“I am so glad that I live in a world where there are Octobers” Anne of Green Gables.
After a great Prague experience we are back in England with the Keating-Jones family in Sussex about 2 hours south of London. And today an autumnal walk and picnic to a stunning place that is not too far from Elizabeth’s home called Sheffield Park. It is beautifully cared for National Trust .
The garden is just coming into its own with dazzling displays of colour reflecting in the lake and shinning views around every bend.
Thomas at school so only Elizabeth and and little Miss Eleanor was with Michael and me. Our daring little Miss Eleanor turning 2 on Sunday (October 2017)
Sissinghurst Castle and garden created by Sir Harold Nicholson and the famous Vita Sackville-West, (famous as a poet and writer in her own right and intimate friend to Virginia Woolf, and inspiration for Orlando) .
It is one of the most idolised gardens in England, set out in a self- assured and inspirational manner. It is a joy to walk around. Even nearly a century later Vita Sackville-West ‘garden is featured regularly on twitter.
There is a delicacy to the plan and plantings, striking juxtapositions of colours, a gathering of shades of purples to the summer garden of reds and golds and of course the famous white flowered gardens .
This is a garden with a surprise around every corner .
Secret gardens everywhere and little miss Eleanor leads us curiously around.
Thanks to the National Trust for there love and care of this garden .
COLLEEN’S Thank you speech at the launch of Fire on Water
Beverley, thank-you for launching this new and beautiful book and for your affirming words. I appreciate your belief in writing and in poetry and for affirming me.
You are amazing with your generosity . I wonder at you. No one would believe the dedication
you have to writers and writing.
I appreciate you all being here for the launch
So many happy warm smiling faces.
As you can imagine I am thrilled this new book has come to fruition.
I love the book. It has a good feel and I am very proud of it.
I like to think , as Mary Oliver says it allows each poem to sit on its page and breathe
And I like its spaciousness .
I thank the publisher Ginninderra Press for this effort.
Especially Stephen Matthews for his friendly and helpful encouragement .
Most of you are aware writing is a lonely trek, a long haul, a footslog, an odyssey. Sometimes lost in the bush, sometimes all at sea, sometimes desert-dry, sometimes energising but mostly a solitary and gruelling task and as a writing community we appreciate that, and it is good to be here together to celebrate writing.
Getting published is an interesting process and a wonderful journey. Many of you have been a part of that and I appreciate you all.
Especially thanks to Michael for his encouragement, patience and support . And my daughters and their families for their support today.
And my fellow writers and fellow poets .
To Sue and the women writers group and especially Decima I deeply appreciate your friendship, affirmation and critiquing. We are a good team.
To Norm and the Wednesday evening poets for your critique thanks . my time with you is invaluable
and to Ron and the U3A poetry appreciation group at Eastwood thanks for being here .
Finally to Helen and Nigel Parry for being here and for the beautiful cello music which has added a touch of the transcendence to the day.
In Romeo and Juliet some of you might remember Romeo’s amazed outcry
“It is the East and Juliet is the sun”
I see the creative world as the east, and the hope, the beauty the beloved as the sun
for us as Australians, you and I have the intimate feeling for the way every morning firey light rises and blazes against the dark and conquers the ocean,
it is the fire that rises from water.
Fire on Water is a miracle in itself but for me in my title poem, the second miracle is that we are alive here and now.
and so the poem fire on water pg 20
A poetic mind, writer and/or reader
is lively and inquiring, compassionate, curious, angry, full of music,
full of feeling.
and this poem that won first place in a 2016 competition in Positive Word
I feel is a touchstone for this
wood pigeon p115
and the anger like blood that spills from the pen pg 50
out of sight out of mind pg 80
and finally to me poetry is also about taking wings and I hope it plants a seed for your everyday to take wings
taking wings pg 107
And now I give the mic to Michael to read Waiting pg 18. and then to Jo to read her selection of poems. Thank you all once again for being here
It is an honour to have Beverley George with us this afternoon.
Beverley is renowned nationally and internationally in the field of Japanese Poetry . She is a Writing Fellow of the Fellowship of Australian Writers and past editor of the journal Yellow Moon, the Society of Women Writers NSW Newsletter 2004-2006 and Eucalypt: a Tanka Journal which she edited for 10 years. Currently she edits Windfall: Australian Haiku .
How does one sum up such a body of work? How does one begin to speak about this talented writer, her achievements, publications and awards?
She was president of the Australian Haiku Society 2006-10 and has served as an international judge for Japanese poetic genre competitions in Japan , UK, US and Canada. Beverley has presented papers at two poetry conferences in Japan and has served as literary adviser to Mitsui Travel for six small group tours to Japan.
Beverley’s launch speech for “Fire on Water” by Colleen Keating
Welcome everybody and especial thank you to Colleen for inviting me to launch her lovely poetry collection: Fire on Water. An honour indeed.
The poetry in this book engages with so much that truly matters to the human heart and mind. Reading it, I am reminded of the words of the American poet Mary Oliver
“. . . For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.”
[― Mary Oliver, ‘A Poetry Handbook’]
Even when writing on complex subjects, Colleen speaks clearly, without artifice. She doesn’t use ‘clever’ words; she uses right words; those words that fit best with the ideas she presents to us. Much thought and care have gone into their selection.
Many of the poems are concerned with social justice: such as the plight of refugees, or aspects of indigenous history but the poet’s voice remains compassionate, not sentimental.
The book itself is physically attractive, easy to use and isn’t that imaginative cover illustration by Elizabeth Keating-Jones, Colleen’s daughter so appealing? I love it.
You will soon notice that the poems are pleasingly grouped although not strictly sequential within those groups. Advantages of this formatting are that the reader can consider aspects of a particular topic at one reading and choose another topic the next time one picks up the book. It also makes it easy to relocate poems for further contemplation; those that we have particularly read and enjoyed. What did Colleen write about downsizing? About refugees? About aspects of nature?
An extremely relevant section for me right now, and I would presume for some others in this room is that of downsizing; disposing of some possessions treasured for a life-time; selling the family home with all its treasured memories of loved family members and pets.
Of particular impact is the brief poem on p. 35 “where’s home, Ulysses”. Lines such as
“where there is a home
make a house depersonalise
the real estate agent says
ebay vinnies salvos
devour my story
on the footpath garbage pick-up
my life exposed”
clearly convey the loss of control, the loss of property, the uncertainty that too often accompanies this rite of passage.
But Colleen’s poems travel through this difficult period with honesty and directness and resolve into thoughts not of just acceptance but of positivity and optimism for what is now possible; what lies ahead.
What comes through clearly and consistently in Colleen’s work, is a strong sense of social justice; deep concern for the plight of those others helpless to improve their own lives.
A particularly powerful poem can be found on. p.75 ‘Stillborn’. Colleen writes of:
“people seeking asylum
returned to face those they flee
history like a drawbridge is pulled up
humanity is stillborn”
and concludes with the challenging lines
“the everywoman in me weeps […]
if you are not weeping
You’ve probably all heard of the Roland Barthes’ theory that once a piece of writing is public the role of the reader becomes active, as they bring their own experience and knowledge to interpreting the text; an interplay between writer and reader results. This suggests we each may read a poem slightly differently and of course you will choose which parts of this book are most relevant and intriguing for you. And this is as it should be.
In a few moments we will have the pleasure of hearing Colleen read some of her own work. Here’s a little advance notice; something I am hoping Colleen might tell us more about. Her fascination with the woman musician, herbalist and healer, Hildegard of Bingen.
A rich source of pleasure in this book comes with Colleen’s approach to writing about nature. These poems are detailed and convincing. The poet is looking hard and appreciating the world around her.
Whether she is writing about a physical location such as The Entrance; plants such as sunflowers, or a felled tree; creatures like a wood pigeon, a dragonfly or a hawk, her words reach out to us; draw us in.
