Author: Owen Bullock

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.

 siesta 

 take me not
 in mid-winter,
 only to thaw the frost
 of your old bones
 imagining how stallions rear
 in the outback,
 hooves raised to this August light,
  
 kakaibang liwanag,
 kasimputla’t kasinglamig
 ng hubad na peras.*
  
 but take me
 on a humid afternoon
 made for siesta,
 when my knees almost ache
 from daydreaming of mangoes,
 tree-ripe
 and just right,
  
 at higit sa lahat
 mas matamis, makatas
 kaysa sa unang halik ng mansanas.*
  
  
  
  
 ––––––––––––––––––––––––
 *‘alien light,
 as  pale and cold
 as a naked pear’
             
 plucked from my tongue         you have wrapped
 in a plastic bag with the $3 mango 
 from woolworths 
  
 while i conjured an orchard
 from back home — mangoes gold and not for sale, and
  
 *‘above all,
 sweeter, more succulent
 than the first  kiss of the apple.’   

From Summer was a Fast Train without Terminals (Spinifex, 1998, 8).

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.

The process of making a poet

Hello poets and readers,

How does one become a poet? This perennial and intriguing question is in part answered by recent research in Australia. Interviewing 76 poets, Jen Webb, Paul Magee, Kevin Brophy and Michael Biggs isolated key factors which help to foster excellence in poetry. Although my research here emphasises process rather than end results, this group’s study has implications for process more broadly: it’s about the making of the poet rather than the making of the poems and can tell us much about what behaviour contributes to good writing.

Experimental process and ekphrasis

Hello poets and readers,

Sometimes I’m amazed and delighted by other forms of art and want to respond in poetry. I want to go further than simply responding through the content of my work. I want the dynamics of the other art form to effect the structures of my poetry, to help invigorate and update my poetry, in what I call a radical ekphrasis. In a recent article, published in Axon, I address the popular topic of ekphrasis – writing in response to other forms of art, and show that the close association the word has with visual arts is an entirely modern one, and that the ancient understanding of ekphrasis was one of the general ability to make a scene vivid.

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