Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sunday, December 25, 2016

GRATITUDE

Before 2016 draws to a close, I'd like to publicly thank the following people for supporting me as a writer and celebrating the release of Morton (I feel like I'm the 'emerging poet' who has now wriggled free of The Great Chrysalis)... 

My family, my close friends, Magdalene's staff/students, John Knight, Linsay Knight, Richard Knight, Kylie Mulquin, John Foulcher, Peter Skrzynecki, Nathanael O'Reilly, Michele Seminara, Monica Markovina, Abbie Foxton, Kirsten Corcoran, Virginia Jealous, Jenny Blackford, Melinda Smith, Dan Disney, Felicity Plunkett, Les Wicks, Jean Kent, Benjamin Dodds, Stuart Barnes, Anthony Lawrence, Jill Jones, Bronwyn Lovell, Carmen Leigh Keates, Anne Casey, Rob Cairns, Thom Sullivan, Kit Kelen, Miguel Jacq, Anne Walsh, Mark Tredinnick, Michelle Cahill, Peter Lach-Newinsky, Bridget Griffen-Foley, James Fry, Fleur Ferris, Deborah McIntosh, Rhiannon Hall, Andre de Borde, Judy Leitch, Ariane Beeston and Jackie Benney (who is joining forces with me for Crossing Depths to Where Sky is Just Sky in 2017) . 

My thanks must also go to the owners of those fabulous bookstores who stocked Morton this year. Good on you for continuing to invest in the subtle power of poetry. 

And finally, to all the good souls out there who purchased Morton, my sincere thanks. I am deeply flattered. I hope you got something out of it. Please visit Morton National Park in NSW very soon, and speak out for all our national parks in the future. Increasingly, our sublime wild spaces need your voices. 

Love and light, 

LJ x

Thursday, November 3, 2016

MY LIFE WITH THE GANG-GANG GANG

Last weekend, my Twitchathon team, the Gang-gang Gang (my oldest friend Steve Edwards; his mate from his childhood, Steve Cooper, and yours truly), travelled over 1300km in search of NSW birds. The Twitchathon is an Australia-wide race to see as many bird species as possible in 24 hrs. Yes, it's as adrenalising as base jumping or falling from space when on Red Bull or cage fighting or taking on Mexican wrestlers in a bad bar in Tijuana!  Money is raised for Birdlife Australia. It's a great opportunity for citizen scientists to contribute to conservation and education. 

Here is the route we took: Lake Wollumboola-Nowra-Kangaroo Valley-Bundanoon-Yass-Boorowa-West Wyalong-Ungarie-Lake Cargelligo-Nombinnie Nature Reserve-Lake Cargelligo- Ungarie-West Wyalong-Weddin Mountains area-Murringo Gap-Boorowa-Yass-Bundanoon-Robertson-Macquaire Pass. 


We all started birding back in the mid-80s, so there's a lot of knowledge (and eccentricity) in the Gang-gang Gang. This was the third Twitch for our posse. We recorded 193 species in a 24 hr period. Not as good as last year, where we found 203 species in a 24 hr period, but still bloody good. 


Moments worth mentioning... getting drenched courtesy of a sudden squall when trying to identify waders at Lake Wollumboola... a camera falling from the 4WD and breaking... putting a staggering, hurting emu chick out of its misery (the bird had been hit by a car)... unpleasant... we were all mournful... sleeping for an hour (after 3:30am) in the back of a 4WD filled with mosquitoes... not recommended... waking to the dawn chorus in Nombinnie's mallee... heaven... dead insects everywhere in a Wyalong truck stop toilet... crossing flooded roads where Whiskered Terns hunted... confusing a lamb with a cattle egret... yep, embarrassing... what was I saying about all that knowledge?... and it was I who confused the two... seeing a Hooded Robin for the first time in 20 years... knowing when to move on... knowing when to stay... gulping coffee and liquorice all sorts... speaking to three blokes in raincoats, with beers, who asked us what we the hell we were doing and referenced The Big Year... trying to stay awake and alert and focused and cheerful... crying 'Carn the Gang-gang Gang' at times when we hadn't seen a new bird for ages, so as to keep the morale up... drinking beer at the end of the whole thing (in the carpark at the base of Macquarie Pass and all its glorious rainforest)... testing each other on bird calls... taking the piss out of each other at every opportunity... 


We birded in mallee, dry grassy woodland, rainforest, wet sclerophyll woodland, on a beach, at an estuary, by sewage ponds, next to swamps, in towns, by inland rivers, at service stations, in open farmlands etc. Landscape was so much of the experience. Nombinnie Nature Reserve's red dirt, spinifex and perplexing corridors of stunted trees blow our minds on each visit. The three of us see the place as sacred: we ache for Nombinnie for days after leaving it. 


The most noteworthy bird species: Superb Parrot, Mulga Parrot, Green Catbird, Yellow-throated Scrubwren, Rockwarbler, Hooded Robin, Little Button-quail, Painted Button-quail, Gilbert's Whistler, Splendid Fairy-wren, Spotted Harrier, Southern Scrub-robin, Shy Heathwren, Chestnut Quail-thrush, Crested Bellbird, Black-eared Cuckoo, Pink Cockatoo, Grey-fronted Honeyeater, Plumed Whistling-duck, Wandering Whistling-duck, Blue-billed Duck, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red-necked Stint. 


An adventurous time. Kerouac would've been proud. 


LJ, November 4 2016. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

UPDATE

What's happening...

I've been asked to launch the Southern Highlands Arts Festival October 21... Sturt Gallery, Mittagong NSW... 5pm... a new poem I've penned concerning Emily Bronte in the Southern Highlands will be displayed on a Mittagong pavement during the time of the Festival... it's part of the Raining Poetry initiative...  Mark Tredinnick is also involved... the poem is only visible when it rains... I'm beginning an essay on Judith Wright's Birds for a forthcoming publication... a colleague and I may well be collaborating on a project concerning refugees... she's painting on rice paper and I'm providing the words... the work will be displayed in Sydney's eastern suburbs in 2017... ANTIC has taken two of my poems for an issue in 2017... one poem is on Siri... the other looks at hipsters... thanks to Kirstin Corcoran... Hallowell Press in WA has accepted a poem on migratory shorebirds for their upcoming anthology Flightpath... thanks to Virginia Jealous... a poem I put together on a woman grieving for the loss of her partner is now out in the 2016 Grieve Anthology... I have an interesting new person on board for CRUX... her interview will be published in December... about to begin writing an essay on a sliver of NSW mallee for a particular comp... putting finishing touches to poems for the Peter Porter and New Shoots comps... So, a rich and rewarding time. How lucky I am. It hasn't always been like this, that's for sure!

LJ, October 12 2016.

CRUX #8 - JEAN KENT


What can I say? There are times I wish I wrote with Jean Kent's finesse. She makes things look effortless. I have several of her collections at home and each of them has lines that knock me unconscious. Her poems are lengthy, continually engaging and unpredictable - I can learn much from her sustained voice and purpose. 

In this instalment of CRUX, Jean tells us about summoning up the courage to speak to Bruce Dawe, growing up in Queensland, teaching at TAFE, judging the Newcastle Poetry Prize in 2013... and many other things. 

Jean Kent was born in Chinchilla, Queensland in 1951. She first published her poems in 1970. Her work has won many major prizes including the Josephine Ulrick National Poetry Prize and the Henry Kendall Poetry Award (on two occasions). Jean has published five books of poetry. Her latest chapbook, Paris in my pocket (Pitt Street Poetry) is an exquisite thing, featuring striking illustrations courtesy of her husband. 

What was there before poetry?

My initial response to this question is to say 'prose'... although I probably really mean 'stories'... or 'words'. Even before I could write, I was making up stories and telling them to myself. Aloud, of course. You can do this before you go to school and learn not to! I did try to write some of them on the walls of the house, and on pages in books, using my own kind of writing, but that wasn't encouraged.

Was there a time without poetry? I'm not sure there was. My mother is very fond of A.A. Milne's verses about Christopher Robin and I think she probably read and recited those a lot when I was very young. Then, at primary school, the Queensland School Reader was chock-a-block with the great classics. I remember being introduced to Wordworth's Daffodils when I was ten or eleven... I didn't particularly connect with that formal style of writing, or even the Australian bush ballads which we had quite a lot of, but I do remember loving the music of poetry. 

So, long before I reached the age of sixteen and started compulsively writing myself, I'd been hearing poetry and reading it... I never thought that I would be a 'poet'. That felt like something extraordinarily exotic and special. I wanted to write but I expected I'd write prose - novels - and my own poems would just be a private passion. The real poetry would be by other people. 

