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Sue Polson

True Crime Writing Part 3

By | News, True Crime

True Crime by Ted Bassingthwaighte

The whole crime scene!

So, you are ‘standing at the shoulder of monsters’ and what do you expect to see or hear or feel? Are you just a curious observer? Do you feel slightly voyeuristic? Or do you want to ride that imagination train into the deepest, darkest, scariest tunnel of criminal intent? Whatever you chose you’ll be free to return to the safety of your humdrum life either a little scared or hyper alert of your surroundings. If you are like me, you will repeatedly step back into the criminal mire . . . simply because it is fascinating.

The best true crime stories are not always those with the most blood and guts. Sure, the gruesome crime scene is tantalising but not always necessary. The back story fleshes out the characters in a way that you invest in them, even identifying with some. The real-life experiences of others mirror our own lives in their mundanity or tragedy.

Of course, the central character or characters in the story are the ones we most want to understand and hopefully disassemble. And if the story includes a detailed police investigation and follow-up court appearances with a guilty outcome you feel a kind of satisfaction.

But what if the crook is unpunished or even worse undetected? You can empathise with the victim. But can you feel their pain and grief and that of their family who never recover from that moment of malevolence in their normal lives?

One recent story that has stained my memory is Denis Ryan and Peter Hoysted’s Unholy Trinity The Hunt for the Paedophile Priest Monsignor John Day – Allen & Unwin https://www.booktopia.com.au/unholy-trinity-peter-hoysted/prod9781760529628.html

As a former NSW police detective and Child Sexual Assault investigator, I immediately connected with Denis Ryan, a former Victorian police officer who tried for decades to get paedophile priest, Monsignor John Day before a Court to face multiple allegations of his child abuse across country Victoria over many years.

Day was protected by a church that, up until recently, never took responsibility for the criminal behaviour of its priests. Ryan’s determination also ran afoul of his own police bureaucracy whose intransigence to the problem further compounded the angst and hurt of many of Day’s victims. Unholy Trinity is an emotional and at times infuriating read as one wonders in a civilised society such as ours how evil like this can occur, persist and go unpunished.

Conversely, one of my favourite Australian authors is Tom Gilling. Gilling, with retired NSW detective Clive Small, wrote the police insiders story of the hunt for serial killer Ivan Milat https://allenandunwin.com/browse/books/general-books/true-crime/Milat-Clive-Small-and-Tom-Gilling-9781760293307

The police procedural true crime story does not get much better than this book. Gilling and Small allow the reader inside the police organisation and don’t hold back on all the intricacies and obstacles surmounted in the pursuit of Milat. Of course, the subject, a psychopathic serial killer, is pretty alluring as well.

Close your eyes for a minute. It’s daylight, summer. You are in the bush and birds chatter, a slight breeze whispers through the treetops. A battered Toyota four-wheel drive crashes off a hardly noticeable fire trail into a bush clearing. One man, possibly two, climb out and without talking or looking at each other, they open the rear door. On the floor lay two human shaped sacks bound head to toe wriggling in defiance. A German accented female voice cries out, ‘Please, please, please let us go!’ The ancient Belanglo forest watches, powerless to stop evil and ready to succour more innocents after evil is done with them.

I was fortunate or unfortunate enough, depending on your moral compass, to be in the Glebe Morgue participating in an autopsy of my own when I saw the headless skeleton of one of Milat’s victims, the 20-year-old German backpacker Anja Habschied. She lay on a stainless-steel autopsy table next to her friend Gabor Neugebauer, 21. Both innocents were discovered in bush just off a disused fire trail in the Belanglo forest almost 12 months after disappearing from Kings Cross in December 1991.

The image of the gaping holes Milat’s frenzied knife attack inflicted on their skeletons left an indelible stain on my memory. A testament to the violence and suffering this wicked man inflicted on his victims.

On reflection I realise now how important books like this are to society. As difficult and as distasteful it is to read about the behaviour of evil-doers we need to know what happens so as to understand it and prepare for it. Who knows if it will ever visit any of us?

 

Next week:   The best . . . 

Ted Bassingthwaighte, member of HWC

 

Ted Bassingthwaighte is a retired NSW police detective living in Newcastle with his wife and dog. Since his retirement in 2009 he has been writing. He reviews books for the NSW Police news magazine, has entered HWC short story competitions, winning a prize in the HWC 2014 Grieve competition. He is a member of the HWC and participates regularly in HWC events. He hopes to have his true crime manuscript ‘Bloody Odyssey’ edited and ready for publication in 2019.

Kilgour Prize finalist work

August 2019 Newsletter

By | News, Newsletter
First Tuesday Live Readings at Newcastle Art Gallery

bring your readings

3pm, Tuesday 3rd September

The Kilgour Prize for portraiture (a few pictured here) is on display at Newcastle Art Gallery.

Come and read a poem or prose piece in response to one of the works on display. Click here for more portraits if you cannot make it to the gallery before our live reading afternoon.

Future dates:
October 1st - Robert Dickerson: Off the Canvas (opens August 24)
November 5th - Wish You Were Here: landscapes from the collection
Grieve Award Announcements
Grieve vol 7 book cover

Saturday 17th August, 2pm

On Saturday, go to this page to watch the video broadcast from the comfort of your lounge room

Listen to the top 25 award winning pieces read to you with captions

All selected authors announced and Grieve anthology Volume 7 is launched

HWC Workshops
Self-Publishing Success
with Nigel George

Saturday 31st August, 9 am - 3 pm Wickham

Sell More Books with Less Effort
This short course will help you overcome any limiting beliefs you have about self-publishing and put you on the right path to becoming a successful author.

Writing for Children
with Jacqueline Harvey

Saturday 14th September

Do you harbour dreams of being the next JK Rowling or Andy Griffiths? If you love writing for children and want to spend a day learning the ins and outs of the business then this course is for you. Join bestselling author, Jacqueline Harvey as she covers topics including:
  • writing and editing tips,
  • information about publishers
  • knowing when your manuscript is ready to submit
  • the value of professional editorial assessment
  • garnering the publishers’ attention
  • dealing with rejection
  • what to expect when you land a deal
  • what happens when you’re published
Heart Open artist Vivienne Rose
 Heart Open
 
Hunter Writers Centre funds the artists of Heart Open – literature, dance, fashion, art.

Come along to the next event in the 2019 series:
Wednesday 14th August
Wickham Park Hotel
6.30 - 9.30

Featuring poet Ivy Ireland, 
dancer Vivienne Rose and 
musician Demi Mitchell
Demi MItchell Heart Open
Ted Bassingthwaighte, member of HWC

Ted Bassingthwaighte

Graham Davidson, author

Graham Davidson

HWC Blog

Our August blogger is
Ted Bassingthwaighte on 
True Crime Writing

Thank you to our Members who have blogged:

 Poetry
- by Prof. Christopher (Kit) Kelen

Australian Literature
- by Susan Francis

Speculative Fiction
 - by HWC Spec Fic writers
Graham Davidson

Writing History
- by Christine Bramble

Crime Fiction
- by Megan Buxton
kit kelen

Prof Christopher Kelen

Megan Buxton

HWC Member News
Anne Walsh HWC member

Ellen Shelley (R) has a poem accepted into Raining Poetry Adelaide and has been published on Backstory

Nicole Sellers' poems Ode to my axial skeleton and Sun coat have been published in The Enchanting Verses Literary Review.
Anne Walsh (L) has been shortlisted for the ACU Prize for Poetry again this year
HWC member Ellen Shelley

Writing Opportunities and Events

2019 New England Thunderbolt Prize
open for entries until 7 October
2019 Buzz Words Short Story Prize
Short story prize for adults writing for children until Monday 2 September 2019
HWC Writing Groups

Attendance is free as part of your membership. There are vacancies in most of our groups especially: 
Belmont, Maitland and Teralba.
Email us for more information or see the entire list in the Members Area
High Country Writers Retreat
Friday October 25 to Sunday October 27, 2019
footprint

True Crime Writing Part 2

By | News, True Crime

Why Do We Love True Crime?

Mark Lawson in this article in The Guardian  said,

“Humans are fascinated by evil,” says bestselling crime writer Ian Rankin. “We wonder where it comes from and whether we ourselves could ever carry out such an act. Some readers turn to crime fiction for answers, while others prefer true crime. Of course, there is a vicarious frisson for the fan of either – the reader stands at the shoulder of monsters without being endangered.”

Trisha Jackson, who specialises in crime books as an editorial director at Pan Macmillan, believes stories of criminality “create a psychologically safe space that lets us dare to wrap our minds around otherwise unfathomable emotion. Unlike cinema, whether it’s fact or fiction, books allow the reader more control over what they are exposed to, as we can simply close the book.”

Is Ian Rankin, right? Are you comfortable standing at a monster’s shoulder and know you are safe from their evil intent? I assume some of you are. And good luck to you if you find enjoyment and learning in what you read or observe.

But what of true crime creating a ‘psychologically safe place where you wrap your mind around those unfathomable emotions?’ Because isn’t that the gist of your interest in true crime … all care and no responsibility? Or is it just plain old voyeuristic curiosity?

True crime for me was a paid job that I would have done without pay if I had to. Today I remain fascinated by the complex number of ways humans behave badly towards each other and themselves. But why are so many others drawn to the genre?

Of course, the genre is not just serial killers and cruel psychopaths. One cannot avoid reading stories of paedophiles, rapists, sadists, domestic violence murderers and organised crime gangs such as the Organised Motor Cycle Gangs (OMCG).  The business model of the OMCGs is predicated on the manufacture, sale and importation of illicit drugs, extortion, fraud and stand-over violence.

There is also a plethora of books that try to unravel, in some way, the mysteries of cold cases but rarely provide an accused nor a conviction. The unsolved Bowraville murder of three young Aboriginal children on the NSW north coast is a very good example

But Why?

Normal, you say! What’s normal about Ivan Milat, serial killer and sadist?  Or Sef Gonzales, who thought he was a gangster. He stabbed to death his father, Teddy, mother Mary, and sister Clodine, aged 18 in their Sydney NSW home to hide his bad University results. How not normal was Monsignor John Day who died in 1978 and may have been the worst paedophile priest in Australia?

  • Is it because we cannot look away from a train wreck about to happen?

I’ll confess. I am a voyeur when it comes to the crime scene. Of the hundreds of dead people, I met over my career I can safely say I remember each face, the circumstances of their death and the investigation outcome. Not only is this because of my professional approach to my police work but it was intrinsically akin to my compassion and voyeuristic curiosity about mystery, death and evil.

Truman Capote in his seminal true crime book In Cold Blood wrote: ‘Imagination, of course, can open any door – turn the key and let terror walk right in.’  That terror or voyeuristic curiosity is the very reason we cannot look away as trains packed with innocent victims hurtle towards each other.

  • Does knowing what evil is and evil does help us feel prepared?

Megan Boorsma , J.D. Elon University Law School , Greensboro, North Carolina writes about the implications of an American audience obsessed with  true crime. One premise of this very interesting treatise is that, ‘a majority of people in the United States receive much of their impressions and knowledge of the criminal justice system through the media.’ If that includes true crime books, blogs, podcasts and television one can see how the genre may make one feel prepared.

  • It gives us an adrenalin rush! It triggers fear in us.

Scott Bonn, criminology professor at Drew University, New Jersey USA, author of Why We Love Serial Killers writes:

‘People … receive a jolt of adrenaline as a reward for witnessing terrible deeds. Adrenaline … produces a powerful, stimulating, … addictive effect on the human brain. If you doubt the addictive power of adrenaline, think of the thrill-seeking child who will ride a roller coaster over and over until he or she becomes physically ill. The euphoric effect of true crime on human emotions is similar to that of roller coasters or natural disasters.’

So,  why do you love true crime?  That’s for you to know and others to wonder about.

Next week:   The whole crime scene!

Ted Bassingthwaighte is a retired NSW police detective living in Newcastle with his wife and dog. Since his retirement in 2009 he has been writing. He reviews books for the NSW Police news magazine, has entered HWC short story competitions, winning a prize in the HWC 2014 Grieve competition. He is a member of the HWC and participates regularly in HWC events. He hopes to have his true crime manuscript ‘Bloody Odyssey’ edited and ready for publication in 2019.

Ted Bassingthwaighte, member of HWC

True Crime Writing Part 1

By | News, True Crime

True Crime by Ted Bassingthwaighte

See It, Touch It, Smell It, Taste It

True crime was my passion and occupation for 22 years. I joined the NSW Police Force on May 18th 1987. In the first 12 months of my probationary period at Wyong police station on the NSW Central Coast I experienced the dark side of life on a daily basis. The first deceased person I met was an infant female child who I believed at the time was a victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. (SIDS). I knew nothing about how to question witnesses or develop an alternate hypothesis to the version of events given to me during the interview. My inexperience and the stark, cold horror of the next day handling her body at autopsy, always left me wondering if that child died of natural causes or was she murdered by her desperately poor, uneducated parents. I’ll never know.

When I see news about the convicted child killer Kathleen Megan Folbigg images and odours of my first dead child investigation way back in 1987 flood from my memory and it makes my heart sink.

But what that death did do was to spark my ambition to become a detective. A detective who would have the skills, the time and the organisational support to properly investigate crimes . . . or so I thought.

That child, whose name I remembered for years but now cannot, was not the first dead body I ever handled. I was a registered nurse before joining the cops and had watched people die in A&E and had participated in an autopsy as part of my training.

So, I wasn’t shocked. In actual fact I was fascinated. A fascination that holds true today even after I succumbed to chronic PTSD as a result of seeing too many dead people and from investigating too many child sexual assault matters.

I suppose in some way I’m ‘lucky’ to have experienced death and crime firsthand. By lucky, I mean the experience, I feel, was a privilege. How many others with an interest in true crime can actually smell, taste, and touch it?

But that is not to say the avid fan of true crime is not able to envelope themselves wholly in the stories they read in books or blogs or listen to in podcasts or watch on television or online because today there is so much true crime available, encompassing all types of nefarious behaviour, it seems endless.

Crime scene at 75 Barnhill Rd, Terrigal. Credit: Daily Telegraph

On Tuesday October 27, 1992 at about 9pm Malcolm George Baker started a murder spree stretching from Terrigal to Bateau Bay to North Wyong, that would only end after six unarmed and defenceless men and a woman were dead. I knew Baker and some of his victims. I was part of the large team of detectives to investigate the murders.

My interest in the case and labyrinthine motivations of Baker and his victims stayed with me all my career and beyond. After 27 years of that case fermenting in my mind I have completed a manuscript titled, Bloody Odyssey, a story of domestic violence, jealousy, greed and fear. Here is a short extract.

He moved with purpose across the road and down the slight incline of the front yard, avoiding the glare of a street light at the end of the driveway. A large evergreen tree near the footpath shadowed a vacant plot of land on the left of the house and gave him perfect cover.

Pic 2: Malcolm George Baker Credit: Daily Telegraph/Baker family

Upstairs in the two-storey brick house a television screen flickers in a darkened lounge room. The empty stairs inviting Baker forward. He slivered up the steps and onto the long, wrought iron fenced balcony protecting the front of the house. In an instant he stood at the closed timber front door, the first obstacle to his progress. He looks through a small coloured glass window in the door. Listening. Waiting.

Inside a large round cane chair with bright red and yellow pillows dominates the middle of the lounge room. A brown velour modular couch fills the whole left side of the room. Two fish tanks full of tropical fish and a dozing canary in a cage stand along the wall to the right. The noise and light of the TV fills the room. Voices. Mumbling. A human shape moves about at the back of the room.

Crunch!! Baker raises his foot and kicks the door. It flies open and crashes into the plaster wall behind it as the door jamb splinters from the hinges. Baker steps through the door, a loaded Remington 12-gauge double barrel shotgun at the ready on his hip.

Next week: Why do people love true crime?

 

Ted Bassingthwaighte is a retired NSW police detective living in Newcastle with his wife and dog. Since his retirement in 2009 he has been writing. He reviews books for the NSW Police news magazine, has entered HWC short story competitions, winning a prize in the HWC 2014 Grieve competition. He plans to have his true crime manuscript ‘Bloody Odyssey’ edited and ready for publication in 2019.

Poetry Writing Part 3

By | News, Poetry
Poetry process by Professor Christopher (Kit) Kelen 
 
and what a week it’s been, poetry process enthusiasts… there we were, up above the Arctic Circle, experiencing the midnight sun … first on land (over the water)

… so mainly I was inspired to draft just from where I was, just writing things as they were in the moment for me:
1286
midnattsol
we went to see the midnight sun
8.vii.19
Teigan - Hadsel Øye, Vesterlån

we went to see the midnight sun
on the other side of an island nearby
we went to Teigan - on Hadsel Øye,
in Vesterlån it is

so much brighter than you’d imagine
bounces along
runs a ring
delivers pinking stillness
like breath held for a non-event

flowers make the most of it
especially tiril tunga
somebody’s tongue
caught the colour

this sun leaves winged ones wondering
but a traffic in fish goes on

throws shadows on turf roofs, on the water
fields of fresh mown, lit green, yet to yellow
such shadows in the mountains
tree casting this way, that

this is the everyday unending
one cannot but be awed

the moon was up for company
paled at the very thought

and must not look at the main attraction
or see it in everything seared

of course I forgot sunglasses
ironic at the time because
I was writing a story about them
but it’s well past eleven and you wouldn’t think

here comes the Hurtigruten/ Coastal Express
in night that is not

and there’s another little vessel
flag of a country no one will know
comes chugging into view
what luck to have set sail in this

a herringbone calligraphy
feint moon ended

this is the way beyond the world

in through windows hereabouts
and shone along a beach

as if this last first searing
set islands here on fire

now east and west were rise and set
in all the innocence I knew

it’s not as if this makes any sense
but somebody knows how it goes
anyway everyone here’s up and doing

still there’s so much to do!
so many falling down farms and houses
embarrassed, all hours show
this sun still stands
makes spectacle
of itself
and of us all

part of the village came out specifically

lazy grass bears lounge under their ledges
the old troll woman high over scree
is still trying to get some sleep

it was the sun would never set
rising for us now

as if a fire were lit beyond
to dip and lift
that we’d behold
sky of changes

as if
as if
the sea was set
the sky was cast a mood

and some for mauve
for azure
run out of colours to call

a little east west bounce along
to run a little world around

how few were watching this
and did the midnight sun see us?

a question you’d sleep off

all along it was behind us
following the car
except when out in front
alongside

and on the up and up from now

a magic in the golden glow

rests on a roof as good as sleep
brighter than the dream

*

then a few days later at sea, though the sun seemed higher at the lowest there
 
1290
midnight sun at sea
11.vii.19
on the Hurtigruten’s MS Richard With
Svolvær (Lofoten) and onto the Norway Mainland

The sun was shining on the sea, 
It made the billows bright, 
And this was odd, because it was 
The middle of the night.
        Lewis Carroll

aboard and in pyjamas
now we have 360°
waving shores smell fish

up all night first time for years
for this beyond romantic

slow coasts in a shining

we of the underwisp
called to cloud
among mountains
see

first come so far was young Pytheas
now the ancients have come to bucket this too

midnight on deck
moment seared into seeing

the pinking dip
and up sun daisy
call it day again

morning, so to say, dozes with fog
an hour of breakfast still

come through Pillars of Hercules

which of us
will be so remembered
from a text forever lost?

how many cameras will fall overboard?
that’s luck in a wishing sea


*

travel is important to the process of poetry, but perhaps ironically in the sense of demanding presence to one’s here-and-now

and now I’m in Macao, on my way home, and a little jetlagged on the way…. more later on jetlag and Macao and how these inspire poetry…

but meanwhile Geoff Page’s review of my Poor Man’s Coat Hardanger Poems appeared in a place I will not mention, so I drafted Geoff a poem about my process in response:
1293
my déjà voodoo
 
a little poem for Geoff Page

won’t ever be finishing itself
a piece of work one might say
but cut and come again
head like the song you know already

tree and stone and stream and sky
out of the blue clouds come over
just for instance or music sets off
hard line through a fog of chord

all the familiar crew
these rag and bone creatures
were sometime my pets
run the circus now

it’s only in echoes we live
only through the mirror we find what’s to give

midnight’s that glimmer
where the dream forgets me
leave inklings where I’ve been, will be
I can’t remember here

a stretch so slow of the imagination
might not notice you’re among
the most familiar things
where always you have been before

in picnic woods of somebody’s porridge
old friend sunlight shows
glad that you’ve already met so many
I hope you’ll come again

all of us are waiting here
that the journey might begin

*
There were also pieces last week about Norway and the oil (before and after), a kind of a long life cycle poem about a Norwegian (Nynosk) kids’ rhyme, a picture book text for kids about magic sunglasses and going through a troll and coming out the other end, and also a little piece for my field guide to Australian clouds…

and then there’s the list of what I thought I had been supposed to be doing at the beginning of the week…

perhaps also I should say more about drawing and painting and how these relate to writing on a daily basis…

but obviously we don’t have space for that here right now
… the point is that the process is full of surprises!

Christopher (Kit) Kelen (客遠文) is a well-known Australian poet, scholar and visual artist, and Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Macau, where he taught Creative Writing and Literature for many years. Kit Kelen’s poetry has been published and broadcast widely since the seventies, and he has won a number of prestigious awards over the years, including an ABA/ABC Bicentennial Prize in 1988; and in 1992 an Anne Elder award for his first volume of poems The Naming of the Harbour and the Trees. He has also won Westerly‘s Patricia Hackett Prize and placed second in Island’s Gwen Harwood Prize. In 2012, his poem ‘Time with the Sky’ was runner up in the Newcastle Poetry Prize, an award for which he has been frequently shortlisted. In 2017, Kit was shortlisted twice for the Montreal Poetry Prize and, for the second time, won the Local Award in the Newcastle Poetry Prize. In 2018, he was longlisted for the ACU and University of Canberra’s Vice Chancellors’ prizes. Volumes of Kit Kelen’s poetry have been published in Chinese, Portuguese, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Indonesian and Filipino and Norwegian. The most recent of Kelen’s dozen English language volumes is Poor Man’s Coat  Hardanger Poems, published by UWAP in 2018.

Poetry Writing Part 2

By | News, Poetry
a cheerio call from inside of the poem in its making 


here I am back again


happening to be in a Norway summer
high above the Arctic Circle
no chance of sunset at all
(see pictures, stay tuned for midnight sun)


…. and right now I am
making an example out of a poem 


here I am
writing a poem in the form of a poem
about the poem I’m shaping
(you could get a reputation for this kind of thing
… writing about the writing of it
being in the process…
telling the ways and means)


anyway, I do hope can you see me in here
some sign of life?
requires imagination…
and if I fall into prose, then I’m gone
(a million, dad would say)
but
you don’t get to make the poem
without first being in a poem
(that’s because poems are the most important of the many places poems are from)
and
all along, in this process
I am discovering the rules
I test them till they break
break them again and
here I am once more
breaking whatever rules had to be guessed
in its making [the poem’s, that is]
(and that’s a noun or that’s a verb
depending on apostrophe)


you have to keep up… it’s steep
but the views!


and midst of them
here I am
I make a little spectacle of myself
making the poem
(and need the spectacles too at this stage
to see the poem at all
[let these serve as the ‘objective conditions’])


the words here?
almost all inherited
I make up a few
but mainly make us of those provided


…this is all by way of introduction to the poem in the poem under construction
(always as ever)


first on paper
(see the picture!)
and then I’ll type up
(like climbing some stairs high into the text that had to be)


here is one from where I am far
(I know you’re waving but I can’t see
… must adjust reception)


this piece was going to be part of
immensity and wonder 
(now I’m not so sure)


motto first
when you’ve gone too far, go further 


(would be an epigraph but it’s mine
… I could dilate upon this later)


enough blather, this is the poem I was working on then
(couple of days ago)… it was on Day 1285 since the beginning of Project 366
(that was on the 1st of January, 2016, so now is July 2019… above the Arctic Circle, remember
… in other words, it was the 1285th draft in the series)




1285
one day opened the door and summer came in 


just a little shy first
stood at the door to be beckoning


must have been hanging about outside


was as if it had been waiting
considering the curtains


I took a deckchair
hung out with the world


there were great swathes of big yellow


hung the world out to dry


summer stood like a statue then
still in the air
not quite a shimmer


not all there
nevertheless there were insects for proof
unidentified (each with the air of the just invented)

and still I remember those terrible eyes
and how this world is other-ended
but that is another story


for now
the south on all its stiff wings had arrived
to say day
the sky stood off


clouds forgot themselves entirely

all glowed
and cherished this moment
we each of us knew
would never
and never would
come again


*


back again
here I am
can you feel the rhythm in the repetition
(here and gone - fort! da!…
there’s good repetition and bad)


and here though that draft endeth
I will over time go back and fiddle


(a kind of Nietzschean ‘eternal return’
except that you’ll forget, go on
far and away
absorbed in new text
new adventures
boys own in my case…


because I can’t be in words twice the same
that’s not how language ever worked
or will


it’s a kind of Australian Norway I suppose I’m cooking up here
but is that the right thing to do?
especially when Norway’s so much more like New Zealand
(though without the earthquakes)


often I overwhelm myself with this sort of thing
(and it happens every day)
have to hold on to steady
because you
know
see
feel
touch
tell


in deep of the mirror wading


this is where the poem must be


all my own


far ahead of the game

I need never have doubted myself


it’s a shallow swim through own muck
such as gods give
but the water’s too cold here
[I did though manage a whole minute in a fjord
but that was below the circle]


… so much ellipsis…


and back to the breach


you simply have to believe


keep brackets open here

Christopher (Kit) Kelen (客遠文) is a well-known Australian poet, scholar and visual artist, and Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Macau, where he taught Creative Writing and Literature for many years. Kit Kelen’s poetry has been published and broadcast widely since the seventies, and he has won a number of prestigious awards over the years, including an ABA/ABC Bicentennial Prize in 1988; and in 1992 an Anne Elder award for his first volume of poems The Naming of the Harbour and the Trees. He has also won Westerly‘s Patricia Hackett Prize and placed second in Island’s Gwen Harwood Prize. In 2012, his poem ‘Time with the Sky’ was runner up in the Newcastle Poetry Prize, an award for which he has been frequently shortlisted. In 2017, Kit was shortlisted twice for the Montreal Poetry Prize and, for the second time, won the Local Award in the Newcastle Poetry Prize. In 2018, he was longlisted for the ACU and University of Canberra’s Vice Chancellors’ prizes. Volumes of Kit Kelen’s poetry have been published in Chinese, Portuguese, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Indonesian and Filipino and Norwegian. The most recent of Kelen’s dozen English language volumes is Poor Man’s Coat  Hardanger Poems, published by UWAP in 2018.

Norway, where member blogger Kit Kelen is residing

Poetry Writing Part 1

By | News, Poetry

Professor Christopher (Kit) Kelen is a resident of Bulahdelah and he has travelled extensively around the world. He is a poet, painter and academic who has published a dozen full length poetry collections and translated books of poetry in several languages. Kit is Emeritus Professor at the University of Macau. Right now he is residing in a little farmhouse in Norway, 10kms from the internet. We asked him to blog about poetry and the writing process and he sent us this wonderful response:

a draft of the poem for the process 

here I am gathering lines from the track

(peripatetic, that is to say)

this is the draft

of the poem

of the process

of bringing the poem to be

(you’d have to read it though, to know

you couldn’t just guess

that the track is the way the words

fall on the page)

these are the secrets that give me away

*

often wake to the words

there because

must have thought in that direction

left for crumbs to collect in the night

for stones to shine

so to say

titles could come in anywhere

because the poem won’t yet know

if it’s beginning or ever will 

I follow phrases down into the page

improvise just on this theme

were they there already?

come steady from the rain as well

sometimes I come in with them dripping

even ironic sunshone

I work the shadows for a doubt

find a self folded into the text

also always there already

that’s the voice to run

salute to all doors 

feel free to rock gently

in throes of yoga too

with

the lines afoot  the effort in  the heart come racing till

in fear of where I am

and might be otherwise

smoke rising from my ears

a sign

and breathlessly up in the work

hold a mirror

show the world my way

catch rain in my compass for bung

I have a little radar

for the poem yet to spin

please don’t expect to understand

or dwindle me interpreting

where I’ve been bitten

there’s the rub

and one day they will say of him

trudge as far as he would come

third person that he is

lazy in the pages

climbing never quite arrived

but saw the peak from the queue

the rhythm of machinery was with this

and hear the footsteps - hot breath after

see them coming for the crown

I never had

I never wore

death of me this shroud

and red pen after

when I can’t correct

slow and steady

no one wins

go like the belled sheep

through my own words

four paws where the stone is dry

but here today the track again

and I so many rhythms

implausible insect of this day’s invention

old

fat

ugly

lazy

and

stupid

reflect on my better qualities first

they’re all in the work and its making

and there is the goat self I come impassably to

my cooling system sky

all that masked

at least I try

see ants when I hear the rain

that’s for a lame foretelling

in dots

then stand in the forest’s coat

buy time

scribble at the fact

I drip myself

to dot the page

it’s any forest takes me up

to pour out just these words

*

cuckoo begins me on a tune

as any little wings would

and the rain is a forest as well

come to

slip away from thought

a trill

and nowhere

write my name

consider then how much rain to a poem

how many suns?

a puddle and not to flow

track makes itself as well

and trippingly

how much slipping with down?

sometimes there’ll be a creek run of vowel

come like an inkling to call

otherwise

light instances

dream in the vision as such

and hear the sky’s increase

an image

smell the soil - one too

take the thing at a run

be the rhythm 
under own spell 

gone

I am constructing the flower machine

and how many words till it’s said

crawl into these least and hide

here for my vanish

and how about you

now you’ve come along this far?

I’m telling this to no one

you see how far I’m gone

*

all this wander in my woods

you simply must try at home
Phil WIlliams HWC member Live reading at Newcastle Art GallerySpeaker at July 2019 to a full audience and art works

July 2019 Newsletter

By | News, Newsletter

First Tuesday Live Readings at Newcastle Art Gallery

Our inaugural Ekphrastic live reading was held last week.

23 pieces were heard and the judging was very challenging!

All the works brought the artworks alive.

Congratulations to Brian Noble, Nicole Sellers, Gail Hennessy and, people’s choice award winner, Jan Dean.

See upcoming dates and themes below

August – Tuesday 6th – acknowledging Grief Awareness month – share a poem or story about grief and loss

September – Tuesday 3rd – readings by you in response to the Kilgour Prize 2019 (opens August 3)

October: Tuesday 1st – readings by you in response to Robert Dickerson: Off the Canvas (opens August 24)

November: Tuesday 5th – readings by you in response to Wish You Were Here: landscapes from the collection

Seeking: Writing Group facilitator 

Maitland Writing Group

Meets: First Wednesday of the month 9-12

Are you interested in facilitating this group? You do not need to teach. You need to be a person with a big smile who makes newcomers feel welcome. Contact us if that is you. Maitland library is keen to host this HWC writing group to share your writing.

HWC Workshops

New Date – August

Saturday 3rd August

de Pierres - author

Self Publishing – an online course
Nigel George is offering a half-price special to all HWC members for his new self-publishing course.
Visit the Indie Publishing Machine course page, select the Australian Version, and enter the code HWCJULY50 at the checkout to save yourself nearly $100.
You’d better hurry though – the discount is only available until the end of July!
 

person's hand holding an iphone showing rows of books

HWC Blog

Susan Francis , blogger, member of HWC

Michael Tippett, writer

 

Our current blogger is member Professor Kelen
Thank you to our members who have blogged thus far

Australian Literature 
- by Susan Francis

Speculative Fiction
 - by HWC Spec Fic writers

Writing History
- by Christine Bramble

Crime Fiction 
- by Megan Buxton

 

Christine Bramble - staff member and blogger

HWC Member News

Anne Walsh HWC member

Member Anne Walsh is part of the amazing line up at Cuplet  July 11 – tonight!

Gail Hennessy and Jan Dean HWC members

Congratulations Jan Dean and Gail Hennessy who won awards at the HWC Live Reading at Newcastle Art Gallery

Congratulations, Nicole Rain Sellers and Brian Noble who won equal first at the HWC-NAG Ekphrastic live reading

Writing Opportunities and Events

Dying to Know Day – August 8th

An informative opportunity to see into the world of your local Cemetery & Crematorium. Learn about funeral planning, estate and wills and more.

Bookings Essential – RSVP to garry.bellenger@newcastlecrem.com.au

or call 4944 6000 Learn more

 

2019 Buzz Words Short Story Prize

Short story prize for adults writing for children

High Country Writers Retreat

Friday October 25 to Sunday October 27, 2019

2019 Writing NSW Grants Program

for regional writers 

 

2019 Aspiring Writers Mentorship Program

Open to picture book and junior fiction manuscripts. Entries close on 31 July

Odyssey House Victoria Annual Short Story Competition

1st prize $1000.

www.odyssey.org.au

Closes Friday November 1st

 

 

HWC Writing Groups

Attendance is free as part of your membership. 
There are vacancies in most of our groups especially: Belmont and Teralba.
See the whole list in the Members Area
Susan Francis , blogger, member of HWC

Australian Literature Part 4

By | Australian Literature, News

Different Voices: new and emerging writers – blog by Susan Francis

My relationship with Newcastle, the city of my birth, was always problematic. Years were spent away from the place. And now? Well, I have to admit, hand over my heart, I’m in love with it. I discover myself residing in the kind of community that facilitates and supports me in something fundamental to my life: my writing. Here, I engage with other authors, attend local workshops and live a life I’d always, in the folded recesses of my heart, somehow imagined. Despite the personal cost, I’m thankful I’m here. I’m thankful that writing was a love I held in reserve. Because the local writing community encouraged my first peek over the barricade of grief.

My debut book, a memoir, being published by Allen and Unwin, is due out early next year. It’s my tale of love, loss, secrets – it’s about finding identity. And most recently, several of my short stories have been shortlisted in Australian and overseas competitions. Some even published. These days, I’m always meeting promising local or established novelists, playwrights and poets. In Newcastle, I constantly feel like I’ve dived face first into a deep bowl of words.

Volunteering for the Newcastle Writer’s Festival began the journey. That year, I also met the indomitable Wendy James, joined a writing group and signed up for the Hunter Writer’s Centre. Three years later and I attend launches and workshops listening to resident shining lights like Barry Maitland, Keri Glastonbury, Ryan O’Neill, Claire Albrecht, Michael Sala, Jaye Ford and Jean Kent.

And all of a sudden, I’m an emerging writer. At 58! My first book to be published at 59! Who’d have thought? Australian literature, at a neighbourhood level, is a garden-fresh, fascinating experience.

Simultaneously, on the national stage, I watch a wave of Australian literature explode – with the relatively new voices of indigenous writers, women writers, disabled writers, the words of refugee Australians and LGBTQ+ writers. These composers now shift in the direction of the mainstream. Behrouz Boochani, a refugee writing from Manus Prison won two prizes this year at the Victorian Premier’s Literature awards. Carly Findlay’s memoir about growing up disabled challenges everyone who reads it, to see our Australian selves differently. Holly Ringland and Nigel Featherstone create worlds reflecting identities never written about before, never shared, never even acknowledged.

Thus, as an older, white, middle-class woman – I have to ask myself – what do I have to say that is new or even helpful?

When I began writing my book, I remember my late husband said, Suz, write about the love we share and the fact that we are older. Write about our adventures, the emotional and the intimate. He believed one of the remaining marginalised groups within Australian society was us.

So, what do I have to say? Because for a few years I did buy into the idea that I was no longer relevant. 

Surprisingly, I have much to say. I have a love discovered later in life to describe. I have grief to express. Images of homeless, elderly women to draw. Or that slumping you suffer under immovable menopausal weight; the creeping, loneliness of ageing; a search for a meaningful life when you live alone, and you’re limping into your sixties with asthma making it hard to breathe in the winter dark. I have the bravery and stoicism of my elderly mother to respect and write about. I have friendship to celebrate and coffee on Thursday mornings in Beaumont Street. I have the sunshine.

