QPF Spotlight #2 – Janet Jackson

Next up in the QPF Spotlight is Janet Jackson.




What is the role of spontaneity in your creative process?

Essential in a number of ways.

Many of my favourite poems are built around a line or metaphor that ‘just popped into my head’. I sometimes wake up with poems or songs in my head. Usually there’s something on my mind that I’m wanting to write about, but I have to wait for the moment to strike. Forcing it rarely works.

Lately I’ve been writing about people I just happen to meet or see.

Often I find poem titles by scanning randomly, around two-thirds of the way down the poem, for a word or phrase that ‘feels right’.

When editing, I use a brainstorming technique to find ‘missing’ words.

Eliot said, “Poets learn to write by being other writers for a while, and then moving onto another one.” Who are the people who have influenced you and who are you reading now?

Oh, this is the hard question. When I started writing and publishing poetry I was reading sci-fi and rock journalism and computer science textbooks. Eliot wouldn’t have liked me (I don’t like him very much, either).

At the moment I’m reading Going Down Swinging and WA Poets Inc’s Creatrix (at www.wapoets.net.au) and various zines and books I’ve picked up at readings.

I’ve been compared to H.D., Louis MacNeice, Lou Reed, Suzanne Vega and John Cooper Clarke! MacNeice is definitely an influence.

Music, lyrics and spoken poetry are probably a bigger influence than written poetry. My MP3 player features, among other things, U2 (check out the ‘Pop’ and ‘Zooropa’ lyrics), The Velvet Underground, Joy Division, and the Antipoet Allan Boyd’s bands Blac Blocs and Mitey-ko. And Steve Smart. If Geoff Lemon or Kate Wilson should record CDs — which they should — they’ll be on there too.

I also like sound poetry, poetry spoken in languages I don’t know, and the undefinable word/sound experiments of people like Ashley J Higgs.

Other influences? Joyce, Beckett, Yeats, Heaney, the Irish in general. Anglo-saxon poetry. Rumi. Surrealist poetry. Robert Frost. Dr Seuss. Frank O’Hara. Peter Goldsworthy. Kevin Gillam. Lily Chan. Amber Fresh. The occasional L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poem. Computer programs.

Why perform/read your poetry?

You can hear what it sounds like.
You can bring your poems to life and interpret them for the audience.
You get your poetry to people who otherwise would never experience it.
You sell a lot more zines and books.
You get to meet other poets and hear their words.
And it feels amazing!

I love reading other people’s poetry aloud even more than performing my own.

I am always interested in the thought processes and practices of writers. Would it be possible for you to share with us your process, in other words, what does Janet Jackson do in preparation for writing?

Go out into the world and look at it.
Get hurt. Get angry. Get tired.
Watch films. Read anything. Read poetry.
Listen to poetry. Listen to music.
Clean, wash dishes, walk, drive.
Carry a notebook.
Write my stream of consciousness until the words start to dance.

I would suggest that my poetry is about myself in the same sense that ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ is about Hunter S Thompson.

Finally, where are you looking when you write?

Across the ocean, across the desert, across the street, or straight into your eyes.



A Poem:


Dress in rags

I love it when you dress in rags.

The ragged edges show how whole the centre is.

When you dance in your old clothes
simpler than today’s clothes
your powerful body shows me the child inside.

We are just children wearing layers.

Dress in rags. Show me a bit
of your skin, and if your hair gets thin
don’t fake it. Take it
all the way ascetic,
desert dirt aesthetic,
in rags, in patches, in mixed
colours, in glory,

making it up as you go along
in your rags.

(From ‘Coracle: Selected poems 1991-2007’, published by the author. www.proximitypoetry.com)

 And view Janet performing at Cottonmouth here.


About Janet:

Since 1986 Janet Jackson has sculpted in English, seeking poems that work whether declaimed loudly or whispered in the mind.

Janet featured at the inaugural Missing Link Festival (Perth 2008), the 2006, 2007 and 2008 WA Spring Poetry Festivals and 2007 and 2008 Melbourne Overload Poetry Festivals. She has featured at many readings, performances and slams and can be heard at all the places in Perth where poets gather.

Her poems have been published in many print and online magazines and anthologies, and she has self-published three chapbooks and her own website, Proximity.

Her first collection, Coracle, was published in March 2009.

Janet is the convenor of The Line Mine, an online community promoting poetry events in Perth, and the organiser of the Perth Poetry Club.


Catch Janet at QPF 2009:

Saturday August 22 – 4:00pm – 5:00pm

Drenched with Desire: feat. Kent MacCarter, Janet Jackson & Marissa Allen


Saturday August 22 – 8:00pm

A Million Bright Things: featuring a short set from every bright thing on the 2009 program plus a feature set from the awesome Neil Murray


Sunday August 23 – 12:15pm – 1:15pm

Basement of Grins: feat. Janet Jackson, Fiona Privitera & Jayne Fenton Keane


Sunday August 23 – 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Just Kissed Goodbye: feat. Janet Jackson, Angela Costi, Jane Williams, Neil Murray, Elizabeth Bachinsky, Geoff Goodfellow, Paul Magee, AF Harrold, Hinemoana Baker and the QPF Committee


All sessions are held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.

For full program details head to www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com

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