Just Read – The Rest of July

Attention Conservation Notice: Thoughts on the last 10 poems I read for the Just Read Readathon, by people like William Blake, Katie Degentesh, joanne burns, Claire Potter and Patricia Lockwood, and profuse thanks to everyone who helped to raise just shy of $700 for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (1,987 words).

Well this last week of poem-reading-fundraising has been amazing. Up front I should probably admit that I certainly haven’t hit the two-a-day goal that I wanted to, but despite that these last two months have been brilliant in terms of reading more and reading more widely.

I think I’m going to try to keep this level of poem reading up to an extent in my everyday life, something like trying to read a poem a day or at least a few every week. I’ve also discovered some poets to look more deeply into, both canonical and contemporary, which is very nice indeed. So a profitable time from a personal perspective for sure.

And speaking of profitable, I am as humbled as can be by the generosity that both friends and strangers have shown with their donations to the Indigenous Literacy Fund in response to this odd little undertaking. I may be the one reading the poems and rambling about them on this blog, but that’s totally chump change compared to the heroes who stuck their hands in their pockets and handed their readies over so that young Indigenous kids can afford the books and other equipment they need to learn to read, which is sadly actually a thing that needs to be addressed in this frankly pretty fucked up endemically racist country of ours.

So on behalf of the Just Read crew, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and myself I thank you from the bottom of my heart. As of this writing we’ve raised over $650, smashing my goal of $500 in the bestest possible way. And kudos to Jane Rawson in particular for coming up with the idea for a readathon for grownups in the first place, and then making it actually happen.

And if you want to know more about the amazing and important ILF are doing, and other ways you can help out, stay tuned to www.indigenousliteracyfoundation.org.au.

But now, before I get too teary, here’s what I thought of the last bunch of poems (which, yes, is once again not enough to hit any two-a-day goal I might have had but there you go).

William Blake – To Spring

I was reading this one on the train on the way home, thinking “well, I better read some Blake, it’ll be good for me but I’m not sure I’m really up for crazy-dense inscrutable religious nuttery this afternoon but let’s have a crack and see” and instead I found myself reading this rather romantic and actually sort of naughty ode to Spring returning to England, thinking “does

…scatter thy pearls
Upon our love-sick land that mourns for thee

mean what I’m thinking it means? Oh my…” and then Spring decks England with its fair fingers and pours kisses on her bosom and England lets down her bound tresses and hello!

Which is nice.

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Posted in i would like to recommend these people's writing, Me and my opinions, poetry

Just Read: The First Bit of July

Attention Conservation Notice: I still haven’t read enough poems, but some lovely people have donated anyway. Poets read include Aleister Crowley, T.S. Eliot, Lee Cataldi, Carolyn Kizer, Banjo Patterson, Ellyn Touchette and Simon Armitage. (1716 words)

Okay it’s not going brilliantly. Amazing how three days can just whip past and you turn around and think fuck I haven’t read a single damn poem in days and then don’t do a damn thing about it. I’ve also been sloppier about actually keeping notes on when I’ve actually read these poems, so that whole day-by-day format is out the window too. Totally defenestrated.

But!

Here are some of the poems I did read of late. And thank you muchly to the generous donors who’ve come to the party since I last posted, bringing the total raised to a delightful $241.50. If you’d like to be part of this odd little project and donate some money to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, then head over to my Everyday Hero page and follow yon instructions.

To the poems!

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot

Holy fuck. I know this is kind of an obvious choice in some ways, one that risks the “really? you hadn’t read that?” accusation, but no, no I hadn’t read it but now I have (and if you haven’t yourself, you really really should) and holy fuck. This? Is a pretty good poem.

I’m not kidding myself that my opinion, heaped onto the back of everything else that’s been written, thought and said about it, is worth anything, but damn this poem is a shot in the arm, extolling the virtues of carpe diem et cetera by painting the picture of a most vacillating and cowardly person who’s paralysed by inhibition. Trust me. You don’t want to be this guy.

Do I dare to eat a peach, Mr. Eliot? Yes I bloody well do. And thank you for reminding me of that.

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Just Read – The Rest of June

Attention Conservation Notice: Thoughts on 21 more poems I read as part of the Just Read readathon in June, including poems by JS Harry, joanne burns, Lisa Bellear, Dylan Thomas, David Brooks, Jeannine Hall-Gailey, AD Hope and Adrienne Rich. Also some recriminations about not having read as many poems as I promised to. (1817 words)

I have shame.

In hindsight I think starting this whole 2 poems a day readathon during a week of leave from my full-time job set up some false expectations about the time and energy I’d have to commit to this endeavour. Short version: I have not read anywhere near two poems a day on any week since the first week of June. Nor have I actually had the time or energy to blog about what I have read. Hence: shame.

In any case I haven’t given up. I haven’t yielded to the temptation to fake my way through this either (“Oh yes! I read two poems from Blake’s collected every night in June over scones and Darjeeling. The imagery! The passion!”). So in the interest of keeping things honest here’s a look at what I’ve managed to read in June, plus a commitment to pick up my game in July and see how close I can come to reading… Let’s see… (2 x 30) + (2 x 31) … One hundred and twenty-two poems (holy shit) by July 31.

