Contemporary Australian Poetry.

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Writ Poetry Review aims to showcase 21st century Australian poetry.
It is our intent to publish established poets alongside new and emerging poets,
in a heady mix of talent and promise. It is published out of Perth, Western Australia, and seeks first and foremost to connect the poetry community in the West.

Editors:

Alexis Lateef
Alexis is a West Australian poet, freelance editor and poetry enthusiast. She has a BA (English) from
The University of Western Australia, and has worked as a tutor and bookseller. Her poetry has appeared or will appear in Uneven Floor, Shot Glass Journal, Westerly, Page Seventeen and Australian Poetry Journal. She is currently studying librarianship, and is working on her first book of poetry. Alexis frequently reads at Voicebox.

Christine Della Vedova
Christine is a West Australian poet, avid reader and primary school teacher. She has a business degree from Curtin University, and a Graduate Certificate in ESL teaching. She was the president of the Business and Professional Women's Association of Belmont between 2013-2014. She regularly reads at the Perth Poetry Club, and was a guest at the recent Perth Poetry festival.

Writ is published quarterly, each March, June, September, and December. Submissions for Issue Three open on the 5th of January,
and remain open until March 1st.

Please send three poems and a bio to writpoetryreview@gmail.com
Poems may be previously published, although of course we would love unpublished poems.
At this stage we cannot pay contributers, but hope to do so in the future.

Calling all artists!
Writ Review is currently accepting art submissions for its third issue.
We welcome anything, from landscape, portraits to abstract work. Please send four images as an example of your work to writpoetryreview@gmail.com

Events, classes and affiliations

Perth Poetry Club http://www.perthpoetryclub.com/

Voicebox https://www.facebook.com/voicebox.fremantle

Ships in the Night https://www.facebook.com/shipsnight

OOTA writers group http://ootawriters.blogspot.com.au/

Katherine Susannah Prichard Writers' Centre http://kspf.iinet.net.au/

Peter Cowan Writers' Centre http://www.pcwc.org.au/

Fellowship of Writers Western Australia http://www.fawwa.org/

Writing WA http://www.writingwa.org/

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Please send any queries to writpoetryreview@gmail.com

We'd love to hear your feedback and suggestions for the website!
Also, if you hear of any upcoming poetry events or launches, do let us know.

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Archive

ISSUE 01 Alpha (September 2014)
Feature Poet Scott-Patrick Mitchell   |   Feature Poet Interview by Kaitlyn Plyley
Contributors Richard James Allen, Peter Bakowski, Fiona Burrows, Coral Carter, Julie Chevalier,
Liana Joy Christensen, Sarah Day, Barbara De Franceschi, B. R. Dionysius, Benjamin Dodds, Anne Elvey, Brook Emery, Zenobia Frost, Kevin Gilliam, Vivienne Glance, Helen Hagemann, Nathan Hondros, Jackson, Christopher Konrad, Anna Minska, Jan Napier, Tim Parkin, Zan Ross, Alice Savona, Mark Tredinnick, Julie Watts and Sean Wright

Editors Alexis Lateef & Christine Della Vedova   |  Cover Artwork by Kristen Martin

ISSUE 02

Myriad

DECEMBER 2014

in this issue...

3 poems by feature poet Bronwyn Lovell

Alexis Lateef interviews Bronwyn Lovell

3 poems by feature poet Tracy Ryan

Robbie Coburn interviews Tracy Ryan

Nathan Hondros reviews Lesbia Harford

Robbie Coburn reviews Samuel Wagan Watson

Siobhan Hodge reviews Jennifer Maiden

A selection of 29 poems


Bronwyn Lovell


Bronwyn Lovell

feature poet

feature poet

Poems

Poems

 Interview

 Interview

feature poet -  Bronwyn Lovell

Poem 1

Poem 2

Poem 3

Interview with Alexis Lateef

Astrophysics

 

Beside the telescope, I ask Dad if he ever tires of the same

old objects night after night, year after year. He says each

viewing has its own quality, just as the particles in any

breath of air are unique. He’s checking in on constant

 

friends as they rise and waltz across a ballroom sky

(ladies’ diamantes glittering, men’s shoes shining)

and that dazzle, for him, could never grow dim.

