Monthly Archives: December 2010

Poetry Picks of 2010 – Tim Sinclair

2010 has been a big year for books… it has been wonderful to read through everyone’s ‘poetry picks’ as it has lead this Lost Shark into some new waters. I want to thank everyone who participated in this blog series and to everyone who visits Another Lost Shark either regularly or sporadically. Your support means alot and keeps the belly fired.

So as this year runs out of steam, let’s have a look at one last book… let’s see which book Tim Sinclair has pulled off the shelf as his ‘book of the year’.

 

Texture Notes by Sawako Nakayasu (Letter Machine Editions, Chicago)

Not being a reviewer kind of guy. As a rule. Simply here to tempt you with one of my favourite collections of 2010, by one of my favourite contemporary poets, Sawako Nakayasu: Texture Notes (Letter Machine Editions, Chicago).

Nakayasu is a one of the betwixt-and-betweeners of the world. Born in Japan, she has lived most of her life in the US, and now bookends her life so far by living in Tokyo. Does this make her poetry more interesting or relevant to our cross-hatched and multi-vocal world? I have no idea. All I know is that I like it. A lot.

I mostly have no handholds for people when I’m trying to describe this poet’s work. I find it hard to describe because I have no idea what it’s about. A good thing, by the way. An abstract thing. A lake of textures to swim around in that somehow make sense, because they’re there. I’m impressed by poets who aren’t afraid to go where a strange diversion is taking them, and aren’t afraid to bring back news from the other side of odd.

Texture Notes is slightly more concrete than Nakayasu’s other work, but decidedly no less odd. I won’t give you an excerpt, because her books are always greater than the sum of their parts. I’ll just recommend it to you.

Oh, and this – Sawako Nakayasu will be one of two commissioned poets featuring in Volume 2 of PAN Magazine, out early in 2011. The other poet? Coincidentally, the writer of one of my other favourite collections for 2010. Let’s see if his modest nature prevents him from editing out this reference to Ocean Hearted

 

 Tim Sinclair is a Sydney-based poet and novelist. He has just completed the first draft of his second verse novel, Run, and his new collection of poetry  re: reading the dictionary will be published by PressPress in 2011.

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Poetry Picks of 2010 – Gabrielle Bryden

My pick of poetry literature for 2010 is The Scrumbler magazine, devoted to publishing the very best poetry for children. This gorgeous print magazine is published in England by Mike Kavanagh and includes poetry and illustrations from the young and not so young, and amateur and professional poets and artists.

I wanted to talk about The Scrumbler magazine for a number of reasons. Firstly, I just love the name – having it roll around on my tongue and in my head. The Scrumbler character starts the magazine with his ‘Oops, I’ve fallen asleep on top of a poem. I’ve scrumbled it to bits.” You get the picture.

Another reason is that high quality poetry magazines or journals for children appear to me to be a rarity. Encouraging children to love and play with words, including poetry, is the first step in increasing the popularity of poetry. Poetry should be something that everyone can engage in (listening, reading or creating) and this type of magazine is the bee’s knees in that regard.

The Scrumbler is ideal for children, with its colourful glossy front cover, appealing black and white pencil illustrations, compact format, and short, simple, well written poems (often laugh out loud funny).

My children were delighted with the magazine and loved the wicked humour of ‘A Shark in Kensington Park’ (you’ll have to read it yourself to find out what happens) and other poems. They were particularly taken with the illustration of a young Orang-Utan (and poem of the same name) by Liz Brownlee, famous for her animal poetry for children.

Another thing I just love about The Scrumbler is the inclusion of writing games to assist children (and adults) with their very own poems. There are questions/prompts and space in the magazine to write down your lines. What a great way to stimulate the creative juices.

This is only the 2nd edition of The Scrumbler but they plan to print three times a year. You can subscribe or find out more information in their website at www.thescrumbler.com

 

 Gabrielle Bryden is an Australian writer and poet published in Ripples, Aspects, Speedpoets, Extempore magazines; the Cherry Blossom Review, Lunarosity, Divan, Bolts of Silk, Third Eye, Specusphere ezines; and on local and national ABC Radio. In 2009 she won first prize in Ripples magazine’s poetry competition. Her poem ‘Fortune Teller’ is published in the book ‘Short and Twisted 2010′. She blogs regularly at Gabrielle Bryden’s Blog.

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At the table with Henry Miller

The holiday season is (for many) a time for gathering around the table with friends and family… conversation flows and often the age-old question is asked, living or dead, who would you invite to the dinner table?

I know that my list is long and shifting, but regular responses include, old-guard visionaries such as Yukio Mishima, William S. Burroughs and Bob Dylan alongside the likes of Matt Berninger (from The National), Vic Chesnutt, Sam Hunt & Yusef Komunyakaa. I would also love to have dinner with my beautiful Grandmother again, to play a game of crib by her side, to feel the warmth of her smile and of course, my old dog Floyd would be under the table hunting for scraps and gently nuzzling me to remind me he was there… but as I said, the list is long and shifting.

One name who I am sure crops up on many people’s list is Henry Miller and fortunately, the good people at ubuweb have archived the very rare short film, Dinner with Henry.  It captures Miller, aged 87, as raconteur at the table with the love of his later years, Brenda Venus. So if you have ever imagined dining with Henry Miller (or any other literary hero for that matter), take a seat at the table and revel in this candid look at one of the 20th centuries most influential writers… enjoy a Dinner with Henry.

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Poetry Picks of 2010 – Phillip A. Ellis

Starlight: 150 Poems by John Tranter (St Lucia : UQPress, 2010) ISBN: 978702238451

My pick for the poetry publication that rocked my world in 2010 is, in many ways, a conservative one. It is no surprise, really, that John Tranter’s Starlight would head the list, not because he is so dominant, or so (dare I say it) predictable, but for the fact that Tranter is, simply, one of the best living Australian poets. He is at once challenging and entertaining, and his work retains a freshness that vivifies his concern and voice.

And a lot of it is damn funny as well.

I’d like to illustrate what I mean by a quick glance at “Well-Equipped Men” on page 83, to cite one poem. Already the humour is there, the “Well-Equipped” of the title treading the fine line between bawdy and the almost literal. The wordplay extends beyond the title, as you’d expect; the “clever Cleveland” at the end of light perrenially delights me, and the title really only comes into play about halfway through the sestet. Where the sonnet starts talking about the “muscly brothers in the rusting truck.”

The poem travels, as well, from “old-fashioned plaid” to “popular songs from the fifties” to “tawdry items,” in the octet, to “a dazzling uniform” and “a loaded sawn-off shotgun” through the brothers “on target for the abortion clinic” to the end where “the news story / inflamed them and no one is responsible.” That ending, that final image just works wonders for me, and Tranter packs worlds into the compass of small poems here, small literally, not figuratively.

Of course, this is only one poem among many others. And it can only be
said that there’s a lot more there where that one poem came from.

You can find out more about Starlight and purchase a copy of the book here.

Phillip A. Ellis is a freelance critic and scholar, and has recently completed English Honours through the University of New England. His poetry collection, The Flayed Man, has been published by Gothic Press, and he is working on another collection, to appear through Diminuendo PressHippocampus Press has published his concordance to the poetry of Donald Wandrei. He is the editor of Australian Reader, Calenture, Studies in Australian Weird Fiction, Melaleuca and Breaking Light Poetry Magazine.

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Essential Christmas Viewing: A Junky’s Christmas

If you haven’t seen it, here is the Burrough’s classic, A Junky’s Christmas. The perfect way to iron out those Boxing Day wrinkles…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merry Christmas, I miss Vic Chesnutt…

One year ago tomorrow, Vic joined his heroes in the great beyond. The first I heard of it was through the Silver Mt Zion website… it simply said:

best ever, gone.

I have continually gone back to Vic’s music throughout the year (and will continue to do so as long as I am breathing), the album, West of Rome, having the strongest pull. This album sounds more vital with every listen and seems to embody what I love best about Vic’s work… a delicate balance of strength and frailty.

