iamb – Poetry Seen and Heard


In my eyes (or ears) poetry is meant to be heard as well as seen. I love hearing author’s read their own work, and the subtle rise and fall of intonations or nuance.

So, I was pleased to hear about iamb (poetry seen and heard), a site for contemporary poetry. They say: ‘Part library of poets, part quarterly journal, iamb is where established and emerging talents are showcased side by side. Not just their words, but their readings of them. Expect new poems, every three months, free to your device of choice’ and ‘auditions’ are open at limited time periods.

It’s a simple premise. Each online ‘issue’ features fifteen or twenty poets, each poet gets three poems and the poems are there as text as well as audio form. They freely admit that the basic concept is inspired by The Poetry Archive

There’s plenty to enjoy here, and the audio format just gives the work another dimension.


I was glad tonight to be able to get to the Melbourne launch of Brook Emery’s new book Collusion, published by John Leonard Press. 
I’ve enjoyed Brooks’s work for a while now so it was nice to see him again and hear him read from this interesting new collection; a book that seems quite different in its universality than his more local earlier things. It’s not that simple, of course. This book seems firmly grounded too except it’s not about one place, but THE place we all find ourselves in – looking at things, and how they rub against us, firmly in the face. 

The Wing Collection

I was pleased this week to be able to get to the launch of Diane Fahey’s new and selected poems, The Wing Collection, published by Puncher and Wattmann at the venerable Collected Works Bookshop.

I’ve known Diane for a long time (I met her originally at residency in Varuna in the 1980s) and have admired her poetry, especially her poems of place and the natural world. And, with nine collections already out, a selected poems was about due.

It’s a nice looking book, and it was good to see some of her best poems all together in one place. She read some of them, including a series from the Hummingbird series, which I enjoyed.

Below: Diane, reading from the new collection at the launch.

Collected Works

In these days of the instant and the online (and I’m as guilty? of that as anyone I suppose) it’s good to be reminded about the importance of that most valued and rare object; the quality bookshop.

And I was reminded of that again, ironically, in Laurie Duggan’s most recent blog post on the virtues of Collected Works Bookshop inMelbourne. Run by the legendary Kris Hemensley, (read an AGE tribute to him HERE), Collected Works is simply the best place to buy in poetry in Melbourne. Melbourne is a literary city, with more good bookshops than most cities its size, but Collected Works is the best of them when it come to poetry. Collected Works was under threat from a rent increase late last year but things seem to be okay now.

Here’s an extract from Kris’s piece published online from the Ballarat Writers Centre late last year:

My Fellow Australians…
We will fight them on the beaches…
no, start again!
Dear friends,
We’ve had to consider our future in light of the expected rent rise for our bookshop, to take effect 1st January 11… And, though it may be an extension of the same folly which had us open up in the first place, we will continue! The prospect of moving elsewhere was as awful as that of closing! But the price of the new 4 year lease will hurt, unless I can generate more sales and support. The point about the Shop is that though it is a little company, in the market place, it’s never been profit oriented. Most of the receipts go into stock. The wages are minimal. Rent and stock are the major outgoings. The purpose of the Shop has always been to support writing, especially poetry–Australian Poetry and literature within an international literary context.
That’s the rationale which makes the bookshop unique (certainly in Australia and New Zealand, possibly further afield). We obviously have sufficient support to be mentioned in the City of Literature document, but for all sorts of reasons support through the bead curtain is less than it might be. The recent rent hike squeezes us even more!
The question remains, is there a place for an actual bookshop in this time of online purchasing, the ebook and other new technologies? A rhetorical question for me : the bookshop is a home for readers and writers of poetry and prose, a home for little presses, a venue for launches and readings, as it has been for 25 years or so. In a word, we’re there for cultural as well as bookselling reasons.
Our acceptance of the new lease will probably be sent this week!
It will be a great encouragement to know if you support us
Perhaps a start might be making a new “friends of Collected Works” address list (email), for Melbourne and Australia generally. If you’re interested please do write or phone or visit us!
Kris Hemensley


Kris Hemensley’s blog is HERE There is also a Facebook page for the shop.

Long may Collected Works continue!

[Kris Hemensley photo from Flickr by AdrianWiggins]

Non-Fiction Book of the Year

What is it about autobiography that’s so hard to get right? And yet is so powerful when it is? Possibly the ego, and what must be an almost overwhelming temptation to paint yourself in a better light than you actually were at the time. And that can be transparent. But good autobiography is compelling and this is the best I’ve read since I read Nabokov’s remarkableSpeak Memory, a few years ago now. This is the story of the emergig artist/writer, of accidental encounters and escapes, living through and participating in World War II on the German side, and emerging as a writer at the end. This generated some controversy in Germany as Grass recounts his involvement in the Hitler Youth, but it’s beautifully told and a compelling narrative too.


I also liked Gary Snyder’s environmental poetry essays, The Practice of the Wild and that particularly Californian brand of West Coast Buddhism that emerges. More in the natural world realm was Leviathan, the remarkable story of man’s encounters with the biggest creature in the sea: the whale, and all the tragedy (literary and otherwise) of those encounters. A nice surprise too was ex Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries, an example of that very modern phenonomenon of a blog becoming a book and chronicling his close encounters with various cities of the world on his folding bicycle. Part travel diary, part musical exploration, it’s very readable. Did the fact that I saw this book first in the Strand Bookshop in NY influence my affection for this book and maybe even influence it’s inclusion here? Perhaps!


Fiction Book of the Year

I thought I’d post the notes about my book of the year here as well as my web site, for your reading pleasure!


I was struggling where to place Gerald Murnane’s first book in years: fiction, non-fiction, autobiography, memoir, fantasy? All of the above. And none of course. Murnan is a unique voice in Australian literature, a previous winner of my book of the year with A Lifetime on Clouds. He’s one of those ‘love him or hate him’ kind of distinctive voices that you’re either going to throw down at the end of Chapter 1 or be in raptures as this suburban Calvino. I’m obviously in the latter camp. Murnane is obsessed and obsessive. Nothing much happens. I don’t even know if this is fiction, and that’s what half the book is about. The other half is what’s in that grove of trees just beyond the fence line, beyond the wheat field at the edge of the imagination.


I thought the anti-narrative Paul Auster made a pretty good comeback with Invisible I often often think that Auster’s work seems so effortless somehow, he’s a kind of natural story-teller, would have been better living in the time of Dickens or Trollope but he’s a bit too immersed in the post-modern for any of it to somehow … matter? Sometimes he does pull it off. This isn’t as good as his book Brooklyn Follies, but hey, that doesn’t come around every year! I accidentally read Spies by Michael Frayn this year too, as part of my reading for the Year 12 English course. It’s a kid of poor man’s L.P. Hartley (the past is a foreign country…) but surprisingly enjoyable in that English novelist kind of way like I find Ian McEwan is. Finally, if you like good atmospheric southern gothic crime writing it’s hard to go pass James Lee Burke’s latest The Glass Rainbow. What began ages ago as a kind of guilty pleasure on holidays, the Robicheaux series about a New Orleans detective working and living in the faded Southern landscape of grand old houses, slave cottages, Civil War remnants, a Nazi submarine sunk during World War II that drifts up and down the coast under the water and repressed and ancient racism and violence, became a new kind of landscape writing for me.