Tag: Leaves of Glass
Yes, in the words of Jersey-based pop band Real Estate, ‘It’s real!’
Seven years in the making.
Trans-continental in its composition.
Green as a blade of grass in its wrapping.
Leaves of Glass is real.
‘But what’s it all about …’ I hear you whisper.
Well, as I’ve explained here and here and here, Leaves of Glass is a book of poems (47 in all) based on actual correspondence between American ‘Dead Poets Society’-inspiration Walt Whitman (W.W.) and Aussie no-hoper poet Bernard O’Dowd (B.O’D.). These two cats wrote letters to each other in the 1890s in which they poured their hearts out to each other and generally raved on.
In fact, to be honest, most of the outpouring and ranting was on the part of B.O’D. For his part, W.W. seems to have enjoyed the attention, and wrote back to B.O’D with a sort of ‘I’m amused but only in a flattered way’ tone, as if he’d known him his whole life. Between them, W.W. and B.O’D. racked up at least twenty letters, although it’s apparent that many of the letters are missing.
All of which possibly does little to explain why I became so fascinated by this weird ‘roaring days’ correspondence. Call me old-fashioned, call me what you will — I guess I just found the whole thing kind of funny and sad at the same time: funny because B.O’D. was so obviously besotted with his ‘revered master’, but sad because the two of them were unlucky enough to have been writing a century too early to benefit from the Internet and email.
Anyway, my book – called Leaves of Glass in homage to Whitman’s Leaves of Grass – takes the correspondence as its cue and features poems about both B.O’D. and W.W. as well as re-writes (cover versions) of their works. It’s published by Puncher and Wattmann and is available via the P&W website and in all good (read: about two) bookstores. Or, if you’d like a signed copy, send me a message.
The first ‘launch’ of the book took place at Bella Union bar, Trades Hall, Melbourne on 1 December. The second will take place at Balmain Town Hall on 14 December. Information about both events can be found here. You can also sign up to attend the Sydney event via the Facebook event page.
The book, which was inspired by actual correspondence between Walt Whitman and Australian poet Bernard O’Dowd, and which features re-imaginings of both poets’ works, will be available at two P&W events in Melbourne and Sydney in December 2013 – that’s less than two months from now!
I’m also happy to say that I’ll be in attendance at these shindigs in order to read some poemz, sign autographs and mainline champagne. I’ll post more details soon but I’m looking forward to catching up with loverz of all things Whitman, O’Dowd and Oz-po.
In the meantime, here’s a teaser: ‘O Kitteh! Meh Kitteh!’, a LOLCats transliteration of Whitman’s ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ that may or may not appear in the book.
Writers participating get to answer 8-10 questions (about their book/blog/their writing), and then tag 5 other writer friends to post their own “next big thing” the following Wednesday. Ivy’s instructions were for me to post by or before Wednesday, 19 December.
Rather daringly, I’ve followed Ivy’s re-arrangement of the original order of the questions.
Actually that’s not entirely true: it’s first of all my previous incarnation as an Australian writer in Seoul that’s catching up with me, in the form of an article in this month’s Victorian Writers’ Centre newsletter entitled ‘Year of the White Tiger and Steam: David Prater describes his name-changing three months in Seoul’. While the article doesn’t actually ‘reveal all’, seeing my residency described in print does make it all seem less ‘unreal’, if that makes sense. It’s also nice that they’ve included an extract from my poem, Turtles for Myron Lysenko in the issue.
Another more surprising ‘re-animation’ event occurred two weeks ago when Wollongong-based surf literature magazine Kurungabaa contacted me by email to say that two of my poems – ‘Storm Girl’ (draft) and ‘Merry Weather’ – would be forthcoming in their next issue in print. As someone who lived in Wollongong as a teenager, and who even after a week-long surfing course could barely manage to kneel on a surfboard, it’s somehow gratifying that two of my only-vaguely surfing-related poems have made the cut.
It’s kind of ominous that the date of publication for Miscellaneous Voices: Australian Blog Writing 1 is April 1, particularly given that this is also the launch date for Cordite Poetry Review’s next issue, the undead-inspired Zombie 2.0. On the other hand, it’s great that two of my poems, namely ‘(On The Tomb Of) Agnes Smedley’ & ’I couldn’t agree with you, more’ (first posted here and here) will be included in the anthology and thus return from the dead in print.
In other dead poet news, two of my ‘Leaves of Glass’ poems – ’Gang Languid’ & ‘Algae’ – are forthcoming in Southerly‘s special poetry issue (69.3). Leaves of Glass is a book-length MS based on correspondence between Walt Whitman and Bernard O’Dowd. Three more from the same series – ‘Dawnward’, ‘Oz’ & ‘The Campfires of the Lost’ – have also found a home, but more on them soon. The Southerly issue will be launched at the University of Sydney (in the John Woolley Building Common Room, in fact), where twenty years ago this week I first started out as a student of English, and then Australian literature.
The return of the memory of myself as a tragic young (still seventeen, in fact) poet, moping around the corridors of the Woolley Building, penning painfully adolescent verses in the style of Kenneth Slessor or William Blake, fills me with a kind of cringe-worthy fakestalgia. The truth is, twenty years ago, when Southerly turned fifty, I’m pretty sure I never even heard about it. The magazine itself was just a concept to us – something that got produced at some upper echelon of the University, and which we were made to understand quite obliquely that we would have to wait a good twenty years to ‘get into’.
But all of this is just self-preening in the end. Today, on International Women’s Day, rather than just congratulating myself on all of my own publications, I’d like to salute the editors who made all of the above possible – all of whom just happen to be women.
Therefore, in the spirit of Oscars (TM) acceptance speeches, first of all, I’d like to thank Robin Deed of the Victorian Writers centre, who invited me to write an article for their newsletter. Thanks also to Rebecca Olive from the Kurungabaa editors’ collective for accepting my poems for publication in that journal. Miscellaneous Voices: Australian Blog Writing is edited by Karen Andrews and I’m grateful to her for her patient responses to my queries. The guest poetry editor for Cordite’s Zombie 2.0 issue is Ivy Alvarez, a fantastic poet and blogger, who also put me onto Kurungabaa in the first place via the excellent Dumbfoundry (RSS). Finally, props to Kate Lilley, Southerly‘s poetry editor, who first introduced me to contemporary American poetry in a course she taught at the University of Sydney in the early 1990s.
Happy International Women’s Day!
yes said the crow it’s true for i was there
i saw no crows & it was in broad daylight
then it was a silent film i was watching
unless of course a nightmare is a dream too
we saw blood & the smoke of several guns
the opposition crew also carried weapons
of course there were no official casualties
all of which is totally impossible but nice
i do think they have a point don’t you?
as she trotted along that dusty track in fog
so was it fog or dust it really can’t be both
as the boat came up the river to collect us
I thought it looked more like a small creek
yes so did i or maybe a smallish rivulet …
we have no idea what you’re talking about
well it’s obvious that we’re talking about –
it’s not really so straightforward as that …
but it’s true that you stole something there
i saw the crow but it was already dead
i could hear a banjo playing somewhere
– not that i know anything about music