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A List

1. The new Meanjin is out (#72) and it includes an essay I wrote ‘On Quitting Poetry’ which is among the least comfortable things I’ve ever written (it’s also got the best list of references I’ve ever written):

Having escaped from the Last Supper without lasting stigmata, I sat in my hotel room and examined my soul, which ought to be a poet’s favourite pastime. There was clearly something missing in my relationship with poetry. I had not simply lost hold of it, as happens from time to time; I was disgusted with it. Surely I had once felt the required reverence, surely on some level I still did feel it, otherwise, why write at all?

Not for the first time, it occurred to me that poetry was just a sophisticated form of humiliation (on second thought, scratch sophisticated). I wondered why we expect poets to purge the raw feelings of their inner lives. What was it about the confessional mode into which we were being coralled that was so terrible? I sensed there was some deep masochism being demanded of me that I had not consented to. It was weird.

2. The new Overland journal is out with the winners of the 2013 Short Story prize and they are all superb (you can read them online, although you’ve obviously subscribed to the journal by now if you’re halfway smart). I wrote a judges’ report. Here’s an extract:

It takes confidence and skill to drop the reader right into the thick of things – and to haul them out again. A failure to pin down a story’s voice can unravel the whole. In addition, a voice that needs approval can turn the reader away. Confidence in one’s craft ultimately comes only with practice.

The winning stories have nerve. They avoid these pitfalls, and do something more: they surprise and delight, and they bring us into the places writers need to go. They take us past the stereotype, past our expectations, and into the blurry vagueness of life, with all its bewildering contradictions.

3. Volume 8 of the Review of Australian Fiction continues: last week there were excellent short stories from Tara June Winch and Mary Anne Butler, and the forthcoming issues have more brilliant contributions from Caroline Reid, Marie Munkara, Bruce Pascoe and Siv Parker. I’m very happy with it, and I hope you all subscribe;

4. I am not far away from finishing the next book, which will have taken me three years come January 1st, and is making me a) very tired b) very excited and c) regularly dream about cephalopods;

5. I’m running a workshop about voice at the SA Writers Centre Fiction Bootcamp tomorrow morning (it’s sold out);

6. I am fully aware that I neglect my blog (see 1-5);

7. I’m moving to Adelaide for a bit in 2014 because Adelaide is where it’s at;

8. If you are a person who does Christmas presents, please buy some good, independently published Australian books and literary journals for your loved ones. Thank you.

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