Dirt by Sea

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I was pleased this morning to receive in the mail my copy of Our Home is Dirty by Sea, a new collection of ‘Australian poems for Australian kids’, published by Walker Books, and edited by Diana Bates, which includes my poem Immigrant House.

Immigrant House recalls my experience growing up and entering the strange European interior of a friend from school. It was published in my first collection Lost Things,  and I’m pleased that it’s likely to find a new (and younger) audience here.

I’m also in pretty good company with poets like Robert Adamson, Ian Mcbride, Susan Hampton and CJ Dennis! also included in the collection.

Walker Books describe themselves as Walker Books Australia ‘the leading children’s publisher in Australia and New Zealand.’

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Chook Shed

On this morning’s walk along two local creeks, open to the sights and sounds of the world as you are sometimes at the start of a holiday break, I passed a local chicken farm and saw that it was closed down.

The shed was empty, though it looked like the pens and the wooden fittings were still intact. I had the urge to get in there and look around. I stopped to take a photo through the wire fence and the curtain opened briefly.

 


Windy afternoon

Went for a walk down to look at the bay after work tonight, with a strong easterly blowing almost straight offshore from the cliffs, making the bay look cold and blue, like metal, and swirling, eddying shapes on the water as the wind rushed over the cliff where I stood.

There was a boat anchored just offshore, just where the wind would have felt a little uncontrollable, and nobody seemed to be in it. Maybe they were diving off it.

Then, walking back, I was struck by the wind high in the gum tree and the sounds the wind made as it filtered through the leaves. I took some videos on my phone and put them together.

There may even be a poem in it.

 


My Books of the Year for 2015

My Books of the Year are unashamedly personal lists. They aren’t based on any votes or reviews and don’t generally cohere much with mainstream lists. That’s not entirely a bad thing. My book of the year is H is for Hawk, which won my non-fiction award this year.

Non-Fiction

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Winner: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

This book divides readers; it divided me as a reader, but like very good books when you read them, they startle and surprise and send your reading spinning off into new directions. I’m not sure I like the idea of trying to tame a hawk, nor am I sure I liked the persona here and her strange studied ignorance at times, but it’s beautifully written, and justly won the Samuel Johnson Prize, among others.

Highly recommended:

The Goshawk by T.E. White, an earlier hawking book that is directly and repeatedly references in H is for Hawk, and arguably a better book.

Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane. Macfarlane is one of my favourite writers in the genre my daughter derides as ‘landscape memoir’, and this again takes up his love of the landscape and the names that frame it, in a deliberate act of restoration and recovery.

Barbarian Days by William Finnegan. Finnegan’s surf memoir is anything but as limiting as that sounds. It’s a gorgeous, evocative, intimate account of growing up as a surfer and writer. It contains some of the most detailed descriptions of big wave surfing I’ve ever read and, more impressively, some of the most beautiful evocations of the power and terror of waves themselves. I listened to Finnegan read this as an audio book and I enjoyed that closeness and sense of intimacy with the writer.

Fiction

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Winner: Mason and Dixon by Thomas Pynchon.

Mason and Dixon was by far the most startling, difficult and interesting fiction I’d read for years. It’s not new, is nearly twenty years old, in fact, but seems fresh (though I did have some strange recall moments of Peter Carey’s fabulist tomes like Oscar and Lucinda and Illywhacker.

Highly recommended:

Let me be Frank with You by Richard Ford, new stories of middle America.

Poetry

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Winner: The Moon before Rising by W.S. Merwin

This is a lovely slim volume in the tradition of slim American volumes. Merwin is 86, former Poet Laureate of the USA, and an old master. But, though he reflects on ageing and mortality, it is with a precision and sharpness and loveliness too that is as sure as ever: as in:

All at once he is no longer

young with his handful of flowers

in the bright morning their fragrance

rising from them as though they were

still on the stalk where they opened

only this morning to the light

in which somewhere unseen the thrush

goes on singing its perfect song

into the day of the flowers

and while he stands there holding them

the cool dew runs from them onto

his hand at this hour of their lives

is it the hand of the young man

who found them only this morning

 

There’s a good review from the Guardian HERE

Highly Recommended: On Bunyah by Less Murray.

Nice to come back to old man Murray again! With some of Les Murray’s marvellous work rebundled here in a slightly more autobiographical format, coupled with some evocative photos of his family and local sites, the book stands as a nice reworking of Murray in a slightly more personal context.

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This list (C) Warrick Wynne 2015

 


Barbarian Days

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As a one-time surfer, and someone still in love with the sea, I’m conscious of just how difficult it is (and laughable it can be to real surfers) to try to describe to someone else the act of surfing.

So, I’ve been pretty impressed with Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan. It probably wont win my book of the year prize (teaser: full list coming soon!) but it’s just about the best thing I’ve ever read at capturing the act of surfing, and the beauty and terror of big surf.

I’ve been listening to this as an audio book (from Audible) and have been surprised at just how powerful that can be, especially perhaps, when read by the author themselves.

Highly recommended as I hone my book of the year awards! There’s a pretty good review from The Guardian HERE

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City of Stars

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I was delighted today to attend the launch, and read a poem, from a new collection called City of Stars, an ‘anthology of love poems for Frankston’ edited by Avril Bradley.

The new collection is published by Gininderra Press and features poems from Garth Madsen (the unoffical poet laureate of Frankston), Jennifer Compton, Ann Simic, Glenn Harper and others.

I was fortunate enough to have three poems included in the collection: Beginnings, The Day it Snowed in Frankston and The Wedding Train, about the train journey on the Frankston line, loosely inspired by Philip Larkin.

I read the one about the day it might have actually snowed in Frankston, inspired by a story a student named Eloise told me a long time ago.

It was good to hear some of the poems being read aloud, and to get together to celebrate a place that seems an unlikely catalyst for poetry at times. In praise of place.

You might be able to get a copy of City of Stars from local bookshops like Robinsons.

Below from left: Avril Bradley (editor) launches the collection, Jennifer Compton, Garth Madsen.

Avril Bradley Jennifer Compton Garth Madsen


Peninsula Writing – #6 – 1986

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The sixth issue of Peninsula Writing was perhaps the finest edition of them all. It was also the last. The magazine took on a theme approach for the first time, the Mahogany Ship, an almost mythical ship that had been sighted briefly half-buried in the sand dunes near Warrnambool that seemed to pre-date known European settlement.

This was the first cover that wasn’t by Gavin Duffy; a map of the Warrnambool sand dunes including the enigmatic site of wreck. Beyond that, the issue didn’t contain a lot of artwork.

The Mahogany Ship idea was an interesting choice, given that the Mahogany Ship history is located on the west coast of Victoria, a long way from the Mornington Peninsula. But the range of writing gathered together was significant.

The issue opened with Liam Davison’s fine story The Mahogany Ship, Melbourne poet Philip Martin generously allowed us to reprint his poem Dune Ship, which had just appeared in his own book, and he also wrote an interesting account of the genesis of that poem. followed by a poem by Judith Rodriguez The Mahogany Ship, Dune Ship on a Hot Day by Francis King, The Mahogany Ship by Warrick Wynne, Ship by Connie Barber, The Ship as Lover by Mary Chapman and The Mahogany Ship by Mimie F. Brown.

This was the first time in six issues that Liam Davison and myself had included our own creative writing in the magazine.

In the review sections we substituted the reviews for piece by Liam Davison: The Mahogany Ship in Australian Fiction

I think that issue five is the high point of the magazine, for the ideas and the quality of the writing and how the pieces bounce off each other, although you could argue that, for its artwork, issue four was the best.

There is no hint in this issue that it would be the last. In fact, the last page still seeks subscriptions. But it would be the final issue of this little magazine.

Below: Contents of Issue six

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Below: The Editorial for Issue six.

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Below: Poems by Francis King and Warrick Wynne

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Below: Extract from ‘The Mahogany Ship’ by Liam Davison

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