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 – “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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
I come across a great poem that shows originality of form or content, I often
wonder how it was made. The process of making a poem is often not fully
articulated and in my interviews with poets I will aim to be as specific as
possible about the writing process to elucidate how they work. I’m also on the
lookout for existing interviews or essays which may tell us something about the
writing process. I want to create a resource that other poets may use to
invigorate and stimulate their writing and that readers will find illuminating.