– by Georgia Kartas
It’s Thursday night and the inside of Smiths Alternative Bookshop is packed with people (politely) elbowing their way to a table covered in children’s party food. Burley is celebrating its first birthday and launching its latest instalment, and issue 3’s cover is just as nostalgically colourful as the event’s complimentary fairy bread.
Burley is a Canberra literary journal that gives local writers the opportunity to be published in a print publication. The brainchild of editors Cara Foster and Patrick Mullins, its contributors range from lecturers to students, from public servants to full-time writers, all brought together by their “secret art lives”, their words bound and printed side-by-side
In the editor’s foreword of issue 3, Cara talks about reading the author bios and realising the diversity of backgrounds from which the pieces originate. This is made apparent at the birthday party. Raphael Kabo kicks off the readings, and the delivery of his fast-paced anti-nostalgic bushfire piece, a microcosm of imagery in every phrase, is rather reminiscent of Neil Gaiman. Sarah McCauley, whose short story ‘Leaving with gulls’ opens issue 3, modestly recites her complex verses of telephone calls and umbilical cords. Martina Hoffman gives us a self-doubting 25-year-old woman, wishing that she’d achieved more with her life when, ironically, she’s gained one of the most wondrous things of all. Monica Carroll, whose poem appears in fifty limited edition copies of issue 3 (handmade and hand-stitched), shows us the physical intimacy of words on paper. Veteran Canberra (now Goulburn-based) writer Nigel Featherstone wraps up the readings, tantalising us with the first page of his story from issue 3, ‘The People at the Gates’. It’s edge-of-your-seat suspense as we’re left wondering who the main couple are housing, and why the angry mob at their gates want him gone.
It was an evening full of sweet indulgences—a children’s birthday banquet to accompany a feast of poetry and prose. I’m told that Cara has a bunker’s worth of Rice Bubbles left over, so if you missed out this time we may be treated again to her chocolate crackles at the next Burley event. Happy first birthday Burley, and many more to come.
Georgia Kartas has been published in Spun, Burley and Us Folk, and blogs about fashion and shiny things at www.red-magpie.com.