Author: Owen Bullock

Podcast: Alison Whittaker’s process

Alison Whittaker, pictured at Poetry on the Move 2019.
Photo by Kendall Kirkwood.

Hello poets and readers,

The logics of law and poetry boil meaning and power down to their barest components.

We’re delighted to be able to bring you an interview with Alison Whittaker, a Gomeroi poet and author of the collections Lemons in the Chicken Wire and Blakwork, shortlisted in the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry 2019.

An earlier blog post introduced Alison’s ideas about law and poetry and highlighted an experimental technique which makes use of trigrams – a device used in Google optimisation – to show us what the law considers important in a legal case. This technique is used in poems like ‘the skeleton of the common law’. She discusses these and other issues more fully here, and we’re proud to be able to share her insights with the world.

References

Alison Whittaker, Lemons in the Chicken Wire (Magabala Books, 2016)

Alison Whittaker, Blakwork. (Magabala Books, 2018)

Alison Whittaker is a Gomeroi multitasker from the floodplains of Gunnedah in NSW. Her debut poetry collection, Lemons in the Chicken Wire, was awarded the State Library of Queensland’s black&write! Indigenous Writing Fellowship in 2015, and was published by Magabala Books in 2016. Alison was co-winner of the Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize in 2017 for her poem, ‘Many Girls White Linen’. Her latest book, Blakwork, was shortlisted in the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry in 2019.

Cristina Savin on Vasile Baghiu’s poetic chimerism

Hello poets and readers,

Welcome to our guest blogpost by Cristina Savin:-

At the heart of Baghiu’s poetry and process there exists a concept coined by the poet himself, chimerism. The concept encapsulates a tendency to escape everyday realities and to create a parallel universe, a counter-reality in which the poet lives. Baghiu remembers the defining moment where it all began. On 21 August 1988, a day that changed his life, he was working as a nurse in a tuberculosis sanatorium in Romania. He was smoking, enjoying Chinese tea and reading Flaubert’s The Art of Travel. In the background, a radio station was broadcasting in Italian. A foreign voice insinuated into his, a voice that seized his throat and his vocal chords making him talk about things he had never lived or seen. The world around him came to a standstill. He was overcome with a sense of tranquillity, inner peace and detachment from everyone and everything. He likes to call it ataraxia, some sort of poetic trance.

Multilingual poem by Merlinda Bobis

Introducing our podcast with Filipino-Australian poet Merlinda Bobis, I mentioned her poem ‘siesta’, an innovative multilingual work. In the podcast, she spoke about her writing in Filipino and English, and the way in which it is mediated by her first language, Bikol. Thanks to Merlinda’s generosity, we are able to reprint her poem ‘siesta’ in this blogpost so that readers can enjoy an example of her multilingual writing.

Some thoughts on Merlinda Bobis’ process

Hello poets and readers,

In our recent podcast with poet Merlinda Bobis, she notes that consciousness of process comes about after the fact. While writing, she is too busy leaping from one thought to another to allow for this kind of reflection. Something captures her and makes a poem possible. She describes the initial impetus as an accident –her book title Accidents of Composition reflects this – the poem has to retain an element of surprise. The poem leads her, and further accidents happen as she writes, through associations; the poems seem to compose themselves. Analysing her own text, she remembers what gave rise to it, an act of contextualising how the work happened, and of looking at it as a reader. Even her return to poetry from the novel was accidental. Her writing often begins with strong images; sometimes she takes photos to use as prompts – the sense of ‘something else’ that is in the image becomes the poem.

Podcast: Merlinda Bobis’ process

Poetry – “Most of the time, it’s an accident of composition.”

Hello poets and readers,

We’re delighted to be able to bring you an interview with Filipino-Australian poet Merlinda Bobis. Bobis’ assertion that the writing of poetry is accidental is reflected in the title of her most recent collection Accidents of Composition (2017). Her poetry is characterised by a sense of universal connection with the natural world, reflected in the use of other voices and points of view, including the fishes and birds of the air. Writing is part of that whole, with art as natural an act as the world spinning (2017a, 65).

Poetry on the Move festival, featuring ‘Poetry and Process’ panel

Canberra’s Poetry on the Move is coming up soon: 17th-21st October! On Friday 18th from 1.00-2.15pm I’ll be hosting the panel ‘Poetry and Process’ at Gorman Arts Centre. This event is free, but you need to book because space is limited. I’ll be talking with national and international poets Angela Gardner, Judith Beveridge, Alvin Pang (Singapore) and Katharine Coles (US) about their process.

Some thoughts on Christian Bök’s 10 rules for writing lyric poetry

Christian acknowledges that his ten rules discussed in the podcast build on centuries of knowledge about writing, and he notes the particular contribution of Ezra Pound to this kind of schematic for poetry. Christian’s rules are concise, illuminating and full of great examples, some of them from his own students. It’s best not to take the word ‘rules’ too seriously – there are really only guidelines for poetry – and to focus on what’s useful about them. I’d long been aware, for example, that using the verb ‘to be’ tends to flatten expressions and take the energy out of them – I’ve been writing, at this point, for 38 years, but it’s easy to forget, and I badly needed the reminder that Christian’s guidance offered. Christian talked in our first podcast with him on his process about formulating a set of principles that amount to a ‘periodic table’ of activities for writing poetry, and the scientific analogy is especially apt for his approach. Here is a summary of the rules with examples from his account of them:

Christian Bök’s 10 rules for writing lyric poetry

Hello poets and readers,

In our recent podcast with experimental poet Christian Bök, we mentioned his 10 rules for writing lyric poetry, and hinted that we might be able to return to this topic at a later date. In this additional podcast, Christian talks us through his ten rules. This guide, highly useful for new and aspiring poets, also reminds more mature poets of the fundamental elements of good writing, including ways to monitor poems and make sure they remain sharp and suggestive. I hope you find the podcast as useful as I have.

Some thoughts on Christian Bök’s process

Hello poets and readers,

In our recent podcast with experimental poet Christian Bök, I spoke with a poet who has a truly scientific approach to poetry, who ‘conducts experiments through language.’ He accepts that some experiments won’t work, but is committed to seeing them through, even if they represent decades of work through complex processes. His poetry can be termed ‘process poetry’: work where the act of creating becomes part of the content.

Podcast: Christian Bök’s process

I conduct experiments through language.

Christian Bök

Poetry in Process podcast, July 2019

Hello poets and readers,

We’re delighted to be able to bring you our second podcast, with experimental poet Christian Bök. Christian’s approach to poetry is scientific. He uses experiments in poetry to test ideas and capacities, unsure of outcomes. He has dedicated himself to ‘formalistic innovations’ and ‘exploratory procedures,’ which means that his work is intimately bound up with process.

%d bloggers like this: