Saturday, August 30, 2008

COLLECTED WORKS BOOKSHOP EVENTS, August 2008

VIVE LE CONNECTIONS!

Following the launches, in late July, of Famous Reporter magazine (#37,'08) & Lorin Ford's A Wattle Seedpod [see the blog posting for the launch-speech on this site], Collected Works Bookshop hosted two events on Friday, 8th of August, in the Overload Poetry Festival, namely, a lunch-time reading by Pi O from his new book, Big Numbers (Collective Effort, '08), & a reading to show-case three books from Small Change Press (Queensland), featuring Matt Hetherington (I think We Have), David Stavanger (And the Ringmaster Said) & Nathan Shepherdson (What Marian Drew Never Told Me About the Light).

Crowded itineraries, Melbourne's late-winter cold snap, who knows what explains small attendances? No shortage of interest & (poetical) issues-arising though. For example, Pi O's work (& reading) in the continuing echo of the brief exchange we had years ago, down in our Flinders Street basement-shop, late 90s, early 2000s --at a reading by one of the American visitors of that year, Andrew Zawacki, which I think did attract a decent crowd (--and I recall objecting to Zawacki's statement that although the poems, of a particular sequence he was reading to us, referred to 'Scotland' --written there perhaps-- they told us nothing, he said, of 'Scotland'... At the very least I heard this as a pooh-poohing of the particularities of place and a begging the question of 'place' where 'particularity' per se might be just such a defining impress as will register 'place'... "Of course, that's the postmodernist heresy!" I interjected, having in mind the spurning of the Real in the fashionable name of the 'construct', as though the ever more sophisticated apprehension of 'representation' had excused one's existential burden & expression, rendered it passe --and I said something about 'voice' & its duel with 'text', their essential & complimentary parts in writing, and emphasised the eccentric aspect of 'voice' as the vital motor of poetry! Sounds like a speech in retrospect! --it wasnt, just the interjection & a blurted version of the foregoing --to which, I'm always amused to remember, Kevin Hart, beside me, observed genially, "that's a bold call, Kris!" He quoted some Blanchot on the relation of & distinction between Art & World; I responded saying it was never mutually exclusive; and Andrew Zawacki resumed his reading!) --At the end of formalities, Pi O told me he'd disagreed with my comments, contending that poetry depended upon 'editing', not 'voice'. I think he quoted Olson's practice, his interpretation of which I then disputed. I remain unconvinced, or rather I remain convinced of 'voice'! At some stage I'd like to think this through again, --and my thoughts on the 'saying' / 'singing' distinction offered in my recent discussion of John Kinsella [see my blog, John Kinsella & Judith Bishop's Glittering Prizes], might be a start...
The lunchtime reading confirmed for me that Pi O's 'voice' is both distinctive & essential in for, example, his Fitzroy local-history poems; no matter that he's quoting the speech around him, it's the wonderful unpredictability of voice, making & residing in very particular narratives, that informs, sustains & distinguishes his poetry. His penchant for absurd &/or ironic juxtaposition of newspaper reports & gathered statistics might be his idea of 'editing', but they're hardly unspoken, that is to say, there is a pattern to the humour or chagrin or whatever the aggregate effect might be, and in pattern there is identity, and in identity there is voice! The collage is shaped by the pattern of its elements; its shape is its voice!

