Oct '17 10

Rear Admiral Kevin John Scarce AC, CSC, RANR, 16th Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, presents me with me parchment on 2 May 2017. As he shook hands with me, he whispered: "That sounds like a really interesting thesis". But I bet he says that to all the doctors.

I've been asked several times what I've been working on in the creative space for the past while.

So this is what I've been up to: I was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide in March this year, and I graduated in May. What a wonderful day that was, made all the more special by the presence of my darling sister Susan and her husband Daragh, who came all the way from Ireland for the event!

I gather it's not often that 'fun' and 'PhD' are in the same sentence, but for me it was exactly that: fun, and a real privilege. From the beginning I treated it as a major project, turning up every day to 'work' in my (shared) office at the university (hurray for room 624!). I was fortunate to have two excellent supervisors: Jill Jones, senior lecturer at the university and herself an internationally recognised prize-winning poet; and Professor Dorothy Driver, a distinguished English literature scholar and academic.

I wrote a collection of poetry—87 poems all up—and an exegesis, which is a 20,000-word critical explanation of the context and themes associated with the creative work. The collection incorporates poems in the voice of Grace O'Malley (Grainne Mhaol—pronounced Graw-nya Wail) interspersed with what I call 'rescued' poems. (My other website rescuedpoetry.com lists the steps of this process I developed, and features several examples.)

Grainne was a powerful sea-faring chieftain who lived in the west of Ireland from 1530 to 1603. She was 'some woman for one woman'; during this time—one of the most turbulent political eras in Ireland's history—she and her crew traded by sea with Scotland, Spain and Portugal from her base in Mayo.

Irish contemporary historical literature has mostly overlooked Grainne in spite of her prominent role in politics. She pops up quite frequently in various English political papers and communications, however, because of how irritating she was to the English regime which was busy trying to colonise Ireland at the time. In various dispatches she was called 'the nurse to all rebellions for forty years' and 'a director of thieves and murderers at sea'. It was through subsequent retelling of her seafaring exploits that she came to be known in Ireland as the 'pirate queen'. In the deeply researched biography Granuaile, Grace O'Malley—Ireland's Pirate Queen, Irish author Anne Chambers fleshes out in great detail Grainne's personal and political life.

According to a letter written in the 1950s by my great-Aunt Angela Russell (née Coyne), sometime in the mid-1800s my great-great-grandfather James Coyne married an O'Malley woman who was related to Grainne. Of course, Grainne's direct descendants are more likely to be O'Flaherty or Bourke—Grainne's husbands' surnames—but that doesn't rule out the possibility that we have a few globs of O'Malley blood running through us! The Brownes, who are the direct descendants of Grainne's youngest son Tibbott, owned and lived in Westport House until earlier this year.

So, back to my collection of 87 poems: these consisted of 37 Grainne compositions and 50 'rescued' poems. In the Grainne compositions I placed Grainne at different points in her life but also, in a sort of subversion of the idea of straight biography, I situated her in the mediaeval past and in the future via her dreams. I viewed the re-worked and re-created stories from her past and future as a way of honouring her for having been written out of history. I drew on the stories about her that I'd heard as a girl in Ireland, or that were discussed in her biography by Anne Chambers, or mentioned in passing elsewhere.

I rescued the 50 poems from combinations of 17 texts connected to Grainne—a selection of factual or fictional biographies of her and a small number of contemporary historical texts. The idea behind this was that the rescued voices would echo and complement Grainne's voice, even if in a removed way.

After three-and-a-half years of researching, writing and editing, I submitted the collection and exegesis in August 2016*. My examiners' reports finally came back in February this year. I agonised and imagined all kinds of (negative) reasons for such a long assessment period. Imagine my amazement and relief when both examiners (one from Ireland and one from Australia) returned overwhelmingly complimentary feedback and remarks.

One of the examiners referred to the manuscript as a 'strong and thrilling poetry collection' and an 'inventive and impressive volume of poetry', and called the poems 'enthralling' and 'strong in voice and polished in their craft'. The second examiner observed that the poems presented 'richly realised moments' in a collection that was 'evocative and technically adept'. I was really delighted to see that both examiners 'got' what I was trying to do with this unusual approach to biographical poetry (and my risky creative approach to the academic exegesis—but that's another story). I was even lucky enough to be awarded the Dean's Commendation for Excellence!

I would love if an Irish publisher published the collection, so at the moment I'm working my way through a list: it's a patient and courageous publisher indeed who agrees to publish the work. The poems combine in a unique way so for example, it's difficult to select a few poems that 'represent' the collection, and submit only those to publishers.

I've already received three rejections. I was rather upset initially by the most recent, particularly detailed rejection letter. Then I decided to be grateful that he took the time to (hand)write his thoughts to me.

So, my optimistic self has decided that I'm three publishers closer to being published!



*Full thesis titles.

Vol 1 Creative Work
Grace Notes
Giving Voice to Grainne Mhaol, Ireland's Pirate Queen


Vol 2 Exegesis
Saving Grace: Re-Imagining, Re-Placing, and Rescuing Grainne Mhaol, a Sixteenth-Century Irish Pirate Queen



Posted by Jennifer Liston

Aug '17 15


I'm really excited to be a part of this innovative project masterminded by my lovely friend Camille Roulière and her friend Marianne Braux: these ladies have quite literally brought art to the streets of Adelaide.

Inspired by the Raining Poetry project in Boston, Camille and Marianne - both PhD candidates at the University of Adelaide - used a laser at Adelaide's digital fabrication workshop Fab Lab to create stencils of 18 poems from a selection of Adelaide poets including Jill Jones, Alison Bennett, Banjo James, Avalanche, and Sergio Holas. They then spray-painted the poems through the stencils onto various footpath locations around Adelaide CBD.

The cool thing is, the tagged poetry only appears when it rains thanks to the water-repelling properties of the paint they used to stencil the words to the pavements. The result? If you’re standing on the western corner of North Terrace and Pulteney Street and it starts to rain, my poem will magically appear to entertain you while you wait.

You can read about the project in more detail in this article in InDaily.

This map shows where each of the poems is tagged.

The project will be launched this Friday 18 August, and is supported by the University of Adelaide’s J M Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice.

Thank you for including my poem in this exciting project, Camille and Marianne!

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Jun '17 22
It's been quite some time since my last post - I didn't submit any poems at all in 2016 for publication (slack, I know).

I did send out one - 'I will not mourn you' - at the end of May this year and was delighted that it was accepted for publication in the latest edition of Young Ravens Literary Review. It fitted in well with the theme of the issue, which is 'Prayers for the Planet'.

I'd been hoping to find a nice journal for that poem since I wrote it in 2012, so a big thank you to the Young Ravens editors.



Posted by Jennifer Liston

Nov '15 5


I'm pleased that my poem 'Shards of Colour' has found a published home in the latest edition of Transnational Literature.

There's plenty of great reading in this issue and includes poems from my talented fellow poets and friends Mike Hopkins and Ian Gibbins, as well as book reviews by Mandy Treagus, Jennifer Osborn and Gay Lynch.

Many thanks to Heather Taylor Johnson, the journal's Poetry Editor.


Posted by Jennifer Liston

Oct '15 16


A few months ago I met Aisling, a lovely English and Geography teacher from St Mary's Secondary School in Mallow (Co Cork, Ireland). We chatted about literature and writing in general, and poetry in particular. Aisling asked if she could introduce my poetry to her fifth year English class. Of course I said yes.

They selected my poem 'Disconnection' (you can read it here) to discuss in class and Aisling offered them some options to respond to the poem.

Aisling forwarded me a selection of the responses; I was blown away by how creative they were.



For example, there were three very different movies, an artwork, a 'storyboard' of the poem, two poems that were written using only the words from 'Disconnection' and a couple of fake twitter pages of the young woman who walked into the pole (one student decided it was Kim Kardashian who walked into the pole).




Another student created a fake Facebook profile online for the young woman who walked into the pole.

Some students did without their mobile phone for 24 hours and wrote a diary entry about the experience. One girl cooked a Sunday dinner for her family and went for a long walk as she felt she had nothing else to do when she didn't have her phone.

I was thrilled to 'connect' with this class via poetry, and very moved by the funny and diverse responses. It is such a privilege when someone takes the time and effort to read and consider what I write, so to the talented fifth year girls and Aisling O'Connor of St Mary's Secondary School, Mallow: congratulations on your enthusiasm and spirit, and a heartfelt thank you.







Posted by Jennifer Liston

Nov '14 30
A shiny new website about my rescued poetry is now live over here.

You can read sample rescued poems there and read about how I came up with the idea. I will be adding rescued poems regularly.

You are most welcome to visit and comment!

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Jun '14 16


Images from The Found Poetry Review website.

I'm delighted that my 'found' poem, 'The Smoothest Place is Right Here', sourced from Chapter 18 of James Joyce's Ulysses, has been published in The Found Poetry Review's special Bloomsday edition.

You can read it over here.

Happy Bloomsday!

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Nov '13 16


I'll be reading some of my poems with super-talented poet Louise McKenna at 5.30 pm next Wednesday 20th November at the State Library of South Australia, North Terrace, Adelaide.

'Words @ the Wall' is a joint Friendly Street Poets and State Library event and is a lovely, unique kind of poetry reading. The library is a beautiful setting and the event itself - two poets reading for no longer than 45 minutes - gives the audience no time to get bored.

And it's free.


Posted by Jennifer Liston

Jul '13 9
Letter.Box.Stamp.Collect. is an installation by Pascalle Burton for the Queensland Poetry Festival 2013, which will be held from 23-25 August.

I'm delighted that my poem, 'yesterday's images', is published as part of the circular poetry featured here.

You can read here about the 'letterboxing' concept, which dates back to the 19th century.

Poetic geocaching, anyone?

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Mar '13 6
What a feast of poetry performances, book launches and readings over the past few months. (See what I'm doing here? Heading towards the excuse 'I've been too busy to update my website' which, as we all know, is just that: an excuse.)

Alison Flett and I had great fun as guest readers - of the celtic kind - at Poets' Corner in January.

I went to the moving launch of the book Too afraid to cry by Ali Cobby Eckermann.

One great performance at the Adelaide Fringe Festival was Anthropoetry by Ben Mellor. Ben was also a guest at Friendly Street earlier this week.

'Breathing spaces' was an interesting performance at Greenaway Art Gallery by poets Cecilia White, Mike Ladd, Jill Jones, Juan Garrido-Salgado, Jude Aquilina and Andre Lawrence who were accompanied by musician Nick Tsavios and projected landscape images by Annette Willis.

This week we're in the thick of Adelaide Writers' Week. Yesterday I went to see/hear five poets read: Cath Kenneally, Karen Solie, Kurt Heinzelman, Harry Ricketts and John Tranter.

It's also been a sad time, with the unexpected passing in January of a fine poet and friend, John Pfitzner, RIP. The evening before, he had been at the Poets' Corner event at which Alison and I were reading. At the end of the evening, I touched his arm lightly and said 'See you at such-and-such'. With a big grin he replied that he was looking forward to it. Later I wondered why these final words were not weighted with the gravitas of 'adieu' rather than the light certainty of 'see you later'. You can read a lovely tribute to him here.

I haven't been writing very much lately, but this will change as I start to schedule my days to incorporate writing and research. I intend to post more poems here soon, so keep revisiting, okay?



Posted by Jennifer Liston

Nov '12 7


I just received my two copies of The Best Australian Poems 2012 edited by John Tranter.

I'm honoured to have one of my poems, 'Sampling Lily', included.

You can read more and buy The Best Australian Poems 2012 here.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Nov '12 5
I'm one of a number of South Australian poets who have written poems inspired by the renowned stained glass in St. Bart's, one of Adelaide's oldest churches.

We will be reading the poems at Light and Glorie: an evening of stained glass and poetry on Saturday 10 November (10:11:12).

Light and Glorie, a book featuring a selection of the poems and colour images of the windows, will be available for purchase on the night.

All proceeds from the event will go towards the work of the Magdalene Centre. Drinks and nibbles provided.

Come along and listen to some poetry for the soul!



Posted by Jennifer Liston

Nov '12 1
I'm thrilled to see my poem 'Duality' published in Cordite Poetry Review Issue 40.0: Interlocutor.

And I'm in the company of talented South Australian poets Rachael Mead, Heather Taylor Johnson and David Ades.

Hop on over there now for some fine poem-y goodness.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Sep '12 20
I was thrilled to be invited to read at the Lee Marvin readings last Tuesday (18 September).

Other readers on the evening included Nicholas Jose, Doug Mason and Canberra-based poet Geoff Page.

Here are some images from the evening, including me in action. All of these were taken by Martin Christmas (himself a writer, theatre director and showman). Thank you Martin!




Me (left) with wonderful poets Rachael Mead and Alison Flett.



Me with Doug Mason (who read some of his lovely Haikus).























Posted by Jennifer Liston

Sep '12 19
Last Friday (14 September) I had a guest spot on 'Chill the Friday Out', a fabulous late-night community radio program at PBA FM. It was a last-minute invite so I didn't have time to post the link here!

The program is hosted by producer and all-round musical talent Stefan Todor.

I read five of my poems and of course I had great fun!

There is a tiny chance that I may post the video to YouTube (Robert recorded me). I'll let you know if/when I post it!


Posted by Jennifer Liston

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