Here is Esther's lovely launch speech for Dancing with Empty Prams, recorded in Hobart in July 2023.
Thursday 20 July 2023
It's been such a busy month as Dancing with Empty Prams has been launched, celebrated and distributed. The Brisbane launch kicked things off in June, with my dear friend Sally Lingard giving a beautiful speech in front of friends and family at the Chermside library. On the 7th and 8th of July I was honoured to participate in a double book launch with Esther Ottaway at Mathers House in Hobart, where I launched her fabulous new poetry book "She Doesn't Seem Autistic" and she launched my verse novel. Then last Sunday, 16th July, we repeated that over Zoom for friends near and far who couldn't get to the face-to-face launches.
I couldn't have been happier with how the launches went and have loved receiving feedback from readers after they've read my book. One friend wrote: "Thanks so much for your incredible book. I picked it up last night and couldn’t put it down until I read every word! Thank you for sharing your story and the roller coaster ride of infertility with such compelling prose! Congratulations."
Another messaged: "I am really enjoying your novel. I love the format and the fact that you can deal with such a big topic in a heartfelt but light way. Well done, very impressive."
I have been posting copies of the book to people in Queensland and Tasmania and a good friend purchased a bunch and sent them off to relatives around the country, so it is possible to say that my book is being nationally distributed :-)
Below are some photos of the Hobart launch, as well as Sally's speech. If you haven't already, it would be great if you could purchase a copy of my book through my website. Thanks for your support.
Thursday 29 June 2023
Friday 2 June 2023
In two weeks I will be in Brisbane, in my home state of Queensland, launching my book Dancing with Empty Prams on the 17th June at the Chermside library. This book has been a long time in the making and I’m excited that soon you will be able to read it! My mum read it for the first time last week and said that it was “beautiful and poignant”. If you come along you can hear me talk about why I wrote it and listen to some of the poems. Here’s the Facebook event with more info.
And in five weeks I’m thrilled to be teaming up with the wonderful Esther Ottaway to do joint book launches in Hobart. I’ll launch Esther's masterful new poetry collection She Doesn't Seem Autistic and Esther will launch my verse novel Dancing with Empty Prams. There’s a choice of attending the Friday evening event at 6pm on the 7th July, or the Saturday afternoon event on the 8th July at 1pm, both at Mathers House in the Upstairs Hall, 108-110 Bathurst St, Hobart. Esther and I will speak about our new books and the issues raised in them and give poetry readings. All events are free entry and there’ll be complimentary refreshments. A special price will be available at the launch: both books for $45. Card payments only at the launch.
Join us! Book your spot here.
We will also be doing online launches later in July (Sunday 16th July) for those who live interstate. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
In other good news, two of the poems from my soon-to-be-released verse novel Dancing with Empty Prams were chosen by the editors for publication in the Australian Poetry Antholgy Volume 10. These poems, submitted under the title The intimacy of needles; the poise of liquid nitrogen, were Commended in the Woorilla Poetry Prize 2021 so it’s great that they’ll now reach a national readership.
I’m also honoured to contribute to the first issue of Folk Ku Journal, published by King River Press, alongside so many heartfelt haiku by talented writers. I enjoyed reading this first edition. Here are two of mine that have been included:
apples from the neighbours’ tree
kids pick the best ones
for their teachers
now the kids are seven and nine
at the view
Read the whole collection here.
I also made it into the January edition of Echidna Tracks, with a little family dinner-time angst that turned into a haiku:
with extra ingredients—
kids go hungry
I also had a haiku chosen for the next issue of Echidna Tracks, which I will share when it comes out.
In December last year I found out that two of my poems, Calcium, horses and other dreams and Ode to a park bench were Commended in the FAW Tasmania Norma and Colin Knight Poetry Award.
My poem First day falling was published in Burrow’s September 2022 issue, which was on the theme of mental health through the prism of Place.
