Includes book reviews and bits from writer's journal. For the professional stuff, see website link below left.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

REMAIN IN LIGHT, by Collin Kelley

Regular readers may recall my interview with poet/editor/author Collin Kelley. His new novel, Remain in Light, is now available as an ebook from Smashwords, and will be available in print in January. 


I, of course, couldn't wait for the printed copy and grabbed the ebook. I have just reviewed it for Smashwords, and this is what I said:


This is an exciting novel which enthralled me from start to finish. It makes a great sequel to its predecessor, Conquering Venus, and can stand alone too. The characters are vivid and memorable, the plot carried me along, and the mysteries were resolved beautifully. It’s one of those books that you can’t stop reading fast to see what happens next, all the while wishing you would never come to the end and have to stop reading. The story seems so complete now that I can’t imagine where the projected third book of the trilogy will take us. But I have no doubt the author’s imagination is up to it. I can hardly wait.



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Celebrating Australian Poets

At Poets United there’s a weekly series called I Wish I’d Written This, which has treated us to some wonderful poems. The poet who started it has reluctantly resigned due to other commitments, and I’m the new presenter. Initially I’m going to be sharing the work of Australian poets — brilliant poets whose work is too little known outside Australia. The only Australian poets the rest of the world seems to have heard of are Banjo Patterson and Les Murray. Both of them are worth hearing of, but they’re by no means the whole story. 

So if you love to read good poems and would like to encounter wonderful poets you didn’t know before, you can start this coming Friday and return every Friday thereafter. Eventually I’ll include work by poets of other nationalities too, but for the next six months or so you’ll be reading lots of lovely Aussies.

While you’re there, do look around. This isn’t the only interesting series to read at Poets United. And then there are the writing prompts....

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Food — Feast or Famine #BAD11

I think I should be writing something deep and serious, about the evils of all the hunger in the world today. Like everyone else, I have looked at those television images of the Somalian famine victims, the wizened babies and huge-eyed mothers; I have listened to accounts of the shortage of medicines, the crowding in the refugee camps, the unsanitary conditions, the spread of disease (as if starvation wasn’t enough)….  I say prayers, I send Reiki energy. Sometimes I give money, not often and not much, in the hope that ‘every little helps’.

This Pension Day, I overspent on food. I thought I should try Coles online shopping instead of lugging numerous heavy bags up my front steps. I found it tricky to make the selections, forgot half the items we needed, and ended up doing an in-person shop as well.  There was of course a delivery fee — not exorbitant, but with our budget every dollar counts. And it’s only with in-person shopping on the day that I can take advantage of all the in-store specials. You have to be there on the day, and you have to get there early.

Our fragile internet connection doesn’t help! I can’t just log on whenever I like and expect it to work. — another reason I can’t grab those specials online. Then, I often have to go into town and use the bank’s computer to get my online bill-paying handled. And this time I must have got kicked offline in mid-transaction while attempting it at home. I ended up having a direct debit refused for lack of funds, and being charged a dishonour fee. I had actually put the money in the right account in good time — I thought. One way and another, we found ourselves with a houseful of food, some of it superfluous (I forgot I already had three cartons of olive oil spread) and almost no money — $21 to last the rest of the fortnight. OK, so we didn’t have to spend it on food, but there are other things. Petrol, for instance.

These idiotic problems, largely self-inflicted, are a far cry from true hardship. I was able to ask my son for a handout to tide us over, and he obliged. We do have plenty of food in the house, even a bit too much (though we will use it) and we experienced our temporary shortage of funds with a roof over our heads and a comfortable bed to sleep in. We even have computers.

The Somalian people starving to death don’t have any such luxuries. But will writing blogs on the subject really help them? Not this blog; I wouldn’t have a clue — beyond prayers, Reiki and the odd bit of money. Feeling guilty about it is not going to be much help either.

What the famine victims do for those of us in affluent societies is to make us feel better by comparison. Luckier than them. Blessed indeed by the accident of having been born where we were. It’s a selfish response, yes, but perhaps an appropriate one. If we can’t assuage all the hunger in the world, at least we can be grateful for the food we have. We can celebrate it!

So, instead of waffling on any further, let me share with you one of my favourite food poems. It’s by my online friend Leigh Spencer, whose poems I adore.  Despite the comical downturn at the end, this one is inherently celebratory. Many thanks to Leigh for graciously giving me permission to use it.

Secret Ingredient (for Kopitkis)

Bubbe's recipe
and I slaved all day

Ketoffle (potatoes)
boiled just so
"mit bloise a bissel zaltz"
(with just a little salt)

Perfect peak in the flour
with golden suns
of perfectly separated egg yolks
setting between

Mash
only by hand!
Form loaves,
then slice and boil
'til they float

Saute the sweet yellow onions
in a sach (a LOT) of pure olive oil

Sit back and smell home
and childhood

Add the floating potato dumplings
to the onions
until everything is golden brown
and comforting as Bubbe's hand
moving the hair from your face

In the pan,
paste with onions
shape unrecognizable
heroic measures prove
sadly unsalvageable

The dogs agree
as they run from this
failed Polish delicacy

Trash can alone
feasts
while the chef
homesick and hungry
cries

"These kopitkis taste like dreck (shit)!"

— Leigh Spencer


Monday, October 10, 2011

Growing up in Tasmania

I wrote a poem which mentioned a childhood morning at my grandparents' home, The Orchard House, in Spreyton, Tasmania. People in other parts of the world are often fascinated by the mention of my birthplace, particularly Americans. Apparently there is a funny US TV show about a Tasmanian Devil. (Although I haven't seen it, it sounds as if it bears about as much relation to the real thing as Wile E. Coyote does to actual coyotes.) Anyway, one of the American readers of my poetry bog has just asked: ''Tasmania? Literally? I never knew anyone from Tasmania! Do tell...'  My reply went on so long that I moved it over here:


Ha ha, yes literally. Last time I was in America, I found that many people thought it was a fictional place! It's an island at the south-east tip of Australia, and in its own right constitutes one State of Australia (sometimes called the Island State). The climate is temperate, with cold winters. I grew up in the city of Launceston in the north, where the North Esk and South Esk join to form the river Tamar. 


My grandparents owned orchards in what was then the tiny hamlet of Spreyton, now a suburb of the city of Devonport on the north-west coast, which was then a small town. Tasmania used to be known as the Apple Isle, and my grandparents grew mostly apples — including varieties one never sees any more — as well as a number of other fruits. It was a magickal place to spend a childhood, and nowhere more magickal than my grandparents' property. The island still has unspoiled areas of great scenic beauty — though, like everywhere, there is now a constant battle between environmentalists and developers.


I left when I was 15 for family reasons. It broke my heart — but I ended up spending my late teens in the city of Melbourne, living with a wonderful aunt and attending the University of Melbourne on mainland Australia, and in hindsight I think that was better. Tasmania was too insular and conformist to have given me the adolescence I needed.


I won't live in Tasmania again — far too cold for me these days, and even then — but it's always the deep home in the heart. One reason I like the small town where I live now is that, although very different in climate and sensibilities, in some ways it reminds me strongly of the Launceston of my youth. I still think of myself as 'Taswegian' — an in joke: what we call ourselves and each other, rather than the correct 'Tasmanian'. The place itself is affectionately called 'Tassie' (pronounced 'Tazzie') even by those who have never lived there.


Tasmanians refer to the rest of Australia as 'the mainland' and privately believe it is all much inferior to our small State, which is separated from the rest by a wild stretch of water called Bass Strait. Mainlanders, on the other hand, sneer at Tasmanians for having two heads, a reference to our supposed inbreeding — but it's all good-humoured really. However we don't find it amusing when cartographers (so often!) leave Tasmania right off the map.


The island has a distinctive shape, which leads audiences at Australian strip shows to exhort the performers: 'Show us yer map of Tasmania!'


Just for the record, I am not fond of Tasmanian Devils. While I hope they are not rendered extinct by the dreadful disease they are subject to at present, I have never been able to warm to them; in fact I consider them detestable little creatures.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

#BAD (Blog Action Day)

Blog Action Day rolls around again on October 16th, which is also World Food Day, so the topic of course is FOOD. I have registered this blog and also my poetry blog The Passionate Crone.  I hope to persuade the other members of WordsFlow to be in it too.

In case anyone hasn't caught up with Blog Action Day in the past, it's one day a year when bloggers all around the globe focus on one topic that we feel needs attention called to it. In the past the topic has been chosen by vote; this year, because of the coincidence of the date, it's already decided.

How one treats the topic is up to the individual blogger. How I'm going to approach it, I don't yet know, but I'm going to have fun thinking about it.

I know that whenever I give 'food' or 'eating' as topics in writing workshops, they're very inspirational! Food is primal, basic to our survival and therefore a great source of pleasure. Hunger is painful. Starvation is fatal. There are people in the world experiencing hunger and even famine right now. Oh yes, there's lots to write about!