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local by Anna Couani

A review of “Local” By Anna Couani

Reviewed by Beatriz Copello

Source: Compulsive Reader www.compulsivereader.com/2022/03/12/a-review-of-local-by-anna-couani

Jon Anderson in Understanding Cultural Geography: Places and Traces, Routledge, 2015 said: “Places come by their meanings and identities as a result of the complex intersections of culture and context that occur within that specific location.” Local, a fascinating book of poetry by the well-known artist and poet Anna Couani is about place. Place in Couani’s poetry is about Sydney and the Inner City and she has the knowledge, the experiences and the connection to allow us to say that she has a ‘sense of place’.  That sense of place not only stems from the poet but also from her parents and grandparents’ experiences, memories and attachments.  The poem “Earliest Memories” is a clear example of subjective memories or using the cliché ‘walking in her ancestors’ shoes:

my earliest memories of Glebe
my parents’ memories
of first meeting at Sydney Uni
studying medicine
my father recruiting Mum for the Labor Club
bastion of progressive politics
a heady mix of ideology and romance
Mum lived with her sister in as rooming’ house
in Arundel Street
run by Miss Sherack, the hoarder 
of Depression era handkerchiefs, men’s underwear
and walks
common Glebe pastime
walk to the city, walk to Paddington
walks through the Uni especially
my own feet trading the same footpaths
30 years later
down all the way to the water

Anna Couani’s artwork illustrates local. Her life as an artist is also married to her poetry, evident in many of her poems. The joy of mixing with other inner-city writers and artists is also apparent in the poetry as is the fact that artists and poets are never too far from politics. The past of the inner city, how it was and how it is, is brought to light … nostalgia? … loss? … anger? is all made clear in the following excerpt from the poem titled “ibis sanctuary”:

the ibis sanctuary was there
before the new excavation started
and before that
there were ugly two-storey flats
and before that
there were workers’ cottages
before that it was an ibis sanctuary

Couani, in her entertaining narrative poetry, sees, reflects, describes, ponders and imagines. Vivid images, poignant lines, and a sense of balance moves the reader from place to place. The poet gives a voice to images. It impressed me how she is able to bring the personal into the poetry without sentimentality. The following poem titled “the flats in Leichhardt Street” illustrates this but also the strength and determination of the writer:

escaped from family trauma
dropped out of Uni, age 20
out of 4th year Architecture
a soft landing with my gentle partner
in hard places
finally found the flat with the dark blue lounge room
just near the old mansion
down in Leichhardt Street
that wound down to the water
turning off Glebe Point Road
exactly where the taxis do a U-turn
as I had done three years before
driving taxis out of the Red Deluxe depot
in Kings Cross

The last poems in the book are titled “ideas for novels” and go from 1 to 10. In these poems the reader enters moments, fragments of time, the land, life and culture. In local Couani gives a voice to images and place, she is an observer, a witness, the reader will be absorbed in her poetry. local is a ‘must read’!

About the reviewer Dr Beatriz Copello is a former member of NSW Writers Centre Management Committee, writes poetry, reviews, fiction and plays. The authors poetry books are: Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations At the Edge of a Dream, Under the Gums Long Shade, and Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish), fiction books are A Call to the Star and Forbidden Steps Under the Wisteria. Copello’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many feminist publications.  She has read her poetry at events organised by the Sydney Writers Festival, the NSW Writers Centre, the Multicultural Arts Alliance, Refugee Week Committee, Humboldt University (USA), Ubud (Bali) Writers Festival. 

Common or Garden Poets #13 – Angela Costi inviting Denise O’Hagan

The Apricot & The Lemon Tree

 

at the edge of the village

come to an oak much older than me

that’s where I’ll seek advice

      Kit Kelen 

 

tenant 1 planted the couple while tenant 2 and 3

nurtured their growth and here I stand, tenant 4

before their arthritic leaves & brittle branches

 

unlike the owl and the pussycat they are stuck

too close and deep rooted with a stubborn sense 

of belonging to a land they’ve failed to interpret 

 

once gardens were ballrooms of sweet & bitter

fruit throughout Melbourne’s Northern yards 

expecting Mediterranean weather to migrate  

 

now these replica orchards are starving for genteel

seasons, expecting to be washed with lukewarm 

hose each night, even when sky drizzles or sprays

 

with no strength to stretch their limbs, with no

plump, sun-kissed balls of juice for birds & jam

with no smell for dressed salads or fragrant tagine

 

they offer a time-warp of cravings & nostalgia

in the back yard, encircled by concrete and brick 

ignoring the bottlebrush with its bright red offers

 

 

by Angela Costi 

Common or Garden Poets #11 – Kit Kelen inviting Angela Costi

 

inviting Angela Costi

 

fragments revised from ‘the village is a garden’ at Mesana

Paphos District, Cyprus

 

                                                   and I have something to tell you

                                                   which not even I must hear

                                                                     – Yiannis Ritsos

 

1

such an honest morning

 

sun has washed white

what is that tiny bird swings through

under vines in a courtyard glimpse?

