crowd, and there will most likely be two readings.
bigstock-Sad-Theater-Mask--Arts-enter-7956480

The venue (a café and restaurant) gets its name from the fact that it is next to a small theatre on the Australian National University campus. My alma mater, at least for my PhD. I thought I’d put up a theatrical image because of that. And poetry reading is theatre; the darkened room, the sweat on the brow, the audience response. The critics!

In other poetry news, we are hard at work on The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry. The cover is being designed by David Reiter, and I should be able to post it here very soon. All being well, the book will be appearing around the end of April, although no date has been set yet. Very exciting. There is quite a cross-over between that list of poets at The Gods and the anthology, to segue like a mad thing.

That's Les Murray's beer


Watching Les Murray
(I am not making this up)

I went to hear a certain poet
the best known one,
the big one we own.
I wished I could draw
his gentle circles,
his particular infinity.
But I can’t draw.
Though there were pencils.
Giant ones. Three metres tall. Red.
I am not making this up.
So I sat and watched Les,
dwarfed by these giant pencils.
And if you don’t believe that,
you won’t believe this;
the place where he read
was called The Gods.
So I sat, a poet from Lilliput,
leaning on a giant pencil,
listening to God, or at least,
his Southern emissary.

I laid wistful eggs on the pencils.
In time, something may emerge,
and help me make something up.

P.S. Cottier

I went to see Les Murray read at the Gods, a café/restaurant on the Australian National University campus on Wednesday, 15th February. Organised, as always, by the indefatigable Geoff Page. There are giant pencils attached to the walls of the café, as you can see in this appalling photo:

Les Murray is so very good as a reader, and I was impressed by how many humorous poems he read last week. I wrote the poem above about four years ago, when I was just starting to make contact with my fellow poets (but before my licence was issued, in the form of my first book). It recalls a much shyer Penelope, sitting in the corner, watching Les read.

Another poet at Les’s reading was Mark Tredinnick, who, as you may know, recently won the Montreal Poetry Prize for his poem, ‘Walking Underwater’. Mark is of course endlessly teased now by cruel people (who shall remain nameless) about how he is spending the prize money, but he takes it very well.

A rather surprised Mark Tredinnick

All in all, this was a wonderful night and it reminded me of just how good poetry can be. As Les Murray said, poetry is strong stuff, and it doesn’t need the crutch of prose to justify itself.

Easy for you to say, Les!

Give it back? Why would I give it back?

If you click on this quill you will be transported to a hub based in New Zealand, and will find Treasure in the form of poetry:
Tuesday Poem

On a totally unrelated issue, my review of  ‘A Tingling Catch’ : A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009, ed. Mark Pirie, Wellington: HeadworX, 2010 has just been published at Cordite.  Those who were worried that I was going to write a post without mentioning sport can now breathe more easily.  Although watching poets read (and listening to them, too) has aspects of a sport about it.