fostering, developing and promoting writers and writing

Archive for the category “Poetry”

The Art of Lyric Writing

By Emily Davis

In general I’m a bit of a communic-a-tard. This is kind of like being a lactard (allergic to milk), but perhaps with slightly more serious connotations and consequences. I can assure you I can write, and read and speak, and I’m not too bad at a boozy dinner party when I’m tasked with spinning a bawdy yarn (*NB as a slight aside I’d like it noted that having just completed a Facebook endorsed ‘Right Brain Left Brain’ test and I’m a confirmed right brain thinker, which apparently means I enjoy creative story telling; I think best when lying down and I’m meant to be good at Geometry. WTF?!


‘…lyric writing is the salve; the litmus test to happiness.’

Ahem… anyway when one boils down the essence of true communication I’ve always struggled to authentically convey things that I’ve seen in my brain (an image, revelation or something that’s moved me) into a succinct, accessible neat little package of words. The frustration I’ve experienced when I realise I’m unable to explain what I really mean has led to me give up on my quest for a sash-and-tiara placement in the art of eloquent conversation pageantry. (See?…What a wanker, I mean ‘conversation pageantry’ says it all)

What the hell does this have to do with the price of eggs?

Lyrics. That’s what. The art of song writing is something that has taken me many years to comprehend, and I’m by no means an overly successful lyricist. Well not by the usual measures. I’m not famous for it, I don’t earn much money from it, and I’ve never had an affair with one of my dancers because of it. I don’t even have dancers. On the upside, my lack of commercial success has allowed me to approach song writing with a highly personal agenda; and writing lyrics seems to be the most glorious part of the process.

When you’re nostalgic, affected, romantic, easily amused; when you dream every night and have forever, in colour; when you like booze, read poetry for FUN and you like music, and you’re a communica-a-tard, lyric writing is the salve; the litmus test to happiness. You become the grand poo-bah of your own inner insecurities and quirks because suddenly you have a tool to freely and deliciously speak your mind. You can, through the course of a single verse, convey an aesthetic, mood, or an entire life story. You can finally connect with others without having to explain at length in conversation, that which made your cogs turn or your head spin, or your heart sing, or your stomach churn.

I can’t tell you how many songs have been love letters; how many verses have been film trailers to dreams I’ve had; how many choruses have been self-help mantras that have gotten me out of an existential pickle; how many opening lines have been eulogies to the ones I’ve loved.

So now you know. Lyric writing gives my thoughts and visions and dreams and feelings a mouthpiece. It lets me nail down those things that govern me, and confuse me, and it lets me place them side by side; a series of neat little vignettes that line the shelves and cavities of my mind and heart. And this is something that I’d like to share with you, because once I learned how to trap the montages of my mind and bed them lyrics, I suddenly found that I needn’t bother with failed conversation; rather I should just open my mouth and let the song say the rest.


Emily Davis; troubadour; conjure woman; ritual maker and story weaver. Emily has performed at WomAdelaide and PeatsRidge Festival and supported Clare Bowditch, The Audreys and Kate Miller-Heidke. Her two solo albums have been played on Triple J, Nova FM, and the ABC. Davis is currently writing her third solo album due for release in Spring.

Emily will be holding a half day workshop called Trapping the Montage on lyric writing at the Centre.




John Griffin Obituary

By Mike Ladd

Born: July 5, 1935, Boleroo Centre

Died: September 9, 2012, Adelaide.

Poet, playwright and short story writer John Griffin grew up at Hammond in the mid-north of South Australia, the son of a farmer and shop owner. The family farm was often in the grip of drought – John used to joke that Goyder’s line ran “right through the middle of our dining room.” The landscape of the Wilochra plain and the realities of its starve-acre farms are a strong feature of John’s writing. At Hammond primary school he was taught by the Jindiworobak poet Flexmore Hudson, a lucky event which helped begin his lifelong love of poetry and story-telling. The family sold the farm in 1950 and moved to Adelaide where John was already attending Sacred Heart College. John went on to teachers’ college and began a thirty-six year career as a high school teacher. Later he taught at Adelaide College for the Arts in the professional writing course.

John published two books of poetry in the 1970s: A Waltz on Stones (Makar,1974) and Menzies at Evening (Angus and Robertson, 1977). He was also an accomplished radio playwright, penning many plays for the ABC. One of his most successful was One Tango With Juan Peron, starring Robyn Nevin in the lead role. It was about a housewife who had such a vivid fantasy life she actually believed she had an intimate relationship with the famous Argentine president. John Griffin’s stories and radio-plays were often about ordinary people who had a secret somewhere, or a strange fantasy, revealing unexpected depths.

John was one of the driving forces in the early days of South Australia’s long-running Friendly Street poetry reading, and for a brief time was poetry editor of The Advertiser. Along with Peter Goldsworthy, Peter McFarlane, Barry Westburg and me, John was a member of the Hot Seat Writing Group which met at the Left Bank Cafe, long-since demolished. The members of the group helped to edit each other’s work, and despite forthright commentary, stayed good friends.

John’s last book Backyard, was published by Wakefield Press in 1997. Dedicated to his Italian father in law, it’s a collection of humble, illuminating memoirs and poems about a lifetime of gardening. John himself was a humble man. He was the last person to self-promote, though he could be quietly assertive. He leaves behind a significant contribution to South Australian literature.

In his final years John suffered from Lewy Body Dementia and was admitted to Tappeiner Court Nursing Home. He died there just two months after the death of his wife Tina. John is survived by his daughter Emma, and two sons, John and Andrew.

A Poet’s Epiphany

By Donna Ward

A poem is an epiphany in words, a journal note in the soul’s high adventure, a gem cut brillante so all life’s glory gleams through. In days filled with lists, and jobs, and deadlines we forget we are part of something intriguing and mysterious. Epiphanies remind us.

Epiphanies occur when we are not really doing anything, or thinking anything in particular—moments when the mind is quiet, free of lists and jobs and deadlines, though those lists and jobs and deadlines remain. They come when we’re driving to pick up the children after school, when we’re hanging out the washing, or polishing the car. And they almost always come when we are in our own little bubble, though the world might be surging on around us. An epiphany always happens when we are alone, when our god has the chance to appear. An epiphany is a showing of the divine.

And when epiphanies come, they wrap themselves around us and we are opened to something we never knew before. When they go the mundane world closes over as if nothing every happened, as if we were not privy to the workings of the universe, as if we never witnessed the divine. But we never forget what happened, it is held in the cells of our memory and told around mahogany tables sipping wine in firelight, or twenty-first birthday parties to the rapture of streamers and whistles, or at christenings and naming ceremonies and wakes. Epiphanies gift us our own unique wisdom, wisdom we share with those we love.

I must admit that since I’ve been hanging around poets I’ve discovered they have more epiphanies than most, and when a poet has an epiphany very soon after they have to stop everything and write a poem. As one who is merely witness to such creative events, it seems to me the epiphany has lodged within them like a grain of sand and irritates until it is pearlescent with image and must out.

One such epiphany occurred to Australian Love Poet, Gregory Day when he went to a wedding in a town on the coast of southern Victoria. Perhaps it was the weather, or the love between the bride and groom, or the love the poet had for the betrothed that parted the veil for Gregory that day. Whatever it was, he stood, just for a moment, in the fullness of life, death and everything and on the way to the reception Gregory’s pearl was ready. He had to stop the car by the edge of that great road, with the wet mountain rock on one side and the great blue ocean on the other and write that poem before going to the celebration where he read it. The poem,


‘Epithalamion’ (a lyric or ode in honour of a bride and bridegroom) now appears within the pages of Australian Love Poems 2013, edited by Mark Tredinnick.

Stay tuned to the blog to hear more about poetry from Mark Tredinnick in the lead up to his special workshop, Throwing Soft Bombs.
Donna Ward is a publisher with Inkerman & Blunt who have just published Australian Love Poems 2013, edited by Mark Tredinnick, which will be launched at SAWC next week.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: