to issue 32. As we head towards the end of the year (thank you David
Jones for reminding us with
your Trim-A-Tree being put up on the 1st of September), we get closer
to our first annual IP Soirèe, following the releases of our six
This issue includes wonderful interviews with three of our new authors – Michelle
Cahill, Libby Hart and Paul Dawson. We also include a special feature
about Libby Hathorn’s digital children’s project Wonderstop.
David’s editorial is of particular interest this issue, especially
for those who are wondering about the dwindling number of Australian
literary works available in our bookshops. He was responding in part
to Carmen Lawrence’s
recent Dorothy Green lecture, “The Reading
Sickness”, from which we’ve provided a substantial extract.
As always, eNews is rounded out with reviews, digital news, the activities
of our authors and special deals to tempt you to join in the David
Jones spirit. And check out the IP store for wonderful ideas for
people of any age. Great stocking stuffers!
Enjoy the newsletter, and we’ll see you again in the New Year,
if not before as our Spring Season ’06 heads to Melbourne,
Tasmania, Canberra, Sydney, and, of course, Brisbane, where we hope
to bring down some needed rain during our Gala Launch on 5 November!
the Director's Desk
enough breathing space between stops in our Spring Season ‘06
tour to fit in our final issue of the year—and I’m
sure you’ll enjoy every screen shot of it!
I’ve just returned from the Northern
Territory leg of the Season tour, which included stops in Alice Springs,
Katherine and Darwin, where I met numerous aspiring authors keen
to learn more about IP. The highlights had to be the Meet the Author
and Publisher sessions in those towns, and my Sell That Book! workshop
at the NT Writers’ Centre.
There’s no rest for the wicked, though, with stops in Melbourne,
Tasmania, Canberra and Sydney, as well as as our first-ever Soirée and Gala
Launch in Brisbane the first weekend of November. Tickets
are going fast for the Soirée, which will feature all six Spring
Season authors, so book yours soon!
Our friends at the NSW Writers’ Centre will be offering IP
featured slots at their annual Independent Publishers’ Book
Show on the last weekend of November, which will include an in conversation
session between me and Tilly Brasch, the Sydney launch of Nigel Turvey’s Terania
Creek: Rainforest Wars by former Premier Neville Wran. In the
same weekend and the days leading up to the Show, I’ll be attending
launches for Paul Dawson’s Picks 06 winning Imagining
Winter at UTS; Michelle Cahill’s The
Accidental Cage at Gleebooks;
and giving a reprise of my Sell That Book!
workshop for the NSW Writers’ Centre.
Speaking of IP Picks, our popular national
writing competition for unpublished manuscripts is well and truly
open for entries now, with the usual closing date
of 1 December. Be sure to
check out the updated Picks
Page, which features the 06 winners and
gives all the essential info on how to enter this year’s competition.
If the traffic on the website is any indication, we will have even
more entries this year than last.
We welcome new Assistant Editor Jennifer Newbury, who’s on
work experience with us from QUT, while bidding Erica
Sontheimer bon voyage for her new post at The
Griffith Review. Erica made quite
a mark for herself in a short time with her expertise in promotion,
and we expect to make the most of her advice in our revamped marketing
With only 50 shopping days till the Silly Season, give or take a
few office parties, we hope we’ve
found a way to help you avoid fighting the crowds in our Deals section.
Happy reading, and let us be the first (along with David Jones) to
wish you and yours a safe and joyous holiday season.
Dr David Reiter
We Miss Literature When It’s
In her recent Dorothy Green lecture, Dr Carmen Lawrence,
MP raises the tragic prospect of a society without literature.
In our exhaustion
from increasing hours at work we seem to lack the will to partner
writers in an ”imaginary universe”. Writers no longer
have the clout William Faulkner once saw for them because, as Ivor
Indyk asserts, readers have lost the will or the ability to concentrate
on serious writing.
But, so long as our 3G phones give us ready access to the latest
games on 3cm screens,
the question is do we really care?
As a politician, Lawrence can’t
resist pinning at least part of the blame on Prime Minister John
Howard, who leads by bad example in naming Bonfire of the Vanities
as his favourite novel and criticising the purveyors of postmodernism
even as he proves himself to be the quintessential Postmodern Man.
But in these days of poll-driven politics, who can blame Howard
for being shy of breaking new ground? Certainly he missed an opportunity
to show some class by his failure to welcome JM Coetzee’s
decision to become an Australian citizen. JM Who? But if
enough of us had bumper stickers on our cars that read I READ AND
authors would be voted in as Australians of the Year. Fat chance!
Brian Castro points the finger at Big Publishers who are ‘killing
literature’ by being overly concerned
about their bottom line. Lawrence seconds the motion with a statistic
that shows the majors published only half as many Australian
writers in 2004 as in 1996. For shame! But mainstream publishers,
with few exceptions, are reactive rather than proactive to market
Would we really be any better off if they insisted on publishing
what we didn’t want to read?
The fact remains that the nature of the book as we cherished it
is changing. It will remain the most convenient packaging for recyclable
classics up to the Modernist Age. In the near future, literary
writing will continue to be published in small print runs by niche
to the dwindling ranks of the “true believers”, but
the medium term will see it shift online where it at least has
exposure and to be archived.
Will the literary impulse disappear? I doubt it—any more
than the Aboriginal’s impulse
to create rock art persists to this day. But rather than see
screen culture as the enemy we should be encouraging literary artists
to seek expression there through independently produced podcasts,
DVDs and CDs. Writers can be as subversive as they like in these
new artforms, or they might even decide to collaborate with the
If the message is worthwhile, it will find its medium and its audience,
and no gatekeeper will be able to stop it.
[This is an abbreviated version of Dr Carmen Lawrence’s Dorothy
Green Lecture given to the Association for the Study of Australian
At an early age, despite the
dearth of reading material at home and school, I was infected
Patrick White called "the
reading sickness". Like White and others who have caught the
bug, I was "soon in a fever – while not understanding half
of what I read – but reading and reading".
