Anthony Lawrence – the blog post Southerly refused to publish.

Each month Southerly (the Journal of the English Association, Sydney)  asks a writer or critic to write a number of blogs for its website (http://southerlyjournal.com.au/). In February the Southerly blogger was the poet Anthony Lawrence – he was introduced on the Southerly website on 10 February in the following terms:

Anthony Lawrence has published fourteen books of poems and a novel. His most recent collection is ‘Signal Flare‘ (Puncher & Wattmann, 2013).

His books and individual poems have won many major awards. In 2013 he won the Blake Poetry Prize.

He teaches Creative Writing and Reading Poetry at Griffith University, Gold Coast, and lives at Cabarita Beach, on the far north coast of NSW.  (http://southerlyjournal.com.au/2014/02/10/next-monthly-blogger-anthony-lawrence/)

Over the course of the next few weeks Southerly ran a number of Lawrence’s blogs:

Lawrence’s final blog was due to be published last Friday (7 March). It was to be an interview with Lawrence conducted by the young poet Robbie Coburn. Southerly, however, refused to run the interview claiming, according to Lawrence in a post on Facebook, that the interview shifts Lawrence “into the third person” and that the form of the blog “presents as self-promotion”.  Lawrence also claims that another reason Southerly refused to run his final blog as he was critical of an aspect of John Kinsella’s political poetry.

Given that the final Lawrence blog will now not appear in Southerly and that it does fit together with a number of the other blogs published during February (particularly the Adamson piece where Lawrence describes the influence that meeting Robert Adamson and a number of other poets had on his development as a young poet), Rochford Street Review has made the decision to publish Lawrence’s final banned Southerly blog in full.

Comments maybe left at the bottom of the article.

********************************************

Robbie Coburn interviews Anthony Lawrence

Anthony Lawrence

Anthony Lawrence reading at the Sydney launch of Signal Flare (Photograph – Robert Adamson)

Anthony Lawrence’s poems capture the Australian landscape like a photograph. His viewfinder captures nature, and with vivid imagery instills clear visuals in the mind of the reader.

One of Australia’s most important contemporary poets, his work has been widely published in Australian and international journals, magazines and newspapers, and represented in anthologies. He has published many books of poetry since his first Dreaming in Stone (Angus & Robertson, 1989), edited anthologies such as The Best Australian Poetry for UQP, and has published one novel In the Half Light (Picador, 2000). His poetry has won numerous prestigious awards, such as the inaugural Gwen Harwood memorial prize, the Peter Porter Poetry Prize and the inaugural Judith Wright Calanthe Award.

With the land changing so drastically, and the state of the world altering, it is inevitable that nature will be viewed differently by later generations. But Lawrence is a poet who creates somewhat of a time capsule for future readers in his studies of nature, combining this with a controlled lyrical intensity and explorations of relationships and lives. His latest collection Signal Flare was published by Puncher and Wattmann in 2013.

RC:
Nature is a consistent element of your work. Do you think nature can be preserved through poetry?

AL:
The natural world has been a central focus in my work since I began writing poetry. The first (written evidence) of a poem that references nature can be seen on a sheet of white cardboard. I must have been about 9 or 10. The poem is called ‘Currawongs’ and is written in red crayon. It’s a rhyming poem about currawongs trying to navigate a strong wind while returning to their nests. There is a description of a tree, most likely a eucalypt. The sky is mentioned. I had recently discovered, by way of my maternal grandmother, Alfred Noyes’ poem ‘The Highwayman,’ and I was filled with the need to tell a story in rhyme. Currawongs were frequent visitors to our back yard. I’d sit and watch them after school. I wasn’t aware of this at the time, as I was just following my nerve and desire to create something, but I was making a big claim, from my nine years on the earth, that these birds are worth close scrutiny. I didn’t consider that anyone would ever read it. I felt compelled to record details of wings, sky, wind, nest, tree, eggs, and their calls.

