If you're wondering why I've been quiet lately, it's because I've been overseas for a month. The trip was part holiday and part research trip, and it took me to Florida, New Orleans, Detroit, Massachusetts, and New York City. I am working on a new project about memory, forgetting, and obsolescence in the digital age, and I wanted to meet and interview various people whose work or stories (or both) have inspired me. I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a couple of days with DetroitUrbex, whose photographs of abandoned Detroit buildings are simply stunning. Have a look at the now-and-then pictures of Cass Technical High School to get a sense of how amazing this work is. We talked about Detroit's history, visited some abandoned schools, and talked about the process and the philosophy of urban exploration. It was one of the most interesting experiences I've had, with one of the most fascinating people I've met. Below is a picture that I took in one of the abandoned places we visited, a Catholic school. We also spent time with Kristine Diven, a photographer who takes nude self-portraits among the ruins. She is also co-owner of the gallery District VII, and moved from New York to Detroit because she was so struck by the possibilities that Detroit offers artists. And she has some great stories! Taking your clothes off in an abandoned building takes some serious courage, as perhaps you can imagine.

I also had a wonderful guide in New Orleans, Kym, who took me around and showed me the non-tourist side of the city. And in western Massachusetts, I met with Stacy Waldman from House of Mirth. Stacy's a vintage photograph dealer, and she also trades in old diaries and journals sometimes, too. On an exceptionally rainy afternoon, she welcomed me into her house and talked about the sometimes weird obsessions that drive us to collect.

Everyone I met was incredibly generous, kind, and open, and I cannot thank them enough. More on this project as it unfolds . . .

 

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Tomorrow I'm off to Rockhampton, my hometown, for a couple of days. I will be giving a talk at the Southside Library on Wednesday, the 31st of August, from 7:00-8:00pm. It's part of the library's regular Living Literature series of talks. I think I'll read some poems and then talk about the writing process for Electricity for Beginners, the benefits of undertaking a creative writing degree, and my experience of the publication process. Tomorrow afternoon I meet up with ABC Capricornia's Aaron Stevens. I think we're recording something for his Wednesday radio show, with librarian Ann-Maree Dyer, who coordinates the Living Literature series, and who invited me up to Rocky to give a talk. I'm really looking forward to my brief visit. Astonishingly, it's been five years since I was last in Rockhampton! I hear that a lot has changed. I'm keen to see the brand new library, where I'll be reading, and the new, or newly extended, Shopping Fair complex, where I spent many an hour during my teenage years.

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It's festival time! The Queensland Poetry Festival is on this weekend. Most events are free, and all of them are fabulous! I'll be reading at the session 'A Million Bright Things' on Saturday night. Every poet who appears in the festival will read a poem that night. Then, on Sunday at 12:15, I'll be reading more poems, along with Max Ryan and Andy White. So do come along. There's so much going on. And bloggers like the wonderful Fiona at Dada Doesn't Catch Flies are keeping us all up to date and showcasing some of the QPF poets. See you there!

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ABC Radio presenter Madonna King has compiled a cookbook, A Generous Helping, to raise money for the Queensland Premier's Disaster Relief Appeal. On Monday July 18, Madonna will be discussing the process of collecting the recipes at Riverbend Books, and I'll be there to read some of my poems (especially the flood-themed ones). You can find out more about the event from Riverbend Books.

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The launch of Electricity for Beginners happened on Wednesday, June 22, as part of the Queensland Poetry Festival's program launch. A very low camera battery meant that I could only get a few shots, but there are some lovely images on the QPF website. It was freezing cold on the deck of Riverbend Books that night, but it was a fabulous night, too. The readers (all to appear at the QPF in August) were wonderful, the music was great, and the crowd was lively. Dinner at the Mexican restaurant next door afterwards was also pretty fabulous. All in all, it was one of the best nights I've ever had!

 

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Today is launch day for the program for the Queensland Poetry Festival, and for my book, Electricity for Beginners. I'm looking forward to the launch(es), and also to catching up with a lot of friends. Some friends, unfortunately, are stranded elsewhere due to the volcanic ash cloud that is pestering our skies. I hope the skies are clear and the flights are numerous today.

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  I can't believe it. My poetry collection, Electricity for Beginners, will actually be available next week. In fact, it'll be ready just in time for my reading at Riverbend Books on Wednesday, June 22. (That reading is for the launch of the program for the Queensland Poetry Festival, and you can find out more and book tickets here.) More on the reading soon, but for now: Look! It's my book!

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I have a poem in the Australian Literary Review today, in the Australian newspaper. The poem is called 'The City Gauge', and it's based in part on my experiences in the Queensland floods of January 2011. The city gauge is one of the points where the height of the Brisbane River is officially measured, and I heard a lot of talk in the news about the gauge in the day before the flood hit my house. Here are some remarkable before-and-after images from the ABC of how the floods affected the region. At the same time, Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley region were hit by particularly violent flooding. There's information on donating to the Lockyer Valley Relief Fund at the website of the Lockyer Valley Regional Council.

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Along with Carmen Leigh Keates, I was a featured reader at SpeedPoets on Sunday afternoon. SpeedPoets is a monthly open-mic gathering that has been running in Brisbane for ten years now. Organised by local poet, publisher, and organisational dynamo Graham Nunn, SpeedPoets takes place on the first Sunday of the month, and it's just moved to Brew, a newish cafe/bar in the inner city. At each event, the open-mic poets each read one poem, sometimes backed by musician Sheish Money. Each month there are also performances by a featured poet (or two) and a musician. The venue was great, and the afternoon was lively, fun, and thoroughly enjoyable. Best of all was being around so many people who were passionate about poetry (and music). It's a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and I definitely plan to go along again.

 

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Along with the lovely Carmen Keates, I will be reading a few poems at SpeedPoets on Sunday, May 1. The event includes music from Charity Carleton, and takes place at Brew, Lower Burnett Lane, Brisbane City, from 2-5pm.

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