Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Vintage Book of African American Poetry

from Vintage:

In the Vintage Book of African American Poetry, editors Michael S. Harper and Anthony Walton present the definitive collection of black verse in the United States—From the neoclassical stylings of slave-born Phillis Wheatley to the postmodern artistry of Yusef Komunyakaa. Here is the oracular visions of Nobel Prize winner Dereck Walcott, the plaintive rhapsodies of an imprisoned Etheridge Knight. Here, too, is a landmark exploration of lesser-known artists— including perhaps the tradition's most accomplished practitioner, Sterling A. Brown— whose efforts birthed the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts movement&mdashand changed forever not only our national literature but the course of America itself.

Meticulously researched, The Vintage Book of African American Poetry is a collection of inestimable value to all those interested in the ever-evolving tradition that is American poetry,

paperback; 403 pages

Priced kindly at $15US

Order now at

Monday, December 29, 2008

Walking to the River

The river. Dogs swim in it, fish piss in it. It washes its dead up on the banks. The banks ignore it. The river is our destination through flaking trees and salty flowers, across riverside roads and sign-posted paths with people celebrating the invention of the wheel. Out of the river a bird sticks its black arse, a Rabelaisian greeting, and I half expect a cartoon balloon to belch into the air, saying, ‘Fuck off, will ya, I’m trying to fish here!’ I look down and at my feet, at my dog’s front paws, there lies a complete river bream. It seems healthy enough, but if so why is it dead here, washed up in dirty yellow sand? There’s not a mark on it, so I look around for other fish, thinking it might be some poisonous algae or such that has caused many fish death. No: just one stark fish, glistening in the sunlight, its silver scales shining. My dog is not interested; one sniff and into the river for a swim. I call her back but there is no stopping her and I trust her instincts to judge fresh water from foul. Reeds grow green and straight, the cormorant appears again, with its knowing look. The river seems healthy enough. Here again, today, two pelicans do their strange ritual: one swims up river, close to our bank, while the other swims down river by the far bank, the bank with the restaurant nesting on its jetty. Like pedestrians walking both sides of a suburban road in different directions. My dog comes to shore and does her shake dance. ‘Go, girl, go!’ I say to her, half laughing, wet dog taking me out of my questioning mind, and we both turn for the path home, leaving the dead bream for birds to peck, the pelicans to come to their conclusion, and the cormorant to his fishing.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Today, in wonderful summer sunshine, my wife Jeanette and I went to lunch at the Rose & Crown Hotel, Guildford, with my youngest son, Charlie. He is back home for a brief holiday from his Melbourne base.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Quote of the Season

"There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child." Erma Bombeck

Early Bernstein Book online ...

No chitter-chatter today, like those willy-wagtails on the woodchip path by the swamp, just a direction to a wonderful site by Charles Bernstein at

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hear the Author interviewed

You can hear an informative and very interesting interview with Miles Burke, author of Successfull Freelancing (SitePoint, 2008) on SitePoint Podcast, at

The book is selling well and is available through all the usual outlets, both online and in your local bookshop. (Angels we have heard on high / Tell us to go out and Buy!)

Harold Pinter dies on Christmas Eve 2008

Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter, who had cancer, died on Christmas Eve aged 78.

He wrote more than 30 plays including The Caretaker and The Birthday Party. His film scripts include The French Lieutenant's Woman.

His style was so distinctive, "Pinteresque" entered the Oxford English Dictionary.

more at

Monday, December 22, 2008

Reindeer Report

Since 1974, the poet UA Fanthorpe has been writing poems in her Christmas cards to friends – poems now collected in a single volume. Here is one of them:

Reindeer Report

Chimneys: colder.
Flightpaths: busier.
Driver: Christmas (F)
Still baffled by postcodes.
Children: more
And stay up later.
Presents: heavier.
Pay: frozen.
Mission in spite
Of all this
Accomplished –

There's more at

Thanks to Max Richards, Australian poet, who brought this to my attention.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Adrian Mitchell RIP (1932-2008)

I was saddened this morning to hear of the death of Adrian Mitchell. He was one of the original British 'pop' poets of the 60s/70s, and stayed a strong voice for the Left all his life. My favourite among his books was Autobiography, and many students here would have heard of him through my quotes in autobiography writing units.

From the Bloodaxe Front Page:

We are enormously saddened by the sudden death of Adrian Mitchell, one of our most beloved poets. He died last night in his sleep from a possible heart attack, after suffering from pneumonia for the past two months.

Adrian was a prolific poet, playwright and children’s writer. His poetry’s simplicity, clarity, passion and humour show his allegiance to a vital, popular tradition embracing William Blake as well as the Border Ballads and the blues. His most nakedly political poems – about nuclear war, Vietnam, prisons and racism – became part of the folklore of the Left, sung and recited at demonstrations and mass rallies.

Born in London in 1932, Adrian worked as a journalist from 1955 to 1966, when he became a full-time writer. He gave many hundreds of readings throughout the world in theatres, colleges, pubs, prisons, streets, public transport, cellars, clubs and schools of all kinds. Many of his plays and stage adaptations were performed at the National Theatre as well as by the Royal Shakespeare Company and other theatre companies. In 2002, the socialist magazine Red Pepper dubbed him Shadow Poet Laureate and asked him to write regular republican poems for their columns. In a National Poetry Day poll in 2005, his poem ‘Human Beings’ was voted the poem that most people would like to see launched into space.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Quote of the Day

"metaphor--I use them. They keep me regular."
--Paul Violi

... as quoted by Halvard Johnson

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My wife, Clint Eastwood and What's Her Name

My wife leaves some coffee
in her cup, so I hear Mother say,
It's polite to leave a little in the bottom.

Memory. It's a steeplechase at my age -
I forget and search for names and dates.
Last night on TV, Clint Eastwood was
old: seventy seven years on the clock.
Even his socks looked old. And
when he reminisced he stumbled
and fell between names and dates.
Beside him, Angelina What's Her Name
bubbled with life, with
names and dates.

