The Sydney Launch of ‘The End of The Line’, by Rae Desmond Jones

Rochford Press is pleased to invite you to the launch of The End of the Line poems by Rae Desmond Jones. It is the last book written and compiled by this poet, activist and former Mayor of Ashfield.

WHEN: Sunday 24 February 2019 at 1.30pm

WHERE: At the Exodus Foundation – the Burns Philp Hall, 180 LIVERPOOL ROAD, ASHFIELD

‘The End of the Line’ is an animated collection, bristling with the varied perspectives, moods, and colours of Jones’ consciousness and ‘voice’. Jones was an impressive raconteur and his distinctive physical voice echoes through the pages. The poems shift easily from the social/political agora to the deeply personal, to contemplative, spiritual/cosmic dimensions. He investigates individual and terrestrial mortalities, and concepts of being. He can be playful, cheeky, bawdy, satiric, savage and biting – as well as reflective, passionate, lyrical and grave. Shadowy images inhabit the book’s atmosphere at times, but in the final poems there is a sense of achievement – of abundance and joy: ‘Harvest the glow’. This is a  vivid book. In ‘To prepare a course of poetry’ Rae advises – ‘ Porridge should be avoided’. – Joanne Burns

Rae Jones was one of the great characters of the Inner West. His commitment to safeguarding the built environment led him from being an activist to becoming Mayor of Ashfield Council. Rae’s poetry reflects the eclectic and progressive nature of the community where he lived, as well as his passion for politics. It canvasses a range of topics including family, friendships, history and the state of the world. – Anthony Albanese

Link to the Facebook invite https://www.facebook.com/events/242278270027993/

Launches have also been confirmed in Perth and Melbourne – details to follow.

If you can’t make it to the launch copies of The End of Line are now available to purchase through the Rochford Press Bookshop – https://rochfordpress.com/rochford-press-bookshop/the-end-of-the-line-by-rae-desmond-jones/

A Small But Explosive Book: Moya Costello Launches ‘Cactus’ by Stevi-Lee Alver

Cactus, by Stevi-Lee Alver (Rochford Street Press 2016), was launched by Moya Costello at the Bangalow Heritage Museum & Tea Rooms on 30 April 2016

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Stevi-Lee Alver at the launch of Cactus

Thank you Nancy, for the welcome to country (Bundjalung nation). I do feel a great sense that this country has made and is making Stevi-Lee. The Mirning and Wirangu nations border the Great Australia Bight: Cactus mentions both the Koonalda cave, in Mirning country, and, of course, Cactus Beach in Wirangu.

This launch, this setting of this book into the world, is an exciting moment for the Writing Program of Southern Cross University (SCU), and we are very, very proud of Stevi-Lee. And it’s also a moment when I think teaching is a privilege.

I’m just going to give you a little bit of history. But being history, Stevi-Lee most probably has a different version of it.

I remember, distinctly, teaching Stevi-Lee in the equivalent of Writing 101 at SCU. And I remember saying to her, when she handed in her first creative-writing assignment, something like: ‘No, you can’t write like this; this writing won’t work’. And she looked at me, unforgettably, with a mixture of utter confusion and suppressed anger.

But in my version of history, that happened only once. And from then on, I never read anything from her that wasn’t astounding and outstanding. She understood what to do immediately – though she was studying other subjects, of course – and reading and reading and reading.

Another important thing to point out about Stevi-Lee is that she has an entrepreneurial spirit, a pro-activeness and self-actualisation that you need as a writer, or, indeed, for being any form of artist. She pursues, or takes up, opportunities I suggest to her. And she’s finding her own now and sharing them with others.

For example, according to my version of history, I suggested Rochford Street Review to her for reviewing books. It’s not a highly paid gig, but these kinds of gigs are important for emerging writers to build up their CVs, gather skills, and get their name out.

Rochford Street Review is Australian poet Mark Roberts’ project. Mark, of course, is the publisher of Rochford Street Press and has published Cactus.

I think I also introduced Stevi to Spineless Wonders which is another small, independent Sydney press who have been publishing anthologies of prose poems and micro fiction for some years. Stevi responded to a call for their anthology Writing to the Edge, and she and I and another local writer, Byron Bay’s Nick Couldwell, had pieces in it. Subsequently, Stevi and I co-organised a reading of our work from that anthology at Uncle Peter’s Books in Clunes. In Writing to the Edge, Stevi had a piece inspired by Gertrude Stein, that she wrote in the SCU experimental writing subject, Writing from the Edge. Mark Roberts was in that anthology too, and he asked to see more of Stevi’s work, or if she had a collection together. And, hence, Cactus came about.

So Stevi has had a short, so far, but extraordinary history in writing, including winning a number of prizes – the Class of 1940 Creative Writing Award for poetry from the University of Massachusetts while she was on a student exchange there (a difficult thing to do, given the varying language rhythms of nations); a 2014 Questions Writing Prize for a short-story; and the 2015 Southern Cross University award for Excellence in the Arts. Her story about her writing journey, including Cactus, is recorded in the SCU Lismore Campus Soundtrail. And I recommend her blog, under her own name, for reading her work.

I think we are going to see Stevi’s name develop and take a place in Australian literature, either as a poet, or short-story writer, or in what other form she takes on.

Significantly, Cactus is an interlinked series of prose poems, perhaps the way Frank Moorhouse used to write interlinked series of short fiction, called discontinuous narrative, and I know Stevi is a Moorhouse reader.

The prose poem is the most adorable of genres. Because it’s a hybrid, a mixture of the prose sentence and the aesthetics of poetry, and therefore impure, the Sydney academic Anan Gibbs has lovingly called it a form of literary detritus¹. And the Sydney poet joanne burns, who has had an award named after her by Spineless Wonders, has memorably said of the prose poem that it is humble: that it ‘knows the potential, the freedom of not being too obvious. The prose poem says find me’.

The prose poem is not obvious, large, brash or quick-smart. It is small and subtle and works relatively slowly via resonance. It is a quiet revolutionary of the hybrid, working with narrative balanced by lyricism, making leaps of association, with implications of drama, and developed by small sequences and accretions. It’s a minor literature in the Deleuze and Guattari sense. It’s a small intensity.

Because of its brevity, it can easily be dismissed, abandoned as something of little value, hidden in its self-effacement. But James Ley², the Australian essayist and literary critic, has said of hybrid texts that they:

place demands on the reader in excess of most forms of entertainment. They require not just reading, but re-reading. Their aesthetic is one of complexity, indeterminacy, slow philosophical reflection. As such, they run counter to the contemporary idea of entertainment, offering instead more esoteric and cerebral pleasures.

But I must say, and as evidenced by Stevi-Lee’s work, that they offer emotional or affective pleasures too, indeed sensual ones.

CactusCactus is, of course, a plant surviving desert dryness. Another incarnation of ‘cactus’ is as a colloquial Australian term meaning not in working order, something gone very wrong, a mess. And several things go awry: food and water are difficult to access; the climate is hot and windy but cold at night; young men invade the camp site of the two women whose narrative the book is; the two women’s relationship is unsettled; and sharks have taken surfers off the beach in the past. Cactus is also a surfing beach off the desert of the Great Australian Bight.

So Cactus could be a ‘surfie chick’ narrative, a fine, radical reworking of that twentieth-century Australian female surfing memoir, Puberty Blues³.

The striking thing about Cactus is how finely judged, how well-balanced the writing is in its choice of vocabulary and image, its movement through a narrative, its conception of the ecological and of love.

This sequence is a song. It’s a song that’s deeply moving, deeply affecting, about women, Australia, Australia’s Indigenous peoples, surfing, ecology.

