reading revival: a poetry book blog

reading revival is devoted to promoting australian poetry books and related discussion through reading one book - firstly, duty by geraldine mckenzie. i will choose a new book roughly every 3 months

Friday, May 19, 2006

the convenience of labelling - a book or a poet - as experimental often means that theyre not seen as innovative at all. as if theyre operating in the morass of non-poetry. as if innovation is really only metrical tricks or daring to write in prose. the little risks that a more mor poet takes are much commented on. its a question of being within the pale. critics love forms that have names. o/wise its like walking into a signless zoo. that an experimental poet may be trying to achieve all sorts of different things is subsumed in some vague idea that they just get their computer to do it, or its just some version of free verse. it would be meaningless to describe duty as free verse.


At 1:34 AM, Blogger Peter Minter said...

sign-less zoo


zoo-less sign?

that's what i wanna know.


At 3:51 AM, Blogger liam79 said...

is there any really "free" verse?

At 5:42 AM, Blogger michaelf said...

pete- maybe its the separation of zoo & sign thats disturbing. because youve got to know where you are at all times and where are you if the sign says lions and you cant see any. & if you do but cant see the lion sign then maybe yr not in a zoo after all. im not sure where this is going (oh really?). of course berrigan called his poems zoos when i expect some thought he meant jungles - or abbatoirs. ohara with all his 'farms': well youve got a poodle but im not sure thats much of a start.

liam - i think the truth of the word free in the phrase free verse describes the experience of escaping metre .. something ive never really come to grips with. tho it seems mckenzie can turn it on (see illuminations) & off. perhaps poets who are more comfortable with their identities or in their humanity can write relatively freer verse - but its arguable of course theyre bound in conventions of self, & bound to metre by writing against it. charles hartman's 'free verse' is a good book on it - still reading it. i may get back with more on this book. there seems to be a split between writing rhythm without numbers, & writing without rhythm. though any word combination has a music of sorts. mckenzies poems all seem very controlled.

At 5:46 PM, Blogger Geraldine McKenzie said...

signs, names, categories - (sigh)
just a few remarks about the hostility to experiemntal verse in Australia.
To begin with, I wonder if it's any worse here than elsewhere (depends on the elsewhere, I guess). Perhaps the carping of the mainstream just looms larger in what is a comparatively small scene.
Nevertheless (signalling a girding of the loins, a gathering of forces) there is a tendency to anti-intellectualism in this country, frequently appearing in the guise of anti-elitism.

It's ironic that experimental poetry is often composed in a spirit of evasion of the ordering, controlling intellect. John Taggart's wonderful Slow Song for Mark Rothko is a particularly limpid example.
That line of mine ...right rort write - is a much humbler instance. Those who don't feel threatened realise it's only rock n roll.
I wonder if those who are confused are so because they feel/think they have to "understand" it. I don't think understanding or a reduction to meaning is quite the point.
The citing of music in an earlier blog is a point well made. May not poetry flow like music - I'm thinking Beethoven but that's just me - with intermittent charges of the nameable or paraphraseable - to concoct a suitably ugly word - amongst the pleasures of sound and rhythm, the clashing of idioms, the reverberations of pun and image - (I do go on - and apologies for a muddled sentence - I know there should be a question mark in there somewhere)

As a postscript, I note in passing that those who adversely criticise experimental poetry frequently feel called upon to link such odious practices with an American or European influence as if it's somehow un-Australian (and patently unoriginal - whereas they are so...)to write experimental verse.
Well, why not - let's add another item to swell that rapidly expanding list.


At 6:59 PM, Blogger liam79 said...

but if you completely abandoned, no matter how discordant, the metre and rhythm of poetry, doesn't that just become prose? but then I haven't read mckenzie's book so I can't respond to the specific examples. could you give give others?

also i like the idea that experimental poetry could be, somehow, un-australian.

At 6:51 AM, Blogger michaelf said...

i think in many ways australia is a benign environment to practice experimental poetry. the small number of publishing poets does mean there are opportunities for everybody & we poets of different stripes often meet & find perhaps the other is not as nutty as they might have thought. but i think the critical environment fails to reflect the diversity of practice of the last forty + years -- & theres no point in expecting critics i might think of as conservative in getting up to speed if noone else is.. theres a conspicuous lack of substantial poetry criticism from the last couple of decades from poets apart from les murray & chris wallace-crabbe. the landscape might be different if there were critical volumes by tranter, adamson, forbes, duggan, ryan, brown, bolton ...

mckenzie is an interesting case as - as she says - that in terms of music there is a classical parallel operating - where many other poets of her rough ilk would - i think? - be more likely to allude to rock (only) or to contemporary musics such as electronica & hiphop - or to experimental musics: cage et al

the pointing to european & american influence tends to hide/naturalise british influence .. tho harpur & kendall are criticised for their anglo derivation. it also tends to obscure earlier examples of experimental practice such as brennans (mallarme-influenced)
'musicapoematographoscope' (copies available on abebooks..)

liam- i didnt say mckenzie - or anyone had abandoned rhythm. tho one example of poetry that does without becoming prose is visual poetry/ies; some concrete poetry emphasises rhythm - & metre: in the radical fashion of reducing words to iambs, trochees or spondees etc.. - but others rely on visuality.

it is possible for a poem to have a conceptual basis - derived from philosophy or art etc - that results in rhythmic elements being submerged .. rhythm isnt the essence of poetry but rather is a force that is more or less pronounced .. & that varies from reader to reader .. readers say 'i cant hear that poet' or 'i can finally hear that poet'

At 10:07 AM, Blogger joeldeane said...

personally, i'm more interested in the poem than the poet. every poet, no matter who they are, no matter whether they are deemed experimental or non-experimental, has to prove themselves anew everytime they create a piece. reputation should be meaningless - as should the label attached to the poet.

i've been deeply moved by poems written in various forms, particularly, when it comes to experimental works, by michael's ode ode collection, which reached me in a way beyond words. it was a work that went beyond the linguistic to the organic. and that is the kind of poetry i'm forever looking for.

At 8:37 AM, Blogger michaelf said...

thanks for yr post joel - i guess the problem that im trying to deal with is how do we reach readers - not in terms of the poem, but how do they know our poems exist - what does 'reputation' do to affect this reaching, does/can a critical culture support a poetrys reception. im interested in all aspects of poetry, including the social, biographical, critical etc; when it comes to reading a poem, getting to know a poem its like going into space or arriving somewhere - im still aware of whats gone before/where ive been but im most conscious of where i am. & the poem can pull those other things towards itself. the poet becomes a kind of ghost, a spiritual presence/absence or guardian angel.

At 9:43 AM, Blogger joeldeane said...

yeah, the issue of the reputation of the poet is crucial to how a poem is received.

this is unfortunate in the sense that a poem cannot be taken seriously - read serously - without a critical response that gives readers 'permission' to take the poem seriously, but we don't have a critical mass of criticism. too much criticism is backscratching or backbiting.

we're largely left to our own devices to decide what to read seriously. that's not a problem for practitioners who are well versed in verse, but it is a huge problem for civilians (ie, the general reading public). end result: good new poetry (particularly experimental poetry) is marginalised and unknown outside its small circle.

that's why your blog is more than welcome.

At 7:00 AM, Blogger michaelf said...

thanks joel. while ill be looking at books that i think may have escaped notice, they wont all be experimental. lots of good books go unnoticed; either people havent heard of them, or theyre in a narrow reading groove.

At 3:44 AM, Blogger louhanna said...

Waiting patiently tapping my foot´┐Ż spell poemssilently wishing that you will just see me spell poems


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