I know that the proliferation of writers festivals and book clubs
has led some to conclude that Australian literature enjoys a secure
place in our civic and cultural life, but there are worrying signs
that this is an overly favourable assessment. While we seem to
be reading as many books as ever, more of them appear to be formulaic
fiction or how-to guides for managing real estate, children, physical
appearance and relationships. Sales of Australian fiction fell
from $215 million in 2001-02 to $73 million in 2003-04 and few
such books, even by well-regarded writers, sell more than 1000
Royalties and fees for Australian-originated books are
also down. First time and unknown authors struggle. Perhaps as
a result, leading publishers appear to be vacating the field, producing
only 32 books from Australian authors in 2004 compared with 60
It has been obvious for some time that our current leaders seem
to place no value at all on literature, Australian or otherwise,
or the arts more generally. And much as I’m loath to admit
it, the talk and behaviour of our political leaders—what
they endorse and what they ignore—influences and amplifies
our own tastes. I find it amazing, for example, that there was
no public gesture of welcome from the Prime Minister following
the decision by Nobel Prize and Booker Prize winning author J.
M. Coetzee to become an Australian citizen.
Nor have I seen any
celebration beyond the arts world of the fact that the only two
novelists to win the Booker Prize twice are both Australian (Peter
Carey for Oscar and Lucinda: 1988, and True History of the Kelly
Gang: 2001; and J. M. Coetzee for Life & Times of Michael K:
1983, and Disgrace: 1999).
I'm not as unkind as Mungo McCallum, who suggested that the last
theatre Howard attended was to have his tonsils removed and the
last book he read was the Boy Scouts Book of Knots, but in trawling
acres of newsprint and transcripts that capture his every utterance,
I found almost no evidence of him taking pleasure in reading fiction
or celebrating the achievements of our literary high-flyers.
And this can be no accident from a leader so given to calculation;
a leader who weighs each word meticulously before speaking; this
is not an oversight, but a message meant to be received and understood.
We are meant to conclude that the arts have no great value and
artists are, in any case, forever tarnished by their association
with a previous administration as well as being beyond the realm
of “mainstream Australia”.
In one of his rare incursions into the world of arts and education,
sounding off about “post-modern rubbish” and “gobbledygook”—“there’s
high quality literature and there’s rubbish”—the
PM was asked to nominate his favourite contemporary novel. Bonfire
of the Vanities, he replied.
Although I agree with David Marr that the arts should not be contorted
into a patriotic celebratory purpose, I'm concerned their omission
from public debates is to our collective detriment.
It may feel
better to be ignored than abused, but the curious, fearless voice
of social criticism is not something we can do without if we are
to transcend our limitations. As Green insisted, "Those who
value political and personal freedom have the strongest motive
to preserve respect for the word" and that "society in
any significant sense of the word is simply not possible without
literature" because it is "the memory of a society which
provides it with its continuity and its enduring personality".
— Dr Carmen Lawrence, MP
[In this issue, we
take a look at three of our authors: Libby Hart, Paul Dawson, and Michelle
Cahill intervewed by Anne Marshall (AM) and Erica Sontheimer (ES)]
Libby Hart is from Melbourne, and
her collection Fresh
News from the Arctic won the Somerset Poetry Prize
before being Highly
Commended for the IP Picks ’06 Best Poetry Award. The collection was
also supported by the Australia Council’s grant to IP in the Presentations
& Promotions category.
AM:Fresh News from the Arctic is a collection
of poetry that explores the physical and the imaginary. Are the poems included
in this collection written
specifically with those ideas in mind, or did the themes of the collection
come to you after the poems were written?
LH: I didn’t write this collection with real and imaginary
landscapes in mind. It actually began very differently when I was a recipient
of a D J
Memorial Fellowship at the University of Melbourne. In my first draft I was
preoccupied with the idea of memory. Its working title was Sleepwalking, and,
in a way, that draft now acts as the bones of this collection. Things began
a different route when I completed the poems “Nicolas Baudin”, “Fresh
News from the Arctic” and “Anatomy of Clouds” respectively.
pieces were written quite close together and at the time there seemed to be
something emerging in them that had hovered around me for a while – ideas
that I had been trying to articulate as a person and as a writer. In that great
and messy book East of Eden, John Steinbeck writes: ‘A child
may ask, “What
is the world’s story about?” And a grown man or woman may wonder, “What
way will the world go? How does it end and, while we’re at it, what’s
the story about?”’ I think that statement – or at least my
personal interpretation of that statement – is at the crux of all my
writing and indeed most writers would probably say the same thing.
So, after these poems were written, I began to regard the manuscript very differently.
Essentially what came next was a lot of time contemplating what I really wanted
to say and then marrying it into a coherent sequence. I moved some poems around
and replaced others and hopefully it is a better book for having done this.
I would add that I think my work has a preoccupation that lends itself to different
landscapes – either physical or imaginary. Each time I attempt a poem I
try and go somewhere that I haven’t been before. This can either be trying
to explore a situation in a different way or by delving into topics I want
to know more about. Sometimes I fail miserably and find myself on a well-trodden
path while at other times I explore where I am or where I am going in a poem
with new eyes and an open mind. I guess this is similar to travelling and because
I am generally a restless person this method of writing seems to suit my temperament.
The descriptions you use in your poems are full-bodied and evoke the five senses.
Is that a device that occurs naturally in your poetry, or was it part of the
thematic idea of the physical and imaginary?
LH: I’m not sure if “naturally” is the best way to describe
it. Sometimes I don’t think there’s anything natural about my poems;
in fact they are much laboured little animals that have at times been stubborn
or a little too world-weary to get their words out succinctly. I’ve often
had to have enough faith to stay with them and guide them on their way until
I thought that they were strong enough to stand on their own two feet.
I do try very hard to evoke the senses in my work. The idea of conjuring up
words and spinning them around to evoke something and make it live is very
to me. Again, sometimes I fail at it but the aim is there – that’s
definitely something that resides in all my poems and not just the work that’s
represented in this collection.
AM: The title of your collection comes from one
of your poems, “Fresh News from the Arctic”. Was there a particular
reason that you chose this as the title of the book?
LH: I think I chose Fresh News from the Arctic as
the title of this collection for two reasons. Firstly, I had received some
great feedback about it and I
fortunate enough for it to win a Somerset National Poetry Prize. Secondly,
Fresh News from the Arctic arrived at a time when my writing was ready to take
different direction. I say “arrived” because in
a sense it was like a difficult labour and I pushed it out into the world where
for a time to thrive. But I worked patiently with it for six months knowing
in my own small way that it would be an important work for me. The prize seemed
to validate my thoughts that the suite had something to say about life in general,
about longing and the idea of exile.
