Category Archives: interviews/artist profiles

Interview with Ferlinghetti

Ferlinghetti

At 93 Lawrence Ferlinghetti remains a giant in the poetry world; a man who was at the heart of the Beat Generation, a man who helped shaped contemporary poetry in the last century through his work at City Lights, his own creative output and his staunch activism. I came across this interview tonight and it is Lawrence at his razor-sharp best. I hope you find the time to read it… it’s a gift : Ferlinghetti talks to Christopher Bollen.

And here’s one of my all time favourite Lawrence poems… one that I have covered many times: In Goya’s greatest scenes…

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Fauna Sounds: Talking with a.rawlings

Just before angela rawlings landed on our shores, Cordite editor, Kent MacCarter, tapped me on the shoulder and invited me to interview her about her Sound Poetry and Visual Poetry Project, which morphed into the intensely wonderful Gibber. That interview, aptly dubbed, Fauna Sounds, is now available to read as part of Cordite Issue 40: Interlocutor. And yes… we talked!

The interview spanned the majority of angela’s residency, slowing building as the Gibber project took flight. Re-reading this interview has been a joy, as angela’s quiet wisdom and boundless generosity burn brightly. And as someone who watched the project grow, I feel that the interview provides more than a few wonderful insights into the creative process of a truly innovative artist.

The full interview is available here, and while you are there, be sure to check out the rest of the issue… there is much to be reveled in!

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On the road with Peter Bakowski

Eternal traveller, Peter Bakowski, is hitting the road from September through to December on an east coast reading and speaking tour, appearing in venues as diverse as pubs, bookstores and people’s homes. And luckily for us Brisbane-ites, he is making an appearance at SpeedPoets on Sunday October 7 and at Avid Reader on Monday October 8.

For those of you have not come across Peter’s work, here is a recent poem as way of introduction:

In my twenty-ninth year of writing poetry

Pondering, pursuing and penning the poem continues to
Engage and
Test me.
Enlivening a poem
Requires concentration, tinkering and to sometimes let go of the steering wheel.

Bravery and a certain ruthlessness are necessary.
Approach each word, each line, each image you’ve crafted with
Kindness but be prepared to kill them off. They must add to the poem
Otherwise they’re just strap-hanging passengers getting in the conductor’s way.
When you’ve finished the first draft of your poem,
Sleep on it. Then re-read the poem. Has your poem got an engine, does it
Keep the reader reading?
If your poem doesn’t contain truth and music, try again in a new poem.

**********

Melbourne-born poet, Peter Bakowski writes clear, accessible poems, uses ordinary words to say extraordinary things. His poems have appeared in literary magazines worldwide and have been translated into nine languages. Peter has been writer-in-residence in Italy, France, China, Western Australia, Tasmania and New South Wales.

He has self-organized and self-financed numerous poetry tours of Australia, some tours lasting three months, some tours covering 10,000 kilometres. Peter also gives poetry readings in private houses to groups of eight or more, anywhere in Australia or overseas.

His philosophy is to be alert to the world and to continue. Visit Peter’s blog.

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QPF 2012 Feature Artist: Tylea (part iii)

With only one day left until the official opening of QLD Poetry Festival: spoken in one strange word, I catch up with Tylea to talk songwriters and find out about her closing night performance.

ALS: Last time we spoken, you mentioned Grant McLennan and Dave McCormack as two songwriters who are important to you. If you had to choose one song from each of these artists to listen to, which would it be and why?

Tylea: I could listen to Cattle and Cane all day by Grant.

I  grew up in Bundaberg and my family and forebearers had a long history with the Fairymead Mill.  Cattle and Cane is the kind of song you feel you have always known.  It just makes sense and works on many levels for me.

I also love David McCormack’s songwriting because of his sense of humour.  I wish I could roll with the punches as much as David.  He’s  a wonderful character.

ALS: And lastly, what are you most looking forward to about performing at QPF 2012?

Tylea: I have invited Pascalle Burton (Pas) to help me out with my set.  We have concocted a sound/guitarscape piece inspired by Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit.  I am not sure how my part will turn out, but I have enjoyed spending a bit of time with Pas and am looking forward to unleashing the uncertainty.  I hope it will be okay.

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QPF 2012 Feature Poet: Jill Jones

It’s edging ever closer… QPF 2012 feels like I can reach out and touch it. So to bring it even closer, here’s an interview with one of the featured poets, Jill Jones. You can catch Jill at the following sessions:

The Phrasebook of Silence (w/ Nicola Easthope and Robert Adamson)
Saturday August 25
4pm – 5pm

A Million Bright Things (a showcase of every artist on the program)
Saturday August 25
8pm – 9:30pm

Whisper Me Awake (w/ Vanessa Page and Nathan Curnow)
Sunday August 26
12:15pm – 1:15pm

ALS: Since Dark Bright Doors was released in 2010 (Wakefield Press), you have co-edited ‘Out of the Box: Contemporary Australian Gay and Lesbian Poets (Puncher & Wattman, 2011). I would love to hear about the process of editing such a major work.

Jill: Editing Out of the Box was a long process for a couple of interlinked reasons. We took a while to get a publisher sorted out, a few years, a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, initial interest from publishers not followed through for various reasons. We were finally happy that David Musgrave decided to take it on, but because the whole process was drawn out, we kept finding new poets to approach, or people we’d initially approached then having newer work to check out, and all of that sorting takes time. There were poets whose work we were interested in who were difficult to contact as well. Not everyone is within email distance. Some sent recent work from which we chose. Others didn’t want to do that, or we did not know how to contact them initially, so we went through their publications to find what we wanted. A lot of reading and negotiating.

The two of us also had to decide what it would look like, both physically and organisationally. I was keen not to have separate sections for lesbians and gay men. Luckily, Michael was of the same mind, though we toyed with it for a moment. It was his great idea to order the volume alphabetically by poem which got away both from age, and alpha order by poet and, therefore, an instant reckoning of who had more and who had less poems. So, less hierarchy and less generational.

We deliberately used ‘poet’ in the title. Both of us wanted poets who identified as gay or lesbian rather than poems with a specific kind of subject matter. So, although there is obvious subject matter there, a lot of the poems aren’t necessarily about sex, or identity, or coming out, or discrimination, or queer history, etc. I think some readers wanted more out-and-out (so to speak) sex writing, identity writing. That was never going to happen, not with the mix of writers we included and not with us as editors.

We had other constraints which are summed up in the ‘contemporary’ part of the title. There are other writers who would belong in an historical overview, obviously, but we wanted to present something new and fresh, and quite a few of the poems make a first appearance in Out of the Box. The other idea awaits the work it would take to do it.

We did divide the tasks so that, by and large, I edited the women and Michael men, but we came up with a pretty even amount of work, and shared what we were doing along the way, often by email but we met up plenty of times, mainly in Sydney or Melbourne. We agreed to do separate introductions and that I’d do a bit of historical overview as I’d had those connections going back a ways with gay and lesbian literary publishing.

Since publishing the book, and even as we were finalising the proofs, we came across other writers that we could have included but it was too late to take it all apart. We did have a last minute drama when another publisher insisted we withdraw poems by a writer they were publishing but luckily we saved enough, after a bit of negotiation. If there is ever a second edition, there are obviously other writers who would be in it. There were a couple of writers whose work was difficult to excerpt as well and we had to pass on that. It’s always hard to do justice to what’s out there and to bring it into focus in the limited space of an anthology. The anthology you do in your head is easier than the one that can get published.

So, the process was incremental and the shape of the anthology changed over time, either due to practicalities or changes in our own thoughts. The title also changed a lot. One idea was ‘paintbox’, picking up from a Malouf poem, so in a sense, ‘box’ led us to ‘out of the box’, which then led to the shape of the book.

ALS:  I also wanted to ask about the poems you are currently writing and the themes that are emerging for you. And is there a new book in the pipeline?

Jill: My own writing at the moment is fitful. Time is a problem but, in saying that, I do get bursts of ideas and lines that come together. I work, as I probably always have, in two kinds of ways. There are the poems that begin with a free flow of writing based around things, dialogue, ideas, images, that I’ve come across, or come across me, during a day. The sort of writing that begins in a notebook. It’s the writing that people want to mark, in my case, as writing about place, ie the material base of the writing is apparent.

