Currents: What I’m working on, by Helen McDonald

In recent weeks I have been aware of a light tap-tapping on my shoulder, sporadic but consistent, that I’ve been trying to ignore. Waving it away like a bothersome fly, I finally began to tune in after receiving my fifth, albeit encouraging, rejection from a literary journal. 

I hasten to add that I have been fortunate enough to have had a number of my poems published, in Australia and overseas, so I know that the tap on my shoulder is not a gentle suggestion to pack away my pens and give it all up. My thinking has changed from the years when a ‘no’ from a publication would send me into a spiral of rejection with thoughts of ‘I’ll never be good enough!’ My mantra now, thanks to experience and the unwavering support of Elwood Writers, is: ‘this poem hasn’t found a home yet’. I’ve come to realise that it can all come down to a suitable ‘fit’ – whether the publisher or journal editor can find a place for this particular poem. It might not complement other work chosen for the collection, or indeed may not be what the editor has in mind. Of course we won’t always hit the jackpot. I’m jostling for recognition in a field of highly talented and creative poets. The way I write won’t appeal to everyone, and – this is an important point – one editor might love the piece, while another won’t be moved at all. In many cases it comes down to an individual’s choice.

I think the message I’m now receiving from the universe, is maybe it’s time to step back and reflect on exactly what I have been saying for all these years. I write because I have to and there’s always more to say.  It’s my way of making sense of where I fit into the whole chaotic turbulence that is life. Affirmation is incredibly important to all artists, but so too is trusting in oneself. 

So I’m taking time now to gather my poems into a collection that will say: this is me – my work, my thoughts. This is how I navigate this world. And I hope to learn something about myself along the way.

Chamber Poets lives again

Helen has been busy recently, happily reconnecting with a cultural and literary community that disappeared two years ago, “leaving many poets and writers of a much-loved spoken word event quite bereft”. Chamber Poets attracts poets from Melbourne and regional Victoria, and will be held every second Saturday of the month from 1pm–4.30pm in the Woodend RSL (Returned & Services League) in the Macedon ranges. For more information about Chamber Poets, visit the following link:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/ChamberPoets

The July event this Saturday 9th will feature three poets: Angela Costi, Grant Caldwell and Claire Gaskin, who are launching An Embroidery of Old Maps and New; blue balloon (Collective Effort Press); and Eurydice Speaks and Ismene’s Survivable Resistance respectively. 

All are welcome to come along and listen to some of Australia’s leading poets and to share their own poems, perhaps written in isolation, that just now might be ready to go out into the world.


Here Helen shares with us her delight at being at the return of the Chamber Poets held in June:

“It’s been a long road for all writers since you-know-what sent us all scurrying indoors, doomed to an artistic life played out on Zoom with its intermittent freezes, loss of audio and anxiety-making meetings, seminars and classes. Needs must.

So many books/collections were written and launched into this weird cybersphere. But happily, writers are emerging from their imposed cocoons, and book launches are at last taking place with live, wildly enthusiastic audiences. So it was that after a hiatus of two years, the Victorian regional Chamber Poets returned triumphantly on June 11th to Woodend, with the largest audience in the group’s history. There were three book launches, plus an open mic section and entertainment by the funky and humorous Black Forest Smoke band, and much-lauded local choir The Woodend Warblers. 

Chamber Poets founder Myron Lysenko’s and Alice Wanderer’s haiku poetry collections – a ghost gum leans over and Lips Licked Clean – were launched along with Kevin Brophy’s latest poetry collection, In This Part of the World.

Inspired by the beautiful readings from each poet, some 20 people hungry for spoken word took to the open mic with their diverse and eclectic styles of poetry.”

