‘Minus Minus’ (extract)- Claine Keily

“Minus Minus is a prose poem that tells of the dark underside of rural life”- Claine Keily

Minus Minus (extract)

How can a woman love once she has learned the laws of commerce? All her loves, long before Minus, were tiny men leaning towards subtraction, as shamelessly as flowers toward the sun. But when it came to her they added up, counted up, the lines, the years, multiplied her sex, then divided, while she screamed “Let me, let me”, they were stuffing up their ears.

I do not count on you my love for I know myself far stronger, and I have a horror of children who appear in bodies far older than their years. I prefer the mystery, the brief time before subtraction. Love cannot pass through this knowledge of division, which men devised to help them on their way.

We have never known love, only the desire of a victim for a tormentor. A something doubled over. And then to love the animals, is to turn from a man in horror, to forget childbearing beneath the fur of unbearable forests.  The word love is a shield for all we hope for, a minuscule something glimpsed behind a mirror. A moment forgotten. And how we want to know its name, as surely as we can add and subtract upon our fingers. 

And so love is hiding, love is cloaked, is hair, is paper. Somewhere there is a trunk enormous and it tucks itself in at night behind this tree, long before we can reach it. 

She-friends, separated, toy with misdoses of poisons and extracts of kindling herbs. Silence grows in them. They hear the chemical murmur, the chemical murder written on their walls. Psychologists twitch out prevention and cure, balancing their shoulders against the wait of fall.  Psychiatrists linger dull in offices without splendour, careful as the sown of wheat now, they waver and shudder reaction and reason. 

Minus is here, paper throated, a midget dancing on the pathway. There are pearls and cars miraculous, but no music, no voices wailing to joy now, learning to name the darkness. I want to say that you are summer, that you are tillage to the garden, the silver to the frost, but I am a darkling, a forever stranger, throttled now for want of love.

-Claine Keily

Extract from Minus Minus: A prose poem that tells of the dark underside of rural life (2016) by Claine Keily

“I wrote the whole novella [Minus Minus] in 2002. An extract was published in Standards in 2002 and can be read online in that journal. The complete novella was published in 2016… The novella tells a tale of a relationship breakdown set against a backdrop of rural isolation. Minus Minus is the male partner in [the] novella who subjects the female narrator to psychological abuse as a form of control over her.”- Claine Keily

Claine Keily talks to Zalehah Turner about her Cafe Poet residency, transmedia poetry, Minus Minus and Luce Irigaray

A couple of years ago I became a Café Poet at The Four Birds Cafe in Darwin. I undertook a series of poetry performances at this cafe which I titled, Hotel Genet. These were public ‘happenings’ outside the cafe in the shopping arcade. Australian Poetry asked me to open the Wordstorm Writers Festival with a reading as well as to host a National Poetry Month reading as part of my residency.

I have worked in a variety of mediums for all of my artistic life. I make super eight films and video poems based on my writing. I have produced many artist books of my poetry and these form part of the rare book collections in state, national and university libraries in Australia.

In 2011, I lived in Paris and then in Oxford for six months. I performed each week at Spokenword in Paris as well as at Catweazle in Oxford.

I am influenced by the philosophical writings of Luce Irigaray. I wrote my Masters thesis in response to her ideas on sex/ gender. Minus Minus was written after my study of her ideas. [I]f you have engaged with Irigaray’s ideas about sexual difference, then you may see that I am reflecting on many of her ideas in Minus Minus.

Minus Minus was written while I was living in a shack in the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales. The novella is written in a stream of consciousness manner; while at the same time, being built on two years of intensive study at Sydney University engaging with the work of Luce Irigaray.

The novella maps the terrain of psychological abuse in all its forms, against the backdrop of an isolated rural alpine environment. I have written many volumes of poetry as well as, full length prose novels and novellas. Extracts from these works have been published in print and online journals. My novellas and collections of poetry are available for sale at Amazon.

I recently participated in Project 365+1 which is an online community of poets who write and publish a poem each day during the time they are part of that community. I am always working on a novella or collection of poems. I am often working on a video poem or two as well as, performing my poems at poetry events with a range of musicians.

