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Posts from the ‘essays’ Category


Essays: The Australian Face (editor Catriona Menzies)

  • Title: The Australian Face: Essays from The Sydney Review of Books
  • Published: 2017
  • Editor: Catriona Menzies PikeEditor Sydney Review of Books.
  • She holds a PhD in English literature from the University of Sydney.
  • Editor: James Ley –  Professional literary critic. 
  • He holds a PhD in English literature from the University of Western Sydney.


What is the Sydney Review of Books?

The Sydney Review of Books was launched in 2013 out of frustration at the diminishing public space for Australian criticism on literature.


What is this book about?

To celebrate the Sydney Review of Books first five years online Ms Menzies and J. Ley have selected the ‘cream of the crop‘ out of more than 500 published essays over the years. This anthology contains  essays on Australian fiction, poetry and non-fiction.


What are essays for?

They are for thinking about things that need to be thought about. This book highlights several popular Australian authors ( H. Garner, A. Wright, M.B. Clarke and Les Murray (…could win Nobel Prize!). But I enjoyed discovering a forgotten Australian poet, Lesbia Harford, the literature scholar John Frow (impressive credentials!) and Moya Costello.

This book not only reveals the mainstream writers….but also  extremely talented essayists like Jeff Sparrow, Julieanne Lamond and Ben Etherington.


Here are some of my notes:


#ExcellentEssay: Gut Instinct by James Ley

  1. James Ley is not only editor but has contributed a
  2. brilliant essay about H. Garner’s House of Grief.
  3. He examines Garner’s style in this book about a slow
  4. grinding process of two court cases the
  5. provide the narrative spine of the book.


#ExcellentEssay: The Brain Feign by Ben Etherington

  1. Ben Etherington’s essay was a refreshing critical look at a number of
  2. Australian book reviewers
  3. ….offering a ‘chorus of weak cheers’ about recent publications.
  4. Etherson’s complaint in his essay is that critics
  5. summarise the content, recapitulate the blurb,
  6. describe the author’s reputation but none of the critics work
  7. to demonstrate WHY the novel deserves a prize or not!


#NotAFan: Sings for the Soul by Anthony Ullmann

  1. Unfortunately I gave up on Anthony Uhlmann’s essay.
  2. This my be very well MY problem…and not reflection on the writer.
  3. But read the essay yourself…and let me know what YOU think!


#ExcellentEssay: Render It Barely – Jeff Sparrow

  1. Impressive essay by Jeff Sparrow about a forgotten Australian poet
  2. Lesbia Harford.
  3. I knew nothing about Jeff Sparrow or Lesbia Harford.
  4. Ms Harford’s poems are worth reading
  5. …especially her love poems and factory poems
  6. …but Sparrow emphasizes
  7. that they should be read with the
  8. …knowledge of what was happening in
  9. Australian society (rise of Marxism and the Communist Party,
  10. the working class demanding rights, the world WWI and
  11. in the poet’s own life (lovers Guido Baracchi and Katie Lush).
  12. I am eager to read more articles written by Jeff Sparrow!
  13. Jeff Sparrow is a writer, editor, and broadcaster.
  14. He writes a fortnightly column for The Guardian and was the contributes
  15. regularly to many other Australian and international publications.
  16. He was the immediate past editor of literary journal Overland.
  17. I enjoy is style:
  18. …he does not want to preach…. he wants to teach.


#ExcellentEssay: The Australian Face by Julieanne Lamond

  1. Ms Lamond discusses The Barracuda by Christos Tsjolkas.
  2. She compares it to the author’s popular novel The Slap.
  3. Australia in The Slap: why hatred can hold communities together.
  4. Australia in The Barracuda: shows the absurdity of
  5. …the idea that Australia is a classless society.
  6. Sounds like these books are filled with some ‘fireworks’!


Last thoughts:

  1. This is one of the best anthologies of essays I’ve ever read
  2. Another  collection of eassys I enjoyed
  3. …was Zadie Smith’s  Feel Free.
  4. I’m including The Australian Face review on the
  5. Australian Women Writers Challenge. #AWW2018
  6. I feel Ms Catriona Menzies-Pike should enjoy some praise for
  7. guiding The Sydney Review of Books and together with J. Ley
  8. …selecting some great pieces of writing.
  9. Discover the rest of the essays  yourself!
  10. #GreatRead 




Feel Free Essays by Zadie Smith



Fences: A Brexit Diary

  1. This essay is about a topical issue: Brexit.
  2. But was written in August 2016 and much has happened since.
  3. The facts: The UK will leave the EU by
  4. automatic operation of international law on 29 March 2019.
  5. The UK government does not know what it wants
  6. …and there is no UK Brexit policy worth the name.
  7. Working-class Brits voted without understanding the stakes
  8. …and fell back on their inherited  fear of England’s invasion by  foreigners.
  9. Despite the fact that many people in London there are
  10. multicultural and cross-class aspects in their lives
  11. …...that is actually represented by their staff —
  12. nannies, cleaners, people who pour their coffee and who drive the cabs.
  13. The painful truth is the fences are being raised all over London.
  14. Conclusion:
  15. Smith lambasts wealthy London.
  16. We walk past ‘them‘  very often in the street and get into their cabs
  17. …and eat their food in their ethnic restaurants
  18. …but the truth is that more often than not they are
  19. …NOT in  our schools, social circles, and very rarely enter our houses
  20. …– unless they’ve come to work on our endlessly remodeled kitchens.”
  21. Excellent essay



In the Audience  (very good!)

