Sunday, September 18, 2016

Review of Physick by Pete Hay

Review of Physick by Pete Hay

The poem ‘Sound to the World’ blazes with an intensity that runs throughout Pete Hay’s new collection of poetry, Physick.  

“I will keep a jurnal this is the ferst day.
It will parse the time I hope.
The man Devlin down the Turnip Feldes he gose down the town
he give me paper and this stubb of pencil."

The poem embodies the voice of Gentle Annie, inspired by Gentle Annie Falls at the Waterworks in Hobart. ‘She’ – or the poet -  writes, in a robust vernacular of her time from above the town ship she has fled, in her ‘jurnal’. This poem was first published in the elusive Picton Grange Review, which prints only three copies and are allowed with the reader for only 48 hours each, brainchild of the increasingly recognised Tasmanian writer Ben Walter. I nearly wept passing this one on, to lose that poem from sight – but here it is, still both dark and luminescent and in the company of a whole book of poems that demand to be both whispered and roared.

At the recent Hobart launch of Physick, author Pete Hay wondered why a small publisher in Nottingham, a recently declared UNESCO City of Literature, would publish his book as surely no one in the UK would understand a word, possibly no one from the mainland either, he ventured – and maybe only some Tasmanians. It’s true that the book is rich with throaty convict and contemporary Tasmanian vernacular, and it’s true that many of the poems capture the heart and soul of the many strata’d lives of Tasmanians past and present, and the tortured ambrosia of the island, and it is true that some of the language used, particularly in the first (of three) sections of the book is foreign to the modern ear, but this book transcends any parochialism that the subject matter may cover.  
The first section of the book, Physique is concerned with poems that tell stories of people and place. They begin with a title, and a place, including the captivating ‘Death Song for Matthew Brady; Murrary Street, Hobart 1826’ inspired by an elusive reference that the author found to a death song sung, as Brady was hung for his bush ranging crimes. ‘Fair Old Clip’ Roberts Point Ferry Terminal, Bruny Island 2008, is another. The latter, through the story of a young woman’s horrible realization of the malevolence and ignorance of her boyfriend, captures a narrative not restricted to Tasmania, one of  racism and abuse, and one of decaying relationships. It also names up our forest wars and, from where I sit in literate, middle class safety, reminds me of the educational and literacy crevasses in our community.

Physis is the second part of the book, and it includes some ekphratic poems, inspired by paintings. A highlight of this section, ‘Reading PattiAnn Rogers at Recherche Bay’ crystallises a night on a boat and is indicative of the poise and humour that is shot through the book, bought to the surface in this poem, by mozzies on the boat, “Insect pulp punctuates the bulkhead”. This humour also manifests in pun-full titles such as Goethe By Sea and The Old Mind and the Sea.

Physick is a book of poetry that sears and coaxes and it could have been written by no one apart from the scholar, poet and elder that is Pete Hay. No one else takes the temperature of this island like him and no one else uses Tasmania as such an effective prism through which to consider human nature. Physick is a book of transcendent poetry which helps us understand not only place but the vagaries and passions of the human condition. It should be prescribed reading for all of us.

Here is a recording of Pete reading 'Sound to the World' at the launch.

Physick is published by Shoestring Press, Nottingham

A version of this review was first published in Tas Weekends, 10 September, 2017.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

September Paige Turner Column

Burma, or Myanmar beckons me for the month of September, I’m off to visit poets and punks and to trek some trails in Shan country, but you’re spoilt for literary choices if you find yourself on the fair isle of Tasmania this month:

The legendary Tasmanian Poetry Festival is back, in and around Launceston from late September. This year’s highlights include a masterclass with Anne Kellas (more details below), a lecture by Chris Wallace-Crabbe, readings by Island poetry editor, Sarah Holland-Batt, Dan Disney, Young Dawkins, Luke Wren-Reid, Jill Jones, Emilie Zoey Baker, Tanya Evanson and Stephanie Conn, the Launceston Poetry Cup, open mic readings in Launceston and Deloraine AND sandwiches.  (Image: Johnathan Bowden).

Anne Kellas’ latest book of poetry, The White Room has received acclaim here and abroad and she will be delivering a masterclass called ‘Outside your comfort zone’ in Launceston on 24 September.
This masterclass is a prelude to the Tasmanian Poetry Festival and is designed to encourage practising poets to go to the uncomfortable edge of their creativity. Bring along a poem in progress, if possible, an early draft. Details on the Tasmanian Writers' Centre website.

This year’s Indigenous Literacy Day (ILD) takes place on September 7th 2016.  The Indigenous Literacy Foundation aims to spread awareness about the need to improve literacy levels and increase the opportunities for Indigenous children living in Australia. To coincide with ILD 2016, The Children’s Book Council of Australia, Tasmanian branch is working with the Tasmanian Aboriginal community and The Tasmanian Writers Centre’ to run two days of events at Moonah Arts Centre titled Hidden Stories.
An evening event will take place on Wednesday 7th September with the theme of “Broadening the conversation”. This will be followed by a full afternoon of events on Sunday 11th September focusing on the theme “Celebrating the stories.” Some of the most respected Aboriginal writers and speakers from Tasmania and beyond have agreed to participate in an exciting program that will include storytelling, dance, song, discussion and film.
Full program and further details here.

Pete Hay is a poet and an elder, his new collection of poetry, Physick is available at Fullers and the Hobart Bookshop and I would encourage all of you, enamoured of poetry or not, to get your hands on it and roar some of these powerful poems out loud and to whisper some of them to yourselves too. 

Kick back at Kickstart with some spoken word performance, and acoustic song, delivered by poetry collective Furious Penguins. Feature performers include Anthony Francis and Tereska with open micslots available for those who'd like to strut their stuff; sign-ups on the night. Friday, 16 Sep, 7-9pm, $10 entry includes drinks and nibbles. Kickstart Arts, St Johns Ave, New Town. 

There’s a new erotic novel, based on fact, whose author has, unsurprisingly, chosen a pseudonym. Makes sense to me, we are a small community and I have seen all your heads on Tinder -The blurb says -  A compelling chronicle of one sexy summer in Tasmania, Seven Times Three is a true story of complex relationships, delicious secrets, and salacious self-discovery.
Kindle pre-orders are available now. Print and Kindle editions will be released on September 1st and available for purchase from here and from Haus Creative in Devonport. 
Stay tuned for more details about Haus Creative in Devonport, I am loving watching from afar this space develop….

Back down south, the Moonah Arts Centre is working with the Writers’ Centre to develop a Glenorchy version of the fabulous Twitch Young Writers in the City Project. Sites for the residencies are yet to be announced but expressions of interest are now being sought from young (16-25) Tasmanian writers who are seeking a paid opportunity to develop their craft. Keep an eye on the MAC and TWC websites for more details. This offers a unique opportunity to pursue inspiration in familiar and unfamiliar city spaces and the opportunity to write for 2 hours per day for at least 8 days between November and January 2016, with a grant of $500 per writer. On the 11 September  Young Writers in the City - Launceston will be presenting their work at the Junction Arts Festival soapbox event in Prince's Square at 1pm.

TheTamar Valley Writers’ Festival is holding their 2016 AGM on Wednesday 21st September at 7pm and the venue is Tamar Ridge Cellar Door facility, 1a Waldhorn Avenue, Rosevears. It is open to the public, however only paid-up members of FOGW will be eligible to vote. They would naturally welcome all new members, and encourage them to consider being more involved through nominating for a role on the committee.

Junction Festival is back between 7-11 of September in Launceston and will feature Bert Spinks with Poor Man’s Pot, a spoken word experience. Spinks, aka Storyteller Spinks (check out his delightful blog A Field Guide to Falling In Love in Tasmania) has hosted this show for over a year and, it cements the North of the state as Spoken Word Capital of Van Diemen’s Land.

If you have story, writing or word related news drop me a line -

This column was first published in Warp Mag, September 2016

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Podcast - Interview with Anjum Hasan.

This is an interview with Anjum Hasan from some years ago. She has a new book on its way out, The Cosmopolitans and as I work through my archive of interviews it is timely for me to post this one.
   Anjum was visiting Australia for a festival and we chatted about her recent work and the novel Lunatic in my Head (Brass Monkey Books, 2010).
  Anjum has been longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, shortlisted for The Hindu Best Fiction Award and shortlisted for The Hindu Literary Prize. She is currently Books Editor for The Caravan.

Listen to the podcast here.

First broadcast on The Book Show, Edge Radio, 2011.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Books are nice to look at - the library at Wat Buddha Dhamma

Wat Buddha Dhamma was started by a wonderful, renegade monk called Phra Khantipalo and a feisty renegade nun, Ayya Khema. They both practised and taught in the tradition of Theravada Buddhism and founded this monastery which, since its 1970s inception has had a number of incarnations.
There is an enticing library in the monastery. When I practice meditation intensively I do not read and the library, during my stays at the monastery, has been both enticing and an opportunity to note my desire (my craving) to read.
This is a recorded interview (a podcast) with resident teacher, Ajahn Khemavaro and Venerable Passatika about the library, its books and book learning in the realm of Buddhist practice.
It is from a good few years ago, I think the time where I stayed a month.
"I am not a comfort eater, in this hollow life, but I am a comfort reader," said Venerable Passatika.
Here is a link to the coincidence of Brama Viharas we discuss. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

August Paige Turner column

It was a ripper night at the pub last night and some mates and I have begun to devise PRANKFEST (watch this space). Later in the evening I picked up a copy of the latest Warp, for which I write a monthly column and was slightly perturbed to see that my August Paige Turner column was not there, that March had been re-published. So here's August folks! With hyperlinks. Modern technology sends me all aquiver. 

Tasmania has a new bookshop. I am so delighted to type that sentence, I did not believe I would, ever. It takes the form of Collins Booksellers and you’ll find it in Launceston, in the site of the former Fullers du Nord.

Undertow, is an exceptional cultural magazine that pops up now and again. This time they’ve made the wise decision to retail at various outlets, including Fullers, The Gentle Void and Sticky Institute. In this issue they have spoken to Calypso Brown, Hobart Hackerspace and Visual Bulk. It also has work from Mish Meijers and Tricky Walsh and an advice column. Worth it at $5 a pop.  
There is a selection of widely varied literary events happening around the state, ranging from football: with an instore signing with AFL legend Mark ‘Bomber’ Thomson at Not Just Books in Burnie, between 11am-1pm on Monday, August 22nd. Thomson played in three premierships with Essendon and coached Geelong to two premierships. I’d be willing to bet there’s a book involved too.

Fullers are also launching How Far Can You Go by John Maclean on Wednesday, August 17 at 7pm and on Thursday, August 18 at 5.30 they are hosting the launch of The Game of Their Lives by Nick Richardson. A week later, on Thursday, August 25th Wild Island by Jennifer Livett will be launched. Please

To – Mt Field, with the release of The Field of Dreams, a new book from Mark Clemens. The release of this book coincides with the 100 year anniversary of Tasmania’s oldest National Park, Mt Field and follows Clemens’ award winning publication, The Mountain. Clemens is also running a crowdfunding campaign to support the launch of this book. The celebration will happen on August 29 at the State Cinema. The book will be launched by Aboriginal elder and playwright, Jim Everett and there will be an auction for six limited edition framed prints from this gorgeous book (pictured). 

Now we travel slightly further afield to Marina Abramovic and Tasmanian writer, Heather Rose’ new novel, Museum of Modern Love. At the time of writing, it is rumoured that the launch will take place at Hamlet Café in Hobart on Friday 26 August. Heather has been working on this, her seventh novel, for many years and the publication is highly anticipated.

At Fullers in Hobart, they are excited about the forthcoming release of the music CD of The Mathematics Book. This book continues being a best seller, it has a strangle hold on the non-fiction #1 spot. Beyond me, but I do love this kind of collaboration, the liminal soaring space where art and science deepen each other.

Forty South, Tasmania’s biggest publisher have an event in collaboration with the Tasmanian Writers' Centre on Saturday 20 August at Hadleys in Hobart from 5pm. The first part of the program will be a panel discussion on 'Writing for Tasmania 40°South - our state's iconic magazine’. This panel will include editor, Chris Champion and regular writers Nicholas Brodie, Carol Freeman, Mike Kerr and Clarissa Horwood. The second part will be the launch celebration of the Forty South Short Story Anthology 2016 to be launched by Chris Gallagher, Director of the Tasmanian Writers' Centre. Event details can be found on the Writers' Centre website.

Aleesah Darlinson, winner of the 2015 Environment Award for Children’s Literature, (non-fiction) and author of over thirty-five books for children and young adults has a new picture book titled Stripes in the Forest: The Story of the Last Wild Thylacine. It’s coming out in time to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the extinction of the Tasmanian tiger on National Threatened Species Day. Aleesah is touring Tasmania during August and September and will be running an Adult Writing Workshop titled ‘Writing Narrative: The Art of Story’ at 1:30pm on Friday, 5 August at Scottsdale LINC Library.

The Tasmanian Writers’ Centre continue to offer a great program through Twitch, the young writers’ wing of the organisation, including Youth ARC freecreative writing workshops for anyone and everyone aged 12-25.   The workshops are on every Tuesday in August from 3.30-5.30pm. More info: 
And the August Twitch Tuesday will feature one of the best short story writers in Australia, Adam Ouston. He’ll be discussing how to write short stories.

The Youth Arts and Recreation Centre magazine Platform is providing an opportunity for writers aged 12-25 with any level of experience who are interested in one-on-one mentorship with a professional journalist (Warp writer Stephanie Eslake) through the interview and feature writing stages. You will have the opportunity to have your writing workshopped and published in the magazine. All invited, express your interest this month to Melinda Antal, or call 6231 5150.

Straight, able bodied men need not apply for Loud Mouth Theatre’s
 "Not You, Paul" writers' forum and EOI evening. This is a free event with playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer and plans to develop a process that counters alarming disparity in the arts. This evening will include a call for expressions of interest for six writers visible in the Hobart writing for performance community to work with twelve writers from diverse cultural and experiential backgrounds, over a number of weekends throughout a twelve month period to all share skills and develop new works. Monday August 8th, 7pm, Peacock Theatre.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Aung San Suu Kyi: The Voice of Hope: conversations with Alan Clements

Since this book was first published, Aung San Suu Kyi has been freed from house arrest and rightfully taken her place in the Burmese parliament.
Alan Clements is one of the first Westerners to ordain as a monk in Burma, under the guidance of Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw. In 1995, after Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (1991) and after her release from six years of incarceration, he invited her to tell her story. This is published in The Voice of Hope.

This is an interview I did with Alan, when The Voice of Hope was re-released, a few years ago. It was first broadcast on Edge Radio's Book Show.

Link to the podcast.

Monday, June 13, 2016


Just who is Boney and what made him the protagonist of the (eponymous) international twentieth century bestsellers? Maybe you remember him from the 1970s television series...

All of these questions AND MORE will be answered by simply tuning in to hear the international expert on Arthur Upfield's Boney books,  Tasmania's own......EMMA MALONEY


Zeyar Lynn. Poet, Burma

In 2013 I went to Bangkok, one of my favourite places in the world. It was for the Asia Pacific Writers and Translators (APWT) conference and I spoke about literary prizes. That year I was one of the judges of the Tasmanian Literary Prizes, now known as the Tasmanian Premier's Literary Prizes. At the time I was also working at Island magazine with poetry editor, John Kinsella. John had recently published some excellent new poems from Burma, including some from Zeyar Lynn. Island partnered with APWT and Air Asia to bring Zeyar to Bangkok for the conference. 
Zeyar Lynn is widely regarded as the most influential living poet in Burma and his poem Sling Bag appeared in Island 128:Digitalism. Zeyar has written a series of poetry collections and he has translated, among others, Sylvia Plath, Wisława Szymborska, Donald Justice, John Ashbery and Charles Bernstein. He has also written a number of volumes on poetics.