‘Minus Minus’ (extract)- Claine Keily

“Minus Minus is a prose poem that tells of the dark underside of rural life”- Claine Keily

Minus Minus (extract)

How can a woman love once she has learned the laws of commerce? All her loves, long before Minus, were tiny men leaning towards subtraction, as shamelessly as flowers toward the sun. But when it came to her they added up, counted up, the lines, the years, multiplied her sex, then divided, while she screamed “Let me, let me”, they were stuffing up their ears.

I do not count on you my love for I know myself far stronger, and I have a horror of children who appear in bodies far older than their years. I prefer the mystery, the brief time before subtraction. Love cannot pass through this knowledge of division, which men devised to help them on their way.

We have never known love, only the desire of a victim for a tormentor. A something doubled over. And then to love the animals, is to turn from a man in horror, to forget childbearing beneath the fur of unbearable forests.  The word love is a shield for all we hope for, a minuscule something glimpsed behind a mirror. A moment forgotten. And how we want to know its name, as surely as we can add and subtract upon our fingers. 

And so love is hiding, love is cloaked, is hair, is paper. Somewhere there is a trunk enormous and it tucks itself in at night behind this tree, long before we can reach it. 

She-friends, separated, toy with misdoses of poisons and extracts of kindling herbs. Silence grows in them. They hear the chemical murmur, the chemical murder written on their walls. Psychologists twitch out prevention and cure, balancing their shoulders against the wait of fall.  Psychiatrists linger dull in offices without splendour, careful as the sown of wheat now, they waver and shudder reaction and reason. 

Minus is here, paper throated, a midget dancing on the pathway. There are pearls and cars miraculous, but no music, no voices wailing to joy now, learning to name the darkness. I want to say that you are summer, that you are tillage to the garden, the silver to the frost, but I am a darkling, a forever stranger, throttled now for want of love.

-Claine Keily

Extract from Minus Minus: A prose poem that tells of the dark underside of rural life (2016) by Claine Keily

“I wrote the whole novella [Minus Minus] in 2002. An extract was published in Standards in 2002 and can be read online in that journal. The complete novella was published in 2016… The novella tells a tale of a relationship breakdown set against a backdrop of rural isolation. Minus Minus is the male partner in [the] novella who subjects the female narrator to psychological abuse as a form of control over her.”- Claine Keily

Claine Keily talks to Zalehah Turner about her Cafe Poet residency, transmedia poetry, Minus Minus and Luce Irigaray

A couple of years ago I became a Café Poet at The Four Birds Cafe in Darwin. I undertook a series of poetry performances at this cafe which I titled, Hotel Genet. These were public ‘happenings’ outside the cafe in the shopping arcade. Australian Poetry asked me to open the Wordstorm Writers Festival with a reading as well as to host a National Poetry Month reading as part of my residency.

I have worked in a variety of mediums for all of my artistic life. I make super eight films and video poems based on my writing. I have produced many artist books of my poetry and these form part of the rare book collections in state, national and university libraries in Australia.

In 2011, I lived in Paris and then in Oxford for six months. I performed each week at Spokenword in Paris as well as at Catweazle in Oxford.

I am influenced by the philosophical writings of Luce Irigaray. I wrote my Masters thesis in response to her ideas on sex/ gender. Minus Minus was written after my study of her ideas. [I]f you have engaged with Irigaray’s ideas about sexual difference, then you may see that I am reflecting on many of her ideas in Minus Minus.

Minus Minus was written while I was living in a shack in the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales. The novella is written in a stream of consciousness manner; while at the same time, being built on two years of intensive study at Sydney University engaging with the work of Luce Irigaray.

The novella maps the terrain of psychological abuse in all its forms, against the backdrop of an isolated rural alpine environment. I have written many volumes of poetry as well as, full length prose novels and novellas. Extracts from these works have been published in print and online journals. My novellas and collections of poetry are available for sale at Amazon.

I recently participated in Project 365+1 which is an online community of poets who write and publish a poem each day during the time they are part of that community. I am always working on a novella or collection of poems. I am often working on a video poem or two as well as, performing my poems at poetry events with a range of musicians.

‘Minus Minus’ (extract) video by Claine Keily

Claine Keily

Claine Keily is a poet, video artist, performance poet, and author of six prose novellas, including, Minus Minus (2016). Her prose novellas are all available through Amazon. Her poems and selections of her prose novellas have been published in journals in the USA, Ireland, China and Australia. Claine Keily’s limited edition artist books form a part of the rare book collections at National, State and University libraries across Australia. She currently works as a teacher of English Literature. Claine Keily was a Café Poet at Four Birds in Darwin in 2013. 


Minus Minus was published in January, 2016 and is available through Amazon here.
Keily, C. 2002, ‘Minus Minus,’ Standards, vol 8, no 1 here.

Featured Writers Part 2: Past Australian Café Poets- Curated by Zalehah Turner
Read about the Australian Poetry Café Poet Program (2009-2014)

Zalehah Turner is a Sydney based critic, writer and poet currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Communications majoring in writing and cultural studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. Zalehah is an Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review: https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2016/02/09/welcome-zalehah-turner-rochford-street-review-associate-editor

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