I spent the first few days of November in the peaceful surrounds of Lake Kanuga in North Carolina at Patti Digh’s Life is a Verb Camp. This inclusive, communal and creative gathering is now an annual must-be-there event for me. I always return home refreshed, encouraged and full of new insights, ideas and skills.


morning-on-lake-kanugalabyrinth-at-kanuga_fotorPoet, Glenis Redmond, shared her powerful words which now, more than ever, will be needed to jolt us out of systemic injustices that exist across the world.

Jonathan Santos sang songs of ancestors and breaking through.


Emil Cioran (1911-1995) was a Philosophy graduate from the University of Bucharest in Romania. Were it not for a visit to Portugal’s Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto, I would never have known of him or this small piece of his. Cioran lived in Paris from 1937 and wrote his work in the Romanian and French languages.

Jose Thomas Brum is a Brazilian who translated Cioran’s work into Portuguese. Consequently, this English translation of an excerpt from Cioran’s O Livro das Illusoes (The Book of Delusion) feels a little clunky and yet this transcription, on the wall of the Museum accompanied by the photograph below, struck a chord.

To detach yourself elegantly from the world; to give contour and grace to sadness; a solitude in style; a walk that gives cadence to memories; stepping towards the intangible; with the breath in the trembling margins of things; the past reborn in the overflow of fragrances; the smell, through which we conquer time; the contour of the invisible things; the forms of the immaterial; to deepen yourself in the intangible; to touch the world airborne by smell; aerial dialogue and gliding dissolution; to breath in your own reflecting fragmentation.

Emil Cioran - O Livro das Ilusoes

In 1966, this anthology of stories, poems, photographs and illustrations was published by Jacaranda Press in Brisbane. It would have cost you $3.95 back then to become its owner.

under twenty-five

In the introduction, the editors (Anne O’Donovan, Jayne Sanderson and Shane Porteous) wrote

Young writers face one serious obstacle. They cannot find publishers unless their work is already known. Their work cannot become known until it is published. This paradox is often a daunting if not impenetrable barrier for the would-be author.

With UNDER TWENTY-FIVE we hope to break down this barrier. We advertised for material in October 1965 and by June 1966 we had received many thousands of contributions. This, our final selection, represents the best of young Australians’ writing, photography and illustration. And yet for most this is their first time in print.

JacarandaJacaranda Press was an exciting publication house in its infancy, before the inevitable absorption into bigger companies took place. Under the stewardship of founder Brian Clouston, these junior editors, also under the age of 25, curated a solid collection that includes early work of some of Australia’s most established and recognised authors. You may recognise Shane Porteous (actor, writer and animator) from this photograph on the inner sleeve. Anne O’Donovan went on to establish her own publishing company.

In this collage the detectives among you will spot Peter CareyRoger McDonaldRhyll McMasterAllan BaillieMurray Bail and Susan Geason.

Image 1These are excerpts from the biographical notes.

Peter Carey discovered at Monash University that science was not his career and has since worked in advertising. He … is working on a second novel. 

Murray Bail … writes every day and says that writing is his only real interest.

Allan Baillie is a twenty-three-year-old journalist from Melbourne, born in Ayrshire, Scotland. His ambitions lie in the world of newspapers. For some time now he has been in remote parts of Afghanistan en route to Europe.

Roger McDonald is twenty-five. … [He] joined the Australian Broadcasting Commission to produce radio and television programmes for schools. … He has achieved both publication and encouraging rejections from literary magazines.

Rhyll McMaster of Brisbane is eighteen. She is working at the University, and studying Arts part-time. Several of her poems have been published in the Bulletin. …. “Today It Rains” won first prize in a Queensland high schools competition. She intends to continue writing poetry.


In the minor book culls (perhaps trims is a better word) that take place at my place from time to time (almost never) this now historic volume will always be a keeper.

I am in no way qualified to write an obituary for a Nobel Prize winning author. The Guardian has a short tribute here to Doris Lessing who died yesterday in London.

What I’m reflecting on as I take my mind back lots of years to the Women’s Studies course in the English Department of UQ is that I was much too young to properly appreciate or indeed understand her work. Thus it was that The Golden Notebook was retrieved from the book shelf today to see if I am ready to fully appreciate this work.


It appears that Ms Lessing did resonate with me somehow back in my youth.  There’s a fairly lengthy preface in this edition, written by Lessing in June 1971 nearly 10 years after the book was published.

I suspect that I paid particular attention to the preface while looking for clues to complete an essay or assignment.  This segment, heavily underlined in my copy, apparently resonated with me then, as it does now.

“There is only one way to read, which is to browse in libraries and bookshops, picking up books that attract you, reading only those, dropping them when they bore you, skipping the parts that drag – and never, never reading anything because you feel you ought, or because it is part of a trend of a movement. Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty – and vice versa. Don’t read a book out of its right time for you. Remember that for all the books we have in print, are as many that have never reached print, have never been written down – even now, in this age of compulsive reverence for the written word, history, even social ethic, are taught by means of stories, an the people who have been conditioned into thinking only in terms of what is written – and unfortunately nearly all the products of our educational system can do no more than this – are missing what is before their eyes.  [ .. ]

Everywhere if you keep your mind open, you will find the truth in words not written down. So never let the printed page be your master. [ .. ]  you should be learning to follow your own intuitive feeling about what you need: that is what you should have been developing, not the way to quote from other people”.


Here’s a great example of what happens you muster the courage to put what you love to do out there in the big wide world. I never cease to be amazed what connections you can make through the magic of social media and blog platforms. What’s even better is when you get the chance to meet those people face-to-face and share conversations about passions and pastimes.

So it’s a big THANK YOU to Deb Reynolds, one extraordinary Canadian, who pointed me in the direction of this post this morning. Thanks for noticing the tanka love coming from this direction Deb, and for helping to open up my knowledge of how others are using and adapting the form.


A container such as verse form is useful to get the writing started. It doesn’t have to mean you’re ‘stuck’ with the format. Enjoying the playfulness of it is an important place to start.

This book review of a collection by Harryette Mullen is from National Public Radio. With these tanka forms, the 31 syllables goes into 3 lines, but not necessarily fixing the number of syllables for each line. Here’s a taste.

Tasting artisan chocolates,
hard to choose between Shangri-La
with goji berries or Aztec flavored with smoky chilies.

The review’s author Carmen Giminez Smith writes about how Mullen marries the modern with the older form.

Cover - Notes from a Tanka Diary

Poet Harryette Mullen makes a beautiful marriage between those new ideas and a classic poetic form in her first collection in over a decade, Urban Tumbleweed: Notes From a Tanka Diary.

The tanka is a Japanese form dating back centuries. It’s a 31-syllable poem that usually includes what Mullen calls “a refined awareness of seasonal changes and a classical repertoire of fleeting impressions.” In Urban Tumbleweed, Mullen has written 366 tankas, describing a year of living in Los Angeles and traveling to places like Texas, Ohio and Sweden while taking careful note of the natural world around her.

Here’s some more about Harryette Mullen and her work.

So many poets, so little time!