Again, thank you for coming. It is now my very great pleasure to announce Fire on Water by Colleen Keating launched and ready for sharing. We will now hear from the poet, herself…over to Colleen.
Tomorrow I shall smell a red rose, gently surge along the lawn, light a cigarette, take my writing board on my knee and let myself down, like a diver, very cautiously into the last sentence I wrote yesterday”.
Autumn equinox in the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’. These days a walk in the park with my grandchildren means collecting acorns and looking for conkers.
We take a drive through the South Downs, and its rolling gentle waves of meadows backgrounded by the stunning white cliffs.
Coming from Australia with our bright sunlight, the soft blues and greens are palpable.
Yes we are in East Sussex, England. Our beautiful Aussie-English-Welsh family, our gorgeous eldest daughter Elizabeth and her husband William and our two darling grandchildren, Thomas Llewellyn and Eleanor Therese live in Burgess Hill, not far north of today’s adventure.
We pass through the busy tourist destination of Lewes, famous for its Castle and ruined Priory, through narrow streets of stone terrace houses then down a winding narrow lane to the National Trust sign.
Our destination is Virginia Woolf’s house where she did most of her writing. It is a secluded 18th century cottage called Monk’s House in the village of Rodmell. She and her husband Leonard a famous editor bought it in 1919.
It is not a large house but what a surprise it was to enter the gate and find nearly an acre of gardens, flower beds and lotus ponds that reflect the larger trees and people strolling in the grounds. Further in, is a massive vegetable garden, and orchard and at the back of the orchard a small summer house where Virginia Woolf did most of her writing. It is still set up with her desk and typewriter as if she has just finished writing ‘To the Lighthouse’ and has gone for a stroll on the Downs.
Many famous people including TS Eliot, Vanessa Bell and Roger Fry visited during the summer and sat out under the massive chestnut trees next to the orchard and chattered about all things writing and painting. One can just imagine the tennis match, the clink of bowls played on the green, the walks out on the downs, the lazy hazy afternoons as Virginia wrote once “our orchard is the very place to sit and chat in for hours”
Imagine the chatter about the colours that they were choosing to paint the walls, the greens, antique rose, and elderberry. ‘The Bloomsbury Movement’ flourished here, famous for its combination of bright colours, bold patterns and eclectic objects. In the house it paintings, soft coverings and pottery created an atmosphere of comfit and informality..
At one stage Virginia hand painted paper to cover her Collection of Shakespeare books. Today this collection is book-cased in her bedroom. and the pattern is printed on scarves and other mementos.
Finally the stone garden walls are a feature. One especially features the busts of both Virginia and Leonard, their sacred memory, where their ashes were originally buried.
We came away relaxed and inspired. There is a beauty and a presence there that is overwhelming. The people who rambled through, or perhaps sat meditatively around the grounds helped radiate the quiet beauty that reflects the personalities of its former owners Virginia and Leonard Woolf .
Today we celebrated the launch Of Carol’s new book Black Mountain by Colleen Keating. Many of the writing community and readers and Carols family and friends gathered in the atmospheric book shop Better Read then Dead in Newtown for the celebration. I felt very privileged to be asked to launch.
Launch by Colleen Keating
Carol Chandler’s Black Mountain.
Good afternoon everybody.
Firstly I invite a pause for us to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land, on which we gather the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, and to pay respect for Elders past and present.
There are some new faces here so I will introduce myself. My name is Colleen Keating. I belong to the Women Writers Network that meets every Wednesday at 1pm at Roselle Writers Centre. All women writers are welcome. That is where Carol and I met.
When Carol was being seduced by the Blue Mountains she visited our newly downsized apartment trying to make her decision. The Mountains won and she set out on a mammoth journey to her beautiful home and garden in Leura .
What a gathering in this wonderful environment of books and music and art, and what a great
honour for Carol that you have taken the time to be with her to celebrate.
