12 Days of Christmas Ink Sweat and Tears 2018/19

This poem appeared in Helen Ivory’s 12 Days of Christmas (Ink Sweat and Tears) in 2015. A new one is about to appear any day. Follow the range of Christmas poems telling it slant, here:http://www.inksweatandtears.co.uk/ Thanks Helen and Kate.

 

When temporal lobes

ignite like Christmas lights
down High Street

she is upright in a bentwood chair
/resin replica/

Can’t see or hear
Not a sound

Normally susceptible to suspense
/Can’t seem to shake it/

Never expecting a good thing
to come of it

the crate of her skull
a pulse of epiphanous bliss

She thinks in tongues
of a thousand angels Gabriel

Couldn’t imagine a suicide
bomber or serial killer

Knows everything about us
Some days she takes little walks

past hospital wards with white views
a clipped, aching feel about them  /to us/

carrying out her marvellous plan
over crumpled pages, musical scores

Child of the cosmos
Jesus lives!       /for five minutes/

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Milkman by Anna Burns Review by Julie Maclean

 

What I admire in Burns’ Milkman is everything, including the superb reading by Brid Brennan who owns the text in its myriad eddies and shifts. In this Man Booker Prize winner of 2018 psychic cruelty, physical brutality and family ‘doings’ are observed in a wry, intelligent and nimble voice.

It’s Northern Ireland in the Seventies, although this is never stated outright, and the narrator, middle sister, is accused of having an affair with the milkman, a paramilitary heavyweight who is stalking her.

‘But I had not been having an affair with the milkman. I did not like the milkman and had been frightened and confused by his pursuing and attempting an affair with me.’

We are carried in a breathless monologue as she navigates her way through sex, innuendo, the vagaries of a bookish family and coupling, hence her maybe boyfriend, at a time when menace lurks around every corner.

The quest of middle sister for agency and security in a community under pressure at its gossipy, sex-crazed worst renders her face expressionless. But even this ‘nullity’ becomes treacherous because she needs to show something, but what? Characters have no names but are Somebody McSomebodies, wee sisters, third brother-in-law. This device works magically by taking us nowhere and everywhere.

The wee sisters are a show of their own. They are cartoon characters in their nerdishness demanding readings of the classics; the comic relief in a Shakespearean tragedy. But some scenes are desperately sad. The father on his death-bed remembering his serial rapist is one. The mound of dogs and the cat stories are others. The ciel bleu episode with the French teacher is uplifting and breathes hope into a society that has lost its imagination. Burns is a skilled raconteur in full, lyrical Irishness.

The mention of icons like Kate Bush and Freddie Mercury root the narrative in time and are the kind of pop stars who divide fans and signal social divisions in a place where religion can be assumed by your name alone. While the narrative might appear to loop and meander it cleverly builds with subtle segues as the milkman creeps further and further into the foreground and the maybe boyfriend further and further away.

Burns is laugh-out-loud funny at times. She adopts a stream of consciousness seasoned with the absurd in the traditions of Joyce in parts of Ulysees, and Beckett but with precise punctuation and qualities of her own in her special language play. Her ‘Fuck-off-ly’ and five ways to describe one idea adds to the humour. The mystique around the milkman is another clever device. Such an everyday, trusted carrier of succour to the people is instead a spy, a stalker, a predator and nobody has ever seen him with a bottle of milk in his hand.

‘He wasn’t our milkman. I don’t think he was anybody’s. He didn’t take milk orders.There was no milk about him.’

A proper milkman who turns up later in the book is the hero, but bringing grief to the family in an unexpected and hilarious episode.

Burns reminds us of the oppressor ‘over the water’, ‘over the road’ of the fight over a flag. Whispers become accepted truths, batons and prejudices are pulled from under the bed to become weapons of torture to beat ‘the other’. ‘Others’ are girls who read while walking, gays, sexually active unmarried females, unmarried females, boys who cook, anyone who dwells beyond the pales. And I thought there was only one.

Her writing, in the way of Mantel, Atwood and O’Connor, is sardonic and breathtaking but her voice is thoroughly her own. She adopts a way of extreme-explaining and use of hyperbole to expose folly and hypocrisy through faux seriousness.

‘He made lewd remarks about me….–my quainte, my tail, my contry, my box, my jar, my contrariness, my monosyllable…’

She mashes the vernacular, the Latinate, the syntax of the 19th century, (‘I did not like the 20th century’), coined words and the profane in fearless lexical ribbons, all compelling.

Burns is in love with language and she makes us fall in love with language and shows us that the beauty and idiosyncrasies of language need to be fought for when everything else can be lost.

Her achievement is made more poignant learning that she was crippled with back pain in drafting the end of this thrilling ride, eating out of a food bank and claiming benefits once the manuscript was completed and published.

Just when we think we’ve seen and heard everything there is to read and hear about the Sorrows, just when Brexit threatens to secure a hard border once again, when another journalist is murdered, a wife beaten to death, dissenter incarcerated; then the milkman comes knocking. Look, he’s on the doorstep.

 

Image paperbackparis.com

O Canada of the moose, Joni,The Antigonish Review and POETRY PODCASTS

This is my last blog post for a while. I’m heading north to the UK to see my 93 year- old mother and to catch up with friends. I just wanted to update you since I haven’t been very active lately.

I’ve been busy offblog editing a chapbook for Melbourne Poets Union, (Lyn Chatham’s Artisan due out soon), running a workshop to promote Tango writing, launching a children’s book and author-hosting for Geelong Library. I’ve also been writing quite a bit after a long hiatus. Publishing a book does this to me. I lose the will for quite a while. Now I’m back.

Some of my favourite writers and singers have come out of Canada. I’m thinking Joni Mitchell, Tim O’Brien, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje just for starters. My father was stationed in Banff during WWII and he loved the place and the people. A few girlfriends and I road-tripped up to Nova Scotia three years ago where I failed to find a moose but found the graveyard of the Titanic and drafted some Maritimes inspired poems. Four of them have found a home in an established literary journal The Antigonish Review. This is my first time in a Canadian journal so very encouraged by that. Canadian journals are well supported by the government so a surprising number pay. We don’t write poetry for the money but we like to feel appreciated. Here’s a guide to Canadian literary journals. Many accept Canadian writers only.

https://www.cbc.ca/books/canadawrites/a-guide-to-canadian-literary-magazines-and-journals-open-to-submissions-1.4242191

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I’ve  been asked to be Feature Poet for Damson Poets in Preston, Lancashire at the end of September. (A Hopper inspired image of their previous venue). I’ve been there once before at the invitation of my collaborator, Terry Quinn, who organises this and gets between 20-30 people attending which is brilliant for a relatively small place. We’re working on our second collection of reply poems.

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And lastly, almost…I have two poems coming up in the next issue of the beautifully named online journal  Not Very Quiet. Hoping to get the launch in Canberra in October on the way back from Sydney.
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Poetry podcasts

https://bookriot.com/2016/04/11/11-podcasts-for-poetry-lovers/

Festshcrift imminent in honour of David Brooks, Southerly

When I heard that two of my poems had been selected for this special issue of Southerly  I was over the moon. David  is known and admired for his elegant and heartfelt writings and for his views on animal cruelty and human excess. What is not as well appreciated is his generosity in fostering Australian writers.

It was David who selected one of my earliest poems for The Best Australian Poetry (UQP) in 2008. I was so naive and inexperienced that I had no idea what this meant. A couple of years later he chose another of my poems for the Bunyip issue of Southerly. So, when my debut collection was to be published three years later, I remembered that David had chosen my poems and so I did a daring thing; I asked him if he would mind looking through my manuscript and writing a few sentences.

He came back to me so promptly and with the best recommendation I could have hoped for. He was so positive and thoughtful in his comments. He also gave me a recommendation for my second book, Kiss of the Viking, a pamphlet published by Poetry Salzburg.

I shall always have David to thank for his encouragement, his kindness and generosity. David Brooks played a significant role in building my confidence as a writer. This gave me permission to journey into the world of poetry, and although I’ve never met him, I would like to thank him and wish him a very happy and well deserved celebration of his expertise and service to Southerly, but above all, his unsung kindness to emerging and aspiring writers.

http://southerlyjournal.com.au/2018/01/01/call-for-papers-festschrift-david-brooks/

Booranga Residency July 2019

I’m very happy to report that I’ve been granted a two-week residency in the Booranga Cottage next year. I’ll be presenting a workshop on Eco Poetry and also delivering a public reading or lecture. I’ve been reading Robert Macfarlane’s poetic forays into wild places for inspiration. This image is from the Living Desert and Sculptures outside Broken Hill. They’re eroding very rapidly and becoming part of the sandscape.


I have a few projects on the go so will use the time to work a couple of collaborations, one with Terry Quinn in the UK and one with Avril Bradley, here in Australia. I also have a lot of poems that need sorting into collections or pamphlets.

The Booranga Writers’ Centre was established to serve and promote the interests of local writers, and has been active in the Riverina region since 1994.

Booranga serves its members and the local community through hosting Writers-in-Residence at the Booranga facility located on the CSU Campus in Wagga Wagga, and through the publication of its annual anthology fourW. We also support local and visiting writers with venues, book launches and reading events.

Writers-in-Residence

Visiting Writers-in-Residence give readings, facilitate workshops and are available to mentor local writers, while working on their own projects and enjoying the picturesque grounds around the Booranga Cottage on CSU’s Wagga Wagga Campus. To apply for one of our four annual paid Residencies, please complete the application form, provide the supporting documents listed and email to: booranga@csu.edu.au. Applications for the following year close on 31 May each year.

How to get off the slush pile-ask Robert

Come on down to our vast white brain of a library in Geelong next Tuesday at 6.30pm to meet Robert Lukins. I’m going to be having a chat with him about how this compelling and potent novel managed to get off the slush pile and onto our bedside tables. It’s a free event.

Book here http://www.grlc.vic.gov.au/whats-on/robert-lukins-%E2%80%93-everlasting-sunday

Robert+Lukins+01+COL
‘Described as both highly atmospheric, yet deeply unsettling, ‘The Everlasting Sunday’ is a meticulous account of toxic masculinity within a setting of inverted institutionalisation. At once beautiful and brutal, this is a haunting debut novel by writer, researcher and journalist Robert Lukins about growing up, growing wild, and what it takes to survive.’

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Links to poems online

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/250060

http://cordite.org.au/tags/julie-maclean/

https://overland.org.au/author/julie-maclean/

http://redroomcompany.org/poet/julie-maclean/

http://www.inksweatandtears.co.uk/pages/?p=4799

http://www.foame.org/Issue10/biographies/bio-maclean.html

http://www.ofipress.com/macleanjulie.htm

https://bodyliterature.com/2013/04/23/julie-maclean/