I had to search for the whereabouts of my "bedside" pile of books – it had been given "not on display" status as we decluttered our rooms in preparation for putting the house on the market. On finding them, several books that I had just started, was part-way through, or had finished but that didn't yet deserve bookshelf retirement re-introduced themselves like friends do when you haven't seen them for a while.
On top was Harry Ricketts' Selected Poems (VUP), which I had just begun dipping into. Harry tutored me in creative writing back in 2004 and was a major influence on how I think about and practise writing. His poetry is like a favourite set of clothes that you put on when you want to relax. They are easy to get into and comfortable, but their quirkiness reminds you not to take them for granted.
Next was You Are Here – Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination by Katharine Harmon (Princeton Architectural Press). I'm not sure whether we bought it for our adult son or the other way around. Either way, each time I see this book, it loudly demands my attention and insists on being opened because (as the front blurb says) it is "... a wide-ranging collection of ... superbly inventive maps. These are charts of places you are not expected to find, taking you on a voyage of the mind ..." It appeals to me because I am increasingly incorporating maps into my own work and the book is full of exciting ideas on how this might be done.
Stalin's Wine Cellar by John Baker and Nick Place (Viking) is waiting for bookshelf consignment but will probably be loaned out again before this happens. My Sydney-based sister-in-law gave me an author-signed copy for a birthday and/or Xmas present. I still grin when I think about the rollicking "true" story it tells about a couple of Aussie wine industry entrepreneurs who get a lead on what could be Stalin's wine collection long-hidden in a cellar in the country of Georgia. The adventures they then have in relation to verifying the wines' authenticity and possibly extracting the collection for places north or south form the storyline. Of course, it has to be read with a glass of red (in several sittings).
Home Base: poems on life as a Regular Force Cadet 1964–1966 by Keith Westwater (The Cuba Press, $25) is available now.