Ageing is a difficult, often painful subject to explore. Which is why, sometimes, people don’t like to hear or read about the matter. 

But what I’m learning as I grow older is actually something I’ve always understood – about the gift of identifying yourself on the page. When I recall being a young girl and discovering hope for my plain self because I read about other plain girls – that aha moment – that moment when reading made me realise I was not alone – that moment is equally significant now. 

Australian literature is no longer theoretical for me. Australian literature is alive and circling around me. It’s local. It’s real. And I’m a part of it. Australian literature. Does such a thing exist? Seems like an irrelevant question.

 

Susan Francis , blogger, member of HWCSusan Francis’ memoir is to be published by Allen and Unwin and will be available early next year. She discussed a brief part of this book on ABC Conversations. You can listen to that here:

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/susan-francis-rpt/10467926

Susan has been published in various anthologies, most recently The Newcastle Short Story Award 2019. Her work has been short and long listed for competitions around Australia, including the E.J. Brady Award and the Margaret River competition. Susan has a Masters Degree in Australian Literature and a half finished PhD sitting in her garage. She is a former High School English teacher. Susan is currently working on her second book.

for love alone Christina Stead

Australian Literature Part 2

By | Australian Literature, News

Something Novel – Australian Novelists – blog by Susan Francis

In my mid-twenties I formed an attachment to an extremely astute young man: a poet who would invite me ice skating in Prince Alfred Park on Friday nights. Skating in the dark, beneath strings of fairy lights hung from the gum trees – there was nothing more magical. The swish of the blades cutting across the ice, the warmth of my hand held in his, it was all impossibly romantic. So, when the boy took pains to explain to me that he’d noticed every novel on my bookshelf was written by a woman, I experienced an epiphany of sorts. I remember trailing my finger along the spines: Stead, Lohrey and Lette. Ruth Park and Shirley Hazzard. Baynton and Bedford. Grenville and Franklin. There, too, the non-Australian fiction of Atkinson, the Brontes and French. Woolf, Lee and Lessing.

So when someone these days asks me that impossible question: what’s your favourite Australian novel, I make sure to mention Tim Winton. The lyrical descriptions of the Australian landscape discovered in Peter Temple’s crime fiction. Christopher Koch and the evocative picture he painted of Jakarta. I talk about Martin Boyd who has a favoured place stacked beside Peter Carey. There is Stow and Maitland and McGahan. These days my bookshelves hold a more even gender mix. But one thing still holds true; maybe a dirty secret of sorts? For an Australian novel to make it onto my top twenty, somewhere amongst the pages I like to recognise a reflection of a world I know or an individual who strikes a chord. I read Australian fiction to be assured I’m not the only player on the stage.

What’s your favourite Australian novel? I’m reluctant to alight on any one text because the range of Australian fiction is vast. The list is as long as our country is wide. And each work positively enunciates our poignant flaws. And I love that! Australian fiction informs so much about who we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going. But, if pressed, I admit, it is to Christina Stead’s novel, For Love Alone, that I always return.

Written in 1944, I studied this broad, brown land of a book for my Masters degree, drawn by Stead’s particular understanding of what it means to be an Australian woman. The book was panned by any number of academics for its introspectiveness and realist style. Many preferred the magic realism of The Man Who Loved Children. But when I read this book for the first time, I fell in love with the determined and homely Teresa. The link formed between this character and Lawson’s The Drover’s Wife was due to the values held by both: a shared focus on getting on with things and a singular toughness; a determination to make sense of the world around them. Hazel Rowley wrote in her biography: ” . . . Stead’s earliest memories were all associated with a sense of rejection, which she attributed to her physical unattractiveness. In all her stories about her childhood, she is acutely conscious of personal appearance . . .” And this, of course, is another reason I am so captivated by the book.

Melbourne University Publishing reissued the novel in 2011 and maintain: For Love Alone is the story of the intelligent and determined Teresa Hawkins, who believes in passionate love and yearns to experience it . . . [Stead] superbly evoking life in Sydney and London in the 1930s. 

 Soon, in 2020, my own book will be published. Yet another story of a plain, single-minded Australian woman who gives up everything to travel overseas, following the love of her life. And despite the tragedies and the awful revelations my journey revealed, there is a pattern I like here, a pattern I have only recently identified by revisiting Stead’s work. Independent, brave, raw. A little gauche. The Australian female protagonist who travels far to discover herself. She is a reflection of the landscape from where she originates. A reflection of her nation’s blunt, unattractive prejudices. A protagonist decided to succeed.

Recognising that woman, recognising myself, makes For Love Alone one of my favourite Australian novels.

Susan Francis’ memoir is to be published by Allen and Unwin and will be available early next year. She discussed a brief part of this book on ABC Conversations. You can listen to that here:

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/susan-francis-rpt/10467926

Susan has been published in various anthologies, most recently The Newcastle Short Story Award 2019. Her work has been short and long listed for competitions around Australia, including the E.J. Brady Award and the Margaret River competition. Susan has a Masters Degree in Australian Literature and a half finished PhD sitting in her garage. She is a former High School English teacher. Susan is currently working on her second book.

Susan Francis , blogger, member of HWC