Although Fresh News is very much a story in itself, I began to write it as
I was preparing to leave regional Victoria after having lived in the town of
for three years. So there are references to packing up belongings and being
restless to find a new path. I had the dodgy little house with its myriad of
before me. I had the emotional landscape of leaving a place where I’d initially
believed upon my arrival that it would reinvigorate me yet instead kind of wore
me down. There were also events in my personal life during that period that shook
me around a little – so a lot of introspection was had in Ballarat!
Having said that however, Fresh News from the Arctic is very much an independent
story and its unnamed narrator can be male or female. In fact many people have
read it as if this teller of secrets is male and perhaps this has something
to do with the history of exploration. Needless to say it’s like a love poem
and I had wanted to write about the Arctic for many years. I had compiled notes
about it and I’d look at them from time to time but nothing really took
off until I allowed the region to become an emotional landscape.
Because of all these reasons I felt that Fresh News was the right focus point
for this collection.
AM: You’ve divided the collection into three parts.
Does this signify a progression between the poems, or is it merely a way of
LH: Yes – although the book no longer has distinct sections it is still
made up of three parts. The first part loosely concerns itself with the natural
whilst the middle of the book contains dreamlike poems. The final section has
a particular “human condition” theme running through the poems
and they are therefore concerned with mortality, sorrow, hope, endurance – all
the fragile elements that make us human.
AM: One of your poems, “My Father
is a Tumbleweed” was broadcast on ABC Radio National. Are there any other
poems in this collection that you feel particularly lend themselves to performance
LH: “My Father is a Tumbleweed” was included in
a special broadcast that focused on regional writers around Australia. The
reading of it was wonderfully evocative
with sound effects and a beautifully trained voice performing it. It was extremely
well done and I was especially moved by the experience. Performance is an interesting
predicament and I don’t do it at all well.
I think actors and other professionals with trained voices are much more suited
to reading poetry in public spaces then I am. In that instance I welcome it
and enjoy it, but I’m going to place my sacrilegious cards on the table
and declare that I much prefer the page to performance. I know that this goes
the history and tradition of poetry, but there it is. I enjoy the page much
There is something very intimate about picking up a book and exploring the
tattoo of words on the skin of a page. In that quiet moment a connection unfolds
hovers. It’s a place where the mind of the writer visits the mind of the
reader. It’s a place where the reader interprets and takes something away
from the experience. It’s a much more enriching experience and I respond
more deeply to it than I would performance.
AM: Where does the inspiration come
from to write your poetry? Do you find yourself inspired by everyday things,
or do you think of a theme and work from there?
LH: I try to write about both, actually. I am, however, more inclined to hover
towards writing about a topic. I really enjoy being able to research and explore
theme and then shape a response to it in a different and hopefully interesting
way. These types of projects help me stretch myself as a person and develop
as a writer. Progressing to another level is always a key ingredient in how
Paul Dawson’s collection
Imagining Winter was the IP
Picks ’06 Best Poetry Award winner. An academic
from the University of New South Wales where he teaches creative writing, Paul’s
poetry is challenging, original and confronting.
ES: The poems in your collection Imagining
Winter take on a multitude of forms while covering a wide variety of topics, from
erotic dialogue to national identity. In your mind, what unites these poems?
PD: These poems were all written individually over a number of years, so I
have not consciously worked with a single unifying concept or tried to provide
overarching structure. Instead, when putting the collection together I used
the three sections to organise some of the recurring concerns and interests
in the poems.
The first section, Explorations, includes poems which, to varying
degrees, manifest a reflexive awareness of the genre or of the process of writing
itself: poems which consciously explore the ways in which a poetic state of
mind can engage with experience and thought.
The second section, Assertions,
includes my more declarative poems, ones which have a political point to make,
or are concerned with social commentary. Poems in the third section, Preoccupations,
are more concerned with personal emotions, with the nature of human relations.
In general I would say that the poems in this collection cohere around an interest
in contemporary urban existence, including the politics of national identity
and the culture of inner city life. A lot of the poems treat the urban landscape
as a natural one, an organic part of our lives. This experience of urbanity
can’t be understood in terms of that division between the city and the
bush which has been such an important tradition in Australian poetry. National
politics in the last decade or so has tended to revolve around an unfortunate
symbolic division between cultural elites and mainstream ‘battlers’,
an ideological debate which is mapped onto a geographic division between the
metropolitan inner city one the one hand and outer suburban and regional Australia
on the other. Australian urban poetry has engaged with this debate about our
national identity (some great examples for me are Coral Hull’s “Liverpool” and
Les Murray’s “The Suspension of Knock”) and the effects of
this cultural divide are certainly a thread in my collection.
ES: At times – notably
in the poem “Yabbering Sextons” – you banter about the vanities of the
contemporary creative writing industry. Yet, you are nevertheless a published
poet and a lecturer in creative writing and literary studies. How do you reconcile
your criticism of the industry with your participation in it?
PD: Well, I think there’s a difference between seeing literature as an
art form and literature as an industry. If, as a writer, you think in terms
the former, contemporary literary works become part of a republic of letters
animated by debates about the possibilities of literary form, and they can
be seen to engage with fundamental but historically shifting issues about the
creative process, the nature of literature and its function in society. If
you think in terms of the latter, literature becomes a profession determined
by practical and institutional realities, with all the attendant operations
of power this implies. Your ambitions as a writer, and the contributions to
literature which you want to make, differ accordingly.
The two views can definitely
be negotiated and reconciled, and I think to understand literature, and to
be a practicing writer, it is important to be aware of the politics of marketing
and self-promotion, of reviewing, distribution and the processes of canonisation.
I guess what I’m criticising is a tendency to perceive literature simply
as part of the culture industries, as entertainment for middle class readers,
as an arena for professional self-aggrandisement and potential celebrity.
