Rochford Street Review: A New Year, a New Format

Rochford Press and Rochford Street Review wish everyone a happy and creative New Year.

2018 has been a period of transition: Rochford Street Review (RSR) was put on hold for a period of time while we examined options at making it more sustainable and engaging. We also looked at the role of Rochford Press, the publisher behind RSR, a series of chapbooks and the very occasional P76 Magazine

The outcome is a new format and renewed sense of excitement as the Press heads into 2019.

Rochford Street Review

  1. Rochford Street Review will look a little different in 2019. Since the beginning of 2012 we have published 25 on-line issues, with close to 800 reviews, articles and discussion pieces and we have had over 180,000 visitors from around the world. We think this is a pretty impressive achievement and one which we can build on, but it also needs to be sustainable, especially if we continue to be ignored by the various funding bodies. So from Issue 26 we will look a little different:
  • At the start of each quarter we will call for submissions and the journal will be published at the end of the quarter over a week to ten-day period. The call out will be for reviews and articles, together with creative work (poetry, prose artwork etc). We will continue to be a Journal of Australian & International cultural reviews, writing, art news and criticism.
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  • We recognise, however, that there are some things that have an immediacy, that can’t really wait until the issue comes out (reviews of exhibitions or films for example). Items that are time sensitive will be published as appropriate in a new on-line feature called The Rochford Plateau and incorporated in the Review at the end of the quarter.
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  • We will be reviewing our current system of subscriptions. While these have provided valuable support to us over the last two years they have barely covered our costs (we have just, for example had to pay out around $250 dollars for Web hosting and domain registration for 2019) and have made it difficult to pay contributors. While access to the review will remain free we be will looking at how to “suggest” to readers how they could subscribe to the journal. We will also be actively perusing other models of funding including crowd funding models to support payment to contributors etc.

Rochford Press

You may have noticed that Rochford Press has now dropped the ‘Street’ from its name. Following the move of the Press to the Blue Mountains, the physical connection to a street in inner Sydney became purely nostalgic, besides, when Mark Roberts came up with a name in 1982 for the Press while living in Rochford Street, Erskineville, he modelled it on Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s Hogarth Press, so-called as they lived in Hogarth Place at the time.

For the past few years the Press has mainly been concerned with publishing a series of small, hand-produced chapbooks. While we will continue to produce these chapbooks into 2019, we will also be looking at other projects of literary, cultural and political importance. The first of these will be the publication of Rae Desmond Jones’ final collection of poetry The End of the Line. Rae worked on this collection during the last year of his life and we are particularly proud to be working with his family and friends in publishing this very important and uniquely curated collection.

The End of the Line will be available for prelaunch sales within the next week or so if you want to be added to a mailing list to be advised on available and launch details please email contact@rochfordstreetpress.com

We thank you for your support in the past and look forward to an exciting 2019 and beyond.

 – Linda Adair & Mark Roberts

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Dogs and their Spirits: Mark Roberts Reviews Louise Kerr’s ‘Faithful and Wild’

Faithful and Wild, an exhibition by Louise Kerr at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, 30 Parke Street Katoomba until 13 January 2019.

Blue Girl with Yellow Dog, Louise Kerr, 2016. Soft Sculpture

I have been surrounded by dogs for most of my adult life, most of them strays or rescue dogs and all unquestionably faithful with just a touch of wildness occasionally showing through. But the dogs in Louise Kerr’s exhibition, Faithful and Wild, at first seem completely unrelated to the old small, blind dog resting silently on the coolness of the wooden floor as I write this. Kerr’s dogs appear almost as extra’s from a Mad Max movie – post-apocalyptic canines if you like.

In her essay in the exhibition catalogue, Kerr hints at a possible source of this almost shamanistic view of dogs. She writes of being fascinated as a child by “small exotic sculptures”. Interestingly her father, a trader, brought home small carved wood sculptures and woven baskets from Papua New Guinea, Fiji and the Solomon Islands.  These images obviously had a great influence on the form Kerr’s work would take. But while this may explain my initial reaction to the exhibition there is something deeper running through Kerr’s work as it is firmly rooted in the landscape of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.

The Warrigal or Dingo have lived and co-existed with humans in the plateaus and valleys of the Blue Mountains for thousands of years and the presence of the dingo runs through this exhibition. In many of the individual pieces, the ‘heads’ and ‘figures’, the dog takes on human characteristics. They become almost “spirit dogs” with names like “Dog Gods”, “Bone Keeper” and “Dog Ghost. In other pieces, such as ‘Blue Girl with Yellow Dog, and ‘Dog Owner’ the relationship between humans and dogs are explored.

The exhibition can be divided into three main groupings: The individual pieces which include the ‘Heads’, “Figures and ‘Packs’, The Drawings, which are almost mechanical at times, hinting at the possibility of a robot dog future and the Landscapes (or dogscapes) in which local Blue Mountain landmarks are redefined in terms of the dogs, and their spirits, which have inhabited them over time.

For me these ‘dogscapes’ were the most impressive part of the exhibition. ‘Howling Dog Ridge’, for example suggests an alternative coat of arms, ‘Mount Warrigal Landscape’ with its hidden and, possibly, spirit dogs and, my favourite of the exhibition, ‘Wild Dog Mountains Map’, a large three dimensional piece which evokes a sense of place and implies a complexity not apparent in conventional maps.

Faithful and Wild is an evocative exhibition which takes what seems a simple relationship between humans and dogs imagines an alternative reality of spirit and ghost dogs, landscapes defined by gathering of dreaming dogs.

Dingo with Heart, Louise Kerr 2018, Pencil on Stonehenge Paper

 – Mark Roberts

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Mark Roberts is a founding editor of Rochford Street Review and lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. His latest collection of poetry, Concrete Flamingos, was published by Island Press in 2016

Faithful and Wild, an exhibition by Louise Kerr, can be seen at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, 30 Parke Street Katoomba, until 13 January 2019. http://bluemountainsculturalcentre.com.au/

The Late Poems of Stephen Lawrence (1958-2012) curated by Aidan Coleman

Stephen Lawrence – Photograph supplied by his family

I met Stephen for a beer the day before he took his life, and for the next couple of weeks replayed our conversation. He seemed calm and cheery. We talked then, as always, mostly about poetry. As he left, he gave me some new unpublished work, most of which I include here, with the permission of his family.

Known to South Australian readers as a columnist for The Adelaide Review, Stephen was building a reputation nationally as a poet and critic. His sharp reviews appeared frequently in Overland, Cordite, Wet Ink, Australian Book Review and Rochford Street Review, among others, and he had recently received news of his inclusion in The Turnrow Anthology of Contemporary Australian Poetry (2014).

Stephen published three volumes of poetry with Wakefield Press: Her Mother’s Arms (1997) – a sequence of poems in the voice of a female medical student – Beasts Labial (1998), and How Not To Kill Government Leaders (2002). He edited the Adelaide-based journal Wet Ink and a number of anthologies, and judged the John Bray Poetry Award for a decade. In 2010 he completed a PhD in Creative Writing. His research, A Poetic of Disunity: Selves and Silence, was accompanied by what proved his final collection, A Spiritual Problem is a Chemical Problem – a title that might sum up his metaphysics.

Stephen’s poetry is dense with allusions to politics, classical and renaissance literature – his Master’s thesis explored ornithological imagery in Shakespeare – and, above all, science. He was watchful for any debasement of the language, and harvested the worst excesses of advertising and government cliché with more gusto than horror. His poems vary widely in length from monochords to monologues, and teasingly elliptical narrative poems, that stretch over many pages.

The bureaucratic and corporate monologues that end How Not To Kill Government Leaders, are a genre Stephen made his own. Set against the backdrop of the rise of digital media in the late-nineties and early noughties, they anticipate the spin and weasel words epitomised by The Thick of It and Utopia:

 

No-one’s going to be performance-managed out of their job. No.
Boy, some days I wish someone’d ask me to retire!
But no such luck.
Sure, systematising your knowledge will mean outplacements.
But that’s good!
You’ll be leaner, meaner and stronger for tomorrow –
Outplacement? No, it’s not sacking.
It’s de-layering.
It’s not forced redundancy.
It’s re-tooling the organisation.
No, it’s not minimising staff numbers. It’s optimising.
No, it’s not Downsizing.
It’s Rightsizing. It’s Redimensionalising.
It’s overcoming your entrenched paternalism, gentlemen.
It’s overthrowing constrictive in-house paradigms.

 – How Not To Kill Government Leaders, (119-120)

Such poems parade a cast of recognisable characters and many of the jokes and sleights are cumulative. Stephen worked in a number of government roles, including communications and speechwriting, and the book’s final monologue, in which the speaker – or “Knowledge Manager” – identifies as Stephen, might hint at some complicity. “THE TOWN HALL MEETING”, included here, is an answer to such monologues, from the other side of the desk.

Stephen also specialised in short forms, particularly haiku and gnomes. The majority of these poems inhabit long sequences: “Hazardous Accumulations” in How Not To Kill Government Leaders stretches to 66 haiku, “Is This Poetry?”, in the same book, to 117. As with the monologues, these shorter forms show Stephen to be a poet of rhetoric more than image.

Emotions stop you
from seeing that they are all
that is important.

 – How Not To Kill Government Leaders (44)

I respect the church
and grieve, for the human thought
that’s gone into it.

 – How Not To Kill Government Leaders (50)

These, and most others, obey the strict five-seven-five prescription. Every syllable is counted as much as it counts, and poetry is often the butt of the joke:

This line of haiku –
Squelched, squelched, squelched, squelched, squelched, squelched, squelched,
is the longest plod.

 – How Not To Kill Government Leaders (43)

A similar playfulness informs “HAIKU” below. As with the monologues there is a sort of circular movement reminiscent of last century’s absurdist dramas. The metaphorically precise “Fallujah”, is a perfect tanka:

I fire a bullet
at my horse’s head, because
a fly lands on it.

My horse drops dead, and the fly
buzzes off to the next horse.

 –  A Spiritual Problem is a Chemical Problem (89)

Much of Stephen’s work could be described as found poetry: some gnomes – as the John Howard poems do here – use politician’s words (or something very like them); some earlier poems, if not lifted from Hansard, have perfectly mastered its cadences, but such material – where not invented – is trimmed, recast or amped up.

Not wanting to play Bridges to Stephen’s Hopkins, I have preserved inconsistences in capitalisation, and only been bold with the most obvious of typos. I know of no “Gnome 223” but have gone with Stephen’s numbering. Biographical readings should be undertaken with caution – if at all – remembering that Stephen’s is a poetry of multiple voices, and any number of selves.

 – Aidan Coleman

Stephen Lawrence with Dash Taylor Johnson at SA Writers’ Centre – Photograph supplied by Heather Taylor Johnson

Stephen Lawrence: Rochford Street Review

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Late Poems by Stephen Lawrence

 

THE TOWN HALL MEETING

Never mind that it was not in the Town Hall.
I found a front row seat. My mind remained open.
My job’s safe. I do not worry.

When the CEO flapped his sportsman’s hands
cufflinks semaphored from his sleeves’ stiff flags
caught the spotlight.

The CEO shook his sportsman’s head.
He gave us opportunity. We were not on the block.
We were not to worry. We did not worry. We listened.

Carl Jung, he sparkled, proudly.
Jung showed the way to accept change.

We were going forward. And Jung gave it meaning.

There were animal pictures used in the focus groups.
They were important to select the path,
the way forward.

Don’t think about it, he told us. I do not think.
The CEO will let me keep my job. I do not worry.

.

Stephen Lawrence – Photograph supplied by his family.

.

MY FAULT

When I say it’s your fault
I don’t mean it’s your fault
I mean [that] it’s your fault
When you say it’s my fault

 

GNOME 221.

Emily Dickinson made
her room the universe.

 

GNOME 222. — Creation

Creation, flawless, evolved
to meet its own end.

 

THE WRITERS’ WEEK FLOWER

This is a sedentary festival. One-way.
Nodding in the same chair for days
papery bonnets and programs
crunch into crepe fist-tissues.
I spoke to a tree far up the slope
behind blurred rows of sun hats.

Electrified, I held their consideration
talking to a pen-thin microphone
of poetry. “Voice makes verse alive:
it is not enough to stroll in gardens
recline in your comfortable trance
on benches, cast out a line, catch
observations; then, fish-slippery
jot them into your notebook,
lay silver words out in rows
like arranging sticks in sand.

Cathartic, not amounting to poetry,
at best half a thought, without
something to animate these words.
What to do” – a wheelchair sneezed –
“is rouse the poem with your voice,
the voice will find a story, have ideas.”
Does the audience have thoughts?

I gave my last minutes to smiling at trees,
fielding questions about earlier books,
the new book, my travels, anything.
An intelligent sun-hat posed this:
flowers are life and conduct us to death.
Flowers from next to her backyard seat.

I answered another question. No return.

Stephen Lawrence – Photograph supplied by his family.

NEIGHBOURS

when they can be heard
we note their bass registers
their percussive life

 

HAIKU

why you no pay me
why you no pay me pay me
why you no pay me

 

IT IS WHERE I LIVE

“Why did she phone here?” asks my wife.
I’ve forgotten. In love with her fair skin,
I try to answer, but now can’t think why.
Tight black curls of innocence engorge me.
No, I have not forgotten, but cannot imagine.
I did think I knew, but have nothing to retrieve.

I am erect with honour and care. Reason aches.
The peace of purity downs me with a punch.
It reveals the culpability of this friendship
with a woman who has telephoned me.
My feeble eagerness breaks forward
into a further moment of innocence.
Moister than parting lips, as clean of conscience
as one who knows he breathes deception.

I am a good man, guileless, without outrage
and so very stupid, without plan or graph.
My wife’s pale downy face entrances me.
The only way she can answer my pleading,
“Let’s kiss,” is to slap me. And she is right.
When the phone rings, I try to kiss her again.

.

Stephen Lawrence – Photograph supplied by his family.

.

The Harrowing of Hell

a wristwatch brings light into the tank
my reflected spot travels solar minutes

to strike off glass and become a tiny boil
blisters, plays against their sides, gilding

the fish who have nothing else to live for
but find eye-brain company in this smudge

tagged by the twitching luminous coin-probe
they convulse and lift against their glass wall

this play is to enliven the unnatural sphere
a glum box ribboned with trailing skin-rags,

but I brought Hell to Hell: lucent glimpses
torture hopeless souls in their dwelling

swinging sun-mirrors drill the caged spirits
spray them with flames of unbearable time

the fish gape horribly in drenched air
mop water-clouds with their mouths

the Damned remain mute, strain silent,
my whim of sun twitches away a last time

after the light drops from sight, souls
hitherto unregarded by light and time
have had eternity added to their sentence

Stephen Lawrence with daughter Georgia – Photograph supplied by his family

.

 

HOWARD ON GILLARD

A total failure.
In my view, real people don’t
need to say they’re real.

 

Gnome 224

In my view, real people don’t
need to say they’re real.

 

HOWARD ON ABBOTT

Mr Abbott is
an authentic believer,
a family team.

 

Gnome 225

an authentic believer
A family team.

 

My Last Thoughts

To bring time into the universe.
Four dimensions. Four last thoughts.

I lay, on the slab of city square paving.
Snow eddies. Self goes first.

I lay, dying, cold, on a Budapest square
face receiving the crystal snow.

What is the last last thought? My love?
I’ll leave that until last. Last last last. Ha ha ha.

Snow lava drops enter me, through skin.
Hot is a bad sign.

Each livid burst gouges me from me.

Why is there not room in the universe and (for) me?
Asking is why. Consciousness resist life.

Bits of me are going.
All limbs have been sacrificed to zero.

Are my arms and legs now visible elsewhere?

As my ears and nose and penis burn away
I bring a toe or finger back.

As my brain sleeps against forever
I squeeze my heart awake.

All of me has gone, but each part has returned.

The universe has seen me whole
but over four dimensions.

