Tag Archives: Jeremy Balius

Oh White Mare

Fronted by Perth based poet, publisher and rock’n’roller, Jeremy Balius, Oh White Mare have just dropped their debut EP. This is music that will kick holes in your speakers; music driven by a reckless propulsion that if you open yourself, will prove irresistible. Few things make the hairs stand on my neck; even fewer make my nervous system shimmy.

Get ready to shake…

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Outcrop

Outcrop

If you are looking for poetry that reimagines this land we call Australia, poetry that experiments with landscape and geopolitics, then look no further than Outcrop, the latest release from Black Rider Press. There’s 60 hours left to secure a copy at the pre-release price of $20. There are also some other great packages from Black Rider Press on offer. Click here to find out more.

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Poetry Picks of 2010 – Jeremy Balius

Apples with Human Skin, Nathan Shepherdson (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2009)

No Australian poet has had a greater impact on my word-scribbles this year than Nathan Shepherdson. Apples with Human Skin was the catalyst.

This is a fierce book, a tesseract of tumult and brittle nettles, tagged and numbered and sent back out to pierce the forest floor.

See, understand this: Apples with Human Skin was my guidebook this year – a map for a Gieβen raised, Los Angeles educated, Berlin survived, Fremantle located cat.

In ‘einunzwanzig’ of the trakl (27×1) sequence (dedicated to Bruce Heiser, by the way), Nathan writes:

he had invented a blunt machine
for replacing umlauts in a poet’s brain

how to remember how to remember how to forget

Do you know the story of Austrian Expressionist poet Georg Trakl? Go look him up. This is important. Nathan’s book is named after Trakl’s ein Apfel mit menschlicher Haut.

To end, a snippet of ‘to find what is not there’, one of Nathan’s longer pieces in the volume.

so if you can see to the end of this sentence
you are either lying or you are blind

even the most basic words in repetition
make their own time one time in all time

 

 Indexical Elegies, Jon Paul Fiorentino (Toronto: Coach House Books, 2010)

The concept of beloved left-behinds being an index of those who’ve passed on is poignancy through and through.  Comprising three sequences, the title sequence of Indexical Elegies is in memoriam of Canadian Jon Paul Fiorentino’s late mentor Robert Allen.

It points to two aptly summarising epigraphs:

There is no truth
but in dead event, shaken, stunned

I miss everybody.
                                                – Gilbert Sorrentino

The index is physically connected with its object; they make an organic pair.

                                                – Charles Sanders Peirce

Deep into a Brisbane night, Jon Paul told me to get hooked on Sorrentino. I got hooked.

@JonPaul, icons bore me too. Am falling too far; weary. Upheaval. #chloroformedideas

Pay attention readers of the Lost Shark, when Jon Paul writes:

The word ‘I’ is apparently
an essential indexical unit

I hate
this

I lost you in November
and if time isn’t subjective

it’s November again and I am
appalled I grieve

Time is subjunctive
I am your index now

…I inhale that ish because I’ve lived that. I still live that. I inhale it and exhale only the ink.

High wit and dark humour oscillate despair, fury, loneliness, sadness and clang the drainpipes of Fiorentino’s hometowns of Winnipeg and Montreal. Sometimes it’s the smile hiding the clenched jaw. Sometimes it’s the flurry of word movement distracting from the bleary-eyed sleep deprivation.

Actually, scratch all that glib; forget everything in my note thus far.

Remember only this: Indexical Elegies is profound. I am deeply moved.

 

 im toten winkel des goldenen schnitts, Marcus Roloff (Frankfurt am Main: Gutleut Verlag, 2010)

I hadn’t had much to do with German poetics since regal 8 // shelf 8 was inducted into the Deutsches Literaturarchiv. Thankfully Marcus Roloff had a hand in making it an obsession again.

I met Marcus through Black Rider Press when we translated some of his work for The Diamond & the Thief. We later translated more of his work for Berlin’s no man’s land, partner to the infamous lauter niemand magazine. And we’ve got more we’re sitting on.

im toten winkel des goldenen schnitts (this roughly means in the blind spot of the golden ratio – if you don’t catch the various references and entendres in that, I’m not going to tell you) just came out recently and it’s the linguistic cartography, both of physical and metaphysical, that amazes. And also the typography – this book feels alive with its cover that folds out to reveal the entirety of the watercolour painting Dead Philosophers by Trevor Gould.

Marcus’ bio isn’t even in the book; it’s hidden on the back of the cover’s painting. I didn’t even notice it for ages. This aptly summarises his approach.

Marcus writes the way I’d imagine Pantha du Prince songs circa 2004 would read if all the notes were words. I see Marcus as the kind of poet who went out into the desert and came back to the city of Frankfurt am Main with a more expansive Truth and a de-centred self, clandestine urban operettas and a big ole bassline.

This is historiography for the deep-house kids. This is philosophy for the hopeful and bright-eyed kids. This is what it is for the introspective and fearless kids.

my gleiwitz

the long holidays beforehand & now / the neither-nor-
light at six a.m. // on the 1st of september a night-
shirt all tangled up / a nightmare jammed in the folds
of the cushion // from the cabinet a tumbling swift
or rather a jump / (a re-pre-metaphor) like the dusk under
the bedcover // & behind the window of the children’s room
the heimat of school full of empty idols and water
pistols / begins on the day of the attack on Poland //

(first published in no man’s land, issue 5)

 

 

 Jeremy Balius looks after Black Rider Press and hangs out with the Cottonmouth kids. You can find him at Am I the Black Rider? Yes. He writes for the last of the red hot lovers.

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The final rehearsal

We had our final rehearsal today before next Saturday’s big QLD Poetry Festival performance… and it was rocking! The addition of drums, bass and keys has taken taken the performance to a whole new level; the musicality of the poems magnified, giving them a song-like quality. Add the visual narrative provided by Cindy Keong’s photography on a big screen at The Judith Wright Centre and this performance is without doubt, the most exciting project I have been a part of. Roll on QPF…

With the mention of drums above, I thought I would post this pic of me sitting in with Sheish Money & Namedropper last Friday night at The Step Inn. I think the look on my face says it all…  What’s more, it looks like I may just get the chance to do it all again at QLD Poetry Festival next weekend with Sheish & co. and Jeremy ‘The Black Rider’ Balius, who has asked Sheish and I to sit in with him at one of his QPF performances to provide some blues-infused rhythms.

Good times coming!

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QLD Poetry Festival Fever: interviews with Emily XYZ & Jeremy Balius

Well the street press are brimming with interviews with some of the artists who are just days away from turning Brisbane into the poetry capital of this country.

So for those people who can’t pick up a copy I have decided to repost them here. First up here is the interview with Jeremy Balius from this week’s Time Off Magazine:

A MAN OF HIS WORDS

The Queensland Poetry Festival takes over the Judith Wright Centre next week; HERE HELEN STRINGER talks to one of its performers, Perth poet Jeremy Balius.

