Women of Words poetry events



The Women of Words will be a series of events held throughout November in order to raise funds for The Hunter Women’s Centre and White Ribbon Foundation. There are four events that will accompany the opening with female poets lending their voices to the cause in a celebration of Women in Literature. The Opening is a free event. The poetry events will have a $10 entry fee that will go to The Hunter Women’s Centre and The White Ribbon Foundation.
The opening event is Friday 4 November 7-9pm at the Vinyl Cafe, 4 Perkins Street, Newcastle
Women of Words Event 1 will be at The Press Book House on Saturday 5 November 4-6pm 462 Hunter Street, Newcastle
Come along and treat your ears and hearts to the soulful words of Ivy Ireland, Jan Dean, Gloria Demillo, Alexandra Morris, Magdalena Ball and Beth Spencer. Please share around to fellow Novocastrians, the Hunter and Central Coasters. Hope you can make it!
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Bardic Bonanza

Image source: enotes Summary Twelfth Night

There’s a new group in town. It’s excitable, drinks a lot of coffee and reckons 400 years counts as ‘recent’. It’s the Newcastle Shakespeare Society.

Each month a play is put in the spotlight. Members come armed with their favourite quotes and pet theories, and digress around production tactics and current political nuances. There’s a lot of esoteric knowledge on the subject floating about in Newcastle and there are always revelations, sending one home with an ‘I must check that out’ list burning a hole in one’s notebook.

Meetings are held at the Civic Digest in Hunter Street at 10:00 am on Saturdays, and are currently scheduled until the end of the year. They’re also introducing a series of run-up ‘Dinner and a Movie’ meets prior to each meeting: TV dinner get-togethers where you can relax with food and drink and refresh on the upcoming play. A lot of the members are also writers themselves, so digressions into writing technique, publishers or marketing issues are not uncommon. Every meeting’s different.

All the meetings are free to attend. Bookings can be made through several venues:

  • Find the events on Facebook
  • For the Civic Digest meetings only, book through the Newcastle Regional Library ‘What’s on’ and Eventbrite here
    Currently the schedule only runs up to September on this site, but it is updated every three months.
  • Through ‘Meetup’ website
  • For more information visit the Society’s website 

27th August – The Merchant Of Venice
Love, legalities and logistics. This play’s central theme of cultural friction and is particularly pertinent in our current global climate.

Facebook event page

24th September – Twelfth Night
A shipwreck, a lover, a fool, and a pedant. Mistaken identity and cross-dressing, ambiguous sexuality and twins. Mix them all up with a good bucketful of sometimes risqué humour and some absolutely beautiful passages, and you have Twelfth Night.

‘Dinner and a Movie’: 9th September 6:30. See here for details.

22nd October – Henry V
An early celebration of St Crispin’s Day (25th October) with this epic swashbuckler. There WILL be readings from this one so polish your lances and saddle up ’cause it’s going to be a fast ride.

Facebook event page

12th November 2016 – Much Ado About Nothing
The ultimate put-down contest of a play. Never have claws been so sharp, breeches so swaggered, nor maidens so wronged. Featuring some of the most dubious courtship techniques in Shakespeare: don’t try them at home. Instead, come armed with your favourite passages to discuss over coffee.

Facebook event page

10th December – The Merry Wives Of Windsor
Shakespeare’s resurrection of Falstaff at the express request of Queen Bess is one of the warmest, homiest and frankly funniest in the oeuvre. Thwarted corpulent lecherousness and mendacity has never been rendered more risible and strangely endearing.

Facebook event page

Come one come all!

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Submissions still open for Eat, Stray’d, Love – Women of Words

Papatuanuku Press

Callout for submissions!!!….This ones for the ladies. Papatuanuku Press is calling for submissions from female poets for its latest project: Eat, Stray’d, Love – Women of Words.

Women of Words will be a chapbook exploring the subject of ‘Domestic/Family Violence’. Submission guidelines: submit up to maximum 5 poems, 12 pt font, Times New Roman, 30 lines maximum.

Please send to: hoponin@bigpond.net.au add in subject line: Women of Words and please save as an attachment.
Mauri Ora (In Sacred Breath),

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Local history at Newcastle Library


Wow! I’m loving the new Newcastle Library website, especially the Heritage & History section. It’s all there. Everything you will need whether you are writing a novel, memoir or researching your family tree.

Never underestimate library resources. Yes, it’s great if your novel is set here in the Hunter. That makes life easy. I’ve been very lucky with my novel Tomaree and my manuscript I Remember the White. In the first instance whilst researching Tomaree, I went through all the folders at Salamander Library on Nelson Bay and Shoal Bay for the years mid 1930s to the end of WWII and I actually found the real life person behind my character Lieutenant Tom Lockwood, a US Army Signals Officer.

In the early days of researching I Remember the White, I decided I’d better get to know Mayfield as it was in 1920. I had already discovered that photos are very rare for that time period so it was definitely a red letter day when I came across a very slim folder, Old Mayfield F J Harborne containing only 9 odd pages and an amazing image. Not mysteriously as listed though, four original images but two photocopies of the one image. It is the only photograph I’ve come across of Platt’s Channel with wharves and houses long since gone. It was an amazing find that helped me bring the whole manuscript alive.

If it’s family history of say a family member who lives in another part of the state or interstate, don’t forget to contact the local studies section of the nearest library. They may have books or records that just don’t show up on google. You never know your luck. In the meantime check out Newcastle Library’s website. Here’s an idea of the range of services.

Local Studies Library

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Collecting Cobwebs: The Blue Series

Collecting Cobwebs
My dear friend Janette Hoppe launched Collecting Cobwebs: The Blue Series on World Mental Health Day 10 October 1015. The collection is a collaboration among Australian and New Zealand poets dedicated to raise funds for Beyond Blue and raise awareness about depression and overcome the stigma associated with mental illness.

In the acknowledgements Janette has written: I have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and post-natal psychosis. It is these different types of depression and a fascination with the brain that has kept me ‘keeping on’. It takes courage to speak our truth and if this book can save one life today or at least keep people like myself putting one foot in front of the other to enjoy this wild ride then this project and book has served its purpose.”

At the Newcastle Writers Festival recently there were readings from the collection by Janette Hoppe, Linda Ireland, Andy Kissane, Peter Langston, Marie McMillan and Ed Wright. Copies are still available and all proceeds from the sale of the book go to “Beyond Blue”. Email Janette now hoponin@bigpond.net.au for a copy.

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Histories of Hunter Women


Novocastians, Jude Conway needs your help. As part of her project Histories of Hunter Women, Jude is trying to determine what year the following women died [and if by chance any are still alive heartfelt apologies]. As Jude explains on her blog:

“Many historical accounts of Newcastle and the Hunter Valley have focussed on the roles of men in the heavy industries, mining and pre-1970s governance and largely ignored women’s contributions to the region. However looking laterally at, for example, health, education, the arts, sport and activism draws women out from behind the industrial smoke screen.

To even the balance, I have started collecting data (newspaper articles, letters, writings, photographs, job references, obituaries etc) about Hunter Valley women who stood out from the crowd, who were ground breakers, creators, achievers, adventurous, or even infamous, in any occupation or activity before the year 2000.”

If you have any information on the women listed below please contact Jude at judithaconway@gmail.com

Alice Ferguson from Merewether
Val Wells – headmistress of NGHS
Kath Stewart – headmistress of Church of England grammar school
Betty Roberts – Science inspector
Nan Musgrove – journalist
Joan May – councillor
Zell Meehan – secretary to Lord mayors
Joan Rule – missionary
Ruby Grisdale – singer and Red Cross stalwart
Vera O’Byrne – lecturer at Newcastle university
Rhona Beare – classics lecturer at Newcastle university
Mary Hall – geography lecturer at Newcastle university
Bethia Penglase – lecturer at Newcastle university
Jess Dyce – lecturer at Teachers College/CAE 

Way to go Jude. I wish you well with your project!

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The Margaret Henry Oral History Archive

Image courtesy of University of Newcastle

Image courtesy of University of Newcastle

It’s Australia Day, a time to celebrate amazing achievements by Australians and to welcome new Australians to our fold. It’s also a time to reflect on how far we have come as a nation. To do that effectively we can’t lose touch with the past. And what better way to visit the past than by listening to the words of Australians from previous generations who often lived in a very different Australia from the place we know and love?

I moved to the Newcastle/Lake Macquarie region late in 1998 and it took me quite a while to meet people who shared the same interests as me – namely the past. Only a few years ago I met Margaret Henry but as she was such a busy woman I never got the chance to really sit down and chat with her. So it is with much regret that I didn’t discover, until after she died last year, that she had been a history lecturer at the University of Newcastle and that in the 1980s she worked for the Department of Community Programmes where she was responsible for the Open Foundation Course.

“Margaret encouraged generations of Novocastrians to engage in history and the cultural heritage of the region. She loved for people to share their stories, was a good listener, and these oral history interviews are testament to Margaret’s passion for history, and her vision to have these important ‘voices’ documented.”

Here is more about the archive:

“The Margaret Henry Oral History Archive is a collection of audio tapes, transcripts, summaries and essays that were part of the Oral Histories Open Foundation Course (1986-1989). Margaret Henry was a history lecturer at the UON in the 1980s.

Margaret Henry Oral History Archive on Soundcloud

“The wider collection of Margaret Henry Oral History Archive – over 200 interviews in total and with many stories of Newcastle, the Hunter Valley and its surrounds and records voices describing the Regions cultural, intellectual and social life. It is an incredible legacy to Margaret Henry. The original audio tapes and written sources are held in Cultural Collections at the Auchmuty Library, University of Newcastle (Australia).”

Here is a link to the archive at the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections page.

With thanks to Gionni Di Gravio, University Archivist and “Congratulations to Dr Ann Hardy who undertook the complete digitisation project work and the Vera Deacon Regional History Fund that made it all possible. https://uoncc.wordpress.com/vera-deacon-fund/

Here is just a short selection of some of the interviews. Amazing stuff and it’s gratifying to know that all this knowledge has been saved.

A6969 (i)(a) Zaara Street Power Station – Clarrie McLennan – Written Source
Interviewer Louise Parker

A6969 (i)(b) Life story of an Aboriginal Woman – Annie Whilamena Kelly (born of Aboriginal descent) – Written Source
Interviewer Miss Shay Kelly (daughter)

A6969 (ii) Merewether & its Beach – Alice Ferguson – Written Source
Interviewer Trish Pattenden

A6969 (iii) Paediatric Care at the Newcastle Mater Hospital –  Sr. Mary Barnabas Gardiner – Written Source
Interviewer Elaine Perry

A6969 (iv) The Great Depression – Kathleen Jones – Written Source
Interviewer Bob Price

Happy listening and reading and Happy Australia Day!

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An update on Ruth Skilbeck’s books

The Writer's Fugue

It’s an exciting time for Ruth. On the 20th of this month her novel Australian Fugue: Missing will be available on Amazon Kindle and soon after as a print book that can be ordered through bookshops.

Australian Fugue Missing

Her non fiction work The Writer’s Fugue: Musicalization, Trauma and Subjectivity in the Literature of Modernity will be available through her website and bookshops on the 21st October. It will also be available as an ebook. A very exciting month for Ruth and Starving in a Garret wishes her well! For more information go to PostMistress Press.

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The Fugue State and the work of Ruth Skilbeck

Ruth Skilbeck

Photo source: Ruth Skilbeck 2015

I first met Ruth Skilbeck when Ruth, Paula Morrow and myself were invited to read at our Booklovers group which often meets at Cooks Hill Books. I have written about Paula’s book Darwin’s Dilemma in an earlier post here. I was immediately drawn to Ruth’s work as we have both written about the same, very fascinating thing – the fugue state.

From wikipedia the fugue state: “is a rare psychiatric disorder characterized by reversible amnesia for personal identity, including the memories, personality, and other identifying characteristics of individuality… Dissociative fugue usually involves unplanned travel or wandering, and is sometimes accompanied by the establishment of a new identity.”

“In music, a fugue is a contrapuntal compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject (theme) that is introduced at the beginning in imitation (repetition at different pitches) and recurs frequently in the course of the composition.”

Ruth’s journey into publishing began in the 1990s when she felt compelled to write her first novel, Australian Fugue whilst living in Newcastle, strangely in the cottage she is living in now. She had been trying to write this novel for years and could not move beyond the first couple of pages and then the idea came to her to use the fugue structure with its two main meanings, musical form and psychological state of amnesia and wandering. Ruth knew about musical fugue as she had played recorder in a choir as a child in the village where she lived in England (and played baroque music).

As Skilbeck says in her own words, the manuscript “…in many ways it just seemed to write itself, from there I have found out about the cultural history of fugue in literature and most fascinating of all perhaps in psychology, and wrote my PhD on this. I am interested to follow this through and write another book of critical theory in the field which develops and advances what I have begun in my PhD, and more novels too of course!”

Ruth has written how strange it is to be back in her cottage in the very spot, in the living room where that idea first came to her, an idea that she has been following and that has been driving her writing and research ever since. I do believe that when we think long and hard enough about certain things, for instance, like the fugue state we attract into our lives more knowledge and people and books that can help us on that journey. It has certainly been that way for me and it sounds as if is has been for Ruth Skilbeck as well.

Australian Fugue: The Antipode Room is first in a forthcoming series by Ruth Skilbeck exploring silencing, trauma, and identity in postcolonial family life, after-effects of unknown hidden histories and mysteries of self in denial, how one appears to self and others, and the need to go beyond disguise, deception, and reinvention, to find truths of lost self-identity. You can buy the book at Amazon here.

In Missing, the unabridged Australian Fugue novel Ruth Skilbeck more shockingly explores the need to remember to acknowledge the past, to find out truths of self-identity, to confront ghosts, and seek a true understanding, through processes of art and writing and justice. It will make you rethink everything you’ve heard by JS Bach.

The book will be Published by Postmistress Press and available next month. Ruth has also written a work of non fiction, The Writer’s Fugue: Musicalization, Trauma and Subjectivity in the Literature of Modernity and will be available soon at Ruth’s new website: Ruth Skilbeck Author. It’s an exciting time for Ruth and I wish her well on her journey.

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Wrap up of Poetry at the Press Book House


What a wonderful afternoon we had at the The Press Book House last Saturday 15th August. Thirteen very diverse, fascinating and engaging poets entertained us. Unfortunately Ivy Ireland was unable to attend due to ill health.

Here’s part of my introduction:

“I am so pleased that Janette and I have been able to assemble such a wonderful group of poets together to read for you today. But don’t forget, poets don’t just need people to listen to their poetry. They need people to buy their books as well. I have copies here of The Starving in a Garrets’ poetry books available and The Press Book House also has an Australian Poetry bookshelf. Happy listening everyone and happy buying.”

The lineup in order of performance:

Jan Dean, Judy Johnson, Jean Kent, Meg Dunn, Dael Allison, Louise Berry, Jenny Blackford, Janette Hoppe, Jill McKeowen, Michael Collins, Gillian Carter-Swain, David Graham and Geoff Nicholls.

Here’s the bios of most of the poets:

Jan Dean’s poetry has been published in numerous journals and anthologies including The Night Road (the 2009 Newcastle Poetry Prize; Sunweight (the Newcastle Poetry Prize 2005, for which she won the Local Prize); The Best Australian Poems 2005 (Black Inc) and The Best Australian Poetry 2004 (UQP). In 2014 her chapbook Paint Peels, Graffiti Sings (Flying Island Books, Macau) was published in English and Mandarin. Jan’s poetry collection With One Brush was published as winner of IP Picks Best First Book in 2007 and shortlisted for the Mary Gilmore Award in 2008.

Judy Johnson has published five poetry collections, several chapbooks and a novel. Her prizes include the Victorian Premier’s Award, Josephine Ulrick, Wesley Michel Wright (twice) and Val Vallis awards. She was shortlisted for the West Australian Premier’s Award. Her verse novel, Jack was on both the Melbourne and Sydney University syllabus

Jean Kent has published five full-length collections of poetry. The most recent is The Hour of Silvered Mullet, which was published by Pitt Street Poetry in 2015. (You can fine more info at the following link http://pittstreetpoetry.com/emporium/jean-kent/)

Meg Dunn is the offspring of a mermaid and a lighthouse keeper. Born in Newcastle she has recently returned after 17 years in Melbourne. She has been a theatre practitioner for the majority of her working life and yet has never been a waitress. She co-founded Zeal Theatre and Newcastle Poetry at the Pub and run many poetry gigs in Melbourne including the Overload Festival. She won Best Spoken Word at the Melbourne Fringe for her spoken word show ‘Brave’ (available on CD). She’s currently working on a poetry adventure novel, ‘The Real Thing’, and completing the Bachelor of Arts she never had.

Louise Berry has had poetry published in various anthologies.

Jenny Blackford’s poems have been published in Westerly, Quadrant, Australian Poetry Journal and more. She was awarded third place in the ACU Prize for Poetry in 2014, and has two poems shortlisted this year. Her illustrated pamphlet, The Duties of a Cat, was published by Pitt Street Poetry late in 2013.

Janette Hoppe‘s poetry is a reflection of her Australian and New Zealand Maori heritage. Her tanka and haiku have been published in journals in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. The creative director of Papatuanuku Press Janette’s current project Collecting Cobwebs – The Blue Series will be launched during Mental Health week with all proceeds going to Beyond Blue.

Jill McKeowen works full-time at the University of Newcastle, where she teaches academic writing to students across all disciplines. She has only recently begun to present her poetry in public, so hopes to have a more literary bio note by this time next year.

Gillian Swain has been writing and performing poetry around Newcastle and the East Coast for quite a while now. Gillian’s poetry has texture and taste, has energy and touch. Gillian has been published in various anthologies and has a chap book published by Picaro Press called Sang Up. Gillian and her husband run a Coffee Roastery in the Maitland area and an Espresso Bar where they also hold poetry events.

David Graham’s poetry spirals from the dizzying heights of surrealism to the mired depths of drunkenness, with the inevitable following hangover. Graham is also a guiding force in the Word Hurl Antislam, a no rules spoken word and poetry night, held monthly in Newcastle and publishes a fort-monthly poetry, prose and anything journal called The Word Hurl Times.

Looking forward to the next one!

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