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.

Read more ›

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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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Posted in i would like to recommend these people's writing, Me and my opinions, people who are nice enough to publish me

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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Posted in Me and my opinions, people who are nice enough to publish me

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.

Read more ›

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

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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Posted in people who are nice enough to publish me, poetry

The Reassurance of Dystopias: Talking to Jane Rawson

Attention Conservation Notice: a couple of ravy paras about how much I like Jane Rawson’s novel leading into an interview that shows her to be smart and funny in which we talk about dystopias, utopias, her new book and the inevitable reality of climate change (1992 words).

WrongTurnI really really love Jane Rawson’s A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists. It’s a dark and surreal urban fantasy partly set in a dystopian, tropical future Melbourne, partly set in an imaginary space accessible only through the worn-through creases in reality that are indicated by the worn creases on an old map, and partly inside a fictional version of San Francisco written by Caddie, the story’s protagonist who lives in the aforementioned dystopian future Melbourne.

A lot of authors would be satisfied with simply working out how to hold together such disparate elements without their story exploding, but Unmade Lists does more than just hang together – it tells an entirely convincing emotionally compelling story about the lives of the people who exist and interact in these places. It’s a case study in exactly how the freaky crazy worlds of fantastic writing can properly coexist with the emotional weight of realism without ever seeming like they don’t belong together.

Seriously, I cried. At least a couple of times. It’s a brilliant book. You gotta read it.

A while back I convinced Jane to let me interview her about Unmade Lists, which at the time had just deservedly won that odd award for most under-rated Australian book of the year. We spoke about Unmade Lists and also about her new book: The Handbook: Surviving and living with climate change, which is exactly what it says on the tin and which will be out in September this year.

WrongTurnDinkus

Do you see Unmade Lists as a dystopia?

Yes. Definitely. I’ve got my notes from when I was first thinking about it and I’ve got a list of “OK, what would a terrible Melbourne look like?” It would include lots of things like being really hot and dusty, you don’t have enough food today… Cockroaches, which didn’t make it into the final draft, but I pretty much set out to work out a future Melbourne.

And did that tie neatly into your own mental exploration of the refinery explosions?

Yeah, the imaginary explosions in Yarraville in my book are set very close to where I used to live.

“OK, what would a terrible Melbourne look like?”

You’d been thinking about that independently of the dystopian Melbourne scenario, though?

I think about all kinds of crises all the time. It was actually really reassuring. The guy I talked to said, “All of Yarraville would go up if these explode. You’ve got a $100,000 discount on your house because you’re so close to it, but ha ha, sucks to all those other people further away who paid more – they’re going to blow up too.” So that was nice. Read more ›

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Posted in i would like to recommend these people's writing, the writing process

Three Articles for ANZAC Day

Sharon Mascall-Dare: ANZAC Day: Ethics of Remembrance (via the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma)
“From an ethical perspective, such a prolonged focus on commemoration and remembrance raises numerous issues.”

Jane Rawson: Don’t Mention the War (via Overland)
“Courage, ingenuity, good humour, mateship and even sacrifice are qualities which have no inherent relationship with war. Sure, they occur during war; they also occur in primary schools and at stitch and bitch sessions in inner-city bars.”

Bruce Scates: Political Rhetoric Makes a Parody of Remembrance (via the Age)
“Seldom do we consider the flawed political systems and destructive ideologies that pit the young men of one nation against those of another. And in that, again we do that generation an injustice.”

Lest we forget.

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