How would you best define your writing? 

This is the question I find hardest to answer and would much rather leave to others.  If pushed, I'd say it's probably lyrical, but also based on character and narrative.  My poems are responses to real experiences, life as I know it or witness it on an everyday basis. They are an attempt to say what is otherwise unsayable. But I also hope that they're accessible and a pleasure to read. I do love the words themselves, and the possibilities of playing with language, so that as well as expressing something deeply felt, I'm making something that can go out into the world with its own magic.

What did you learn from your time working as a psychologist in TAFE?

TAFE gave me another education. I started at Sydney Tech in 1977 and though I was principally attached to the General Studies Section, which mostly offered a second d chance for mature age people wanting to do the HSC, I also had to learn about all the trades and other training areas covered by the technical system then. Before that, I had no idea what a fitter and turner did, for instance - but as part of our training we were taken to the college workshops where we would see the reality of the machines and the heavy boots and the smell of heated metal. I loved that opportunity to be present in a world that was very different from the one I'd grown up in. In my counselling office, that sort of privileged sharing of someone else's world continued. I learned that you could never assume that people's lives were simple or that they had no secret dreams or ambitions. People were walking novels, and I'd spend my days amazed by the stories of their lives. 

Share with me a story involving other Australian poets...

Growing up in country Queensland, I didn't know any real, living poets. My first sighting of any of these mythical creatures was when I was a student at Queensland University. It was 1970. The campus was in upheaval because of the Moratorium against the war in Vietnam. As part of the protests, a poetry reading was held...

I don't remember all the participants, but Judith Wright was there, and so was Bruce Dawe. Judith Wright looked frail and her voice was warmly and eerily haunting. She was one of the editors of The Poet's Pen, the anthology of poetry I'd studied in the last two years of secondary school, so seeing her was really extraordinary, and I don't think it would have mattered how she'd read or what, I was so in awe. My memory of the event is that we were all holding candles, but I don't know whether that actually happened or whether it's just an image I've created to match the atmosphere of held breath and respect.

Bruce Dawe read his poem Homecoming, about the dead soldiers being zipped into green plastic bags and flown home: All day, day after day, they're bringing them home... He had the dry, laconic tone of voice I recognised from all the country towns I'd grown up in, as well as being so powerfully anti-war, the poem was both matter-of-fact and celebratory about the places these young men had come from. I was mesmerised. I remember the shock of silence at the end, and the feeling that a space in time - my time, at any rate - had been carved out to hold the poem for me forever.

I still get shivery remembering that four decades later. I felt extraordinarily grateful for that experience. But of course, at the time, I would never ever have contemplated speaking to the poet himself... It wasn't until many, many years later I actually did so. It was 2006. I'd been invited to read and speak at an event in Toowoomba, Bruce Dawe's hometown for a long time, and mine for several years. Bruce Dawe was the other poet invited and even though he still had this status in my mind as an elder to be looked up to, he was friendly and approachable. So, at dinner afterwards, I plucked up all my courage and told him how important that reading in 1970 had been for me. I wish I had written down exactly what he said in reply. What I remember is a gracious thank you, followed by, 'We never know when there will be an angel in the wings.'

Lake Macquarie in NSW means a lot to you. Where would you take a newcomer to that area? Why?

Lake Macquarie used to be a well-kept secret. It's tucked between the NSW Central Coast beaches, the Hunter Valley and Newcastle. I'm torn between wanting to keep it a secret and wanting to say, 'Look what is here! Beaches, suburbs full of trees, bush nearby which still has flannel flowers, native orchids and bowerbirds... and of course, the Lake...'

When Martin and I moved here from Sydney in 1983, we chanced upon a peninsula which had driveways meandering away from the main streets towards houses almost hidden behind trees beside the water. The house we live in now is on the ridge in the middle of that peninsula and it has views across Kilaben Bay to a large park. That park is where we walk most days, and it's where I'd take a newcomer. 

Why? Because walking there will take you from a wide bay which has views across to the ocean, along a path through the old Rathmines Airforce Base and on to parkland of natural bush. There are glimpses there of so much that is special to Lake Macquarie: white sails on the water; children in the playground, swinging over the marked outline of a Catalina flying boat; people fishing, walking for health or with dogs; house boats and yachts moored at the jetties and in the shelter by the casuarinas; galahs and kookaburras and eastern rosellas nesting in the eucalypts and angophora; and across the water, the suburbs of houses, clustered on peninsulas... If you're lucky, just before sunset you might even see fish leaping, turning silver in the bright light. 

What did growing up in southern Queensland give you?

I should probably write a book to answer this. But just for starters, a love of big skies, space, solitude, and a fascination with the Australian countryside in all its extraordinary variety. 

By the time my parents settled in Toowoomba, just as I was about to start secondary school, I'd been to seven different schools and lived all over Queensland. We moved around a lot because my father was a bank manager, but also he was hospitalised with TB when I was six, so for over a year while he was there my mother and my brothers and I went to live with my grandparents on the Darling Downs.

All through my childhood, the landscape around me kept changing. We went from the inland plains north to Georgetown near the Gulf of Carpentaria, a town I remember as a place of mango trees, snakes, crocodiles and flood... then from all that topic greenness down to the Queensland border with its tobacco farms and dust... then to the Darling Downs, the Lockyer Valley, Toowoomba. All these places were different. And I never had time to really settle in any of them, which is possibly why I'm still haunted by the question, 'Where is home?'

Mostly, these were also small towns, with all the good and bad characteristics of closed communities. I learned very early to be happy with my own company. ABC Radio had a program for children, which included The Argonauts Club, which I loved. Every afternoon I'd rush into the house to listen to these voices from Somewhere Else, talking about Books and Art and Music and The Muddleheaded Wombat. The Club awarded certificates for stories and poems children sent in. I became Dragon's Tooth Aetna 19 and started sending things I'd written. That was the start, really, of the road to being a poet.

How was judging the Newcastle Poetry Prize in 2013?

It was a big job! There were about 650 entries and Dennis Haskell and I read every one of them. Fortunately, our tastes were fairly similar, so although we did a lot of emailing to discuss poems as we tried to reach a common short list, and then talked by phone at length to decide on the winners, there wasn't as much wrangling as there might have been. Judging is always exhausting though. Poetry invariably comes out of deep emotions and that makes reading so much of it in a short time disturbing. I worked out quite early in the judging that I could read a maximum of thirty in one day. To be fair to the poems, there was a lot of rereading needed as well. So it became really important to have plenty of time to spread out the process. The nice thing about the NPP is that you're also looking for poems for the anthology. In some ways, that was excruciating too because there were so many very fine ones that just missed out. This was a nice revelation, actually. Some years in the past I've entered and been very downcast when my poem hasn't made the anthology. I've naturally assumed my poem was no good! But now I realise how very competitive the prize is, and just how fine a line there can be between what makes it into the book and what just misses out. 

What should Australian poets be doing more or less of?

My plea would be for more wide, generous reading, particularly of poets who have been prominent over the last century. There are wonderful new poets emerging who are very accomplished, but based on the bulk of the entries for the 2013 NPP, I'd guess that there are more people writing poetry than reading it. 

Where to from here?

I'm a very slow writer and I always have a lot of work in progress. There are some unfinished prose works, a memoir and a garden journal style book. I just need another lifetime to finish them all. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

LAUNCH

The launch for Morton was a huge success. 80 people turned up. 55 copies of the chapbook were sold. I was humbled, overwhelmed.

Huge thanks to John and Linsay Knight (my publishers at Pitt Street Poetry) for all their support, and to John Foulcher, who said the most generous things about Morton (I had a tear in my eye at one point!). I'd also like to thank my friend Andre de Borde for having the launch at the very beautiful Gallery Ecosse in downtown Exeter.


And of course, much love and light to my family, friends and Magdalene Catholic High School colleagues. You made it such a glorious afternoon.


On another note, I'm reading at Rhizomic in Glebe tomorrow night. 7pm, Mr Falcon's. Michele Seminara and Anne Walsh are also on the bill with me. A very well-respected and well-known poet from Sydney will also be gracing us with his presence...


The next issue of CRUX will be appearing here very soon... Jean Kent is the featured poet... watch this space...


LJ, May 24 2016.

Monday, March 7, 2016

MORTON'S LAUNCH

I'm excited to announce that John Foulcher will be launching Morton on Saturday April 30.

Venue: Gallery Ecosse, Exeter, NSW.

Time: 3pm.

Sincere thanks to John for agreeing to launch my poems on Morton National Park.  

Thanks also to Andre de Borde, owner of Ecosse, for holding the event at his beautiful art-space.

I do hope you can make it! 

Lorne