Our forthcoming publication, the second in our poetry series, ‘Still Life With Grand-mother’ by Christopher Race, is an event of some significance for Pomonal Publishing: it will be the first time we have held a public launch for one of our books, complete with posters, press releases, invited guests, drinks and nibbles.
I have known Race since we were both in our late teens, poised without dignity on the cusp of our adulthood and holding that spurious conviction (you may well recall it) that one actually sees the world clearly. We have watched each other grow up, both as writers and as a members of our species; arriving at the tail end of the booming-babies with our own particular tales to tell. Christopher has worked with books and writing for all these years – both on personal projects and professional jobs (including in-house and freelance editing). He is now a qualified librarian.
It was with considerable elation that I discovered, just a few years ago, that my literary friend had also found his voice as a poet. Now it is with pride and great pleasure – and the help of a mutual friend, Michael Foster, who has selected and edited this collection – that Pomonal Publishing announces the forthcoming release of this book: STILL LIFE WITH GRANDMOTHER. It will be launched on Saturday 14th March at the (locally legendary) monthly Chamber Poets reading, at The Chamber Art & Coffee House in Woodend, Central Victoria. Race will be the featured poet reading poems from this collection.
This is a charming memoir based on diaries kept by a very (it says so in the blurb) young American woman. This fact, along with the narrative’s time frame, and its location, (significantly not America) is key to fully appreciating Labor’s book. It reads like ethnography, with the staggering revelations of another time and culture.
The realities of those good old 70s gender roles, the struggle intelligent women put up against them, and the changing – and therefore confusing – sexual dynamics of that period in Western social history, all contribute to an engaging narrative.
Had this been a novel I would have quickly grown impatient with the young woman’s introspective brooding and egocentric concerns. As it is, the universality of the quest for love and a place in the world ensures that this narrator’s ever hopeful struggle, and repeated disappointment, is moving – at times deeply so.
Despite the legendary freedom of the 70s, the young Kimberly is not promiscuous, and she is no Bridget Jones – she has too much self-confidence to be any comparison. It is a remarkably chaste diary for the times, and when the author does embark on a physical relationship, she learns sophisticated lessons and ends the affair because it is ‘only desire’.
Her battle to let go of an unreciprocated attachment to the key player in her drama is a familiar theme (explored in numerous mediums) and it is drawn out painfully and compulsively on these pages. Compellingly too, it would seem, as I couldn’t put the book down until it had been finally resolved.
But it would be too simplistic to call this a story of unrequited love. The object of Kimberly’s desire constructs himself as such, by courting her then stepping back – then drawing her in again as soon as she has regained her equanimity. This lends a touch of psychodrama to the daily, weekly, monthly narrative. Kimberly is no fool, or this scenario would become excruciating. Her efforts to understand herself are both touching and intriguing, and finally (thankfully) liberating.
It is this ability in the young writer to draw us into her drama, and take us with her on the journey from naivety to maturity, that makes this a highly competent piece of writing, and much, much more than the chronicle of confessions we might have expected of a very young woman’s diary.
[Note: This book is not one of our publications.]
When I first opened Murray’s ‘The Blind’ I entered into the rhythm of this – for me – new voice eagerly and was immediately delighted by the imagery, the succinct phrasing, the unfolding drama of the first poems… and then I hit a wall.
Suddenly the mise en page confused me. I couldn’t locate a destination or follow her meaning (in the manner I expected) in the refined simplicity of her phrases; couldn’t read the implications of/the unfamiliar placement of the slashes, dashes, dots enclosed by brackets, and the cryptic lines that offered me so little clues to her narrative.
rings rim bears the swish of silks
it witnesses the ravel/un of thread
from its metal mouth/ its iron lung
a gap will open at a point north -west
slow the revolve to an avenue / a road
nearby a waystation/
there is the constant presence of the dead
in their soul-cocoons / needing caressing
I had to go back and read from the beginning again…
And with this re-reading my excitement mounted. Like a photographer suddenly gifted with eyes that perceived previously unseen spectrums of colour, I entered into a new country, and my ears began to hear its language.