The first hurdle is easy –
you fly over it, no worries, but
come the last stretch, fences
are taller, water traps wider,
and the finishing post gains
a forbidden glow.

Merry Jolly and Happy Holly

This tree has weathered a year in our garage, and - with a couple of replaced baubles - will serve as this year's nod to the Harvest Festival or whatever it once was. (Please tell me, someone with a better memory than mine.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry - Out Now!

Kinsella John (editor)

'A very fine anthology, with exemplary introductions. It is refreshing to see how much has been done so well.' - Peter Pierce

Wide in scope and bold in ambition, this exciting anthology covers the range of Australian poetic achievement, from early colonial verse through to contemporary work, with a strong recognition of Indigenous voices. This collection brings together great and familiar names with those that deserve better recognition.

Including valuable introductory essays by John Kinsella, and biographical notes for all the poets, The Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry presents the full measure of Australian poetic talent in all its richness and diversity.

North Adelaide Book Sale #4 - 4 January 2009

You are invited to attend a sale of secondhand books, which will take place between 10am and 4pm on Sunday the 4th of January, 2009, at the North Adelaide Community Centre. This is located behind the North Adelaide Public Library, at 176 Tynte Street, North Adelaide (next to the Post Office, and opposite the Daniel O'Connell Hotel).

The venue is AIR CONDITIONED and entry is free, with EFTPOS available to help with payment (American Express, Mastercard and Visa). On offer will be around 8000 secondhand books - small paperbacks mostly priced 50cents - $2, larger volumes mostly $2 - $10 - and not many are ex-library books. They’ll be sorted & displayed in the following categories ...


Australiana / Crime Fiction / Horror / Literature, Poetry & Plays / Science Fiction & Fantasy / Thriller / War Fiction / Westerns, plus a wide range of general fiction.


a considerable number of books relating to Doctor Who, Star Trek and other Cult TV programs, plus associated magazines (Dreamwatch, DWB, Fantasy Empire, Starlog, TV Zone, etc).


Art & Sculpture / Australiana / Cooking & Gardening / Economics / Environment / Family & Health / History & Politics / Movies & TV / Music (classical, jazz, pop & rock + sheet music) / New Age & UFOs / Philosophy & Psychology / Reference / Religion / Science & Nature / Sport & Leisure / Theatre & Dance / Travel & Adventure / True Crime / War / Women's Studies.

Plus a selection of children's books

Friday, December 12, 2008

'December, 2008' by Frederick Pollack

The new house adjoining the park –
with shingles, gables, verandahs, trim
a rich cream, a feast
of postmodernist set-pieces – flickers.
Two gray weeks, unseasonably,
if the term now means anything, cold
or warm, must have heralded
this strangeness, while leaves downslope
held pointlessly on, then fell at once in no wind.
At issue is whether that house would exist
in a just society. The garage, no question,
could house a dozen otherwise massacred
people, provide powder-room access
while they chopped the park,
built fires in the driveway,
cooked chipmunks and strays. One would like
the construction of the house
to be less flashy-cheap – damp sheetrock,
warped boards – but if even the rich
are sold such things, how shall justice be made
of stone? The current residents
communicate with an uncertain cosmos
through lawyers who say their kids are decent,
one’s in law school, and the family
has paid enough, enough,
for the right to be left alone.

So it flickers, the house, sometimes there, sometimes not,
like the car in the driveway, like wealth
or gas. When it isn’t, man isn’t,
man never was; but the hunted
and hunters among the thick trees lack
a voice to express their joy. Or perhaps
it’s my mind that fades in and out,
like some words, like the idea
of justice? I knew an old man once
who still nagged at the Purges, the Icepick,
the Spanish Republic. Lately I
myself remembered the slogan,
“Don’t forget to smash the state!” –
its meaning a dried, buried cyst.
And during the campaign, our friend Lily,
pushing eighty, volunteered.
Obama’s people sent her to Colorado.
For six weeks she made phone calls.
Burnt out one night, she heard herself pleading,
“Imagine the windmills and clean cars.
Imagine the citizens’ groups.
Imagine the earth being healed and revitalized.
Imagine being very proud.”

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Resource for DOROTHY PORTER writings

There is much to read and ponder from Dorothy Porter at
A quote from The Art of Writing by Robert Louis Stevenson:

There are two just reasons for the choice of any way of life: the first is inbred taste in the chooser; the second some high utility in the industry selected. Literature, like any other art, is singularly interesting to the artist; and, in a degree peculiar to itself among the arts, it is useful to mankind. These are the sufficient justifications for any young man or woman who adopts it as the business of his life. I shall not say much about the wages. A writer can live by his writing. If not so luxuriously as by other trades, then less luxuriously. The nature of the work he does all day will more affect his happiness than the quality of his dinner at night. Whatever be your calling, and however much it brings you in the year, you could still, you know, get more by cheating. We all suffer ourselves to be too much concerned about a little poverty; but such considerations should not move us in the choice of that which is to be the business and justification of so great a portion of our lives; and like the missionary, the patriot, or the philosopher, we should all choose that poor and brave career in which we can do the most and best for mankind. Now Nature, faithfully followed, proves herself a careful mother. A lad, for some liking to the jingle of words, betakes himself to letters for his life; by-and-by, when he learns more gravity, he finds that he has chosen better than he knew; that if he earns little, he is earning it amply; that if he receives a small wage, he is in a position to do considerable services; that it is in his power, in some small measure, to protect the oppressed and to defend the truth. So kindly is the world arranged, such great profit may arise from a small degree of human reliance on oneself, and such, in particular, is the happy star of this trade of writing, that it should combine pleasure and profit to both parties, and be at once agreeable, like fiddling, and useful, like good preaching. (END QUOTE)

More at

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dorothy Porter dies at 54. How sad.

