Sunday, November 10, 2013


Much to thank Michael Farrell for in his article, An 'Infinitely Flexible' Space; Reading Michael Dransfield's 'Courland Penders' poems through the New Baroque and Dobrez's theory of 'the Pouch',  published in The Political Imagination issue of Southerly (2013), and not least for what seems to me a rare acknowledgement of the approach & research of Livio & Patricia Dobrez. Why LD's Parnassus Mad Ward : Michael Dransfield & the New Australian Poetry (UQP, 1990) & PD's Michael Dransfield's Lives : A Sixties' Biography (Melbourne University Press, 1999) aren't  better known & utilised beats me. One might also add, similarly, that after years of not so much neglect as disdain, Michael Dransfield, the true subject of Farrell's article, is circulating again as poetry & reference. I note the online appearance of the Dransfield Appreciation Society [] over the past year and the recent daily publications on Facebook of Dransfield poems (Justin Lowe's month long homage & Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke's seven days) which, in a perfect world, with readers constantly requesting Dransfield's poetry, might just affect the weather around St Lucia where UQP has obstinately refused to return to print its Dransfield editions, including John Kinsella's selection of 2002. Farrell's foundational debt is to Martin Harrison (after Edward Said)'s 'affiliative' approach which opposed Oz Lit's predictable 'genetic' procedures; however they're not necessarily mutually exclusive (mutual exclusivity itself a conventional deadweight trapping both traditional & apparently radical modes). The Harrison 'affiliative'/Farrell 'neobaroque' ought definitely not be regarded as antithetical to the historical-cultural-biographical strand of understandings.

I say Dransfield is the true subject of Farrell's article because, due to what I assume is his obligation to the theoretical imperatives of his profession, Dransfield as poet & oeuvre is crabbed here by emphasis upon the 'neobaroque' as a stratagem in competition with the postcolonial, colonial, avant-garde, neoromantic, postmodern & others as the most efficacious critical tool. I'm obviously not saying that Farrell's neobaroque, drafted from Latin American criticism as he describes, isn't a nifty explicator for Michael Dransfield & contemporary Australian poetry; and of course one understands the context of the article, originally presented as a paper at the Political Imagination : Postcolonialism & Diaspora in Contemporary Australian Poetry conference at Deakin University, April 2012, --but thank heavens one's beyond the academy's reach in one's own discourses.

(Oh brothers & sisters of the 'political imagination', having ploughed through your expositions in that there journal, all I can say is come away, come away! Come away! Come back to poetry, warts & all! Come back to poets, warts & all!  Be humble before the wartish facts! Warts so much better agents of understanding & liberation than the contorted vocabularies advancing or within the categories of perfection you have invented in your lofty, lefty follies! And hey! How's this for synchronicity? Flicking at Cassandra Atherton's eminently readable book of interviews, In So Many Words : Interviews with Writers, Scholars and Intellectuals (Arcadia/ASP, 2013), I find Camille Paglia, ca 2005. From that first "slap in the face [Paglia's defending her book Break, Blow, Burn] of the current poetry establishment and academic circles", fulminating against the idea "that people write poetry to do philosophy", --to which she says "Don't treat poetry as if it was a servant of some other form", thus her criticism of Ashbery (or the way that he is read) & of Jorie Graham, indeed the entire po mo shebang, -- from the first & throughout her interview I'm attracted. I realise Paglia's brush is pretty broad --for example, "Postmodernism has marginalised poetry because postmodernism is a type of cynical nihilism… it defines any reference to the sacred as sentimental. There is a kind of sanctimonious superiority that many postmodernist scholars have, regarding what people believe", & et cetera --And one has to get a handle on her prime belief in a bodily, sensual & sensory poetry against "academic sterility", --And though, as I read & think her propositions through, there are as many nays as yays, and greys in amongst the black & whites, at least I can join her discussion --that is, I care to (a version, as it happens, of the one I have with all my colleagues here, off the cuff more than in print, and over many years), whereas I'm completely disinclined & disenchanted by Southerly's politicos…)

Bethatasitmay; Michael Farrell's most suggestive device, is the pouch, borrowed from the Dobrezes, & not only as supremely subverted Aussie kitsch. He explains "we can see that through the pouch-consciousness of Dransfield's 'infinitely flexible' poetics, of which the Courland Penders poems are exemplary if not unique, Dransfield can "experience reality" without leaving the womb or house…" It seems to me this might, in another paper and from the psycho-literary or, in my terms, the fantastical or dream approach, progress to actually crossing eyes with Michael Dransfield. An encounter, it occurs to me, after Charles Buckmaster via Christopher Brennan, within th' real

[9/10 November, '13]

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