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, March 31, 2006

geraldine mckenzie has agreed to answer questions u might have about duty. email queries to and i'll pass them on to her.

spoke to brunswick st books about reading revival. they were positive and are ordering a copy of duty, and thinking of making poetry separate from fiction on their web catalogue.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

comment on one poem of your choice from duty

my flatmate said keats 'negative capability' in a reading context is like coleridge's 'suspension of disbelief': i think coleridge was referring to poems like 'the ancient mariner'- thinking his readers might find it unbelievable - the two concepts i think were probably closer in their coiners time .. (now we'll believe anything). what im interested in is that keats theory has conservative critical respect, yet the same critic can dismiss poetries that negative capability could most readily apply to from a reading perspective.. all of this is just to say you can open yourself to 'duty' (to poetry) - just read - youll find your mind will appreciate the poetry as long as theres not a constant chatter in yr head of 'whats this mean' 'i dont get it' etc. those comments are like people talking during a reading ..

Monday, March 27, 2006

duty received at least two excellent reviews: the kerry leves and peter rose. do 'the discontinuities pall' (rose)? and if so, where? perhaps 'using it'pp 63-5 ?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

reading being a kind of writing: you write the poem in your mind as you read -- negative capability seems like a useful tool for reading as well. no irritable casting about for meaning just going with the flow (& the rocks).

live reading groups melbourne & perth. interested? email & i'll let u know details. probably may sometime for melbourne, september for perth - i'll b there for the spring poetry fest & will lead groups on both 'duty' and the next as yet undecided book (at least thats the plan). if you'd like to lead/start your own anywhere, email me also & i'll post details for others to contact you.

here is an edit of the blurb i did for perth:


Poetry Book Group 1: Geraldine McKenzie's 'Duty'

Interested in contemporary poetry but not sure where to start? Or just looking for opportunities to share your interest? Melbourne poet Michael Farrell will lead a poetry book group on Geraldine McKenzie's 'Duty'. 'Duty' is the first book to be discussed by Michael's blog: To take part in a live discussion all you need to do is read the book. (You don't need to know anything about blogs.) Bring notes, comments, questions, or just come and listen. But the more involved you get with the book the better the meeting. Michael suggests getting to know just one poem really well. Get the book early to give yourself plenty of time. Allow a couple of weeks for ordering if your local book shop doesn't have it in stock. You can also check out reviews and online discussion at the blog address above or look at Paper Bark's 'Duty' page

Saturday, March 25, 2006

what i like about 'testament' p 38 is that it lists gemstones 'amethyst etc..' without making a fetish of them. to me this is a tedious aspect of the portrait of dorian gray, as much as i like other things of wilde. mckenzie writes of politics, sex, fathers, nazism with a cool eye, not wallowing like many before and after.

Friday, March 24, 2006

two copies available collected works bookshop and one at the city library. sorry to be melbourne-centric. if anyone notices copies elsewhere let me know and ill post it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

anyone interested in mail order can contact collected works on 03-96548873 or email

the word i most strongly associate with mckenzies poetry is integrity. i tried to think of an american equivalent (i dont mean one that has integrity, but one that gives me that feeling) and i came up with creeley; otherwheres theres celan; an email correspondent had the same thought, hopefully more from him soon ... also id like to say that i dont intend this discussion to be among just those who already write criticism, review books -- or even have published or write poetry -- anyone who reads poetry is welcome -- your thoughts are not merely interesting to me, but vital to the discussion ...

Monday, March 20, 2006

here's my review of 'duty' as it appeared in famous reporter. this is one of my early attempts at trying to write a review, getting past my even earlier attempts of responses. reading it now, im surprised by the energy of it; my thoughts now are different (not that i disagree with what i said before). the reason for the title 'Mrs Robinson & A ??' is that it appeared following my poem 'mrs robinson and a mango' (ode ode p 42). It gave me a starting point.

Mrs Robinson & A ?? (Duty, Geraldine McKenzie, Paper Bark Press, 2001)

What do the question marks represent? A hand grenade? A light bulb? What does the culture want from women? – from poets? Two seconds of Peter Costello yelling in parliament and I’m ready for matriarchy. I don’t want to give the wrong impression: Duty’s not a tract – merely a brilliant piece of work.

It’s easy for poets – and other agnostics – to feel unnecessary: that is the impression I want to give – that of necessity: not hectoring or refutation – though a negation – but art.

The sculptor Lawrence Weiner says the role of art is to present reality so that – rather than be metaphorical itself – the reader of art can make their own metaphors of the relationship between themselves and life. He quotes a child saying the word ‘apple’ is written inside an apple. He tells a group of teenagers interested in graffiti that it’s not enough to say ‘Me Jose’: say rather ‘the sky is blue’ or ‘my children are hungry’.



these are strangers
with their awkward gaze claiming
kinship like an egg
teetering in rough

you signal



item: one pr. womens shoes
item: one pr. workboots
item: one pr. mens shoes
item: one pr. womens shoes (evening)
item: one pr. childrens shoes



I don’t think poetry
can save us

(‘the honey pit’)

I’m hungry for the avant garde, and for forms which are assured but don’t rest. Mrs Robinson had two outlets: an affair with a graduate, and the repression of her family. Geraldine McKenzie’s putting her money on poetry, and relatively speaking, it’s a good bet.

It’s no joke. I’m reader enough to notice ‘??’ parody the female form. And parody questioning itself. Hell, I want freedom too, and if I can raise the subjects of misogyny – or sexism if you prefer – and Order, then I will.

