Thursday, September 02, 2010

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


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