Travelogues: All the shape of the land

This morning (by my time), C. S. E. Cooney, with the very able conducting services of Carlos Hernandez (together Hernandooney) and Miriam Grill, hosted a Read-a-Thon of the whole of Travelogues, which just came out on Tuesday.

t was a wonderful group of new and old friends — poets, directors, artists, writers, readers —and 14 people were reading aloud. (The screenshot above is from the text Claire marked up for reading).

As a writer, getting to see people play with the words, emphasise and pronounce and laugh in real time, getting to watch readers read (which is what I mean when I say reading is a spectator sport), and have people excerpting their favourite lines in the chat, and discussing their train experiences and reminiscing about certain movements of a carriage, and sending photos of scenes like those described, and discussing the qualities of pigs, was just enchanting.

I’ve included the screenshot above because of this line:

Night, and all the shape of the land is in the shift and wallow of the carriage.

It captured so much of what it turns out I was trying to do with Travelogues: to hold onto scenes and moments in such a way that the reader could get into them and travel inside them, the way a passenger does in a carriage, feeling the landscape through the movement. It’s one of the qualities of what I’ve been calling industrial fabulism — a way not only of expressing the experience of made things, but of experiencing the world through them, and finding enchantment in that.

And then as a writer, to get to follow the reader’s experience — through accents and word choices and meanings — added a fascinating nested quality to this effect, and was an astonishing gift to receive from some very good friends.

We chatted about this after the readings, but I was also thinking of it because of seeing the Mavis Ngallametta exhibition at GOMA last week. Her work is vast and shimmering and affectionate. It’s deeply unlike Ravilious‘s (mentioned in Travelogues) and William Robinson‘s. And yet, like their paintings, Ngallametta’s enormous canvases convey the impression that if only you could get inside them and contort yourself just so (parachute up through the wall for Ngallametta and open your many-lensed eyes; slide through an old train window and fill your lungs for Ravilious; roll down a rainforested mountain for Robinson) you could be in the artist’s world.

(This connects to the discussion because Travelogues was a painterly exercise in many ways — it’s a (written) visual sketchbook, recording physical observations and sorting through pallettes and lines.)

Further thoughts no doubt to follow.

Travelogues is now available to purchase from Brainjar Press directly and the usual online suspects, as print and ebook. Brainjar Press is using local printer options where possible, but given the current state of postal services generally, it’s better to order earlier than later!

Travelogues!

Travelogues: Vignettes from Trains in Motion is officially published today (and pre-orders are arriving in Munich and Adelaide and New York and…)

It’s available from Brain Jar Press and (listed on the Brain Jar page) most of the usual online suspects.

“Travelogues: Vignettes From Trains in Motion is a poet’s plunge into an oil-slickered, shadow-hung, ivy-clung alternate reality. Jennings’ world is deeply familiar and ultimately alien: a world minutely observed, in fast forward, warped by fairy lenses. Her reflections are relentless, ecstatic, declamatory, are illuminated motion. This whole metaphorical journey-by-rails is a fantasia, a phantasm, at times wistful, at others muscular and machine-like, with the occasional wry aside about the terribleness of the coffee. “Hello, book!” I want to shout. “I know you! And yet, I have never met your like.” Let’s never get to Salisbury. Let this train ride never end.”
– C. S. E. Cooney, World Fantasy Award-winning author of Bone Swans: Stories

Each section is a journey, a description of what I saw, and a working-through of the best words with which to describe it.

Travelogues: Vignettes From Trains in Motion tracks between fairytale forest and human industry, refiguring the railway through the tender wildness of the everyday. Delightfully unexpected in their metaphors, as wrought in sound as in image, these poems embody our attention and our daydreams—casting new light, new shadows. Jennings makes magic of the detail and colour of the quotidian world, where a cluster of rust-wrecked cars are kindred with autumn leaves, where a bare tree twins curves of concrete, where a train is a knife slicing through butter-and-honey light. Nearly there, nearly there. A world at work, remade through window and motion. And further.”
– Shastra Deo, Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize winning author of The Agonist

And in addition, the very wonderful C. S. E. Cooney is hosting an online release event at the end of this week. I’m extremely excited about this — good people! trains! words! travel! poetry-or-things-like-it!.

It will be on Zoom, and in American (NY) time it will be at 7pm EST on Friday October 16 while in Australian (Brisbane) time it will be 9am AEST on Saturday October 17.

You can book through Eventbrite, here: Travelogues Readathon.

Travelogues Online Reading Event!

The very wonderful C. S. E. Cooney is hosting an online release event for my soon-to-launch Travelogues: vignettes from trains in motion. I’m extremely excited about this — good people! trains! words! travel! poetry-or-things-like-it!.

It will be on Zoom, and in American (NY) time it will be at 7pm EST on Friday October 16 while in Australian (Brisbane) time it will be 9am AEST on Saturday October 17.

You can book through Eventbrite, here: Travelogues Readathon.

The book comes out on 12 October 2020: Travelogues on the Brain Jar Press website.

(There’s something really rather wonderful about having people take things away and make new things with them — taking the views from windows and turning them into sentences, threading those together, having an editor arrange and tighten those and turn it into a book-shaped idea, and a truck drive around Brisbane right now en route to delivering advance copies, and friends to read it out loud into the world again…)

Travelogues, world domination, coffee

Cover design by Brain Jar Press, image by Vertyr

First: Travelogues has received a beautifully thoughtful new cover quote from Shastra Deo (in addition to that wonderfully joyous one from CSE Cooney):

“Travelogues: Vignettes From Trains in Motion tracks between fairytale forest and human industry, refiguring the railway through the tender wildness of the everyday. Delightfully unexpected in their metaphors, as wrought in sound as in image, these poems embody our attention and our daydreams—casting new light, new shadows. Jennings makes magic of the detail and colour of the quotidian world, where a cluster of rust-wrecked cars are kindred with autumn leaves, where a bare tree twins curves of concrete, where a train is a knife slicing through butter-and-honey light. Nearly there, nearly there. A world at work, remade through window and motion. And further.”
– Shastra Deo, Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize winning author of The Agonist

Shastra very much picked up on some of the ideas I was working through in the book.

Second: I’ve been friends with Peter M Ball for a while now — although it was a few years before I realised he lived in the same city as me (I assume many of my friends and acquaintances primarily inhabit the halls of convention hotels). Peter is one of the people whose minds I admire — the way he thinks through making things and putting them into world (which is something we’re both fascinated by, in various ways). I’ve followed his blog and his writing, we’ve overlapped at uni together and met up with Angela Slatter to write and scheme (technically I crashed their scheming club), he gave me a panel to chair at a GenreCon that confirmed my love of moderating, and we’ve introduced each other to (and occasionally disagreed over) a lot of books.

And I’ve watched, fascinated, as he’s worked through all the practical and theoretical considerations involved in starting Brain Jar Press — initially experimenting with his own projects, and then bringing out Angela’s Red New Day chapbook, and now my Travelogues, and next… well, stay tuned, there are interesting projects in the works and Brain Jar Press is very much worth keeping an eye on.

In the current issue of his newsletter, Notes from the Brain Jar, Peter has set out some of how my Travelogues became a Brain Jar project (and, to a degree, vice versa!), and what his thoughts on the book are — gratifying to the author of course, but really interesting for the technical side of things (I appreciate watching how people think through their work).

Here’s a little bit:

Many, many years ago—long before I started writing SF—I wrote an honours thesis on poetics and place and how poetry uses line length, punctuation, and white space to generate its effects. I hadn’t thought about those things much for twenty years, but reading Kathleen’s tweets I could see the patterns there, the little callbacks to my favourite poetic style and an ear for rhythm that only comes from reading a metric ton of poetry out loud. 

Friends, I gotta tell you, during the weird early days of the Pandemic it was all chaos and gloom and what comes next, it was extraordinarily comforting to sit down with the edits for this book and immerse myself in the language. 

More importantly, it was a pleasure to see the world differently, because Kathleen just plain looks at things in ways other people don’t. The whole book is a reminder that even in the most ordinary things, there is a little touch of magic. We’re marketing this one as poetry, because it is in so many ways, but really its little slices of hope and wonder and a chance to see the world in a slightly different way.

You can read more in the newsletter — scroll down to the heading Travelogues.

But this issue of the newsletter also contains a quite lengthy and in-depth section on Brain Jar itself (look for the heading Paperclips) and why he would start a micropress, and what the pleasures and challenges of it are. So if you are curious — professionally or otherwise — about those aspects, I highly recommend checking it out (and you can subscribe to the newsletter here).

New Book Day — Notes from the Brain Jar — 10 September 2020

Travelogues: vignettes from trains in motion is available for preorder in print and as an ebook.

And to occupy you while you wait — my debut Australian Gothic novel(la) Flyway is very much out in the world and available to buy, borrow, listen to, etc, and people have been saying lovely things about it.

Travelogues! Now open for pre-orders

I’m very pleased to announce that Brain Jar Press is publishing my next little book Travelogues: vignettes from trains in motion this October 2020 — and it is now available for preorders!

Travelogues is a chapbook which began as a series of threads of descriptions of scenes as they passed by train windows. Now they are collected together into a series of vignettes (many thanks are due to Peter M. Ball for his editing and impetus!).

How can people work on trains? Read on trains? There is so much happening outside!

With these words, World Fantasy and Hugo Award-nominated artist Kathleen Jennings opens the door to a graceful, nuanced world of travel vignettes. With an affinity for words that’s equal to her celebrated artwork, Jennings captures the passing landscape with an illustrator’s eye for detail and a poet’s command of rich language and startling metaphors.

Originally published over the span of three years while travelling across Massachusetts, New York State, and England, Travelogues collects Kathleen’s travel vignettes together for the first time. Each of these nine journeys is infused with wonder and rich, unfamiliar landscapes, and those who climb aboard will forever look at train travel with new eyes.

And the first quote is in — from the excellent CSE Cooney.

Travelogues: Vignettes From Trains in Motion is a poet’s plunge into an oil-slickered, shadow-hung, ivy-clung alternate reality. Jennings’ world is deeply familiar and ultimately alien: a world minutely observed, in fast forward, warped by fairy lenses. Her reflections are relentless, ecstatic, declamatory, are illuminated motion. This whole metaphorical journey-by-rails is a fantasia, a phantasm, at times wistful, at others muscular and machine-like, with the occasional wry aside about the terribleness of the coffee. “Hello, book!” I want to shout. “I know you! And yet, I have never met your like.” Let’s never get to Salisbury. Let this train ride never end.

C. S. E. Cooney, World Fantasy Award-winning author of Bone Swans: Stories

All pre-order details are on the Brain Jar Press website: Travelogues is now available for digital pre-orders at the usual online places. Print pre-orders are open through Brain Jar Press’s website (including reasonable US postage). Print pre-orders through other websites should be available within the week, subject to systems updating.

Observation Journal: Moving fast

The activities on these pages of the observation journal were fairly straightforward: timed sprints sketching out ideas for how (or what) to teach in two workshops which in the event never happened, and another found-picture-and-word pairing (I love it when other people do it but it is by now almost hilariously not my thing).

I thought about not posting them here, then realised they underscored something I needed to be reminded of now:

  • to act (to the extent possible) on an idea immediately if it isn’t to grow stagnant; and also
  • if not acting on first instincts then to at least record them.
Double page of observation journal, densely handwritten. On the left, 5 things seen, heard, and done that day. On the right, handwritten notes for a poetic writing workshop.

The other reason I wanted to include these pages is because this was one of the last few weeks before everything before the rollercoaster of 2020 began to tilt. It was O-Week at uni, hot and crowded in the Great Court, and Brisbane was strange and full of wonders. There were caverns behind flowering shrubs under bridges, and mysterious footsteps, and poetry infecting everything near it.

A pen sketch of Shastra Deo reading.
Here is Shastra Deo, respected Brisbane poet, lovely person, and stealth nerd, reading.

I read at a Communication and Arts salon from the sawmill chapter of Flyaway, which still felt very far from being published, and got rather nervous.

Double page of observation journal, densely handwritten. On the left, 5 things seen, heard, and done that day. On the right, handwritten notes for possible art workshops for kids.

There was a storm of butterflies, and rhinoceros beetles expired on the sidewalk; magpies were learning to sing, and lorikeets hidden in the branches of a tree screeched so that it sounded like the butterflies were shouting.

Pen drawing of magpie learning to sing
This one hadn’t quite got the hang of singing yet

There were faceted windows and latticed verandahs, toga parties (here are some sketches from that: The Madding Crowd) and coffee-shop meetings, and the mysteries of public transportation, and a portal to the ’90s.

Double page of observation journal, densely handwritten. On the left, 5 things seen, heard, and done that day. On the right, photocopies of Irish stone carvings paired with overheard phrases: "It turned out it was a spy hotel" and "and suddenly screaming kids are rushing by".

I was working out how much of overheard conversations it felt right to record, and deciding public statements with non-identifying details were okay, and then deciding to pull it back further — catching little bits of delight or textures of a day, not trying to put people on display, and to pull things far enough out of context that they were about the words.

Drawing of toy tiger
“Why don’t you have a meeting with your tiger?”

Returning to the CBD of Brisbane, where I worked for so long, and missing it.

And learning so many lessons that were about people, and crowds — ah well, they will be out there to be learned again.

Handwritten page of observation journal, listing many dot point observations and reflections taken from the week's pages

“The treasure islands were his desired landfall”

A little sketch for a little project of mine I hope will be coming out later this year (in the end, not illustrated).

2020-04-29-KJennings-ShoppingCart

It is in several ways (more than are visible here) an example of the overlap between sketching and writing. But it’s also illustrative of the dangers of reading poetry (in this case, Judith Wright’s “The Idler”), which tends to then seep back out into everything else.

The week departed

Photos from Twitter etc - part 1

Photos from Twitter etc – part 1

  • It took the slow boat, but my copy of The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015 has arrived, with my story “Skull and Hyssop“! Almost like I’m a writer or something.
  • I had cause to quote Douglas Stewart’s gentle poem “B Flat”, and it remains a favourite:
    “Sing softly, Muse, the Reverend Henry White
    Who floats through time as lightly as a feather
    Yet left one solitary gleam of light
    Because he was the Selbourne naturalist’s brother…”
  • I’ve bought my membership for this year’s Readercon in Quincy, Massachusetts!
  • Terns of Reference

  • On Thursday I was the Event Illustrator (with a media pass and everything) for Elizabeth Gilbert’s event for the Brisbane Writers Festival’s year-round program, and it was great fun. Some photos in poor light are in a Facebook album – I’ll put up better photos after BWF has the chance to do so. I’ve been reading Big Magic, one of the more practically mystical works on creativity I’ve read:
    “Keep in mind that for most of history people just made things, and they didn’t make such a big freaking deal out of it.” -Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Watching Ep. 4 of Supergirl and was struck by the fact the ONLY conversation between men (which I could remember) was in a flashback interruption where one was sacrificing himself for a child. It was quite subtly done, and I don’t usually track this but one of the jarring notes in Deadpool was how (occasionally awkwardly) it did the exact opposite, so it was on my mind.
  • It was a weekend for pastiches on Twitter:
    27/2/2016:
    “I must arise and draw now, and sketch a book or three,
    And several covers lay out, of rough lead pencil made.
    Three commissions I will lay out, and perhaps a birthday card,
    And sharpen my paper-cutting blade.

    And I shall Get Things Done then, for things happen very slow
    When I lie abed in the morning tweeting pastiches of Yeats
    And realising it is of cardinal import to go online and check right now
    Whether his name rhymes with greets or gates.

    I will arise and draw now for always night and day
    I hear deadlines tapping with increasing intensity at my door.
    Whether I lie on top of the doona or put the pillows over my head,
    I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

    28/2/2016:
    “Yes I want to draw a picture,
    Or take my bike up to the store,
    But instead I have to spend the day driving around to buy a Macbook cord!”

 

Photos from Twitter etc - part 2

Photos from Twitter etc – part 2

Second-hand and Antiquarian

(Being a small Twitter diversion for October – the first title incorporates several Angela Slatter stories which prompted the exercise)

Second-hand and Antiquarian

The Book of Spells and Skin and Words
A Catalogue of Sins of Birds
The Compleat Changer’s Almanack
A Monograph on Rare Sea-Wrack

A Treatise on the White Blood Moon
A Guide to Whales (with Whaling Runes)
The History of a Hearthside Ghost
(Inscribed: To She Who Haunts Me Most)

Of the books you requested, these
Are currently in stock, so please
Find them enclosed. We will retain
Your list on the offchance we gain

– A first ed. Necronomicon
A Tour Guide On the Rubicon
(Please write, if others spring to mind).
Sincerely, yours, the undersigned.

Print is Dead

Today, on Twitter, Text Publishing was (facetiously?) harking back to the gentler days before the great YA/Adult Lit debate, and wishing for some new pieces on the death of print publishing. I think they wanted links to articles, but I wrote a poem instead.

Print is Dead

Ink stains the sheets.
The newswires said
Behind a locked door
Print lies dead.

TV detectives
Trace white lines
Where the books fell
With broken spines.

(The culprit words
In bright neon
Through dirty windows
Flicker on,

Then flicker off.)
Print lies there, still
Ignoring all the ink
We spill.