How do we write? And, importantly, where do we write? Each of the Elwood Writers has their own method, quirky or disciplined. Some are methodical, setting aside regular precious hours to pen papers, while others wait for inspiration to strike and write ‘off the hoof’ – and that would be me. I find Place particularly important – ideas and images come randomly; when I’m out walking, in the middle of a busy cafe, or regularly at 4 am. It’s handy to have a notebook or even a smartphone to capture those fleeting thoughts. It can be a chaotic process.
I write poetry and have just returned from a wonderful, enriching two weeks in Japan, the spiritual home of haiku. Never was a sense of place more powerful to me than being in the land of the rising sun during both Sakura – the spring cherry blossom season – and the last of the winter snowfalls.
Finding myself mentally free from the entrapments of daily chores and routine, I felt creatively open to these unique sensory experiences. In Kyoto I visited the 17th century home of Mukai Kyorai, the great haiku master Basho’s most famous disciple. I even dared to write a Sakura haiku and post it in the dedicated haiku letterbox. The timing was serendipitous, as it was close to International Haiku Day.
The home of Mukai Kyorai in Kyoto
Where I live in country Victoria we have a monthly poetry-reading afternoon, Chamber Poets. In the very week when I was trudging through four inches of snow on a mountain pass on the ancient Nakasendo Way, my haiku, which seemed to spring effortlessly into my head day after day, were being read aloud at Chamber Poets as that important day was celebrated. The joy for me was in being able to relay that wondrous sense of place to my fellow poets so many thousands of kilometres away.
Earlier in March I had the privilege of being the featured poet at Chamber Poets. Our meetings are held in the local RSL (Returned Servicemen’s League) Club. I read a short memoir piece about my English grandfather’s experiences in the trenches as a 17-year-old foot soldier in World War 1, and I was both comforted and overwhelmed to share his history in that most appropriate of places.
Poetry and place; the words bind us, wherever we are.
Margaret’s notes on the Elwood Writers soiree held in August at St Kilda Library:
The Elwood Writers 2018 soiree was our third in a series of evening readings. The group’s first two events were held in a private home where we tested the performance waters with family and friends. This year we branched out a little, presenting at a local public venue and inviting a slightly wider audience.
The concept of a soiree is loosely based on the old-fashioned, European notion of a ‘salon’. People are invited to gather and enjoy themselves while being entertained with stories and musical interludes.
As my own work is mainly memoir and of a personal nature, I can find public readings to be challenging. But I have to be willing to open my soul, while protecting myself with the suited armour of a story and carefully crafted narrative.
Despite the challenges, however, in the long run I value the opportunity to leave my comfort zone (the support of my group and the patient listening of my partner), to spring into the exhilarating and expectant atmosphere of a live audience, whether this be with friends or strangers.
The audience’s response to us can be subtle. It might come in the form of a sigh of satisfaction or as a wave of relief (or even agitation) that ripples through the crowd. One might detect a murmur at the end of a story or poem, or a facial expression of pleasure or questioning. But despite any nervous apprehension on my part, I would not be willing to miss the experience for anything.
The graduation from working solo to public performance is all in the path of the writer, I believe, where she must firm her step and ready herself to stride forth into the realm of the more global sphere.
In August, Elwood Writers held its Winter 2018 Soiree at St Kilda Library in Melbourne. In this post, Helen McDonald describes the work she presented at the event.
It takes time and a good deal of thought for Elwood Writers to arrange our program so that the literary readings are varied, complement each other and hopefully engage our audience. One of the things I enjoy most about our soirees is the range of genres covered, and not only hearing but delivering an interpretation of the pieces we have polished and workshopped in our group meetings. Each member of Elwood Writers brings their own unique voice to the occasion across fiction, memoir, short story and creative non-fiction.
My own leanings are towards poetry and memoir, and in this, our first public performance, I read a selection of poems as well as haiku, a poetic form I‘m very much enjoying exploring. Our appreciative audience were even subjected, from me, to a short analysis of what haiku is – and isn’t.
This time it was just as much a treat for us, as for the audience, to have Jenny’s chamber group providing musical interludes. Duo Con Brio (two thirds of Trio Con Brio) chose Bach as the perfect accompaniment for the literary works, and the combined sounds of oboe and cello clearly delighted everyone.
This Friday at 8:00 PM (AEST), Vision Australia Radio is broadcasting a special edition of Cover To Cover to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. The entire program features work from the Elwood Writers.
Join us as Jennifer reads an extract from her novel set just after World War I, and a short story set in England at the time of the war. Helen reads ‘Reflections on My Grandpa’, a factual account of her grandfather’s experiences during the First World War and after. ‘Down to the Sea’ features Margaret’s memories of her grandfather, who had been a surgeon at Gallipoli. In Barry’s short story ‘Chloe’, a newly enlisted soldier is captivated by a portrait on the day he leaves home to serve overseas.
You can listen on the radio in Australia, or online from anywhere in the world. The program will be repeated on Sunday 11 November at 1:30 PM (AEST), and available shortly afterwards as a podcast. For listening and other information and streaming links, visit the Vision Australia Radio website, here.
We hope you can make it, and look forward to your company.
Cover To Cover is produced and presented by Tim McQueen in the studios of Vision Australia Radio in Melbourne.
At the end of August, Elwood Writers held a literary soiree in the community room at St Kilda Library in Melbourne. The event provided an opportunity for us to present a curated program of short readings from our own work, and included fiction, memoir, and poetry.
Duo con Brio, with Monica Edwards on cello and Elwood Writers’ Jennifer Bryce on oboe, punctuated the proceedings with musical pieces by Bach.
Duo con Brio, St Kilda Library.
The thank you for the music.
The page turning.
The pages gathering.
We’ll provide more information on some of the work presented at the event in forthcoming blog posts. For now, wherever you are, happy reading and writing.
“American Writers Review is a multi-genre literary journal published by San Fedele Press. For five years, AWR has shared fiction, non-fiction, poetry, photography and art from a diverse group of contributors. We welcome writers of all experience levels, who want to explore their art with us.”
Vision Australia Radio‘s weekly literary program, Cover To Cover, will be presenting the work of the Elwood Writers in its Friday 26th January edition. The theme is ‘Back To School’ and the program will feature poetry, memoir and fiction written by the group, in some cases read on-air by the writers themselves.
We’ve enjoyed collaborating with Tim McQueen, producer and presenter of Cover To Cover, to compile this program, and we’re thrilled to continue to share our work and engage with the VA radio audience and beyond.
And don’t worry if you can’t join us on the day: ‘Back To School’ will be repeated and also made available as a podcast. Details to follow.
For a handy frequency finder, or for more information about the work of Vision Australia Radio, visit them online at: radio.visionaustralia.org
Helen McDonald’s poem Deluge is published in Poetry Matters, Issue 31, November 2017 (edited and published by Cheryl Howard).
From the journal’s website: “Poetry Matters is a home-grown print poetry journal that began in Spring 2006. Censorship can take many forms. The inability to find a place of publication can be social censorship. Poetry is freedom.”
To discover more about Poetry Matters and to find out how to subscribe, click here.