Saturday, July 30, 2011

Aussie August! Blogs about writing and the land of Oz...

I think we can all agree that there are poets and then there are POETS.

While I’ve been known to try my hand at verse once in a while, I am a lousy poet. My belief is that mediocre or poor poetry is relatively easy to write, while good poetry is not only incredibly difficult to master, but it requires a command and love of language. Michael is an example of a POET who has an amazing dedication to the craft, technique, and mastery of good poetry. I personally find his poems to be both whimsically fun and philosophically deep at the same time. It is rare to find a poet who can “remove” me from the here and now to absorb me in his/ her words, but Michael is one of those poets. Those of you who know me understand that I do not distribute praise to colleagues lightly, and in fact it was Michael’s talent that encouraged me to start an e-mail / Skype correspondence with him.

Well, that and his incredibly cool accent.

Michael has been generous enough to share his wit and wisdom with us this week on the writing craft, his "five faves" poetry book project, koalas, and everything Aussie.
PLUS: For every comment you make, I will place your name in a drawing to win a FREE paperback copy of “Souls Raised from the Dead” by my mentor and former creative writing teacher, the incredible Doris Betts. So the more comments you make, the more chances you have to win. Just be sure to leave your e-mail addy on at least ONE of your comments. I will then e-mail you privately to get your “snail mail” addy. Last day for comments is the last day of August. I'll draw a name the first of September.

And yes, if you live overseas, I will ship it to you overseas---which would really suck for me paying postage and all--- but yes, I am willing to do it in the name of Southern literature and global peace and understanding (insert your favorite Bob Dylan song here).

And now on to Michael's bio and a few things about him.
First, you can check out his blog, An Elusive Symmetry, by clicking here. Also, please check out his book Ultramundane Shadows. You can flip through it and read some of his poems in it by clicking here.

Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke had his first poem published in 1966 when he was seven years old in the mass circulation Australian newspaper The Sun. Michael’s first poetry hero was John Keats, after he read as a teenager a biography of the English Romantic poet.

At Monash University, from 1977 to 1980, while studying successfully for a Bachelor of Economics degree, he hung out in a part of the library where hardly anyone went, devouring poetry books, and Michael Dransfield became his very favourite poet.

To this day, notwithstanding he now has many other favourites, Dransfield’s “to be a poet in Australia is the ultimate commitment” remains seminal. Since university, Michael has made a point of reading poetry, often in translation, from as many poets the world over as he can.

Michael now lives in Townsville, enjoying the north Queensland tropical sunshine. He is a valued member of Writers In Townsville Society, whose website is:

And now a few questions for Michael:
What do you do when you're not writing?

"I sleep. I drink black coffee. I sleep more. I drink more black coffee. The cafe at the end of the street has installed an intravenous drip of black coffee just for me. There’s a Catholic church directly across the road from the cafe. I stare at Jesus on the cross above the church door, and, in caffeine-induced reverie, gain profound mystical insights into why all references to coffee beans were edited out of The Bible in the early years."

Of which of your accomplishments are you most proud?

"The poem I wrote three days ago. You’re only as good as your latest poem, I say. My latest poem says to me that life is like a deodorant can: you can spray and spray and keep spraying until the whole bathroom is scented with sweet fragrance, but if you compromise your artistic integrity, you always smell like bacon grease."

Pick one: Elvis or The Beatles?

"I was born in England, so it’s gotta be The Beatles. As John said, Elvis lost it when he went in the army. Plus, could Colonel Parker play the drums as well as Ringo? I rest my case..."

Where do you like to write?

"In my old lounge chair. This chair should already be World Heritage Listed, not for its antique value, but for the habitat it provides to many and varied species of tropical dust mites."

Is there something you keep on your writing desk that inspires you?

"My stack of books. At the moment, I have four paperbacks of prose writing by Dylan Thomas, two of T.S. Eliot’s writings, a biography written by poet Kathleen Raine of William Blake, The Faber Book of 20th Century Verse, and The Upanishads.

But, as the guy who tries to sell you the set of steak knives at 2:00 am in the wee hours says, “there’s more.” My desk is like a typical woman’s purse: it has enough many, and weirdly varied, things on it to occupy behavioural scientists for decades.

Such as. My bathroom scales. An empty can of Airwick 4 in 1 air freshener. The box my electric jug came in. My church offering envelopes. My clothes pegs. A padlock. An unopened bowel cancer testing kit. (As you might gather, I’m not overly worried that I might have bowel cancer.) And a morass of various types of papers so high and wide that I don’t doubt that I have single-handedly caused the extinction of at least twenty-five species of rare jungle mammals, through destruction of their habitat for paper products.

Finally, if your life were made into a movie, who would you want to play you? (and no, you can’t play yourself.)

"I would like to be animated, in fact I’d insist upon it. Thor. That would suit me, thanks. There’s something phallic about the way he wields his hammer that immensely appeals to me. Thor got the Nordic chicks, back in the Valhalla days. Thunder and lightning work every time, or at least they did. But, and this is essential, I’d insist it not be a Hollywood movie, but rather a Swedish one, in Swedish, in black and white, with long, arty panoramic shots of bleak, windswept, desolate Swedish landscape. Voiceover by some husky Swedish hunk named Lars."

Thanks Michael! Let's all give him a great welcome!
Feel free to ask him any questions about poetry, writing, Australia, or wrestling crocodiles. I'm sure he'll be glad to oblige.

Also, a list of Michael's published books of poetry may be found here.


Christine Orchanian Adler said...

Michael possesses the important trait of not taking himself too seriously. This frees the mind to think-and write-about what really matters. Welcome, Michael and thank you, Dawn!

Dawn said...

Yep, Michael rocks.
I think that is soooo important. Most writers I know (including perhaps, sometimes, myself) take themselves too seriously.