To be a poet one needs the six P’s – the pencil, the paper, the perception, the passion, the persistence and the unshakable persuasion that the poem is in fact possible and attainable. - Grace Perry

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Seeking the Sun: Australian Poetry 2012

I came home from work on Thursday to find a copy of the Central Coast Poet Inc.'s anthology Seeking the Sun: Australian Poetry 2012. I flipped the anthology open and scanned through the poets included, there were some great writers represented. Amazingly my name was in there. The anthology includes my poem 'Retirement and a Goat', which I submitted to the Henry Kendall Poetry Award. Thank you to David Musgrave and the team at Central Coast Poets Inc. for including my poem in this collection.

The anthology can be purchased from

Merry Xmas and Happy New Year everyone.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Zwischenräume - Spaces of Convergence

Check out the films of Ken Challenor, Di Barkas and myself reading our ekphrastic poems at the Zwischenräume - Spaces of Convergence exhibition.

Thanks to Adam Carr for all his hard work in getting these online and to Garry Jones for filming on the day.

My poem can also be read in a previous post here.


The Nan Tien Institute, SCWC (South Coast Writers Centre) and IAVA (Illawarra Association for the Visual Arts) invite SCWC poets to be part of a unique collaboration at this upcoming event. ‘Unfolding’ is an art exhibition that gives local artists and writers the opportunity to reflect on living in the ‘Asian Century’. The ‘Asian Century’ follows on from an American Century in the 20th century and a British Century during the 1800s, with concepts that allude to trans-cultural experiences across the globe, economically, politically, and philosophically. Two winning entrants will have the opportunity to perform before a huge audience, as the opening is part of the official Nan Tien Institute’s Graduation Day, for which some 4000 visitors are expected. In addition, the poems will be published in a colour catalogue. 

It was a joy and a challenge to respond to the theme 'living and working in the Asian Century'. Thank you to the Nan Tien Institute, SCWC and IAVA for the opportunity to submit a poem for this exhibition and for excepting my piece. 

To read my poem 'Conversing' please purchase the catalogue from IAVA or you can purchase it from the SCWC at  Gleniffer Brae (Wollongong Conservatorium of Music), 5 Robsons Rd (Corner of Robsons Rd and Murphys Avenue), Keiraville.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Poetry Open Mic - 24th November

 As I near the end of my cafe poet residency with Australian Poetry I would like to thank Gilbert's of Mittagong and Australian Poetry for helping me to establish this residency and for supporting me throughout.
Rhiannon Hall - Poet
I would also like to thank all those who came to talk about poetry with me and that attended one of my events, particularly thank you to Anna Kerdijk Nicholson and Mark Tredinnick for attending round table discussions about their poetry.
Peter Carmody - Sound Tech
On Saturday the 24th of November Susan Pearce and Peter Carmody from Carmody Out of Ireland met me at Gilbert's of Mittagong for the last of my poetry open mics. Susan and Peter have been amazing during my residency, lending me a PA system and setting it up for me. It has also been a pleasure to hear Susan's poetry. Susan's poetry is an observation of the culture and people that surround her and includes some fabulous lines, such as: " upside down view of the world..." (from a poem about taking her cat to the preschool she teaches at) and " is the... chemical smell of newly laid tarmac..." (in a poem that describes colours to someone who is blind). 
Susan Pearce - Poet
Treva Taylor - Poet
All the way from Wollongong, Treva Taylor from the South Coast Writers Centre, made a trip to Mittagong to entertain and challenge us with his poetry, that ranged from funny poems about mobile phones to emotional poems about poverty, war and the death of a child. Thank you Treva for making the drive and inspiring us with lines like, "...cast iron around his head..." and " eyes are watching the flow of electrons...".
Jared Camilleri - Poet
Repeat offender Jared Camilleri, again surprised us with his poetic skill. Jared's works have a depth to them that is awe inspiring for me. Congratulations Jared for your recent poetry reading on the local radio and good luck for your future publications.
Gregory Tome - Poet
Gregory Tome's poetry is always well crafted. Thank you Greg for joining me on many of my Fridays at the cafe to talk about poetry and for attending so many of my cafe poet events. I hope to see some of the poems that Greg read on Saturday in publication soon. From a poem about a woman pegging out clothes to a poem about a woman handing out potatoes at Auschwitz Greg captures small actions in such delicate detail.
Lorne Johnson - Poet
It was so exciting to have so many promising emerging poets at this event, including Lorne Johnson. Lorne has been generously offering me advice on my poetry and publishing opportunities, drawing my attention to a new Perth magazine called Regime. Lorne has been published in various places, including Meanjin, Regime, Rabbit and the Red Room Company's phone app The Disappearing. I especially enjoyed Lorne's poem about artist Adam Cullen. It has been a treat to meet you Lorne.
John Brown - Poet
Thank you to John Brown for capturing this event with your photography expertise. It was brilliant to hear John read some of his own poetry this time around. For someone who has not been writing for long John has a skill for words, capturing everyday life in his writing. An example of John's craft can be found in this line, "...brotherhood unspoken, but lived...".
Kerry Miller - Poet
Kerry Miller's poetry is often philosophical and always captures an interesting and well thought out concept. At the open mic Kerry read an anti-Pastoral poem with some harrowing lines, such as, "...skeletons of drowned trees..." and " a bowl of liquid sky...". 'Liquid sky', what a beautiful description of rain and flood. Although the image 'liquid sky' may be beautiful the reality of flood, as dangerous and destructive, is also conveyed in Kerry's poem in the words 'skeletons' and 'bowl'. Nothing can escape the effects of flood, everything is caught in the 'bowl'.
Ceinwen Hall - Artist
Thank you to my sister, Ceinwen, for joining us, supporting us and for reading out one of our Dad's, Phillip Hall, poems.