Hands snug in snow-jacket pockets, I ask if he believes

 

that the pull of planets affects humans, as astrologers

would claim. He says, Bullshit. It’s all too far away.

But what about the moon? I say. And the way blood

gushes from women in tides? Yes, he concedes, that is

 

amazing. I ask about UFOs. He says, if they’re real, our aliens

are surely just humans from the future who found a way to fold

time—disciples of Einstein. Oh, so you believe in time travel

then? I smile. Look up, he says. You’re doing it now.

Previously published in Radiations (Fall 2014).

Running into your ex

 

When it happens, be mindful how you label it.

Avoid words like ‘fate’ and ‘destiny’. Say to yourself

“What a coincidence!” and think on it no more.

 

Do not calculate the odds of that city, that person,

that street; such mathematics leads only to madness.

Do not look to the heavens and imagine there

 

a great conductor; if there were such a musician

your mismatched tones would never have been

struck together again and again so carelessly.

 

Upon encountering that person in that city on that street

speak only briefly. Curb details. Do not dissect diction;

minced morphemes won’t give up any answers.

 

Like a faulty set of kitchen scales you assign weight

too willingly; everything is heavier for you.

The only way to take this is lightly. Keep

 

eating and sleeping. Do not let your apartment

fall into disarray, nor re-enact the years

in fitful confusion. You can cry, even

 

glance back if you must, but do not abandon

your direction: walk on, surefooted, towards

the next city, the next person, the next street.

Previously published in Australian Love Poems and Best Australian Poems 2014.

Metamorphosis

In the beginning
you could barely see at all;
your eyes were simple.

 

There were no reflections,
no such thing as images then
only darkness and light.

 

With hundreds of tiny hairs
you sensed the caress of air
along your plump body

 

and consumed the world
with the strength of your jaw;
never dreaming there would come

 

a time you wouldn’t eat at all.
Loud noises shocked you. Flight
was the domain of predators

 

but then change shifted
everything. Now you
hear with your wings: sensing

 

sound as whispered vibrations
fluttering through the wind.
You dance in the sparkling complexity


of your mirror-ball vision;
and drink the world in
slowly through a straw

 

like a tropical cocktail—
turning heads
in your showy new dress.

Previously published in Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology 2013.

Bronwyn Lovell is an emerging poet from Melbourne who has published
a chapbook of butterfly poems called ‘Chrysalis’, and is currently working on a
verse novel. She has won the Adrien Abbott Poetry Prize (2013) and been
shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize (2013) and the Montreal International Poetry Prize (2011). Bronwyn writes a poetry column for Lip magazine and
she was the poet-in-residence at Kinfolk in the Melbourne CBD for three years through the Australian Poetry Cafe Poet Program. She chats to Alexis Lateef about astronomy, the inspiration behind Chrysalis, and the importance of organisations like Australian Poetry.

 

AL: You've had a prolific two years, being published in journals like
Australian Poetry Journal, Australian Love Poems, Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology, Rabbit, Cordite, The Best Australian Poems 2014, and many others.
Have the past few years been a particularly inspiring time for you, in terms
of writing?

 

BL: I think 2012 was a turning point for me because I was fortunate to receive a grant from the Australia Council for the Arts that allowed me to undertake a year-long mentorship with Chris Wallace-Crabbe. Up until that point, I wasn’t very good at editing my own work or recognising ways that a poem could be improved. During my mentorship, I learnt to look at a poem critically, and acquiring those skills has helped me immensely. It’s also given me the confidence to start experimenting with my poetry and taking risks. Previously, the inspiration for my poems was almost entirely taken from my own life experience. Recently I’ve begun to write outside of that and I’ve been enjoying the freedom that
writing from the imagination allows.

 

AL: Your poem 'Astrophysics' won the Adrien Abbott Prize, congratulations.
You have stated on your website that you have a fascination with outer space,
how did this come about?

