Thursday, July 30, 2009

Les Murray says:

I love poetry for the unemployment it causes, for how it constrains one to work always beyond one’s own intelligence, for its not requiring one to rise socially. — Les Murray

Saturday, July 25, 2009

'New Tricks' group writes Six Word Stories

In my Wednesday writing group, calleed New Tricks and held at Tom Collins House from 6.30pm each Wednesday, we had a go at Hemingway's famous six word short story project. His was masterful:

For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.

With that as our benchmark, we sat in thoughtful silence and composed our works. In no particular order, here are some of our efforts:

Fate - Not for the feint hearted. (David)

Broken wing. Broken lives. Fragile glue. (Jeanette)

Wanted: Unwanted dog for lonely widow. (Denise)

Stop breathing. Not blue. Black (Jean)

Thin skins. The art of rejections. (Carolyn)

Marriott doors blew open. Last orders (Andrew)

Come join us any Wednesday! More info at FAWWA 9384 4771 or burkeandre(at)gmail(dot)come

Thursday, July 23, 2009

There's a Big Lesson to be Learnt in the rendering of this poem by Rachel Loden

For an expansive and illuminating essay on Rachel Loden's poem AFFIDAVIT, go to

I find it quite brilliant and so interesting. Please take the time to read it completely.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

choice Poll on Parallel Import of Books

The Productivity Commission’s recent report into the recommendation for unrestricted importation of books has highlighted the debate between, consumers, publishers and authors on the cost of books in Australia.

Make your choice now.

Participate in the Poll on the Parallel Import of Books at

Faber and Faber's Cover Art Gallery - 18 examples

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Hemingway

To celebrate Ernest Hemingway's birthday, I'd love to publish one of his short stories, my favourite works in his oeuvre. Space is a problem, as you can see, but I will publish a short story which he is reported to have said is one of the best he ever wrote:

"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Six words, carrying so much emotional impact. Understatement and subtlety are two of the strongest tools in any writer's box of tricks, so have a go yourself. It is easy to be flippant and cutesy, but those stories don't mean a lot. Try to write a moving short story in just half a dozen words. If you can't post it to me through the comments panel, send it to burkeandre(at)gmail(dot)com

Now, honour the great writer with your words. Good luck!

Frank McCourt RIP

One of my favourite books of modern times is Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt, the hard-working Irish author who died this week. His book humbly and gently painted a picture of a hard life growing up in Limerick in Ireland, before taking off for USA as a young man. It took him many decades to come to the right stance toward his material, but when he let the story tell itself, without anger, self-pity or any self-aggrandisement - just the details - it spoke volumes. A warm sense of humanity lifted the book above the pack and made it a modern classic among other Irish classics.

An interview with and article about Frank McCourt can be read at Newsweek's website

Monday, July 20, 2009

'Renga is the prototype of the New Sentence!' Kent Johnson

'Samizdat' poetry mag is no more, but the Samizdat Blog is alive and vibrant, run by poet Robert Archambeau at Recently there was a posting about Poetry/Not Poetry which elicited a response from the witty and the prolific Kent Johnson. In part, Kent said a very interesting and pertinent (to my poetic) thing. I quote:

"The other thing I was thinking you could qualify/clarify is that you are speaking about the *Western tradition*. It's very interesting that Chinese poets in the late Tang, for instance, or Japanese renga poets for centuries--and long before the Romantics--were practicing a very elliptical, even "postmodern," "discontinuous language" kind of poetry (Renga is the prototype of the New Sentence!). Of course, some of this classical work has helped make our own modern and "post" period in English-language poetics what it is, starting with Pound, and so on, so it's not like it's new. But in other ways, we're just beginning to appreciate how ahead of "us" (by something like 1000 years!) the Chinese, for example, were."

The Renga's similarity with the 'New Sentence' and the disjunctive/conjunctive style in some contemporary poetic styles has been of interest to me for sometime. However, in my experience, it is difficult to teach the various schemes and rules of linking in renga without smothering the creativity of the writer. The further you look into the Japanese forms, the more rules and set traditions you seem to discover! Renga and Renku are from another culture and another time, virtually, but to approximate the general feeling of the creation and completion of a 36 link kasen renga is a great satisfaction and a great education to Western writers.

When I first read LangPo, I was not impressed. It seemed like scribbled notes in a first draft toward a poem, unedited and confused. But I am not adverse to wading into new work to see how it is writ, so - with the help of Ron Silliman's blog at - I read more and looked back at the history and philosophy of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E School. The wit and style of Charles Bernstein helped me enormously as it opened a door into one area of the work. Ron Silliman's discourse in various places, on the web and in books, on The New Sentence, opened my eyes to the linking character of the style. Lyn Heijinian's My Life was a grand example of a sustained work which stayed together and grew into a synergistic whole through Language poetics. It didn't take me long, either, to realise the connection to Gertrude Stein's theories and writing practice, in Tender Buttons for one.