Thank you to the South Coast Writers Centre, HighlandFM, Highlife, and Highlands Post for their support, advertising my residency and events.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Round Table with Mark Tredinnick

Mark Tredinnick - photo by John Brown
Thank you to everyone who joined Mark Tredinnick and I at Gilbert's of Mittagong on Saturday the 10th for a chat about "the emotions, ideas and madness" behind his poetry, to borrow his words.

Mark Tredinnick was the winner of the Montreal Poetry Prize (2011) and the Cardiff Poetry Prize (2012). He is the author of numerous works of prose and poetry, including The Blue Plateau and Fire Diary. Mark is a busy person, and I am very grateful that he donated his time to us.

Mark appreciates Charles Wright's endeavor to "...write language, landscape and the question of god" and seeks to explore these themes within his own poetry. Mark's father once told him that "all good faith includes doubt and if there is not doubt it is fundamentalism". Therefore, Mark likes to question the existence of god in his writing. A good example of a poem by Charles Wright that does this is 'Last Supper'. Tredinnick's poems ‘The Kingfisher’ and ‘Catching Fire; or, The Art of Sitting’ are also good examples of this. 'The Kingisher' was short-listed for the 2011 Montreal International Poetry Prize. These poems are canticles of the world, they sing the world, praising the world. Indeed, Mark asserted that "all good poetry is religious in the sense that it is a reconnection with place, with nature". Monica Donoso Markovina said "we are like ants... part of the world and the poet is about making that reconnection".
"We are a society that is addicted to happiness and speed and light" - Mark Tredinnick
John Brown asked Mark, "When you write a poem, if you keep adding do you find you over work it?". Mark explained that sometime this can happen, but that normally "the Capricorn in me comes out and I stubbornly make it work". Indeed, he does make his poems 'work'. 'Frost', in Fire Diary, would be one of my favorite of Mark's poems. It blurs the distinctions between the human and non-human world, as the animals take on human actions, but the reality of this is questionable, as suggested through the use of the soft colours in the first tercet, which allude to a dream-like state. 'Frost' establishes an idealised place, one characterised by the pleasant atmosphere of a country setting. This is constructed through the fantastical imagery of a place that is softly coloured with ‘catkins’ and ‘pinkblossoms’, where a horse ‘slips his coat’ and ‘bluewrens picnic’.

A photo by John Brown
Greg Tome asked Mark if he ever used rhyme in poetry. Mark asserted that end-stop rhyme, or rhyme at the end of the line is archaic and that "rhythm is the real god of poetry". In saying this, he did note that there are 21st Century poets who use rhyme and use it well, such as Stephen Edgar. Mark believes that "most people need to be freed from rhyme to be able to write a real poem, they might be writing verse", they might be conforming to the rules of verse, but not be writing a good poem.

Monica told us that poetry is about appealing to the senses: "it's a sense thing, painting a picture in your head and feeling the rhythm". Mark agreed, stating, "poetry is something about lyricism... a poem is like a leaf that tells the tree... a poem is about everything".

