ISSUE 23. July 2017 – September 2017

Featured

Teasing Threads

 

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Published by Rochford Street Press
ISSN 2200-9922

 

Featured Writer Andy Jackson: Biographical Note

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Andy Jackson

 

Andy Jackson lives in Castlemaine, and has featured at literary events and arts festivals in Australia, India, USA and Ireland. He was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Prize for Poetry for Among the regulars (Papertiger 2010), and won the 2013 Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize for The thin bridge. Andy’s most recent collections are Immune Systems (Transit Lounge 2015), and the chapbook That knocking (Little Windows 2016). His new book, Music our bodies can’t hold (Hunter Publishers), consists of portrait poems of other people with Marfan Syndrome.

Music our bodies can’t hold is available from Hunter Publishers

Heather Taylor Johnson launches Andy Jackson’s Music our bodies can’t hold

Andy Jackson: Three poems from Music our bodies can’t hold

Featured Writer Andy Jackson: Three Poems

Lindsey

Here we are at the enclosure, watching
.                                   a pair of giraffes in the distance, slowly
nodding as they walk away.  Fences
.                                   like these keep us separate from the animals,

and the animals from us.  My heart
.                                   so far is good.  I’ve not followed my mom into
sudden agony and surgery.  The okapis are threatened

.                                   and are here.  I love their deep brown hides,
their zebra legs, their quietness.  I’m torn
.                                   between reading the signs and just standing
here, watching them breathe.  All our group

.                                   have Marfan, but it doesn’t have us.
Nearby, an ostrich is lowering itself gently
.                                   to the earth, its neck honest and determined

as a spine.  I want a shirt that says no I don’t
.                                   play basketball
.  I play the clarinet and dance.
There’s surgery and medication.  There’s a drift
.                                   of snow leopards, a pride of lions.  We raise

money.  We want to save ourselves.

b. 2000

 

John

What use is music your body can’t hold,
that can’t take you from this world?

I met a man who wouldn’t play the drum
until he’d stroked it, given thanks to the doe –

we have lost this.  All night, the freeway’s racket,
its metallic breath.  Any day now, I could leave.

O God, you do not exist –
but you are hidden in this tumour,

this slow-leaking valve of my heart – your gifts,
they have broken me into understanding.

As a child, I would leap into my own
little rituals of numbers and joy.

The icon offers the empty space at its centre.
I only love this world because I love the other.

We are this knot in a string whose ends extend
forever in both directions.  The compositions?

I’d not change a note.  But I could have said less.

 

1944 – 2013

 

Jess

I would be giving in to a myth of sameness which I think can destroy us” – Audre Lorde

sometimes I wake into a quiet sadness
blood pooling in my mouth
bones on fire – this is the worst
and best thing that has ever happened to me

one morning I couldn’t walk
the white coats
gave me a chair –
I became an adult
while they tried to work it out
the closest was marfanoid habitus
til a sudden knife in the chest
gave me enough points for the full diagnosis
hearing it, I felt sick

I have mitral valve prolapse, regurgitation
multiple pulmonary nodules
I get short of breath and produce
excessive mucous (clearly I’m very attractive)
my joints are hypermobile
and dislocate (they go out more than I do)
I’m the walking rubber-band

comments and names at school –
don’t cross your legs, you look disgusting
spider-woman, anorexic slut

other things I can’t write

doctors accused my parents of abuse
threatened me with feeding tubes –
ironic, it was only all this pointing at my bones
that gave me an eating disorder

since I joined Chronic Illness Peer Support
they can’t shut me up
we go on camps, socials, talk about whatever we need to
I meet the most incredible people
and call them my friends
(my dog helps me enormously with my grief)

I’m so motivated people find me exhausting
started studying nursing
but they told me I was too unwell
cried so hard I broke a rib – now it’s psych

I haemorrhaged every day for eighteen months
clots bigger than my hand
doubled over in pain until I passed out
I think about my future a lot
imagine a husband, two golden retrievers
a blue house by the beach, veggie patch
all the people I will help
life is extraordinary and so are you

now look at this photo and tell me
you still want sameness

b. 1992

 

-Andy Jackson

 

‘Lindsey’, ‘John’ and ‘Jess’ were published in Music our bodies can’t hold (Hunter Publishers 2017). They have republished here with the author’s permission.

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SONY DSC

Andy Jackson

Andy Jackson lives in Castlemaine, and has featured at literary events and arts festivals in Australia, India, USA and Ireland. He was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Prize for Poetry for Among the regulars (Papertiger 2010), and won the 2013 Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize for The thin bridge. Andy’s most recent collections are Immune Systems (Transit Lounge 2015), and the chapbook That knocking (Little Windows 2016). His new book, Music our bodies can’t hold (Hunter Publishers), consists of portrait poems of other people with Marfan Syndrome.

Music our bodies can’t hold is available from Hunter Publishers

Andy Jackson: Biographical Note

Heather Taylor Johnson launches Andy Jackson’s Music our bodies can’t hold

 

 

 

“Beauty, imagination, understanding, empathy, recognition”: Heather Taylor Johnson launches Andy Jackson’s ‘Music our bodies can’t hold’

“Andy Jackson is such an important poet writing about a topic so deeply important to me: the othered body. I think this is his best book to date and I was so privileged to have launched it. Read the speech, then read the book!” -Heather Taylor Johnson

Andy Jackson’s Music our bodies can’t hold was launched by Heather Taylor Johnson at the Queensland Poetry Festival on 26 August 2017.

Music_our_bodies_can't_hold_Cover-300x462Reading Andy Jackson’s exceptional book Music our bodies can’t hold, I’m left asking myself what the purpose of poetry is. For me, its purpose lies beyond language, though language, of course, is the essential vehicle to get us to where we need to be. And is that a place of beauty, that old cliché? Is it a place of imagining, as the core practice of creativity would assume? Perhaps it’s a place of understanding, empathy and recognition so that we find comfort in a world we enter and leave alone and, in the midst of that, cling to others for connection. Music our bodies can’t hold leads me to all of these places, and for that, I’m both honoured and humbled to be launching this book tonight.

 

Andy’s work has always been about giving voice to the body that is othered. In the spaces between a stranger’s stare and the poet’s eye catching that stare, there are so many words that go unsaid. There are words that skin and muscle and bone silence. Words that hover like empty speech bubbles when we remember and when we hope and when we hurt and when we love. One of the purposes of poetry is to find those words, to write them and read them, which is Andy’s true calling and his gift to us.

In his previous books he strips his body bare to do this, but in this book – in this remarkable book – he takes a risk and embodies others like him: historical figures like Abraham Lincoln, who quite possibly had Marfan Syndrome; people like Jess, who he met and spoke with, and most definitely does. These poems are forty-seven different people, similar through a hereditary genetic disorder, but unique. Unique.

As a prelude, he writes from the voice of Antoine Marfan, who says ‘The last thing a physician / could want is their name on a condition / they have tried to understand and eradicate.’ As an interlude, he writes from the voice of the disorder, which says, ‘Names are critical, threads from a time before us, spiralling into the future’, and ‘Sometimes, too conscious of how I’ve shaped you, that minor rearrangement of elements that estranges, you look around for kin, as if you might find yourself in other bodies.’ As a postlude, he writes in his own voice, from his own experience, but having read the book to this conclusion, we know it to be a voice infused with every person in the book just as every person in the book carries Andy’s words.

Beauty, imagination, understanding, empathy, recognition – this book is a perfect example of what poetry can do and what poetry is. I’m going to go one step further and say that reading this book has made me a better person, so maybe that’s poetry’s purpose, too. So, with that I thank you, Andy. You’ve touched me deeply, and I’m happy to say, ‘This book is launched.’

-Heather Taylor Johnson

“poetry’s never been about ego or cliques, but about the spaces between us, the distant and beautiful voices coming closer, and QPF [the Queensland Poetry Festival] was exactly that this year… had such an exhausting and enlivening time – and so many stunning poets (so many, I missed out on seeing some) – Mark Doty, Ali Coby Eckermann, Quinn Eades, the Writing Through Fences group, Heather Taylor Johnson, Tony Birch, Omar Musa, Sarah Holland-Batt, Bronwyn Lea, Stuart Barnes, Racheal Mead, Ian McBryde, Anna Jacobson… and a huge thanks to David Stavanger and Annie Te Whiu, whose open-hearted and generous directorship made the festival so diverse, so relevant and so profound… thanks too for putting on Each Map of Scars and letting me launch Music Our Bodies Can’t Hold – they landed softly and well…”

-Andy Jackson reflecting on the launch of his book, Music our bodies can’t hold and the Queensland Poetry Festival 2017.

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Heather Taylor Johnson is an American born poet, novelist and editor who lives in Adelaide. She has written two novels, Jean Harley Was Here and Pursuing Love and Death, and published four volumes of poetry. She is also the editor of the anthology, Shaping the Fractured Self: Poetry of Chronic Illness and Pain.

Music our bodies can’t hold is available from Hunter Publishers

Andy Jackson: Biographical Note

Andy Jackson: Three poems from Music our bodies can’t hold

 

I say AU, you say UA…..Mark Roberts reviews ‘AU/UA: Contemporary Poetry of Ukraine and Australia / Сучасна поезія України та Австралії’

AU/UA: Contemporary Poetry of Ukraine and Australia / Сучасна поезія України та Австралії  Edited by Les Wicks, Yury Zavadsky and Grigory Semenchuk. Published as ebook by Krok (Ternopil, Ukraine) in association with Meuse Press (Sydney, Australia). 2011.

