Sunday 16 April 2023

Dancing with Empty Prams

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 7
th 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