Author Archive for

02
Jul
17

2017 Henry Kendall Poetry Award

Very honoured to be named this year’s Henry Kendall Poetry Award winner. This year’s competition was judged by one of my favourite poets Jean Kent, which made winning all the sweeter.

To find out more, as well as the details of the other prize winners from the shortlist of ten, visit the Central Coast Poets website, or click here.

My poem, along with others selected during the judging process will appear in the anthology to be released later this year (in October I understand). If you can’t wait until then, here’s my winning poem – Margaret Olley’s Flannel Flowers.

Margaret Olley’s Flannel Flowers

Pandanus trees rim a small beach, stagger-lurch-stuck at the back of
the dunes; prop-rooted trunks shouldering the weight of canopy fruit

– spiky aureole-crowns poking peep-holes in the weather. I’m passing
through someone else’s country, feet-deep in the bright purple of pig-

face flowers, unhurried, coastal-cool, picking a path through the sand
sweep – alive with native morning glory and creeper-vines, thick with

squish-yellow flowers; each claiming the verges, resisting the spray of
salt – the constant shift of the ground beneath them. Mine is a country

of spinifex and brigalow – tin roofs reflecting the desolation of heat:
womal trees and gidyea, all following the slow brown run of the river.

Here, familiar is the tubular beauty of the banksia, the yolk-studded
fingers of coast-myall; the fleeting mimicry between the silver-backed

leaves and a gleaming catch of river perch: August sun setting a tin-foil
blaze on the Maranoa. This is not my country, but I’m looking through

its portholes, thinking of the Olley painting I cut out of a magazine
once – of the coastal flannel flowers: the way they spoke, perfectly wild

in a fluted cream jug, spilling and existing in no particular arrangement.
Effortlessly beautiful in the same way one’s own country can be, and by

extension: the pockets of another – searching for white, star-shaped
faces beyond the sands, in the rippling dunes, in the shrubby headlands

bursting with strange botanicals – all of it, within and outside of myself.

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19
Mar
17

Latest

While I’ve been home recovering after surgery (another knee reconstruction!) my files are starting to resemble some kind of order – including all the little bits of poems and lines I’ve written that don’t have logical homes yet! Apart from filing though, things have been a bit quiet on the poetry front.

I do have the below to share, following on from the Martha Richardson prize last year. This article was published about the poem in the Ballarat Courier. It’s always great to get a bit of publicity, as I do so few live gigs these days, it’s easy to feel a bit disconnected. I’m hoping this will change, as the scene here in Brisbane for open mic seems really quiet these days.

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Filling the void in the meantime are my amazing monthly get-togethers with my critique group Tiger Poets – three amazing women that I admire and respect and who are so unique in their poetic voices. Together we make each other’s work more well rounded, and the wine and conversation is always brilliant… To this group I’ve been able to bring the big body of work I completed in December last year and really hammer the dents out of them and get them into great shape. Hoping this year will continue to be a fruitful one and more of my words make their way into print.

 

 

12
Dec
16

another review for Confessional Box

An excellent essay on Tasmanian publisher Walleah Press by Chris Ringrose appears in the latest Australian Poetry Journal (Vol 6.2), and within it – another great review and comments for Confessional Box.

Here’s the excerpt:

“Two jewels in Walleah’s crown of late have been Paul Mitchell and Vanessa Page…Vanessa Page, currently based in Brisbane, has had successes in prestigious competitions and some near-misses in unpublished manuscript competitions; Walleah put out her first full-length collection, Confessional Box, in 2013. Siobhan Hodge reviewed it in Cordite 53, and Peter Keneally picked it up for an astute review in Australian Book Review 351 (May 2013), commenting that, whether writing about the slipping away of a relationship or about life in the bush, Page ‘combines photographic exactness with a resounding turn of phrase’. Keneally noted the move in the final section of Confessional Box to ‘a new love and a guarded happiness’, but in terms that suggest the reviewer preferred the ‘control and clarity’ of the explorations of a suburban relationship in the first section. These are indeed fine portrayals of the life and the confidence in leaving a relationship and a place. The scene is set by the opening poem, ‘Cartography’, where ‘the garden hose [is left] running in the afternoon rain. Yesterday, curled up in the letterbox’, and ‘rain comes / arrhythmic shrapnel / tin-tin-tin’ (3). There is a sense of release in the second section of the book, with the move to the bush, ‘big sky country / another hard-edged Friday night / hanging sweat-heavy / in a summer solstice’ (30). As for the hard-won sense of fullness in the third section, ‘embers’, I found the poems to her young son, in particular, brought the series of poems to a satisfying conclusion.

