Issue 12: June – September 2014

Painting by Kit Kelen

Painting by Kit Kelen

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Rochford Street Review passes 60,000 hits

Rochford Street PressRochford Street Review has just passed 60,000 hits. Given that the first articles were posted on 2 December 2011 this represents an average of over 20,000 hits per year, which is a pretty good effort for a small independent online publishing venture with no funding source aside from donations and which is effectively run in my ‘spare’ time.

So what is next for  Rochford Street Review? The effort involved in keeping the Review going is increasing all the time so I am looking at ways of bringing in more people to help with the load of chasing down articles, book launches and reviews as well as helping with the editing, mark-ups and publishing. I also want to expand beyond being a mainly literary review to a more broader cultural journal which includes the visual arts, drama, film, dance and performance. I would also like to include more international content in an attempt to start some dialogues between creative artists and provide a level of awareness of what is happening internationally at the cultural grass-roots.

On another positive front we have received a couple of generous donations over the last few weeks which has meant we have been able to cover our costs and have a little left over. This means that for the immediate future we will be able to pay a token fee for reviews and articles of Aust$5. It is not much but it is a start and it will only be for a limited time unless the donations continue – but more of that later.

There will be more on our plans shortly, but if you are interested in helping out, or if you have contacts that you think would be useful let us know – or tell your contacts about us.

Meanwhile here at Rochford Street Review Corporate HQ we are kicking back and planning issue 13!

– Mark Roberts

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A Reader Runner in a Maze Bright: Hamish Danks Brown reviews ‘Maze Bright’ by Jaya Savige

Maze Bright by Jaya Savige.  Rare Objects, Vagabond Press, Sydney, 2014.

Jaya_Savige_-_Maze_BrightOn the same day that I received a review copy of Jaya Savige’s latest chapbook Maze Bright, I noticed the poster for a new movie The Maze Runner , based on the dystopian young adult novel by James Dashner, on display outside the local multiplex cinema, That same evening, I also saw the same movie advertised on television.

The definition of ‘maze bright’ derives from a famous experiment conducted by American behavioural psychologist Robert Tyron (1901-1967) in 1942, which tested the intelligence of successive generations of rats in finding their way through a maze, with the most proficient of the rats being labelled ‘bright’. The 10 poems in Jaya Savige’s chapbook also form a literary and linguistic maze which become a ludic challenge for the reader to play with, as these poems deploy a distinctive range of poetic devices, styles, and layouts to be explored, negotiated and remembered.

In considering the game playing of Pac Man in the opening poem “Etude”, I am reminded of the comment made in David Bellos’s biography of Oulipian writer Georges Perec (1936-1982) and his young student cohorts in Paris in the 1950’s, in which they frequented the same cafes as the intelligentsia of Paris, except that they were playing the pinball machines in the back corner rather that engaging in the arguments and discussions of the time.

“He wasted vast amounts of time in cafes, playing pinball machines. Billard electrique, “electrical billiards, is the official French term for these noisy imported toys, but they were called flippers by addicts, even though the earliest models lacked actual flippers and had to be banged and shunted to alter the path of the shiny steel ball – whence their other name in Franglais, tilts. Goerges would often hold forth mock-philosophically that his life could be compared to the brief and violent path of a ball in a tilt, rejected unpredictably by one blinking, spring-loaded pin after another before plunging – too soon! – into the black holle where all balls must eventually come to rest.” (David Bellos, Georges Perec: A Life In Words, pp. 137-38).

“French walnut tabletop video arcade
circa nineteen eighty-eight”

– Jaya Savige “Etude”.

The second poem “Wingsuit Journal” had a haunting resonance for me, as only the week before, my brother in Sydney, who is a netball coach in the local league in his spare time, told me that another coach he knew had just lost her son in a fatal accident when he struck a cliff while flying a wingsuit in the Swiss Alps. This poem also vividly reminded me of my own experiences and impressions of abseiling down cliffs in the Blue Mountains, caving in the Deua National Park and going on tandem paragliding trips from the crest of Bald Hill on the northern Illawarra coast.

“Never underestimate the sheer toil
required to work this simple aerofoil.”

The third poem “Magic Hour, LA”is an evocative but brief three stanza recollection of a drive along one of the busier billboard-braced and neon-festooned strips of that metropolis,

Number four in this chapbook “On Not Getting My Spray Can Signed by Mr Brainwash” holds to a tighter ABAB rhyming pattern for its seven stanzas with a wry commentary on American popular culture and the trigger-happy tendency of life in the USA today.

and I’m pretty sure I get
……the way out fetishisation
of the toy assault rifle
……inflects his canonisation

as The King. It’s just that capital
……encourages this: the endless
permutations of its effects
……are hardly less mindless

One aspect I enjoy of the whole chapbook is the deft wordplay which Jaya Savige utilises through most of the poems, especially in the firth poem“Citicity”, “and the eighth poem Cinemetabolic” It’s a trait in poetry that I’ve particular warmed to all my life, because my own late father was a keen admirer of word play, nonsense verse, witty song lyrics and what he described as “lightness of touch” in being able to address serious matters with humour instead of polemics. “Cinemetabolic” also reads and registers in my mind as if it could be performed as a sound poem by the likes of Canadian poet Christian Bok, who delivered readings of his own work, as well as that of Kurt Schwitters, Hugo Ball, and even a reworking of a section of “The Georgics” by Roman poet Virgil at the Queensland Poetry Festival less than a fortnight ago.

