Tuesday, May 31, 2011

beards are in at yum cha

Belated Mothers Day

First to arrive (guess who)
claims the table

studies the damask


until finally
kidz walk in
we order n eat
 n eat


until full


One thing I noticed this year
(apart from the high quality of presents;
a vintage silk salwar kameez
and a woven afghan belt)                                                        is that


 beards are definitely in

at yum cha.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saturday night's ramen haiklu (something like haiku)


Ramen gossip -
the ramen chef
has a hole
in his sock
and it’s
strangling his toe

the ramen maid enquires
how was the ramen?
the customer answers
fucking amazing!

the ramen chefs
eat salad on their break
‘to stave off scurvy’
I hear them say
fruit fly lands
on a chopstick
does he know 
                     it’s a haiku moment?


matsumori - 
     minced pork
              corn, bokchoy & beansprouts
in a thick hearty miso
          and don’t forget  the


kanko ku
ringo hamu,
charsui rice

written by jcc at berkelow books ramen bar, newtown, sat eve 21 may.

Paper cutouts by Kyoko Yanagisawa from Issa-Haiku: A Collection of 17-syllable Poem with Cutout-picture (Fujin-sha, 1996), with haiku of Kobayashi Issa, as translated by Takahiko Sakai.
via the fabulous blog: http://unurthed.com



Saturday, May 14, 2011

Thursday Ramen Writers

Winter, spring, summer - any season is a good time to visit the Ramen Bar at Berkelow Books in O'Connell St, Newtown.

I've been spending Thursday evenings there from 6 - 7.30pm with other writers readin, writin 'n slurpin ramen. The shitake mushroom and water chestnut gyoza are very yum and the range of ramen soups is sure to tantalise your taste buds and inspire your readin 'n writin mind. It's very informal, sometimes noisy, but a great place to talk about or read some of your current writing. $10 plus buy your own Ramen. See you there.

Below are some pics of ramen slaves Cyd and Robbie, cooking up the rich ramen brew interspersed with some winter Haiku from Cor Van Den Heuvel's wonderful Haiku Anthology of English language haiku to go with your soup. Some spring haiku in a new post coming soon!

John Stevenson

cold saturday -
drawn back into bed
by my own warmth

the river always
out there in the dark
late train home


Dee Evetts

summers end
the quickening of hammers
towards dusk

Arizona Zipper

in the puddle
   another raindrop
       jiggles the funhouse


and one from me
 winter night
 smile of a ramen maid
 warms my step

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Breakthrough Writing in Fiji
with Jan Cornall at Daku Resort, Savusavu Bay.

When you get off the plane in Fiji the first thing you notice is the way Fijians walk. It’s the slow relaxed gait of people from a tropical clime. There’s no point in hurrying and besides it’s just too darned hot. The rush, rush of our city-folk ways seems suddenly ludicrous and as you begin slowing it down and remembering this is the pace human beings are supposed amble along at.

It is just the kind of advice writers need. We think we have to push, push, push, to get our work out there, but first we need to slow it down to below the beat of our heart. Daku Resort in Savusavu Bay on Fiji’s second island Vanua Levu, is just the place to do it. This sleepy little backwater with only one main street doesn’t know the meaning of traffic jam or deadline. It’s all ‘rubber time’ here and so it should be in a writer’s world.  That doesn’t mean we slack off or don’t turn up to the morning workshop, but in a week of breakthrough writing, we let time stretch out so there’s room for everything.
 If you begin the morning with yoga asanas high up in the open air yoga shala, with a million dollar view over a palm framed tranquil bay, somehow you know it’s going to be a good writing day. Replacing the yoga mats with a big table and a bunch of determined writers who need a little bit of help, is always rewarding for me. I’ve come armed with a bagful of tricks, devious methods for helping them get  ‘doubting mind’ out of the way and let the writing do its thing. I’m taking them into sense memory via guided meditations, getting out the butchers paper and coloured pens, making them plan the cover of their book, the blurb on the back, quotes by famous people, foreward, dedication, publisher’s name and date of publication. ‘Just pretend’ I tell them when they give me the’ but I can’t possibly do that’ look. ‘ Make it up –isn’t that what writing is? ‘


 In no time all the ‘is it worth it, can I do it, will anyone want to read this crap’ self talk dissolves in the sweet frangipanni air and we are into our first mapping exercise and ‘show and tell’ to the group. Immediately we are all taken with the potential of one another’s work, offering constructive feedback, advice, ideas and applause. There is great power in the group process, for every day as our contribution to our fellow writers grows, so does their confidence.

As the writing hours wear on, the breakthroughs begin. One writer after nine years of waiting, gets her opening paragraph and a brilliant one it is too.  Another (instead of an after lunch siesta) strips a twenty thousand word prologue down to a thousand. A third finds her narrator voice, a fourth starts out with a ‘maybe short story’ and realises she has enough material for a novel. A fifth is encouraged to include an important strand in their book that another writing group has disapproved of. 


 And so it goes until by the end of the week, these writers can’t understand why they still feel so relaxed when they have all been working so hard. We pack our bags, sorry to leave, resolving to keep the slow Savusavu roll in our step when we arrive back in the land of the busy.’ Finish what you start’ is my parting advice and ‘remember, when it all gets too hard, just come back to the writing, that’s all you have to do’. 

Getting there : Jetstar to Nadi then Air Pacific to Savusavu 
For more info:


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Discovering John Brandi's Travel Haibun in Phnom Penh

  • ( From my upcoming book, a literary travelogue set in SE Asia - in this excerpt I'm staying with friends in Phnom Penh 2009).      

    ' After our massage we browse in a small second hand bookshop called D’s Books. I ask about Duras – at least they don’t give me the blank stare but instead direct me to another bookshop three minutes walk away. Ellie heads home to do Saturday things with the boys and I continue on crossing Norodom Boulevarde and find Monument Books without any problem. It’s huge, air conditioned, has a Java Tea Room and a whole section devoted to Duras, albeit mostly in the French language. I pounce a copy of her play L’Eden Cinema. On a quick browse I can understand enough of it to get the gist and it is worth buying for the cover photo alone - one I haven’t seen before of the teenage Duras standing behind her weary mother, hands resting on her burdened shoulders, smiling cheekily out at the camera  as if to say ‘come on Ma lighten up…it’s not all bad’.

    I’m tempted to buy another copy of the Lover to have in reserve but I resist and move on to browse the travel section deciding on Dork Whore-My Travels Through Asia as a Twenty Year Old Pseudo Virgin, by Iris Bahr and Water Shining Beyond Fields – Haibun Travels, South East Asia, by John Brandi. How I haven’t encountered Brandis’ writing before seems odd but that I am discovering him in Phnom Penh is perfect. Haibun, Brandi tells us in his introduction is a form of descriptive prose, punctuated by haiku, the three line poem form made popular by the Japanese wandering monk Matsuo Basho. My mother introduced me to Basho and had most of his works in hard cover which sadly on her death were long gone, loaned out to friends or lost. They included an illustrated copy of  “Narrow Road To The Interior”, which I now recall, is also written in the haibun form. Brandi has written many books, the blurb tells me, mostly published by small presses, but this one is from his travels in Cambodia, China and Thailand, including Siem Reap which is where I am headed next.   I flip to his section on Phnom Penh:


    “ More beers, then to a quiet, surreal restaurant, furniture piled downstairs, clock ticking by the door. Jeff treats us to mint-onion-lime spicy shrimp salad, basil-beef curry and seafood satay. The waiters have smiles and dirty sleeves; they bring candles, disappear into the shadows. The dining room opens to a balcony overlooking a row of ragged rickshaws, parked between moonlit frangipannis, as if in a sinister Shanghai 1936 movie. What a wonderful meal, what a strangely perfect place to say goodbye:
                                                                    in the kitchen
                                                                    fish playing in cold water
                                                                    under the butcher block.”

    John Brandi just became my new hero. For me this has to be the ultimate writing form. I love the moment of reflection the haiku brings at the end of the description. While I don’t consider myself to be proficient in this form but I always try to introduce the idea of haiku inspired writing when I’m with a group out in the desert or wilderness. I carry Cor Van Den Heuvel's        fabulous Haiku Anthology (modern English haiku)  in my day pack,  so when we stop for a cup of tea looking out across a desert range, or a dry river bed, we can take turns reading at random the short three line poems (some are only one line). They remind us that simplicity is best, less is more and when you combine something from nature, something from human nature with an observation of the present moment, it’s hard to go wrong. I pay for my new books and retire to the Java Tea Room in the rear of the shop to savor Brandi’s haiku with tea and poppy seed cake.'

    • fields shimmer
      beyond a gate
      made of reeds

      in the empty niche
      where Buddha sat
      bees at work

      old self new
      self, still


If you want to write you have to read
if you read a lot
chances are you like to write
and in between you have to eat....

Welcome to the art of Readin, Writin 'n Ramen