The 2016 editors of the FSP Anthology #41, Edie Eicas and David Harris, will be providing an occasional blog about their activities. You can read it here!
# 9 September 2016 – Where would we be without Bush Poetry?
Sitting in class the Baby Boomers both of Australian birth and those with imported parents learnt the history of the little man through the verses we were taught to recite in English classes. History was for the bigger picture: Colonial expansion.
We learnt about the ‘Wild Colonial Boy’, and about the hardships of colonising a country foreign to the European experience. The poet looked back and created a myth of Australia supported by the paintings that romanticised the men and the bush.
Bush poetry like all oral traditions allowed us to remember the narratives through rhyme and meter and could be put to music. Lyrics easily remembered enabled the continuation of tradition. Folk music’s structure often with a chorus and with a regular beat meant transmission through generations and place. Thus, the Celtic memory embedded in Irish and Scottish poetry and music crossed the seas.
In creating a poem, a skilful poet could dictate a mood through the meter chosen: where a meter could excite or bring foreboding. In ‘The Man from Snowy River’ A B Paterson alternated between anapaestic trimeter and anapaestic tetrameter giving the lines a pace, allowing the sounds to echo that of galloping horses.
The Australian love of language where everything was ‘fair dinkum’ now struggles against the encroachment of Americanisms yet we still demand a unique identity. The ‘Cockney Slang’ long embedded that allows Australians to play with language leaves many foreigners confused much to the amusement of those whose pleasure is in strine. Our creativity is not to be damped and so the Australian Dictionary of Strine continually adds new words and phrases.
While we ‘carry on like a pork chop’ and ‘tell him he’s dreaming’ we are now adding more words from our Indigenous cultures. While we know the billabong and galah and do hard yakka, greater recognition means the renewal of indigenous place names that admit an older culture. We now welcome people to country, there’s secret women’s business, Songlines, Invasion Day and deadly as a descriptor for fantastic, great or awesome.
While the younger generation is now slamming, do they recognise anything of the antecedents of their style in what came before? Pace as an echo of the past, rhyme as a means to remember and the choice of words that play with meaning have long allowed both poet and audience the pleasure of language and sound, thus Bush poetry remains embedded: it’s focus now the 21st Century.
# 8 August 2016 – Slam poet gets job advertising Telco.
So the door is open to all to find their place in the world through poetry. From Mesopotamia’s Epic poem Gilgamesh through Homer’s Iliad to Beowulf, the community needed a record of their history and how better to remember than through an oral tradition that offered pace, rhyme and verbal tricks.
So what does the poet comment on today? We as Australians have a history of the Bush poets offering insight into the trials and tribulations of the outback. But, do we remember Judith Wright’s reflection on the environment and her love of her country or Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s political voice for her Aboriginal People?
We have just had the 50th anniversary celebration of the Gurindji Wave Hill Walk Off and there is a petition to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia’s Constitution and yet, I can imagine the only thing we will be talking about in September is 9/11. But there was another 9/11 when the USA supported a coup against Chile’s elected President Allende in 1973.
So does the poet have a responsibility to collective memory? Or are we just at the mercy of the media that seeks to promote itself and make their dollars through fear?
Has poetry a voice that can speak back to parsimonious politicians that seek to rob the poor of a quality of life while they sanctifying the place of narcissism? Or do we support the normalisation of greed, violence and the call to war? What voice will be remembered?
The lyrics of Paul Kelly’s and Kev Carmody’s song From Little Things Big Things Grow about Vincent Lingiarri and the Walk Off, take us on a journey through melody and emotion. Lyrical poetry like the lyrics of the song also follows the tradition of rhymed and un-rhymed, subjectivity, imagination and rhythm. While the political is a feature of that song, history has used the form in many ways to create a single, unified impression. Those who use the style today pay homage to past creators like Shakespeare, Spenser, Coleridge and Tennyson adding to the collective.
# 7 July 2016 – Editors’ Reflections on the Anthology so far…
As we have been reading the poems we’ve been taken on wonderful word journeys and have had to become sensitive to the sounds and meaning of words and the tangents hidden in lines.
Each poem stretches us to find the best ways in which, not only to evaluate work, but to consider the future organisation of the anthology. Many of the poems have the hallmarks of poets who have persisted and found a professional voice recognised within the community, while others have recently found their need for poetic expression and are still experimenting.
Our latest discussion revolves around the diplomatic. How do we do justice to the anthology and yet support the group?
While we have limited pages we will need to limit the number of poems we include. Having a common rubric by which to assess the work has meant we have found it easier to consider the poems presented.
Looking at originality, language, style and focus etc. has allowed us to gauge the poems presented in an objective way while not limiting our personal inclinations. That’s not to say we haven’t had discussions where we have had to justify our choices. But like everything in life, we sometimes don’t see things until someone points out what we need to look for.
