Making poems on Valentine's Day

I've never been much of a one for Valentine's Day.

Perhaps I observed it once or twice in my youth, but I really don't recall. And of course, every year when it swings around I curse myself for not making more of an effort.

So this year I was delighted to join my writing teacher and muse Jan Cornall at the gorgeous Parliament on King - one of Sydney's most divine cafes- and join some other poets and writers in taking a more proactive approach to this day for romantics.

We decided to read and create our own poems, and we were joined by international poets via skype, and it was the most tremendous time.

At the moment Jan is poet in residence at Parliament on King, so do drop down there and have a pot of tea, listen to some records and perhaps meet Jan herself while she's hard at work.

Jan Cornall photographs some of her students' creations, proprietor Ravi in front

Apart from the poems we had brought with us, we assembled out own using cut up lines from Jan's novel, which she tore apart right in front of us.

Some of the poems created on St. Valentine's Day

Such sacrifices for art!

Books at Parliament on King

I'd never visited Parliament on King before, and it was an absolute revelation - a wonderfully eccentric, bookish space overloked by its lovely proprietor Mr. Ravi, who makes you feel as though you've stepped into his own loungeroom. The address is 632 King St, Erskineville, though this can be a little confusing if you don't know the area. In fact, it's about a minute's walk from St. Peter's Station, a good 15 minute walk from Newtown Station.

I definitely plan on making it one of my hangouts in the future.

Even Thang Ngo was writing poems

Walter Mason talks the supernatural, other worlds and Destination Cambodia on Barry Eaton's Radio Out There

I recently had a chat with the lovely Barry Eaton on his online radio show Radio Out There. The whole emphasis of Barry's show is on the unexplainable, hence the emphasis of this inerview, where I discussed some of the more fascinating examples of Cambodian spirituality and popular religious practice.

You can listen to the show here. My interview starts at around the 20 minute mark.

I was so honoured to be on Barry's show, because he is an Australian broadcasting legend, being an old ABC hand. In recent years he has turned his interest to matters metaphysical, and has written an outstanding book on the subject called Afterlife. He is about to release a brand new one called No Goodbyes - both books published by Allen & Unwin.

In this interview we touch on some of the more magical elements of Cambodian life - including their passion for the healing properties of magical children and magical logs.

Angkor Wat

We also talk about the mystical anchor of Angkor Wat, an immense spiritual powerhouse and site of pilgrimage for centuries. Just being inside Angkor Wat leaves even the most cynical person alive to the mystical possibilities of the place. It becomes more and more complex with each visit, and some astrologers say it is in alignment with certain astrological alignments.

One of Henri Mouhot's sketches of the "rediscovered" Angkor Wat in the 19th century

We also ponder the increasing presence of international tourists. I think that Angkor Wat has tantalised the Western imagination ever since it was first "rediscovered" by French explororer Henri Mouhot, and the idea of it had fascinated that great founder of Theosophy Madame Blavatsky who, though she never visited it, wrote about it in The Secret Doctrine as a place of great mystery and power.

Madame Blavatsky - fascinated by Angkor Wat
Read about Barry Eaton's new book No Goodbyes here

To learn more about the Theosophical Society and its activities (yes, it's still around) in Sydney, check their website here

A lovely piece about Henri Mouhot here

An Inspirational Conversation with Jane Austen expert Susannah Fullerton: lifelong learning

This month I am chatting with one of the world's foremost experts on Jane Austen, and the best literary historian in Australia, Susannah Fullerton.

On Wednesday 26th February at 6pm I will be having an Inspirational Conversation with Susannah at Ultimo Library, and you are welcome to come along.

As always, this Inspirational Conversation is free, and everyone is welcome.

Susannah is one of the most remarkable people I know, and I have seen her in action many times. She is passionate about literature and has a mind full of interesting facts and anecdotes about people as diverse as Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope and Evelyn Waugh. She's a fantastic storyteller and a great entertainer, and I really urge you to come along.

What always impresses me about Susannah Fullerton is her wisdom and her ability to infect her audience with a renewed love of books and writing. That is why I wanted to talk to her about lifelong learning - if anyone is testament to the beneficial effects of constant learning it is Susannah.

So please just come along on the night and hear what one of Australia's living treasures has to teach us.

It's totally free, it's one hour long, and it's about 6 minutes walk from Central Station.


 inspirational conversations: lifelong learning with Susannah Fullerton

Writer, literary historian and accomplished story teller Susannah Fullerton is someone who has built a career on bringing old books and authors to life for new generations of readers. Join writer Walter Mason as he talks to Susannah about how we can use books and literature to inspire us and enrich our lives.

Wednesday 26 February
Ultimo Library
Book online call 9265 9333

Free Event


Ultimo Library, Ultimo Community Centre, 40 William Henry Street Corner Harris Street Ultimo 2007 
Cost: Free

Alice Pung on life writing, keeping a journal and taking the creative leap

 One of the writers I have admired for a very long time is Alice Pung. Her gentle and affectionate stories about her family are exquisite examples of the best sort of memoir. One of the books that I read and loved long before I wrote my book about Cambodia was her enchanting story about her relationship with her Cambodian-Chinese father, Her Father's Daughter. I was so thrilled to be able to chat with Alice and ask her a couple of questions about what has inspired her on her writing path:

Alice Pung

Alice, you use your own life as rich material for your writing. It seems that memoir and life writing continues to be a very popular genre. Why do you think that is?

I think life writing has always been what human beings have always been drawn to, over and beyond fictional stories or myths. For instance, people love gossip - or seem more drawn to the lives of their friends and neighbours - than make-believe animals or even fictional characters.
In village communities, the stories that stick are the stories about other people in the village making mistakes, or learning certain lessons, or stories about the pariahs in the community. Some people read memoirs to expand their knowledge of different cultures, some because they are fascinated by the subject's lives (Zelda Fitzgerald, Aung San Suu Kyi or even Schapelle Corby), and others read to judge. In no other genre of writing will you be able to think so deeply about character and circumstance, or feel so close to the lives of others.

Can you tell us some examples of life writing that have inspired you?

I found a book called Still Me at the local charity store a few years ago. It was written by Christopher Reeve, the man who played Superman in the 1980s and who had a paralysing spinal cord injury. I had expected it to be some 'follow your dreams' ghostwritten memoir about surmounting adversity, but I found it to be extremely erudite (he was a very educated man), deeply insightful, political, and filled with layers of understanding and experience - everything a good memoir should be. To this day it remains one of my favorites.

One of my other favorite books is Aung San Suu Kyi's autobiography. I discovered it as a second year university student. She writes as a woman who has thought long and hard about how to deal with her enemies. It is not a book about battling the bad junta, but a quiet and heroic internal struggle against herself.

Do you keep a journal? If so, do you follow any method or have any particular rituals surrounding it?
I try and keep a journal but have no rituals associated with it. I became a writer mainly to vent out my frustrations. This was a time before Facebook and connectivity, where if you were growing up as a rather isolated child of migrants, put in charge of looking after your younger siblings, you could not tell your friends about any of it. I wrote because I loved my siblings, but also knew I needed an outlet.

What piece of advice would you give someone who wants to take the leap and explore their own creativity?

Like the Nike logo suggests, JUST DO IT! But, there is a disclaimer - try not to quit your day job or put all your eggs in one basket. The best kind of writer is one that has balance in their lives. If you become too obsessed by writing, every little rejection or every little bit of praise will seem grotesquely enormous, because then your livelihood depends on your words. And it also gives you a freedom to be creative instead of stressing about where your next meal will come from.

Old Boy George Pics

The latest issue of Kill Your Darlings literary journal has just come out, and in it you'll find an essay by me on my lifelong obsession with Boy George.

 Order your copy of Kill Your Darlings here

 In the meantime, here's an old post from me about discovering my old Boy George scrapbooks:

I found another of my old scrap books and had the idea of scanning some of the images in. But the results are disappointing - maybe my scanner is too crappy, but also the images have been glued in to exercise books, giving them a corrugated surface which is hard to scan.
Here are the few I did before I gave up - selected on the basis of them being images of George I haven't seen on the net before.
As a youngster I was a mad Boy George fan, and had 6 or 7 scrapbooks filled with pictures of him. He was just so famous back then that I found it hard to keep up.
He still remains an inspiration, and I say a prayer for him every night.

This is George in his bleached blonde phase, returning from a trip to Jamaica with Marilyn. The first time he ever appeared in public with facial hair - and the last time for many years!

George beginning to get chubby for the first time.

George immortalised in wax at Madame Tussauds.

George out of his element on the beach. Again in Jamaica, I think. Jamaica became a place of refuge for George, and he recorded a wistful video clip there for his little known but beautiful song Keep Me in Mind.

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