The Moorings: a poetry workshop collection
Here is an eclectic collection of poems by Janne Graham, Amelia Fielden, Julia Irwin, Neva Kastelic and Meryl Turner.
Together, they have explored forms and themes and triggered ideas for each other. You will find poems following the unusual Golden Shovel form through to three on tomatoes … and much else beside.
The title, a nod to the home address where the group meets, also suggests the sense of a safe place in which they practice their art.
The content is a reflection of a workshop in action, experimental and friendly.
|ISBN 9781922332462 (PB, 112pp);
140mm x 216mm
|AUD $26||USD $18||NZD $28||GBP £12||EUR €14|
|ISBN 9781922332479 (eBook)||AUD $13||USD $9||NZD $15||GBP £6||EUR €7|
What shines out from this anthology is the huge enthusiasm for words – honouring, shaping and simply playing with words. The delight in experimenting with poetic forms indeed reflects the writers’ fascination with life and what asks to be expressed, each writer reflecting her individuality in the process. The book offers encouragement to anyone interested in words and the possibilities of poetry to ‘Have a go!’
– Nicola Bowery
The Moorings is a collection of poetry by five members of a poetry workshop group convened by Janne D. Graham. Graham describes her venture into poetry writing as “newish”, but she has contributed to several other poetry groups for some years, published in their anthologies and in various journals as well. As editor, she is joined by Amelia Fielden, who is well known and widely published in Japanese forms. Three other poets, Julia Irwin, Neva Kastelic and Meryl Turner bring their experience in other art forms to the group. Irwin returns to poetry with a dance background. Kastelic“likes to take photos” and has provided an original cover image. Turner has an interest in art. All these skills and interests have contributed to the richness and diversity of the group. The women have developed a special closeness, enabling them to produce a collection of poetry written between 2016 and 2019, where the joy of words and writing is always present. These poets are not daunted by the diversity of poetic forms They are aware that years can pass before one feels confident to work in a particular structure with all its technical demands, but are still willing to attempt them. Metaphor, rhythm, rhyme, volta, syllabic and stanza length are only a few of the challenges that accompany a poem and allow its story to be revealed. There is too, the problem of choosing a form that will best complement message of the text. For example, Graham chooses repetition to bring childlike simplicity to her triolet “At Three” (p. 26). It is a fine example of the successful blend of form and theme:
You cannot dream what you’ll become
The world is small when you are three
A sandpit and a gate to swing on
Haiku poet Matsuo Basho’s (1644-1694) travel journey The Narrow Road to the Deep North, became his most famous publication. In “Oregon Holiday 2018” (p. 44), Fielden brings her experience in writing tanka journals to the collection as she reflects on the past in this poignant poem:
why should I
climb every mountain
to find my dream
in old age I sleep well
with the sound of the sea
Animals and the environment are prominent themes in this collection. For example, the hare has inspired artists for centuries. Turner’s “New Year’s Day 2017” (p. 59) offers an unusual turn in the final stanza as the live hare of earlier lines becomes a work of art:
I know this hare, it has escaped
from a medieval scene recently
embroidered by me on tie-dyed linen.
Kastelic’s shaped poem “A Photographer on Dairy Farmer’s Hill in July” (p. 34) also contains an interesting turn where she takes the word play to a new level:
This hill was once on fire. Scorched. Black. Lost. A raven soars.
Quick! Before he too is gone… click.
In Irwin’s “A Winter Diva” (p. 85) we have a glimpse of her love for dance. With all the characteristics of tanka, but written like a five line poem withconventional punctuation, it turns in line 3 :
A winter diva –
They pelt me with flowers:
I, the backyard star!
Wattlebirds strew my feet
with next door’s red gum blossoms.
There are many other poems worthy of mention in this collection, including Fielden’s carefully sculptured “Cafe in Burgandy (p.73)”, Irwin’s topical “Tourne-Soleils . . . For Clytie” (p. 58), Turner’s “Another Fall” (p. 70) and Kastelic’s enigmatic “May 2018” (p. 84).
As Graham points out in her sonnet “Cultural Threads” (p. 65):
Food ties our disparate cultures by a thread
The Moorings shows us that poetry can tie us together in a similar way allowing us to experiment with words, share and celebrate our offerings together.
– Hazel Hall
This is an anthology with a difference. In addition to offering ‘an eclectic mix of forms and themes which five women have produced each in her own style’ (Foreword), it manages to convey a poetry workshop experience. While certainly not a manual on how to conduct an ongoing poetry writing workshop, the Foreword, potted biographies of the writers and the concise introductions to the different sections all contribute to a sense of the evolution of a poetry writing group. As do the poems themselves.
The first poem, ‘The Poetry Cat’ by Neva Kastelic, helps to establish this workshop context. The poem begins, ‘Janne’s tabby cat sat not on the mat/ She preferred the top of the sofa back’. This ‘brindled enigma, this cat in the know’ seems to watch them ‘with a look just/ this side of smugness. Call this poetry? / Those marks on the page?’
The book is structured into two main sections: Experimenting with Form and Themes. The concise explanations of the different forms, together with the examples provided, invite readers not only to expand their understanding of these forms, but to experiment for themselves!
In reading the ekphrastic poems (those deriving their inspiration from the arts), I found it helpful to have the poem in one hand and the ‘inspirational work’ – accessed on google – in the other. This was particularly the case in Janne Graham’s response to The Ogress by Peggy Bacon where Graham seems to be inviting the reader to join her in interrogating the details of the painting. Her description of the ogress is particularly telling: ‘head vulture-like settled into the mountainous frame; / ham-bone arms reach out of voluminous sleeves; / pudgy fingers furiously forking the face with food’. I remain intrigued by the title, ‘Focus On the Fan’, which raises other possibilities and questions not addressed by the writer. And that is perhaps as it should be – an ongoing dialogue between writer/viewer and reader– that helps us to see differently.
An important benefit of belonging to an ongoing poetry writing group is that it provides an opportunity for hearing others’ responses to our work. ‘We learned from each other how to notice things differently’ (Janne Graham, p.50). Themes in this section range from the local and contemporary – seasons, food, plants and gardens, wildlife, topical observations, personal experience – to the more exotic derived from travel, history and mythology. Within this eclectic mix, readers should find much to interest and perhaps delight or touch, including Julia Irwin’s image of a ‘moss-backed tortoise crossing/ stalled at our approach … as we lift him, small paws dangling’ (‘At Strathnairn’).
I conclude with two poems that suggest the diversity in setting, mood, theme and overall style encountered in this collection. Amelia Fielden’s ‘Café in Burgundy’, set in Paris, depicts a riveting drama of human passion through the beautifully crafted contrast between the sensuous, almost-bodice-ripping imagery within the burgundy room and the desolation of the scene outside: ‘grey-whiteness/slipping away/down the hill/ to the icy chasm of the metro.’ Meryl Turner’s ‘Music with a View – The Arboretum’ is set in Canberra. The mood is contemplative. Against a carefully layered backdrop of misty limestone plains and benign pewter lake mirroring a formation of blackbirds in flight, the final image that both completes and beckons: ‘Throaty cello plays a Bach suite/ in C Minor./ Transcendence in order.’
– Dr Frances Mackay lives in Canberra. She confesses she has done more appreciating and teaching poetry than writing it herself.
Janne D. Graham and Amelia Fielden, eds.
Amelia Fielden composes mainly in traditional Japanese forms such as tanka but is interested in all genres of poetry. She finds that the reading and workshopping of her peers’ writings at The Moorings’ meetings provide very effective stimuli for her own creativity. Having her work critiqued in a positive and well-informed environment also brings about improvement and, in some cases, publication success. Amelia is not much of a desk poet. Most of her poems are sketched out in her head while she is walking her dog or swimming. Janne D Graham comes from a background of social policy and health advocacy – not one designed to develop a poetic sensibility. She corralled a compatible group of women because she wanted help and support in her newish venture of poetry writing. It worked. The various outlooks and values, different knowledge bases, to say nothing of personalities, have provided a supportive environment for her writing. She has even had a little publication success. Julia Irwin was well-known in the busy poetry circles of eighties Canberra, publishing and performing. She left for the Coast to pursue her love of dance and a new husband. Back in Canberra, less active and shorter of sight, a chance meeting with a distant relative led her to The Moorings. There, her love of words lay in wait for her, coupled with a growing interest in the beauty of small things closely observed. Now she lives not far away in Braidwood and it’s all happening there, too. Neva Kastelic likes to take photos and write poems about the moment. Through a happy twist of fate, she became a part of The Moorings group. She has learned a lot from her fellow Moorings poets, including to not start her reading of a new poem with an apology. If there is a theme to her poems it is this: ‘what’s it all about, Alfie?’ Her poetic goal is to write a perfectly formed sonnet. Maybe not today. Meryl Turner had begun to write poetry again when she was invited to join The Moorings. This group has enabled her in many ways but particularly to experiment with the matching of poetic form to ideas and words. One member contributed with her knowledge of Japanese forms, another with close observations and yet another is a friend who shares Meryl’s love of art and the word. After workshopping there has been the encouragement to place poems deemed ready ‘into the drawer’. For Meryl, writing is both wrestling with concepts and playing with words.
Until 2003, ancient legislation in France banned women from appearing in public clad in trousers.
sleek-limbed in black leather
stands on the stage
discussing poems and dance …
a pirouette of tutus
As for me, an audience member, I have not owned a skirt this century.
– Amelia Fielden
Pass some time in the great white space.
– Glyn Maxwell
Stare down the white of the blank, blank page:
Sails billowing, wind blowing wild
a yacht riding ocean’s white-horse rage
a cumulous cloud, whimsical, flying
soft drifting snow falling peacefully down
old style fridge with the art of a child
satin and sheen of a bridal gown
gardenia brought as a visitor’s token
a doctor’s coat as he tends the dying
These are the spaces where poems are written
– Janne D Graham
Ode To A Tomato
O ovoid shape! Perfect for hand-cupping
Thou silent form of silk smooth skin
Purple-red diffuses into bottle-green
Ready for the picking
Your sweet-earthed perfume
Suggesting delicious mingling
With beetroot for hearty soup
Your taste so rich and deep
Your crown these days of summer heat
With produce of Black Russian beauty.
– Meryl Turner
it’s really now in autumn that I feel I’m firmly caught in my truly-past-my-prime years and it’s now these past-my-time fears overtake me and I grizzle that the evening cold just makes my back ache and the early darkness and its silence slowly hobbles my once-easy spirit and defiance and my mind becomes a slack and boring sitter on the nearest fence while my ankle’s got a cannon thumping in it and I know it disappoints you that my missed-its-time-love’s got sore joints and is there any point to my breathless grasping for the fading finish line fading faster as I’m gasping in the thin dark air and leaf mould and the cold embrace of too-old.
– Neva Kastelic
moss-backed tortoise crossing
stalled at our approach
now cars are everywhere
as we lift him, small paws dangling
almost but not quite
this makes up for the snake
we ran over yesterday
I still see the sun
blaze off those bronze scales.
– Julia Irwin