Sunday, April 30, 2006

off the street - a new home for poems

I am trialling Google's web page builder and, for something to put there, built a site-in-progress called off the street.

Essentially it's poems I've published on this blog arranged by loose categories. I am not posting any ruby street poems that have been published elsewhere or are being currently submitted elsewhere. I've left most of them in the form they appeared on the blog with a little tweaking, mainly of titles and a tiny bit of punctuation.

I've also decided not to arrange them in chronological order, so as to disentangle them from da blog where you can read them and everything else in order, of course.

I've made a start but still have some way to go in sorting it all out.

Google claims it's wysiwyg but, inevitably, it ain't. One of my browsers is an older version of Safari and I had to do a bit of tweaking to get it to look OK, and even so, it's not quite what I intended. Seems OK in Firefox. I will test on other machines over time.

Any feedback, technical or otherwise, gratefully received.

If it seems to work, I may move my original home page to this format. But I have yet to be convinced that it's worth the trouble.

How would you say risk management?

Who’s to minister the repetition of logos
or conserve the limits of voice in the glide
toward afternoon? Into the revolve goes an alignment
stars, priorities, the highest commissions. ‘Reality
is somewhere else’. Pale green bricks glowed at midday
the handiwork of winter is foiled in the machine.

How would you pick up stakes, the degree of grain?
As if time causes money, yellow internal walls, bedrock data
a glint on the window. Timetables for the end of the world
as we know it, are continuous, as long as it’s written down
near the bottom line, the broken one. (Have you or have you not
delivered?) Interests are driven by internal or mixed-up confusion.
So there’s too much of almost nothing
while a centrifuge is humming — the risk is the outcome.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

in competition?

I was also interested in Ron Silliman's analysis of a survey of the online reading & publishing habits of poets conducted by Simmons B. Buntin for Terrain.org. Among many fascinating things he noted (his blog has a number of postings on this survey), there was the advice of 'don't enter competitions'. Well, I have done both (ie entered and deliberately shunned). Am I doing the wrong thing, either way?

I realise that the kinds of poetry competitions that prevail in the USA, and which I presume Ron is referring to, are a little different to here. I suspect it's partly connected to the foetry business (no, I won't provide the website, it's been overdone).

The large Australian literary prizes, as opposed to competitions, are run either through state government agencies (I once managed the NSW Premier's) or large trust funds. One's publisher enters a book (though individuals can also do so), so far as I know very few require fees (I can only think of one, because I used to also manage it), and in many but certainly not all cases the judging committee is both known and changed each year.

We have very few of those competitions run by publishing houses where you enter your manuscript plus fee and if you win they publish your book. We do have a proliferation of prizes for poems, long or short. I don't know if this is the case elsewhere. These are the ones I have done and shunned, over the course of years.

I've entered because:
- some prize money is worth scoring, or
- there is an associated anthology with some standing in the poetry community, or
- I was trying to prove something (I think, but am not exactly sure what and to whom), or
- it is a prize which I felt duty-bound to support.

I have deliberately shunned them because:
- I object (and continue to do so) to paying to enter a competition (if a comp is unsustainable, it shouldn't be run)
- I know that on the whole I don't write 'prize winning' poems (I've been a judge so I do know this, a fascinating contradiction, as I'm sure even blind Freddie will pick up on)
- one poem proves nothing

A poet I know, a well-respected and not conservative one, was very shocked when I said that that I wasn't entering any of the big poetry comps at the time we spoke. I don't have a black and white attitude about it, just the doubts expressed above. Sometimes, I don't mind wasting the time and money if it means it gets me working on something specific. I'm pragmatic enough to use whatever comes to hand to get me working. But I don't see poetry competitions as either compulsory or necesssarily useful. The prize money is always welcome, as I'm sure all would agree.

da book da vinci

Ron Silliman's blog has been better to read recently. I was only skipping by there for a while, not truly pausing and reading. There was something about it and the comments that turned me off. Maybe the relentless sense of USAmerican-ness, the insularity of it and the comments ... well it was, in many cases, their sheer inanity (inane is fine but wears real thin real quick) or slanderous ego-driven ungenerous shoutiness which made me roll my eyes. Maybe it's a US thang and I don't get it. I know others that don't get it either, but that's by-the-by.

But I was interested in a couple of things. To engage with The Da Vinci Code phenomena, for instance.

I know it almost de rigeur to find the whole Dan Brown thing rather tedious and to poo-poo the book. Ron says that "The Da Vinci Code is to great literature what Indiana Jones is to great cinema". Well. I think that's insulting to Indiana Jones myself, but one gets the general drift.

However, I did read the Brown book quite a while back. Da Vinci got me from Sydney to Prague (via Singapore and Frankfurt) - a hellish experience being squeezed into cattle class for 24+ hours - and I'll always be grateful for that. I have tried many ways of dealing with flights like these - no, neither alcohol nor sleeping pills have ever helped much - and have found just two: (1) a page-turner plotty book dealing with crime or a search/puzzle or (2) constant fillums which I can dial up myself (not all airlines do this). I'm not high-minded enough (unlike a lot of poets I know) to claim that I don't read novels. I'm a pretty basic kinda girl, really, and a good thriller will get me through any dull journey.

Of course, there is so much that is just wrong in the book, like the Opus Dei stuff (no, I'm not a Catholic, ex or otherwise, but I know escapees from The Work) as well as the things Ron mentions. Also, the sense the book gives that somehow the things being spoken of have been 'hidden' till now is just plain ludicrous. But, hello, it's a novel and that's its world. I hate to think how bad the movie will be, though sometimes film adaptions can be better than their sources, but the locations could be fun. I've checked some of them out, places I'd been to at other times in other contexts. They are real. I'm sure the folks at St Sulpice are well sick of tourists wondering around there with their copies of TDVC looking for the meridian line. There's a merdian line also in the middle of Prague. Wonder when that's going to get the treatment. All the world's a stage - sure.

fragment

Ach, the poets are all insane, we’ve had a gutful
Of piddling excuses about how the cat
Swallowed the form delivered with as much ├ęclat
As some ancient rhymer trying to pull the wool
Over the pentameter, or some doomy wastrel
Murmuring by the hour in the internet hells
...

OBAN 06 online














The OBAN 06 anthology is now on-line.

I've just come across it so haven't had a chance to explore what everyone has written. Will do this weekend.

But I see they did not put up my photo alongside the poem I sent. It wasn't in the right format most likely and maybe never arrived digitally intact, so I am posting it here. It's a view looking down from the Stewart Island cemetery, Rakiura.

some backyard burning

I've had a couple of 'moments' recently. Those times when out of unpleasantness, a new direction comes. It may not be good or bad, but it's forward (I think).

One thing I've done is to step away for a little while from lists and ease the sheer amount of material arriving in my inbox. One of the triggers was a small unpleasantness which got my back up and I bought into with my own nerve up (again, born of other matters). But that great teacher, hindsight, allowed me to see it as maybe for the best.

I have been using the blog more, getting into a different mix, so to speak, as one way of dealing with 'the moment' (more on that soon).

Of course, I still like to get mail and responses. And I note that comments keep coming. Everything is out there. What to do with it all.

On my wall, straight in front of me, I have blutacked five postcards showing Paris streets. Each is accompanied by the picture of a writer who lived in one of these streets. I often particularly look along rue Descartes (Paul Verlaine lived at no 39). You walk along rue Descartes into the rue Mouff' (one of my favourite Paris streets, though it has changed a bit for the worse in recent years). Everything is in front of you, but how the ephemeral and the virtual can connect with real time and flesh. Something bodily, like having walked there, something personal such as I say and you say, an exchange?

more on the merge

I got some interesting comments on my 'e/merging' post. Including one from Jessica Smith, the 'other' editor of Outside Voices an anthology of ‘young and emerging’ poets. Cool.

Jessica says that they're getting submissions from poets outside the US, and she says "... basically, anything goes as long as it's good or interesting."

So anyone who identifies as emerging should think about going for it. Be good, be interesting and do it. Australians, New Zealanders, anyone ...

Thinking on it from another angle, it's good that these opportunities for getting past national boundaries are opening up. To get out of your own poetry war zone and cross over border constructs with no passport controls.

getting burned

‘It’s all gut stuff’ he said or something like
she was afraid of the bunnies, or the crawlies
‘the kinder are in the garden’, little stings and fun
and not paying attention though somewhere else
is here too. The world isn’t made of china
things crack, a crisis in the crystal. ‘What is this
bombing madness’ is no longer a question
and the yards not refuges are where you watch.
Come out to play, you will get splinters
you have not the stomach for but there is
more hunger than you understand, no longer
is there time for you if the plants won’t grow.

