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Dorothy Porter, Australian poet, inspiration and mentor, has died of cancer aged 54.

Dorothy, I first met you when I was 18. I was a young poet, bright and shiny-eyed, desperate to impress you. You were my new poetry teacher at the University of Technology, Sydney, and you asked us all why we wrote. I remember saying, "because I can't imagine not writing". At the time, I wrote something every day. Most of it was crap. You were writing Akhenaten back then. You brought in your drafts and we were burned to a crisp with their intensity. I tried to match you. I was being drawn in various directions, by Komninos and his concrete craziness, by Drusilla Modjeska, who also taught us, with forms like sestina discovered for the first time and cradled like a demanding lover, by postmodernism and non-narrative meanderings, open-ended deferred meaning. And your sparseness and clarity. I came second in a few poetry competitions thanks to your dedication, helping me work through drafts. And finally, painstakingly, came first in one. Thank you.

We lost touch. I became an editor and a journalist, saw you occasionally at poetry gigs. You, apparently, moved to Melbourne, but I didn't know that until I saw you at a poetry gig after I'd moved here too. Then I bumped into you on the street one day. You lived around the corner from me, it seemed, in Fenwick St. We caught up. I was still intimidated by you: I might have been published and become known in my own right, but you had gone even further, Monkey's Mask winning awards and then made into a film! My god, what poetry books are made into films these days? I wrote poems about how you intimidated me. What irony...

But I still chatted with you whenever I saw you. Mostly, recently, it's been at Café Quince, down the road, when I've been marking papers and you've been reading or writing. We always said hi. I had no idea you were sick. We were never that close. You changed Australian poetry, Dot. You were too young to die. Thank you for the gifts of your words and your time. I am a better poet because of you. I'm only sorry that I barely write poetry any more. Apparently, this is what it's like not to write...

New poem

Aug. 8th, 2008 04:25 pm
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Given that there are only 8 readers of [profile] mordwen_poetry, I should probably mention that I wrote a new poem today, in response to Lisa's cremation.
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This is one of the most beautiful articles I've ever read.

Me, I like to think of the Earth as essentially a giant Tibetan singing bowl, flicked by the middle finger of God and set to a mesmerizing, low ring for about 10 billion years until the tone begins to fade and the vibration slows and eventually the sound completely disappears into nothingness and the birds are all, hey what the hell happened to the music? And God just shrugs and goes, well that was interesting.

Or maybe the planet is more like an enormous wine glass, half full of a heady potion made of horny unicorns and divine lubricant and perky sunshine, around the smooth, gleaming rim of which Dionysus himself circles his wet fingertip, generating a mellifluous tone that makes the wood nymphs dance and the satyrs orgasm and the gods hum along as they all watch 7 billion confused human ants scamper about with their lattes and their war and their perpetually adorable angst, oblivious. [From Mark Morford's Notes & Errata, SFGate]

 

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It's been a while, but I have been invited to perform my poetry at The Spinning Room this Tuesday. I'll be reading for around 20 minutes starting from around 9.30 and there's an open section starting from around 8.30pm.

I was hoping to have more of my California Vignettes series ready but I've been busy/slack and so it will probably be a "people poems" session which will include a couple of California Vignettes and a few oldies, including the poems about my grandparents, my poem for Aveline and various other odes to folks what I know and love.

It's upstairs at E.T.'s hotel on High St, Prahran, just down from the corner of Chapel. Number 6 tram. Free entry! Bring love and poetry...
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Ted Lord was a poet and community-minded individual who hosted Dan O'Connell poetry on a Saturday for many, many years in Melbourne. I was sad this morning to read of his death, although he'd had a long life and from what I can gather, a hard one at times.

He was a gentleman and a scholar. He always had kind words of support and care for new poets and old. He painted beautiful portraits and gave so much of himself in so many ways. He will be missed.

Thank you, Ted, for welcoming me into Melbourne's poetry community when I first arrived, for reinvigorating my approach to performance, for your support and for giving me my first feature there.

Do not go gentle into that good night, my friend. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
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One last thing for women's day:

"World Poetry and the Federation of Australian Writers are committed to research, curate and publicise through their extensive networks to present the monthly poetry@fedsquare event between 2-4PM on the second Saturday of every month.

In honor of International Women's Day, the program on 10 March 2007 will consist of an all-women event, with two feature poets, one feature translator, and up to 10 open readings of five minutes each.

The 13 readers will present poetry in English, and in the following seven languages: Cambodian, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Vietnamese, and Wathaurong, which is the ancestral language of Aborigines from the Geelong District.

FEATURE POETS

Julie Jose: Julie was born in the Western district and her mob comes from Gunditjmara, up Warrnambool way but she has lived in Wathaurong country, Geelong for over 20 years and is a Wathaurong Community woman. Julie is currently working on the reclamation and teaching of the Wathaurong language.

Carla Sari: Italian by birth and education, Carla has been writing poetry in English for the last 15 years. Her poems have been published in numerous literary magazines and anthologies. For the past few years she has become interested in short poetry such as Haiku and Tanka. She has been published in six countries and has won first and second prizes and numerous awards.


OPEN READERS:

Susan Hawthorne, Kalyan Ky, Rosanne Bersten, Konstandina Dounis, Pina Carey, Judy Bartosy, Patrizia Burley, Halinka Rubin, Chi Vu, Anna Sidor Gobaira, and Dimity Feifer."

And yes, that's me in there. Come along if you can. I'd love to see you there. I'll also have books for sale.
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Saw Children of Men last night. Quite intense. This (draft only) was the result.

Why we did nothing


Men are being tortured right now in Guantanamo Bay
Here on our island a whole class of people
Can now be detained without charge
Indefinitely
They will be the desesparido, just like
A whole generation of Brazilians.
In the name of democracy and Christianity,
A whole culture is demonised.
They hide torture behind words like rendition.

While he is tortured,
We do nothing. Why?
Because the sun still shines
Because making love still feels good
Because he just called again and I miss him
Because I argued with my boss
Because that idiot just cut me off
Because the baby was crying
Because the children need their lunch
Because I’ll miss the train if I don’t hurry
Because reading a book is my escape
Because my new laptop will arrive
Because I was writing something down
In case I forgot, in case I remembered,
In case I had to call them back later
Because, too often, I feel lonely too
Because light needs the darkness too
Because it hadn’t to happen to someone
And I didn’t want it to be me
Because I was scared to say anything
Because it’s all too complicated
Because sometimes I feel helpless
Because music makes me want to dance
Because that’s far away and I’m safe
Because it’s easy
Because it’s easy
Because it’s easy
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A good night at the poetry gig with a pleasing attendance and good book sales (sold 16, which isn't really a lot from 50, so I have a ton left). Who wanted and where am I sending them? E-mail rbersten@heliotrope.net.au with orders and I will respond with payment options.

I read well enough, stumbling occasionally but not often, and lost track of time with my rambling in between poems, so I didn't end up reading a couple of the poems I wanted to. Nonetheless, the response of the crowd seemed quite good, so I guess it was all right! *grin*

Thanks to all who attended.

Projector?

Jul. 16th, 2006 11:11 pm
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Does anyone (in Melbourne) have a data projector I could borrow for the poetry gig this Tuesday night?
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1. One of my Melbourne Uni colleagues, Meg Mundell, has written one of the best articles I've seen in recent years about bisexuality for The Age. Also, the fabulous [livejournal.com profile] nihilla (Bonnie) is interviewed in it.

2. Would you pay $12 for a pocket-sized book of my poems? I'm trying to get a sense of how many I should get printed. It would be a 78-page book, but little in physical size. If I print 50, they cost me about $12.70ea. If I print 100, they're cheaper ($10.30) but I'd be outlaying $1,030 up front and I'd need to sell 86 of them @ $12 a pop to get my money back.

Hmmm. I sense a poll coming on.

[Poll #758347]

Good stuff

Jun. 24th, 2006 02:50 pm
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1. {ariel flux} is back online after many hours of craziness and a steep learning curve. It's still running the old software, but I will fiddle around with a test upgrade on a test site now rather than trying it with the live site. Best to learn before you start making money, right?

2. Having a lot of fun setting up the new Magazine Empire, including choosing hardware and back-up systems and working out networks. I've always wanted a wireless Mac office filled with funkiness and beanbags around a coffee table for meetings in an awesome warehouse and now I get to do it!

3. Thanks to the visit to Apple yesterday, I finally bought the proper connector for my laptop to talk to my TV, so I can now play DVDs from it. Since I can already connect the speakers from my stereo to it, I'm now sorted and the fact that my old Kenwood DVD player has been stuffing up will no longer be an issue.

4. Have just been loaned Noam Chomsky's Failed States by a friend. Am looking forward to diving into another serious political book. The oral histories of the Egyptian women I've been reading are fascinating but not intellectually strenuous.

Now, to play around with poetry stuff for my gig coming up on July 18 -- put it in your diaries. More details soon.
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Have just seen Factotum at the Nova with Matt, so I thought I'd post this Bukowski poem that's in it, while I get my head together to write the review for {ariel flux}.

A Poem is a City by Charles Bukowski

a poem is a city filled with streets and sewers
filled with saints, heroes, beggars, madmen,
filled with banality and booze,
filled with rain and thunder and periods of
drought, a poem is a city at war,
a poem is a city asking a clock why,
a poem is a city burning,
a poem is a city under guns
its barbershops filled with cynical drunks,
a poem is a city where God rides naked
through the streets like Lady Godiva,
where dogs bark at night, and chase away
the flag; a poem is a city of poets,
most of them quite similar
and envious and bitter…
a poem is this city now,
50 miles from nowhere,
9:09 in the morning,
the taste of liquor and cigarettes,
no police, no lovers, walking the streets,
this poem, this city, closing its doors,
barricaded, almost empty,
mournful without tears, aging without pity,
the hardrock mountains,
the ocean like a lavender flame,
a moon destitute of greatness,
a small music from broken windows…

a poem is a city, a poem is a nation,
a poem is the world…

and now I stick this under glass
for the mad editor’s scrutiny,
and night is elsewhere
and faint gray ladies stand in line,
dog follows dog to estuary,
the trumpets bring on gallows
as small men rant at things
they cannot do.
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All righty then. Many late nights in front of the telly later and I have migrated 61 of my poems into the new system, slightly tweaked with feedback from various folks and moved to my own server since I couldn't fiddle with colours and CSS if it stayed on WordPress.

It's at the same address as my old poetry (http://www.heliotrope.net.au/mordwen/poetry/). If you had a particular favourite poem that has not been migrated yet, you can find it in the old poems' home until I get around to moving the rest of them.

I've also gone to the liberty of creating [livejournal.com profile] mordwen_poetry as a feed for those of you who wish to read any new poetry I put on there through LJ. People using real RSS readers can just go straight to the actual RSS feed.

Gah.

Um, also, diary note: I will be featuring at the Spinning Room South, ET's, High St, Prahran, on July 18, from about 8.30pm. For those Melburnians who wish to rock up and listen to me read, I'd love to see you there. And hey, if you're someone who's been reading but never met me, it's your chance to come and say hi!
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I meandered down to my first poetry gig for a long while tonight, mainly because good old Tim Hamilton ([livejournal.com profile] drzero) was featuring at the Spinning Room. He was as amazing as he ever was, and possibly even more so, with the new pieces about Paris and some of the Minor Arcana series that I'd heard less frequently being stronger than the old favourites.

At the same time I heard some amazing new voices, not least of which were Neil McCarthy, a stunning Irishman with a powerful way with words who's featuring there next week and Josephine Rowe, a 21-year-old powerhouse of a bright thing who already knows her work off by heart, speaks with a semi-American accent although she's only ever lived here and whose web site is filled with flash and fabulousness.

I read one version of the Minstrels and Mischief cycle and the poem I wrote for Tim and Jonathan and was very flattered to be called back and then read the pantoum I wrote for Grandma, which isn't actually online yet, but is very appropriate since I'm heading to Sydney this weekend for her 90th birthday bash. Enjoyed hearing Cam read again (and thanks for the wine) and meeting Antoine, yet another guy from Lyons living in Australia (apparently it's a minor invasion).

I find Josephine intriguing, in a sense my first encounter with this new generation as adult. What I mean is that Kyle and Alix, Jacinta's kids, both have slightly American accents, partly due to television and partly due to Mum's accent, and Tal, Georgia's step-son has a semi-American accent, acknowledged as mostly due to television, and here is this 21-year-old saying, yes, I think my accent is just from television. And her clear facility with the web site, in the way that my ease with desktop publishing must have frustrated and amazed those 15 years older than me and still doing paste-up back in 1991...

So, this is what intimations of age are...

Experiment

Aug. 8th, 2005 11:54 pm
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I have a little project under construction... a hypertext poem. I think it may be ready for a public outing...

Presenting a tale of chance and magic, love, a mask-maker, a star-gazer and a fire-dancer...
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Going through some old poetry, found this. Can't remember if I've posted it before...

As a child I collected swatches of colour
Citrine and smoke, jasper and brick,
Built secret lives in patterns, rehearsed
Intimate disclosures, carefully structured
Interactions. Now the untold moments
Of that life are shimmered slicks of memory.
I imagine myself in my room, sorting
Squares of cobalt, cinnabar, alizarin, emerald.
Precious knowledges and hidden mastery,
Never confessed. Did I sneak these past
Checkpoints, hoard collections of space,
Gather these threads to me like life?
Was it an indulgence, wondered at, our
Strange daughter, with the books and the
Charts, laying out strategies and making
Games from hues of chance?
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these pared down, harrowed days
conjured from flame and fervour
spread thin like a cry
drawn from parched lips;
like an ache refracted.

in our cities, bodies drift like sparks
in conflagrations — ash-light;
empty rhetoric falls gnarled as tinder.

what foul seraphs advance in your name,
slouch into excess and devastation?
what futile gestures must be performed
to abase ourselves before this fear,
before this terrible undying stench abates?

justice is a jibbed fool
twisting in the wind like hope deflected.

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