 

BL: I think it was inevitable. I was born the same year as NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. It was the golden age of the solar system, when Pluto was still a planet. One of my earliest memories is having an ewok colouring book and seeing Darth Vader’s helmet fill our windscreen at the drive-in cinema. I also remember my parents taking me outside to look at Halley’s Comet in the night sky in 1986 when I was just 5 years old, and their trying to impress upon me how special it was and that I wouldn’t see it again until I was really, really old. Star Trek: The Next Generation hit television screens in 1987 as prime-time family viewing and I was destined to spend my school years as a social outcast, discussing the intricacies of the latest episode with a few fellow geeks and nerds. I did work experience at Sydney Observatory and my first car was a 1985 Ford Meteor. I had always wanted to become an astronomer, but at university I was far more interested in studying pretty pictures of galaxies and star systems than the finer details of maths and physics that formed the basis of the course, so I majored in English and Film Studies instead. I passed on my astronomy textbook to my Dad, who went on to become an amateur astronomer. When I visit home, if the weather is right, he will often invite me to go stargazing. “Astrophysics” came out of a conversation we had beside the telescope on one such evening. I've loved space for as long as I can remember, and I can say the same of poetry. However, it only recently occurred to me that my two loves might be able to coexist in the one project. Writing a science fiction verse novel feels so natural and enjoyable to me, and yet it came as quite a revelation.

 

AL: You are writing a verse novel called 'Migration', about a group of people who are sent to colonise Mars. What verse novels have you been inspired by?

 

BL: The Sunlit Zone by Lisa Jacobson—an imaginative, evocative and moving speculative fiction
Gap by Rebecca Jensen—a suspenseful urban realist crime drama set in modern-day Brisbane
Jack by Judy Johnson—a character-driven psychological thriller set in the Torres Strait in 1938
Wild Surmise by Dorothy Porter—the space references to Jupiter’s moon Europa are stunning
Ruby Moonlight by Ali Cobby Eckermann—an elegant Aboriginal historical fiction and romance

 

AL: Do you have different methods for writing poems and writing the verse novel?

 

BL: I think of the verse novel as many individual poems that together communicate a narrative.
I try to explore one concept or capture a single scene in each poem. My poems often start with an idea or emotion, which I work to make concrete and relatable on paper. The main difference between writing from life and writing from imagination is that one is trying to transcribe reality and the other is attempting to create a reality. I approach each type of writing in a very similar way. In realist poetry,
I try to describe, as precisely as possible, drawing on my personal experience when appropriate, how something
actually is; and in fictional poetry, I try to imagine, as precisely as possible, drawing on research when necessary, how something potentially might be. That, for me, is the only difference.

 

AL: You recently published a chapbook called 'Chrysalis', a suite of
butterfly poems. You explore the life cycles of butterflies while weaving in
a thought-provoking commentary on life and mortality. What was your vision
for this collection?

 

BL: This collection came about due to my receiving the Hannah Barry Memorial Award in 2011
from the University of Melbourne Theatre Board to assist with the development of a creative work.
The annual Award is named for a talented actress who was studying at the University in the school of Creative Arts when she was killed in a motorbike accident in 2002. After I won the award, I received an email from Hannah’s mother, Maxine. I told her I would like to honour Hannah’s memory by perhaps writing something about her as part of the show. Maxine was generous enough to send me a poem
that Hannah had written in 1998, when she was 21 years old. Maxine found it after Hannah had died.
The poem was about transience, and those beautiful things that don’t last, like bubbles and butterflies—because it’s not in their nature. In her poem, Hannah expressed a preference to live fully for a short time, rather than living for a long time without really living at all. When I read this, I was very moved,
and I knew that this concept would form the basis for my creative work. However, I was also acutely aware that the metamorphosis of the butterfly had become a cliché for the human experience.
To enliven it, I endeavoured to extend the metaphor beyond its familiar motif by researching the scientific particulars and lesser-known aspects of the butterfly lifecycle and trying to be as technically accurate as possible, while still allowing my imagination creative freedom.

 

AL: You work at Australia Poetry at the Wheeler centre in Melbourne.
How important is this organisation to the flourishing of poetry in Australia?

