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

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Little Mountain Readings - Poetry Workshop

Saturday 15 November, 10.00 am–1.00 pm – Ron Pretty will lead a poetry workshop, Drafting: A Creative Process, at Sturt Cottage, Mittagong. 

Participants will explore ways of developing a first draft into a fully crafted poem. The workshop will explore the creative aspects of the process, including line breaks, language, imagery and structure. 

Participants are asked to bring several of their current poems. 

Fees (including tickets for the Little Mountain Readings in the afternoon) are $85 full fees, $65 Friends of Sturt and SCWC members and $45 for under 18s. 

Bookings essential on (02) 4860 2083 (Sturt Cottage). Information on (02) 4228 0151(South Coast Writers’ Centre).

Friday, October 24, 2014

Little Mountain Readings 2014

Saturday 15 November, 5.00 pm–8.00 pm – Little Mountain Readings will present acclaimed local poets Jessica Raschke and Mark Tredinnick, alongside poets Peter Bakowski and Ron Pretty at Sturt Cottage, corner Range Road and Waverley Parade, Mittagong. 

Bring along your poems! Open mic with book prizes and the inaugural lead logie (LMR pencil) to be won. 

Refreshments provided. 

Bookings from the South Coast Writers’ Centre at or from Sturt Cottage on (02) 4860 2083. $25/$15 (SCWC members and Friends of Sturt Cottage).

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Books I have read - Navigation by Judy Johnson

A trade with my dad (we both had accidentally purchased books we already owned) rewarded me with a copy of Navigation by Judy Johnson.

The blurb states that: "Navigation contains poems that are short, sharp pieces drawn from her abiding concerns with family, death, and love". As I sat at Central train station reading her explorations of these human concerns I felt that the bustling of life around me was the ideal setting to get lost in Johnson's words.

'Paper Dolls' is an honest scene from a childhood, exploring the innocence of youth and the conflict that can occur in adult relationships. I remember paper dolls and paper bikinis from my own childhood, the concentration and care needed to pop all of the pieces out and neatly fold the tags so that the 2D figures could be as glamorous as their glossy haired barbie doll cousins. Through her description of the attention given to these dolls Johnson explores the child's emotional response to the sound of fighting from the next room:
I push hard on the perforations.
                         She comes away in two pieces.

Johnson writes poignant images, such as: "I remember the ground / dog-nose damp beneath my feet", capturing the imagination of a child and the sometimes uncomfortable relationship between father and daughter in her poem 'A Month Before my Father Died'.

A poem that resonates with me is 'At the Temple of Sisters'. Someone close to me has been recently diagnosed with cancer and in this poem Johnson describes the cruelness of the disease:
But snares and exorcisms don't work. 
There is nothing to offer your cancer
that it doesn't already have.

Johnson's longer poems in this collection are historical narratives of whalers, a whaler's wife and the Tuniit people of the Antarctic. Here is a harrowing description of doing the laundry on a whaling vessel from her long poem 'A Whaler's Wife at Sea':
...After they are dragged 
back in I sew the body-eaten ghosts
of drowned sailors with thick twine 
onto the strung line.

Warrick Wynne has written a review of Navigation which can be found here. He discusses the diversity of poems and the four parts within the collection, stating that: "[he] found it a little difficult to find the centre of it all, or something like the true voice, if indeed that’s the quest. The book is diverse and moves from the past to the present and back again fluently and is as comfortable with the story as the lyrical moment". For me the centre of the collection is this theme of family, death and love.

I agree with Wynne that the first section, 'Ties', contains the strongest poems of the collection. These poems delve into difficult and sometimes uncomfortable emotions and display an impressive control of language. 'Cannas' is a perfect example of Johnson's rich imagery and description of the external world, alongside an exploration of our 'inner worlds' that Peter Boyle has praised her for. She captures the flowers, their "Garfield-orange, / fresh-wound red, / lemon-spread yellow" colouring and their "elastic javelin" stems. At the same time, she writes of the complexities of coping with cancer, "terminal clusters" that "flows like heredity /through my dreams".

To purchase a copy of Navigation visit 5 Island Press here.

Johnson's most recent book Stone Scar Air Water can be purchased here.  

Monday, September 29, 2014

Journals I have read - Australian Poetry Journal: #concrete vol3, no2

This issue of Austalian Poetry's journal is all about concrete poetry. Bronwyn Lea's introduction to this edition, the last edition of the journal that she will be editing, provides some great insight into the value of concrete poetry: "[t]he tiny components of written language are rendered almost invisible to us in our race to extract all-important 'meaning'. But in concrete poetry, language stands in our way: letters and words fight - through scale or arrangement - for visibility" (2014). I think that all poetry insists that we pay attention to each 'tiny component' of language, for in poetry each word and punctuation mark is selected for a particular reason and concrete poetry is not the only form of poetry that explores the aesthetics of words and letters. However, the way that "concrete poetry deals with the relation between the visible form and the intellectual substance of words", as Robert Simanowski puts it, is indeed intriguing (Lea 2014).

As interesting as the theory behind concrete poetry is it is not my favourite form of poetry. The experimentation in the aesthetics of language is sometimes beautiful and sometimes interesting, but I often struggle to understand the meaning behind the word art. Perhaps there is no meaning other than a celebration of the text, or it may be that I am unable to see beyond the visual.

Two poems in the edition that I did find meaning in as well as aesthetic interest are Jill Jones' 'While It Seems' and James Stuart's 'Adrift and Out'.

In 'While It Seems' the persona moves through long grasses: "among the floating mass", "in the spider season". Through the positioning of words, the pace of the poem and her lexicon Jones appeals to all of the senses and reconstructs this place, leaving us there with the wind:
there is not always need for words
to rest           the wind takes the rest
Photographs of emergency radios in remote Australia are the back drop to the poem 'Adrift and Out', which contrasts the "carbon copy windows" of the city with the openness of the outback. Stuart tells of the role that the radio plays in rural Australia, a cry for help in times of emergency and a link to the noise of humanity and a blending of remote and urban living: "words & music / stars smudging / to black water".

You can read Bronwyn Lea's full forward here.

You can purchase the journal here.

You can read more of Jill Jones' poetry at

You can read another review of this edition at Rochford Street Review here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Martha Richardson Memorial Poetry Prize

Entries are now open for the prestigious Martha Richardson Memorial Poetry Prize.
PeterBakowskiFirst prize is $1,000. We welcome entries on any theme, up to 40 lines of original and unpublished work.
This year the prize will be judged by renowned poet Peter Bakowski. Peter’s latest collection Personal Weather was released in May by Hunter Publishing.
Entries accepted until 15 October. $20 per entry. (Multiple accepted).
For more information click here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Little Mountain Readings 2014

Looking forward to the second Little Mountain Readings on November the 15th, 5-8pm. We have an inspiring line up of poets: Peter Bakowski, Jenny Crozier, Ron Pretty and Mark Tredinnick. There will be book sales and of course an open mic with book prizes and the annual LMR 'lead logie' pencil to be won.

For tickets contact South Coast Writers Centre on director[at]southcoastwriters[dot]org[dot]au or call Sturt on 02 4860 2083.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wollongong Writers Festival

I'm thrilled to be able to promote the Wollongong Writers Festival, an exciting new enterprise that began successfully last year. Congratulations Chloe Higgins for doing such a fantastic job organising this festival!

You can find details of the program here

Friday, July 25, 2014

In interview with Maree Dawes

7264_19878_dawesauthorIn this interview, editor and poet, Rhiannon Hall talks with West Australian poet, Maree Dawes about her writing and its influences and about her verse novel, brb: be right back.

When did you develop an interest in poetry?
I used to write poetry as a child, continued through high school and early days of uni with a small group of friends – most of it very heartfelt and horrible. I did some poetry workshops, mentorships, residencies and uni studies in the nineties and had my first collection published in 2008.
Are you a communal writer? Is it important to you to workshop your writing with other poets?
I have been involved in a number of communal writing projects. one of my favourite projects was one where an artist Beth Kirkland and I had discussions about themes and topics and then did cafe performances where I wrote a page of stream of consciousness writing. Beth used a pencil to strike through most of my words leaving only a few words which she then highlighted with watercolour.  Sounds complicated but the result was two stories, hers and mine.
I really value getting feedback about my work regarding what is or isn’t working, and I get this from the writing group I belong to. A workshopping process where more of the content comes from others is not something I’ve done, I guess unless it’s a shared project I like what appears in the final copy to be my own work.
Who are some of your favourite poets and what is it that has drawn you to their work?
Dorothy Hewett’s poetry – her work was so experimental and feminist – and her poems about the wheat–belt are special to me because we inhabited the same landscape in different generations.
Dorothy Porter – I have to make myself read her work slowly, especially the verse novels. I just want to gobble up those seductive words … but slow reading illustrates again and again how a few words can push out the sky and make whole worlds of experience appear. Robert Grey makes everything come alive, with his perfect word choices and his balance of natural and made environments. Jordie Albiston, because I can only watch in awe at what she does with form – and while I’m watching the form she trips up my heart. Barbara Temperton for her imagery, getting to the emotional centre of things and the perfect length of line. Alvin Pang, to remind me that the city is also a landscape and Caroline Caddy who reminds me that sight is not the only sense.
What an unfair question … this answer could go on all night. I’ve also enjoyed national collections like Australian Love Poems and The Best Australian Poems.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Phillip Hall - Sweetened in Coals

Phillip Gijindarraji Hall, Sweetened in Coals

“This book is a stunning achievement.” – Bonny Cassidy

Phillip Hall has long been an antipodean follower of Henry David Thoreau and John Muir. He has worked as a wilderness expedition leader in Australia for many years writing his nature and environmental poetry in his spare time. For over ten years his poetry has been published in numerous literary journals including Antipodes, Meanjin, Overland, Plumwood Mountain, Quadrant and Southerly.

Phillip now works in remote Indigenous education in Borroloola, the Northern Territory’s Gulf of Carpentaria, where he continues to run camping and sports programs designed to teach emotional resiliency, cooperative group learning and safe decision making. He has immersed himself in Indigenous Culture and Story and has been welcomed into Gulf life with the most amazing generosity and warmth. He has been made a Gudanji man; known also by his skin name of Jabala and his traditional or bush name of Gijindarraji where he is a member of the Rrumburriya clan; he is Jungkayi (custodian) for Jayipa.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

BRB A Verse Novel by Maree Dawes

I just realised that I haven't posted about brb on here. Maree Dawes published this verse novel through Spineless Wonders early this year and between completing uni and starting teaching I forgot to post about the book and my involvement in its publication.

I was thrilled to be contacted early last year by Bronwyn Mehan from Spineless Wonders. She emailed me a copy of the brb manuscript, asking for a manuscript assessment. I was over the moon to have been even considered for such a task. I carefully read and reread the manuscript, compiling a report about how the verse novel was working on a whole and my response to specific poems. Bronwyn was encouragingly pleased with my report and forwarded it to Maree Dawes. These two talented women then asked me if I would be interested in the task of editing the manuscript with Maree. I was really worried that taking on this task would be too much for me, given how busy I was with uni and with my work out the South Coast Writers Centre, but being me, I just couldn't turn down such an exciting and valuable opportunity. 

Although I wrote no poetry of my own last year, I greatly enjoyed discussing word choices, line breaks and the overall plot of brb with Maree Dawes. Maree was open to the opinions of a novice such as myself and we had a bit over 6months worth of emails, Skype chats and many different versions of the manuscript covered in track changes going back and forward between us. I am very pleased with how this verse novel finished up! Maree is a wonderful writer who captured the complexities of relationships, both online and in real life, with all of the angst, lust and compromises that are inevitable. 

Purchase your copy of brb here:

Check out some fabulous reviews of brb on the following blogs and websites:

You can read an interview I did with Maree Dawes, post publication, here:

Here is an interview between a dear friend and talented writer, Maureen Flynn and Maree:

Another interview with Maree Dawes:

Barbara Temperton launched BRB in WA and you can read her speech here:

Here's a link to Maree's website and Facebook page:

Monday, June 30, 2014

Sweetened in Coals

Alan Wearne will launch Phillip Gijindarraji Hall’s first collection of poetry at the University of Wollongong. The collection, sweetened in coals, explores “ways of responding to place; listening to Country in a way that esteems the Traditional Owners and interrogates colonialism’s crooked paths,” Hall said.

Please come along to the foyer of building 25 at Wollongong University on Friday the 4th of July from 4:30-6pm for a discussion and reading.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

sweetened in coals by Phillip Gijindarraji Hall

I am so proud of my dad! Phillip Gijindarraji Hall has had his first poetry book published, sweetened in coals, with Ginninderra Press. This amazing collection has been in the making for a long time, part of it came about as a result of Phillip's Doctorate in Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong.

This is poetry that dances like the brolga: in praise of wading waist deep in the mountain river's 'nourishing brown flow'; of parcelling freshly caught barra in paperbark before 'sweetening in coals'; of a campfire crackling in 'plumes of rising heat'. Hall raises the flag to Indigenous survival, listening to Country in a way that esteems the traditional owners and interrogates colonialism's crooked paths. This is poetry that keeps us sensitively engaged and committed from beginning to end.

'Every day twenty-first century Australia needs urgent corrections to that ongoing virus of phoney patriotism continuing to infect it. The plain-speaking, closely observed poems of Phillip Hall go a mighty long way in tending to that need.' - Alan Wearne

'Hall is a striking imagist, moving us toward a Thoreauean poetic of sauntering and ambient perspective. Sweetened in Coals is a stunning achievement.' - Bonny Cassidy

Phillip will be at the University of Wollongong in July reading poetry from his collection, which will be launched by Alan Wearne. I will post more details about the launch shortly. Thanks in advance to the South Coast Writers Centre and the University of Wollongong for hosting this launch.

To purchase the book visit Ginninderra Press.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Books I have read - To Kill a Mockingbird

It has been too long since my last blog post! I started teaching this year and I am loving the new experiences and challenges that come with being in the classroom!

I finally read To Kill a Mockingbird in January. I felt that I should read this classic novel before I started teaching, because it had been put to me as one of those novels that every English teacher has to have read. After finishing it, I wish I had of read it sooner!

It is interesting what makes a novel a classic. Stories like Anna Karenina have never been able to capture my attention, but the characters, themes and setting of To Kill a Mockingbird had me enthralled! 

The themes of racial descrmination and inequality, of differences between people and prejudice are eternal themes that will make this book always relevant and important!

There are many great book reviews out there of To Kill a Mockingbird for you to explore. 

Here are some cool teaching resources to accompany the text:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Hovering into the Australian Literature Scene - Sotto

Happy New Year dear readers. Please visit Australian Poetry's online journal - Sotto - and read my article 'Hovering into the Australian Literature Scene'.

The article explores my work at the South Coast Writers Centre. I have sadly finished up my job in the office at the Writers Centre, although I will be staying on as a board member and I will continue to run the annual event, Little Mountain Readings. 

It also discusses my challenges and successes as an emerging poet.