  1. Generation Why? – review of the movie “Social Network” (Zuckerberg and Facebook).
  2. Seems surreal to read this review by Zadie Smith while
  3. Facebook is in the midst of turmoil (Facebook vs Cambridge Analytics scandal).
  4. Zadie Smith quit Facebook 2 months after she started.
  5. She admits FB has been the greatest distraction from work she has ever had.
  6. In FB life is turned into a database and this is degradation.
  7. We use the FB software to behave in a certain, superficial way toward others.
  8. We know what we are doing ‘IN’ the software
  9. ….but we don’t know what the software is doing to us? 
  10. Zadie Smith quotes Lanier a software expert:
  11. ” be attentive to the software into which we are ‘locked in’.
  12. Is it really fulfilling our needs?
  13. When a human being becomes a set of data on a
  14. …website like Facebo0k, he or she is reduced
  15. …our networked selves don’t look more free
  16. they look more owned.
  17. It is scary reading this essay published in November 2010
  18. …8 years ago…and feeling it could have been written today!
  19. It does not matter who you are, as long as you make ‘choices’.
  20. Zadie Smith gets nostalgic at the end of the essay
  21. “I’m dreaming of a Web that caters to a kind of
  22. person who no longer exists” …a private person.
  23. NOTE:  I have DELETED  Facebook and TWITTER
  24. …a waste of my reading time!


The House that Hova Built

  1. Starting  The House That Hova Built. (2012, New York Times Magazine).
  2. Reading this in 2018 we already know Jay-Z
  3. will have an extra marital affair (2013 – 2015).
  4. His wife made the 6th best selling album
  5. …by a woman in all timeLemonade” in 2016.
  6. Beyoncé reveals explicitly her  progress through the discovery,
  7. detonation and aftermath of the affair.
  8. Album is divided into chapters:  Intuition, Denial, Anger, Forgiveness, Redemption.
  9. Rapper Jay-Z mentioned in an interview with Zadie Smith:
  10. And when it comes to talent,
  11. ‘You just never know– there is no guage.
  12. You don’t see when it’s empty.’
  13. IRONY: Speaking about his then 4 month old daughter, Ivy Blue,
  14. She doesn’t have to be tough […]
  15. …she has to be respectful and be a moral person“.
  16. Hmm…just like her daddy!


Brother from Another Mother 

  1. I had to look up who Key & Peele are.
  2. I needed to watch some Key & Peele on You Tube!
  3. The first two seasons of Key & Peele on Comedy Central 
  4. ..received positive reviews, maintaining a score 74 of 100.
  5. The third season of Key & Peele received
  6. …critical acclaim, receiving a score of 82 of 100!
  7. The series won a Peabody Award in 2013
  8. “for its stars and their creative team’s inspired
  9. …satirical riffs on our racially divided and racially conjoined culture.
  10. THANK YOU Zadie Smith…I finally discovered Key & Peele!


Some Notes on  Attunement –  very personal, touching

  1. I loved this essay.
  2. There was a quote that made me stop and think about
  3. …my determination to find out ‘What Makes Poetry Tick.
  4. I think Zadie Smith has given the key I was looking for.
  5. Quote:
  6. “Sometimes it is when you stop trying to understand
  7. …the new art  that you become more open to it.
  8. Put simply: You need to lower your defenses.


Flaming June

Zadie Smith starts her essayI’m trying to think of the first bits of art I ever saw.”  Now that is a good question.  My  Dad had some prints in his den of Revolutionary War 1776 soldiers hanging around a cannon. I don’t consider that art. But in my uncle’s house there was one painting (print) by Renoir I remember...I liked her hat.

But Zadie Smith  in this very short essay tells us which poster she choose to hang in her college apartment: Flaming June by Leighton. From now on she was not going to pinch pennies like her father or take up political commitments like her mother. No, Zadie was going to live for art!  “I’m going to spend three years on a sofa thinking about truth and  art…” “I was going to live for love and art and food[…]….and sleep, lots of sleep!”


Crazy They Call Me: On Looking at Jerry Dantzic’s Photos of Billie Holiday

  1. In this essay (New Yorker, 06.03.2017) you inhabit the world of Billie Holiday.
  2. Zadie Smith is writing the story from the singer’s perspective.
  3. “…after the clapping dies down,
  4. …there’s simply no one and nothing to be done.”
  5. “…you’re grateful for your little dog…”
  6. A dog don’t cheat, a dog don’t lie.”
  7. “This little dog and you? Soulmates. Where you been all my life?”
  8. “You never sing anything after….’Strange Fruit
  9. This song, written by Abel Meeropol and performed
  10. by many artists (but most notably, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone,)
  11. …is a dark and profound song about
  12. …the lynching of African Americans in the
  13. …Southern United States during the Jim Crow Era.
  14. In the lyrics, black victims are portrayed as “strange fruit,”
  15. …as they hang from trees, rotting in the sun, blowing in the wind,
  16. …and becoming food for crows upon being burned.
  17. It was a protest song that Billie Holiday
  18. ..very bravely performed under grave threats and at high personal cost.