Connections, coincidences, acausal parallelisms, are, if not the stuff of life then its efflorescence.The other day, for instance, about to take up pen to write a note on the Small Change Press reading --specifically to mention one or two people in the room who added an international dimension to the event (--there were the Italians, about whom something anon, & Ahmed Hashim, the first of the Iraqui poets we've come to meet in Melbourne over the past few years), in fact, Ahmed was in my head (--perhaps because I'd recently managed to open the file he'd sent me with the latest epistle in our letter-poem exchange and told him at the reading how I had it now & liked it, especially the bit about Henry Miller : "suddenly, Henry Miller knocks on my door / he was surprised, couldn't believe modern life in 2008 / doesn't respect millionaires, must be a billionaire!") when Cathy O'Brien rang me from Vientiane, not with an update about the Mekong's flooding, which had been worrying me despite her typically stoical & amused attitude to her own security, sand-bagging with her community as the river's level rose just across the street from their homes, but to tell me that the husband of one of her teacher colleagues (they'd lived in New Zealand & were now in Lao PDR) was an Iraqui poet with several books published, --Mr Furat! Cathy hasnt met a poet there in five years so she was tickled pink at the prospect!
A quick Google gave me a potted biography & an essay by Mark Pirrie (editor of Headworx, published by Salt & various NZ presses, also met some years ago in the Shop), available at www.Jehat.com. Basim Furat, born in 1967, had escaped from Iraq in '96, under threat from the Saddam regime for certain poems he'd written; came to New Zealand via Jordan in '97 and "has emerged as one of his adopted country's most gifted new poets," according to Pirrie --two books in translation, Here and There, & The Moon that Excels in Nothing but Waiting...
Next link in the chain, I thought, will be to ask Ahmed if he knows Basim! But then it dawned on me : I've actually met Basim Furat! Perhaps even introduced by Ahmed! I looked in my library and found that indeed I do have his miniature book, The Moon..., which he signed for me in the Shop in January, 2006! What a small world!
Regarding the Italians, two Maxes as it happens, one, Massimiliano Mandorlo, had found the Shop earlier in the week & so learnt of the reading. The Melbourne literary scene couldnt have been a total mystery since Simon West, whom I mentioned to Max as a reader of Zanzotto, was also known to him. On the night, Matt Hetherington, having been introduced, welcomed them to the reading with his recitation, in Italian, & from memory, of an exquisite little poem by Ungaretti, corrected for pronunciation only once by the visitors! Mandorlo had given us copies of the Italian literary journal, clanDestino (from Rimini), now in its 21st year, of which he told us he was a current collaborator. Pleasant to talk to him as the first Italian poet to visit home or shop since Adriano Spatola & Giulia Niccolai thirty years ago (--I'd described the occasion in a swan-song piece for Meanjin Quarterly that year)... Spatola, I prompted him, youngest of the Novissimi, oldest of the Gruppo 63 --and yes, he knew of him but not well. I said he had died, and remembered Adriano & Giulia as big smokers & drinkers. They were friends of the Swiss-Italian poet & artist, Franco Beltrametti, also dead now, with whom we'd corresponded in the'70s --the great connection between the experimental American & European poets of that era, perfectly reflected in the title of his anthology, The Sperlonga Manhattan Express... Mandorlo was travelling soon to Brisbane so it was especially fortuitous for him to attend the Queensland press's reading and make the aquaintance of Nathan Shepherdson & David Stavanger! I believe he's also interested in translating Shepherdson into Italian...
All of this, of course, in the wings of the Small Change poets' reading : Hetherington's aphoristic poems nailing what sounds like traditional wisdom to surrealistic masts; Stavanger's hilarious & surreal narratives, for example Letters to Your Anus & the delightfully ironic & instructive Old Poet to Young Poet; Shepherdson's unravellings of perception's daily register (in this sequence interacting with photography), lyrical & poignant in their search for meaning...


Vive le connections!

--Kris Hemensley

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

the comment was NOT about VOICE it was about SIGNATURE and i said SIGNATURE was EDITING and i didn't quote OLSON your memory did i presume
love + anarchy
TT.O.

collectedworks said...

Dear TT.O., Thanks for your comment... My memory's not bad incidentally! I'll have to think abt what you mean here by "signature". When I have time I'll trawl through my diaries & see if I noted anything then & there...We probably still differ about the status of "editing" though, but as i said in my piece, I'm still thinking it through... Best wishes, Kris

presented by Billy Marshall Stoneking said...

alas, I only just caught up with this - but the argument interested me - now, reading Pi's corrective i am inclined to wonder if there is anything palpable to actually contribute to. I'm no sure what Pi means by signature either except to assume - largely based on conversations the two of us have enjoyed in the past - that what he is pointing to is the fact that an argument between editing and voice is a kind of bi-furcation of nature as it applies to poetic utterance. I imagine his use of the term signature is the corrective that re-unites the two : voice is editing and editing is voice = signature. the sign is a complex configuration that has more popularly (and conventionally) been beem characterised as 'style' - the co-called answer to everything in bukowski's cosmos.

collectedworks said...

Hello Billy! Never too late for anything in this life so youre very welcome. Voice for me is not only the adopted tone but what comes through the language to possess a narrative. Evidently (from II's comment) the discussion was abt 'signature' vis a vis 'editing') and not about 'voice'. For now & then presumably i wld say i prefer the intensely personal run of language (of a writing inhabited or embodied like speech) against any set of propositional sentences or lines whose effect depends upon placement, intellectual rather than vocal & natural even tho intellectual or constructionist are, for me, ultimately subsumed within the vocal/natural. Ah well! We continue, always in transit! Best wishes, kris