Saturday, December 31, 2016

On Brink

So, my next book is scheduled to appear from Five Islands Press some time next year (2017), most likely mid-year. First of all, my thanks to the editorial team at Five Islands for inviting me to publish with them. It was, actually, a surprise, a welcome one of course. It's not the first time I've published with Five Islands. My second book, the now out-of-print Flagging Down Time, came out during the Press's Wollongong-Ron Pretty years in the 90s. Nice to be back in the catalogue.

The book, currently titled Brink, will contain poems I've written over a number of years. In fact, in the draft I'm finalising, there are poems published over a decade ago and even a couple whose first drafts happened in the late 1990s, though they have been through many edits since then. One poem consists solely of words and phrases mined from my first and now also out-of-print book, The Mask and the Jagged Star. Brink is, thus, an accumulative book, though there will be fairly recent material in it as well, both published and unpublished. I'm sure that's the case for many books of poetry. To my mind (others will see it differently), the poetry ideas (thematics, if you will) don't play so much into an idea that was/still is current about my work, 'Jill Jones urban poet'. I'm not sure what makes my work any more 'urban' than any number of others but it's a labelling that has stuck to me, like an irritant.

In many of the poems there is an element of the suburban, that most scorned of Australian places. I was born in a suburb and more than likely will die in a suburb. Presumably it's the case for many people. Suburbs aren't homogeneous, of course, they are about class, race, gender, and 'place' (defined in many ways). And they are also about climate, and microclimates, small territories. The birds, animals and plants know this pretty obviously. And in saying that, the 'suburban' poems that should finally make it into Brink, will go in an ecopoetic and/or a queered direction, among other things. [Note: Robert Wood has written some useful things about Australian poetry and the suburban, including this article in John Tranter's excellent Journal of Poetics Research.]

Ecopoetic? In my poetry-working-mind, it's not 'nature' poetry. There is no such thing as nature. I'm interested in how the entities and things of a place (what some might call nature) exist and move, and can be read and written, in relation to culture, economics, politics, representation, language. The politics of suburban birds (native or exotic). The culture of the side fence. The economics of the backyard. The language of weeds, compost, and kerb and guttering. Not all of that will be in the final book, but they're ideas I have worked with, variously. And I don't stick with the streets and yards of suburb or town. The poems move through the non-urban, non-suburban, non-Australian as well, and move around in amongst the big stuff. It's all connected. Including bodies which live and move in it all.

Of course, that's not the be-all and end-all of the book. As I said in another post, I don't think I really know what I'm doing in any way that can be reduced to simple explanation or a wholly intellectualised reading of the process. Which I think is what this post demonstrates. A lot of what I say is post hoc, a thinking back or even a justification for what I think am doing, or what I want to be doing, or what I think I ought to be doing (in my own thinking, not following fashion or dictates as I have no idea about fashion, but following my specific and possibly idiosyncratic fashioning and wobbly directions). And talking of doing, and making, there are poems preoccupied with the process of making that will probably make the final cut. There are love poems and an elegiac or even apocalyptic sense in a few. And a few jokes as well (well, I get the jokes, if no-one else does). I've experimented with lipogram, word and line counts, and other formal devices, also.

I am both happy and dissatisfied with how it looks so far. That's always the case with me. I have to resist letting the dissatisfied part of me over-tweak things. I'm not interested in perfect - there is no such thing - but in interestingness, surprise, something that a reader might want to return to. I don't want to over-egg the thing. So, I'll stop here, for that same reason. I'm already heading in other directions for a next-next book (see previous post) and that will unfold as it will.

Beyond Brink: or thinking about the next-next book

My next book, now it’s public, will be called Brink (unless there is a last-minute title change, always possible in publishing). Now that it’s more or less settled, I am of course working on writing ideas beyond that – ideas that are more than a poem here and there. Needless to say, this includes a ‘next next’ book, the one after this next book, as an idea. 

I realise, of course, that in poetry publishing there’s never a ‘next book’ until it’s signed, sealed and delivered, but the idea of ‘next’ is a focus for activity, as well as a goad, and a reminder that there may be a place for a few things to land together. It may never happen, I may not make it (that gets more clear as you get older), and the-world-as-I-know-it may not make it (that’s pretty clear right now), but you never know your luck.

Brink, I suspect, will be seen as broadly ‘ecopoetic’ (more on that soon) – anyway, I’ll bet at least one review (should I get any reviews but, hey, you never know your luck) will mention a variant on that phrase, and why shouldn't it/they. Still, I’d like it to be seen as far more than that, being someone who is allergic to themes in a narrow, categorical and/or marketing way. And I should beware of presuming to either know what I’m doing or know what others will make of what I’m doing.

Nonetheless, in my poet-working-mind, the next-next collection after Brink, if and/or when, will look/read/feel differently to it, unless I’m kidding myself (you never know yr …). Of course, the concerns with the environmental disaster we are currently within will continue to be a part of things I write – how could that not be. It’s the air I breathe, literally. Nonetheless, some of the concerns of this future book will resemble more the kinds of ideas I was working with in Dark Bright Doors (2010) and, to an extent, the now out-of print Broken/Open (2005). Poems I’ve been working on consider ideas around the self or selves, 'subjectivity' if you want to be fancy (lots of ‘I’ poems, you know, the kinds of poem we’re told not to write), the body (yes, I apparently have one), my own peculiar metaphysics (nope, not scared of that stuff), as well as more play with form.

And, gee, put like that, these are hardly new ideas. Of course, they’re not, they're old as the proverbial. Plus it’s all pretty broad (and see comments above on themes) but the real use for themes/categories, for my poet-mind at least, is to provide ample catch-alls to help me sort through past, current and future poems, to be able to place them into this book/idea or that. And none of this speculation stops me taking up some other concern if it arises. I do have some recent pieces that work with history, with citation, with self-appropriation, a continuing interest in ekphrasis. Whether they find favour either with my own self or with other readers, who knows. All you can do is test things out.

Looking back on this little screed, I’m not sure it says a lot. I grow ever skeptical of being able to understand myself, my workings, in particular. I suspect the mind is simply a bag of tricks, wonky connections and self-deceptions. OK, my mind. Let’s keep it personal. But, as folks of my generation used to say, that’s where I’m at, and definitely what I’m working at. It may not be keeping me honest but it is keeping me occupied.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

My two 2015 bests, and a not-quite-the-end-of-the-year not-really-a-list thing

I’m not sure why there is always this flurry of best-of lists for the end of each year, and usually not even at the end of the actual year, thus simply being wrong, in all senses. Overall, my year wasn’t a good year, but that's another story. Suffice to say, I realised confirmed a few too many things about a few too many things. Nonetheless, the year, on a broad rather than exact scale, began and ended with two best things, for me. My last but one book, The Beautiful Anxiety, won a prize in late January. Well, I prize it anyway, plus they gave me money. It was the work of a number of years. And my most recent work, Breaking the Days, was published in late November. It was work of a different sort, a shorter term project, but it was a good thing. So me, myself and I raise my/our glass to these two, my little 2015 bests. And recognise it’s more betterer than what a lot of folks got this year. So, to myself I say, stop yr sobbing.

As for other things, specific things of interest/worth noting (as opposed to this weird ‘best’ thing), here’s a little round-up of some things I’ve read, seen or heard. Mind you, these aren’t specifically 2015 productions, mostly not in fact (I don’t think 2015 was a stellar year for a lot, but time may prove my judgment erroneous, and that’s perfectly fine).

It certainly wasn’t a good year for films. It happens like that. I used to review films for a living (a very modest living) so I recall other dire film years. These days I rarely go to cinemas. They seem to be full of people playing with their phones or chatting by phone or to their companions rather than looking at films, which is too distracting. But I did see a rash of movies in real cinemas recently and two of those stood out. Youth (La giovinezza) by Paolo Sorrentino (full of ideas so most people would call that pretentious – but I enjoyed it, even though it was a bit old blokey, though in an Italian way), and Sherpa by Jennifer Peedom, a very well-made doco. Other fillums I saw by my own (dimmed) homelight and enjoyed include a rash of Roy Andersson films – Songs From the Second Floor, You, the Living, and A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, all worth your time – Interstellar, The Master, Starman (an old, old fave, re-watched). I’m know there are a few other good uns I’ve missed remembering (in that, did I see them this year, or last year?). I don’t watch TV but we watch a lot of box set dvds of TV series. One of many that we thoroughly enjoyed, and didn’t expect to, was Elementary. Jonny Lee Miller is a much better modern Sherlock than that Benedict Cumberbloke, though no-one surpasses Jeremy Brett as Holmes.

I don’t think it was a great music year also. Maybe because I don’t feel terribly in tune (haha) with most current popular, in any sense, music. Music I found or focused on this year (rather than the constant re-listen from the ever-cycling collection), included The Blue Notebooks, Max Richter; Elaenia, Floating Points; Sibelius’s 5th (how had I not taken real notice of that before now?); The Half Finished Heaven, Sinikka Langland (music and some songs based on Tranströmer’s poetry); In C, Adrian Utley’s Guitar Orchestra (yes, a terrif newish version of the old Terry Riley classic); Morning/Evening, Four Tet; Roman Roads IV-XI, Land Observations; Beneath Swooping Talons, Laura Cannell; Solo, Nils Frahm (a free and legal download, thanks to Mr Frahm); Hinterland, Lonelady; The Epic, Kamasi Washington. In 2015 in music, there were many passings but one I missed hearing about until recently was of Susumu Yokota, whose music I have a lot of in the collection. He was only 54 and apparently died after a long illness.

I stopped reading novels, any novels in any genre, late last year. Full stop. I threw one away before I finished it (which I’ve never done till now), and decided that so many of ‘em seemed forced, boring or overly hectic, self-important, desperate to be popular, by-the-numbers (and not just Creative Writing 101 by-the-numbers, though there’s a lot of that), etc, etc. Mostly, just plain annoying. This is despite pwizes, rave reviews, best-of lists for any year, ‘classic’ status, cult status or big sellingness. But, all that said, I am currently reading, belatedly (I bought it in hardback some years ago), 2666 by Bolaño. I’ve just finished, last night, the first part/book, and this could well be a best-of kinda deal, given I have a reasonable hope of finishing it before year’s end. Put it this way, I read this first 160 pages at a cracking pace, and that has to mean something. Also happily re-read Joyce’s ‘The Dead’, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear even to me, but there you go, I just did.

I’ve read a lot of non-fiction, of various kinds. The best of all that I read this year, in no specific order, included Just Kids by Patti Smith, Let’s Talk About Love by Carl Wilson (the expanded version), Live At the Apollo by Douglas Wolk, On Elizabeth Bishop by Colm Tóibín, most of Madness, Rack and Honey by Mary Ruefle (most of, as I’m still slowly working my way through it), Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America by Jonathon Gould, and A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor, plus various essays out of various books (I got a few online cheaply) by the great Carlo Ginzberg including my old go-to re-read, ‘Clues: Roots of an Evidential Paradigm’ from his book Myths, Emblems and Clues. There’s probably a bit of a theme in some of the above. I don’t think any of these books, apart from the Tóibín, were published this year. One mag published this year which I did thoroughly enjoy was Issue 60.1 of Westerly which included, among many good things, a terrific illustrated essay on Randolph Stow. By the way, and apropos Patti Smith, it was in reading her latest, the M Train memoir, (not yet finished, so not yet sure if it's on the 'list') that she reminded/prodded me about 2666, hence I dug it out ...

Of course, I read a lot of poetry, a lot of it being single poems or bunches of poems in books, anthologies and periodicals in print and online and, thus, too much to document, even the really terrific stuff (there was plenty non-terrific stuff as well, unsurprisingly). As for poetry books, a lot of my reading is re-reading, or catching up. But here’s a short list of poetry books that struck me, surprised me, worried at me, or interested and influenced me this year, again in no particular order at all, and some of them re-reads: Rain, Jon Woodward (from which I stole an idea/procedure which I further embellished); Awe, Dorothea Lasky; The Darling North, Anne Kennedy (who I met in March); The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Basho (newly purchased but old translation to read alongside another translation I’ve had for some years); New Collected Poems, WS Graham; The Night’s Live Changes, Tim Wright; Howling at the Moon, Hagiwara Sakutarō. And, even though it was more important as constant reading for me last year, Pasolini’s poems are sticking with me, and being re-read, this year as well, from two separate selections. This poetry list doesn’t take account of the poems and poets that always travel with me, nor the books I bought or acquired this year that are still unread (there are most likely significant works in that pile), nor any books published this year anywhere in the world that I may happily acquire and even read in my own good time, in a future year.

Friday, October 30, 2015

'Breaking the Days' launch, Melbourne

OK, I can now update details of my next book launch:

Breaking The Days will be launched in Melbourne by Alison Croggon at The Alderman, 134 Lygon St, Brunswick East, on Saturday 21st November, 2.30-4.30pm.

Welcome, one and all!

You might be interested to read some of my thoughts on putting the book together a few posts back on the blog.

I hope to have a cover pic available soon.


November -- JJ doing poetry in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney

It's a busy November for me, as it turns out. As well as marking and administrivia stress outs, I'm dancing poetry around Australia, even in the current home town.

First up, because it's confirmed, and it's, urrm, first up, I'll be reading in Adelaide at the first Lee Marvin reading for November alongside David Mortimer, Heather Taylor Johnson and the maestro, Ken Bolton himself. So, that's Tuesday 3rd, November at Dark Horsey, the usual 7.30pm for 8pm.

The full Lee Marvin November program, a pretty tasty one for the beginning of the summer season, is as follows:

November 3rd 
Jill Jones  •  Heather Taylor Johnson  •  Ken Bolton  •  David Mortimer

November 10th 
Cath Kenneally  •  Naomi Horridge  •  Gretta Mitchell  •  Shannon Burns

November 17th 
Jelena Dinic   •  Mike Ladd 
•  Alison Flett  •  Peter Goldsworthy

November 24th 
Francesca da Rimini  •  Steve Brock  • Rachael Mead  •  Ken Bolton

Then, I'll be in Melbourne for the launch of my new book, Breaking the Days, from Whitmore Press. The venue and time is still to be confirmed, but it will take place on Saturday 21st November, afternoon or evening. Alison Croggon will do the launch honours. My thanks again to Alison and to Anthony Lynch and the Whitmore Press crew.

And then, I will be in Sydney for the November Rhizomic reading at Mr Falcon's on Glebe Point Road. That's Wednesday 25th November. Further details when they are available.

Maybe I'll get to other parts of Australia, if they'll have me, in future years.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Big crowd of poems 2015

The list of contributors to The Best Australia Poems 2015 has been announced. I'm there (yay), amongst a big crowd. I'd prefer to call it a Big Crowd of Australian Poems, or something, rather than 'the best', because it's never gonna be that, because it can't. Still, that's an argument that's been rehashed a number of times. 'Best' is marketing speak, as we all know.

There's a few names on the list that I don't know and some poets whose work I'm not yet well-acquainted with. That's all to the good.

There's six (only!) South Australian poets - Steve Evans, Thom Sullivan, Geoff Goodfellow, Rachael Mead, Jude Aquilina, Jill Jones - unless one of the unknown-to-me folks is also living here. Slightly surprising, given I'm aware of good stuff published in the last year by other SA poets, or at least written, going on what I heard at the Lee Marvin readings I was in town for during 2014-15. I mean pretty damn good. But editors make choices and Geoff Page, editor of this and last year's volume, has made his. From memory, the call-out, like last year's, asked for poems that were 'reader friendly' (which reader?), or something along those lines, as well high quality (which is, obviously, debatable - we debate it all the time). And not over 60 lines.

It'd be interesting to see what would happen if Black Inc ever chose a South Australian to edit rather than someone from the primarily Melbourne-Sydney axis (Geoff Page is from the ACT, I know, but that's along that axis, only a three hour drive to Sydney). Or another woman editor - there's only ever been two, Dorothy Porter and Lisa Gorton, and then, they only edited one volume each. Or someone on the much younger side. Lisa Gorton did double duty in 2013 as the youngest editor so far (I presume I am right in guessing near enough her age), as well as being female.

Simply looking at the list of poets, it has a very mainstream even conservative-leaning feel. Although, there I am (and a number of others who don't lean that way). Or have I gone soft in my old age? Heaven forfend. Certainly, my poem isn't the accepted imagey/metaphory, deep and meaningful, 'elegant' piece. But, neither is it, on the surface at least, syntactically complex. For me, indeed, it was an experiment, but that's a story for another occasion. And, of course, it is hard to know what to make of the selections until one actually reads the book, stating the obvious. So, although I'm doing a bit of a prejudge (but who ever doesn't?) and I have a niggling feeling I know what will be said by reviewers about this depending on which side of the various poetry fences they stand (that's pretty much the case for most Australian poetry book reviews anyway), I am always prepared to be surprised, by my reading of the book itself and its reception. Besides, 2016 will roll around soon enough, and who knows what surprises (or not) that will bring.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Late night thoughts on the blogging thing

I decided to take a break, a continuing one so far it seems, from Facebook, a few months ago. I miss the exchange at times but, in the end, it wasn't good for my health. That is a long story and not worth going into further. I've gone back to this blog, fitfully it may seem, but possibly fairly regularly. I did try tumblr, by the way, but didn't seem to get into the swing of it. Twitter is an unknown and untried world and remains so, for now.

