Viva the Real - shortlisted!


I am pleased and gratified that my most recent book, Viva the Real (UQP), has been shortlisted in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for 2019. Awards and prizes aren’t obviously the be-all and end-all but they do repay some of the faith the writer (in this case, me) and publisher had in the book. It's a welcome thing, especially as a genre like poetry pretty much gets ignored by book reviewing culture, literary festivals, and the like.

The judges say of the book:

Viva the Real by Jill Jones is an heroic celebration of the everyday: … For Jones the poem is an artefact freeze-framing thought: she is interested in the connections between the quotidian, attentiveness, and the resourcefulness of the poem to make legible our familiar. … An antidote to distraction, Viva the Real is a marvellous contribution to the poetics of everyday life: it magnifies the moment and resonates long after reading.

A couple of years ago on this blog, I posted some thoughts I had about what my next book after I’d published Brink (Five Islands Press) might be like. Back then (late 2016), I said: “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.” Some of that came to pass in Viva the Real, which was published way back in the middle of last year (2018).

As I also intimated in that post, it’s not as if some of these ideas are exactly ‘new’, either in my own work or in poetry. I mean, gosh, ‘subjectivity’, that stalwart of lyric poetry, the kind of poetry most people still think is ‘poetry’. Nonetheless, most of the poems are either in the first person singular, along with the occasional first person plural (as a collective ‘I and another’), or second person singular, mostly as a deflected first person. There are some exceptions, but few. It was a deliberate choice. Of my other books of the last decade or so, the closest to this approach were Breaking the Days (Whitmore Press) and Dark Bright Doors (Wakefield Press). And both those books, like Viva, are not broken down into parts or sections. The ‘I’ just doin’ its thing without hindrance, perhaps.

[As a sidelight, I am always unsure about this dividing poetry books into parts, as though they must have chapters like a novel or textbook, or that they must somehow be conceptually focused like that. Breaking the Days is quite a short book - it was a chapbook that went feral - so it would have been a bit daft, even wasteful, to break it up, but I’m happy I’ve resisted the idea in a couple of longer books. I’m not agin poetry books in parts, by the way - my current manuscript-in-progress is very definitely structured in parts, at least for now - but I resist or at least query the idea as the necessary and/or only way of structuring a book of poetry.]

In Viva, I also wanted to open up ideas around queering suburbia and, in general, about the suburban as a place from which to explore environmental writing, a suburban ecopoetics if you will. I’ve already written a bit more on this in a recent post and I may expand on some of the ideas at a further time, in relation to this book and other work I’ve done recently. It is this ‘everyday’ that the PM’s judges note, but with a definite ecopoetic slant. And I do like the idea of being ‘heroic’, though I don’t think I am. Stubborn or a touch dogged, maybe, or just unfashionable and démodé, is more my gig. But to see the everyday as being worth serious attention is something I hope a reader may get from Viva the Real (it's there in the title), so the judges' remarks will definitely do for me in this case.

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