Island Press: the Story Continues

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After we republished Phil Robert’s memoir of the origins of Island Press (https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2015/10/01/ten-year-on-an-island-by-philip-roberts-the-beginnings-of-island-press/), in conjunction with the celebration of Island’s 45th Birthday Party, we received a number of inquiries from readers wanting to know the history of the press post Phil Roberts. The following is a brief note on the story since then: 

Martin Langford, Les Wicks and Phil Hammial with MC xxxx at the microphone during Island Press' 45 birthday celebrations.Picture ....

Martin Langford, Les Wicks and Phil Hammial with MC Roberta Lowing at the microphone during Island Press’ 45 birthday celebrations. Photograph by Michele Seminara.

Fortunately, the actual physical production of the book has become a lot easier since the first days. The problems around poetry receiving an audience remotely commensurate with the skill and vision that go into it, however, remain as intractable as ever.

After Phil Roberts returned to Canada, leaving his work as a lecturer at Sydney University to freelance, as poet, and writer about poetry, in Nova Scotiaproducing many more poetry collections, and achieving renown as the author of How Poetry Works (Penguin, 1986) – Phil Hammial continued the work of the press, overseeing the publication of titles such as John Tranter’s Dazed in the Ladies Lounge (1979) and J.S. Harry’s A Dandelion for Van Gogh (1985). Hammial consolidated the press’s original policy of being prepared to take risks with younger poets, publishing titles such as Adam Aitken’s Letter to Marco Polo (1985), and, if anything, increased the extent to which it was prepared to publish work which would not be acceptable to mainstream presses. Examples of the latter include Anthony Mannix’s Erotomania (1984), and Hammial’s own Vehicles (1985).

Dazed in the Ladies Lounge, John Tranter 1979

Dazed in the Ladies Lounge, John Tranter 1979

Running a press by oneself is a big responsibility, and there was a hiatus in Island activities between 1985 and 1992; when Hammial decided to get things moving again by inviting a small group of fellow poets Jutta Sieverding, Les Wicks and Martin Langford to join him in turning Island into a co-operative. In this, Island was fortunate to have access to the skills of Phil’s partner, Anne, whose expertise in the newly-legislated format was ideal for the press. Anne has been an essential element in the success of Island: each year she has reviewed the accounts and prepared the annual returns. Having someone who has been willing to offer us her knowledge about co-operative accounting pro bono has been a huge asset, and the press is extremely grateful to her for her generosity. Island’s aim had always been to provide an outlet for new poetry, to make a contribution to the artistic world first and foremost. So the new structure, which minimised business and governance costs, and which allowed it to get on with the job of providing an outlet for its poets with as little distraction as possible, was just what was needed.

Blonde and French by Ken Bolton was published by P. Hammial & P. Roberts in 1978 before Phil Roberts left Australia

Blonde and French by Ken Bolton was published by P. Hammial & P. Roberts in 1978 before Phil Roberts left Australia

The period since Island was incorporated as a co-operative has turned out be its most productive time – 37 books in 22 years: a little less than two a year (readers interested in the complete list should consult the Island website). It hasn’t published every year: it has not always been possible to obtain funding, and sometimes the directors have been caught up in other activities.

The nineties were to prove a busy little period, with publications from Lizz Murphy (Pearls and Bullets), Marcel Freiman (Monkey’s Wedding), Jutta Seiverding (Uneasy Weather) and Leith Morton (The Flower Ornament), amongst others. And then, as has sometimes happened, there was a break for a couple of years, while the press struggled to obtain funding.
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The 21st Century

Island poet Carolyn Gerrish reading at the 45th Birthday/Book launch celebrations. Photograph Michele Seminara

Island poet Carolyn Gerrish reading at the 45th Birthday/Book launch celebrations. Photograph Michele Seminara

Be Straight with Me from Langford saw the millennium in; this was a departure from our normal audience and focus as it sought to address and speak to the often neglected teenage male. Lizz Murphy, Leith Morton and Carolyn Gerrish rejoined the Island tribe with dynamic new titles and Philip Hammial’s exploration of the more lawless boundaries of language continued with several titles including In the Year of Our Lord Slaughter’s Children and Voodoo Realities.

Australian poetry occupies a tiny niche market. The secret to longevity in the editors’ minds was to retain a tight focus, to keep our output manageable. Australia Council support was fundamental to our decision each year to commit to the next one. The process of obtaining that support was never simple and had some substantial on-costs related to our corporate structure etc. But support did come most years and it was frankly this input that was the deciding factor in the press’ ability to continue.

Adam Aitken’s first collection, Letter to Marco Polo, was published by Island Press in 1985.

Adam Aitken’s first collection, Letter to Marco Polo, was published by Island Press in 1985.

The editors have had the honour of performing in countries where our artform is somewhere near the core of those nation’s culture, even self-identity. Poetry in Australia is not a “popular” public entertainment; it needs support. One supposes one can make the choice that we will be a society without poetry and withdraw that infrastructure. But this will have long-term implications on what we are as a people. In New South Wales there will be billions spent in the years ahead on stadium upgrades. Poetry asks for just a trickle of tightly focused help.

With small presses, every corner that can be cut is cut. Working collaboratively with the chosen poets each year we reduce the burden at “head office”. Copies of the books are kept with the individual poets thereby circumventing the need for warehousing. We work closely with printers to obtain not just the best quality product but also a reasonably priced one. Often, book design is done in-house.

Uneasy Weather by Jutta Sieverding. Island Press 1993

Uneasy Weather by Jutta Sieverding. Island Press 1993. Her final book, A Dangerous Place, was published by Island in 2005.

In 2005, we were proud to publish the final book from Jutta Sieverding, one of the original four in our incorporated entity stage. The loss of her editorial and production expertise was felt deeply both by her fellow Island editors and the literary community generally. Her A Dangerous Place was a moving reflection on life lived and losing. A pinnacle of the first years of the 21st century was the publication of David Brooks’ Urban Elegies. David went on to provide strategic assistance for a number of years. There was somewhat of a history of Island publishing revered poets coming back to their practice after a hiatus, we jumped at the chance to put out Rae Desmond Jones’ Blow Out. David Musgrave, after spending so much effort publishing others, was a welcome addition to the Island stable with Concrete Tuesday. Roberta Lowing’s The Searchers is an important step in her development as a poet as well as a real contribution to the community generally.

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Ticket to Ride by Philip Hammial. Island Press 2015

Whilst tending to have Sydney focus for purely practical reasons of organisation, we felt it was important to have a regional or non-capital city component in our lists. Barbara Petrie, John Watson, Barbara de Franceschi and Rob Reil were invaluable additions to our catalogue from that grouping.

Publishing someone’s first book of poetry is a unique honour. Some of those we published in the 70s and 80s have gone on to be major figures in the canon. More recently, we were proud to be midwives to some fine titles in this category – Barbara de Franceschi’s Strands was a superb book. Christine Townend’s Walking with Elephants has had critical acclaim in the months since its launch and Susan Adams’ Beside Rivers was commended in the Anne Elder prize. We plan to continue with this as part of our selection criteria.

The Future?

Walking with Elephants by Christine Townend was launched at Island's 45th Birthday party

Walking with Elephants by Christine Townend was launched at Island’s 45th Birthday party

More recently, we have sought to include books from interstate poets both to better reflect the community’s output as a whole and to expand the Island Press footprint. Jeltje Fanoy’s Princes by Night is a glorious postcolonial exploration.

All three of the current editors “get around a lot” and are always on the lookout for potential additions to our list. Invitations are extended on the basis of obvious literary strength, a diversity of voice, mix of regional/capital city, gender balance, at least one first book and a proven track record of professional activism in the art form (i.e. giving something back). Our tentative 2016 program reflects this. Michele Seminara is a relative newcomer to poetry but already has an impressive following due to her energetic work within the community. Mark Roberts has been an engine for the dissemination of poetry for decades and is long overdue a book of his own. David Gilbey is of incalculable benefit to literature, particularly in regional Australia. Lauren Williams continues to be a loved voice over four decades and she also comes from regional Victoria. Les Wicks makes up the fifth title.

The Searchers by Roberta Lowing was also launched at Island's 45th birthday celebrations

The Searchers by Roberta Lowing was also launched at Island’s 45th birthday celebrations

We cannot say with certainty whether any or all of these titles will emerge. Like so much of the literature community, cuts to government funding have made the future profoundly uncertain. At a time in this press’ life when we would ordinarily be discussing expansion and bringing in younger blood to the editorial process we can’t with any certainty plan towards our 50th year of operation. As the oldest still functioning poetry press in Australia this is not an enviable position. After all these decades of Quixotic optimism, strategic promotion, pennypinching, thankless pursuit of funding et cetera will Island be nearing its end?

 – Martin Langford & Les Wicks

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Martin Langford’s recent publications are The Human Project: New and Selected Poems (P&W, 2009) and Ground (P&W, 2015). He is the editor of Harbour City Poems: Sydney in Verse 1788-2008 (ed., P&W 2009). He is the poetry reviewer at Meanjin.

Les Wicks has toured widely and seen publication across 23 countries in 11 languages. His 11th book of poetry is Sea of Heartbeak (Unexpected Resilience) (Puncher & Wattmann, 2013), his 12th (a Spanish selection) El Asombrado (Rochford Street Press, 2015). http://leswicks.tripod.com/lw.htm

For the full list of books from Island and to order titles see  http://islandpress.tripod.com/ISLAND.htm

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The Australian Poetry Podcast: Episode 3 Mark Roberts on Rochford Street Review, Publishing & Writing

podacstNathan Hondros and Robbie Coburn created The Australian Poetry Podcast earlier this year, partly in response to the axing of the flagship ABC Radio National poetry program Poetica, but mainly because it was a cool thing to do. So far they have produced 3 episodes featuring interviews with Andrew Burke, Jill Jones and Mark Roberts.

In the third episode Mark Roberts talks, among other things, about setting up Rochford Street Review and some of the ideas for the journal’s future.

All three episodes are available from https://medium.com/the-australian-poetry-podcast or you can search for them on iTunes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I officially launch Writing to the Edge.

– Shady Cosgrove

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

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

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

Poetry & Performance at the Blue Space Poetry Jam

In our first look at a regular poetry reading/performance Rochford Street Review has focused on the Sydney based Blue Space Poetry Jam. We would love to cover readings and performances across Australia (and indeed internationally as well). If you are interested please get in touch!

Blue Space Poetry Jam – A brief history….

blue spaceThe Blue Space! Poetry Jam (http://www.thebluespacepoetry jam.com.au/) was conceived over a stroll down New Canterbury Rd Dulwich Hill late 2011. On this walk, a rare looking building with an orange facade and blue circular window frames presented itself to me again as a too quiet large chunk of real estate. Rumours existed thick between real estate agents who became almost camera shy when I asked about that fallow secretive building.

In November of that year a meeting was brokered by a poetry fan between myself and Miles Merrill at Petersham Bowling Club. It was a funny meeting – I, in homeless vagabondage and the others, blew a jazz cigarette and Miles was overcome by a temporary but concerning dizziness. He asked for water and I ran to the nearest tap and filled my leather coin purse and gave him water. After that kafuffle, the three of us wandered backed to our transports and the Blue Space Poetry Jam was born.

The venue for 2012 was the Petersham Bowling Club. They were very gracious and helpful – and the beer and bistro was great. A hi to the management and staff John, Peter, Lizzie and Craig.

In 2012 we’d hosted some great artists and figures – Candy Royalle, Randall Stephens, Tug Dumbly, Benito Di Fonzo, John August, Bernadette Smith, Lou Steer, Angela Stretch, Catherina Behan and a few more. We even had actor William Zappa give an impromptu performance, fine poet Owen Kirkby recite verses, travel writer Paul Giles evoke Baudelaire, Jack Peck from Word in Hand sing – and Bowness Fellow in Photography (and erstwhile poet) Alex Wisser relating some minority philosophies that weighed on his mind that day – all on the open mic.

The distinctiveness of The Blue Space Poetry Jam is that it includes live music performance as accompaniment or dialogue with the poetry. Musicians like Fergus Furlong (drums) from Harold Park Jazz, Brianne Curran (violin) from Takadimi, Kyle Taylor (bass), Matt Crane (guitar), Renee Falez (guitar/cajon) and Eden Ottignon (bass) were somewhat regulars and some later went on to perform at other gigs with poets they meet in The Blue Space Poetry Jam community. ZED or Zvonko Jovicic kept on and we’re really thankful for that continuity. We even had Sydney visual artist and Glebe Drawing Group mentor Geoffrey Goodes make his inimitable and charming sketches at one or two of our events.

2013 then burst onto the scene with an incredible opening event featuring head of the Australian Poetry Slam Miles Merrill and an international visitor –the widely published and translated Iranian poet exiled in London, the polymath Ali Abdolrezaei.

It seemed to be a hard act to follow and after three more events we petered out. For that year I applied myself to writing and made solid achievements in publishing from neomodernist journal Former People to Pete Spence’s wonderfully loveable ETZ and upcoming appearances in Southerly, 21D and Arena Magazine –who are celebrating 50 years!

I read online a musician who wrote “good artists invest in themselves” –such a simple and elegant maxim. I’ve kept to it and I don’t rest on my laurels too often. The Blue Space Poetry Jam finally returned in 2014 thanks to Marrickville Council, the blue window frames of the conspicuously quiet orange building in Dulwich Hill, the blue card I carry for concession signifying to some office worker that this guy too sometimes gets the blues but that art, music and writing are like three crowns of a sailor.

For details of upcoming ‘Jams’ go to http://www.thebluespacepoetryjam.com.au/upcoming.html

– Ariel Riveros Pavez

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Belinda Lopez reflects on the first Blue Space Poetry Jam for 2014, St Peters Town Hall February 20th

Jordana-Arndt

Jordana Arndt (aka ‘Iunno’) performing at the Blue Space Poetry Jam, February 2014

Jordana

It seems as though an ecosystem of spoken word has evolved in Sydney. This ecosystem is real and raw, it lives and breathes in events and people, poetry and stories, scattered around the city.

I suppose this ecosystem could have just as easily sustained itself online. Yet I suspect it is precisely because so much of our lives now are already compressed into digital form that spaces like Blue Space Poetry Jam are sought after by those who love the tangibility of words.

The physical location of Blue Space seems just as important as the idea behind it– or rather, the location is the idea. So let me describe it: A bright room at dusk. Sound ricocheting off floorboards and clean walls. Planes overhead. Poets armed and ready.

Blue Space turned out to be my favourite kind of performance space: free from theme, it’s a safe place to be risky. The range of poetry presented demonstrated that: Ariel Riveros Pavez warmed up the audience with his contemplative and sensual poems; Mark Roberts followed with poetry at once warm and wise.  As one of the featured poets, I was grateful for the space— of all varieties— to test out poems that had previously only lived on the page.

And finally, the passion of Luke Beattie aka Ellie Beats and rhythms of Jordana Arndt cut through the night (and the peak hour rush before Sydney’s night time aircraft curfew). We were regaled by the lyrical sea shanties of singer-songwriter Zed to see us on to the break on the balmy balcony overlooking parklands.

The open mic then took flight – starting off with Rae Desmond Jones and including poet, satirist and playwright Benito Di Fonzo; and even a finalist from the Brisbane heat of the Australian Poetry Slam, who improvised a staged vignette. Miles Merrill, head of the Australian Poetry Slam was to be seen in the audience enjoying himself.

It reminded me, once again, why this kind of revolution shouldn’t solely be digitalised.

– Belinda Lopez is a writer, storyteller, documentary maker, adventurer…and can be found at http://belindalopez.net/

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Benito Di Fonzo’s Quick Recollection On The Blue Space Poetry Jams‘ Inaugural St Peters Town Hall Appearance.

Ellie-Beats-aka-Luke-Beattie

Ellie Beats aka Luke Beattie in full flight

And then, as the school shirt and tie began to come off, you saw what looked like blood on the juvenile’s chest. He continued to announce his impending suicide and Life’s part in its occurrence through a free-verse mildly tainted by 4/4 common time too much hip-hop. Apparently the blood was only lipstick, most likely from the young gothette watching him eagerly as he awkwardly pressed page-down on his MacBook.

Then there was the fellow who channelled Kurt Schwitters’ style phonetic Dada and scatted the magic through the banal instructions from the back of a Health Care card. It made you happy and you weren’t sure why, that’s what art should do.

Another highlight was the musical storytelling of an urban pirate in dark glasses and Spanish guitar. It was like watching Tom Waits do ice at Jack Kerouac’s wake on a Manly ferry.

Sure, the space itself, and elderly town hall, was not reeking of romantic ambiance. The lighting was reminiscent of Redfern Centrelink, and the un-amplified sound was percussively accompanied by a constant stream of low-flying Richard Branson Aero-buses. Given a tweak or six the gig has much potential. I should know, having co-hosted Bardflys at various pubs for a decade). For in the end spoken word and poetry has that great advantage over theatre in that you can, in theory, do it anywhere – from pub to piazza to portaloo. Like a book over a movie, it relies on the words and delivery to set the imagery, not costly revolving sets (although a little costume never hurts.)

By the time I performed a couple of new pieces, namely a Valentine’s number for Molly and a little riff on the darker implications of positive affirmations, our suicidal school boy was gone. Hopefully not to his death, but more likely to watch episodes of Crown of Dwarves or whatever it’s called on his MacBook from under the pretty gothette’s bed-sheets. More power to them.

I shall watch the Blue Space and its avant gardening of Marrickville’s kitsch municipal venues closely.

– Benito Di Fonzo is a Journalist, playwright, poet, performer and satirist – find him at http://www.benitodifonzo.com/
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Rochford Street Review relies on the support of its readers to continue. If you like what we are doing please consider making a donation.

Happy Birthday to Us!

Last Monday (2 December) Rochford Street Review turned two years old with the first three reviews having been uploaded on 2nd December 2011. Over the past two years we have published close to 150 reviews, articles and opinion pieces and have received over 40,000 ‘hits’.

When I started RSR my intention was to provide a platform for criticism and discussion of creative writing and the arts in general and, over the last 24 months I hope the journal has gone some way to fulfill this mission. Given the recent change of government in Australia, and the direction the new government is heading, I suspect that the ‘Arts’ and those who value creativity, are in for a rough time. During such a period ‘independent’ journals and magazines, such as Rochford Street Review become even more important. Lets hope for some cultural activism over the next few years as writers and artists seek to defend, question and offer alternatives to the narrowness of mind that sometimes seems to be sweeping across the land.

Finally – as a reminder of those first reviews two years ago here are the links to those first articles:

– Mark Roberts

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

Issue 9: September 2013 – November 2013

Pacific Solution 2 - Mark Roberts 2012

Pacific Solution 2 – Mark Roberts 2012

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

Regime Takes a Stand Against Plagiarism: Mark Roberts Reviews Regime Issue 2

Regime: Magazine of New Writing. Issue 2, 2013.

regime02As much as I would like the whole issue of plagiarism to go away, it appears that the recent scandal is set to haunt us for some time yet. In particular Graham Nunn’s situation has become a tricky one for a number of publishers who are finding that the Nunn poem  they had accepted and published is probably not his at all. Added to the difficulty faced by these publishers in the fact that Nunn isn’t returning their calls – so what is to be done. Well Regime magazine has gone on the front foot – I=in a statement on its website last week called ‘Plagiarism in Regime Magazine’ (http://www.regimebooks.com.au/plagiarism-in-regime-magazine-statement-by-the-editors/) it announced:

Several weeks ago the editors of Regime Magazine were approached with concerns that a poem in the second issue of Regime Magazine was plagiarised. Graham Nunn had submitted the poem, titled ‘Empty Gardens’. This poem, in the opinion of the editors, is the work of US poet John Yau. It seems that Mr Yau’s poem ‘Bare Sheets’ was copied, a small number of changes were made to it, and then it was submitted without acknowledgement to Mr Yau and without his agreement”.

They went on to say:

We feel as though we the editors, and, more importantly, the readers of Regime Magazine have been deceived. We have written to Mr Yau and apologised and do so now again publicly. As poets, we are disappointed that his work has been mistreated and disrespected.

Regime has gone further. It has recalled copies of the magazine from bookshops and has taken steps to remove Nunn’s poem from their online and from their print on demand channel. All this, of course, has come at a cost to the magazine and one can debate as to whether it was actually necessary to withdraw the magazine from sale. Nevertheless they have made a strong statement on their position. They have also clearly stated that they had approached Nunn for a explanation before taking this action but had received no reply.

Along with a number of other Australian magazines Regime have tightened up their submission process ensuring that all contributors have to sign a declaration that the work they are submitting is their own before actually submitting – thereby putting the legal responsibility for the ownership of the work firmly on the author.

Regime issue 2 has actually been sitting on my desk for a month or so waiting for review. As long as I avoid the Nunn poem now seems as good a time as any to look under the Regime hood and check out their engine.

Published out of Perth Regime positions it self as an Australian journal of “poetry, short fiction and performance writing” with an international outlook. While the majority of writers in issue 2 are Australian, there is also a sprinkling of international writers, most of which were new to me. US poet Frederick Pollack’s ‘Reception Theory’ was a particular favourite with its almost prose like descriptions:

Again and again in the late work,
spring leaves block
his view of a street. Should he use
‘a street’, with its general appeal,
or insist on ‘the Parkway across the river’
for its petty honesty?

There are also writers like Rose Hunter who, though born in Australia, now lives overseas and has published, it seems, almost exclusively, outside Australia. Her poem ‘[umbrellas]’ is one of a number of poems in the journal which plays with the page, with split lines in the middle of the poem effectively visually breaking the poem into two triangles. It’s a technique that makes us stop and think about how to actually read the poem and to consider what might be a jagged stanza break.

While there are some well know names among the writers in issue 2 – Andrew Burke’s ‘Unintentional Art’ and Kate Middleton’s ‘Globe are standouts – the real strength of the issue is in the quality of the work by names I haven’t come across before. Helga Jermy’s ‘Jury Duty’, for example, is a finely balanced poem matching the mundane with the graphic reality of a trial:

and we’re just peers peering in on
back stares of discomfort, wondering
if the kids are home from school,
if the paintings reached the gallery,
last night’s Tuscany pork will stretch
to a kind of cassoulet, then graphic
piecings to inattention, busts
through flesh and bone

Indeed while I would not probably classify every poem in this issue a ‘success’ (an entirely subjective judgement of course), it is safe to say that each poem is interesting and it is possible to understand why it was selected – something that is not always possible to do with some contemporary literary journals.

There is also a smorgasbord of short fiction in Regime 2 and much of what I’ve said about the poetry in this issue also holds true for the fiction. Petri Ivalo Sinda’s ‘Meltdown Express’, for example, reads like an extended prose poem (all 13 pages):

I rummage among my futures, chasing after each one but they’re like a flight of starlings exploding out of a tree. I grab at them. I want to catch history in my hands and hold on for all I’m worth.

It is an extended personal, sociological, geographical, political, architectural and psychological study of the modern city and our space in it. It is an intense and exhaustive read – a good introduction to a writer who it will be interesting to follow over the coming years. Of course there are also more conventional stories in the issue, Michelle Faye’s ‘Blowie’ for example, where two young boys are taken on a night time fishing trip with their father and uncles. The younger brother’s sense of inadequacy underpins the story and is told with sympathy and understanding. But there is also an acceptance which makes us understand that this is, at least for the moment, is how it has to be.

In may ways Regime 2 is more an anthology than an issue of a journal. At 193 pages (191 if you remove the two Graham Nunn poems) it is a substantial collection and one that is well worth the cost of admission. One hopes that, despite the current setback and the financial hit they will obviously take by withdrawing copies from sale, they will be able to continue to produce further issues which bring together such talent.

– Mark Roberts

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Mark Roberts is a Sydney based writer and critic. He currently edits Rochford Street Review and P76 Magazine (http://rochfordstreetpress.wordpress.com/p76-literary-magazine/).

You can purchase print on demand copies of Regime 2, as well as finding out much more about the journal at http://www.regimebooks.com.au/regime-02-magazine-of-new-writing/

Vive la madness! Chris Mansell Launches P76 Issue 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Mansell launching P76 No. 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Chris Mansell

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

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

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

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

A non-exhaustive list of resources (articles and reviews) on and about Dransfield: