Busy night at the MCB last night. And a good one!
First up was the launch of David Gregory’s third collection, Push (Black Doris Press, 2008). I’m in a poetry group with David (the infamous “Poots Group”), so many of the poems were familiar to me. But seeing them all together was startling. He’s a friend, so I’m not going to pretend to be unbiased where his work is concerned. But it really is very good. There’s still the same delight in wordplay (puns are his abiding addiction), but the poems have become more introspective. Not self-obsessed – a David Gregory poem is always a dialogue, or at least a soliloquy. But quieter. He’s not the loudmouth at the bar, giving his opinion on everything. He’s the bloke in the corner of the pub, watching what’s going on, making thoughtful comments that people take notice of.
Rather than rabbit on, I’ll give you some snippets. He has some stunning endings:
the house turning
like a dog before settling
the breathing of the man
who is not there.
(The Hidden Sounds)
who crossed my mind,
as if the broken sky, just then,
released a startled bird.
(As if the Sky)
He is the one, they say,
who manages money
like feathers, who manages
love like sunlight.
(The Little People)
And then there are the titles, which are virtually poems in themselves: Definitely the Last, Teaching Love as a Second Language, the next available god, Sane Within Normal Limits, The Invention of Happiness, Signs Taken for Wonders.
I think it’s one of those collections that does most of its work under the surface. You’ll enjoy it, put it away, and find lines and phrases wheedling their way into your mind at odd moments through the day. It’s intelligent, well crafted poetry. Great stuff.
I’ll conclude the Saga of the Launch with a very David Gregory poem (although not the most typical of this collection).
The Inflatable Woman
I made her larger than
but let her down
When you wind your sense of humour back a notch, you realise that this is not just an excuse to pun, but a decent epigram. And a very accurate comment. Now that is skill.
After Push was launched (with the inevitable “comes to shove” jokes), we had the second of the CPC Autumn Readings. The Open Mic was the usual mix of good, bad and bizarre – often in the same poem. I didn’t read – I’d meant to, but in the rush to get to the book launch I left my poem sitting on the dining table. Oh well. Frankie McMillan won this time, with the first ever dead-heat for second between Nick Williamson and someone who’s name I’ve written down in an indecipherable scrawl. (Sorry! Was it you?)
Helen Lowe had been unable to read, so Robynanne Milford stepped in. She read well, as did David Howard, but the undoubted star of the evening was Marissa Johnpillai. She began by saying that after her last reading, someone told her that she should break things up a bit by having a brief introductory spiel before each poem. So she’d done it her way: written a comment for each poem on separate strips of paper, which she then drew at random throughout the reading. It was sheer genius. We were all in stitches trying to guess which comment belonged with which poem (like “I did not use the word ‘spelunking’ in this poem, but it would have been appropriate”). And she writes really well – funny, incisive, fierce poems. I can’t wait for her first book to come out.
Yes, it really was quite a feast for poetry-lovers. And the room was absolutely packed too, which was good to see. So for those of you who didn’t go, in the paraphrased words of Lara Bingle: where the bloody hell were you?