  1. Essay: A Bird of Few Words  by Zadie Smith (The New Yorker, 19.06.2017)
  2. I thought this essay was going back and forth
  3. ..describing the art of  Lynette Yiadom Boakye (British- Ghanaian artist) and
  4. …then comparing it to the comments of the critics.
  5. But Smith went in another direction.
  6. Boakye creates compelling character studies of people who don’t exist.
  7. The paintings are of people with no name.
  8. Boakye  can finish a portrait in 1 day…
  9. …and Smith sighs from a novelist’s point of view both the
  10. ..speed and clarity of Boakye is humbling.
  11. This painting I found light as if the person was about to take flight!

  12. But this painting just was full of  ‘color politics’ and
  13. …shows Boakye’s talents and Smith’s insightful interpretation.
  14. Mercy over Matter”  a man holds a bird on this finger.
  15. Notice “…the underplumage: those jewel-like greens and
  16. …purples and reds you can spot
  17. beneath the oil-slick surface of certain bird-feathered birds.
  18. …the man’s jacket magically displays this same underplumage;
  19. …so does his skin; so does the bird.
  20. He is often thought of as a nothing, a cipher.
  21. But he has layers upon layers upon layers.






Essay: Dancing Lessons for Writers

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor fred astaire and gene kelly


  • Author: Zadie Smith
  • Title essay:  Dancing Lessons for Writers
  • Book:  Feel Free (collection essays)
  • Published: February 2018



  1. Chores  and grocery shopping are done!
  2. Now I have time  to read…Zadie  Smith’s essay before my coffee break.
  3. Dance Lessons for Writers
  4. I see directly that this essay is laying the groundwork
  5. …for Smith’s  newest book Swing Time (2016)
  6. She wants to investigate the
  7. …connection between writing and dancing.
  8. Quote:
  9. What can an art of words take from the art that needs none?”


  1. This essay was written 29.10.2016 in The Guardian.
  2. Her book was  written in 2015 and released 1 month after this article.
  3. Dance lessons for writers would include:
  4. position, attitude, rhythm and style.


  1. Smith makes a wonderful comparison between
  2. Fred Astaire (free-floating, aloof, appears to skim across the surface) and
  3. Gene Kelly (low center of gravity, bends his knees, hunkers down).
  4. Now Smith  lays this comparison over language!
  5. Gene Kelly: commonsense language, language of TV,
  6. …supermarket, the advert, newspapers, the government.
  7. GK- type writer? One whose natural talents are
  8. ….combined with hard-earned skills. (Raymond Carver)
  9. Fred Astaire: (poetry in motion)
  10. FA- type writer? One who barely puts a toe in
  11. …daily public conversation, prefers the
  12. …literary language a literal aristocrat. (Vladimir Nabokov)


  1. Smith goes on to find what  the
  2. …writer can learn from the dance moves of
  3. Michael Jackson and Prince.
  4. Prince is an ode...try to capture a passing sensation.
  5. Jackson is a graphic novel, all very visible
  6. …and sometimes ALL CAPS.
  7. But there are many more comparisons
  8. …this is a essay worth your reading time!
  9. #MustRead

Essay: Fair Australia Prize 2017

  • Author: Julian Bull
  • Title: Aussie Albert
  • Published:  2017
  • Trivia:  Read essay in link  Overland Literary Review
  • Trivia:  Julian Bull studied natural resources management and
  • landscape architecture at the Universities of Adelaide and Melbourne.




  1. What do you say when an essay leaves you speechless?
  2. Julian Bull gives a  snapshot of Albert Namatjira
  3. …and  a glimpse at the  injustices befalling Indigenous Australians
  4. who are still denied a voice in
  5. …determining their destiny in contemporary Australia.

Julian Bull uses this photo to show the reader Aussie Albert’s  situation:

“…Albert, standing there alone, crowned by a fan. A cord tangles its way between Albert’s hat and the back of one of his new mates via the uncirculating fan rendering their need for dialogue superfluous, given such a manifestation of electrical connectivity symbolising their unspoken accord.

“Albert’s been let into the boys’ club, the first, the one and only Indigenous Australian allowed in, but no-one’s talking to him, he’s not part of the forum, he’s not in the team.”


  1. I try to discover voices that don’t
  2. …seem to pop up on
  3. Julian Bull is one of these voices.
  4. The best way to  find gems like Aussie Albert
  5. …is to read literary reviews:
  6. Overland (Aus), Dublin Review (Ire), The Sun (US),
  7. The Malahat Review (Canada)





#Read Ireland Seamus Heaney

  • Author: H. Vendler
  • Title: Seamus Heaney
  • Published: 1998



  • Trivia: Seamus Heaney  died following a short illness
  • on August 30, 2013 at the age of 74.
  • Heaney’s last words were in a text to his wife Marie were:
  • “Noli timere“, which means “Do not be afraid.



  1. It took me a week to read this
  2. excellent overview of Seamus Heaney’s poems by
  3. American literary critic Helen  Vendler.
  4. I could only manage 1 chapter day.
  5. There was so much to learn.
  6. so much detail…that my mind
  7. could absorb no more after 3 hours of reading.


Ch 1:   Death of a Naturalist (1966)  Door Into the Dark (1969)  Wintering Out (1972)

  1. Early poems rooted in the Irish landscape.
  2. Heaney’s  pastoral poems were not always idyllic.
  3. Midterm Break was heartbreaking
  4. ….about the death of his 4 yr brother.
  5. And of course Digging is one of his most famous poems.
  6. Heaney wanted to measure the pen against the sword
  7. “Between my finger and my thumb / The squat pen rests; snug as a gun”.
  8. Summer Home is a marriage-poem.
  9. It is a chilling account of a quarrel finally mended.
  10. But one of my favorites is ….Sunlight.
  11. I get ‘goosebumps’ when I read it.
  12. This is memorial to the central figure Aunt Mary.
  13. It is a warm, nostalgic rural sturdy.
  14. I can see my mother with her floured hands, whitend nails
  15. …rubbing her hand s  on her apron while she taught me how to make an apple pie.
  16. I imagine ‘honeyed water’ in a bucket warmed by the sun.
  17. Heaney truly brings you into a poetic state
  18. …dreaming while you are awake!

Ch 2:   North   (1975)

  1. This collection was the first that
  2. …dealt about the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
  3. Heaney looks frequently to the past for images and
  4. …symbols relevant to the violence and political unrest.
  5. The Bog poems are a symbolic representation of history.
  6. The poem should sound like the subject.
  7. Heaney tried to  pull language as close as possible to the thing itself
  8. — so that a bog poem sounded boggy or a
  9. — Viking ship poem sounded lithe.


Ch 3:  Station Island (1984)

  1. The title  refers to Station Island also known as
  2. St. Patrick’s Purgatory Co. Donegal.
  3. It is a site of Christian pilgrimage for many centuries.
  4. In this long Dantesque fiction of the poem the ghosts of Heaney’s past come
  5. crowding thick and fast around him in twelve episodes.
  6. One of my favorites poems in this collection is:
  7. The Old Icons – Heaney  contemplates old pictures he
  8. …cannot bear to throw away.
  9. ” Why when it was all over, did I hold on to them?”
  10. SH cannot throw them out because they are NOT outdated.
  11. Everything has altered but nothing has changed.
  12. There will always be a  huddled Catholic minority, a patriot and traitor.


Ch 3:   Field Work (1979)

  1. Field Work is a record of Heaney’s four years (1972-1976)
  2. …living in rural County Wicklow in the
  3. …Republic of Ireland after leaving the violence of The Troubles.
  4. Field work is less political.
  5. 50% elegies (deliberate choice to remain on the everyday level)
  6. 50% domestic life with his wife (love poems)  and friends.
  7. Heaney calls it the ‘music of what happens’.
  8. “It was still a proof that I could write poetry in my new situation.” (S. Heaney)


Ch 4:     Alter Egos 

  1. Alter-egos are people Heaney…might have become.
  2. These alter-egos were agriculturally timeless ones,
  3. …single artisans, seed-cutters, the thatcher, blacksmith and …the digger.
  4. Station Island is a long autobiographical poem-of-alter-egos.


Ch 5:   The Haw Lantern (1987)

  1. Between 1984-1987 both parents died
  2. ….this caused a tear in the fabric of Heaney’s verse.
  3. Emptiness had replaced reality.
  4. The Haw Lantern is an intellectual volume.
  5. It ponders, values, chooses, judges and
  6. …examines the poet’s tendency to ‘second thoughts’.
  7. The title of the collection refers to the haw fruit.
  8. The fruit is an important symbol of defiance against winter
  9. It is a a symbol of the dignity of the Northern Irish in the face of violence and trouble.
  10. The image of the lantern is a reference to the traditional account of
  11. …philosopher Diogenes of Sinope.
  12. According to the story, Diogenes carried a lantern
  13. …through the streets in search of an honest man in the light.


Ch 6:  Seeing Things (1991)

  1. What does the world look like seen through the eyes 
  2. …approaching  death?
  3. It erases senses and memory alike.
  4. Such a given entails and an alteration of style.
  5. These poems did not have the rich sensuality of Death of a Naturalist
  6. These poems did not have historicized thickness of the bog poems in North
  7. …or folk-quality of The Haw Lantern
  8. But rather the Shaker simplicity.
  9. Heaney uses the higher senses of sight and hearing
  10. …to make contact with objects without touching them.

Ch 7:   The Spirit Level (1996)

  1. Heaney’s  poetry in The Spirit Level is social.
  2. It is connected to the possibilities of hope, trust and mutual help.
  3. The Spirit Level  looks into sustaining of life in an Afterwards.
  4. The poems are grounded in the doings of every day:
  5. — the poet as a child and his siblings are playing ‘train’ on the sofa,
  6. — Caedmon is a hardworking yardman,
  7. — Heaney’s mother ‘steeping her swollen feet’,
  8. — a blind neighbour, childhood playmate Rosie Keenan playing the piano,
  9. — Mary Heaney’ father after the death of his wife,
  10. becoming more and more adventurous  as he
  11. ‘took out the power mower in his stride
  12. / Flirted and vaunted…/ Learned to microwave.’
  13. Stoicism is the virture of old age, when one’s progress is a best horizontal.
  14. It is a matter of living with and within the choices one has made
  15. ….like the old couple in A Walk.
  16. Two sonnets: first about parental devotion in a pastoral landscape
  17. second about Heaney’s married relationship that has lasted more than three decades.