The mention of spoken word poetry might conjure images of a smoky basement room filled with black-cloaked figures gently clicking their fingers in approval as a pale, malnourished, art school dropout woefully laments the demise of intellectualism in rhyming couplets and a dry monotone, but it’s a misconception that Perth-based poet and performer Jeremy Balius – soon to be in town for the Queensland Poetry Festival – is quick to dispel.
The reality, he explains, is a lot more engaging and evocative than the traditional “Beatnik berets and black turtlenecks” perception would suggest.
“Spoken word as a scene or an experience is a lot closer to what you would experience in theatre,” he says. “So the reasons for going to the theatre would outweigh the reasons for going to the cinema because the actual human emotion element is happening in front of you. That’s what’s going on with spoken word poetry. You’re experiencing it in real time; it’s happening in front of you. It’s a whole lot more engaging than the cliché back-room hokey perception.”
Originally from Los Angeles, Balius – who describes his own work as “more vehement and excitable than the usual” – came across spoken word through music: “the writing of it came from being heavily involved in music and being lyrically bent. The more and more you head down that path you end up coming to the end result which is poetry.”
His immersion in the world of poetry – aside from writing and performing he’s also ventured into indie publishing with Black Rider Press – has lead to his appearance at the Queensland Poetry Festival, an honour, he jokes that must be a “clerical error”. As he says, “it’s completely amazing that of the people coming from WA I’m coming up with Andrew Taylor and Andrew Burke, two stalwarts in WA. These guys are pinnacles in the poetry scene and that alone is a huge honour for me.”
While performance is obviously inherent to all spoken word, Balius is particularly diligent in delineating between printed and spoken poetry.
“I’m probably more militant on this issue than most people… It’s hard to separate myself from the performance aspect. When I read work that I’m going to perform bound within it is the delivery and the movement and the drama of it all and the personal engagement with the audience… It’s about being able to step up on stage and deliver and people just being so blown away that they’re actively responding; they’re so in the moment and not containing themselves.”
Indeed, he’s probably one of the few poets who can claim the dubious honour of having evoked a response so uncontained they’re forced off stage for fear of provoking a riot. Admittedly, the event in question occurred after a band Balius was performing spoken word with was mistakenly booked to play a Bhangra – a very specific type of Indian dance music – festival.
“It went sour so fast and people responded with such vehemence and youthful jubilee that quickly the pandemonium rose to where there’re guys starting to fight and there’s just complete chaos. We got cut after the second song.”
Thankfully, audience responses are usually more positive and rarely involve violent retaliation.
“My favourite response is not even a favourable one but I use it as my mantra. Someone came up to me and he said, ‘You should probably know that we don’t get people like you around here that often…I think I liked it but I don’t know if I should.’” It’s an apt mantra for a spoken word poet: I liked it, but I don’t know if I should.

WHAT: Queensland Poetry Festival
WHERE & WHEN: Judith Wright Centre Friday 27 August to Sunday 29

And here is a recent interview with Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence Emily XYZ from this week’s Rave Magazine:

New York performance poet EMILY XYZ tells ZENOBIA FROST about her residency at The Judith Wright Centre.

You could call Emily XYZ a punk poet – a brilliant spoken word renegade who’s been making words sound good for 30 years. Brisbane wasn’t even on her radar before 2006, when an invitation from the board of the Queensland Poetry Festival came “completely out of the blue.” The poetry community liked her so much that four years later we asked her back, this time as Queensland Writers’ Centre poet-in-residence – a coveted three-month stay in an apartment above the Judith Wright Centre to write and to engage with local poets and audiences.

But XYZ didn’t start out life wanting to be a poet. “I was in a punk band in my 20s,” she tells me, “but the band broke up. I wanted to continue writing lyrics – but I realised that in order to do that, for the lyrics to stand on their own, they were going to have to be really compelling.”

XYZ studied poetry in college (dropping in and out of a few degrees before dropping out for good), but found more inspiration in the music of Patti Smith and David Bowie than on the page. “Somebody lent me Ziggy Stardust when I was 17,” she muses, “and it just made sense to me – the whole idea of a concept album, something with direction.” So it was that words came to be “secondary to music” in Emily XYZ’s work. Rather than detracting from its poeticness (I hereby deem that a word), XYZ’s influences and aims culminated in a powerful, rhythmic style, further honed once she joined forces with performance partner Myers Bartlett.

I was very much a beginner when it came to poetry in 2006, and until then I’d found more solace in print than on stage. Seeing XYZ and Bartlett perform was just damn cool, and certainly made me reconsider the way I thought about the sound and rhythm of my work, even on the page – but their 2006 visit spanned a mere weekend. This time we have 90 days to learn from Emily XYZ. Weekly workshops at Queensland Writers Centre have been such a success that XYZ hopes to extend the series well into September. Her performances around Brisbane have taken her from Avid Reader to SpeedPoets to alongside Ghostboy & The Golden Virtues at Swallow & Exit.

“People actually care about the writing scene here,” says XYZ, putting Queensland’s dwindling arts funding situation in perspective. “In the US, there’s the Lincoln Centre and the Getty Museum, but that’s about it for funding. No arts organisation the size of Queensland Poetry Festival would be able to import talent!”

Since 2005, QWC and QPF have been making sure international poetry makes a zing in the lives of local poets through the residency program, and each writer has left a unique legacy. One of Emily XYZ’s major writing projects is an unusual venture – a Twitter poem called 90 Days in Brisbane. Dip into it for a daily taste of her vibrant work: that ride home after workshop is sweet / focus over, story bridge is like a carousel & judy glows at other end friendly blue in the dark.

Book a workshop through the Queensland Writers Centre: www.qwc.asn.au, or come and see EMILY XYZ at the Queensland Poetry Festival, August 27 to 29: www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com

And finally here is a link to another interview with Jeremy Balius in Scene Magazine.

The excitement is building…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Another Lost Shark hits the street

I was recently handed the editorial reigns for issue #37 of Stylus Poetry Journal. This morning, I put the finishing touches on it and handed it over to founding editor, Rosanna Licari. The issue will be titled Street/Life and it is brimming with images of equal parts beauty and decay. It features 21 poems from 12 streetwise poets: Emily XYZ, Matt Rader, Hinemoana Baker, Steve Kilbey, Jacqueline Turner, Ashley Capes, Suzanne Jones, Jeremy Balius, Amanda Joy, Andy Jackson, Jessika Tong & Max Ryan.

It will be live online as of April 1 and I ain’t fooling when I say this issue is going to whack your senses and make you want to rush out into the babble of your own streets.

Here’s a poem from one of the Street/Life poets, Amanda Joy to transport you from your computer screen into the caffeine starved streets of morning.

 

               Cappucino Strip

                    In all seasons,
                    6am
                    coffee crowd,
                    know each other
                    by face, to nod, 
                    to complain
                    about the stink
                    of sheep piss
                    from the trucks,
                    to point 
                    at the sky & predict
                    the weather

                    7am
                    each disappears
                    from the street
                    like an actress
                    into a role

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WA Spring Poetry Festival in review

Well, leg 3 of the 2009 Another Lost Shark tour was a huge success. I had never been to WA but know for sure that I will return many times. I met so many incredible people, and have made connections that I know will be lasting, and the place itself had a huge impact on me… Perth’s green space – Kings Park, Riverside Drive – is some of the best I have ever witnessed. Thanks to Holly & Mick for looking after me and showing me around.

So here’s what I got up to…

After touching down at midnight on Thursday, it was only a few hours until I was up and moving… and from then on, I remained in perpetual motion.

Fringe GalleryFriday started with a day long haiku workshop – from joy to grief in one breath. The group that gathered (including respected haiku poet, Maureen Sexton), were an inspirational bunch and were completely open to the haiku journey… We talked about the history of haiku, some definitions (if there can even be such a thing), the fragment and phrase theory, wabi and sabi, guidelines for writing and revising work, eight techniques for writing and asked the question – are the syllables important? We also went on a ginko around the Perth cultural precinct and then came back and workshopped many of the haiku composed.

Here’s two of mine…

 

winter chill
daisies keep their petals
                                   closed

 

   sharing a sandwich
   crows gather
   around the homeless man

 

Haiku were shared and the conversation was vigorous. The perfect way to begin the weekend.

It was then off to the official opening, where I had the great pleasure of being introduced by Kevin Gillam. After reading two poems – Brisbane Love Poems & All the Way Home, I introduced local dynamo, Scott-Patrick Mitchell who was the recent winner of the 2009 PressPress chapbook competition. He read from his winning chapbook – songs for the ordinary mass, which I recommend you all check out. Scott-Patrick’s work contains a healthy dose of rage. The words bristle on the page, at all times urgent. songs for the ordinary mass resists the oppressive rules of conventional discourse and examines ways in which language has long been used, quite often subtly, to oppress and exclude:

the strip
club does not strip
those men of
anything, as the
name suggests

(from the poem, catch)

So with the festival launched, we headed over to Sunyata Buddhist Centre, for the first reading of the festival. I have to pause here to add that this venue, is the most inviting space I have ever read poetry in. The energy in the room, so welcoming, so inclusive. A truly, unique room.

