Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Coldfront's Top 30 Poetry Books of 2011

The magazine notes: Here are our editorial picks for the Top 30 Poetry Books of 2011. Over the next week, check out our remaining 2011 Best Poetry lists, which include Best First Book, Best Second Book, Best Long Poem, Best Selected/Collected, Best New Book By a Canonical Poet, Best Translation, Best Anthology, Best First Poem in a Collection, Best Final Poem in a Collection, Best Opening Lines, Best Closing Lines, Best Book of Thought/Criticism, Best Book Cover, Best Physical Artifact. Enjoy!

My pick of these books, not knowing them all, would be number 2 Money Shot by Rae Armantrout and number 6, Fall Higher by Dean Young.  There are 30 books here, all USA poets, so what would an Australian list look like? I'll have to look at that - and I'd love to hear your nominations, either through the comments panel here (if y're a fellow blogger) or by email here .

Monday, January 30, 2012

Southerly 71.2 A Handful of Sand

Southerly is delighted to invite you to the launch for its latest issue, 71.2 A Handful of Sand: Words to the frontline. There will be readings, nibbles, and general bonhomie. Please join us!

When: Thursday February 2nd, 5:30 for 6pm
Where: Woolley Common Room, John Woolley Building upstairs, University of Sydney

A Handful of Sand is an extraordinary editorial achievement by two of our finest poets, Ali Cobby Eckermann and Lionel Fogarty. This issue of Southerly brings to its reader a rich and striking cross-section of the poetry, fiction, essays and memoir of Australia’s first nations, from prodigious teenagers to respected Elders, from over twenty language groups, and from every corner of Australia. A perfect introduction for those who have not encountered such writing before, an invaluable resource for those who work with and within it, a rewarding experience for anyone who cares about country and wants to know more of its secrets, or who just wants to broaden their understanding of what writing is and can be, A Handful of Sand changes and animates the field of Australian Literature, remapping the real and imaginary landscapes on which the national fiction was founded.

The Impact of Anthologies - a personal note

Some people behind the scenes influence your life - without you knowing it. Well, at least not for a very long time. The anthology above changed my writing life, which influenced the course of the rest of my life. Donald Allen (pictured) was the editor. Of course, it was the poets who first influenced my young hungry imagination - Olson, Creeley, Duncan, Lew Welch, Ginsberg, Philip Whalen, Frank O'Hara - and the Statements of Poetics at the back has also influenced me increasingly over the decades. Now, having paid attention to a recent controversial Australian poetry anthology, it brings home the power of the editor(s) in these productions once more. There is no such thing as a 'perfect' anthology but the book above sure had a positive effect on the poetics of USA, Canada and Australia/NZ, plus a big effect on forward-thinking poets of UK (mainstream poets remained staid and stuck in their ruts). Sure it left out some poets, and it created 'schools' on flimsy criteria, but its influence for the good, for the more creative, far outweighed any negative forces it created. 

In Australia we've suffered boring or ill-managed anthologies, one after the other, but the one which stands out for me as a lively and an inspiring document is The Penguin Book of Modern Australian Poetry, edited by John Tranter and Phillip Mead, published 1991. The last poet in that anthology is John Kinsella who himself has edited a number of anthologies, the most substantial - and, again, controversial - being The Penguin Book of Australian Poetry published in 2008. 

How the poetry of the English-speaking world changed after the advent of the Donald Allen anthology can be seen in these Australian anthologies and in the poetry of their editors. Many of us in a certain age group were caught up in the passion of poetry and searched and begged, borrowed or stole copies of the works of our new hero poets. Little roneoed mags appeared and even the established literary quarterlies of the universities expanded their boundaries and gradually accepted the 'new wave' of poetry, eventually going so far as appointing such poets as Poetry Editors. Wonders will never cease ... 

Today, without naming names, I can tell you that the children of some of those poets are, or have been until recently, shaping the course of Australian poetics by their influence of editorial boards and committees. The variety of lively and accepted poetry styles in our culture is dazzling - and one hell of a lot of it can be traced back to Donald Allen's anthology. 

I won't waste more of your time, but simply say the influence of anthologies should never be under-estimated as a doorway for adventurous readers and writers to expand their literary horizons. And the publishing houses who commission such works should themselves be praised for the best of them 
and held responsible for the damaging ones.


Thank you to Ron Silliman who had the above photos in his archives at http://ronsilliman.blogspot.com/

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Janet Jackson's RAW HYDE appearance

On 9 February, poet Janet Jackson is the spoken word feature at Raw Hyde, the Hyde Park Hotel’s Thursday-night music, comedy and spoken word open mike night MCed by the irrepressible Tomás Ford. Show starts around 9, arrive before that to sign up for open mike. Corner Bulwer & Fitzgerald Streets, West Perth. Free entry. Raw Hyde is presented by JumpClimb.