 

BL: Australian Poetry’s purpose is to promote Australian poetry locally, nationally and internationally. This work is crucial for our national poetry culture, because most contemporary Australian poets are largely unknown and unappreciated both here and abroad. These days, people tend to reach for poetry at formal, traditional occasions like weddings and funerals, but are increasingly unlikely to make poetry part of their everyday lives. Poetry literacy is low, poetry books are poor sellers and poets are famously poor. Sadly, the current Australian government recently brought into effect a federal budget that increased defence force spending while decreasing arts funding. The irony is that to celebrate free speech and independent thought, to encourage creative and critical engagement, to stir emotion and evoke empathy—basically to protect our culture and way of life—nothing is worth defending more than poetry.
I certainly think that poetry—especially contemporary Australian poetry as opposed to the better-known literary classics of the UK and US—is terribly undervalued and that the work of Australian Poetry is essential in order to advocate for the art form.

 

AL: What can we expect from you in 2015?

 

BL: I’m delighted to be starting the year with a 2-week manuscript development fellowship at Varuna (the National Writers House in the gorgeous Blue Mountains of NSW) and I’ve also been fortunate enough to recently receive a VicArts grant for my science fiction verse novel ‘Migration’—so, as much
as possible, I intend to spend my free time this year en route to Mars.

 

Alexis is a West Australian poet, freelance editor and poetry enthusiast. She has a BA (English) from

The University of Western Australia, and has worked as a tutor and bookseller. Her poetry has appeared
or will appear in Uneven Floor, Shot Glass Journal, Westerly, Page Seventeen and Australian Poetry Journal. She is currently studying librarianship, and is working on her first book of poetry. Alexis frequently reads
at Voicebox.


Tracy Ryan

feature poet -  Tracy Ryan

feature poet

Poems

 Interview

Poem 1

Poem 2

Poem 3

Interview with Robbie Coburn

The Double Appointment

 

The essential is invisible to the eye.

St-Exupéry, The Little Prince.

 

 

Taking our turn each to enter

this dark cabinet as if it were

confessional, only the failings are

ocular, commonplace and we hope

venial not mortal; in any case this

 

master’s scrutiny dispenses no

sacrament, merely lenses. And graven

images: a new machine that can scan

and fathom inside the eye, rotated

in three dimensions – look, my

 

macula as it should be, relief, he

calls you in from your pew to see,

returned to privacy: your wife in a way you’ve

never seen before, not louche but humorous,

charting the way we, so close, share the loss

 

of hold on the outside world – a pair

of old shoes or trousers still together

in decline as in all else – and yet treasure

each other no less. Look at that membrane,

floating, detached!he says, detached, and your

 

question leaps anxious but it is nothing

serious, just my vitreous ageing

along with the rest of us, and now for weeks

you will have to drive me, go wherever

I need to go, just as I’d do for you if you were

 

this helpless, extending each other’s senses,

flesh-of-my-flesh prosthetic, bone-of-my-bone

symbiosis, until my new set is ready to collect

and I’ll be once more communicant, outwardly

focussed, appearing to manage all by myself.

 

Near-Earth Objects

 

Built in is the possibility of it all going instantly.

Merely having a name seems minutest luxury, folly.

 

I’m still the open-mouthed child my brother could terrorise

by telling me the sun would end – will end, indeed

 

but so far along that the word far’s engulfed in

non-meaning the way the world would be. Will be.

 

And Tim, nearly nine now, who once lived for the sheer

idea of the mighty crab and horsehead nebulae —

 

something approaching God to him — hearing obliquely,

from a schoolmate, who’s got slightly the wrong end

 

of partly the wrong stick, that a STAR today will crash into earth

turning us off like a switch before we’re even aware of it

 

garbling, I guess, the story of NASA’s cast-off six-tonne satellite

expected in twenty-six bits which could each pack

 

a substantial punch but at odds of twenty-one trillion to one,

can meet this great ontological mess only with I hate space,

 

I hate space.

Previously published in This Corner magazine (UK, 2012).