  1. Helen Vendler is not  easy to read.
  2. She is an important literary scholar
  3. …and her vocabulary is challenging.
  4. But this book was worth every minute I spent reading it
  5. Every minute.
  6. It is the first book I’ve read about
  7. …the changes in a poet’s writing through the years.
  8. Heaney started as an anonymous narrator in his early collections.
  9. He became political  because of
  10. …his experiences during The Troubles.
  11. Later he turned to the everyday-ness of life.
  12. As he says…the music of what happens.
  13. As the American poet Christian Wiman said in his essay
  14. Take Love (Poetry Ireland Review, 27 September 2104):
  15. Seamus Heaney   “…could take the edge of existence and
  16. give it actual edges.
  17. He could bring the cosmic into commonplace.
  18. #MustRead



Quarterly Essay Australia: ‘Without America’


ReadQuarterly Essay, vol. 68;  White, Hugh,  28 November 2017  (Australian)

  1. This is worth the time it took to read….2 hrs!
  2. Essay: , ‘Without America: Australia in the New Asia’
  3. Hugh White is Professor of Strategic Studies
  4. ….at the Australian National University.
  5. Stop assuming that USA is going to dominate Asia forever
  6. Stop  assuming that USA will keep Australia safe.
  7. China is now so strong and ambitious that USA under weak
  8. that USA will cease to be a  significant player in Asia.
  9. Australia must prepare itself for this transformation.


  1. I loved White’s explanation of two world powers put their rivals to the test!
  2. “classic power-political salami-slicing”
  3. “…each slice of the salami might be insignificant,
  4. Washington looks weak if it can’t or won’t stop China taking
  5. …one slice after another, and China by contrast looks strong and resolved…”
  6. OUCH!


  1. “Rex Tillerson has proved to be the worst secretary of state in living memory,
  2. ….and the overpraised General James Mattis in Defense
  3. ….has failed to bring coherence to the administration’s strategy.”
  4. WHAT?


  1. Who would have thought that Indonesia will be a
  2. ..VERY POWERFUL country, second only to China?
  3. Thank you, Hugh White for opening my eyes….about China and Indonesia!!
  4. I think TRUMP should put this essay
  5. ‘Without America’ in his bedside night table….
  6. his TBR!!


  1. Conclusion:
  2. 40 years ago Australia managed
  3. …a ‘post-alliance’ transition with Britain.
  4. Now Australia’s task in the next few years will be
  5. …doing the same with America!
  6. China’s rise is a fact and isn’t going away.
  7. This will require Australia to rethink a lot of things,
  8. to make some hard choices, and perhaps
  9. to pay some heavy costs.
  10. Excellent… #MustRead essay!



Quarterly Essay: Enemy Within


ReadQuarterly Essay, vol. 63;  Watson, Don,  16 September 2016  (Australian)

  1. I’m trying to read a back-log of essays…and this one caught my eye!
  2. Enemy Within – American Politics in the Time of Trump  by  Don Watson
  3. This essay was written BEFORE Trump won the US election.



  1. This is one TOP NOTCH  piece of writing!
  2. I am amazed how Don Watson (Australian) has written such
  3. clever an insightful observations about a
  4. complex and chaotic American political landscape.


  1. Strong point: D. Watson is well read.
  2. He uses this information…to support his conclusions.
  3. The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (W. A. Williams, 1988)
  4. America’s War for the Greater Middle East (A. Bacevich, 2016)


  1. Strong point: writing style
  2. Don Watson is cheeky and at times irreverent.
  3. For example calling  John Foster Dulles
  4. …and his brother Allen door-kickers
  5. hitmen for the cause of US world supremacy. (ouch)
  6. Watson  gives us a refreshing look
  7. at the divides in America (Blue-Red sates)
  8. zooms in on the ‘purple state’ of Wisconsin,
  9. the circus  we call the US elections,
  10. the TV news media and the candidates.
  11. …especially the appeal of Bernie Sanders!


  1. Strong point: Best chapter: 6
  2. Watson makes remarkable comparisons between
  3. Trump’s campaign….and fascism
  4. …fanning the flames of rhetoric to win votes.


Last thoughts:

  1. I am very, very impressed with Don Watson’s essay.
  2. He is one of Australia’s foremost writers and intellectuals.
  3. There are so many Australian writers who we must discover!
  4. After reading this thought provoking essay
  5. …I think of a phrase I saw on the internet:
  6. Obama is the America…it thinks it is
  7. Trump is the America….it knows it is.


Here are a few gems:

  1. US:
  2. The United States is a concatenation of sulky tribes provincial
  3. …ignorant and seething with ambition…. [OUCH!]


  1. US TV NEWS:
  2. The pundits are not there to judge the quality of thought or action
  3. An election is a horse race and
  4. …no one cares what horses are thinking. [OUCH!]


  1. TRUMP vs TV NEWS:
  2. Donald Trump understands the news channels
  3. better than they understand themselves.
  4. His “outrageous” tweets push people toward the media
  5. and the media towards him.
  6. He dominates the news.
  7. He wins every day.
  8. Even when he loses, he wins!   [HOW TRUE….]


  2. Americans want a president through whom God can act.
  3. But as well as the right president
  4. …it must be the right god.
  5. Trump understands this too.
  6. [DE TOCQUEVILLE…wonders has TRUMP read my book?]
  7. Personally…I don’t think Democracy in America is on Trump’s TBR.


  2. Sanders never had to worry about an “image problem,
  3. …because he didn’t have an image.
  4. When he appeared on television he did not look like
  5. …a man in search of a camera;
  6. …more like a man  just retired
  7. …who  stumbled in on a talkshow  [LOL]



Readings Week 52

….Time to slowly leave the kitchen and get back into my reading chair.


Update: 25 December 2017

Read:  The Dublin Review: 4 issues per year containing first-rate writitng from Ireland and elsewhere. Essay: The Tourist and the Journalist by D. Ralph (Ass. Prof Sociology Trinity College, Dublin).

Read: Path to Power (R. Caro) I’ve been listening to the 1st vol of Caro’s award winning biography series about Pres Lyndon Baines Johnson. Started on 06 Dec and hope to finish this week.  I am surprised how little I know about this man.

Finish date: 25 December 2017              On Elizabeth Bishop by C. Tóibin

Genre: non-fiction
Rating: A
Review: Biography, analysis of Bishop’s poems, and her world (trauma losing her parents, childhood in homes of family, friendships male (R. Lowell) and female (Lotte, Marianne Moore).
The fact that the world was there was enough for Bischop and she describes all that is around her. This was her defense…. so she can avoid descriptions of herself. #MustRead if you are interested in Elizabeth Bishop’s poems.

Read: On Elizabeth Bishop (C. Toibin) – biography, analysis of some of her poems, and descriptions of Bishop’s world so she can avoid descriptions of herself.  #MustRead before I try to read Bishop’s poems.

Read: Bishop’s poem “North Haven,” her elegy to Robert Lowell. In six, five-line stanzas the poet composed a masterpiece of remembrance that stands among the finest evocations of a Maine island ever written.

Read: The Sun December 2017  (ad-free independent magazine, stories, poems, interviews, essays) – Read short story Believers by Kate Osterloh. I found this short story…a bit too long! Not especially interesting to me. 15 ch each alternating  about ‘HE’ and SHE’. Narrator is flat, detached and not one line of dialogue. in comparison to Dave Ralph’s essay which I loved…this was a boring read.

Read: short story by Poe Ballantine. He  is a fiction and nonfiction writer (1955)  known for his novels and especially his essays, many of which appear in The Sun. This short story that was very entertaining….a bit more polished than Believers. Poe Ballantine wrote Mining the Lost Years. I liked this quote: “ Mining the lost years….or how to take the dirty coal of your life (breakups, breakdowns, shattered dreams, sickness, death, misdeeds, indiscretions and other ringing failures….and compress it into diamonds!

Read: Poem by M. Cochrane    Stage Four  in The Sun.  The form is 37 lines with no paragraph breaks. I see that Cochrane uses ‘ I believe…”  repeated 6 x . I will read the poem with these words as a ‘mental break’ (lines then divided 4-15-4-4-10). Cochrane lists so many things he believes in (therapy , mindfullness, holy water and the saints….etc) but the powerful ending made the poem worth reading! It is what the poet makes us as readers think of ourselves. I remembered my own ‘lemonade small business on a summer street curb’!

“….Always stop at a lemonade stand.
Doesn’t matter where you’re going, who’s
waiting for you, or how late you are.
You pull over, get out of the car,
take it all in, savor the sun on your face,
the sweetness on your tongue,
this little kid watching
you drop a twenty in her jar.”

( good feeling!)

Mick Cochrane is professor of English and Lowery Writer-in-Residence at Canisius College, where he has three times been named Peter Canisius Distinguished Teaching Professor.


Update: 26 December 2017 –  reading The New Yorker 18-25 December


Update: 27 December 2017

Read: poem  Emotional Astronomer by Bronwyn Lovell  in Australian Literary Magazin Meanjin and the poem spoke to me instantly. She has been shortlisted for the Fair Australia Prize 2017  . There is something unique, something hidden in the images….something  but have not been able to put my finger on it yet!  This one needs more reading and thinking. Bronwyn Lovell’s website.

  • Wordsworth believed that the poem is the record of a great emotion,
  • …later ‘recollected in tranquility’.


Emotional Astronomer

cares for telescopes like mechanical pets

camps out with cameras and an aching neck

tints torchlight, dims his van brothel-red

waits for the Earth to move, the moon to set

props a director’s chair for the fade to black

can’t factor his children’s resentment

accepts the conditions, won’t ask the sky why

will not love a nebula less the tenth time

gets teary at a clear viewing of Alpha Centauri

feels things to which his wife won’t relate

needs no chart to plot the now fragile arc

of a retired accountant’s amateur star

knows meteors will rain down consolation:

Jupiter a river pebble, Saturn a silky stone
















Readings week 51

  • Between grocery shopping and cooking…
  • I’ve litte time for ‘ sit down serious reading’.
  • Here are a few snippets, thoughts while making pumpkin pie (Mom’s recipe)
  • and  …mushroom lasagna! (Cookbook Plenty by  Y. Ottolenghi)

  1. #SNAFU in the Xmas kitchen….chilled dough ready for pumpkin pie
  2. …. and I can’t find my rolling pin!
  3. PS:  I can eat Pumpkin Pie for breakfast!


  1. This  dish took me 4 hours to make:
  2. 4 different cheeses – béchemal sauce – chop 2 lbs mushrooms + 15 onions
  3. pre-soak lasagna pasta….and then put all this together in layers!
  4. I deserve a ‘y-uuuge’ glass of wine after this culinary extravaganza!
  5. Ready for the oven….XMAS Mushroom Lasagna!
  6. I used every frying pan, dish, spatula and bowl in my kitchen
  7. to make this…I’m exhausted!
  8. Happy Holiday!


UPDATE 17-18 December 2017

  1. Read: ISLAND  magazine (nr 151)
  2. This is a Tasmanian Literary publication sent to me all the way from Port Hobart!
  3. Read: editorial by Geordie Williamson
  4. Read: poem Munchian O by Mededith Wattison.
  5. Re-read the poem   Munchian O   this morning with my coffee: makes very little sense to me except the allusions to E. Munch ‘The Scream‘ and Bruegel’s ‘Landscape With the Fall of Icarus‘. I’m sorry …I really tried to like it!
  6. Read: personal essay by Erin Hortle “How Do You Make Them See You Belong” (feminist issues in the middle of Tasmanian surf culture). This essay was so-so….issue seemed trivial to me.  Erin is trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill in my opinion…but it is important for her.
  7. Read: The Writer at Present Interview  by Benjamin Law with author Heather Rose.
  8. She is the winner  of Stella Prize 2017  book: the  Museum of Love Modern Love. She describes her journey while writing her prize winning book.
  9. Read:  2 personal essays by husband and wife team on their decision to move to Tasmania from Melbourne. These were excellent  personal essays by  Damon Young and Ruth Quibell.


Film: finished  short series HBO The Young Pope (Jude Law nominated Golden Globe 2018) ..I spent 6 hours watching the last episodes and enjoyed it but felt still as if I was wasting my reading time. Watching films and series on HBO or Netflix just feel like a ‘sugar buzz’  and later I come crashing down. On the other hand…books keep me afloat for days.

Read: The New Yorker with the new app “The New Yorker Today”.

Daily shouts:    Xmas grocery shopping/cooking got you down? #JoinTheClub
But I have just been jolted into ‘Ho-ho-ho” spirit @NewYorker “Life Hacks for the Reluctant Home Cook” (@tasneemraja)   Tasneem Raja’s  article has given me #CulinaryShame “Astronauts in space find time to make their own stock. What’s your excuse?”


ReadMeanjin  – an Australian a literary magazine

  1. Essay:  Two Fires  by T. Birch – winner of the  P.White Award 2017
  2. He is the first first indigenous writer to win the Patrick White Award
  3. His newest novel is Ghost River (2015)
  4. A collection of impressions  and people Birch met during a
  5. 2 week residency in Canada, Banff Cenre for Arts and Creativity
  6. …and Christmas Hills Readers and Writers Festival 2017.
  7. The history of a stolen generation in Canada…sound haunting.
  8. Tony Birch makes many comparisons (CAN vs AUS) and its history
  9. …of dispossession and attempt to destroy the indigenous peoples.
  10. Essay was very readable but did not ‘wow’- me.


ReadQuarterly Essay, vol. 68;  White, Hugh,  28 November 2017  (Australian)

This is worth the time it took to read….2 hrs!

  1. Essay: , ‘Without America: Australia in the New Asia’
  2. Hugh White is Professor of Strategic Studies
  3. ….at the Australian National University.
  4. Stop assuming that USA is going to dominate Asia forever
  5. Stop  assuming that USA will keep Australia safe.
  6. China is now so strong and ambitious that USA under weak
  7. that USA will cease to be a  significant player in Asia.
  8. Australia must prepare itself for this transformation.
  9. I loved White’s explanation of two world powers put their rivals to the test!
  10. “classic power-political salami-slicing”
  11. “…each slice of the salami might be insignificant,
  12. Washington looks weak if it can’t or won’t stop China taking
  13. …one slice after another, and China by contrast looks strong and resolved…”
  14. OUCH!
  15. “Rex Tillerson has proved to be the worst secretary of state in living memory,
  16. ….and the overpraised General James Mattis in Defense
  17. ….has failed to bring coherence to the administration’s strategy.”
  18. WHAT?
  19. Who would have thought that Indonesia will be a
  20. ..VERY POWERFUL country, second only to China?
  21. Thank you, Hugh White for opening my eyes….about China and Indonesia!!
  22. I think TRUMP should put this essay
  23. ‘Without America’ in his bedside night table….
  24. …his TBR!!
  25. Conclusion:
  26. 40 years ago Australia managed a ‘post-alliance’ transition with Britain.
  27. Now Australia’s task in the next few years will be…doing the same with America!
  28. China’s rise is a fact and isn’t going away.
  29. This will require Australia to rethink a lot of things,
  30. ….to make some hard choices, and perhaps
  31. …to pay some heavy costs.
  32. #ExcellentMustRead essay!


Pre- Christmas movies: 

  1. Babette’s Feast ( Best Foreign Film Oscar 1988) –  classic favorite
  2. Casablanca   –  classic love  WWII story (3 Oscars – best picture, screenplay, director 1944)
  3. Going My Way –  7 Oscars 1944;  Oscar for best actors B. Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald #MustSee
  4. Hail Caesar – picked this up at the library….don’t waste your time!
  5. Mr. Holmes – great actor Ian Mckellen…..despite this talented thespian the movie was boring!








Readings week 50



  1. Today I just read anything I came across.
  2. I treated myself to some subscriptions for literary magazines and reviews.  
  3. If  I just keep reading the same ol’ same ol’  classic fiction
  4. ….I will be missing out on all that is to be discovered!


  1. Read The Song of Hiawatha (just the last verse) by Longfellow lovely!
  2. Read In Darkling Thrust by T. Hardy…very nice.
  3. Read Tim Lilburn Where  – The Malahat Review nr 200 –  excellent
  4. Read Tim Lilburn Shame –  The Malahat Review nr 200 – disappointment

Tim Lilburn:

  1. images with emotion…but it did not brush off on me.
  2. Read Julie Paul  Esquimalt Road – couldn’t relate the first time….later it sunk in.
  3. Julie Paul has written collections of short stories that are on my Xmas wish-list:
  4. The Pull of the Moon (2014) and The Rules of the Kingdom (2017)

Julie Paul:

  1. Read The Burning Tree and Wanting It Darker by Canadian Ben Ladouceur
  2. Both poems feel like  mèh….but I just have to read them a few more times.
  3. On the General Being of Lostness by Canadian Jeff Latosik
  4. …again this one  needs more reading.
  5. How do these men win poetry prizes?
  6. These poems were in Poetry Magazine, December 2017



Read this poem… just beautiful!

Unsaid (Dana Gioia)

  1. So much of what we live goes on inside–
  2. The diaries of grief, the tongue-tied aches
  3. Of unacknowledged love are no less real
  4. For having passed unsaid. What we conceal
  5. Is always more than what we dare confide.
  6. Think of the letters that we write our dead.
  1. I managed to learn the first stanza by heart…
  2. The Darkling Thrush by T. Hardy.
  3. I keep reciting it to the cats…and they love it!
  4. Later I read my first Marianne Moore poem Poetry first published in 1919.
  5. Just think…it took nearly 100 years before this poem crossed my path.
  6. What more am I missing?

Marianne Moore


  1. Read Yeats’s poem: Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven (beautiful)
  2. Read Browning’s poem: Meeting at Night (beautiful)
  3. Ordered: 1 yr sub to ‘The Dublin Review’ – 4  issues per year
  4. I….want to read more Irish!
  5. Reading: Why Poetry?
  6. I’m introduced to many new poems ( …practically all poems are new to me).
  7. This morning: I felt a Funeral, in my Brain by Emily Dickinson.
  8. I learned about Adrienne Rich and her legacy.
  9. Her poem ‘Rape’ is in the book.
  10. I could not resist ordering  Anne Carson‘s book
  11. …Men in the Off Hours: book of shorter poems .
  12. I feel I am catching up on all the my years ‘without poetry’.


UPDATE: 15.12.2017

  1. Finished book Why Poetry?  (M. Zapruder, 2017).
  2. It was wonderful.

Matthew Zapruder:

POET Zapruder index

  1. Tried to read Tim Lilburns’ Shame once again…I give up on this guy!
  2. The Irish Times and a section ‘Poem of the Day:
  3. Read Martina Evans’s  poem
  4. …Time Wounds All Heels her memories yet I’m unimpressed.
  5. Read Kevin Higgins poem Exit, a Brexit –   (quirky political satire…it works!)
  6. Read Daragh Bradish poem Bacarolle – …don’t feel anything for this poem, nothing!


UPDATE: 16.12.2017

  1. I will re-read 3 poems from the Irish Times once more.
  2. Evans’s  poem still just has a hint of nostalgia
  3. …but not enough to  give one a skin shiver.
  4. Higgins’s poem is  very funny (satire)  and Bradish just fizzled out again!


Kevin Higgins:


Exit, for Brexit  (Kevin Higgins)

There will be no more thunderstorms
sent across the Channel by the French,
no acid rain floating in from Belgium.
Pizza Hut will offer a choice of
Yorkshire Pudding or Yorkshire Pudding.

You’ll spend the next twenty-seven bank holidays
dismantling everything you ever bought from IKEA.
The electric shower your plumber,
Pavel, put in last week will be taken out
and you’ll be given the number of a bloke
who’s pure Billericay. Those used to caviar
will have jellied eels forced
down their magnificent throats.
Every fish and chip shop
on the Costa del Sol will in time
be relocated to Ramsgate or Carlisle.

All paving stones laid by the Irish
will be torn up to make work
for blokes who’ve been on the sick
since nineteen seventy-six.
Those alleged to be involved in secretly
making spaghetti bolognaise
will be arrested and held
in a detention centre near Dover. Sausage dogs
will be put in rubber dinghies
and pointed in the general direction
of the Fatherland. Neatly sliced
French sticks topped with pâté
will make way for fried bread
lathered with Marmite.

There’ll be no more of those new
names for coffee your gran
can’t pronounce. The entire royal family
will be shipped back to Bavaria, with the exception
of the Duke of Edinburgh who’ll be given
a one-way ticket to Athens. Curry
will no longer by compulsory
after every twelfth pint of Stella,
which itself will only be available
by special permission of the Foreign Office.

We’ll give India back its tea, sit around increasingly
bellicose campfires in our rusting iron helmets,
our tankards overflowing with traditional Norse mead.