'Bloom' by Larissa Shmailo

I. Je suis une femme de lettres et je gagne ma vie.
All ways a feather: bed your bugs as they bud
Welling roses these sweltering days
Rose roaches blooming by books, near pillows
Blooming by Bloomsday, busting out by June
Busting on Broadway, busting the busts…
            Hey, this is…my bra!
            (Like swallowing feathers, you know,
            dirty feathers.)
            And this is December and over there, Christmas
            We call April Easter cause she makes them march.
Welling roses in Wellington Rolls
Rose roaches blooming by books, near pillows
Rolls with butter, rolls with jam
Roll her over, let’s go hot damn!
Sweltering days as rose roaches bloom
Swilling slaves in rose roaches’ room
Bloom, concrete blossoms!
Bloom, Broadway bottoms!
Bloom! Picks his nose
Bloom! As he grows. . . .
Bed your bugs as they bud, as they breedwhat a breed!
Ill-bred, no bread
Dirty cunt’s puking
Just giving me head. . . .
All ways are fettered
Fellated and fucked
For ever and all
But mostly for us
II. Foret sans oiseaux
All ways are feathered.
For rest a bed,
For the rest, a bed . . . .
Hey, this is. . . .I know; I’ve had them for years.
I’ve had it. Have you? Been had?
Have you a forest? Have you a bed?
Have you a haven?
(Forests of feathers: naked birds shrieking
Bony birds swooping
Burning birds screaming
Descending like hell)
Blooming rose roaches all buds destroyed
Bony birds bleeding, beating, breaking, bled. . .
For rest, a bed, for rest. . .
Fine-feathered slaughter by books, near pillows
Rose roaches breed,
Bleed swiftly and die.
III. On commence par tre dupe, on finit par tre fripon.
George Sand
Always the feathers: hi, I’m Molly Bloom;
Blow by my bathroom . . . .
By the window a frozen bird, frozen for weeks,
A weak bird, a dead duck, a gone goose,
A pigeon petered out. . . .
But I’m Molly Bloom, you’ve had me, you know:
Birds are just chirping snakes.
But I’m Molly Bloom, I’m a mammal,
I have mammaries, see: This is a bust!
I don’t touch dead birds.
This is December, and over there’s Christmas
And Easter will rise to any occasion
For ever and all
For Peter and Paul. . . .
But I’m Molly Bloom, I’m a pagan, you fuck!
(A man? Where?)
A feather bed for me, a haven for rest,
Pillows for the head, and books for the rest
I need the rest: this is short, where’s the rest?
All ways are fetid
Fellated and fucked
No bird’s no damn good
Until it’s been plucked.
A man? Amen. This is Easter:
Rest that piece.
“Bloom” audio
Larissa Shmailo is a poet and a translator living in New York City. Read her new e-book, Fib Sequence (Argotist Ebooks) at http://www.lulu.com/product/ebook/fib-sequence/16347718 (free download).

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Bar between St Agnes and The Gugh from St Agnes

Two seas square their dancing
reaching for each other
on the strength of their waves
but pulling back again

not all: some cross over,
and more, and more, they kiss –
tongues one might think merging –
the rock is down below;

and wrack's been pushed aside
as lunch things on tables
when a passion builds up...
slowly, slowly, pink, bare,
momentarily blue,
glistening, and green,
disappearing beneath
mechanical embrace

and the small observer
does well indeed not to
trying to understand

© Lawrence Upton 2012

Lawrence Upton (born London 1949, of Cornish origins) is a poet, graphic artist and sound artist, currently directing Writers Forum. Upton is remarkable for the range of his genres and forms; and for the political savvy of his writing. He is a performer, continuing and expanding the performance tradition of, amongst others, Bob Cobbing. He spent much of the first decade of this century in Cornwall; but is now a Fellow of Goldsmiths, University of London.
Andrew: And I'm happy to say he is a friend. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The mystery of poetry editing: from TS Eliot to John Burnside

If one poet edits another, whose work is it? In the week that John Burnside won the T S Eliot Prize, Sameer Rahim investigates the unseen hands behind that most personal and mysterious of literary forms.

Image 1 of 2
T S Eliot's desk, 1965 
Alone on the verge of Hell, Dante is rescued by a fellow poet. When his hero Virgil appears before him he is star-struck: “You are my master, and indeed my author; / It is from you alone that I have taken / the exact style for which I have been honoured.” The Aeneid’s author generously guides him through the Commedia cajoling, correcting and encouraging him on his long poetic journey.
Every poet needs a Virgil. Wordsworth had Coleridge; Tennyson had Arthur Hallam; and Edward Thomas had Robert Frost. However, the best-preserved example of one poet editing another is Ezra Pound’s work on TS Eliot’s The Waste Land. The poem’s manuscript, first published in 1971 and now available on a snazzy iPad app, shows Pound’s boldness. On the first page of the second part, “A Game of Chess”, he wrote disapprovingly: “Too tum-pum at a stretch”; further down he complains a line is “too penty” – too regular a pentameter. Eliot redrafted the lines until he got an “OK” in the margin. Eliot acknowledged his friend’s role when he dedicated the 1925 edition to Pound, calling himIl miglior fabbro or “the better craftsman” – a phrase from Dante.

Read on HERE.

Issa Haiku

even the puppy
drums his belly...
rice blossoms

-Issa, 1820


Monday, January 23, 2012

Call for Submissions - Blemish Books' TRIPTYCH POETS


In 2010 Blemish Books kicked off a new series of poetry collections – the Triptych Poets series.
The concept is simple – three poets: one book.
We believe that all poetry (consciously or sub-consciously) reflects, reacts to and shapes the understanding of the poetry of its time - no poem can be read in isolation.
By combining the work of three poets into one book, we’re hoping to highlight the contrasting and often complementary nature of contemporary poetry.


Issue One was released on 3 October 2010. It features the work of Ray Liversidge, Hilaire, Mary Mageau.
Issue Two was released on 6 October 2011. It features the work of Stuart Cooke, Bronwen Manger and Ouyang Yu.
Copies of Triptych Poets are available from our bookstore.


Submissions to Triptych Poets are open between 1 January 2012 and March 1 2012.
There is no restriction on style or theme. We only ask that the poems you send be your best, polished work.
  • Submissions should include a suite of 15 – 25 poems for consideration (max. 40 A4 pages).
  • We will accept suites that include poems that have been previously published, however we prefer suites with mostly unpublished poems.
  • Please include details of any previously published poems (publication title and date).
  • We do not accept poems that are currently under consideration elsewhere.
  • All submissions must be submitted in hard copy. We do not accept submissions via email.
  • Submissions should be typed in 12pt Times New Roman font, 1.5 spaced and printed on A4 size paper.
  • Each page of the manuscript should be numbered and include the name of the author.
  • Each poem should begin on a new page.
  • Please include a brief cover letter with the author’s name and contact details (postal address, phone number, email address) and a short author bio (two or three sentences max).
  • If you would like your manuscript returned please include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE). Unsuccessful submissions without a SASE will be destroyed.
  • Blemish Books takes no responsibility for the loss of submitted manuscripts. Please do not send original copies.
  • Submissions should be posted to:

    Triptych Poets
    Blemish Books
    GPO Box 1803
We look forward to reading your poems!

Donald Hall - in poetry for the long haul

"I started my first poem 70 years ago," [Donald Hall] said. "It's been a way of life and how I would handle anything that came up, sad or happy."

In a wheelchair with a full time carer, Donald Hall is now aged 83 - a fair enough innings, but a time in life when the "meteor showers" of inspiration have stopped rushing in. He still writes prose and if a poem came he states he wouldn't "send it away". 

In a full lifetime, Hall has had his luck, good and bad, but as a poet he has been awarded a staggering amount of awards and prizes. Last year, along with Bob Dylan and Clint Eastwood, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama, the highest recognition the US bestows upon its creative citizens.

In describing Hall's memoir, Out The Window, the Enterprise News reports this delightful scene:

In the middle, there's a gem about how our society tends to view and treat old people. Hall, 83, recently traveled to Washington to receive the National Medal of the Arts. He also visited the National Gallery of Art and was in a wheelchair. He stopped to look at a sculpture.
A guard in his 60s came up and, apparently assuming that someone older in a wheelchair wouldn't know this, the guard tells him that the name of the sculptor is Henry Moore. 
Hall wrote a book about Moore and also knew him, but he refrains from putting down the guard.
Then later, as Hall is coming out of the cafeteria with his companion, the same guard comes over again, bends down, and "wags his finger, smiles a grotesque smile, and raises his voice to ask, "Did we have a nice din-din?"

As I grow older, I am surprised at the 'meteor showers' that still come - not daily but with purpose - and I am pleased to report that, on average, more poems survive after first draft than when I was young and would sprinkle poems on the floor like confetti. Well, I called anything that came out on paper 'poems' back then! Ten a day wasn't unheard of, whereas today ... 

Getting back to Hall, I'll look up his poems again now and read a few, just to celebrate an older poet who deserves some attention while he still walks this earth. Perhaps you'll do the same for me - not now! Much later ...