Jenny Blackford is a poet and writer based in Newcastle, Australia. Her poems and stories have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Cosmos, Westerly,Strange Horizons, The School Magazine and many more Australian and international journals and anthologies. Legendary feminist writer Pamela Sargent called her novella set in ancient Greece, The Priestess and the Slave, “elegant”. She won two prizes in the Sisters in Crime Australia Scarlet Stiletto awards 2016 for a murder mystery set in classical Delphi, with water nymphs. Eagle Books published her spidery, ghostly middle-grade novel The Girl in the Mirror in October 2019.
Jenny won the Thunderbolt Prize for Crime Poetry (2017), the Henry Lawson awards (humorous verse, 2014, 2017) and ACU Prize for Literature (third place, 2014). Her latest poetry collection is The Alpaca Cantos (March 2020), following The Loyalty of Chickens (2017) and The Duties of a Cat(2013), all from Pitt Street Poetry.
- Tell us about your recent publications/projects?
My most recent book is The Alpaca Cantos, my third poetry collection from Pitt Street Poetry, who also publish luminaries such as Jean Kent, Eileen Chong and Mark Tredinnick. It was published in March, and was due to be launched at the Newcastle Writers Festival in early April, but the world has turned into a J.G. Ballard novel, so…
Most of the poems in The Alpaca Cantos are fairly mainstream, but some first appeared in Asimov’s, Strange Horizons etc, so they’re solidly spec. In fact, one of them got into the top five poems in the Asimov’s Readers’ Award this year! If you click on the link you can read all the Readers’ Award shortlisted stories, novellas, poems… Alison Goodman called the tiny teal-covered Alpaca Cantos “absolutely gorgeous”. She also says, “Jenny Blackford’s poetry creates a unique commentary on life, sometimes sweet, sometimes dark, but always with a delicate touch full of insight and emotion.”
The book before that was a middle-grade novel, The Girl in the Mirror, which was published by Eagle Books (an imprint of Armidale publisher Christmas Press) in October last year. It’s is a ghostly time-slip adventure: two girls who sleep in the same bedroom more than a hundred years apart discover that they can talk to one another through the mirror hanging on the wall. That’s lucky, because an evil spidery force is threatening 1890s Clarissa’s mother and modern Maddie’s baby brother, and the only help they’re going to get is from one another – and the ghost of Clarissa’s dead brother Bertie.
- What has been the best publishing experience of your career so far?
In April 2013 I was in Canberra for the Natcon, which was great, despite the traditional Con issue of the hotel not understanding that several hundred people would need food, coffee and wine all at once, all weekend. On one of those days I received my first acceptance from Strange Horizons, for “Power Men” (http://strangehorizons.com/poetry/power-men/) I didn’t think I could get any happier, but the next day Pitt Street Poetry emailed me an offer to publish the cat poems from a manuscript I’d sent them, as an illustrated pamphlet. It was launched in December 2013 as The Duties of a Cat.
- Which recent Australian/NZ work would you recommend to international fans interested in expanding their Antipodean spec fic knowledge?
Thoraiya Dyer’s brilliant science-infused fantasy Titan’s Forest trilogy from Tor: a tour de force of extrapolated botany and biology, with intense and amazing characters. Also, Russell Blackford’s brilliant Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination, which got on the Locus Recommended Reading List. (Gregory Benford said, “This is a seasoned, balanced analysis of a major issue in our thinking about the future, seen through the lens of science fiction, a central art of our time. Everyone from humanists to technologists should study these ideas and examples. Blackford’s book is wise and savvy, and a delight to read as well.”)