Monday, December 23, 2013
And it is a book I am fond of. It was born of a more specific project than The Beautiful Anxiety, in fact, developed from a manuscript which was shortlisted for the 2011 Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize. To that idea I added three slightly older poems which had not found a place in a past book. It gained a few good reviews, mainly online, but seemed to pass most people by. I suspect this was due, partly, to issues of distribution. Although these days you probably won't find it in a bookshop, now it is available easily online, including from The Book Depository, at a decent price, as well as from the publisher if you live in Australia, or overseas.
Interestingly, this time around, mostly the reviewers got it, in a positive way. Ali Alizadeh had it as one of his Best of 2012 at Overland and said: "It is not only due to the freshness and intelligence of her very modern voice, but also due to her ability to produce so much consistently outstanding, original and incisive poetry, that I feel Jill Jones is one of the best poets writing in Australia today. In Jones’s oeuvre, quality and quantity are not at loggerheads; and her latest full-length volume ... is a collection of terse, evocative ruminations on contemporary life that turns linguistic conventions into malleable matter for Jones’s unique engagements with reality."
Michael Farrell commented on the speediness of some of the poems, yet ended up liking the longer ones even more. He said: "The book ends with three long poems in a section titled ‘Hang the Ash!’. These are, I think, the book’s best poems; they function at a different order from the shorter poems. … ‘Where We Live’, extracted from its original context of a collaboration with photographer Annette Willis, is the payoff of the book. Even without visual reference there is a strong sense of framing, of a focal point for the subtitles, prose and verse that make up this poem. Though I feel like I know this approach from Jones, what I think of as her geopoetic affect, the poem reads like a peak of this take: ‘Heaven, if you look up, isn’t as black as it used to be’. She even manages to do something new with ending the poem on the word ‘light’: the use of repetition makes the light meta-critical rather than faux-transcendent."
In her review in Cordite, A. Frances Johnson noted that: "Jones’ polyphonic, visual, ‘broken’ language draws fierce attention to the way language constructs meaning: life’s stages, love, death, past, future, culture, place. But there is a driving emotional core at the heart of this fine collection that anchors formalism to universal human desires for narrative and insight. The beauty is in the lack of resolution between these two impulses."
Lucy Alexander in Verity La, also remarked on the speed of the work, saying: "The poems come in fast – they swerve, they flash you with the scent of ‘Blood Bones & Diamonds’ they catch you, distracted by their songful voice and plunge you among the lanes and backstreets of the city. They turn your eyes to the graffiti on the walls and make it meaningful, then up to the ‘ghost moon bitten apple’. Jones writes better lyrics than those pretty boys with guitars strapped to their groins. But there are also poems here that move at walking pace: that grieve and grieve again for that ‘you’ that puts the poet in perspective."
As I noted, the book was pretty much ignored by mainstream print media, where I've usually had some notice, but it received two mentions in print-based literary magazines. One mention of it made it into an overview article in Westerly, thanks to Michelle Cahill, who noted: "Jill Jones's urban dystopia Ash is Here, So are Stars is rife with cops, bailiffs, the ministry, the extras, speed cameras, dud freeways, libertarians, mimics, and arsonists. Not all the poems are anarchic, but the free play and associations, the rhetoric of an anti-poetic language is more than quietly subversive. Jones writes in hieroglyphics, inventing a code that exposes the debacles and corruption of contemporary life, of the literati, where 'Each word is a tip off' and 'Each translation a form of waiting.' Irony and anger walk hand in hand with interrogative poem titles and their indicative mood: 'There were votes in airplanes & trampolines, teacake/for dolphins & yogis.' " - 'Aspects of Australian Poetry 2012', Westerly 2013.
And another longer review in Southerly, from Nicola Themistes: "Jill Jones ... demonstrates her ability as a consummate stylist in her latest verse collection, Ash is Here, So are Stars. ... There is a certain freeflowing energy to the tone of these works, but one carefully constructed and grounded in a consistent mode of linguistic and conceptual play. I am reminded of Lyn Hejinian’s poetry in Jones’s artful execution of sentence structures and the ease with which she delivers abstract phrasing ... Jones has a measured voice, gripping but subtle; a careful and experienced voice that revels in the depths and ambiguities of language, in the flux of concepts that seep through the imagery; and a voice which luxuriates in a consistent flow of rhythm and sound. Among the jewels of this collection is the long poem, “My Fugitive Votive” which, like Milton’s “Lycidas”, delineates a fertile landscape of the poet’s sense of her own art ...".