‘Minus Minus’ (extract) video by Claine Keily

claine-kielly-photo-no-text-grey-scale

Claine Keily

Claine Keily is a poet, video artist, performance poet, and author of six prose novellas, including, Minus Minus (2016). Her prose novellas are all available through Amazon. Her poems and selections of her prose novellas have been published in journals in the USA, Ireland, China and Australia. Claine Keily’s limited edition artist books form a part of the rare book collections at National, State and University libraries across Australia. She currently works as a teacher of English Literature. Claine Keily was a Café Poet at Four Birds in Darwin in 2013. 

 

Minus Minus was published in January, 2016 and is available through Amazon here.
Keily, C. 2002, ‘Minus Minus,’ Standards, vol 8, no 1 here.

Featured Writers Part 2: Past Australian Café Poets- Curated by Zalehah Turner
Read about the Australian Poetry Café Poet Program (2009-2014)
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Zalehah Turner is a Sydney based critic, writer and poet currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Communications majoring in writing and cultural studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. Zalehah is an Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review: https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2016/02/09/welcome-zalehah-turner-rochford-street-review-associate-editor

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Surreal Inventiveness: Peter Kirkpatrick launches ‘brush’ by joanne burns

brush by joanne burns (Giramondo 2014) was launched by Peter Kirkpatrick at Gleebooks on 11 November 2014

brushWhen Giramondo asked me to launch joanne’s latest collection, I felt an immediate and very real frisson of excitement. Here was a brush with fame! joanne is one of this country’s finest poets, and I’ve immensely enjoyed reading her work over the years. For me, as I expect for many of us, the reading of poetry is an experience of the senses – especially that of sound – before, and even after, it’s an activity of the mind and of thought. Or perhaps that’s just me. Working at a university makes me suspicious of intellectuals.

But what I mean is that – like many if not most of us here – I like to feel a poem’s textures and music before trying to form any more reasoned insights, let alone any conclusions about its meaning. In that way the reading of poetry – like the consumption of any art – simply offers a more intense way of being in the world. But it’s my role today to launch this book, so it’s not enough for me merely to brush up against it, like a cat against an ankle. I can’t brush off the expectation of having to make a coherent public statement about it, or brush aside its considerable virtues, however broad brush my comments will be.

God knows that, as a teaching academic, I spend enough time wondering what kinds if reasonable things to say about a particular poem or poet, when my first impulse is often to just to point and say, Whacko-the-chook, isn’t that entirely fucking lovely! – and so collect my salary and leave for the pub. With that particular critical methodology in mind, then, here is ‘sibylance’ – spelt s-i-b-y-l-a-n-c-e – the first poem in the sequence ‘road’, which appropriately joins the beginning and end of joanne’s book::

sun sings through the dust of the window
and the silver sink what a birdshine, lime
rind glows through the jam jar, epiphany
way above the trench of garbage bins down
below, you could be fishing on any old river
right now this could be one of your last finer split
second moments, meet me on the golden green;
there is movement in the grimy courtyard someone
shifting apartments dumping decor, a framed photo
of marilyn maybe madonna maybe not, more likely
a poster of a georgia o’keefe bloom, jaded floral art
a little crinkled where a vodkatini or an orgasm hit the wall:
moma moma where art thou; past the front door packs
of paris hilton wannabes looking likely in sunfrocks
skim along the streets towards skinny lattes, all eyes
preying for someone to snap them inside a slow
myth at the crossroads

This isn’t a lecture, I hope (old habits die hard), but I’d draw your attention to the way the poem moves through three zones: the kitchen, with its shiny sink and lime marmalade; then down to the garbage bins and the detritus of the courtyard in which someone moving flats has left a damaged framed print, maybe of a female star, maybe of a Georgia O’Keefe flower painting; and then into the outside world in which ‘paris hilton wannabes… skim along the streets towards skinny lattes’. The references are all emphatically female, but not uncritically so. The jump from the singing domestic space with its ‘birdshine’ to ersatz Paris Hiltons seems enormous, but is it? The poem in a way descends from a bright, even epiphanic kitchen, to images of the commodification of women artists (Monroe, Madonna, O’Keefe): a process that leaves the wannabe models ‘preying [p-r-e-y-i-n-g] for someone to snap them inside a slow/myth at the crossroads’. Modern myth is now the mass media which creates and, through mechanical reproduction, endlessly reconsecrates corporate versions of the ideal woman as goddesses of fashion. ‘Moma moma where art thou’, indeed. (And surely there are moments when we all want our MoMA.)

I said that the ‘road’ sequence linked the beginning and the end of brush, and I think it’s possible to read this book somewhat against the grain of its conspicuous, surreal anti-linearity as something of a livre composé. We begin with the sequence ‘bluff’, a terrific series of satirical riffs on the discourses of capitalism, and in particular those of the stock market, and end with ‘wooing the owl (or the great sleep forward)’. Loosely speaking, then, we journey from a patriarchal world along a sibylline road towards the realm of night and sleep, long associated with the moon and thus the female principle, and here too with the owl: the owl of Minerva, perhaps, symbol of wisdom, though one that has still to be wooed and won over. I dare say writing poetry can sometimes feel like herding owls.

But I’ll leave you to form your own connective tissues between the individual sequences as you read them. Before I say more about the poems, let me draw your attention to the terrific cover illustration, a 1946 watercolour by Joy Hester. It’s like Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly has become the evil robot he always wanted to be, turned into the face of Luna Park, and now eats women alive. As an example of multi-layered imagery that turns on a dime, as the Americans say, it’s not unlike what happens in brush.

What strikes me most forcefully about joanne’s work, in this volume as in her earlier collections, is its witty discontinuities, its surreal inventiveness, and its satirical mashups of other discourses: qualities that I would principally characterise as playful – and I don’t necessarily mean ‘playful’ in a lighthearted sense, for one can play quite seriously. Ask any hardcore computer gamer. Irony and satire are both playful modes, in the sense that they play upon their objects. The word – and I’m not the first to make this observation regarding joanne’s craft – is ludic, from the Latin to play. Indeed, the word ludicrous didn’t originally come into the language as meaning absurd or preposterous, but rather, as the OED has it, ‘Pertaining to play or sport; sportive; intended in jest, jocular, derisive’. Thus Doctor Johnson wrote of Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock, by way of high praise, that ‘it was universally allowed to be the most attractive of all ludicrous compositions’. In its original sense, then, I might tentatively suggest that joanne is possibly the most ludicrous poet in Australia. Here’s an example of what I mean, from the title poem ‘bluff’ in the book’s first sequence. This is ‘fancy’:

iv. fancy

bankers danced the zumba junta
in the constitutional ballroom just
a bit of festive fancy dress like a
tv mockumentary on a bitter winter’s
night the pink batt cocktails kept them
warm enough; some escorted current
spouses others escorted escorts there was
a mix up when pecuniary interests were
introduced to love investments, just by chance;
certain guests rang promptly for their drivers, others
rang up potential losses; there was a moment when
the floorboards shifted like a listing, like a tower of
mini pizzas whose anchovies shone like bullets; then
the dollar suddenly shot up reaching the peak of the
continental drapes

‘Bankers danced the zumba junta/in the constitutional ballroom’ suggests the links between capitalism and political power, particularly in the South American context. Notice the copulative assonances in the first line; ‘zumba junta’ is in fact an internal near-rhyme. ‘The constitutional ballroom’ sounds like it could be a function centre in Canberra. Well might the anchovies on the mini pizzas shine ‘like bullets’. Well might the drink de jour be ‘pink batt cocktails’, maybe served with asbestos canapés, courtesy of Mr Fluffy. But money and power also mean money and sex: ‘some escorted current/spouses others escorted escorts there was/a mix up when pecuniary interests were/introduced to love investments’. This is a kind of chiasmus: we may want to say ‘pecuniary investments and love interests’, but joanne splendidly swaps the adjectives. Then there’s the clever punning of ‘certain guests rang promptly for their drivers, others/rang up potential losses’: a rhetorical device called antanaclasis. I could go on (unless plied with alcohol I generally do). But the point is that the continual play on words here is perfectly serious while also remaining perfectly playful.

If I can use an old-fashioned term before going on to update it, what’s happening in joanne’s word-play here is a kind of poetic vaudeville, or what Henry Jenkins in a different context calls a ‘vaudeville aesthetic’. Vaudeville: that form of entertainment that now goes under the name ‘variety’ and which is based on rapid sequences of acts that offer constant sensation and surprise. Variety may have moved to the club circuit, but it was once a potent mode of popular entertainment that challenged straight theatre, with its emphasis on verisimilitude and the subordination of all elements of a production to its dramatic unity. To that extent you might say that joanne is the poetic antidote to David Williamson. But once upon a time variety offered a powerful model for the modernist avant-garde. Thus in 1913 the Italian futurist Filippo Marinetti could write of ‘The Variety Theatre’ as generating ‘the Futurist marvellous’, whose elements include:
(a) powerful caricatures; (b) abysses of the ridiculous; (c) delicious, impalpable ironies; (d) all-embracing, definitive symbols; (e) cascades of uncontrollable hilarity; (f) profound analogies between humanity, the animal, vegetable and mechanical worlds; (g) flashes of revealing cynicism; (h) plots full of wit, repartee, and conundrums that aerate the intelligence; (i) the whole gamut of laughter and smiles, to flay the nerves…
Etcetera. I reckon that’s a pretty fair description of what takes place in joanne’s poetry.

But don’t get me wrong. For all that Federal Parliament might suggest otherwise, I know that vaudeville is dead. Searching for a funkier term to describe the aesthetic mode of joanne’s verse, might I suggest channel surfing or, better still, zapping? The famous lack of capital letters in joanne’s poetry certainly implies that each element has a kind of equivalence in the linguistic structure. No word looks over the shoulders of another, you might say. But even zapping isn’t quite the right term, because it’s not as if you’re moving moment to moment from a news broadcast to a sitcom to an animal documentary as you might when channel surfing on TV. Joanne’s poems don’t normally jump entirely out of their channels every couple of lines; each poem stays within its special groove. Rather, what she achieves is a kind of crosstalk or co-channel interference in which one ‘signal’ is, as it were, superimposed on another. We live in an overcrowded media spectrum and, in a complex, layered way, joanne’s work echoes the ludic, ironic and, at times, serendipitous collisions in communication that occur within it. In that way she becomes our poet of the multi-media vernacular.

Which brings me to my final point. As joanne writes, ‘falling is a kind of vernacular’. That’s the last line of the poem called ‘easy’ from ‘in the mood’, the second sequence of brush: ‘falling is a kind of vernacular’. The vernacular is what we do artlessly, what we speak without having to think about our words. All of us fall into language as children and, speaking for myself at least, I continue to fall around within it, stumbling over it, and getting it twisted around my tongue. But joanne refers to literal falling, those brushes with death: tripping over and losing your glasses; a child running into a wall during play; and, poignantly, a boy who has fallen from ‘the top of a city tower’, who had earlier impressed the speaker by asking her the meaning of that word ‘vernacular’. Everybody falls, has physically fallen: we do it without thinking. It’s as everyday, as vernacular as sleeping and eating, but never rehearsed, never regulated like those activities. Instead it’s surprising, shocking, dangerous. For that reason just about everybody does falling very badly. But not the practitioner of vaudeville. Not Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton or Roy Rene. They knew how to fall so that they didn’t get hurt; they made it into an art form; they made it playful. They brushed themselves off and prepared themselves for the next sensation.

Joanne burns is a poet who shows us how to fall craftily and elegantly with words – to surprise, to shock, to take risks, and to play – and her work zaps the sensational vernacular world we all inhabit as crosstalking, late modern citizens of language.

– Peter Kirkpatrick

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brush is available from http://www.giramondopublishing.com/poetry/brush/

Peter Kirkpatrick teaches Australian Literature in the Department of English at Sydney University. He has published two collections of verse, Wish You Were Here (Five Islands, 1996) and Westering (Puncher & Wattmann, 2006), as well as the chapbook Australian Gothic and Other Poems (Picaro Press, 2012).

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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.

All Dressed Up – Stephen Lawrence reviews Mascara Issue 10 and Jacket 2, ‘51 Contemporary poets from Australia’

Internet sites are replacing journals. Beyond this clear fact, there exists little consensus about whether it is a good or bad thing – let alone how one defines ‘journals’ and their impact on culture – according, for example, to the (online) discussion in Overland, September 2011, and this month’s review piece in The Australian.

Mascara, out of the University of Newcastle, began as, and remains, an e-journal since 2007. It started publishing poetry only; now they have a long review list, and it is growing lengthier with each new edition. Mascara’s tenth issue, ‘Prose Poetry,’ is the first themed edition.

The site’s pages employ a simple, effective interface, leading us in with a solitary striking image; for the tenth issue, it is Tamryn Bennett’s text cityscape, ‘Aneki.’ This visually primes the reader for Alistair Rolls’ featured essay, ‘Baudelaire’s Paris: A New, Urban (Prose) Poetics.’ Rolls’ piece argues that prose poetry is an urban form – indeed, embodies the modern metropolis. He does this by using Baudelaire’s artistic response to Modernist Paris’ urban renewal. (I am glad Woody Allen didn’t encounter Baudelaire in his insolent tour of Modernism, ‘Midnight in Paris.’)

The featured essay also alerts us to Mascara’s tone and editorial choices. The journal is “interested in the way poems locate individuals, and how they connect cultures and languages.” To say Mascara hopes to “challenge the way we position ourselves… renewing the way we imagine ourselves and the world,” reads as a nebulous mandate – although this allows the journal to evolve in any direction it pleases.

Intimations of literary theory wash through the essays. And French Modernist art is never far away; Toby Fitch translates two pieces from Rimbaud’s Illuminations. Theorising also infests some of the poetry – although it is often takes the form of playful nods within a palpable landscape, such as Tim Wright’s:

Boxes in the landscape. The assumptions of architecture. A different beach. The longer a trend takes to reach one. The grimy inner city becomes an idea. Patterns of light through the curtains. The Bolaño effect. Packets of mud.

(‘untitled’)

Mascara’s very general brief is made more specific by announcing its interest in Australia’s interaction with Asian regions. Half the advisory board is Asian; however, the journal is more ‘international’ than its advertised focus on Asian/American texts. There are only two Asian poets in the current issue, although other works address Asian culture, and a few of the translations are of Chinese prose poetry. Chen Li’s fine pieces, for example, translated by Chang Fen-Ling, are sharp micro-narratives built around cores of meditation:

…she borrowed money and bought him another car without my knowledge. That was a white car, white as the morning fog on winter days.

(‘Black Sheep’).

Prose poetry invites off-centre composition and grammar, showing itself qualitatively distinct from verse rhythms. Overall, the poems are varied, and generally fine examples of the genre. Some take the form too far, though. Michael Farrell’s shrilly gestural spacings around punctuation risk the reader seeing only empty hocus-pocus rather than interactive nuances. Most other poets get it, though: sparing use of devices imply mastery, such as Kate Waterhouse’s poised slashes, and Bella Li’s censorship of selected proper nouns. Or Jaimie Gusman’s mastery of cock-eyed, sometimes shocking syntax: “No one wants me as in desires me goes fang-thirsty to the hole in the ground” (‘Everything is For Seen’). These mechanisms are effective not just for the power of their sparse use, but also for their lucid intentionality, setting up clear exchanges with the reader.

The quality of reviewing is mixed in this issue. Heather Taylor Johnson’s piece on Pam Brown is insightful, and a model of how authors can conversationally appear in their own reviews and still come up with engaging criticism. However, Roberta Lowing’s critique of Jenny Lewis’ After Gilgamesh is clumsy and self-praising. It is laudable that so many poets are given the opportunity to review other poets in Mascara, but some employ ungainly prose. This may be either an inadvertent editorial irony – “this issue’s about prose” – or it could be intentionally opening up a complex dialogue on the artistic forms and grammatical elements of prose poetry. One can buy in or buy out of this.

A core review is Ed Wright’s, of The Indigo Book of Australian Prose Poems edited by Michael Byrne. He notes the drawback of so many Australian anthologies: defaulting to established practitioners instead of (a more difficult editorial task) venturing a stance on the future of such poetry by offering more new voices. Wright also usefully summarises weaker contributions as “cute but ultimately throwaway thought pieces”; this gives us a neat summary of prose poetry’s pitfalls, at the same time providing a measure of its uniqueness as a genre.

Jacket2 is the new incarnation of the original quarterly Jacket – another early example of an all-online poetry magazine. The original Jacket was founded by John Tranter in 1997 and while Jacket 2 moved is now maintained from the University of Pennsylvania, it has maintained its Australian connection by keeping Pam Brown as its associate editor.

In Jacket2, as with Mascara, the layout problems and bugs are minor. (In the latter, reviewers’ bios go missing, one is twice as long as the poet’s contribution, and another poet is given a blank page instead of a poem.) However, Louis Armand’s opening image is so large it takes a few seconds to download each time one navigates back to the page. And in both magazines, essays or core works do not announce themselves until one either scrolls down further page-lengths or searches a couple of layers in.

Pam Brown has recently put on this site a ‘collection’ – the editors hesitate to call it an ‘anthology’ – of fifty contemporary poets from Australia. This collection is buried partway down the ‘Features’ pages, at the bottom of a side-menu. Although it is a pity not to be visible closer to the surface, the purpose of Jacket2 is to be – at least in part – an ongoing report on the state of poetry. The site’s banner proclaims that it publishes articles, reviews, interviews, discussions and collaborative responses, archival documents, podcasts, and descriptions of poetry symposia and projects. Not unlike a daily news forum, we will publish content as it is ready.

Given this ambitious brief, articles and reports come and go, and the viewer is encouraged to browse randomly rather than more actively search through the site’s dendritic pathways.

The anthology’s introduction rightly suggests that to peruse literary journals can provide a better indication of a “country’s poetic,” and the collection only aspires to be “broadly representative.” However, although they do not discern any current ‘schools’ of Australian poetry, this doesn’t prevent Brown from noting “trends” – a “lyrical resurgence,” and poetic responses to technological and financial changes.

This is not an anthology that proscribes ‘Australian poetry,’ and Brown consider this a form of cultural cringe: defining this country’s poetic resembles a spurious postcolonial seeking after national identity. Besides, “nobody knows how to answer it.”

Though it is titled “51 Contemporary poets,” at present only about ten are evident in the contents. It is an evolving list, Brown tells us in her introduction, and forty more poets will join them in “four subsequent installments.” This first batch is in reverse alphabetical order (claimed as a “recently developed ‘downunder’ method”). Mark Young, a broad-ranging poet from New Zealand, is therefore up first. We are obliged to go to another page for poets’ biographies, and then are distracted by advertisements for the magazine on the right hand side. Marketing increasingly encroaches in our world – and poetry is not exempt from this influence, in its content as well as its backdrop.

The first ten poets also include Alan Wearne and his hilarious ‘Sarsaparilla: a Calypso’:

On through Menzies’ days and Holt’s,
Patrick logged up minor faults:
countless friendships never stick
(what a temperamental prick!).
Laboured syntax? Let it pass.
Can’t quite “get” the working class.
Down at the dump though, smoking pot …
Riders in the Chariot!

And there is Tranter’s own exceedingly long poem, ‘The Anaglyph.’ (Commissioned a stale five years ago, it is garden-fresh compared to featured poet Joanne Burns’ 2003 offerings in Mascara.) In terms of length, several of the poets are pleasingly allowed space enough to provide a sense of their methodology – although briefer entries often create a more intense and satisfying impact.

I was searching for weak links amongst the first offering, but found that all entries are of a high quality and representative of the editors’ themes. Brown takes no risks: every poet here is established or active in the literary community. Even though we only have ‘Y’ to ‘T’ surnames so far, this first sample presages a fine and comprehensive online anthology.

Given the inevitability of internet productions, these two journals – Mascara and Jacket2 – have taken the technological lead, and look like they, and others emerging even now, will continue to use the medium to produce effective and collaborative products.

– Stephen Lawrence