“Act of God”, the sixth poem, is a more intimate and observational short piece about a honeyeater consuming the nectar of tropical flowers outside the branch of a Queensland bank.

“Nick Cave at Buckingham Palace” is laid out as a visual poem of expansive and seemingly random pauses throughout the text, that renders it as an interior monologue by Nick Cave himself, who is described as

a brooding gothic currawong
among a froth of swans.

It’s also an unwittingly timely poem, given the concurrent release of a semi-fictional documentary about this expatriate Australian songwriter titled “20,000 Hours on Earth”.

“To His Coy Investor” is a skilful parody which most amusing updates the famous metaphysical love poem by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) “To His Coy Mistress”. This rendition accurately hones in on the greed and the gall of the global financial market and merchant bankers while adhering to the rhyming pattern and the meter of the original.

Now, therefore, while the prowling bear
sniffs the pit for whiffs of despair,
and Goldman rogues blab to police
of vampire squids who shorted Greece,
now let us play ball while we can
and now, as sanguine businessmen,….

The final poem “Epithelial” is a reference to the connective skin tissue located on various parts of our anatomy, in this case around the corner of the eye. It’s a dramatic recall of an incident in which the subject of the poem is attacked by a “lanky lad” and, in the scuffle, sustains an injury to the skin dangerously close to the edge of his eye, which has him mortified at the prospect of loss of vision and blindness.

Overall, this is a chapbook which is of a very high quality and with a considerable substance that belies its modest format and its slender dimensions. Jaya Savige has, in ten poems, provided the reader with much to reflect on in every line. This is direct evidence of a poet who is accomplished in rendering his ideas, impressions and inspirations into a metaphorical maze through which the reader will surely become brighter for having found a way through this finely wrought publication.

– Hamish Danks Brown

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 Hamish Danks Brown (born 1957) grew up in a soldier settlement farmhouse in Forestville NSW in an artistic family. He has worked in the arts, media and communities in Sydney, Canberra, Wollongong, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast of QLD, where he was also a full-time carer for his parents until this year. He has been writing since schooldays, but it is only in the past decade that he has become a regular writer, blogger and spoken word performer a.k.a. Danksta Downunder. His interests include the arts, archaeology, astronomy, neuroscience and being a satirical opponent to the status quo. He has published one chapbook ‘All Other Destinations’, is working on his second, and publishes frequently online, and regularly in various poetry anthologies and journals in Australia and overseas.

Maze Bright is available from http://vagabondpress.net/collections/rare-object-series/products/jaya-savige-maze-bright.

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Rochford Street Review relies on the support of its readers to continue. If you like what we are doing please consider making a donation.

Vale Rod Milgate

milgatepoem

Rodney Milgate  Poem 1970.

Artist, poet, playwright, academic and teacher Rodney Milgate died last Friday age 80.

I meet Rod in 1989 when I got a job in the Student Administration Office at City Art Institute (later to become the College of Fine Arts, UNSW). At that time he was in charge of the School of Studio Arts and was one of the college leaders who took the Institute into a new partnership with the University of NSW in 1990. While working together on the administrative tasks of the college, as well as the added burden of managing the merger with the much larger institution down the road, we began to discuss art and poetry. Indeed it was with some excitement I remembering him telling me “ah but I’m not just a painter your see.” The next day I found a copy of his 1979 poetry collection Pictures at an Exhibition (Elizabethan Press, Sydney 1979) on my desk together with an invitation to have lunch and let him know what I thought of it. On another occasions I had shown him a draft of an article I was writing for Island Magazine called ‘Towards a New Diversity: Martin Johnston and the New Australian Poetry’ (http://printedshadows.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/towards-a-new-diversity-martin-johnston-and-the-new-australian-poetry/). This time I received a copy of his 1983 chapbook Wordscapes (which had accompanied an exhibition of his paintings at the Barry Stern Exhibiting Gallery during November 1983). This time there was a yellow post-it note on the front pointing out that he was writing “trail blazing” poetry “pre ’68 and Tranter”!

Milgate noteMilgate won the Blake Prize for Religious Art on three occasions (1966, 1975 and 1977) and held numerous solo exhibitions. He wrote a series of plays and scripts starting in 1966 as well as publishing a number of collections of poetry.

A memorial will be held for Rod in October.

Milgate3– Mark Roberts

Clutching, Following, Wondering, Gazing: Lisa Gorton Launches ‘Final Theory’ by Bonny Cassidy

Final Theory by Bonny Cassidy (Giramondo Press 2014) was launched by Lisa Gorton at Collected Works on 2 July 2014.

Final TheoryBonny Cassidy’s Final Theory is an admirably strange collection: an epic, vast in ambition, built of fragments. In Final Theory Cassidy takes a magnifying glass and makes it work repeatedly as a telescope. Geological time, anthropogenic cataclysm, existential doubt, her own death, the end of poetry: Cassidy works all these concerns into myriad small marvels of description; or, more exactly, into the gaps and disjunctions between myriad small marvels of description. This is poetry that disrupts the picture plane: sharp, angular, disconcerting. What isn’t in it matters as much as what is. Reading Final Theory, you enter a place stripped of the sort of sentiment and rhetoric that would transform it into a landscape, a possession, a nation. Perhaps the most remarkable of this book’s gifts is the sense that it gives you of place itself.

But the structure of this collection is also remarkable. It is in four parts, alternating between two different points of view. The first and third parts track a couple driving through a post-apocalyptic scene. Part I sets the scene with characteristic suddenness: with their sun dying, humans have set a new sun in the moon’s place; the land is buckling and breaking up. The couple drive their Toyota into the mountains: a poet and photographer memorialising the end of human time. Like Adam and Eve in Milton’s Paradise Lost, Cassidy’s couple find ‘the world was all before them’. ‘“We’ll drive ‘til this land swims, ”/ you say. “My camera might sink/ but we’ll be safe inside it:/ fat and rich and pink”.’ Among its other elements, Final Theory is a love poem, and Cassidy has achieved this, with compelling strangeness, almost without a lyric voice.

Final Theory is set in a place which has time as its vanishing point, a place which everywhere opens up into destruction. That is to say, Cassidy has invented a place equal to her style, in which each thing exists over an abyss. What is art for, she is asking; what truth does it have? At times in Final Theory this question comes to the surface: ‘Order and delay/ cannot be made from space and time; how could they?’ That question is built into her descriptions, which see things close-up and also from the future’s perspective. Cassidy wrote the first poems of Final Theory in New Zealand after researching geology and the history of Gondwana. Rocks, dried-up lakes, skeletons and ruins: the couple in Final Theory drive through geological time, places where what has happened exists not as a story but as layered remains. That geological interest shapes the style as well as the narrative of Final Theory, in which the stanzas themselves appear like rock outcrops on the page. Cassidy describes boulders as ‘the colour of old fires/ clean as knowledge’. Cassidy’s pared-back, impersonal style – her interest in pure statement – makes the stanzas rock-like: massy, reduced to essentials.

Final Theory has an epigraph from the New Zealand poet James Baxter. Cassidy’s sense of place takes something, I think, from his abrupt definitive descriptions. Take his poem ‘Cold Spring’, for instance: ‘Stone sea moves southward; the volcanic island/Scrub sides quiet, surf-eaten/ In antarctic isolation’ (Cold Spring). Cassidy’s poems in Final Theory are built out of such sudden perceptions. Here are just two examples: ‘The lake rose, floating/ on the valley/ then deepened to a stop./ Sailing peaks.’ (40); or, ‘Bucking/ under/ distant melt// talking to itself/ this chain of push’ (17). One of Cassidy’s achievements here is to work that compressed and abrupt style into an epic form, bringing in strange effects of space and time.

Cassidy is deeply interested in ways of seeing. The couple drive through rocks and desert and see things from the perspective of a poem or a camera: things caught in language, held in light. Cassidy writes, ‘The poem and the photo are desire/ collected, dispersed. As each boulder/ found its lodgement here…’ (55). This is characteristic of Cassidy’s self-awareness, her analytical eye: the poetry of their road-trip is something not of flow but of outcrop. The effect is to bring in question how stories work – how much of them is desire. The poet, among rocks and desert, dreams of water.

In the other parts of Final Theory the poems enter another way of seeing: an underworld of water. They take the perspective of a girl under the sea: speechless, amphibious. These parts of the book create an utterly different structure of imagery. For the child, things are all touch. Her language is sensuous in the mouth: hurl, trench, huff, curly, scum, fug, bergy, mush, gulch, silt; and her lines often ease into breathing patterns. What is the relationship between these parts of the book? The child is encountering a drowned world, consuming what she sees. Underwater the girl finds a skeleton at a keyboard. Pulling herself from the pool, she grabs hold of the arm:

Clutching the clutching thing, she follows
its thumb, down the double bow and hinge
…..of an arm.

…..It lifts
from a scree of rubbish and shell.

The child flops
out of the pool, onto her front.
When squeezed, the hand’s knuckles pop
into her palm.

She worries at them with her gums,
gazing into a blank screen.

This marvellous strange passage is characteristic of Cassidy’s interest in what you might call the bare bones of things. This collection shows her more metaphysical than the metaphysical poets ever were, because less baroque.

What Cassidy brings us close to in Final Theory is a trick, a trouble and longing built into thought itself, being fixed on what is outside thought: a blank screen. This is why the girl travelling underwater has such force in this collection: clutching, following, wondering, gazing out of the strange silence of her world. The girl finds a photograph and she eats it. She discovers a Toyota sunk deep into a rift, climbs into it, climbs out of it, and comes to light. Though the connection between the poem’s surface and underwater realms remains mysterious, for me this part of the poem recalls the creation myths that Mircea Eliade and Charles Long characterise, in which some being, suspended in a primordial realm, is brought by dream, utterance, or bodily remains into existence. In this light, Cassidy’s fragmentary epic creates a myth of its own creation: ‘an inkling child of soil and grit’: something that happened once, and something that is happening now, in its future, as we read.

Above ground and underwater, in time and out of time, in theory and in dream: the parts of the poem generate each other. Here perhaps the current search for a ‘final theory’ finds its counterpart in first conceptions of how the universe began. Final Theory works into its structure T. S. Eliot’s pronouncement in ‘Burnt Norton’: Time present and time past/ Are both perhaps present in time future/ And time future contained in time past./ If all time is eternally present/ All time is unredeemable.’ So the couple on the surface are like Adam and Eve, except at the end of history, and the poem alternates part by part between first and last cosmologies: a creation myth and a final theory.

Except that there is no final theory. As Cassidy puts it in one poem: ‘I search the rear window/ for a final perspective — // but end in only an idea, diffused/ into a ranging sheet of light.’ It is one of the ironies that Einstein died thinking of himself as a failure. The two great recent visions of reality – quantum physics and the general theory of relativity – work within their own terms and yet are incompatible. With a telescope, we can look back through light almost to the beginning of time. With a microscope, we can look down through matter to its flickerings in and out of being. Between such frames of reference, what is a poem?

In the way she structures Final Theory, Cassidy pays tribute to Jennifer Maiden’s idea that ‘poetry is disparate concepts combined in binary structures … its varied manifestations of the binary the essence of mnemonic technique’. The poet in Final Theory writes: ‘I’m switching the poem off and on; it’s not a pet, after all, but a function’. She comes across forms of binary memory: a telegraph, out of use; and midges rising like a smoke signal: ‘dot dash stop’. The whole of Final Theory has the energy of something being brought into being, beginning again and again. In such ways, the conceptual ambition of the poem is drawn down into its details, its principles of composition, even, with its short and broken ‘dot dash’ stanzas and alternating parts: memory turning on and off, detail and abyss. A fragmentary epic, a love story, creation myth of itself, this is a collection that sees itself from the perspective of deep time. Cassidys’ Final Theory is sharply analytical and also mesmerising: a lastingly interesting book, an impressive achievement. She writes: ‘All my words are gunning for extinction, all they can tell us is:/ live more’.

– Lisa Gorton

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Lisa Gorton writes poetry, essays and fiction. She is the poetry editor of ABR. Her latest collection poetry Hotel Hyperion was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards and Western Australian Premier’s Prize for Poetry. Her awards include the Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal, Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize and Victorian Premier’s Prize for Poetry. Her novel The Life of Houses is forthcoming from Giramondo in 2015.

Final Theory is available from http://www.giramondopublishing.com/poetry/final-theory/

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Rochford Street Review relies on the support of its readers to continue. If you like what we are doing please consider making a donation.

The Restraint of Meaning: Stevi-Lee Alver reviews the #concrete issue of ‘Australian Poetry Journal’.

Australian Poetry Journal Volume 3. Issue 2 # concrete. Edited by Bronwyn Lea

APJ-3.2_Front-CoverThe diversity of contributors and the perceptivity of criticism make this an approachable and compelling introduction to the form and history of concrete poetry. For those same reasons, the #concrete issue of the Australian Poetry Journal is also an amusing read for those acquainted with the movement.

Bronwyn Lea, in her final volume as editor, has selected pieces that place more emphasis on the role of the reader and revisit that century-old phrase: a picture is worth a thousand words. Lea, in the forward, summarises the poetic intention perfectly when she says, “concrete poems ask readers to look simultaneously ‘at’ and ‘through’ language.”

In this issue, the pieces attempt playfully to free language of its burdensome obligation as the transmitter of meaning and ideas. The common aim of concrete poetry is to enable semiotics to stand alone as an object, in and of itself, free from objectification. Constantly evaluating the ambiguity and contradiction of this task, the pieces forever fold in on themselves, making the point—if ever—only momentarily possible.

Toby Fitch’s, ‘Missing Scène(s)’, and John Warwicker and Karl Hyde’s, ‘from In the Belly of Saint Paul’, are pieces that ensure no two readers will approach, or interact with, the work in the same way. ‘Missing Scène(s)’, somewhat resembling the screen of an archaic video game or that of a confused crossword, does not demand to be read in any particular fashion. Although the poem’s appearance and content generate an undeniable and questioning undertone of: ‘what’s missing?’

Warkicker and Hyde, taking samples of spoken language and placing them on paper, examine how modes of communication transform the ways in which meaning is conveyed. This eight-page extract—a series of poems appearing in shapes of infrastructure—attempts to capture the city’s mutableness by analogising the flux of infrastructure with that of language, giving the work a distinct O’Haraesque feel.

John Warwicker & Karl Hyde - 'from IN THE BELLY OF SAINT PAUL'

– The first two pages  ‘from IN THE BELLY OF SAINT PAUL’ by John Warwicker & Karl Hyde

The pieces show us that, like infrastructure, language is a dynamic entity with which we interact and, through interaction, participate in the continual deconstruction, construction, and reinvention of the ability to perceive meaning and experience.

I particularly enjoyed the pieces with colour, especially ‘A Quiet Voice’ by Australian artist and poet Angela Garnder. In ‘A Quiet Voice’—a stunning fusion of watercolour, origami and poetry—Gardner delicately uses space and silence as an additional form of expression, and catalyst, that swings the reader between reading and viewing.

The first page of 'A QUIET VOICE' by Angela Gardner

– The first page of ‘A QUIET VOICE’ by Angela Gardner

Karl Kempton has two poems appearing in this issue of the Australian Poetry Journal, the first of which is called ‘Playground’. In a universally recognisable way, Kempton arranges the first three letters of the English alphabet—A, B, & C—to resemble that of a child’s A-frame swing set, making the poem both inclusive and amusing.

‘Playground’, a seemingly straightforward visual poem, represents much more than language at play. It simply, yet sophisticatedly, analyses how language and child’s play inform one another, and explores how these interactions are responsible for, or at least influence, the invention of semantics.

'PLAYGROUND' by Karl Kempton

– ‘PLAYGROUND’ by Karl Kempton

A fascination with the development and understanding of symbols and meaning is the common thread running throughout the journal. Most poems, in one way or another, weave and capture the repetition and playfulness of the sight-sound blending that occurs during language development. They highlight the innocence and freedom that children have prior to developing metacognition and consider, critically, the purpose of knowing about knowing.

While none of this is ground breaking or revolutionary stuff, it encapsulates the materiality of language and the mystery and uncertainty of experience. Personally, I found it exciting and refreshing that an Australian print journal would dedicate bravely an entire issue to such an experimental form.

– Stevi-Lee Alver

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Based in Bangalow, Stevi-Lee Alver currently studies at Southern Cross University and nurses at the North Coast Cancer Institute. Her poetry and fiction have recently appeared in Writing to the Edge, Jabberwocky, and Northerly, and will be forthcoming in Coastlines 5, Homegrown Ghosts, and Questions.

Australian Poetry Journal Volume 3. Issue 2 # concrete is available from http://apj.australianpoetry.org/issues/apj-concrete-3-2/

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P76 Issue 7 is a special tribute issue devoted to the work of Cornelis Vleeskens and was curated by Pete Spence.  Vleeskens was one of Australia’s leading Visual/Concrete poets (among many other accomplishments) and works by by  Vleeskens and Spence are included in  Australian Poetry Journal Volume 3. Issue 2 # concrete. P76 Issue 7 is published by Rochford Street Press and is available from http://rochfordstreetpress.wordpress.com/p76-literary-magazine/

Straddling Prose Poetry and Microfiction: Shady Cosgrove launches ‘Writing to the Edge: Prose Poems & Microfiction’

Writing to the Edge: Prose Poems & Microfiction edited by Linda Godfrey and Ali Jane Smith, Spineless Wonders 2014 was launched on Saturday 16 August 2014 at the NSW Writers Centre by Shady Cosgrove. This is what she had to say:

WTEThank you Spineless Wonders, Bronwyn Mehan, Ali Smith and Linda Godfrey for having me here to launch this great collection of prose poems and microfiction. I’m honoured.

What is it that makes great reading? For people who love novels – and I admit, that’s usually me – it’s about rounded characters. Driving plotlines. Sweeping narrative arcs and a precise use of language. It’s about escaping to another world and having a bit of time there.

Microfiction and prose poems don’t have the luxury of set-­‐up because as soon as the story begins, it’s over. It doesn’t have time to take too much time. Poetry, I think, might be a little easier, because you can force the reader to slow down by using imagery and metaphor in beguiling ways but even so the mastery is demonstrated in the brevity.

This is a marvellous collection of pieces that straddle prose poems and microfictions. And I LOVE that there’s a publication that places these pieces side by side because I think there’s a lot the prose poem can learn from the microfiction and a lot that the microfiction can learn from the prose poem.

Sydney writer Bridget Lutherborrow once said that she reads a microfiction for its ending. That the final lines of the microfiction need to shift the narrative status quo and take the story someplace unexpected.

And I was thinking about this as I was reading through the long-­‐listed entries for the Joanne Burns Award. And to be clear: not all of the pieces in the book were entries for the award, but many were. It was a difficult task – judging the winner – but I chose Mark Smith’s ‘10.42 to Sydenham’, a short-­‐short story about a girl being bullied on the train from the perspective of an African migrant, because of its ending. It’d be easy to overdo the themes in this story, to rely on stereotype or the grotesque – but by using tight, controlled language, he expertly leads the reader through the shifting loyalties of the story. There’s set-­‐up, tension, and a resolution that’s not as smooth as we were expecting. And this discomfort, this ending, is what makes the story. It’s a tight, thoughtful microfiction that stays with the reader after the book is closed. Well done, Mark.