Now isn’t that exactly what poetry should do? I cannot give a fellow writer higher praise than this – that she takes me by surprise and shows me things I never knew our common tongue was capable of.
Over a week I read ‘The Blind’ daily. Each time I began again at the beginning and travelled a little further into its unfolding mysteries. As each veil lifted, the sense of intimacy shared increased, but also the sense of wonder, the sense of being a privileged observer to a grander-than-personal drama. This I attribute to Murray’s unique sense of language as metaphor. Nothing essentially new to poets or poetry of course, but seldom have I found it in the work of my own generation to be as refined or as exquisite as in this collection.
stitched in caul and head they will
use the steel tips to force him out
This is a work dense with layers of meaning that emerge gradually from crafted layers of text. Like a cubist painting, its parts make up a whole greater than their sum. The images of women weaving or sewing, thread together all the elements: the living and the dead, the world weary and the unborn, in the stories and in the personalities that populate this collection. It is one poem and it is many, and it offers both detail and vista.
unleash the skein
red thread the open wound
and from it a thin red rivulet
will drain into a metal dish
and curl into water
and from shadows
some say they sit behind mirrors watching lives
pass through a room:
that they spindle the threads / that they are blind /that
they have no emotion
they are simply bent to the work that they were given
and never a stitch is dropped /
that is not picked up and brought clean again / for they
simply do their job
by touch by hand by long and patient experience with
the vagaries of man
I have not enjoyed a new voice as much, or felt such excitement in discovery since I first read T.S. Eliot in high school.
[Note: This collection was published by Oneiros Books, not by us]
One of the reasons I got involved with indie publishing is because I miss the collaborative nature of film production; specifically that buzz which comes from a group of creative minds working together, reaching different (if not greater) dimensions than the solitary process.
As yet the collaboration here has been limited to an exchange between an author, their editor (if they have one) and myself. You see, I am committed to the notion of allowing the author control over how their book will look. But I’m beginning to realise that publishing isn’t like filmmaking, where a group of individuals skilled in different aspects of the process come together – each responsible for that one area of expertise but all working under the unifying vision of either a producer or a director. That process doesn’t yet unfold so neatly here. My authors and I are still finding our way.
To begin with, I myself am embarrassingly inexperienced in publishing – my skills lie in photography and film production (and all that goes with those areas in terms of graphics and design sensibilities) and in writing. Putting out my own first novel – I was a screen writer in my previous incarnation – was how Pomonal Publishing came into being. But I didn’t want to be just a self-publisher!
Now I’m realising that my authors are also inexperienced (in bookmaking, not in writing) and that together we are making lots of mistakes!
Here’s a doozy: Our next PP book will be a collection of poetry by Christopher Race. But I’ve been talking about it as an ‘anthology’ – I even used that term in my Foreword for the review editions already printed. And I used the term when I approached renowned Australian poet Chris Wallace-Crabbe, to ask if he would be willing to review the book. He politely queried the word, which set me straight.
Of course the dictionary does define ‘Anthology’ as a collection of poems etc. But it does not say (or at least mine doesn’t) ‘by different authors’! However, this is the assumed knowledge that anyone in the industry, or any Humanities graduate would already have. And this is exactly the type of pitfall I’m likely to make on entering an area in which I am untrained and still inexperienced.
Should I cease and desist my amateur attempts to publish beautiful (and professional) books?
Perhaps with kindness and patience (and a little informal mentoring) from such consummate professionals as CWC, we shall achieve excellence in time. Until then, we’ll bumble on, and after we are gone Pomonal Publishing’s banner may be held aloft by more capable arms.
Christopher Race’s COLLECTION of poems, Still Life With Grandmother, will be out early in the new year. Please watch this space for more details.
‘Frances Holloway is a poet storyteller whose work is wry and full to bursting with ideas. Pomonal Publishing have done well in snaring the woman and bringing her work out. Holloway’s books capture a universe, they are almost nourishing. I say this as a reader who seeks visualism and colour in her poems. I look for intensity and light in a poem, I do not care if the light is dark or jewel-like.’
This is an extract from Chris Murray’s review of our latest publication. Frances Holloway and Pomonal Publishing are immensely grateful for the press she has given this book, both on Poethead and on social media. As previously confessed, we don’t do social media ourselves, so rely on all of you to spread the seed/word (allusions intended).
You can read the rest of Murray’s insightful review here.
In my next post I’ll talk about her own recently published cycle of poems, ‘The Blind’, and about its impact on me, half a world away from Ireland in the dry land down under.
The following is an essay I wrote for ‘Undercurrents, paintings and drawing by Chris Nicholls’ Pomonal Publishing 2013
‘None of these are actual places,’ Chris once said to me when we were looking at some work in his studio. ‘They’re landscapes of the mind.’
That they were none-the-less very much connected to the real world was evident to anyone who had seen him in the bush, climbing a steep rocky trail as effortlessly as a bandicoot, standing for hours beneath a chough’s nest to catch a glimpse of the hatchlings, watching the sun go down or the moon come up – often with a camera in hand.
Now, walking along a dirt road or pressing through unruly scrub near the Grampians, close to where he worked in the Wimmera, I find myself confronted with Chris’s Landscapes of the Mind. I see them in patterns that spring out of apparent chaos – the difficult tangles of the Aussie bush – startling angles in a branch or a creek bank, the way the shifting light suddenly brings forward the trunk of a tree while the rest sit back in sombre harmony. So many ambiguous shapes playing across the mind like images from a dream – faces, animals, monsters … I recognize his brushstrokes with an exhilarating Aha!
Chris seldom spoke at any length about the concepts behind his work, though he was quick to vocalize other passions; among which was disgust for what extreme aspects of civilization had done, or might still do, to the natural world. He had respect for the old timers who had done things more gently, and he loved to fossick for remnants of that particular past. He was also deeply reverent of the many signs of Aboriginal occupation in the region. It is not difficult to connect all these threads with the work he would not, or could not speak about.
Chris did sometimes speak about the creative process itself, and how it related to the life he lived. Whatever I can say of his attitudes and intentions I owe to late night philosophy sessions over the phone. Brother and sister ‘putting the world to rights’. He often mocked ruthlessly anything he felt to be synthetic, contrived or pretentious. He sensed that the role of the artist was changing, being forced into step with interests more yoked to industry than to culture. He didn’t want any part of that, and feared that a public account of himself within that arena might be so removed from his actual experience of creation that it would, in some way, damage the process. And then that process, so precious and transformative, could no longer be authentic.
When we were building his website together, I witnessed his frustration as he attempted to write something about his work. It’s not that he couldn’t express himself in writing – he wrote poetry, and fantastic letters. But he found that whatever he said about his work one day, never felt quite as true the next. And of course, like many other artists, he simply feared misunderstanding and rejection. So he chose to remain silent.
There were many sides to his work, many voices that sometimes converged, sometimes contradicted. He gleefully confronted the darkness within himself, his family, and a wider social sphere; he could, especially in his quick drawings, be cutting, cruel, or intentionally shocking. (‘Border Protection’ for example.)
In ‘Grampians Wedding Party’ and his ‘Landscape with Lawn’ series he pits the timeless grandeur of the earth against a paltry attempt to elevate human vanities. This play of contrast between the man-made and the natural world is a recurring theme refined in ’Down River Drive’ and ‘Landscape with Lawn’ series, where towns encroach upon wild landscape, and wilderness threatens repossession.
Chris often spoke of his regard for the local poet John Shaw Neilson. When I finally read some of Neilson’s work I was unprepared for its level of romantic lyricism – because Chris seemed to edit out this quality from his work. Many paintings were destroyed, painted over, dumped with garbage at the local tip. Fortunately we still have photos of many of them, and, I find it is frequently these lyrical, romantic, somewhat sentimental works that have not passed his ruthless scrutiny.
The word he was most afraid of was ‘facile’. In 1985 he had an exhibition of post-bushfire Grampians landscapes at the Horsham Regional Gallery; 43 stunningly beautiful works, mostly on paper. The show almost completely sold out. Afterwards Chris said, ‘I’m not going to paint like that anymore!’ He was content to work in relative obscurity because it allowed greater honesty, and freedom from artificial influence.