The full list is available on the Agency's website. Lot's of classic and contemporary Australian titles to consider.
As the back cover says:
The Beautiful Anxiety continually breaks across boundaries of the intimate and the global in an invigorating and unsettling mix of materialist and speculative writing on the interconnectedness of life amidst the environmental and cultural turmoil of the 21st century. The poems are in turn provocative, tender, impatient, playful, and swerve through the world, awake to its lostness as well as its ‘flesh and spark’.
As well as being a work focused on the material, it is, in an odd way, a metaphysical work. I know that one is not allowed to talk in such terms these days but I've never been one for doing what I'm supposed to do. I've also taken a chance on using the word 'beautiful' in the title, for which I also expect to be castigated by the poetry and theory police. If one has always been a maverick, one may as well continue being so. No matter. I presume readers see past all that burble and will make up their own minds about it, and, I hope, some will like it. It's been a book long in the making; a few poems were published almost a decade ago. On the other hand, a few poems were written late last year or early this year.
And some readers have made some kind comments on the book:
“This is surely a break-through book. Jill Jones has compressed her lyric awareness into an exacting and low-key brilliance: alert, astute, unsentimental, and with a linguistic intelligence so sharp in its inner and outer registers I kept asking myself: how is she doing it? There is incisive balance between the sensory and the fugitive, yet her images and figures are so crisp they feel more real than so-called reality.”—Philip Salom
“Jill Jones’ The Beautiful Anxiety, dedicated to the memory of her mother, joins elegiac witness to ‘another flow’. Her sparse, 'ruined lyrics', 'barely words', expand into 'something planetary': 'figures/atoms/curves/droplets'. Sensate poesis unfolds 'genres of dust', 'the clash of pasts'. With Jones as our guide, we search 'the ephemeral world' for a 'green name': 'awakened/again we walk in the depth/of field'. The ghosts of Voss and Messiaen appear; 'a fragment from a fragment of Sappho' brings 'possibles, rain on earth'. Dreams, signs and portents are 'not like your mother/said'. The Beautiful Anxiety dwells in the imminence of loss, its 'vast frontier' and scope. And if you think the work of mourning is done, 'Urn' replies, 'I don't know/where to put you': 'Never end, never end'. As Jones writes in 'What's Coming Next': 'All bets are off./You have to go through it'. You do, and you'll be glad you did .”—Kate Lilley
“Jill Jones’ poetry attains a Newtonian clarity by occasioning objects to collide with displaced emotion, breaking new ground through the estranging effect of coupling wonder with wryness. This book is an intense celebration of that subcutaneous disturbance often only present in the most acute poetic sensibilities.”—Brian Castro
My thanks to David Musgrave and the team at Puncher & Wattmann for taking it on and making a beautiful space for the words.
Monday, July 29, 2013
A few years living not in my home city have led to various rethinkings of place, position, worth, work. For starters.
I recently had an argument with a friend (I rarely argue with friends) about how a place like Adelaide is seen in the 'big scheme of things'. He admitted (we were talking more broadly of 'the yartz', not poetry specifically) that, well, the east coast (ie Sydney and Melbourne) are where the money and activity is and, the implication being, why fund much where not much is happening. Which is correct if you're talking purely about profit and bang for buck, ie treating the 'yartz' as a profit-generating activity. There's no bang for buck here. Not much bang anything, apart from the loud construction noise going on in my street at the moment (Adelaide has finally decided to electrify its train system - welcome to the 20th century ... oh, wait...).
All this as a way of saying that social media was one way I kept in contact with 'things' for some years since I've been here. A way of talking to people in other places, the conversation I can't have here. And, thus - am getting to the point - why this space was neglected.
But social media has its limits and this diaristic space works in other ways. So, I will tinker with the look and feel of this - not greatly but a bit. And return to some of these thoughts as I go ... as well as adding some new poem ideas and the usual potage of stuff.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
there is no here there
the night has completely cured me
or just behind closed
doors, I shudder to think
look forward to frosty trees
southern light sounds fine
I'm working something
old themes happened
will probably see me
box again, happy
maybe I mentioned it
becoming real, in the hand
glad book, be interesting.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
I hadn't thought of the newer poems in those terms, exactly. And another reviewer has pointed out the 'violence' in some of my work, overall. But it's apparent that Michael has noticed a newer mode in my work, that there are things 'up with which I will not put' any longer. A new assertiveness, rather than the previous assertiveness (which is there, if you look). He says: "It's a broader, more assertive platform for Jones's brand of projective verse, and one that bodes well for a midcareer future."
