My Poem, ‘His Coriander’

His Coriander:

Flourishing above the planter box, it’s ready for harvesting.

I snip the curling tendrils with their skinny stalks,

hearing the clean snap of stem from dense green foliage.

At the end of a rain-filled night, the earth smells heady.

He took his suitcase, his cello, and his sheet music.

He left the fragrant coriander seeds,

said, Tending a relationship is like keeping a plant alive.

So I’ll take this herb

inside to the kitchen and chop it.

I’ll disperse it piece by piece with my hands,

the longed-for exotic spice of citrus and curry.

I’ll be forever grateful for escape,

from my infatuation

with coriander.

Copyright Libby Sommer 2022

‘His Coriander’ was first published in Quadrant Magazine September 2020

Australian Poetry Publishers

Poetry Sydney is an independent literary organisation committed to a presence for poetry in our culture. On their website they have the following information re poetry publication:

The Australian Poetry Publishers directory is a portal for poets to have their poems published, to encourage Australian poetry to be purchased and to support Australian Poetry in enabling poets to have the opportunity to be published. Publishers on this list are those who publish poetry within Australia.

Black Inc (no unsolicited submissions currently) www.blackincbooks.com.au

*Black Pepper (no unsolicited submissions currently) http://blackpepperpublishing.com/

*Brandl & Schlesinger (no unsolicited submissions currently) https://www.brandl.com.au/

*Busybird (only with self-published authors) https://www.busybird.com.au/

Collective Effort Press Facebook (no unsolicited submissions currently)

*Cordite Books (no unsolicited unsolicited submissions currently) https://corditebooks.org.au/

Dangerously Poetic   (no unsolicited submissions currently) Byron based. dangerouslypoetic.com

Flying Islands (no unsolicited submissions currently) Website coming soon.

Fremantle Press WA
(open for unsolicited manuscripts from new and emerging Western Australian poets) Please note that while they are open to considering work from established writers, their focus at this time is on the work of new and emerging poets.  https://www.fremantlepress.com.au/  

Friendly Street (open for submissions from members and residents of South Australia) friendlystreetpoets.org.au

Ginninderra Press (open for unsolicited submissions) www.ginninderrapress.com.au/

Giramondo Publishing  (open for unsolicited during specified periods) https://giramondopublishing.com

*Gloria SMH  (no unsolicited submissions currently) http://gloriasmh.com/

*Grand Parade Poets (no unsolicited submissions currently) http://grandparadepoets.com/

*Hunter Publishers (no unsolicited submissions currently) hunterpublishers.com.au  

Interactive Publications (open for unsolicited submissions)Valuable contributor to Australian poetry, but check terms advised. Reading fee. http://www.ipoz.biz/interactive-press/

Light Trap Press (no unsolicited submissions currently, but check for open submissions in September) http://www.light-trap.net/

Lightning Source  not a publisher, printing and distribution for self-publish. www.ingramspark.com

*Magabala Books (an Indigenous publishing house. Publishing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander poets – open unsolicited submissions) https://www.magabala.com

Melbourne Poets Union (MPU) Chapbooks (competition based selection for chapbooks) Several open periods during year. https://www.melbournepoetsunion.com

*Pitt Street Poetry (no unsolicited submissions currently) https://pittstreetpoetry.com/

*Press Press (open for unsolicited submissions for chapbooks) http://www.presspress.com.au/

*Publicious (not a publisher, but operates as a printing service for self-publishing) http://www.publicious.com.au/

*Puncher & Wattmann (no unsolicited submissions currently) puncherandwattmann.com

Recent Work Press (open for unsolicited submissions in June) https://recentworkpress.com/

Rochford Press (no unsolicited submissions currently)  https://rochfordstreetreview.com/

Spinifex (a feminist publisher, open for unsolicited submissions) https://spinifexpress.com.au

*Studio Christians writing (open for unsolicited submissions) email: studio00@bigpond.net.au 

*Sunline Press (no unsolicited submissions currently) Western Australia based. http://sunlinepress.com.au/