Years later when I discovered Crow by Ted Hughes, many of the poems of George Mackay Brown, the poems of Philip Hodgins, Robert Adamson, Elizabeth Bishop, Richard Hugo, James Dickey, Charles Wright, Mary Oliver and others, I realised how profoundly the best of their poems about the natural world have helped readers maintain a fierce interest in ecology, the minutiae of species, the underside of what seems obvious. I’m not interested in reading or writing poems that take the natural world at face value, where one or two physical elements are isolated and turned into verse. The only way poetry can invite or instigate serious debate about the natural world is to engage with it’s variousness: weather, the earth itself, flora and fauna, rivers and oceans and, personally, how humans interact with these things, either individually or through the changing filter of a relationship. A very early poem ‘Whistling Fox’, which you’ve mentioned and which I’ll address again later, involves a father-son relationship, Australian landscape, and the killing of a fox. It’s a poem that moves swiftly through these elements, but which I hope conveys a deep engagement with the natural world, while at the same time there is trespass, and sadness. It’s a paradox that surfaces frequently in my poetry: I’m here, and I’m involved, but in order for me to get close, I’m going to interrupt, briefly, the natural order of things. It’s what happens when we step out of our comfort zones and confront what’s happening beyond the window. Many know what a corella looks like. Many have seen a hawk floating at the side of the road, or riding an updraft over a headland. The difference between acknowledgement and serious study is to make the time to be still, to be watchful, to notice how a spangled drongo feeds and becomes a part of the shifting light in a tree. Poetry can offer us these things in unique ways. The poetry I love most is that which offers me different ways of seeing the natural world, and which challenges my perceptions of how things live and grow and move. This kind of poetry preserves and highlights what we can’t afford to ignore.

The poet John Kinsella professes to be one whose work is largely that of protest, of ‘disobedience.’ He has written that he ‘employs language in unexpected and ‘disobedient’ ways,’ and that it ‘jar readers into different modes of consideration, to reflect not only on the themes but on what poetry actually means.’ That sounds impressive, but much of Kinsella’s ‘protest’ work gets caught-up looking inward at itself, and this self-awareness strips the potential for reaching out to readers and can feel almost secondary to its intentions. Protest lost in language. The British poet Sean O’Brien, however, understands poetry’s potential for sharpening our awareness and our obligation to be vigilant, and demonstrate our desire to preserve what can so easily be damaged, and erased. Unlike Kinsella, he’s not afraid to be transparent, while employing a complexity of syntax and rhyme that add to, not subtract from, the poem’s intensity:

‘Be with me when they cauterize the facts.
Be with me to the bottom of the page,
Insisting on what history exacts.
Be memory, be conscience, will and rage,
And keep me cold and honest, cousin coat,
So if I lie, I’ll know you’re at my throat.’

– ‘Cousin Coat’

I’m not advocating that all poetry be protest, yet if we’re going to preserve anything we’re passionate about, or care enough about to want to set down in a poem, then surely we owe it to potential readers to be fierce, engaging, challenging and understood.

RC:
How do you think the human world reflects the natural world in poetry and can you give me some insight into how you use nature as a basis for an exploration of the self when approaching the writing of a poem?

AL:
My responses will no doubt cross over and under each other, and I can see how much of what I’ve just addressed will be relevant to this question… so let me be circuitous. There’s no point in offering a personal response to any aspect of one’s own work unless influence is summoned to put things into perspective. I can speak with confidence about the poetry of others whose work has involved and engaged with the human/natural/worlds, and I can speak with authority about how I see these things as being reflected in, and totemic of, my own work. I’ll begin with the poetry of James Dickey, since I’ve already mentioned him as an influence, and also my last blog post for Southerly was a poem-review of some of his (early) poems. Next I’ll discuss your question in terms of the poetry of Philip Hodgins.

Like many poets, James Dickey was someone who made mythologies from experience and wrote so convincingly of them that we enter his landscapes and rivers under the spell of his images and his control over the flow and shape of syntax. Whether he was in a canoe on a South Carolina river or recalling a story of killer whales tracking humans from under the ice, the raw human details are inextricably linked to the unfiltered details of the natural world in which these dramas and wild observations are played out. Dickey understood the power of narrative, and he cut his stories back to their essence. Certainly with his first three books, an intense lyricism was his defining gift: water, fish, trees, even a vast Antarctic scene – whatever aspect of the natural world he felt driven to define was done so through the eyes and pulse of a man for whom being alive was, for a long time, a hands-on, fully-lived adventure. Dickey’s images could be visceral and real, or surreal and playful, yet whatever he attended to had a vein of authenticity running through it. There was always a sense that this might have happened; that Dickey may have been there. If we sense that Dickey has invented a scene or situation, no matter how surreal the circumstances he evokes, there is almost always an accompanying sense that he had discovered something, about the natural world or himself, in the process of composition. Wallace Stevens wrote “The problem with surrealism is that it invents without discovering. To make a clam play the accordion is to invent, not discover.” When Dickey invented a heaven for animals or an eagle mating to death with a wolverine at the top of a sub-Antarctic spruce… you know he’s discovering things about what it means to engage in a raw, human way with the inventiveness of the natural world. I learned early from James Dickey that when writing about the natural world it’s okay to have a wild imagination and to engage with subject-matter some might find uncomfortable or confronting, as long as human involvement, whether peripheral or central, is part of the fabric of the poem.

I first read the poems of Philip Hodgins while studying at Charles Sturt university in Wagga. Back then it was the Riverina College of Advanced Education, set among dry hills and massive river gums. I loved the Riverina landscape – the greys, browns and pale greens of the plains and Murrumbidgee River, the irrigation canals and dusty light, the extremes of temperature. Discovering Hodgins’ poetry was a pivotal moment – here was a man writing out of the urgency and pressure of a diagnosis and ongoing treatment for leukemia, and his poetry was often simultaneously an indictment and invocation of wonder at the Australian landscape and farming methods. Hodgins’ personal trauma heightened his vision, and his poems that deal with dairy cattle, pigs, termites, invasive livestock treatment, or rural landscapes often have metaphors of illness or death woven into them. Philip Hodgins was a master at using an Australian vernacular in such a way as to disguise, not conceal, his intricate half-rhymes and sonorous tones, often leaving the bell-notes of the sounds of words to ring of each other from five or six lines away, such was his intuitive control over the language at hand. Hodgins’ poems have been a constant source of inspiration. His best poems are brilliant examples of how human influence ebbs and flows within the context of the natural world.

RC:
Almost all of your work revolves around vivid landscapes, particularly ocean imagery, and the relationship between nature and humanity.

Your 2009 collection The Welfare of My Enemy was quite a change of subject for you, exploring the terrifying circumstances involving missing people. What drove you to write about this? Even reading the work is terrifying when one considers how regularly disappearances occur…

AL:
lawrenceThere were well-defined landscapes and oceans in The Welfare of my Enemy too. As Frank O’Hara couldn’t enjoy a blade of grass unless there was freeway nearby, it seems I wasn’t able to enjoy a good mystery and disappearance unless there was a desert scene, mountain range, or sea spray blowing in from somewhere, and not infrequently.

On Friday night, August 25, 1978 Stephen Lapthorne and his partner Michelle Pope vanished while driving in Stephen’s lime-green Bedford van. I knew Stephen well. They disappeared somewhere between Pymble, on Sydney’s north shore, and Berowra in the Kurringai area. They’ve never been seen. My long sequence of poems (untitled) tried to engage with the phenomenon of missing persons in ways that embraced both narrative and lyric poetry, and using mostly half-rhymed end-words. The majority of situations are fictional, though many are informed by fact, especially the details of Stephen and Michelle’s disappearance. I believe Ivan Milat is responsible. He was working on the Kurringai council at the time. My theory is that he staged a breakdown in a stolen car on the Old pacific Highway, and when Stephen and Michelle pulled over to help, he overpowered them and drove the van to where it could be buried. I also believe that the van containing their remains may be buried on a property near the Wombeyan caves road. The Missing Persons unit seem loathe to act on what they see as wild conjecture, especially after thirty six years.

The Welfare of my Enemy was a difficult book to write. The subject-matter saddened me. Writing from the perspectives of victims, family members and perpetrators of crimes took its toll, and I stopped reading and writing poetry for awhile. If it’s true that writing poetry can be hell on our mental health, I wouldn’t recommend Missing Persons as a theme for anyone. I do feel it’s an important book. It was a long time in the making, and when it came to the writing, it happened fairly quickly. The poems fell into place, the voices announced themselves, and I had a good first draft in six months.