Saved, by time and logic. Ha, ha.
No, I am not.

Existence needs me all, simultaneously.
I am without function if not at once.

My cock does not imply my brain.
My thumb does not imply my lungs.

Cold zero-one me one-zero.
Or perhaps I have got it all wrong.

Outside looking in, the world has won.

Absolute implies the universe.
I have brought the world to meaning.

At last. Oh, my love.

Stephen Lawrence on Houseboat – Photograph supplied by his family

SHE REFUSED LOOKS

fades, passes from sight
blurs, becomes unseen

vision shapes light
eyes slip from her body

not noting scrutiny
she eludes being viewed

___

not quite a shimmer
a human thought in time

might have snapped
her back into sight

but she was invisible
for not thinking of us

____

the atmosphere allows
tiny breaths to gleam

her radius shifts
a question unasked

leaving her presencePhotograph –
I feel myself inhale

Stephen Lawrence with son Joe –  Photograph supplied by his family.

anchors vision

curled under brush
sale for forty years until now
in full view by the roadside

relying on landscape
to deter human will
from entering this vista

_____

our car mocks solidity
the windows we breathe against
curse their diaphony

a road train bursts by my head
resets the country flow
sound changes forever

a gate now open
white-green scrub muddied
time smeared across space

bushes’ tongues bivouac
shades flattened by perspective
daub and stain pasturePhotograph – 

can no longer be held as knowledge
parsed or thought
into homely understanding

thirsty salt-erect tussocks
take colour from rubbed plinths
erupted out of this instant

behind falling and catching fence-wire
fields of parallax blue
melt apart in two directions

bent in winds lasting all their lives
stands of trees accompany us
for relative time

_____

hills barricade clouds
sky-shapes whittled by geology
carve apart elements

slowly progress away
to dialogue with root and sky
about borders, about time

Stephen Lawrence – Photograph supplied by his family.

Texture and Complexity: Carmel Macdonald Grahame launches ‘Suburban Whistlestop’

The Watsonia Poets Anthology, Suburban Whistlestop, a Melbourne Poets Union publication edited by Jennifer Chrystie, Judy Keighran and Ann Sadedin, was launched by Carmel Macdonald Grahame at the Watsonia Library, Watsonia, Melbourne on 11th December 2018.

Some words are not easily used by poets. For example, writers have had to argue for a long time on behalf of the word Domestic. Domestic references and themes like family life, a focus on children, households, household labour, gardens, food, a daily walk…have been belittled in the past and seen as unworthy of poetry, even somehow inherently unpoetic. There is a general understanding about the grand tradition, that great public themes like war, the glories of history, or great abstractions like Love and Death have had the upper hand, so to speak.

And it occurs to me that the word Suburban comes with similar entailments, has been burdened with some background idea suggesting a place of oblivion, or at the very least complacency and dullness. The painter Howard Arkley was making this point in the 1970s, 80s and 90s with work that turned away from landscapes, and instead demonstrated what rich material the suburban context offers an artist, much richer material than a glib word like lifestyle might suggest. The suburbs have texture and complexity, are filled with detail that represents lives as they are lived, are the site of great good fortune and loss, like any other human context. Of course they do. And given that we are so suburban a nation, it seems important that our artists attend to it, rather than seeing it as unpoetic.

Well here they do attend to it. This collection addresses the tensions circulating around that word. It fills a space between art and the ordinary lives we live in suburban settings. It shows how various these are: I think of the difference between Dorothy Poulopoulous’s Melbourne Moments, Christina Spry’s September, and John Jenkins’ Early Winter…Watsonia, Doncaster, Kangaroo Ground…wherever they are, poets taking notice, finely observing…

***

In this collection you find poetry that attends to ‘the inner life’, for example; whether painful or joyful: After an intimate, fully realised family moment, Wendy Fleming’s’Before the Baby Came’, ends:

Don’t ask what happens next
Just know that this scene
Stays within me

Pointing to the involuntary and precious nature of memory. And having something significant to say about childhood.

Kay Arthur’s ‘The Arrival’ and ‘A-Ward’ convey tenderness and vulnerability, using a collection of details like hairbrushes, roses, tea being poured, the weight of the pot, shortbreads in a tin, mugs…the poem takes the combined meaning of all these to speak of the kind of experience for which descriptions like Mental health are blunt objects in the extreme.

Gay Miller’s ‘To Contribute, Pain, My Middle’ capture inner dialogues with a self negotiating with adversity, something we all do.

***

Far from complacency there is a potent sense of history here. Paul Dunnell’s ‘Dry Waves addresses Australian colonisation and honours the indigenous people who were forced to submit to it—

I have been thinking this is Gurindji country
Long before we came…

Jennifer Chrystie’s ‘The Pewter Plate’ concentrates on that emblem of Dirk Hartog Island, where William de Vlamingh nailed a plate to a post in 1697. A quite different sensibility was at work there in response to this country. Part of the point being that the two poems resonate because of each other’s presence in the collection. This added resonance, created by links between dissimilar poems, is often at work, producing the something more that comes of collaborative projects.

***

There is also a potent sense of the future here. Vigilance about the environment runs through the collection, even underpinning poems that may at first appear to be personal. So the suburban context opens out, picks up on universal concerns: ‘…we race on, burning dreams and time away…’

The lines come from John Jenkins’ poem ‘Slick’, a kind of fugue on a theme of oil, picking the reader up and carrying up towards the poem’s sense of an impending future.

In an entirely different voice, with its edge of mysticism, Fee Sievers’ ‘Rainmaker’ renders the losses that come in the wake of drought, grieves on our behalf.

Margaret Hopkins’ theme is Nature. In Divided Reality she is explicit:

Owning and using the earth
Without respect…
Refusing to acknowledge
Global warming while polar ice melts…

Just to quote a couple of lines, in which the nexus between Nature and politics is at work.

Nature and respect for it, and our relationship with it, is the theme underlying a poem like Marietta Elliott’s spider, in the voice of a woman in the shower…

I don’t mind you, small creature
Battling inhuman odds…

***

In all this I want to acknowledge the attentive editing. When a poem (also by Jennifer Chrystie) entitled ‘Mosquito’ — humourous and witty — is followed by one like ‘spider’ — gentle and finely observed — we have a sense of the poems being stitched into each other, either thematically or by means of form — of which there is plenty of variety, these are poets who know what they are doing — giving the collection a satisfying continuity and coherence.

In the end I don’t read this as a collective voice, although some readers may want to on behalf of the Watsonia-ness of the contributors, a part of the point. But rather I want to read it as a collection of voices. There is a choral effect to the whole. This is because of the diversity in the poetry itself—whether formal or discursive, whether the language a poet uses has a colloquial register or reaches for poetic tones…And so on.

In this choral effect there is a sense of those tones rising.

Ann Sadedin, in ‘Wild Wisdom’ invokes revisionary thinking about ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ a text she cites. The poem ends—

I am here, belonging
To the vastness of things.

Her poems strike me as taking a particular interest in things being not what they seem, being MORE than they seem, and that being a lesson of nature.

Other poems reach overtly for the sublime, that aesthetic that is about our diminishment in the face of forces, especially natural forces, which are more than we can apprehend. This is the kind of energy at work in a poem like Paul Willason’s ‘The Great Shark’.

…the terror of its alien perfection
Bound in blood
To swim the oceans framed
within the mind’s vast sweep

John Prytherch engages with the sublime directly in a poem like ‘Psalm of the Winds’, insofar as the poem deals with wonder and human smallness, using the biblical poetic form to frame it and despite everything inflecting it with hope.

There are more. And there is more to every poem in Suburban Whistlestop and to the work of every poet represented than I have been able to say really…there is just more, more to it all. And the whole, this chorus, speaks of The More resonating through a word like Suburban.

Congratulations to the Watsonia Poets. I commend the collection to everyone who reads poetry.

 – Carmel Macdonald Grahame

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Carmel Macdonald Grahame lives in Victoria. Her short fiction, poetry, critical essays and reviews appear in literary journals and anthologies. A novel, Personal Effects, was published with University of Western Australia Publishing in 2014. She has been a winner of the Melbourne Poets Union Prize and co-winner of the Patricia Hackett Prize in her home state, Western Australia, where she has been a teacher of literature and writing.

