Recommended: Poetry for Troubled Times

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‘Poetry for Troubled Times’, the latest episode of The ABR Podcast, features readings of 18 poems that speak to our present malady, even as news of the coronavirus (Corvid-19) pandemic worsens by the hour. As ABR’s editor Peter Rose says in his introduction, ‘These are such rattling and ominous times, as we all hunker down hoping for a cure, some cessation. Perhaps only poetry really offers true insight and consolation, if we lean on it, as we’ve always done in past crises.’

Among the 18 poems featured in the podcast, we find Sarah Holland-Batt reading Geoffrey Hill, Stephen Edgar reading Seamus Heaney, Peter Goldsworthy reading Jane Hirschfield, JM Coetzee reading Zbigniew Herbert, John Kinsella reading Christopher Brennan, David McCooey reading Tomas Tranströmer, and Peter Rose reading Wallace Stevens. A full list of the readers, poets and poems is published on the podcast’s webpage.

Perhaps the most resonant poems for me were Rose’s reading of Stevens’ ‘The Plain Sense of Things’ (‘It is difficult to choose the adjective / For this blank cold, this sadness without cause. / The great structure has become a minor house…’) and McCooey’s reading of Tranströmer’s ‘December Evening 1972’ (‘Here I come, the invisible man, perhaps employed / by a Great Memory to live right now. And I am driving past // the locked-up white church…’).

As for me, in a moment like this I might recommend Stephen Dunn’s ‘Sweetness’ (‘Often a sweetness comes / as if on loan, stays just long enough / to make sense of what it means to be alive…’), or Adam Zagajewski’s ‘Try to Praise the Mutilated World’ (‘You should praise the mutilated world. / Remember the moments when we were together / in a white room and the curtain fluttered…’).

New episodes of the podcast are released by ABR (Australian Book Review) fortnightly on Wednesdays. iTunes Google Spotify

Mixtape: January-March 2020

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My mixtape for January-March 2020: 01. Daughter: Youth. 02. DeYarmond Edison: Time to Know. 03. Henry Jamison: Through a Glass. 04. Horse Feathers: Broken Beak. 05. Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers & Lucy Dacus: Bite the Hand. 06. Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers & Lucy Dacus: Me & My Dog. 07. Junip: Line of Fire. 08. Little May: Back Seat Driver. 09. Maggie Rogers: Fallingwater. 10. Maggie Rogers: Burning. 11. Matt Berninger: Holes (Mercury Rev cover). 12. Old Sea Brigade: Tidal Wave. 13. Phoebe Bridgers: Garden Song. 14. Phoebe Bridgers: Motion Sickness. 15. Placebo: Pure Morning. 16. San Fermin: Little Star. 17. Sylvan Esso: Die Young (Echo Mountain version). 18. Sylvan Esso: Funeral Singers (Califone cover). 19. Sylvan Esso: Coffee. 20. Talos: Odyssey. 21. Talos: Landscapes. 22. Talos: Voices. 23. The Vanns: Hey, Ma (Bon Iver cover). 24. Volcano Choir: Byegone. 25. Wildwood Kin: The Crown.

Recommended: Poetry in Process – Interview with Alison Whittaker

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Owen Bullock’s latest Poetry in Process podcast is an interview with Alison Whittaker, author of Lemons in the Chicken Wire (Magabala, 2016) and Blakwork (Magabala, 2018), which was shortlisted for the 2019 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry.

It’s a wide-ranging conversation. I had particular pause for thought as they discussed the connection between poetry, language, and the law; writing under constraint – and an explanation of Whittaker’s use of trigrams (used in search engine optimisation); and a workshop exercise Whittaker has used to create a state of ‘controlled panic’ to induce participants to produce a chapbook of poems within 3 hours.

You can find the podcast on the Poetry in Process website, and on Spotify.

Two coffee poems

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These two “coffee” poems were originally published in Friends with Drinks, a project curated by my good friend Kathryn Hummel in 2016, described as “a worldwide creative collaboration mapping drinking and place”.

Long Black, Flat White

evenings we piece together : over coffee : the end-of-evening café : late : before closing : close to closing : as we spill out onto a street : where the chairs are stacked : the streetside tables packed away : a loose critique : a film we enjoyed : or didn’t : the silt of a long black : & flat white : crumbs : & rasping teaspoons : significances between words : that elude definition : or neatness : things we speak of : that need to be opened : from time to time : to change their dressings : to bring them out into the air & light : knowing they have changed : subsided : like a lung collapsing : or a heart : or a filament of thought : that needs unwinding : our habitual locales : this café, say : at the end of an evening : of how many evenings : as we spill out onto the street : still talking : the suburbs in abeyance : late walkers : passing taxis : & the whole entanglement: a world of light & shadow :

