4 September @ Centre For Stories, Northbridge ·
Presented by Sarah McNeill ·
Australia’s finest storyteller, Humphrey Bower joins Lit Live this month to read provocative, moving and entertaining stories about the worst in us all. Humphrey has recorded numerous audio books by Bryce Courtenay, Tim Winton, Craig Silvey and more.
Lit Live brings together the best short fiction with the best storytellers. Sarah McNeill is the producer of Lit Live.
The Centre for Stories is at 100 Aberdeen Street, Northbridge
6 – 8 September @ various locations in and around Kununurra ·
Presented by Kimberley Writers Festival ·
This is a one-of-a-kind writer’s festival held in one of Australia’s most stunning, dramatic and remote locations, providing an opportunity to meet authors and specialguests in an informal environment. It’s a completely different experience to big city writer’s festivals. Now in its 14th year, the 2019 program will include workshops, readings, a literary breakfast, and more. The annual Sunday Ord River Cruise champagne brunch and storytelling returns, and is usually a sell-out.
Guests confirmed for this year’s Kimberley Writers Festival include award-winning children’s writer and poet Meg McKinlay; former Canberra journalist and foreign correspondent-turned crime novelist Chris Hammer; New Zealand-born and raised young readers author Raewyn Caisley who has a special connection with Kimberley country; novelist and playwright Steve Hawke; photographer and visual storyteller Chris Gurney; award-winning writer and Sydney-based author and translator Tiffany Tsao, and Kimberley Fine Diamonds Owner and Kimberley doyenne Frauke Bolten.
Tickets: Tickets are available through Eventbrite and the Kununurra Library. Phone 08 9169 1227 or email email@example.com for information.
Perth Festival review: Writer’s Weekend, Poetry ⋅
University of Western Australia, February 23-24 ⋅
Review by Elizabeth Lewis ⋅
Poetry punters often feel their events are pushed into small side rooms in festival programs which typically privilege popular novelists; not so with the 2019 Perth Festival Writers Week, curated by William Yeoman. There is a nice balance of poetry offerings, two in particular that have crowds queuing outside the sizeable University Club Auditorium.
The first is the launch on Saturday of An Open Book, the new poetry collection by David Malouf. It is clear that Malouf’s books have been companions to many over the course of their lives. His novels have been celebrated by various awards and studied in high school curriculums. The feeling in the room is expectant and engaged.
A show of hands from the audience indicates that not many knew Malouf as a writer of poetry before becoming a novelist, but he is keen to talk about his continuing passion for poetry and what it can do. “Presence is a word that is very important to me…poetry should be about a consciousness in time of an eternal moment.” Malouf talks about the intense focus of language and description to capture moments and meaning, “close attention is what most art is about”.
In a short session Malouf manages to dispense countless small stories and pearls of writing wisdom. He talks about the pleasures of observing the confidence of small children and recalls poignant memories of growing up during World War II, “I can remember the moment I received the first great shock of my life. The SS City of Benares carrying child refugees was torpedoed, 77 children died…I remember sitting on our front lawn with its chain link fence…there are places you will find yourself where your parents can’t save you”. Themes of childhood innocence and the loss of that innocence run through An Open Book. The title poem explores this tension:
“My mother could read me, or so she claimed,
like a book. Fair warning! But I
too was a reader and knew that books
like houses, have their secrets.”
The audience is warm, appreciative and full of questions. Many wait patiently at the signing tent while Malouf greets each reader and takes the time to correct a few small mistakes printed in his new book; to ensure the poems are read according to the finely tuned detail he intends.
In the same theatre the following day is Poetic Sensibilities, a panel featuring Nigerian poet Ben Okri alongside Australian writers Tracy Ryan and Malouf. The event is described as a discussion on the pleasures of poetry in contemporary times however panel host Terri-Ann White structures the session by asking the poets one question only and then inviting them to read from their work for the duration. Disappointment gives way to enjoyment as the three poets share from their collections and experience. Ryan presents a poetic case for the bonds of family and our responsibility to the next generation and Malouf offers poetry as a point of human connection: ‘the poet speaks directly to the reader about his experience in the world, which the reader picks up and makes his own experience.” Okri is the stand-out performer with his deep, melodic voice and romantic Rumi-esque imagery. Unfortunately, there is no time for audience Q&A either which leaves me feeling I haven’t quite connected with the poets or their ideas, only brief examples of their writing.
The highlight of Writers Week for me is the New Shoots Poetry Trail in the Kings Park Botanic Gardens. New Shoots is a nation-wide project by Red Room Poetry, commissioning poems designed to connect readers to the natural environment.