Suburban Whistlestop is available from https://www.melbournepoetsunion.com/

 

Subverting the Machined Paradigms of Life: Linda Adair reviews ‘Imperceptible Resistances’ -Modern Art Project Blue Mountains

IMPERCEPTIBLE RESISTANCES — Modern Art Project Blue Mountains (MAP BM). At the Everglades Gallery daily 11.00 am until 3.00 pm until the Sunday 23 December at 3.pm. http://www.nationaltrust.org.au/event/everglades-gallery-imperceptible-resistances

Rochford Street Review recommend that any lovers of modern art in the mountains this week visit the Everglades Gallery, Leura, (pictured) to catch the final days of Imperceptible Resistances the first annual exhibition at this world famous site by MAP BM (Modern Art Projects Blue Mountains).

Curator Lizzy Marshall invited MAP BM artists to produce works which would demonstrate the resilience of the human spirit and subvert the networked or machined paradigms of life. In response to this call for works to be displayed in the Gallery within the world-renown Everglades National Trust site, 16 artists worked within their preferred mediums, to create imperceptible resistances to politics, conservation, personal freedom, and public spaces. This has resulted in a thematically coherent yet diverse body of work by the following featured artists: Vivienne Dadour, Frank Davey & Tess Rapa, Fiona Davies, Beata Geyer, Anne Graham, Danica Knezevic, Tom Loveday, Fleur MacDonald, Paul Mosig, Sean O’Keeffe, Naomi Oliver, Ebony Secombe, Rebecca Waterstone, and Gianni Wise.

The finished works play with, and subvert notions of, historical narrative and ownership, memory and power and, to paraphrase the invitation to the launch, posit heritage sites as places of resistance and change. Many works interrogate economies of oppression in surprising ways, creating beautiful or delicately unsettling pieces of art is the case with works by Fiona Davies, Anne Graham and Vivienne Dadour:

Fiona Davies continues her critique of the healthcare industry and its use of blood and plasma with another facet of the Blood and Silk Series Blood Farming/The Producers . (http://www.fionadavies.com.au/default4.asp)

Fiona Davies Blood on Silk: Blood Farming/The Producers, 2018

Anne Graham’s piece (part of a larger series) beautifully explores notions of music, instruments, nationalism and warfare using a bricolage of elements including a pianola roll of the Blue Danube waltz, a keyboard and the delicately arranged pendants that prove to be on closer inspection the gleaming shell casings of bullets. In this silent piece, Graham renders an iconic musical piece as a visual rather than aural experience, whilst summoning associations in the mixed media of the punch card technology of IG Farben’s Hollerith numbers which, via the Nazi  Holocaust fed into IBM and ultimately shaped the world we live in today.

Anne Graham System Hopping, 2018

Three of the Vivienne Dadour works in this show are site specific explorations of the Everglades itself, after much detailed research of the National Trust archive.The works foreground the magnificent and undervalued contribution made by the unknown craftsmen who worked on creating the terraces, walls and vistas that form the grand hard landscaping of this wonderful design by the acclaimed landscape gardener by Paul Sorensen.

Vivienne Dadour A Biography of Place: The — Unknown Craftsmen at Everglades c1932-35

The other works are of uniformly high standard and there are some wonderful pieces that would make great Christmas presents for yourself or someone you love a lot.

Imperceptible resistances builds on the successes of two other shows involving MAP BM artists: Explorers: narratives of site and Kiosk 3×6 projects. As Rochford Press is now based in the Blue Mountains, we were delighted to encounter MAP BM and to learn that it has a great 2019 planned under the guidance of President Fiona Davies, with the support of Vice-President Ian Milliss, Treasurer Beata Geyer and Secretary Alex Gooding with committee members Vivienne Dadour, Naomi Oliver and Rebecca Waterstone.

 – Linda Adair


Linda Adair is a Blue Mountains based writer and critic and one half of Rochford Press.

Contact details for Modern Art Projects – Blue Mountains can be found at https://www.modernartprojects.org/

A Need to Examine the Life of the Nation: Kit Kelen reflects on ‘To End All Wars’

Kit Kelen, who was one of the editors of To End All Wars, edited by  Dael Allison, Anna Couani, Kit Kelen and Les Wicks,  Puncher and Wattmann, 2018, gave the following speech at the launch of the anthology at the Shop Gallery Glebe on 27 October 2018

Greetings all. Just a few words and a few more words about this anthology and how it came about. The idea for the collection came from a discussion, in Istanbul, between myself and Les Wicks at the International Poetry Festival there, a few years ago. It was a discussion involving some Turkish poets and translators as well.

Some background. We were annoyed because the Department of Foriegn Affairs and Trade (DFAT) had just pulled the plug on funding for a reading that we were scheduled to be doing at Gallipoli. No explanation of course. Who can comment on operational matters involving the conscience all at sea? But we quickly came to the conclusion it might have something to do with our credentials as peace-nik poets, so to speak.

Being in Turkey and contemplating Gallipoli and the centenary that had just happened, we thought it would be a good thing to bring together a bilingual parallel text collection of Australian/New Zealand and Turkish poets (everything translated both ways), reflecting on, not the first ANZAC day per se, but rather the centenary of it. Reflecting on what it means to Turks and to Australians, and what there might be of this, in either culture, deeper than the official account and general solemn ra-ra – for in our case, the sacred national icon of this particular biscuit (the ANZAC communion wafer). We were interested in reflecting on the reflection you could say. We were interested in setting up a two-way poetry mirror, a particular one not seen before.

There are traces of that original idea in this collection you’re holding in your hand today, thanks to the generous assistance of David Musgrave and Puncher and Wattmann.

As you’ll know, things have become progressively more difficult politically in Turkey over the past few years since Les and I were last there, and especially for progressive intellectuals or anyone wishing to critique the received wisdom of, for instance, national origins. This WWI period which marks the end of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of Attaturk’s modern Turkish state – is particularly sensitive. This is precisely what had made the original idea of the bilingual anthology very attractive to us – that this conflict a hundred years ago, and its beginnings and endings had so much to do, in Australia’s and in Turkey’s case, with our originary myths of nationhood – ‘baptism of fire’ myths, of the kind that were very prevalent in Australia at the time of Federation and from that time up until the beginning of the First World War.

The advent of Federation in Australia was replete with a prospective bellicosity, very relevant for us here today – because, before the event, the popular poetry proclaiming Australia as such – Dorothea Mackellar aside – was largely a poetry of war (pretentiously prophetic often). Some of it was humorously so. Take for instance C.J. Dennis’s 1908 mock anthem, the ‘Australaise’, an impressive celebration of the Australian infix:

Fellers of Australier,
Blokes an’ coves an’ coots
Shift yer (bloody) carcasses,
Move yer (bloody) boots,
Gird yer (bloody) loins up,
Get yer (bloody) gun,
Set the (bloody) enermy,
An’ watch the (bastards) run.

Chorus:
Get a (bloody) move on,
Have some (bloody) sense,
Learn the (bloody) art of
Self de-(bloody)-fence.

(You’ll forgive my having inserted some words missing in the original, or you might choose to amplify there yourself.)

Closer to the moment of Federation, one Australian Boer War correspondent by the name of A.B.Paterson was encouraged by the events he witnessed to express the sentiment that the world-wide Empire of the British proved that ‘kinship conquers space’. And from this assertion he was able to throw out a challenge (or threat), more characteristic of his time than his oeuvre: ‘those who fight the British Isles must fight the British race!’ Paterson kept up the race rhetoric for the Great War too. In his 1915 ‘Open letter to the troops: we’re all Australians now’ the Banjo wrote:

The mettle that a race can show
Is proved with shot and steel,
And now we know what nations know
And feel what nations feel.

Probably the best known lyrics of the time relating specifically to Australia’s participation in the First World War are those of W.W. Francis’ ‘Australia will be there!’. It was adopted by the AIF from the war’s beginning and remained popular throughout.