You can say your finger was not on the trigger
the gun went off anyway.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Jane Jacobs 1916-2006

One of my heroes is dead. The great Jane Jacobs, writer and activist and theorist of urban planning died on 25 April. She was 89. Her seminal work was The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

Many years ago I wrote an article called "Imaginary Cities: Writing about the city". I quoted Jacobs, thus, while discussing the sentimentalising of nature against the urban:

"It is neither love for nature nor respect for nature that leads to this schizophrenic attitude. Instead, it is a sentimental desire to toy, rather patronisingly, with some insipid, standardised, suburbanised shadow of nature — apparently in sheer disbelief that we and our cities, just by virtue of being, are a legitimate part of nature too, and involved with it in much deeper and more inescapable ways than grass trimming, sunbathing, and contemplative uplift."
(The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jonathon Cape, 1961, p. 445.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

for the record (sorry)

... I also put on McCoy Tyner The Real McCoy; The Thelonius Monk Quartet, Monk's Dream; Aldo Romano, Threesome; and Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz and Michal Miskiewicz, Trio.

piano, piano

listening:
Brad Mehldau, Largo
Bojan Zulfikarparsic, Solobsession

Probably dig out McCoy Tyner or Ahmad Jamal next. Or Marcin Wasilewski. Or Aldo Romano with terrific pianist, Danilo Rea. Why not Brubeck, what the heck. Having a bit of a piano arvie.

Rain didn't come. Mustn't sulk. Still wrangling poems. Like hearding cats.

discarding memory - sakutaro

Also, thanks to Chris for reminding me of the work of Hagiwara Sakutaro.

Here is a prose poem by Hagiwara Sakutaro:

Discarding memory
Coming back from a forest I took off my hat and discarded it. Ah memory. Memory terribly torn apart. Memory that had rotted in miserable, muddy water. My hat trembling on the road in a lonely rainy landscape. I discarded it behind me and walked on.

From Howling at the Moon: Poems and Prose of Hagiwara Sakutaro, translated by Hiroaki Sato, Green Integer 57.

e/merging

Here’s news of a US-based anthology of ‘young and emerging’ poets. They’re still compiling, if I’m reading this aright, and it looks as though it does not exclude non-USAmericans. All sounds good.

One of the editors is John Sakkis, a (not just) jazz-loving poet, which has to be a good thing.

Chris Murray drew this to my attention with some funny remarks about the ‘emerging’ thing.

It’s always going to be a point of contention - or worry. I recall a writer (a well-known playwright in this particular case) who said she really felt she was submerging. Maybe. I realise I’ve missed the ‘emerging’ boat because I wasn’t young when I began this poetry lark. As I’ve not really officially 'emerged', I shimmy around my own little piece of limbo-land. It’s not so bad. And who needs permission anyway - to emerge, re-merge, subside, roll along?

back to southland events

It seems as though Martin Edmond went to the Bluff and Rakiura poetry events.

Am hoping he will expound on luca anatara when he returns.

rivers/ and rivers

Mark Young has also been writing about rivers.

It seems rivers depend. There are rivers and rivers.

Cross them to get away, to another side.
Or follow them, as we do in the morning, as a guide.

thinking along the river

Walking by the river, again, early. I am always half asleep until we reach the second half of our walk. But even semi-somnolent, I can hear the birds. This morning the very noisy lorikeets, seemingly fearless and diving low over us, gathering in trees. We also see a cormorant diving for fish in the river and a large crane sitting on the aqueduct. I hadn’t realised what large bodies they have but this one, sitting next to a pigeon, looked huge.

Not many walkers, runners or cyclists today. Either it is because it is Anzac Day, a holiday, or that it looked severely like rain. It still hasn’t yet rained but it is darkening.

As we were walking Annette and I talked about a short series of presentations I will be giving to Masters students at Sydney Uni, about my work. I seemed to have worked out a structure in my head.

One thing I wish to talk about is the importance of the book, both in the narrow sense and the broader one (‘the future of the book’ and all that). The poem is one thing but a book is another. Even the book length poem must find its book, its field of play. The making of a book, from the sequencing to the physical or coded construction of it, are worth talking about. I always work at the parts of a book I can control. Some publishers give you more say than others and a house style can be an interesting thing to engage with, a constraint.

Covers, margins, type (people tend to talk about ‘font’ these days) and setting, binding, illustration, front matter, any notes or appendices. How do the poems, the lines, unroll through this?

So there, I have already a lot to talk about, something to show and tell.

Now I am waiting for the coffee maker to warm up and for me to finally wake up when I get to that first cup. At the moment I’m drinking 3 Amigos, organic coffee from small plantations in East Timor. I’m currently juggling my usual blend (the one and only Lavazza) with coffees from specific origins. Last week was Costa Rica, a bit dark and bitter to my tastes. The Timorese is also dark but a bit less bitter, not needing to be cut by the Italian blend.

A quiet day I hope. A lot of things to organise, poems to wrangle.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

stewart island cemetery



(photo: Jill Jones, 2005)

to sharpen green wakes, to register
duration, traces that carve poetry
lichen on wood, cemetery
the forgotten, exposed to sun

OBAN 06

Last year the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre (nzepc) held a series of poetry events at the University of Canterbury which included an online anthology FUGACITY 05, featuring both NZ and international poets.

This year, indeed this weekend, the nzpec is going to Bluff, southernmost town on the South Island for a series of events called BLUFF 06 and then crossing the Foveaux Strait (just a slightly bumpy hour on the ferry) to Rakiura (Stewart Island), New Zealand’s third largest island. An online anthology OBAN 06, compiled along similar lines, will be launched there today.

I visited both Bluff (well, drove through it), and Rakiura, where we stayed an all-to-brief day and night. It is a place I would love to go back to and spend some time tramping around and, in particular, watching the myriad birds which live or pass through there.

And I like this concept, of linking both face-to-face events held in and focused on a particular locale with input garnered electronically from, potentially, everywhere.

Friday, April 21, 2006

from Perth

My friend and poet, Andrew Burke, sent me this poem from Perth, maybe as a way of cheering me up after a re-e-eally crappy week.

Please, enjoy Andrew's poem.


Insomnia (descending poem)

up too early
I see the colours
of light changing
as dawn comes and goes

I know I'll collapse later
when the serious business
of day-life starts

just now
the white gum turning white

- Andrew Burke

a moon song

Sometimes the town needs to be silent
Let its secret crows sing, however
They carry changes

The moon's white eye closes on the horizon
Leaves accompany us along the road
My fingers feel out the cold on the gate

There's more night now and perhaps more time

Wed 19 April, 3pm

a bit of a sigh

I've made it, almost, to the end of an odd week.

I've left behind a couple of things and almost did it a third time.

Amongst a lot of other concerns, the green-eyed monster was stalking me, which is unfortunately a constant in poetryworld. I was naively trying not to see it approaching ... Best to walk away sometimes. In the past, I've tended to stick around for too long. I'm learning and hope I'll get the picture when I grow up.

Also had to dodge the poo-rile. Kind of got boring, if you know what I mean.

Someone said to me, sort of in context: "Boys complaining like they want mummy to cook something nicer for them give me homocidal twinges!"

The weather has been far too hot - it's just rong, r-o-n-g rong - but is now cooling, I hope for the duration of autumn into winter.

I have a few days off and already things of enjoyment lined up.

And planning new directions.

And poems to make and do.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

whither books

I came across this truly interesting blog, future of the book. I'll be keeping tabs on it. The latest post is on the 'networked book'. Much food for thought.

mark those episodes

Congratulations to Mark Young, late of pelican dreaming and now in charge at gamma ways, for the publication of his latest book episodes.

Apparently it is 150 pages long and I'm sure will be full up with the good stuff. Apparently my own self inspired in some way the odd word, as did many others. I always say poetry is one big form of collaborative enterprise. But not to take away from Mark's book, which you all should get hold of.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

poems don't shower

I've just come across Paul Hoover's blog. It's fairly new by the looks but already there's lots of interest being posted.

Right at the start of the blog he says:

"The real experience of a poem is not what it relates but what it discovers. Poems have no experiences. They don't shower in the morning and they don't eat turkey sandwiches. The life of the poem is in its language, but in saying so I am not siding with whose who believe that language is enough. What I'm really saying, I think, is that poetry is least interesting when it is most reliant on the experiences of its author." - Paul Hoover
They're ba-a-ck ..... ????

oh dear!

I changed my template because the other one went 'weird'. And now I seem to have lost my links. It's very late here now so I will go to bed and hope that something will shift or change tomorrow. Urp!

Monday, April 17, 2006

so done?

I'm not sure if I'm coming to the end of my sonnet 'project' (a newish oldish one above). Not as though I'd never written them before or never would again, but I mean the energy that's gone into this one for the last few months. Maybe I feel a turning in the poetic bones towards something else. I now have some collections of sonnets hanging about. One is due for on-line publication in the next while - news when it happens. The others are just settling, so I'm not sure yet. A book of sonnets, you could say, has been 'so, like, done'. But hasn't everything under the sun? Tick tick tick.

caught up in force fields

It’s nearly dawn in the zones and smoke presses the room.
Talk is now inanimate, you can't get away from circles
the band pounds them, beer walls become automatic.
Can you go far enough away with your poor tongue-tied body
safe in ragged circumference? You'd be better off near water
or plotless in heat. Come to the river to pray where
alien versions connect, gods swinging as we're dodging.
Huge elephants dance among us.

