Friday, October 31, 2014

A prayer for the small things– Poetry and an Update

2014-01-14 16.05.49Busy four weeks as you may be able to tell from the slow post count.  I have been working full time, helping manage the downward decline of our 18 year old cat, trying to read Aurealis Award Submissions and reading the odd review title as well.  This weekend should see some reviews of books I finished weeks ago.  Until such time I shall inflict some poetry on you.  I subbed this to an Inkermann and Blunt anthology and sadly it didn’t make it.  So here it is:


A prayer for the small things

Oh, say a prayer for the small things
for in all things, small things matter.

Oh, say a prayer for love’s gentle touch
for too much is made of passion.

Oh, say a prayer for a stranger’s smile
for while here, such joys are fleeting.

Oh, say a prayer for an unkindness spared
for where unkindness lives, it festers.

Oh say a prayer for a listening ear
for to hear a sorrow, helps heal it.

Oh, say a prayer for a considered word
for once heard, words have no master.

Oh, say a prayer for the small things
for in all things, their sum’s the larger.


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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Notes to myself – Poetry and discoverability

2014-08-22 16.42.31 I have been researching an article on poetry and plagiarism (the focus being on what help there is for inexperienced poets to avoid unintentional plagiarism) and the process has unearthed a few thoughts.  So I type them here as notes to myself:

  • There’s a variety of ways in which poets indicate that they are borrowing from/commenting on another poet/poem that don’t necessarily spell it out for the reader
  • There’s a high degree of assumed knowledge that a reader of poetry must possess to fully appreciate or perhaps even understand some poetry
  • This assumed knowledge barrier may be more harmful to the wider craft

Some of the joy of poetry is of course returning to a poem and discovering something new.  I particularly like Frost’s Mending Wall for that reason but experiencing poetry communities from the outside (ie not tertiary educated in poetry specifically, only recently affiliated with any online groups) I do feel I am lacking some understandings, rules of the culture if you will.

Take for example the long established tradition of dedicating a poem to someone.  I, in my ignorance thought that this was only the poet being nice.  What no one tells you, what you have to work out for yourself is that this is one way in which poets reference the work of others or note that the poem you are currently reading is in dialogue with or is potentially taking ideas/words from another poem, by the poet who is referenced in the dedication.

This is only one of the myriad ways a poem indicates it’s referencing other work, it’s a little more obscure than say titling a poem A Reply to ……etc, or including an epigraph,  but the variety of ways in which a poem can be referenced, and the lack of any Rough Guide to referencing poetry had me thinking about discoverability and how I find poetry, how I, an inexperienced poet but not uneducated person make connections between communities of poets dialoguing with each other.

There is an expectation(probably as a result of poetry that originates in academia) that if you are going to write poetry and read poetry there’s a long apprenticeship, there’s some learning to be undertaken.  Consequently there’s an aversion to dumbing down or making some things as plain as day. I understand that argument and agree to some degree – practicing a craft, requires actual practice and learning from those further along than you. 

But I do think there’s room for some facets of the craft to be documented or more readily available, even standardised.  It is glaring that  in the three “How to” poetry books ranging from general audience to university text, that I have, that there’s little on on the subject of citing or referencing other’s poetry in your poems. There’s copious documentation on referencing for other non-fiction ie essays etc, but little for poetry. 

Hard to accuse someone of playing fast and loose with the rules when the rules aren’t written down or there’s no common understanding or different understandings are held between different types of poetry communities.  But ignoring the plagiarism angle for a minute I thought about how being made aware of the more obscure ways that poets reference each other opened up links to other poets and poems ie if poet a is talking about poet b’s poem than I should try and read both no?.

I’d like to think that a very broad and basic understanding of how to reference or borrow other poet’s work might not only contribute to less plagiarism or at least leave sneaky plagiarists with less wiggle room but also leave signposts to explore other poets and poems.

So not handholding per se but directing me for further reading.

