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The Trickster’s Mask: an interview with Scott-Patrick Mitchell (part ii)

Part i of my interview with SPM, left us talking about images of letters being posted around hoon-ridden Newcastle… so where to from here? Read on tricksters, read on!

I would love to see a photo or two! And I love the idea of gaps; the holes and silences in this world are so often overlooked. What role do these gaps play in your creative process? What is at the heart of invention for SPM?

the heart of invention is a brooding mass of potential. but in order to access that mass, and bridge the gaps, i find my creative process – and sometimes my life at large – is defined by rule-sets.

now, these are by no means definitive rule-sets, such as if A occurs then B is most likely to be followed by C, but only if the outcome is D. rather, they are a lot faster and loose, the most essential rule that i abide by at all times, and have done since i started writing poetry, being the simplest golden rule of all: be the experiment.

there is no point wondering what will happen if 1ne were to do something. wondering is akin to wandering, yes, but if you wander too far will you remember where you started from, accurately? therefore, 1ne should commit to making a thing happen if there is a wonderment about it, and the only that can occur is by giving yourself over – entirely – to the creative process. this rule has seen me spend my entire undergrad course reading no poetry written prior to the 20th century, to see what effect the cannon would have if it were relieved of its need to influence – to see if what its absence would yield and how my poetry would differ as a result. this rule is also responsible for me listening only to music exclusively from northern europe for the last half of 2006ix, plus spending a year inside a living art project called The Chaochamber, at which point i lived with a chaos magician while he attempted to make the southern hemisphere’s largest attractor of chaos. needless to say, when the imaginary pet black cat we pretended to have actually became a real black cat, which was followed by a string of black cats coming into our thereafter, you begin to see the wonder and excitement of giving yourself over to the experiment, irrespective of how crazy that experiment may appear from the outside. life is far too dull otherwise not to live it with a sense of giddy abandon, don’t you think? and i gladly give art and poetry and fashion and film as much room as it needs in my world in the hope that i can be transported, often. and i am (plus i always find my way home).

but this rule, this be the experiment, is also responsible for all 3hree of my major collections to date, plus many others still being finely tuned. other rules, similar to this rule, are more instinctive than anything and include such rules as when in doubt, give (which is actually a lyric from a bjork song) or strive to be unique, never modern (because modern is common in this modern age) or you’ll know when it is wrong and my current favourite, the success of a day is measured in poetry.

the punctuated enjambment is also a result of this rule. as are all the other elements i construct inside my poems. my poetry, as a result, has developed an acoustical ecology of its own. by being, by making myself consciously present, consciously part of the poetry and the experiments it yields, i find the dark mass of potential defines its self more and more. the gaps between it and the pages on which it appears are spanned with more rules as they make themselves apparent. and it’s interesting, because while people typically find that rules box something in, ebb the potential of it growing, i am finding that the complete opposite is occurring – the rules provide more opportunities to escape the heart of invention. it’s not something i am trying to access after all… it’s something i’m trying to escape, it seems, or slip away from in the hope of providing those on the other side of the gaps with as many routes by which to access it.

which leads us back, again, to cartography.

the need to map is a need to remember. yes, we plot as we progress. but the map only makes sense when we have reached the destination. it’s only in ending that we appreciate the path back to the beginning. and since we constantly feel a need to begin something, we instinctively know that in doing so, we will end somewhere. i am 1ne of those people for whom the ending of a project – but not always a poem – has a definition even before it has begun. i begin with the end in mind. i know what shape it should take. it’s then a process of plotting a path in 2wo parts, 1ne that simultaneously begins from the start and moves back from the end. the convergence of these 2wo parts of the same path occurs in the middleground, the largest gap of all – that which is unknown, unheard, unseen until you arrive there. this is what the heart of invention yields – a structure across the space.

and the view from such a space is breathtaking, like poetry – it takes the breath and runs away with it.

or at least that’s what The Trickster has taught me. 1ne should always let oneself escape or runaway from oneself. it’s that sense of losing yourself to the process, to the act, to the experiment, to the project, that is the most satisfying of what we do – yes, it yields poetry and other people’s reactions. yes, it yields books and publicity. yes, it causes us to exert ourselves and use effort in the process. yes, it can exhaust us. yes, it pushes us on to create and take leaps of faith. but nothing is more exciting than being in the actual midst of it, of living it. after all, it’s why we always ask someone why they made something, what caused their act of creation – we want to move along their converging paths and catch a glimpse of that exhilarating middleground, the largest gap of all, and experience that rush of stepping out into the unknown and watching it define itself, materialise, actualise, provide a parkour for the soul, letting us leap and clamber over the landscape we discover there, just like the person who created it did when they first discovered it themselves.


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The Trickster’s Mask: an interview with Scott-Patrick Mitchell (part i)

spm, . the tricking post . blows up the idea of the love letter. what is it about this form that drew you in and when did you realise you were on to something truly amazing?

i’ve always adored the love letter, or rather it’s modern counterpart, the love text. there’s something so highly personable about them. and yes, i have gone through entire relationships saving every text message in an effort to map the trajectory of the relationship. but there’s the rub right there – people don’t write letters anymore. we text. we tweet. we status update. at the most we email. but we don’t actually write. not letters. and not by longhand it seems.

so the idea of writing letters for the public space seemed appropriate. but no-one wants to read about a normal life – we have twitter and facebook for that. no, they want to read about the car crash that is your life. and better slow motion car crash than the break up of a relationship.

i wouldn’t say i knew i was on to anything truly amazing either. well… not until the letters were written and posted up in public spaces. that’s when people started addressing them to other people. to be honest i never expected people to do that. there was a certain thrill when they did though. so i’d say it was people’s reactions that amazed me, not the letters themselves… which is kinda how i live my life: i’m constantly amazed by the people who surround me and whom find themselves attracted to what i do.

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

so people have actually addressed these letters to other people and sent them off? that is wild. are there any specific stories you can tell about that? how did you first find out?

addressed is the right term, yes, but the letters were already posted, as it were. i lugged 36ix plus A0 print outs through the midnight streets of post-industrial hoon ridden newcastle, indisputably our nation’s most cultural city. i posted the letters at intervals, already determined by a map i had developed back home. i love maps you see. jung always told me that in order to achieve happiness in adulthood, you should mimic that which brought you the greatest joy as a child. as a child, i loved drawing maps. i would have married a map if marriage had (& now was/is/ever when) been something i had thought about it. but it wasn’t. cartography was, however. i obsessed over imaginary maps of imaginary worlds. so armed with my own i ventured forth to complete what was then known as The Trickster’s Bible, The Trickster’s mask you see on the cover here a marker as to where to post a poem as act of vandalism. all predetermined. a bad move, considering how hillock newcastle wills it.

elaboration is a friend here.

i obsess over street art more than maps. although the 2wo are the same. i had recently discovered a performative form of street art: parkour. the parkour logic was simple – let us travel through the city in the least moves possible, even if that means we flip & climb & sidewind over the pedestrians & furniture. the leader of parkour path is called a traceur, or tracer in olde mOther tongue. they trace the path of least resistance. to travel, 1ne must know how to compile tricks. tricks build up into moves. a move can comprise of many tricks, a trick evolving in difficulty & stratagem from A to B to C, naturally. the traceur learns their tricks from the holy tome of parkour, The Tricking Bible.

can you begin to see how the horizon arrived here now?

so… what would happen if instead of travelling through the city with ease, you were travelling with disease, a septic heart, a stalker’s want & need for that which is imaginary. what if The Trickster, the loveable loki, that dear old poe crow, mr miserable with being a god with only the power to cause mayhem & not thunderbolts, gotta hold of The Tricking Bible. what if they used it to clamber & stumble faster after you. what if in their wake they ached their bleeding heart across the landscape. what if every secret you had forged together suddenly spilt out & became public.

notice the lack of rhetoric. this wasn’t a hypothetical. it was hyper unethical.

the bible remained. it was holy then. now, it’s for the masses. the gods are all dying anyway.

so yes… the letters were posted that night. the following morning they addressing had occurred. i first found out by retracing my own traceur but in reverse. comrade in crime, foreword writer & the most feared man in electrocabaret, mr tomás ford accompanied both at night & the following day. by this point – & a near fatal arrest by the fuzz on the very last poem posted – he hated my guts. which was understandable. i hated me too by this point – exertion & effort are my least favourite things you see. but when we saw the blue texta scrawl of some poor unfortunate souls name after the dear ________, mr ford’s life lit back up. he gushed all over the pavement & my shoes. as mentioned before, this is what i strive for more than anything: the reactions people have to what i do.

no, i did not expect these people to address the post & resend it, i suppose, but i was glad they did. i have photos somewhere i can dig out for you if you so like.

does that make sense? i’m sure there are gaps – there should always be gaps. that’s why we write poetry… to give the gaps something to say.

. the tricking post . is available now at Black Rider Press

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Dada Doesn’t Catch Flies (but it has caught poets)

The delightful Fiona Bell of Dada Doesn’t Catch Flies, has been firing questions at some of the local artists who will be hitting the QLD Poetry Festival stage. So far she has chatted with Carmen Leigh Keates, Nicola Scholes, Ghostboy & my lovely wife, Julie Beveridge (yes, that’s her arm below).

She has also been posting poems and other morsels for you to devour, so, if you have not yet taken the left turn to Fiona’s site, then now’s the time!

Only 10 days to go…

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Another Lost Shark Interviewed on Verity La

Recently I had the pleasure of chatting with the delightful, Ashley Capes and that chat is now online at Verity La, along with a few pictures from my time spent in (and around) the magical City Lights Book Store in San Francisco. The great news for those of you in the Brisbane area (or thinking of making the pilgrimage), you will be able to see Ashley live at QLD Poetry Festival from August 26 – 28, something that I myself am mighty excited about.

So yes, head on over to Verity La where you can read the complete interview… we talk haiku; putting together a collection; family mythology and other poetic tidbits. Enjoy!

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Rambling with Max Ryan (part II)

ALS: That last line really sends me Max… captures so beautifully the notion of ‘a birth and a death’ that you mention. By experiencing the show, the teens lives have altered, been forever changed… and with all change, something of our former selves is lost. Loss is another recurring image in many of your poems. Before we lose each other again contains some of my favourite lines in the collection: ‘I’d hear your name on a stranger’s tongue’ and ‘all our blood beats to the drum/ of a hunter who can never rest’, make the hair on my neck prickle. Loss is something we all experience, so I am interested in how it influences your writing.

MR: Thanks for pointing that out. It makes me realise another element of that last line… the man remembering is forever captured by the spell of another time and place, even imagination or the world it conjures implies some kind of loss…

Loss is at the heart of all poetry, methinks. Something Michael Dransfield says:

to be a poet what it means to lose the self to lose the self

I guess I don’t see this loss as necessarily a calamitous thing. Keats seemed to be pointing to something like that in his notion of Negative Capability: because the poet (not the person) has no fixed identity, is in a sense lost to the sureties of worldly existence, he/she is made open to the experience of ever-changing life. Also, the art of haiku in a sense necessitates this loss of self which is why it’s truly a humbling art.

But yeah, there’s a fairly strong theme of loss and an attendant sorrowful tone in Before the Sky. I remember being struck with that when I first saw the proofs and Judy Johnson, who edited the book, had placed two elegies at the start. Maybe I’m particularly drawn to the subject… I couldn’t say I’m an especially moribund person, there’d be few people alive who hadn’t been made aware of how precarious this existence is. There’s a beautiful section in the film What Happened to Kerouac? where Allen Ginsberg speaks about Kerouac’s death and (I can’t remember his exact words) explains how we mourn for existence because we know that this very place is it, it won’t come again.

Before we lose each other again is my first attempt at a villanelle. The title implies that the woman is one I’ve known before and am destined to meet (and lose) again and again. The form of the poem with its recurring lines and cyclical, incantatory cadences is ideal for such a theme. Without going into a discussion of transmigration of souls or somesuch, I think there’s often this recognition when we encounter certain special people that we somehow know them in an entirely uncanny way.

Kieran Ryan (on the Kid Sam album) says it nicely in the song Mirror Drawings:

I’ve been around once or twice now
Come around a few times more
but I can’t always recognise you
in all your different forms

streets of jogjakarta touches on something similar:

the rooftop thrums with rain
as she comes back to say goodbye
calling you to go or stay
like she once did in another time

Going back to the villanelle, the image of the hunter is of course a symbol for death or mortal fate, the thing we can never escape. So the very thing that pursues the lovers, the knowing that ‘one night the hunt will end’ instills a kind of desperate passion in their lovemaking. The ‘faceless hunter’ beats the drum and we can only dance to it:

and all our blood beats to the drum
of a hunter who can never rest

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Rambling with Max Ryan

Quite some time ago, I posted a long interview with award winning poet, Max Ryan. Max has just released his second collection, Before the Sky, so we decided to start rambling all over again…

ALS: Your latest release, Before the Sky, is brimming with musicality. In the collection we ride the bus home after seeing The Beatles, with the shell-shocked girls in the back (Journey of The Beatles Fans); we hear Keith Richards, choogling away on open G (Keef); and we sing for the cohort of the damned as the radio is turned off (Rimbaud Blows the Whistle). I have spoken to you before about your love of music, but I wanted to ask you specifically about how you came to writing Keef and Journey of The Beatles Fans.

MR: Whoo… I guess you mean poems with a musical or music theme.