The advantage of a blog over Facebook and other insulated social media platforms is that it doesn't require a subscription to read it, and the posts are much easier to track and recover/re-read. This was a frustration I had with Facebook, though probably not the primary reason I left. Indeed, I have darted back (reactivated is the technical term, I believe) once or twice for a brief five minute foray, simply to check on something posted on x date and/or about y bit of business. No-one noticed.

In the heyday of blogging, in the early to mid-2000s, the platform was alive with poets and poetry, and certainly exchanges (who remembers web 2.0?). This included comments and responses amongst us all. Times have changed, as they obviously do. I've not had one comment, nor sign of one, since coming back to this in 2015. Nor, I admit, have I gone to other blogs and commented. I have gone to other blogs but have wondered what I would say. And a lot of the people I previously interacted with regularly seem to be doing other things, online or off-line. As I obviously was. I hope they are all thriving in whatever they are doing.

I live now in a small city where conversation is scarce if one is, effectively, an outsider (I don't count classes as conversation, they are different exchanges, valuable as exchanges, but of a different kind). Conversation happens, thankfully but rarely, and my thanks go to the few here in Adelaide who take time out to chat and discuss things of mutual interest.

Thus, I count this space as where I talk to myself, which I believe is a human and necessary thing to do, as well as somewhere to record what I have been doing and writing and/or what has interested me. I don't fool myself that it is a space for anything more than that. Also, it occurs to me that what I'm currently doing is not much different to what I was doing way back when, except that it emerges more from my own internal to-and-fro rather than a broader communal working. The one thing that may be a positive, apart from the purely archival (which is not to be dismissed), is that this blog still has a public presence, it's not an interior or private space. I don't know who visits these days, but I know there are 'visits'. Just as other bloggers don't know I visit them, though I do. This is something I am continuing to think about and is another way of saying I haven't gone completely away.

Mascara is fresh

The latest issue of Mascara Literary Review has just been published, with the theme of Between Black and White. I have a small poem therein, Bright Yellow Black. There are many other good things to read as well, including a terrific short fiction by my friend and fellow Adelaidean writer, Shannon Burns.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Making 'Breaking the Days'

I am currently involved in the various tasks in getting a book ready for print and release. The book, at this moment, is called Breaking the Days, and was a joint winner of the Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize last year. The other winner, Tracy Ryan, has already published her volume in late July.

But back to this process. Because they are tasks, things that you do to make something. My initial task was to complete the manuscript after having the initial 150 lines (or so) being chosen last year. And thanks to Whitmore Press folks for offering this ongoing opportunity to poets, and, of course, for picking my manuscript last year.

I did, in fact, have a longer manuscript idea I was working from, so I knew the field of poems I would be playing with. Mostly, though not entirely, they were a series of writings I had done during 2014, and to narrow it down, mostly during the first seven or eight months of that year. I have since included a few newer 2015 poems and reworked one or two much older poems. Overall, I was aiming at a different feeling in this book, a kind of stripped-down, more direct, at times dead-pan atmospheric. But always with something ambivalent, de-centred, or strange in the mix. It remains to be seen how that approach will be read, both of itself, in the context of my own work, and within current poetry in general.

The poems, apart from a long sequence, all fit on one page. Thus, it was at one level easy to decide what kinds of poems from this field would get into the book. It still took some time to select, order, edit and, in a couple of cases, rewrite. Every poem in the winning manuscript is there, however, pretty much as originally submitted.

The original title wasn't quite right - Breaking the Plates. Well, in a sense it is exactly right, and I liked it, still like it, but I could see how people could latch onto it as a kind of feminine domestic, ie something easy to dismiss, the usual yadda-yadda. My work's been dismissed like this in the past. The male domestic, of which Australian poetry is chock full, never gets named as such, nor receives such short shrift. So, the plates were out (they are still in the poem from which they came), and the days were in. The poems are deliberately daily, quotidian Adelaide, and the 'a' vowel sound remains, so that worked fine.