University Queensland Press (UQP) (no unsolicited submissions) Only accepting poets with an agent or solicited submissions. https://www.uqp.uq.edu.au/

Upswell Publishing (open to unsolicited submissions in a quarterly pitch) http://upswellpublishing.com/home/about

Vagabond Press (no unsolicited submissions currently) https://vagabondpress.net/

Wakefield Press (no unsolicited submissions currently) South Australian based. https://www.wakefieldpress.com.au/

Walleah Press (no unsolicited submissions currently) Mostly Tasmanian. https://walleahpress.com.au/

Wild Weeds Press (not a publisher, but operates as a printing service for self-publishing)Western Australia based. https://www.wildweedspress.org/

This Australian Publishers directory was compiled by Les Wicks for Poetry Sydney, December 2021. All reasonable efforts were taken to ensure information is accurate.  We welcome information that assists in maintaining the directory. We urge you to look at the array of links, and encourage you to buy some great Australian poetry.  Inquiries should be addressed to the publisher.

Listings marked with * did not respond to our queries and those publishers marked had information gleaned from their website.

My Poem ‘The Cellist’

Have a read of my prose poem, ‘The Cellist’ first published in Quadrant September 2020.

Hope you enjoy it.

The Cellist‘:

I was grudgingly ancient. Not older, wiser and ancient. But easily recognisable as ancient. Skin was the culprit – the human body’s largest organ. I had his mobile number and he had mine, the cellist from the seniors’ dating site. I examined its configuration. Was there a pattern I needed to decode? I hated initiating, but he needed reassurance. It might take him forever to ring. Composing a text, my palms sweated. My heart thumped. Was he okay with texting? I hated my impatience. I hated my unexpected fragility. I sent the text. Yesterday’s meet-up was fun. I’d like to go for a ride on your motorbike sometime, although the helmet will squash my hair.

Then I worried I’d gone too far. My legs wrapped around him on a bike? I sounded like a whore. A desperado. A woman too long without a man. His reply was immediate. Had he been holding the phone in his hand? We can start with a short ride around the block. I’ve got a large helmet. Everyone gets hat hair.

I don’t want you to go on his motorbike, my daughter warned. I’ll go for a ride on his bike, my granddaughter offered. What sort of boat’s he got? A tinnie or a sail boat? asked my grandson. I googled: ‘what to expect when riding pillion’. Hang on. Brace for braking and acceleration by holding on to the rider’s waist. Bikes must lean to corner. Relax. Tyres provide plenty of grip.

We had dinner, exchanged silly jokes, leaned towards each other, went back to my place – and had incredible sex. The sensitivity of a stringed instrumentalist was really something else. If I knew how, I would have burst into song.

Copyright 2020 Libby Sommer

Things Raymond Carver Said About Short Form Writing

‘My attention span had gone out on me; I no longer had the patience to try to write novels. … I know it has much to do now with why I write poems and short stories. Get in, get out. Don’t linger. Go on.’

‘Every great or even every very good writer makes the world over according to his own specifications.’

‘It is his world and no other. This is one of the things that distinguishes one writer from another. Not talent.’

‘Isak Dinesan said that she wrote a little every day, without hope and without despair.’

‘”Fundamental accuracy of statement is the ONE sole morality of writing,” Ezra Pound.’

‘It is possible to write a line of seemingly innocuous dialogue and have it send a chill along the reader’s spine – the source of artistic delight, as Nabokov would have it. That’s the kind of writing that most interests me.’

‘That’s all we have, finally, the words, and they had better be the right ones, with the punctuation in the right places so that they can best say what they are meant to say.’

‘I like it when there is some feeling of threat or sense of menace in short stories.’

‘I made the story just as I’d make a poem; one line and then the next, and the next.’

‘V.S. Pritchett’s definition of a short story is “something glimpsed from the corner of the eye, in passing.” Notice the “glimpse” part of this. First the glimpse.’

‘The short story writer’s task is to invest the glimpse with all that is in his power. He’ll bring his intelligence and literary skill to bear (his talent), his sense of proportion and sense of the fitness of things – like no one else sees them. And this is done through the use of clear and specific language, language used so as to bring to life the details that will light up the story for the reader. For the details to be concrete and convey meaning, the language must be accurate and precisely given. The words can be so precise they may even sound flat, but they can still carry, if used right, they can hit all the notes.’

Raymond Carver, Fires, Vintage 1989

So who is Raymond Carver?

Raymond Carver, in full Raymond Clevie Carver, (born May 25, 1938, Clatskanie, Oregon, U.S.—died August 2, 1988, Port Angeles, Washington), American short-story writer and poet whose realistic writings about the working poor mirrored his own life. – Encyclopedia Britannica

My Poem ‘My Friend Is Swiping & Scrolling’

My poem ‘My Friend Is Swiping & Scrolling’ is published in this month’s Quadrant Magazine, July-August 2022. I wrote the poem during the first year of the pandemic. Have a read. Hope you like it.

My Friend Is Swiping & Scrolling:

My friend in the dark hour before dawn. My friend with the ragged stomach who had a bad night. In a different hemisphere he is turning on the bedside light, rolling out of bed, pouring a cap of antacid at the kitchen bench. My friend who hasn’t left his neighbourhood all year. My friend in London pining for how things used to be, for the Eurostar crossings to speak German and Spanish.  

My friend scrolling through Facebook to see the faces of his family. My friend living alone who aches with aloneness. My friend the glass-half-full-kind-of-guy listening out for the early morning train thinking, we’ll get through this, in time. My friend who sits through forty Zoom meetings every five days. A rush of nostalgic reflections but is everything nostalgia? We’re all in this together.

The extroverted friend and the introverted one scrolling & swiping at home, the teenage friend whose father is hospitalised for a third time, my friend in China who sends me a red envelope, my friend in France dunking a croissant as she swipes left in greyish gloom, my friend in kurta pajamas beating a tabla drum, my friend in activewear driven to over-exercise, my friend who is addicted to social media like I am.

My friend in Israel  my stressed-out Barista friend behind a coffee machine  my friend with only one kidney  my friend in palliative care under a sign I do not want visitors  my young friend who was warned at school about swiping & scrolling  my friend next door, who wonders if we are complaisant already  my friend who is feeling lethargic  my friend who hopes everyone will go back to work soon  my friend who tells me she has a problem wearing a mask  my friend who pretends not to see me on the street, even she must be on Zoom with others by now, so I let her go.

Scrolling will distract me from uncomfortable emotions as the cafes near me say takeaway only and the stores where I used to window-shop have empty frontages with To Lease signs and the famous writer I wish I’d had the courage to speak to when I had the chance, is diagnosed with dementia in another country, I snatch at memories of post cards sent back and forth. So who else should I pick up the phone and dial and say, Are you okay? Who else might I never see again?

All of us scrolling & swiping in the mornings and the afternoons and in the evenings near the hotel with the old TOOTH’S SHEAF STOUT Keeps you fit! poster telling us a tantalising beer with a dry finish and a medium body.

Copyright 2022 Libby Sommer

The Writing Process

At a literary event I heard someone say, “The thing to do is put the idea in your subconscious.  Your brain will do the work.”

It takes time for our experience to make its way through our consciousness.  For example, it is hard to write about a journey while you are still in the midst of the adventure.  We have no distance from what is happening to us.  The only things we seem to be able to say are “having a great time”, “the weather is good”, “wish you were here”.  It is also hard to write about a place we just moved to, we haven’t absorbed it yet.  We don’t really know where we are, even if we can walk to the train station without losing our way.  We haven’t experienced three scorching summers in this country or seen the dolphins migrating south along the  coast in the winter.

“Maybe away from Paris I could write about Paris as in Paris I could write about Michigan.  I did not know it was too early for that because I did not know Paris well enough.” – Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast  (New York:  Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1964).

