… the Emerging Writers' Festival is a broad church, representing a large diversity of writing and artistic forms and genres. So, we don't just want non-fiction, we want everything: Artworks, Illustrations, Flash Fiction, Fragments, Interviews, Short Stories, Sketches, Songs, Sonnets, Haiku, Poetry, Plays, Photos, Comics, Couplets, Verse, Recipes, Rants, Memoirs. Obviously, we don’t want your novel. But we do want to see this brief interpreted in unexpected, creative and unorthodox ways.Deadline: 6 July 2009.
We want to read poetry about editing prose, plays about a creative writing workshops, recipes for inspiration, anything that addresses writing, or the emerging writer in some way.
The Reader will consider contributions from any Australian or Australia-based writers. Priority will be given to emerging writers (of all ages, stages and styles), but anyone with an interest in supporting this demographic is encouraged to send us a pitch.
Pieces may vary in length from 500 to 3500 words, though most should sit comfortably in between.
Contributors will be paid.
Ivy from Dumbfoundry: Biblical imagery, myth, prediction and portent thread through The Ambulance Box, most notable in the poems 'Pedestrian', the 'Triptych' sequence, 'Child of Calmer Waters' and 'Wilderness with Two Figures' with its parable-like quality, to name a few. How did these elements come together to help form your book?
Andrew Philip: I’m the son of a minister, so Biblical imagery is a natural part of my vocabulary and an early part of my literary makeup. Prediction, portent and parable are all part of that. I see myth as separate from that some people wouldn’t, of course but the fascination with those ancient stories and the language that they’re couched in is a strong connection between the two. I suppose it’s about re-examining and mining the stories we tell ourselves and have told ourselves throughout history. It’s also about finding connections with people who have gone through the same griefs and joys before us, reminding ourselves that we’re not alone.
The poem 'Hairst Day' is written in the powerfully evocative Scots language.Lord : it is time. The simmer gied braw yield.As is 'The Meisure o a Nation':
Lay yer shaddae doun upon the sundials
an lowse the winds ontil the fields.the lang leet o synonyms for fuBut I wonder if this and other poems in the book seek to create a conscious distancing effect for non-Scots readers? Or is it to draw them in?
dividit by the kenspeckle names naebody kens
the fowk that aw hinks this is written in slang
agin ilkane o the leids a body can hear in the kintrae
the hunnerwecht o fish landit at a north-east herbour ony day
There’s no conscious policy of distancing readers. I realise that some might find the use of Scots distancing, but others will be drawn in by it. For instance, I’ve heard from one non-Scots speaker whose favourite piece in the book was the Scots translation of Rilke’s “Orpheus. Eurydike. Hermes.” The drive to translate “Hairst Day” is another Rilke translation, as is “Spanish Dancer” is an important part of proclaiming the status of the language as equal in my mind to English.
I don’t want the Scots to be inaccessible. There is a full Scots glossary for the collection here. We decided not to put it in the book for space reasons and because my editor Chris Hamilton-Emery and I agreed that it was best to keep the page as clean as possible.
Do you think this use of the Scots language is related to the need to... wear the torn, patched
language of our childhood
clean and bright beneath it all.
(from 'The Image of Gold and the Fiery Furnace')
Yes, definitely. I guess that anyone who relates to that is more likely to be drawn in than put off. There is a political element to it, as there is to those lines in context it’s partly a way of resisting the global dominance of English but it’s also firstly about using the rich range of sounds, connotations and associations that are available to me as a Scots speaker. If I didn’t do that, I’d be like a composer deciding not to write for an entire section of the orchestra. A valid aesthetic approach, I guess, but not one that makes sense to me!
I am unwilling to trespass into the loss that forms the heart of your book. Still, it is unmistakeable that when you write in 'The Invention of Zero':where everything... the poem addresses much more than simple mathematics. There is an obliqueness in your poem's approach to this loss, something riddle-like that can also be found in the title poem, 'The Ambulance Box'. Would you mind speaking more about this?
filled without this
empty nest of a number
My firstborn son, to whom the book is dedicated, died about 45 minutes after he was born. For a while after we lost him, I couldn’t write a thing. When I began to write again, I found that my grief crept into every poem, even when I was trying to write something unconnected.
There are, of course, other more direct poems of loss in the book. It took some time before I could tackle the grief in that more direct fashion and longer again before I could write anything that didn’t have any reference to the loss. However, it’s such a transformative experience that I suspect I’ll be coming back to it in different ways for the rest of my life.
The artistic advantage of the oblique approach is that the possibilities are much broader. It also seems to me to reflect how grief and life begin to fit around one another in odd and unexpected ways.
In 'To the Naked Eye', a section from the 'Pilgrim Variations', the poem asks, 'Who can restrain the urge to look?' As the sections in The Ambulance Box shift focus from spiritual and personal concerns to more scientific and material ones, do you think this urge to look is voyeuristic avidity or merely scientific?
In the context of that poem, it’s a matter of scientific questioning and spiritual hunger. Human beings are simply inquisitive creatures, and that curiosity takes many forms. It got us unpacking the genome, but it’s also brought us Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity.
I find poets' answers to this question fascinating, so I hope you don't mind me also asking you this: 'What do you remember about the day when you saw your finished book for the first time?'
Nobody had been in when the books were initially delivered the previous day and they hadn’t been left in our designated place, so I got up early to scoot down to the postal depot for opening time and pick up the package. When I cut it open, a mile-wide grin spread across my face and I started bouncing several centimetres off the floor. I took a photo of the books sitting in their mauled packaging on my kitchen table and posted it on Facebook.
What surprised me was just how much holding the book felt like holding a new baby. It was such a similar feeling, which was also quite poignant for me, as you can imagine. I was walking on air for the rest of the day, and the day after, and the day after that. For a week or so, I went around at home exclaiming at random moments, “Book!”
The 8th Overload Poetry Festival (4-13 September 2009) seeks submissions of short poetry for public display on the scrolling text tickers of the west-facing wall in Federation Square, corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets.
... Fed Square will let us feed poems up to these digital scrolling text screens over 10 days. This is one of the busiest intersections in Melbourne, a great opportunity to take your poetry to the people.
Send us haiku, one-line poems, short poems (up to 5 lines), short prose poems (up to 50 words) to submissions @ overloadpoetry.org by 31 July 2009. Payment: the joy of being read by hundreds of thousands of people.
In submitting, please be mindful of the medium and its public nature. Push the boundaries tastefully...
And please circulate this message among your networks.
Look forward to reading your gems,
Matt Hetherington and Luis Gonzalez Serrano
"I have celebrated June 16th every year since I was 18. For me it is like St. Patrick's Day or Christmas Day, i.e., no way am I going into work in an office that day."
This annual prize will pay tribute to the much-loved Australian poet and her legacy of work.
A cash prize of AU$1000 will go to the best poem published in Meanjin in 2009. The judges are Andrea Goldsmith and Kristin Henry and the winning entry will be announced by the Meanjin poetry editor, Judith Beveridge, in the December edition of Meanjin: ‘Although Dorothy lost her battle with cancer and is sadly missed, her poetry, lively presence and energy continue to inspire many people. Meanjin is proud to be able to run this prize in her memory.’
"For my part, I am planning a kind of poetry project integrating all of you!"
Ivy from Dumbfoundry: 'Voices', a poem from The Opposite of Cabbage, is one slowly-released, rushing breath of a sentence. How does music, breath and speech inform the writing of this and other poems in your book?
Rob A. Mackenzie: The minute you put one word in front of another you’re creating music. No poem can escape that, but some poems resemble Rachmaninov, others The Clash, and some end up like one of those insipid middle-of-the-road songs from the nineties whose name and tune you can never quite remember.
A poem’s musical style is usually set in the first two lines, so I work quite hard to get them right. These days, I try to avoid slack prose at all costs, especially at a poem’s beginning. It takes an amazing continuation to recover from a bland first line like “I looked out the window, and my father,” although it can be done with a surprising second line. However, if the second line is, “waved, and ate his packet of crisps,” the poem, in all likelihood, is doomed. I mean, a line can sound like casual prose and actually not be, but I’m tired of poems that sound like a dashed-off extract from someone’s diary.
'Voices' can be read, along with most other poems mentioned in your questions, at the book’s .pdf sampler, the second poem there. It concerns psychiatric illness in which the chaotic sounds of street and pub mirror what’s going on inside the character’s head. I wanted a long, complex sentence, which might take a little work from the reader to stay with, to illustrate the confusion. I wanted drama too:We staggered down the via della Guerra, the windI tend, like most poets (I think) to use my intuition when writing and only analyse afterwards, if at all. I can hear the hard –a sounds, and the –b and –n sounds. Also at the end of the first line and through the next few lines, there are plenty of unstressed syllables suddenly held up by thumping stresses – these all contribute to an anarchic atmosphere. But that’s post-poem analysis. I simply worked on these lines until they felt right. I always read poems out loud and slave away until the rhythms, the pace and the pauses, are what the poem seems to demand.
snatching at the bedlam of each overflowing bin,
and you told me of voices crowding your head
like sharp stones, as if the entire street had moved in…
It seemed important for this poem to be a single sentence. In early drafts, it had two or three and I consciously adapted it to get rid of the full stops. The closing lines are an attempt to marry form and content, when the long sentence ends:…where my reply, finally
and dutifully performed, is already dulling
to a murmur behind the bed’s bright quilt.
By the way, I love the Scots word 'smirr', so I'm glad it made an appearance in your book. Italian is another language that sounds out in the poems. What do you see is the relationship between these two languages to your work?
I lived for five years in Turin, Italy and have translated a number of Italian poems into English. My Italian isn’t brilliant and is getting worse by the day, but I nevertheless love the country and the language. I use it in poems set in Italy where it feels natural to do so. I’m not really a Scots speaker, but some words are part of my vocabulary when I speak English. Both the Italian and the Scots do offer a sense of place. They give the poems context. Good words don’t emerge from a vacuum, but from a person with a living, breathing identity and personality.
In your poem 'The Listeners', you end with these thought-provoking lines:they feel grief that the night is unrepeatableI see the poem as a comment on art, poetry, the perhaps-futile act of creation. Do you think you write poetry to leave an echo?
as its secrets, as footsteps that leave no echo.
I don’t see any act of creation as futile but a poem needs someone to read it or hear it before it’s done its job. It needs a degree of close attention. The poems I read and enjoy most do leave echoes with me – snatches of sound, insight, rhythm and meaning. It would be great if any of my poems did the same for their readers.
Some people say they write only for themselves, for the sheer joy of creation or out of a need to create. For me, that’s the starting-point. I’ll write the poem. But unread poems can be classified in two ways: a) poems best left unread, and I have plenty of these I wouldn’t want to show anyone, and b) poems that need readers to leave their echoes with. I wish it were easier to tell which poems are which while in the process of writing them.
Threaded through your book is a wry note of humour, especially notable in 'Scottish Sonnet Ending in American', 'Scotlands' and 'Everyone Will Go Crazy', which contains the title of your book. It's like biting into something that's sweet and tangy at the same time, heightening the (bitter)sweetness all the more. Would you mind sharing your thoughts about using humour to address the varied themes in your work?
Humour is underused in contemporary poetry. I’m not really a fan of most ‘light verse’ because light verse isn’t usually funny or, at least, not as funny as it thinks it is (there are exceptions). I prefer deadpan humour, the kind that’s spoken with a straight face, often used to unmask absurdity for what it is. Humour can engage serious subjects and call age-old opinions into question. I enjoy poets such as Zbigniew Herbert, Michael Hofmann, Luke Kennard and Frederick Seidel – all with entirely different styles - partly because they employ that kind of humour to great effect. John Ashbery, at his best, does it as well as anyone. So does Geoffrey Hill from time to time.
Humour allows poets to question their own obsessions without falling into self-pity and it can reveal prejudice and idiocy at the heart of society without any need to mount a political soapbox. It is an antidote to those very serious poems which are constructed in such a way that they sound deep and meaningful, but are only making simple things sound very complicated.
The downside is that it’s easy to hide behind humour. You can laugh at something rather than really engage with it, or drip so much irony over a target that you no longer see the target as it actually is. Like all poetic tools, it’s hard to use well.
For my final question, I'm going to steal one from Kate Greenstreet's First Book Interview series and ask: What do you remember about the day when you saw your finished book for the first time?
It’s a great feeling. I’d seen a .pdf copy, which felt unreal. I’d seen the cover on-screen, which was exciting, as I liked the cover a lot, but there’s nothing to beat opening a package containing your book and holding it for the first time. I had thought it might have been anti-climactic, but Salt produce beautiful books, both in hardback (like mine) and in paperback. Even if all you’ve achieved is a slim book that’s going to sell a few hundred copies and then be forgotten about within a few years, it’s impossible not to feel a sense of real achievement and delight.
