Elwood Writers’ Helen is published in Poetry for Public Transport #27. Poetry for Public Transport is a regular publication that makes poetry easily available to the many passengers travelling each day on our public transportation systems.
What a wonderful way to spend your journey: reading and contemplating a poem or two while on the bus, tram, train, ferry, or whatever form of transportation you choose to get around. Pop your smartphone away, unplug from social media, and arrive at your destination calm and refreshed. Or maybe you’ll be inspired to seek adventure, go right past your intended stop, and see where the day takes you.
This is an initiative well worth supporting, so if you spy a copy of the publication, please pick it up and read it, then share with your friends, colleagues, and other loved ones.
Poetry for Public Transport #27 | Please do not litter. Recycle.
My local café recently changed its seating arrangement. Oh no. Not because of me, I hoped. Me, sitting at the big table by the front window, trying not to spread my papers and books about too much, but wanting to get my work done.
Under the new configuration I was forced to sit at a table for two, allowing barely enough room for my ‘stuff’. But it’s a lovely café and I determined to make do. It has been a godsend to me as I go through the latest phase of ‘where-I-work’.
When I first took up writing, I rented a small room in the CBD. Having just finished working, I couldn’t imagine not going into the city every day. But soon, it dawned on me that I couldn’t catch the tram in my dressing gown, which is what I wanted to do. Plus the office rent kept going up.
Next, I settled for working at home. Some days I barely moved from my bed. I began the day by journaling and went straight from there into writing. Tessa, our dog, patiently sighed at the end of the bed looking up every now and again in wait for her walk.
Natalie Goldberg is an author who says she loves Paris because there you can write in the cafés. I’m not sure this is still the case. But the message is, if you like a café and feel welcome there – anywhere in the world – then make the most of it.
People will tell you where to write, what your office set-up should be, how things should look and so forth. But I say: create a space that’s right for you.
Update: I visited my local favourite café last week. The long table had been returned to the front. Order had been restored. I know my secret, quiet, little coffee shop will not remain so forever. But while it lasts, I plan to write and luxuriate as much as I can.
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.
We’ve more exciting group projects planned for 2019, kicking off with an excursion to Adelaide for Writers’ Week in March. We’re thrilled to have been invited to collaborate with Tim McQueen and the team at Cover To Cover for another themed program on Vision Australia Radio, and will post more about that closer to the time. Also in the pipeline is another soiree, possibly towards the end of the year.
And of course our individual projects continue, with material regularly workshopped within our fortnightly group meetings.
With so much going on and coming up, from time to time it can be useful to consolidate and reflect. In that spirit, we’ve created a dedicated page on the website for recordings, mostly podcasts, of our group radio programs. All our programs for Cover To Cover beginning with Starting Over in January 2015 can now be accessed easily in one place, here, or by clicking on the link below:
We look forward to updating this podcasts page with the recording of 2019’s radio program later this year.
There’s much to look forward to, and always so much to write about. Here’s to a peaceful year; happy reading, listening, and writing.
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.
This recent post from Jennifer’s website includes details of a special Armistice Day edition of Cover To Cover on Vision Australia Radio. The program will feature work from Elwood Writers, and will be broadcast this Friday 9 November, repeated Sunday 11 November.
For much of my life World War I has hung in the dim past; a brown and white strip of celluloid showing huge, cumbersome guns, and soldiers marching through mud, sometimes at a pace speeded up by old movie film. People in my immediate family didn’t talk about it much, although my grandfather was there, […]