Rally round the banner of your country
Take the field with brothers o’er the foam;
On land or sea, wherever you be,
Keep your eye on Germany!
For England Home and Beauty
Have no cause to fear!
Should auld acquaintance be forgot?
No! No! No! No! No! Australia will be there!
Australia will be there!

Let’s note that ‘the banner of your country’ referred to here was unlikely to have been the Australian flag. Though it had been invented for a competition in 1901, and had some official status by 1908, this wasn’t clarified until Menzies’ Flags Act of 1953. Though many Australians today, in love with the eternal quality of their national devotions find it hard to believe, it was the Union Jack that mainly draped the coffins of the WWI Australian war dead. There was no Australian passport till 1949 either.

Now while Australian and New Zealand losses in the Gallipoli campaign and throughout WWI were devastatingly high (witness the WWI wall at the War Memorial in Canberra), the Turkish losses at Gallipoli may have been ten times as high as the ANZACs’. We Australians and New Zealanders lost that battle but we won the war. The Turks paid the higher price.

But were they Turkish losses or ANZAC losses? They were the losses of respective empires – the Ottoman and the British. The senseless and useless pain and suffering Turks and Australians experienced in the Gallipoli event, and for generations after, was at the command and in the service of world empires. Between then and now, Australians have indeed once defended this continent from foreign invasion, but one hundred years and more later, Australians are dying on foreign battlefields, still in the service of world empire – still in the service of a white man’s world empire.

***

Kit Kelen launching To End All Wars at the Shop Gallery Glebe on 27 October 2018

No Australian with feeling for the idea of being Australian could have watched ABC TV over the last two months without having the Aussie heartstrings tugged in two impressively concerted directions. On the one hand there’s the anthem quality in ‘I am, You are, We are Australian’

(vision messaged for multiculturalism) – ‘from all the lands of Earth we come’. (And let me add I believe this campaign is a brilliant first shot over the closet dogwhistling racist bows for the upcoming federal election. This is a campaign for the ABC [and its continued public ownership], for public ownership in general, and for a multicultural Australia. Three for the price of one!)

The other heartstring tugger has been the (relentlessly advertised) Invictus games. Let’s think about what they are. A moving celebration of the determination, the courage, the resilience of those otherwise broken by war. Yes. Can anyone doubt the value of this exercise for the sportsmen and women involved? Can anyone doubt the debt these people are owed by the nation states for whom they have given their all?

But how do these games and the powerful emotion they generate make us feel about war and about the causes of war? And about our responsibility for war, in our case, as voters in a parliamentary democracy? Royal patronage takes things out of the political domain and helps us to not ask questions. Questions for instance about corporate sponsorship for the games from entities that profit by making weapons and weapons systems.

Is anyone brave enough to criticise INVICTUS? Invictus? And who is undefeated?. These brave broken warriors of ours of course! Who have they – who have we – fought? And why? Who have they – have we – defeated? And how just was our cause? How proud of our participation in these conflict should we – should they – be?

Is it sacrilege to ask such questions?

The wars in which Australia, and most of the other Invictus participating nations, have engaged in the last two decades have been under the general umbrella of a global war on terror, or what could be considered a long term reprisal for 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington DC (attacks resulting in roughly 3000 deaths in 2001). Let us consider these numbers for a sense of proportion and in order especially – self-interestedly – to ask whether the wars on terror have made us safer.

Richard Clarke, a counter-terrorism expert who worked in the US National Security Council between 1992 and 2003 was highly critical of the Bush Administration’s counter terrorism strategy and decision to invade Iraq (on trumped up ‘weapons of mass destruction’ intelligence). Clark has written, ‘far from addressing the popular appeal of the enemy that attacked us, Bush handed that enemy precisely what it wanted and needed, proof that America was at war with Islam, that we were the new Crusaders come to occupy Muslim land’.

There has been too much taken for granted of what terror is and where it comes from. We need to ask now – in a global way – what terror is and who produces it. We’ve needed to ask this for a long time. We need to ask what it is that drives persons of conviction to kill themselves and others for a cause they feel to be just, for a cause they feel to be ignored. Is terror just about foreign looking types blowing themselves up and taking others, perhaps us, with them? Or is terror also something that could fall from the sky, directed by remote control, with the best – if still often flawed – technology in the world. Is terror something only worth reporting at any length when it happens to people who happen to look like us?

Here are some old figures to help. Because of the difficulty and vagueness of record keeping, it is difficult to find accurate figures for (especially civilian) death tolls for Afghanistan and Iraq, due to Western-involved hostilities in these countries since 2001. Estimates as of a few years ago for Afghanistan have been of over 31,000 civilian deaths due to war-related violence. Estimates as high as 360,000 additional fatalities have been made, based on a ratio of indirect to direct deaths in contemporary conflicts. Iraq War casualties had been estimated at 461,000 total deaths as of June 2011. I cannot see how the deaths of unarmed civilians, random or targeted, does not amount to terror. I cannot see how those who live beyond, and having witnessed, such events have not been terrorized.

Perspective! Saddam Hussein was undoubtedly a nasty and bloodthirsty tyrant; he was though very much less lethal to his people than we of the coalition of the willing have been.

And what about the terrorist threat at home?

Australians have died in numbers in overseas terror attacks (especially Bali – 92 deaths in 2002 and 2004), but since 1972 there have been 15 deaths in Australia from terrorist attacks (5 of those 15 deaths were of perpetrators). Since 9/11 there have been 5 deaths of Australian (non-perpetrators) on Australian soil due to terror attacks.

Have we got things in perspective here? Think of the road toll since that time. Think of deaths from cigarettes, deaths from sugary drinks. Think of the 373 deaths by suicide of former Australian military personnel between 2002 and 2016. For 2014–2016, ex-serving men aged under 30 had a suicide rate 2.2 times that of Australian men the same age. Think of black deaths in custody. Think of the number of Australian women who have died as result of violence from their partners so far this year.

***

Sarah St Vincent Welch reading at the launch of To End All Wars

The figure of the digger looms large for Australians in history’s mythic page. It suggests long continuities in the Australian story – from the Goldfields (conjuring the spirit of Eureka) to the trenches in France, and till today.

I want to focus on Gallipoli, not just because it was the original topos for this book, but because it has been made the time and the place most sacred to Australia’s sense of itself as a nation among nations. A time and a place of defeat for us. A moment and a place of terrible loss foretold. The making sacred of Gallipoli for Australians has been intensified and massively funded during and since the Howard years

What were we doing at Gallipoli?

We know now that Gallipoli was stupid and unfair in the way imperialism and racism and greed are wrong and stupid. It was the wrong place for Australians and New Zealanders to be; it was the wrong reason for them to be there. But having been there still makes us who we are. And that’s why we shouldn’t forget. Here’s the key point: a continuity masks a discontinuity. The reason we should continue to say lest we forget in the twenty first century is the opposite of the reason why this was the right thing for white British people in Australia to say eighty years ago. The sacrifice of Australians who lost their lives at Galipoli wasn’t noble or worthwhile. It was just idiotic. They were being used and used stupidly. It was the sacrifice of sub-imperial entities, ‘The Commonwealth of Australia’ and ‘The Dominion of New Zealand’, on behalf of the British Empire. These are some of the things we shouldn’t forget. It’s not immediately clear what role ‘national’ identity played in this sacrifice, but in memory of the senseless credulity of Australia and Australians, in memory of their mindless obedience to people who declared themselves their betters, we should never forget Galipoli, the Anzacs. The lesson the whole world should not forget in the case of the Great War, as in the case of many other conflicts, was neatly expressed by Noam Chomsky in his book 9-11: ‘We need not stride resolutely towards catastrophe, merely because those are the marching orders’.

***

I am, you are, we are …

The memory of Gallipoli has been the perfect counterbalance to the forgetting of the great (and shameful) British victory that Australia has been since the invasion began in 1788. The memory of Gallipoli has been the perfect counterbalance to the forgetting of Aboriginal Australia which white Australia needed to do in order to justify itself. One war far away in which we were the victims, the heroes, the martyrs. One war over there to forgive and forget the unmentionable war which gave us our land and made us who we are and can be.