"Justin Sirois wrote MLKNG SCKLS with Haneen Alshujairy, an Iraqi refugee, and when I read it for the first time I thought, Cool, a post-apocalypse story like A Boy and His Dog or Road Warrior. Then I caught myself: Wait, this is real. This is here and now. Or to be precise, this is Fallujah 2004."
Huang Xiang spent over twelve years in Chinese prisons and endured much suffering for writing his lyrical, free-spirited poetry and for his advocacy of human rights in China.
"My poetry trip to the U.K. this winter was marked, among many wonderful experiences, by something more sobering: a string of stories poured out to me by women poets about gender imbalance and discrimination in prizes and book and journal publishing at the top levels of the British poetry world. While I am a natural idealist and would prefer to spend most of my time sitting under a pine tree writing and reading, sometimes a situation cries out inescapably for action. Starker than similar accounts I’ve heard in the U.S., yet all too familiar, these tales inspired me to address my longstanding frustraion at the stagnation in po-biz. As Eva Salzman points out in the introduction to her cross-Atlantic poetry anthology Women’s Work: Modern Women Poets Writing in English, it is still true that “the baggage attached to ‘woman poet’—poetess or not—is more like a lead weight.”"
Got a French Open storyline you’re itching to put to verse? Send us your tennis poetry ... , be it a sonnet in iambic pentameter, haiku, free verse (which Robert Frost once likened to "playing tennis with the net down") or a simple couplet. One request: keep it short and sweet.
"Both [Sandra] Beasley and the Eratosphere folks imagine an editor being unfamiliar with a poet they're trying to decide to publish, and then Googling them to see what else they’ve written. This idea is just baffling to me —— if I'm looking at a particular poem, what do I care what other poems that poet has written? How on earth does it matter to the experience our readers will potentially have with that poem? Seriously, I'm asking..."[via Very Like a Whale]
"'So you want to apply for the most poisonous job in poetry,' Judith Palmer, director of the Poetry Society, says when we meet at the society's cafe in Covent Garden. Put that way, it doesn't sound very enticing, but, yes, I have indeed decided to throw my battered beret into the ring when Oxford University re-runs the election for the professorship of poetry, which descended into farce last week when the victorious candidate, Ruth Padel, resigned after being implicated in a smear campaign against rival Derek Walcott."
"Naturally, I was keen to read his debut book. What I discovered was not only personally moving, but profoundly accomplished work. Andrew writes in both English and Scots, placing himself in a tradition stretching back to John Barbour and encompassing Robert Fergusson and Robert Burns. As an American, I feel under-qualified to comment on the unique cultural and socio-political implications of this dual-language approach. (And, I must admit that I gave the online Dictionary of the Scots Language a good workout in making my way through some of the poems.) However, both as a poet in love with lyricism, and a father who lost an infant son, I can not resist adding my praise and commendation to the acclaim this book is gathering."Andrew Philip's Cyclone Tour makes a stop at dumbfoundry on 29th June.
"Buffalo Jones (Chris Jones, English) on poetry, vocals, tambourine and shaky egg."
Taiwan's southern port city of Kaohsiung has inaugurated a walking trail with poems inscribed on tablets for people to learn about and enjoy poetry while they are out taking a stroll, a local official said Monday.
The trail, inaugurated Sunday amid dance and music, is 517 meters in length and built along the west side of the famous scenic attraction Lotus Pond in the city's Zuoying District.
"When I was a housepainter for a decade, work would dry up each winter. Down to pennies, I’d run to Lee Goldston, whom I drank with regularly at McGlinchey's, the cheapest bar downtown. Lee dubbed himself President of the Associated Philadelphia International Company, APIC, but all it was was Lee with a bucket, a squeegee, a bottle of dish washing detergent and some scrunched up newspaper. As a window washer, Lee was paid $5 for a typical job, but much more for a convenience store or a church. Although these were his hustles, Lee always gave me half of the day’s take whenever I accompanied him. Twenty dollars would keep me high on Spam for a few days. Once, I washed windows after appearing at a community college as a guest poet. It would have been a hoot had one of the admiring students saw me vigorously wiping water before it could freeze on the window pane. 'Yo, isn’t that the poet who came to our class yesterday?!'"
'Smear' was submitted to the journal Oxford Poetry by a high profile poet for equally anonymous publication."
Rob A. Mackenzie's The Opposite of Cabbage Virtual Cyclone Blog Tour to stop at dumbfoundry on 15th June.
You have been warned.