Dorothy Porter died in Melbourne this morning from complications due to cancer. She was 54.

A writer at the height of her powers, Dorothy's most recent publication was EL DORADO, her fifth verse novel. It was shortlisted for the Dinny O'Hearn Poetry Prize (Age Book of the Year Award), the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, the Prime Minister's Literary Award for fiction, and Best Fiction in the Ned Kelly Awards and the Australian Book Review described it thus: …this mature and accomplished work…puts her at the top of the distinguished class of contemporary Australian poets when it comes to livres composés.

Four months ago Dot was diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer. She has been in treatment since. She was very positive - and wanted to keep this to herself as she was sure she would defeat it. Unfortunately there have been complications and she was admitted to hospital 2 weeks ago and ICU 10 days ago.

Dorothy was the most passionate of people who gave her all to everything she engaged with. We cannot imagine the world without her.

The funeral will be at the Boyd Chapel, 3rd Avenue, Springvale Botanical Cemetery at 1.15pm this coming Sunday. No flowers Please.

Poetry for Dummies (Paperback)

by The Poetry Center (Author), John Timpane (Author) "The word poetry sends chills down the spines of many otherwise strong and balanced people..."

Well, the sales pitch on Amazon makes this book sound at least helpful to those people who haven't a poetic bone in their body - but they wouldn't be looking for it, would they?

From the publisher's intro: "Sometimes it seems like there are as many definitions of poetry as there are poems. Coleridge defined poetry as “the best words in the best order.” St. Augustine called it “the Devil’s wine.” For Shelley, poetry was “the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds.” But no matter how you define it, poetry has exercised a hold upon the hearts and minds of people for more than five millennia. That’s because for the attentive reader, poetry has the power to send chills shooting down the spine and lightning bolts flashing in the brain — to throw open the doors of perception and hone our sensibilities to a scalpel’s edge."

At $US13.59, I'm tempted ... The Amazon page is at

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Did Britain Produce ANY Great 20th Century Poets?

I quote from :

Written by Rob Mackenzie at 5:57 pm

Laurie Smith's article in Magma 42, 'The New Imagination', explores whether truly great poetry might soon emerge in the UK for the first time in many years. It's an excellent article – well researched, controversial, and passionate.

At one point in the article, Smith asks why all the "indisputably" great 20th century poets are either American or Irish. He cites:

T.S. Eliot
Ezra Pound
Wallace Stevens
Robert Lowell
Sylvia Plath
W.B. Yeats
Seamus Heaney

He suggests various British possibilities. On most lists would be:

Edward Thomas
Wilfred Owen
W.H. Auden
Dylan Thomas
Ted Hughes

and some would make a case for:

Basil Bunting
William Empson
Philip Larkin
W.S. Graham
R.S. Thomas

However, Smith feels their influence has been more limited than their American and Irish counterparts (he details why in the article).

Do you agree with Laurie Smith's lists? For instance, does Ezra Pound, undeniably a great editor, also qualify as a great poet? Is Sylvia Plath's Ariel collection sufficient to justify her inclusion (her other work may be accomplished, but is it 'great?')? Are Edward Thomas and Wilfred Owen among the very best Britain has to offer?

And if you were asked to pick the seven most influential poets of the 20th century, who would you choose? How many UK poets make the grade?

The article goes on to examine the possibility of great UK poetry emerging in the years to come, but that's for another post…

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Trinity College Library, Dublin

If you're into libraries, take a look at
Amazing photos of libraries I'll never get to see! and some of you may have already walked through.

A couple of Broome images

Pat Lowe, Paul Adair,, Narelle and others at Writing Workshop, Notre Dame Library, November.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Tom Collins Poetry Prize

The annual poetry prize of the Fellowship of Australian Writers (WA) is now on. Closing date is 15 December, so get to it! Entry form and details at

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I'm Back in Perth - Yippee!

So, here's the latest ABC News - of interest to booklovers ...

ABC Radio National
Books and Drama newsletter
28 November - 5 December 2008

29/11/2008 15:00
04/12/2008 15:00
A Disquieting Muse: the poetry of Charles Simic, America’s 15th poet laureate
America's 15th poet laureate reflects on his life as a poet and reads a selection of favourite poems.

29/11/2008 15:45
04/12/2008 15:45
Alias DA
David Astle is a cruciverbalist, a crossword setter; one 'lodged happily down the gnarly end' of the cryptograms that are published in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. He tells how it all came about in this edited version of a far longer and more detailed inside story, published in the literary and cultural journal, Meanjin.

30/11/2008 08:30

Switchback by Ronald Frame, read by Peter Webb, produced by Gillian Berry

A man's return to Eastern Europe brings back unsettling memories of both relationships and politics.
30/11/2008 15:35
Crossing by Rosie Barter, read by Ksenja Logos, produced by Mike Ladd
An innocent outing becomes a frightening ordeal.

30/11/2008 15:00
Beach - Part 5 by Timothy Daly, narrated by William Zappa, performed by the 2006 NIDA Graduates, produced by Anne Wynter
Much of our history has taken place on the beach, from Captain Cook to Gallipoli, from legal arrivals to illegal drop-offs during the night; from shark attacks to the death of a prime minister and the stalking and murder of innocent children. This is not one beach, it is all of them. This five part series weaves back and forth over nearly 250 years of our national history and the multitudes of characters who populate the beach.

Monday to Friday 10:00am (repeated at midnight)

National Poetry Slam
Literary critic Harold Bloom called it the 'Death of Art' but to some poets, slamming has given poetry a new life. From its beginning in Chicago in the 1980s, this cabaret style word duel has spread around the world -- including to Australia. The finals for the National Poetry Slam are coming up and we're going to flavour some of the contestants' word wizardry.

Doing Life: A biography of Elizabeth Jolley
Using the full access he was given to her private papers, as well as his own extensive research, Brian Dibble explores how life and art intersect in Elizabeth Jolley's work.

