Poetry

LINES BETWEEN

Below: John and Virginia with Janet McLean, Steve Smart, Judith Rodriguez and Carmel Macdonald Grahame

On Sunday 12th August Lines Between was launched at the Brighton Library in the Round Room. It is John's and my poems on the same incident or topic 'in dialogue' published by Melboure Writers Union. If you are interested in buying a signed copy, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. It is $15 plus p&p.

It was launched by poet Judith Rodriguez. This is her full speech:

It’s a good afternoon. You are going to find happiness, you are going to find surprises, and none of it is a downer.

Here’s this little book, this unreal project: two poets who have lived together for is it four decades, contribute eleven poems each and achieve conclusive proof that the world we live in is a good place. Can be a good place. Trump may trumpet in all the different dissonances, our lawmakers fail to legislate. Drought, cave floods, fire and crazed pilots may cost lives, may cost businesses, families, and nations their working capital. But Virginia and John have one another and lucky we – we have in our hands this precious handful, Virginia and John.

A glimpse is given of their working method: they are “each other’s first and severest critics”. WOW. On good evidence, I warn students to be cautious about accepting the criticism of Family. But then your Family is rarely attempting to write poems, with about the same degree of assurance and hesitation. Family is generally frightened you are making a fool of yourself. Or, sometimes with reason, that you will tell tales.

John and Virginia are frank in their appreciation of workshops by Vicky Tsaconas, Linda Weste and Cecilia Morris, and in their gracious acknowledgment of help from fellow-students’ suggestions. It is beautiful too that they acknowledge the editing of Carmel Macdonald Grahame. If she assisted in the ordering of the poems as well as matters of text and layout, this is indeed deserved praise. There is a satisfaction in reading this sequence of poems straight through, as it modulates from announcing the poets’ main concerns, through nuanced manifestations of companionship, to consider other matters: the meeting of cultures, confrontations with animal life, time and generations.

This book made me think hard about relationships that surround the knowing and making of poetry. There’s guidance – teaching, with students – though I am unwilling to call the groups I am part of, classes; honest teachers know they learn as much as they teach. There’s mentoring, a risky business if it is organised by outsiders. I was lucky to know John Manifold, the poet and musician – he made his own instruments, sang ballads in his group, the Bandicoots, and gathered others to celebrate this part of our culture, as well as writing scholarly essays on Elizabethan music. He was a Communist, selling The Tribune on Saturdays. A man of conviction, a maverick in a Brisbane which needed mavericks. I admire his poetry, the togetherness of his music-making and writing. He is the only person I have submitted my poems to for advice. He faulted all my metaphors – but finished his letter with the words “keep writing”.

Virginia and John have found the benefits of togetherness in workshops. But they have gone a step further, into companionship. I don’t, personally, know another couple who have made this work for their writing. I couldn’t work it myself with Tom! But then we’d both been publishing for twenty years when we met. The companionship in this book shows: reading through, gives you conversation – the oldest and finest of the arts.

It is a richness in the book, that these are poets of distinct voices and ways of thinking. John, succinct and thoughtful, in his important opening poem “Dry River”. introduces us to the thirst, the search, the guidance, the relationship of creativity. His final poem, “Time”, takes the moment of beginning the fourth movement of a sonata or symphony, to recall the too-short life of Schubert - and I recollect from near the opening of the book his poem “Moldau”, about Dvorak’s tinnitus and the flow of that mighty river - the composer’s creative keynote. Yes, this is a shaped collection. Others of John’s longer poems are about struggle and difference – his Flamenco dancer and boy; “tenderness and terror” of a caged tiger;, and “New Holland Beach” – the jarring confrontation of the Dreaming and western beliefs. Amazing then to find two absolutely simple short poems, “Marriage” and “Recovery”, that go sttraight to the heart of love..

Virginia observes many small articles and actions of family life, always moving to the relationship they signify. This has been called “domestic poetry” – a term once used in disparagement of poets who did not foreground great men of war and politics, or the themes of time-honoured mythology. To my mind domesticity is even more worthy of close observation and exact tracing of meanings: After all, it is a large percentage of everyone’s life. For instance, the baby’s falling forward into what will be a first step, walking, is rightly seen as a climactic, a historic moment in this, in any life. Symbolic if you like, but actual. “Hello yellow”, the key colour of Virginia’s marriage outfit (this is the time to colour in that front-cover image!) seems emblematic of modernity and Melbourne; after all, the notorious Yellow Peril was commissioned exactly 40 years ago! I like her take on the indigenous confrontation with the West, as “land” opposite “lord”. Her recruitment of the novelist Laurence Sterne to examine the idea of an Open Heart (from the vulnerability of a hospital bed). Her feminist take on the demise of the thylacine. A crowning moment for me was her description of pegging out sheets – and here I remember very good, very different poems about sheets, by Rosemary Dobson and Judith Wright.

[Reads 'Weeaproinah' p.8]

There, I’ve had my read. Let me tell tales: there IS one moment of potential strain in this lovely relationship, and it is the comical moment in this delightful book as well as a time-marker – the coming of post-codes. And that is the name of the poem, “Post-codes” p.13. All about washing up. If only I could write with such high humour about my attitude to cooking!

Dear Virginia and John, Lines Between had a happy gestation, this is its step forward into its readership, and I know it will be the loved companion of many readers. I declare the book launched.

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Virginia has had her poems published in various publications, both digital and paper. She also puts one of her poems in each of her monthly e-bulletins. 

We’re in the process of putting the poems up here. Keep checking – there will be more from time to time.

We invite you to have a look at these websites which have some of Virginia's poems, often with accompanying images:

      'Land/lord' in the Journal of Post Colonial Writinghttp://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/YJwXXXexVjKkkmZRFHMn/full

'The Old Oak' has been published at The Ekphrastic Review: writing and art on art and writing: ekphrastic.net/the-ekphrastic-review/the-old-oak-by-virginia-lowe

'Aylan Kurdi' has been published at Right Now: Human rights in Australiahttp://rightnow.org.au/poetry/aylan-kurdi/

At Australian Children's Poetry:

Silver Birch Press has published a number of Virginia's poems including 'Twenty-Eight Boxes' in their When I Moved Poetry and Prose Series (below and at Twenty-Eight Boxes Silver Birch Press). Her other Silver Birch Press poems appear here: silverbirchpress.wordpress.com/?s=virginia+lowe

porch pic 2

Twenty-Eight Boxes

by Virginia Lowe

John had already left
our rural city
for his new job in Melbourne.
I waited with the toddler
and my parents
in the empty house.
Everything packed
and ready to go
Food, nappies
Nothing was left

A moving van
pulls up outside
Driven five hundred miles
from Melbourne
and overnighted
somewhere I presume
Right on time, but so small

Two jolly giants bounced in
ready to begin
Their faces dropped
as they surveyed
our possessions
They could clearly see
that as we feared
the furniture, the crockery
clothing and ornaments
just would not fit

Turned away shaking their heads
We knew no one could have
That many books!
But John, a librarian, had
just moved his library
to a new building
he knew exactly
and had filled it out
on the form

Two double beds
One sofa, one dining table
one cot, one washing machine
So it went on
And our two book collections
together made up
only twenty-eight boxfuls

Crestfallen
they set off back to Melbourne
to return two days later
While we set to unpacking
the bedding, the food
the nappies
To survive living
another two days
in a packed up house.

Four poems have been published in the anthology Poetry Without Borders ed. Anna Trowbridge, including this one:

Words and Birds

A queue of curious pelicans

A cue of queueious pelicans

The English language

Never ceases

To amaze

And amuse

 

Mother counted twenty four

swans and pelicans

on Lake Colac once

when I was a child

in the days

when the lake

was full

before

climate

change

hit.