Foam:e online poetry journal – Issue 13

I’ve had the great pleasure of being the newest co-editor of the long-running annual online poetry journal, Foam:e.

Foam:e comes out every March and as well as including the work of around twenty poets in a typical issue, the journal, under the direction of founding editor Angela Gardner, always strives to support Australian poets by presenting reviews and essays that focus on recent local publications.

Also in Foam:e 13, Angela interviews me about my new Whitmore Press poetry collection, Meteorites, and you can read my ‘postcard’ blog about my recent trip to the Swedish island of Gotland, as well as neighbouring Fårö, famously the home of the late Ingmar Bergman.

The new issue of Foam:e is out now, is completely free, and can be accessed here: foame.org

Round-up of 2016 and plans for 2017

The year 2016 finally delivered to me the thing all artists need: a stable income. The income doesn’t need to be big enough to fund a huge project; I’m talking about regular money so that you don’t have to shed all your plumage from stress when something very normal like a lease agreement needs to be signed, or you need to update your once-every-twenty-years tetanus inoculation! If I am constantly fearful that I cannot support myself, it’s hard to concentrate on poetry (I may have ideas, but not the energy to develop them) and it’s hard to shake the remorse of others having to bail me out when things get tight; we’re not talking about millionaire benefactors here either (love you, Oprah!), we’re talking about my pensioner mum and dad. So in this respect, 2016 was great — by April I had two, complementary jobs at a university, jobs which I both enjoyed and considered as strengthening influences on my editing skills.

In December 2015, I won the Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize, so the first half of 2016 was spent on-and-off editing (transforming) the poetry manuscript that made up part of my PhD into a really strong collection-length book. I really went for it. I cut it down, changed the key drives of some poems, changed the endings of others, and compressed everything I could. As Martin Duwell says in his review of my book — the poems are barely recognisable in comparison to the ones he saw (as one of my PhD advisors) during my candidature. And for that I feel very proud because my aim was to step away from the inevitable stress of the thesis and make the poetry my own again.

From November 2015-March 2016 I had an office job at UQ to fill the employment wasteland that this time of year brings (anyone who teaches knows about the unforgiving money desert that comes with the close of semester 2). This was a hard job. There was no noodling about on Facebook involved, I can tell you that — it was constant slog. The admin people I worked with were high-level performers who had to know a lot of complicated rules and procedures and I admire them so much for what they still have to do every day. I put my head down and tried my best, and in my lunch hours I worked on something else — a funding application to the Australia Council for the Arts for a research trip to Scandinavia, including the Ingmar Bergman festival on the remote island of Fårö in the Baltic Sea.

At the end of April I received the news that my Australia Council application had been successful and in late June I jetted off to Helsinki, then to Sweden, then all across Denmark and a self-funded final leg up to Tromsø in the north of Norway (midnight sun territory). I think back on this and know how lucky I was in several ways— I received funding in a round when scores of arts organisations lost theirs due to government cuts; I was able to interrupt my university jobs without any drama (I had only just started and had no actual leave saved up); and during the trip, things just continued to fall into place and the discoveries were so numerous that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to make a comprehensive list of all the good fortune I had.

 

Back in Australia, Whitmore editor Anthony Lynch and I put the finishing touches on my book and approached writers Michelle Dicinoski and David McCooey to supply recommendation blurbs. On top of that my friend in Copenhagen, production designer Mark Walker, offered to create a cover image based on a still from Tarkovsky’s sci-fi classic, Stalker, which ties in with the title poem. Now, every time I glance at the book I get this big hit of satisfaction that it, as an object, above all displays connections with good, gifted, hearty people whom I admire.

On November 18 Meteorites was launched in Melbourne at the legendary Collected Works bookshop and Nathan Curnow gave the best launch speech I have ever heard!

2017…

So this year commences with the final preparation of the latest issue of Foam:e online poetry journal, of which I am a co-editor for the first time. Around 130 poets sent us up to six poems each, so thank you to everyone who submitted. I hope you all like our selections when you see the issue come out in March. We certainly leaned towards more experimental arrangements but basically, I think we liked anything a bit bold!

My key event of January, however, is the Brisbane launch of Meteorites. For a while I thought the Melbourne event would suffice, but so many Brisbanites kept asking and asking, so it’s going ahead! I would love to see you Avid Reader in West End on January 20. The event is free, but just for numbers we’d really appreciate it if you registered beforehand (so that we don’t run out of wine too early!)

As for the rest of the year, I am pretty sure I’ll continue in my university jobs, albeit with a slight reallocation in terms of the time spent in each one.

Blissfully, I have the power to tell you I have already secured a week in the Kelly Street Cottage in Hobart for some uninterrupted drafting time (and a couple of visits to the Lark whisky bar, perhaps).

I have just applied for a writing residency in Stockholm — thanks to Melissa Ashley for posting a list of residencies on her Facebook page! Who knows to where all our linking truly links!

And I suppose in general I am both attending to the prizes I must submit my book to this year, as well as developing a new manuscript, which I’d like to have a good handle on by, say, September. I have found A LOT of poetry drafts that I have completely forgotten about — and they’re not even old — they are lovingly transcribed and filed on my computer! Honestly, I think I need to investigate some kind of split personality situation that might be going on! I have written far more than I recall, which is obviously a wonderful surprise, even if it does sound a little nutty.

Thanks to my beautiful network of writers, researchers and other friends throughout the world who continue to be a great comfort, inspiration (yes, that word) and very useful brains trust as I  follow my nose into this new year! Good health and good luck to you all.

 

Brisbane launch – 20th January 2017

It’s official —  Meteorites is getting a Brisbane launch!