Yabbering Sextons” is certainly a satirical critique of literary festivals
and writing programmes, the indulgent or uncritical practices of both, and
their complicity in an impoverished view of literature. But I think it can
also be read as the internal dialogue of an aspiring writer, exploring how
anxiety about one’s talent and/or ability to succeed can turn frustration
into a sort of deluded bitterness. I recall attending one writers’ festival
where the most popular session by far was about how to get published. Heather
Cam was one of the panel members and she noted that when editors receive a
manuscript they are likely to look at the name on the back of the envelope
and be more impressed if they know the name, if they’ve seen it before.
I heard aggreived mutterings amongst the crowd about how this was an example
of cronyism, which was patently ridiculous because Cam was saying that, particularly
with poetry, one needs to do the groundwork and publish in journals in order
to establish a publication record. The session finished with one man standing
up and declaiming that despite never being published he would not be deterred
because he KNEW that he had talent. I was, and am, an aspiring writer, but
I found myself squirming when he was cheered heartily by the audience.
As a teacher of Creative Writing, I’m not that interested in telling
students about the profession, about how to get published. I don’t think
there are any trade secrets. You write because you want to write, and when
you think you have material which is good enough to submit to publishers you
send it off and hope it gets accepted. If it doesn’t, you keep trying.
Nor am I interested in helping students discover their ‘voice’ or
tap into their unique creativity. I want students to immerse themselves in
the republic of letters, to be aware of contemporary debates, styles and genres,
where they have come from, and then produce innovative work which will make
some sort of contribution to the artform.
The bulk of my research output as an academic has been an attempt to identify
the pedagogical limitations, theoretical evasions and historical vacuum prevalent
in writing programmes. In my book, Creative Writing and the New Humanities
(Routledge, 2005), I seek to reconceptualise Creative Writing as an academic
discipline within literary and cultural studies, and to conceive of writers
as intellectuals engaged in public discourse, rather than artists dedicated
to the expression of a private self or personal vision, or professionals in
the production line of the publishing industry.
ES: One of the themes running through
this collection is a call for personal, political, and social accountability.
Do you believe contemporary poets have an obligation to address these issues?
PD: I would be wary of the word obligation, since you can’t expect poets
to write anything except the poems they want to write, the poems which they
feel need to be written. Personally, I’m not so interested in poetry
which focuses on recording the quirky minutiae of quotidian life, on little
emotional epiphanies, expressions of the self and observations of nature. I
want poetry with guts, which has something to say. That’s just my personal
taste, and may also be a reaction to the restrictive aesthetic views most students
seem to have about poetry, and the limited scope and ambition I see in much
Nonetheless, I also believe that, despite its limited readership,
poetry is a vital element of public discourse, and one thing it offers, to
invert a catchphrse of second wave feminism, is the ability to make the political
personal. I think poetry offers a semantic ambiguity and emotional intensity
which enables it to engage productively, at the level of language, with complex
political and social debate. How has poetry allowed you to explore the darker
sides of human passion?
I think here of an excellent quote from Bernard Welt in The Best American
the first person enforces a strange duality, opening up the floodgates of real
emotion and memory while leaving you in the uncomfortable position of experiencing
yourself as a literary character. That discomfort is the main thing I think
of when people speak of a poet's voice.
A poem is not a diary or a confession. For me, a poem is a performance of the
self rather than an expression; it can give you licence to access genuine emotion
and then, through a focus on craft, enable you to attain a kind of intellectual
distance from that emotion in order to explore all its complexities.
I appreciated the comment in the judges’ reports for Imagining Winter,
which said that the collection “lays bare the things people will not
admit to thinking, even to themselves”. This is certainly what I wanted
to do in many of the poems, where I dredged up a number of my own fears and
anxieties, not in order to purge them, but to use them as the starting point
for a poetic exploration of emotions in their social context. As a result,
I often tell my students it can be productive to write about the things they
don’t want to write about, the things they don’t like to think
ES: In the past, you’ve worked as an actor, director and writer in
community and co-operative theatre. Are there dramatic influences in your poetry?
PD: In terms of style, I wouldn’t say my theatrical past has influenced
my writing. Nor do I think that there are any real dramatic or performative
to my poetry (although the last poem in the collection, “Tonight”,
is a dramatic dialogue).
However, I think there is a connection between writing and acting. In Method
Acting, the goal is to recall, through ‘sense memory’, an event
from one’s past in order to access and re-experience the emotion one
felt at the time. One can then draw upon that emotion to provide a ‘truthful’ or
convincing performance when required to, say, cry or be angry on stage.
It is interesting to note that, in his autobiography, Lee Strasberg, the founder
of Method Acting, discusses the correlations between the emotional memory of
actors and the general affective memory employed by poets in their creative
process. In particular he quotes the Romantics, and cites T.S. Eliot’s
concept of the ‘objective correlative’. For me, there is a quote
from Wordsworth’s 1800 Preface to the Lyrical Ballads that speaks
to this connection. Wordsworth argues that poetry
takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated
till by a species of reaction the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an
emotion, similar to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is
gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind.
Acting is a process of finding truthful emotional material to inhabit (or represent,
if you are working in a non-naturalistic tradition) a character. Poetry, for
me, as no doubt it is for many, also involves using your own emotions as material
for exploration, or to lend intensity to what you are writing about.
ES: Do you anticipate that your future work will continue to explore different
forms of writing, or do you find yourself being drawn to a particular style
PD: When I first started writing poetry most of the stuff
I wrote was directly personal and about unrequited love, and I didn’t
think too much about form, beyond the generic clipped line breaks á la
William Carlos Williams, which seem to be omnipresent in writing programmes.
Writing a poem was simply an
In recent years, as I have read and studied more, I have
been far more interested in experimenting with the possibilities of different
forms, and so have deliberately tried to employ parataxis, say, or write a
prose poem. A lot of my recent poems have been self-reflexive and intellectually
oriented, but that hasn’t stopped me writing love poems or descriptive
I’m not too interested in developing a particular style, or a recognisable
poetic ‘voice’. A lot of poets are praised for their ‘distinctive’ (meaning
easily identified) style, and this probably comes naturally to them, but I
think I would find that too restrictive. I’m more interested in exploring
different forms of writing, from the confessional and scenic, through to more
experimental and associative modes.
