Friends of North Bruny Launch Dennes Point Heritage Trail

On the 20th of October 2018, Friends of North Bruny officially opened the Dennes Point Heritage Trail Interpretation Panels and Website, for Friends of North Bruny. This is a fantastic new short walk on the very northern-most tip of Bruny Island, a site of incredible heritage significance – it was here that some of the very first encounters between Europeans and Tasmanian’s first people occurred, with visits by the French on D’Entrecasteaux’s and Baudin’s expeditions.They made beautiful and haunting pictures of the people, animals, plants and landscapes they encountered, many of which have been stunningly reproduced on fourteen panels installed on the Heritage Trail.

The panels also represent the subsequent history of the site, including early settlement by Europeans and their commercial endeavours and marine policing efforts. These included farming and whaling, but also plenty of frivolity with events like fetes and regattas. Other aspects of the site that you can learn about as you follow the trail include its geology and natural history, and the somewhat fraught history of transport to the Island.

The Dennes Point Heritage Trail also provides access to the beautiful northern tip of Bruny Island, Tasmania, where you can enjoy stunning views across the waters where the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, Derwent Estuary and Storm Bay all converge. The walk can be completed by strolling along Jetty Beach (watch out for quolls!), or perhaps a swim?

Bright South is proud to have supported the development of the Heritage Trail, including coordinating production of the panels and production of Friends of North Bruny’s website. Take a look – you can even do a virtual tour of the site or download the panel audios to listen as you walk. Perfect for those who spend so long in front of books and screens their eyes need a rest! Jump straight to the Heritage Trail welcome page.

Bright South publishes Pete Hay’s ‘Girl Reading Lorca’

Bright South is proud to be the publisher of Pete Hay’s
poetry chapbook, Girl Reading Lorca. From a poet normally regarded as “fiercely Tasmanian”, this collection is a startling departure from Pete, but no less observant, subtle or incisive than his better known work.

The centrepiece of Girl Reading Lorca is a celebration of the life and poetry of Federico García Lorca. With a voice as sure as that with which he evokes the landscapes of Tasmania, Pete sensitively evokes the haunted fields, mountains, and cities of Andalusia in several extraordinary poems.

Girl Reading Lorca also contains an extended cycle of poems, collectively titled ‘Madrid, June 19, 2011’, which is the centrepiece of Indignados!, an exciting musical collaboration with Spanish guitarist Paul Gerard. In these poems, Pete tunes his eye for injustice and absurdity, writing of civil unrest in Madrid, set against Spain’s deep history and culture. He makes us see Europe not as ignorant tourists but as intelligent, questioning observers looking back on the old world from a curious corner of the new one.
You can learn more about Pete and read some of his poetry, including the centrepiece of this collection, ‘Girl Reading Lorca’, on his website:, or on Facebook. 

Mysterious coin trees

In the old days it seemed like the only places people tossed their coins were into piggy banks and the occasional wishing well. Then, in 2006, I discovered a limestone outcrop with coins all over it, nesting on ledges, wedged into cracks, planted around its base. This was at Ishiyama-dera Temple, where, in the 11th century, Murasaki Shikibu reputedly wrote her classic and very entertaining poem, The Tale of Gengi.

The coinstone at Ishiyama-dera Temple, near Kyoto, Japan.

A few years later I came across an even more striking ‘coin place’, this time a fallen tree trunk in Dovedale Gorge, in the southern Peaks District of England. Some of the coins in this were warped and flattened, suggesting they had been bashed into the wood when it was still fresh and hard. It looked pretty rotten now, but I was surprised when I had a go at trying to work a little coin into a small crack. I didn’t get far at all. But why did I want to bang a coin into a log at all, and why had so many people evidently done so already? To be honest, I didn’t really have an answer. It just felt like the right thing to do in this quite otherworldly, dramatic place. Maybe it would bring good luck. You’ve got to be in it, after all.

