Ep 125. Letter from Melbourne

Mid-August, 2020. Some thoughts on energy, podcasting, poetry, the news, and why I dropped out of journalism school.

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Ep 124. Gayatri Nair reports from Western Sydney

Gayatri Nair is one of the many women of colour who are part of Sweatshop—a literacy movement out of Western Sydney that aims to empower ‘culturally and linguistically diverse communities through reading, writing and critical thinking’. We talk about how a community like this can support new writers, why critical feedback on your work is important (even at the early stages) and hear Gayatri read some of her poems for the very first time from Sweatshop Women Volume Two.

Sweatshop Women is funded by: The Australia Council for the Arts, The Packer Family Foundation, Crown Resorts Foundation, Red Room Poetry and Information and Cultural Exchange Centre and Campbelltown City Council.

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Ep 122. Antonia Pont: ‘Pessimism is very imprecise.’

Every interview I do for this show offers its own rewards. Speaking with Antonia Pont, I got to hear a message of truly radical gentleness that helped me turn the corner out of a recent stretch of darkness. We also ate whiskey cake.

Antonia’s stunning new book, You Will Not Know In Advance What You’ll Feel, gave us the starting point for this conversation that covers themes like eroticism, resisting neoliberalism, building and dismantling the self, and ‘steadiness, laziness, pleasure, kindness’.

Listen with tea, wine or your favourite snack.

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Ep 121. ‘Are all poets depressed?’

The other side of having a border collie brain is, occasionally, having to look after ‘the black dog’. In this episode I look at the persistent myth that being a poet is somehow connected to poor mental health.

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Ep 120. Ellen van Neerven: Love poems, comfort and writing ‘Throat’

Mununjali author Ellen van Neerven’s new collection Throat, just out from UQP, has incredible breadth. The book moves from themes of love, sexuality and gender to ideas like ecopoetry, queer elders and the exchange of power between writer and reader. In this conversation we touch on all those ideas, always returning to the question of comfort—our own and other people’s.

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Ep 119. Hypochondria vs Poetry

I used to be (still am?) a hypochondriac. When I read Anne Boyer’s new book The Undying recently, I was reminded of some long months (years?) spent trawling online health information for a sense of comfort—and not finding it. In Anne’s work, I saw again how poetry resists the flat, reductive language we read and hear when we’re trying to get well.

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Ep 118. Alison Whittaker on First Nations poetry and unanswerable questions

‘If this book can be a memory for us, then I would consider it successful.’ So says Alison Whittaker of the new anthology Fire Front: First Nations poetry and power today, just out from UQP. In this episode, Alison and I talk about everything that went into creating this new collection and why it was important to hold the reader’s hand a little more tightly than usual. We also discuss issues of audience, reception and the questions we need to keep asking—even if they can’t be answered.

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Ep 117. David Stavanger on community, self-care, burnout and dog minding

‘The poetry community is a living thing,’ David Stavanger says. With all in-person poetry events on hold when we recorded this interview, that statement has never felt more true.

David and I talk about his latest book, ‘Case Notes’, along with the joys and challenges of being a producer in the arts, the work of investigating and questioning accepted language (‘gig economy’, ‘sleep hygiene’ and ‘self-care’ to name a few), and why sometimes it’s important to remember that poetry isn’t saving lives.

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Ep 116. Daniel Swain: Straight men, tarantulas and institutional absurdity

Daniel Swain describes himself as ‘a gay man but also so much less than that.’ Self-depreciation aside, Daniel is just as funny and intriguing as the poems in his new chapbook You Deserve Every Happiness But I Deserve More. In this episode we talk about life in isolation, the absurdity of higher education, why straight men are funny/like tarantulas, self-exposure, and whether name-dropping in poems is an invitation or a way to shut readers out.

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