Peter Stothard, editor of the Times Literary Supplement

Taboos in literature
It’s 50 years since the controversial novel Lolita was published and Nabokov said that there were only three taboos in literature: incest, inter-racial marriage and atheism. What is taboo now?

Monday to Friday 2.00pm
1/12/2008 - 26/12/2008
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton


This is the final of our series of books published in 1948—the same year the ABC broadcast its first Book Reading—books that brought a new perspective on some world-changing social issues: in this case, race. It is a powerful indictment of a social system that drives the native races into resentment and crime; it is a story of inevitable and relentless fate. Beautifully wrought with high poetic compassion, Cry, the Beloved Country is more than just a story, it is a profound experience of the human spirit. And beyond the intense and insoluble personal tragedy, it is the story of the beautiful and tragic land of South Africa: its landscape, its people, its bitter racial ferment and unrest.

Monday to Friday 10.45am
1/12/2008 - 12/12/2008
Name Dropping: An Incomplete Memoir written and read by Kate Fitzpatrick, produced by Justine Sloane Lees


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Congratulations, Miles!

I quote from my son's (Miles) blog:

I’ve been thinking a lot recently, about the best way for an author to get attention for their book on the web. In particular, my own book, of course, but it is very interesting research about the power of the web in general.

In pre-Internet days, all you did was a book launch and then maybe some readings at book stores. I still recall being at my father's book launches, for each of his books. Times have changed drastically for publishers and Authors now, and they are quickly grasping the web as a tool for promotion.

Luckily, my publisher SitePoint is all about the web, so we’ve got the advantage over some of the old school publishing houses that may be stuck in last century. This means, that when the book officially launches, they’ll promote it via their various online properties.

For more information, go to

Friday, November 14, 2008

ABC NATIONAL RADIO - Programs of Interest

15/11/2008 15:00
20/11/2008 15:45
As Australian cities have grown, so has the reflection of the suburban environment in Australian poetry. The attitude of the poets varies; from distaste in the case of AD Hope and Gwen Harwood, to the ironic appreciation of John Tranter and Cath Kenneally, to a deep affection for the suburban shown by Aidan Coleman, John Griffin and Bruce Dawe.
The suburb is portrayed by Australian poets as a place of anonymity, boredom, and shallow conformity, but also, by contrast, as a mystical zone, life-affirming and free. As well as the poets named above, we'll also hear works from Peter Goldsworthy, Patricia Irvine, Dorothy Hewett, Elizabeth Riddell, and Peter Manthorpe.

15/11/2008 15:45
20/11/2008 15:45
In defence of platitudes
'Like linguistic wallpaper', is how Sian Prior once thought of the category of expressions called platitudes; until she found a reason to use those trite, but true, terms herself.

16/11/2008 08:30
Gravity by Tim Winton, read by Stuart Halusz, produced by Christine Kinsella
Jerra Nilsam faces up to his responsibilities and finds that life is not so fearsome after all.
16/11/2008 15:35
Fracture by Anne Marie Drosso, read by Jen Cronin, produced by Libby Douglas
While a woman’s broken leg slowly heals, she develops an unexpected closeness to her young doctor.

16/11/2008 15:00
Beach - Part 3 by Timothy Daly, narrated by William Zappa, performed by the 2006 NIDA Graduates, produced by Anne Wynter
Much of our history has taken place on the beach, from Captain Cook to Gallipoli, from legal arrivals to illegal drop-offs during the night; from shark attacks to the death of a prime minister and the stalking and murder of innocent children. This is not one beach, it is all of them. This five part series weaves back and forth over nearly 250 years of our national history and the multitudes of characters who populate the beach.

Monday to Friday 10:00am (repeated at midnight)

Randa Abdel Fattah's West Bank story
Australian-Palestinian writer Randa Abdel Fattah talks about her latest book Where The Streets Had a Name, a tale of longing and loss seen through the eyes of a thirteen year old Palestinian girl.

A Most Wanted Man - John le Carré
A half-starved young Russian man is smuggled into Hamburg. He has an improbable amount of money hidden in a purse round his neck. He's a devout Muslim. Or is he? John le Carré's latest novel A Most Wanted Man has spies from three countries converging on Germany in pursuit of the War on Terror.

Stella Miles Franklin: A Biography
In the 1970s Jill Roe was invited to write an entry on Miles Franklin for the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Since then she has edited Franklin's letters and written extensively about her life and work. Now Jill Roe, Emeritus Professor of History at Macquarie University, has published a comprehensive biography, 26 years in the making, in which, she says, she has tried to tell Stella Miles Franklin's whole story.

Monday to Friday 2.00pm
3/11/2008 - 28/11/2008
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, read by Sheridan Harbridge, produced by Anne Wynter
Vida Winter, a bestselling yet reclusive novelist, has many outlandish life histories, all of them invention. Now old and ailing, at last she wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. Her letter to biographer Margaret Lea, a woman with secrets of her own, acts as summons. Vida's tale is one of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family: the beautiful and wilful Isabelle and the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline. As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerised, but remains suspicious of the author's sincerity. She demands truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them both.

Monday to Friday 10.45am
17/11/2008 - 21/11/2008
MY LIFE AND HARD TIMES by James Thurber, read by Tyler Coppin, produced by Justine Sloane-Lees
Widely hailed as one of the finest humorists of the twentieth century, James Thurber looks back at his own life growing up in Columbus, Ohio, with the same humour and sharp wit that characterised his sketches and writing. First published in 1933, My Life and Hard Times recounts the delightful chaos and frustrations of an eccentric family, boyhood, youth, odd dogs, recalcitrant machinery and the foibles of human nature.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

'Poet wanted' - city seeks makar

BBC News online presented this interesting note:

Officials in Stirling are calling on local wordsmiths to apply to become the city's official poet. The poet will write about the city and about major events

The role of "makar" is being reprised by Stirling Council after a break of 500 years and was last held by William Dunbar in the reign of James IV.