Yury Zavadsky one of the editors of AU/UA: Contemporary Poetry of Ukraine and Australia

The past few months have not been the best time to release an anthology of poetry in Australia – that is if you want to get some mainstream attention in the literary press. That large anthology by Gray and Lehmann seems to have been sucking up all the reviews and interviews and not leaving much oxygen for anyone else. But things have been happening under the radar. One of the most interesting being the publication of an ebook anthology of contemporary poetry from Australia and the Ukraine. While the Gray/Lehmann anthology is bending bookcases in Libraries and bookshops this collection of Australian and Ukraine poets exists as a free downloadable ebook.

So why an anthology of contemporary Ukrainian and Australian poetry and why now? Unfortunately we don’t learn very much about the reasons why this anthology was put together. We have a list of editors (Les Wicks, Yury Zavadsky and Grigory Semenchuk), and a brief statement “UA/AU is an invitation to explore the contemporary poetries of the Ukraine and Australia”. I would have liked a little more information from the editors, an introduction for example, setting out how the connection between poets in the Ukraine and Australia came about, how the poets and poems were selected, a little background on the state of poetry in both countries and what the future might hold.

So we are left with the actual poems. Each poet, in both the Australian and Ukrainian section, is given a single poem – presented first in the original language and then in translation. While a single poem isn’t enough to get a sense of a poets’ work, it does allow the anthology to present a wider range of poetic styles from each country without creating a book of overwhelming proportions,

For an Australian reader the poets in the AU section are familiar names – Judith Beveridge, Susan Bradley-Smith, Pam Brown, Joanne Burns, Michelle Cahill, Michael Farrell, Phillip Hammial, Susan Hampton, Andy Jackson, Jill Jones, Christpopher Kelen, Cath Kenneally, Karen Knight, Mike Ladd, Anthony Lawrence, Myron Lysenko, Chris Mansell, Peter Minter, David Musgrave and Les Wicks.

But the importance of this anthology is that it makes us move out of our poetic comfort zone. For an Australian reader that means becoming acquainted with the Ukrainian poets and poems. But, as with any translation, it is not just the poets and poems, for the role of the translator is made very clear in this anthology. For example, in the translation of Pavlo Hirnyk’s ‘It Dawns, It Leaks, Its Light…’ (translation by Yury Zavadsky and Les Wicks) there is a very strong rhythm and rhyme:

Aloft the darken raven flies,

The colding home beyond my way.

The tiny tear imbibed by eyes –

My tired family in wait.

Without being able to read the original poem it is difficult to fully appreciate how much of this English poem is in the original and how much it depends on the translation. For instance, in order to maintain the rhyme has the meaning of the poem changed in a subtle way.? Was there another English word that would have conveyed the meaning of the original poem better, but would have broken the rhyme? For most of the readers of this anthology these are questions which we cannot answer.

Sometimes, however, a poem seemingly transcends the translation. In Yuri Andrukhovych’s ‘And Everybody Fucks You’ (translated by Sarah Luczaj), it is possible to forget that this is a translation:

A hundred bucks a month – I thought to myself.

And everybody fucks you.

Is it a plus or a minus, how to understand it? I wondered.

And it what sense, I thought to myself, in the literal

or maybe the metaphorical?

There are probably a number of reasons why this poem ‘works’ in the context of this anthology. It maybe that the orignal poem is written a style familiar to Australian readers, influenced by the same poets and poems that many Australian poets and poems have been. Or maybe the translator has found that fine balance between being honest to the original and creating a poem which stands in its own right.

Other Ukrainian poems which stand out in this anthology include Myhailo Hryhoriv’s ‘Renegrade Blizzards’ (translated by Yury Zavadsky, Les Wicks, Catalina Girona and Andrii Antonovskyi) and Victor Neborak’s ‘The Writer’ (translated by Mark Andryczk).

Iryna Shuvalova’s “You Are Black as Winter” (translated by Michael M. Naydan) is a particularly striking poem. It’s opening seems almost familiar and probably wouldn’t look out of place in an Australian literary journal:

…..you are black as winter

your palms shut

you clenched your treasure

of unspent lives

and angels rush

in the air –

In the end AU/UA: Contemporary Poetry of Ukraine and Australia is more of an appertiser than a main course. While most Australian readers will feel comfortable with the choice of Australian poems, I couldn’t help but feel that the anthology would have been more successful if there was a little more context to the poems. After reading the Ukrainian poems, for example, I would have liked to have been able to understand a little more about where these poems came from. Questions such as how has poetry in the Ukraine changed since the fall of the Soviet Union would seem to be an obvious starting point. I’m sure Ukrainian readers of the Australian poems would have similar questions about how Australian poetry has developed over recent decades.

In the final instance the value of this anthology is an introduction to poets and poems that many of us would not have come across before. In the long term its success will be measured by how many readers make the effort to chase down other translated poems by some the poets they first discovered in AU/UA: Contemporary Poetry of Ukraine and Australia.

AU/UA: Contemporary Poetry of Ukraine and Australia. can be downloaded freely at:

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Mark Roberts is a Sydney based writer and critic. He currently edits Rochford Street Review.