Today my visitor is good friend Lorraine Marwood, who has just released her first collection of poetry with Walker Books. She has two verse novels with Walker Books too: Ratwhiskers and Me and Star Jumps. Star Jumps has been short-listed for a Prime Minister's Literature Award.
But to Lorraine's new book, A Ute Picnic. This is a collection of poems about farm life with all it's ups and downs. Like all of Lorraine's work, the language is simple, almost spare but very powerful. I make no secret that I'm a great fan of Lorraine's work and it's wonderful to see this collection published. I asked Lorraine a few questions...
This is your second book with Walker which portrays a rural life. Why do you think it's important that the non-rural readers experience the ups and downs of farm life?
I think rural life has been a neglected part of our social history- I remember when I first began submitting poems which indeed reflected the life I was enmeshed in – my new poetry publisher said try and write more city based poems- which I promptly did. However what I've particularly liked about Walker is their acceptance and eagerness for rural based poetry. I believe that non-rural residents need a view of the rural world that is not the advertising cliché of the 'wholesome country taste'.
Of all the poems in Ute Picnic, do you have a favourite poem? What is it? Why is it a favourite?
Ah, can I suggest two poems- firstly A one day moment- is perhaps typical of a glimpse of the quietness and the bonds between children and the farm and animals. The emotion is hinted at.
And the other poem “A Ute Picnic' which captures the exuberance of a family event in a typically rural way.
Ute Picnic is a work of fiction, but it draws on your memories and experiences on a dairy farm. How easy/difficult is it to create a fiction when the memories are so strong?
Ah, I'd like to tell you a secret- mainly when I write poetry it is truth- whether that be a truthful conveying of emotion or circumstances or sensory appeal. To me poetry is like a new way of diary keeping, so the emotions and epiphanies are kept simmering until I can write them up in a more permanent way. It seems to be a lot easier to enter again into those sensory pictures and leap into new territory- which is perhaps true of my prose writing more so.
I love the cover of A Ute Picnic. How difficult was it to find a cover that encapsulated the title poem? The collection?
The collection was really built around the title poem- 'A Ute picnic' and I didn't pick the cover- the
editors, the marketing team, the graphic design departments at Walker all take the initiative- my part was to chose between two slightly different coloured covers. But I'm amazed at the details- especially the width of sky in the cover photograph and the way the book's title is presented in a picnic rug- excellent.
How many poems does it take to make a collection? Was it important to theme the collection?
There's about 66 poems in the collection- it takes probably about 100 or more poems to whittle down to a strong and varied collection. There were many poems that didn't sit right, were too old in context of a children's collection or didn't make the grade standard-wise. There were many that needed re-writing. For example the tiny poem arranged in a concrete way- 'Oval teeth' was cut to just that one verse- often a second verse weakens or repeats the succinct point of the first- it takes another set of editorial eyes to see this.
Yes the theme was the all important unifying structure of this book- in fact my two previous children's collection did not have this and I believe it is a strength to be themed.
What's next for you?
I have quite a few projects that I am working on- more poetry, a novel, and the fantasy novel that has been reworked for many, many years.... and taking writing/poetry workshops- I love this, it's the empowering part of writing I can pass on..
And for those who can't wait, here are two of the wonderful poems in this collection.
Ants on a long haul
spread out in black crawl,
passing each other
ant scent smother.
The password given
legs quickly driven.
Cat snores flip up,
out into the warm croak of day.
Even though those cat’s eyes are tight lines of fur,
the snores are wide awake
with flashes of hayshed mice
puddles of cowshed milk
and little parachutes
as the snores chase up a tree
and find they’re trapped
and cat-scared of a downward trip.
Thanks Lorraine for visiting.