Notes: November 2017

Adelaide, a Mediterranean city – Little Windows Press’ chapbook series – Poetry reading at Café Latino – The future of Adelaide Writers’ Week – Adelaide Writers’ Week 20182017-11-29 22.37.04bb

Adelaide, like some of the world’s most romanticised cities, has a Mediterranean climate with dry summers and mild winters: think Algiers, Athens, Barcelona, Casablanca, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Madrid, Marseille, Seville, and Rome, and – away from the Mediterranean – Perth, Cape Town, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. It’s a climate that’s well adapted to human flourishing, associated with the ‘Mediterranean trinity’ of wheat, vines and olives. Here, in South Australia, the local wine and tourism industries enthusiastically remind us there are over 200 cellar-doors within an hour or so’s drive of the CBD – some in Thiele-country, others in Heysen-country, others to the south of the city. Even when the spring and summer days are harsh to us with their heat and dryness, they pay a dividend of long, warm evenings. (It was Camus who wrote in his essay ‘Summer in Algiers’: ‘The loves we share with a city are often secret loves.’) It’s a climate that’s favourable to Adelaide at its cosmopolitan – and romanticised – best: the vision of a hospitable and orderly city, of long summer evenings, alfresco dining, local wines and produce, and sunsets over the gulf. And the arts, and poetry, are an essential part of it, too.

Fittingly, then, Little Windows Press – the enterprise of publishers Jill Jones and Alison Flett – launched its second annual series of chapbooks on a warm Adelaide evening at The Howling Owl, in a lively corner of Adelaide’s East End – between the fashionably unfashionable crowd at The Exeter Hotel, and the unfashionably unfashionable mock-Tudor of The Elephant British Pub. The 2017 series features Adam Aitken’s Notes on the River, Ali Cobby Eckermann’s The Aura of Loss, Jen Hadfield’s Mortis and Tenon and Kathryn Hummel’s The Body That Holds. It was a great launch. For notes on the event and each of the chapbooks, I recommend this blogpost by Adelaide poet JV Birch. The chapbooks are available from the Little Windows website.

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More recently, Café Latino at Woodville hosted an excellent and enlivening evening of food, poetry and music on Sunday, 26 November. The event neatly foregrounded the poetry, and offered a selection of favourites – courtesy Shakespeare, Hopkins, Shelley, and the like – along with lesser known poems, poems by local poets, and popular song lyrics read as poetry.

This month, old news was good news: I enjoyed posting a few words on Facebook, reflecting on the ‘Light & Glorie’ project Aidan Coleman and I ran in November 2012. Meanwhile, the new news was more complicated. It was sad to read that Tincture Journal will be publishing its final edition on 1 December 2017, having achieved a great deal since it began in 2013. A big congratulations and best wishes to editor Daniel Young, and the editorial team, including poetry editor Stuart Barnes. It was disappointing to read that Laura Kroetsch, Director of Adelaide Writers’ Week since 2012, will direct her final Writers’ Week in March 2018. One distinctive and welcome hallmark of Laura’s directorship has been her efforts to introduce many of New Zealand’s most celebrated poets to Adelaide audiences.

It was disappointing, too, to read that the Adelaide Festival Board is reconsidering Writers’ Week’s status as the country’s only free writers’ festival – an essential characteristic since it began in 1960. Being free to the public is a concession that gives all South Australians access to great writers, writing and ideas – particularly those people whom ticketed events would most readily exclude. I think back to my own tentative introduction to Writers’ Week, which was an initiation into a culture of ideas and writing, beyond the hallways and bookstacks of the university. 2006, my first serious Writers’ Week, acquainted me with the work of Nick Jose, Gail Jones, Simon Armitage, Judith Beveridge, Peter Skrzynecki, Vincent O’Sullivan, and others I don’t recall. And early March days at Writers’ Week are a paradigm of Adelaide at its cosmopolitan (and ‘Dunstanian’) best. It’s a vision of the city (indeed, the Province) that is (or should be) in keeping with the idealistic and dissenting ambitions of its founders, including those honoured by the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden in which Writers’ Week is set.

Of course, the city’s singular idealism is haunted by its notorious vulnerability to the sinister. It was Salman Rushdie who said at Writers’ Week in 1984 that ‘Adelaide is an ideal setting for a Stephen King novel or horror film … sleepy, conservative towns are where those things happen. Exorcisms, omens, shinings, poltergeists. Adelaide is Amityville, or Salem, and things here go bump in the night.’ Kerryn Goldsworthy quotes Rushdie more fully in her book Adelaide (NewSouth Publishing, 2011), and reminds us that his reckoning predates the events associated with Snowtown by two decades. She goes on, though, to counterbalance this view with that of Adelaide novelist Barbara Hanrahan (1939-1991): ‘[she] sees the strangeness of Adelaide crime as not unique to the city but rather as highlighted and thrown into stark relief by the contrast with its carefully maintained outer image, which is both of beauty and of virtue’ (p. 169). In any case, it’s a rumination that places Writers’ Week at the centre of Adelaide’s identity and cultural life. There’re plenty of reasons to be careful and protective of its legacy, and its accessibility to all quarters of the South Australian community.

To return to the good news, it was great to read poems by South Australian poets Ken Bolton, Ali Cobby Eckermann, Natalie Harkin, Jill Jones, Mike Ladd, and Heather Taylor Johnson among Sarah Holland-Batt’s selections for The Best Australian Poems 2017 (Black Inc, 2017). Sarah will be a featured writer at Writers’ Week 2018, along with New Zealand poet Ashleigh Young and US poet Patricia Lockwood. However, there’s plenty of summer to enjoy or endure before then. In the immediate short-term, the Mediterranean climate is offering a humid 34 degrees, partly cloudy, with the chance of thunderstorms.

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Notes: October 2017

Ted Hughes, Jackson Pollock & The New Poetry – Poetry reading & workshop in Gawler – Other Worlds with Pedro Mairal & friends – Garron Publishing’s chapbook series – Little Windows Press’ chapbook series – Poems for OctoberIMG_20171107_231629

Well, October always reminds me of the opening lines of Ted Hughes’ poem: “October is marigold, and yet / A glass half full of wine left out // To the dark heaven all night, by dawn / Has dreamed a premonition // Of ice across its eye …” (“October Dawn”). It’s a poem set in the northern autumn, of course, but it was published in A. Alvarez’s 1962 anthology, The New Poetry, which was my adolescent introduction to the work of Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, Thom Gunn and others – including Ian Hamilton, who was an improbable favourite at the time, given his modest output. As Hamilton himself wrote: “Fifty poems in twenty-five years: not much to show for half a lifetime, you might think.” The New Poetry was probably also my introduction to Jackson Pollock, as the cover features his painting Convergence. In Adelaide (and elsewhere, I imagine), October is associated with the flowering of native frangipanis; November, needless to say, is the month of jacarandas. All of this is an aside.

Mid-October was busy poetry-wise. It was great to be involved in a poetry workshop and reading at the Prince Albert Hotel, Gawler, on 15 October. Aidan Coleman and I ran a small workshop on editing poetry in the morning, followed by readings by Aidan, Jelena Dinic, Rachael Mead and I, and an open mic session. The event was supported by Country Health SA, Centacare and the State’s Mental Health Coalition, as part of Mental Health Week. Happily, it was an outdoor event that coincided with the finest spring day we’d had till then. A chapbook was compiled for the reading, featuring the work of local visual artist Henry Stentiford.

On 17 October I emceed Other Worlds: Pedro Mairal and Friends at the Wheatsheaf Hotel, Thebarton, featuring Liz Allan (SA), Jaydeep Sarangi (India) and Jennifer Liston (SA), with acclaimed Argentinian author Pedro Mairal. It was the second event I’ve been involved with at the Wheatsheaf this year, and the result of some very unassuming planning by Matt Hooton and Nick Jose from Adelaide University. It was the evening of another fine spring day. Liz, Jaydeep and Jennifer gave excellent readings (short stories or poetry), and Pedro finished the evening with a prose piece, poem and song written during – and about – his time in Adelaide.

On 22 October, Garron Publishing launched its Spring 2017 series of chapbooks (its fifth series), featuring Jill Jones’ The Quality of Light, Peter Goldsworthy’s Anatomy of a Metaphor, Heather Taylor Johnson’s Thump, David Mortimer’s Act Three, and Cary Hamlyn’s Ultrasound in B-Flat. I’ve been carrying at least one or two of the chapbooks with me since then, as an accompaniment for any impromptu coffee. Once again, it’s an excellent selection of poets and poems and, for those here and interstate, the chapbooks are available from Sharon and Gary via the Garron Publishing website.

