Liam Davison featured at Shorts@45

I saw this week that a forthcoming event at FortyFive Downstairs (Flinders St, Melbourne) is going to feature a reading of a short story by writer Liam Davison, tragically killed last year. In my opinion Liam’s stories were among his very best work; his collection The Shipwreck Party is one of my favourites. It will be interesting to see what story they choose and no doubt moving for his friends and admirers to hear his work aloud again and reflect on the work that didn’t get written.


More details here.

Here’s to summer


One of the nice things about living in Melbourne is that you actually get to experience four distinct seasons. I think I’d find it disconcerting now to live somewhere where things don’t change much, or maybe the changes are more obvious (wet season / dry season) or more invisible. Four seasons works well for me! I was listening to a meteorologist on the radio yesterday proclaiming the start of summer as Dec 21, the longest day. But I’d always thought of it as December 1. Wouldn’t the longest day be in the middle of summer?

I saw a great diagram a few years ago of Aboriginal conceptions of ‘seasons’ and how different they look. And this Herring Island website, argues for a six season kind of division in Melbourne. I don’t know. The four seasons has such resonance for those of us with European background (all those Keats poems…) and it may not really work for Australia or even Melbourne, but I kind of like it. Anyway, here’s to summer.  A nice feeling to be on holidays and setting up some writing.

It’s probably also a perfect time to thank everyone who’s been reading and responding to this blog over the last year. Just when you think no-one is listening, you find someone is. Best wishes to you all for whatever season you find  yourself in right now.


Top picture from a 1948 Little Golden Book. ‘Six seasons of Melbourne’ below from Herring Island site quoted above.

Best Australian Writing 2013

I was delighted to hear recently that a poem of mine called ‘Hands’ has been selected for inclusion in Best Australian Poems 2013, published by BlackInc. John Tranter is editing this year’s collection and writes on the BlackInc website:

‘I was struck … by just how many poems depended on the ancient devices of the storyteller … Many have a lyrical or meditative feel, but most have a story to tell, captured in a brief glimpse of the meaning of life, or a dramatic climax.’—

I’m really pleased because the annual BlackInc collections are so impressive; they do an annual one on poems, essays and stories. Long-time readers of this blog will know I was featured last year too.

You can read more, and look at lists of all the contributors here: The books will be available in hard-copy and digital form from November 5th and make fantastic Christmas presents!


Seeing the place for the first time

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
(T.S. Eliot)

I like those moments that help you see a place as it might have been in the past, especially places you might have thought you knew pretty well. I’m interested in those juxtapositions of photos you sometimes see, where you overlay the historical image over the modern city, and see how much (or how little) has changed.

Couple that, with the power and pathos of the concept of dispossession and you have the potential to transform your perspective.

So it was for me recently when I was lucky enough to do the Birrarung walk with Dean Stewart from the Koori Heritage Trust. He took us along a non-descript section of the Yarra in Melbourne from near the Aquarium up to the monstrosity that is Crown Casino and allowed us a window into a different world: the world of early Melbourne as well as the place as it existed before there was such a concept as ‘Melbourne’.

It was a privilege to be allowed into the world as he sees it. He showed us images of early Melbourne, from the perspective where they were painted, but more powerfully shared with us the place as it was before: the wetlands, the crossing place over the waterfall and the smells and sounds of the birds, animals and vegetation as it was then. It was a moving experience, not just because of the passion and understanding of the place, but because of the sense of all that has been lost too.

I recommend it if you’re visiting Melbourne, or if you’ve lived in Melbourne all your life and you think you know it. You probably don’t.

You can read more about this walk, from the AGE and the Sydney Morning Herald HERE.

Lines for Birds

I took the opportunity this morning to head into Melbourne on a beautiful Sunday morning for a session at the Melbourne Writers Festival. I haven’t been in the last couple of years, and good poetry seems to be in scant supply in this age of fashionable fiction, but the collaboration between poet Barry Hill and artist John Wolseley on a book about birds did appeal to me.

I wasn’t disappointed. Lines for Birds is a beautiful collaboration. The poet and artist spoke for about an hour, showing images from the book and reading poems. It was an odd and amusing double-act and one of those rare occasions when the poet sounded sensible and rational alongside the artist who was eccentric and somewhat rambling and ill at ease with the workings of the projector, but whose work shone with vividness and lucidity that occasionally elicited audible gasps from the small but appreciative audience.

And the poems were good too, mostly it seems following the artist’s vision and responding to the works of arts even more directly than they were responding to the birds. It was well worth the short journey in and great too to see the long lines of Melburnians waiting to hear Jonathan Franzen in another venue. Writing, it seems, is alive and well despite our uneasiness about the rise of the e-book.

And this lovely looking book, with its colour illustrations and beautiful use of white space, is not any time soon going to be replaced with a digital version. I bought a copy and was happy to have it signed and happy too enjoy the delicate little ink drawings Wolseley had put around the title page of some of the copies for sale.

I should add too that it was interesting to hear the artist talk about John Shaw Neilson and his poetry given that I’ve just been thinking about Neilson and his work and that I’d even quoted from one of Neilson’s poems about birds in the previous blog post and that was before I even knew about this session. Birds, landscape, poetry, art, they all ripple out and echo in together somehow at the moment.

Watermark Literary Muster

Not totally convinced about the design features of the Watermark Literary Society brochure that arrived this week; reminds me a bit of the student handbook from Melbourne State College in 1975, but hey, maybe that’s the point.

But, I love the idea of the backyard as a conference theme, and it’s still a conference I have always wanted to get to.