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QPF Spotlight #7 – Noelle Janaczewska

Today the spotlight is shining on Noëlle Janaczewska. Noëlle is an accomplished writer in a number of styles including poetry, plays, performance texts and radio scripts. I had the pleasure of talking to her about her influences, the role of spontaneity the importance of performance and the writing process. Here’s what she had to say: 

 

Noelle

 

What is the role of spontaneity in your creative process?

It’s there, but to what degree, I’m not sure. What I can say is that all my work comes from some combination of interior activity and exterior influences, but the balance varies from one work to another, and from one day to another.

 

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 spent my early teens wanting to be Joseph Conrad, and my bookcase still has a ‘Conrad’ shelf—or 2. There’s also my battered Penguin copies of Children of Albion, Donne’s The Complete English Poems and Cautionary Tales by Hilaire Belloc—horrible politics, funny verse. I’ve always relished inconsistency and contradiction. More recent influences are Czesław Miłosz, Caryl Churchill, Ira Gershwin, Laurie Anderson and Izumi Shikibu. Right now I’m reading Isaac Newton’s 1659 Notebook (research for a new work) and listening to Lester Young (probably my favourite tenor saxophonist) and Don Byron.
 

Why perform/read your poetry?

More and more of my writing is on the borderlines of performance and poetry. I have a theatre background with a strong interest in music and musical forms, so things like rhythm and refrain, timbre and tone have always been important. And spoken words pieces are obviously composed with voice in mind.
 

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 Noëlle Janaczewska do in preparation for writing?

A lot of thinking. A lot of walking—not only along the harbour foreshore, but also up and down supermarket aisles. A lot of what may seem like aimless wandering, both mental and physical, but it all helps create what I like to call a dreaming space for the work. I recently read Doris Lessing’s 2007 Nobel lecture, and posted this excerpt on my blog (http://outlier-nj.blogspot.com): ‘Writers are often asked, How do you write? With a wordprocessor? an electric typewriter? a quill? longhand? But the essential question is, “Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write?” Into that space, which is like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas—inspiration.’
 

Finally, where are you looking when you write?

Literally: a computer screen. Figuratively: the world in all its shambolic glory.

 

About Noëlle :

Noëlle Janaczewska’s performance texts, plays, libretti, lyrics, spoken word, poetry, essays, gallery and on-line explorations, and radio scripts across drama and non-fiction, have been performed, published and broadcast throughout Australia and overseas. 

Recurring themes in her work are the history and philosophy of science, colonialism and its legacies, narratives of migration, and the exploration of language. The recipient of 4 AWGIE Awards, her stage plays have won the 2002 Griffin Playwriting Award, the 2001 Playbox-Asialink Playwriting Competition (Songket), and the 2006 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award (Mrs Petrov’s Shoe). Recent productions include: Eyewitness Blues for the BBC, The Hannah First Collection, 1919-1949 for the Zendai Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai and There’s Something About Eels … for ABC Radio National. 

Alongside performance, Noëlle has published in anthologies, arts journals and on-line magazines. The poems she wrote for Kathryn Millard’s film Travelling Light feature on the soundtrack CD, and in 2006 The Wayzgoose Press published her long poem Dorothy Lamour’s Life as a Phrasebook. Find out more about Noëlle’s work at www.outlier-nj.blogspot.com and www.noellejanaczewska.com

 

Poem:

 

LOCAL CUSTOMS: TIPS FOR REFUGEES

 

Don’t be rushed to buy something when you see a sale,
Here there is always being a sale of some sort.
When you are standing in line keep your good distance
Or the person in front of you will be offended.
It’s quite normal to say ‘see you later’, even if you won’t.

Pink colour is here associated with girls, blue colour with boys,
Green, yellow, orange and grey colours are unisex.
Many people here are keeping animals inside their household;
You will cause upset if you don’t treat them like members of the family.