So we take in experience, but we need to let things make their way through our consciousness for a while and be absorbed by our whole selves.  We are bower birds, collecting experience, and from the thrown away apple skins, outer lettuce layers, tea leaves, and chicken bones of our minds come our ideas for stories and poems and songs.  But this does not come any time soon.  It takes a very long time (three to ten years in the case of literary fiction).  We need to keep picking through those scraps until some of the thoughts together form a pattern or can be organised around a central theme, something  we can shape into a narrative.  We mine our hidden thoughts for ideas.  But the ideas need time to percolate:  to slowly filter through.

Rumi, the thirteenth-century Sufi poet, summed up what could be the creative process when he wrote “The Guest House”:

This being human is a guest house.

Each morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing and invite

them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

Jalaluddin Rumi, in The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks, 1999

Our work is to keep rummaging through the rubbish bins of our minds, exercising the writing muscle, in readiness to answer that knock at the door when it comes.

As the author Vivian Gornick said, “The writers life is the pits.  You live alone and you work alone, every day I have to recreate myself.”  She paused and laughed.  “But when the work is going well there is nothing that compares.”

What about you? Are you ready to answer the knock at the door?  

For Ukraine: by Women of the World

Dr Diann Rogers Healey, founder of the Australian Centre for Leadership for Women called for and brought together a collection of poetry and prose ‘For Ukraine: by Women of the World’.

35 writers from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, United States, and the United Kingdom have written in solidarity with those impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

I’m honoured that my poem ‘Twisted Tea’ has been included in this important collection. Professor Shirley Randell AO, wrote the Foreword. She mentions a few pieces that stood out for her including ‘Twisted Tea’.

All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to United Nations Women Australia for assistance in Ukraine. The book is available on Amazon and other online outlets. Please read and review.

My Poem ‘Hostilities’

My poem ‘Hostilities’ is published in this month’s Quadrant magazine, available in newsagents, good book stores and in libraries. Big thank you to Literary Editor, Barry Spurr.

Hostilities:

I worry about the ones

who disbelieve in science,

the ones on social media

with no qualifications

but a good command

of gobbledygook,

and the one who said

she’d had enough of wimps like me.

Scientists observe and calculate,

study the risks,

wave us across

as we wait by the side of the road,

even though the science of pandemics

is incomplete.

It takes a lot of guts sometimes

with those who are close to us.

Relatives, old school friends, intimates …

Anti-vaxxers still find arguments

to fire at us. I think of Aristotle’s warning:

there is only one way

to avoid criticism –

do nothing, say nothing,

and be nothing.

Copyright 2022 Libby Sommer

Release of ‘The Cellist, a Bellydancer & Other Distractions’

45 poems written over a 20 year period, here at last. THE CELLIST, A BELLYDANCER & OTHER DISTRACTIONS is officially released. My first poetry collection is available to order in bookstores and online.

Barry Spurr, Literary Editor, Quadrant writes on the back cover:

“Libby Sommer has the true poet’s eye for the deeper meaning that can abide beneath the ordinariness and small details of our daily lives and experiences. And she expresses her insights with the genuine poet’s careful and precise attention to placing the right word in the right place.”

Barry Spurr, Literary Editor, Quadrant

Big thank you again to Stephen Matthews OAM, Ginninderra Press. And much gratitude to everyone who has offered me support, encouragement and kindness over the years.

My Poem ‘Holding On’

Submissions to the fifth issue of Australian literary journal Burrow are open until July 20.

I’m very happy to say my poem ‘Holding On’ was accepted for the upcoming September edition.

The editors, Rhiannon Jillian Hall and Phillip Hall wrote:

“We are delighted to be able to publish ‘Holding On’. This is such a richly evocative and appreciative poem of place, & emotional/spatial fragility. We love it.”

I encourage my fellow poets to check out this fabulous journal. The provocation for the September issue of Burrow, Old Water Rat Publishing is : What does mental health (good or otherwise) look like through the prism of place?