RC:
You have consistently written in a more ‘traditional’ style, compared to what is being done by some contemporary poets in terms of form. While some experiments lose feeling and sincerely, your style lends itself to great evocation and is consistently in line with the reputation you have already built. Your collections, throughout your career, have advanced this style, using free verse to create your syntax and music within the lines.

When considering this, do you think the quality of the work is in its syntax, rather than the form in which the poem is presented to the reader? And how much do you think the visual presentation of the poem on the page affects its reading?

AL:
Many poets change their style. Some do this consciously, and the reasons for this can be complex. James Dickey made the decision to leave behind the ‘night-rhythm’ (written from the pulse, not a calibrated syllabic placement) of his first three or four books, and instead focus on a long line with gaps to represent pauses in breathing. Dickey was disingenuous in that he criticised the ‘Projective Verse’ of Charles Olson, then went on to employ in his own poetry much of what Olson was advocating. ‘Projective Verse’ involved the natural run, extension and end to the breath in a line of poetry, thus freeing the line from metrical constraints. Dickey called Olson’s theory ‘creative irresponsibility,’ yet he embraced the long, broken line, using the typewriter to great effect to shape both the line and its visual power. The appropriation of ideas is nothing new, though Dickey was not one to hide behind a device or theory and hope no-one would notice. His use of Olsen’s methodology worked. It became a part of his thinking and breathing, in the composition and editing, and the majority of his books used this long line.

The main problem with a deliberate attempt to change one’s style is the sudden shift in register, the general tone and shaping of the poems. On a surface level, this seems fine: why not cut the finely-crafted lines that connect stanzas and pack up the well-worn and second-skin twists to syntax? Anyone can make the decision to dramatically change how they write, yet by doing this, the essential deep unknowing that comes from many years of allowing association, chance and diffuse intuition free-play can be hobbled, or even cauterized.

There is no one way poems are made, yet most go through many stages. My poems generally begin with a line scribbled down with no thought as to what it might mean or where it’s likely to go. I will run with what arrives, extending the line, shaping it, teasing out its visual and aural possibilities, delighting in what emerges, word by word. I treat every line as a poem, and I’m not able to move on until I’ve taken it as far as it can go. Then I’ll start another. The process begins again. By working this way, each poem develops with a series of startling surprises and challenging problems. While I don’t over-think how a poem will look on the page, I do play with form as I go, concentrating, even in the very early stages, on where to end the line. This helps with structure and so assists with rhythm. Investigating the variousness and possibilities of syntax, a poem’s music begins to surface, and this leads to its shape. Eventually, when a poem has gone through many hand-written drafts; when the table and floor are patched with blackened pages; I’ll start to craft a poem into its final shape. The process begins again, though this time its a one made while being fully-conscious, and its done on the screen. Poems can go through fifty or sixty visual versions before I set them free. Finally, after putting constant pressure on each line, a poem will crack open and reveal its shape. My hope is for a poem that achieves the best possible balance between how it sounds, feels, and looks on the page. Given the precision and constant vigilance I bring to each new poem, I’ve never been able to step away and decide to change the way I write just for the sake of it. I don’t see the point. I’m told that my poems and books have changed anyway, over the years, in structure and tone. This might not amount to being experimental, and I’m fine with that.

A poem’s visual arrangement can be a major part of its ability to engage a reader, or it can be a distraction. Poems should never be fashioned from couplets or sestets just for the sake of it. If, after many combinations and variations, realignment of lines and how to end them, a poem demands a certain form, stay with it. It will be the right one. The poems in my new collection Signal Flare went through many drafts at the final, shaping stage – some as many as eighty versions – before I was able to cut them free. The puzzle-solving is something that both delights and distresses me. Its hard-work, especially when it comes on the back of having spent weeks trying to end a poem. But that’s what it’s all about. There is so much to consider. When I tell my Creative Writing students that putting words down on a page is just the first step in what could well be months of work before a poem is finished, they are bright-eyed, bristling with adventure, and they think I’m joking. By the end of the semester their expressions are dark. They arrive at workshops wringing their hands. They speak in careful, enjambed sentences. Their bags are heavy with drafts. They get it.

RC:
Do you find your influences have changed considerably throughout your years of writing poetry? One generally starts by reading the classics and those more well known international poets of old, moving on to contemporary Australian poetry later on. Are you influenced these days by new work you read as much as that which inspired you as a young poet?

AL:
My influences range from poets whose work I return to frequently for sustenance and inspiration, to investigating the poems of new writers. I try to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s being published in Australia, the UK and America. The Best Australian Poems, Best American Poems, Best New Poets from the US, and Best British Poetry anthologies are always at hand. There are some wonderful new, young writers out there. The secret is to read constantly and widely. If you’re not an active, engaged reader of poetry, you’re work is unlikely to develop beyond its surface-tension. To break through, we need to embrace the past and present. A competent poet will remain within that competency if wide reading is abandoned. Recently I wrote a piece on Ambition for this blog. I mentioned poets who love the idea of being known as poets but who aren’t prepared to put the time and serious effort into craft, the nuts and bolts and false-walls needed to make poetry that stands out. Sadly, this is a common thread in poetry. There are young poets who just don’t extend their reading beyond the work of their peers. Big mistake.

RC:
Some poets actively distance their true self from their poetic self, so to speak, using characters. Your work is often extremely personal, addressing particular life experiences openly. Pieces that come to mind are ‘Whistling Fox’, ‘Home After Two Weeks Away’, ‘The Drive’ and your chapbook of love poems Magnetic Field. Do you think these pieces are written as a means of coming to terms with experiences, out of necessity, or do you think the poetic and true self should be separate? I’ve heard many poets say they believe poetry is not supposed to be therapy. Do you think there is still a place for catharsis even if the ‘work of the poem’ is the main focus?

AL:
In my course The Spellmakers – a dedicated poetry-reading course – I give a lecture on the so-called Confessional poets, where we read a number of poems by Anne Sexton, Robert Lowell, John Berryman, WD Snodgrass, and to the list up to date, Sharon Olds. Many of these poems address intimate, often disturbing details from the poet’s life. For Sexton and Olds, especially, there seems little doubt that the poems chronicle personal events and scenes, and at their best the poems are captivating and brilliantly conceived.

With some poems I have not tried to conceal myself. The I is me, and for whatever reason I felt compelled to place myself front and center within a poem was of its place and time. I don’t regret this. The poems you’ve mentioned are, indeed, a lyrical recording of personal experience. I have tried, when addressing experience directly, to find a balance between the shock of the human presence and the best possible language with which to frame these experiences. When experience overrides the poem, it fails palpably. I also find the dramatic monologue a wonderful way to come to terms with experience. This form allows us to investigate personal issues while wearing a mask, or while standing off to one side, offering a list and commentary. It’s a powerful form but should be used sparingly. You’ve used the word ‘necessity’ and that’s exactly why these personal poems were written. They announced themselves. They needed to be written. I’m not interested, as mentioned previously in these blog postings, in poetry that works as therapy only, as catharsis. I’d rather stand in front of a mirror and play charades with myself. And while I love many of Anne Sexton’s poems, there were also a number that failed because she couldn’t harness the personal to the extent where it married the lyrical detail. The intimate or brutal details overextended themselves, and so the poems became like diary-entries in verse. In Signal Flare, many details of my life are there, yet I chose different vehicles with which to carry the details. And don’t forget the power of the lie. In this book I’m more interested in a close look at the lives of others. Aligning myself with the experience and emotions of others in a way that diminished (not removed) the raw effect of the I was my main objective here. Even when I was there, it might have been an embodiment of myself and others, or someone imagined completely. I don’t have a sense of where my next poems will lead me, but my bags are packed, my passport is current.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Robbie Coburn

Robbie Coburn

Robbie Coburn was born in June 1994 and lives in the rural district of Woodstock, Victoria, Australia. His first full collection of poetry Rain Season (Picaro Press) was published in 2013. He is well into a second collection, The Other Flesh. A chapbook, Before Bone and Viscera, will be published by Rochford Street Press later this year. He regularly reviews books for Rochford Street Review.

