Tag Archives: Kent MacCarter

Poetry Picks of 2010 – Kent MacCarter

Like the word ‘poetry’ and the capacious, ‘mysterious’ confines that tag along with it, so too does the word ‘jazz’ trigger a huge abstract space. And I have noticed that these two words occasionally flummox and alarm, if not downright scare people. ‘It’s all too hard and complex,’ they say, as if poetry and jazz are perceived as bizarre, unpredictable juggernauts they’d rather not touch in the way they’d not dare slink up to a dozing grizzly bear and poke it in the chops. Frustratingly, this effect immediately tunes out the gun shy from sounds or words filed in either office. If you write poetry – or play jazz – you know that this need not be the case (which is not to claim that there’s no peril or that there’s not plenty to avoid in each form depending on one’s taste). Publishing poetry nowadays takes love and guts, but publishing poetry about jazz, as Extempore does, requires a healthy dollop of moxie on top of that as well.

Extempore gots moxie. I’ll just put it like that. They have much in common, jazz and poetry do, and they intersect wonderfully in issue 5 of this journal.

Editor Miriam Zolin has once again produced a terrific collection of poetry, reviews, stories, musical composition and images about or in some way referencing jazz. In full disclosure, three poems of mine appear in this 5th issue. But I’m bored of those, drafting and writing them long ago. It is everything else in this issue (let alone the MO of the journal itself) that continues to pique me. All the other ‘finished products’ work. Terrific poems by Kevin Gillam, Helen Lambert, Nathan Shepherdson and Geoff Page, just to name a few, work. The journal’s well made and well laid out. It works in your hands.

Extempore appeals to me because I adore sound. And jazz (again, the portion of which I make time for: Django Reinhardt, anybody?) feels like raw sound versus the refined sounds I enjoy every bit as much; refined sounds like Kitty Wells’ lilt through a honky-tonk bawler or the angular math that pipes out of a Wire or Saints song. This raw versus refined bout registers in my head the same way a garden full of vegies seems raw, unrefined until such time as it becomes a wok concoction. Now, I know that most poems are fussed at, reworked, and worried at like a loose tooth at age eight. Poems are refined many times over. But poetry, finished poems, still have a rawness about them I can’t resist. So, when this rawness gets doubled up – as it is in Extempore – well, the result kicks a truly good bit of arse.

I adore the pure sound of words, stripped clean of any definition, every bit as much as I enjoy building poetic narratives with them. I am particularly drawn to pieces about a certain type of sound – jazz, say, or the call of birds. Or the squelch from a Geiger counter. Extempore is riddled with such sounds. Poetry is riddled with such sounds.

I have written many poems triggered by sound; this is to say, I was moved to write them after hearing X, Y or Z. One piece I’ve written was all because of the sounds coming off an old supermarket cash register and what they unlocked in my memory. Now, much of the written works are pieces about jazz, not writings as if to be jazz. But reading poems as jazz is a mode any reader can try out if they care to. Extempore is the perfect journal to have a go.

Tom Waits had something to both scrawl and bleat about the intersection of ‘Heartattack and Vine’. I’m going to end on a massively hokey note and encourage you – somebody, anybody – to see if your cigarettes still light or if that tabby cat ever shuts the hell up at the intersection of poetry and jazz.


 Kent MacCarter, expatriate of Minnesota, Montana and New Mexico, is now a permanent resident in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and two cats. Answering the question, “Where are you from?” is always a difficult one for him.

In the Hungry Middle of Here is first collection of poetry, published by Transit Lounge Press. It’s a book that navigates the world, seeking the sounds, textures and tastes that characterise its parts. His work has appeared in many publications both here and outside of Ausralia. He currently sits on the executive board of SPUNC: The Small Press Network, an advocate association that supports small and micro presses. He is also an active member in Melbourne PEN with some exciting projects planned for 2011.


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Riverbend Poetry Series, April 27 – featuring Kent MacCarter

The second Riverbend Poetry Series event for the year is just days away and it is promising to be a very special night. So if you are in the area make sure you are at Riverbend Books to enjoy a night of wild and whirling words with interstate guest Kent MacCarter (VIC), local favourites Tim Collins and Nathan Shepherdson and the launch of Brisbane’s favourite lit-mag Small Packages (vol. 11). The event is proudly presented by QLD Poetry Festival, QLD Writers Centre and Riverbend Books.

Tickets for the event are now available:

Date: Tuesday 27 April
Location: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St. Bulimba
Time: Doors open for the event at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Tickets: $10 available through Riverbend Books and include sushi and complimentary wine. To purchase tickets, call Riverbend Books on (07) 3899 8555 or book online at http://www.riverbendbooks.com.au/Events/EventDetails.aspx?ID=2242

Here’s a taste of what to expect from our interstate guest, Kent MacCarter:

A native of the US, Kent MacCarter’s adopted home is now Melbourne. Graduating from Melbourne University with a Masters in English Creative Writing in 2006 completed an arc that started with degrees and an early career in Financial Accounting. Having published for some years in Australian and international journals and papers, in 2009 he published In the Hungry Middle of Here, his first book.


The Precipice that is Treskavec Monastery


Outskirts of drizzle
                           comb apart radio
calls squelched out by tyre track ruts
wending up the glacial expression
held taut by Mt. Zlato
a taxi from Prilep donates me
on to. This profile. Unpacking

A scramble, I chart points from the geological chin
this mountain sports
and fix my silty ascent
                                             through a moustache of pine
                                             to the far-above cornice
where psalms of Russian-built Nivas
slalom between frescoes and goats. When down-
shifting from first to Cyrillic
               the orthodox monks
               grind their 4×4 hearts out
atop this perilous sentence
of steep road read aloud
by my feet


Part-way up on an outcrop
                I recline into minerals
                Water. Rest. A topsoil address
My inadvertent bisection of paths
                A duo of government
surveyors looming geologically still
in a strenuous waiting-about
for lunchbreak to start
                                             A linguistic wrangle
centres on weather, drills free how I’m from, exploration
on where I’m appearing in fields
way-out in this Macedonian woop-woop
and how. They professionally fidget 
                                triangular stances
their instruments plead and gazette
my upward direction
topo maps to be drawn.
                            Pointing down to the shoulder
of Earth effectively grappled
we marvel through olives. Our communion
of Boolean syntax. Transgression
This computer-aided-design


You can read more of Kent’s work here:



And here are two links to reviews of the In The Hungry Middle Of Here:



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Riverbend Poetry Series, April 27 – the launch of Small Packages 11

April 27 is fast closing in and I for one am looking forward to it, as that si the date issue 11 of QLD’s finest literary mag Small Packages hits the shelves of Riverbend Books as part of the second event in the 2010 Riverbend Poetry Series.

The night will feature readings from Melbourne’s Kent MacCarter and award winning QLD poets Tim Collins & Nathan Shepherdson as well as readings from Small Packages 11 by founding editors Rob Morris and Francis Boyle and a range of special guests.

For those who remember the launch of Small Packages 10 at Riverbend Books this is definitely not an event to be missed. After 11 years at the helm, Rob Morris and Francis Boyle still seem to channel the electricity one feels when launching a debut issue… and their energy is not only infectious in person, it flows throughout the pages of every issue and from what I have seen of issue 11, it has that same electric-vibe.

Here’s a sneak preview of  a poem (and image) from issue 11 by Rob Morris.


                                                           The Returning

                                                           He said that he returned
                                                                           to that shining morning
                                                                           he was only three.
                                                            He ripped along Gregory Terrace
                                                            the crowd lifting him
                                                            like a boisterous breeze.
                                                            He was a Telegraph Tike
                                                                            The Castrol Kid
                                                            and he showed Brisbane wonder.
                                                            He said that it returned to him;
                                                                             his father, the people,
                                                                                             the intensity,
                                                                             till he recalibrated
                                                                                             Up and …
                                                                             over the century

In 1927, three and a half year old Kevin Kronk rode his bike down Gregory Terrace to the cheers of Brisbane people. His Castrol shirt was sent from England just for him.


