Tag Archives: Felicity Plunkett

An Accident That Thinks: Lee-Anne Davie interviews Nathan Shepherdson

Nathan Shepherdson has won the Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize twice (2004, 2006), the 2005 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Award, 2006 Newcastle Poetry Prize and 2006 Arts Queensland Val Vallis Award. His first book, Sweeping the Light Back into the Mirror (UQP 2006), won the Mary Gilmore Award in 2008. In 2008 also he released what marian drew never told me about light (Small Change Press) and in 2009 Apples with Human Skin was published by University of Queensland Press. In 2012 Nathan collaborated with print-maker Julie Barret to produce the limited edition, concertina fold book, clouds in another’s blood (light-trap press) and in 2013 he will release his fifth collection, The Day The Artists Stood Still (volume one).

Nathan will be launching The Day The Artists Stood Still (vol. 1) @ QPF 2013 in the session, Dancing in Abstract (Saturday 24 August, 4pm. Shopfront Space).

Shepherdson

I was introduced to you, Nathan, in 2010 following the success of your third work, Apples With Human Skin, and I am amongst many who are in awe of the talent you have for giving words their own breath. The use of space and suspension around your words just adds to the physical and philosophical dimension of your poetry. Where have you drawn your creative inspiration?

In the simplest sense poetry is a form of thinking. Things occur and the decision is whether to write it down. Even unwritten it’s still poetry. The choice pertains to its physical form. It’s a big question, and not easy to elaborate. It’s a bit of a mantra, but essentially it’s a reductive art, so the elaboration is part irony, part head scratch. For better or worse my brain seems to operate in a visual way. So as the images form as words the words also become another set of images. So your allusion to space and suspension is very important to me. Mostly reading is a silent act, but the physicality is internal. One breath invites the next – and reading what you’re writing or what others have written can transform you into a machine for language. I want to be used as fuel for this process. For all the minimal aspects of its language, poetry makes the highest demands on the space within the page. This space allows the thoughts to approach the words, almost as objects – a few words can jell together as a static object holding a magnetic field. You take your bearing then turn the page. So in some ways the smaller poems demand more space. One face instead of the crowd. In Apples I was fortunate that my editor Felicity Plunkett backed this idea of one poem per page. It was questioned by UQP, but I convinced them of the physical punctuation of turning the page. Obviously this is not always possible, and I was very grateful to UQP for the latitude I was given. As to the philosophical dimension, I guess there’s something going on, but it’s difficult to say what. Perhaps it’s a quest for perfect self-contradiction. The consistency rests in being at odds with yourself. Where possible remove the ego and then try and re-trap it by direct confrontation, sleep or even sabotage. With any art what is attempted won’t necessarily be what is achieved. Things can come about via different gradients of failure. I accept failure as part of the process. After all you need to be defeated to complete a work. I know when a work is finished, but sometimes it’s just as much relief as satisfaction. So when you look at the words on a page, it’s like a photograph of the wreckage. Does that mean the editor is a mortician? Octavio Paz said something like “we are an accident that thinks”. I can’t do better than that really. To be there you can’t be here. Thinking is somewhere else.

Currently, on the QPF website, is a conversation with Rachael Briggs, winner of the 2011 Val Vallis Award followed by the 2012 Thomas Shapcott prize, and her feelings of winning back to back prestigious prizes.  How did you feel Nathan having also won both literary prizes back to back in 2005 and 2006, but in the reverse order of Shapcott followed by the Vallis?  How has your success in these poetry competitions influenced your poetry to date?

I was very lucky for a few years there. The ball (or full stop) started rolling in 2004 when I was fortunate to win the Ulrick Prize. (One of the judges was Tom Shapcott in that year). My work had never appeared in journals. I’d probably sent out two things in 20 years. I’d never given a reading. My mother died in 2003, so I guess that jolted me into taking work out of folders and doing something with it. I think that was a subconscious yardstick. The manuscript awarded the Shapcott Prize was Sweeping the Light, which consisted of 72 elegiac poems about my mother.  Of course without the vehicle that is the prize, those poems may still be in a folder. For a poet who had no idea how any of it worked, I ended up with a book in the pipeline, and with Bronwyn Lea as my editor at UQP. I was naïve, but that experience was invaluable. Bronwyn was very generous with time and ideas given my lack of pedigree. She is very astute, and unsurprisingly has a delicate editorial eye. The book was all the better because of her involvement. As a result of that period I got to know Tom Shapcott personally. Without doubt he is one of our finest poets.  You learn a lot in a short period through the contact and presence of someone like Tom. His knowledge not just of poetry, but of music, art and life is vast. You just hope to soak a bit of it up.