For your dishwasher use detergent specially designated for that,
Ordinary dish-cleaning soap makes too much foaming.
Pizzas are very popular for people of all ages and lifestyles;
You can get cheese pizza, vegetarian pizza or pizza with meats.
Additional servings are called ‘seconds’ and are offered once.

Keep in mind you can’t walk anywhere you like to,
If you walk at inappropriate place the police may give you a ticket.
In front of Australians you should avoid talk in your native language,
They don’t like it and are thinking you might be hiding something. 

 

Catch Noëlle at QPF 2009:

 

Saturday August 22 – 1:30pm – 2:30pm

Spine of Lost Voices: feat. Noëlle Janaczewska, Elizabeth Bachinsky & Jessika Tong 

 

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

 

Sunday August 23 – 12:15pm – 1:15pm

Venus Walked In: feat. Jane Williams, Zenobia Frost & Noëlle Janaczewska

 

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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QPF Spotlight #4 – Angela Costi

There is just over a month until QLD Poetry Festival hits the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, August 21 -23. Angela Costi is one of the many featured artists at QPF 2009 and this time I shine the spotlight on her to find out about the role of spontaneity, influences and the importance of performance.

 

Angela-Costi

 

What is the role of spontaneity in your creative process?

I’d like to think that my creative process is balanced, albeit precariously, between spontaneity and a thought-inspired response. I like responding to my intuition and the spark within. Often this spark leads to igniting a need to write about a certain thing. This may turn into a passionate pursuit as I read books, rummage through the Internet, discuss with friends, take notes and then embark on the poem. This is how the poem, When Ash and Bone Speaks, came about – through a spontaneous urge to know more about the destruction of Pompeii and its people.

Sometimes the actual process of writing involves spontaneity as I find myself beginning a sequence of every day words and thoughts around a particular image, which grows into another wordscape by allowing my senses to flow and my curatorial guard to relax.

 

 

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?

In my earlier years as a poet, the mid 90s, there were three pivotal ‘poetry camps’ that influenced my momentum.

Firstly, there was an urge to explore poets of my heritage, which is Cypriot-Greek, so I spent days reading Sappho, Homer and trying to understand hexameter poetics. I then proceeded into Modern Greek times with George Seferis, Yannis Ritsos, Constantine Cavafy and Zoe Karelli. And then in 1996, Pi O, an Australian-based poet of Greek descent published 24 Hours, which explored the ‘third language’ as he called it – that which describes the language of migrants in Australia. Reading this pioneering book and hearing Pi O read from it confirmed my direction with those poems of mine that were drawn from my cultural roots.

Secondly, in a second-hand bookshop I bought Eight American Poets: an Anthology, edited by Joel Conarroe. This anthology introduced me to Elizabeth Bishop, James Merrill, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, Theodore Roethke, John Berryman, Anne Sexton and Robert Lowell. I was particularly immersed with Elizabeth Bishop and Anne Sexton to the extent that I made it my goal to read every poem they had ever published.

Thirdly, the Melbourne poetry scene in the mid-to-late 90s had a certain loose group of established poets that were frequently reading, accomplished, inspiring and they were encouraging to emerging poets. Some of these poets were Homer Reith, Kevin Brophy, Myron Lysenko, Lauren Williams, Lyn Boughton, jeltje, Grant Caldwell, Shelton Lea, Ian McBryde and Jordi Albiston. Apart form their own work, these poets introduced me to the poetry that influenced them, including Sharon Olds and Vicki Viidikas.

I’ve just finished reading Poems of Nazim Hikmet which I relished and I am three-quarters of the way through Poet’s Choice by Edward Hirsch, which is a collection of his 130 short essays on poets that have undoubtedly had an impact on him and his poetry. They include better-known poets such as Gerard Manley Hopkins and those lesser-known gems such as Thomas James (1946-1974), Dorothea Tanning and Kate Daniels. I’m about to embark on The Goose Bath Poems by Janet Frame who is a renowned New Zealand author.

 

 

Why perform/read your poetry?

Although my poetry has its first relationship with the page it needs to roll off my tongue like second nature. I love reading poetry that reads beautifully and recites beautifully – and that’s what I strive for with my poetry – a seamless relationship with page and stage (which can be difficult to achieve).

Further, because poetry making is such an ancient practice and given that many cultures began poetry as an oral art form, there is that strong unrelenting practice of applying metre, rhythm, pace, tone… qualities that lend themselves easily to ears and listeners.

 

 

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 Angela Costi do in preparation for writing?

Over the years I have gathered a few rituals, which enable me to enter the writing zone. Often I light a candle. (I grew up in a traditional Greek Orthodox household, where lighting candles was commonplace.) A candle’s flame possibly evokes a sense of company and camaraderie on the journey. I like a quiet place, like an empty house or a library that only allows whispering but then I have used certain music to evoke a mood or a tone of voice. (The music is often without voice or if voice is used it is more like an instrument.) Sometimes I read poetry or I read my notes or I close my eyes to conjure a visual trigger point. From my travels to many parts of the world, I have gathered a large book of postcards and images, which I use to stimulate my imagination.

 

 

Finally, where are you looking when you write?

When I am writing at a deeper, unconscious level, I actually see the images, people, space… I am writing about. In a sense, there is no distinction between me and the world I am creating on the page – my eyes are focused inward and so I do not notice that the kettle has boiled, the phone is ringing, the kids have arrived home, and that I am cold.

Other times, I am very much aware of the letter and word patterns I am creating. I like to see the precision of enjambment, the effect of six or four lines to a stanza, the way one word looks as distinct from another.

And sometimes, I look up and notice the flame is still going strong and I return to my words.

 

About Angela:

Angela Costi is the author of three collections of poetry: Dinted Halos, Prayers for the Wicked and Honey and Salt. Her poems have been widely published, broadcast and produced, including in the US, UK, Greece and across Australia. In 1993 she received a travel award by the National Languages and Literacy Board of Australia to study and undertake an Ancient Greek Drama program in Greece. Since 1993, she has performed her poetry locally, nationally and internationally, including the Melbourne International Arts Festival 1999 and 2005. The Relocated arts project, for which she was the commissioned writer, received the award for innovation and excellence in community, 2002. Recently she returned from Japan, where she was funded by the Australia Council for the Arts and Vic Arts to work on an international collaboration involving her poetry, Japan-based Stringraphy Ensemble and an Ancient Chinese musical instrument known as the Sheng.

 

Poem:

 

When Ash and Bone Speaks

My bedroom is Pluto’s new chamber
with no after-thought nor explanation
he unleashed Death, the mauling is beyond pain,
and Pluto spares no pleas for mercy or lenience
with the ruthless pride of an Emperor, he thrust
a fountain of flame which seared throats to silence
― how quickly he changes my room
the four walls melt into something blacker than night
the ceiling cannot be trusted, with hit after hit
of shooting hot rock it heaves in panic
air is corrupt with a smell and taste of sickness
it aims calculated punches at my ribs and fists my lungs
like a gladiator about to slay a wounded cub.

How long have I been lying on this bed of embers
sizzling me softly, lulling me into its burning arms
― long enough to know my baby has turned to stone,
to know my husband lies buried somewhere beneath me,
to hear my mother, father, sisters, brother…
gasp after gasp, cough after cough, breath till no breath
their final release of the one hope to see our little one
suckle my breasts, as odes are sung to its new future
each one takes a turn to cradle, to croon a lullaby
give a promise to protect against everything wicked and bad.

 

Yesterday, if it was yesterday,
I had my husband’s eager ear
pressed against the full bloom of my belly
insisting he could hear our cherub pattering about
Mama placed a bouquet of sweet wine grapes,
honey figs and caramel dates on my plate
hoping fruit would ease the tender tug and pull of womb
the sun made quiet love to the water in our pool
white butterflies fluttered from flower to leaf
laughter swam easily from our mouths
as we threw a book-full of boys and girls names into the air
I caught the marble smile of Goddess Juno
whispering maternal endearments.

