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