The history of the Shapcott and Vallis awards is probably known by many, but is worth repeating. Matt Foley was a minister in the Goss Government. He is steeped in the poetic tradition. He came up with the idea for the two awards. The consequences in what words have seen the light of day has been palpable. The fact that the Shapcott prize is a manuscript prize cannot be underestimated. It gifts the poet a full survey of a body of work with a leading publisher. Is there a better opportunity for unpublished work in Australian Poetry? In all modesty, I’m very pleased to be on the shelf with such a quality group of poets pre and post my own success.

With the Vallis Prize I guess it was a kind of reverse order to what might be expected. Perhaps (as in Rachael’s case) you would think an individual piece might pick up a prize before a manuscript. But naturally I have no cause for complaint. The piece awarded the Vallis prize was very different in content and context to the Shapcott material. That work ended up in my second UQP book so there’s a circular relationship of sorts there. I never met Val Vallis, but he lived to a great age of 92. He went blind in his later years. Again I feel fortunate – because Paul Sherman made a point of reading the winning work to him each year while Val was still alive. My poems in that sequence are perhaps a bit baffling, but for their part they were given due consideration and credit as part of a ritual designed by Paul. Paul very kindly related this process to me in a letter, with a congratulatory notation from Val. I’m very pleased to have this, something that provides connection however small. Poetry is the perfect vehicle for tenuous connections, that’s where the capacity in its imagination resides.

So you can see how anecdotally none of the above could exist without those awards. However the writing was about the writing. With or without the awards those poems would still exist. The awards allow the passage of the internal to the external.

You never cease to be evolutionary with your poetic projects, having produced four collections with a fifth on the way, and enjoy collaborating with spoken word artists and artists of other mediums.  Can you tell the readers about your concertina fold book, clouds in another’s blood, and how the complement of collaborating with other artists has worked for you?

Clouds in another’s blood was written at the invitation of Angela Gardner. In the year I won the Vallis, Angela won the Shapcott; that’s how we met. So there’s another tangible between the two awards. Angela and her partner Kerry Kilner had formed light-trap press. Their idea was (and still is) to produce very high quality poetry publications in very limited numbers, built around the idea of putting the work a particular poet and artist together. She asked would I be interested? After a long deliberation of half a second I said yes. (Angela is also an artist, so has both streams flowing as a matter of course). There is a wonderful tradition between the two art forms. With any project of that sort I prefer to produce new work that at least attempts to cater to what is being proposed. However this is an inexact science, so you just hope that something lands in the right field. I see it as three-way collaboration. No such thing as a two cornered triangle. The artist Julie Barratt and typesetter Janine Nicklin did a wonderful job. It’s beautiful to hold in the hand; and its concertina format allows the 32 poems to roll around like a horizontal spinning wheel when you read it.

David Byrne said something to the effect of “there’s no point in collaborating if you end with what you would’ve done anyway”. I agree with this idea. You either have to stretch or contract your usual self to be at the service of what you’re doing within a shared context. A few years ago I wrote some micro pieces for Arryn Snowball which he absorbed into a series of paintings. Arryn pushed this to the point where the words are almost illegible. But they work. Whether you can read the words or not, they’re still there. It’s an open process. Subvert or illuminate. It goes the way it goes. Whether the result ends up as a diagram or deepest abstraction, the trick is to wear a blindfold and let intent be the driver.

In 2010/11 I produced a series of works for Alun Leach-Jones, six of which we chose for use as the basis for a suite of screen prints entitled The Philosophy of Objects (printed by Marnling Press in Sydney). I was amazed with what he came up with. The text and images are side by side on the same sheet of paper. Yet the images he produced were not illustrative at all. Alun went about it all in a very meticulous way, injecting his own responses into the words. A bit like slicing a psychological onion as fine as possible. The pungent translucence. We were both surprised with what the other came up with. Without Alun’s invitation neither poems nor images would exist. They become each other. Alun is a massive reader of poetry. It’s a primary tenet in his make-up as an artist. It goes beyond the thought. He believes in the inherent capacity for art and poetry to fit together. I agree with him totally.

While I’m more comfortable with the art/poetry collaboration, I’ve also done some work as writer and reader that involves music. Sometimes in a more casual way with people such as Leighton Craig, Sandra Selig, Eugene Carchesio and Ian Powne. Then at other times in a more structured way with Pascalle Burton and David Stavanger in the Outlandish Watch project (from QPF in 2011). I’m not quite as confident in this area, but really enjoy the process. If the opportunity ever arose it would great to work with a composer on a song cycle. In general collaboration is rewarding because it gives you the opportunity to break down the singular self.

