Tag Archives: Angela Costi

QPF Spotlight #4 – Angela Costi

There is just over a month until QLD Poetry Festival hits the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, August 21 -23. Angela Costi is one of the many featured artists at QPF 2009 and this time I shine the spotlight on her to find out about the role of spontaneity, influences and the importance of performance.

 

Angela-Costi

 

What is the role of spontaneity in your creative process?

I’d like to think that my creative process is balanced, albeit precariously, between spontaneity and a thought-inspired response. I like responding to my intuition and the spark within. Often this spark leads to igniting a need to write about a certain thing. This may turn into a passionate pursuit as I read books, rummage through the Internet, discuss with friends, take notes and then embark on the poem. This is how the poem, When Ash and Bone Speaks, came about – through a spontaneous urge to know more about the destruction of Pompeii and its people.

Sometimes the actual process of writing involves spontaneity as I find myself beginning a sequence of every day words and thoughts around a particular image, which grows into another wordscape by allowing my senses to flow and my curatorial guard to relax.

 

 

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?

In my earlier years as a poet, the mid 90s, there were three pivotal ‘poetry camps’ that influenced my momentum.

Firstly, there was an urge to explore poets of my heritage, which is Cypriot-Greek, so I spent days reading Sappho, Homer and trying to understand hexameter poetics. I then proceeded into Modern Greek times with George Seferis, Yannis Ritsos, Constantine Cavafy and Zoe Karelli. And then in 1996, Pi O, an Australian-based poet of Greek descent published 24 Hours, which explored the ‘third language’ as he called it – that which describes the language of migrants in Australia. Reading this pioneering book and hearing Pi O read from it confirmed my direction with those poems of mine that were drawn from my cultural roots.

Secondly, in a second-hand bookshop I bought Eight American Poets: an Anthology, edited by Joel Conarroe. This anthology introduced me to Elizabeth Bishop, James Merrill, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, Theodore Roethke, John Berryman, Anne Sexton and Robert Lowell. I was particularly immersed with Elizabeth Bishop and Anne Sexton to the extent that I made it my goal to read every poem they had ever published.

Thirdly, the Melbourne poetry scene in the mid-to-late 90s had a certain loose group of established poets that were frequently reading, accomplished, inspiring and they were encouraging to emerging poets. Some of these poets were Homer Reith, Kevin Brophy, Myron Lysenko, Lauren Williams, Lyn Boughton, jeltje, Grant Caldwell, Shelton Lea, Ian McBryde and Jordi Albiston. Apart form their own work, these poets introduced me to the poetry that influenced them, including Sharon Olds and Vicki Viidikas.

I’ve just finished reading Poems of Nazim Hikmet which I relished and I am three-quarters of the way through Poet’s Choice by Edward Hirsch, which is a collection of his 130 short essays on poets that have undoubtedly had an impact on him and his poetry. They include better-known poets such as Gerard Manley Hopkins and those lesser-known gems such as Thomas James (1946-1974), Dorothea Tanning and Kate Daniels. I’m about to embark on The Goose Bath Poems by Janet Frame who is a renowned New Zealand author.

 

 

Why perform/read your poetry?

Although my poetry has its first relationship with the page it needs to roll off my tongue like second nature. I love reading poetry that reads beautifully and recites beautifully – and that’s what I strive for with my poetry – a seamless relationship with page and stage (which can be difficult to achieve).

Further, because poetry making is such an ancient practice and given that many cultures began poetry as an oral art form, there is that strong unrelenting practice of applying metre, rhythm, pace, tone… qualities that lend themselves easily to ears and listeners.

 

 

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 Angela Costi do in preparation for writing?

Over the years I have gathered a few rituals, which enable me to enter the writing zone. Often I light a candle. (I grew up in a traditional Greek Orthodox household, where lighting candles was commonplace.) A candle’s flame possibly evokes a sense of company and camaraderie on the journey. I like a quiet place, like an empty house or a library that only allows whispering but then I have used certain music to evoke a mood or a tone of voice. (The music is often without voice or if voice is used it is more like an instrument.) Sometimes I read poetry or I read my notes or I close my eyes to conjure a visual trigger point. From my travels to many parts of the world, I have gathered a large book of postcards and images, which I use to stimulate my imagination.

 

 

Finally, where are you looking when you write?

When I am writing at a deeper, unconscious level, I actually see the images, people, space… I am writing about. In a sense, there is no distinction between me and the world I am creating on the page – my eyes are focused inward and so I do not notice that the kettle has boiled, the phone is ringing, the kids have arrived home, and that I am cold.

Other times, I am very much aware of the letter and word patterns I am creating. I like to see the precision of enjambment, the effect of six or four lines to a stanza, the way one word looks as distinct from another.

And sometimes, I look up and notice the flame is still going strong and I return to my words.