The Grass-Cutter

 

Strange interlude, this week or more

once a year, in which he puts on

 

the old gear, black like his daily wear

but thicker, stiffened, coated by grease,

 

grass-tips and general grime, same as

last time, hair-shirt or scarecrow-garb

 

he calls iron maiden and must shower

even before, so as to feel vaguely human

 

flinching at texture ripe as old rot,

a living shroud, the dross and refuse

 

of our block so woven in, laid as sediment

within the garment, fossil record, too far gone

 

to wash in the machine, so it sits there, all year

waiting for him, too thin for armour, lets

 

in darts and shots that the ground retorts

in their annual tête-à-tête, the Place of Stones

 

whose steep slope no mower can take, combat

hand-to-hand but who’s the opponent? not

 

this land, not jam tree or York gum, that get

the blame if a spark should fly... Our neighbour

 

Jay says Everyone here just uses spray, the “quick”

solution, compounding the problem, for everyone

 

also drinks from bores and tanks and no one

thinks of the consequence and so he’s out there,

 

my husband, in that crazed casing, razing the dry wild oats,

making us fit as he can for the feared fire season

 

that is always to come, doing it hard, meeting each

stalk the same way God reportedly counts each hair

 

of your head, each sparrow that falls, alive to this patch

of six acres as only such work can make you, all he can do.

 

 

Tracy Ryan is a West Australian poet who has published seven collections of poetry and several novels. Her most recent collection is Unearthed, published in 2013 by Fremantle Press, and described by Marian M. Campbell as ‘an achievement of the highest order from one of Australia’s most gifted poets.’ She has won the
WA Premier’s Award for Poetry twice, and many other notable awards.
She took a moment to talk to Robbie Coburn about influences, confessional poetry and poetry publishing.

 

RC: Much of your work has concerned political topics; for example, animal rights, and you identify as a feminist and pacifist. How do you feel these aspects of your lifestyle affect your approach to poetry?

 

TR: They’re always there at least in the background, or in the point of view, but it would be rare for me to “choose” a topic and write on it overtly. I was writing poetry from an early age, long before my political views were formed. However, I do believe that the approach to writing poetry becomes more coherent as the writer develops a conscious ethical stance (or not). Even poetry that doesn’t intend to be political frequently is, in some way.

 

RC: One of the most interesting things I find with your work is the fact that your influences are vast, yet never exposed in the writing in an obvious way, and you have stated that you don’t like to fall into a particular school of thought. Do you think it’s necessary to categorize poetry for the sake of academia or do you think enjoying poetry for poetry’s sake is enough?

 

TR: I like both approaches. There are times when it’s best to let the poem speak for itself, but there’s also a lot to be learned (by reader and writer) from an informed critical analysis. The “particular school of thought” thing I avoid because it can be a kind of censorship –an intellectual vogue or fad or domineering group can make some writers afraid to differ, to write the way they really want to. I don’t mind intense intellectualism or theory; my problem begins when those elements presume to dictate what can or can’t be written.

 

RC: Much of your work is based in a very personal space. Your wonderful collection Scar Revision for example, concerned experience and the impact of emotional scarring, using the personal as the basis for the poem. This also ties in nicely with the idea of schools of thought, and particularly movements such as confessional poetry. Do you think distinctly personal poetry is meant for the public, or do you think the poet needs to distance themselves from the poem?

 

TR: A good deal of what people call confessional poetry is actually doing more than confess (if it even does that!); it’s often resonating outside the personal.

But I think the personal is every bit as valid a source for poetry as anything else. What the poet does with it may seem in poor taste in some cases, but individual readers will differ on that, as they do with any other topic. Material that one reader finds too personal, too revealing, will be spot-on for another. There’s a huge difference between exhibitionism for its own sake and writing that draws on your own life in a way that makes experience relevant to others.

Theodore Roethke used personal material in a highly evocative way; the greenhouse, for example, was a family business, but it becomes through his poems a powerful symbol and “belongs” to the reader in a way that transcends Roethke’s childhood experience yet comes out of it.

A lot (not all) of my book Scar Revision was written while I was living in the USA just before and during the onset of the second Gulf War. I was pregnant with my second child and so the consciousness of the body and its vicissitudes on which the book draws “personally” also comes out of what was going on around me politically and socially.

Very little in Scar Revision addresses that directly (except one poem about the American flag, which is even so quite indirect and could be applied to any national flag) – but the personal elements of birth, death, damage and separation partly stem from that context. Even when poets are writing about themselves, they are usually writing implicitly about other things as well.