You’re about to release a new collection, The Day The Artists Stood Still (vol. 1).   What has been your inspiration for this particular work and what are your plans for more volumes?

Again as good fortune would have it this book will be published courtesy of an invitation from Graham Nunn via his press Another Lost Shark. As a by-product of what I’ve been talking about above; I written a dozen or so sets based on different artists I know. (Some as friends, some as acquaintances). The poems are mostly short, what I call lingual drawings. They were produced between 2008 and 2013. In a way they’re discourse based; with many coming from an overflow of energy after writing the collaborative pieces for Alun.  My conversation is with the ideas within their work, rather than direct interpretation. Given that they’re written for each artist, I hope that something of their work is discernable, but as poems they also need to be able to stand by themselves. For reasons practical and aesthetic we decided to split the pieces over two volumes. The first to be published this year, with volume 2 coming out in 2014. There’s a wide range of artists, different ages, early to late career. The personal connections, or at least respect for the work of each artist evolves into a silent curatorship of words. Which is interesting for me, because I can’t imagine these artists would ever end up in the same exhibition with the way the contemporary art world operates under certain aesthetic, economic and intellectual camps. I was not trying to address that idea in writing these poems, but it’s an intriguing aside. They’re part dialogue, part homage, and maybe part collaboration – although ironically without consent from the other party. If readers have made it this far into the interview, they’ll no doubt realize I’m an art obsessive. There is no surprise really as my father Gordon is a highly regarded painter. He has been a very powerful influence on the shape of my creative thought. It’s a pleasure to know artists of a certain generation like Gordon, Alun Leach-Jones, Madonna Staunton and of course on the word front Tom Shapcott. Art itself may come from or be about the moment, but for the artist it’s a long haul process. These artists keep milking their minds and skills in order to continue living in their work. As people and as artists they’re wonderful examples. No matter what the fashion – a blank piece of paper will always be a blank piece of paper. Whether the line is written or drawn doesn’t matter.

Nathan, I’m really looking forward to your performance at this year’s Queensland Poetry Festival.  Can you give the readers a teaser of what we’re likely to expect from you?

QPF is always an event. I feel part of it. I’ve had some great experiences there – with reading my own work, launching my first book, and being able to listen to and discover the work of others. It does alternate between exhilaration and exhaustion, (which I know you understand better than I as a former director of QPF). It’s an important point on the calendar for our somewhat marginalized art form.  My focus will be on the launch of the day the artists stood still. Generally the poems are sparse. The language is concise, with elements bordering on the aphoristic. Hopefully the words and images float off the page. In reading poetry to an audience, it’s about trying to wake the moment. It would be good if a few people are standing around the bed when that happens. Even in our own language we’re in a constant state of translation. Here’s one poem from the sequence absent landscapes written for Peter Hudson. It taps in to what the book is about.

V.

if birds

ever learn to paint

painter’s hands

will be found in cupboards

Interview with Lee-Anne Davie first published on www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com

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Book Launch: The Day The Artists Stood Still

Another Lost Shark is excited to announce the launch of its latest release, the much anticipated first volume of The Day The Artists Stood Still by multi-award winning poet, Nathan Shepherdson.

TDTASS circle sml

Here’s a preview of what Felicity Plunkett (poetry editor, UQP) had to say about the book:

Here in Nathan Shepherdson’s dazzling gallery of the impossible, a single thought can rip the nails from the floorboards. The poet curates an assemblage of the exquisite and uncanny, imagining the harvested wings of angels alongside ribs sucked and discarded, and splashes from a poetics of painting.

The launch will be held as part of the QLD Poetry Festival session, Dancing in Abstract, alongside Felicity Plunkett and Jon Paul Fiorentino.

Date: Saturday August 24
Time: 4:00pm – 5:00pm
Venue: Shopfront, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts

Copies will be available at the QPF Bookstore on the day and at anotherlostshark.bigcartel.com following the launch. We would of course, love to see you all there! This book will make your shelves much richer…

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Three incredible workshop opportunities!

August is an incredible month for poetry in this this fine city of ours, and QLD Poetry Festival: spoken in one strange word is the pinnacle! This year, QPF are delivering three workshops to help you read, write and fine tune your poems… and the best thing is, one of them is online, so you can be anywhere in the world and still tap into the experience.

Booking early is totally recommended!

Here are the details:

Creative Re-Writing with Felicity Plunkett

Online Workshop with award-winning poet & editor Felicity Plunkett

Re-writing is an art, and having an interested and imaginative interlocutor can be fantastically enabling. US poet and teacher Steve Kowitt has said that ‘if there is a “secret” to writing it is rewriting, a process that can be every bit as exciting as getting the first draft down on paper.’

This workshop offers that opportunity, and invites you to take a draft or drafts and develop it/them over a four-week online course, with feedback designed to challenge and encourage you as you rewrite a poem or suite and take it further through revision and reappraisal. Each participant will receive feedback from the tutor, poet and editor Felicity Plunkett, on one poem per week, as well as links, suggestions and discussion and feedback from other members of the group. This is an interactive workshop designed to help you develop and refine your poetic practice.

Dates: Monday 30th July – Monday 27th August
Cost: $20
To book: email Sarah Gory – sarah.qldpoetry@gmail.com – for a registration form. Once your booking and payment is confirmed, you will be sent instructions on how to login to the course and use the online platform Edmodo.

*****

The Art of Reading a Poem w/ Robert Adamson

A single poem can be at once simple and complex, visceral and cerebral. Join renowned poet of over 20 collections, Robert Adamson, for this workshop that explores the art of reading a poem, from Dorothy Hewett to Robert Creeley and everything in between. (Re)read great poems through a new lens, examining poetic forms and technique, and discovering new meanings. Learn why understanding great poetry can make your own poems sing. The workshop will also discuss the elusive poetry market for Australian poets looking to be published here and overseas.

When: Friday 24 August 2012, 10am – 1pm
Where: Queensland Writers Centre, Level 2, State Library of Queensland, Cultural Centre, Stanley Place, South Brisbane
Cost: $40

To book please contact the Queensland Poetry Festival on 07 3842 9950 or by email at qldpoetry@gmail.com. Places are strictly limited, so get in early.

*****

The Poetry of Politics w/ L.E. Scott

Poetry has a long tradition of sparking our collective conscience. Poetry, like politics, can speak truths that lie beneath the surface. Join African American jazz poet and prolific author and performer L.E. Scott and explore how your poetry can be both political and lyric, in this three-hour workshop covering performance poetry, political poetry, and the vitality of spoken word in the struggles of Black people and people of Colour around the world. Participants are encouraged to bring along some of their own work to use in particular exercises during this “hands-on” workshop.

When: Saturday 25 August 2012, 10am – 1pm
Where: Shopfront Space, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts
Cost: $40

To book please contact the Queensland Poetry Festival on 07 3842 9950 or by email at qldpoetry@gmail.com. Places are strictly limited, so get in early!

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Poetry Picks 0f 2011: Zenobia Frost

2011 has but a few hours left in its sail…. it has been the most amazing year of my life – the incredible response to the Ocean Hearted Flood Relief Fundraiser, winning The Johnno, turning 40, the birth of T.H.E. Nunn to name a few milestones – and now I am looking forward to diving headlong into 2012. But before the new year kisses us sweetly, let’s take a look at one last book from this year. And in doing so, I will leave the last word to Zenobia Frost.


Thirty Australian Poets
Edited by Felicity Plunkett
Available widely and online at Penguin Books Australia

Writing in The New Australian Poetry in 1979, Tranter described the “Generation of ’68” — a wave of “mainly young” Australian writers experimenting with and against conventional modes of poetics. What Tranter called his “half-serious theory” informed the selection process for this new collection, edited by Queensland poet Felicity Plunkett, which celebrates the diverse, vital voices of contemporary Australian poetry.

Thirty Australian Poets gives us a much richer view of national poetic voice than we’ve had access to in the past. Even in Tranter’s ’79 collection, only two female poets featured — with no Indigenous voices at all. 18 writers in Thirty Australian Poets are female. Les Murray commented in 1968 that “women are writing less well because feminism is there to absorb the energies that otherwise would have gone into literature” (see Tranter’s In Praise of Poets with PhDs ), as if (women) writers have a finite imagination. Many of the poets within these pages are also academics, critics, musicians, screenwriters and editors (along with practising any number of pursuits external to writing), disproving the myth of a writerly starvation economy once and for all. Furthermore, the 30 poets as a whole represent multicultural Australia, featuring both Indigenous writers, such as Samuel Wagan Watson, and — as David McCooey writes in his introduction — poets with “non-Anglophone backgrounds, such as Ali Alizadeh and Danijela Kambaskovic-Sawers.”