Today, I miss Vic… so I have been watching his Tiny Desk Concert on NPR. It is a killer 5-song set featuring one of my all time favourite tracks, Panic Pure (West of Rome). If like me, you are also missing Vic, I hope this helps and if you are yet to discover his work, then I hope this shifts you out the door and down to your local independent record store to pick up one of his albums.

Journey safe into the holiday season…

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Poetry Picks of 2010 – Ashley Capes

Red Leaves /紅葉 – Issue 1, 2010

It’s hard to write about anthologies and mention only some of the artists within, as I often feel guilty, even though I know it’s impossible to mention everything in a single review. Having said that, there are plenty of luminaries alongside the newer voices inside issue one of Red Leaves/紅葉 (the first English/Japanese bi-lingual literary journal).

Instead I want to talk about the anthology itself, as I really found it exciting, and because it’s just a beautiful collection of work. Editors Kirk Marshall and Yasuhiro Horiuchi certainly do justice to the concept of a bi-lingual journal. The writing has been beautifully translated by Sunny Suh, Asami Nishimura and Joo Whan Suh so anyone able to understand both kanji and English, is given the pleasure of reading the work in both languages, and seeing what subtle differences exist. But if, like me, you can only read English, then Red Leaves/紅葉will not disappoint, as the Japanese contributions have been translated into English. So too, if you read kanji but not English, the English text has been translated. And it is the massive work of the translations that represents a true gift, not just to the reader, but the writers within, who now have their work accessible to two cultures.

The book is a triumph from a design standpoint too. Starting from the ‘front’ it reads in English from left to right. The content is then mirrored from the ‘back’ reading right to left in kanji, and having contributor bios meet in the middle. Liberty Browne has also graced the anthology with a clean and balanced presentation so important in a larger-format anthology, which is not quite A4, and runs to over 160 pages per language.
 
For me, there’s a clear parallel between this anthology (and other modern anthologies like GDS for example) and truly dynamic albums – the ones that cover multiple genres and styles, where across just twelve or so songs, you get a glimpse of everything. Red Leaves/紅葉 is like that. Inside Issue 1, there is poetry, short fiction, manga and artwork, spread across wide-ranging styles and themes, from the highly experimental to more traditional pieces.

Red Leaves is available at Polyester Books (Melbourne), Brunswick St Books (Melbourne), Readings (St Kilda) & Avid Reader (Brisbane).

 

Ashley Capes teaches Media and English in Victoria. He moderates online renku site ‘Issa’s Snail’ and simple poetry site ‘kipple’. His second poetry collection, Stepping Over Seasons, was released by IP in 2009 and a new haiku chapbook Orion Tips the Saucepan was released by Picaro Press in 2010. He occasionally dabbles in film, is very slowly learning piano and loves Studio Ghibli films. Most recently, he led the ‘Zombie’ renga at Cordite Poetry Review.

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Poetry Picks of 2010 – Jeremy Balius

Apples with Human Skin, Nathan Shepherdson (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2009)

No Australian poet has had a greater impact on my word-scribbles this year than Nathan Shepherdson. Apples with Human Skin was the catalyst.

This is a fierce book, a tesseract of tumult and brittle nettles, tagged and numbered and sent back out to pierce the forest floor.

See, understand this: Apples with Human Skin was my guidebook this year – a map for a Gieβen raised, Los Angeles educated, Berlin survived, Fremantle located cat.

In ‘einunzwanzig’ of the trakl (27×1) sequence (dedicated to Bruce Heiser, by the way), Nathan writes:

he had invented a blunt machine
for replacing umlauts in a poet’s brain

how to remember how to remember how to forget

Do you know the story of Austrian Expressionist poet Georg Trakl? Go look him up. This is important. Nathan’s book is named after Trakl’s ein Apfel mit menschlicher Haut.

To end, a snippet of ‘to find what is not there’, one of Nathan’s longer pieces in the volume.

so if you can see to the end of this sentence
you are either lying or you are blind

even the most basic words in repetition
make their own time one time in all time

 

 Indexical Elegies, Jon Paul Fiorentino (Toronto: Coach House Books, 2010)

The concept of beloved left-behinds being an index of those who’ve passed on is poignancy through and through.  Comprising three sequences, the title sequence of Indexical Elegies is in memoriam of Canadian Jon Paul Fiorentino’s late mentor Robert Allen.

It points to two aptly summarising epigraphs:

There is no truth
but in dead event, shaken, stunned

I miss everybody.
                                                – Gilbert Sorrentino

The index is physically connected with its object; they make an organic pair.

                                                – Charles Sanders Peirce

Deep into a Brisbane night, Jon Paul told me to get hooked on Sorrentino. I got hooked.

@JonPaul, icons bore me too. Am falling too far; weary. Upheaval. #chloroformedideas

Pay attention readers of the Lost Shark, when Jon Paul writes:

The word ‘I’ is apparently
an essential indexical unit

I hate
this

I lost you in November
and if time isn’t subjective

it’s November again and I am
appalled I grieve

Time is subjunctive
I am your index now

…I inhale that ish because I’ve lived that. I still live that. I inhale it and exhale only the ink.

High wit and dark humour oscillate despair, fury, loneliness, sadness and clang the drainpipes of Fiorentino’s hometowns of Winnipeg and Montreal. Sometimes it’s the smile hiding the clenched jaw. Sometimes it’s the flurry of word movement distracting from the bleary-eyed sleep deprivation.

Actually, scratch all that glib; forget everything in my note thus far.

Remember only this: Indexical Elegies is profound. I am deeply moved.

 

 im toten winkel des goldenen schnitts, Marcus Roloff (Frankfurt am Main: Gutleut Verlag, 2010)

I hadn’t had much to do with German poetics since regal 8 // shelf 8 was inducted into the Deutsches Literaturarchiv. Thankfully Marcus Roloff had a hand in making it an obsession again.

I met Marcus through Black Rider Press when we translated some of his work for The Diamond & the Thief. We later translated more of his work for Berlin’s no man’s land, partner to the infamous lauter niemand magazine. And we’ve got more we’re sitting on.

im toten winkel des goldenen schnitts (this roughly means in the blind spot of the golden ratio – if you don’t catch the various references and entendres in that, I’m not going to tell you) just came out recently and it’s the linguistic cartography, both of physical and metaphysical, that amazes. And also the typography – this book feels alive with its cover that folds out to reveal the entirety of the watercolour painting Dead Philosophers by Trevor Gould.

Marcus’ bio isn’t even in the book; it’s hidden on the back of the cover’s painting. I didn’t even notice it for ages. This aptly summarises his approach.

Marcus writes the way I’d imagine Pantha du Prince songs circa 2004 would read if all the notes were words. I see Marcus as the kind of poet who went out into the desert and came back to the city of Frankfurt am Main with a more expansive Truth and a de-centred self, clandestine urban operettas and a big ole bassline.

This is historiography for the deep-house kids. This is philosophy for the hopeful and bright-eyed kids. This is what it is for the introspective and fearless kids.

my gleiwitz

the long holidays beforehand & now / the neither-nor-
light at six a.m. // on the 1st of september a night-
shirt all tangled up / a nightmare jammed in the folds
of the cushion // from the cabinet a tumbling swift
or rather a jump / (a re-pre-metaphor) like the dusk under
the bedcover // & behind the window of the children’s room
the heimat of school full of empty idols and water
pistols / begins on the day of the attack on Poland //

(first published in no man’s land, issue 5)

 

 

 Jeremy Balius looks after Black Rider Press and hangs out with the Cottonmouth kids. You can find him at Am I the Black Rider? Yes. He writes for the last of the red hot lovers.

