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And here we are! My triptych of sonnets, "Libitina's Garden" is included in this 200th and penultimate issue of Mythic Delirium.

It consists of the sequence, "The Grove", "Vespillonis" and "The Dream of Augustus". It is a kind of cousin to my poem of last year, "Vanth - a myth derived", in that it sprang from the same body of research and the same provocative lack of evidence. Was this goddess of corpses, whom Horace prayed his works would escape, such an integral part of the Roman cultural fabric that she was simply never described? Or was there an interdiction on her name and image, in keeping with the general taboo against pollution by death? Undertakers were called "Libitinarii" and were only permitted to enter the city gates after sunset. That one of the first decrees of the first Emperor was for the improvement of the cemetery which lay outside the walls, converting a wilderness of bones into parkland, is another teasing snippet.

In any case, this superb production also contains poetry and short fiction by such tenebraries as Kate MacLeod, Benjanun Sriduangkaew and John Phillip Johnson. I especially like the poem "After Pandora" by Maya Chhabra.  Mythic Delirium achieved near-legendary status during its 20 year run and I mark its passing with a branch of cypress.

This issue -and all preceding- may be purchased here. The first two sonnets are free to read here.

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Weirdbook #37 is now available from Wildside Press. Amongst its multitudinous delights is my latest poem, "Tattered Livery"! Those who attended Poetry Readings 2.0 at Conflux 13 did receive a sneak preview, but this version will last longer and involve less arm waving. Unless you count the cover illustration, of course.

The inspiration for this work was very simple. I was reading the original King In Yellow tale cycle by Robert W Chambers-- you know, the one that predates Lovecraft and has nothing to do with the mythos at all-- in the grip of a mild fever.

"A paradox awaits their eyes,
A courtier in beggar's guise.
A ragged, jagged, mad array
and yet suggestive of the day
when I, perhaps, was much like them.
A most ingenious strategem!..."

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Out of "The Kite", "The Necromancer's Question" and "The Cat's Cortege... guess.

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For those who simply can't get enough of me performing my own poetry, I will occupying a slot at the Demonic Industries at 4.00 pm, Sunday, 15th October.

Demonic Industries is an initiative by some literary-minded folk including my fellow Theatre of Blood alumni Irving Gregory. It stages readings, performances and lectures "...exploring the erotic, exemplum and extraordinary around us." These take place on Sunday evenings at the old Temperance Society hall, 122 Smith Street, Summer Hill, Sydney. Like everything else in the inner city, it has been converted into a quirky bar.

In keeping with the theme, I will be performing "The Kite", "The Cat's Cortege" and "The Necromancer's Question". I may reprise "Tattered Livery" from Conflux 13, if there is time. So come along, and you will also catch "What the Caretaker Saw" by an as yet unknown presenter!

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The Vampire Poetry panel conducted by Val Toh and myself at Conflux 13 was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Most of the audience seemed to like it too! Here are your panelists, getting into the spirit of things.

For general interest, this was our playlist.

"Christobel, Part One" by Samuel Taylor Colerige (1797). Extracts read by Val Toh.

"The Vampire" by Charles Baudelaire (1857). Trans. William Aggeler. Read by Val Toh.

"The Vampire" by Conrad Aiken (1916). Read by Kyla Ward.

"Oil and Blood", William Butler Yeats(1933). Read by Kyla Ward.

"Sanguine Taggers" by Anne K. Schwader (2011). Read by Kyla Ward.

"Like Angels, Winged" by Michael R. Burch (2013?). Read by Val Toh.

"The Music of Vampires" by Bruce Boston (2015). Read by Kyla Ward.

In most cases, poems have been dated to their collection.

The passage I read concerning the Leanann Sidhe came from Yeats's Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888).

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Next weekend (which lasts from Friday, 29th September to Monday, 2nd October) the thirteenth Conflux speculative fiction convention will take place at the Vibe Hotel Canberra Airport. The theme this year is "Grimm Tales". With guests of honour Ellen Datlow and Angela Slatter, there shall be much discussion of the roots of fairy tales, the uses of enchantment and the meaning of common tropes.

I won't be contributing much to all of that. Instead, I'm on these panels:

Friday, 3.00pm - Use and Abuse of the Tarot

Using the Tarot as a literary device.
"The Rider-Waite versus 007!"

Saturday, 4.00 pm - Poetry Readings 2.0

Poetry for the 21st Century and beyond. An immersive experience of live poetry readings.
"Pick up the thumbscrews and you'll get what you deserve."

Sunday, 1.00pm -  Vampire poetry

The poems, the poets and the muses.
"Lestat's lyrics count as poetry, right?"

So come along: it will be good to see you! I also anticipate much lounging around in the lobby, doing the Creative Indulgence workshop and the Australian Horror Writers Association meet up on Sunday at 6.00 pm in the bar.  It's hay fever season, but with any luck, I won't need to go outside at all!
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Blessed solstice! I am in an especially celebratory mood, because my poem "Vanth - A Myth Derived" is in the new edition of *Eternal Haunted Summer*, an online magazine of pagan songs and tales. Accepting the piece, the editor said that they didn't get much in the way of Etruscan mythology. The poem itself explains why.

This piece came out the research I conducted for a short story as yet unpublished, that brought home to me just how shaky is the base for all our ideas about Ancient Rome, let alone less such cultures that were less self-aggrandising. Our entire knowledge of the death goddess Libitina, for instance, rests upon maybe four passing references in Horace, Festus and Juvenal, a longer entry in Plutarch and the miraculously surviving regulations for the conduct of undertakers in the city of Puteoli. Scholars have long thought her an adaptation of an Etruscan death deity, which led me to Vanth. About whom even less is known, but at least we have some tomb paintings and this exquisite bronze.

is a name carved in an Etruscan tomb,
a bronze woman whose arms are wreathed in snakes,
the beating of rainbow-shaded wings,
the stranger at the banquet,
a torch-bearer in dark places,
who comes to announce the end.

That’s what we know, from statue, vase and wall.
The Etruscans did not write her story down
in any way that we may read today...

So yes, I write free verse every now and then.
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It's hard to believe, but it has been five whole years since my poetry collection and first solo book was published by P'rea Press.


Editor Charles Danny Lovecraft, compositor David E. Schultz and designer David Schembri all did a wonderful job with this release, which has been described as "...a rich, eccentric miscellany of dark music, skilfully crafted and strangely wrought." (Ann K. Schwader) and "...a carnival of life's cruel and grotesque side, with much pageantry and dark laughter." (K, J. Bishop). It includes such oddities as the Rhysling-nominated "The Kite" and "The Soldier's Return", as well as "The Feast of Mistrust", which has been described as "an involuntary epic" (me, in the instalment I wrote for the Blood and Spades column in the HWA newsletter). The entire Predation City triptych, consisting of "The Bat's Boudoir", "The Cat's Cortege" and "The Rat's Repast". Perfomance pieces, such as "The Torturer's Confession".

Nicely illustrated, if I do say so myself, including an interview and a bibliography that was comprehensive at the time, I am still as pleased as punch with this volume. In fact, I'm going to share with you the very first poem it includes.

The DEAD leave no token
But DECAY and fade:
Shall our bond be broken
By this new DECAYed?
O lest our lives resume
DeluDEAD and faDEAD,
I declare this volume

Should you wish to explore, http://www.preapress.com/books.php?isbn=9780980462579 is the way to go. Or, should you wish to see me in full swing as The Torturer, then head straight here!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ex-RSQP0rc


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April 2019

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