Riverbend Poetry Series:

Queensland Poetry Festival, QLD Writers Centre & Riverbend Books are proud to present the second event in the Riverbend Poetry Series for 2010. Join us on the Riverbend deck as we showcase another exciting mix of local and interstate poets. The April event features the award-winning words of Nathan Shepherdson (Apples With Human Skin), Tim Collins reading from his latest, hard-hitting collection, The Crooked Floor, the launch of QLD’s favourite poetry journal, Small Packages and interstate guest Kent MacCarter (In The Hungry Middle Of Here).

Date: Tuesday 27 April
Location: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St. Bulimba
Time: Doors open for the event at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Tickets: $10 available through Riverbend Books and include sushi and complimentary wine. To purchase tickets, call Riverbend Books on (07) 3899 8555 or book online at http://www.riverbendbooks.com.au/Events/EventDetails.aspx?ID=2242

These events are always hugely popular, so book early to avoid disappointment!

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Riverbend Poetry Series, April 27 – featuring Nathan Shepherdson

The second Riverbend Poetry Series event for the year takes place on Tuesday April 27, when QLD Poetry Festival, QLD Writers Centre and Riverbend Books join forces to present a night of poetry with Tim Collins, Nathan Shepherdson, Kent MacCarter (VIC) & the launch of Brisbane’s favourite lit-mag Small Packages (vol. 11).

Tickets for the event are now available:

Date: Tuesday 27 April
Location: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St. Bulimba
Time: Doors open for the event at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Tickets: $10 available through Riverbend Books and include sushi and complimentary wine. To purchase tickets, call Riverbend Books on (07) 3899 8555 or book online at http://www.riverbendbooks.com.au/Events/EventDetails.aspx?ID=2242

Here’s a quick bite of poetry from multi-award winner, Nathan Shepherdson:


Nathan Shepherdson is the author of three books of poetry – Sweeping the Light Back Into the Mirror (UQP 2006); what marian drew never told me about light (Small Change Press 2008) and Apples with Human Skin (UQP 2009). He has been a guest at a number of festivals in recent years. He has been the fortunate recipient of a number of awards and is the fortunate son of the painter Gordon Shepherdson.


from Eve 1528

before this moment
light had never walked to the back of the eye
it slides by like a transparent fate in rusted shoes
it is a rare moment
where we are allowed to unbutton the filaments in our eyes
indulge in a profound emptiness
where perfectly decayed questions drift like miniature suns
and perfectly formed answers hum a barely audible indifference
there is a stillness to be siphoned from other planets
a substance to be kept under the eyelids
to be invoked at certain temperatures of thinking
when my optic nerves are placed in a vase by the window

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QPF Spotlight #1 – Kent MacCarter

Well good people, it is now less than two months before the mighty QLD Poetry Festival is here. Over the coming weeks, I will be shining the spotlight on a number of featured artists from this year’s festival to give you all a taste of the good things to come when it kicks off on August 21.

First up I shine the spotlight on Kent MacCarter.




What is the role of spontaneity in your creative process?

I wouldn’t say that my writing is catalysed by random acts of spontaneity exactly, but it is oftentimes jolted by ‘triggers’. I take this term, ‘triggers’, from North American poet Richard Hugo and his essays on teaching creative writing in the 1960s and 70s, The Triggering Town. For him, venturing in to new towns he’d never visited triggered in him a creative torrent and the impetus to harness it and write. For me, it’s frequently sounds – be it the blipping onomatopoetic notes emitting from a cash register in a supermarket, a song or the exhaust noise emitting from a motorbike in Vietnam. The poem that I have included here was triggered by the bleat of a wayward lamb and a crop duster revving its engine before take off. The poem relies heavily on the visuals my wife and I were absorbing while on a country stroll in rural New Zealand on Christmas night, but it was triggered by sound. Music and sound move most people into emotion, moving them to create X, Y or Z. There’s nothing new about that. For me, the result is poetry.

I wish I could claim that I’m an über-disciplined journal keeper and writing-exercise doer. But, I’m not. I write when these triggers and free-time coincide.

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?