The American poet and critic, Mark Wallace, calls this a “free multiplicity
of form”, referring to a kind of ideal state where we recognise that
no poetic form is inherently conservative or radical, and where all forms are
available to writers to explore, without being linked to various movements
or institutional production networks. Committing to a free multiplicity of
form, for Wallace, means maintaining a critical self-awareness of the possibilities
of form when writing, and of the cultural and political implications of aesthetic
decisions relating to the craft of poetry.
Wallace has also written about what he calls “postlanguage” poetry.
He argues that contemporary poets who are consciously writing in the wake of
Language poetry, have two identifiable aspects to their work. The first is
hybridity, an emphasis on mixing traditions and crossing boundaries, which
includes experimenting with those forms rejected by language poets, such as “narrative,
lyric, spirituality, and a poetics of the everyday”. The second is a “resistance
to definition.” According to Wallace, “many postlanguage writers
refuse to fit single and identifiable categories, in some cases even switching
forms and influences radically from book to book.” I certainly haven’t
written consciously with this lineage in mind, but it is a practice I find
This is not to suggest a dryly technical approach to poetry. Charles Olsen’s
great line in his manifesto on “Projective Verse” is “Form
is never more than an expression of content” This is a postmodern exhortation
to break the rigidity of closed verse forms, but an ‘open’ form
can be rigid too if it is all you employ. The benefit of Olsen’s assertion
for me is the belief that every time you write a poem, the form will be different.
The right form doesn’t emerge naturally or organically from the material;
it is crafted out of a constant awareness of the possibilities of form and
employed to engage dialogically with the experience or thought you wish to
explore at the time of writing.
Michelle Cahill’s work actually
came to our attention a few years ago when she submitted an earlier ms to
us. We encouraged her to keep at it, and this year her persistence paid off
with a win in the Best First Book category of Picks ’06.
ES: In The
Accidental Cage, you have focused strongly
on landscapes and the natural world—where does this interest spring
MC: Perhaps an intuitive affinity. I follow the Buddhist belief that we are
part of nature. Ideas can seem infallible but the mind is subject to natural
like birth, decay & impermanence. The study of experience, phenomenology
and the way it is structured consciously has also fascinated me as a writer.
In this book I’ve been interested in the tension between the inner
and the outer worlds. Love, grief, the human cage. I think that’s where
the poetry is engaged.
ES: There are many cross-cultural journeys in The Accidental
Cage. Can you
tell us what sparked these poems?
MC: My father is Anglo-Indian, my mother is Goan, both born in Bombay. They
migrated to Kenya where I was born. I went to primary school in England before
to Australia where I completed my education & studied medicine. So the
diaspora reflects my personal identity of not belonging to any one culture.
In this first book I wanted to introduce something about myself, who I am & where
I come from, although not predominantly in a narrative form.
ES: What have been some of your influences as a poet?
MC: I believe that the best way to develop as a poet, as a writer in general,
is to be true to your own voice. I try to use my own editorial skills to
on the weaknesses and develop the strengths of my writing. In some ways you
have to be your own teacher.
Having said that, I read lots of poetry. I’ve also studied Creative Writing
at university as well Professional Editing. Reading other poets exposes me
to a range of voices, techniques & meanings.
I am particularly influenced by Brigit Pegeen-Kelly, Robert Adamson, Yusef
Komunyaka, Jennifer Harrison, and Robert Gray. I grew up on a staple diet
of Stevens, Plath, Yeats & Auden. I enjoy most reading poetry that engages
me both emotionally & intellectually. I like poetry to be reasonable,
daring, to exploit sound, not merely to convey clarity.
My work as a GP has almost nothing to do with my poetry. I do find that having
a practical “career” that focuses on the physical body, provides
a grounding platform for the imagination’s trapeze. Without it, I could
get dizzy, unbalanced or just addicted to the thrill of language & its
ES: Do you think there is an inherent conflict between being a mother and
MC: Yes. My writing was the first creative
impulse I felt as a woman, but nothing could have adequately prepared me
for the emotional
journey of parenthood. Motherhood is often a mindless and repetitive task
full of interruptions and days spent seemingly without goals. It’s
like the death of the mind and the birth of the heart. When my daughter was
felt like for the first time I was beginning to understand love. I think
this enriched my writing, bringing a new perspective.
But there are countless practical difficulties like dragging an infant
to the post office to send off submissions, juggling housework and inspiration.
experience has not been a traditional subject for poetry but I think it
can be. Reproduction is arguably the most important human project, so why
ES: What is the role of the poet in Australian society?
MC: In any society the poet’s role is manifold. Poetry fosters the
private space of the imagination where as Voznesenski says ‘time
slows down & possibilities
This is particularly important in a world of global multi-media where we
are bombarded with often meaningless text. At this year’s launch of Red Room’s
Toilet Doors Poetry, Bronwyn Lea made reference to this.
As a society unscathed by war or adversity we tend to be apathetic. I’m
not prescriptive about the role of the poet but I do think that poetry
can afford to be public within the private space it creates. It can be
in style and meaning. It can speak up.
An audience can enjoy poetry even if they don’t identify with or
understand it completely. This is where the music of poetry is important
subliminal meaning. If there is an auditory pleasure and a sensory pleasure,
if there is also an informing intellect then a sense of newness or wonder
Poetry opens up new worlds.
ES: Can you tell us about the process you went through
when writing one of the poems in The Accidental Cage?
MC: “Chimera” was originally written in the voice
of a detainee. I was upset by the practice of rendition but I realised
that the most authentic
me to write the poem was to write it from my own perspective: an observer
of the media experiencing through the process of dream what it might be
the simulacra were real.
I am interested in how poetry can distort time to enter the surreal space
of dream, memory and emotion where images are the most important means
Poetic imagery allows us to describe the kind of conscious experience which
language otherwise fails.
I’m quite open to radical re-workings of poems that don’t work
and sometimes this can take years. In a recent interview Seamus Heaney
says ‘The quicker the better. Poems that come swiftly are usually the ones
that you keep.’ I’m
inclined to agree.
Entries have already started coming in
for our national writing competition, with the closing date for entries being
Again, there are four categories: Fiction, Creative Non-fiction, Poetry
and Best First Book. All winners are guaranteed royalty publication by one
of IP’s imprints. Generally we offer publication to some of the Highly
Commended and Commended entries, too.
For further information on Picks ’07, including details on the past winners,
check out the Picks Page.
The required entry form and conditions are also now available for download
from that page.
confirmed the plans for our Brisbane
Season launch, a gala featuring all six Spring Season authors
(Nigel Turvey, Bill Collopy, Andrew Leggett, Libby Hart, Michelle
Cahill and Paul Dawson) at the Performance
Studio, 4MBS, 384 Old Cleveland Road, Coorparoo on
5 November from 2 p.m. The emphasis will be on performance in
the Performance Studio, so do plan to come along if you’re
in Brisbane that day.
And don’t forget our first IP
Bistro, The Corso,
Seven Hills, where
have the chance to meet all six authors up close and personal—or at least
over a glass of champagne or across the table during the sumptuous three-course
be sponsored by the Queensland Writers’ Centre, and tickets are going fast.
RSVPs by 27 October at the latest—sooner if you want to be sure to be seated
at the Soirée!
Another issue, another changing
of the Guard. Erica Sontheimer will be shifting soon to
work in Marketing for The Griffith Review, just down the road at
South Bank. It’s an even greater
challenge keeping a print journal afloat these days than a small
press, so Erica will doubtless find plenty of stimulation in her
Jennifer Newbury has been working for us for the past couple of
months in the capacity of Assistant Editor
as a part of her studies at the Queensland University of Technology. Like several
of her predecessors she plans to stay on beyond the time required
under her internship agreement. Jennifer’s
been acquainting herself with the business side of the company
as well as first reading of manuscripts coming our way. Welcome,
written the Great Australian Novel, and it’s time to set
the price. Someone suggests browsing the local bookshop where you
from $14.95 to nearly $40. What’s an author to do?
This is no time for modesty. What you do here may well mean the difference
between making a loss or a profit. Unless you view your writing
as cute form of negative gearing, it’s time to get PRACTICAL.
Tip #1: Get a Handle on Your Costs
Someone once said that most writers work for 50 cents an hour. When
you consider all the costs, that’s probably not far off the
mark. But that’s not why you do it, right? Recognition is more
important than money. Then you see that mounting pile of bills on
with the glow-in-dark stickers—a friendly reminder: your account
If you’re lucky enough to have a contract with a royalty publisher,
this is a good time to take the cheque and run. However, if you’re
self-publishing or “partnership” publishing, you might
want to think again. You’re better off not trying to put a
rate on all those long hours of composing, drafting, revising and
proofreading. Let’s just say those hours are above crass commercial
concerns, and get on to costs that can be counted when setting the
recommended retail price (RRP).
What about that $880 you paid to have your draft professionally assessed?
Should you add $1.25 to the cover price? Sorry, you’ll need
to write that off, too: call it professional development. There’s
a bright side, though. If you have an ABN, the Australian Taxation
Office will regard you as a professional writer—at least for
now. So take the deduction and be grateful if you don’t
get audited. That goes for any freelance editing advice you paid
for as well as the phone calls, postage and reams of paper it took
to end up with that publishable version.
The bottom line is that most small and individual publishers
cannot hope to recover much of their pre-publication costs on print
runs of less than 3-5,000 copies in Australia. You’re better
off focussing on printing costs and what comes after cartons of books
are competing with your car for space in your garage.
There’s the rub that often leaves first-time authors with an
itch: do you go for a large print run that drops your cost per book
and hope to sell the lot in a hurry? Or do you play it cautious and
only print what you think you can sell before your car threatens
to move next door?
Few literary books sell more than 1,000 copies in Australia these
days. If you’re young, sexy and can identify with any fashionable
minority groups, you might add a few hundred copies, but don’t
get carried away unless you have a publicist, whose fee will probably
negate any gains in sales, anyway.
Let’s say you find a printer who will produce 1,000 copies
with a nice four-colour cover for $8800. You’ll have to pay
upfront—or even in instalments as the work proceeds—so
consider your credit card limits. Sorry, interest payments can’t
be recouped in your cover price.
That gives you unit price of $8.80 per copy. If you set your working
RRP at $25, $16.20/copy seems like a tidy profit. And it is—if
every copy sells for $25. But if you sell stock through a bookstore
or distributor, you’ll have to allow for discounts from 30-65%
off the cover price. A 65% discount means you get a return of $8.75
and are selling at a loss of five cents per copy—or more, if
you consider other costs beyond printing. Better bump up that RRP!
Most publishers, even the mainstreamers, are happy with an average
return of 15% of the cover price. This may include a narrow margin
on copies sold via their distributor, or even a slight loss. But
the distributor may sell copies that the publisher can’t, so
sales that recoup most of the unit cost is better than no sale at
all. Obviously the more you can sell yourself at close to full RRP,
the greater your chance of making a profit.
The key is to sell as many copies as you can in the first six months
before the bookshops consider your book old news. Increasing that
RRP by a few dollars will probably not discourage many buyers, but
it could make the difference between paying your credit card balance
or working for others who will make a profit on your book.
[Snippets from full reviews that
we’ve posted elsewhere (click through to read the full review)]
Dennis Booth says that “Terania
Creek: Rainforest Wars is a timely book because of the surge of
interest in global warming and because people need to read it.”
He also says that, in achieving a rare balance between the views
held by conservationists and forest industry supporters, “author
Turvey is an impeccable researcher and for this reason he comes up
with some little gems that show that there was some humour in the
events as they unfolded.”
For the full review, go to the Terania Creek mini-site.
Café Boogie, Nixon’s first
collection of poetry, may well signal the beginning of a similar
process of catharsis through laughter. Her more playful poems, with
their easy blend of high and popular culture, demonstrate her ability
to meet the exigencies of both page and stage, and Café Boogie
is accompanied by a spoken word CD in which Nixon reads the poems
with her characteristic punchy relish.
The symbolism of the cover – café boogie
in fluoro green lights in a shadowy film noir setting – effectively
captures the tackiness of life’s garish surfaces, its inauthenticity
and the pervasive emptiness and impersonality of the urban landscape,
where people nonetheless strive for individuality happiness, and
meaning, like the stage personalities arrested in a time-warp on
the café walls.
— Louise Wakeling, in Blue Dog
Not surprisingly, our new prose
titles are leading the pack in terms of Spring Season sales. Terania
Creek: Rainforest Wars has had brisk sales on the back of
strong media interest in our extensive tour slated for the Eastern
Territory, registering sales of 230 copies via Tower Books alone.
of Given is close behind with an initial order of 150
from Tower before its official release date.