.

.

.

.

.

.

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

Courageous and Compelling: Judith Beveridge launches ‘Signal Flare’ by Anthony Lawrence

Judith Beveridge launched Signal Flare by Anthony Lawrence (Puncher & Wattmann) at the Friend in Hand Hotel on 14th October 2013.

Anthony Lawrence

Anthony Lawrence reading at the launch of Signal Flare (Photo Robert Adamson).

I’m deeply honoured to be launching Anthony’s new book Signal Flare today. As is usual with Anthony’s work, there are great treasures and riches on every page. Anthony‘s poems reward you every time you go back to them. And I go back to Anthony’s poetry a great deal. Over the years I have found the poems to be inspiring, sustaining, provocative, awe-inspiring, far-reaching, beautiful, wildly imaginative, yet also very grounded in emotion.

What I’ve always admired about Anthony’s work is his ability to express powerful feelings through complexities of form and language. Anthony uses language as a form of revelation. In his poetry, language is substance; a means of generating realities and of extending and shaping consciousness. William Carlos Williams said: ‘It isn’t what [a poet] says that counts as a work of art, it’s what he makes.’

I know that when I read a poem by Anthony Lawrence I’m going to be taken somewhere transformative and unique. I know that something within me is going to be activated and enlarged. Wallace Stevens talked about the power of the imagination to transform reality. He is famous for saying that poetry ‘helped people live their lives’. By this I think he meant that poetry can change our perceptions and help us escape the numbness of habit and daily routine. We need the poet’s eye to explore, to celebrate, to make the familiar extraordinary and to make space for the inner life. Anthony’s ability to keep his readers, and also himself, in a state of wonder and amazement, is one of his great specialties.

Signal Flare, the new book, is riddled with wonder and amazement, yet it is also underpinned by an ability to obverse meticulously, and to go about its image-making as ‘primarily a discipline of rightness’ -(another phrase from Stevens). Let me list a few of these truth-to-feeling images:

….Sydney rock oysters
like ceramic fuse plates
sparking and shorting-out in the wash.

– ‘Lines in Absentia’

After the black rain squall
………of an argument has blown over
……………….we talk about how we
………are spirits with working mouths
a crazing of bones
………and a scribble of red and blue
……………….
electrical wiring
………heated by blood
from a four-chambered engine room.

– ‘Nocturne’

Blood, you gnarly old scholar
pouring over illuminated texts
an arterial wound brings up from stack
turn off your lamp and write your name
before you thumb the uncut pages
of my skin.

– ‘Signatures’

 Orb spiders lie cruciform on nets they have thrown.
They have a bladderwrack bulb for an abdomen
and graffiti stencils
above the poised, furred joinery of their legs.
They like to harvest blown pollen
which they keep in a sling below the sleeves
that house their fangs.
The netted shells of insects
are kept for their fine acoustic qualities
when stitched into mobiles
along with the lacework of dead leaves.

– ‘Orb Spiders

 The discordant, wrought-iron choir inside a storm
unmantles your resolves.
On nights like this
you dig a wick from its hollow
and carry cupped-flame from room to room.
In the clapped-out framework of a high window
the furred treble clef
of a spider in snared repose
is enough to keep you occupied
as the rain dies away like forced applause.

– ‘A Night at Home’

_________________________________________________

You can see how the details have a sparkling precision and make us see things in an enlarged and energised way.

Something revolutionary occurs, I believe, when the poet, through exploration and invention, discovers the images and metaphors, the rhythms and sound patterns which open up and reveal a new set of meanings. Anthony’s poetry is remarkable for this. I’ve always enjoyed the way that Anthony integrates observation with thought and reflection, so that his poems are never just descriptive, but they open up vistas and perspectives, simultaneously linking and activating many assumptions and ideas.

Many poems in Signal Flare are meditations on nature, metaphysics, love, loss and mortality. These are Anthony’s prevailing themes, yet there is a more pronounced elegiac tone in this book, There are many poems of tenderness and compassion, and they sing with a generous voice. I’d like to read Moth Orchid, which expounds so simply yet movingly on loss

I’ve been trying to find the flower
that best defines you.
That it has to be unusual
in need of care
requiring an abundance of warmth and light
difficult to find and has a name
with the music of earth or air inside it…
the moth orchid comes to mind
and remains –
……..a flower that thrives
……………….at rare altitudes
one that’s been behind and above
the deaths of men who fell
while trying to claim it
from some distant, lofty place.
Have I said enough?
Has my definition gone
some way towards revealing you?
Let me say the flower’s name again:
the quiet vowels
the heavy consonants of grief.

In a poem, I always look at the poet’s ability to capture a number of extras, or windfalls. Anthony‘s poems are full of bonuses, because he pays painstaking attention to craft. He is able to garner much from his syntax, his rhythms, his lineation and his stylish and sure-footed metaphors. He is able to modulate his voice in ways that are both casual and intense.

I think with this volume, there’s no question that the level of astute attention that he as given to craft has gone up a notch: each line break has been carefully thought out, each move serves the poem. There are so many aspects which have been so expertly calibrated. Anthony often runs his sentences over many many lines, yet he never loses control; the branching or architecture, the flow of the sentences across the lines are simply masterful; he beautifully settles the weight and drift of the cadences in ways that are satisfying and surprising. Though his sentence constructions are often complex, his use of the line disencumbers any heaviness that might be produced by a build-up of phrases and clauses. A great part of the effect of Anthony’s poems is achieved through the balancing and positioning of the thoughts over the lines; each line will let a poem run out a little further on its syntax, shaping the pulse of thought: This is especially true of the very first poem in the book ‘Lines in Absentia’.

In Signal Flare Anthony’s voice is still seasoned with lyrical, dramatic and narrative impetus, but it’s also a book that is more graceful and enterprising, perhaps more of a book of mood, of memory, past and present. Though it startles with its agile, daring, off-centre imagination, it still has tenancy in the extrinsic world and has strong emotional coherence built from the layering of finely crafted lines. It is obvious that Signal Flare has a grandeur of language and thought that must surely have been hard-won. It also attests to Anthony’s courageous and compelling consciousness and his remarkable ability to work his material extensively and ambitiously.

***********************************************************************************

Judith Beveridge is the author of The Domesticity of Giraffes, Accidental Grace, Wolf Notes and Storm and Honey all of which have won major prizes. Her new collection, Devadatta’s Poems, will be published by Giramondo Publishing in 2014 and Brazilier Publishers are bringing out a new and selected volume, Hook and Eye, in 2014 for the US market. She is the poetry editor for Meanjin and teaches poetry writing at postgraduate level at the University of Sydney.

Signal Flare is available from http://puncherandwattmann.com/books/book/signal-flare

.

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

Winners of the inaugural Queensland Literary Awards announced.

Back in April this year Rochford Street Review reacted with resigned shock at the axing of the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards by the incoming LNP Government. It was “resigned shock” as really we didn’t expect anything better from a conservative government which could trace their roots back to Bjelke-Petersen.  This action, which was supposed to save the Queensland tax payer a total of $244,475, was one of the first ‘slash and burn’ economic responses which have spread across Queensland over the last six months. Ironically it has recently appeared that, despite the economic gloom and doom which has seen funding to Arts organisations, slashed, thousands of public servants sacked  and health and disability services downgraded, Premier Newman has managed to find a spare $200,000 to subsidise the latest incarnation of the reality TV show Big Brother.  Rochford Street Review is not the first to note that $200,000 would have been enough to sustain the Premier’s Literary Awards.

Despite Premier Newman’s disregard for the arts in Queensland, writers across Queensland and Australia rallied in the days following the announcement.  A small group from the literary and arts community decided to step in where Premier Newman was scared to tread and set up the inaugural 2012 Queensland Literary Awards.  A fund-raising campaign was set up and over $30,000 was raised for author prizes and associated running costs.

After months of hard work, most of it by an army of volunteers, the awards winners were announced at a glittering awards ceremony at the Queensland State Library. In the days lading up to the ceremony Queensland Arts Minister,  Ros Bates,  promised to “open discussions” with the organisers of the Awards to ensure they “continued into the future”. While we can hope I wouldn’t suggest holding your breath…..

