In the first two months of the challenge for 2015, we are playing favourites. We have provided the stage and you have told us the program for this vaudeville variety show and who should strut and tread the boards to high acclaim. I am going to have to dust off my top hat – oh well, any excuse to wear coat and tails.

And perhaps favourites are just as well as we ease into 2015 and of course into your ticketed seats and see what our writers have to offer us. Turn off your phones and please note that the ushers are off limits. The poets are first on the stage with three reviews of  the late great Dorothy Porter‘s work, her lyrics clearly captivating most of you.

Brona’s Books’ review of her poetry in The Bee Hut has this to say: “Reading Porter’s poems is a very sensual, earthy and heart-wrenching experience.” And she was also pleasantly surprised by The Monkey Mask:

The Monkey’s Mask is part crime thriller (Jill is an ex-cop turned private eye), part sexy romp (Jill is a lonely lesbian), part romance (Jill falls in love), part poetry appreciation 101 (Jill’s case is a murdered poetry student).

Jill’s voice is ironic, brash and vulnerable “I’ve got no head for heights/but plenty of stomach/for trouble”.

There are times Jill sounds like a poetic Philip Marlowe!

And just like Marlowe’s cases you feel the tension rise. You can see the mystery unfold until you want to cry out “look out! behind you!”

Irma Gold as editor now has a mixed bag of offerings, short fiction and poetry according to the two of you who submitted her anthology Pulse: First 2014 to be on tonight’s lineup. That’s the anthology First, the 2014 edition of which is termed Pulse. Yes it confuses everyone. Especially Whispering Gums who found herself very impressed indeed:

Nine, if I’ve counted correctly, of the works are poems. I laughed at Cameron Steer’s “Nuts”, and smiled at the wry but wistful “Love song” in which an uncertain Katherine McKerrow writes to her potential lover, as yet unknown:

I’m not sure you should
look for me.
Try someone made with more
reality, brave enough to sing with the world

We have Anita Heiss with I’m Not Racist But… waiting in the wings. The Subversive Reader had this to say:

This was a quick read – as poetry can be – but not a simple read. Although I’m personally more aware of the issues Heiss raises now in 2015, there were subtleties and thoughts discussed and questioned which made me think and consider. She doesn’t write the poems to make people feel comfortable, or to pat themselves on the backs for minor gestures. Instead she challenges us to do better, to listen better, to allow people to tell their own stories.

All in all, we have 11 reviews but 10 poets taking their bows now before the interlude in this revue (I had to work the pun in there, ok, I only just thought of it) including: Joanne Burns, Emma Cameron, Eileen Chong (another favourite with Peony), Manisha Jolie Amin and Rebecca Jessen, Alison Lester and Judith Wright.

And after the interlude we find that, surprise, surprise, we have Maxine Beneba Clarke on stage with her work Foreign Soil, delivering it as usual in that wonderfully talented way of hers as Jo Tamar can attest:

There is no clear theme, but many characters either have a desire to be go and explore the wider world or else some feeling of being an expatriate.

Clarke is not afraid of exploring the issues that these feelings bring up: clashes of culture, racism, classism, the problems that poverty and other lack of privilege give rise to. Her characters are affected by war and violence; they fall in (and out of) love; they express their anger with their social situation; they have chance encounters with strangers that give them a new perspective. Each story is a window into a larger world, leaving you to imagine what the characters do next – which is precisely what I love about short stories.

Whetting our appetites for more, we now have Ceridwen Dovey‘s Only The Animals, an experiment in personification if ever there was one. Brona’s Books finds it to be an incredible idea:

Each animal was connected to a human writer at a time of conflict. I had enough literary knowledge to recognise & enjoy most of the references, allusions & homages. But I’m convinced you could enjoy these stories at any level.

My personal favourites? The Jack Kerouac style mussel story was hilarious, Colette’s cat was seductive, Tolstoy’s tortoise & the inspiring twin sister elephants will be revisited for the pure pleasure of it all.

In a weird twist we have Anna Funder‘s work Everything Precious commissioned by the pearling company Paspaley. If you ever wanted to get into Anna Funder‘s work this is a good entree as the work is available for free. Whispering Gums tries to make head or tail of this new model of getting paid to write:

It’s interesting to look at this story in terms of the campaign because I’m presuming that although Funder had “total creative freedom” there must have been a brief – one that at the very least identified a target market, oops audience, for the story. This audience would, I’m sure, identify pretty easily with the character and set up, with the restlessness attended by guilt that she should be so restless. The brief must surely have identified a tone too. You wouldn’t sell pearls with a grim story – or did they assume Funder would have the nous to make the story appropriately positive? Regardless, the story would clearly suit what I assume was Paspaley’s target market – upwardly mobile or already there professional thirty-to-forty-something women who have the disposable income but who may see pearls as the province of their Baby Boomer mothers.

Mark Webb next finds himself in a quandary as he tries to pick out his favourite from a quintet delivered by Rosaleen Love: Secret Lives of Books:

I’m hard pressed to pick a favourite, but if forced to I’d probably lean towards The Kairos Moment. The sheer fun of the describing the attempts to capture a moment of musical departure was hilarious. In fact, hilarious is a word I’d use often in a longer review of this work. There are some serious themes explored in this book – feminism, relationships, colonial ambitions etc. But it is delivered with such a strong thread of humour that I spent the entire read being delighted by various turns of phrase, and only really considered the implications of the stories once I’d finished.

There are 20 reviews in all for short fiction of 19 works by 23 authors which isn’t a bad showing at all for two months of reading.

But speaking of showing, this is a tiny preview only. Other authors in the lineup tonight include: Liz Gryzb, Lisa Hannett, Angela Slatter, Alisa Krasnostein, Julia Rios, P.D. Martin, Marie Munkara, Kerrie Paterson, Anita Roy with Payal Dhar and Kirsty Murray, Jenny Schwartz, Kylie Scott, Sofija Stefanovic, Julie Twohig, Ellen Van Neerven, Tara June Winch and Charlotte Wood.

This here, this performance, this stage show of entertainment, it is yours to put on. We give you the stage here and ask you to take a twirl at directing. But it is your choice of performers – the more you read, the more you will love something enough to review it, to submit it to become part of the lineup, the more your favourites get to strut onstage for more than the standard fifteen minutes of fame.

If they can write, we can read. And put our bums on the seats.

So as 2015 continues, please continue to read and, if you can, to review. And then to share them with us.

The show must go on. 🙂

About me: Marisa Wikramanayake is a freelance journalist, writer and editor. She published her first book at 17, has lived on three different continents, been in ground zero of a bomb blast twice and is currently hibernating in Perth, Australia. She’s also been freaked out by the Scientologists, helped run a national publishing conference for the Society of Editors (WA) and currently sits on the WA Media Alliance committee. She is dangerous when bored, having terrorised educational institutions to finish an Honours thesis on Archaeology and a Masters thesis on Neuroscience and Science Communication. She penned book reviews for The West and science news and now writes and edits novels and dreams of fun cross platform media projects in the spare time that’s left over after painting, dancing, gaming and mentoring. She contributes her two cents as non-fiction editor at Australian Women Writers and lends her geek goddess expertise to the Guys Read Gals project. Feel free to badger her at her blog at, on Facebook or tweet at her at @mwikramanayake