We’re pleased to report a second
printing of Joel Deane’s IP Picks winning novel Another.
This doubtlessly had something to do with Joel’s success in
the Anne Elder Award with his Picks ’06 winning poetry collection
but we have found it selling well into the YA as well as the adult
markets, and it’s a damned fine read in its own right!
We’re now on iTunes—and
doubtlessly several other global audio sites, thanks to our American
distributor CD Baby. You can sample audio from nearly
a dozen IP.Digital albums that include artists like:
Jumbuktu (Paul Mitchell / Bill Buttler)
This gives you the choice of downloading tracks at a time, or even
the whole album from the audio site, or, if you still prefer to have
the physical album, you can of course still order it from us!
We hope this will encourage overseas people to sample and buy our work
without the delay and added cost of freight.
[Children’s author Libby
Hathorn has been leading the pack in the creation of exciting digital
content for kids. While she’s not an IP author,
we thought her story about how her titles have come into being
and won recognition is inspiring. Here’s what she has to
The Weirdstop™ Series
idea for the initial CDROM, Weirdstop, a suite of interactive
stories, evolved in the late 1990s when the internet was brand spanking
new! Given some of my children’s stories were adapted to plays,
movies and opera, I saw the internet as potential for a happy ‘marriage
of the arts’ with all the possibility of STORY being embellished
and kid’s reading enhanced by animation, games, illustration,
hypertext, voice-over, music, poetry or even text itself. But not
only that, it seemed I was poised at a critical point in the history
of children’s literature, in the making of STORY – the
idea was an exciting one! So we began the slow process of development
with the idea that a series could follow. And it did, but not until
my small company began serious work on it in 2003 resulting in the
series of interactive story suites namely Weirdstop, Coolstop and
Wonderstop, with Poetrystop in development.
In the early days of the internet my author site with lots of flashing
text, thanks to my son, was among the first author sites to be produced,
and I believe my story The Wishing Cupboard was the first Australian
interactive story online. This is a story in itself but suffice to
say the tale of a little boy waiting, with his Vietnamese grandmother,
for his mother to bring back his cousin from Vietnam, allowed me
to tell his story (as in the book later published by Lothian) and
also tell Vietnamese folktales with the click of a magic set of drawers,
story within story. This is still available online.
Working with a son in the ICT business was an added incentive to
realising story in many guises on the internet – the innovations
seeming endless. Alas! cost considerations were a brake, but we could
tell there was still much to be achieved on a budget. And our small
company set out bravely. We’d try to get at least one story
up, and then go for corporate funding.
An Australia Council grant gave us the means to develop my first
story “Eye to Eye”. Developers were few on the ground, expensive and
in high demand but we found one. This ghost story in a modern setting
was trialled in a number of schools across Australia as a prototype
for Weirdstop™. Using a graphic designer/coder to create an
interface and ‘pages’ with graphics and simple flash
animations, rather than scroll-through pages, the story was interspersed
with three simple games relating to the text, its setting and characters.
A drag and drop vocabulary game matching synonyms (Syno Signs), a
memory matching game (Picture Power) and self-competitive hand and
eye co-ordination game (Eyeball) were used in this story, all rich
in well executed visuals. Both attractive flash animations and photo
collages were used as artwork in the presentation of “Eye to Eye”.
Like making a movie it became ‘our’ story
instead of ‘my’.
We wanted to capitalise on the ‘playfulness’ of the medium,
with games adding to the enjoyment of the story. And we planned to
inspire kids, presenting quality artwork e.g. the slide game in Collector
or the animations of Imagine Centre. All games were planned to be
bright, attractive, varied, non sexist, non violent, simple to access
and to use and above all relevant to the story being read.
Thinksmart consisted of nine comprehension questions based on the
reading of the text which were self-paced and self-correcting.
Higher Order Thinking
Workwiz teacher/parent notes suggested more in depth responses to
develop reading skills. These themed research suggestions could involve
a variety of actions from using the internet to interviewing a community
member face to face. In Coolstop the teacher notes were developed
using Bloom’s Taxonomy.
A certificate of achievement was planned to be downloadable with
student name to be inserted at each story’s completion. Kids
worked really hard to achieve this, typing in their name and printing
out their personalised certificate. On the Newcastle campus, where
we did some trialling, some kids who did not have good reading skills
were not only ‘glued to’ the story and played the games
with gusto, but sat round discussing the quiz (2 – 3 to a computer)
and stayed in at recess, each to get his certificate. It worked!
In some weird way that tiny screen has the power to captivate and
engage kids immediately, as we suspected.
Securing corporate funding was so much easier once we had the prototype
to show and our ‘trialing’story to tell. The development
of the project brief was completed over a series of six weeks, involving
meetings with those central to the team. Integral to the development
of original interactive Australian stories was simply the enjoyment
of story. And we knew we had the means of catering for a range of
readers of differing literacy skills and with differing learning
In the first instance, I didn’t realise how many people would
be involved, from the writer to developer, graphic artist, animators,
teachers, consultants and games developer to the sound technician,
voice over artist, composer, tester and many more. Totally engaging
and demanding, for this writer it was just as well our budget allowed
for a full time project manager who worked the time line and co-ordination
really effectively. Within a year our first story suite Weirdstop
was completed and in the market place. Coolstop, the second story
suite based on sporting stories was quickly underway with a new team.
Weirdstop won the 2004 AIMIA (Australian Interactive Media Industry
Awards) as Best Children’s Product, 2003; and was short-listed
for The Mayne Award for Multimedia in the South Australian Premier’s
Awards for Literature in that same year. More recently Weirdstop
won The Society of Women Writers NSW Biennial Book Awards 2005. Coolstop
was short listed in the Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM) awards
in the E Best Primary Education Resource Category. Work is underway
for such story sites to be included in many more children’s
The Journey Continues…Wonderstop and
Our third suite Wonderstop for 7 to 11 year olds is just completed.
We’ve taken a different tack on this environmental journey
of two little wombats, Bodge and Widge, in that it’s a giant
game, complete with stories, poetry, games and quizzes.
through 10 STOPS in all, each with an environmental theme. At each
STOP the kids will read/hear a story, play two funny games, find
the hidden environmental message, discover a beautiful poem, watch
a nature video and answer a quiz.
All of this to reveals the secret way to the next STOP and finally to get through
to celebrate in the Land of Most.
And Poetrystop – how to enjoy and write poetry is in concept stage. That
doesn’t mean to say there are no books in the wings. I’m always thrilled
to see a new cover, always relieved to see a reprint, and love that feeling of
the new book hot off the press and sitting in your hands where you can see, touch
and smell it; and these days, sitting reading with my grandchild and watching
her delight in the ‘page’. But it would be foolish to think that
she won’t be a ‘digital native’ too. I would like to believe
the book will always have its rightful place. However, I’m mindful that
with the pace of technological change, even though schools have not adapted quickly,
of how important computers are in the 21st Century and how engaging is interactive
storytelling. Blogs, Forums, Chatrooms and Projects will become basic classroom
communications; and mobile phone use, as another storyteller domain, has only
just begun. We believe the Weirdstop interactive story series offers a range
of opportunities drawing on young people’s understanding and engagement
with websites, computer games, text messaging and emails as well as the enjoyment
It’s good to think that the potential to ENGAGE kids in story in so many
different ways, particularly those who are reluctant to read independently, is
huge and as yet untapped; as it’s exciting to dream about what writers
(adult and child) will come up with next, the original idea still being critical
to a good story!
A reminder once again to our
readers that Tilly Brasch (No Middle Name) will be speaking at
the General Meeting of the National Council of Women Group (Qld)
on Thursday, November 23, 2006 at 6 pm, Harris Terrace, 46 George
St, Brisbane. On the following Saturday at 3 p.m., Tilly will be “in
conversation” with David Reiter in a Book Talk session at the
Independent Publishers’ Book Fair about her appeal for reform
of the mental health system as it affects vulnerable youth, as well
as the process of writing her book, which deals objectively with
the circumstances leading up to her son’s suicide.
From January, 2007, Basil Eliades, author
of 3rd i will be the feature artist and poet for Etchings, a new
Arts Literary magazine.
expects to release the Audio + Text version of his book in the New
Two-time IP Picks winner Joel Deane
was featured speaker for
Overland Magazine in their latest Public Lecture series.
ranged widely from cricket to politics
to the cultural and social fabric of Australian society. As in
Carmen Lawrence’s lecture, John Howard is criticised as someone
with little respect or reverence for the literary fields.
be Chief Speechwriter for a State Premier, Joel noted that he responds
with “why not”? If it weren’t for his eloquence,
we might suggest that Joel consider standing for pre-selection
IP authors Jenni
Nixon and David
Musgrave were part of the 5th Australian Poetry
Festival, Between, at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta, where
they read along with Margaret
Bradstock, joanne burns, and Kerry
The session was such a hit that there is talk of another performance
in Sydney. A chapbook of the poets responding to each
other’s poems with themes ranging from sex & the city to
beach culture, political satire & cultural
crossings is now available as a chapbook for only $6.00 from Puncher & Wattmann P
O Box 441, Glebe NSW 2037.
In Brisbane, Andrew
Leggett will read
at an event. Here’s
the blurb: The
Velvet Landmine returns
to Caro Mio Restaurant & Cafe
(598 Stanley St., Woolloongabba). On Sunday 15 October the theme
is Flowers & Bullets
and will feature readings of Yevgeny Yevtushenko by Michael Beaumont-Connop,
Sharon Olds & Diane Wakoski by Julie Beveridge, Jorie Graham
by Sarah Holland-Batt & Zbigniew Herbert by Andrew Leggett. As
always each feature poet will also perform from their own body of
work. This is a line up not to be missed! Doors open at 6pm for a
6:15pm start, so come along and enjoy the fine dining & poetry
experience that is The Velvet Landmine.
David Reiter teamed up with Nigel Turvey
on the first legs of our Spring Season ’06 Tour, with stops
in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, an appearance at
Brisbane Writers’ Festival,
and, most recently, events in Alice Springs, Katherine and Darwin.
The media gave us extensive coverage in Lismore and Byron Bay,
with the ABC running stories on the half-hour news about the ongoing
feeling between the forestry industry and conservationists, even
27 years after the Terania Creek dispute ended. It was true enough:
the two groups had to have separate events to celebrate the book’s
Certainly a high point of the early phase of the tour was David’s “in
conversation” with Nigel at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival.
With a flair that reminded some in the audience of Peter Thompson
in Talking Heads, David prompted Nigel to reflect on the issues
surrounding the dispute that remain a sore point to this day, as
well as the
experience of distilling years of research into a very readable
book. The Festival bookshop sold out of the stock it had ordered,
just happened to have top up stock along with him!
While numbers were certainly disappointing at the Alice Springs
event, we took heart from the fact that David Suzuki was scheduled
next night at the Dymocks store and gratefully accepted the manager’s
offer to promote us as Suzuki’s warm-up act. (He’d
done the same for us at Byron Bay!)
But the overall prize for promotion on the fly has to go to the
owner of Katherine Books, who proved to be a friend in need.
been scheduled to appear at a local café that evening, but
the owner was called away due to a sudden death in his family.
Left without a venue only two hours before the starting time, we
to find one, and Kerryn at Katherine Books proved to be an angel
in waiting. Apologising for the fact that she couldn’t hold
the launch that evening since she was on ‘cooking duty’,
she offered to set it up for lunchtime the next day and invite “readers” as
well as the media. She delivered, and we were VERY grateful. Thanks,
David held numerous Meet the Publisher sessions
with aspiring authors in Alice and Darwin culminating in his Sell
That Book! workshop
at Frog Hollow, courtesy of the NT Writers’ Centre. Lack
of a data projector only slightly cramped his style from his Keynote
presentation. Workshop participants commended David on the wealth
of information and advice
and we expect to receive several proposals arising from the
Our final Terania Creek event in Darwin was held at the
Angus & Robertson in Smith Street Mall. Sales were brisk enough
to prompt Nigel to hold a signing at the store, following a very
in The Sunday Territorian. Thanks to Anna and her staff for keeping
the air con going until nearly 8 p.m.!
Here’s the schedule for the Tour as
it stands till the end of November as we go to press: