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Posts from the ‘Australian Authors’ Category


#Poetry Blakwork (title poem)

  • Author: Alison Whittaker
  • Title: Blakwork
  • Published: 2018
  • Publisher: @MagabalaBooks
  • Trivia: 2019 shortlist Victorian Premier’s Award Indigenous Writing
  • Trivia: 2019 WINNER Mascara Lit Review Avant-garde Award for literature
  • Trivia: 2019 shortlist ABIA Small Publishers’ Adult Book of the Year
  • List of Challenges 2019
  • Monthly plan
  • #AWW2019
  • @AusWomenWriters
  • Trivia: Review:  poem  Cotton On   (pg 15)



  1. I was staring at the book  turning it front to back.
  2. Why the choice of a bird on the cover?
  3. Perhaps if you live in Australia  you know what it means.
  4. I had to find out more about the metaphor of a blackbird.
  5. Difficult to read….
  6. Origin of the term ‘blackbirding’:
  7. The term may have been formed
  8. …directly as a contraction of ‘blackbird catching’.
  9. Blackbird’ was a slang term for the local South Pacific indigenous people.
  10. It might also have derived from an earlier phrase,
  11. blackbird shooting’, which referred to
  12. recreational hunting of Aboriginal people by early European settlers


Title poem:      Blakwork  (pg 3)

  1. The sun rises 0530 am on this side of the world.
  2. No matter how hard I try…I’m wide awake at 0600 am.
  3. My eyes are not yet focused so I use a magnifying glass to
  4. …read the first poem in the chapter Whitework.
  5. Blakwork: 41 words that pack a punch.
  6. I didn’t realize that today (26 May) is #SorryDay in Australia
  7. This poem sums up the sentiment of
  8. …reconciliation from an other perspective.


  1. Type of Poem:  poet-in-conversation (present tense)
  2. Who is speaking?  Alison Whittaker the poet
  3. Who is ‘you’  in the poem?    White Australia
  4. Title:   Blakwork
  5. Australia’s slavery started because other countries abolished it.
  6. Aboriginal people were used in
  7. the pearling, sugar cane and cattle industries.
  8. They suffered terrible abuse and were denied their wages.



  1. There is an energy…tension  in this poem.
  2. I tried to discover the  starting subject and
  3. …then the discovered subject in a poem.
  4. There is always a door to be opened the
  5. will lead you down another path
  6. …in this poem a ” cynical path”.


  1. Starting subject:
  2. blakfella works –> payment callous hands –> profit to white Australia
  3. Door: words   “white guilt”
  4. Discovered subject:
  5. Blakfella works –> payment now bound by contract (indentured)
  6. profit –> white Australia can have “soothing” feeling of reconciliation
  7. “nine to five forgiving you.”
  8. #powerful




  • Fresh blakwork; industrial complexes
  • hands with
  • smooth and flat palm callouses.
  •      Soothing re —
  •                         –conciliation
  • That dawdling off-trend meme
  • white guilt. To survive it; well,
  •      it’s naff to say, but compul–
  •                       –sory to do. Indentured blakwork, something like
  • nine to five, forgiv–
  •                      –ing you.



  1. Words I had to look up for a clear meaning of the poem:
  2. industrial complexes – (self-interest ahead of the well being of the Aboriginal people)
  3. dawdling – wasting time, idle, trifle
  4. meme –  behavoir
  5. naff – clichéd, unstylish
  6. indentured – bound by contract



#Poetry Alison Whittaker “Blakwork”

  • Author: Alison Whittaker
  • Title: Blakwork
  • Published: 2018
  • Publisher: @MagabalaBooks
  • Trivia: 2019 shortlist Victorian Premier’s Award Indigenous Writing
  • Trivia: 2019 winner Mascara Lit Review Avant-garde Award for literature
  • Trivia: 2019 shortlist ABIA Small Publishers’ Adult Book of the Year
  • List of Challenges 2019
  • Monthly plan
  • #AWW2019
  • @AusWomenWriters
  • Trivia: Review:  poem Blakwork  (pg 3) (title poem)



  1. This book consists of 15 chapters and 94 poems.
  2. I still am trying to learn how to read a poem.
  3. I am going to read a poem …then really try to figure
  4. …out what the message is…or what do I see in the poem.
  5. More of my reviews about these poems
  6. …will appear during the drips and drabs.
  7. These poems will take time to read.
  8. The author has put so much thought into her words
  9. …I don’t want to rush my reading


  1. Poetry does not need a story…that is not its function.
  2. That is why poems sometimes make people cringe!
  3. The reader speaks English, the poem is in English
  4. and still the  reader (me)  has no idea what it means.
  5. This will be my biggest poetry reading challenge.
  6. Just look at the way the poems sit on the page!
  7. I glanced through the book and see images, emojis,
  8. poems with unique shapes, punctuation and lists.


  1. I am not going to review them in lofty poetic terms
  2. …but just by asking myself some basic questions.
  3. What is the shape of the poem? Who is speaking?
  4. What images does the poet use? Allusions?
  5. How do they make me feel? Stumped or enlightened?
  6. I’m even going to read the poems to the cat
  7. …I need to hear the sound!


  1. Poems tells us the history of the human heart.
  2. All poets are struggling with the different things:
  3. loneliness, racism, gender roles, sexuality
  4. colonialism, family, class, history,
  5. …violence, culture, pleasure, joy.
  6. I’m eager to learn what Alison Whittaker….
  7. …is struggling with.



Poem:      Cotton On            (pg 15)


let’s compare hands              s t r e t c h


tendons wrists across            o c e a n s







here: a common                     wound.


Cotton On:

  1. My FIRST reading:  12 words  placed on the page leaving a 10×10 cm blank center page.  words describe hands ready for planting and harvesting. The key word is ‘oceans‘ referring to the overseas labor force that is used in this industry. The blank page could indicate a field that is planted with cotton seeds. TitleCotton On is perhaps a reference to seeds…starting.
  2. I then contacted the poet via Twitter:
  3. “I’m just starting to read poetry and I admit I don’t understand it after a first reading…so I re-read alot. Reading: Cotton on (pg 15) in Blakwork. May I ask…why the big open space in the poem? What am I missing! Thank you for your time #justasking”
  4. Reply  from  Alison Whittaker:
  5. “I try to not be too prescriptive with the poetry, but in Cotton on, the spaces denote the physical space across the pacific between communities wounded by cotton, and the act of stretching out to touch. it’s whatever you make of it!”
  6. My SECOND reading: Then I put my thinking cap on.
  7. Who was wounded by cotton?
  8. USA the slaves on the plantations.
  9. AUS the aboriginals who see their sacred rivers drying up.
  10. The aboriginals say:  “If there’s no river, where’s our culture?”
  11. The landholders (cotton farms) are pumping all the water out
  12. for irragation and water management.
  13. Now I see the connection in the poem.
  14. The slaves and aboriginals are stretching their hands
  15. across the Pacific Ocean.
  16. Both wounded by cotton.
  17. “The last line “here: a common wound.

#AWW2019 Maxine Beneba Clarke



  1. I needed to share
  2. Maxine Beneba Clarke’s poem on my blog.
  3. There is something so rewarding in this poem
  4. if you are willing to
  5. let go of what you already know.



We’ll go cardboard-boothed

  to the primary schools

community centres

  and the churches to boot


and friendly neighbours

  ideologically opposed

will avert their eyes

  as they fold up their votes


Last thoughts:

You want a poem to unsettle something…

  1. Maxine Beneba Clarke has done it
  2. ..about Australian elections 2019
  3. There’s not a word wasted in these clean, spare lines.
  4. We could use this poem for elections all over Europe!
  5. You can read THE ENTIRE POEM  HERE
  6. Thank you @slamup 





#AWW2019 Lesley Williams

  • Author:  Lesley and Tammy Williams
  • Title: Not Just Black and White
  • Published: 2015
  • Genre: indigenous issues non-fiction
  • Trivia: 2016 Queensland Premier’s Award work of State Significance
  • Trivia  2014 David Unaipon Award Winner
  • List of Challenges 2019
  • Monthly plan
  • #AWW2019
  • @AusWomenWriters



  1. This is a writing collaboration between
  2. mother (Lesley) and daughter (Tammy).
  3. Lesley Williams was forced to leave the
  4. Cherbourg Aboriginal Settlement
  5. …at a young age to work as a domestic servant.
  6. Lesley never saw her wages.
  7. They were kept ‘safe’ by the government.
  8. This book relates her nine-year journey for answers:
  9. where is all that money she earned?
  10. Lesley confronts the government
  11. …in a judicial wrestling match!



  1. Mrs Williams describes her youth
  2. while giving the reader a clear mental image
  3. of the backdrop Cherbourg settlement.
  4. It was difficult to read about her life
  5. under  cruel Protection Act that uprooted
  6. thousands of Aboriginal people.
  7. because of her strong character and vision
  8. she was able overcome many hardships.


  1. There were several messages in the book that
  2. resonated to me:
  3. Williams feels a strong sense of Aboriginal community. (safety network)
  4. Williams struggles to fight injustice (racial, financial)
  5. Williams reminds all people who suffer racism…


  1. Best quote:
  2. “There are two ways to fight racism:
  3. — fight with your fists
  4. — fight with your talents and achievements”
  5. Nothing hurts a racist more
  6. …when they see you achieving


Last thoughts

  1. Good literature unnerves you…..
  2. …or takes you somewhere to consider things
  3. ….things that you might not have considered
  4. thinking about before.
  5. This book took me into the Cherbourg Settlement.
  6. It showed me the strength of family…
  7. that remained unbroken for Lesley Williams.
  8. It has only been in the last generations
  9. …that Aboriginal writers have been published.
  10. They now are  able to tell their stories, their truths.
  11. #ReadDiversity



#NSW Premier’s 2019 Special Award B. Boochani

  • Author: B. Boochani
  • Title: No Friend But The Moutains
  • Published: 2018
  • Genre: non-fiction
  • List of Challenges 2019
  • Monthly plan
  • @MacmillianAus
  • @Picadorbooks
  • Trivia:
  • A special award of $10,000 was made to
  • Manus Island refugee Behrooz Boochani
  • for his book No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison.
  • Boochani’s book was ineligible for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards
  • which require authors to be Australian citizens.
  • Trivia:
  • The book won the top prize at the
  • Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards in January 2019.
  • This year was an exception made to the eligibility requirements.



  1. Prison literature is always a difficult read.
  2. For instance the Pulitzer Prize Winner History 2017
  3. Blood in the Water  by H. Thompson (worth your reading time!)
  4. But it is necessary to know the disturbing truths
  5. ….that are not always in the news.
  6. Boochani’s book was not a pleasure to read.
  7. I persevered to force myself out of my comfort zone.
  8. My review is in fragments.
  9. I could not add any commentary to this
  10. confrontational book.
  11. According to PEN International
  12. “Manus Island has become notorious for its
  13. …ill-treatment of detainees where violence,
  14. sexual abuse and self-harm are reportedly common.
  15. No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison
  16. is an autobiographical account
  17. …of Boochani’s  perilous journey
  18. from Indonesia to Christmas Island and thence to Manus.
  19. He  tells of what life is like for the detained men.
  20. #LiteratureDoesHavePower



The trip to Manus (ch 1-4)
Boochani enters Manus Prison (ch 5-6)

25% – 60%:

  1. Once a concept is mentioned
  2. it is repeated over and over
  3. …again for several paragraphs:
  4. stench of hairy man’s breath (ch 7)
  5. smell of putrid soil
  6. fans
  7. mosquitos
  8. rooms
  9. pissing
  10. filthy toilets
  11. distress caused by saying ‘hi’
  12. bellowing of profanities
  13. prison becomes hive of killer bees
  14. prisoners become wolves…threat to everyone else
  15. Generator (cuts off water and electricity)
  16. ….manipulates minds


Queuing for food (ch 8)

  1. everything is micromanaged and mechanical
  2. meat is like pieces of car tyre
  3. guards like shepherds guiding a herd of sheep
  4. Nicknames: the Cow…first one entering dining area
  5. starvation has a smell…
  6. officers and cooks work 2 week shifts
  7. …then leave the island to be replaced
  8. answer to all the prisoners question:
  9. …”The Boss has given orders.”
  10. queue in the telephone room


Father’s Day…men struggle for the telephone (ch 9)

  1. …this leads to bruises and bodily harm.
  2. power of biceps can determine many situations
  3. distributing cakes….devoured right off the cardboard
  4. …mayhem but Boochiani does not move.
  5. …he knows “I am an animal that has already lost the game.”



  1. I am a child of war. (ch 10)
  2. Boochani describes the guards crushing a unruly prisoner.
  3. This chapter reminds me of a mind becoming unhinged.


It’s hard to discern a genuine smile…  (ch 11)

  1. Toothache…terrible pain…worse treatment!
  2. Self-harm in the prison becomes a cultural practice.
  3. When prisonor spills his blood he appears to enter into ecstasy.
  4. It is a moment emitting the scent of death.
  5. According to Boochani every prisoner must
  6. …look out for the prisoner standing next to him.
  7. The most important thing is they must challenge the
  8. Kyriarchal System of the prison.
  9. …Kyriarchy is a system that creates webs of privilege and exclusion.


Revolt in Mike Prison…August 2014. (ch 12)

  1. Death of Reza…the gentle giant.


Last thoughts:

  1. Despite winning the prestigious
  2. New South Wales Special Literary Award 2019
  3. with a prize worth $10.000 dollars
  4. Boochani may not leave Manus Island
  5. …and his future is unknown.



#AWW2019 Nakkiah Lui (playwright)

  • Author: Nakkiah Lui (1991)  Gamillaroi and Torres Strait Islander woman
  • Title: Black is the New White
  • Published: 2019 (book)
  • Opening night: 10 May 2017 Sydney Theatre Company
  • Genre: play (romantic comedy)
  • Trivia: Indigenous issues
  • Trivia: 2018 winner NSW Lit Award for Playwriting
  • Trivia: 2018 shortlist Victorian Premier’s Award Drama
  • List of Challenges 2019
  • Monthly plan
  • #AWW2019
  • @AusWomenWriters
  • @AllenandUnwin



  1. Young couple Charlotte Gibson and
  2. Francis Smith are newly engaged.
  3. But their fathers are political rivals.
  4. The Gibson and Smith families gather for Christmas lunch.
  5. Unexpected guests, sudden self-realizations
  6. …and family secrets disrupt their meal.
  7. Themes: land rights, politics, relationships, identity, class.
  8. Question: What is it to be Aboriginal and middle class?



  1. 7 scenes
  2. 8 characters:
  3. Engaged couple (20s)  Charlotte and Francis
  4. Their respective parents (50-60s) Joan, Ray, Maire and Dennison
  5. Daughter (nr 2) and son-in-law (30s) Rose and Sonny



  1. To speed up the pace Nakkiah uses overlapping dialogue.
  2. The idea was to write dialogue
  3. …the way people really speak
  4. …so that characters cut off the
  5. beginnings and ends of each other’s sentences.
  6. Full revelation of emotions is transformed into comedy.
  7. At times it feels like community (scene 3-4-5-6)
  8. ….and at times like chaos! (scene 7)



  1. To give the play a very culturally modern feel we read about a
  2. virtual reality mask, twitter, Michell Obama, Hillary and Bill Clinton,
  3. Kim and Kayne Kardishan, Beyoncé and JayZ, Martin Luther King,
  4. Waleed Aly, Alicia Keyes,
  5. Netflix series House of Cards and the movie Cluesless.



  1. Lui uses a technique of the narrator to
  2. give the audience/reader the backstory.
  3. The narrator comments on action, adds insight
  4. …on characters, stage elements
  5. …developing a precise and complete character persona.



  1. I will not reveal any spoilers
  2. …..the play should be read with a clean slate.
  3. You will enjoy the unfinished battles
  4. …in the character’s public and private lives!
  5. We follow the maze from character to character….
  6. …with the climatic scene 7
  7. …which includes 15 ‘bombshells’ of information!
  8. In Black is the New White (title revealed in scene 4)
  9. …you meet 8 characters  who
  10. challenge stereotypes of
  11. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  12. With Nakkiah Lui’s  comic descriptions of
  13. their personal interaction and commentary
  14. …you have an unforgettable romantic comedy
  15. …and many life lessons.
  16. #MustRead   #MustLaugh

#Ockham NZ Awards MY CHOICE winner Fiona Kidman

  • Author: Dame Fiona Judith Kidman DNZM OBE (1940)
  • Title: This Mortal Boy
  • Published: 2018
  • Genre: historical fiction
  • List of Challenges 2019
  • Monthly reading plan
  • #AWW2019 
  • @AusWomenWriters
  • Trivia: 2019 Winner of The New Zealand Booklovers’ Prize for Fiction
  • Trivia: 2018 Shortlisted for the NZ Heritage Book Awards
  • Trivia: 2019 Shortlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards
  • #TheOckhams will be awarded 14 May 2019.
  • @PenguinBooks_NZ



  1. On 05 December1955
  2. …New Zealand’s second-last execution occurred.
  3. The victim was a young Irishman,
  4. Albert (Paddy) Black…a bog-trotter.
  5. He knifed a man, Johnny McBride…bit of a rough diamond,
  6. in a bar-room brawl 26 July 1955
  7. …called the “juke-box murder”.
  8. Public revulsion at his execution was a major force
  9. abolishing the death penalty in 1961.
  10. Black was convicted of murder and executed.
  11. Yet there were clear signs that his trial
  12. …was a severe miscarriage of justice.
  13. Main characters:
  14. Albert (Paddy) Black Irish, aka Shaun Donavan (killer)
  15. Alan Keith Jacques English, aka Johnny McBride (victim)
  • Setting change: 1955 Belfast Ireland
  • Flashback: Belfast, parents, childhood, WW II, sailing to life in NZ
  • Setting: NZ Aukland, Wellington, Auckland Parliament House
  • Mt Eden Prison NZ (arrested awaits trial),
  • Ye Olde Barn cafe (crime scene)
  • Setting: Station Hotel Aukland NZ (where jury is staying during trial)
  • Setting: Aukland Court house – jury’s decision (ch 19)
  • Setting: Mount Eden Prison…execution



  1. This story is based on facts that are in no way
  2. sentimentalized by the author.
  3. This Mortal Boy reads like a Greek Tragedy
  4. …we know what is going to happen in the last act.
  5. The platform on the gallows will actually be a trapdoor.
  6. The book is a stark report about a young boy who
  7. made a mistake and paid the ultimate price, his life.


  1. Strong point:
  2. Research
  3. Dame Fiona Kidman has studied the trial transcripts
  4. …read copies of Albert Black’s letters to friend his Peter
  5. ..and visited Ireland to research the public records in Belfast
  6. (births, marriages, deaths).
  7. Chapter  27  is and eyewitness report  of the execution by J. Young.
  8. (…a very confronting read)
  9. Trial witnesses, lawyers and members of the jury are fictional.


  1. Strong point:
  2. Kidman examines history with a fine tooth comb.
  3. She supports her story with references
  4. to Australian politicians, The Mazengarb 1954 (report on moral delinquency)
  5. …and  the hanging of Fred Foster July 1955 for the ‘Milk Bar Murder’.


  1. Strong point:
  2. The jury
  3. In chapter two Kidman takes time to
  4. …introduce the reader to the 12 men on the jury.
  5. At first I thought Kidman was being too detailed.
  6. But later I realized  why it is important to know the
  7. social class (job, education) of these men.
  8. Only then can we understand the decision making
  9. process about Albert Black:
  10. guilty or not guilty.
  11. Three jurors add doubt to the arguments for guilty.
  12. I was captivated and drawn in as these jurors  try to
  13. remain staunchly against a guilty verdict.
  14. You will read what happened
  15. ….that pushed the verdict to guilty!


  1. Weak point of audio book:
  2. The singing!
  3. I’d rather read that someone is humming or singing a song
  4. …than to actually hearing it. #Distracting.


  1. Strong point:
  2. Ch 14 –  Oliver Buchanan, lawyer
  3. We imagine that the case is open and shut but…
  4. Buchanan works tirelessly to help his client
  5. …avoid the death penalty.
  6. There is something missing  in this case
  7. …but he cannot find the piece.
  8. Buchanan is interested in
  9. what happened before Paddy stabbed Johnny
  10. …that can prove that this crime was based on an accident.
  11. Buchanan quotes Thomas Hardy:
  12. “…for every bad..there is a worse.”


Last thoughts:

  1. Capital punishment…is such a contentious issue.
  2. While reading this book I was forced to think
  3. about the consequences of this policy.
  4. #Heartwrenching
  5. MY CHOICE to win Ockham 2019 for Fiction.



  1. Juror – Arthur university lecturer discusses… life? or death ?
  2. “…are you all so far beyond reproach
  3. that you have a right to make this decision?
  4. I’m not sure that I am.”


#AWW2019 Winner Victorian Lit Award 2019 Poetry

  • Author: Kate Lilley
  • Title: Tilt
  • Published: 2018
  • Genre: poetry (38 poems)
  • Cover: 1948 photograph of Luna Park lighted windmill, Sydney
  • Title:  Tilt….express the feeling of being off-balance
  • Trivia: 2019 Victorian Premier’s Award for poetry – winner
  • List of Challenges 2019
  • Monthly plan
  • #AWW2019
  • @AusWomenWriters



  1. Just finished reading 38 poems:
  2. TILT by Kate Lilley.
  3. Her talents…are mentally exhausting
  4. …and I mean that in a good way.
  5. Time for aperitif #Heineken.
  6. Poetry is hard work….more so than a novel!


What did I learn about just by reading these poems?

  1. Queen Christina – cult scenes in the movie with Greta Garbo (Poem: Femme Forte)
  2. Taboo subject unheard of in polite circles 19th C Edinburgh
  3. …The Drumsheugh Gardens School scandal 1810 (Poem: Children’s Hour)
  4. Slice of life of forgotten 1970s queer strip in Sydney (Poem: Tilt)
  5. Lillian Hellman’s 1934 production of Children’s Hour
  6. ….(see scandal Edinburgh) (Poem: Children’s Hour)
  7. La Maupin 17th C French swordswoman who caused
  8. havoc in a convent trying to escape with
  9. …her lesbian lover (OH!) (Poem: Children’s Hour)
  10. Kate Lilley’s 10 autobiographical poems (part 1) #heartwrenching
  11. I learned about Greta Garbo’s post showbiz life as recluse in NYC
  12. ..this was a poem-essay (Poem: Garbo at ‘Wits End’)
  13. Corporate talk “If you need me get in touch, backchannel me”
  14. (Poem: Coda)sense of closure with first poem Tilt
  15.  Poem for lovers in a transnational/digital world (Poem: Weather Channel)
  16. I learned why Lilley wrote an elegy for her father (author)
  17. …Merv Lilley (Poem: Her Bush Balland [Bourke St Elegy])
  18. …but not for her mother (poet) Dorothy Hewett (Poem: Memorandum)
  19. Lilley asks the question: (social issues)
  20. Why send a ship to sea unseaworthy? (refugees, mandatory detention)
  21. ..offering care to cargo
  22. …rather than care for people (Poem: In Harm’s Way)


Strong point:  autobiographical poems

  1. Poetry tells us the history of the human heart.
  2. If you only read these 10 poems (pg 11-30)
  3. …than my mission is accomplished to encourage
  4. more readers to pick up a book of  poems.
  5. I dove into TILT cold turkey.
  6. I thought:
  7. I speak English, the poem is in English
  8. and I still have no idea what it  all means.
  9. Then I started to research Kate Lilley’s
  10.  dysfunctional family.
  11. There are issues in the autobiographical poems
  12. …major issues!
  13. Kate Lilley was immersed (involuntarily)
  14. into the Bohemian lifestyle of her parents
  15. Merv Lilley and Dorothy Hewett in 1970s Sydney.
  16. Both Kate and her sister were being
  17. …abused by friends of their parents, predators.
  18. Lilley has suffered for years trying to put her life  back together
  19. …after living with a mother who’s mottto was: ”Boys Will Be Boys”.


First lines of autobiographical poems: set the scene, setting

  1. This is a seductive device
  2. …dangling a setting in front of the reader.
  3. It does not make too many demands
  4. of there reader at the beginning.
  5. That will come later.
  6. The first couple of stanzas takes the reader
  7. …by the hand and guides him into the poem.

First lines…

  1. Fonzies Fantasyland at 31 Oxford St nows a disappointing IGA [SETS SCENE, A SETTING]
  2. One morning walking down Bourke St I hear my father’s voice  [SETS SCENE, A SETTING]
  3. Mystic Rainbow cuisenaire rods (math learning aid)
  4. The first man who put his hands on me ( Oh, we are curious)
  5. Sounds quaint but in those days… [SETS SCENE, A SETTING]
  6. Winter White crepe maxi (…don’t know where this is going)
  7. At the Australian Society of Authors Xmas Party ( …we are curious)
  8. Conversation meant listening to adults (…been there, done that!)
  9. We were all there (…who is WE? …where is THERE?)
  10. He appears in the doorway [SETS SCENE, A SETTING]
  11. The girl I sat next to in maths at high-school (…we are curious, what about her?)
  12. Pushed up against the metal rim of the shower (…feels aggressive, [SETS SCENE, A SETTING]
  13. Overhead on the street [SETS SCENE, A SETTING]
  14. For her to die like that nobody there (…who? ) [SETS SCENE, A SETTING]



  1. 38 poems
  2. 3 parts:
  3. Tilt (autobiographical and confessional poems)
  4. In Harm’s Way (based on events and experience in psychiatry)
  5. Realia (facts) – (poems related to Greta Garbo, and many ‘list poems’)
  6. I liked 65% of these poems
  7. ….pretty good return on investment.


  1. Unique: Kate Lilley writes list poems (…completely new for me!)
  2. By listing words Lilley wants to create a sense of what this book
  3. is about: dysfunctional family – therapy, hospital – Greta Garbo
  4. by just listing carefully selected words.
  5. List poems are puzzles!


Last thoughts:

  1.  A poem is like a diary
  2. ….without the lock and key.
  3. Poetry is not difficult.
  4. I’ve read 5 different collections in the past weeks
  5. …and EVERY book was enthralling!
  6. I never get this buzz after reading a novel…never!


Collections read:

  1. USA – Jericho Brown – Anisfield-Wolf Award 2015
  2. IRELAND – Gerard Fanning – Winner Rooney Prize Poetry 1993
  3. NEW ZEALAND – Therese Lloyd – Shorlist Ockham Prize 2019   (prize 14 May 2019)
  4. AUSTRALIA – Kate Lilley – Winner Victorian Premier’s Award 2019
  5. NEW ZEALAND   – Cilla McQueen – Shorlist Ockham Prize 2011



#AWW2019 Winner NSW Lit Award for Drama


  • Triivia: 2019 Prize for Drama: NSW Literary Awards
  • Trivia: 2019 Prize for Drama: Victorian Premier’s Award
  • Trivia: 2018  Judges’ Award  Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting
  • Trivia: 2018 Best New Play at the UK Theatre Awards



  1. The play centers on a young woman (Anna).
  2. She  has been medicated for a range of mood and
  3. behavioral disorders since she was a child.
  4. Now she wants to find out what
  5. ...her life would be like without pills.
  6. The play takes an unflinching look at
  7. mental illness and medication among young people.


What is the structure of the play?

  1. Act 1 (7 scenes) – reading time:  1 hr 30 min
  2. Act 2  (6 scenes) – reading time:        50 min



  1. There are two book covers
  2. ….that convey different messages.
  3. Daughter: breaking free…carefree and in control of her life
  4. …after she chooses to stop her mental illness medication.
  5. Mother:  having spent years keeping her daughter safe
  6. …is powerless to stop her.


Daughter: Anna

Mother: Renée

What is the trigger in Act 1 ….something big at stake?

  1. Anna  suffers from mental
  2. ….heath issues (bipolar) since she was a child.
  3. In Act 1 she is 18 yr and decides
  4. …she wants to stop with her medication.
  5. This is a very scary decision she makes.
  6. It affects  everyone else around her.
  7. Her mother really struggles NOT to intervene.


What is the tension in the play?

  1. Anna has one desire…to stop medicating
  2. …and be in control of her life.
  3. The journey pursuing this desire forms the plot.
  4. The tension for the audience is
  5. the DOUBT that is aroused about Anna…
  6. “..will she or won’t she break free of the pills?”


  1. Strong point:
  2. Ms Feaver generates a subtext (stories of 8 yr girl)
  3. ….that she can play off of in the play
  4. The history of what has happened
  5. moments that refer to the character’s past.
  6. are very important part of the play.


  1. Strong point:
  2. The play is deliberately intimidating
  3. …about a girl in a sudden state of crisis
  4. …to raise awareness
  5. …about youth’s mental health issues.
  6. Ms Kendall has done extensive research
  7. and spoken to many psychiatrists.
  8. It took Kendall Feaver 5 years to finish the script.


  1. Strong Point:
  2. Title: The Almighty Sometimes
  3. …has intrigued me from the beginning!
  4. It refers to an option on questionnaires:
  5. Never – Always – Sometimes.
  6. Sometimes....Anna is troubled
  7. …but sometimes  she is
  8. …good, kind and capable.
  9. It is a hard choice a mother
  10. …must make when answering
  11. …questions about her daughter.



  1. 2-Act structure is a simple.
  2. It looks at the character’s journey
  3. …in he clinical world living day to day
  4. with a mental health condition.
  5. There is a routine of life between
  6. mother and daughter that passes for existence.
  7. Frenetic activity is expressed in the
  8. …dialogue with boyfriend Oliver
  9. …and psychiatrist Vivienne.
  10. Later this gives way to many
  11. moments of silence between daughter and mother.
  12. Anna  is  pushed to the extreme
  13. …as her internal and external worlds explode.
  14. Act 1 may feel a bit too long…but keep reading.
  15. Act 2 is where the fireworks display starts!


Last thoughts:

  1. Mother-daughter relationships are complex.
  2. Some mothers and daughters are best friends.
  3. Some avoid conflict.
  4. Others talk through everything…
  5. not so  between Anna and Renée!
  6. Strong point:
  7. The best part of the play…
  8. …as Kendall Feaver  shows us a
  9. snapshot of real life with a protective mother
  10. …and a daughter who feels she’s been lied
  11. …to, misunderstood and mis-diagnosed!
  12. The Almighty Sometimes is best seen on stage
  13. where sparks will fly between mother and daughter.
  14. Reading the play is the only alternative I have
  15. ….but am probably missing the best part:
  16. …the actors performance!


#AWW2019 Poetry NZ Cilla McQueen


  • Trivia:  If you ever read this collection of poems
  • …I will save you some time.
  • It took me 2 days to find the meaning of Maori words
  • mentioned in three poems: About the Fog, Reprise and
  • Talking to My Tokotoko.
  • “Hopupu Honengenenge Matangi Rau
  • …which in Maori means
  • the long water which bubbles, swirls and is uneven”.
  • #YourWelcome


Who is Cilla McQueen?

  1. Mcqueen was Born in Birmingham, England
  2. …and moved to New Zealand when she was four years old.
  3. She ranks amongst the finest poets of her generation.
  4. Trivia: Three New Zealand Book Awards
  5. Trivia: 2009 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement
  6. Trivia: New Zealand’s Poet Laureateship (2009-2011)
  7. In The Radio Room, Poet Laureate Cilla McQueen
  8. travels space and time, throwing thoughts (Poem: Bookworm)
  9. from Bluff NZ , her corner of the world, to  the ancient Celtic islands
  10. of her ancestors. (St Klida, Island Mull) (Poem series: Elements 1,2,3,4)


Conclusion:     My notes about a few poems….


Poem: The Ghostly Beast 

  1. Reference: 15th C Scottish history
  2. Macdonalds of Clanranald…carry off booty van rival clan
  3. …rough estimante 600 cows.
  4. McQueen describes fear of people  “in the bothy” (cottage)
  5. Sounds of “song of a storm, roiling tempest”
  6. “…a lowing so close”
  7. Is it a our cow or the  ghosts of stolen cattle?
  8. Conclusion: No  emotional impact but I do
  9. learn that McQueen bases many poems
  10. on her Scottish heritage.
  11. #BadChoice  for kick-off poem in collecton 😦


Poem: About the Fog

  1. Reference: feelings about loss (mother)
  2. McQueen’s personal journal…
  3. …pages destroyed  b/c book left on a table
  4. ….during a foggy night.
  5. …”vanished thoughts”
  6. washed away “…as if by tears.”
  7. Blue ink turned  “…turquoise wash
  8. …word-slivers….beld edges”
  9. Conclusion: very moving poem
  10. #TimeForKleenex


Reading tip:

  1. I read this poem 1 x … it made no sense.
  2. I’m too close to the text, to eager to understand
  3. …hence see nothing!
  4. Then I wrote each stanza in longhand,
  5. absorbing each sentence as I went on.
  6. That is the best way to ‘read’ poems.
  7. You just have to invest some time and
  8. effort to distill the poet’s message.
  9. Sometimes objects art not things.
  10. Objects are news…that is part of the puzzle.


Poems:  Altar (Elements 1)

  1. Reference: Island of Mull– 15th C MacKinnon’s Cave
  2. Deep inside lies a large, flat slab of rock, known as Fingal’s Table
  3. used as an altar by hermits and early followers of the Christian church.
  4. The first part of the poem
  5. …refers to the ‘sin’ of killing
  6. the Great Auk bird on St. Kilda, Scotland 1844.
  7. The second part refers to a Greek mythical figure of
  8. a warrior Amazon.
  9. She offers the spirits a gift as does…the narrator.
  10. The poem is bookended:
  11. Part 1: laid our sin on the altar
  12. Part 2: laid our prayer on the altar
  13. Conclusion: this poem needed some
  14. research to understand it (Great Auk).
  15. No emotional impact…just historical interest
  16. #Dud


Poem Beacon (Elements 2)

  1. Reference: Island of Mull– 15th C MacKinnon’s Cave
  2. This was very different compared  to Altar (Elements 1)
  3. I thought there would be a connection
  4. ….but the contrast was the best part!
  5. McQueen uses beautiful lyrical language to
  6. give us an image of a beacon of light
  7. leaping from “altar to altar, island to island”.
  8. Conclusion: Images linger; fascinated
  9. McQueen makes a (lighthouse) beam come to life …
  10. “a quartz shiver”….with ” quicksilver feet’!
  11. #Magical


Poem: Bookworm

  1. Reference: Martin Martin from the Island of Skye.
  2. 1690s he decided to visit St. Kilda and
  3. record the natural history and culture.
  4. This was a frustrating read.
  5. I must have read it 10 x…!
  6. It feels as if McQueen read the historical
  7. document by M. Martin and just left her
  8. thoughts drift: “tell past to know time present”.
  9. She compares herself with a (title) bookworm
  10. that tunnels through books
  11. …as she does through memory.
  12. Literary device: 
  13. antimetabole (reversal of words)
  14. “…on dark ground white words, on white ground dark words.”
  15. This device can be pithy and powerful
  16. …but it fell flat in this poem.
  17. Conclusion: exasperated…only  wish Ms McQueen
  18. could  explain this poem to me.
  19. make matters worse
  20. …my reading glasses broke today
  21. so I was forced to read this through “old lenses”!


Poem: Foveaux Express 

  1. Reference: ferry between Bluff and Stewart Island
  2. McQueen compares poetry to the catamaran ferry ride.
  3. Ferry: it is ‘swift as the stroke of a pen…text in motion’
  4. Poem: “…gimballed (supported) on muscling swells (waves)
  5. …word-ware cargo.”
  6. Conclusion: McQueen tells me why I should read poems:
  7. Poetry takes you apart, puts you back different”


Poem: Lens

  1. Literary devices: filled with …alliteration and assonant rhyme
  2. webbed wash-house windows
  3. dusty dwang (building), bee-sting blue-bag


Poem: Ripples

  1. This poem is considered one of the best poems of New Zealand
  2. The Poets mentioned in “Ripples” are Joanna Paul (1945-2003)
  3. and Hone Tuwhare (1922-2008).
  4. #Impressive


Poem: Soapy Water

  1. McQueen is so clever!
  2. #Hysterical!


Poem: Three Elaborations

  1. After reading several poems like this one
  2. ….topic is about a beloved one who passed away.
  3. …gone with Ganyede, beloved one,
  4. to fill the crystal glasses of the gods.
  5. …you swore to send a message back from death…
  6. …empty VB bottles queueing by the sink
  7. …all gone – the house as quiet as Miss McKenzie’s old piano…
  8. I can assume Hone Tuwhare was
  9. Cilla McQueens life partner after her divorce in 1986.
  10. I can find no biographical information to support my
  11. assumption…just a ‘woman’s intuition’ that Hone was the
  12. #LoveOfHerLife.



Poem: Coastling (Elements 3)

  1. I took a page out of Mcqueen’s book and
  2. …let MY thoughts drift after reading this poem:


  • I meet myself coming the other way.
  • Distinguish between two grains of sand.
  • No power on earth can change me,
  • nothing pins me down.
  • Within my high and low I belong to none.
  • A sacred slate where law is written.


  1. Conclusion: Title: Coastline
  2. I imagine a  beach and
  3. …the poet gazing at her footprints (“…met myself”).
  4. Nothing “pins me down”.
  5. Footprints are washed away
  6. …by the next wave (“belong to none”).
  7. The next step she makes  is
  8. …on “a sacred slate where law is written.”


Poem:  Mining Lament

  1. This is  playful poetic pantoum!
  2. A verse form composed of stanzas in which the
  3. second and fourth lines
  4. ….are repeated as the
  5. first and third lines of the following stanza.
  6. 10 lines and McQueen stretches the poem to 20 lines
  7. ….a pantoum!
  8. She repeats lines so subtly
  9. …that if you read it without a warning
  10. you would think it contains 20 separate lines of poetry!
  11. #BrainTeaser


  1. NOTE: the last line of a pantoum is the same as the first,
  2. making this a form of ouroboros type.
  3. The ouroboros a SYMBOL in the form of a snake
  4. …consuming its own tail.
  5. The poem ends where it begins
  6. ….a never-ending circle.
  7. How cool is that?
  8. #WhoSaidPoetryIsBoring


What is my favorite poem in the collection?

  1. It has to be a poem of friendship for 2nd Poet Laureate of
  2. New Zealand Hone Tuwhare. (1922-2008).

Poem: Letter to Hone 1

  1. I so impressed by the tenderness and
  2. affectionate words McQueen uses to celebrate this poet.
  3. I can only assume this is a tribute  to him just after his death.
  4. He passed away in 2008 and
  5. …this collection was published 2010.
  6. I don’t usually post the poems I read…but this one
  7. I must share:
  8. Note: Matua Tokotoko = Maori  carved walking stick
  9. …that is a symbol of great respect.


Letter to Hone 1

  • Dear Hone, by your Matua Tokotoko
  • sacred in my awkward arms,
  • its cool black mockings
  • my shallow grasp


  • I was
  • utterly blown away.


  • I am sitting beside you at Kaka Point
  • in an armchair with chrome arm-rests
  • very close to the stove.


  • You smile at me,
  • look back at the flames,
  • add a couple of logs,
  • take my hand in your bronze one,
  • doze awhile;


  • Open your bright dark eyes,
  • give precise instructions as to the location of
  • the whisky bottle
  • on the kitchen shelf, and of two glasses.


  • I bring them like a lamb.
  • You pour a might dram.



Last Poem: Your Eyes

  1. Of course…no mistake
  2. Hoen T. was McQueen’s  soul mate.
  3. Trivia: Yvonne mentioned in the last line
  4. is the NZ writer Yvonne du Fresne (1929-2011)


Last thoughts:

  1. Unlike poems by
  2. Jericho Brown (USA, raw, gritty)
  3. Gerard Fanning (IRELAND, nostalgic, playful)
  4. Therese Lloyd (NZ, heartbreak, visiting Ed Hopper’s paintings)
  5. Cilla McQueen’s poems were exhausting!
  6. I mean this in a good way…she makes me think.
  7. Her best poems are about her grief losing Hone Tuwhare.
  8. Also best  poems include the ones in which
  9. …McQueen shows us what is like at…
  10. the  end of the world in  New Zealand her hometown
  11. Bluff in Southland is the country’s most southerly tip,
  12. Subjects: weather, animals, whaling, oystering, shipwrecks, the sea.
  13. She has a sharp eye for particularly New Zealand detail.
  14. “my Tolotoko(Poem: About the Fog)
  15. A tokotoko is a traditional Māori carved ceremonial walking stick.
  16. ..a symbol of authority and status for the speaker holding it.
  17. bronze totara” (Poem: Crazy Horse)tree in New Zealand
  18. “In a kowhai two bellbird sing…” (Poem: In Hand) –
  19. small tree and  bird  prevalent to New Zealand (greenish colors)
  20. McQueen’s most  difficult poems are based on
  21. …Scottish myth, legend and history.
  22. It requires more research to understand
  23. …just a few snapshots in the poems.