Now I know I was being mocked
basking in delusion, to think I could compare my content
to that of any Goddess, any Priestess, any Sibyl
I should have been aware, alert like the birds, the cats
at the slightest tremor they fled taking their knowledge
I should have looked at that fire breathing cloud and screamed
like the slave girl turning her broom into a weapon
begging then threatening her master to set her free
I should have understood why my insides were pummelled,
Baby knew, my Baby knew, Baby wanted me to say:
Yes, let’s leave!
to the question my family left to me
I became their Fortuna, their one and only chance,
Sweetheart it’s up to you, they said,
all I could think of was the swelling in my tree trunk
legs, the cramps surrounding my spine
the blubbery barge of me hobbling into the frenzy
all I could think about, was me, was only me.
Pluto wants me to feast on dread and terror
before Death takes me, but I am not hungry
I want to feel myself burn into nothing but ash
I want my bones to shrivel into chalk
I want nothing to be left of me at all,
Pluto when you pass me over to Vesuvius
do not make me drink from the River Lethe
I refuse any after-life unless it’s soaked
in the memory of what I have done.

*

Thousands of years later, my memory returns
distorted by legend, embellished by science,
trapped in fossilised moment and glory
they pick at my bones and those of my baby
pour plaster into my ashen grave, resurrect the shape
of horror as they imagine, how awful for me they cry,
tears fall at my feet, while I stare back with hollow eyes,
they bring bouquets of spring flowers freshly picked
from the fertile fields at the volcano’s base
they bring their children, their elderly parents
I hear them say: Isn’t she a beautiful specimen.

 

 

                              In the volcanic ash of Mount Vesuvius, in Pompeii,
                              the skeletal remains of a young pregnant woman
                              were found, specialist DNA biologists determined
                              she was about to give birth.

 

Published in Going Down Swinging No. 27 and in the Melbourne Museum’s Exhibition ‘A Day in Pompeii’ Teacher-Student Guide 2009.

 

Catch Angela at QPF 2009:

Saturday August 22 – 11:45am – 12:45pm

On the Lip of Philosophy: feat. Angela Costi, Angel Kosch & Sophia Nugent-Siegal

 

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

 

Sunday August 23 – 2:00pm – 3:00pm

Proscuitto and the Pink: feat. Angela Costi, AF Harrold & Paul Magee

 

Sunday August 23 – 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Just Kissed Goodbye: feat. Janet Jackson, Angela Costi, Jane Williams, Neil Murray, Elizabeth Bachinsky, Geoff Goodfellow, Paul Magee, AF Harrold, Hinemoana Baker and the QPF Committee

 

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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QPF Spotlight #2 – Janet Jackson

Next up in the QPF Spotlight is Janet Jackson.

 

jjackson

 

What is the role of spontaneity in your creative process?

Essential in a number of ways.

Many of my favourite poems are built around a line or metaphor that ‘just popped into my head’. I sometimes wake up with poems or songs in my head. Usually there’s something on my mind that I’m wanting to write about, but I have to wait for the moment to strike. Forcing it rarely works.

Lately I’ve been writing about people I just happen to meet or see.

Often I find poem titles by scanning randomly, around two-thirds of the way down the poem, for a word or phrase that ‘feels right’.

When editing, I use a brainstorming technique to find ‘missing’ words.
 

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?

Oh, this is the hard question. When I started writing and publishing poetry I was reading sci-fi and rock journalism and computer science textbooks. Eliot wouldn’t have liked me (I don’t like him very much, either).

At the moment I’m reading Going Down Swinging and WA Poets Inc’s Creatrix (at www.wapoets.net.au) and various zines and books I’ve picked up at readings.