 

RC: As well as poetry collections you have written several novels. Do you have a different method or practice when approaching these different styles of writing? Do you perhaps go through stages of writing solely poetry or prose?

 

TR: Never solely one or the other, but largely focussed on one book at a time. It depends on the size or shape of the idea. If something is symbol or word-driven, it seeks the form of a poem. A bigger idea involving “what if ...?” would tend to seek the form of a novel. Poetry comes more naturally to me now, because I have done more of it, but when I started writing as a very young child it was fiction. Poetry I didn’t start till I was about 15.

I have had to learn to separate them more, to train myself in constructing narrative; yet as a reader I also love poetic novels. For me, poetry is easier to fit around other tasks. It’s somehow more modular. Novels require setting almost everything else aside.

 

RC: You’ve also worked in the publishing and editing of poetry, such as your involvement with Folio (Salt). How important do you feel it is for new publishers of poetry to emerge at a time when so many of the major publishing houses no longer include poetry collections in their roster?

 

TR: Actually, at Folio (Salt) I only did layout, typesetting and proofing, and on one or two occasions did some translating. (My partner John Kinsella was publisher/editor.) But I have certainly worked as a poetry editor on magazines (Fremantle Arts Review, Westerly, Blue Dog), and co-founded a poetry mag in the early 1990s (a print one, of course!) that lasted for about four issues.

With regard to book publication in print or electronic form, I think that poetry has always found its home in small and specialist houses, even though it’s obviously great if it can get a wider readership through big publishers! The smaller publisher is probably not in it for huge profits anyway, and will usually take greater artistic risk, which is what poetry needs. I think people should set up their own opportunities if avenues close down or cease to exist. That’s much more feasible now than in the days of print only; yet even then people produced great work cheaply.

 

RC: What are you currently working on? What can we expect from you in 2015?

 

TR: I’m drafting a new suspense novel (my most recent was in 2014, Claustrophobia, published by Transit Lounge). I’ve also got a different novel-draft waiting to be revisited and reworked. Plus I’m putting together poems for a Whitmore Press book due out in 2015. I admire the very fine books they do and am pleased to be on board with them this coming year.

 

RC: It’s no secret that the landscape of Australian poetry is changing drastically, particularly with the rise of poetry publications online. What advice would you have for young people wanting to write poetry, and I hoped you could give some insight into the path a young person might follow in order to be a poet in 2015.

 

TR: I’m wary of giving advice because everybody finds his or her own way. But I can give some insight into how it worked for me when I was a young person – even though technology and publishing venues have changed so much. Most of these factors are still the same...

First, I didn’t let rejections stop me writing. That’s something that doesn’t change. You have to be fiercely stubborn and a bit audacious to be (and remain) a poet, because so many people inside and outside poetry will tell you that you can’t.

Second, though equally important, was reading. Not only contemporary but from all times available. Reading exposes you to a range of approaches you might admire or contest. It also helps you find which publishers might be interested in the kind of work you do. But primarily it improves your command of the art, reading deeply as much as reading widely. Getting to know language is crucial to this too.

I used to spend a lot of time listening to old recordings of poets reading their own work (Ted Hughes and Dylan Thomas were on cassette tape in the Curtin library) – these were much harder to come by when I was young, though stubborn people always managed to find them! Now such recordings – and more – can easily be found online. Read biographies of poets you admire – not for the personality cult thing but to get an insight into a real working life. It’s never as glamorous as people think.

When young I think the hardest thing is to persist in taking yourself seriously at poetry when many people around you will think it’s a pursuit that doesn’t matter, or that you’re not up to it, or that it’s an idle fantasy (“not a real job”).

Taking yourself seriously at poetry means organising your life around it, allowing yourself the time and the resources to do that reading I mentioned, and to spend on your own writing. Whatever the publishing technology is, if the poetry is good there’s a strong chance someone will want it. The onus is on the poet to perse

 

Robbie Coburn is a poet and critic. He was born in June 1994 in Melbourne and lives in the rural district
of Woodstock, Victoria. His poetry and criticism have been published in various Australian journals.
His books are Human Batteries (Picaro Press, 2012), Rain Season (Picaro Press, 2013) and
Before Bone and Viscera (Rochford St. Press, 2014).