Poco a poco hila la vieja el copo

Little by little the old woman weaves the snowflake … This string of words have wound their way under my skin since I first read them in a hill-top village in Spain.

We were travelling with friends and following our noses through the Rioja area. Despite its fame in the wine industry, the area was easy to navigate and ours was often the only vehicle driving across the beautiful undulations of that countryside. Hills, valleys, vines, dirt roads and no fences; every so often a taller hill had a tower or a small castle where someone profited from a defensive position.

You know the sort of day, you’re all a little numb from so much view, so many beautiful places, the shock of living like a tourist away from responsibilities and work. We wander into the village of Briones. It’s early in the tourist season, and relatively early in the day for the Spanish. The village is immaculately maintained and still asleep. We are dazzled at the enormous Cathedral and stumble across a house which has been reconstructed as a museum of life in the Rioja It’s full of household objects that are so familiar – rolling pins, frying pans, brooms, rakes – the stuff of the quotidian so basic to domestic life, that they haven’t needed to be changed much over time.

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It was the word ‘vieja’ which caught my eye. It’s so similar to the word that we use in our northern Italian dialect for old woman – Italy and Spain have had a lot to do with each other through history.

As soon as I Googled the meaning for this saying, I was hooked. It is so true. Patience and persistence can achieve anything.

 

 

And women have performed such painstaking miraculous tasks over time. Weaving wonder from wool and straw; bringing family together for food that nourished the body and soul. I think of my nonna, whose life was one of hard physical work, and how readily she could conjure a delicious meal once she had finished in the dairy.

My life is so different and comfortable. But now I too am ‘vieja’, and I have the pleasure of sitting with snowflakes and weaving them into poems.

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Selling poems on the train.

 

It was a great day to be a writer. A sunny autumn afternoon at The Moon Cafe in William Street, Northbridge. An especially happy day for Perth poets. Together we celebrated local poet Jackson with the launch of her collection A Coat of Ashes (Recent Works Press). Jackson is currently teaching English in the province of Yinchuan, China so the Perth poetry community organised and ran the event without her physically present.

Appropriately, the event was held at Perth Poetry Club, which Jackson herself founded some ten years ago now. Every Saturday, 2 – 4 pm at The Moon Cafe, there is a space for poetry to arrive in the air. A warm and supportive community has grown there and along with Voicebox Fremantle, it’s a great place to give your poems an outing.

My contribution to the afternoon was mercenary – I was the bookseller! It was great fun packing the books into a cabin bag and wheeling it through the streets. On the train to town, Robert Woods (on his way to WAFL football) bought a copy. Selling poetry on the train felt quite Utopian. Perhaps it’s something I should try more often. At The Moon Annamaria Weldon magicked the collection to launched status and local poets Elio Novello and Sanna Peden read some of the poems. The highlight was hearing Jackson’s voice reading several poems via recordings made in China.

As always, open mike was rich and surprising.

Rocking along in the train on the way home, we had a cabin conversation with backpackers about the wonders of Western Australia. I didn’t test their interest in the poetry scene, but it is to me, a hidden gem, a quiet wonder.

Copies of A Coat of Ashes are still available from my travelling bookshop or from here

 

 

 

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Cutting-up Potatoes.

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In the new ‘Collected Poems of Faye Zwicky’ there is a quote from her journal:

“The world I came from is getting more and more distant, it has practically vanished. That’s why I feel the need to bring it alive —not for nostalgic reasons but to remember what went to make the person I am.” (Journal 1000)

I cannot imagine a future where my children are oblivious to what came before their generation.

It seems so far from my present urban life to think that as a child I helped with a job we called “cutting-up.” Seed potatoes, delivered to our farm, were cut into smaller pieces, before they were planted into the paddocks.

Recently, the sound of my slicing potatoes for our evening meal, brought me back to the task of sitting for hours cutting potatoes. I have warm memories of cold days sitting with the nonne who would join us from neighbours’ farms speaking amongst themselves in the dialect I struggled to understand.

I’d made several attempts to write about “cutting-up” but it was the sound of the task that eventually helped me write something satisfying. The poem ‘Cutting-Up Seed Potatoes, Pemberton, 1960s.’ was recently published in the Australian Poetry Journal, Volume 7, Number 2, themed Work.

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The Australian Book Review, States of Poetry, Series Two.

Four of my poems have been included in the ABR States of Poetry, Series Two alongside work by Edwin Lee Mulligan, Lucy Dougan, John Kinsella, Chris Arnold and Annamaria Weldon.

ABR States of Poetry WA

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Poetry in motion.

I have been out and about with my poetry lately, thanks to good friends who are happy to share my work. In the last few weeks I have been to the Mt Lawley Learning Centre, a book club and a Year 11 Lit class. I enjoy the opportunity to read my work aloud, because I write it as much for the sound of it as the shape of it. It is also a thrill to bring poems to people who may not otherwise pick up a book of poetry when they want something to read.

Thank you to the students of Aranmore Catholic College for a deeply engaged conversation. The level of interest, understanding and inquiry was impressive. It is evident that the class is tuned-in to literature and they even enjoy it! Special thanks to Donna Dennis for stirring the love of literature in young adults.

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A review of ‘between white’

From writingWA’s e-newsletter, Love to Read Local.

“between white”, Josephine Clarke

Mulla Mulla Press

The second poem in this debut collection from Josephine Clarke concludes with the lines: Don’t let in / any forgetting. This may well be the poet’s credo. Her poems are rich with remembrance and detail. While her simpler pieces are observational, setting out scenes much as a painter might, others wade into the swamplands of family and relationships. Here Clarke’s artistry is most in evidence. Candour and raw emotion are delivered with startling economy in the title poem, a mother-daughter piece (we rub scars into each other) and the equally naked work ‘This Smile’. In twenty poems, Clarke reveals herself as a poet to watch.

 

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Westerly New Creatives – online.

I have had a new poem included in this very fine online production which, in the words of the editors, “showcases the talent developing within local university programmes as well as the broader West Australian writing community.” There is a wonderful array of styles and voices in this edition. It is well worth a read.

Westerly New Creatives.

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