‘The Lifeblood of the Poetry Communities Across Australia’: Zalehah Turner reviews The Australian Poets Festival

APF National Program Director Toby Fitch photograph by Tim Grey

APF National Program Director, Toby Fitch. photograph by Tim Grey

Launched in both Melbourne and Perth on February 20, at Blak & Bright and Perth Writers’ Festival, respectively, Australian Poetry CEO, Jacinta Le Plastrier, said that, “The Australian Poets Festival was the crown jewel of the new national program.” She confirmed that it “will bring the passion of poetry to writing and poetry festivals across the country, highlighting the best and brightest of Australian poets nationally, by state or territory” as well as, supporting younger and emerging poets.

Australian Poets Festival National Program Director, Toby Fitch, added that, the festival “is designed to add new and more diverse poetry events to the major writers’ festivals across Australia, so as to bolster the presence of contemporary poetry in the national conscience.” In developing the APF 2016-17 program, Toby Fitch pitched several events to the major literary festivals, two of which, ‘The BIG READ’ and ‘Mysterious Ways: Poets and Publishing’, were particularly popular with the festival directors but he was keen to point out that there were a range of different events in the APF program, with others to come.

Both ‘The BIG READ’ and ‘Mysterious Ways’ have an obvious appeal as part of a truly national program. An impression that is of vital importance to Australian Poetry, which under Jacinta Le Plastrier, is committed to engaging poets across the country through a range of new programs and services despite the loss of four-year funding from the Australian Council of the Arts.

‘The BIG READ’ focuses the poets and audience on the poetry of the state or territory of the hosting writers’ festival and ‘Mysterious Ways’, on ‘the lifeblood of the poetry communities’: poets who not only write but sell, edit, teach, or publish. Both events formed part of the program at the Australian Poets Festival launch on 20 February at the Perth Writers’ Festival with ‘The BIG READ’, featuring different poets, also at Wordstorm: The Northern Territory Writers’ Festival on 7 May and ‘Mysterious Ways’ at the Sydney Writers’ Festival on 22 May.

While, the structure, theme and focus of ‘The BIG READ’ and ‘Mysterious Ways’, remains the same, the selection of poets at each changes as of the APF tours the significant writers’ festivals around Australia. Allowing for a diverse range of opinions, poetic style and experience to inform and engage audiences across Australia. The Australian Poets Festival has the potential to encourage a more inclusive as well as, expansive perception of Australian poetry. Australian Poetry’s new national program may well succeed in revitalising the community’s perception of poetry by showcasing a range of voices “in new and exciting ways” (Le Plastrier) which have the power to engage audiences directly, drawing it closer to the hearts and minds of the community, as a whole. At the sixteen writers’ festivals that the APF will take part in over the next few years, audiences are sure to get a sense of the strength and diversity of poetry and the poetry community within Australia.

While, the Sydney Writers’ Festival did not include ‘The BIG READ’ in its program, it embraced ‘Mysterious Ways: Poetry and Publishing’ as well as, the well-known, Sydney, experimental poetry event, ‘AVANT GAGA’ which was, according to Toby Fitch, “loads of fun.” AP CEO Jacinta Le Plastrier was proud and delighted at the turn out at both Australian Poets Festival events at the SWF. Jacinta Le Plastrier maintained that, “Australian poetry is flourishing and we want to showcase that in a way that is exciting and unexpected” with the Australian Poets Festival, the highlight of the Australian Poetry’s new national program.

Hosted by National Program Director, Toby Fitch, ‘AVANT GAGA’ featured ten poets, including, 2016, Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize winner, joanne burns, alongside, the short listed, Lionel Fogarty, in a sold event with close to 140 in attendance, on Saturday, 21 May. ‘AVANT GAGA’ is not unique to the APF program but rather, comes from a successful, experimental poetry night hosted by Toby Fitch at Sappho Books which most definitely has been succeeding in showcasing poetry in exciting and unexpected ways. While, every event has a different line up, Sydney-siders that missed ‘AVANT GAGA’ at the SWF, can catch it at Sappho Books in the near future.

At the second APF poetry event at the SWF on Sunday, 22 May, ‘Mysterious Ways: Poetry and Publishing’, Kent MacCarter, Kate Lilley and Michelle Cahill each read a selection of their poetry and discussed the ways in which their work, editing Cordite, Southerly and Mascara respectively, and university teaching in the case of Kate Lilley, impacted or influenced the writing of their own poetry. Chair Ivor Indyk, founder of Giramondo Publishing, co-founder of Sydney Review of Books and university professor, carefully negotiated the poetry readings and discussion which under his guidance, intertwined naturally. Ivor Indyk informed the audience as to poets’ background, including their own publications, impressive awards and achievements as well as, those of the journals they edit, create and publish while all the time, gently steering the poets towards the positive connections between the two.