My poem Mask up was published in the Poetry in the Hospital publication edited by Tony Brennan in August last year. With a Covid wave happening again here in Tassie, it might be time to pull the masks out again when I go into the crowded stores or on public transport.
the Covid bogeyman hasn’t yet found the exit
like an uninvited guest at a party
telling too many tedious tales
get intimate with your own expired air
the garlic memory of your lunchtime focaccia
the quickening heat of your unsettled breaths
it’s a new way of life
maintaining life is the purpose
although it seems like all they do is interrupt
the facial expressions and connections that enrich it
don’t turn to touch to compensate
or we’ll all have to sanitise again
it’s the new fashion
choose your mask to match your outfit
and don’t forget which one is clean
which was yesterday’s that needs a wash
is there any point to make-up
or toothpicks anymore?
even if it scares the kids
feels like we’re in a new apocalypse
these cloth and paper defences
promise to keep your germs out
and my germs in
let’s share other things instead
like hopes and fears
and all the fragile hesitations in between
I was thrilled when Happy accidents, a long poem from my verse novel Dancing with Empty Prams, was published in the Australian Poetry Journal 12.1, the theme of which was “divergence, relevance”.
And I’ll leave you with a photo of a haiku that was published in the Haiku Down Under 2022 Anthology, Poetry From The Edge.
It’s the reason why I devote some of my time to co-ordinate the Climate Action Hobart activist group. Poetry can change the world, but it’s not enough on its own, in this critical decade, grassroots action and campaigns are needed too.
Sunday 16 April 2023
I know it’s been a while between blog posts but I’ve been busy! My second book, Dancing With Empty Prams, is coming out soon with Walleah Press. Ralph Wessman, the publisher, has been a wonderful supporter of my poetry since I moved to Tasmania almost 20 years ago and I am so grateful and happy that he has applied his skills and time to helping me bring this book into the world.
Dancing With Empty Prams is a verse novel. It tells the story of a woman whose plan to have a baby carries her on a quest she never could have imagined. Six poems from it have won or were commended in state and national poetry competitions and nine have been featured in journals and anthologies, including the Australian Poetry Journal. It started off as a collection of poems documenting my own journey of infertility, and when I was awarded a Career Development Grant from the Australia Council for the Arts in 2020 I was able to work with the immensely talented Dr Gina Mercer to turn it into a verse novel. I am proud of the end result and excited to share it with the world.
I had help from a creative group of friends in work-shopping cover style ideas and my friend Jen Lorrimar-Shanks designed the beautiful cover which you can see below.
Esther Ottaway has been a fabulous support and we have decided
to do joint book launches in Hobart on the 7th and 8th of
July at Mathers House in Bathurst St – check out my Facebook page Susan Austin Poet for more details. I will also be doing a Brisbane launch at the Chermside
library on Saturday 17th June at 2:45pm. Because the novel is set in
Queensland (Hervey Bay to be precise, close to where I grew up, in Maryborough),
it is great that I can launch it there first.
I’ll share with you below some of the endorsements that I have received for the book. I will make it available to buy from my website when it is printed. We are getting close! Thanks for your support.
"Susan Austin's Dancing with Empty Prams is a moving, involving account of a woman's fertility quest, and an inventive, carefully structured verse novel. The reader is drawn in to an emotional and physical ordeal across years of trying, miscarriage, and ultimately the gruelling IVF process. This book's significance is in its voicing of an experience not often represented so thoroughly in literature - a lonely journey made more challenging by taboos, ignorance, prejudices and opaque jargon. Anyone who has been touched by these issues will feel seen." Melinda Smith
“It is estimated that as many as one in six couples in Australia have trouble getting pregnant – some who find it impossible to conceive naturally, choose the IVF journey which can oscillate seemingly endlessly (as it does in Dancing with Empty Prams) between hope and disappointment, optimism and dispiriting self-doubt.
Susan Austin’s verse novel on the subject is emotionally charged but avoids sentimentality by keeping it real. It is well-informed if not experienced and as such is an important book for the women who will personally connect with it, for their families and friends to better understand and appreciate the journey and for the general public who will find in Dancing with Empty Prams a human-interest story that is genuinely moving, educational and at times downright funny.” Jane Williams
“The directness of the poems, exploring the most intimate aspects of human fertility, is matched by a ferocity of craft which kept me turning pages. This is powerful and important work - cogent and topical.