Mark reminded us that if you want to be writing poetry you need to be reading it. He recommended joining the mailing list of This website emails daily poems, including classical and contemporary poetry. Another useful website to follow is This site emails contemporary American poems weekly. Mark said that "you read it all and then you shake yourself up and then you don't think of it at all". What you read will influence your thinking and your writing.
"A poem is a window, it gives you the view and the viewer at once and the dance... but the poem is the glass, it orchestrates a relationship" - Mark Tredinnick
Mark told us about his friend Li, who noted that Mark has a gift for sadness. Mark's poem that won the Montreal Prize, 'Walking Underwater', and his poem 'Cleave' in Fire Diary capture a sadness. Li said that the sadness in her poetry is wet, like rain, but the sorrow Mark captures is frozen like the ice in China in the winter time.
A photo by John Brown

Mark told us that every line of a poem is a poem and this is why he capitalizes the first letter of the line in some of his poems, to stress the line as a poem. This can be seen in his poem 'The Child & Time', which includes lines like "... / The child’s the string that played those words, / ... / Now he’s the syntax of the broken phrases of his sleep". Each line does indeed stand alone as a poem, exploring language and imagery.

Judith Beveridge once said that "the words are the story in the poem, they may tell a story as well". Mark quoted this sentiment to us as a demonstration of the importance of language in a poem. A poem may tell a story, but it should also be concerned with the meaning that sound, visual layout and language convey.

It has been said that Mark's poetry is a geography, "it is what it is and it has depth and bird music". Frans Wright believes that a poem doesn't want to describe a place it wants to be a place. Mark has pondered over these kinds of sentiments in writing his poetry. He likes to think about the relationship between his poetry and place as a correspondence, whereby the poetry is a reflection of the place, as well as there being a communication between the poem and the place.

One of the poems that Mark shared with us was called 'Global Warming'. Monica commented that as readers we are being lead through this poem through the rhyme and structure. Mark told us that that is an important point, "if you want to keep someone in your work you need to keep reminding them of the theme, content and what it is all about".

One of the guests asked whether Mark should be using Australian flowers in his poetry, which is set in Australia. Mark said that he doesn't believe so. He believes that nationalism gets in the way. He prefers to think of himself as a poet who writes on the South East coast of a continent, thus acknowledging the local and the universal in his writing.
"Nature is the story we are just in it" - Mark Tredinnick
Mark told us that many of his poems have started off as notes in his iphone. When he is out walking and a phrase comes to mind he has to record it. He said that if it is a "core phrase and I think that's too good to use so I have to make a poem to use that". I am glad that Mark does this and I look forward to reading more of his poetry in the future.

Please check out Mark Tredinnick's website here.

You can purchase Fire Diary at

Friday, October 26, 2012

Poetry in November

November 2012 events at a glance:

Sunday, 4 November, 2-3.30pm: Poetry of Place – A Poetic Mapping of the Illawarra landscape, at Wollongong City Gallery. Chaired by Rhiannon Hall.

Wednesday, 7 November, 6-8pm: Viva la Gong - Cultural Dialogues. Local authors will be part of a panel at the Wollongong City Gallery, speaking about their experience as writers in the region. Chaired by Simon Luckhurst.

Thursday, 8 November, 2-4.30pm: The Viva la Gong Rocket Readings, with guest poet Michael Sharkey and local poet Christine Paice, at the Wollongong City Gallery. Hosted by Linda Godfrey.

Friday, 9 November, 6-8.30pm: River Readings with Judith Beveridge at the Shoalhaven Arts Centre, Nowra, with a gold coin donation on entry. There will be open readings on the day, with a limit of five minutes. Poets must register on arrival. For bookings click here.

Saturday, 10 November, 2-4pm: Café Poet - Round Table Discussion with Mark Tredinnick at Gilbert's of Mittagong, 88 Main St, Mittagong.

Sunday, 18 November, 3-4pm: The Nan Tien Institute, SCWC and IAVA (Illawarra Association for the Visual Arts) art exhibition and poetry performances.

Saturday, 24 November, 12-3pm: Poetry Open Mic at Gilbert’s of Mittagong, 88 Main St, Mittagong.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gilbert's of Mittagong - tea party

How one's mind wanders when it should be focused on writing an honours thesis.

I don't drink coffee so when I am in the cafe for my poet residency I sip on herbal teas, one of which is called tea party. I just wrote this today so as per usual, this is a first draft. Please offer any commentary you might have.

Tea party
            A party of tea
Tea discoing down my throat a do I look hot
                                    Shimmy giggling with the remnants
            Of tequila days past
                        Tea streamers tickling nostrils
Lingering come and get me and with a flick
                                                Of hair
                        Tea booty shakes in a flourish of teapot
And cup
Even the saucer gets a lick
Warm and giddy tea drums my mind – faster faster
Slow – lights up after sex
cigarette plumes float in my belly
                        tea drunk I am spent but
tea tea parties on

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Writing the Sacred

The day begun with an Acknowledgement of Country by Aunty Ruth Bryant, who also tickled our taste buds with a poem of hers.
The event organisers Michael Griffith and Elaine Lindsay in their introduction to the day flagged Francis Webb as one of Australia's best place-based writers. Webb explores the sacred through the representations of 'nature' in his literature. They also mentioned Richard Kearney's research on the imagination, and how it is through the imagination that we access religious truths (throughout the conference it was stressed that religious and the sacred in literature can be interpreted as Religion or religious with a little 'r', a connectedness to something greater-than-human). Now I believe that it was Michael Griffith's who said the following, but please forgive me if I have mixed up my notes, by living the experience through literature, or by being immersed into the story, we understand the experience and the act of living.
" hand gently on a small tree and feel the happy quiver of a bird in full song" - Helen Keller

James Tulip referred to David Malouf as a 'fictionalising essayist'. Tulip believes that Malouf's voice comes through in his narratives, articulating his theoretical and theological ideology. Tulip flagged the following excerpt from The Great World as an example of this:
There was a third speaker, a man from the university who had written on Hugh Warrender and came here, as a good many of the mourners did, as a sharer in his public life, though public, as he pointed out, was the wrong word for something which, in the case of each one of them, and in the poet's case too, was so hidden that if one was to be true to the spirit of it, it could be referred to only in terms that were tentative and indirect.

He was speaking of poetry itself, of the hidden part it played in their lives, especially here in Australia, though it was common enough- that was the whole point of it - and of their embarrassment when it had, as now, to be brought into the light. How it spoke up, not always in the plainest terms, since that wasn't always possible, but in precise ones just the same, for what is deeply felt and might otherwise go unrecorded: all those unique and repeatable events, the little sacraments of daily existence, movements of the heart and intimations of the close but inexpressible grandeur and terror of things, that is our other history, the one that goes on, in a quiet way, under the noise and chatter of events and is the major part of what happens each day in the life of the planet, and has been from the very beginning. To find words for that; to make glow with significance what is usually unseen, and unspoken too - that, when it occurs, is what binds us all, since it speaks immediately out of the centre of each one of us; giving shape to what we too have experienced and did not till then have words for, though as soon as they are spoken we know them as our own.
Jeannette Siebols' Love poem II, 2009 
image sourced from Liverpool Street Gallery
Tulip told us that within these paragraphs Malouf's ideas about poetry and religion are explored.

After a delicious morning tea of warm apple pastries David Malouf, James Tulip and Michael Griffith sat down for a discussion about 'presence and metaphor as a way of releasing the sacred in David Malouf's work'. Insightfully, Malouf said that "prayer is a form of paying absolute attention to the world". He commented that he "doesn't want to put the sacred outside this world and all its objects". I liked Malouf's position on the sacred as within this world, as it correlates with my own beliefs. I like to look for majestic and spiritual experiences in the everyday. Malouf said that his characters "pay attention to the world around them, seeing themselves in it and the world within themselves, and in this way they find their own presence". Malouf gave this line out of Ransom as an example of this: "He indicated to the man that he should sit, then sat very contentedly himself, letting the goodness of the cool clean water extend its reviving benefit from his feet to his whole being". A member of the audience pointed out that such an attention to connectedness found in Christianity has been influenced by Zen Buddhism theories of mindfulness and mediation practices.