 

About Angela:

Angela Costi is the author of three collections of poetry: Dinted Halos, Prayers for the Wicked and Honey and Salt. Her poems have been widely published, broadcast and produced, including in the US, UK, Greece and across Australia. In 1993 she received a travel award by the National Languages and Literacy Board of Australia to study and undertake an Ancient Greek Drama program in Greece. Since 1993, she has performed her poetry locally, nationally and internationally, including the Melbourne International Arts Festival 1999 and 2005. The Relocated arts project, for which she was the commissioned writer, received the award for innovation and excellence in community, 2002. Recently she returned from Japan, where she was funded by the Australia Council for the Arts and Vic Arts to work on an international collaboration involving her poetry, Japan-based Stringraphy Ensemble and an Ancient Chinese musical instrument known as the Sheng.

 

Poem:

 

When Ash and Bone Speaks

My bedroom is Pluto’s new chamber
with no after-thought nor explanation
he unleashed Death, the mauling is beyond pain,
and Pluto spares no pleas for mercy or lenience
with the ruthless pride of an Emperor, he thrust
a fountain of flame which seared throats to silence
― how quickly he changes my room
the four walls melt into something blacker than night
the ceiling cannot be trusted, with hit after hit
of shooting hot rock it heaves in panic
air is corrupt with a smell and taste of sickness
it aims calculated punches at my ribs and fists my lungs
like a gladiator about to slay a wounded cub.

How long have I been lying on this bed of embers
sizzling me softly, lulling me into its burning arms
― long enough to know my baby has turned to stone,
to know my husband lies buried somewhere beneath me,
to hear my mother, father, sisters, brother…
gasp after gasp, cough after cough, breath till no breath
their final release of the one hope to see our little one
suckle my breasts, as odes are sung to its new future
each one takes a turn to cradle, to croon a lullaby
give a promise to protect against everything wicked and bad.

 

Yesterday, if it was yesterday,
I had my husband’s eager ear
pressed against the full bloom of my belly
insisting he could hear our cherub pattering about
Mama placed a bouquet of sweet wine grapes,
honey figs and caramel dates on my plate
hoping fruit would ease the tender tug and pull of womb
the sun made quiet love to the water in our pool
white butterflies fluttered from flower to leaf
laughter swam easily from our mouths
as we threw a book-full of boys and girls names into the air
I caught the marble smile of Goddess Juno
whispering maternal endearments.

Now I know I was being mocked
basking in delusion, to think I could compare my content
to that of any Goddess, any Priestess, any Sibyl
I should have been aware, alert like the birds, the cats
at the slightest tremor they fled taking their knowledge
I should have looked at that fire breathing cloud and screamed
like the slave girl turning her broom into a weapon
begging then threatening her master to set her free
I should have understood why my insides were pummelled,
Baby knew, my Baby knew, Baby wanted me to say:
Yes, let’s leave!
to the question my family left to me
I became their Fortuna, their one and only chance,
Sweetheart it’s up to you, they said,
all I could think of was the swelling in my tree trunk
legs, the cramps surrounding my spine
the blubbery barge of me hobbling into the frenzy
all I could think about, was me, was only me.
Pluto wants me to feast on dread and terror
before Death takes me, but I am not hungry
I want to feel myself burn into nothing but ash
I want my bones to shrivel into chalk
I want nothing to be left of me at all,
Pluto when you pass me over to Vesuvius
do not make me drink from the River Lethe
I refuse any after-life unless it’s soaked
in the memory of what I have done.

*

Thousands of years later, my memory returns
distorted by legend, embellished by science,
trapped in fossilised moment and glory
they pick at my bones and those of my baby
pour plaster into my ashen grave, resurrect the shape
of horror as they imagine, how awful for me they cry,
tears fall at my feet, while I stare back with hollow eyes,
they bring bouquets of spring flowers freshly picked
from the fertile fields at the volcano’s base
they bring their children, their elderly parents
I hear them say: Isn’t she a beautiful specimen.

 

 

                              In the volcanic ash of Mount Vesuvius, in Pompeii,
                              the skeletal remains of a young pregnant woman
                              were found, specialist DNA biologists determined
                              she was about to give birth.

 

Published in Going Down Swinging No. 27 and in the Melbourne Museum’s Exhibition ‘A Day in Pompeii’ Teacher-Student Guide 2009.

 

Catch Angela at QPF 2009:

Saturday August 22 – 11:45am – 12:45pm

On the Lip of Philosophy: feat. Angela Costi, Angel Kosch & Sophia Nugent-Siegal

 

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 – 2:00pm – 3:00pm

Proscuitto and the Pink: feat. Angela Costi, AF Harrold & Paul Magee

 

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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Guided by Poets – Victoria

This Guided by Poets thread showcases the voices of five mighty fine Victorian writers.

I gave the enigmatic Maurice McNamara a call to start the thread and the rest…

So here it is, Guided by Poets (Victoria), featuring poems by Maurice McNamara, Joe De Iacovo, Angela Costi, Jen Jewel Brown & Andy Jackson.

 

Maurice McNamara

Maurice McNamara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pork

I’ve got fat since I found true lady love
and she’s got a bit fat too
Maurice, I’ll do anything for you
and usually it involves pork

I sit on the couch reading true crime novels
whilst she gets on with making a living
editing
it sounds like good money
but it makes her cranky
fixing up crap someone else wrote

I get on the computer after she’s gone to bed
and write things to other poets
sometimes in other countries
with headphones on
that I don’t want to read next morning
because drink declares
you’re stupid

we argue on Fridays
when we get back together again
are you listening to me darling?
she’s worrying about the cat
we eat at occasional tables found in a garage sale
sometimes she cooks and sometimes I do

by Saturday morning we’ve got the weekend
I bring her breakfast
who goes to the toilet first?
and then shower
she takes an hour to primp her hair

when I’ve evacuated my bowels
and drunk coffee, I’m almost human
sometimes we just sit around and do word play
we go to Footscray and eat Vietnamese soup
some days we go to the country

in a good relationship
you just run across perfect moments
because the universe loves a lover

but she complains
if I take her down factory roads
where, too often, I like to go
but usually we find a cat, a goat
a rare weed, a flower
a smell
something built in iron we take home

our love doesn’t depend on agreeing
we leave our strangeness strictly alone
we’re at that time of life when we can point out houses we lived in
but we don’t want to live in those houses anymore
I laugh at her in that strange hat
she laughs at me trying to climb the hill
but she’s close to my hand
when I slip down

 

About Maurice:

Maurice McNamara’s debut collection Half-Hour Country is due to be released in 2009 through Small Change Press. He has been involved with Melbourne spoken word scene for a number of years, and now that his children are almost grown up, can devote himself to the sunny uplands of ART.

 

 

 

 
Dismantling a flockhouse

(for Mars)
My brother said
                                that machine
is older than you and me
put together.
                    Textile plants offer the cleanest
ending
                    with off-cuts,
spools still half-wound with cloth,
clusters of lint hovering in corners
as if they’re moths
caught in an eddy.
                  First, cut along the weld,
just here,
                  then the rest of the flockhouse
comes apart in stages.
                 All of these machines
are going off-shore:
to China, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka,
                 my brother said,
leaning over
doubling at the belly
measuring how a mixer’s
shaft is to be unbolted.
                 On the bonding oven’s guards
and long flat panels:
                                defunct roster sheets,
                  faded stickers:
                                -Wipe your hands first-,
a Carn the ‘Roys poster

of a lion holding a bomb-like ball
between its teeth
wearing tight shorts
and a Guernsey of maroon
royal blue and gold.
                    Tattslotto syndicate charts
plotted with crosses of loss
and a few prized ticks
shared-out on Wednesdays.
The names on safety gloves
and dustcoats:
                     Donzo,
                                   Clem, and Toni with an i-
did women work here too?
There are only men helping us
dismember this place they’ve
                     worked in for
longer than you and me put together
my brother said
                     the women were laid off first
                     he said
some blokes decided to stay
on and help us
                     because most of  ‘em won’t
find work again.
In the mornings
                     they nodded their heads at us
                     just enough
to register a ‘Hey’,
                                     ‘Hello’,
                     and on the day
we closed the plant for good
one man said:
                                     ‘Here we are again.’

 

(first appeared in Verandah, vol. 17, 2002)

 

About Joe:

Joe De Iacovo’s writing/poems have appeared in Meanjin, Southerly, Verandah, and others. He currently works as a counsellor.

 

 

Angela Costi

Angela Costi

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Sheep One

They found her swivelled in her lover’s arms,
instantly branded, seared with the hottest tongues
still she swirled deeper, became the second flavour
in the soft serve cone and Andreas became the first.

Her husband was informed while tying up his dinghy,
his hands flew up as if to catch those bad words,
the rope uncoiled and snaked into the sea, he fell in
with his shoes, coat, memories, grappled with the water
he couldn’t drown her green kitten eyes, her splash
of freckles in the indigo light made her look younger
no where near as young as Andreas,
his barber, her lover, his sons’ barber, her lover
his neighbour, her lover, his friend.

She wore her guilt like underwear,
only with Andreas it slipped off, tossed at the doorway,
was sunk in her pheromone’s spell.
Guilt became her second coat worn on the hottest days
when her husband drenched in sea and sorrow
couldn’t speak without a fist fixing into a wall,
her oldest boy tried to split himself in two,
her youngest went missing, found blue-kneed at the dock,
she knotted her apron twice, fought only with grease,
stains, dust and longing, found her sons another barber.

