Featured Writers from ‘To End All Wars’: Biographical Notes

!Gisela Nittel 2012

Gisela Nittel (2012)

Gisela Sophia Nittel was inspired to start writing poetry after completing her PhD on the Austrian poet Ingeborg Bachmann. She is an active member of three poetry groups in Sydney, and her poems have been published in Australian Poetry Journal, Going Down Swinging, Australian Poetry Collaboration, Quadrant, Yours&Mine and Tamba. Gisela has an ongoing research interest in post-war German poets, whose work she also enjoys translating.

 

 

!Judy Johnson photo credit Judy Johnson

Judy Johnson. photo taken by Judy Johnson

Judy Johnson has published six poetry books and several chap books. She’s won many prizes for individual poems, and for collections, including the Wesley Michel Wright Prize (twice) and the Victorian Premier’s Award for poetry. Her work was also shortlisted in the WA Premier’s and NSW Premier’s Awards. She taught Creative Writing part time for several years at the University of Newcastle and is one of four editors for a 25-year retrospective Contemporary Australian Poetry published by Puncher and Wattmann in 2016.

 

!Andy Kissane photo credit Michael Reynolds

Andy Kissane. photo taken by Micheal Reynolds

Andy Kissane has published a novel, a book of short stories, The Swarm, and four books of poetry. Radiance (Puncher & Wattmann, 2014) was shortlisted for the Victorian and Western Australian Premier’s Prizes and the Adelaide Festival Awards. He was the winner of the 2017 Tom Collins Prize for Poetry. He has read his work in Ireland, England, Austria and many venues in Australia. He is currently working on a verse novel and a short story cycle. http://andykissane.com

 

 

 

 

!photo_AngelaGardner_lowres

Angela Gardner

Angela Gardner is the author of Parts of Speech (UQP, 2007); Views of the Hudson (2009) and The Told World (2014) both from Shearsman UK; and Thing & Unthing (Vagabond, 2014) as well as three published collaborations. Recently she has been published in Blackbox Manifold, The Long Poem and Tears in the Fence, UK; Axon, Hecate, Rabbit and Cordite; West Branch and Yale Review USA. She has received a Churchill Fellowship, an Australia Council Literature Residency and project grant, and the Thomas Shapcott Prize. She edits at www.foame.org. ‘Ilium’ (after Sidney Nolan’s Gallipoli series) first appeared in APJ 3.1. and was later published in The Told World.

 

A selection of four poems from To End All Wars (Puncher and Whattman, 2018):

‘Parallels of latitude’- Gisela Sophia Nittel
‘The Sestina Shot for Desertion’- Judy Johnson
‘Raking the Powder, 1943’- Andy Kissane
‘Ilium’- Angela Gardner

To End All Wars, edited by Dael Allison, Kit Kelen, Anna Couani and Les Wicks, is available from Puncher and Wattmann

 

 

Bringing the Reader Full Circle: Lisa Wardle reviews ‘The Swarm’ by Andy Kissane

The Swarm by Andy Kissane. Puncher and Wattmann 2012

the_swarm_310_439_sI am a fan of the short story. I read them. I write them. I have no doubt they are here to stay and will continue to be published. I don’t buy into the idea that the short form is an endangered species, and here’s why.

In our busy twenty-first century lives, the short story is just the right length to fit into those brief moments when we stop and catch our breath between our daily responsibilities. The short story, regardless of whether it is five hundred or five thousand words long, can slot comfortably into these spaces. We all like to finish things, and being able to start and finish a story in one sitting is satisfying. Where a novel takes an extended commitment of concentration and time, the short story asks much less of you, yet offers so much in return.

Done well, a short story will grab you by the scruff of the neck and press you hard up against life, in all its beauty and ugliness. Andy Kissane’s collection, The Swarm, did just that. The opening story, “In My Arms”, deals with the loss of a child – the most painful grief imaginable – yet there is light and hope at the conclusion of the story. By cleverly linking the first and last stories, Kissane brings the reader full circle, creating a feeling of completion.

The last story, “A Mirror to the World”, stayed with me long after I had read the final sentence and closed the book. “In My Arms” was equally as affecting, though in a different way, as if it had taken an alternate route to my heart. Both stories are filled with sadness and loss, with some of the worst experiences the world can present to us. The actions and reactions of the characters are to be expected given the situations they have been written into.

One difference I felt between the two stories was the way I read them, the way I felt while reading them. With “In My Arms”, I had the sense of looking down and watching the events unfold, of being ‘apart from’, rather than ‘immersed in’, the story. A detached observer, though the sadness still reached me.

The opposite was true of “A Mirror to the World” – which is what most writers do with their writing; show the reader a reflection of the world around them. I experienced this story more closely, intimately. This may, in part, have been the form the story took, which was a writer (Kissane) writing about a writer, writing. This can be tedious when done badly or for no real reason, but I felt Kissane knew exactly what he was doing. By structuring the story in this way, he has helped the reader take it in less quickly. By slowing us down, he has allowed us to digest the tragedy in bites, rather than choke on its intensity.

The difference in the way I experienced these two particular stories could simply have been the order in which I read them. When I read the first story, Kissane was a author that was new to me. By the last story, I was more familiar with the writer and his style; this may explain why I felt more immersed in the final story of the collection. Also, knowing the book was coming to an end, perhaps I wanted to savour that final story, like the last spoonful of desert at the end of a good meal.

The character M. Chagall in “The Illusive Tenant” was particularly interesting to me. Though he was not a major player in the story, the front story at least, he plays such a large part within the context of it. His surrealist art leaches out into the fabric of the story until the story itself becomes a written version of surrealism. It was surprising and entertaining. For me, this story stood on its own, spot lit, within the collection.

Kissane’s stories are not complex or filled with action and movement, but each satisfies in its own way. They encourage the reader to participate, imagining what lies outside the confines of the words on the page. As Samuel Johnson once said, “A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it”. I’m glad I had the opportunity to read The Swarm and become familiar with this writer’s work. There is a skill to writing a good short story. Every word must count; must earn its right to be there. Kissane clearly knows this. There is nothing superfluous here.

– Lisa Wardle

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Lisa Wardle is a writer, blogger and avid reader. She enjoys paper crafts and spending time with her family. She has interviewed more than 30 authors for her blog, and has had her poetry and stories published in various literary magazines. Her short story collection Reflections was published in 2009 by Ginninderra Press. She can be found at http://lisa-wardle.blogspot.com.au/

The Swarm is available from http://puncherandwattmann.com/books/book/the-swarm/

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