The unleashing of Australian fury at the Turk on Turkish soil involved multiple displacements in the emerging psyche of Australian and New Zealand, these British nations-coming-into-being. Well into the centenary of this tragic rhetorical train it is still our losses we mourn. Australian guilt for the fate of the nearly 100,000 Turks who died in the Galipoli campaign has never been seriously entertained. Today the Turks celebrate their victory at Canakkale as having enabled the consciousness of nation through which Ataturk would achieve the modern Turkish state. The paradox for them is that the successful defense of the Ottoman Empire enabled what is still today called an Independence War.

White Australians on an individual basis don’t think of themselves as having dispossessed anyone. If no one is responsible for dispossessing Aboriginal people, then what was it supplanted Aboriginal rights in Australia? Note the anachronism – for the purposes of the question – of all of the abstractions involved: Australia, Aborigines, rights, possession, prior ownership. These are all western names for things with a western history. Ideas. These are all British triumphs – of understanding and of classification. They put the place in the box

After Galipoli, any ethical problem, which might have been associated with Australians having been there, faded naturally into the distance. How much guilt can one attach to martyrdom? Along with actual distance, the Treaties had consigned everything of the Great War and before to another world ‘over there’ & ‘back then’. But by then Galipoli had already served the function of displacing from popular consciousness the ethical problems associated with Australians being here and now in Australia.

***

Sailing back to Byzantium for a bit. Me and Les on the Bosphorus! By the time it became clear that we would not have enough Turkish participation (despite the great numbers of brilliant Turkish poets) we already had a lot of interest from Australian poets who wanted to be part of the project. So this is how our Plan B came to be; the concept now simply being to have Australian and New Zealand poets reflect on the centenary of the Armistice ending the First World War.

On the back of the book, we posit a ‘barely veiled triumphalism’ in the countries that were victorious. Having already been taken to task for this, I think it’s appropriate now to answer the question – just what does that mean? ‘A barely veiled triumphalism’. And aren’t we mean to be raining on this parade on behalf of all those who – like Jesus on the cross – died for us? Do we mock their suffering and sacrifice if we ask a few questions about it; for instance if we ask – was it worthwhile? And was it really actually for us?

In fact I believe we honour the fallen when we make the effort to understand the meaning of their sacrifice, to understand the meaning of what happened to them. We honour the fallen when we try to understand, rather than making rote gestures of devotion, before the altar of nation or of empire. We honour the victims of rote gesture in this way by asking always ‘why’ (?).

Lest we forget? Absolutely. But for a certain kind of worshipper at the shrine of nation, that ‘lest we forget’ is a lightly coded message – really it means ‘lest we regret’. Patriotism is, as Oscar Wilde told us, the last refuge of the scoundrel, and chauvinists fear the weakness that comes of having their unreasoned faith examined. There is a need to examine the life of the nation. There is need to challenge, and more than ever at this particular moment, those people who believe that all the becoming nation did in the way of war on the way to getting us here was right and good and proper. Much of it was and much of it wasn’t, and we grow as a people when we make the effort to discuss which was which. We grow through that kind of conversation

***

Linda Adair reading at the launch of To End All Wars

The Australian War Memorial cannot be claimed to be a celebration or a glorification or a justification for war, but it is a place of worship for nation. It makes war sacred and makes it an unchallengeable fact of our past and who we are. It is a demand for respect for the fallen – whom it is true age does not weary. Although the years may well, in some cases, condemn what they have done in our name, in the names of those they could never know.

The War Memorial should be a place for reflection, for putting things in perspective. But perspective is precisely what we have lost in Australia when it comes to thinking about war, about our wars.

The revival and the extraordinary amplification of the Gallipoli myth – what I would call the Gallipolisation of Australian self-recognition – is largely down to John Howard, and to those on both sides of parliament who have slavishly followed him into those trenches where we glory in our goodness and forget the harm we’ve done.

I’d like to refer you to Ben Brooker’s excellent recent article, in Overland, about recent Australian spending on war commemorations. Just a snippet – $700 million on the ANZAC centenary commemoration spend– around 3 ½ times more than is being spent by every other country that took part in the War combined. Then there’s the fact that the Australian government is spending $1.1 billion on war memorials between 2014 and 2028. Consider the other things on which this money might be spent.

Not a penny of that commemorative money in this book though. We found the last shilling ourselves!

***

When we think so much about the Invictus Games we are not thinking about why these young men and women, now needing repair, were sent to war in the first place. There can be no doubt that the Invictus Games is a good thing for them. But is the spectacle of the Invictus Games a good thing for us? For our collective conscience?

What the anthem quality of national sentiment (I am, you are…) , what the war on terror, what the Invictus Games and the Australian War Memorial all have in common is that they promote a mythology of who we are and how good we are, at the expense of an understanding of and an acknowledgement of some questions that are very simple, very fundamental – for instance – how it is we are here; for instance – who is responsible for the crimes against humanity – crimes of undeclared war – by means of which we are here.

For better and for worse Australia has been becoming a white man’s country for several hundred years; becoming other things as well of course; becoming better in many many ways.

Yes it’s good we Australians defeated fascism and didn’t become a Japanese colony, and this victory could not have been achieved without our armed forces and without the loss of Australian lives. And we should rightly mourn such loss and celebrate such a victory. The way the world is looking today, we should gird up the loins for possible further struggles to come – further struggles for democracy and against fascism.

This polemic is not about singling Australia out as bad country, not at all. I firmly believe that, despite the current leadership and its lack of moral fibre, we’re one of the best nations, but I wonder if nations are such a good idea.

Does poetry – do the arts – need to be in the service of nations?

I think a book like this – full of diverse forms of witnessing and reflection – is about how we can be better, how we can find better ways to be in the world. Poetry is a means of world bettering.

Today, nation is the world’s deadliest abstraction. It is military force that makes nations deadly.

Christopher ‘Poodle’ Pine wants Australia to be one of the world’s ten top weapons exporting nations. Is that a good aspiration for him to have on our behalf ?

Is it sacrilege to ask such a question when we are remembering our war dead? Might we be glorifying in war at times without meaning to do so? Blood sacrifice… baptism of fire – these were – these are – words gloried in. Are empires good to die for, good to kill for? Do we need to have nations? Would the world be better off, be safer, if there were no nations or empires?

I think it’s very pertinent today to ask these questions that were on so many lips one hundred years ago when that Armistice was signed.

***

Bringing this book together has been a truly collective effort. In this book are many of the usual suspects of Australian poetry along with many unexpected voices. I’ve decided for this speech to mention none of them in particular, for fear of favouring any over others. Their words are here for you, and though dipping in and out is the more conventional method, I recommend you read the collection cover to cover if you can find the time to do that.

This is less an anthology of anti-war poems per se than we the editors might, from the outset, have imagined. It is more a collection of witnessings, mainly civilian witnessings, of events and impacts of war. This war and the next one and the ones that have followed since – these wars have shaped so much of who-we-all-are gathered in this room today.

So thanks to DFAT and the government of Tony Abbott for motivating a bunch of peacenik poets to get off their spotty behinds and encourage some serious thinking about what 11/11/1918 has meant for Australians and for New Zealanders.

Les and I were joined by Anna Couani and Dael Allison, which among other things, made us a gender-equitable team for the task. Anna has provided the wonderful etching for our cover. Dael and Les have been our logistical powerhouse in getting this job done. I thank them all. An honour and a privilege to work with them on this book.

It’s been a very interesting editorial collaboration – largely conducted at a distance, by e-mail …

I think each of the four of us combined very different but compatible skills. There were repeated moments each of us felt groaningly overwhelmed by this project, and someone always – one of we four – stepped into whatever breach there was to fill.

The project had its own momentum and found its publisher and here we are today.

Conscience with its own rudder! That’s what poetry can be! And it’s what I hope you can all grab hold of somewhere between these covers.

