Tag Archives: Oversteps Books

Poetry Down Under

Three years ago, I was on my way to New Zealand where I was booked to do nine poetry readings, when the visit had to be aborted because of an accident. So I was very pleased to have another chance to go Down Under this winter, and as we were taking a holiday in French Polynesia (see previous blog) and visiting a number of relatives, I decided that one reading in New Zealand and one in Australia would be enough this time.

In New Zealand we stayed with my sister-in-law, Sarah, in Taupo and swam in the lake each day, enjoying the crystal clear waters – and especially the fact that the temperature of the water was 27 C. I also enjoyed the fact that although the weather was blazing hot, snow could be seen on the tops of the mountains at the other end of the lake, so the first thing I did each morning was to stand at the window and check that the mountain tops were still white.

Lake-Taupo

Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand, initially formed during a huge volcanic eruption over 25,000 years ago. A further massive eruption some time between 180 and 232 AD ejected so much material that it seems possible that it was responsible for the red sky that appeared over Rome and China in the time of Pliny.

A New Zealand poet, Geni Johnson, had kindly invited me to read to Taupo’s Literary & Poetry Society, Live Poets, at a restaurant in town. IMG_0903 There was a good audience, including a couple of people who happened to have flown in from the British Council in Shanghai (not specially to hear me, I hasten to add). A few open mike slots gave me the opportunity to hear some local poets, and they were all very appreciative of my reading.

Moving on to Australia, thanks to Oversteps poet Glen Phillips, I received a IMG_1047wonderful welcome in Perth. Glen was the joint author with my predecessor, Anne Born, of ‘Singing Granites: Poems of Devon and Gondwanaland‘, which was the second book I published after I took over as Managing Editor of Oversteps Books

Because of other commitments, much activity had to be packed into just one day. In the morning Glen took me to visit his research department, ‘Landscape and Literature’, at the Edith Cowan University campus at Mt Lawley. Here I met and talked to a PhD student and learned something of the work being done there.

Glen then transported me to the CTV Perth radio studio for a half-hour interview conducted by Peter Jeffery. The quality of an interview is always dependent on the skill and professionalism of the interviewer, and Peter was fantastic, putting me entirely at ease and covering a great deal in the half-hour without making me feel rushed.

IMG_0923I had been invited to give a reading in the evening to the Fellowship of Australian Writers and Western Australian Poetry Inc. The meeting was to take place in the Writers’ Centre which is located in Joseph Furphy’s house.  I was driven slightly out of the city to what appeared to be a deserted wood, where there was one other car parked. I approached the house down a leafy footpath with some trepidation, thinking it was a long way to travel for a tiny audience; but I was delighted, and astonished, when we opened the door, to find the room heaving with people, with not a spare seat to be seen. I have no idea where they had all come from, or where they had parked their cars, but they gave me a wonderful welcome.

Water cart

This furphy, or water carrier, stands outside the house. It was made in the nineteenth century by J Furphy & Sons, and used to transport water to animals, and also to douse bush fires – though I think this amount of water would stand little chance against the horrific bush fires that have raged over Australia recently. People tended to congregate around the water carts and chat, rather as employees do around water fountains today, which is probably why the word ‘furphy’ is used by Australians to describe an unreliable rumour. John Furphy was the brother of the Australian writer Joseph Furphy, who wrote under the pseudonym Tom Collins, and his house is preserved as a Writers’ Centre.

Not surprisingly, this distinguished audience was highly receptive and appreciative, and at the end they not only gave me a fee, but also bought all the books I had with me, which lightened my luggage for the return journey considerably. I was pleased, in the course of the evening, to include a mini-launch of Glen Phillips’ latest collection, ‘Land Whisperings’, which comprised poems he had written as part of his PhD thesis and also includes some of the poems he wrote for Singing Granites. 
with Glen & X

With me in this picture are Oversteps poet Professor Glen Phillips and Dr Trisha Kotai-Ewers, both of whom are former Presidents of FAWWA.

So I have good evidence that poetry is alive and well in the Antipodes. At the end of this busy, happy and interesting day I received pressing invitations to return to Perth for longer, which I’m sure I shall do at some stage in the future.

 

 

Two new books from Oversteps

As I have recently published the last two books that will be coming out from Oversteps until
I return from New Zealand in early March, I thought I’d introduce you to the two poets.

front cover 200
portrait Kathleen Kummer 200

Kathleen Kummer moved
to Devon four years ago, to
be near to her daughters.
She has worked for many years as a translator, and
her international interests
are obvious in this her first collection.

 

 

When African women laugh

In the laughter of African women
is the silver of bells and carillons
spilling out over summery cities,

and the sound of children playing
innocent games: skimming
stones, hopscotch, skipping.

When African women laugh,
you hear rain fall on the grass
as it springs from the rust-coloured earth,

and the wind as it tugs at the washing,
filling the bright shirts as if
with their wayward husbands’ bodies.

The laughter of African women
is drawn from deep down.  Limpid,
it catches the sunlight, brims over,

a descending scale of well-oiled
squeaks of delight, poured
like balm on the pain of the world.

And if it is true that the flutter
of a butterfly’s wings is enough
to cause a far-off disaster,

wonderful things may happen
on the other side of the planet
when African women laugh.

Snapshot of front cover 200   Simon, 200

Simon Williams lives on Dartmoor where, as well as working as a technology writer, he runs the popular poetry, music and story-telling evenings at the Tradesman’s Arms.

The villanelle is far from
being my favourite poetic form,
but I think it works really well in this opening poem
from Simon’s collection.

Goats

A Swiss man caught speeding on a Canadian highway has said he was taking
advantage of the ability to go faster, without the risk of hitting a goat.
BBC News

I can sympathise with him, I really can.
When he saw the road markings, all straight and white
and him from a place where odd animals stand

on bends, in the dark, unphased and offhand,
so their eyes glint up in the headlights.
I can sympathise with him, I really can.

I’m sure it was nothing he consciously planned;
to exceed the speed limit on ice and at night,
but raised in a place where odd animals stand

keeps you ever alert to dark creatures and
the way they go bump on the bonnet, in flight.
I can sympathise with him, I really can.

Whether it’s ibex or chamois or something more bland,
like ponies or sheep, they’re none of them bright,
for they live in a place where odd animals stand,

where they hide in the crooks of the road, like bands
of bold robbers, who stop you for spite.
I can sympathise with him, I really can,
as I come from a place where odd animals stand.

Dipping my toe into blogging

Image 

This blog will include both information about and samples of my own writing, and news about my work as Managing Editor of the poetry publishing house, Oversteps Books Ltd. In the more immediate future it will take the reader with me on a long sea journey to New Zealand, where I’ll be appearing at various poetry events in February 2013.