Wednesday, October 12, 2011

'mashed with'

Michael Farrell has just posted some comments on a couple of my poems on the Jacket2 site. He points out that some recent poems, such as these two, 'Leaving It To the Sky', from Dark Bright Doors, and 'Misinterpretations/ or the Dark Grey Outline', recently published in Overland, are, in his words, more 'aggressive' and 'rawer, rougher, more "live" '.

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

Best Australian poetry 2011

The latest version of the annual Black Inc poetry anthology, The Best Australian Poetry, has been finalised and will be heading into print shortly. And, yes, yours truly has a poem in it, which originally appeared on Jeremy Balius' site, The Diamond and the Thief. The poem gets a different title in the anthology, but the rest of the words and lines are as is.

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

new poems: blackbox manifold

New work in Blackbox Manifold. Poets include: Emily Carr, Claire Crowther, Nikolai Duffy, Ian Ganassi, Julie Gard, Geoff Gilbert, Carl Griffin, Tom Jenks, Mark Johnson, Jill Jones, David Kinloch, Nathaniel Mackey, Anthony Madrid, Helen Mort, Rebecca Muntean, Burgess Needle, Ujjal Nihil, Aidan Semmens, Corey Wakeling, Duncan White.

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

or left it for morning

your hand counted on it
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