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Steve Cox, Alex Skovron, Gina Mercer, Les Wicks

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Lee James Shott

Lee James Shott was born in Aberdare in the Cynon Valley area of Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales (UK), and holds an M.A. in Fine Art.

Shott’s paintings subjectively capture the contemporary culture of communities throughout South Wales. The work focuses on human interactions and the idiosyncrasies of his daily life, observations of people and their interactions, night-time walks, and commuting by public transport.

Shott paints both landscapes and portraits that are at once psychological and voyeuristic, implying that the viewer is surveying and surveilling his environments and subjects.

The work, seen as a whole, includes portraits with blurred and fragmented features along with figurative images of workers and young people. His landscape paintings often show machinery in the green valleys of South Wales. Each painting is a precise, and precisely ambiguous, moment of life.

Les Wicks

Me—what can I say? Poetry has been a core part of my life since I was about 19 with a largish gap in the middle pursuing career and family. At its best, poetry can say things unutterable anywhere else and I’m completely committed to it. I really am now a one trick pony even if the beast is as thin as poetry is. I edit and run workshops which provides a bit of income but is much more rewarding on deeper levels. Most of my publishing work is aimed at getting new audiences rather than “clogging up” pre-existing outlets. Varying approaches, but some extraordinary outcomes in terms of getting poetry in front of people who wouldn’t normally encounter it. As for my own work I feel blessed that I have seen publication in rather a lot of places/countries/languages. I’ve had 14 books out and still love them all despite their attitude problems, the latest being Belief (Flying Islands, 2019). If you buy a copy you’ll make me very happy. I constantly work at bettering my poetry, I don’t share (a surprisingly common) delusion that I am a (grossly unrecognised) International Treasure. Compared to say actors I have occasionally said I am not a Streep or de Niro, but I aspire to be maybe Brian Dennehy. But heard today he has died!

Les Wicks, 2020.

Read Les Wicks’ poetry

Steve Cox

Steve Cox is an artist and writer. He has a forty-year exhibition history and his work is held in major public and private collections throughout Australia and internationally. As an arts writer, since 2000, he has contributed articles and reviews, and has conducted interviews with artists, for numerous newspapers, journals and magazines, including The GuardianVAULTAustralasian Art & CultureGay Times, UK; FilmInk.com, amongst others. Cox writes on a range of subjects, including contemporary and historical art; LGBTQI issues; social issues; cinema; contemporary music.

Between 2013–2014, he was the London Arts Editor of NakedButSafe magazine. In 2019 he was on the judging panel for the Young Arts Journalist Award (YAJA). Also in 2019, he was the inaugural Writer in Residence for Brunswick Street Village, an innovative building complex, which espouses green values and arts in the community as a primary concern. During the residency, he produced a collection of fifty poems, on a range of subjects.

Gina Mercer

Gina Mercer enjoys a three-stranded career as writer, teacher, and editor. She has taught creative writing and literature in universities and communities for 35 years. She was Editor of Island from 2006–2010. She has a passion for working with writers as book doula. Gina has performed her poetry in cities and regions throughout Australia as well as Canada and Ireland. Recently she’s collaborated with musicians interweaving their original compositions with her eco-poetry in the performances: ‘Off with the Birds’ and ‘Diving into the Derwent’. She’s been writer-in-residence at Prince Edward Island (Canada), Varuna (NSW), the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre and Katherine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre (WA). She’s published widely in journals, anthologies, and diaries, as well as ten books (poetry, fiction, academic nonfiction). The three most recent books are: The Dictionary of Water, a limited edition poetry collection, Wild Element Press (email), 2019; Weaving Nests with Smoke and Stone, a poetry collection all about birds, Walleah Press, 2015; and The Sky Falls Down: An Anthology of Loss, co-edited with Terry Whitebeach, Ginninderra Press, 2019.

Read Gina Mercer’s poetry

Photo: Gina Mercer with Patrick Kavanagh sculpture, Dublin.

Alex Skovron

Alex Skovron was born in Poland, lived briefly in Israel, and emigrated to Australia in 1958, aged nearly ten. His family settled in Sydney, where he grew up and completed his studies. From the early 1970s he worked as an editor for book publishers in Sydney and (after 1980) Melbourne; since the 1990s he has worked as a freelance editor. His poetry has appeared widely in Australia and overseas. The Rearrangement (1988), his first book, won the Anne Elder and Mary Gilmore awards and was shortlisted in the NSW Premier’s Awards; there followed Sleeve Notes (1992), Infinite City: 100 Sonnetinas (1999, shortlisted in the Age Book of the Year and Victorian Premier’s Awards), The Man and the Map (2003), Autographs: 56 poems in prose (2008), and Towards the Equator: New & Selected Poems (2014, shortlisted in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards). Other awards have included the Wesley Michel Wright Prize for Poetry, the John Shaw Neilson Poetry Award, and the Australian Book Review Poetry Prize. The numerous public readings he has given include appearances in China, Serbia, India, Ireland, Macedonia, Portugal, and on Norfolk Island. An 80-minute CD in which he reads from his poetry was published in 2019 under the title Towards the Equator. His next collection, Letters from the Periphery, is due in 2021.

Concurrently with his poetry, Alex has intermittently published in prose, including short stories, a novella, and the abovementioned Autographs, which can be read as a book of microstories. The novella, titled The Poet (2005), was joint winner of the FAW Christina Stead Award for a work of fiction and has been translated into Czech. The Attic, a bilingual selection of his poems translated into French, was published by PEN Melbourne in 2013; and Water Music, a bilingual volume of Chinese translations in the Flying Island series (Macau), came out in 2017. Some of his poetry has also been translated into Dutch, Polish, Spanish, Macedonian and German. His collection of short stories, The Man who Took to his Bed, was published in 2017, and a Czech-language edition appeared in 2019. He has collaborated with his Czech translator, Josef Tomáš, on English translations of the twentieth-century Czech poets Jiří Orten and Vladimír Holan.

Concerns that have driven Alex Skovron’s poetry and fiction are many and various: history, language and music; the riddles of time and the allure of memory; philosophy, faith and the quest for self-knowledge; art and the creative impulse; fantasy, eros and the affections. His interest in speculative fiction has played a recurring role in his thinking and his work, as has a lifelong passion for music. As a poet, he enjoys both the disciplines and the aesthetics of formal design and the diverse challenges of freer structures. Integral to his project has been a focus on musicality and the primacy of rhythm. He likes probing the elasticities of syntax, and exploiting the ‘contrapuntal’ layerings available to imagery and meaning via compression, connotation, ambiguity.

Read Alex Skovron’s poetry

Photo: Martin Langford