He didn’t want to play the self-promotion game. I got the impression that the ruthless honesty he demanded from himself was his counter to what he perceived as an increasingly contrived and synthetic world wherein anybody with a camera or computer might exhibit their too easily hatched images.
Not withstanding my brother’s efforts to be ruthless, authentic and uncontrived, for me it is Chris’ more lyrical work that has most power. Those that rely upon a subtle play of light, or the contrast between light and darkness. In these he seems to have captured something potent and primitive from his source and distilled it into a tincture, a remedy for my overly civilized sufferings.
Recently I found myself disturbed by the resignation of an Australian journalist, Mike Carlton, in the wake of attacks made on him – and his own response to them – arising from his take on the current Israel-Gaza conflict. It’s not that I’m a particular fan of Carlton, or have any beef against Fairfax…
For a while I couldn’t work out what exactly I found so disturbing – the slinging of terms such as Fascist, Nazi, Anti-Semite, Jewish Bigot, etc., among people one had regarded as somewhat educated? Possibly. Then I got it – It’s the fuss that is being made, and how it has degenerated into personality attack, rather than focusing on the issues Carlton had raised in the first place. The actual humanitarian issue in Gaza and the need to speak out about it.
So, to calm myself down, I submitted my own comment on the HeraldSun website. To wit:
I thought we valued freedom of speech in this society? And yet we go berserk when a journalist writes passionately about images of injured civilians in Gaza and reports the words of a surgeon struggling to cope with the rising toll. Surely an open and frank discussion of what is happening in Gaza – including an assessment of political policies impacting on the situation – is within a journalist’s province? Or are there still sacred cows, emperors without clothes, and elephants in our rooms?
Although Carlton’s does not include the entire history of the Arab Israeli conflict in his article, it is none-the-less a reasoned and humane response to what has been clearly witnessed. He speaks out against unbridled attacks on civilian populations and acknowledges that both sides have engaged it this.
The most damning remarks about current Israeli policies in this column were actually quoting an Israeli journalist whose life has come under threat for speaking out. Punishment for speaking out against atrocity has always been the hallmark of extremism (L & R) and I question the politics of those who would disallow this freedom.
I also question the policies of the current Israeli government, as I question all extreme nationalistic politics and powers – across all national, religious, or territorial divides. And right here at home! Am I anti-Semitic because I use this freedom to judge an action, a policy, even war itself, on its merits or lack of them?
And look at the manipulation of language in this fracas – forgetting that Arab peoples are also ‘Semitic’.
As for the cartoon so hastily apologised for – depicting Netanyahu in an armchair, remotely detonating a bomb – nobody takes offence when Australian, American or any other country’s politicians are depicted as, shall we say ‘war mongering’. Within a democracy, the worthy tradition of political cartooning allows such commentary – and yet we are now told that this eloquent image was anti-Semitic and offensive.
What is really going on here?
Just how much freedom of speech, thought and discussion is left to us?
In the interests of full disclosure: I am neither Pro-Palestinian nor Pro-Israel. I am simply Anti-war. It is no longer an effective tool in conflict resolution.
Available directly from our printer from today – Frances Holloway’s moving anthology of Wimmera poems!
If I run barefoot from my door
to the tank-stand on the hill
I collect one hundred wounds
but none that time won’t heal. . . .
Frances Holloway’s poetry takes the reader into a deeply personal arena, and yet the essentially universal themes of life, love and death, grant the narratives startling familiarity. While loss and loathing are leavened with humour, the mundane faces of incidental things are elevated by a profound sense of their beauty, and impermanence. Students of Eastern philosophy may recognise references to ancient texts and meditations, but there is nothing sacred here – unless everything is – a conclusion that might easily be reached.
Pomonal Publishing doesn’t have a Facebook presence and we don’t tweet, so if those of you who follow us would kindly give us a mention, we’d be delighted. Frances herself is a very private sort of writer so this is the only photo of her we are able to use:
Last night I picked up PP’s latest project from the printer – the first edition of a community newsletter – and delivered it to the local store. I’m rather chuffed at the result because I’m not a journalist, and have done little writing of that nature, but when asked to take on this job I could see no good reason to say ‘no’. Adapt or perish
Since retiring from my city life (as a filmmaker, script writer/teacher) living in the country has opened up a whole new way of being. Publishing, instead of making films, being just one of many adjustments. The local community sometimes seems like a 19th Century village, with its slower pace, tree-changer/farmer population combo, and quite a few older people whose forebears settled this reagon and who, consequently, have a rather different political outlook to my own. Lots of face to face contact with people at the shop, where we all have to collect our mail, has enabled me to watch and listen and take delight in these differences.
I guess I bonded with this community after surviving the big bushfire that went through here early in 2006. People who barely knew me looked out for me because that’s the way they do things in rural Australia. Many stories to tell – and one day will – suffice now to say that I’m delighted to be able to provide a newsletter for this community, as a way of giving back and getting to know it even more.
And this undertaking has already put me in contact with another local writer who has offered to help with the newsletter, and whom I hope to entice into PP’s indie publishing adventure. This ‘small publishing house’ as someone so nicely called it in a comment here recently.
I have finally got the website proper up and running so that our authors and their works will have an on-line presence. PP doesn’t do much in the way of advertising our publications – no press, no festivals, no book signings – so this site and blog are the least I can do for those who have trusted us/me to carry their words, images and ideas out there, to a potential audience.
Now my big ambition is to upgrade my publishing software, probably to Adobe InDesign, though this too is changing and may not be around much longer. At least not without a whole package of unwanted stuff on a Cloud – Don’t you just love the language of the current era? If anyone reading this knows of a stand alone App that can layout pages as efficiently as InDesign and save to print quality PDF, please drop me a line.
As you will have gathered by now, Pomonal Publishing began as a hobby, but we hope to achieve excellence none the less. (In a small way.)
DISCUSS: The digital age has flooded the world with mediocrity. This generation of wanna-be writers has assumed their slightest musings to be worthy of public attention – with the result that important issues, exceptional talent, unique ideas and works of true literary quality are simply drowned out in this deluge of egocentric voices clambering for attention.
Just wish to update the publishing timeframe for Frances Holloway’s ‘Dispersal’. This will now be available 1st July (directly from our printer) rather than in April as previously promised. Frances has submitted some of the poetry to a competition which restricts submissions to previously unpublished works, hence…etc.
We hope she wins, of course.
Work is progressing on the manuscript for Christopher Race’s ‘Still Life With Grandmother’, and I have to report that it takes my breath away. So powerful and beautiful.
At this rate, I’m thinking PP should make poetry its specialty. What d’ya think? Anyone out there still reading the stuff?
As an older writer, adjusting to the constantly changing technology (not to mention: terms of reference) of the publishing world, I had been in the habit of saying, ‘times are changing’. Willing to retrain myself, and then retrain myself again, to stay abreast of the new cultural scene. But this morning it hit me that times were not simply changing, they had CHANGED! The landscape and the terms of reference are so utterly different from the world I entered, when I left high school and home and headed for the big city to be a part of something.
I could be on another planet!
How this affects my writing, is something that is always on the fringe of my awareness. And I’d like to hear how others of my generation are coping (tail-end of the Boomers, like the arrowhead, y’know? What devils have on the ends of their tails, that’s us.) And also, more importantly perhaps, I want to continue to read young writers, new and emerging writers telling me about this unfamiliar planet.
At the moment Pomonal Publishing is bent a little towards the writing of my generation (especially when publishing poets, because, as Frances Holloway asks on her blog: who reads poetry anymore?) But good writing (good?) reaches across time and space, doesn’t it? Any new young writers out there finding it difficult to get published, but serious about the art of writing? I’d like to hear from you.
I confess I am having difficulty adapting to WordPress, so please bear with me. I need to create an on-line presence for Pomonal Publishing, but I hear that the software I’ve been using [ iWeb ] will not be around much longer – so the gorgeous site I had designed will be impossible to update easily. I want information to get out sooner rather than later, so we’ll see how we go with this free space.
Please make allowances for clumsy design and faulty links while I’m getting the hang of things here at WordPress.