Parts of the poem, 'Misinterpretations ...' certainly were written out of a frustration with some not-well-thought-through ways critics were taking with my work, that, for instance, what I've been recently writing was a form of comfortable ecopoetic with some fancy philosophic or metaphysical flourishes. Living inside and out on the planet, where you are, and writing it, isn't easy, and it involves some thinking and some emotion - gee whiz, how hard is that to divine? But I'm not interested in being obscure, amorphous, or hermetic (though when did that become a negative?) - then, language is never straight forward (and, hey, isn't that kinda PomeWritin 101?).
As an aside, it's something I've noticed a bit with some poet reviewers, that they want someone else's work to be as clear as, easy to 'get', while they themselves, in their own writing, are difficult, in the good sense. But Michael has got how I am working on a new level.
Frustrations can be good drivers, I'm learning to use the good side of that. Couple that with, mostly, the benign (or other) neglect most poets experience, and it means you can be free-er to move around language, and be bolder amongst the messiness of it all.
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
This year's editor, John Tranter, says in the foreword (one presumes): ‘What a rich, strange and diverse lot these poems turned out to be … I suspect that these baroque and potent imaginings can only have come into existence as fragments of dreams or nightmares.’
This focus from the editor indicates that this year's anthology won't just be the sameold sameold. A look at the list of contributors also indicates that the spread of poets offers more of the newer and more innovative writers on the scene, as well as a number of anthology regulars. The anthology also picks up on work that has either been published overseas or was fresh but unpublished, an organisational model that can give a sense of what is happening now in a broader, more realistic, sense. The other, now defunct, annual anthology issued by UQP for a number of years modelled itself on the US Best American series which only took poems published in journals for the year in question. This meant that the UQP book would always miss work that did not appear in Australian literary journals. In the 21st century when publishing models have changed and online international venues are often where the more interesting work is being featured plus the focus of many Australian-based poets being not so parochial, this was starting to look very old school.
Another reason I am looking forward to seeing the poems that John has chosen is that we are being flooded with conservative (ie. trying to conserve, as well as the more perjorative sense of that word), historically and generationally focused anthologies which, it seems, almost deliberately ignore the fresher and more exciting work happening now. They seem to be caught up in some kind of mid 20th century idea of canon-making which I suspect even the Americans and Brits have left behind. Apart from anything else, there are so many poets now doing many different things with language that to pretend that a couple of, in most cases, old blokes, have some magical insight into what is 'best' in all of this, is faintly ludicrous.
I've said a bit more about this as part of a recent interview Mike Brennan published on the Poetry International website. And I speak as an anthologist. All an anthologist or editor can or need do is provide a focus, rather than make exclusive or hierarchical claims, which only sets you up for failure. I realise in the Black Inc case, and UQP's before, that the 'best' thing is a marketing strategy. It is an unfortunate one, but JT's apparent focus on (to quote the publicity blurb): "the vigorous, varied and interesting poems of the last year ... the phantasmagorical ... that range from the playful to the melancholy by way of exuberance and satire" certainly makes the 2011 annual seem like a poetry book worth reading.
Notwithstanding that, wouldn't it be great to have a couple of varied contemporary Australian anthologies edited by younger female as well as male poets, or a mix of generational and practice perspectives. And what about an anthology edited out of Australia or NZ that had an international focus on a specific form of poetry but came from here, not out of the north. OK, tell me I'm dreamin.
Monday, October 03, 2011
Plus reviews, and a translation section, co-edited by Sam Ladkin, Robin Purves & Adam Piette.
My poems from a sequence entitled, Senses Working Out, a series of untitled poems which have been appearing all over.
Sunday, October 02, 2011
and if joy arrived
in flicker, DIY laser prancing
there was plenty too much
O summer hoedown
after the party run someone
delivered bitter crust
and for limp dicks, the gaudy
you miss the festering
the gear sings
as it climbs
a small city horn
jump guns, exciters
star blear and goon noise
bring you closer
each crack in the ether
cry cry green lichen
taking mould for comfort
into overcast hollows
back with sandstone night
Friday, September 30, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
on the lam. Maybe I was carted with mimics and homeopaths
to the tune of a trice bawdy ballad as exchange.
Then I was a debtor living in jalopies with some new kickback.
I know I swallowed piranhas, and something more confusing.
After that I didn’t speak about the libertarians for a long time.
The mimics wandered, catcalls were exposed.
When rampage reigned, I'd write in multiples. If they were
bad seeds, I couldn't tell, but they were absorbed.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.