On a more personal level, Thirty Australian Poets signalled the first time in a year or more that I’d devoured a whole poetry collection in one sitting. I felt privileged to discover poets I’d never read before — Emily Ballou (whose The Plums  I return to again and again), Kate Middleton, and Simon West, for instance — alongside familiar voices. I particularly enjoyed that, rather than eschewing traditional modes (closed forms, uniform metre) entirely,  these writers more often metamorphosed them, releasing their words from the shackles of strict formalism. If this collection represents a new generation of Australian poets, they are weaving and re-weaving a tapestry of poetics as complex, strong, and infinitely re-formable as a spider’s web.

********************

Zenobia Frost is a Brisbane-based writer and critic whose poetry has appeared in Cordite, Voiceworks, Overland, and Small Packages. Her chapbooks include The Voyage (SweetWater Press 2009) and Petrichor (2011), a self-published collaboration with Jeremy Thompson. She recently placed 3rd in the 2011 John Marsden Awards for Young Writers. She is otherwise occupied with making the perfect cup of tea.

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Two ways of looking at Maggot

The Weekend Australian ran a review of Paul Muldoon’s eleventh poetry collection, Maggot (a book which has been making many ‘best of the year lists’).

The review, written by UQP Poetry Editor, Felicity Plunkett opens by taking a scientific view of this most often despised little wriggler:

MAGGOTS burgeon where form and flesh disintegrate. Because they only consume necrotic tissue, maggots are sometimes introduced into wounds to initiate the healing process.

And I am sure that many will share Plunkett’s trepidation as she intially questions, what maggots have to do with poetry. But by the end, Plunkett assures us that,

Muldoon dazzlingly replaces this with another question: what don’t maggots have to do with poetry?

It’s a review that sent me off on a search to find out more, so I have to say it did its job well. That’s where things get interesting…

In my travels I came across a second review of Maggot by Todd Swift. This is a review in the shape of a poem; a whirling response, triggered by the reading of Muldoon’s collection.

So sounding like a poet you’re not is like igniting a spark
That was already burning; looping ancient learning;
Unrolling dead scrolls – doh! – from their guarded dome;

Returning home got-up like St Jerome clutching a jeroboam;
Every grain that grates the oyster or grit that grists the mill
Is a million-to-one bet that your style is golden

You couldn’t find two more different ways of coming to the book, but again, if this is what it stirs inside of Swift, then I wouldn’t mind a dose of the same.

I would love to hear your thoughts on these two ways of approaching Maggot. I am sure many would argue that Swift’s is not a review at all… but, in short, I think I need to make room for a copy of Maggot on my bookshelves.

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Brisbane Writers Festival – poetry has the last word

It was fitting (well for this Lost Shark anyway), that a session featuring five fine poets brought BWF 2009 to a close. The featured poets were Emily Ballou, Bronwyn Lea, Felicity Plunkett, Nathan Shepherdson & Lionel Fogarty. These poets had the last word, and for those of you who couldn’t make it, here are some of their words.

Darwin’s Noah – Emily Ballou

Taken from her collection, The Darwin Poems. You can read more of her work at: http://emilyballou.com/blog/

the square root of a full stop is the square root of 64 – Nathan Shepherdson

Taken from his new collection, Apples With Human Skin (UQP).

Antipodes + other poems – Bronwyn Lea

These poems are taken from her debut collection, Flight Animals (UQP). Her most recent collection, The Other Way Out was recently published by Giramondo.

The Negative Cutter – Felicity Plunkett

Felicity’s collection Vanishing Point (UQP) won the 2008 Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize.

Remember Something Like This + other poems – Lionel Fogarty

Taken from Lionel’s collection Minyung Woolah Binnung.

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Blinded By A Million Bright Things

My eyes are watering, my calves burning slightly, and my head is swimming with words. The Million Bright Things who hit the QPF stage yesterday lit up the Judith Wright Centre with the endless possibility of poetry. Last night for me was a landmark event, with Festival Director extraordinairre, Julie Beveridge, putting together an event which featured every poet on the programme. Forty artists, one by one had their moment in the spotlight. It was high octane poetry, each artist leaving nothing behind as they left the mic and the audience wanting more. And as Neil Murray closed the show, there was that feeling that peoples lives had been changed… the energy bristling, the smiles splittingly wide.

If you are anywhere near Brisbane today, do yourself a favour and let the bright lights of QPF 2009 illuminate you. Kicking off today with the launch of Felicity Plunkett’s debut collection, Vanishing Point and the session, Choreography of Chance featuring Rhys Rodgers, Santo Cazzati and Maurice McNamara, you just know, life will be better for it!

Today’s programme is online here.

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