Most of you would be aware writing is a lonely trek, a long haul, a footslog, an odyssey. Sometimes lost in the bush, sometimes all at sea, sometimes desert-dry, sometimes energising but mostly a solitary and gruelling task.
As a writing community we appreciate that, and we are here to honour the loneliness of the long distance writer and to celebrate Carol’s successful outcome.
And what an outcome. Black Mountain by Carol Chandler published by Ginninderra Press, a small but very prestigious publishing press in South Australia.
Black Mountain is a psychological thriller – and what a thriller. What a journey! We are taken by the narrator Sarah into the back waters of a country area, a place up in the hills not far from the coast in a lonely desolate ‘neck of the woods’. Sarah, a teacher has escaped from this town and this life, but on Page one is drawn back into its eerie world trying to make sense of the past and find out what really happened to her brother Liam who died in a house fire. By page eight we the readers are woven into the mystery and for us, there is no return .
You and I know how easy it is to get caught back into the dark web of our past, – into the tangle of relatives, families , friends. . . where there are all the hurts and intrigues, suicide, murders, lovers, drugs and especially secrets, lies and cover ups.
People are watching …..the threat of dogs always in the background..… the sharpness of the knife edge that glints in the moon light……. that scary feeling you are being followed and that strand of foreshadowing…. and of course the world of gossip.
Even when we escape to the coast, the ocean doesn’t give us reprieve, not even a breather. We are kept in the dark web of intrigue.
Carol has given us a thriller.
Everyone loves a good mystery…… but here there is the added complexity of human psychology, what’s beneath the surface in human action and reaction .
The pivotal characters Freya and Tyler and the mystery of Lola a young girl who has disappeared, gives us a sense of place and how that connects with identity.
And with the pains of the past that hold their secrets and hold us in their mystery, we become caught in the struggle and search for meaning.
What is it all about? ……. We are immersed in a thriller . . . a metaphor for life ,where
the questions materialise at every turn, but the answers are just beyond our grasp.
Black Mountain, was short listed in a recent competition where the judges’ comment, noted in the blurb on the back cover was “it is a deftly written novella “-
The many characters, that fill this small world of intrigue, even Aden and Radic and the dogs Nero and Jet and the mountain all are colourful and well formed. One could possibility recognise archetypes from Carl Jung’s collective unconscious but this is held lightly, This is not a philosophy book, it is a short psychological thriller to take to bed, or curl up one rainy afternoon and enjoy an escape for a few hours.
Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter says:
“Words are in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic”
and Black Mountain has the magic of a good read.
I congratulate Carol and proudly declare Black Mountain launched.
A sneak preview of my latest Poetry Collection, Fire on Water
published by Ginninderra Press, South Australia.
Thank you to Stephen Matthews for such a professional presentation,
and my daughter Elizabeth Keating-Jones for the creative cover.
As a first step I took a few copies to the Society of Women Writers, July luncheon
and they sold like hot cakes. I am appreciative of such encouragement.
The poems in Fire on Water are divided into 7 sections .
Poems are as diverse as ‘visissitudes of a blue butterfly’
and ‘counting dead women.’
One of the poems included is ‘ in search of Hildegard of Bingen’which was short-listed for the Society of Women Writers Poetry Competition 2016 and which has recently been translated into German by Annette Esser (Theologian, Scholar, Art Therapist and Teacher) to be included in a journal in Germany published September 2017 to celebrate the opening of a Pilgrimage Way that has been planned and worked on by Annette for many years now. It will be opened on 17th September 2017. Hildegard’s feast day.
It is called Hildegardweg. Attraktion fur Pilger und Wanderer.
The logo for the Hildegardweg is below. If you ever go to the Rhineland look for this sign and put your walking boots on.
Michael and I plan to do it when the International version opens in September 2019. Hmmm that means we will have to get into training!
The logo for the Hildegardweg in the Rhineland Germany
Fire on Water is my second collection of poetry and follows A Call to Listen . (2014).
Date for launch of Fire on Water is to be announced.
The launch date is TBA