Creatrix 57 Haiku

Helen has recently been exploring the haiku/senryu/haibun poetry forms. She is delighted to have two haiku included in the latest WA Poets Inc online journal, Creatrix 57 Haiku. Read Helen’s poems at the following link:

https://wapoets.com/creatrix-57-haiku/

If you ever happen to find yourself in the Macedon Ranges of country Victoria, you might catch a glimpse of Helen on a gingko walk with other haiku poets – seeking inspiration in nature to write more of this beautiful short-form poetry.

oxygen | Issue 2 October 2021

Elwood Writer Helen has poetry published in Issue 2 of oxygen, which came out last month.

oxygen Issue 2 October 2021 | ISSN 2653-0376

oxygen is a biannual magazine, issued in April and October. Subscriptions are $30 per year, for two issues including postage.

Contact:
Cheryl Howard, PO Box 614, Woodend, Vic 3442.
Email: poetry.clh@gmail.com

And remember, one of the best ways to support writers is to read their work. That way, you’re supporting the industry they work in, and everyone benefits.

Happy reading, as always!

UNUSUAL WORK No. 32

The latest issue of Unusual Work (edited by Π.O.) features Helen’s poem ‘Breaking Up’, and is now available to read and enjoy.

If you haven’t already subscribed, get hold of a copy of the journal for $10 (cash/cheque/money order) from:

Collective Effort Press
P.O. Box 2430
GPO Melbourne
Vic 3001

$30 gets a subscription for 3 issues.

The current issue also features work by Retta Hemensley, Jeltje, D.G.Lloyd, Eddie Caruso, ACR, Albert Rotstein, Linda Judge, Henry Briffa, Ross Jackson, Alan Wearne, Allan Padgett, Michael Leach, Glen Murdoch, Peter Murphy, Gershon Maller, Jebediah Costin, Abe Dunovits, Sandy Caldow, Peter Jones, and Π.O., and includes a tribute to Retta Hemensley from her life long partner Kris, with FLASHBACK poems from ACR, and a tribute and salute to Kate Jennings.

Lots to savour. Happy reading!

 

Poetry d’Amour

Love in popular culture is so overrun and overwrought with mass-market metaphor that it’s hard, especially in love’s thrall, to find language unsaid before, to find words that do justice … It is the intention of Poetry d’Amour to explore new and intriguing ways of saying “I love you”.

WA Poets Inc
Poetry d’Amour 2021

We’re delighted to learn that two of Helen’s poems feature in this year’s issue of Poetry d’Amour from WA Poets Inc. They are ‘Socks’ and ‘Do we ever grow up?’.

You can buy copies of the anthology directly from the WA Poets Inc shop, here. Back issues are also available from the shop.

We can’t wait to get hold of this beautiful publication. Congratulations to Helen and the other featured poets. Happy reading to everyone! And much love, of course.

Helen Published in Creatrix #50

Congratulations to Helen whose two poems ‘Gasp’ and ‘Carry the Truth’ have been selected for inclusion in Creatrix #50, the online poetry journal of the WA Poets Inc. You can find Helen’s poems here.

Earlier this year, when poets could still meet, perform and share their work in person (remember those times?), she was awarded Poet of the Month at Chamber Poets, held in regional Victoria, for her poem ‘Unsaid’. The judge was poet and author Kevin Brophy, Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne.

Don’t ever let it be said that a mere world-wide pandemic can hold back Elwood Writers!

Winning Poetry

Helen McDonald’s poem ‘In deep blue’ is a prize winner in July’s Poetry Matters competition. That piece, along with Helen’s ‘A Friday, like any other’, is published in the always excellent Poetry Matters journal (Issue 36, July 2019). The theme of the issue is ‘runaway world’. More information on the work of Poetry Matters is available here.

Many congratulations to Helen!

A peaceful weekend and happy reading and writing to everyone.

Poetry to our ears

Congratulations to Helen on winning ‘Poet of the Month’ at the July Chamber Poets meeting in Woodend with her poem ‘Stark Against the Sky’. If you use Facebook, you can find out about Chamber Poets here.

And Helen’s poems ‘A Friday, like any other …’ and ‘In Deep Blue’ are published in Poetry Matters Issue 36 – the 2019 Competition edition. You can read more about Poetry Matters here.