I think it was Michael Griffith who said that there are two kinds of prayer: 1) intercession and 2) thanks for what is there. It was also mentioned that Ruth Burrows once asked "is connectedness to the universe an experience of God?". Griffith, Malouf and Tulip agreed that it is a question of semantics, that God and the sacred can be found in the natural world if the signifiers are clear.
Sacredness is for everyone - Paul Valery
Jeannette Siebols' Orpheus, 2009
image sourced from Liverpool Street Gallery
Jeannette Siebols, six times finalist in the Blake Prize, presented on her artworks. I was unsure if I liked her Tower of Bable at first, but on seeing more of her pieces I felt that I better understood her work. I then gave Tower of Bable a bit more time, allowing myself to take in the complexities of the image. Siebols' exploration of the aesthetics of written text is very interesting and her use of texture, colour and whiteness is enchanting. I recommend looking her artworks up and can't wait to catch an exhibition to experience the spirit of her paintings.
"How shall a poor man sing. When all the birds compete?" - John Shaw Neilson

The McGlade Gallery at the Australian Catholic University in Strathfield is currently hosting the exhibition 'Halo and the Glory of Art'. This exhibition is worth catching, there are some very interesting pieces. I was particularly drawn to Julian Martin's piece Not titled (Black shape on white). Peter Fay launched the exhibition and made some interesting comments on the labelling of artworks. Fay desires labels to be removed from artworks so that gallery visitor's viewings of pieces are not influenced by artist's names, the titles of the works or the mediums the works have been constructed with. Thus, works are equalised, as visitors won't skip over pieces that are by an artist unknown, to invest more time on known artist's works. This also allows the initial response to an artwork to be more individualised for the viewer of the piece. Fay would like to see the names, titles and mediums of the works to be published in a catalogue, which can be collected on entering the gallery.

"But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease". - Helen Keller

After a lunch of fresh Turkish bread, salad and cold meat sandwiches Toby Davidson presented on '"Dragon-flies Draw Flame": Francis Webb at Galston'. Davidson claimed that Webb selects words from the landscape, instead of laying language over the land Webb writes the language of the place. Davidson recommended Webb's poem 'The Black Cockatoos' for anyone interested in entering into the world of Francis Webb.
"Bird song is reverberating touch" - Andrew Sand

Jeannette Siebols' Love letter viii, 2009
image sourced from Liverpool Street Gallery
Barry Spurr discussed the 'sacredness of place in T S Eliot's Four Quartets'. Spurr noted that modernists have been considered anti-Romantic, but this opinion has changed as the continuity of Romantic sensibilities, particularly ideas around the sacred and 'nature', can be seen in much modernist literature. As Spurr asserted the concept of the sacred in place is thoroughly Romantic.

Robert Adamson read a selection of his poems. It is such a pleasure to hear Adamson's poetry. He has an amazing nack for constructing original and beautiful imagery. Toby Davidson also read one of his poems and I am now eagerly awaiting the release of his first book of poetry later this year.

The day ended with most of the speakers and the audience reflecting on the days talks and the theme 'writing the sacred'. The most noteworthy points that came out of this were as follows:
  • Connection with landscape enables a clarity and sense of immediacy.
  • A deep presence in landscape leads to an experience of sacredness.
  • An epiphany of the natural world requires a close attention to place.
  • Through an epiphany of the natural world an appreciation of the act of creation will be found, as we find a deeper connection with the significance of natural events.
  • The world enlivens a theological idea.
  • Light and darkness is seen in the world because of the ways that writers have previously written about these things.
  • Theories of limitlessness view the sacred as unmeasurable.
  • To read country is to understand the layers of Indigenous sacred meaning.
  • Charles Harper writes of Australian birds which are now extinct, capturing the nature of these birds in a way that will never be able to be repeated.
  • The sacred is in the connection.
  • "Birds are the closest things to angels" - Robert Adamson.
  • "As Orpheus discovered, there are no birds in hades" - Robert Adamson.
  • Religion and the desire for the sacred is a valid and basic expression of the human spirit.
  • Robert Grey finds the sacred in the absolutely ordinary.
  • The sacred as it is expressed in the arts can be free from dogma.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Occam's Aftershave

John Watson's collection Occam's Aftershave was a delight to read. Watson's poetry is philosophical and the major theme of this collection is poetry; the forms of poetry and the relationship that readers have with poetry.

I was in love with his writing style from the first poem, which I heard him read at the Carrington Hotel in Katoomba. 'To the Faithful Reader' is a poem full of wit. Taunting us as readers, "...if you believe this you'll believe / Anything, and are thereby God's Gift to Fabulists" (7).

Watson's poetry is metafictive. The poems in this collection are continually reminding us that we are readers, preventing us from being absorbed into the world the poem is constructing, but easily entertaining us with Watson's ability with the craft of writing. The sequence 'Cow Pastures' consists of various short form poems, for example, limericks and haikus. The series explores language through a discussion of a tract of land called the Cow Pastures, after a group of stray, wild cows. Watson writes in 'Cow Pastures: Without the Letter e':
Sun and rain on cows waking and walking daily
In paddocks without plough or human hand
With stringy-bark and blackbutt shadows passing at noon
Across a shallow cliff and against high cloud;
Cloud cows multiplying month on month as if making cud,
A moist black calf standing and swaying and lowing,
Is this not a sign of worlds in formation
Occurring with a total lack of human thought?

Another great sequence in this collection is 'Bellingen Writers' Festival', with fabulous lines like:
...There should be poets on the street. Instead
Teenage girls are shouting Oh my God.

...A valley reservoir of metaphor...
Yet at the festival with wine and cheese
The writers seem oblivious of these.

I highly recommend this collection it is an expert architecture of language.

You can purchase Occam's Aftershave here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cafe Rosso

Check out my poem in the August-September 2012 edition of Sotto. Sotto is Australian Poetry's online journal and I am honoured to have my poem nestled in between some wonderful articles and poetry reviews.

Cafe Rosso
By Rhiannon Hall

grey thunders Bowral skies
two women with windswept hair
warming over cannelloni, their cappuccinos cupped.

Lovers lean across tables, faces almost touch;
Order seafood—Grigliato Misto, white wine.

Big men, cocky as sunshine yellow parrots,
chucking back macchiatos; riffling work schedules,
envy every casual diner.

Waitresses flitting across the room,
enjoy sweet meringue aromas,
the delicate perfumes
of stout women waiting to pay.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Feather in My Hair - Review

Heather Murray Tobias situates her poems, in the collection 'A Feather in My Hair', within specific places. Below each poem in this collection the place and date that the poem was produced is stated. This is not a technique I’ve previously seen in a poetry collection, but I thoroughly enjoyed. In my honours thesis this year I have been exploring how representations of place are constructed in contemporary poetry. It is clear that place is important to Tobias.

The book begins with the poem 'Rosellas Feeding on Birch Catkins'. This poem captures the colour and movement of royal blue and crimson rosellas feeding, overbalancing and hanging upside down from a branch in Upwey. The imagery and language in this poem is simple, which I believe allows Tobias to exaggerate the naturalness of the scene described and gives the reader a sense of immediacy, allowing the reader to enter into the scene presented.

'White-Faced Heron' is an amusing poem. The bird here is a threat to the speaker's favourite fish, as the bird stands over the garden pond. I enjoyed the stillness of the bird and how it was not concerned about the speaker's wagging finger.

I like the rush of the cuckoo-shrike at the end of 'In 1993'.

In the poem 'Predators' there is a lovely ripple of movement, exaggerated by the short lines and the alliteration and repetition of 'swoop and swerve'.

'A Magpie Child' captures an intimate scene of a magpie chick sunbaking and hunting for christmas beetles. This poem captures a wonderful attention for detail as the speaker celebrates the naturalness of a magpie chick just being:
    Today I watched a magpie child
    sun-baking near the hakea's bole;
    ten moments passed then some more -
    I sat and watched, engrossed, enthralled...

Samples of Tobias' work and a brief bio can be found here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Our Literary Heritage: What role do the classics play in our culture?

A panel consisting of Shane Maloney, Wayne Macauley, John Tranter and Susan Wyndham, Chaired by Jane Gleeson-White discussed 'Our Literary Heritage: What role do the classics play in our culture?' at the Byron Bay Writers' Festival.

John Tranter defined the classic, in Latin - classicus, a work of superior literature.

Tranter said that: "classics can change your life".

The panel discussed Michael Hayward's Text Publishing Classics. Hayward believes his 30 books are classics, but they are not on university courses. Tranter believes that when people say that classics should be on university courses they are talking about their bank balances and not about culture.

Susan Wyndham told us that a classic is a story passed down through generations, but there are also new classics like Where the Wild Things Are.

Wayne Macauley asserted that classics are a marketing excercise. Macauley's writing skills were self educated, gained from looking for Penguin classics in books shops, taking books home and reading them. Macauley enjoyed collectiong the black spined Penguin books from second hand book shops and these books formed his writing education.