Fear the stillness washing away in the heart of rage.
You can’t stop to give tribute. Language detaches its tongues
tracking this crowd as familiars merge. You’re deceived
washed with the eternal, or one of a piece with the new state
of hardness, scared of your own versions, your own release
locked on top of night, if it’s enough to be discovered.

book altering

Interesting concept at altered books.

“The Idea. Cut the bindings off of books found at a used book store. Find poems in the pages by the process of obliteration. Put pages in the mail and send them all around the world. Lather, rinse, repeat. This site is a chronicle of a very specific set of collaborations between the artists … working on the titles ...”

Book alterers I noted on the site include: Sheila E. Murphy, John M. Bennett, Donna Kuhn, Kristen McQuillin, Geof Huth, Jim Leftwich.

Beware, the site takes absolute ages to download but it's worth it. Take a coffee break and come back for a squizz.

Not sure if I would have time for doing such a thing at the mo', but it sparks ideas in what's left of the little grey cells.

are we talking about poetry's existence, or ...?

More discussion? Did it happen? On 4 March the timesonline asked its readers: “ ‘Poetry’s very existence seems to provoke argument.’ More Poetry? Less poetry? You tell us, please.”

The answer next week was, apparently, "yes, please, more poetry", but then the article ended, curiously, with a description of something called ‘Poems in the Waiting Room’, thus:

“Certainly poems can give comfort; Jeanette Winterson has mentioned an initiative called 'Poems for the Waiting Room' which provides — free except for postage — poster poems for hospitals and doctors’ surgeries. No, poetry is no cure, but how can anything beautiful do harm? The latest set comes from many languages and I would rather read a poem than an ancient copy of Take A Break! Anne Adams tells us that poetry is 'an important part of therapy' at the Hospice of St Francis at Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire.”

Is it just me or does this seem a bit odd?


P.S. And why does the thing have to be called an initiative (well, of course, I know why, it's the speak I have to use as well, every *^@#ing day, but it's an easy word to mistype, apart from anything else ...). Exit left muttering darkly in a Luddish kind of way, vowing not to even touch on the 'therapy' isshew.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

a brief hurrah - shortlisting and all that

Last Thursday the shortlists for the NSW Premiers Literary Awards were announced, including that for the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry.

Six books were shortlisted:

Aidan Coleman, Avenues & Runways, Brandl & Schlesinger

Susan Hampton, The Kindly Ones, Five Islands Press

Jill Jones, Broken/Open, Salt Publishing

Penelope Layland, Suburban Anatomy, Pandanus Books

David McCooey, Blister Pack, Salt Publishing

Jaya Savige, Latecomers, University of Queensland Press


Interestingly, four of these books are all first books. Only Susan's and mine are the exceptions. This is also the second time that David McCooey and I have appeared on a shortlist.

The full shortlists for all the other categories plus judges comments are available on the Arts NSW website.

All winners announced at the awards dinner on 23 May. All the not winners will go cry elsewhere, I guess.

into the woods

Anny Ballardini, well-known to bloggers for her lovely Narcissus Works site, has translated one of my poems into Italian. It is available on her other Poets Corner site. The site features many poets from many different countries, by the way, and is well worth exploring.

The poem will become part of il bosco dei poeti,the wood of the poets project. More information on this unfolding idea is available on this site. Along the paths of the wood, there are niches in which the work of the poets is to be featured. There will also be some installations by artists, dedicated to poetry. There are some photographs of the wood on the site.

Of course, my poem is related to the Australian bush, a very different concept of 'wood'.
 
Thank you to Anny for inviting me to submit a poem and for translating the work.

 

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

london digs in danger - rimbaud alert

8 Royal College Street, Camden was one place where Rimbaud and Verlaine lodged in 1873 on their big trip to London. Apparently developers have their eye on this historic site. The rich and famous are being asked to do something.

It's not the only remaining place where young Arthur resided. 12 Argyle Square, near Kings Cross Station, is also still a boarding house as it was when the Rimbauds (mother, sister and boy poet) lived in July 1874. (NB, TLS, March 10, 2006)