I’m keen to hear what readers think about poet David Campbell’s punchy essay on page 22 about the disrespect shown to traditional rhyming verse, particularly “bush poetry” as some call it. I’ve received notes from readers (and poets) in the past, sometimes grumbling about poems I’ve published. I’m publishing three today in tandem with Campbell’s piece. Each of them rhymes here and there, but perhaps not in the sense Campbell is talking about. Please let me know your thoughts. I discussed poetry this week with my 12-yearold co-reader. We were talking about him going to high school next year. Yet the genesis for a chat about poetry was our main conversation topic, football. “Jesus is a winner,” Syd said. I knew he was talking about the Brazilian Manchester City star Gabriel Jesus, but I joked: “Hardly!” I wouldn’t call the scourging, the crucifixion, the spear in the side much of a win. This led us to capital punishment. We talked about Ned Kelly, Saddam Hussein, Stephen King’s novel (and the film version) The Green Mile and, finally, Ronald Ryan. The last man hanged in Australia took us to the poet that first made me appreciate, early in high school, the beauty and significance of poetry: Bruce Dawe. We read his Ryan poem, A Victorian Hangman Tells His Love. It doesn’t rhyme, but it still moves me, and it moved Syd. I know I talk a bit about the to-read list that teeters on the bedside table (and has offshoots in other parts of the house). Usually I add a book to the pile after reading a review of it here. It’s rare, though, that a review makes me read a book immediately. It happened this week after I read Agnes Nieuwenhuizen’s review, published on this page, of David Grossman’s novel A Horse Walks into a Bar. Now, I can’t pretend the sub200 page count wasn’t a factor, but more than that it was Nieuwenhuizen’s view that this novel is something special. She’s right.
I confess the title appealed to me too. I was tempted to illustrate the review with a photo of the 1992 Melbourne Cup winner Subzero visiting a bar, as the gallant grey has done now and then in his post-racing career. He certainly doesn’t need to produce ID, having turned 29 at the start of this month. I also spotted a cartoon online, one that has some relevance to Grossman’s novel about a stand-up comedian. Three pigs are breasting a bar. A horse near them nurses a bottle of beer. “Hey!” one of the porkers asks him. “Why the long …” His question is cut short by hooficuffs. “Anyone else here a comedian?” the horse asks. The remaining pigs look at their black and blue drinking buddy and decide the answer is no.
Anyway, that’s an off-centre lead-up to the news that today, August 12, is Love Your Bookshop Day, organised as part of the Australian Booksellers Association annual conference. Bookstores will mark the day in their own way. One year, Avid Reader in Brisbane invited readers to bring in their dogs (I think Aaron Blabey’s children’s book Pig the Pug was out at the time). This year the store is starting with a champagne breakfast, which sounds more sensible to me (and I love pugs!). Lots of authors will be out and about to celebrate the day, including novelists Charlotte Wood, Graeme Simsion and Hannah Kent, Treehouse duo Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, youngish guns Alice Pung, John Safran and Benjamin Law, and, towering above them all, Peter FitzSimons. I’m going to take the quote of the week from one of them. They all talk about the life-affirming value of bookstores but only Ben Law mentions one particular fringe benefit: “Bookshops are like sacred spaces to me. All those stories in one place. Plus, they’re really great places to pick-up and/or flirt with obscenely attractive staff members.”
You can find out what’s happening near you via loveyourbookshopday.com.au/events.