Sunyata Buddhist Retreat

The first reading, MC’d by Sue Clennell featured the lyrically elegant Annamaria Weldon (check out her book, The Roof Milkers, it is superb!), two times Tom Collins Poetry Prize winner Peter Bibby, the spontaneous narratives of Amber Fresh (you must also check out her book, Between You And Me) and this Lost Shark. The open section was also buzzing. It was so good to be immersed in the words of local poets.

I went home that night, head swimming, anticipating Day 2.

Saturday featured a number of panel discussions the first Poetry and the Environment and the afternoon panel – Cultural Diversity, which I was honoured to be a part of alongside Peter Bibby, founding editor of Magabala Books, the immensely talented Afeif Ismail Abdelrazig, and Glen Phillips. I talked about my experiences in Ubud in 2004 running haiku workshops and performing with a gamelan band as well as my regular trips to Blackall (Western QLD) and the lasting impact the land has had on me and my work. Listening to Afeif talk about his experience as a refugee living in Australia and the time he spent as a political prisoner was both humbling and deeply insightful. Truly people, you have to read this man’s work. I also got to read at the mighty Perth Poetry Club, run by Janet Jackson and a small but devoted team. Janet has enough energy to power a small village. Check out some of her work here.

Sunyata Buddhist Retreat1

Saturday night, we returned to Sunyata for a multi-cultural poetry reading MC’d by the delightful Vivienne Glance. This was the highlight of the whole festival… words can’t begin to capture the intense emotion in the room, the coming together of cultures, poets, humanity. Performers included Nick Di Lello, Istenad Haddad, Tam Thai, Lily Chan, Afeif Ismail Abdelrazig and the WAZA ensemble (playing traditional music from Sudan). Maureen Sexton and I were also invited to read haiku, so we joined forces and combined our reading, which confirmed my belief, that if you put two poems side by side (or in the air together), they will be drawn into dialogue. I then closed the reading with a selection of haibun from Measuring the Depth and my long poem Beyond, from the Black Stump Blues series.

This night, is etched in my DNA.

And then it was Sunday. The panel on publication saw some really interesting discussions emerge, with topics ranging from self-publishing to traditional publishing to digital publishing to performance to journals and onward. The second panel for the afternoon, Poetry Into the Future chaired by the incomparable Jeremy Balius was another highlight for me. I shared the panel with Scott-Patrick Mitchell, Amber Fresh and Amanda Joy. The energy between us, electric. A real sense of coming together. We each shared our stories and Jeremy shot questions at us to keep it all flowing. And again, the topics covered were diverse. We talked about success, we talked about influences, we talked about innovation and most importantly… we read poems!

Fremantle2

Then, it was trip to Fremantle… seriously, if you have never been there, do yourself a favour. I got the opportunity to have a wander through the streets and the one second hand bookstore I stumbled across was incredible. The fish & chips on the water was pretty damn good as well.

And before I knew it, I was at Fringe Gallery, for the closing night readings. This is another space I am forever thankful for being invited into. There was open mic, there were features from Annamaria Weldon, Peter Bibby, Amber Fresh and I was thrilled to be able to hear Amanda Joy read from her recent chapbook (and even more thrilled to have received the last copy), Not Enough To Fold (Verve Bath Press). I have long enjoyed Amanda’s work and after hearing it, I have an even greater appreciation. I closed the night with a set of predominantly new poems… and they felt good. The room was smiling back at me and the weekend of memories flooded back. Chief organiser of WA Spring Poetry Festival Peter Jeffery’s words of thank you are still resonating. So again, thank you Peter for the incredible opportunity.

My first visit to Perth… well, the people and place are now in my blood. Back on the east coast… it doesn’t seem so far away.

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