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Brisbane New Voices II: John Koenig

During the latter half of 2010, I quietly worked away on Volume II of Brisbane New Voices and I am happy to report that it is now at the printer. I am out-of-my-skin excited about launching this collection in February, as Volume I featuring Jonathan Hadwen and Fiona Privitera was one of my 2010 highlights.

Volume II will again feature micro-collections from two local poets, but let’s do things slowly… let me introduce you to the work of Brisbane’s ‘romantic rebel’, John Koenig. John’s micro-collection, Green Tea & Nicorette features eight poems that he has honed over the years in front of audiences at SpeedPoets and a number of other local events. His words are born of hardship and our unique Australian landscape, but they are brimming with hope and a deep love of people. I think John’s poem, Out Here, is a great introduction to his work. Keep your ears to the waters of Another Lost Shark for news of the launch (and of course, news of the second, feature poet).

Out Here

It’s two tone brigalow belah country, out here.

Out here mirror topped dams reflect a painted sky
out here wedge-tailed eagles spy a bushranger landscape
out here the rainbow serpent rises from its slumber
out here always fills me with longing.

It seems the sun moves so slowly, out here.
Stout bottle trees cast shadows over the land.
My father always said this was good grass country
as long as you get the rain, out here.

Out here old meat sheds cry of past slaughters
out here old graveyards weep of past stories
out here old churches whisper past prayers
out here the past always haunts me.

The night rustles to black, out here.
Behind a moth-eaten theatre curtain
the stagehands of time change the props.
A polaroid dawn will develop, out here.

Out here a man dreams in the night of his father
out here a child screams in the night for her mother
out here forty years will disappear in an instant
out here under a hundred million stars

I hold the world asleep in my arms.

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Poetry Picks of 2010 – Andy Jackson

Cravings for a spectacular sun by Peter Davis.

When Peter Davis was a featured poet at the iconic La Mama Theatre earlier this year, he left a pile of “Cravings for a spectacular sun” on a table near the door with a note saying “free to a loving home”.  On the inside sleeve, Davis suggests donating to 3CR.  To so openly eschew the traditional consumerist approach to the distribution of poetry, while supporting a Melbourne grassroots public radio station, with his debut collection is an unambiguous statement – Davis’ poetic is wholistic, political and spiritual in the best sense.  The poems in this book, published late in 2009, amply reflect that approach.

The first stanza of the book is breathtaking in its simplicity of observation and compassion for life in all its forms.

 The first bird to sing before dawn is bravest,
 barely able to see, slowly rotating her neck.  You
 should subtract by one, the number of persons
 suggested for a tent.  An ancient saying,
 ‘Where once was fire, there may still be hot coals’.
 My ex-lover lays asleep in warm ash.
                                                                             “cravings for a spectacular sun”

Davis has lived with HIV for the last twenty-four years, has spent time as a hermit in the bush and a lot of time at inner-city pubs and clubs, has a young son, and busks often at the Footscray train station.  All these elements of his life filter into a poetry that is deeply personal but never self-indulgent – the sensitivity, restraint and composure always opens the poems out onto the broader world.  Sometimes surreal, almost always surprising, “Cravings for a spectacular sun” affects the reader like an enlightened Frank O’Hara or a gentler Robert Adamson, yet it is utterly unique.

 I believe in life after death, of course I believe that life will continue without me
 we can learn to support the sky with dust, singing of faith like crickets in chorus
 death is a serenade by a dog licking a busker’s watch and leaving three whiskers.
                                                                           “when I die let my dog serenade me”

 

Since the mid 90s, Andy Jackson has read at dozens of events and festivals (including The Age Melbourne Writers Festival, Australian Poetry Festival, Queensland Poetry Festival, Newcastle Young Writers Festival and Overload Poetry Festival), had poems published in a variety of print and on-line journals, been awarded grants from the Australia Council and Arts Victoria, been the recipient of an Australian Society of Authors mentorship, and self-published two collections of poetry.  He is also an infrequent collaborator with musicians, sound artists and other writers.  His most recent collection of poems, Among the Regulars, was released by papertiger media in 2010.  He is currently working on a series of ghazals.

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