Tag Archives: When is a poem ready to be published/performed?

A quick chat with Zenobia Frost

Zenobia Frost is one of the five feature readers at the final Riverbend Books: Poetry on the Deck event for 2009 to be held on Tuesday June 23 (see below for full details). She has also just launched her debut collection The Voyage … so I took the time to fire a few questions her way.

 

zenbutterfly

 

What initially drew you to poetry?

The way so much can be expressed in so few words.

 

When is a poem ready to be published/performed?

As Paul Valéry said, ‘A poem is never finished, merely abandoned.” It takes a rare poem to be publication-ready on the first draft, and I find that my poems need to be hacked away at for weeks or months before I find the gem shiny enough to put out into the world.

 

Has publication changed the way you approach your writing?

In a sense. Sometimes I write with a specific project in mind, considering where this poem might fit in a potential collection. (But usually, I don’t think too hard and just write.)

 

Why perform/read your poetry?

Words taste nice, and chewing them over tends to let more subtle flavours come out. I find different things in my poems when I read them aloud. Performing other people’s poems can be like tucking into a gourmet dinner; performing my own can be like baking and eating my own cookies. (They might be a bit burnt, but they’re mine, and I get to wear a pretty apron.) 

 

What is the greatest challenge faced by poets/poetry today?

Th vwl shrtg—lttl knwn sd-ffct f th glbl rcssn. T’s vry hrd t fnd pms wtht thm. Strvng pms qckl thn nd bcme jst lttrs sldng ff ppr.

We are concerned that the vowel shortage will soon extend even to ‘y’. Please conserve your vowels during this difficult time.

Seriously, though, I think the trickiest thing is staying abreast of new publications, new opportunities, and changing ideas. The Interwebs allow things to move disturbingly quickly.

Winter also presents the problem of needing to type with kid gloves on.

 

Poetry on the Deck:

Join Zenobia Frost on the Riverbend deck as we wrap up the 2009 Poetry on the deck events with a QLD Poetry Festival Showcase. This QPF showcase event also features multi-skilled artist, Angel Kosch (Standing on the Road); winner of The Dream Ain’t Broken chapbook competition Nicola Scholes (Dear Rose); one of Australia’s finest exponents of the Japanese forms haibun and tanka, Jeffery Harpeng (Quarter Past Sometime); poetic adventurer and protector of apostrophes; and experimental writer and musician, Marisa Allen (Fire in the Head).

Date: Tuesday 23 June
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  www.riverbendbooks.com.au

The first two events this year have been hugely successful, so book early to avoid disappointment!

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A quick chat with Jeffrey Harpeng

Jeffrey Harpeng is one of Australia’s leading writers of haiku, haibun, tanka and tanka prose. He will read a selection of his work at the final Poetry on the Deck event at Riverbend Books on Tuesday June 23. I took the time to fire a few questions his way. Here’s what he had to say …

 

Jeffrey Harpeng

 

1. What intially drew you to poetry?

 The shallowness of the world, just didn’t feel credible. Poetry was found on a pilgrimage to metaphysics.

The things you hear when you start to listen with the third ear. Even when I found heaven vacant the wraith like words wouldn’t quit their spooky groaning.

These hallucinations could be little more than the steam rising off a fever, the result of some secondary infection.

 

 2. When is a poem ready to be published/performed?

Alfonso Reyes wrote “We only publish to stop revising.

Sometimes that is so, sometimes a poem arrives through the séance of reverie, and meaning and sound are already left and right hand vines tersely intertwined. These poems unravel when picked at with an editorial pen. That doesn’t mean that they are suitable for public exposure, only that the author is under their spell and is willing to bleat their praise like a bold little lamb. I must be talking about somebody else here.

Then there are poetic-sculptures that are chiseled from a marble lump of words, poems found like Michelangelo found his David. They might, could perhaps, would possibly take a further chisel clack or two. Performance can embarrass their faults into magnified obviousness, and publishing can be more frightening. How did no one notice that wart on its lip? Is that really meant to be there?

Or I might say, “Poems are part of an ongoing conversation, and you can stand there blank and dumb for only so long.”

 

3. Has publication changed the way you approach your writing?

Editors confirm both good and bad writing habits according to the private dementias of their tastes. Some of us, at times, need to be punctuated into good sense. A poem or three may thus become ghostlike, lifeless in the shackles of punctuation. So why not just omit those little tyrannies (& that can sometimes be a sin) to let the words catch their own breath, to weep, and laugh and cry unfettered by demanding scrawls. Oh, you could read your way into and out of these and other fetishes. Ultimately and intimately it is the silk yarn of themes that lead me on, and I live always with the hope that these may tangle and un-tidy the thinking of readers and listeners.

 

4. Why perform/read your poetry?

‘Language is a virus’, sang Laurie Anderson, infected with that idea by William S. Burroughs.

We are all Typhoid Mary’s of the word, or in my case an Bad Cold Jeffrey.

