To soar over mountains and valleys,
To rise majestically
On thermal currents
Over a patchwork quilt
© 2011 Trevor Hampel
All rights reserved.
To read more of my poetry click here.
The Wedge-tailed eagle is Australia’s largest bird of prey with a wingspan of up to 2.8m (about 10 feet). They are found all over Australia where suitable habitat exists. You can read more about Australian birds on my site Trevor’s Birding.
At first light of dawn
Crisp white frost covers green grass.
A lone blackbird sings
His rich, melodious song
Of praises to the new day.
Copyright 2011 Trevor Hampel
All rights reserved.
Read more of my poetry here.
A review of A Promise of Peaches by Valerie Volk
Published in 2011 by Ginninderra Press.
A Promise of Peaches is Valerie Volk’s second book of poetry. I wrote a review of her first book, In Due Season a few days ago. Actually, to call this new work a book of poetry is to do this volume a disservice. It is a verse novel.
The inspiration for this novel came from Valerie’s own experience as a child, but I hasten to add that it is in no way autobiographical. It first existed as a short story. I remember when Valerie read this story which was an assignment when we were part way through our Master of Arts degree. The suggestion was to expand it into a novel. A little later I recall that our lecturer suggesting that she rewrite it as a verse novel. I think at the time Valerie claimed not to have ever read anything in this specialised genre before, but typically, Valerie threw herself into research mode and the idea grew into the book.
A Promise of Peaches traces the life of Claire, from her early memories as a young girl growing up in post-war Melbourne through to her frustrations in an aged-care facility. Her parents take in as boarders a Czech refugee couple, Viktor and Irena. The story, told in a variety of poetic forms, reveals the feelings and thoughts of each character. Each poem is short, often no more than a page or two at most, and every one sketches a poignant vignette of the inner feelings of the character. Valerie has used different, distinctive voices for each person, a difficult task for any writer and one she succeeds in achieving.
The initial excitement of the struggling post-war Australian suburban family in welcoming a couple from a totally different culture and social background is soon swamped by misunderstandings, rising tension and frustrated passions. Claire’s own innocent sexual stirrings, aided by Viktor, add to the tension and conflict. The author has skilfully woven all of these emotions into the beautiful fabric of her narrative. Her poems are often sparse, tight and understated, sharpened down to bare essentials. I particularly like the three special blues poems inserted into the text late in the writing process.
Somewhere in the night a child is crying.
Somewhere in the blackness of the night a child is crying bitter tears.
Scorching searing tears that never seem to end.
From: Claire, Blues Interlude 3 p.163
In the very next poem we read how Claire sees Viktor only once many years later. She recognises him instantly, but he doesn’t know her, nor the profound effect his actions have had on her throughout her life.
I highly recommend this verse novel, not because Valerie is a valued colleague and friend, but because it is a captivating read. Many readers have told her that they couldn’t put it down, that they read all the way through in one sitting. Even though I’d read the manuscript in several of its draft forms, I too found myself reading right through (though I admit to stopping for lunch at one stage, only because it was my turn to cook).
By the way – it’s not every day one gets to read one’s name in the acknowledgements page of a novel. Thanks for sharing the journey with me Valerie; it was fascinating.
You can buy this, and her other books online on her website: Valerie Volk
In due season: poems of love and loss by Valerie Volk is a very special book. It is beautifully presented with delightful photographs illustrating many of the poems.
While it it is a slim book physically, one cannot say that about the poems. All the poems have an impact on the reader. One is taken on a journey through her life – of joys, delights, deep emotions, frustrations, fears and faith. It is a journey from first love to deep loss, from deep contentment to the emptiness of death.
Valerie’s poems poignantly trace the roller coaster ride she encounters in 2008 when her husband is diagnosed with cancer. Some poems hark back to the early days, from their first meeting, first passions of love and the demands of young family life. Other poems are filled with agony as she sketches in verse form the deterioration of Noel’s condition. And the final poems highlight her response to his death, the experience of feeling numb at the time of his funeral, the emptiness of their home without her love and the slow and sometimes painful climb up the mountain of normality.
‘How am I?
Hard to say. I veer between
a stoic resignation – “Wonderful,” I hear them say –
and silent screams of anguish.
Somewhere in me there’s a deep gaping hole
as if a vital part has been ripped out.’
from ‘A Kindness of Strangers’ p.59
I met Valerie during the time we were both completing our Master of Arts course. She has become a respected writing colleague and encouraging friend, one I deeply admire and whose comments on my own poems are highly valued.
Some of the poems in this volume I have a personal connection with, because Valerie presented them in writing workshops for critiquing during our studies for our degrees. One couldn’t help but be touched deeply by the grief she was enduring at the time but still she pressed on professionally.
Highly recommended reading.
Order the book on Valerie’s web site:
- Valerie Volk – you can order any of Valerie’s books on her website. You can also read about Valerie’s academic achievements as well as writing awards she has gained.
The photo (above right) is from the cover of her book. It has deep significance to Valerie – but you’ll have to read the book to find out why.
Volk, Valerie, 2009. In due season: poems of love and loss. Pantaenus Press, Adelaide.
Rosanne Hawke: Taj and the great camel trek.
Published in 2011 by University of Queensland Press.
Two weeks ago I was privileged to attend the Adelaide launch of Rosanne Hawke’s latest novel. I am becoming addicted to launches of her books; this is the fourth one I’ve attended in three years. As anticipated it was a joyous time of celebration because I know how hard she has struggled with this story over the last 4 years.
The main character, twelve year old Taj, lived in Beltana in outback South Australia in the 1870s. His father is a cameleer and Taj has his own camel Mustara, a character in its own right. In fact, Taj and Mustara have featured in another Hawke book, the picture book Mustara.
Taj and Mustara are invited to join explorer Ernest Giles on his second expedition across Australia from Beltana to Port Augusta and then on to Perth in Western Australia. It is not a journey to be undertaken lightly because much of the territory they planned to cover is desert, for most part uninhabited even by local Aboriginal people. The team accompanying Giles struggle with coming to terms with the isolation, their own feelings of fear, the harsh environmental conditions and the almost total lack of water. At times, they traversed many hundreds of miles without finding a drop of water. The whole journey has them on the very edge of disaster throughout, giving the reader a sense of the extreme hardships they endured.
While this is a novel, written as fiction and from Taj’s point of view, many of the incidents and characters are based on real events and real people taken from Giles’ own journal and the records in newspapers of the day. Taj himself is a fictitious character which points to the real strength of this book. Rosanne revealed at the launch that this book was originally conceived as non-fiction, but early on in her research and early drafts discovered that fiction was a far more powerful vehicle to tell the story. In this way the author has brought history to life for the reader, a delicate balancing act at the best of times. She has handled the transition with great skill. We see and feel the anxiety of the party through the eyes and emotions of Taj.
Highly recommended reading.
- Rosanne Hawke’s web site
- Taj and the great camel trek special page – including photos from the launch and teachers’ notes.
- Merchandise – buy T-shirts, mugs, ties, fridge magnets and many other items featuring the cover art work from the book. I am the proud owner of a Taj coffee mug which I use every day.
- Marrying Ameera – my review of Rosanne’s previous best selling novel, listed recently as a Notable Book.
Disclosure: Rosanne was my supervising lecturer when I completed my Master of Arts (Creative Writing) course recently. Apart from being a great friend and an amazing mentor, I gain nothing from promoting her books and the merchandise associated with it. Reviewing her books is just my way of saying ‘thank you, Rosanne.’