New Poems In Macao, Louisiana, Avondale, and the Pub

Published : Tuesday, December 04, 2012 | Label:

1. Notes For The Translator: Bundanon in Macao

Kit Kelen has just published (ASM Macao; October 2012) a wonderful anthology of poems from Australia and New Zealand: Notes For the Translator. Each of us was asked to submit a poem along with a note a translator might find useful. Each of us interpreted that brief distinctly.

Kit chose my poem “A Day at Your Desk All Along the Shoalhaven”, and I went to town on the note, beginning with some reflections on the nature of poetry, as I understand it, and the alchemical power of form. Anticipating translation into Mandarin or another of the Asian languages, I got thinking very hard about how much my work—in that and other poems—depends on metaphors and figures of speech, and on matters of architecture such as enjambment, much of which would be lost in a different linguistic ecosystem. Which is to say nothing of the jacky winters, the grey kangaroos, the river oaks, and the wombats. What I’d want would be a poem that does in Mandarin, say, what mine does in Australian English, and I imagine that would be a very different looking and sounding poem. I’d want an impression of my poem, as much at home in its native habitat (cultural, linguistic, botanical) as my English language poem is in its.

“A Day at Your Desk” is a poem I wrote at Bundanon in 2010, part, when I first set it down, of the cycle that became “The Wombat Vedas”. It starts like this:

All day the wind evicted the valley from
the valley. All day the Jacky Winters
flew at your windows like Jehovah’s
Witnesses at your door. All day
the weather arrived in sinking boats
from somewhere else entirely. All day
the sun hayed the blanched paddocks,
and cloud shadows, like shoals of anxious
aubergine krill, worked the shallows
and worked them again.

A long and slender poem for me.

Beyond even the importance of the collection for the field of poetry translation, I think that Kit has put together a quite remarkable and inclusive anthology of contemporary antipodean verse.

I’m guessing you can find the book at ASM or online.

2. Avondale Anthology

Back in 2010, Judy Beveridge edited a collection of Australian poetry around the work of her poetry students at Avondale College (on the NSW Central Coast). Two of my poems, “Red Moon Eclogues” and “The Thirteen Winds” appeared in that book, Wording the World.

Judy has put together a second collection this year. It includes some nice poems form many fine established and beginning poets.

My poem in the collection is “Let Morning Come”, which shortlisted for the Blake Prize in 2011.

Here’s a little of “Let Morning Come”:

But now, above me in the Osage Orange, a single sulphur-crested
cockatoo, white as a lie, prim as a spinster, pins down one ripe green fruit

like prey. She sips the acrid latex as if it were sweet tea and swallows
half the flesh she flenses from the body. The other half she showers down:

so many post-it notes peeled from so much perfect body copy. Soon I’ll be
walking those second thoughts inside on the soles of my unknowing boots.

3. The Sacred Kingfisher in Louisiana

John Kinsella is editing a new anthology of contemporary Australian poetry; it’s being published by Desperation Press, at the University of Louisiana, and it’s due out in early 2013.

Kinsella asked me to send him some poems, rather late in the day, and I sent him a batch, from which he chose “Catching Fire”, my almost sonnet on the sacred kingfisher, which appeared in Meanjin 4, 2012. It’s a poem I worked hard to keep as simple and beautiful, as slick and still, as the bird. And I’m glad John chose it for the book.

4. A Dog, a Whitefaced Heron and a Flock of Sandhill Cranes in the Pub at Newcastle

Poetry in the Pub (PATP) is a Newcastle fixture. It’s moved hotels a couple of times. The event was in Hamilton, when I read there in July, and Mark Liston and Steve Armstrong and Jan Dean and the others made me feel very welcome.

PATP has published an anthology of members’ poems in the past, and they’re doing it again this year. They asked me to submit a few poems for it, and they chose “Dog Sonnet” (which is also in Best Australian Poems 2012), “Whitefaced Heron on the Bong Bong Flats” (which ran in The Sydney Morning Herald early this year), and “Sandhill Cranes”, which long listed in the Montreal Prize in 2011. I met someone at the gig I did in Maleny in October who was so touched by the “Whitefaced Heron” that he clipped the poem from the paper and stuck on his fridge: now there’s a thing you can’t perform electronically.

Contact PATP for a copy


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