But, obviously, a manuscript is never the end of book making. Books, publishing, these are collective tasks. People are working together to get an actual thing done, made. Thus, editing, proof-reading, type and book design, cover image, front and back matter (sourcing endorsements, bio notes, etc), thinking about a launch (or two, and where, by whom, etc), all requiring the work of a few people. So, I and others are within this complex of tasks, though a fair way down the track.

I began keeping quite specific notes about this book, once I had got back to Australia at the beginning of the year; some of them are simply to do lists, but also a lot are a kind of thinking through what I thought I was doing with this book. It has been a useful process, and I may put something together from all of that once the book is out. I'm not sure why I began doing this. It may have had something to do with being out of Australia for nearly six months. It may have had something to do with the fact this book is more of a particular time and mood than my other books. It may have something to do with doubt or with simple curiosity.

There's no date yet for a launch. It will most likely be in Melbourne, in mid to later November. There's still work to do.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Work in Cordite

There's a new poem from me at Cordite, just this week, called Bearing False Witness. It's part of their latest feature issue called Umami, edited by Luke Davies. My poem comes from an ongoing series of prose poems I've been writing on-and-off for many years. Occasionally one of them gets published. I have thought, from time-to-time, of putting them out in a small book, but I suspect that won't happen. So, catch 'em if you can.

Speaking of Cordite, there's another recent poem of mine there as well, called In My Shifts, published as part of their (also) current TransTasman issue, edited by Bonny Cassidy. My irregular blogging past meant I hadn't noted it here until now, as I haven't noted a lot of things here over the last couple of years.

Monday, August 31, 2015

light at brighton

Yesterday, at Brighton Beach. One of the first continually sunny days for a while. Spring, almost. I don't really know Brighton, it's possibly only the third time in my life I've been there. Still, it's only a train journey away from home, so there I went, walking about, taking a photograph, writing a note or two:

afternoon sunlight turns silver on Holdfast Bay

clouds tack behind the hills
days are what tracksuit pants are for
another octopus pulled up onto the jetty
babies are simply babies, phones are
for taking pictures of the dog
pig face, beach reclamation, vanilla
or something more, he's yelling
instructions at the kids, 'head for the sandbank'
if you were here, or I was young in early spring
with stupid hats, dogs' bums, eternal prams
fishing tackle, without breaking like a wave
having the moment's recurrence
like a breeze through the gulf

Saturday, August 29, 2015

readings: sound and (sometimes) vision ...

This coming September I will be doing at least one, if not two, poetry readings here in Adelaide. The definite gig will be Tuesday, September 29th 2015, at the terrific on-going series of Lee Marvin readings curated by the indefatigable Ken Bolton at the Dark Horsey Bookshop, part of the AEAF in Adelaide's West End. I'll be sharing the stage with my colleague, Brian Castro, among others. As soon as I know details of the other reading, I'll post that. I'm also scheduled for a reading in Sydney in late November and I'll post details of that if and when they are firmed up.

I used to do more readings. I've always liked doing them, especially in the company of other poets. I believe poems and poets need to be heard as well as read. Presumably because (a) I live in Adelaide not big smoke, (b) I am (ahem) not as young as I used to be, and (c) I don't hang around in gangs or coteries, I rarely get interstate gigs (even if I pony up with cash/FF for flights and can conjure accomm). OK, it is what it is.

And, in general (ie, it's not just me), the so-called writers' festivals (meaning prose writers' festivals, by and large) that seem to spring up at will across the country, have little interest in featuring poets, unless they can do double duty as a prose writer and/or are some kind of 'celebrity'. If these festivals use poets at all, they segregate them on the poets-only panel and, maybe, have a poets-only reading, as if poetry wasn't anything to do with (umm) writing, 'but, hey, yes, we did poetry'. There used to be more poetry festivals but they seem to have died away with one or two exceptions, and are either a bit of a closed shop or seem to have more of a 'performancey' focus, which is as you'd expect. So far as I'm concerned, all readings are performances and the more diversity the better, but that's not the popular view. OK, I'm non-fashionable, my problem.

Yep, it is what it is, no matter how much ye grumble. From time-to-time, various ideas have been put forward to try to get more poets out and about (funding for national reading tours, for instance), but nothing substantial has ever come of it. Writers' festival directors/curators aren't going to change their focus either, so no point in knocking on those doors. And sometimes I think they're not the best platforms for poetry (indeed, writing) anyway.

Ideally, poetry readings should be live, but in lieu of that, ie, instead of waiting for 'the gift of sound and vision' (apols to D. Bowie), is the online thing. Not ideal, but better than the proverbial poke in the eye with a limp fish. So, as it's pretty unlikely you'll ever see me (or indeed a whole bunch of us) read poems in your city or town, here's a few links below that include sound recordings of me (yes, of course) reading - some include video. Even better, on some sites there's a whole bunch of poets reading, not just yours truly - a veritable salon. One of the links is actually a recent interview I did with Nathan Hondros and Robbie Coburn as part of their Australian Poetry Podcast series, but I do read a few poems at the end. Same with the Writer's Radio, Radio Adelaide interview (Writers Radio has, indeed, been a stalwart in broadcasting writers of all kinds for a long, long time). A couple of the recordings are me experimenting with soundscape and/or soundtrack, which you can take or leave as you will. My thanks to all the site curators and engineers/recorders, professional and amateur, doing this increasingly necessary work, here and elsewhere online.

Australian Poets at PennSound

NZEPC Home & Away: Sydney readings

Red Room Company

Radio Adelaide interview

The Australia Poetry Podcast

Friday, August 28, 2015

still rough

lists flutter in the social breeze
of course, all the tribunals, modern tribes
a coast dark blue with them, somewhere

I go down to the gulf one day
join the breeze
and I don't know anyone

tide has washed in pieces of broken brick
the gulls dive for fish
if that means I don't care

though I pick up a piece
almost circular, red, mineral-specked
I could skim it

I put it in my pocket
it's still rough
there seems no point in keeping it

it's in a bowl on a low table
today is a grey day
I felt it just now

Saturday, August 15, 2015

or merely blue

violins or guitars grip onto
a version of rain

it’s from another epoch
rather than a fool’s paradise
rather than now

even if it’s a lonely experience
do you think it’s exceptional
or merely blue, or

the way this day is
until it changes

what i've been doing ...

The 'what I've been doing' conversation could go on for a while, especially given that, in this space, it's been a long time between drinks. For the nonce, I'll narrow it down to one small corner of 'what I've been doing recently'. One version can be seen in a few poems that were published in March this year in John Tranter's new Journal of Poetics Research. Here they are:

Five poems in Journal of Poetics Research

The older poem is 'Free Hand: A Kind of Thinking'. As well as, obviously, being a kind of ars poetica, it's length and its syntactic energies are different to the other poems, especially the first three. These may, or may not, appear in print later this year. I presume you can tell they are more stripped back, obviously shorter, full of questions and even imperatives (not so much in these but in others I've been writing), less image-driven, impatient. Whether I'll continue in this vein much longer, I don't know. It's one of my current experiments.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Not to forget last year's book

While I'm looking forward to the progress of The Beautiful Anxiety, I don't want to forget my 7th book, Ash is Here, So are Stars, which was published late 2012 by Ralph Wessman of Walleah Press, and to whom I'm thankful for taking a chance on this little book.

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 ...".

A listing: top Australian literary titles

And here's a curiosity. The Copyright Agency has a program called Reading Australia, and as part of it they released their 'Top 200 Australian Literary Titles'. And my name appears not once but twice. First, for an older book of mine, Broken/Open, and then as co-editor with Michael Farrell, of Out of the Box.

The full list is available on the Agency's website. Lot's of classic and contemporary Australian titles to consider.

New book: The Beautiful Anxiety

Early next year (though it is out and about now) I publish my 8th full-length book, The Beautiful Anxiety.

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 long time away from the page, of here. Slowly making a way back.

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

letter to a friend

Yes, your story rings true
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

the slippery thing - prose poem

A new issue of Mascara has hit the intertubes recently, and is focused on prose poems. It was edited by Keri Glastonbury. Includes two of my own prose poems. I write them from time to time - most of my books contain a prose poem or so - and at one stage a short ms of them was going to be published in a chapbook. However, I changed my mind and the chapbook became Struggle and Radiance, a different set of poems altogether. One of the poems in Mascara is a slightly revised version on a poem from that unpublished manuscript. I have been thinking of bringing some of them together, the published and unpublished, but had supposed the prose poem was not a fashionable item. Maybe there is some interest, still, in the form. Of sentences and paragraphs as poems. For instance, I liked the rhythm of Jen Crawford's and Tim Wright's sentences. And how Michael Farrell interrogates punctuation and makes you think of space in the paragraph. An issue full of interest.

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