Blabbing about three topics based on READING LOOKING THINKING. This time a poetry collection, real live butterflies and overrating books. One post in three parts, a neat idea started by blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley of Book Jotter. Jump in! 😃 GBW.
BRUCE DAWE – POET
READING: The dust-jacket image of a wooden paling fence on Bruce Dawe’s outstanding 1969 poetry collection ‘Beyond the Subdivisions’ will be familiar to anyone who lived in Australia in the middle decades of the 20th century. Timber mills must have worked overtime because everyone had a six-foot fence enclosing three sides of their quarter acre suburban block of land. A subdivision was formed by building identical weatherboard or brick veneer homes. Now called a housing estate or residential development but probably just as uniform.
Cravensville by Bruce Dawe
‘Run-of-the-mill’, you well might call this town
—A place where many go, but few remain,
Where you’d be mad to want to settle down,
Off the main road, too far from bus or train,
Neither backblocks enough to suit the likes
Of most of us, nor moderately supplied
With urban comforts, good for mystery hikes,
But not the place to take the happy bride.
Population : 750, the guide-books say . . .
After a week or two the hills close in,
And what you came to find here moves away
(If it was ever here . . .)
‘So what’s your sin?’
The barman says, with a wink, and the blowfly drone
Of justification starts, for him alone.
This slim grey poetry book with orange lining was purchased for one dollar at UQ Alumni Book Fair 2019. The original 1969 price sticker on the front reads $1.95 which is confirmed on the inside flyleaf. In fifty years it had never been opened.
Back to the paling fence—as a child, I remember thinking the fence was insurmountable. Tall and ominous, it forbade me from seeing what was on the other side. As I grew older, I tried to climb the cross struts (usually only on one side of the fence) and couldn’t get a toe-hold. Splinters searing through my fingers, I fell back to ground. However, this didn’t stop me. Growing taller and bolder, one day I wrenched myself up and peeked over the top of the fence to see what our elderly nextdoor neighbour’s backyard looked like. Pretty ordinary as I recall. By this time, her children had moved away, the pets had passed away and I was way more interested in pop singers.
What has this got to do with Bruce Dawe, Australian poet extraordinaire? Nothing really, except I love his gritty poetry about what goes on beyond those wooden fences. Such insight, such lyrical, satirical prose. His words may appear nostalgic, yet not, because human nature never really changes. GBW.
BRIBIE ISLAND BUTTERFLY HOUSE
LOOKING: The Bribie Island Butterfly House, north of Brisbane, is a community organisation run by volunteers. It is an incredibly tranquil experience to walk into a huge enclosure filled with beautiful flowers and thousands of butterflies. There is not a sound. Around a corner are small bubblers yet nothing detracts from the calm, delicate atmosphere. I was lucky to visit on a sunny day because apparently this makes the butterflies more active—but as my photographs below will demonstrate, it was hard to get a still image.
Six blurry shots of a Lesser Wanderer butterfly, fluttering its wings so fast and furious I gave up trying to focus. It was enjoying the nectar from the daisy-like flower and nothing was going to distract it. I thought perhaps it would stop for a quick rest but it didn’t. That flower must have been delicious!
As I was reading the information brochure, a Swamp Tiger butterfly landed on it. They like light, bright colours and often landed on the visitors sunhats. The spotted Monarch butterfly on the right was newly hatched and getting its bearings.
The next photo I took was of two butterflies mating . . . sorry, folks, but this post is only a trailer. I have heaps more to tell you so please visit my full report with photos on Bribie Island Butterfly House Visit. GBW.
Dangers Of Hyping Books
Discussion: To Read Or Not To Read Reviews
The Most Nonsensical Terms Used In Book Blurbs
THINKING: First, I would like to thank Madame Writer and Thoughts Stained With Ink and Peter Derk of LitReactor for voicing several bookish Thoughts on subjects which I have mused over but never put into Words. They raised some valid questions, none I can satisfactorily answer but I would like to respond—
We all know book publicity takes many forms. It’s a big leap from when William Shakespeare saw his posters printed off a hand-blocked press. Currently we have literary journals, author talks, Facebook, dedicated websites, bloggers, online bookshops, the list goes on, all reviewing with a positive spin. More on that further down.
I follow trusted book reviewers (you know who you are!) and receive publishers e-newsletters. I don’t read backcover book blurb unless my mind is filled with a healthy dose of scepticism. I don’t read a book review unless it’s from my independent sources or I am already halfway through the story. Likewise I won’t read book hype, particularly on social media, until I’ve formed my own opinion. When I finish a book, I read blurb, reviews and hype just to see if I agree with everyone. Not always, but that’s the beauty of personal opinion.
Then there’s snappily worded book bolstering, raking through the coals of already formed opinions, to generate a spark in book sales and sway the undecided reader. I don’t review most of the books I read but after reading I make a mental note of the merits of each one. And the Choose-Your-Own process works for me. I’ve read some great books which I originally knew nothing about. Stubborn, yes, belief in book hype, no.
Which brings me to the reviewers, particularly those who receive an ARC in return for an honest review. Are their reviews strictly honest? Do they leave out the bits they don’t like? Fudge the wording? I’ve yet to read a scathing review for a publisher’s complimentary copy. Someone out there must have written an unhappy book review, one where it genuinely states ‘This book is rubbish’ and not because they don’t like the genre.
Fear holds us back; fear of no longer receiving free copies; fear of being pilloried by other readers; fear of ridicule from fans; fear of not sounding smart enough; fear of being the kid in the classroom who stands out for all the wrong reasons. We shouldn’t have any fear about expressing ourselves honestly but we do. Be nice, be fair but does that mean be honest? Rather than admit they don’t like a book, reviewers have been known NOT to write a review. Almost misinformation for both reader and author.
I’m under no allusion that my Three Things #6 will make waves in the blogging community yet I still put myself out there, turning my Thoughts into Words, and trying not to be fearful of the result. GBW.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward