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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December 7th

Book & Publishing News

*It’s nearly Christmas, so let’s forever CORRECT something…If you are involved in it, it is “Kris Kindle”…and NEVER “Kris Kringle”. The latter is, I think, a character in an old movie entitled “Miracle on 34th Street.

*The latest ALR was bit disappointing. No surprise The Oz gave space to NSW Right-Wing powerbroker Michael Costa to add his surgical swipes to the state of federal Labor, though what it has to do with our current LITERARY scene as such, I am not sure.

* …Speaking of which: very contrasting reviews of the Howard book from Robert Manne [in the latest “The Monthly”] and David Martin Jones [in “Quadrant”]. I honestly tried to read “Lazarus Rising”, but resorted to cherry-picking, using the index. No wonder The Oz is giving it away to new subscribers to that newspaper. There is some great summer reading in this issue of “The Monthly”.

* I’ve not time to review it, but “Chains” by Laurie Hals Anderson was a very good recent read. Set amid the turmoil of the British attack on Washington and his patriots in 1776.the book reminds us of the pain of that particular Revolution.

* ..IF YOU WANT $75 worth of new books, tell us what your favourite read was this year. Email /phone/ write in, 25 words or less. We will judge the most PERSUASIVE piece and the winner can collect the prize from our reception. [$100 if you are a subscriber to THE PULSE.]

*Dec-Jan edition of Australian Book Review announces the winner of its Short Story Comp for 2010– Deakin Geelong’s Maria Toklander. There is lots of good reading, including Maria’s rather unusual story and an essay on ‘Em Forster’ by editor, Peter Rose. Of special interest will be the favourite books for this year from prominent writers, including many we have reviewed on this program.

*I will list my favourite TEN books for 2010 during our last program before Christmas.

*My MONDAY program – “BLOOD’S COUNTRY” – goes to air at 3 pm. Lots of readings from all sorts of people telling us about our land and its People. Good Australian classical music too.

This Weeks Review: “the mary smokes boys” by Patrick Holland

This novel reminded me of all those wonderful writers who over the years have told us what it is like to be a Queenslander. Xavier Herbert’s “Capricornia” must surely be one of the great Australian novels. More recently, the late Thea Astley’s numerous books managed to cover just about every aspect - historical, geographical and social - in the Sunshine State’s experience. Of late, we have the likes of Matthew Condon. Perhaps the greatest of them all is David Malouf, master poet, novelist and short-story writer.
Well, Patrick Holland has a way to go yet, but his second outing is a very perceptive look into the lives of a handful of contemporary Queenslanders about whom we don’t usually hear much. They live just over the Great Divide from Brisbane, in fairly poor circumstances and are generally left to their own devices by family and the wider community. They are the denizens of ‘Mary Smokes’. Nothing much happens there because it is on the way to nowhere much. Our hero is Grey. He and his troubled but rather wise younger sister, Irene, lost their mother years before, and Dad is a rather ne’er-do-well, through no fault of his own, really. He’s just one of those sad people for whom life has dealt the lower cards. He has a new wife, but life has no promises left for him.

Grey is pretty much his own man, though he is continually lured into the escapades of his young Indigenous neighbour, “Ook”, and the other “Boys”. There is an element of illegality in much of what they get up to. They do love the places where they live: the Mary Smokes River and its surrounding bush which is playground and hideout. This is by no means an unlikely scenario in small towns where there is not much to do.

Having lived and taught most of my adult life in such places, I would say that the situation of youth –especially the older adolescents, with little education, just out of school – is somewhat precarious. There are the possibilities for a meaningful relationship between Grey and a local girl, but she will always be better off – attractive, better-educated, from a better side of town. Ultimately Grey has to make some choices about loyalties – between his vulnerable sister and the Boys.
It is quite a simple tale but one told with sincerity and an authenticity born of the author’s own earlier immersion in the life of rural Queensland. Holland respects his characters, though the reader is left in little doubt of their fallibility and [probably] hopelessness.

Rating: ***

Patrick Holland: “the mary smokes boys”, Transit Lounge, 2010, rrp $29-95, pp 237, pb.

