The idea of “dog-earing” a book is something of a controversy among readers: Do you or don’t you fold tabs in the pages? Local writers Rachel Mead and Heather Taylor Johnson confess to creasing their book pages and embellishing them with marginalia.
“When I was young, I wouldn’t even bend the spine of my books!” says Mead, author of the recently published novel The Art of Breaking Ice.
“Later, I discovered the beauty in a well-loved book, one read by others first. There’s something delicious about it.”
While reading can be a solitary practice, there is a certain joy in sharing it with a community, which is why Mead and Taylor Johnson have created a new series of local literary events called The Dog-Eared Readings.
The first session, on August 23, celebrates Poetry Month and welcomes Narungga woman and activist-poet Natalie Harkin as the featured guest writer. In her award-winning poetry collection Archival-Poetics, Harkin reckons with institutions of colonial power to explore Aboriginal women’s domestic labour histories.
Harkin will be in conversation with Dominic Guerrera, Ngarrindjeri, Kaurna and Italian writer and poet. There will also be readings from Stephen Orr, author of novels including Sincerely, Ethel Malley and the Miles Franklin Literary Award-longlisted The Hands and Time’s Long Ruin, and slam poet Tyberius Larkin.
The Dog-Eared Readings add a new dimension to Adelaide’s literary landscape, with the hosts saying they will present “an evening of high-calibre readings and discussion”.
The curated series aims to bring together practitioners of poetry and prose, something Taylor Johnson and Mead felt was missing in the local literary scene.
They have taken inspiration from poet Ken Bolton’s legendary Lee Marvin Readings, a regular gathering for local writers that ran on and off from the 1990s until 2016. Taylor Johnson and Mead say that when they first spoke about hosting an ongoing literary event, the Lee Marvin Readings were in their final days and they were worried that Adelaide’s writers might find themselves split between poetry and prose.
“With each session, the featured writer will have the opportunity to invite who they’d like to be in conversation with, and another guest reader,” Mead says of The Dog-Eared Readings, explaining that the structure aims to promote diversity and inclusion, while also expanding connections within the community.
Looking ahead, the October session will place Shannon Burns, author of Childhood: A Memoir, in conversation with Nobel Laureate JM Coetzee. Guest writers Jelena Dinic and Lisa L Hannett will also feature.
The Dog-Eared Readings has secured support from Arts SA, with funds being used to support featured writers. Proceeds gathered from the pay-as-you-can entry fee will help secure future interstate guests.
“It is really important to us that our artists are properly compensated in line with Australian Society of Authors’ rates,” Mead says. “Our commitment to fair pay brings The Dog-Eared Readings in line with the nation’s most esteemed literary events.”
The inaugural Dog-Eared Reading will be held on August 23 at The Monocle at the Howling Owl, 7pm for a 7.30 start (details here). Sign up to The Dog-Eared Readings’ mailing list by emailing email@example.com
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