The Friendly Street Poets Anthology is different from most in that it is both a collection of the best of poems read at meetings, and a forum in which poems by as many members as possible are published.
There are poets in Friendly Street whose works are consistently of a calibre that begs inclusion. However, to be fair to new and developing poets, there is a limit on the number of works by any one author which can be included. This limit is two, unless the circumstances are exceptional.
As it stands, we have about 15 poems each month that are vying for inclusion. We may find that as we get closer to organising the anthology that there are ribbons of commonality that allow sections to establish and then we may need to shuffle the original choices.
Life is a learning curve.
Meanwhile, Clive James and Peter Porter discuss Shakespeare:
# 6 June 2016 – Do we do Postmodern poetry?
If Postmodernism is the collapse of the grand narrative and we no longer focus on the lives of the great leaders, do we all have a voice that can speak our truth?
As a multicultural country our history is no longer just framed by the British experience and yet we are not free of any Imperialist stamp. When poems rallied the country in nationalist pride we federated and then sought to find our identity in the tales of the “Man from Snowy River”.
When we lost men to WWI and WWII we lamented our loss and coloured our view of ourselves with an idealism still wrapped in the red, white and blue of the British flag.
When Ern Malley’s poems in Angry Penguins wrote a different text they broke open conventions and allowed a new modernist voice to speak for us.
But who speaks to us now? How do we frame our texts?
If the TV series The Simpsons presents as a Postmodern text, what can we learn from referencing pop culture, the use of non linear narrative, nostalgia, irony, parody, pastiche and intertextuality?
Do we as Australian’s have a distinct voice? Does Jimmy Barnes have the power to move us or is it Elvis? Is the irony we drive SUVs and dress in R.M. Williams clothes but never go bush? Do we remember Paul Keating’s speech at Redfern or is it Martin Luther King’s? Has the world become global and we as Australians been subsumed?
If Postmodern was a reaction to Modernism and the carnage of WWII have we moved on and are we now in a Post-Postmodern world? And what does that mean for the writer of poems? Do we now shift our perspective and offer the world a new reflection filtered through a disruptive dialogue? Or, do we accept: I write, therefore I am, or swing in the opposite direction where only an elite few speak for us?
# 5 May 2016 – What is a Poem?
What determines that a stack of words should be labelled a poem?
While E.E. Cummings did not appear to have an ideological position with regard to his use of lower case or the comma, and used both capitals and commas, what does following in his footsteps mean to the twenty first century writer?
Does having no commas or capitals enhance the poem or is the reader meant to note content over form? Is there consistency? Does the choice reflect a narrator overwhelmed by emotion or is the POV that of a child? Or is there more to the stylistic choice?
While all doors are open in terms of style, if we follow the Modernist with their experimentation can we argue our case for our particular style of presentation?
When we claim the poem to be Prose and choose to use the paragraph and not include line breaks, does that mean we then avoid using any poetic device such as: fragmentation, compression or even a metrical device that changes the speed of the reading to suggest patterns of speech?
And when the claim is made that the poem is Free verse with no consistent meter or rhyme, does that mean that no other poetic devices are included such as personification, allegory or symbolism?
How to then define a poem?
Does it need to be original, be full of images, make use of parataxis, play with metaphor, juxtapose the unfamiliar, evoke emotion; produce sensual delights that suggest succulent smells or soft seductive sounds?
Whatever style surfaces does it shade the content or give full voice even to the observations of the everyday?
Here are some links that relate to readings and investigations into the poetry of Kenneth Slessor, Judith Wright and Anthony Lawrence.
#4 May 2016 – Author or Reader?
Did Roland Barthes postulate that the “author is dead and the reader is born”? If so, what signs does the creator of the poem leave the reader in order that they have some insight into the meaning of the text?
While we can use historic formulae: ode, sonnet, villanelle, blank verse, etc. to guide the reader, what signs do we use when we choose other forms?
Once a poem is delivered to paper the text is open to a new reading. Without signs: caesura, capitals, full stops, stanza breaks, enjambment, etc. a piece can be read as an anxious diatribe or a languid walk where the title or choice of subject and words determine the pace, but even then can you be sure? Do we want to give more as the author?
Why and where you put a comma will determine where the reader breathes,
where the pace slows,
where you direct the reader to notice a phrase or your appreciation of the many meanings of a word. Does that word you place at the end of a line play with sound and so disrupt the reader’s expectation? Is it no, know or Noh? No? Or no, you know already?
The word “set” has 464 meanings.
A capital can inform the reader of Emotion or capitals can SCREAM. But what are you telling me when there are no capitals, commas, full stops or stanza breaks? Modernist: a nod to Joyce and stream of consciousness? Even the unconscious takes a break.
Since your poem is no longer in your hands how can you control the intent embedded in your work? To claim the work as poetry the nomenclature needs to be supported by an understanding of the various skills that determine the work as more than just a story divided by line breaks. If your preferred style is a paragraph with no notation where are the other indications that knowledge and skill have contributed to poesy’s construction?
In that poem, once freed from your clutches, what directions are you offering your reader? How are you mapping the reader’s experience? When I listen to Sylvia Plath on the internet the work is hers but when I read the poem on the page it’s my voice I hear, the only influence left is the structure of the poem. The signs she left behind.
Is it: “Eats roots and leaves” or “Eats: roots and leaves”?
#3 April 2016 – Touched
At the last meeting listening to the audience laugh then sigh in compassion reaffirmed the power of poetry to draw people together.
As poets we paint word pictures to trigger empathy, give expression to thoughts and feelings that may lie dormant in memory and even ask our audience to examine their ideology.
The wordsmith strings images together that allow our minds to wander through landscapes, see into other’s lives and when offering the arcane, provide an entree into a different world.
Playing with words we offer lush language, the esoteric that drives the reader to the dictionary to review their knowledge of a word’s meaning or in turn drives us, the writer, to seek something more accessible that allows a line or stanza to flow.
Confessional poetry breaks barriers and lays open lives determined by cultural restraints. A poem can lament the violence in families, the cost of war or the fears that each generation faces but also offer a prayer while seeking solace.
Styles and content can be experimental. The voice might shift until the narrator is found. The appropriate witness to a thought or feeling can come through gender shifts, personification and a change in point of view.
As poets we speak out for our times in many voices as we corral ideas into a manageable form. Poetry becomes the stimulus to thought, allows wonder to inhabit the mind and astonishes with the possibilities of language, unifies experience and explores the dynamics of relationships and, can touch the heart.
#2 March 2016 – Your Editors Agonise Over Their Task
Our aim as your editors is to make the anthology a step in the development of your poetry that demonstrates the capability of Friendly Street Poets.
Therefore, since we come from different experiences, we’ve been wrestling with a means by which we can evaluate your work. While intuition is a wonderful element and comes with our interest and experience in poetry, we’ve looked at a number of sites and different poetry rubrics in order that we have some common ground.
- The Poem as Craft – Willow Hambrick
- Magma – 25 Rules for Editing Poems
- Centre for Gifted organization : centreforgifted.org/poetry_R
These are some of the background readings we are discussing for insight and inspiration in order to create our own system through which we can assess the variety of forms that have been presented.
Now comes the question of how we work as editors and what we perceive as our responsibility. While poems can come fully formed, what has become apparent is that many leave questions that have sent us back to research the dictionary and review styles.
- Words have many meanings and that’s why we play with them but some need to be researched before they are used. We all make assumptions.
- A poem that has end rhymes may work better if the line breaks are rearranged. The pace may slow or quicken and meaning can expand while the rhymes become internal.
- Some poems maybe better suited as short stories.
- Stanza positions may strengthen a poem through rearrangement. Rearrangement of stanzas may strengthen a poem.
- Lines may need the inclusion of extra syllables to continue the rhythm of the preceding lines. You may need an extra foot to stand on.
- Sometimes there is an excess of words, phrases, lines and stanzas that don’t add to the effect. Cut, cut and cut.
- Take advantage of history and explore different styles, play with metaphors and don’t forget poetry plays with sounds.
Our intention is to get the best possible result for you and, as a consequence, those poems for potential selection will be structurally edited and questions asked about meaning, style, idea, emotion, image etc. We see our responsibility to resolve possible issues and we hope we can work with you and provide feedback.
Can you pitch me your poem in one line? Is your idea strong? Have you taken me to a place philosophically where I have to reconsider my ideology? Have you given me an insight into the smallest of experiences? Have you coloured your scenes with emotions or is it a poem that has a hidden meanings?
So once you’ve analysed the poem, sit back and read it for pleasure. This experience is important in the evaluation of the poem.
#1 February 2016
It has been a delight to sit and listen to all the contributions over the years. The succulent sounds of alliteration and the juicy images that feed the imagination, wise words and insight that come from experience or intuition -all that inspire the writer to put pen to paper or the thinker to reflect on what was given to the audience by the readers.
Some poems appear to need to be read out loud to appreciate the sounds, the cadences and the rhymes etc. while others require a quiet contemplation, a chance for the imagination to walk around the images and ideas while others come with humour that explodes into laughter and some offer instant gratification as they slip into the mind to a place of knowledge or insight. Consequently, you have set us a task to work out how to present your poems in the best possible light.
We hope we can do justice to the honour you have been given us as co-editors and that we can provide a take on your contributions that show your collective creativity in a manner that excites interest and further investigation plus triggers additional delivery of wonderful poems.