I am currently reading the final collection of Denise Levertov’s poetry, published posthumously. I’m also sifting through works by Charles Simic and John Forbes, both poets I greatly admire and would consider influences. As previously mentioned, Richard Hugo has been influential on me … though I am not at all a ‘confessional’ poet the way he was. I had the honour to attend one of Thom Gunn’s final readings before his death. He recommended a poet to me I’d not heard about at the time; August Kleinzahler. Terrific advice. The coquettishness of Frank O’Hara, amongst all the other worthy adjectives one could use to describe his writing, I find superb. The dry, verging on parched humour of Richard Brautigan also swirls around in the DNA of some of my poems.

However, I must admit that the people who have influenced me the most are not writers – or at least this label wouldn’t be at the top of their CV. Perhaps that’s breaching a cardinal rule of discussing authorial influence, but I’m happy to pony up the truth about that straight away. The photography of Max Dupain and his assistant, Jill White (www.maxdupain.com.au), has been a big influence on me since coming to Australia six years ago. North American photographer, David Plowden (www.davidplowden.com), is a master at capturing the abstraction and urbanisation of culture. Some of his plates wow me into sublime moments. Jeffrey Smart’s paintings also have this affect on me, as do various albums from bands like Stone Roses, Galaxie 500 or Built to Spill … even going back to jazz hothouse maestros like Django Reinhardt or Bix Beiderbecke.


Why perform/read your poetry?

Reading poetry aloud and with considerable volume is half the deal of poetry. At least half. The cadence and flow of words toppling over slant rhymes, enjambments and pauses are integral to the poetry I write and is fundamental to how I engage with poetry as a whole. Much of this goes missing when strictly reading from a page.

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 Kent MacCarter do in preparation for writing?

I sure wish I had some sage acumen to share in answer to this question. I guess I’m still at the point, and early point in a writer’s career, where the impetus to write seeks me out more so than I am able to instigate it myself. I know that reads rather wanky, but it’s accurate. For now. Again, those triggers I mentioned above are very hard to say no to. And so, in that sense, I fuss around with words, lines and the succinct narratives that begin to appear. In that sense it’s like developing negatives into prints in a darkroom, only I’m not entirely sure what the final result was meant to be. This has created both dross and gems, but there we are.

Finally, where are you looking when you write?

I look directly into place. Textures of place. Tastes of place. Histories of place.

From another angle, I look directly at how my lines are forming, how the lineation is breaking down and shaping up. I look at how the words appear on the page. When and if I can get all these visual “plates” spinning on their axis at once, then I feel as if I’m making good progress. It’s like reading and writing in 3D.



A Poem:


Present in Makarora Valley

Remorseful a roadside lamb
          bleats pointier than the razor wire

strung to keep it stock, not traffic.
          The fabric-winged crop-duster

zips four-hundred fanfare bucks
          off the grassy goat-mowed runway

a red windsock dangles expectantly near
          like a cattle-dog’s exhausted tongue

co-piloting further search for drink.
          Teen hoons careen in mum’s sedan,

Pickled exhales shift their gears
          a stones-throw to a neighbour’s

place and into song. Red deer clop on damp top pasture
          their character development

poises well-composed behind strategic pines.
          Steeling in from a vanishing point

a lone Thai man like a country highway mouse
          slaloms the dotted centre-line
and through a claim he’s pedalled the vast calligraphy
          in from Christchurch on a ten-speed

he motions us to photograph. Twice. 10pm an atoll
          re-gifts Christmas alchemy into this valley

we madly row to reach its trumpet belts of twilight
          ricocheting huge above the local ungulates.

A stray wash-machine sweats out its ferrous rot
          in weeds. To life it whirs and fills with infant light.


About Kent:

A native of the US, Kent MacCarter’s adopted home is now Melbourne. Graduating from Melbourne University with a Masters in English Creative Writing in 2006 completed an arc that started with degrees and an early career in Financial Accounting. His first collection of poems, In the Hungry Middle of Here, is now out after appearing for some years in Australia and international journals and papers. Place, sounds of place, textures of place and hungers for place are strong themes throughout the first collection.


Catch Kent at QPF 2009:

Saturday August 22 – 10:30am – 11:30am

Sky’s Early Stars: feat. Kent MacCarter, Neil Murray & Barbara Temperton


Saturday August 22 – 4:00pm – 5:00pm

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


Saturday August 22 – 8:00pm

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


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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