Nice to get down the coast early enough tonight for a long walk along the edge of the bay. More wintery than it should for this time of year, but a nice SW breeze coming off the bay which these birds seemed to be enjoying. I watched them for a while soaring and spiralling around a small bay, never once seeming to make any effort, totally graceful. I took about a minute of video on the phone.



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I called in to the ‘Nest’ exhibition at the McLelland Gallery near Frankston this weekend, and was glad I did. It was a bit wet for a real walk around the sculpture garden, but the ‘Nest’ exhibition was good enough by itself.

It consisted of two parts: “Nests: the art of birds”, curated by Dr Janine Burke, which describes itself this way:

What are nests if not art created by nature? Guest curator Dr Janine Burke has devised an exhibition which explores the beauty, ingenuity and originality of birds’ nests – from magpies to honeyeaters, from chaffinches to parrots, from hummingbirds to African weavers. Sourced from the collections of Museum Victoria and from the private collection of Gay Bilson, these exquisite constructions reveal the lives and habits of our closest wild neighbours. They tell the story of birds’ survival and adaptation to our ecologically fragile planet.

Nest displays the architectural skill of birds, their consummate ability to make work that is both delicate and durable, as well as the astonishing array of materials they use. This exhibition invites audiences to connect with nature in a new way – observe nests in all their resourcefulness, diversity and elegance.

The actual nests are beautiful and diverse, sometimes haphazard looking as a pile of leaves, other times as precise as a piece of pottery. I loved one that was wrapped in silken spider web and lined like an elaborate cushion. They were presented in glass cases, labelled, like they were art. Which was the point I guess.

The accompanying exhibition is called ‘Air Born’ and is described as:

AIR BORN brings together a vibrant collection of 19 contemporary artists’ work who through their varying artistic disciplines are inspired by birds, either as subject or who emulate through their work aspects of avian habitats and rituals.

Birds have played a vivid role in the conceptual and spiritual life of many cultures. AIR BORN inspires an exploration of these cultural traditions and symbology by unravelling varying ideas surrounding the bird and our interaction with them. The themes presented in these works traverse art and cultural history as well as ideas of adornment, volatility, migration, environment, place and identity.

My favourite piece here was John Wolseley’s larger watercolour. I’ve seen his work before, and have a copy of ‘Lines for Birds’, a collaboration between Wolseley and writer Barry Hill, which I also really enjoyed. There’s a short profile of Wolseley here.

I also grabbed a copy of Burke’s book Nest (Allen & Unwin, 2012) while I was there. It was a nice way to spend an hour or so and really interesting blend of the natural, the art and the written word.


Taking Flight

island birds


I’ve always been fascinated with birds and flying and planes and have never ever got complacent about sitting in an aeroplane and seeing the world below spread out like a hand-made quilt. I mean, what would Leonard da Vinci have given to have that view? So, of course that interest has flowed into my writing and I’ve written about birds and flight quite a bit, and am even planning a mini-collection of my own on that theme, probably in iBook format.

So,  given that interest, I was pleased to have a couple of poems accepted into a new collection called Taking Flight, published by Poetica Christi Press. The new collection is just what I was describing, a book of poems about flight and flying and I’m looking forward to seeing my two submissions: Swallow and Flying Over Europe in there, and in hearing what other writers have to say about the airy world. The collection is edited by Janette Fernando and launches towards the end of March.

resized taking flight book cover photo 7th feb 2013


Top photo: Island birds by Warrick
Bottom: Taking Flight Poems

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.