Thursday, September 02, 2010

on another kind of roll - some new work

I am pleased to say that Famous Reporter 41 June/July 2010 (which does not list me as a contributor, yet Ralph assures me includes me in the journal) has published one of the longer sequences from my (working title) Shack Life Fevers collection I'm developing at my Verona Sands beach shack/cottage in Tasmania.

The work in Famous Reporter includes two different sets of the ongoing (i hope) series Figuring shells with Mahler. I have an extensive collection of classical instrumental and opera records. It is very comprehensive. I've always enjoyed all kinds of music, but gain a particular pleasure when I'm in the mood to listen to music less contemporary. My three children heard many of the great composers during their most fractious periods as babies and toddlers, it having a great calming and unique stimulus of the 'good mood' kind on them and me.

As I have not yet got hold of a copy of Famous Reporter 41, I'm wondering if I might be a little delusional and it's possible (even though I've been assured that the work is really there) that it has disappeared...or is not present. But it is really, isn't it...

As it is now September, spring and all, I'm sure that Ralph won't mind me including the work on my blog, so that any of you who haven't yet read it in Famous Report 41, might get a chance to read it here. Apologies in advance for any disruption to the formatting in the first sequence, but I couldn't complete the copy on the pdf version, so copied from my own files instead.

Figuring shells with Mahler

in three movements


water leans the view/an open mouth
that drops ideas
dazed under sun/under cover
(think) hairy men and overweight women look better in clothes
even when clothes come off as easily as breath blown

ignoring elements of stress in life/is life
the asylum? how so (and) why is it
better to behave?

age responsible age so suburban and good neighbour
now/you/mow/you/turn the music down
when did surly depart/the edgy
love's black ops?

eat anathema
eyes prised open
on drug art/looking glass assets
all kinds of woes and bliss interrogate
people storms vent/you can buy roses in dream street (whoever
plays me she winks that) the characters the monochrome
paintings/such sweet

Q&A's into soft parts/pressure points
a wooden bowl yields/incomplete
lights halo/loose sheets inkless at bedtime
come to sleep sleep
ideas/cured in some distance


when Fairweather left Bribie
his raft made land made somewhere
what did he want/what
did he really? and find
he grew silence

he grew old

(do the raft thing) cross this channel south
pass Bruny (in a day or a year pass
in an hour) Antarctica
a whitepatch/a whiteout/somehow make notes

another history and what's not there now
is here maybe? all heroic or mad doesn't matter much
leaning/the view

time ungrounded time (there is the ground)
sealed in

outstanding moments quicken or slow


all day long yachts pass and smaller craft jetty the sand's breathless lip
in survey/gulls net the ocean's pull/the island's long reach

days after dark after light after words slip out and touch

(a native bee loose in the house)
keeping its own rhythm
on the near shore small waves fold/music enough

it's hard to finish or start

(a note here for those who may think my research on Fairweather is skewed or wrong...I know that when he was alive, he took off from Darwin on his famous raft journey towards Bali where he successfully made land and lived and painted for a number of years before locating to Bribie Island in referencing of Fairweather's raft leaving Bribie is not referencing the living man but the one who died)

Figuring shells with Mahler 2

sonatas in D major


in his elegant loss
the bird no longer sings
in order to flee loss in memory
what breaks over meaning?
it's the jumble sale the dreamlike
maybe these realities peel
away the bird will

jarring chords are big gestures
mode this passion opposing/oppositional
a solemn march and trumpets
his new notes disquiet/overwrite
with calm resignation
to climax a prophetic theme
always/the bird sings

gawky and awkward

noise and the days too long in the too fraught
thought too much to discover equilibrium
how do the notes play out in changes and shifts?
not entirely all about sound
surely sound isn't the only reference
notes fractured by life/reconstructed
reason enough to progress

music/a thawed honesty/confessional
gruesome irony awakes the fragmentary
doomed man pessimistic on the doomed planet
debris on the far sand/beached
places where shells return on tides
specialised philosophy/these lines of poetry
defiance/hear it call now that clean sound

and errors

no gentle splash
becalmed in pleasure lost
forceful waves are silent
the satires and talk
a flatness that rushes
whose burning scorn?
and yearn/the other shore

a melody that shuns
our breath expelled/effusive
deeply self consuming
what else rises dancing?
a fair wind that catches
sand pounded/it delivers
diamonds/shells we turn

overland 200 - my poem 'on a role' and other interesting collaborative things

enigma of a fever chart

not sleep or sleeplessness. fever an alphabet in my head. blocked
nose, slack mouth. push a weighted stretch into night's panorama.
time moves the air around my bed. words jiggle in books. two
hundred pages fall where the floor is. darkness paces curiosity
turns stars, disaffection, off. the twittering parts.

freaks play with dream and with fire. i churn its bulk, cross to the
window. earth's amber bridge glows. pops, sparks, yawns. loose
bits. how to measure its worth? other dawns exist, they settle on
other lips. you could chart whether i've drooled words all night,
or heaped a mouthful of ash sludge onto my pillow.

When Derek first mentioned this project, I was interested and quite excited about the prospect of contributing to a collaborative enterprise and I said yes immediately. I thought about the way to approach my ten lines a fair bit prior to actually starting the poem, and I admit that I did wait for some form of outside inspiration to edge me forward in the first instance. I desired to commence from a place, more loosely liminal than structured, at least in the first instance.

As the project required the twenty poets to give a nod to the idea of 'on a role' a past, present and future, maybe our own vision, maybe not visionary at all, I waited and pondered at a time when I was not well, but not sick enough to take to my bed, just not one hundred percent. I was re reading Val McDermid's Tony Hill books, being drawn into the strange and shocking world that character inhabits, both inside and outside of himself.

I had noticed that many of the books used quotations (in epigraph form or in titles) from the poetry of T.S. Eliot, specifically from the collection Four Quartets featuring the poems Burnt Norton, East Coker, The Dry Salvages, and Little Gidding. So I re read these poems again and then, felt I had a connection which would work for my 'on a role' the past. The T.S. Eliot poems are what got me moving into the poem, gave me the title and some re mixed lines within. Once I started, I gave myself time every day for ten days, forced myself on some days to go back to the poem and rattle it, and take it somewhere else.

One of the more successful aspects of the process, (for me as the author) was deciding early on to align the notion of 'on a role' the present, within my body. The body functions and the particular state of my body during the creation of my ten lines. Ideas began then, on the way to look at this poem from the viewpoint of 'on a role' the future, and it is here that I also had to travel back again, prior to gaining a sense of how the future might be a feature in my piece.

Before I left Queensland, to travel to Tasmania and live in Tasmania permanently I had to clear through so much paper, poems, notes, unfinished ideas and decided to hold a bonfire in the back yard and burn all of this work. The bonfire was lit each night for several nights, and I watched the work (which would never be good enough to satisfy me, or inspire me to keep) go up in dazzling flames. When I got settled in Tasmania, I dreamed about the process of this burning and thought about some of the poems and ideas that I'd burned - but thought about them in a different way, looking at them forward, rather than backward. Thinking that this burning, this dreaming, in fact was my 'on a role' the future.

An interesting part of this process, a personal 'tic' or viewpoint I have, is a conviction that most of the better work I produce, comes about like a fever. As I've now been in Tasmania for nearly a year, I've decided to put together some of the poetry I've written here under the working title 'Shack Life Fevers'.

I like the idea of approaching writing from different directions every now and then. Quite a while back, on the online discussion group Poneme (sadly now just a mere ghostly and sometimes icky presence compared to what it once was), a few of us developed work using unfamiliar processes, and then we included a series of 'studio notes' which outlined the way we approached the content of our individual work. This work was published in Haiku Review #5 and it situates well against the collaborative poem just developed for Overland 200.

Whilst still on the notion of collaborative experiments, I'd like to include another poem, developed by Jen Crawford and myself, during the hey days of the old poneme, and which Jen included in her book bad appendix published by Titus Books in 2008.
I'll mention the process we used first and then leave you with the poem. We both agreed to take a failed poem, one which we would not use intact, and work through that poem emailing changes and adding and shifting the work from two poems into one and expanding and contracting it until we both felt the work was done with us.
A surprise for us both, I think, was the discovery half way through the project process, that Jen had begun with her own failed Emily Dickinson poem and I had begun with my own failed Virginia Woolf poem. We did want to disrupt language and engage with its gaps and silences and I think we did that. And the poem...

something familiar about the way there are
air something wha tissue
issue that land. coul me there?


just there on the bank / this air catches leaves
here under hear silent mouth yes
something’s fa way there are


see?see?see?see?see? going
is bank / riverbed


it still there? itstillFriday? star
tle about paid words any photos
no photos from that land. could it still be night time there?


the mouth’s issue is silent / going under
going and
no words left / can’t even hear / the


good. yes, the journalists are very well paid. anyway what
n’t I see? on the for coffee. it was
bank coff ee under


did I think I wanted to remember? see? corruption
core upt er
the Ouse / uneven air bubbles / and


mouth’s Ouse /
no/no/no on the silent


ideas /


body’s ideas / startle the riverbed
why can’t I see? on the Friday we went for coffee. it was
silent / I wanted to reme ruption


it was the no the just the


good. yes, re very well pai
member? leaves there catches yes


there words


on left /
/ good I to /left anyway it

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

overland 200

I've just received my contributor copy (and a cheque!) for the 200th issue of Overland.
Congratulations to all involved - it is a great big number and a great big party happening in Melbourne for the launch.


Launch Party for Overland 200

Overland literary journal is launching its 200th edition, and will be marking the occasion with an evening of celebration. If you’re a writer or a reader, a friend or a well-wisher – or if you’re just curious about what one of Australia’s most prestigious literary journals is up to now – this is an event you won’t want to miss.


Derek Motion asked 20 poets to each develop a ten line piece which he would remix into a 200 line poem. Derek's remixing "I forged the 200 line poem out of the raw material. I cut lines into tiny strips of paper and remixed..." is an interesting and playful poem titled 'Before Elapsing'. I think, in every instance, Derek kept individual lines intact and his original prompt to each poet was to look at each piece as" 'on a role'...the goal was to encourage poetry that looked at the role of the poet in the past, in the present and in the future."

You could do yourself a favour and grab a copy of the Overland 200 issue. Lots of interesting things inside and the poem is an edgy and charming way to feature the work of twenty poets, speaking within the confines of a solitary piece. It is more than suggesting a lessening of single ownership in contemporary practice, it is embracing a concept of community and collaboration which feels good and timely.

Poets featured are Adam Ford, Zenobia Frost, Rebecca Giggs, Susan Hampton, Stu Hatton, Kelly-Lee Hickey, Hal Judge, Dan Lee, Carly-Jay Metcalf, Scot-Patrick Mitchell, Derek Motion, Ella O'Keefe, David Prater, Jaya Savige, Bel Schenk, Andrew Slattery, Amelia Walker, Louise Waller, Benny Walter and Fiona Wright