Anyway, if you want to help raise funds for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation by contributing to my readathon fund, you can do so by heading over to my Everyday Hero page. As of today I’ve raised just over $130 toward my goal of $500, so thanks to everyone who’s donated so far – you know who you are.

And now, the poems!

Tuesday 9th June – “West of Al Shualla” by JS Harry & “Light, I Know, Treads the Million Stars” by Dylan Thomas

“West of Al Shualla” is one of Harry’s Peter Lepus poems, featuring her recurring rabbit protagonist and, this time, his huntsman spider buddy Clifta. I’ve only just discovered Harry, thanks to Ivor Indyk’s obituary in the Sydney Review of Books, but after enjoying the unusual recurring devices of Jennifer Maiden, I’m looking forward to reading more of Peter’s adventures. In this poem he’s in Iraq, riding camelback with two humans (and Clifta hidden under the saddle) while contemplating discretion in the face of powerful enemies.

“Light, I Know” is a dark little sucker about fear of the dark/fear of death with a compelling rhyme scheme that I couldn’t quite work out – it seems orderly enough until You look closer to see that there are some rogue rhymes scattered through the regular couplets. There’s also a dramatically shorter line about halfway through that twists the idea of prayer into something very cruel:

…some attentive God
Who on his cloud hears all my wishes
Hears and refuses.

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Posted in i would like to recommend these people's writing, poems, poetry

Published: It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Don’t Feel So Fine)

So apparently there’s this thing called cli-fi. Climate Change Fiction. It’s totally a thing. And I wrote an article about it for Australian Author. It’s an overview of this emergent genre coupled with interviews with the amazingly talented Ellen van Neerven, James Bradley and Jane Rawson. It also has a fantastic illustration by the superb Nicki Greenberg.

Here’s a snippet:

It’s not surprising that climate change has resonance for Australian authors. Australia’s persistent climate-contrarianism, at least in terms of government policy, in the face of rising popular discontent with such a policy stance, would seem fertile ground for stories about humanity’s negative impact on global climate.

You can read the rest of the article in Australian Author, if you’re a member of the Australian Society of Authors, or you can buy the article as a single (aka .pdf) for $A1.40.

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Published: Who’s Looking Out for Male Writers?

I have a polemic on the Overland blog today, about my incredulity with respect to a forthcoming all-men anthology from Black Inc. It’s called Where There’s Smoke. Here’s a bit of what I say in said polemic:

The single worst way to follow up an anthology celebrating the cream of Australia’s women writers is to turn right around and publish an all-men book less than six months later. Why would anyone even do that? Is it some kind of attempt to ‘balance things out’ – to make sure that in all the focussing on women’s writing we don’t overlook men’s writing?

The rest of it is here.

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Just Read – Week 1 in review

Attention Conservation Notice: Thoughts on the 14 poems I read last week as part of the JustRead readathon, including poems by Jennifer Maiden, Harry Hooton, Ted Hughes, Les Murray, Gig Ryan, Klare Lanson & Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I liked most of them. You should also read these poems. (1548 words)

It’s been a week since I started on this careful-reading-of-2-poems-a-day-for-two-months endeavour as part of the Just Read readathon, raising funds for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, and I’m having a ball. Poetry is kind of excellent, you know?

I’ve managed to meet the 2-a-day quota almost every day, and I think there’s really something to be said for going back and re-reading poems a couple of times instead of reading them one-and-done.

As promised, here’s a look back at what I’ve read this week. But before we start, if you’re interested in sponsoring me, just head over to my Everyday Hero page and follow the instructions to make a pledge. And thanks to my four donors so far, who have helped me to raise $110.25 towards my $500 total.

And now, the poems!

Monday June 1: “What?” by Mary Gilmore & “If I Had a Gun” by Gig Ryan

You might know Dame Mary Gilmore from your Aussie $10 note (she’s the one who isn’t Banjo Paterson). “What?” is a short, solid rhymer in the voice of a mother who is prostituting herself to feed her children, rhetorically asking the reader what other options are open to her. It’s a powerful social justice piece.

“If I Had a Gun” really blew me away (pun intended) – an angry, smart, funny, detailed and precise litany about the overt and subtle violence against women that arises from the embedded assumptions of male privilege. To read this as a man is chastising in an inspirational “do better” way.

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June. July. Just Read.

And speaking of Jane Rawson, for the next two months I’ve signed up to read for charity as part of her JustRead fundraiser.

The idea is that I read things and people donate money to the incredibly important and valuable Indigenous Literacy Foundation. It’s a sort of MS Readathon for grown-ups, if you like that kind of “like X but with Y” high-concept stuff.

I’ve written a guest blog post for the JustRead blog, outlining the particular way that I’m going to approach this reading project, at the same time as confessing to a childhood crime, which you can read here.

If you can’t be bothered clicking links, though, the short version is I’m going to close-read (and maybe also analyse) two poems a day for two months, blog about it every week, and ask you to help out by donating to my Everyday Hero page.

Congratulations and thanks to Jane for not only coming up with the idea, but for making it happen, and thanks to you for taking the time to consider this invitation to donate.

More soon.

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