Publisher and poet Mark Roberts, in his own fine judgement, saw something in Stevi’s work. And all praise to him. Mark has been a literary activist, one might say warrior, for decades. He was and is part of the independent, small-press movement of poets, literary magazine productions and readings from around the 1970s and 1980s onwards. His generosity and energy, and acute judgement and appreciation of poetry are themselves extraordinary. He has nurtured and is nurturing several present and former SCU students through Rochford Street Review and Press. This year, Mark has had his own admirable, striking and deeply moving collection of poetry – Concrete Flamingos – out with another historical Australian, small, independent press, Island Press.

So I recommend the purchase of this small but explosive book, Cactus, that shines and resounds with love, that acknowledges the sacred, that has a warm and exemplary appreciation of the more-then-human and the Australian landscape and its ancient and present history.

I want to repeat that Stevi-Lee Alver will be a name we’ll keep seeing in Australian literature.

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¹Gibbs, Anna 1997, ‘Bodies of words: feminism and fictocriticism: explanation and demonstration’, Text, vol. 1, no. 2.

²Ley, James 2005, ‘The tyranny of the literal’, Australian Book Review, April.

³Carey, Gabriel and Lette, Kathy 1979, Puberty Blues, Carlton, Vic. :McPhee Gribble.

 –  Moya Costello


Moya Costello is a Writing lecturer in the School of Arts and Social Sciences, Southern Cross University. She has been awarded writer’s grants, a residency, fellowships, guest spots at several writers’ festivals, and judged several writing prizes. Her books are two collections of short creative prose, and two novellas, the most recent being Harriet Chandler described by Nicholas Jose, in the Sydney Review of Books, as a ‘beautiful, brilliant book’. Short creative works have most recently been in TEXT, AAWP 2015 proceedings and Spineless Wonders anthologies.

Cactus is available from https://rochfordstreetpress.wordpress.com/rochford-street-press-titles/

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The Perpetual See-saw of Life and Death: Justin Lowe reviews ‘Before Bone and Viscera’ by Robbie Coburn

Before Bone and Viscera by Robbie Coburn. Rochford Street Press, 2014

Blood & Viscera.

The young poet, Robbie Coburn was, for this reviewer, the great find of last year with his first full-length collection, Rain Season (Picaro Press, 2013). The precision and deftness of touch, the staggering emotional range in one so young left a strong impression. The poet in that collection was able to acheive that most celebrated and all-too-rarely mastered trick in the post-war Australian tradition, a seamless fusion of the interior and exterior, of the poet-as-subject and the tortured landscape of rural Victoria

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rain comes too late like a disorderly, drunken God,
mistimed wires driving days of burning to a close.
sheets and miles of fall, dark shades of rain
align the twilight.

‘Rain Season vi.’

In Rain Season, Coburn employed the landscape less as a backdrop than as a canvas where he could lay bare his inner turmoil, placing him in a long and proud tradition of Australian poets. Think Les Murray at his self-lacerating best, or Charles Buckmaster in his Gruyere poems

red splattered on an orchard path. Thats all.
I saw nothing.
Perhaps they kicked dust over the blood
allowed you to double
back through the soil.

‘seed’, Charles Buckmaster

Indeed, the similarities in tone and subject between the better Buckmaster (a very uneven poet, to say the least) and an always excellent Coburn is at times striking. But where Buckmaster too often descended (as was his generation’s wont) into histrionics and adolescent self-loathing, Coburn manages for the most part to keep these impulses in check, although as with Buckmaster, some form of self-immolation is the unmistakable elephant in the room.

In his latest chapbook, Before Bone and Viscera (Rochford Street Press, 2014), Coburn confronts this issue head on. It makes for an impressive but troubling read. I am not given to quoting blurbs, particularly those on the backs of Australian poetry collections, but Les Wicks sums it up perfectly when he says: “This is not an easy book…its ruthless eviscerated clarity & honesty scar the eye.” Poems such as ‘Death Games’ made this reviewer want to reach out to the poet (I admit to having done so in the past), but instead I read the book through again and then again until I had discovered the redemptive courage and wisdom of the poems

I can see myself walking across the charred
plank again
quickly into the inferno,
cheating death and towards life.

