Poetry Focus: ‘Sculpture in a Groac’h Pond’

La Groac’h de l’ile du Lok, by Théophile Busnel

It’s brilliant, the things one learns in the midst of editing and compiling a literary anthology. On the one hand, there’s a veritable smorgasbord of technical and sensible methods in which to do certain things: “Aha, so that’s the best way to format this piece the way the author intended,” I might say. “Aha,” I might also say, “so that’s how you embed page numbers. I’d completely forgotten how to do that.” Or even, at the end of a long day experimenting, “Aha! Now I can import this font that previously didn’t exist into InDesign’s archaic font library.”

Things like that.

On the other hand, one can learn about all kinds of fascinating and exotic customs, places and fables from all over the world. Such was happily the case when New South Wales teacher, writer and poet Darcy-Lee Tindale submitted her grotesquely erotic yet darkly humorous open form poem ‘Sculpture in a Groac’h Pond’.

“What the hell is a Groac’h?” I asked myself after finishing this epic poem chock full of swampy imagery, passive-aggressive talking critters, long and yellowed walrus teeth, ruminative introspections about love and time forever lost, themes of violence and sexual satisfaction, and peculiar cooking techniques. I’d never read anything quite like it, and I immediately decided to accept it for my anthology. It was perfect.

The Groac’h, I learned, is a form of water fairy common to the Breton region of France. Largely malevolent, the Groac’h lives in caverns near swamps and lakes, and can change her shape. Her modus operandi in many tales consists of seducing men, turning them into fishes, and then cooking them up to serve as dinner to guests. The Groac’h is often rendered as a solitary witch-like crone, craving nothing more than to exist alone in nature.

Not the Groac’h here. In Tindale’s telling, she is trapped in a loveless marriage to her husband, who’s only referred to as “Him”. She is a frustrated and woefully undersexed being lamenting the irreversible passing of time and the loss of her youth.

And in spite – in spite, she could claw at her face. Rip away the years. Unveil
Lost youth. It’s there, somewhere, hidden under layers of life, etched in lines.
Where did I go? Where did I go? asks the Groac’h.
Her milky white eyes sting
But it’s years – years too late for tears.

I think what I love most about this poem is that it takes a relatively obscure French water fairy (fun fact: Groac’h used to be the Breton term for fairies in general) and it reflects us with her needs and desires. Don’t we all just want to be loved and respected for what we are?

I certainly think so.


Photo of a nice man in a yellow shirt being hugged by a handsome young boy in an outdoor courtyard, surrounded by launch attendees

And just like that, Curiouser Magazine was officially introduced to the world at Low Key, a nice little cocktail bar in Northcote, Victoria. Earlier that afternoon, as I perused the aisles of the supermarket to purchase snacks for the launch party, my stomach was doing backflips of terror – I literally had no idea what to expect. Was anybody going to show up? Was it going to be fun? Was anybody going to actually purchase this thing I’d been working on for the last six months?

Yes, imposter syndrome was rearing its ugly head, and as I’ve learned to do countless times since September 2020, I talked myself down. “It’s a lovely book,” I said. “I put together a pretty ace publication, and I think people are going to like it.”

Luckily, I have attended many book launches in the past, and I knew some of the basic tenets: snacks are very important, someone besides me has to say something, and at the end of the shindig, do a lot of thanking. I can totally do this! After all, I mused, I’ve pretty much been making it up as I’ve gone along – this launch should be a piece of cake.

I needn’t have worried about the launch. A lot of people showed up, and I kicked things off by reading the opening poem in the book, ‘Conversation with Rothko’ by Georgian poet L. Ward Abel. I managed to convey the gist of the collection itself and tie it to the poem’s theme of humanity and where we belong in the world. The snacks were a success. One of my authors was present, the wonderful Ella Salome, who read a passage from her short story ‘Old Man’s Head‘, and then I closed out with a lot of heartfelt thanks to everybody who showed up, the staff at Low Key, the printers who printed my book, and all that good stuff you’re supposed to do at a launch. People even bought copies!

Copies of a book, Curiouser Magazine, piled in an appealing manner on a tan carpet.

It really is a lovely book, I do keep telling myself when imposter syndrome sneaks up on me. And, I add, when it’s time for the launch of Issue Two sometime in October later this year, I’ll know exactly what to do!

Stay tuned for the occasional follow-up to this post where I’ll discuss various lessons I’ve learned during the creation of this anthology, as well as various anecdotes. I’ll not bombard your inboxes, so if you’d like to follow along, then go for it.

And, of course, if you want to buy a book I have a couple of boxes left – a copy would look absolutely dashing on your shelves. You can purchase one here. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of your day.

And… we’re off.

Well, hello there, dear reader. As Editor-in-Chief of this here fiction anthology, I am chuffed beyond measure to announce that our first issue of Curiouser Magazine is coming out in a week’s time on Sunday the 18th of April. To say it’s been a bit of work would be the understatement of the year, but the most prevalent emotion I feel right now – besides relief – is happiness.

The books are being printed as I type this, and our launch party is coming up. Click on ‘HOME‘ for time and place, if you’re in the Melbourne area and you’d like to come. Authors have been paid, and little glitches in all the minute processes along the way are being ironed out, excised or simply ignored for the time being. I’ll get to them sometime, eventually.

This here is the closest we’ll get to doing a blog. From time to time we’ll share our thoughts on the various aspects of of publishing a book, we’ll post snippets from works appearing in upcoming issues, and we’ll vent our spleens. Isn’t that what a blog is for?

A medical drawing of a spleen, detailing its position next to the stomach. A bit yucky maybe but how else to illustrate venting a spleen?

It’s an adventure, to be sure, but let’s embark on it together, what do you say? It could be a lot of fun.

Thanks for joining us on this wild ride. If you would like a copy of our inaugural issue, don’t forget to click the ‘STORE‘ tab above. Talk to you soon, and have a wonderful day.