Sylvia Plath Tribute Gig

This October, just a week before Sylvia Plath’s birthday, Perth Poetry Club hosted a tribute gig at Moon cafe, Northbridge.

Feature poets who read Plath’s work on the day included Dean Meredith and myself, and we also heard from other PPC patrons who read some of their favourite poems from her oeuvre.

My set list was as follows:

Cinderella
Suicide Off Egg Rock
The Moon and the Yew Tree
Words

I also read some of Plath’s bee poems, as selected by Alexis Lateef.

Amy Hillhorst Oct 2016 The Moon cafe.jpg
It was great to hear Allan Padgett read another ‘Cinderella’ poem by Plath’s daughter, Frieda Hughes, and Dean Meredith performed a stirring rendition of ‘Daddy’.

The event was a wonderful celebration of Plath’s work and life. As she wrote in her journals:

12 December 1958

‘Writing is a religious act: it is an ordering, a reforming, a relearning and reloving of people and the world as they are and as they might be. A shaping which does not pass away like a day of typing or a day of teaching. The writing lasts: it goes about on its own in the world … You do it for itself first. If it brings in money, how nice. You do not do it first for money… The worst thing would be to live with not writing.’

Amy Hillhorst Oct 2016 The Moon.jpg

Many thanks to Dean and Elio for organising the gig, and to Rose van Son for the above photographs.

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Westerly New Creative

Westerly New Creative is now available for free download here, and I am thrilled to have a poem of mine included, “Mt Fuji Sunrise”. Thanks Rashida Murphy and the Westerly team, can’t wait to read it.

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The launch was held at the Centre for Stories in Northbridge at the Short Story Festival. Here is a pic of the authors and editors together:

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3 minute thesis, 2016

This year I had another crack at the UWA 3 Minute thesis competition.

The text of my 3mt is set out below.

Mental illness in Australian poetry.

“All my life has been chaos and horror, but I have tried to create order and beauty in my poetry.” Francis Webb, who suffered from schizophrenia, wrote amazing poems that connect readers with his experience of mental illness. In his Ward Two sequence, which describes life in hospital, Webb is concerned with his fellow patients and their relationship to language. He depicts them as “filled with the word unwritten”, and subject to a “virus of wheedling voices”. In Webb’s poetry, patients are surrounded by language, yet they are silenced, unable to speak.
This is further explored by Bruce Beaver, whose writing emerged some ten years later. Beaver suffered from bipolar disorder, and as with Webb, his work suggests that poetry begins to make sense of illness. The person in his poems is highly sensitive to words, and I analyse the way this sensitivity is conveyed through words. Then we have Michael Dransfield, who wrote of drug-induced hallucinations. Dransfield’s poems break with poetic form and convention, simulating the turbulence of his hallucinatory state. He even draws parallels between losing touch with reality, and the process of writing oneself into a poem.

Although poetry critics have explored the visions of the Romantics, the shell shock of WWI poets, and the madness of the Beats, there is yet to be an extensive study of mental illness in Australian poetry. My thesis aims to bridge this gap, looking at poems written between 1950 and 1980, when Australians were beginning to write more deeply about their inner lives.

While these conditions have been researched in psychiatry, psychology, and history, these often focus on the causes, treatment or context of illness. Psychologists might think about why you’re unwell, psychiatrists might think about how to get you better, but poets think about the expression of complex and powerful feeling. I aim to uncover a poetic understanding of mental illness: not what it looks like, not why it starts or how it’s treated, but what it feels like when in the words of Francis Webb, one’s thought and being are ‘given over’.

WAPI Perth Poetry Festival Panel

This weekend I featured on a panel at the Perth Poetry Festival with Steven James Finch and Connor Weightman.

We discussed visual and innovative poetic forms such as concrete poetry, comics poetry, twitter poetry, and the age-old (yet irresolvable) question of what makes a poem poetic.

Many thanks to WA Poets Inc for hosting us, SJ Finch for chairing a stimulating discussion, and for Coral Carter for this photo.

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