Editor and publisher of Mascara Literary Review, Michelle Cahill claimed that before working on projects which focused on contemporary Asian Australian and Indigenous writers, she had never really identified as writer from a particular background. Having the voices of so many people from different cultural backgrounds come across her desk as an editor was not only eye-opening but helped her reflect on personal notions of race and identity.

Poetry Editor of Southerly and Director of Creative Writing at the University of Sydney, Kate Lilley, is the author of two prize winning books, Versary and Ladylike, with another, Tilt forthcoming. Kate Lilley maintained that until, poems were published in a book, they remained unfinished, continually open to editing and rewriting. She claimed that through reading the poems she shared with the ‘Mysterious Ways’ audience, she hoped to give them a sense of finality.

Kate Lilley read the title poem of Tilt which is also part of the Red Room Company’s Disappearing app. that connects poetry to place. The poem describes her job at the old pinball parlour, Fonzie’s Fantasyland which used to be on Oxford Street, Darlinghurst. By the end of the poem, she knows she is leaving and on to another life. One, she informed the audience at SWF, she was much more suited to, that of academia. Another poem she chose to read, ‘GG’ from Realia, she felt reflected the interconnectedness between the research she undertook at university and the poems she wrote as a result. She also included, ‘Harms Way’, a poem inspired by her own engagement with the crisis of detention policy in this country.

An active member of Melbourne PEN, Creative Director of Cordite and author of three poetry collections, Kent MacCarter claimed that he would read four poems directly influenced by jobs he was working on at the time. However, his first poem, a combination of bricolage and journalism about the ‘incomputable persistence of life’ was ironically inspired by the hardest job of his life, being a father, and the survival stories of airplane crash victims, among others.

He maintained that while working at Cordite came at a great personal cost to his own writing, it gave him a unique position to see what was going on in the world. He also felt strongly that his varied work experience had exposed him to jargon and terms specific to those particular areas which, when taken out of context and used in poetry, had the capacity for wonderful word plays.

Interestingly, in response to an audience member who had seen the explosion of interest around English poet, Kate Tempest since her appearance on Q & A and her opening address at the SWF and wanted to know how poetry could engage that level of attention consistently and why it didn’t generally, Kate Lilley suggested that poetry was constantly engaging with enormous interest and support from the community particularly, in Australia. According to Kate Lilley, poetry was no longer just for the elite and this intense level of interest in poetry which she claimed to witnessed first-hand was happening around us all the time.

‘Mysterious Ways’ certainly addressed several issues surrounding poetry and the publishing industry from the perception of poets who form the ‘lifeblood of the community’ by not only writing and publishing their own but working in ways that make poetry possible for others. Along with ‘AVANT GAGA’, it gave a voice to a range of poets and lead to a successful Sydney premiere of the Australian Poets Festival.

However, National Program Director, Toby Fitch was quick to point out that there were a range of different events that he had been pitching to the literary festivals around the country. “There’s the BIG READ gala, there’s AVANT GAGA, which originated at the Poetry Night at Sappho Books I run monthly, and there’s Mysterious Ways, but there are other events too, and that will happen at festivals to come.”

While those APF poetry events are part of the programs of writers festivals to come, Toby Fitch announced that, “At Queensland Poetry Festival and at Melbourne Writers Festival, on consecutive weekends, along with the [other] events, I’ve also organised for something called ‘Transforming My Country (by Dorothea Mackellar)’, in which poets will read and discuss a poem they’ve written (say, a version, an experimental translation, a response, or a riposte) to that famous Australian poem about Australian identity.” According to Fitch, “The poets in the two iterations of this panel will reflect the diversity of poets at work in Australia.”

The poem now known as ‘My Country’ by Dorothea Mackellar compares England to Australia and was redrafted several times before its initial publication under its original title, ‘Core of My Heart’ in The Spectator, London, 1908.

Some may remember reciting, ‘My Country’, at school until, the words lost their meaning. Still others, may feel strongly that the intensely patriotic poem written by Mackellar at nineteen while homesick in London does not reflect the experience of the average Australian, let alone acknowledge the original landholders, nor the horrors of what was an incredibly recent history at the time the poem was written.

The title itself, ‘Transforming My Country’ suggests that the event allows members of the panel in both cities to reflect and transform through their response, not only the original poem but the concept of national and cultural identity. Through reading and then, discussing the poem they have written for the event, the poets will have the chance to engage the audience in questions of national identity, pride, history, heritage, and culture. As well as, reflecting on the concepts of place and community which are inherent in both the focus on the Australian landscape in the second two stanzas of Mackellar’s poem and the overall theme of belonging.

Given the significance of ‘My Country’ to questions of national identity in Australia, ‘Transforming My Country (by Dorothea Mackellar)’ has the potential to be a key poetry event in the Australian Poetry’s revitalised, national program and the Australian Poets Festival.

However, the APF program is not just about increasing the visibility and diversity of successful poets but also offers workshops, such as the up and coming, ‘Poetry of the Eye: The Visual Aspects of Poetry’ hosted by the Program Director Toby Fitch at the Emerging Writers’ Festival on Wednesday, 15 June at the Wheeler Centre, Melbourne. ‘Poetry of the Eye’ is part of the EWF’s ‘Writers’ Night School’. Workshop participants are encouraged to bring a poem or text written by themselves or another, to reshape after learning a brief history of concrete and visual poetry.

The APF is also showcasing other events and awards within Australian Poetry’s new national program. At the Australian Poets Festival launch at the Wheeler Centre on 20 February, Samuel Wagan Watson and his mentee, Caution read poetry, rapped and discussed the importance of Blak voices and the AP Blak mentor program at Blak & Bright, The Victorian Indigenous Literary Festival in Melbourne. Samuel Wagan Watson is one of the poets on the ‘Tune Your Poetry’ committee, an online poetry mentoring service run by Australian Poetry that aims to connect prospective mentees with mentors from the same state or background and identity if requested.

Another significant event in the APF program is the announcement of the winner of the Scanlon Prize at ‘SUNBURNT COUNTRY’, the APF event at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival on Friday, 2 September. The Scanlon Prize is a partnership between Australian Poetry and the First Nations Writers’ Network made possible by the Scanlon Foundation.

The Australian Poets Festival is certainly showcasing and increasing the visibility of Australian poetry at writers’ festivals around the country and hopefully will continue to do so with the help of the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund. The Copyright Agency contributes 1.5% of its annual income to development projects, such as the APF, that support the Australian publishing and visual arts industries, and have a broad cultural benefit. The program is truly diverse and national with the launch of the Australian Poetry mentoring service at Blak & Bright, ‘The BIG READ’ reconnecting poetry and place, ‘Mysterious Ways’ focusing on the strength of the poetry community, ‘Transforming My Country (by Dorothea Mackellar)’ on questions of national identity, AVANT GAGA on the playful and experimental side of poetry and ‘Poetry of the Eye’ on practical and informative advice on creating your own visual poem.

Given the significant impact of the funding cuts announced by the Australian Council of the Arts on Friday, 13 May to Australian Poetry, along with sixty-two other arts based organisations, one can only hope that people vote in favour of change and the return of adequate and stable funding to the Australian Council of the Arts.

Blak & Bright x Australian Poets Festival: Samuel Wagan Watson and Caution at the launch of the APF at the Wheeler Centre, Melbourne on 20 February 2016: Blak & Bright x Australian Poets Festival

-Zalehah Turner

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Zalehah Turner is a Sydney based 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/

The next Australian Poets Festival event is ‘Poetry of the Eye’, a workshop held by Toby Fitch at the Emerging Writers’ Festival at the Wheeler Centre, Melbourne on Wednesday, 15 June at 6:30pm. Tickets cost $35 and $30 for concession holders. ‘Writers’ Night School: Poetry of the Eye’: http://www.emergingwritersfestival.org.au/event/writers-night-school-poetry-eye/

Poetry Conferences each side of the Tasman: Short Takes on Long Poems and The Political Imagination

Over the next few weeks there are two poetry conferences you shouldn’t miss…unless like me you are in Sydney and the conferences are being held at the University of Auckland and the Melbourne campus of Deakin University.

First to Auckland…next week, on the 29th and 30th March I will be missing Short Takes on Long Poems: A Trans Tasman Symposium at the University of Auckland hosted by the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre (nzepc). This  is the sixth symposium nzepc has organised (the others being Auckland 2004, Christchurch 2005, Bluff 2006, Auckland 2010 and Sydney 2010).

According to the conference organisers Short Takes on Long Poems will focus on “short long poems and long short poems; in epic and seriality; in the book-length or site-specific poem”. They continue:  “we like the challenge of folding the universe into a matchbox. We like matchboxes made of dark matter. We want to be surprised, diverted and delighted by what we can bring to points of exchange, and we want to bring those points – before, during, and/or after our symposium – into digital renditions”.

Some of the highlights, from an Australian perspective include John Tranter talking about his poem ‘The Anaglyph,’ collected in Starlight: 150 Poems (UQP 2010). Also on the program is Pam Brown who will presenting Kevin Davies’ long poem ‘Duckwalking a Perimeter’, the penultimate section of his book  The Golden Age of Paraphernalia,  Philip Mead on John Kinsella’s 400-page Divine Comedy: journeys through a regional geography, Hazel Smith on ‘The Film of Sound’ – the contemporary long poem exists not only on the page,” but has also evolved off the page through performance, intermedia work and new media writing”,  Sam Moginie and Andy Carruthers on Jas H. Duke’s Destiny Wood and Australian Experimentalism, Toby Fitch reading from his work ‘Rawshock’ a long poem in 10 parts, Martin Harrison on the question of endings, Jill Jones  on the intersection of the long poem  with “other art practices, other modalities”, Ann Vickery on on a series of collaborative longish poems written and performed by Australian poets Pam Brown, Carol Christie, Jane McKemmish and Amanda Stewart,  Ella O’Keefe on John Anderson’s book-length poem the forest set out like the night and Jessica Wilkinson on her long poetic-biography of early cinema actress Marion Davies,  And this is before we start looking at the New Zealand and other international presenters.

Even before I will be able to start to get over my disappointment at missing Short Takes on Long Poems, I’m going to have to confront even more disappointment when I  wont be able to make the trip to Melbourne for  The Political Imagination: Contemporary Postcolonial and Diasporic Poetries  at Deakin University (Deakin Prime in Melbourne) on 12th and 13th of April 2012.

According to the organisers ‘The Political Imagination’ will bring “together some of Australia’s leading poets and poetry scholars to investigate the state of contemporary postcolonial and diasporic poetries. It aims to explore the contentious, at times controversial, issues surrounding the production and discussion of poetry and poetics in work that engages with the politics of the postcolonial, the transnational and the diasporic. Among the topics addressed by symposium participants will be opposition, identity, subversion and hybridity”.

One of the potential highlights, as we approach the 39th anniversary of Michael Dransfield’s death later in April, is Michael Farrell’s presentation on ‘‘a needle spelling XANADU’: Reading Michael Dransfield’s ‘Courland Penders’ through the Neobaroque’. To quote from the abstract to this paper:

The neobaroque, also known as the colonial or counter-baroque is posed, in Latin American literature, as a counter-conquest mode. In this paper I attempt to reframe what has been seen as Dransfield’s romantic myth of Courland Penders as a neobaroque space: one that extends, critiques and parodies the colonial. As Alejo Carpentier writes in the Latin American context, ‘Let us not fear the Baroque, our art, born from trees, timber, altarpieces, and altars, from decadent carvings and calligraphic portraits, and even from late neoclassicisms’. Is this art foreign to Australia, or does it exist in imaginary inventions (or ‘folds’) like Courland Penders?

Two more quotes are relevant: Cuban critic Severo Sarduy writes that ‘Baroque space is superabundant and wasteful. In contrast to language that is communicative, economic, austere, and reduced to function as a vehicle for information, Baroque language delights in surplus, in excess, and in the partial loss of its object’; Irlemar Chiampi describes the neobaroque as ‘the aesthetic of countermodernity’. The former rejects the economic model of settlement; the latter affirms the former’s style. The specific poems I consider in seeking to read Dransfield as a producer of Australian baroque are ‘Portrait of the artist as an old man’, ‘Courland Penders: going home’, ‘Tapestry at Courland Penders’, and ‘Birthday ballad, Courland Penders’, all from Dransfield’s first book, Streets of the Long Voyage.

The other presentations look just as interesting:

  • Adam Aitken  “(un)becoming hybridity in my poetry”
  • Ali Alizadeh on “Metapolitics vs. identity politics: (re-)radicalising the postcolonial”,
  • Michelle Cahill on “The Poetics of Subalternity”
  • Danijela Kambaskovic-Sawers on “A migrant poet and the fine art of escapism”
  • Bridie McCarthy on” Border Protection: Neo-Colonialism and the Canon”
  • Lyn McCredden on “Poetry and the Nation”
  • Peter Minter on ‘Toward a Decolonised Australian Poetry’
  • Lucy Van on “‘Why Waste Lines on Achille?’: Tracing the Critical Discourse on Postcolonial Poetry
  • Ann Vickery on “Postcolonial Lovetypes: On Doing and Not Doing Her Kind in the Poetry of Juliana Spahr and Astrid Lorange”
  • Ania Walwicz on “cut tongue”-fragmentation, collage and defence”
  • Sam Wagan Watson on “Fight Club”

If, unlike me you are able to make the trip to Auckland or Melbourne, or if you are already in those cities, then it would be almost unforgivable not to make an effort to attend these conferences. For further information check out the relevant websites and book your tickets!

Short Takes on Long Poems: A Trans Tasman Symposium

The Political Imagination: Contemporary Postcolonial and Diasporic Poetries

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