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On 25 October, Alison Flett and Jill Jones gave an excellent poetry reading at Halifax Café. It was a perfect pairing: Alison and Jill, as Little Windows Press, will launch their second annual series of chapbooks at The Howling Owl, Adelaide, on 14 November (further details). In keeping with Little Windows’ intention that “[e]ach series has at least one South Australian poet, one interstate poet and one poet from a country other than Australia”, the 2017 series will feature chapbooks by Adam Aitken (NSW), Ali Cobby Eckermann (SA), Jen Hadfield (UK) and Kathryn Hummel (SA).

In terms of my reading, October included some of JM Coetzee’s early work, novellas by Denis Johnson, Jack Underwood’s debut book of poems Happiness (Faber & Faber, 2015) and Bonny Cassidy’s recent book of poems Chatelaine (Giramondo, 2017), among other things. There was also the inaugural Rogue State event on 31 October, but more on that at a future time.

Some recommended ‘October’ reading:

Notes: September 2017

The Best American Poetry 2017 – John Ashbery’s indispensable poems – Notes on Shastra Deo’s The Agonist & Sarah Holland-Batt’s The Hazards – Poetry reading at Halifax Café2017-10-07 03.10.38

I began September reading the newly released The Best American Poetry 2017, edited by Natasha Trethewey. The annual anthology – like our own The Best Australian Poems – is an efficient way to stay abreast of certain currents in American poetry. The 2017 anthology is more overtly political than other recent books in the series, though its preoccupations predate the current Presidency, underscoring the deep-seatedness of the United States’ cultural rifts. The anthology includes John Ashbery’s poem ‘Commotion of the Birds’ – originally published in Harper’s, along with three other poems by Ashbery and a commentary from poet Ben Lerner. Ashbery was, of course, the guest editor of the series’ inaugural anthology in 1988. It was sad news, then, to hear of his death on 3 September.

I’ve found Ashbery’s work at times impervious and unsatisfying, yet I’ve remained a consistent reader of it right up to his most recent books. For anyone new to Ashbery’s poetry, Al Filries’ list of 64 ‘indispensable’ Ashbery poems (published in Jacket2 in 2013, therefore omitting poems from 2015’s Breezeway and 2016’s Commotion of the Birds) is a good starting point – many of the poems can be found on the Poetry Foundation website. While uncharacteristic of Ashbery’s work, ‘The Painter’ is one of the few sestinas that bears repeat readings. And there’s something worthwhile about listening to the canonical ‘Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror’ in the poet’s own voice.

In terms of my September reading, I enjoyed reading Shastra Deo’s debut collection of poems The Agonist (UQP, 2017). One notable characteristic of the collection is the repetition of simple, elemental words across multiple poems – e.g. ‘body’, ‘blood’, ‘skin’, ‘mouth’, ‘tongue’, ‘teeth’, ‘throat’, ‘thirst’, ‘hunger’, ‘wound’, ‘scar’, ‘flesh’, ‘blood’, ‘bone’, ‘sweat’, ‘dust’. The use and repetition of these words is unlikely to be incidental as it’s not a book of imprecisions, as is evident elsewhere in the collection: for example, fish are referred to precisely – e.g. ‘black drum’, ‘mackerel’, ‘mullet’, ‘flounder’, ‘white trout’, ‘minnow’, ‘brook trout’, ‘cod’, ‘Alaska blackfish’, ‘silver shiners’, ‘rock greenling’, and ‘bream’. The collection is also characterised by its use of ‘simple’ terms for human anatomy: ‘hands’, ‘feet’, ‘fingers’, ‘toes’, ‘fist’, ‘kneecap’, ‘ribcage’, ‘chest’, ‘lungs’, ‘ankles’, ‘belly’, ‘elbows’, ‘knees’, ‘wrist’, ‘collarbone’, ‘spine’, ‘gut’, ‘pelvis’, ‘kidneys’, ‘liver’, ‘skull’, ‘waist’, ‘thumb’, ‘cheek’, ‘jaw’, ‘shoulder’, ‘eyelids’, ‘knuckles’, and so on – in contrast to the prevalence of precise anatomical terms – e.g. ‘melanin’, ‘synapse’, ‘gyrus’, ‘fibroblast cells’, ‘serum’, ‘metastasis’, ‘arrhythmia’, ‘dorsal and ventral cavities, ‘epithelia’, ‘ganglia’, ‘medulla oblongata’, ‘trachea’, ‘vena cava’, ‘deltoid’, ‘iliac crest’, ‘transversalis’, ‘humerus’, ‘glenoid cavity’. So, there’s an interesting tension between general terms and precise or formal terms throughout, and it presents an engaging way of reading into the book’s key themes.