Andreas couldn’t sleep without her nose butting his neck,
if only it was just the bed where he ached for her,
he couldn’t open cupboards, read books, watch clouds,
he couldn’t cut her style into the shape of others,
her wayward curls were unrepeatable,
he saw his future as a cracked vase with a dried rose.

He tiptoed back to her with a wave across a busy street,
a smile, the freshest longest red rose, a card, a letter,
love written, love touched, love held.
She turned back to ice-cream melt,
clenched her fist against her heart and said,
Tomorrow is only possible with Andreas.

 

About Angela:

Angela Costi is the author of three collections of poetry: Dinted Halos (chapbook, Hit&Miss Publications, 2003), Prayers for the Wicked (CD, Floodtide Audio, 2005) and Honey and Salt (Five Islands Press, 2007). Honey and Salt was shortlisted for the Mary Gilmore Prize 2008. Her poems, performance text, essays and stories have been widely published, broadcast and produced, including in the US, UK, Greece and across Australia (for example: Sojourner Boston, wanderingdog UK, LiNQ and Radio National-ABC).

 

 

Jen Jewel Brown

Jen Jewel Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Medusa lead rascalation

I turn on the tv
and there you are
with your guitar slunched into the solo
lathering and turbulating
growling, humming and hubbubing
moa-ning and rascalating
o that thrumming low drung rumble
of your Medusa lead

come closer you
leaning out of the set
to blow your lava crack chick
stack between my feet, bang!
bright spark tangent innocent
reaching down, this thuddering live
rubble crack below
like this massive channel
of vibrating
sex soul synchrome twister wrench
energy opens me up

you right through from the magma
reaching from the hot rock at the centre
of the world right through
to the stratosphere
connecting eerily and endlessly
to you through you to you

now I’m a through-way
a thoroughfare
my fingers radiating
snakes of fire
a lit-up pinball douce machina
paying out in spades, in tangos
bang bang bang ding ding ding
in pepper-tongued blades of words

 

About Jen:

Jen Jewel Brown is a widely published writer across many genres. Her story on familicide and Family Law, Suffer the little children, was featured in The Age on May 3 2009. She is an activist and single mother who likes to see what poetry can stretch to. She prefers to dance with her demons rather than wrestle them, or better still, matchmake them with her angels and get away free. On the brag front, Jen was the winner of the Greater Dandenong Writing Awards Open Poetry Prize 2006, Spinning Room (Melbourne) female ‘call-back’ poet of 2005 and Victorian Writers’ Centre Poetry Cup Best Performer in 2004. She’s also the author of Skyhooks’ Million Dollar Riff  and poetry books Marsupial Wrestling (Outback Press), Alleycat (Feral Books) and gutter vs stars (Flat Chat Press). Her work has been widely anthologised. She is currently working on two new poetry books and other projects. She blogs at: http://flaminghoop.blogspot.com/

 

Andy Jackson

Andy Jackson

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Strange friendship
                   for Norman

The trick has become this – how to pull the thumb out
of the dam and not drown.  Here on the couch, our legs
face in the same direction, our thighs almost touch.

The clinking of pool-balls is an ambient sound,
the crack and sigh of another crude attempt. 
I want to tell you how strange this friendship seems,

to ask you where your grief is, as if in your composure
you are being dishonest, but I fear this might be
the stone thrown into the clear face we’ve made. 

Perhaps this poem will ensure it’s sufficiently obscure. 
Or, in a public place, where a certain absence
of intimacy’s the done thing, here’s an album you might like

and half an answer to a cryptic clue.  Is it funny
when they speak of themselves in the third person
or safe, a way to pull back as they begin to shrink

into the other?  Mateship can be a collusion
or a way out.  You arrived and the line where I end
became slightly more blurred.  Who’s to say

it’s not all a miraculous accident of cause and effect?
Miles away, wave after wave breaks against the beach.
And I speak as if the pulse of blood in us

will not be stopped by any blade or disease,
that these bodies which breathe the same air are enough,
that consciousness is no more problematic than its lack. 

I reckon I’ll get another.  You want one?

 

About Andy:

Andy Jackson has been published in a wide variety of print and on-line journals; received grants from the Australia Council and Arts Victoria, and a mentorship from the Australian Society of Authors; and featured at events and festivals such as Australian Poetry Festival, Queensland Poetry Festival, Newcastle Young Writers Festival and Overload Poetry Festival.  Most recently, he was awarded the Rosemary Dobson Prize for Poetry, and will be a Café Poet in Residence for the Australian Poetry Centre.  His most recent collection of poems, Among the Regulars, is scheduled for release by papertiger media later in 2009.

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