In her blog, Vanessa Page comments that ‘the idea for the book was born out of a conversation with Ralph Wessman from Walleah Press at the 2012 Queensland Poetry Festival. Ralph approached me asking if he could publish my two short-listed Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Prize manuscripts in a single volume. The two manuscripts were almost companion pieces so it was a perfect fit’. Bravo, Mr. Wessman. The musicality of Page’s lines, and her insights into love, loss and hope, make this a volume to treasure. As well as being another example of Ralph’s initiative, and his eye for good writing.”

And there were some further lovely affirmations from Ralph in the Q&A section of the essay.

Are there any Walleah Press books you are especially happy with and proud of?

“…Vanessa Page’s Anne Elder award-winning collection Confessional Box – it wasn’t the award, it was the writing.”

Which have been the most successful in terms of prizes, awards or sales?

“…Vanessa Page’s Anne Elder Award with Confessional Box a couple of years ago…”

It’s been great to see the reviews of small Australian presses featured in APJ – thanks to Michael Sharkey for giving a great platform. Also in the same edition you can read more about Kent MacCarter’s Cordite Books.

01
Dec
16

2016 Martha Richardson Poetry Prize

Yesterday I learned that my poem ‘Christmas Day in Harlaxton’ won the 2016 Martha Richardson Memorial Poetry Prize. This is the second time I have won this prize, having been a previous winner in 2014. The poem is not yet up at Ballarat Writers, so I’ve included a version here. My thanks to both Ballarat Writers and to the competition judge Emilie Zoey Baker.

Her comments on the poem were as follows:

Winner: Christmas day in Harlaxton

This poem really stood out from the crowd. It’s a beautifully composed piece with flawless execution.

Christmas day in Harlaxton is claustrophobic, detailed and powerful. Like the writer I felt like I was trapped inside it and then relieved I wasn’t.

The imagery here is cinematic, dusty, hot and detailed. It has a grotesque beauty and is a powerful portrait of an Australian moment from a very unique poetic voice. A conga line of patriarchs, peeling blacked bits off barbecued birds / One of the piss fuelled sons is shaping up to the old man. They shake the earth like diprotodons beside the hills hoist.

And now, here’s the poem in its entirety:

 

Christmas Day in Harlaxton

On Christmas morning, the devil slips under the edge

of a green canvas marquee – another family tradition

 

to keep the festive underbelly from view.  There’s a

pecking order of men, propped on kitchen chairs –

 

dragged outside without ceremony. They squash the

bruise-yellow vinyl flat, sweat-patched and moustachioed

 

in ruggers and singlets and rubber thongs. The palette of

khaki, mustard and mud – everywhere, a regular truth in

 

the threat of sex and muscle. They eat first, a conga line

of patriarchs, peeling blackened bits off barbequed birds.

 

The plastic tub of tabouleh up-ended near the door: we 

don’t want any of that fucking weirdo shit here. The women

 

sigh, deep inside themselves. This is just another day to

‘get through’. At the sink, a pot-bellied uncle grabs a niece

 

from behind. She starts, fresh-skinned inside a sleeveless

cotton shift – the rough two-step and lark just enough

 

to make nubile flesh. Downstairs, the kids run and

shriek in sarsaparilla-high notes. The eldest boy-cousin

 

barks orders from the top of the fence. The others

laugh and call him the King. Little girls bring offerings

 

on paper serviettes as the devil lurches off his stumps.

And before plum pudding even makes it out, one of

 

the piss-fuelled sons is shaping up to the old man. They

shake the earth like diprotodons beside the hills-hoist.

 

Hate-faced and cussing, their fists in knots of flesh and

rage.  The in-law from the city waits it out – keeps his

 

blonde-headed girls away from their grandfather’s lap.

When Boxing Day dawns, there will be nothing left

 

for the sun to beat to a pulp. They’ll sleep it all off.

Wives and aunts will unpack the same old excuses.

02
Nov
16

Cordite Explode and more

The latest issue of Cordite: Explode! published this week and it was wonderful to see one of my most important poems find a place to quietly shout at the world here. My thanks to Editor Dan Disney for selecting my work ‘Aylan’ for the issue.

Of the piece, Dan wrote in his essay:

Elsewhere here, poems like Vanessa Page’s ‘Aylan’ perform their saying as both a dirge and despondence … hers a decremental cry of despair, a semantic satiation and sonics of belief being beggared, repeatedly. All these are exemplary, an ‘unlikely music’ (to appropriate Janet Galbraith’s eulogising, in ‘Listening’) in a time when so much rhetoric smears organisationally across discourses (political, aesthetic, etc.), trumpeting any not ours as flatly and fully threatening and unwanted.

You can read Aylan here.

Recently another of my poems – The Mort Street Badlands, picked up a Highly Commended at the 2016 Ipswich Poetry Feast. This poem’s also online and you can check it out here.

While I haven’t been able to get to a lot of live poetry since the festival, it was wondrous to be in the house for the launch of Melissa Ashley’s ‘The Birdman’s Wife’ last month at Avid Reader. Such a labour of love and accomplishment! Big love to you Mel for creating this thing of beauty!

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And in a reminder that its the small gestures of kindness that mean everything – I received (completely out of the blue) the latest chapbook from Judith Rodriguez, a real favourite of mine. Delighted to see a lake poem in there too. Thank you Judith. I love the generosity of the poetry community. And it’s a great little kick along for me to get things in order and start to unravel this giant bowl of spaghetti – aka folders of finished and nearly finished poems that, when put together in the right way, will hopefully sing!

 

 

30
Jul
16

2016, so far

It’s been more than 6 months since I last posted an update, but it hasn’t been an idle time. I’ve been working away at a big file of poems, many of them first formed and written during a trip to Tasmania last year. I love Tasmania. I’m half Tasmanian after all! But the beauty of the place is very conducive to writing. Most of the poems were written at New Norfolk west of Hobart where I stayed for a few days, and since then I’ve been working away steadily at them. The most recently completed of these pieces is ‘Back River’, which is in the current issue of Australian Poetry Journal.

This year, I have been focussed mostly on writing and submitting to journals, with about half a dozen picked up so far. The latest of these have been ‘Manus’ which appeared in Australian Poetry Journal 5.2, ‘Inheritance’ which appeared in Cordite: The End, ‘Instinct of Sharks’ which appeared in Cordite: No Theme, ‘Box Kite’ which appeared in Writ Review, and of course ‘Back River’.

The Tasmanian poems feel very special. Many of them are historically themed, and were written with my own genealogical frame – in that many of them evolved from pieces of information I’ve learned about through my own research. I’m pleased with how they are evolving and combining together into something strong and cohesive.

August in Brisbane is Queensland Poetry Festival time and it’s always a great event and a great opportunity to just immerse in words over the festival weekend. Looking forward to this, mostly because I haven’t been present for much of the year at spoken word/open mic events as I focus more on writing and submitting my work. That means I must be due to read something, somewhere, soon. See you at QPF!

 

16
Oct
15

China Bull launch today

It’s always an exciting time to officially launch a book into the world, and today I’m really excited about launching China Bull. This manuscript won the 2015 Work + Tumble prize, and was co-authored by friend and poet John Koenig. Already there has been a lot of interest in the story that we re-tell – the sometimes shocking, but essentially powerful love story about my Great Grandmother and Great Grandfather.

China Bull banner

The book has been printed in a very limited edition print run, and sold out of the Work + Tumble online shop in about a week. That means the only remaining copies will be on sale at today’s launch event. These are traditional chapbooks, printed using time-honoured letterpress methods and cutting edge digital techniques, and each of the covers has been hand stamped.

Limited copies of China Bull available on the day, plus copies of Confessional Box, and postcards featuring new poems.

Launch event details are as follows:

  • TODAY – 17 October 2015
  • Rendezvous Readers Tearoom, Williams Street, Dayboro
  • 2-3pm
  • Book will be launched by Trudie Murrell and Nikki Boyd MP, State member for Pine Rivers.

Hope to see you there!




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