Author Interview: Jane Carnegie-Poet (Bernard’s Interview)

On The Blurb’s never-ending quest to unravel poetry for our listeners, we spoke to poet Jane Carnegie about her poetry. She also gave you a taste of her work by reading some of her poems [in a much better fashion than my weekly attempts at it]. This week the show was jam packed with poets as poet Cameron Lowe joined us in the studio to talk about his recently published work.

Jane on “Why” Poetry?
One takes on the creative endeavour one by one. The poems just began. When I first began writing, I could write 3 poems a day, now it’s more 3 poems a month. It was very exciting in the beginning.

Jane on the accessibility of her poems to the reader and what makes poetry different from prose-
What I’m trying to do when I write a poem on something is to distil its essence.

Author Interview: Cameron Lowe author of poetry collection “Porch Music” (John’s Interview)

Today we were joined in the studio by Cameron Lowe, Geelong-born poet whose first full-length collection of poetry Porch Music was launched by Whitmore Press in Geelong last Sunday. (Whitmore Press is a locally-based publisher, headed by local writer and editor, Anthony Lynch).

Cameron has served as editor of the Ardent Sun and co-editor of the Geelong-based poetry magazine Core. He has published frequently in Southerly, The Age, Island, Meanjin, & now The Best Australian Poems 2010. “Throwing Stones at the Sun”, a chapbook of his poems was published by Whitmore Press in 2005. He is currently undertaking postgraduate study at The University of Melbourne.

It is worth making a special note of the fact that Cameron is one of eight poets in the Geelong region whose work appears in this year’s “The Best Australian Poem” (published by Black Inc).

I know poets (and many writers) are loath to discuss the nuts and bolts of their writing but Cameron was happy to explore some of the directions in which his work is taking him. My personal belief is that poets have a particular view of the world and of life and I think there’s a particular sort of observation that Cameron brings to this collection. Most of us in our busy lives are content to look at something and then look away at something else but poets like Cameron look and then keep on looking until they get to the essence of what they see and find the words to express this.

It’s the small, concise intimacies that Porch Music brings to our attention. For example in ‘Easy’:
‘You wake with her hand / on your back; her hand, / warm beneath sheets, / on the small of your back. / …a thing, a small easy thing’
or in Solitude where:
‘…the late sun falls sharp / and clear / into that bare white room, warming / her back…’

These are the sorts of observations that David McCooey, in launching Porch Music, described as ‘mundane yet remarkable’. Perhaps poets don’t so much look at life differently but they do keep looking and noticing the things the rest of us miss in our haste. Cameron Lowe in this collection makes us notice the small details and they are always details suffused with meaning and significance. Cameron admitted that he is much influenced by the poet William Carlos Williams in his focus on the small and seemingly insignificant.

He said also in his interview that he does attempt to de-Romanticise the idea of poetry and his focus is often on the ordinary or everyday:

In Morning light ‘Over the road, the new neighbour / polishing his ute, three magpies / exploring the median strip. / On the fence rail, by the gate, / a green can of VB its own mystery.’
Yet these ordinary objects seem to glow with an inner mystery or meaning.
However, Porch Music does not take itself too seriously. There is always humour lurking behind the lyrical.

In Summer:
‘…As the day’s / heat softens into evening there’s that / sausage again, adrift on the hot breeze, / whispering: it’s summer, it’s summer.’

While the first part of this collection contain poems which are often personal and intimate, the second section, “Corrosive Littoral”, responds to the paintings of the Australian Surrealist artist James Gleeson. Many of these poems take more time to digest and their meanings are not immediately apparent. Titles are taken from Gleeson paintings and often discard the poetic structure as if it is inadequate to contain the responses generated by the paintings.
Overall in this collection there is a balance between poems which are intensely private and personal and others which roam into wider, more universal territory. The title of this collection “Porch Music” then feels entirely appropriate, where the porch is the space which is situated between and connects the personal and the public and it is this ‘littoral’ territory that these poems inhabit

This is a beautifully presented collection from a local poet of whom we should be proud and of whom we will no doubt hear more in the future.

“Porch Music” published by Whitmore Press is available at Paton Books, Pakington St. Geelong. RRP: $24.95

For more on poetry and to check out some of John’s Very on work check out:


This week you heard the following tracks:
-“We Won’t Run” by Sarah Blasko
-“Let Go” by Frou Frou

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