Babty's feet cupped by adult hands
Calendar, Literature, November 19

Lit Live

6 November @ Centre for Stories, Northbridge ·
Presented by Sarah McNeill ·

Hatch, Match and Dispatch: stories of life, love and loss read by some of Perth’s finest actors, Stuart Halusz and Ali van Reeken, with host and producer, Sarah McNeill.

The Centre for Stories is at 100 Aberdeen Street, Northbridge.

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Calendar, Literature, October 19

Literature: Bad Diaries Salon #BURN

15 October @ The Bird, Northbridge ·
Presented by Bad Diaries Salon ·

Live literary series Bad Diaries Salon brings bad to The Bird on 15 October.

An outstanding lineup of five writers – AJ Betts, Michelle Johnston, Sisonke Msimang,  Holden Sheppard and Annabel Smith, introduced by Bad Diaries Salon co-curator Tracy Farr –will read from their unpublished diaries and notebooks, responding to this salon’s theme: BURN.

A hit at festivals and one-off events in Australia and New Zealand since 2017, Bad Diaries Salon started with a call out from Jenny Ackland on Twitter: were there any writers who still had their old, bad teenage diaries, and would they be prepared to read them live, in front of an audience?

Each salon is a unique combination of theme and readers, a performance that is raw, unedited, original and candid: the written word, rediscovered and shared.

The Bird is at 181 William St, Northbridge.
Doors 7.30pm, first reader from 8pm.
Tickets $10 at the door.

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Calendar, Literature, October 19

Literature: Lit Live: Seeking Love

2 October @ Centre for Stories, Northbridge ·
Presented by Sarah McNeill ·

Seeking Love: first loves, last loves and familial love in stories and song with actors and singers Caitlin Beresford-Ord and Greg McNeill.

Lit Live is produced and presented by Sarah McNeill.

The Centre for Stories is at 100 Aberdeen Street, Northbridge.

More info

Pictured:  Seeking Love in short stories and songs

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Man sitting on plastic chair in outback space
Calendar, Literature, September 19, story telling

Lit Live: Behaving Badly

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

More info

Pictured: Actor, writer and storyteller Humphrey Bower

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Barge on river in the Kimberleys
Calendar, Festivals, Literature, September 19

Kimberley Writers Festival 2019

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 for information.

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August 19, Calendar, Literature, Performing arts

Lit Live: The Best of times/ The Worst of times

7 August @ Centre for Stories, Northbridge ·
Presented by Sarah McNeill ·

The Best of Times /the Worst of Times: a collection of the best short fiction about the worst situations read by the best professional actors.

The Centre for Stories is at 100 Aberdeen Street, Northbridge.

Sarah McNeill is the producer of Lit Live.

More info:


Pictured: The best of times and the worst of times

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Glass with martini
Calendar, July 19, Literature, story telling

Literature: Lit Live

3 July @ Centre for Stories, Northbridge ·
Presented by Sarah McNeill ·

Shaken not Stirred

A martini-dry collection of stories with a unique twist, ranging from a contemporary American horror story to an Aussie larrikin yarn. Featuring favourite storytellers Rebecca Davis and Greg McNeill.

More info

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Calendar, Literature, May 19, story telling

Literature: Lit Live: Strange Bedfellows

1 May @ Centre for Stories, Northbridge ·
Presented by Sarah McNeill ·

Weird, wonderful and strange stories read by professional actors with live music.
Lit Live: Strange Bedfellows commences at 7pm. Centre for Stories is at 100 Aberdeen Street, Northbridge.

More info

Pictured: Actor Sarah McNeill reads the greatest short fiction

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A poet with a feather in her hat reads as she stands by a mallee sapling
Literature, News, Reviews, Spoken word poetry

Poetry a natural delight

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.

Nigerian poet Ben Okri reads with a deep, melodic voice. Photo supplied

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 Shoots Poetry 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

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Literature, News, Poetry, Reviews

Myanmar’s poetic narrative

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:

‘it’s umami
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:

‘…Half unknowing
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,
Submitting reports
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.

Writers Week continues until February 24. 

Pictured top: L – R: PEN Perth Chair Robert Wood, Michelle Johnston, Holden Sheppard and Chris Lin shine the spotlight on Burma. Photo Elizabeth Lewis

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