The runner-­‐up prose poem ‘Happy’ by Hilary Hewitt lands at the other end of the prose poem-­‐microfiction continuum. I adore this piece! It follows Hao Zianzhang and his boutique pear venture. What wit! What use of language! This combination means we’re willing to follow the author from the markets of the first line to the marketing campaigns of the last without question. The poem tackles consumerism, waste, communism, infanticide and poverty in thirteen lines and the reader wants more. What? Yes, it’s true. It’s crazy. But each word is precise and this kind of care is riveting.

And I also really enjoyed runner-­‐up Mark Roberts’ ‘Cities that are not Dublin’. There’s a wonderful sense of Australia answering back to the colonial canon. The lulling pace and use of white space add to the ambience so that the reader, too, feels like they’re tucked beside a train window, burrowing into Ulysses.

These winning entries were all about Australia’s place in the world or the world’s place in Australia. It’s hard to pull off characters that are both personal and universal – but that was the core strength of these three pieces. We’re taken beyond ourselves, and in that process, recognise ourselves.

Other top pieces in Writing to the Edge: Philip Hammial has some enchanting vignettes that hover between poem and micro-­‐micro-­‐fiction. Elizabeth Hodgson’s ‘Timeless Crones’ honours the ‘older than anyone else you’ve ever known’ women. Patrick Lenton’s ‘Phraseo Rogue Editor’ excited my inner editing teacher, and made me laugh aloud. That a great first line ‘Adelie kept a locked book of recipes for black’ in Richard Holt’s ‘Her Dark Ground’. And Julie Chevalier’s ‘she cut a whole room of baby furniture from a catalogue’ in ‘The Man Who Walks After Work’ was a great moment that stayed with me. Oh, and the brutal banality that Jenni Nixon exposes in ‘Engaged’. All of it: great stuff.

In essence, this is a superb collection of Australian prose poems and microfiction. Make sure you buy five copies straight away and get some of the marvellous authors who are here tonight to sign them for you.

And finally thank you publisher Bronwyn Mehan and the crew at Spineless Wonders. Thank you editors Linda Godfrey and Ali Jane Smith. As Moya Costello said at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival a few weeks ago: “you guys are real deal”. The most innovative stuff in Australian publishing right now! Thank you for putting out another superb book.

I officially launch Writing to the Edge.

– Shady Cosgrove

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Shady Cosgrove is a senior lecturer at the University of Wollongong. Her books include What the Ground Can’t Hold (Picador, 2013) and She Played Elvis (Allen and Unwin, 2009), which was shortlisted for the Australian/Vogel Award. Her short fiction and articles have appeared in Best Australian Stories, Overland, Southerly, Antipodes, the Age and and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Writing to the Edge is available from http://shortaustralianstories.com.au/products-page/anthologies-3/writing-to-the-edge-pre-release-offer/

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Rochford Street Review relies on the support of its readers to continue. If you like what we are doing please consider making a donation.

Vale Martin Harrison: Poet, Teacher, Broadcaster….

Pictured (l-r): Anthony Lawrence, Flood author Bob Adamson, Devin Johnston, and Martin Harrison, Mooney Creek, New South Wales, May 2009. (Photograph Juno Gemes)

Pictured (l-r): Anthony Lawrence, Flood author Bob Adamson, Devin Johnston, and Martin Harrison, Mooney Creek, New South Wales, May 2009. (Photograph Juno Gemes)

Martin Harrison’s death last Saturday quickly resonated around social media with personal tributes from friends, students and fellow poets flowing thick and fast. While undoubtedly one of Australia’s finest poets, it quickly became clear that a considerable part of his importance to Australian poetry was also that of a leading mentor to a younger generation of writers. His devotion to teaching, through his position as Senior Lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney, will provide an ongoing legacy through the work produced both by those lucky enough to have been taught by him, but also by those who have been influenced by his work.

According to Susan Wyndham’s obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald (http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/philosopherpoet-martin-harrison-spread-happiness-until-the-end-20140908-10dxhi.html) Martin was driving home from UTS to his home at Wollembi in the Hunter Valley when he suffered a heart attack. When he failed to arrive the alarm was sounded by a number of his PhD students who set out from Sydney and found him in his car near the road at Brooklyn.

Martin Harrison was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1949. He studied at the University of Cambridge, where he attained a Master of Arts, and started publishing his poems in London in the mid-70s. After living for three years in New Zealand, he settled in Sydney in 1978. He worked for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for a number of years, and has been a leading ABC radio producer and broadcaster associated equally with drama, poetry and criticism on radio and with the promotion of innovative forms of sound-feature and sound-work.

Harrison’s first poetry collection, Leisure, was published in England in 1978. He has since published a number of further collections, including a volume of new and selected poems, Wild Bees (2008). He has also written widely as a reviewer and critic, mainly on contemporary Australian literature. A collection of essays mainly about contemporary poetry, Who Wants to Create Australia (2004), was selected as one of the Times Literary Supplement’s ‘International Books of the Year’ for 2004.

Martin was a Senior Lecturer, Creative Writing Program and Core Member, Creative Practice and Cultural Economy at the University of Technology, Sydney. He held a
MA (Cantab.) University of Cambridge and  Ph.D from UTS.

A service for Martin Harrison will this take place this Saturday 13th September at 11am St John’s Anglican Church Wollembi. Contact Juno Gemes. to RSVP.

A Sydney memorial gathering for Martin will be held on Sunday 14 September at the NSW Writers Centre Rozelle, from 1pm to 4pm. All welcome, please byo drinks and a plate.

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Information of this obituary has been taken from the Australian Poetry Library (http://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/harrison-martin) and Susan Wyndham’s obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald (http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/philosopherpoet-martin-harrison-spread-happiness-until-the-end-20140908-10dxhi.html).

Mark Roberts review of The Distribution of Voice has been published here as a tribute to Martin.

Examples of Martin’s  poetry can be found at:

‘The Distribution of Voice’ by Martin Harrison. Reviewed in SCARP 23, 1993

The Distribution of Voice, Martin Harrison, UQP 1993. Reviewed by Mark Roberts. This review first appeared as part of a composite review of 4 titles in SCARP 23, 1993. (http://printedshadows.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/poetry-review-scarp-23-october-1993-craig-powell-gary-catalano-jill-jones-and-martin-harrison/) .

Martin Harrison. Photograph by  Juno Gemes

Martin Harrison. Photograph by Juno Gemes

Martin Harrison’s poetry can appear difficult to come to terms with on a first reading. It is a dense poetry with rich images overlapping and merging, driven by an often sensuous use of language which at times seems almost ready to rebel being restricted to the page. Indeed, to appreciate Harrison’s work, the reader must realise that often the sound of the language is as important as the meaning of the word.

As well as being a poet, Harrison has a background in sound/text performance and is a teacher of sound composition. While his poetry may not be performance pieces in the way Amanda Stewart’s work is, the influence of sound and film in his work is obvious. At times, for example, Harrison’s descriptions are so intense they are almost filmic:

You want it all to come back –
April’s sharper lights,
Light-grids, networks, windows off
……….A shady green

– ‘Beauty Line’

But it is a film with a distinctive sound track. The best poems in this book seem to invoke an image which is aural as well as visual. In ‘Meeting’, a poem within the long sequence of poems called ‘Films’, Harrison captures the sound of the wind rustling through the grass:

Wind jiggles the shell-grass
Making itself visible
Like someone brushing a mobile

– 4. Meeting (from Films)

In another poem, ‘Marriage and Soundscape’, Harrison takes great care in describing a sound:

Then a shag took off from these waters,
making an interval, a year,
My wife has just seen it – calling it ‘hair on a
lens’ and ‘shadow noise’.
(There is green, there is a clapping-Sound, there is wind.)

– Marriage and Soundscape

Harrison’s imagery often flows together in the same way that a sound can gradually be transformed into a completely different sound without a casual listener being aware of the change. In ‘Then and Now’, for example, a description of the wind blowing leaves in a tree becomes, within the space of four lines, a lion and the entire poem moves off in a completely different direction:

Late wind arrives, shakes the leaves
in a porridge of shimmers, like a mane-
A lion gets up, walks about
Caged. foetid, in a fitful mind

– 7. Then and Now (from Films)

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– Mark Roberts 1993

The Distribution of Voice was my first real introduction to the work of Martin Harrison and I am thankful to Ron Pretty for sending me the book to review and for publishing my first impression of Martin’s work.

 

A desire to take apart language: Josephine Scicluna launches ‘Glitching’ by Stu Hatton

Glitching by Stu Hatton (outer Publishing 2014) was launched on 25 August 2014 at Readings Bookshop by Josephine Scicluna:

GlitchingThank you, Stu, for the honour of launching your poetry collection Glitching.

I first got to know Stu some years ago when we were both teaching at Deakin and I was after someone to take one of my classes while I was away. The class was on Marxism, and one of my colleagues suggested I get in touch with Stu. Apart from being a really good teacher, he’s a serious young poet, my colleague said. And I thought in what better hands could I put a class on Marxism than a serious young poet.

I’ve got to know him much better since then, and count him not just as a dear friend and the person who introduced me to the post-rock band God Speed You Black Emperor, but also someone I deeply admire and respect for the kind of experimentation his poetry writing shows. Not to mention how prolific his writing is.

When Stu gave me his last collection of poetry How to be hungry, a whole different appreciation of him opened up for me. Even the title, the way that good titles do, spoke of Stu’s sensibility as a poet – someone who has a deep desire to get underneath, between, and outside language, trying to seek out a different perspective, about what on the surface seems to be simple enough. For me, out of this title came the feeling that we actually need to learn how to be hungry, and just one of the many things it made me think of was the separation from nature brought on by industrialisation that Wordsworth laments in his poem ‘The world is too much with us’. And I thought, well, if I need to be taught how to be hungry, then I want a poet to be the one to show me.

But I’m really here to speak about Glitching.

Gaston Bachelard in his book The Poetics of Space writes that the poetic image forms as “a sudden salience on the surface of the psyche” (1994:xv). In this way, “[t]he poet speaks on the threshold of being”(1994:xvi). I think that what Stu does with this sense of threshold is one of the most exciting things I see in Glitching. In many of the poems, as the image gathers momentum and we start to move with it across that threshold, we are arrested. There is the tension of a scene forming, but then time is suddenly compressed. I feel that when we reach that crossing point we’re held there in the spell of the language itself, as if there’s something that has to be worked out before we move from that space into the world of symbols, of order. An order of language that is constantly destabilized and disturbed by these poems.

Again, in Bachelard’s project (after Eugene Minkowski), the being of an image is determined via the experience of its reverberations – and it’s in reverberation that time and space are epitomised (1994:xvi). In Stu’s poems there are moments of impression and then as soon as the impression begins to take hold in time, then suddenly we’re inside another impression, another image. This has a reverberant effect, but not necessarily with recourse to repetition in the actual words used themselves.

It’s such a diverse collection of poems that I feel like I’m only just beginning to touch on the breadth of experimentation and different styles that are at play in this writing.

Stu is going to read some poems to you soon, so I’ll mention just a fragments from different poems that have kept resounding with me:

There’s no need to undress that billboard girl (‘she only loves a warrior’)

at some point back in the room/ caught ourselves paused/ dancing it was kindergarten/ plus an ashtray

Chemical morning; sleep/ deprived, I rest/ in your pulse

There’s a desire in this poetry to take apart language, to almost not let it speak. This is one of the myriad expressions of the glitch – a disturbance in transmission which is not just mere disruption. Alain Badiou in his Handbook of Inaesthetics in not denying the enigmatic surface of the poem, speaks of the way the poem invites us in to see its operation. It takes us in to see what is happening inside it (2005:29). When I think about what is happening inside Stu’s poetry; what he is trying to do with language I’m reminded of another philosopher, and literary critic, Mikhail Bakhtin. In his conception of language there is a kind of Zoroastrian clash at the very heart of existence between centrifugal forces that try to blow everything apart and centripetal forces that try to make things cohere. But for Bakhtin although language reflects struggle, it is not passive, “no mere yielding clay”(Bakhtin 1981: xviii). Rather, Bakhtin’s sense of the duel in language “stresses the fragility and ineluctably historical nature of language, the coming and dying of meaning that it, as a phenomenon, shares with that other phenomenon it ventriloquates, man”(ibid).

And so the glitch jolts us, shocks us out of our complacency, and signals a whole other world. A world that is best expressed, perhaps can only be expressed, in music. And in Stu’s poetry music is never far away. His poems are like word versions (and I don’t mean Microsoft!) of experimental ambient music, where you see composers performing on laptops. I kept thinking of my favourite collaboration between Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto called Insen when I was reading Glitching. In this electronic album we get treated to the Modern classical, the minimal and the glitch.

Even at their most narrative there is an unsettling in these poems, the sense of world being delivered to us from the interstices – whatever is happening in that space of the glitch, the interruption of memory. Language can easily break up. Stu shows us, like Sakamoto and Noto do in their music, that this is language and it’s breaking up. The blurb on the back of the book says it much better than I can:

Glitching tilts towards a poetry of error, malfunction, accident, remixing and transformation.

That’s the threshold that Stu negotiates in his poems – he investigates the constantly shifting threshold between speaking and glitching.

And I’d like to end on the warm, wry humour that abounds in this collection. The wonderful inside-outside eye that Stu casts on events is alluring, no matter how repellent the scene presented. I think I quite fancy going on a cruise ship and attending a guest talk on unlocking my inner chartered accountant. And we all know that sunbather perving through the chinks in his straw hat.

Thanks again, Stu, for asking me to launch Glitching. Now this book is out, a lot more people can look forward to resting in your pulse.

References

Bachelard, G 1994 (1964), The Poetics of Space, Massachusetts, Beacon Press.

Badiou, A 2005 (1998), Handbook of Inaesthetics, trans. Alberto Toscano, Stanford, Stanford University Press.

Bakhtin, Mikhail 1981, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, ed. Michael Holquist, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, Austin: University of Texas Press.

Insen 2005 by Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto, Raster-Noton Label, Berlin (CD).

– Josephine Scicluna

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Josephine Scicluna is a poet, fiction writer and academic who is exploring diverse hybrid forms, But really she’s writing about music and mobile phones, love and crumbling houses. She collaborates with musicians, sound artists, playwrights and visual artists to create works for performance and radio broadcast. Her latest collaboration appeared on ‘Soundproof’, ABC RN. www.writingfix.com.au

Glitching is available from www.lulu.com/spotlight/stuhatton

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