But I suppose it depends on who you are writing for.  I wouldn’t expect to sell a chap book of Haiku to a very large audience because the form requires a bit of leg work to appreciate.

I tend to favour more information about poets poems and collections, than less.  Case in point a recent library borrowing, Uncommon Light by Brook Emery.  I wouldn’t have known that that Emery was referencing the thoughts of St Augustine if it hadn’t told me on the jacket. Now that connection isn’t necessary to gain an immediate appreciation but it places the work in context.

I love it when poets include notes on specific poems as well.

Sure a poem should stand on its own, and I do like reading it “clean” first but I also like seeing where it fits; in the head of the poet, in the greater dialogue etc.

Do you think insularity or an assumed knowledge culture harms poetry?  How do we convert non-poetry readers into poetry readers?  Does poetry have too high an entrance exam to steal a phrase from the Coode Street Podcast?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Poetry’s position in mainstream Australian Culture

There’s an interview conducted by Brook Emery with Australian Poet and ex-publisher Ron Pretty.  Its well worth a read but I really connected with this part of one of Ron’s answers:

I am frustrated by the fact that there is so much poetry happening at present, but most of it is hidden from the majority of Australians. I don’t think poetry is so much an unpopular art as an unknown one. So many people don’t know how to respond to it because they’ve had so little exposure to it since they left school, where many of their experiences with it were not happy ones.

This gels with some of my recent experience. I see Slam Poetry making some noise and selling out shows, I’m subscribed to a number of feeds and twitter accounts that keep me appraised, but I have an interest so its always hard to judge just what the wider perception is. 

My experience observing poetry taught in High School ( I relief teach) has shown me an art form haphazardly taught and heavily reliant on both the skill and interest of the teacher – the emphasis on it being a vehicle for teaching Poetic/ English techniques.

In terms of support from newspapers/media sites it doesn’t appear to be much better.  I can remember whinging on Twitter about how the poem presented in one of our online daily news sites seemed to come secondary to the placement of the advert that appeared in the centre of the page destroying the poem’s formatting.

By way of contrast I am subscribed to the Guardian UK’s poetry feed and they manage to put out one poetry related article a day it seems in addition to featuring poems of new poets.  They also seem to give a damn about the way poetry is formatted.  For sure there’s more people in the UK but no doubt proportionately the audience that enjoys poetry there is small as well. But they seem, on this limited sample, to care.

I wonder if gender plays a significant role.  Australia is already one of the most polarised of the OECD countries when it comes to gendered perceptions ofr eading (children as young as four identifying reading as a feminine activity).

What’s your perception? Do enough Australian’s care about poetry? What’s the downside to a culture that thinks poetry is irrelevant?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Poem – Death is a Cuckoo

Death is a Cuckoo

after Fiona Hall’s, Out of My Tree

Death is a cuckoo
Clock slowing down;
Youth's vital spring in
Measured parts unwound


Part of Fiona Hall’s exhibition, Out of My Tree, featured a cuckoo clock with a skull painted on the face.  If you do a search on “Fiona Hall’s, Out of My Tree” you should find it.  I was keeping this couplet in the hope that something additional would spring forth, it hasn’t.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Writ. Poetry Review is Live

shot_1393622253215 After some teething problems that extended the launch time a little longer than expected, Writ. Poetry Review is up and running.  The site is reasonably minimalist, designed to showcase art and words.  It also looks as though it’s been designed with tablets and mobile phone access in mind. 

They feature a poet every issue and that poet gets a selection of their work shown and an in depth interview.  Then you are treated to a number of other poems, some from new or emerging poets and others from luminaries in the field.

The feature poet in the Alpha Issue is Scott-Patrick Mitchell. Some other names you might recognise are: Mark Tredinnick, Zenobia Frost, Nathan Hondros and Benjamin Dodds.

The Alpha issue features a number of poets (some 30 odd poems) and artwork.  I am pleased to find myself in very good company.

Enjoy Writ. Poetry Review

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