 – Kit Kelen


Volumes of Kit Kelen’s poetry have been published in Chinese, Portuguese, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Indonesian and Filipino. His most recent English-language collection, Poor Man’s Coat – Hardanger Poems was published by University of Western Australia Press in 2018. Kit Kelen is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Macau, where he taught Literature and Creative Writing for many years.

To End All Wars is available from https://puncherandwattmann.com/books/book/to-end-all-wars

Featured Writers from To End All Wars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christopher (Kit) Kelen,

Emeritus Professor of English

(University of Macau)

Conjoint Professor in the School of Humanities & Social Science

(University of Newcastle)

Series Editor, Flying Islands Pocket Poets

 

 

 

Volumes of Kit Kelen’s poetry have been published in Chinese, Portuguese, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Indonesian and Filipino. His most recent English-language collection, Poor Man’s Coat – Hardanger Poems was published by University of Western Australia Press in 2018. Kit Kelen is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Macau, where he taught Literature and Creative Writing for many years.

 

 

Unfolding Complexity: Mark Roberts considers Anna Couani’s ‘thinking process’

This is a slightly edited version of Mark Roberts’ introduction to thinking process by Anna Couani, Owl Publications, 2017

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Anna has been a friend and a mentor for more years than I care to remember. As a young poet in the late 1970s I had discovered New Poetry magazine and the Poets Union readings at the Royal Standard Hotel in Sydney. I began to meet poets and I read as widely as could among the small literary magazines and presses of the time. Then, I think it was in 1979, I came across Italy by Anna Couani (Rigmarole of the Hours 1977).

There are a number of things that I can remember from the first time that I read that book, the wonderful cover, which consisted of a simple line drawing of a kitchen with a pot on a hot plate and a bottle of salt off to the left and the opening lines of ‘Untitled’, the first prose piece in the book:

As I write down the sentences, mentally compose them and then read them off, they begin to break off like huge chunks of glacial ice, the row of type – the glacier’s cliff face at the water.”

There was  also, later in Italy, a drawing of a doorway, with most of a cane chair, a mirror leaning up against the wall reflecting another chair and a window and a piece of paper pinned to the wall with the word ‘Poetry’ written on it. This picture, for me, encapsulates Anna’s work, both literary and visual. It is, on first glance, a simple line drawing of a room. But as it draws you in the complexity begins to unfold. There is the hidden window reflected in the mirror, is it a glimpse through the doorway? There is the intricate detail of the cane chair and the piece of paper/poetry hanging on the wall.

It is interesting to realise that the connection between the visual and the literary has always been at the centre of Anna’s work. Early in her latest collection, thinking process, Anna asks:

is it ekphrasis
if the poet also made the picture?

She doesn’t directly answer this question but we know after reading the poems in this collection that the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. For Anna the “thinking process’ revolves around making art, whether it it is the writing of the poems, the making of the visual art that the poems describe , or the process of making space for the world of art and imagination. In the opening poem, ‘the idea of worlds’ she refers to her “world of work” as a school teacher:

the poignancy that
no one can understand
how it feels

the sense of restriction

but there is the other world “the virtual world already there / in the peripheral vision”. This other world is already an art work

a shimmering white border
enclosing a blue and green world

Anna’s background as a teacher runs through many of these poems. In a sequence of poems about making a print of an iris flower Anna refers to being a student learning a new printmaking technique. There is also a playfulness to many of these poems. The playfulness of an image that ends up being something completely different to what was intended, or the playfulness of words in a poem such as ‘2C’ which discusses how we are taught to ‘see’ an image. The ‘2C’ of the title is echoed in the poem when Anna writes that:

so that could mean
‘seeing’
a scene in 2D

thinking process is an important book full of finely crafted poems by a writer and artist who has played a critical, if under appreciated, role in the Sydney and wider Australian cultural scene for many decades. There is a final image from poem ‘200’ which, for me, encapsulates the success of this collection:

but texture and colour can sing
like the traditional finger painted end papers
of old books
something beautiful to see and touch.

 – Mark Roberts

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Mark Roberts is one of the founding editors of Rochford Street Review. His latest collection of poetry, Concrete Flamingos, was published by Island Press in 2016.

thinking process is available from http://www.owlpublishing.com.au/chapbook-series.html

Vale Judith Rodríguez

Rochford Street Press was saddened to learn of the death of Judith Rodríguez on 22 November 2018. Judith was one of the Australian poets I grew up reading and discovering Mudcrab at Gambaro (UQP 1980s) was one of those poetic memories that has always stayed with me. Rochford Street Press expresses our deepest condolences to Judith’s family and many friends and colleagues.

The following is a tribute to Judith published by PEN International (In memory of Judith Rodríguez (1936-2018)).

 – Mark Roberts

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A Farewell to Judith Rodríguez 

Judith Rodríguez died today, November 22, 2018. A beloved friend to many of us, Judith was a distinguished Australian poet and human rights advocate. She served the PEN community for many years in many roles, both locally and internationally.

Born Judith Catherine Green in Perth, Western Australia, on 13 February 1936, she grew up in Brisbane and attended Queensland University. From there she went to Cambridge for an MA, where she met her first husband, Fabio Rodríguez. They were married in 1965.

Professionally, she combined poetry, university teaching, publishing, and printmaking. She sometimes illustrated her poetry with woodcuts and had exhibitions of her prints in Australia and Paris. In 1979-82 she was the poetry editor of the literary journal Meanjin while teaching at La Trobe University (1969-85). From 1988 until 1997 Rodriguez was poetry editor with Penguin Australia but was back in academe at Deakin University from 1998 until 2003. Along the way nine collections of her poetry were published, and a play and an opera were performed. Her work has been rewarded with numerous prizes and fellowships.

Judith joined PEN Melbourne in 1984 and was a leading member of the center’s committee for three decades. She was President of PEN Melbourne during 1990-91, edited The Melbourne PEN newsletter from 1991 to 1995, and was Vice-President of PEN Melbourne for over 15 years.

In 1986 while she was Resident Fellow at Rollins College in Florida, Judith attended her first PEN International Congress in New York. From the 1995 PEN International Congress in Australia, Judith was PEN Melbourne’s Congress delegate and reported on the following:1995 Fremantle; 1996 Guadalajara, Mexico; 1997 Edinburgh; 1999 Warsaw; 2001 London; 2002 Macedonia; 2003 Mexico City; 2004 Tromsø; 2005 Bled; 2006 Berlin; 2007 Dakar; 2008 Bogotá; 2009 Linz; 2010 Tokyo; 2011 Belgrade; 2012 Gyeongju, South Korea; 2013 Reykjavik; 2014 Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan; 2015 Québec City; 2016 Ourense, Galicia; and 2017 Lviv, Ukraine.

Judith Rodriguez was elected a Member-at-Large of the PEN International Board 2001-2004, 2004-2006; a member of the Search Committee from 2006, and its Chair 2008-2009, re-elected and Chair 2009-2012. In 2017 she was elected an International Vice-President of PEN.

Judith was much loved in Australian and international writing communities as a writer, mentor, teacher, and supporter of emerging writers. She taught at universities on four continents and read her poetry in Europe, North America and India.

In 1994 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia, for services to literature, and she is also a recipient of the FAW Christopher Brennan Award. Her poetry collection Mudcrab at Gambaro’s (1980) received the PEN International prize for poetry. Who’s Who in Contemporary Women’s Writing, comments: ‘Her poetry constructs strong female voices which insist on justice, clearly perceiving the intricacies of the personal and the relational. They are not confessional, but draw deeply on experience.’

Judith was a fierce campaigner for social justice, a lover of the written word, an inspiring poet, and a true internationalist who has lived a life of commitment and service both within and beyond many borders. This great woman will be very much missed.

She is survived by her four children: Sibila, Ensor, Rebeca, and Zoë Rodríguez and her second husband, Tom Shapcott, whom she married in 1982.

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The Slipperiness of Meaning: Jean Kent launches ‘Instant History’ by Richard Tipping

Instant History, by Richard Tipping (Flying Island Books), was launched by Jean Kent at  Poetry at the Pub, in Newcastle on 18th April 2018.