At New ShootsPoetry Trail four poets Nandi Chinna, Renee Pettitt-Schipp, Daniel Hansen and Luke Sweedman perform poems inspired by specific species of the native Mallee tree.
On Sunday at 8:30am it is bright and sunny, the air full of the chatter and chirp of birdsong and the scent of trees; a perfect scene for a suite of poems on the qualities and preservation of the Mallee tree.
More than thirty attendees separate into small groups and are led by guides along tree canopied walkways to four stations in succession, each featuring a different poet. The curved pathways form natural amphitheatres and an intimate atmosphere as listeners gather close to the poets.
The poems are deeply connected to their subject, passionate and educational. Nandi Chinna’s Anatomy of a Lignotuber describes the ingenious construction of the Mallee’s root system, growing buds below ground so that in the event of a fire the plant can survive and sprout again.
“Beneath the ground in living state;
woody swellings hold life in suspension,
a contorted arrangement of tissue,
swollen buds, a pulse of protection
against erasure, defoliation,
the flat horizon we call ‘clearing’…”
Renee Pettitt-Schipp explores the importance of naming, memory and sound in her poem Mallee, written after talking with her mother about her childhood memories of Mallee trees.
“…she knew them first by their sound
leaf-shift a dry wind moving
land’s tongue a gentle roaring
the day her father bought the farm
her father bought the farm
place of the mallee leaf lifting
home of the mallee fowl nesting
ears cupping a strange land’s tongue…”
Nyoongar poet Daniel Hansen speaks of his desire to connect with the land and with all people with honesty and energy.
“From the woodlands to the Sclerophyll,
Of the Eucalypt Forrest’s I know,
Within the air I can certainly feel,
A benevolence which resembles that of Home…” (Koolark-Home)
Our final poet Luke Sweedman, who happens to be the seed collector for Kings Park, gives us an intriguing insight into seed-collecting trips into the desert.
“I held the paper bag with the seeds we collected fresh
from the lost flowering mallee that was found alive”. (Exploration in mallee)
The Trail offers a fresh and delightful way to connect with poetry and nature and to realise how one can inspire us to better care for the other. Of all the events I attended at Writer’s Week, this blend of location, performance and the written word was the most moving expression of the themes of creativity and diversity underpinning Yeoman’s festival.
Pictured top: A sun-flecked morning as Nandi Chinna reads her poetry at King’s Park. Photo Elizabeth Lewis
Perth Festival Writers Week review: Spotlight on Burma ⋅
The Centre for Stories, February 20 ⋅
Review by Elizabeth Lewis ⋅
Every seat is full. The open-air courtyard of The Centre for Stories is a welcome venue on a muggy summer evening in Perth. Samosas and banana semolina pudding delight and intrigue people on their way in.
This sold-out Perth Festival Writers Week event is co-hosted by PEN Perth, the local chapter of PEN International. What began as a dinner club in the 1920s to promote friendship among writers regardless of race, gender or politics has evolved into a worldwide organisation that defends freedom of expression, campaigns for writers in prison and seeks to raise awareness of minority voices.
The collaboration with Centre for Stories is reflective of the diversity of narratives in William Yeoman’s carefully curated program, which culminates this weekend with the Writer’s Weekend. It is of particular interest to me because of my Burmese heritage, and has attracted overwhelming interest from the general public.
Every seat is full, except for two of the five bar stools on the stage; they are for writers who won’t be appearing tonight. Propped on the empty stools are placards featuring the faces and stories of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Burmese journalists imprisoned earlier this year for allegedly breaching the country’s Official Secrets Act. The two writers were reporting on the massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Burma. Both have been served with a seven-year jail term. The empty seats are a powerful introduction.
The three speakers present are Burmese intellectual Chris Lin and local authors Michelle Johnston and Holden Sheppard. Lin, humble and informative, gives us a nuanced overview of his experiences growing up in Burma in the late eighties/early nineties, acknowledging that he speaks as an expatriate of a conflicted country. We hear about the problematic naming of the country, choosing Burma or Myanmar, “both refer to an ethnic majority at the cost of silencing others” and a brief history of a country “opening itself up to the wider world, tourists, multinational food chains nestled incongruously alongside traditional tea houses.”
Lin doesn’t hold back on naming the recent atrocities committed against the Rohingya Muslims in which both the military and civilians are complicit: “the authorities control the narrative and in doing so control public opinion, there is persecution from both sides.” We hear about the mass exodus of one million Rohingya refugees into neighbouring Bangladesh, as well as the mixed attitudes towards State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s response to the ethnic violence.
