Varuna Writer-a-Day Project

Last week my new favourite fancy microphone I bought myself for Christmas came in  handy when I recorded some postcard poems for the Varuna Writer-a-Day Project. I recorded some poems for the project and they’ve gone online this week.

Varuna is a beautiful house in the Blue Mountains where I spent some time a long time ago on a writer’s residency. Varuna describe themselves as:

Australia’s national residential writers’ house in the former home of writers Eleanor and Dr Eric Dark. It has a long reputation for attracting and inspiring exciting new Australian writing and providing support for a thriving writing community. Writers can enjoy residential space with an extensive library, professional development opportunities and pathways to publication via selective programs and innovative partnerships

I spent some time just prior to my first book coming out and I was intoxicated by the physical and mental space of a couple of weeks just to write! I met some great people and made real progress on the manuscript, but also was inspired enough by the Blue Mountain landscape to write some postcard style pieces, some of which were published in the now defunct Bluey magazine. It was good to look at these pieces again and record them for a new audience.

My Blue Mountainalia poems are HERE on the Varuna blog. Words and audio!


Speaking to Blue Winds

Following on from the recent posts and comments on John Shaw Neilsen, I was pleased to the ABC Radio National program ‘Arts Poetica’ featuring Neilsen’s work this week. They describe it this way, and I think you can listen the program online HERE

John Shaw Neilson is widely regarded as one the great Australian poets. Neilson was himself the son of a bush poet. He was born in Penola in South Australia in 1872, and became a bush labourer at 14. He worked for many years alongside his father as a surveyor and fencer in Victoria and South Australia. On one occasion the pair nearly died of thirst near Scorpion Springs when they ran out of water while out in the field. As he walked, Neilson composed verse, committed to memory and refined them over long periods -up to two years in some cases. Such was his attention to the metre that he would often have to dismount from his horse in order to find the appropriate rhythm through his feet.
John Shaw Neilson interpreted the Australian landscape with awe and wonder, capturing the mystery and beauty he saw in the harsh Mallee country. Many of his poems also celebrated the birds of the district, notably the Smoker Parrot; so it comes as no surprise that his poetry has an uncommon musicality. His emotional landscape encompassed the isolation, loss, loneliness, joy and contentment of bush life. Neilson was active as a poet for the first thirty years of the new Commonwealth of Australia, and died in Melbourne in 1942.
In Speaking to Blue Winds, ABC producer Christopher Williams joins writer Paul Carter and painter John Wolsely as they retrace Neilson’s footsteps in the North-East Victorian Mallee country around Lake Tyrell. Neilson’s poems are read by Rory Walker.
John Shaw Neilson is also a central character in Paul Carter’s radiophonic drama Mac, which will be broadcast in Airplay to coincide with the 2011 Mildura Palimpsest, where a re-mixed version will be featured as a sound installation.

Top: Wimmera light, photo by Warrick (2011)

Gerald Murnane talks about ‘The Barley Patch’

This week I finally got around to listening to Gerald Murnane talking about The Barley Patch, his first book for 14 years, from the ABC Book Show (October 12). It’s a fascinating insight into the intricate symbology of Murnane’s ‘fiction’: race colours, grasslands, the plains, marbles, meaning within meaning.

The conversation is still online at the ABC for downloading HERE

A Pod of Poets

I knew about the Radio National poetry progam Poetica of course, a long running poetry program hosted by Mike Ladd; they’ve even broadcast a couple of my poems in their ‘First Hearing’ series aeons ago. But I didn’t know about the ‘Pod of Poets‘ project, which is an audio archive of a group of important Australian poets.

They describe it this way:

A Pod of Poets is a series of eleven, 40-minute podcasts of Australian poetry, read by the authors. The poets come from all over Australia; some are emerging talents and some are established; several of them are on the school syllabus.

The audio is available to download here and you’ll also find transcripts, photographs, interviews, and more. We hope that this website will be an ongoing resource for researchers, schools, universities and the general podcast audience.

The poets are: Robert Adamson, Les Murray, Joanne Burns, John Kinsella, Josephine Rowe, Craig Billingham, L.K. Holt, Aidan Coleman, Jayne Fenton Keane, Martin Harrison, Sam Wagan Watson, Kathryn Lomer, Esther Ottaway, John Clarke and Jordie Albiston.

Definitely worth a listen!

Old School Readers

Just happened to catch the ABC program Lingua Franca today with David Malouf talking about school readers, particularly his experience in Queensland and how three generations of Queensland children heard the same stories (of persistence, obedience, stoicism) and poems and the effect that might have.  Although he questioned the relevance of much of the writing to most children he also described them as ‘an excellent beginning for the writer to be’.

It made me think of those Readers I had, and the kinds of poems and stories I heard there that might have somehow shaped the kind of writing I later liked, and wrote myself.

The program has a full transcript online here or you can download and listen to the audio of the program at this link:


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The Snow Man by Wallace Stevens

‘The best short poem in the English language, bar none’ says Jay Keyster, and it is one of my all time favourites. I thought of it again today in preparing for a lecture to Year 11 students on the making of poetry.

The Snow Man
by Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Hear this poem read and discussed HERE

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Poetry Archive

What a simple and brilliant idea; audio of poets reading their work, archived here to be searched and listened to. I listened to Betjeman reading A Subaltern’s Love Song in his English church-masterly way. A pity it didn’t seem to work with my Firefox browser, but this was worth opening up Internet Explorer for!

Poetry Archive: “The Poetry Archive is the world’s premier online collection of recordings of poets reading their work.

You can enjoy listening here, free of charge, to the voices of contemporary English-language poets and of poets from the past. The Archive is growing all the time. Please come back regularly to enjoy our latest recordings.”