Forty years ago — when I was such a new poet I would never have dared call myself one— I bought a book which is still one of my most treasured possessions. It was the catalogue for a touring exhibition of poems by Australian poets. There were only 75 poets included: one of them was Richard Tipping

 Richard had already published two collections by this time, and was a significant presence on the poetry scene. I didn’t know him personally, but I was certainly aware of his poetry. In the years since then, he became known both in Australia and internationally for his visual poems and his sculptural poems, many of which are now held in art galleries. But he has always also been a writer of finely crafted poems for the page, and Instant History is an important reminder of that.

In the beautifully produced, palm-sized format of all Flying Islands books, Instant History may look small, but in fact it is an extraordinarily large collection. Not only are there a lot of poems, their range is also vast. Thirty plus years of life and observation are distilled here, in the typical Tipping style, with dazzling wit, playfulness, precision and clarity.

 Richard’s delight in words is (to use one of his own words about the book) multifarious: simply reading the title and the names of the different sections – The Postcard Life, Rush Hour in the Poetry Library, Earth Heart, Kind of Yeah – suggests how he loves the slipperiness of meaning.

 Even the title Instant History can be understood in so many ways. Is it immediate history? The history of small instances? Or a nod to the way so much of our lives now is captured by the media and then forgotten?

Considering Richard’s gift for plucking the right couple of words out of air as if this is as natural as breathing, we might think it’s just another of his serendipitous , but very clever throwaway phrases … until we realize that there is also a poem in the book called ‘Instant History’.

This title, though, is not just ‘Instant History’. In brackets after that we find “Gulf War 1”. ‘Instant History (Gulf War 1)’ is a vividly shocking recreation of the way television and on the spot reporters changed the recording and receiving of news about war. Now that the transmission of news, both personal and public, is as instant as a click on a Smart Phone, it is chilling to be reminded of this time when, suddenly, cameras “at the place of the Arabs’ are “filling houses across America with worry”, the President keeps repeating “Read my lips. This war/ is not about prime time television”, and

collateral language
keeps bobbing its head up
out of the bloodied sand

where bodies have become pink mist
swirling in data smog.

 

Richard has been a film maker, visual artist and musician, as well as a poet, and his talents in all these areas are obvious in the poems. He has also travelled extensively, so not surprisingly there is a global awareness in much of his writing. There are poems of social and political commentary, postcards from everywhere, riddles, lyrics, meditations … and so many memorable phrases.  

I don’t have time tonight to offer more than a small glimpse into the surprises and treasures Instant History contains. But I’d like to mention one of my favourite poems from the travel section.

‘Snap’, is the poetic equivalent of tourist snap shots on a trip from London to Tokyo, interspersed with reflections on how “to find the Tao”. Moments all through the trip are observed with photographic clarity, giving glimpses of the world, gone in seconds, but vivid. There are acutely observed progressions from the confinement within the plane – “Jumbo shivering vast fatness / Dinners warming in the microwave” to the almost hallucinatory brilliance of scenes on the ground, at last, in Japan: 

…………….Globular persimmons, orange weights
glowing in bare branches

Old man, bowing to a crowd
of worn stone Buddhas.
Etched shadows on crystal moss

 and the wonderfully unexpected end, where

 …………….One hundred bobbing nuns
all laugh at once”

 In this poem, blank white space on the page gives a sense of time passing, or past. The way poems look on the page is important all through this book. It’s something I especially admire about Richard’s work. He also has a natural ear for the way words work, and there are some wonderful, pithy expressions of both the way language can degenerate into inarticulateness, and the power it has to work magic if we are alert to its possibilities—the way, for instance, a poem can be condensed to

…..a single
dot

of tensile energy
transmitted on the tongue.”

 There are also tantalizing examples in Instant History of Richard’s typographic and sculptural poems, including one which is in the grounds of Lake Macquarie Art Gallery. This ‘earth sculpture’ consists of bricks laid into the grass in a circle. From the air, the bricks clearly form letters, which spell out Richard’s title of the work: ‘HEAR THE ART (EARTH HEART)’. There are no gaps between the letters, so if you are at ground level, you have to walk slowly around the circle to make sense of it … Other words then start to form – like ‘HEART’ and ‘EARTH’ and ‘HEARTH’. It’s a classic Richard Tipping concrete poem—surprising, enigmatic, charming and clever.

This poem in the earth is much loved by the swallows that live by the lake—they swoop and dive and circle around the bricks, “quick-dancing in the rising wind”, as Richard aptly describes them in a related poem.

In this book as a whole, I think there is also a dazzling combination of aerial views and close attention at ground level. Instant History is a book to dip into, like the swallows, for light-hearted joy, but it is also a complex, comprehensive response to the experience of living in our times, a ‘his-story’ which rewards careful, serious reading.

  – Jean Kent

 ——————————————————————————————————–

Jean Kent is the author of eight books of poetry. Her most recent books are The Hour of Silvered Mullet (Pitt Street Poetry, 2015) and Paris in my Pocket (PSP, 2016), a selection of her poems from an Australia Council residency in Paris. With Kit Kelen, in 2014 Jean co-edited A Slow Combusting Hymn: Poetry from and about Newcastle and the Hunter Region. Samples of her poems and occasional jottings are on her website http://jeankent.net/

Instant History is available from https://asmacao.org/publications/instant-history/ 

Featured Writers from ‘To End All Wars’: Biographical Notes

!Gisela Nittel 2012

Gisela Nittel (2012)

Gisela Sophia Nittel was inspired to start writing poetry after completing her PhD on the Austrian poet Ingeborg Bachmann. She is an active member of three poetry groups in Sydney, and her poems have been published in Australian Poetry Journal, Going Down Swinging, Australian Poetry Collaboration, Quadrant, Yours&Mine and Tamba. Gisela has an ongoing research interest in post-war German poets, whose work she also enjoys translating.

 

 

!Judy Johnson photo credit Judy Johnson

Judy Johnson. photo taken by Judy Johnson

Judy Johnson has published six poetry books and several chap books. She’s won many prizes for individual poems, and for collections, including the Wesley Michel Wright Prize (twice) and the Victorian Premier’s Award for poetry. Her work was also shortlisted in the WA Premier’s and NSW Premier’s Awards. She taught Creative Writing part time for several years at the University of Newcastle and is one of four editors for a 25-year retrospective Contemporary Australian Poetry published by Puncher and Wattmann in 2016.

 

!Andy Kissane photo credit Michael Reynolds

Andy Kissane. photo taken by Micheal Reynolds

Andy Kissane has published a novel, a book of short stories, The Swarm, and four books of poetry. Radiance (Puncher & Wattmann, 2014) was shortlisted for the Victorian and Western Australian Premier’s Prizes and the Adelaide Festival Awards. He was the winner of the 2017 Tom Collins Prize for Poetry. He has read his work in Ireland, England, Austria and many venues in Australia. He is currently working on a verse novel and a short story cycle. http://andykissane.com

 

 

 

 

!photo_AngelaGardner_lowres

Angela Gardner

Angela Gardner is the author of Parts of Speech (UQP, 2007); Views of the Hudson (2009) and The Told World (2014) both from Shearsman UK; and Thing & Unthing (Vagabond, 2014) as well as three published collaborations. Recently she has been published in Blackbox Manifold, The Long Poem and Tears in the Fence, UK; Axon, Hecate, Rabbit and Cordite; West Branch and Yale Review USA. She has received a Churchill Fellowship, an Australia Council Literature Residency and project grant, and the Thomas Shapcott Prize. She edits at www.foame.org. ‘Ilium’ (after Sidney Nolan’s Gallipoli series) first appeared in APJ 3.1. and was later published in The Told World.

 

A selection of four poems from To End All Wars (Puncher and Whattman, 2018):

‘Parallels of latitude’- Gisela Sophia Nittel
‘The Sestina Shot for Desertion’- Judy Johnson
‘Raking the Powder, 1943’- Andy Kissane
‘Ilium’- Angela Gardner

To End All Wars, edited by Dael Allison, Kit Kelen, Anna Couani and Les Wicks, is available from Puncher and Wattmann