The last time I saw the Stones, a woman actually prostrated when Mick introduced Keith. Keef started off as some kind of paeon to the man himself but it ends up being just as much about the narrator, some one who’s a contemporary of K and sees his life as moving in some kind of parallel to his. Of course our narrator’s life, like most lives, is a compromised one…he gives up rock and roll to run a lawn-mowing business, splits up with his wife in contrast to K who ‘got rid of Anita’. In the end though the last line describing K’s phenomenal riffing power (‘dead on time’) seems to bring the two together. Keith is, after all, mortal. Isn’t he?

Journey Of The Beatles Fans came from an idea I had for yonks for a poem about seeing the Beatles all those years ago. Tried many times to get it down but it always seemed to trail off into a ragged vision of us teenyboppers riding home on the bus to and from Newcastle. Last year I was reading Geoff Page’s marvellous 80 Great Poems where he was discussing TS Eliot’s Journey Of The Magi. Most of you will remember it’s a dramatic monologue by a Magus (one of three) describing his trip to witness the nativity. The mood is weary and defeated as the three travel through hostile arid lands:

With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly

The seminal event is brushed over in a few lines with the Magi

…not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

Anyway, it all fell together: I got the idea that the actual journey to the concert and the effect it had on those pubescent pilgrims was the heart of the matter. Basically, I planted my poem in Eliot’s even using the same metres and his litany-like depiction the journey. The mood in my wee saga is definitely up-beat on the way down to the show:

With us with our ears pressed to scratchy radios, ringing out
It won’t be long yeah yeah yeah

After the climax:

And JOHNPAULGEORGEANDRINGO ran on, not a moment too soon
Bestowing Grace; it was (you could say) the only word for it.

the mood shifts to something similar to that experienced by Eliot’s Magi of a sense of something gained but also lost, a birth and a death.

It would be hard to equal Eliot’s powerful final line:

I should be glad of another death.

But the Beatles fans, or at least one of them, can celebrate the journey because, although there’s still the sense of dislocation and not being able to fit in, the imagination relives the unconditional joy of knowing that something way beyond anything he’s seen before is about to happen:

I was still on that bus, heading for the show.

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QLD Writer’s Week Feature #14 – Barbara Brown

It has been a real blast to bring so many exciting voices to a new readership… so I hope you enjoy the words and wisdom of feature #14, Barbara Brown.

What excites you about poetry?

The brilliance and madness which co-exist within us all.  Poetry sings outward, into & unto itself.  I find it fascinating how peoples’ minds work; subject matter, creative process, interpretations & unravelling it (reminding me of being a child playing pass the parcel).  I’m naturally drawn to mysteriousness, and poetry offers that to me.  Poetry is many things to many people and discovering those reasons can be just as exciting.  For me right now, it’s unleashing pent up ideas and attempting to create something magical that I can call my own, hopefully before they or I go rusty!

What are the themes that interest you / that you like to explore in your own writing?

I’m not sure if particular themes are making an appearance in my writing yet, because I’m experimenting with different themes, styles & settings as much as I can.  Having said that, I enjoy dark fantasy, reflective, wit & sarcasm, love/sexual and generally try to play with words/phrases/concepts.

Charles Bukowski once said, ‘poetry is what happens when nothing else can.’ How does a poem happen for you?

To some it may seem an unlikely candidate but I love to pull random words and sentences, which I hear internally and spoken aloud and attempt to craft them into something altogether different from their first intent & purposes.  Poetry can be extremely cathartic (when given the opportunity) – I sometimes find myself working through & reflecting on issues which may otherwise go unaddressed.

 

SWOLLEN FEARS

distant dreams stifled by swollen fears
plagued by city beasts, tall poppies and
concrete.
walking under cas-
cad-
ing
tears
herded by roaming sheep no longer black.
 
grappling with pens as if they were guns
firing words to a page
paper bleeding fiercely
the only wound is my own in the form of rsi
coupled with not knowing
if these actions
make
a difference

 

About Barbara:

I love arty & funky stuff and have always dreamed of doing something creative/artistic.  Ideally, I would love to one day organise music festivals, art & theatre shows.  I feel like there has been a slow burn in my hearth.  But it needs more fuel.  With the encouragement and support of my partner I am currently exploring and building my poetry writing (having dabbled in it since childhood) – I walked away from the Queensland Poetry Festival refreshed and inspired, a proud participant in the QPF open mic (my first) and am really enjoying the offerings of Speedpoets each month.  As usual, my mind is busy contemplating ideas to hopefully put together a small performance, fundraising event and perhaps see what publishing opportunities lie ahead.

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