In keeping with its use of anatomical terms, the book also includes drawings from Gray’s Anatomy. The body is conceivable as the stage or threshold (or, perhaps, altar stone) of the poems, either relationally or biologically – ‘agonist’ meaning ‘protagonist’ (the ‘I’ of the poems, perhaps), and being an anatomical term for a muscle that directly acts on part of the body. There’s something almost self-referential to the lines: ‘You may be forgiven / for thinking that love / is a butcher’s ritual’ (‘Chine’, the poem’s title, refers either to a joint of meat or an act of cutting). The repetition of the simple, elemental terms, and the use of the anatomical terms, binds the poems even at the level of the individual words, giving the collection a strong sense of coherence. The collection also coheres around its use of religious terminology – e.g. ‘desecrate’, ‘baptism’, ‘absolution’, ‘litany’, ‘crucifixion’, ‘benediction’, ‘penitence’ and ‘tenebrae’ (a number of which occur in the sestina ‘Bad Ritual’) – and its references to forms of divination. The collection includes several sequences of poems, including ‘Scout Tests and How to Pass Them’ and ‘Tarotology’, and a number of found poems/centos drawn from The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry. It’s a visceral and (at times) ominous read, and a memorable and accomplished debut. Australian Book Review has published a more thorough review of The Agonist, and I expect it will go on to garner further high praise.

The effect created by the use and repetition of particular words in The Agonist is reminiscent of the references to colour throughout Sarah Holland-Batt’s The Hazards (UQP, 2015). Of the 55 poems in The Hazards, all but three (‘Medusa’, ‘In the Mauerpark’ and ‘Ensign’) specifically refer to a colour – for example, the opening lines of ‘Of Germany’: ‘Of a green bicycle with a brown basket / and a slim pack of menthol Vogues / in a Munich café in June, of a black motorcycle, / or riding a black motorcycle in the countryside / to a palace with mirrored rooms …’ And the point is not just the number of references to colours, but that the colours are referred to in the simplest terms: ‘yellow’, ‘red’, ‘pink’, ‘green’, ‘orange’, ‘black’, ‘blue’, ‘white’, ‘grey’, ‘silver’, ‘gold’, ‘indigo’, ‘purple’, ‘brown’, and ‘olive’ (which is used just once) – resisting the impulse to broaden the poems’ vocabulary by substituting, say, ‘red’ with the more decorative ‘crimson’, ‘ruby’ or ‘scarlet’. The Hazards has been widely (and very favourably) reviewed, so I’m sure one reviewer or other has noted the extensive references to colour – though not to my knowledge. The strategy used by both Sarah and Shastra underscores (is underscored by?) a fundamental compact between the poet and reader that the ‘simple’ or ‘ordinary’ word is enough, and there’s something bold and inviting about this – particularly in contrast to a prevailing cultural and theoretical distrust of language.

The September poetry reading at the Halifax Café, Adelaide, was an excellent event, featuring Ken Bolton, Cath Kenneally and Banjo James. It was interesting to note a change of tone in some of Ken’s most recent work. In terms of poetry events in October, I’ll be emceeing Other Worlds: Pedro Mairal and Friends at The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Thebarton, on Tuesday, 17 October (further details). Pedro is an acclaimed Argentinian novelist, poet, travel writer and screen writer. It’s a free event that will also feature readings by special guests Jennifer Liston, Liz Allan and Jaydeep Sarangi. Also, Garron Publishing is set to launch its fifth series of chapbooks with a poetry reading at the Halifax Café on Sunday, 22 October (further details). The poets featured in the new series are Peter Goldsworthy, Jill Jones, Heather Taylor Johnson, David Mortimer and Cary Hamlyn.

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

On Kathryn Hummel’s “The Bangalore Set”

The chapbook is a multipurpose tool for poets – it’s used variously as a primer, a pilot for new and untested work, a stopgap between collections, and a reliquary for poems that will find no other place in print. As Kathryn Hummel’s recent chapbook shows, it’s also an ideal medium for short, self-contained selections or sequences of poems.

The Bangalore Set, comprising 30 poems, was written during Hummel’s 2015 residence at the Kena Artists’ Initiative in Bangalore – a city often dubbed India’s Silicon Valley. The poems were written over 30 days – and, while they’re neat and cohesive in their quality and style, there’s also a range of themes, presentations and subject matters.

Like the poems in Hummel’s debut collection, Poems from Here, the work is accessible and lyric in its mode. At 30 plus pages in length, The Bangalore Set is longer than many chapbooks, and it’s to the reader’s benefit. The poems are well-ordered, and the variations in technique and tone are keenly felt and well-used, as in “Habit No. 2: Wounded Birds”, with its use of the terza rima form and end-rhyming, and “Lament”, with its anguished contemplations (“I’m sodden sad by the thought that you too will die // one day”). There’s nothing slight, or poorly realised, that’s been retained for the sake of completeness.

Bangalore itself is at the heart of the poems. In “Urban Planning”, Hummel describes it as “a city of change unsure of what it’s changing into,” and the poems explore the tension between the modern world (“[r]ooftops and treetops” that “create a landscape of anywhere”) and its “dystopian” squalor (“Metro”). It’s a poetry of immersion and writerly detachment, that’s well accustomed to daily routines – not just the novelty of the tourist- or Kodak-moment. As in the coffee rituals of “Same Same”:

Every day they stand there / straining the edges of the street / exchanging the same hellos / with the same people passing by.

Hummel has a long association with India and Bangladesh, as a writer and ethnographer. It’s this sense of cultural engagement and familiarity that distinguishes her poems, and the Colombo poems of Fiona Wright’s Knuckled (for example), from the rightly pilloried “Baedeker poem” – nowadays, the equivalent is the Lonely Planet or Dorling Kindersley poem, I guess. And there’s something essentially personal about the poems, besides.

As lyric poems, there are hints at and deferences to the “lyric I” throughout. “Flirtation”, in its arrangement on the page, offers the back-and-forth of an SMS intrigue, that nonetheless comes to nothing (“[There is no emoticon for high horse]”). But it’s also a “lyric I” that’s conscious of its viewpoint: “I write, I said, on Bangladesh / having known a little of it / as much as can / an Australian / social scientist” (“Afternoon Swill”).

As I’ve written elsewhere, I read poetry (in part) for its memorable lines and fresh images or metaphors – and Hummel’s work doesn’t disappoint. It’s setting is geographically specific, but the atmosphere of “Saturday Night” touches on the universal:

[…] I will spend the last hours alone / until the night extinguishes herself by grinding / her ashes into the wavering Sunday dawn.

Then there’s the palpable monsoon downpour of “Waiting on the Rain”:

The beads drummed on helmets / descend onto slickered shoulders / and with them, the rain’s own / calculations of the time it will take / to fall, harm, or pass.

Fittingly, the sequence ends “in country”, without the over-easy recourse to transit lounges, flights out or homecomings – real or imagined. The reader is kept in the experience, just as the poet is. The final poem – “Brigade Junction” – leaves the reader poised at the intersection of local and universal cultures, with its references to shopping crowds, fast-food franchises, advertising neon and the neat juxtaposition or half-joke of “[t]ourists feast traditionally”. For Hummel, it’s something of an insider’s view (at least, in part) – and it’s where the sequence finishes:

A flock of foreigners / in ironed Ethnic Chic / pick over broken ground: // from the haven of Starbucks / they follow their guide / out into the jungle.

While the chapbook is also available electronically, a final comment should go to the book-in-hand, or book-as-object. Readers of Australian poetry have been spoiled in recent years by the quality of books produced by some of its most renown publishers. It’s indicative of their regard for the work and its readers, even as poetry publishing has become something of a vanity affair.

Hummel’s chapbook has been put together with thought and care – a high watermark for chapbooks. It’s bound along its top edge like a notebook or sketchpad, adding to the sense of immediacy and intimacy – as though you’re reading from the poet’s own notebook. This is reinforced by the fact that the endpapers are facsimiles of her handwritten drafts. The presentation is a point of difference for readers and book browsers that will commend it to buyers and savvy booksellers alike.

The Bangalore Set was launched in India in October 2015. It will be launched in Adelaide on Saturday, 6 February 2016. It’s available in print and from Amazon.

Ref.

  • Kathryn Hummel’s website
  • Hummel, K, 2015, The Bangalore Set, Kena Artists’ Initiative, Bangalore.
  • Hummel, K, 2014, Poems from Here, Walleah Press, North Hobart (Tas).
  • Wright, F, 2011, Knuckled, Giramondo Press, Artarmon (NSW).