This potted history adds weight to the second part of the evening where Johnston and Sheppard read translations of contemporary Burmese poetry by Tin Moe, Thitsar Ni, Ko Ko Thett and Maung Yu Py. At first, this seems a strange choice. Why not have Burmese people reading Burmese poems? Why not have poets?
Happily (despite the odd mispronunciation) it is clear both readers have taken the time to prepare and show a sincere desire to honour the poets and their work. Johnston (author of Dustfall, UWAP, 2018) performs with grace and bold clarity and Sheppard (winner of the 2018 TAG Hungerford Award) with a humility and emotional connectedness.
The poems range in gravity. Ko Ko Thett’s ironic and humorous ode to MSG in monosodium glutamate is a crowd favourite:
the savory delight of monosodium glutamate
the buddha’s poop that has colonized our cuisines since 1908…
…the enhancer of life’s flavours
the condiment to contemporary conditions…
…if you are a 1-kilogram rat
15 grams of the sweet dust is your lethal oral dose
it works 50 percent of the time.’
Tin Moe’s The Years We Didn’t See the Dawn is realistic and heart-rending:
My days are running out
My paunch thickens and my neck folds sag
As I grow older.
A time of getting nowhere…
The way we live now,
Loaded with lies…
At this time,
We are not poetry,
We are not human,
This is not life,
This is just so much wastepaper.’
The murmurs and applause of the audience shows that they too have connected with Johnston, Sheppard and with the Burmese poets.
As when literature meets politics, the Q&A session with Lin and PEN Chair Robert Wood was fraught with strong opinions and high emotions regarding the political and religious issues plaguing Burma. After a discussion that almost ran away from the hosts, people left the event moved, educated and with a samosa for the road.
Running from 18-24 February, Perth Festival Writers Week is a feast for the mind, combining an immersive weekend of panel sessions at the University Club at UWA as well as a number of satellite events around Perth. This year marks William Yeoman’s second as Writers Week Curator and, with one successful event already under his belt, he’s excited for what he promises will be an even better program this February. Claire Trolio spoke to Yeoman to find out more.
William Yeoman works an eight day week.
Yes, you read that right. Maintaining his full time job as Books Editor and Arts Writer at The West Australian, he also works two days a week in the Perth Festival offices and steals time early in the morning or in the evenings to make up an extra day. Fortunately, there is some overlap between his jobs, most notably the copious amount of reading required!
To get through those mountains of literature, Yeoman has perfected the art of skim reading. When he’s reading for work and it’s not a text he’d otherwise choose, he is able to familiarise himself with a book in about one hour.
But reading for enjoyment? That’s another story he says. I wonder if there is any time left in his schedule for a leisurely read? “I make time,” he stresses. “If you love the language [of a writer] you need to slow down.” At the moment, Yeoman is savouring Fiona Wright’s collection of essays “The World Was Whole”, ahead of her appearance in two sessions at Writers Week.
Curating Perth Festival Writers Week is a mammoth task and Yeoman doesn’t pretend otherwise. “Let’s be clear, this kind of writers festival is a major international festival. But once you get your head around all that, it’s fine,” he chuckles. To approach the task he starts with a rough idea of the themes he wants to explore and the kinds of authors he wants to invite. But, he stresses, “it’s also about being flexible enough to change your mind and being ready to accept those authors who are offered up to you, sometimes quite late in the piece.”
Jane Caro is one example. The writer and social commentator’s new book Accidental Feminists, is coming out this month and Yeoman jumped at the chance to add her name to the bill. Not only does this make for an up-to-date, relevant program, but Caro is also a big name. “Someone like that is going to raise the profile of the festival,” explains Yeoman.
Entertaining the audience is also high on Yeoman’s list of priorities. “I am big on the ideas of performance and theatre,” he reflects. “Of course, solid, conceptual ideas might be at the heart of that, but hopefully they are presented in an engaging way. Part of creating that experience is related to the kind of guests you invite,” he continues, naming Benjamin Law and Mikey Robinsas two 2019 Writers Week guests whose brilliant presentation styles were a big drawcard when planning the program.
As Writers Week Curator, Yeoman considers his responsibility to be “first and foremost, to the reader”. It’s the same way he approaches journalism. This means he must compromise his personal interests and, sometimes his political opinions. “It’s important to have dissenting voices [within a festival], not if they are extreme, but where they are reasonable,” he remarks.
There’s also room in the festival to have some fun, and one of the program highlights for Yeoman himself is Freo Groove, a celebration of the musical history of Fremantle. “To have writers and musicians Claire Moodie and Bill Lawrie together with Lucky Oceans and some of the musicians who feature in their book, in a free, outdoor marquee sundowner – what’s not to like?”
A keen musician himself, he admits to always seeking out musical connections, and the program reflects this. As well as Freo Groove, Yeoman has programmed author and travel editor Stephen Scourfield in conversation with Margaret River based guitar maker Scott Wise (There Are Strings Attached); Jazz High Tea,combining a conversation about The Great Gatsby with live music from WA Youth Jazz Orchestra; and a performance of songs of love and desire in German and English preceding a discussion about singing in translation (Lust in Translation).
The intersection between literature and other disciplines is a feature of Yeoman’s programming. Film, architecture, photography and fashion, as well as music, are represented in this year’s program. Where do you draw the line when it comes to crossing disciplines at a writers festival? “You don’t!” Yeoman responds emphatically. “You find a connection somewhere. If someone has written a book on a topic, well, it’s as easy as that.”
The architectural legacy of Kerry Hill will be discussed by Kerry Hill Architects’ Patrick Kosky and architect Geoffrey London alongside a tour of Hill’s City of Perth Library (Remembering Kerry Hill). And one of Australia’s most famous and respected film critics, David Stratton, will pop by. He’ll discuss hidden cinematic gems (101 Marvellous Movies You May Have Missed) before joining Jane Lydon, Joanna Sassoon and George Kouvaros to consider how moving and still images shape our memories and future (Migration, Memory & Movies).
Yeoman is also excited to present madison moore, an American cultural critic, DJ and Assistant Professor of Queer Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Moore’s first book, Fabulous: The Rise of the Beautiful Eccentric, explores how eccentric style, fashion and creativity is political, particularly in queer culture and non-white cultures. As well as appearing alongside Benjamin Law and Ursula Martinez in panel session A Queer World, moore will present a late-night performance lecture at the State Theatre Centre of WA, exploring the concept of clubs as a safe space for experimentation and self-expression (Dance Mania: A Manifesto for Queer Nightlife).
Evidently, moore’s work ties in closely to what Yeoman has declared to be the theme of Writers Week 2019: Our Imagined Selves. “In fact,” declares Yeoman, “this year’s theme was partly inspired by madison moore.” As beautifully diverse as Yeoman’s 2019 Writers Week program is, this concept ties it together. Stories – both fiction and non-fiction – are the essence of who we are. So as you journey through Perth Festival Writers Week, consider yourself, your own story and how it fits with those around you. Because as much as the festival is about the writers, it’s also about you.
18 – 24 February @ The University Club of WA & Various venues
around Perth & beyond ·
Presented by Perth Festival ·
From searing memoirs and family dramas through to sweeping historical sagas and fun sessions on music, film, food and fashion, this year’s Writers Week: Our Imagined Selves makes your story a part of every story.
You’ll be swept up in conversations, performances and workshops, fun family activities, literary tours and adventures unfolding across The University of Western Australia’s picturesque campus and Perth’s libraries, galleries and writers’ centres, like the chapters of a giant book.
We’re announcing a series of special events as a taste of what’s coming up for Writers Week 2019. Stay tuned for 10 January when we reveal the full program.
13 & 18 November @ Mt Claremont and Nedlands Libraries ·
Presented by Nedlands Library Service ·
Biblio-enthusiast Alana Marshall is back!
She will be facilitating insightful, interactive and inclusive shared reading sessions at Mt Claremont Library from 10.30am-11.30am, November 13, and Nedlands Library from 2pm-3pm, November 18.
It’s an opportunity to explore the benefits of reading aloud for all ages as Marshall reads from novels, stories and poems.
Participants then come together to read aloud from works chosen for their literary value and ability to promote meaningful discussion.
Between readings, there is time for discourse and reflection on the prose to see how it connects with people’s experience.
The floor is then opened up and participants have the opportunity to read aloud to the group. People interested in taking part are free to bring their own material or pick from a selection provided.
Marshall’s passion for everything biblio-related led her to begin writing her blog The Library Within, an expression of her enchantment with literature, libraries, lifelong learning and the engagement provided by the insight and words of others.
Book for the free events at nedlands.evanced.info/signup
Nedlands Library is at 60-64 Stirling Highway and Mt Claremont Library is at 105 Montgomery Avenue.