ROMANIAN RHYTHM IN SYDNEY March 2016 – Guest Writers
NB if you wish to read the full works quoted, search for the writers’ names on this website
It is always an honour to be invited to a literary launch but quite a happy surprise to be asked to read one’s own work. Six guest writers added their voices to those of poets Mihaela Cristescu (launching IT Solander) and Loredana Tudor-Tomescu reading from a forthcoming collection. We began with a reflection on rhythm from Carol Amos (President New Writers Group) which set the tone for appreciating a bi-lingual event. Ambassador Nineta Barbulescu spoke with erudition and passion about Romania’s associations with Australia and the importance of the arts; author and film-maker Anamaria Beligan introduced Cristescu’s IT Solander with wisdom and clarity; Felicity Amos sang Romanian songs in her rich soprano; puppeteer Shabnam Tavakol performed with Tudor-Tomescu; but my job was simpler – I handed the audience to the guest writers.
On the day, we had little time to expand on the biographical notes in the program; however I expressed the hope that by listening to their work we would guess some of the writers’ causes, loves and concerns.
Thomas Thorpe: Thorpe says his poetry springs from something he sees or hears. In Australia since 1962, he believes being born and raised in Britain is a strong influence. His association with Romanian writers began when he met the poet Loredana Tudor-Tomescu in Sydney. Thorpe is a versatile poet. He began the guest writer segment with four poems, each different in style. I’ll quote from two. In the poem Where Templars Paced the tone ranges through breathless awe, measured stateliness, and the quietness of reflection. “Do you not see those upright/shadows on the walls/ Do you not feel the brush/of a heavy cloak/Do you not hear feet/treading in step/and the solemn prayer for brethren /who fell when Acre fell.” June Sunset is lighter, painted with a tapering brush: “...untidy ribbons of orange/against dove-grey/stalk the horizon… The ribbons fade/eucalypt greens/shade to black/silhouettes sharpen/Distant a streetlight/mimics a star.” Thorpe founded and leads a poetry appreciation group, Poetry at the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts.
Patricia Weerakoon: Weerakoon has published many non-fiction works that draw upon her professional expertise in sexual health and family dynamics. Technically retired from University teaching and research, she is currently in demand around Australia as a speaker. She loves writing fiction too and for the event she read – at an exhilarating pace – an extract from her novel Empire’s Children. The scene contrasts the confidence of a Christian educated manager with the terror of a young tea-picker trying to save him from a death charm. Weerakoon writes with humour, but without mockery for the young girl’s dilemma. Through story Weerakoon seems to say, yes we might laugh at superstition, laughter might even be an antidote to irrationality, but the distress that arises from illiteracy and fear of new ideas, is a real burden, not imaginary. The manager did not need to be saved, but the young girl’s courage shines.
Sue Chamoun: Chamoun is becoming known for writing poetry that tackles difficult themes, in an intimate, at times conversational voice. Her work can be rich and filmic, however the short work she chose to read this day relied on rhythm and rhyming to portray a secret fear. IT: “Sometimes when in deep sleep, a memory, a thought/ Or a face of some sort, can shake it out of its reverie./It shows no mercy when suddenly awakened./Its hold is tenfold stronger/Its wrath is lifetimes longer…” I’ve heard people talking about a Chamoun piece as if it had stirred up questions, memories. Chamoun is a talented chef with her own business specialising in Lebanese cuisine. Many of her photographs have been published by New Writers Group. Her motto: “to bid goodnight to every sunset with an open heart and to welcome every new dawn with open arms.” (This has resulted in some terrific Western Sydney dawn and dusk images.)
Danny Draper: Draper has published, among other works, a science fiction narrative in sonnets and a beautiful volume of verse and illustrations. If Draper reads a few poems on any occasion, there may be politics, there may be social issues, but sooner or later there will be trees. An arboriculturist, Draper knows trees in the scientific sense and also loves his profession. Because I too love trees but know less than one percent about them compared to an expert, my composite image of Draper is a poet tapping a sonnet into his tiny phone in readiness to read a few minutes later - perhaps lines that celebrate trees and very likely push the imperatives of conservation, human survival. From the short poem grimly titled Once Were Trees: “Thank you for the once cool arbor/Reaching and descending boughs/Cool shade cast on long hot ground/Thank you for your interception…” A reminder that the loss of trees is not our gain.
J. Anne DeStaic: DeStaic read her short story Lover Like a Tree which was first published in Australian Love Stories 2014 edited by Kate Kennedy. Reading this story you would not be surprised by DeStaic’s comment that her profession as a medical doctor, “…strongly influences my writing – I like the physicality of people and I like to include that in my writing.” Apart from success with short stories, DeStaic also took the poetry award at last year’s ZineWest. DeStaic is a fine observer; in this story her imagery enchants while speaking devastating truths: “He slides the needle in expecting ashphalt, expecting dust from tyres and maybe gravel, but blood – red as the sunset burning over the roof – trails into the syringe.” “He is the tiny man in the snow dome, picked up, shaken. Cool flakes swirl everywhere in gentle confusion and when they settle a wondrous light follows on, filling up his bones this time with the best of marrow.”
Norm Fairbairn: I’m familiar with this poet’s adroit management of the line because he has been published many times in ZineWest (of which I am editor). Phrasing that pleases the ear and helps convey the poet’s intention appears easily done. Fairbairn has the gravitas to sober you up and the wit to make you laugh. For one whose grandfather is buried deep and unnmarked in France this piece read at Romanian Rhythm in Sydney made a lot of sense to me: Let Me Sleep: “Let me sleep/here with my mates/in our little foxhole covered in/ local children play at war/armed with broom handles and naivety…” Fairbairn’s last poem on the day was the finale of the guest editor segment. He left us with a joke – I mean a poem – about a man who was constantly planning to go somewhere else. Moving: “… ‘moving’ with the new job/’moving’ after retirement/all the while the neighbours pulled up anchor/leaving him forever moored…” I won’t include the punch line; you can find the full version of works I’ve quoted posted on this site.
STATE LIBRARY OF NSW
26th March 2016