The second kind of writing is more based around language play (not that the other isn’t), is more processual or very, very loosely conceptual. I’ve spent a bit of time collaging my own older work by using chance or constraint procedures. If in doubt, recycle.

Themes? I get bored with projects and dislike being bound by themes. Which probably says a lot for where my poetry sits. It’s fairly heterodox. ‘Hard to pin down’, I’m told some people say. I know what I’m doing and if it doesn’t conform to current poetry fashions, I’m certainly not bothered. Nonetheless, I did start a project recently, sort of, of writing poems that had one true autobiographical feature (often very insignificant) and were written deliberately in the first person but are essentially, lies, or somehow wrong. I called them ‘histories’. I’ve also been writing a lot of short poems, often begun with some kind of constraint (syllable counts, n+7, or abecedarian, for instance) These poems are then usually worked over while wearing my surrealist hat, or I simply break my own rules, get a bit of a swerve happening. I can’t imagine who would publish them, but some people have liked them.

I do have a book in the wings. I was hoping it would be out by the time of the Queensland Poetry Festival but alas not. It’s called Ash is Here, So are Stars. It’s based around a selection of poems that was shortlisted for the Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize last year but I’ve extended it significantly, rewritten parts of it. That’s the central part of the book called ‘In Fire City’. Then I’ve included three longer self-contained older poems. Nonetheless, it’s still a slim volume. I have another older manuscript in the wings, a larger work, but getting it to see the light of day has been, still is, umm, difficult. But I am most grateful to Ralph Wessman who asked me for Ash … Stars for Walleah Press and he’ll be getting it to the presses soon.

Here’s a poem, not published anywhere else yet, from Ash is Here, So are Stars:

Whose Words Did These Things?

Whose workbenches made these thirsts
pounding out like stereos, stiffening
the air-conditioner? Who can tell
when you’re lonely?
But we’ll survive wisecracks and wishbones
or loaf amongst the dead of the crossroads,
the proof to which we are not entitled.

There’s an expansion of sinew containing
the freewheeling we undergo;
loosening our gymslips we turn on kaleidoscopes
then watch our hands as the similarity electric
charges dryness — but we are not static
and we are not grief, but fill
our hands with the spill and as it fizzles
it frets and comes fullest ‘til it breasts
yes, you know how it breaches anew though
it’s old, much older than workbooks.

But breathe and merge, then lug down words
don’t pussyfoot round the sidelines. And if
you die a little here, you might embrace the wrench
and relish workdays again.

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August Pin-Up Poet: Max Ryan and Where Were You At Lunch (part v)

With the QLD Poetry Festival 2012 knocking on the door (that’s right, it starts this Friday!), it’s time to wrap up my discussion with Max & Kishore Ryan. It has been nothing but a pleasure rambling with both of these gentlemen and I have a stirring in the gut that there show together this coming Saturday (August 25), alongside avant-blues trio, Bremen Town Musician is going to be talked about as a festival highlight!

So with that said, let’s check in with the Ryan boys one last time…

Don’t miss Max Ryan and Where Were You At Lunch + Bremen Town Musician at QLD Poetry Festival 2012, Saturday August 25 from 10:00pm – Midnight as part of the session, Pierce the Salty Darkness.

ALS: The way we listen to music and read poetry has changed so much in the last 5-10 years. As artists, how does this affect on you? I am also interested to know how the experience of working together on Before We Lose Each Other Again has influenced you.

Max: The more it changes, the more it stays the same I guess. A great poem or a great song in the right hands will get you every time but I suppose in terms of music and poetry coming together there’s definitely more collaboration these days. Maybe we’re just reaching back to the roots of all verse which was chanted or intoned in some kind of musical setting? Poetry with music has never gone away really in terms of popular song, especially in the hands of the great songsmiths. Poetry recited in a more loose and not strictly song-structured form can be something else again. In some ways, without the defined structure of verse, chorus, bridge etc it can be harder to pull off and can easily run off the rails or, just as badly, end up with the music and words chugging along together but never really merging or sparking off each other. So I do hope our collaboration can’t be accused of that, which leads me to your next question…