Citrine

sunlight that’s panelled in : extravagant : to the saturday morning café : late morning : with its coffee cups : & newspapers : grilled sandwiches : & poems : that make no inroads into the clamour : shouting from the streetside : from a cyclist : who anticipates a tort : as a driver turns left across his path : a wrong that’s averted : conversations that are diverted : then run on : poems dissected : their innards out : on the table-top : the mind’s scalpel : & the eye’s scalpel : the stereo throwing its insignia over everything : orange décor : retro : by which i mean contemporary : an up-to-the-moment version : of a ’70s platitude : wedges of a citrus tang : & dark wood : & antique tiles : that are du jour : on trend, as they say : as is our morning : flat white : & long black : on the sunset side of prospect road : everything but the poems : a strain of allusions : cocteau : derrida : mallarme : etcetera : & the vastness of the weekend morning : quiet suburban streets : tree-lined : that stretch away from the arterial : toward a vanishing point : of parked cars : & jacarandas : faux federation homes : that have stood a decade at most : po-faced : aspiring to a grandeur : of stylised sunsets : a moment we’re cosied in : this morning : in its version : of choleric cyclists : & pop-songs : poems packaged up : & the poem, writ large, unchanged : the dregs congeal : & coins keep changing hands :

Book launch: A few photos

A few photos from the launch of my debut book of poems ‘Carte Blanche’ (Vagabond Press, 2019) and Aidan Coleman’s third book of poems ‘Mount Sumptuous’ (Wakefield Press, 2020) on 12 February 2020, at The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Thebarton. The launch was hosted by NO WAVE Monthly Poetry Reading Series, in conjunction with Wakefield Press and Vagabond Press. Many thanks to Olivia de Zilva of NO WAVE for the photos.

Launch Thom Sullivan

Thom Sullivan

Launch Aidan Coleman

Aidan Coleman

Last call: Book launch

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Last call! You’re invited to celebrate the joint-launch of two new books of poems, my ‘Carte Blanche’ and Aidan Coleman’s ‘Mount Sumptuous’. Join us at 7pm for 7.30pm on Wednesday, 12 February 2020, at The Wheatsheaf Hotel, 39 George Street, Thebarton. ‘Mount Sumptuous’ will be launched by Ken Bolton; ‘Carte Blanche’ will be launched by Peter Goldsworthy. Hosted by NO WAVE Monthly Poetry Reading Series, in conjunction with Wakefield Press and Vagabond Press. Full details on  Facebook.

Special thanks to Kathryn Hummel

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Special thanks to my long-time and very dear friend Kathryn Hummel who has posted on her website her poem ‘The Aftertaste of Words’, which responds to my book of poems Carte Blanche. At the time of writing this (mid-January 2020), Kat and I are just a few weeks short of our 20-year frienniversary, all of which began in a Philosophy 1A tutorial at Adelaide University very early in the millennium. Back then, it seemed that all our cohort of fellow students had found their way to the university’s Arts Department to make their way as writers, of one sort or another. Kat and I, at least, are still toiling at it. It’s a friendship I’m immensely grateful for, and I’m often reminded of the two feet of the compass in John Donne’s poem ‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’ – one that ‘far doth roam’ and the other that ‘makes no show / To move.’ Kat’s fifth and most recent book of poems, Lamentville, was published by Math Paper Press in 2019. It is unabashedly excellent.

Launch: ‘Mount Sumptuous’ / ‘Carte Blanche’

At long last, the Adelaide (‘home town’) launch of my debut book of poems, ‘Carte Blanche’, is imminent. The launch will be a joint-launch, shared with friend and long-time collaborator Aidan Coleman, whose third book of poems, ‘Mount Sumptuous’, has been published by Wakefield Press.

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The full details of the invitation are as follows:

You’re invited to celebrate the joint-launch of two new books of poems, Aidan Coleman’s ‘Mount Sumptuous’ and Thom Sullivan’s ‘Carte Blanche’.

Join us at 7pm for 7.30pm on Wednesday, 12 February 2020, at The Wheatsheaf Hotel, 39 George Street, Thebarton. ‘Mount Sumptuous’ will be launched by Ken Bolton; ‘Carte Blanche’ will be launched by Peter Goldsworthy.

Hosted by NO WAVE Monthly Poetry Reading Series, in conjunction with Wakefield Press and Vagabond Press.

John Kinsella on Aidan Coleman’s ‘Mount Sumptuous’: ‘Smart, learned, and ironic, the work leads us through the artifice of art and aesthetics, confronting our cultural certainties and pre-judgements. Satire with compassion, wit with deep insight. His is a unique voice.’

Jan Owen on Thom Sullivan’s ‘Carte Blanche’: ‘‘Carte Blanche’, by its very title, welcomes the reader honestly yet artfully in; in to lucidly thought-through poems which balance virtuosity and spontaneity, sense and intellect. These are poems of a swift and convincing trajectory with a feeling for nature as well as human nature and a sense of their interactions and interconnections.’

Full details on Facebook.

A simpler encounter with the poem

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‘Every individual ought to know at least one poet from cover to cover: if not as a guide through the world, then as a yardstick for the language.’ Joseph Brodsky

My favourite readers of poetry are often those who don’t also write poetry, or not much. I come across them in conversation often enough. They’re people for whom poetry has carved out some wedge of significance in their lives. I enjoy hearing about the particularity of the poetry they enjoy. And, while there are plenty of idiosyncrasies in their tastes, there are often consistencies as well, drawn no doubt from school poetry anthologies or syllabuses. For example, the common predilection for the work of Donne, Hopkins, Yeats, Eliot, Plath, and the like.

It’s not that I dislike readers of poetry who also write poetry. I am one of them. But I know that writing poetry necessarily changes and complicates the way we read a poem. And, while this opens a reader to a different understanding of a poem and its workings, it also curtails a simpler encounter with the poem, as an aesthetic experience rather than as a made thing.