Archive for February, 2013


Postponed – Launch #2 for Confessional Box

Hi all… just a quick note to advise that the second launch of Confessional Box has been postponed due to a clashing schedule that, at the eleventh hour, was not able to be overcome! I look forward to bringing you the launch in the near future, hopefully at the next month’s SpeedPoets.

A replacement performance has been arranged for my slot today and the first SpeedPoets for the year looks set to be a cracker! Get along and support local Brisbane talent and remember to pack a poem in your pocket for the Open Mic!


Confessional Box – launched!

Hi all, well it was an amazing night at Riverbend for the launch of Confessional Box. I was so honoured to see so many friends and poetry lovers turn out and all ran incredibly smoothly!

A big thanks to Sarah and the QPF team, Riverbend and of course Walleah Press. Also to Brett Dionysius, John Koenig and Trudie Murrell who helped out with my launch and reading – I am very lucky to be part of the Brisbane poetry scene.

Now, for those who weren’t able to be there, here are some photos and a copy of Brett’s launch speech for you to enjoy:

IMAG0699 IMAG0704


Vanessa Page: ‘Confessional Box’ Walleah Press

Vanessa Page is a poet who has foregone 20 years of writing juvenilia to spring from the forehead of the Queensland poetry scene, as a fully-fledged post-Athena poet.

The two rich manuscripts that make up Confessional Box were both runner-up in the Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Prize in 2011 and 2012.  In April 2012, her first micro-collection, Feeding Paper Tigers was published by Graham Nunn’s Another Lost Shark Press as part of its Brisbane New Voices series, a prime example of the absolute fecundity of the contemporary Queensland poetry scene. A healthy poetry scene is a particle accelerator for smashing atoms of words together and discovering new dimensions of meaning.

The publication of Confessional Box was a direct result of this energised scene. A guest of last year’s Queensland Poetry Festival, Vanessa read to an appreciative crowd, one which contained publisher Ralph Wessman, who after hearing Vanessa’s work on stage asked to see a manuscript. This is how poetry publication should be. Not based on who you know, how many Facebook friends you have, or parochial poetry politics, but based on how your words connect people to the great lyric moments of existence.

In the first section of Confessional Box, “home fires” ‘certainly the ‘fire’ of the self is burning down. We see what was once the narrator’s bright flame of desire and self-assuredness waver, as the fuel of human connectedness is consumed and relationships start to flicker out and die. Vanessa situates her sensual poetry within the liminal spaces of the Australian suburbs, under ragged awnings and from the magic windows of public trains. The domestic and household imagery in these poems is at once engagingly familiar and enticingly rich and strange like a scene from a David Lynch film. Robert Adamson says that Page’s ‘images are chipped with such clean lines from reality; they seem slightly surreal.’ He is right.

The narrator enters poems like Cartography, A Domestic Metaphor, Fossils, Territory and the book’s title poem Confessional Box expecting some kind of road map that reassures her that there is strength in the familiar, in the domestic, in the ordinary, in relationships. But no, here is a kind of lyrical subtopia, where the harshness of the urban environment mocks her emotional entropy. In these poems, ‘driveway mouths spit mortar like broken teeth’, ‘a naked bulb burn[s] through kitchen lourve slits as something boils dry on the stove, ‘the bowser moans into the tank like something primal’ and ‘the broken awning outside his bedroom has become a form of water torture’. Suburbia and its domestic paraphernalia deteriorate, mirroring her loss of self, which careens through this section from a low state of entropy to a high state of emotional decay.

Then, in the second section, “bush fires”, the embers of the self, burnt down to charcoal in ‘home fires’ are fanned alive and stirred into flame again as she seeks refuge from suburbia and its dark emotional connections. It is the raw and anonymous Australian landscape, which offers her psychological shelter in its ‘big sky country’.

The narrator finds refuge in obscurity to repair herself, like a tomcat stalking under the house steps after a fight to meticulously lick its wounds clean. It is driving through small country towns, along remote highways and exploring new country sensibilities where she ‘grasp[s] at the sense in endings’ and grows a ‘new space to love’. Here, the pastoral is constructed as a place to heal the ‘self’, as suggested in Between Barcaldine and us, when she says, ‘I’m ghosting in a town of worker’s pubs/finding refuge in random characteristics’.

The final section of Confessional Box is entitled “embers”, and immediately the fires of hope and the self’s resurrection have been reignited in the narrator’s world. The earlier effects of subtopia no longer cause her to feel out of control, as the new spark of love casts its steadying hand over the domestic scene as suggested in Five fifty-three am – ‘Your car slides along the Amberley road in confessional box/calm and twenty thoughts all fall away from you like dried earth/All the world breathes in and out/It’s this simple.’

Like a cicada that’s been buried for years beneath the ground, she emerges anew and glowing in this last section; the rich country landscape has done its work in healing the soul; the dried earth falls away like a cocoon; the new lovers have broken each other open and the narrator wears a new version of skin. Their wings dry in the morning sun.

In the poems of this section she engages with a rejuvenated natural world, one that once was indifferent in ‘home fires’, but now is seen through the lens of new love as a kind of mutual spectator as promoted in The back step – ‘I come home and you’re peeling a mandarin on my back step/working the rind with sandpaper hands/as mangoes blush along the fence like tree bling’.

Ultimately, this is a book about endings and beginnings, about loss and return, about despair and hope, about a transition of the self from fragility to solidity. Even the trust of subtopia, the urban nemesis that hounded her in ‘home fires’ is rekindled and won, transformed from its interruptive past into a familiar and comforting space as witnessed in the poem, Limestone Park.

all around, endings and beginnings are being marked

out in tail light parentheses and keyless exits


as darkness falls, thick and familiar

over a thousand tin-lidded anthologies


As Bob Adamson states, Vanessa has indeed created a world both intimate and universal; a mean feat for a first collection of sensual and beautiful poetry. Vanessa’s book is a fine addition to the contemporary Australian lyric and it is my great pleasure to announce Confessional Box duly launched. Would you please put your hands together and help me congratulate Vanessa on her wonderful new poetry collection.


Two launches this week

Well it is drawing very close now, the official launch of Confessional Box. On Tuesday 19 February I’ll be officially launching the book with the assistance of Brett Dionysius, Trudie Murrell and John Koenig at Riverbend Books, Bulimba. Remember, this is a ticketed event so if you would like to come along, pop over to the Riverbend Books website and secure your spot. I’ll be joined by a host of other wonderful poets on the night: Anthony Lawrence, Zenobia Frost, Carmen Leigh Keates, Chris Lynch and Julie Beveridge.

A second launch will be happening at SpeedPoets on Saturday 23 February at the Hideaway in Fortitude Valley. Looking forward to catching up with the Brisbane poetry fraternity at these two events.

The folks at Queensland Poetry Festival has also recently published an interview with me about the release of the book. You can read that at the QPF website. There is also an interview on the SpeedPoets website. It is wonderful to have so much support for the release of this book and I have really appreciated everyone’s generosity!

Finally it was lovely this week that a copy of the book found its way into the hands of my high school English teacher and the library of my old school. Here’s a photo of my friend (and cover art illustrator) Maryanne Oliver delivering the book to St Joseph’s College, Toowoomba.

SJC Library


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February 2013
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