Shane Maloney said "I wasn't really interested in classics until I was made one".

Hayward has made a Text Publishing series of books he believed had been over looked.

Maloney think it is funny how many 'instant classics' there are out there: "it is remarkable how instant they often are and not classics".

Maloney did acknowledge that he has enjoyed reading the forward in Penguin classics. The forward frames the book. "A death in Brunswick inspired me to write because you know if he could do it any fucking idiot could and that won't be in the introduction".

Susan Wyndham believes that: "literature helps to define periods of a nation. Texts are snapshots to help us see how we've developed over time and it's our own selection that determines how this will look to future generations".

Wayne Macauley agreed, saying: "classics make up how we see ourselves".

John Tranter told us that: "not much international literature has been influenced by Australian classics, except Patrick White - he has had some influence". Malouf told Tranter "the older you get the more you'll realise that you speak with an Australian accent. It doesn't matter where you've been or what you do".

Best quote from this session I think, was Tranter's comment that: "all Australians carry around pictures of poets in their pockets everyday. There are two poets on the $10 note".

Hayward is pushing for a quota of Australian literature to be taught in the universities. Tranter believes that: "if you want to kill a book you put it on a university list - no one likes the books that they are made to study at university".

Wayne Macauley is not convinced that a book dies after being put on a syllabus.

Shane Maloney said that: "in approaching fiction I'm allergic to the notion of instruction. If a book is said to be able to better me, I will steer well away".

Margo Laidley-Scott's blog post on this panel discussion can be read at the Byron Bay Blog site.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Future of Reading

The Byron Bay Writers' Festival session titled 'The Future of Reading' featured James Cowan, Andy Griffiths, Rhoda Roberts and Vikki Wakefield.

Andy Griffiths believes that "all text stories still have their own appeal, and win!" By all text stories Griffiths is talking about children's books that don't contain pictures. He believes that this is because 'all text stories' "allow for imagination!"

I was startled by the figure shared in this panel - "46% of Australians literacy skills are not high enough for daily activities like reading the newspaper".

Vikki Wakefield said "I want people to develop a love for reading. The ability to read is not just a life skill, it's a life saving skill".

Wakefield is a young adult writer and talked about the 'terrible teens' - "teenagers try to find the unoccupied space in their family, by dressing in black, etc, because it is normally that dark role that is available". She said how empowering it is to look back and realise that your family was always there. Wakefield hopes that important messages are conveyed within her stories, such as 'don't run off'.

Rhoda Roberts discussed how literacy skills are lower for Indigenous people than Europeans. She noted that the major cause for this is that there are not many references on TV, in magazines, books, etc. There are few Indigenous characters in texts for Indigenous readers to relate to.

Roberts said that Indigenous youth gain stories for various medias, including digital medias, such as mobile phones and youtube (check out the Chooky Dancers). Roberts told us that Indigenous people tell stories in a broad range of ways.

Roberts believes that there are many issues with the Government 'Close the Gap' policies: "there is no mention of culture or intergnerational exchange of knowledge". Close the Gap aims to ensure all Indigenous people have housing, schooling, etc, but culture will be lost. For Indigenous people literacy is about reading a book, but it also about reading country.

Thanks to the panelists for a great discussion. Some very important points raised!

Callan Brunsdon has also blogged about this session, check it out here.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Poetry Open Mic

"Poetry begins in reading" - John Tranter
All enthralled by Kerry Miller's poetry
As cafe poet at Gilbert's of Mittagong, I have just held my fist poetry open mic today. It was a great day, with good food as always. Thank you to all of the staff for being so supportive of my residency and of poetry.

Susan Pearce dazzles us all with her talent
Everyone in the cafe today was dazzled by Jared Camilleri, Kerry Miller and Susan Pearce's poetry.
"A poem is something that the heart says to the mind, says to the body - poetry is an embodiment" - Mark Tredinnick
Rhiannon Hall reading a poem at Gilbert's of Mittagong
Thank you to Peter Carmody for organising a sound system for me.

"Poetry is a language awake to its connections" - Jane Hirshfield
Deeply engrossed in Jared Camilleri's poem
Thank you John Brown for taking photos of the event.

I hope to see more poets at my next open mic on the 24th of November. Here's a great blog post by Pip Smith about reading poetry out loud.