It is vital that women’s experience is added into the national cultural mix. For decades publishing has been dominated by heroic hyper-masculine quest narratives. This work subverts that tradition through a wry, poignant, punchy exploration of the quest for motherhood, a matter literally of life and death, played out in suburban bedrooms and clinics across Australia – and yet rarely documented or heard in the national conversation.” Dr Gina Mercer
“I have watched Susan Austin develop as a poet and a person since the late 1990s. She is committed to living life as a poet, and her poetry grows with all the other aspects of her life. She is also a charismatic performer. She brings both the poet and non-poet with her, often into difficult terrain. She is a poet who has something to say, and people respond to this.
Susan Austin brings her verbal acuity, sound ethical concerns, charm and humanity to this current project. She makes compelling poetry. I have rarely read a poetry manuscript, such as this one, that I can’t put down but need to read in a sitting. She is an important voice in poetry, especially Tasmanian poetry.” Liz Winfield
Susan’s verse novel, Dancing With Empty Prams, is one of the most keenly observed poetry works I have read in recent years. It lays open the suburban life of a couple to expose the piercing, intimate, bleak, and intensely lonely experience of infertility. The experience for the reader is emotionally deep and gripping: it is a book which, as it progresses, becomes impossible to put down. I cried at the end. Susan’s craft in this work is masterful, and the issues she raises, compelling and relevant.” Esther Ottaway, 2022 Tasmanian Literary Awards winner
Friday 29 July 2022
My poem "Ready for more than nursery rhymes" is the opening poem in the beautiful "Quicksilver water - Oasis Women Poets" anthology which was launched yesterday at Hadley's Hotel in Hobart. I read at the event alongside many wonderful women, and what was very special to me, was that my daughter had her first poem published in the book and read it alongside me. Here is my poem.
Ready for more than nursery rhymes
I’ve kept my distance from you for three-and-a-half years
and that’s ok
because I was making new people –
two of them –
and really, life trumps poetry.
But without poetry,
life lacks some kind of empathic resonance,
percipience and depth,
so I am edging back to you
in between nappy changes and lullabies,
liquid Panadol and my own lonely pillow.
forgive me for snubbing you.
Remind me how to observe
more than the swollen gums of the next tooth,
more than the yearning for sleep-ins.
Come and save me
from the repetition of the weekly vacuum,
the dreaded bath-scrub, the urgent late-afternoon question
of what to cook.
I know some things, like these indescribable
love-blossomed smiles from my babies
are outside your scope of practice,
but I need you to rescue me from burnt meatballs,
temper tantrums at the kitchen gate
and this chasm between experience
Poetry, I’ve taken advantage of your patience.
Will you have me back?
- Susan Austin
Thursday 17 February 2022
2021 was a big year for me and poetry. Since my last blog update in October, I was delighted that two more poems from my verse novel Dancing with Empty Prams, submitted as one entry under the title “The intimacy of needles; the poise of liquid nitrogen” were Commended on Sunday in the Woorilla Poetry Prize 2021. Judge Nathan Curnow commented: “This is an honest account of IVF treatment. It’s a long journey of a couple who are yearning for pregnancy, who are managing amid expectation and exhaustion. It’s finely handled; it’s a sensitive piece about hope, patience, absence and anticipation.” You can listen to the comments and hear Nathan read the poems (from the 1:42:30 mark on the replay of the live-stream video of the award presentation below.) https://www.facebook.com/woorillapoetryprize/videos/195652459334347
In November I was excited to announce that I signed a contract with a literary agent, Fiona Johnson from Beyond Words Literary Agency, to guide my verse novel manuscript Dancing with Empty Prams out into the world.
And I was happy to round out the year with the news that one of my poems, “and then I catch myself”, received a Special Mention in the 2021 Colin and Norma Knight Memorial Poetry Award competition facilitated by the Fellowship of Australian Writers Tasmania. Judge Karen Witek (Knight) commented that my poem had a “Great title, descriptive imagery, reminiscent of some of Whitman’s thought processes." She also wrote: "I liked how the writer took us into their private world of short term escapism, a walk through mindfulness, memories and beauty.”