Reading Poetry in Public and Being Astounded by Others



A little less than two weeks ago, I was invited to participate in a books launch at a bookshop in Newcastle for two books: Boey Kim Cheng’s (or ‘Kim Cheng Boey’s’, depending on where you want to situate the Chinese surname, before or after the personal name) latest volume of poetry, Clear Brightness, and an anthology of poems entitled Contemporary Asian Australian Poets, edited by Kim Cheng, Adam Aitken, and Michelle Cahill. It wasn’t an initial launching: Kim Cheng’s book had been launched in Singapore and Sydney before this, and the Asian Australian anthology had been launched at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. But because I hadn’t been able to attend the anthology launch (I had to teach class), the publisher and Kim Cheng kindly invited me to do a reading of the poems I’d written that were included in the anthology.

Contemporary Asian Australian PoetsI was very honoured and very nervous because I’d never read my poetry out loud in public before. It was a really wonderful experience though. I couldn’t have asked for a warmer, more friendly audience (several colleagues from the university were in attendance). But what really did astound me during the evening was the realization of how many amazing individuals had come together to make the event happen.

David Musgrave, founder of Puncher & Wattman, had organized the launch and, of course, arranged for the production of the actual books. Introducing both books with much grace and humour was Christopher Pollnitz, who recently edited a critical edition of DH Lawrence’s uncensored poems. Boey Kim Cheng (pictured below) read some poems from Clear Brightness. And Ivy Ireland and Murrie Harris opened up their beautiful and cozy new bookstore – The Press Book House – for an evening to contain it all. (Ivy’s also in the photo below, to the right.)

image I’ve been to several launches, many of them not particularly memorable. And I’m probably biased in favour of this one, because I got to participate in it and because so many people I knew were there. But I’d like to think that this was a particularly nice book launch. If I had to choose a word to describe it, I think ‘toasty’ is a very good one, and perhaps very suitable for any book launch, whether being shot out into the universe for the first, second, or third time. A toast to good books launched well. May they travel far and wide, or at least nestle someplace and make a home.

One Comment

  1. thepoetswife

    Glad you enjoyed yourself. I think bookstores, particularly used books ones, are perfect for “toasty” launches. I love your contributions to the anthology too! Hope there will be more!

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