I don’t remember getting excited over ‘Adenfrorde – fragments’ when it appeared in Calyx 30 Contemporary Australian Poets (Paper Bark Press, 2000). Was I brain dead? Maybe just not ready...


here’s where the forest
lays down its arms & sings
for bread


are you familiar
with this—


a green horse
prised from meticulous
forest its slow canter
into cloud traces of this morning’s milk
star breathy over
the ridges
(‘Adenfrorde – fragments’)

What colour is your sky?

‘3. The lighthouse is no longer orange.
35. A sentence with teeth and a digestive system.
A sentence with all organs intact. Go on.
54. I’ll eat this mango slowly.’
(‘After Ritsos’)

‘O throw me an orange anyone’ (‘counting coup’)

McKenzie eats fruit like anyone, and won’t be reduced.

‘a sentence like a threshing machine
a sentence like the cigarette smoked absent-mindedly
over the body’ (‘a bit of fun’)

Like any reader of Gertrude Stein, avant garde heroine and world war veteran, McKenzie cares about sentences. If not ourselves, for poems are that, they are closely related.

‘4. We observed the insects carefully and one was aware of
the ferocity of their existence.

5. After I saw the shocking cannibalism that always
terminated the relationship of male and female insects,
one never knew whether to be awed or simply
8. He bows his neck and raised his thorax.


death jump
oh jesus’ (“text/book/work...”)

It’s the cunning ending – and she achieves this over and over – that performs the feat of balance: not resolution or neutralisation, but ayurvedic satisfaction: salt, sour, sweet, bitter, astringent.


begin with hazel gathering to itself a clean landscape

the birds will sing us out’ (‘The Five Simplicities’)

It’s not possible to convey the range of forms packed into Duty, though the titles might give some indication: ‘ ”listen that is hear...” ‘, ‘the next dance—,’ ‘The Beloved: A Miscellany,’ ‘I-V,’ ‘Iconoclasty,’ ‘ “No.8” ‘; ‘this doesn’t have a name’:

‘lived experience. someone knows what this means.... THESE FIGURES HAVE BEEN RACIALLY ADJUSTED.’;

‘Full bore’:

‘Absence of daffodils. Colour as what we believe.’

Feel better? The world hasn’t changed, but maybe yours has.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

just heard from devin at flood that he can't take orders - so its amazon for interested u.s. readers.

this is a blog promoting australian poetry books & criticism; first off the shelf
is geraldine mckenzies duty. why duty? it was an unconscious choice, the purpose of the blog is partly to discover why. despite favourable reviews, what is the context -- if any -- that such a book -- any poetry book -- finds itself in in australia on publication? what reading culture does it enter? can a reading culture exist without a supportive critical culture? the complaints are familiar: not enough reviews, not enough critical reviews. there is little in the way of general poetry criticism, or criticism that goes beyond the cramped review. many books get 1, 2 or no reviews. what is the meaning of prizes in such a culture? this blog can't attempt to fill the gap, but it can offer a forum to discuss such matters, as well as take a considered look at recent australian poetry.

four email addresses put down for live reading group, perhaps a st kilda library event? if interested & in melbourne please email me at read the book before the meeting ... outside melbourne? anyone can start a group. if yr interested in starting one somewhere else, advertise yr email in a comment, or, email me & ill advertise for you.

blog announced yesterday at john leonard's lecture on reading poetry: perfect chance, tho i was a bit rushed, and again i realise the power of one-to-one, talking to people afterwards. one copy sold i think. shop was officially closed so that's no failure. monday morning rush for what's left im sure! copies take about 10 days if u order them. over the next few weeks ill post new material: other reviews etc. please feel free to comment at any time dont feel yr comment has to relate to the post. 'duty' is the sun around which all comments/posts revolve. make a comment on a poem if that is easier than taking on the whole book at once - or just because u want to.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

from explorer to mozilla and back again: they are not my friend. buyingonline: seems the best of the three -- abebooks is dearer, takes longer to ship. but paper bark has as a contact for the u.s. - emailed devin and will confirm when i hear - but suspect books may be cheaper thru him.(spd are out of stock). for non-outback australians book shops make more sense. i havent seen any copies anywhere - if u see a copy of duty in ashop that u dont need to buy yrself - let us know. i'll find out today if collected works' order has arrived yet.

Friday, March 17, 2006

five years down the track & im still impressed with geraldine mckenzies duty. this may be a melbourne impression, but i think this book's been overlooked. as youve probably gathered, this book is my choice to inaugurate readingrevivial. if you have it already, nows the time to pick it up again. any thoughts? share them please. if you havent youve got three months to read it and take part in the discussion, but why not get in early, those copies wont last forever. you can order from good book shops (shops that stock good books) such as collected works (melbourne) or gleebooks (sydney) or the lane (perth) or new editions (fremantle); or online at the links on the right (or at the bottom, having some formatting issues). im available to lead poetry book groups email me: im announcing the blog on saturday at john leonard's lecture (early) (earlier than id planned). any problems getting a book (don't forget libraries, and inter-library loans. maybe you could persuade your library to get a copy -- this might be a lengthy process ...) email me for help.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

reading revival ... poetry and criticism ... with this blog i'm aiming to stimulate discussion and sales of australian poetry. there'll be a new book every quarter. three months to order, read and discuss books online .. or in a book group (start one). the books chosen will be ones that i think deserve more attention, and that i think are great. they won't be brand new, but will have appeared since 2000. i'll give links for online bookshops and info on the book. to make sure anyone can obtain a book, an option is to send me a cheque, and i'll send you a copy: allow four weeks approx in australia, say six weeks outside. the books will generally be in print, so you can order from your local bookshop in australia. the blog will be launched soon, with an email announcement, and possibly a live one ...

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