There were votes in airships and trampolines, teacake
for dolphins and yogis. I did not lose out though the yields
were all under-reported. If the calories were faulty, it was always
blissful in negative space, and the heavy breathing.
Friday, September 23, 2011
the tinkle on line
the benchmark is
a dumbcluck again
— wrong, it’s a coyote vibraphone
a layette, a kitchen filled with
fireworks and lobbyists
so, avoid the normal, the natural
it's not as if it's a subcommittee
they play, dudes, they play
at the roadblock again among
passersby, robins, leatherette
rampages, the essentials
of the lost, the sum
of being a superstar or
you’ve lost control again
Australian poets include Susan Bradley-Smith, joanne burns, Michelle Cahill, Susan Hampton, Andy Jackson, Kit Kelen, Cath Kenneally, Anthony Lawrence and Peter Minter, and photographers include Cath Phillips and Annette Willis. Ukrainian poets include Serhiy Zhadan, Pavlo Hirnyk, Iryna Shuvalova, Natalka Bilotserkivets, Kateryna Babkina, Vasyl Makhno and Yuri Andrukhovych.
The book is available as a pdf download. It's free, it's easy and it's good.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
I have yet to see my copy but caught a glimpse online as it appears to have had a first outing at the Sound Eye festival among some other terrific publications, as shown on this blog. I had hoped to act on an invitation to this year's Sound Eye but fate had other things in store for me.
Friday, September 16, 2011
I could not stop for that - My Business is Circumference - An ignorance, not of Customs, but if caught with the Dawn - or the Sunset see me - Myself the only Kangaroo among the Beauty, Sir, if you please, it afflicts me, and I thought that instruction would take it away.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
B. R. Dionysius
Laura Jean McKay
The organisers say: "With 116 entries received, a number of other very worthy submissions did not make the shortlist on this occasion. We found the entries to be of a very high standard. ...."
Part of the condition of submitting to the award was to only put forward unpublished work of up to 150 lines and to have a longer work, for the complete chapbook, in mind. As Anne Kellas points out on her blog, these conditions may be what resulted in the 'very high standard'.
The winner, whose work will be published in a limited edition chapbook in early 2012, will be announced before the end of September.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Though it's of little matter what people think anymore - recent events have got me beyond the whole 'Australian poetry' thing - but to note that all kinds of irritants are good for getting the poetry machine working.
Both are, essentially, untitled, but a 'title' was needed for publication. Oh, the limitations of coding. They are part of a longer series of untitled poems I've been working. It's odd, as I've always championed poets paying close attention to their titles but for this series I have simply capitalised the first three words of each poem. Magazine editors, either online or in print, really don't like it. Interesting.
There are poets on line. There are poets I know, a flight or two away.
Poetry things, poetry 'stuff' happens here - quite obviously - but it does not seem to synch with my stuff, with how I get with poetry. This is not a criticism or, if it is, it is a self-criticism.
In recent times I've been somewhere else to talk poetry (Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland) but can't, quite, get to what's here. I'm too much of an alien, an east-coast klutz, with no history here. I am in the midst of accepting that.
But my real point is that the poems are very much out of living in this place (ie Linden Park). I would have called the sequence 'The Linden Park Tapes' but I wanted to keep a little mystery in these essentially suburban songs (yes, all 14 liners). Linden Park is a very suburban place in a very suburban city. I feel as though I am back where I started, the very suburban Australia I was born into. Unsettling.
I'm not sure if there are any linden trees here. I presume there must be, somewhere. Plenty trees, plenty birds, however.
It raises a lot of questions about place - physical and virtual. And writing, too. Writing involves place, where you sit, where you write or type, what's out the window or down the street.
I don't know where I am at the moment.
It's not a bad thing, it's not a good thing. It is simply 'the thing'.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Participants include: Jill Jones and Annette Willis, Patrick Jones, Kit Kelen, Chris Song Zijiang, Leung Ping Kwan, Iris Fan Xing, Heidrun Lohr, Yvette Holt, Chris Mansell, Johanna Featherstone, Andrew Slattery, Amanda Stewart, James Stuart.
Saturday 23 July
Boyd Education Centre, Riversdale
Poetry workshop with Jill Jones, 9.30am–1.30pm
Cost: $65 (includes morning tea and entry to afternoon event)
Poetry Readings, Conversations and Book Launch, 2.30–6pm
Cost: $20 per person
Lunch available for purchase
Bookings 02 4422 2100 or firstname.lastname@example.org