Come along to Avid Reader bookstore in West End and listen to a relaxed Q & A session between me and the wonderful Melissa Ashley, whose fictional biography of Elizabeth Gould, The Birdman’s Wife, is doing very well at the moment indeed.

The event is completely free, but so the store can keep track of numbers, please pop yourself on the guest list here: http://avidreader.com.au/events/carmen-leigh-keates-meteorites

So join us for a glass of wine at 6pm on Friday January 20!

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Meteorites – launched in Melbourne on 18th November 2016

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Last Friday night, my Whitmore Press poetry collection, Meteorites, was launched at the legendary Collected Works bookshop in Melbourne.

The wonderful poet Nathan Curnow launched the book with a truly impressive speech, showing not only a really detailed engagement with my little book but also a masterful ability to draw everyone in with his sensitivity and charisma. The launch speech has been reproduced online at Communion journal (which is run by Ralph Wessman of Walleah Press in Tasmania)

The book is now available to buy online at Whitmore Press, or, if you are in Melbourne, you can grab a copy at Collected Works on Swanston Street.

Thank you to Anthony Lynch and A. Frances Johnson of Whitmore Press for a wonderful event and for all your work getting the book out there.

And thank you again to Mark Walker for creating the cover image — it came out so beautifully. The cover is based on an image from Tarkovsky’s 1979 classic, Stalker.

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Nathan Curnow regaling us all (photo by Richard Mudford)

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Anthony Lynch addressing the audience (photo by Richard Mudford)

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Me with the one and only Dave Graney (photo by Stuart Barnes)

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(Photo by Richard Mudford)

My new poetry collection: METEORITES

Last year, I won the Whitmore Press manuscript prize, which means that they committed to publishing my poetry chapbook this year. After editorial conferral, I was very happy to be offered a full collection instead of a chapbook (which essentially means more poems).

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My book, Meteorites, will be launched at the legendary Collected Works bookstore in Melbourne on November 18. The poems are along two main themes: the questions and realisations that come to me when watching truly excellent films (by Tarkovsky, Bergman, and Kurosawa) and the experience of travelling to Scandinavia, which was at first to explore locations used by Tarkovsky and Bergman, but then also became about all the megalithic sites I saw on my way; I was so stunned by all the beautiful ancient graves that I wrote poetry about them.

The book is currently at the printers and I am so happy with how it is shaping up. The cover image has been created by my friend in Copenhagen, Mark Walker, a fellow Tarkovsky fiend. The recommendation blurbs on the back cover come from two people I could not admire more: David McCooey, whose Whitmore chapbook Graphic was a great influence early on; and my good friend, the poet and memoirist Michelle Dicinoski, whose book Ghost Wife has won wide acclaim.

If you are in Melbourne on November 18, please come along and enjoy the event. The brilliant Nathan Curnow will be launching the book, so it will certainly be a sensational night.

 

 

Returning to Scandinavia

 

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A stone from Gotland. I picked it up from the beach at Närsholmen, where Tarkovsky filmed The Sacrifice (1986). When I returned home, my sister pointed out that this stone is in the shape of the island itself. 

 

Much preparation has come together and I am extremely gratified to say that the Australia Council for the Arts is funding my research trip to Scandinavia this June and July.

I will travel to Gotland and Fårö in Sweden, as well as several sites in Denmark to research new poetry.

A lot of my work is influenced by cinema; in 2013 I went to Scandinavia to present a conference paper at the University of Helsinki and ended up going to Tarkovsky filming locations on Gotland, where The Sacrifice (1986) was made, and also in Tallinn, Estonia, where Tarkovsky filmed the magnificent Stalker (1979).

I was astonished by how much activity I fitted into that trip, probably because I was so naive about travel and didn’t factor-in much rest.

I accidentally encountered Bronze Age boat-shaped graves on Gotland, sites that I can now safely say I had a completely disproportionate reaction to; I wrote one poem in particular about Galrum Gravfält, which is included in the current issue of Foam:e.

So now I will return to Gotland to see more megaliths, and I will be there at the right time to attend Bergman Week on neighbouring Fårö—it’s an annual film festival celebrating Ingmar Bergman. This year is very special as it marks 50 years since the release of Bergman’s Persona (1966), and 30 years since Tarkovsky filmed his last movie, The Sacrifice, at Närsholmen on Gotland.

On this same trip I will also travel around Denmark, for they too have vast megalithic treasures.

I am considering a self-funded extension of the trip to include just a few nights in Norway. Since I will be, as they say, “in the area”. It’s all a very long way from Brisbane, Australia.

What an important year this is. Fifty years since Persona came out—wow. And to think that in that same year probably my favourite movie ever was in cinemas too: Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev.

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Poetry Reading – Brisbane, 30th April

I’ll be reading poetry this Saturday at SpeedPoets.

I’ve been given the option of doing two 15-minute sets, so I wanted to theme them.

One set will include both my own poems and those of the excellent Swedish poet, Tomas Tranströmer; I am really loving the newly-published Tranströmer translation by Patty Crane, which I found out about through a tremendously fascinating interview in The Paris Review. Many of his poems have themes or phrases that chime well with my own work.

The other poetry set will contain film poems, works I’ve composed about Tarkovsky and Kurosawa films, but also poems that came out of my almost accidental trip in 2013 to Bergman’s island – Fårö – in the Baltic Sea.

Prior knowledge of these films or Tranströmer’s poetry is completely unnecessary! Don’t worry, I’ll introduce the material just enough to make it mysteriously interesting.

Speedpoets is a monthly poetry gathering in West End and this Saturday it will be held at Lock n Load on Boundary Street. The event starts at 2pm. Entry is free and all are welcome.