Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 1, 2018

Book launch: Interludes, edited by Janette Fernando and Maree Silver

Today I went to the launch of a poetry anthology called Interludes.  I was invited by poet and author Mairi Neal who readers know as an occasional guest reviewer of short stories on this blog.  In a competition open to poets from all over Australia, Mairi had two poems selected for inclusion in the book.

The book was to have been launched by much loved Melbourne poet Judith Rodriguez who passed away last week (see her obituary here) so her place was taken by Philton, another notable Melbourne poet whose work has been published in journals such as Overland and Quadrant, as well as overseas.  He has published a number of collections also published by Poetica Christi Press, and has been a judge of national poetry awards.  After his speech to launch the book there was beautiful music provided by Cathy Altmann and Angela Chandler, followed by an introduction to the poems by the editor Maree Silver, and then selected readings, punctuated about half way through by more lovely music.

Interludes is a beautifully presented book with the design, cover and layout by Cameron Semmens.   The selection and sequencing of the poems allows the themes to follow on naturally from one another, showcasing a variety of different forms but all of them reminders of things we shouldn’t ignore.

Browsing through the poems I found themes of old age and death.  ‘True North’ by Rosalyn Black, (the winner of the competition) features striking images from Kristallnacht:

After the exile
my grandfather wrote
poems stunted and sour
sifted by memory
ash, glass and bones.

‘Your Song’ by Gavin Austin is a meditation on grief:

It has been a year
since you were taken from me;
a year of having to live as one
is like unlearning my name
I am a foreigner in a strange land…
you are everywhere
but do not walk beside me.

Mairi Neil’s poem ‘A Branch of the Green Oak Tree’ speaks of the dislocation when a loved one’s ashes are scattered far from the land of birth and the graveyard of ancestors:

Someone may pause in the future
and celebrate the discovery
of “George died Australia 2005”.

I hear his voice still
fill a pothole in James Road with my ashes
but what meaning has life

if no record of existence?
The etched headstone a remnant
of another uprooted Gael.

‘Between Homes’ by Kerry Harte is accompanied by a triptych of B&W photos of dynamic older women:

I’m reading the shiny brochure
for the nursing home and I want to believe
in the new lease on life they are selling.

Even my walking frame moves in solar flares
of anticipation today, sparked by promises of
freedom.  I can feel the shackles of a lifetime

fall away.  It’s a gentle falling: an airborne
tissue kind of falling, not the heavy thud
of disappointment I’ve grown accustomed to.

I could really relate to the shock of ‘Heartbeat’ by David Campbell (though my medication has matters under control now, thank goodness!)

Atrial fibrillation is a medical term
that slips from the tongue
of avuncular specialists.  Arrhythmia:
a bad                 connection
causing                   distortion
of electrical impulses
that control the beat — beat — beat of a muscle
the size of my fist.

You cannot know          cannot possibly know
that loss of rhythm.  The                   shock
short-circuits the dynamo powering blood
through veins and arteries.             The heart
hammers its message                   suddenly
berserk                                       demented
threatening to escape
its bone-brittle cage.

There is a poem expressing respect for Indigenous lore and law in ‘Angkerle Arrenge (Standley Chasm) by Greg Burns, and there are poems featuring moments of reflection by the sea, the suburbs, the bush and the city.  And there are stunning metaphors that speak to the quality of this collection.  There is

  • the gunmetal grey of a failing marriage in ‘Custodial Visits’ by Richenda Rudman;
  • the pale pigeon grey of the sky in ‘Sunday Evening by Shane McCauley;
  • Princes Bridge smarting with tourists in ‘My Other Melbourne Morning’ by Leigh Hay;
  • the street art of shopping trolleys in ‘(The Interlude of) A Morning Walk in Suburbia’ by Ian Keast; and (my favourite because my library overlooks lush jasmine in Spring)
  • one of those jasmine evenings/ when there’s just flywire/ between you and outside in ‘Melbourne September 2017’ by Wendy Fleming.

It’s hard to choose just a few, but I really liked:

  • ‘Take a moment’ by Janine Johnson, who begins with She loosens the shackles of the clock/allows herself moments…
  • ‘Betwixt’, a playful poem by Bill Rush, that explores a word uneasy in a twenty-first century poem
  • ‘A Pleasantly Plump Dove’ by Catherine Lewis, that contrasts the dove so different from the wattle birds!/Diving/sleek and confident 
  • ‘Crossroads’ by Xiaoli Yang, beset by many voices in this world/ entice me/ to touch/ grab/ hold/ and possess
  • ‘Paths to Mystery’ by Cameron Semmens, so apt after reading Sebastian Smee’s essay just yesterday: Turn off your phone/ silence/ is the screen/ of your subconscious.

And this one, ‘Good Morning’ by Jane McMillan ( I wish I could quote it all):

in the half-life of waking
lie silent and still
willing the dream to return
eyes shut tight against
dawn shapes that creep
between curtains, stealthy
ready to snatch loose
tendrils of sleep

resist their advance
pull the quilt higher
grasp at floating
fragments of night…

Oh yes, that’s me!

Editors: Janette Fernando and Maree Silver
Title: Interludes
Publisher: Poetica Christi Press, 2018, 137 pages
ISBN: 9780994164094
Source: personal library, purchased at the launch, $20.00

Available from Poetica Christi Press.  The book can be ordered from the website. (Or you could use the order form from the bottom of the launch invitation.


  1. I’m intrigued by “A Morning walk in Suburbia”! Will have to check this out


  2. Great review for someone who doesn’t ‘do poetry’! Thank you for being supportive as always Lisa – it was great to catch up:)


    • LOL Mairi you of all people know that I can’t tell a villanelle from limerick…


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