Notes: May 2017

Franz Wright – Diane Fahey’s A House by the River – James Longenbach’s The Art of the Poetic Line

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Today is the two-year anniversary of the death of American poet Franz Wright. He and his father, James, remain the only parent-child pair to have won a Pulitzer Prize in the same category. The Washington Post, in its obituary, described Wright’s poetry as ‘frank, confessional verse [that] reflected a search for self-discovery and spiritual yearning amid struggles with mental illness and substance abuse.’ Critic William Logan called his poems ‘the Hallmark cards of the damned’: they are minimal, exact, melancholic and unflinching. The poem that began my exploration of Wright’s poetry was ‘Thoughts of a Solitary Farmhouse’:

[…] the Canadian wind // coming in off Lake Erie / rattling the windows, horizontal snow // appearing out of nowhere / across the black highway and fields like billions of white bees.

For further reading from Wright’s work, there’s ‘Woman Falling’ and ‘Home for Christmas’ from Kindertotenwald (Knopf, 2011), a collection of prose poems, and ‘Another Working Dawn’ and ‘Night Flight Turbulence’, readings from Wheeling Motel (Knopf, 2009) with musical settings by Michael Rozon and Daniel Ahearn.

I spent the week reading Diane Fahey’s most recent collection of poems, A House by the River (Puncher & Wattmann, 2016), and James Longenbach’s The Art of the Poetic Line (Graywolf, 2008). Fahey’s is a likable collection of restrained and self-contained 14-line poems, primarily about nature and grief:

Rain falls in the middle of the night – / a statement, an unanswerable question. / Lightning flares for a sustained moment / in the rooms of the dreaming. (‘Summer Rain’)

I’d hoped for a marsh harrier, keeping / its place in the wind – a bookmark between / airy pages […] / […] My gaze hovers, sweeps over / that crack in the sea: a fault-line of foam / jagged as a gull’s flight through storm. (‘At the Cliffs’)

I’m still under way with Longenbach’s book, but among other things, he offers a fair argument for preferring the term ‘line end’ over ‘line break’:

Some lines end with a full stop – a period, a question mark, or an exclamation point. Others end with a comma, a semicolon or a colon that joins together two clauses or phrases within a sentence. And others end with no punctuation at all: the syntax continues on the next line. We might be tempted to say that the line “breaks” at such a moment, but the line merely ends – it doesn’t break […] it’s more helpful to think about “line endings”: the syntax may or may not break at the point where the line ends. (page 8)

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Poem published in “Tincture”

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I’m delighted to have my poem ‘Beach Road’ feature in the newly released Tincture Journal Issue 17 (Autumn 2017), particularly as it appears with poems by Pam Brown, Eileen Chong, Aidan Coleman, Tricia Dearborn, Nathanael O’Reilly and Mark Roberts.

Tincture is a quarterly e-book journal, edited by Brisbane writer Daniel Young. It publishes fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction. Daniel and poetry editor Stuart Barnes have earned a great reputation over the 17 issues to date. You can buy a copy of the latest issue, or previous issues, or subscribe to Tincture at its website.

Review published in “Plumwood Mountain”

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The second feature of my productive week, poetry-wise, was the publication of my review of John Kinsella’s Graphology Poems: 1995-2015 (Five Islands Press, 2016) in Plumwood Mountain: an Australian Journal of Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics.

In Plumwood Mountain Volume 4, Number 1 you’ll also find a number of excellent poems, articles by Bonny Cassidy and Stuart Cooke, reviews of recent books of poems by Michael Farrell and Jill Jones, and more. All good reasons to read on.

2 poems published in “Otoliths”

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I’ve had a productive week, poetry-wise. I’m delighted to have two poems appear in Otoliths Issue 44 (Southern Summer, 2017), which went live on February 1. As always, the new issue is brim-full with poems – textual and visual – with lashings of innovation, novelty and wit.

My poems ‘Omina’ and ‘Fugue’ can be read here. ‘Where Songbirds Began’, a short documentary by ABC’s Catalyst, was a provocation for the former poem. For anyone needing a further inducement to read on, I can suggest: a.j. carruthers’ ‘Ten from Versificator, Michael Farrell’s ‘vovo driver’ and ‘Two Poems’, Joanna Thomas’ ‘Four Short Illustrated Erasure Stories’ and Ian Gibbins’ ‘Two Visual Pieces’.

Otoliths, which has been published since 2006, is the enterprise of editor Mark Young. The archives are accessible online. Also worth a visit is Mark’s blog, gamma ways, which features regular posts of his own poems and visual poems.

3 more South Australian poets, part 3/3

Well, this is Part 3 of my three part series on South Australian poets who (I think) should be known, or better known, beyond the streets and suburbs of our State. Again, for each poet I’ve included details for recent publications, and references to poems that can be found online or in readily available anthologies.

And there are at least half a dozen poets I’ve kept in reserve for a later post or posts.

For those looking for a further entrée of South Australian poetry, the Adelaide Writers’ Week poetry reading on Monday, 6 March 2017, 5:00-6:00 pm, will feature a range of South Australian poets, from the established to the emerging: Steve Brock, Cath Kenneally, Jules Leigh Koch, Louise Nicholas, Jan Owen and Dominic Symes.

