On the back of Vagabond Press’s extraordinary success in 2020, there are new books by Tanikawa Shuntaro, Shinkawa Kazue, LK Holt, Bella Li, John Kinsella, Eleanor Jackson and Ann Vickery going to press. Vagabond has created a gofundme page in aid of two more books of poetry going to press in 2021: Petra White’s ‘Cities’ and Dan Disney’s ‘accelerations & inertias’. I’m looking forward to reading both. You can support the publication of Petra and Dan’s books via the gofundme page, or by purchasing from Vagabond’s extensive backlist of poetry, fiction, essays, memoir and criticism from Australia, the Asia-Pacific and the Americas.
As the grey days set in in Adelaide I’ve enjoyed revisiting sunnier times via the recently published podcasts from this year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week. In particular, the sessions on the business of being a writer: ‘On the Road to Publication’, ‘A Day in the Life of a Writer and Bookseller’, ‘Self-Publishing: Viable or Vanity?’, and ‘Your Book and Your Brand’ (via Spotify).
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – / I took the one less traveled by…
British poet Edward Thomas was killed in action on this day (9 April) in 1917, at Arras, France. He’s best remembered for his poems about the English countryside, the most memorable of which, to my mind, are ‘Adlestrop’ and ‘As the Team’s Head Brass’. Thomas was an unlikely soldier: at the time he enlisted he was a family man aged in his late 30s, who’d been mostly indifferent to the war. His decision to enlist, and his death, are often associated with Robert Frost’s well-known poem ‘The Road Not Taken’. The friendship between Thomas and Frost is recounted in an excellent and accessible episode of Today I Found Out, which addresses a common misreading of Frost’s poem, which critic David Orr has described as ‘The Most Misread Poem in America’. The poets’ friendship, and the import of Frost’s poem to Thomas, are discussed extensively in Orr’s The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong, and Matthew Hollis’ Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas. Click here for the Today I Found Out episode, entitled ‘The Almost Universally Misinterpreted Poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ and the Fascinating Story Behind It’ (via YouTube).
My mixtape for January-March 2021: 01. Arab Strap: Bluebird. 02. Beta Radio: Afraid of Love. 03. Blake Mills: Wintersong. 04. Boerd & Stella Explorer: Before We Drown. 05. Bonny Light Horseman: Bonny Light Horseman. 06. Close Talker: The Change It Brings. 07. Conner Youngblood: Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. 08. Glass Animals: Heat Waves. 09. Gregory Alan Isakov: Big Black Car. 10. Ida Mae: My Girl is a Heartbreak. 11. Julien Baker: Favor. 12. Kate Miller-Heidke: Walking on a Dream (Empire of the Sun cover). 13. Maddie Medley: Buzz. 14. Mandolin Orange: My Brother, My Keeper. 15. Oh Wonder: Lonely Star. 16. Ok Moon: Crater on the Moon. 17. Paul Buchanan: Mid Air. 18. Penny & Sparrow: Eloise. 19. Primitive Radio Gods: Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand. 20. Richard Walters: DNA (Finally Here). 21. Ryan Adams: Sylvia Plath. 22. Sea Wolf: Frank O’Hara. 23. The Staves: Chicago (Sufjan Stevens cover). 24. WATT!: Americana. 25. Wintersleep: Forest Fire.
This week the literary folk have reclaimed the sunny, grassy environs of Adelaide’s Pioneer Women’s Garden for this year’s Writers’ Week. Five years ago more or less to the day (29 February 2016), Peter Goldsworthy presented a feature session on South Australian poetry, with readings by Aidan Coleman, Jelena Dinic, Jill Jones, Kate Llewellyn, and me. The podcast is still available on Soundcloud: Peter’s introduction (0:17), Aidan (2:40), Jelena (17:06), Jill (28:48), Kate (40:50), and me (53:12). Click here for the PODCAST.
‘And you read your Emily Dickinson / And I my Robert Frost…’
– Simon & Garfunkel, The Dangling Conversation
Is indie music a gateway, or a virgil or a psychopomp, to the hinterland or heartland of poetry, particularly for people who aren’t ordinarily predisposed to read it? Perhaps. Here’s a haphazard selection of poets name-dropped in contemporary indie rock and indie folk song titles that have made their way into my recent playlists. 01. Aeseaes: Rilke Song. 02. Ryan Adams: Sylvia Plath. 03. Augie March: Owen’s Lament. 04. Better Oblivion Community Center: Dylan Thomas. 05. Mal Blum: Robert Frost. 06. Billy Bragg & Wilco: Walt Whitman’s Niece. 07. Fleet Foxes: Jara. 08. Night Teacher: Emily Dickinson. 09. DCR Pollock: Ezra Pound. 10. Okkervil River: John Allyn Smith Sails. 11. Sea Wolf: Frank O’Hara. 12. Spider the Cat: Hey, Theodore Roethke. 13. Sufjan Stevens: Come On! Feel the Illinoise! Part I: The World’s Columbian Exposition Part II: Carl Sandburg Visits Me In A Dream. 14. Sufjan Stevens: Wordsworth’s Ridge. 15. M. Ward: Blake’s View.