One of the real delights of working with WWYAL has been the overall sense that we’ve been creating something bigger than the parts: it isn’t just their making some kind of background sound to my reciting the words. This kind of performance demands a deep listening, especially, I’d suggest, from the musicians and I think the band (and producer Nick Huggins) have managed this splendidly. There are so many little instances where I can sense a real dynamic between the music and the poetry (Kishore’s organ chord on the line ‘the tide moves one step closer’ in the poem halfway home is one off the top of my head). I think we’ve made a fine little album and I’m happy with the way we’ve captured a strong sense of spontaneity in it all. As Bob Dylan says though: ‘Time will tell just who has fell and who’s been left behind!’ Still, one of the best things to come from this project for me is how we sailed through with a deeper sense of trust and openeness with each other which often ain’t necessarily so.

Kishore: The way I read poetry hasn’t changed much in the last decade. For the most part I still read it in books and rarely on the internet. But the moments when I sit down at home, put on a record and listen to it in its entirety without doing something else at the same time are rare. Despite the fact that listening to an album with friends, as an event in itself, is such an incredibly nice thing to do, I have only done this a handful of times in my life. But people must have done this more often in the past. Surely. Max has said that as a child he would sit around the radio with his family. I often listen to albums in their entirety by myself on my ipod while riding, driving, etc. but concentrated listening to recorded music with others is a rare thing. As a listener I can see the change you’re talking about, but it’s hard to know how this affects my creativity. I’ve never collaborated with anyone over the internet. Samaan has though. He’s done some small releases with people he’s never met. He did a small release with a noise artist called Soma from Japan and another one with with Rolf Wong from Hong Kong.

For me, music is, among other things, a way to express emotion that you can’t express elsewhere. It is an expression that is perhaps impossible to accurately describe with words. But even though it escapes description, to a certain extent, it can of course have a solid relationship with words. Great songs and poetry come close to we might call the sublime, whatever that is. I will always have an interest in music, with and without lyrics. I love poetry and I love music, but they don’t necessarily work together. But I’m proud of our album. Working with Max underlined the fact that limitations can be helpful. Writing music which is based around great lyrics is very fun. Making this album was a special way to spend time with my dad and also my friends.

ALS: And what’s next for Max Ryan & WWYAL, both individually and as a collective?

Max: I can only speak for Max Ryan re your last question… just to keep on truckin I guess. There’ll be more collaborations with us all I’d say, can envisage maybe something more thematically structured even. Main thing is to be there on the night at QPF. I’m really glad there are four of us. If it was just me I’d be terrified!

Kishore: I’d love to record many more albums with Max and WWYAL and because of the inexpensive nature of the recording process, that is, an absence of overdubs, this is very foreseeable. In fact Peter is already talking of recording another one when Max comes down for our Melbourne album launch in November. Pete is one of those humans who has endless enthusiasm for music and life in general and we have him to thank for making this collaboration happen without too much procrastination.

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QPF 2012 Feature Artist: Tylea (part ii)

ALS: QLD Poetry Festival has long been passionate about showcasing songwriters and their lyrics. Do you have any tried and true process for writing lyrics? Do they tend to inform the music or is it the other way around? And who are the songwriters in Brisbane that create a stir in your world?

Usually, I start writing on an instrument and some lyrical ideas will flow from there.  Each instrument can kind of dictate what type of mood the music/lyrics will have.  For example, if the music idea starts on piano, it will pretty much have a mellow, sadder feel for me.  And so melancholic lyrics will usually come soon after or simultaneously.

At this stage of the writing, I try not to interfere or judge too much as it creates blocks.  The most important thing is having that creative flow and to get a rough structure done with the words and music together – while you are feeling it.  You can always critque the piece  later on down the track, but at that precise moment of writing, I try really hard not to criticise or ask questions.  I guess it’s the only time in my life where I feel like I don’t judge myself.  That’s why I love it so much.

I think I prefer to write starting with music first as it tends to “open the door” on  possibilities to the lyrics. I can write vice versa but music first is the way I prefer.

The songwriters… Grant McLennan & David McCormack.

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