Here are the short listed titles along with the winners:

Unpublished Indigenous Writer – David Unaipon Award

  • Siv Parker for Story WINNER 2012
  • Ellen van Neerven-Currie for Hard
  • Dorothy Williams-Kemp for My Journey that May Never End

Emerging QLD Author – Manuscript Award

  • Aaron Smibert for Scratches on the Surface
  • Luke Thomas for Home Mechanics
  • Catherine Titasey for Island of the Unexpected  WINNER 2012
  • Ariella van Luyn for Hidden Objects

Literary or Media Work Advancing Public Debate – Harry Williams Award

  • Paul Cleary for Too Much Luck: The Mining Boom and Australia’s Future
  • George Megalogenis for The Australian Moment: How We Were Made for These Times  WINNER 2012
  • Michael Wesley for There Goes the Neighbourhood

Science Book Award

  • Robyn Arianrhod for Seduced by Logic
  • Frank Bowden for Gone Viral
  • Rob Brooks for Sex, Genes and Rock ‘n’ Roll  WINNER 2012
  • Dr Richard Smith for Australia: The Time Traveller’s Guide

History Book Award

  • Robyn Arianrhod for Seduced by Logic
  • James Boyce for 1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia
  • Bill Gammage for Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia WINNER 2012
  • Nicole Moore for The Censor’s Library

Fiction

  • Peter Carey for The Chemistry of Tears
  • Anna Funder for All That  I Am
  • Kate Grenville for Sarah Thornhill
  • Alex Miller for Autumn Laing
  • Frank Moorhouse for Cold Light WINNER 2012

Non-fiction

  • Robin de Crespigny for The People Smuggler WINNER 2012
  • Jane Gleeson-White for Double Entry
  • Patrick Holland for Riding the Trains in Japan
  • William McInnes & Sarah Watt for Worse Things Happen at Sea
  • Alice Pung for Her Father’s Daughter

Australian Short Story collection – Steele Rudd Award

  • Rodney Hall for Silence
  • Marion  Halligan for Shooting the Fox
  • John Kinsella for In the Shade of the Shady Tree
  • Ryan O’Neill for The Weight of a Human Heart
  • Janette Turner Hospital for Forecast: Turbulence WINNER 2012

Judith Wright Calanthe Poetry Award

  • Anthony Lawrence for The Welfare of my Enemy
  • David McCooey for Outside
  • Rhyll McMaster for Late Night Shopping
  • Peter Rose for Crimson Crop WINNER 2012
  • Simon West for The Yellow Gum’s Conversion

Children’s Book Award

  • Pamela Rushby for The Horses Didn’t Come Home
  • John Flanagan for Brotherband: The Outcasts
  • Libby Gleeson & Freya Blackwood for Look, a Book!
  • Elizabeth Honey for Ten Blue Wrens
  • Briony Stewart for Kumiko and the Shadow Catchers WINNER 2012

Young Adult Book Award

  • Kirsty Eagar for Night Beach
  • Neil Grant for The Ink Bridge WINNER 2012
  • Judith Clarke for Three Summers
  • Margo Lanagan for Sea Hearts
  • Vikki  Wakefield for All I ever wanted

Drama Script (Stage)

  • Angela Betzien for War Crimes WINNER 2012
  • Wayne Blair for Bloodland
  • Patricia Cornelius for Taxi
  • Rita Kalnejais for Babyteeth
  • Lally Katz for A Golem Story

Television Script

  • Blake Ayshford for The Straits (episode 3 )
  • Brendan Cowell for The Slap (episode 3)
  • Liz Doran for Dance Academy (season 2, ep 24)
  • Anthony Mullins for Strange Calls (episode 3)
  • Sue Smith for Mabo WINNER 2012

Film Script

  • Louise Fox for Dead Europe WINNER 2012
  • Miro Bilbrough for Being Venice
  • Shayne Armstrong & Shane Krause for Rarer Monsters
  • Brendan Cowell for Save Your Legs

-Mark Roberts

—————————————————————————————

Queensland Literary Awards Website

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:

_______________________________________________________________________

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