Happy new year, everyone! I hope your 2015 turns out to be even better than your 2014. Rather than engage in a Facecrack-style review of ‘my’ 2014—boy, didn’t that one get old quick?—I thought I’d celebrate with a review of the reviews of my book Leaves of Glass. To sum up, despite the fact that 2014 was the first year since 1998 in which I did not have a single poem published, it was nonetheless a great year because five people reviewed my book. And the good news is that they all liked it. Honestly!
Yes, in the words of Jersey-based pop band Real Estate, ‘It’s real!’
Seven years in the making.
Trans-continental in its composition.
Green as a blade of grass in its wrapping.
Leaves of Glass is real.
‘But what’s it all about …’ I hear you whisper.
Well, as I’ve explained here and here and here, Leaves of Glass is a book of poems (47 in all) based on actual correspondence between American ‘Dead Poets Society’-inspiration Walt Whitman (W.W.) and Aussie no-hoper poet Bernard O’Dowd (B.O’D.). These two cats wrote letters to each other in the 1890s in which they poured their hearts out to each other and generally raved on.
In fact, to be honest, most of the outpouring and ranting was on the part of B.O’D. For his part, W.W. seems to have enjoyed the attention, and wrote back to B.O’D with a sort of ‘I’m amused but only in a flattered way’ tone, as if he’d known him his whole life. Between them, W.W. and B.O’D. racked up at least twenty letters, although it’s apparent that many of the letters are missing.
All of which possibly does little to explain why I became so fascinated by this weird ‘roaring days’ correspondence. Call me old-fashioned, call me what you will — I guess I just found the whole thing kind of funny and sad at the same time: funny because B.O’D. was so obviously besotted with his ‘revered master’, but sad because the two of them were unlucky enough to have been writing a century too early to benefit from the Internet and email.
Anyway, my book – called Leaves of Glass in homage to Whitman’s Leaves of Grass – takes the correspondence as its cue and features poems about both B.O’D. and W.W. as well as re-writes (cover versions) of their works. It’s published by Puncher and Wattmann and is available via the P&W website and in all good (read: about two) bookstores. Or, if you’d like a signed copy, send me a message.
The first ‘launch’ of the book took place at Bella Union bar, Trades Hall, Melbourne on 1 December. The second will take place at Balmain Town Hall on 14 December. Information about both events can be found here. You can also sign up to attend the Sydney event via the Facebook event page.
I’m really glad to announce that my second full-length poetry collection, Leaves of Glass, will soon be released by smokin’ Sydney-based publisher Puncher and Wattmann. Long-term readers of this site would know that said collection has taken a few years to finalise but the wait has surely been worth it.
The book, which was inspired by actual correspondence between Walt Whitman and Australian poet Bernard O’Dowd, and which features re-imaginings of both poets’ works, will be available at two P&W events in Melbourne and Sydney in December 2013 – that’s less than two months from now!
I’m also happy to say that I’ll be in attendance at these shindigs in order to read some poemz, sign autographs and mainline champagne. I’ll post more details soon but I’m looking forward to catching up with loverz of all things Whitman, O’Dowd and Oz-po.
In the meantime, here’s a teaser: ‘O Kitteh! Meh Kitteh!’, a LOLCats transliteration of Whitman’s ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ that may or may not appear in the book.
The new University of Queensland Press poetry anthology, Thirty Australian Poets, is out now and features, well, thirty Australian poets. The anthology has been edited by Felicity Plunkett and while I haven’t actually received my copy yet, I’m kind of thrilled to know that I’m in it and curious as to just who else is hiding away in there.
The blurb for the book on the publisher’s website states:
1968 marked a turning point in Australian poetry, when a dynamic wave of new poets sought to revitalise a ‘moribund poetic culture’. At the helm of that generation was John Tranter who argued that there would be cycles or generations of poets with peak moments where new poets would emerge to revitalise the culture.
Forty years later, with a spate of superb debut collections, Australian poetry has never looked so energetic and vital. From the imaginatively mind-boggling to the exquisitely lyrical, from tender and edgy erotic currents to wild feats of intellect and playfulness, the dynamism of contemporary Australian poetry is abundantly evident.
Thirty Australian Poets is the first anthology to celebrate the generation of poets born after 1968 and includes a wonderful diversity of voices and styles, from re-imagined versions of traditional forms to the experimental and avant-garde. This groundbreaking anthology captures the spirit of an exciting generation who, between them, have won every major poetry award, and made the renaissance of Australian poetry impossible to ignore.
I think it’s a very interesting premise for an anthology – and it’s also a relief to see no mention of the word ‘best’ in this blurb – but I suspect some people may have a problem with the ageist cut-off date! Again, I haven’t seen the anthology yet (I presume it’s winging its way slowly northward as I type this post) and so I’ll be very curious to see just how representative it is of my so-called generation.
In a sense, any anthology’s premise is going to be a loaded one, and I personally am not a huge fan of generationalism in any guise. However, I also suspect that the use of the term here is slightly tongue in cheek and also deliberately provocative, as Tranter’s The New Australian Poetry (1979) perhaps was. In any case, it’s nice that Felicity selected five of my poems – ‘Sunbathing’, ‘Oz’ ‘Lady Land’, ‘Lurker’ and ‘A821.4′ – for inclusion in the book, particularly as the first three of these are from a manuscript (Leaves of Glass) that I am beginning to think will never be published.
This is, I think, the unspoken truth about the current so-called generation of poets, in that for every anthology that’s printed, maybe a dozen quality collections by emerging or lesser known poets fall by the wayside. While this is a bittersweet truth, it’s still great to know that at least one publisher is willing to showcase poets that the general reader may never have heard of, and I can’t wait to delve into it and discover the works of my faraway peers in a new and hopefully vital context.
Well, the cat is out of the bag (hat tip, Jill Jones) but I’m very pleased to say that my poem ‘Cute’ (read it here, or here) has been selected for inclusion in Black Inc.’s Best Australian Poems 2011. This year’s editor is John Tranter, who writes “I suspect that these baroque and potent imaginings can only have come into existence as fragments of dreams or nightmares.”
Of course I’m chuffed – I’ve tried and failed on many occasions to submit works to this anthology. A brief look at the contributor list alerts me to the fact that this year’s selection is perhaps a little more streamlined than previous editions. I’m really pleased to be in such good company. I only wish that UQP’s Best Australian Poetry series hadn’t bitten the dust.
Unlike its Black Inc. cousin, UQP’s BAP was compiled on the basis of poems published in journals in the previous year, lending it the air of a true ‘Best of’ rather than a survey based upon submissions and solicited works. But then I guess everyone has their own opinion about this issue, and if I was to be really honest, I’d admit that ‘Cute’ would probably never have made it into the UQP anthology, given that it was first published online in the UK.
Anyway, I’m now going to pop open a bottle of champagne, and bask in the refracted glory.
As you were.
Last year I received the good news that my PhD thesis, Bonfire of the Vanity Presses: Self-Publishing in the Field of Australian Poetry had been accepted by Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, meaning that I could start to go around calling myself a doctor (except in emergency situations on planes). To celebrate, I’ve posted the Preface below. Read on, if you dare …
I was super-chuffed recently to stumble across this Adam Fieled in the impossible to pronounce (but no less cool because of it) online journal Ekleksographia.by the impossibly-cool
Here’s a little snippet:
Update: oh and thanx also to Adam for profiling one of my poems on his personal blog, as part of a wider discussion about ‘post-avant’ poetry. I’m double-chuffed to be mentioned. Okay, that’s it from me. Time for dumplings.