But here I have been open-minded rambling without examples or references. I will expand on these thoughts and write a more expansive essay for days to come.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What is a Poet? and its companion question, What is Poetry?

A lively symposium on 'What is a Poet?' with Helen Vindler, Louis Simpson, Charles Bernstein, Hank Lazer and others, now yours to enjoy at

Photo of the final panel shows - Hank Lazer, Denise Levertov, Charles Altrieri, David Ignatow, Marjorie Perloff, Gerald Stern, Louis Simpson.(hidden), Helen Vendler, Charles Bernstein, Gregory Jay

Thursday, July 16, 2009

From Eureka Street today, the eletronic newspaper of the Jesuit in Australia - :

The meddling priest and the Redfern prophet

Last week, Pope Benedict gave Kevin Rudd a copy of his new encyclical Caritas in Veritate. Rudd gave the Pope a copy of the National Apology. I wonder what the radical Redfern priest Ted Kennedy would have made of this exchange of literary gifts.

Now, read on at

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

Woolf's lighthouse up for sale

One of Cornwall's best loved beaches is set to go under the hammer later.

Upton Towans beach in Gwithian and the lighthouse on nearby Godrevy Island are widely thought to have inspired the Virginia Woolf novel To the Lighthouse.

As a child, the author spent many holidays in a St Ives guest house from which she could see the lighthouse.


Thursday, July 09, 2009

'New Tricks' Classes growing steadily at Tom Collins House

Last night we concentrated on Dialogue, and next Wednesday on Description. Each week we will look at one aspect of either poetry or prose, or a subject that fits both (like Description does). I sent everyone home this week with a copy of Collectors, a short story by Peter Cowan, fabulous West Australian writer.
So, no matter what stage of your writing career you're at, 'New Tricks' can expand your knowledge and interest in the craft and joy of writing.

Starts at 6.30pm each Wednesday (closes 9pm) at Tom Collins House, in the Historic Precinct to the side of Allen Park in Kirkwood Street, Swanbourne.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Mesostomatics For Free!

'New Tricks' classes Tomorrow night at Tom Collins House

A series of informal classes by one of Western Australia's most experienced Creative Writing teachers, Dr ANDREW BURKE, continues at Tom Collins House from 6.30 to 9pm on Wednesday 8 July 2009, and continues each Wednesday evening thereafter.

All are welcome.

Subjects covered will include short fiction, formal prose writing, poetry, and 'aspects of the novel' - The pace and character of the classes will be dictated by the people participating. The main joy of these sessions is sharing with others and creating under the guidance of an experienced writer and workshop leader. Andrew's notes are also highly valued and are only available at these sessions. (Refreshments provided.)

Cost: $20 per session, $15 unwaged/pension/disadvantaged.
Time: 6.30 - 9pm Wednesdays
Venue: TOM COLLINS HOUSE, cnr Wood and Kirkwood Streets, Swanbourne - set in the trees next to Allen Park.

For more information contact Fellowship of Australian Writers WA
Email: Telophone: +61 8 9384 4771
or Andrew Burke at burkeandre(at)gmail(dot)com

Monday, July 06, 2009

Kangaroo at Serpentine Dam picnic

Photos taken yesterday at Serpentine Dam just outside of Perth by intrepid photographer and poet, Glen Phillips. I hasten to add, we don't often have kangaroos this docile that they will come and eat out of your hand. The ones in the wild are precisely that: wild, and dangerous at times. This is Glen's wife Rita generously feeding the little creature.

Here's the first stanza of a poem by Glen, written before, as the sub title tells you:

(during the struggle for independence in East Timor)

They came down from the hills
tentatively at first,
ears twitching noble noses
raised to the wind
as if deciding that the offence
of our human odours—
the richness of benzines
from cooling car exhausts,
charred chops on the barbecues,
whiffs of aftershave or underarm—
was one worthy
to be endured these two centuries
of ethnic wild-life cleansing.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

POETICA 3pm TODAY: 'Birds' by Judith Wright

Birds by Judith Wright
The poems originally collected in Birds were written in the 1950s, when Judith Wright was living by the lush rainforest of Tamborine Mountain in South East Queensland. This fourth edition, dedicated to her daughter and published by the National Library of Australia in 2003, commemorates 25 years since the poems were last published as a single collection.

