April 18, 2013
Horror novelist Kaaron Warren, who is not at all horrible, has just posted a short poem of mine on her blog, with a Very Snappy Title:
‘A Short Poem Inspired by Two Shopping Lists Found Hidden Inside a Cookbook Purchased at the Lifeline Bookfair by Kaaron Warren, Novelist, March 2013′.
That word snappy is a very bad joke, which you will not understand unless you look at the poem. Here’s the link: http://kaaronwarren.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/refreshing-the-wells-20/
Kaaron’s novel Slights is really truly scary, and I recommend you chase it up. It is horror in a true sense.
The woman herself is the Special Guest at the Conflux SF convention next week in Canberra, and I hope to hear her read and perform on panels there. Here is the Conflux link: http://conflux.org.au/ This is the Australian national science fiction convention this year.
I hear there is a poet reading too, but that may just be a rumour…
March 26, 2013
I’ve had two articles published in other places this week, talking about the wonders of poetry, in prose.
Here is a link to a launch speech I gave last year for the pamphlet In Response to Magpies. It deals with that most Australian of birds, its colonial conquests, and some very well known poets. That’s in the Australian Poetry members magazine, called Sotto.
This second link is to the ACT Writers Centre blog, where I mentally swear at a stupid person, and talk about Byron, as per usual. It is a defence of poetry. It contains jokes.
So busy have I been writing prose about poetry that I have no Tuesday poem for you today! But fear not. Click this feather, and other poets will satisfy your cravings:
Next week, the third anniversary of the Tuesday Poem group, we will be writing a joint poem, starting on Tuesday, to be posted gradually at that link as each poet writes a section. It should be a lot of fun!
Have a wonderful, reflective and chocolate flavoured Easter.
February 5, 2013
‘…a lock of Jane Austen’s hair has just sold at auction for £5,640 (on today’s exchange, that’s AU$11,640.73)….’
The Australian Writers’ Marketplace blog, June 24th, 2008. A photo of the hair appears in The Guardian, June 2nd. It has been shaped into the crude representation of a tree.
Do they stroke it with avid fingers, this palm tree lock
that once grew from the full head of quietest genius?
Scalping would be too much, headhunting too tropical
but buying the hair of a dead woman you can’t know
is quite the thing. Your age, Jane, would craft sad crap
like this weeping whale-spout from bits of loved ones,
so willowy wrists were always kissed by absent lips,
dead, or gone to Australia. Perhaps the buyer loves
your wit and grace, balanced like a cat walking over
a bark of craning dogs; the way your corseted matter
could expand beyond tight binding without showing
the pumping. Or perhaps your dead snips are stalked
by modern zombies of celebrity, shameless and bloody.
A bit like Bath, but bigger. Personally, I blame the BBC.
Two hundred years since Pride and Prejudice this year, and I thought it was appropriate to post this little poem (first published in Eureka Street and then in The Cancellation of Clouds) about the author. I hate those BBC dramas where the clothes seem to be the main feature. Austen’s strength was her prose style, not her embroidery.
Tap this quill and be taken to a site where many poems appear:
January 1, 2013
I suppose the idea for having a year of reading no prose came to me after listening to someone say ‘nobody reads poetry anymore.’ Apart from being a tad tactless, when the person addressed is a poet, this comment made me think about the comparative weight that the novel gets in society, as opposed to the art form that places language itself at its centre.
Why not see how it would be not to read fiction or non-fiction for a year? Will too much poetry drive me mad? Will that madness be sadly obsessive, or downright Byronic? Or just moronic?
My Year of Living Poetically (thank you Mr Featherstone, novellaist extraordinaire) begins today. Let me clarify; I don’t intend to give up on news or blogs or government forms. I will read articles about poetry.
The Japanese have a form of writing called the haibun, where prose is illuminated by a haiku. I intend to have a year of poetry, illuminated by the occasional book review. Or funding application.
But no novels, no history, no theology for a year. This is my New Year’s Resolution for 2013, amongst more mundane things about haunting the gym and being more tolerant. I’ll be blogging about my efforts and experiences here. In prose, mostly.
Happy New Year!
June 18, 2012
Perhaps I shouldn’t have Googled myself. But who can honestly say they haven’t looked into that electronic mirror? If Jesus were around today, he’d probably be the only person on Earth not to even want to explore his computer self, those little masturbatory keystrokes revealing one’s achievements. Or lack of them. Me, I mean, not Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong. I only Google myself occasionally. I’d just had a poem published in Andromeda Street. I knew that of course, I’d checked out the site, but I needed to see the evidence reflected back to me, the great mathematical Google God presenting me to me on an airy platter. It’s deeply satisfying to see yourself emerge, like a woman in a bikini from an over-size sponge cake. Then the eye always travels to the crumbs, the other ‘me’s, the doppelgängers of name.
There aren’t too many Sebastian T. Smails in the world. It’s an unusual name. But there was a crumb this time, another me. Seems he was a writer too, but of short stories, not poetry. In Wyoming, U.S.A.. There was exactly one story by him, published in an American literary journal of the sort I dub Smart and Serious. Where genre is a very dirty word, and the readership sometimes reaches seven. But I’m a poet, so seven seems a fairly decent number. There was yet another Sebastian T. Smails with a trucking business in Queensland, called DeepNorthQwik. Only three in the whole electronic world, a tripod of Me, limping along. Better than being a John Smith, though, a centipede’s leg, lost in a moving forest of abundance.
I did some work, finishing a sonnet about trees and age, in which the word ‘autumnal’ did not make a single appearance. It was taut. It was elegant. It was good enough to send off to Wombat, the right wing journal which has Australia’s most brilliant poet as the literary editor. So far I’d only scored form rejections, not even personal ones from the great man.
But this time he liked it, and eventually my fourteen lines appeared wedged between an article about how the existence of the Stolen Generations was a myth, and another about how being stolen was good for Aborigines anyway, because they learnt so many useful things. Like logic, presumably. I only had eyes for my poem, though. In real black print, not that electronic pixelated muck. And then, a fortnight later, I Googled myself…
…and found that Sebastian T. Smails of Wyoming, now had a personal web-site, and my poem ‘Transpiration’ was listed under ‘Recent Publications.’ I sat, staring at the fat-faced American. He was wearing a dark beret, and had his head on an angle, as if he were just too intelligent to view things straight on, too totally quirky and poetic. He looked like a French cockatoo who’d been hitting the crackers and absinthe a bit too hard.
I e-mailed him saying that unless he removed the reference to my poem immediately, I would sue. This was a sad joke. Copyright lawyers aren’t cheap, and my total earnings from poetry totalled $672, including the $50 cheque I expected from Wombat. The wages from my day job, as a library assistant, were squandered on rent and food and other luxuries.
I waited a month for that cheque, fuming at the American Sebastian, sending him more and more irate e-mails. Eventually I rang Wombat, and the office administrator reminded me that I’d requested an electronic payment so I wouldn’t have to pay for depositing a cheque made out in a foreign currency. I was too stunned to argue. How had the other Smails known to ask for the electronic payment before the poem had appeared? Or had he rung afterwards, just in case payment had not been made? Who’d go to that much trouble for $50, anyway? Our plucky Aussie dollar may be worth almost as much as a real God-trusting dollar these days, but still, it seemed a little desperate.
I forced myself to do a little work on the manuscript I was about to submit to a publisher. No identity-stealing American was going to stop me seeing it in print, turning the pages, feeling its slender beauty. I fell asleep, dreaming of Lord Byron, who awoke one morning to find himself famous…
…and awoke to discover that the American Smails had a poetry collection called Leaving about to be published by Castanets, in London. Need I tell you the name of my intended book? I think not, attentive reader. I think not. The manuscript sat on my desk, next to the cubist Cyclops eye of the computer, ready to go. I would never have sent it to Castanets though. That was a bold move on behalf of the Septic Smails. I was thinking much smaller. Local, in fact. I opened my e-mails.
There were twelve urgent messages, from me, sent to someone of my name, each more desperate than the preceding one. I found a copy of a contract sent by Castanets, signed with a familiar signature. My electronic transfer account had new funds, too. I reached for a mirror. I’d obviously been working too hard. I’d put on weight, and my hair was thinning. I groped for my coffee, and my hand caressed a piece of cloth. A beret. It was black. It fitted perfectly.
Obviously, I was being consumed by that other me, like a 1950s film where a big red cloud of Communist rubber sucks people in and eats them. Only, I had to ask, was it really so bad? American me was doing better than I was. Better than I could reasonably have hoped to do. I could attend readings, continue writing, and it seemed some money was finally trickling in. If my identity was being subsumed, I didn’t really care. Eat away, Google blob, I thought. Suck me up. I’m yours.
Then I heard the trucks, a dozen of them, rumbling outside my window. A man in a blue singlet was knocking at my door, yelling ‘Boss’, holding a clip-board. I felt the beret morph into a cap, my beer-gut spill over my suddenly short shorts. I’d been Bloogled again. I grabbed my manifest, and headed for the door.
‘Bloogled’ won third prize in the 2009 ‘Best of Times’ humorous short story competition and was published on the competition web-site, November 2009. Judged by Chris Broadribb, who also organises these competitions.
I was going to write something new in honour of National Flash Fiction Day (the 22nd June) in New Zealand, but my mind is simply not working in prose at the moment, so I recycled this one. (The attentive reader will note that the hero-loser of my story is a poet. At least most of the time.) At just over 1000 words, it’s arguably too long to be flash. It falls into the dead realm between flash and what is regarded as a ‘proper’ short story. Many narratives go wandering in that desert, and few are ever seen again.
Unusually for anything I write, there is the tiniest inkling of plot detectable here. Most ultra-shorts I enter in flash competitions are in fact prose poems. Please don’t tell anyone, though.
I look forward to seeing if any eligible Tuesday poets win prizes in the national flash fiction competition being finalised now in New Zealand. There’s at least one title on the shortlist that could possibly belong to a Tuesday poet, methinks. But I won’t provide clues as to who I think that may be. Because I’m probably wrong.