Applicants to the post must live in the area or have a "strong" connection with the city. They will be paid about £500.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Ondaatje and the soul of the poet

By Harold McNeil

Though he is best known as the author of the Booker Prize-winning novel “The English Patient,” Michael Ondaatje possesses the soul of a poet.

The Sri Lankan-born Canadian novelist and poet was the guest author Wednesday for the Just Buffalo Literary Center’s third annual Babel lecture series in Asbury Hall at Babeville, where he read excerpts from his works and shared aspects of his writing process.

“I find [that] if I have an idea for a book, that idea has withered by page four,” Ondaatje said.

That was in response to a question regarding how Ondaatje proceeded from an opening premise about a plane crash in the desert that eventually evolved into “The English Patient,” an intricate tale about a critically burned man, his Canadian nurse, a Canadian thief and an Indian sapper in the British army, all sharing an Italian villa at the end of World War II.

“There is a lot of debating going on while I’m writing about which way the story progresses, and usually for me, the first or second draft defines the story,” Ondaatje continued.

“The English Patient,” first published in 1992, was adapted into a film by the same title that won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1997.

Ondaatje has written five novels. The most recent was “Divisadero,” published in 2007. He has written 13 books of poetry.

“I think the way that someone like [poet] William Carlos Williams writes about place and landscape is more believable to me than the way T.S. Elliot writes. Eliot imposes his mind-set on that landscape, and Williams goes into it and kind of discovers [it] . . . ” Ondaatje said.

A student from the Gow School in South Wales, who attended Thursday’s lecture, astutely observed that as a novelist, Ondaatje writes more like a poet. Ondaatje’s novels, the student noted, are “written in such a way that the fluency and phrasing is almost like poetry [and] more like human thought than conventional writing.”

“How are you able to convey a story writing this way so it not only makes sense to you, but to your readers as well?” the student asked through Michael Kelleher, director of Just Buffalo, who also served as moderator for the event.

“Well, I think that’s the only way I can write novels,” Ondaatje responded. He added that he does not think chronologically about the story.

“When something is revealed in a book about someone it has to be at the right time [and not necessarily] at the chronologically [right] time,” he added.

Ondaatje moved from Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) to England with his mother in 1954 and then at 18 moved permanently to Canada, where he received his undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto and his master’s degree from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

A recurring theme of mixed alliance of identities pervades the author’s novels.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Quote of the Week

'I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.

If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.'

Thomas Jefferson 1802

Thursday, November 06, 2008

ABC interview tomorrow morning - on Kimberley radio

If you are in The Kimberley tomorrow morning, near a radio, tune into ABC radio where Miranda Tetlow will interview me around 11.45am. I'll read a poem or two and promote my writing workshops here in Broome which start this Saturday - and go until the end of November.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Defining Haiku - not an easy task!

From the Australian Haiku Society website

Defining haiku
In 2007 the Australian Haiku Society committee requested John Bird to advise the Society on haiku definition(s) and to try to formulate one that we could adopt, officially, as meaningful for our members and helpful to those new to the genre.

John reports that he has considered many descriptions and definitions of haiku by overseas writers and now wants to understand how Australian poets, at all levels of experience, think about haiku.

He hopes to include some examples of the latter in his published report and would like to share a subset of these on the Australian Haiku Society [HaikuOz] site, if this is agreed to by their authors. If you would like your views to remain anonymous, please say so at the time you submit them. This will be respected.

Haiku are elusive to define. But in attempting to describe them we may come to understand them better. Please don’t feel intimidated that your definition must be academic, or even wise. It’s simply what you think haiku are about that counts. Please send John your personal definition of haiku, whether long-standing or written for this exercise, at:

Please try to restrict your thoughts to 40 words, preferably no more than 25. If you have adopted a published definition written by somebody else, please include all details.

Below are two personal definitions of haiku. You are warmly invited to share yours.

Beverley George
Australian Haiku Society

Vanessa Proctor (Sydney)
‘Haiku is a concise poetic form which is often inspired by an epiphany or close observation of the natural world. “The haiku moment” expresses universal human experience which cuts through cultural boundaries.’

Rob Scott (Melbourne)
‘Haiku in the West, a concoction of the Japanese original, is a short poem with an experience of nature, the seasons and the mystery of humanity at its core that crystallizes (rather than intellectualizes) a keenly observed moment. ‘

[Vanessa’s definition, and an earlier version of Rob’s, first appeared in Max Verhart’s study, THE ESSENCE OF HAIKU AS PERCEIVED BY WESTERN HAIJIN, published in Modern Haiku, Volume 38.2, Summer 2007. See ]

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Despatch from Broome ...

I'm now in Broome as Writer-in-Residence for writingWA, Broome Library, and Notre Dame University. My wife and I are accommodated in a quaint little cottage at the back of a Broome residence, aptly called Stress Less Cottage (I hope my students noticed the misplaced modifier there >g<) ...

Yesterday we flew here with Skywest, a part sponsor of this event, and collected our Broome Broome hire car (witty name >g<). The humidity and heat hit me yesterday like the proverbial heavy weight object on a long handle, but today I am already acclimatised. A cold shower, shorts, tee-shirt and thongs (flip flops to you USAmericans) has worked wonders. I am writing this in the air conditioned halls of Notre Dame University, Broome campus.

.... and today, other than being Melbourne Cup Day, is my first day on Eureka Street. Please go there and check out my poems - the first one has lost its breaks between verse, but the others seem okay. Strange title to grab as the over-all title for my selection, but there you have it. An editor's decision no doubt.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

ABC Radio National Books and Drama newsletter

31 October - 7 November 2008

1/11/2008 15:00
6/11/2008 15:45
Beowulf Part 1
A new translation of the famous Anglo-Saxon classic.
Villains, warriors and monsters are encountered in the epic story of the young hero, Beowulf. Loyalty, compassion and courage are the virtues he displays.
Felix Nobis, translator and narrator, brings an ancient classic to life with his words and performance, enhanced by the music of Bart Walus and a great cast.

1/11/2008 15:45
6/11/2008 15:45
'Save the Last Word' project
Collins, the dictionary publishers, have a project underway to see whether 24 obsolete words can be brought back into popular usage.

2/11/2008 08:30
The Tai-Chi Man by Jan Hutchinson, read by Andrea Moor, Produced by Anne Wynter
Watching the daily ritual of a man's tai-chi routine brings home to an unhappy woman the realisation of what is missing from her life.
2/11/2008 15:35
Today on Dr. Phil by Tom Cho, read by Brett Cousins, produced by Anne McInerney
A story full of black humour where the do-it-yourself psychiatry of Dr. Phil leads to a sure-fire hit episode with lots of wham-bam impact.

2/11/2008 15:00
Beach - Part 1 by Timothy Daly, narrated by William Zappa,performed by the 2006 NIDA Graduates, produced by Anne Wynter
Much of our history has taken place on the beach, from Captain Cook to Gallipoli, from legal arrivals to illegal drop-offs during the night; from shark attacks to the death of a prime minister and the stalking and murder of innocent children. This is not one beach, it is all of them. This five part series weaves back and forth over nearly 250 years of our national history and the multitudes of characters who populate the beach.

Monday to Friday 10:00am (repeated at midnight)

Ouyang Yu's Kingsbury Tales
Ouyang Yu is best known for his poetry, but has also written fiction and criticism in both English and Chinese. His latest book is Kingsbury Tales.

Ian McEwan at the Sydney Opera House (repeat)
Earlier this year novelist Ian McEwan was a guest at the Sydney Opera House in the International Speakers Series. In his humorous address he explores the boundary between fact and fiction, he talks about the engagement of readers with ideas and characters and he reads from some of the marvellously cranky letters he has received, correcting facts in his novels.

Robert Silvers, editor of The New York Review of Books
In 1963 a new publication called The New York Review of Books was launched. One of its founders, who had been an editor at Harpers and The Paris Review, was asked to be the first editor. Forty-five years later Robert Silvers is still its editor. On the day Americans vote for their next president he talks to The Book Show about elections and anniversaries.

A Most Wanted Man - John le Carré
A half-starved young Russian man is smuggled into Hamburg. He has an improbable amount of money hidden in a purse round his neck. He's a devout Muslim. Or is he? John le Carré's latest novel A Most Wanted Man has spies from three countries converging on Germany in pursuit of the War on Terror.

Monday to Friday 2.00pm
3/11/2008 - 28/11/2008
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, read by Sheridan Harbridge, produced by Anne Wynter
Vida Winter, a bestselling yet reclusive novelist, has many outlandish life histories, all of them invention. Now old and ailing, at last she wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. Her letter to biographer Margaret Lea, a woman with secrets of her own, acts as summons. Vida's tale is one of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family: the beautiful and wilful Isabelle and the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline. As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerised, but remains suspicious of the author's sincerity. She demands truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them both.

Monday to Friday 10.45am
3/11/2008 - 14/11/2008
Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford, read by Alison Whyte, produced by Justine Sloane-Lees
Hons and Rebels is a tale of youthful folly and high adventure, as well as a study in social history, and a love story.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Voicebox features Marcella Polain

Thursday Nov 6th at 7.30 pm.
Featuring Marcella Polain, reading from her new book of poems, Therapy Like Fish. "La Tropicana Cafe", 177 High Street, Fremantle.

A selection of poems can be found at

Therapy like fish

He has eyes like a sky he wants me to fall into.
On his wall is an illusion, an invitation
a shutter that opens over miles of sea.
Squalls come and go all afternoon,
light pales yellow and mauve, an old bruise.
I doze and wake from dreams of a storm and a shuttered room,
my tongue thick as a page.
Somewhere, I know, there are lines of notes.
Oh, saviour, let me cut them up
re-arrange them for you, into poems:
they. Will read. like suffering.
Also. Sometimes I have. hated. you.
At the beginning.
All night. I think. of. edges. and
how close. Can she. I get.
(For once – just once – hold out your hand.
Let me touch you with one finger
the way – did I tell you? – I was alone and
someone touched me)
You are unreadable as the surface of the sea.
Still I have seen the shadow of a single sentence
swim a dark leviathan across your face.
You are witness to the words I haul, one by one,
into the glistening palms of my hands.
Such small offerings.
How they twitch there, naked and translucent
as fish.
How many times will I long to fall
through the sky, into the deep pool of your arms
to be weightless, still
an unasked question?

© Marcella Polain 2008 • Therapy Like Fish: New and Selected Poems

PoetryEtc anthology - Out Now!

Out now: Masthead 11: Poetryetc Special Issue

Poetryetc: Poems and Poets
An anthology edited by Andrew Burke and Candice Ward

"This anthology is the most recent of the Poetryetc projects. Edited by Candice Ward and Andrew Burke, with an e-book designed by Peter Ciccariello, it represents a selection of poems written by list members over the past few years. It includes many distinguished poets side by side with new or little known voices, and demonstrates the diversity and stylistic openness that was always a major strength of Poetryetc."

From Poetryetc: A Brief History by Alison Croggon

With poems from:

Rachel Loden | Martin Dolan | Kenneth Wolman | Renée Ashley | Patrick McManus | S.J. Litherland |Nathan Hondros | Sheila E. Murphy | Tina Bass | Trevor Joyce | Kasper Salonen | Larissa Shmailo | Halvard Johnson | Sally Evans | Glen Phillips | Mark Weiss | S.K. Kelen | Stephen Vincent | Tad Richards | Barry Alpert | Martin J. Walker | Jim Bennett |Gerald Schwartz | Peter Riley | Robin Hamilton | David Bircumshaw | Candice Ward | Peter Howard | Joanna Boulter | Jill Jones | John Kinsella | Randolph Healy | Bob Marcacci | Liz Kirby | Max Richards | Andrew Burke | Peter Larkin | Cindy Lee | Caleb Cluff | Douglas Barbour | Árni Ibsen | Janet Jackson | Lawrence Upton | Heather Taylor | Roger Collett | Peter Ciccariello |Harriet Zinnes | John Tranter | Sharon Brogan | Frederick Pollack | Pierre Joris |
Alison Croggon

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sachin Tendulkar wears a Turban

Tendulkar recently scored the most runs by any Test batsman ever. Here he is in national dress for a promotional ceremony.

Friday, October 24, 2008

ABC Radio National 24-31 October 2008

25/10/2008 15:00
30/10/2008 15:45
Slammin’ and Jammin’
Highlights from the Slams and Jams across the country over the last year. Recorded at live events, this program features excerpts from live performances of Australian and international poets including Shane Koyczan, Wire MC, Alana Hicks, Amanda Stewart, Seung Baek, Tug Dumbly, Ania Walwitz, Benito DiFonzo, Phil Norton, Jeltje and Unamunos Quorum, Luke Wright, Robin Archbold, Vivienne Glance and Miles Merrill.

25/10/2008 15:45
30/10/2008 15:45
Italian Language in the World Week
For the 8th annual Italian Language in the World Week, the journalist and author Beppe Severgnini explains this year's theme of Italian in the piazza, a particular kind of gathering place that has been described as 'the concrete representation of language'.

26/10/2008 08:30
Proof of Innocence by Tom Petsinis, read by Matthew O'Sullivan
An innocent man is imprisoned and eventually sentenced to death. During this time, he starts to lose his conviction that he did not commit the crime.
26/10/2008 15:35
Story 2 by Christopher Cyrill, read by David Tredinnick
On a man’s return from India, the insights he has gained stay with him.


26/10/2008 15:00
Six White Boomers by Paul Livingston
Act One: Sydney suburbia 1969, The Barkers Nest Public School Reunion.
Timothy, Douglas, May, June and Marisa are attending the 10 year school reunion for the class of '59. It's a small gathering so nametags probably won't be necessary. It's the loved-up sixties - bellbottoms, patchouli oil, pot and war.
Act Two: Sydney suburbia 1999, The Barkers Nest Public School/Greenington College Reunion.
Timothy, Douglas, May, June and Marisa are attending the 40 year school reunion for the class of '59. And as usual it's very small turnout. It's the uninspiring nineties - hostile takeovers, holidays on the central coast, Kylie Minogue and war.

Monday to Friday 10:00am (repeated at midnight)

Peter Goldsworthy: Everything I Knew
Australian novelist, essayist, librettist and poet Peter Goldsworthy talks about his new novel Everything I Knew. It's set in Penola, South Australia, in 1964 when Miss Peach, a new teacher on a scooter who's the spitting image of Audrey Hepburn, comes to town and fourteen-year-old Robbie Burns sits up and takes notice.

Public figures, private lives
Is the private life of a public figure a proper subject for biography? And how does a biographer decide what to reveal and what to screen from public gaze? Historian David Day has written biographies of three public figures: Ben Chifley, John Curtin and Andrew Fisher. He discusses balancing the need to explore the private landscape of subjects with a duty to be discrete about other people's lives.

Writing the Future: the first Asia-Pacific festival of writing
Professor Rukmini Bhaya Nair, poet and editor of the Indian Literary journal Biblio, is one of the organisers of the first Asia-Pacific Festival of Writing, being held this month in New Delhi and the Indian hill-station town of Shimla.

Philip Gourevitch, editor of The Paris Review

Marilynne Robinson's Home
Marilynne Robinson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead, has written a new novel Home. It takes place in the same period and the same Iowa town of Gilead. It's the story of Jack, prodigal son of the Boughton family and godson of John Ames.

Monday to Friday 2.00pm
23/10/2008 - 30/10/2008
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, read by Joss Ackland, production by Jane Marshall
For copyright reasons this reading is not available as audio on demand.
The haunting and sinister Victorian mystery about a good man and his terrifying alter ego. When an angry fiend assaults a small girl an inquisitive lawyer begins to question the erratic behaviour of his friend, the well-respected Dr Jekyll. The lawyer's investigations reveal a story so frightening, so horrific that he can scarcely believe it.

Monday to Friday 10.45am
27/10/2008 - 31/10/2008
My First Seven Years (plus a Few More) by Dario Fo, production by BBC Radio
This memoir is a delightful and irreverent account of Dario FO's childhood in the late 1920s and early 1930s, growing up on the shores of Lake Maggiore in northern Italy. Fo was born in 1926, and spent his early years moving from town to town as his father, a stationmaster, was given new postings. He moved to Milan in 1940 to study at an art academy. After the war, as Italian theatre underwent some radical shifts, his attention turned to stage design and then to writing for the stage. In the 1950s, along with his wife Franca Rame, he formed a theatre company to present his satirical works, which earned him public acclaim and also, in many cases, the ire of the authorities. In the years since he has built an impressive body of work as a playwright, director, actor and composer. Dario Fo received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1997

Quote of the Day

Soren Kierkegaard - "Life must be understood backwards; but... it must be lived forward."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

William Stafford on Rejections ...

"Well, most of the poems I write I don’t send out at all. And of those I send out, maybe a tenth of them finally get published. So that means an awful lot of them get rejected, even ones I think are all right. I look at it this way: you can run across a log pond—you know, where they’re floating the logs at a sawmill—by stepping on one log at a time. And if you don’t stay on a given log very long, you can go hopping clear across the pond on these logs. But if you stop in one, it’ll sink. Sometimes I feel a writer should be like this—that you need your bad poems. You shouldn’t inhibit yourself. You need to have your dreams, you need to have your poems. If you begin to keep from dreaming or from trying to write your poems, you could be in trouble. You have to learn how to say “Welcome . . . welcome.” Welcome, dreams. Welcome Poems. And then if somebody says “I don’t like that dream,” you can say “Well, it’s my life. I had to dream it.” And if somebody else says “I don’t like that poem,” you can say, “Well, it’s my life. That poem was in the way, so I wrote it.”

From William Stafford’s Writing the Australian Crawl (Univ Mich, 1979):

Zimmy walking out with Baxter

Notice: no lampshade. She is well pleased.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

'Airplay' on Radio National today at 3pm

Illawarra Water Project - Part 2, produced by Jane and Phillip Ulman


Over two weeks Radio National will be broadcasting a series of short works from last year’s students in the creative writing course at the University of Wollongong. Each recorded an interview with a family member, a friend or someone who had attracted their interest. The recordings became the inspiration for fictional works written by the students. Stories of travel and migration and mythological characters feature as well as dark tales about violence, rejection, fear and death.

19/10/2008 15:00

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Gallery de la Catessen

16th Reading OCTOBER 21st

Aidan Coleman
Ken Bolton
Jill Jones
Kyriaki Maragozidis
Simon Robb

9 Anster Street, Adelaide
(off Waymouth at the King William end, near FAD nightclub)

7.30 for a prompt 8 PM start

Price $5

Friday, October 17, 2008

Let the Saw do the Work

Dad. They say it with loving frustration. My children, individually and collectively, shake their head. Dad, you say that every time. Perhaps I say it for the response. Anyway, they have all left home and gone to roam, so when will we have the chance to frustrate each other again? Dad, you’re always saying that. Nostalgia grows thicker in old age. Now it is nice to hear grandchildren call me G’andpa, nice to hear them drop the ‘r’, nice to hear them individualise the salutation so I feel I am the only G’andpa in the world. It is like that when they shake their head around the word Dad. I feel it is about me, not just any male who has had offspring. Me, frustrating Dad. My father was absent a lot while I was growing up, but when I say my frustrating sayings to my sons and daughter over and over again, it is because it is an echo of him, an echo of my early homelife, seedbed to all I am now.

My favourite old saying has to be, ‘Let the saw do the work.’ I can’t hear his voice in those words, I can’t remember the circumstance in which he said them, but the wisdom is there. The shining, hungry teeth of a saw are specially placed and angled to bite their way through wood; forcing it to do the job quickly or at some torturous angle will only impede the efficiency of their work. This is as I see it now and how it was told to me sometime in the Fifties, not in so many words, but by the axiom, ‘Let the saw do the work.’ It isn’t a cop out for procrastinating carpenters, or an excuse proffered by powerless workers. It is pre-computer wisdom from the back shed where all the best thinking was once born in Australia.

Yet I wonder where my father heard it. He was a man of the Club and the office, hardly a man of the back shed. I wonder if he ever went into our wonderful, musty, archaic, stonewalled and shingle-roofed shed. Father stood tall (well, every adult was tall to me then) and always, without fail, wore a bow tie. This was his idea of being a gentleman: a bow tie, personally tied and impeccably balanced. To test if a stranger was a gentleman or not, Father would lean forward and pull at the outer edge of the stranger’s bowtie. If the tie came away into a limp piece of fabric, the man was declared a gentleman. If it snapped back, complete and unruffled by my father’s tug, the man was an imposter, an ungentleman, and so was ignored or worse. A gentleman always ties his own tie, was the full verse and chapter of it. Perhaps, at the base of this shibboleth act, lay another axiom: Let the hand do the work.

I can’t tie a bow tie. I have never learnt how and it would be perverse in this day and age to learn now. Like using ‘whom’ in day-to-day conversation. But inside my throat, when I clear it of its obstructions before speaking to scholars assembled or an audience at a poetry reading, I pull at the fabric of my memory and untie myself to be a gentleman in your presence, and then let the words do their work.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

See you at Poets Corner, Pages Cafe this Saturday from 2pm


Andrew Lansdown:

Andrew Lansdown won the 1994 Adelaide Festival’s John Bray National Poetry Award for this book Between Glances. His most recent books are: a collection of poetry titled Fontanelle (Five Islands Press); a collection of short stories titled The Dispossessed (Interactive Press); and three fantasy novels titled With My Knife, Dragonfox and The Red Dragon (Omnibus Books/ Scholastic Australia). Picaro Press has just republished his poetry collection, Waking and Always, first released by Angus & Robertson Publishers in 1987. (Photo: Les Murray and Andrew Lansdown)

with his invited guests:

Elizabeth Lewis:

Elizabeth Lewis was born in Perth in 1984 and spent her early childhood years running around the bush in country WA. Since then she has grown up and completed a Bachelor of Arts in Writing & English with Honours in Poetry at Edith Cowan University . She has had poems published in Quadrant and Indigo this year. In her spare time she still enjoys running around in the bush facilitating holiday hiking camps for young people.

Hal Colebatch:

Hal Colebatch has had seven volumes of poetry published, the latest being The Light River ( Connor Court ). He has had 14 science-fiction novels and stories published or accepted for publication by Baen Books, New York , and has published a number of other books including biographies and social commentary. He has been described by Peter Alexander, Professor of English at the University of New South Wales , as among Australia 's best writers. In 2003 he received an Australian Centenary Medal for writing, law poetry and political commentary, the only award for this combination of activities.

Andrew Burke:

Andrew Burke is a popular guest host for Poets Corner @ Pages Café who writes for stage, page, screen and ear. Armed with a Ph.D in Writing from ECU, he’s taught in China, the Kimberleys, currently at FAWWA doing workshops but is about to go off to Broome for a month as a Writer in Residence. Ask Andrew about his books, his workshops, his music, Spring Festivals… Hi Spirits blog:

Please register with your Host Andrew Lansdown
as soon as you arrive.

Contact Frances to read 3rd Sat each month Poet's Corner & Pages Cafe, WA State Library, Perth Cultural Centre across the bridge from the Perth Train Station. or