Friday, July 03, 2009

One Fast Move or I'm Gone: Jack Kerouac's Big Sur

Here's the full synopsis of this film, showing soon at Revelation Film Frestival, Astor Cinema, Perth.

He was called the vibrant new voice of his generation -- the avatar of the Beat movement. In 1957, on the heels of the triumphant debut of his groundbreaking novel, On The Road, Jack Kerouac was a literary rock star, lionized by his fans and devotees. But along with sudden fame and media hype came his unraveling, and, by 1960, Kerouac was a jaded cynic, disaffected from the Beat culture he helped create and tortured by self-doubt, addiction and depression.

Desperate for spiritual salvation and solitude, as well as a place to dry out, he secretly retreats to Lawrence Ferlinghetti's rustic cabin in the Big Sur woods. But his plan is foiled by his own inner demons, and what ensues that summer becomes the basis for Kerouac's gritty, yet lyrically told, semi-autobiographical novel, Big Sur.

One Fast Move or Im Gone: Kerouacs Big Sur, takes the viewer back to Ferlinghetti's cabin and to the Beat haunts of San Francisco and New York City for an unflinching, cinematic look at the compelling events the book is based on. The story unfolds in several synchronous ways: through the narrative arc of Kerouac's prose, told in voice-over by actor and Kerouac interpreter, John Ventimiglia (of HBOs The Sopranos); through first-hand accounts and recollections of Kerouacs contemporaries, whom many of the characters in the book are based on such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Carolyn Cassady, Joyce Johnson and Michael McClure; by the interpretations and reflections of writers, poets, actors and musicians who have been deeply influenced by Kerouacs unique gifts like Tom Waits, Sam Shepard, Robert Hunter, Patti Smith, Aram Saroyan, Donal Logue and S.E. Hinton; and by stunning, High Definition visual imagery set to original music composed and performed by recording artist, Jay Farrar of Son Volt, with additional performance by Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie.

Congratulations, Scott, for Winning the 2009 PressPress Chapbook Award

The judging of the 2009 PressPress Chapbook Award has been finalised.

The full shortlist is (in alphabetical order):
Mandy Beaumont Breaking Open The Night With Fire
Anne Elvey Claimed by Country
Kit Kelen The Whole Forest Dancing
Jeanina Leane Dark Secrets: After Dreaming (AD 1887 – 1961)
Scott-Patrick Mitchell songs for the ordinary mass
Barbara Orlowska-Westwood Firing Neurones

The entries for the 2009 PressPress Chapbook were of a very high standard with significant experimentation and originality. Entries came from Canada, China, New Zealand, the USA and all Australian states - with a significant contingent from Western Australia this year. There was one bi-lingual entry.

After some tough decision-making the judges chose Scott-Patrick Mitchell's songs for the ordinary mass as the winner of the 2009 Award.

With best wishes

Chris Mansell

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


On 4 July 2009 Perth Poetry Club is thrilled to present, indirect from Melbourne, the word-twisting, page-seducing, slam-winning, grant-attracting GEOFF LEMON. Geoff is the Poetry Editor of *harvest *magazine and formerly of *Voiceworks*, he convenes Melbourne’s monthly Wordplay readings, and helped found Wordplay Collective. *A six-time poetry slam winner*, he's played shows and festivals across Australia and supported musicians like TZU, True Live, Paris Wells and The Church's lead singer Steve Kilbey. On the page, his poems, stories, and articles have been published in *Best Australian Stories*, *Blue* *Dog*, *HEAT*, *Island*, and *Going Down Swinging*, and he also writes music journalism for *MTV *and *Beat*. His first book of poems, *Sunblind*, was published by Picaro Press late last year. For more, visit

*11 JULY: Helen Hagemann*
Helen Hagemann has poetry and prose published in major Australian literary journals. In 2004, she won an ASA poetry mentorship studying with NSW poet, Jean Kent. In 2008, she won a Varuna Longlines/ Poetry workshop in Katoomba, NSW. In association with the Australian Poetry Centre's New Poets Program her collection, *Evangelyne & Other Poems,* was published this year. Helen has an MA in Creative Writing, teaches prose at the Fremantle Arts Centre, writes prose poetry, and is currently working on a second novel.

18 JULY: Mike Williams
25 JULY: Mar Bucknell + Sue Clennell. MC Mark Hutchins.

Plus open stage. MC Janet Jackson (Helen Child is away). EVERY SATURDAY
2-4pm in the Red Bar at The Court hotel & restaurant, 50 Beaufort Street,
Perth. Free entry. More info at Enquiries: or Janet 0406 624 578

Thought for the Day (among many for you, I hope)

"Those who cast the ballots decide nothing.
Those who count the ballots decide everything."
--Joseph Stalin