Writers’ Week will also feature well-known South Australian poets Ken Bolton and Mike Ladd, as well as Adam Aitken (NSW) and Adam Fitzgerald (USA).

Louise Nicholas, poet

The List of Last Remaining proves Louise Nicholas to be a poet of generosity, wit and wisdom. […] The pervasive humour and leaps of imagination are tempered by Louise’s emotional and verbal precision and her poised acknowledgment of loss as well as grace.’ – Jan Owen on The List of Last Remaining

Heather Taylor Johnson, poet and novelist

‘We’re drawn into an ecology where people really do give a damn about each other and the world their friends, lovers, children and animals inhabit.’ – Michael Sharkey on Meanwhile, the Oak

  • Letters to My Lover from a Small Mountain Town (Interactive Press, 2012) review
  • Meanwhile, the Oak (Five Island Press, 2016)
  • Jean Harley was Here (novel) (University of Queensland Press, forthcoming 2017)
  • Poetry editor for Transnational Literature
  • Poem: ‘Two Trees’ (Transnational Literature)
  • Poem: ‘Shovelling Snow’ (Mascara Literary Review)

Ian Gibbins, poet and neuroscientist

‘More than thirty years of experience in zoology, pharmacology and the human body spill out onto the pages of this focused and often quirky collection. Ian challenges his readers to open and expand their minds while delighting in new words, new creatures and new rhythms.’ – Heather Taylor Johnson on Urban Biology

3 more South Australian poets, part 2/3

As promised, this is Part 2 of my offering of South Australian poets who (I think) should be known, or better known, interstate. For each poet, I’ve included details for a couple of recent publications, as well as references to poems that can be found online or in readily available anthologies.

Part 3 will follow soon.

Kathryn Hummel, poet and ethnographer

‘Each poem lingers in the liminal spaces between the erotic and the exotic, the eclectic and the electric, the enigmatic and the energetic. These poems are from here, but they tirelessly interrogate the location of here…’ – Carl Leggo, Professor at the University of British Columbia, on Poems from Here

Rachael Mead, poet

‘Empathetic without sentimentality, Mead has found all the material she needs for poetry in her own vicinity: the mutability of life, the histories that have made us, and the responsibility we bear for what we’ve done to our places.’ – Jill Jones on The Sixth Creek

David Mortimer, poet

‘Reading Magic Logic is to listen to a musical mind at work. It is a journey of cadences, the everyday and the metaphysical, smaller soundscapes as valued as larger ones.’ – Patricia Sykes on Magic Logic

3 more South Australian poets, part 1/3

My first blog post, two years ago, commented on the long-standing perception that Australian poets living in the cultural hinterlands struggle to find the same recognition as those living in the rival metropolises of Sydney and Melbourne. In response, I offered a list of 10 contemporary poets who provide a sensible starting point for anyone wanting to read more South Australian poetry. The launch of Puncher & Wattmann’s excellent Contemporary Australian Poetry anthology in Adelaide, and the celebration of the South Australian poets who feature therein, has prompted this three-part supplement to the original list.

Each part will include details for three South Australian poets who (I think) should be known, or better known, across the borders. For each poet, I’ll list a couple of recent publications, including chapbooks by local publishers Garron Publishing and Little Windows Press. I’ll also include links to poems that can be read online, or references to poems in anthologies that are readily available.

Part 2 and Part 3 will follow in coming days.

Click here for details about ordering chapbooks from Garron Publishing.

Click here for details about ordering chapbooks from Little Windows Press.

Steve Brock, poet and translator

‘A born-in-the-70s late comer to the Australian poetic scene, Steve Brock has come striding into his own with this low-key, lower-case and low-life poetry in a voice distinctly Stephenesque.’ – Ouyang Yu on Double Glaze

  • Double Glaze (Five Islands Press, 2013) review
  • Trilingual Mapuche Poetry Anthology (co-translator with Sergio Holas & Juan Garrido-Salgado) (Interactive Press, 2014) extracts
  • Jardin du Luxembourg and Other Poems (chapbook) (Garron Publishing, 2016) review
  • Poem: ‘Vanishing Point’ (Transnational Literature)
  • Poem: ‘Café Paradiso’ (Cordite Poetry Review)
  • Poem: ‘The Day I Dropped Creeley’ (The Best Australian Poems 2014)

Jelena Dinic, bilingual poet

‘Having migrated to Australia from Serbia in her teens, Dinic writes in both English and Serbian, but remains profoundly influenced by the minimalism of the postwar East European poets, none more so than the work of her great countryman, Vasko Popa.’ – Peter Goldsworthy on the South Australian States of Poetry anthology

Alison Flett, poet and publisher

‘Flett’s tightly structured, experimental text is impressive beyond her facility for stylistic variety. Woven through her tropes of encounter is the question: how can humans remember they are animals? And subsequently: can language be made to speak this fact? Can language be wild?’ – Lucy Van on Semiosphere