Coin tree in Dovedale Gorge, England.
Limestone arch in Dovedale Gorge

Funnily enough, my discovery of the coin tree in Dovedale Gorge was in 2012, six years after I saw the one at Ishiyama-dera. Now, another six years later, I’ve discovered one more, this time even closer to home. The latest is at Tahune, in southern Tasmania, and can be seen from the Airwalk, a metal walkway some 20 metres up in the canopy of the forest, alongside the Huon River. It is touted as the crowning glory of this great forestry propaganda park. I hate the propaganda, but Tahune is a lovely spot for an occasional visit. The river and forest there are a reminder of exactly why we should preserve rather than trash Tasmania’s beautiful forests.

Coin tree at Tahune, Tasmania.

As you can see in the above image, the coins at Tahune are on top of a huge stump, the remains of a tree which has been cut off some 10 or 12 metres above ground level, right next to the airwalk. It’s easy to see how people might enjoy the challenge of tossing a coin and hoping it will not only land on top, but actually stay there. I’m not quite sure what I think of this strange form of littering, as it seems to me, coming to Tasmania, but if it brings some luck to the forests, I’m all for it.

And, as chance would have it, just a couple of days after discovering the coin tree at Tahune, I found that someone’s written a whole book about coin trees. So, “they’re a thing then”, I thought. The book is called  The Magic of Coin-Trees from Religion to Recreation: The Roots of a Ritual, and it’s by Ceri Houlbrook. In it, Ceri suggests that coin trees offer an opportunity for people, especially children, to develop a sense of wonder and imagination by playfully engaging with a structure that combines elements of nature and art, folklore or culture. I rather like these sort of innocent and whimsical rituals, and, particularly the idea that it’s not, as Ceri quotes a seven year old suggesting “a waste of money”. Rather, coin trees, or rocks, or ponds, seem to be an opportunity to put money back in its place, which is secondary to an active, imaginative, playful engagement with life.

Huon River at Tahune. I wonder how many coins are down there, and what they do to the water quality. Surely not as bad as all the soil Forestry sends off to sea at least.

Review: Susan Richardson’s ‘Words the Turtle Taught Me’

Plumwood Mountain Journal of Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics has published my review of Susan Richardson’s wonderful collection of marine creature themed poetry, Words the Turtle Taught Me. Read the review here.

Even better, read the book. You will learn so much about so many amazing, sadly endangered creatures – all the poems are about species on the IUCN’s “Red List”. The poems are also accompanied by beautiful illustrations by Pat Gregory. And the book contains a lengthy exegesis which explains how the poems were written, and which makes the book potentially a really useful resource for teachers who might want to try similar creative endeavours with students.

Susan Richardson. Words the Turtle Taught Me. Wales: Cinnamon Press, 2018.

Review: Dominique Hecq’s ‘Hush: A Fugue’

Hush: A Fugue is a beautiful, sad, quiet collection, everything it’s title suggests. Cordite have just published my review of this work by Dominique Hecq, and you’ll find it here.

For me, Hush really evokes the feel of Melbourne – its culture, its weather, the city itself. Yet it is also a kind of feminine odyssey into and through loss and mourning. One aspect of that journey that I found particularly interesting was the way that it nudges against the limits of our language. And by that I mean the ordinary Australian English we speak here, in this country. When I was very small I understood another language (Czech), and maybe that was what made me feel, from a very early age, as though things were missing from everyday life and language – because I lost that language as I grew up into an entirely Anglophone world. Later, when I became a French speaker, I rediscovered how there are things that can only be said, it seems, in one language, and not any other. These are the sorts of things Hecq also exposes– in Hush, there are occasions when she slips into her own mother tongue, French, to express things. And it is not just for the words or ideas that she uses it, but also for the cadence or colour of the language, aspects which are like a whole other language in their own right.

I would direct you to a link, but it seems you’ll find Hush easily enough if you look. Here are the essential details:

Dominique Hecq, Hush: A Fugue, UWA Publishing, 2017.

Friends of North Bruny Website

Friends of North Bruny represents the community on North Bruny Island, Tasmania (everything north of the Neck). It facilitates cooperation between North Bruny’s communities, Kingborough Council, State and Commonwealth Government departments and others, focusing on issues like safety, public access and amenities and safeguarding environmental and heritage values. In action since at least 2014, FONB now has a website, which Bright South is pleased to have designed and constructed. It’s full of useful information and links. Take a look:

Review: Kirsten Lang’s ‘SkinNotes’

Plumwood MountainJournal of Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics has published my review of Kristen Lang’s SkinNotes. You can read it here.

Kirsten is a Tasmanian poet and has performed her poems around the state very stylishly indeed. Her poems are just as polished as her delivery though. They are thoughtful and profound, and Lang uses poetic language to its full capacity. Her writing speaks of the ambiguous, excessive experiences of humans who are open to a kind of conversation with what Jane Bennett calls ‘vibrant matter’ – all of the natural and nonhuman world that we are enmeshed within, which we are part of, and which is part of us. For this reason, when Lang writes of ‘family’, her family includes animals, and when she writes of the body, its edges merge with the world around it – a lake, or mountainside.

Lang’s writing is challenging, uplifting and affirming. Get yourself a copy and read it.

Kristen Lang. SkinNotes. North Hobart: Walleah Press,2017.

Review: Tanya Thaweeskulchai’s ‘A Salivating, Monstrous Plant’

Ok, so I admit it, I really did only review Tanya Thaweeskulchai’s A Salivating Monstrous Plant because of its title, but how could anyone resist that? I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for triffid-like plants. I have a nice little pot of pitcher plants right beside me as I write this. And then there was my 2012 review of Ross McKenzie’s incredible encyclopaedia, Australia’s poisonous plants, fungi and cyanobacteria, a must read for anyone interested in these things.

Thaweeskulchai’s work was something else though. It’s an extended poem that really does read as a narrative. It’s strange and curious, and extraordinary. Plumwood Mountain Journal of Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics have just published my review , you can read it here.

If you too love triffids, adventure, weird slightly manga-tinted stories, read the book too.

Tanya Thaweeskulchai. A Salivating Monstrous Plant. Carlton South: Cordite Publishing, 2017.

Anne Morgan’s Website Makeover

Anne Morgan is an amazing poet! She’s also a super active member of Tasmania’s writing community, coordinating the Facebook page ‘Celebrate Tasmanian Books and Writing’, and you can often catch her reading her work about the state. If you get the chance to hear her, go!

Anne also knows just the way to catch the attention of children and has written several works for littlies, which are subtle, sensitive, ethical and amusing. Her poetic touch can be felt in titles like ‘The Moonlight Bird and the Grolken’, ‘The Sky Dreamer’, which has been translated into French and German, and the wonderful ‘Captain Clawbeak’ series. And then there is ‘The Smallest Carbon Footprint in the Land and Other Ecotales’ – joint winner (with Gay McKinnon) of the national Environmental Children’s Book of the Year 2014 (Junior Fiction), and so it should be, because girls get to have amazing adventures as well as boys in this great book.

To help you find out more about Anne’s writing, access some great teaching resources, and discover some of Anne’s poetry, Bright South has given Anne’s website a makeover. The lovely new site features header photography (by Bright South), which celebrates Anne’s heartland-home on Bruny Island, Tasmania. Go and take a look at the new look site:

An Evening in Andalusia

Pete Hay and Paul Gerard are kicking off an exciting collaborative tour on the 3rd of August at the Peacock Theatre. An Evening in Andalusia celebrates the great Andalusian poet Federico García Lorca. Lorca was executed in 1936 in the first weeks of the Spanish Civil War. His poetry was banned for 20 years after his death, but he is now regarded as a great Spanish poet. Lorca’s many books of poetry, plays and theatre works have been performed, and loved, by people all over the world.

An Evening in Andalusia features original poetry by Pete Hay, from his book Girl Reading Lorca, published by Bright South, and exhilarating Spanish guitar music by Paul Gerard. In it, Pete and Paul pay homage to Lorca and the haunted landscape of Andalusia. Pete’s poetry is interwoven with Paul Gerard’s original compositions, which also reflect on Lorca’s extraordinary life. Pieces include ‘Song for Dali’, which explores Lorca’s great friendship with the painter Salvador Dali, and ‘Lorca’s Dream’, which evokes the agonising choices made by Lorca in the final weeks of his life.

Bright South proud to be supporting this fabulous tour with various services including photography, writing, graphic design and marketing.