‘Death Games’

This is the poetry of someone who has lived with the perpetual see-saw of life and death all his life and who knows there is no clear demarcation between the two. “She is Starving”, one of the most heart-rending poems I have read in a long long time, is a perfect example of this, with the subject “suiciding for years”

sleep now inside your skin of silent ghosts.
your voice will still trace my throat, your absence will starve me
like a famine of memory.

“She is Starving’

Before Bone and Viscera is an extremely short collection, only running to 11 poems, but so powerful is the writing, so dense the language, that the reader feels they are taken on quite a journey. In a lesser light, opening such a short collection with a Prologue would seem the height of presumption, but so vast is the territory covered in the ensuing 10 poems that it works precisely as a Prologue should, preparing the reader for the journey to come. It helps, of course, that it is also a very good poem

the dry end of the trees unearth
here, in a brittle manifestation

of husk and bone
endless ruin of dirt

hard stone and the distortion inside lingers,
the backbone of consciousness

‘Prologue’

Rochford Street Press make no pretence of producing books-as-objects. Their emphasis is on the quality and power of the words on the page, and no greater testament could there be to the instrinsic value of this approach than this unassuming chapbook by a poet who, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, has already booked himself a place at the vanguard of a new and exciting generation of Australian poets.

– Justin Lowe

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Justin Lowe was born in Sydney but spent significant portions of his childhood on the Spanish island of Minorca with his younger sister and artist mother. He developed a penchant for writing poetry while penning lyrics for a succession of failed bands and has since been published all over the world. Justin currently resides in a house called “Doug” in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney where he edits poetry blog Bluepepper. His latest collection, Nightswim was released in early 2015 and can be found at the Bluepepper Bookstore, http://www.thecarnivalbookstore.blogspot.com.au

Before Bone and Viscera is available from https://rochfordstreetpress.wordpress.com/rochford-street-press-titles/

Disclaimer: To state the obvious Rochford Street Press is the Publisher of Rochford Street Review.

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Rochford Street Review relies on donations to cover costs. Any funds left over are used to pay reviewers.

Vive la madness! Chris Mansell Launches P76 Issue 6

P76 Issue 6.  Launch Speech by Chris Mansell at the Friend in Hand Hotel, Glebe 21 October 2012.

P76 magazine was founded by Mark Roberts and Adam Aitken 1983 and, over the years, it has featured work by many leading poets and writers. Five issues were published between 1983 and 1991 (for a complete listing of each issue go to http://rochfordstreetpress.wordpress.com/p76-literary-magazine/). Issue 6 of P76 was scheduled to appear during the summer of 1992/93 but, due to a number of issues/incidents and circumstances, it never appeared – existing only on a old floppy disk which was presumed lost. Earlier this year the floppy disk was rediscovered and finally, after many years, issue 6 struggled towards the photocopier (rather than the gestetner) to be born. Chris Mansell kindly agreed to launch this long awaited issue………

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Greetings everyone on this Sydney Sunday where resurrections seem ripe – as do many of the attendees. It’s a brilliant, magnanimous, expansive day which seems to reflect the spirit of these new/old things – and their new/old editors and friends. We welcome the madness of the day and of this editorial adventure both then and now. It’s liberating to see P76 up on its legs again. It has been kicking about online recently, and now, over the horizon the Lost Edition appears like the Lone Ranger once again. (I think this makes Your Friendly Fascist Tonto by the way).

Most of us spend time feeling unreasonably constrained by what we are supposed to do or be – whereas, in fact, we are not constrained at all.

Small mags and presses come out of that freedom, that realisation, that we can do as we wish and have, up to now, the freedom to do and say as we wish. (Senator Conroy notwithstanding.) There might be opprobrium and marginalisation, even invisibility, but it allows us to do as we will.

The marginalisation or invisibility depends of course of where you’re standing. Stand on the high pinnacles of accounting self-righteousness and the small mag looks minute; stand on the shoulders of an international publishing company, and small mags look, if they appear at all, like typing errors – mildly irritating but inconsequential. Stand where we are standing, however, and they are innovative, transgressive, and places for writers to try things out.

Chris Mansell launching P76 No. 6

Of course I’m thinking about this because I’ve just read the article on small presses in P76 (the lost issue) – the Now and Then article (which first appeared in Rochford Street Review). It mentions Compass magazine (of which I was an editor) losing its funding. There were good reasons for that – I’d handed it over to someone else and they weren’t very good at accounting. Now as then the reliance on government funding is, I think, problematic. Can you imagine any government in their right minds funding YFF or Nigel’s Post-Modern Writing, Meuse, Magic Sam or 925? We wouldn’t want them to. That freedom is more important than ever, that under the radar, I’ll Do What I Want, is the important thing about little mags (online or off). Compass only ever had funding to pay more to the contributors, not a cent went elsewhere btw. That’s the advantage of funding – but the disadvantages are many – constraint and that argumentative, small-minded, nit-pickery which goes with handling someone else’s money.

The spirit of the small mag is back with the zine culture, and tiny presses taking advantage of sophisticated technology to do small but effective things (insert advertisement for PressPress here.). It’s appropriate that P76‘s final (is it final Mark?)* print edition should come out in this context. There’s almost no-one here who HASN’T edited or published a small press or small magazine at some stage. Vive la madness, I say.

The P76 – and YFF – time capsules we have in our hands today are a testament to a sort of literary exuberance, a charming, feckless arrogance that what we all had to say was worth investing our hard-earneds in – as editors, writers and readers. What amazes me is that some of us are still alive – given that recklessness. It was a great delight to open this slightly-overdue issue and see it had work by Joanne Burns, Rae Jones, and Margaret Bradstock for example.

Poignantly, Margaret says, (speaking about Nushu, but it could apply to us):

Marks on water,
sounds filtered by the wind,
how many times
must we record our names?

Who knows, who knows, but apparently, at least One More Time.

Thank you to the editors for making all the effort. The stapling alone I believe involved casualties. I’m glad Mark and Linda finally cleared out under their house and found those 5¼” floppy disks, broke into a computer museum and liberated the data. It’s a fine-looking, if somewhat-delayed, though not late, issue. Well done.

– Chris Mansell

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* There will probably be an issue 7. A call for submissions will probably be made early in 2013. – Mark Roberts.

Chris Mansell is a leading Australian poet, writer and publisher. She can be found at the following websites: www.chrismansell.com, www.presspress.com.au and www.wellsprungproductions.com.au.

P76 Issue 6 is available from http://members.optusnet.com.au/rochfordstpress/

Note. P76 is published by Rochford Street Press which also publishes Rochford Street Review

A message from the “AND”: John Edwards speaks at the launch of The Selected Your Friendly Fascist

The following is a slightly edited version of a speech delievered  by John Edwards (co-editor of the Your Friendly Fascist magazine from 1971 to 1986) at the launch of The Selected Your Friendly Fascist (October 2012).

It was always,”Rae Desmond Jones and John Edwards.” Over the years, I have become used to being catalogued as the “and.”  Already in the 60s, Rae was rehearsing his role as the Mayor (Rae Desmond Jones was Mayor of Ashfield from 2004 to 2006) and I had to be content with the role of Deputy Mayor, but there are some advantages in being Deputy Sherriff, Deputy Prime Minister or Deputy “Duce.” In organising the technical production of the magazine, “Il Duce” often lived up to the name of a “friendly fascist.” However the actual editorial side of producing the magazine was, on the whole, congenial and relaxed. Both of us knew that this was something we didn’t have to do – it was not going to earn us any money or anything beyond a certain notoriety. Either of us could have opted out at any time but we chose to stay with the task of producing this silly magazine for a couple of decades before it died a natural death – not a painful death as so many little magazines do.

It is difficult now to understand the poetry scene of the mid 60s, especially the publication environment. The only poetry outlets were university based, a place for dons to publish each others scribblings – it was all very “Eng Lit.” and Anglo-academic. What chance did a couple of scruffy upstarts like us have of seeing their work in print?  One day we were crossing Green Park and heading (appropriately enough) for the wall of the old Darlo gaol – the infamous gay pickup Wall. We were having our usual whinge about rejection slips and the bastardy of the literary establishment in its failure to recognise our true genius, and then Rae uttered those magic words, “Why don’t we start our own magazine?” I was a little cautious but soon warmed to the idea.

John Edwards hard at work editing one of the early issues of Your Friendly Fascist.

Looking today at the anarchic content of the Fascist, it is perhaps difficult for you to realise that both of us took poetry rather seriously. I was heavily into William Blake, whilst Rae was more of a T S Eliot man. But, unlike the academics who produced the establishment poetry magazines, we thought that modernism had not stopped with Pound and Eliot. We were also aware of the American writers – of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and their British cousins like Adrian Mitchell and Roger McGough. We knew that some young Australian poets were beginning to write in this mode and that they too lacked any outlet. But we had no agenda. If poets chose to write in rhyming iambic pentameter, that was fine – they too could go to the ball. But not many did. The iconoclasm of the 60s ensured that the Fascist would habitually flout the canons of good taste.

And it was great fun. To produce a little mag with attitude gave us a lot of satisfaction and, along the way, a surprising amount of good stuff got published which would, in all probability, have sat in someone’s drawer until it got thrown out. Of course, some of  it should have been thrown out before it even got to us. The world would not be a poorer place without the works of Billy Ah Lun, but then we could not resist having a satirical dig at much of the pretentious crap that was the “hippie” version of poetry.

Then in 1971, I went to London for 6 years. In a pre-internet environment, my role as co-editor became rather detached. I soon found a group of English writers who were not averse to having their work published in the colony. Occasional despatches would be sent off to Sydney, where Rae would pick the poems he liked and blend them into the Australian material. Eventually another pile of badly printed Fascists would turn up in London and I would mail them around the UK to the poets who had by then forgotten they had written the stuff they now saw in print.

John Edwards speaking at the launch of The Selected Your Friendly Fascist.

It was something of a relief to get back to Australia and to resume the normal function of  joint editing, if anything concerning the Fascist can be described as “normal.”

And so, whenever we felt like doing it again, we would meet and go through a large pile of paper, exercising our Friendly Fascist policy:

“We shall decide which poems to accept and the order in which they will come!”

Early in this period, my wife Ruth did a lot of typing onto Gestetner stencils and she is something of an unsung hero of the Fascist. Then came the era of the photocopier and the surreptitious use of the machines at one’s workplace – it was all in a good cause. It all seems so crude now in an era of scanners, digital printers and USB plugs but that too was part of its endearing charm.

Ladies & Gents – I give you Il Duce Amichevole!

– John Edwards

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John Edwards was a co-editor of Your Friendly Fascist from 1971 to 1986. During and after eidting YFF John was content to occupy various public service jobs. He claism that his Social Security Tax Manual was much more widely read than his poetry ever was. In recent years, he has replaced the juvenilia of poetry with the objective research of history, with particular focus on Australia’s colonial history. The result has been four books, the latest as yet unpublished.

The Selected Your Friendly Fascist is published by Rochford Street Press (Note: Rochofrd Street Press is also the publisher of the Rochford Street Review). Copies maybe ordered by the Rochford Street Press On-line bookstore: http://members.optusnet.com.au/rochfordstpress/

More details of the launch of The Selected Your Friendly Fascist can be found at the Rochford Street Press web-site http://rochfordstreetpress.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/the-selected-your-friendly-fascist-pictures-of-a-launch/