I’ve been compared to H.D., Louis MacNeice, Lou Reed, Suzanne Vega and John Cooper Clarke! MacNeice is definitely an influence.

Music, lyrics and spoken poetry are probably a bigger influence than written poetry. My MP3 player features, among other things, U2 (check out the ‘Pop’ and ‘Zooropa’ lyrics), The Velvet Underground, Joy Division, and the Antipoet Allan Boyd’s bands Blac Blocs and Mitey-ko. And Steve Smart. If Geoff Lemon or Kate Wilson should record CDs — which they should — they’ll be on there too.

I also like sound poetry, poetry spoken in languages I don’t know, and the undefinable word/sound experiments of people like Ashley J Higgs.

Other influences? Joyce, Beckett, Yeats, Heaney, the Irish in general. Anglo-saxon poetry. Rumi. Surrealist poetry. Robert Frost. Dr Seuss. Frank O’Hara. Peter Goldsworthy. Kevin Gillam. Lily Chan. Amber Fresh. The occasional L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poem. Computer programs.
 

Why perform/read your poetry?

You can hear what it sounds like.
You can bring your poems to life and interpret them for the audience.
You get your poetry to people who otherwise would never experience it.
You sell a lot more zines and books.
You get to meet other poets and hear their words.
And it feels amazing!

I love reading other people’s poetry aloud even more than performing my own.
 

 
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 Janet Jackson do in preparation for writing?

Dream.
Go out into the world and look at it.
Get hurt. Get angry. Get tired.
Dream.
Watch films. Read anything. Read poetry.
Listen to poetry. Listen to music.
Dream.
Clean, wash dishes, walk, drive.
Carry a notebook.
Dream.
Write my stream of consciousness until the words start to dance.

I would suggest that my poetry is about myself in the same sense that ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ is about Hunter S Thompson.
 

 
Finally, where are you looking when you write?

Across the ocean, across the desert, across the street, or straight into your eyes.

 

 

A Poem:

 

Dress in rags

I love it when you dress in rags.

The ragged edges show how whole the centre is.

When you dance in your old clothes
simpler than today’s clothes
your powerful body shows me the child inside.

We are just children wearing layers.

Dress in rags. Show me a bit
of your skin, and if your hair gets thin
don’t fake it. Take it
all the way ascetic,
desert dirt aesthetic,
in rags, in patches, in mixed
colours, in glory,
exulted,
enlightened,
unlimited

making it up as you go along
in your rags.
 

(From ‘Coracle: Selected poems 1991-2007’, published by the author. www.proximitypoetry.com)

 And view Janet performing at Cottonmouth here.

 

 
About Janet:

Since 1986 Janet Jackson has sculpted in English, seeking poems that work whether declaimed loudly or whispered in the mind.

Janet featured at the inaugural Missing Link Festival (Perth 2008), the 2006, 2007 and 2008 WA Spring Poetry Festivals and 2007 and 2008 Melbourne Overload Poetry Festivals. She has featured at many readings, performances and slams and can be heard at all the places in Perth where poets gather.

Her poems have been published in many print and online magazines and anthologies, and she has self-published three chapbooks and her own website, Proximity.

Her first collection, Coracle, was published in March 2009.

Janet is the convenor of The Line Mine, an online community promoting poetry events in Perth, and the organiser of the Perth Poetry Club.

 

Catch Janet at QPF 2009:

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

 

Sunday August 23 – 12:15pm – 1:15pm

Basement of Grins: feat. Janet Jackson, Fiona Privitera & Jayne Fenton Keane

 

Sunday August 23 – 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Just Kissed Goodbye: feat. Janet Jackson, Angela Costi, Jane Williams, Neil Murray, Elizabeth Bachinsky, Geoff Goodfellow, Paul Magee, AF Harrold, Hinemoana Baker and the QPF Committee

 

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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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.

 

kmaccarter

 

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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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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