 

it’s an all-day rooster

proclaims from tin shade

 

tiny lizards

to whom I’ve had no formal introduction

are faster than

call their colour 

 

a breathless hill’s

good for the heart

 

I go a little way on

at the edge of the village

come to an oak much older than me

that’s where I’ll seek advice

 




 

2

the olive

 

abundance, peace and glory

 

what lives in the olive

is just this season

 

a certain flit of feather, fur

say opportunity

 

wide boll of gnarl

our ages blur

 

flutter adjustment

in the branches

 

what lives in the olive

a thirst set aside

light throws itself at us

 

the old ones

writhe themselves around

 

all cleft

and strong with standing

 

like a dare to wait

and taste the fruit

 

it’s bitter now

but you can have my patience

 

let the blade be with the branch

let the shape be minded

 

sing

and leaf

is song too

 

a hill lives in the olive gnarl

whole skies have gathered 

 

rain fell

 

let this bark be shot of sun

twig fall to winter fire of night

 

the tree so many lives

it’s accident and cause we’re here

 

a wrestle with itself

frozen yoga seems

 

because we can’t see time

tree’s made of

 

bend with the breeze

as often laden

 

think calmly as the tree

 

 





3

a picture of the stillness

 

a gnarl of stump

could be alive

points its all directions

 

saw my first snake today

dusty black yay long

 

add this to the list

of those on the way

 

flies to me gathered

as movement as sweat

 

do I deny them hope?

surely I will lie down to die?

  

a breeze lives in the shade

flutter and the tree takes off

 

I walk like a ghost through this knowledge

nobody knows I am here

 



 

4

rising to all occasions

 

pigeons explode from an ancient tree

this happens now and then

 

there are other days

over the skysill

 

other worlds

deep in the heart

Anna Couani

Anna Couani is a Sydney writer and visual artist who runs The Shop Gallery in Glebe. Her recent publications of poetry (7 books in all) are Thinking Process, Owl Press 2017 and Small Wonders, Flying Islands Press 2012. She co-produced The Harbour Breathes with photomonteur Peter Lyssiotis. She was involved in the small press with Magic Sam magazine and Sea Cruise Books with Ken Bolton, Red Spark (with Kit Kelen & Mark Roberts) and co-edited various anthologies – Island in the Sun 1 & 2, No Regrets, Hidden Hands and To End all Wars. She edited a chapbook for Cordite called Falling Angels.

She was in the No Regrets Women Writers Workshop for 12 years and was an officer of NSW Poets Union for 10 years, organising readings at New Partz in Newtown, The Performance Space and other venues. She spent her working life teaching art and ESL in secondary schools, mostly in Intensive English Centres where she produced booklets of student writing and visual art and conducted collaborative script writing for plays written and performed by her students.

She has shown her artwork in various group shows at The Shop Gallery with The Pine Street Printmakers.

Links: www.annacouani.com

Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications

Small Wonders

translations and ink drawings by Debby Sou Vai Keng

In National Library of Australia

Some time ago I was staring through a microscope at a sample of seawater from the Great Barrier Reef. Affixed to the slide, long thin active strands of streaming protoplasm explored this barren and flattened landscape, groping for detritus, microscopic signposts. This new landscape is foreign, less than a millimeter deep and blasted from beneath by a white light as hot as a drowned sun. Tracking the strands, I found their origin, an individual amoeba reaching out from inside an elaborately sculpted shell, hundreds of body-lengths away from the tips of these exploratory strands, called poetically pseudopodia or ‘false feet’. The maligned outsider scientist Sheldrake argues that ‘the sense of being stared at’ is real, and the extended mind behaves like pseudopodia. Not only does light enter our eyes or other senses, but the mind reaches out through them, touching that which is distant, drawing together those objects, people, landscapes, even memories it has explored, generating a vast synthesis, a view of the world that centers on a unique space-time address and connects web-like to all it has touched.

The poems in this book are like that. From the centre of a web of extended mind the poems reach out, like protoplasmic strands, across time and space, touching simultaneously the near and the far, Kochi in India, the arms stretched towards Turkey, between lovers-to-be who stare out at the same eye level from different Sydney buildings, protoplasmic strands delicately touching the past, the personal, familial, political, macroscopic or microscopic, probing the relationship between surfaces, the interior, the exterior, the individual and the collective, between whole cities and the minutia of urban landscapes, extending between cultures, lovers, philosophies, art movements.

Review – Virginia Shepherd Rochford Street Review rochfordstreetreview.com

Local

local concerns itself with the local environment of Glebe, an inner city suburb of Sydney and with other areas of the inner city. Some of the poems were written as part of 366 Poetry Project. It traces the author’s family history and connections to the inner city and also addresses issues of colonisation and the dispossession of indigenous people in Sydney. The book contains 13 artworks by the author.

Chan Lai Kuen 陳麗娟:亡星之城

Chan Lai Kuen (a.k.a. Dead Cat) was born in Hong Kong. She graduated from the Chinese University of Hong Kong with a degree in English, and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University (taken in Hong Kong) with a degree in Fine Art. Her book of poetry Were the Singing Cats (《有貓在歌唱》2010) was awarded Recommendation Prize of the 11th Hong Kong Biennial Awards for Chinese Literature. Prose collection Kyoto that Cannot be Reached (《不能抵達的京都》) was published in 2015. Bilingual poetry selection City of Dead Stars is published in 2014. Chan also creates works of visual art.

Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications

City of Dead Stars

Nathan Curnow

Nathan Curnow is an award-winning poet, spoken word performer and past editor of literary journal, Going Down Swinging. His books include The Ghost Poetry Project, RADAR, The Right Wrong Notes and The Apocalypse Awards. He has recently taught creative writing at Federation University, and toured Europe in 2018 with loop artist, Geoffrey Williams, performing in Poland and opening the Heidelberg Literature Festival in Germany. He lives in Ballarat and is the current judge of the annual Woorilla Poetry Prize.

Links: nathancurnow.weebly.com

Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications

The Right Wrong Notes

The Right Wrong Notes is a selection of poems from my previous collections: No Other Life But This, The Ghost Poetry Project, and RADAR. Also including some more recent pieces, the collection represents fifteen years of writing about family, fear and love, with Dan Disney describing the poems as ‘suffused with sensuality and sense-making but also, most importantly, generosity’.

It was launched in Ballarat by Robyn Annear, and in Melbourne by Alicia Sometimes.
Cover Shot by Michelle Dunn Photography

Nicholafei Chen 陳飛:物語獵人

In 2015 Nicholafei Chen was undertaking a Masters degree in creative writing at Macau University. He was also providing a range of translation services. Born and raised in Guizhou, Chen is a story hunter, a traveler, a graphic designer, a photographer and, most recently, a cultivator of succulent plants. This is all despite having been told by a fortune teller that he would be a diplomat. in 2015 Fei was a Resident Tutor at Henry Fok Pearl Jubilee Residential College in the University of Macau. (His biography will be updated as more information comes to light.)

Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications

A River Sings Tales of the Village

Cui Yuwei 葦歡:刺

Cui Yuwei, born in 1983, is a bilingual poet and translator based in China. In 2007, she completed an MA in English Literature in Wuhan University. She has published poems in Mascara Review and Cordite Poetry Review (AU). Her works of translation appear in Off-the-Coast (US), The Sons of Camus Writers International Journal (CA) and Ajar (Vietnam). Her Chinese poems are widely seen in various literary journals and collections in China. Currently, she works as an English lecturer in Beijing Normal University at Zhuhai in China.

Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications

Fish Bones

Matthew Cheng 鄭政恆:記憶之中

Matthew Cheng 鄭政恆 is a poet and editor and author of the poetry collection The First Book of Recollection, and co-author of Wait and See: The Collection of Six Hong Kong Young Writers, and the editor of An Anthology of Hong Kong Poetry of the 1950s, Hong Kong Short Stories 2004-2005, and Hong Kong Cinema Retrospective 2011, among others. The former Vice-Chair of the Hong Kong Film Critics Society, in 2013 he received the Hong Kong Arts Development Award for Best Artist (Arts Criticism).

biography source https://iwp.uiowa.edu/writers/cheng-ching-hang-matthew

Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications

Recollections

Translation: 宋子江 Chris Song, 客遠文 Kit Kelen, 樊星 Iris Fan Xing and others

Michael Crane

Michael Crane is an Australian poet, writer and compere of poetry events in Melbourne.

Born in Brisbane in 1961, Crane moved to Melbourne at age 18. He has been an active member of Melbourne’s poetry scene, performing in many open poetry readings from 1989 to 1991. In 1991, Crane organised the first Poetry Slam to be held in Australia and has organised and run more than 150 since.

Crane’s work has been published in literary journals and magazines, and he has self-published three chapbooks between 1991 and 1994, including The Book of Screams, An Almost Summer and Joan of Arc was a fire eater. Ten of Crane’s poems appeared in the collection Loose Kangaroos in 1998. Crane’s first collection of poetry, The Lightmaster, was published in 1999 by Phoebe Press. He released Not Mad Just Raving, a CD of spoken word with musical accompaniment. In 2003, Ninderry Press released A Dog Called Yesterday – Selected Poems and Prose. In 2007, Picaro Press published Crane’s chapbook of poetry entitled Poems from the 29th Floor. This was released at the 2007 Melbourne Writers Festival. Since 2001, Crane has written 200 micro stories called Postcards from the End of the World, many of which have appeared in the literary magazine Gangway. He has also written a yet-to-be-published detective novel.

Michael Crane is one of the most published writers in literary journals and newspapers since 1994 including poems in the Best Australian Poems 2011,2014 & 2015. He has been compared to legendary writer Charles Bukowski, established Poets, David Brooks and Geoff Page.

Links: Wikipedia – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Crane_(writer)

Flying Islands Pocket Poet Publications

Poems from the 29th Floor