There ought to be a mythology that depicts The Poet as a being with two skins: a tender inner membrane that’s pervious to the world, and a thick hide or pelt that insulates them from the inevitable slings and arrows of rejection notes, or reviews, or – failing that – the abject neglect of their work. In December 2020, critic Martin Duwell published a review of my book Carte Blanche (Vagabond, 2019) and Ella Jeffery’s Dead Bolt (Puncher & Wattmann, 2020) at Australian Poetry Review. It was a fearful thing to discover that the book had been reviewed by a critic I regularly turn to as one of the country’s most incisive readers of poetry. Sincere thanks to Martin for his careful and generous reading of the book. It was a delight to be reviewed alongside Ella’s debut book of poems, which I very much enjoyed reading, and which I had the pleasure of seeing launched online in September. Click here for the FULL REVIEW of Carte Blanche and Dead Bolt.
Vagabond Press has had an extraordinary 2020, with Natalie Harkin’s Archival-Poetics winning the 2020 John Bray Poetry Award, Peter Boyle’s Enfolded in the Wings of a Great Darkness winning the 2020 Kenneth Slessor Award, and my book Carte Blanche winning the 2020 Mary Gilmore Award. Not to mention the acclaim garnered by the recent books by Melinda Bufton, a.j. carruthers, Toby Fitch, LK Holt, and Jessica L. Wilkinson. For 20 years Vagabond has published established and emerging poets from Australia, the Asia-Pacific and the Americas. Like many small literary presses, it faces an uncertain future, and has launched a gofundme page to aid its survival. In particular, the campaign will support the publication of three new titles, presenting work by LK Holt, Tanikawa Shuntaro, and Shinkawa Kazue. You can support Vagabond via its gofundme page, or by purchasing from its extensive backlist of poetry, fiction, essays, memoir, and criticism.
My mixtape for October-December 2020: 01. Ainslie Wills & Old Sea Brigade: Detour. 02. Andrea von Kampen: Portland. 03. Arab Strap: Compersion, Pt 1. 04. Bear’s Den: Magdalene. 05. Donovan Woods: Seeing Other People. 06. Donovan Woods: We Used To. 07. Donovan Woods: Grew Apart. 08. Fontaines DC: You Said. 09. Francesca Blanchard: Make It Better. 10. Hush Kids: Goodbye Rain. 11. Hush Kids: Color of Sadness. 12. Jake Xerxes Fussell: The River St Johns. 13. Ken Yates: When We Came Home. 14. Khruangbin: People Everywhere (Still Alive). 15. Magnolian: Caroline. 16. Magnolian: Someone New. 17. Molly Parden: Weather. 18. Old Sea Brigade: How It Works. 19. Richard Walters: The Light. 20. Sufjan Stevens: Video Game. 21. Sufjan Stevens: Tell Me You Love Me. 22. Sufjan Stevens: Ursa Major. 23. Sufjan Stevens: Fourth of July. 24. Tom West: Rain On Havana. 25. Wilderado: Surefire.
It was so enjoyable to ‘attend’ the launch of Benjamin Dodds’ second book of poems Airplane Baby Banana Blanket, via Zoom this evening. The book was launched by Stuart Barnes, with readings by Ben, and Judith Beveridge. It’s become a small concession of the Covid year to be able to attend these launches from faraway Adelaide. And, in this case, it meant I had the chance to hear some of the poems in Ben’s own voice, to hear Stuart’s launch speech, and to get a sense of the rapport between Ben and Stuart, whose bodies of work I’ve been reading for some time. I really enjoyed Ben’s first book Regulator (Puncher & Wattmann, 2014). I’m glad he hasn’t kept us waiting too long for this second book, but also that Airplane Baby Banana Blanket draws us into new and worthwhile territory. I hope the book finds the wide readership and acclaim it deserves. For those wanting a foretaste of the book, there’s a recent ABC Radio National interview with Ben – Lucy’s Story: the chimp, the poet, and the interspecies experiment that went weird – describing the bizarre-yet-true story of Lucy, a chimpanzee raised by psychotherapist Dr Maurice Temerlin, which is at the heart of the book. Congratulations to Ben: Airplane Baby Banana Blanket is available from Recent Work Press.