Category: Blogs

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.

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:

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.

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.

Sound as meaning experiment by Lisa Samuels

Hello poets and readers,

Have you read the Poetry in Process blogpost about Lisa Samuels and multiplicity yet? Don’t forget we’d love to hear any comments about what resonated with you. Today I am excited to bring you one of Lisa’s poems that experiments with sound as meaning and was featured in the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook. This is a revised version included in her latest collection Foreign Native (Black Radish Books, 2018). Hope you enjoy it! 

Gesamtkunstwerk

People talk about the vanguard
takes a turn      its conscript energy
acts on macro-particles
as though you choose or Resolute
you’re given mesh back to the deal
your limbs eye dim harmonics
rise for tiny ones    Crash at you
crash at me      “give us a family look”

Process and knowing

Hello poets and readers,

Poets need to be able to inhabit the place of unknowing, in order to bring new realisations, techniques, forms and processes into the known world. In an article recently published in TEXT, ‘A New Suite: The Process of Knowing through Poetry’, I highlight the fact that the noun ‘knowledge’ is unnecessarily privileged in western writing, compared with the verb ‘knowing’, and emphasise that knowing how to do something is the most important aspect of knowledge. That knowing how to do something is what matters most is an idea found in various forms in writers as diverse as Aristotle (the knowledge of how to make things); William Carlos Williams (knowledge as ‘a living current’); Mark Johnson (knowing as a process of inquiry); and Jen Webb (poets offering ‘new ways of knowing and doing’). These are all descriptions of active states characterised by the verb ‘to know’. But we don’t always know how to do something until we’re doing it and working it out in process.

Lisa Samuels and multiplicity

Hello poets and readers,

In an interview with transnational poet Lisa Samuels, she suggests that at the heart of her poetry and her process is a multiplicity of reference and background. When asked by interviewer Jack Ross, in the first issue of the revamped Poetry New Zealand Yearbook, which writers inspire her she answers in terms of categories, and says that she is as likely to be inspired by, “patterns, sounds, place histories, images, philosophy, statistics for a country’s fabric imports, dictionaries, encyclopedias, poetry, experimental drama, strange comics, physics hypotheses, theory, and manifestos,” as writers (41).

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