A poem may not be as sexually communicable as a song, but it’s a damn smart virus that can latch on to a laugh or a sigh, sink its velvety barbs into the lips of a smile. Oh I think I feel some purple verse coming on.

Sing, “Purple is the colour of my true love.”

 

5. What is the greatest challenge faced by poets/poetry today?

To get up and go to work five days a week. Oh is that just me? Does poetry have words for what it’s like to to swim, butterfly stroke, through a leech infested swamp? Oh, I’m still talking about work. Poetry’s biggest challenge is to be believed when it tries to find or convey truths by telling lies. I could excuse myself by saying that is just the way language works. It’s pictures have to look bigger than the real world to be seen.

But look, I see a little haiku weeping in the corner. Is that a frog it has got in its hand. Oh it’s a messenger toad with a coded message stuck on its back, a lick and stick metaphor. Phew it’s hard enough not to put my dictionary-seven-league-boots in my mouth. 

I should really talk about social responsibility, and of poetry’s ability to reconcile us with or at least help us recognize how much of us there is in the other. I should really talk about that but I gave up using delusions-of-grandeur aftershave years ago. 

Each of us has a unique life mission, though where that fits into the evolutionary idea I haven’t got the foggiest. I guess I’ll just tell you about my beard and the barnacle in my ear.

 

Join Jeffrey Harpeng on the Riverbend deck alongside Angel Kosch (Standing on the Road); winner of The Dream Ain’t Broken chapbook competition Nicola Scholes (Dear Rose); poetic adventurer and protector of apostrophes, Zenobia Frost (The Voyage) and experimental writer and musician, Marisa Allen (Fire in the Head).

Date: Tuesday 23 June
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=2205

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A quick chat with Marisa Allen (Bremen Town Musician)

Marisa Allen (Bremen Town Musician) is feature musician and poet and the next SpeedPoets event (2pm Sunday, June 7 @ The Alibi Room, 720 Brunswick St. New Farm) as well as one of the features at the final Riverbend Books, Poetry on the Deck event on Tuesday June 23 (click here for details).

 

marisa allen

 

We caught up recently and hade a quick chat…

 

What initially drew you to poetry?

I read constantly and writing was something that I had always done and I think the first thing I wrote was a poem when I was in year six and it just followed on from that. Later on I really started writing poetry as a means to explore song writing. I began writing poems as a stepping stone to that and just filtered out which ones were better as poems and which ones were better as songs. Poetry allows me to make sense of the world around me and to express myself.

 

When is a poem ready to be published/performed?

I don’t have a strict sense of readiness for a piece of writing, instinctively I know when a poem works or not. It’s ready when it’s ready and I don’t labour too much on it. Usually there is a strong voice or atmosphere to the words that let me know if a piece is suitable to be published or performed, but it’s such an unknown based on how I feel subjectively about a piece. I always say I have no ugly children, meaning I love them all equally and most I would like to put out into the public sphere. Obviously there are better poems than others, but I just write them, I don’t judge them!  Although I do like to let them sit for a while and go back to them after maybe a year and make small changes to phrases and really make sure what I’m wanting to express is clear.

 

Has publication changed the way you approach your writing?

Yes. In a way it makes me a little more self conscious but it also emboldens me to push a little harder. Poems that are published are usually chosen because they are ready to be published but once that happens you let them go, they no longer are yours and sometimes I find going back to them to be tiresome, as it’s like yes this was good then when it was written but how can I better it now, how can I move from it to something that is relevant to the experiences I am having now.

 

Why perform/read your poetry?

I have no idea! I think this is a complex question… I am acutely aware of poetry that works out loud or as a spoken performance piece and poetry that is meant to be read in silence in your mind. I’m really interested in this contrast. At this point I read my poetry because there is a voice in it that I can hear; it brings it to life and adds dimension to the words. But there are certainly poems that I don’t feel have the immediacy to be read out loud, that maybe are very complex in imagery and need a different approach, such as the quiet of reading alone, reading a phrase over and over to grasp the meaning.

 

What is the greatest challenge faced by poets/poetry today?

Well I think there is always a food shortage just round the corner in any poets life! I think it is the same for any artist, getting their work heard, published, viewed, getting feedback, support in the process which is the most murky area because usually a poet or artist is constantly in a  creative process. Also creating opportunities for poets to have some value in society outside the creative and subjective world of their own writing. I think this is immensely important, that an artist should be able to connect with the world that doesn’t always support their own vision but still values the poet anyway by creating opportunities to use their skills outside of purely creative pursuits. I think the competitiveness and nepotism of any creative area can be very off putting and it’s a challenge that is unnecessary for a creative person to have to face. I think we need a completely new approach to how selection and standardization across the arts is decided, judged on artistic sensibility and merit as opposed to bureaucratic or financial standards, unfortunately it does take time for people to take your work seriously and that in itself is a challenge on a day to day basis.

 

 

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