short takes on long poems
   n z e p c

                        A Trans Tasman Symposium at the University of Auckland, 29-30 March 2012

It seems to be made out of elements we recognise,
but according to what kind of alien technologies? How do we decipher
the rows of strange symbols all over it?
– Philip Mead

Registration | Programme | Speakers | PDF version | University of Auckland map | BLOG


Wednesday 28 March  


LOUNGE #24 reading with Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Pam Brown, Martin Harrison, Dinah Hawken, David Howard, Jill Jones, Cilla McQueen, Jack Ross, Susan Schultz, Hazel Smith, Robert Sullivan and John Tranter. MC: Michele Leggott
Venue: Old Government House Lounge, Cnr Princes St and Waterloo Quadrant, Auckland Central (in University of Auckland grounds).

Thursday 29 March
9.15 am Welcome
Venue: Federation of University Women Suite, Old Government House
9.30-10.30 am session 1. wider deeper further   
Venue: Federation of University Women Suite, Old Government House. Chair: Helen Sword
Jacob Edmond. Long, Wide, Deep, Heavy
Pam Brown. Duckwalking but no guitar
Ya-Wen Ho. | is spliced with |
10.30 am

Morning tea

11.00-12.00 pm session 2. landing the alien craft 
Venue: Federation of University Women Suite, Old Government House. Chair: John Newton
Philip Mead. The poetics of reterritorialisation: John Kinsella's West Australian Commedia
John Tranter. The Anaglyph
Susan Schultz, Jainie Gusman and Evan Nagle. Of Being Numerous 2012
12 noon Catered picnic lunch
1.00-2.00 pm

session 3. a skin of image and text on the body of sound 
Venue: Federation of University Women Suite, Old Government House. Chair: Brian Flaherty
Cilla McQueen. Nanoflowers in the Nonce-field
Stephanie Christie and Alex Taylor. Too big to be settled or said
Hazel Smith. Film of Sound

2 pm Break
2.30-3.30 pm session 4. intervention insurrection reinvention 
Venue: Federation of University Women Suite, Old Government House. Chair: Murray Edmond
Sam Moginie and Andy Carruthers. ‘Kill The Word Before The Word Kills You’: Jas H. Duke’s Destiny Wood and Australian Experimentalism
Toby Fitch. Reading Rawshock Reading
3.30 pm Afternoon tea
4.00-5.00 pm session 5. walking, walking with   
Venue: Federation of University Women Suite, Old Government House. Chair: Marcia Russell
Bernadette Hall and Dinah Hawken. A Train of Small Sounds
Jill Jones. Walking, Walking With
Ann Vickery. Feminist Collaboration, Friendship, and the Contemporary Long and Longish Poem
5.00-6.30 pm Symposium drinks
Venue: Old Government House Lounge
Friday 30 March
9.00 am Coffee
9.30-10.30 am session 6. worlds apart 
Venue: Federation of University Women Suite, Old Government House. Chair: Hilary Chung
Ella O’Keefe. Bush Cosmology: John Anderson’s ‘non-Euclidean Eucalypt’ in the forest set out like the night
David Howard. Learning to sing Dead Man Blues
Lucas Klein. Ideogrammic Methods: The Space of Writing and Tradition in Contemporary Chinese Long Poetry
10.30 am Morning tea
11.00-11.45 am

session 7. beating the erasure machine 
Venue: Federation of University Women Suite, Old Government House. Chair: Selina Tusitala Marsh
Jack Ross. Digitising Leicester Kyle
Jessica Wilkinson. marionette: Animating the Hidden Subject through Textual Play
Robert Sullivan and John Adams. Grey interstices

12.00-12.30 pm session 8. fold and wrap 
Venue: Federation of University Women Suite, Old Government House. Chair: Lisa Samuels
Rachel Blau DuPlessis. Practice, practise, praxis
12.40 pm Pick up brown bag lunch and move off to Waiheke Ferry Terminal, junction of Quay St and Queen (20 min walk or catch downtown bus on Symonds St)
2.00 pm Ferry to Waiheke Island ($35 return, own cost), bus or share taxivan to Oneroa Beach.
3.30-5.30 pm Long Beach Walk Poem Collaboration All Welcome. Come and help write Aotearoa/NZ’s longest beach poem ever. Coordinator: Selina Tusitala Marsh.
From 6.30 pm Stefano’s Pizzeria, 18 Hamilton Rd, Surfdale, Waiheke Island (09 372 5309). Ferries to Auckland leave 8 pm, 9.30 pm, 11 pm and 12.30 am. Bus runs approximately 45 minutes before ferry departs, or share taxis.  


Poets’ books at the symposium

Titus Books has agreed to sell poets’ books during the symposium. If you have books to sell, please bring them to Bronwyn Lloyd at the book table, clearly marked with prices rounded to $5 or $10 multiples, and with a list of the titles and number of copies you are selling. We are set up for cash sales only. Proceeds and any unsold books will be ready to collect between 12.30 and 1 pm, Friday 30 March.


Registration: John Walker (
Information: Michele Leggott (
Book table: Bronwyn Lloyd ( and Brett Cross (



Jacob Edmond. Long, Wide, Deep, Heavy

Jacob EdmondVideo
This presentation will take the form of a visual and digital display or graphing of measurements and calibrations of long poems. I will measure and compare poems according to various dimensions including area, weight, file size, and hours, minutes and seconds of recording. I will also compare versions of the same long poems and their source texts using such measurements, e.g. the weight of Kenneth Goldsmith’s Day as against the weight of the New York Times, or the volume of Kamau Brathwaite’s Arrivants trilogy in each of its multiple versions as against its length in hours in its recorded versions, or the kilobytes of Yang Lian’s Where the Sea Stands Still in hypertext compared to the mass of its several print versions.

In undertaking these measurements, I want to shift attention to the dimensions other than simply length that we might use to think through large-scale poems. I also explore how the language of measurement might be retooled for purposes other than conventional formal analysis (number of lines, foot, measure, etc.) and literary judgement with its ‘weighing up,’ ‘balance,’ and search for the texts of sufficient ‘gravity.’ Equally, I address elements of our embodied or ‘wet’ contact with what are never just texts but are digital screens, weighty reams of paper, or hours and minutes of lived (in recording and listening) time. Through these apparently arbitrary and objective measurements, I want to stress the reiterated, embodied engagements that constitute and extend the dimensions of the long poem.

Jacob Edmond is author of A Common Strangeness: Contemporary Poetry, Cross-Cultural Encounter, Comparative Literature (Fordham UP), and co-editor of Recentring Asia: Histories, Encounters, Identities (Brill) and Unreal City: A Chinese Poet in Auckland (Auckland UP). His articles have appeared in Comparative Literature, Contemporary Literature, Poetics Today, and The China Quarterly. He is currently working on a book entitled After the Original: Iterative Poetics and Global Culture.   up


Pam Brown. Duckwalking but no guitar

Pam BrownVideo
Looking at, processing, laughing out loud, admiring, thinking, recognising. Logged right in to a long poem called 'Duckwalking a Perimeter,' the penultimate section of Kevin Davies' The Golden Age of Paraphernalia, my attention is riveted to fragments. Does it make sense? Does it 'catch the interrogative'? The Golden Age of Paraphernalia was published by Edge Books in 2007.

Pam Brown is a Sydney-based poet, currently an associate editor of Jacket2. Her recent books include True Thoughts (Salt, 2008), Authentic Local (SOI3 Modern Poets, 2010) and her blog is the deletions.    up




Ya-Wen Ho. | is spliced with |

Ya-Wen HoVideo
A series of hyper
links/ together sound-
(bites)/ of more than you can ever
read/ership is spliced with foot-
notes/ for a long poem tangled in
a series of hyperlinks:

The last time I wrote a long(ish) poem, I did so by chance. I had set out to write a poem in which each line was to aurally fold into the first utterance of the next, a textual interpretation of the parlour game Exquisite Corpse. Once I discovered that this parameter was rigorous enough to sustain interest yet flexible enough to accommodate an indefinite length, the problem became not how to sustain a non-narrative poem, but rather when to draw to an end.

The encyclopedic freedom of content and the density of aural links drew for me a loose connection between this form and the shape of the internet. Any web page is densely hyperlinked to other pages and it is common for hyperlinks to occur within the body of texts. The back-and-forth motion of following and backtracking from hyperlinks creates changes in browsing rhythm which implicitly delineate clusters of knowledge from the expansiveness of the digital space.

Ya-Wen Ho is an Auckland-based poet and editor. She is the founding editor of Potroast magazine.    up


Philip Mead. The poetics of reterritorialisation: John Kinsella's West Australian Commedia

Philip MeadVideo
In his 400-page Divine Comedy: journeys through a regional geography (2008) John Kinsella takes Dante's cosmographic epic and lands it, like a space ship, on five acres of family land on the outskirts of York, a wheatbelt town in Western Australia. How do readers (contactees) respond to this strange craft from another time and hemisphere? It seems to be made out of elements we recognise, but according to what kind of alien technologies? How do we decipher the rows of strange symbols all over it?

Philip Mead is inaugural Chair of Australian Literature at the University of Western Australia, Perth. Recent books and projects include Networked Language: Culture and History in Australian Poetry (Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2010), and Teaching Australian Literature: from classroom conversations to national imaginings (with Brenton Doecke and Larissa McLean Davies). Philip is currently working on an Introduction to the Literature of Tasmania.    up


John Tranter. The Anaglyph

John TranterVideo
I’d like to talk about my poem ‘The Anaglyph,’ collected in Starlight: 150 Poems, published in 2010 by the University of Queensland Press. ‘The Anaglyph’ initially resulted from a commission from a Toronto magazine to write an essay of any type on John Ashbery’s 1967 long poem ‘Clepsydra.’ In response I took the first word or two and also the last word or two of each line from John Ashbery’s poem, and wrote material of my own to fill each line out, critiquing Ashbery and his various histories as I went. This builds on a technique I have called ‘terminals,’ discussed at length by US critic Brian Henry in John Tranter’s New Form(alism), where he says: ‘Tranter’s terminals are unique because they combine the conservative, influence-embracing aspect of traditional forms with the innovative aims of new forms.’

John Tranter is a poet, critic and editor who lives in Sydney. He founded Jacket Magazine in 1997 and his most recent book is Starlight: 150 Poems (U of Queensland P, 2011) which won the Melbourne Age Poetry Book of the Year in 2011. He started a new online journal in January 2012.    up


Susan Schultz, Jaimie Gusman and Evan Nagle. Of Being Numerous 2012

Susan SchultzVideo
We will make a video in which we ask 40 local people, of various ages and occupations, to recite back sections of George Oppen's ‘Of Being Numerous,’ and then to comment on what they remembered and why. Each person will hear one section of the poem twice, then attempt to repeat what they heard. By the end, we will have a version of the entire poem, along with commentary on it. Our purposes are several:

-- The long poem was originally an oral form. While bards had amazing memories for their poems, contemporary readers and listeners do not. So, while getting back in touch with the oral, we are also interested in:

--What gets lost, forgotten, left aside, and why. Each person's brief commentary should help us figure out what is remembered, and why, whether those memories come out of a profound experience with the poem or the whimsy of forgetfulness;

--Oppen was himself a poet of many silences, some quite literal (his two decades of not-writing) and many incorporated into his poems. Later, he developed Alzheimer's disease, which causes forgetting and silence. Our videos will bring out the ways silences are passed on to readers/listeners of the poems.

--We are not going to seek out literary people in large numbers, but mainly friends and local residents who are not poets. This will be a way to test out whether the poem has meaning to those outside the poetic loop. It will also show us, to some extent, whether or not each section of this long sequence has anything to say on its own to its listener/performers.

There will be nothing scientific about this experiment. But we trust that we will come up with a new poem, composed out of pieces of ‘Of Being Numerous,’ and that this poem will be by turns illuminating, funny, and worth our attention.

Susan M. Schultz is Professor of English at the University of Hawai`i-Manoa. She is author of several books of poetry and poetic prose, including most recently Dementia Blog (2008) and Memory Cards: 2010-2011 Series (2011) from Singing Horse Press.  Her book of criticism is A Poetics of Impasse in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (Alabama, 2005). She is publisher of Tinfish Press and blogs at Tinfish Editor’s Blog.

Jaimie Gusman has an MFA from the University of Washington in Seattle. She is working toward her creative PhD in English at the University of Hawai`i-Manoa. She curates the M.I.A. Series of readings in Honolulu, which was recently named the Best Reading Series by the Honolulu Weekly. She has a Tinfish chapbook, One Petal Row.

Evan Nagle is a poet and a software engineer in Honolulu, HI. He received his MFA at the University of Washington. His work has been published in Fence, Seneca Review, Seattle Review, Mary, 2River, DMQ, and Cranky. Evan is co-creator of and co-owner of the tech boutique,     up


Cilla McQueen. Nanoflowers in the Nonce-field

Cilla McQueenVideo
is an ad-hoc construction of text affected by resonant images. Eight short independent poetic texts can be read as interlinked short story-poems about individuals whose lives intersect. It was only after creating Serial that I had a rounded idea of the characters, plot and setting. I found that when the oblique visual imagery was added the characters and their relationships filled out in my mind.

The work is a late offshoot of my short story 'Eggs' in Crikey! (1993) which leads from Aramoana to the Caucasus. From Fabergé eggs, exquisite fabrications of the civilised mind, to the skull of Pierre Curie, crushed like eggshell on the cobblestones of Paris, to Beryl's crystallised violets brushed with egg-white, and Edwin's breakfast boiled egg, eggs are mentioned in some way in every chapter of Serial. Eugene Ionesco, of course, remarked that ‘le futur est dans les oeufs.’

The text is as spare as possible, presenting a partly serendipitous field to play in.
I wanted to keep the language simple and taut, compressed and tough enough to withstand several readings, and support a layer of visual imagery. Paring down the language to carry maximum information in a minimum of words is a poet's exercise. This leaves plenty of space for the imagination. The juxtaposition of an image with a piece of text opened resonant metaphoric fields.

Text preceded image. The narrative rests on a spare framework, with interesting gaps.
A happy collaboration with the National Library produced a ready-made cloud of images. I considered many possible pairings, direct and indirect, of image and text. It was an exercise in synthesis. There was a connection (literal or figurative, tenuous, funny) as  imagination fused a piece of text with an image.

The resonant intersection between text and image fields works in the manner of poetry. This area might be called a 'nonce-field.' The idiosyncratic structure sustained by mosaic, harmonic parts is musical in its effect, a product of non-verbal and verbal thinking. The lively fusion of text and image produces a beating of harmonics between visual and verbal meanings.

I will present chapter 7 ‘Nanoflowers’ and its accompanying images, hoping for further fusions of text and image in the event of a performance.

Cilla McQueen lives in Bluff, Southland. She was New Zealand Poet Laureate 2009-11; her most recent book is The Radio Room (Otago UP, 2011) and her story-poem Serial can be found on the National Library of New Zealand's Poet Laureate website.     up


Stephanie Christie and Alex Taylor. Too big to be settled or said

Stephanie ChristieAlex TaylorVideo
We propose a collaboration involving music, sound and words, and using the long poem as a jumping off point for an adventure in form. Length gives room for attention to the violent ambivalences that mark our lives at this strange time; room also for attempts at engaging with the reality of global warming and environmental degradation.   

Stephanie Christie (previously known as Will) is a Hamilton-based writer and performer whose recent collaborations include Worn with video artist Paul Be, live performance with a chaos orchestra, and a current book experiment with another poet and a painter.

Alex Taylor recently completed his Masters in Composition at the University of Auckland. Current projects include commissions for contemporary music ensemble 175 East, NZTrio and the NZSO-National Youth Orchestra. He continues to curate the Intrepid Music Project, a collaborative concert series with musicians, poets and other artists from across Auckland.     up


Hazel Smith. Film of Sound

Hazel SmithVideo
This presentation will suggest that the contemporary long poem exists not only on the page, but has also evolved off the page through performance, intermedia work and new media writing. It will consist of a viewing of a video piece Film of Sound (2011) by Will Luers (US), Roger Dean and Hazel Smith (Australia) that integrates text, images and sound, and can be conceptualised as a video long poem. The piece was presented for the first time at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music 10 December 2011. The viewing will be accompanied by a very brief introduction contextualising the piece in terms of the long poem, visual poetry, narrative and poetic intersections, and new media poetics.

Electronic art video and interactive works generally prioritise image over sound; this is also the case in commercial culture at large. For this work, we chose a different approach, in keeping with the central focus of the commissioning ensemble, austraLYSIS. That focus is sound: musical, spoken, electroacoustic and environmental. In Film of Sound, sound was chosen to be the initiator, sometimes even driver, of the text and visual processes at work in the piece. Three collaborators were involved, respectively with focus on the video composition (Luers), the text composition (Smith) and the sonic composition (Dean). In the first stage of creating the piece, two sound compositions were made by Dean, and Luers and Smith began generating responses to them. After considerable exchange of materials, an overall plan for one imagistic narrative layer, to be constructed first in sound, was agreed. After the drafted sound layer was produced, all the ongoing text- and video-generation processes joined into an iterative amalgamation, interaction, and refinement sequence.

Film of Sound is a semiotic surface, a skin of image and text on the body of sound. Through the interweaving of text, sound and image (sometimes complementary, sometimes antithetical) the work explores a number of continua from the pre-verbal to the articulated, from the glimpse to the gaze, from noise to music. It also simultaneously projects both rapidly transforming affective intensities and sustained emotional states. Constructed out of collaborative, indeterminant and remix processes,  the layers and  juxtapositions of disparate media hint at a narrative trajectory (a sleeping man, an evening in a hotel room, and a journey across vast and challenging spaces. But the incipient narrative constantly breaks down into disordered memories of violence and repression, undefined threats, splintered subjectivities, glitches and raw data.

Hazel Smith is a research professor in the Writing and Society Research Group the University of Western Sydney, and the co-author with Roger Dean of Practice-led Research, Research-led Practice in the Creative Arts (Edinburgh UP, 2009). She is also a poet, performer and new media artist. Her latest volume of creative work, with accompanying CD Rom, is The Erotics of Geography: poetry, performance texts, new media works (Tinfish Press, 2008). Formerly a professional violinist, she is a member of austraLYSIS, the internationally active sound and intermedia arts group. Hazel is co-editor with Roger Dean of soundsRite based at the University of Western Sydney.     up


Sam Moginie and Andy Carruthers. Kill The Word Before The Word Kills You’: Jas H. Duke’s Destiny Wood and Australian Experimentalism

Sam Moginie and Andy CarruthersVideo
This presentation is a response to Jas Duke’s experimental novel-poem-text Destiny Wood (WAC, 1978). While Duke’s performance pieces have circulated in other mediums, most notably as recordings on on UbuWeb, very few attempts have been made to critically engage with his work. Alternating between performance and critical analysis, we aim to interrogate this long text in its relation to experimentalism in Australian poetry of the 1970s, and its relation to the concept of experimental form in general. We respond especially to Duke’s fidelity to the derangement of pages (‘buggered pages’ as Duke suggests), wherein prose becomes concrete; to its seriality under the pressure of graphic intrusions; to its sonic portraiture; and to its rebellion against various orthodoxies. Especially apparent is its resistance to orthodox Australian verse culture, against which Duke’s method appears both exuberant and exotic. Destiny Wood remains as experimental today as it was in the decade it appeared in print, laying waste to any easy entree to genre, form, sound, and meaning.

Andy Carruthers and Sam Moginie are both doctoral candidates at the University of Sydney, working on contemporary poetry and poetics. Their interests and research areas include the legacy of the Objectivists, musical ekphrasis and collaged scores, deep negativity, textual coast-ing, Australian poetry in the 1970s, the whatever, and entrepôt poetics. They spend their time looking at the underside of noisy planes from their backyard in Marrickville, Sydney. In 2011 they co-authored the Stale Art Manifesto, which you can find on     up


Toby Fitch. Reading Rawshock Reading

Kate LilleyVideo
‘Rawshock’ is a long poem in ten parts, a reshaping of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, an experiment in pattern using the original ten Rorschach inkblots as templates, and a bad pun to boot. The poem manipulates the voices of O, E, U and I (A is Absence) in a fragmented love song that explores the naturally split personalities of the two main protagonists, and of the author. The Orpheus myth has been so done to death in poetry that it has become its own inkblot, open to apparently endless interpretation. This presentation will take the form of a reading/performance with colourful pictures but no lyres. Sorry, Orph.

Toby Fitch was born in London and raised in Sydney. His chapbook Everyday Static was published by Vagabond Press in 2010. His first full-length book of poems Rawshock is forthcoming in April 2012 from Puncher & Wattmann. He is currently undertaking a creative doctorate on Rimbaud, Mallarmé and various poetic tropes, including mistranslation, concrete and absinthe poetry, at the University of Sydney. He hosts the monthly poetry night at Sappho Books and is the poetry reviews editor for Southerly. To read some poems, go to Rawshock:   up


Bernadette Hall and Dinah Hawken. A Train of Small Sounds

Bernadette HallDinah HawkenVideo
We propose a shared session in the form of a conversation based on sonnet sequences each of us has written: Dinah’s ‘Building Sonnets’ from The leaf-ride (Victoria UP, 2011) and Bernadette’s ‘Tomahawk Sonnets’ from Still Talking (Victoria UP, 1997). What interests us is what happens when short, technically disciplined texts accumulate. Is the resulting long poem a coherent work, flexible, expansive and satisfying in ways we ourselves might not have anticipated? We will read each other’s work for small sounds and big diesels, hoping to discover more about the relationship between components and sequencing as we go.

Bernadette Hall lives at Amberley Beach in the Hurunui district, North Canterbury. In 2011 she was a Teaching Fellow at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. She is the editor of Best NZ Poems 2011 (IIML, 2012) and recent books include The Ponies (Victoria UP, 2007) and The Lustre Jug (Victoria UP, 2009).

Dinah Hawken lives at Paekakariki on the Kapiti Coast and her recent books include One Shapely Thing (Victoria UP, 2006) and The leaf-ride (Victoria UP, 2011). Dinah also contributed poems to the sculptor John Edgar's publication ballast: bringing the stones home (Aerial Press, 2009).     up


Jill Jones. Walking, Walking With

Jill JonesVideo
The complex of writing/saying at length and/or breadth can be worked through in many ways, one of those being through intersects with other art practices, other modalities.  Having worked with other artists in composing site-specific works (both works about place/locality, and placed works), I am interested in how these pieces work (walk) with place as experience, either as the generative impetus or the space/s of performance.

I will also look at practice issues that emerge in the dynamic of assembling a collaborative work, including control, structure, commonalities, length/finality, materials and performance, genre, modularity and recycling.

The main examples used will be my own work with photographer Annette Willis,  primarily, but also with sound designers and composers Solange Kershaw and Damian Castaldi. I will also refer to the work of English poet, Harriet Tarlo, and her engagement with site-specific exploratory works and collaborations (walks) as modes of the long radical landscape poem.

Jill Jones teaches creative writing and English at the University of Adelaide and is a member of the University’s J. M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice. Her recent books include Dark Bright Doors (2010) and Broken/Open (2005). She is co-editor, with Michael Farrell, of Out of the Box: Contemporary Australian Gay and Lesbian Poets (2009). A new book Ash Is Here, So Are Stars is forthcoming.     up


Ann Vickery. Feminist Collaboration, Friendship, and the Contemporary Long and Longish Poem

Ann VickeryVideo
This talk explores poetic collaboration as a way of crossing boundaries of authorship and subjectivity, enabling what Carla Harryman and Lyn Hejinian call a ‘fickle freedom.’ As Carey Kaplan and Ellen Cronin Rose note in ‘Strange Bedfellows: Feminist Collaborations,’ ‘“She” and “I” metamorphose into “we,” hypothetical, invisible, yet nonetheless articulate. “We” emerges from the space between our individual different voices, its meaning elusive, dispersed, always deferred, never unitary.’

I will focus on a series of collaborative longish poems written and performed by Australian poets Pam Brown, Carol Christie, Jane McKemmish and Amanda Stewart that began with ‘the return of the dead I. Modes of Goo.’ These occurred between 1986 and 1988 and, as primarily performance pieces, have been rarely anthologised. Time permitting, I will contextualise these Australian collaborations with those occurring contemporaneously in North America, including Harryman and Hejinian’s The Wide Road which was written over more than two decades and was recently published as a whole in 2011.

Ann Vickery is a Senior Lecturer in Literary Studies at Deakin University in Melbourne. She is the author of Stressing the Modern: Cultural Politics in Australian Women’s Poetry (Salt Publishing, 2007) and co-author with Maryanne Dever and Sally Newman of The Intimate Archive: Journeys through Private Papers (National Library of Australia, 2009).     up


Ella O’Keefe. Bush Cosmology: John Anderson’s ‘non-Euclidean Eucalypt’ in the forest set out like the night

Ella O'KeefeVideo
Australian poet John Anderson’s book-length poem the forest set out like the night explores the landscape of Melbourne and surrounding areas in Victoria. Anderson works to suggest there are multiple ways to read and know a place; as a collection of images or sensory impressions, as scientific data or as a series of dream-derived symbols. Crucial to his poetry is an acknowledgement of the history of Australian land, the colonial invasion of Australia, and its effects on our lived lives. Thus Anderson’s poem registers spatial and conceptual difference in its form as well as its content. Lines and eucalypts both resist Euclidean symmetry:     

Compare a gum forest at night to a European forest.
The gum forest. Space condensed. Opens out.
The Black Forest closes in.

In Reading the Country (1984), critic Stephen Muecke notes the persistence in linguistics of linear metaphors of trees and roots as a way of defining the origins of a language, and the problems this poses in the study of Aboriginal languages, histories and literature. Muecke, like Anderson, favours a rhizomatic approach suggesting that if a tree remains, it should be viewed from above, ‘with roots and branches fanning out in all directions [...] the roots having no more of the “origin” about them than the leaves.’ I want to extend this thought in light of Anderson’s ‘non-Euclidean Eucalypt’ and the possibilities it opens up for new modes of perception and formal composition.

The Eucalypt appears to have a peculiar relation to the
cosmos, the greater universe. The branches seem to follow
a thousand centres to the sky.           
                                                            (John Anderson)

Ella O’Keefe is a doctoral candidate working on contemporary poetry at Deakin University in Melbourne. She has produced radio pieces for 2SER FM, Fbi Radio and Radio National. Her work has appeared in Steamer, Best Australian Poems 2011 and      up


David Howard. Learning to sing Dead Man Blues

David HowardVideo
It started with a 1950s photograph of a teenage Arlie Russell, daughter of the then American ambassador to New Zealand, tramping with Ken Findlay in the Richmond ranges. The photograph fell from a book bought at Smiths Bookshop in Christchurch. I traced Arlie and discovered that she was now Arlie Hochschild, prominent author, academic and advisor to Al Gore. Arlie and I corresponded about how the photograph came to be taken and her experience of New Zealand. She described the men here as beery and inarticulate. This summoned up for me the ghost of Vincent O’Sullivan’s character Butcher, and also my childhood experiences of returned servicemen, and I began to hear the tone a poem set here in the 1950s might take.

Around the same time, the composer Brina Jez invited me to collaborate with her on a commission she had received for a multimedia installation in Slovenia. I supplied, in the form of a recorded reading by two actors, my early attempt to explore a beery inarticulate returned serviceman, the kind of figure whom Arlie was surrounded by during her time here.

The text I will present, ‘Dead Man Blues,’ is a distillate of these processes across time and media, looking always at the effect of one artist’s work on another and the density of connection our digital highways encourage.

David Howard is a poet and critic who lives at Purakaunui in Otago. His recent books include The Incomplete Poems (Cold Hub Press, 2011) and When Things Are Dirty (U of South Pacific Press, forthcoming).      up


Lucas Klein. Ideogrammic Methods: The Space of Writing and Tradition in Contemporary Chinese Long Poetry

Lucas KleinVideo
When the Chinese poetry tradition is compared with the traditions of poetry in the West, essentialist views have often noted China’s lack of the epic as a genre – and yet American modernist Ezra Pound based the ‘ideogrammic method’ upon which he built his collage epic Cantos on his understanding of the Chinese written character. Can this disjunction be rectified in the long poems of contemporary Chinese poets? Looking at the long and serial poems of Yang Lian 杨炼 (b. 1955) and Xi Chuan 西川 (b. 1963), both of whose work exists in conscious dialogue with Pound, I propose to engage with the symposium’s quest to locate the contemporary long poem in space defined (for my purposes) in and between tradition and writing.

Specifically, I will look at the ways in which Yang Lian’s Yi  (a poem of sixty-four sections based on the Book of Changes [I Ching or Yijing], named with a character of his own invention) and Xi Chuan’s Thirty Historical Reflections (a sequence that has grown beyond just thirty) read the Chinese past through a Poundian-inspired poetics to simultaneously create and question a new tradition of world literature. Given that time (and space) will be limited, I will focus on the luminous details and ideogrammic moments of Yang Lian’s and Xi Chuan’s poetries, dismantling the epic to the constituent ideogrammic basis upon which it has been built.

Lucas Klein is Assistant Professor in the Department of Chinese, Translation & Linguistics at the City University of Hong Kong. He is the co-editor, with Haun Saussy and Jonathan Stalling, of The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry: A Critical Edition, by Ernest Fenollosa and Ezra Pound (Fordham UP, 2008), and the translator of Notes on the Mosquito, the selected poems of Xi Chuan (New Directions, 2012).

Xi Chuan Handout | Yang Lian Handout


Jack Ross. Digitising Leicester Kyle

Jack RossVideo
My plan is to discuss the challenge of posting Leicester Kyle’s long poem Koroneho: Joyful News Out Of The New Found World (1996-2001) in cyberspace. I will show how I’ve presented the poem on the dual website set up by Kyle’s Literary Estate to make his collected poems accessible online. See Leicester Kyle. Index to the Collected Poems.

I’d also like to compare my conservatively edited e-text with the more readable version of the poem, which has recently appeared in book form: Koroneho: Joyful News Out Of The New Found World. Edited by Jack Ross. Preface by Ian St George. Auckland: The Leicester Kyle Literary Estate / Wellington: The Colenso Society, 2011 (a joint publication with the Colenso Society, for William Colenso’s Bicentennial).

The focus of the presentation will therefore be twofold. First, the practical (and theoretical) difficulties of transferring the main texts of Kyle’s oeuvre, twenty-odd eccentrically printed book-length poems, to a website both cheaply and efficiently. Second, the fascinating tale of Koroneho itself: a poem which initially appeared in part in Alan Loney’s A Brief Description of the Whole World in 1996-97, but whose complete text did not become available to me until early 2011. Taking as his subject matter the life and explorations of pioneer missionary, printer, and naturalist William Colenso (1811-1899) (whose Māori name was “Koroneho”) Kyle expertly weaves letters, historical details, and the language of botanical description to create an epic about orchids: a long poem “containing history”, like Pound’s Cantos, but with a style more consciously modelled on the linguistic experimentation of Zukofsky’s 80 Flowers.

Jack Ross is a poet, editor and critic who teaches at Massey University's Albany Campus in Auckland. His recent books include Scenes from the Puppet Oresteia (NY: Narcissus Press, 2011), Kingdom of Alt (Titus Books, 2010) and The Return of the Vanishing New Zealander (Kilmog Press, 2009). He runs a blog called The Imaginary Museum.     up


Jessica Wilkinson. marionette: Animating the Hidden Subject through Textual Play

Jessica WilkinsonVideo
In this talk-performance, I discuss and read from my long poem and poetic-biography of early cinema actress Marion Davies, who was the lover of media tycoon William Randolph Hearst. In my opinion, Marion’s silencing by the early cinema screen was strangely metaphoric for her being silenced by Hearst, who largely controlled her career and (as much as he could) her actions in public.

While there are countless biographies, factual and fictional, of Hearst, there are very few accounts of Marion Davies’ life. Indeed, in some of Hearst’s biographies, she is barely mentioned despite being a prominent figure in his life. As a woman who lived the prime of her life in the early 20th century on the Great White Way (itself an erasure machine), Marion Davies is waiting to be spoken. Rachel Blau DuPlessis says in The Pink Guitar that such a gap in discourse cannot simply be ‘filled by a mechanism of reversal’; rather, we must ‘pull into textuality […] the elements of its almost effaced stories in all their residual, fragmentary quality.’

marionette, then, is an attempt to pull together the stutters, fragments and strings of Marion’s story.

Jessica Wilkinson holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne. She is Lecturer in Creative and Professional Writing at RMIT University, Melbourne. She is the founding editor of RABBIT: a journal for poetry. Excerpts from her long poem marionette were published by Vagabond in January 2012. She is developing marionette with a composer and chamber ensemble for live performance in mid-2012.      up


Robert Sullivan and John Adams. Grey interstices

Robert Sullivan - photographer is Caryline BorehamJohn Adams

We plan to recreate and perhaps remix the statements of Governor George Grey and selected Maori rangatira or chiefs in order to disturb, briefly, strategically, the narrative that is Grey’s legacy to poetry in Aotearoa New Zealand. In the first preface of Polynesian Mythology and Ancient Traditional History of the New Zealand Race as Furnished by their Priests and Chiefs (1885), Grey explains his motives for collecting and translating examples of Maori oral tradition and turning them into literary and anthropological texts:

I found that these chiefs, either in their speeches to me, or in their letters, frequently quoted, in explanation of their views and intentions, fragments of ancient poems or proverbs, or made allusions which rested on an ancient system of mythology; and although it was clear that the most important parts of their communications were embodied in these figurative forms, the interpreters were quite at fault. […] Clearly, however, I could not, as Governor of the country, permit so close a veil to remain drawn between myself and the aged and influential chiefs, whom it was my duty to secure, and with whom it was necessary that I should hold the most unrestricted intercourse. Only one thing could, under such circumstances, be done, and that was to acquaint myself with the ancient language of the country, to collect its traditional poems and legends, to induce their priests to impart to me their mythology, and to study their proverbs.

Our symposium venue, Old Government House, built in 1856, was part of the British government precinct that included New Zealand’s first parliament behind the present High Court site in Waterloo Quadrant, and the Albert military barracks in the university grounds, until the capital was moved to Wellington in 1865 during Grey’s second governorship. It was the Governor’s Auckland residence during the Taranaki War and the invasion of the Waikato in 1863. We want to examine the interstices of this position, relating it to the difficulty that indigenous language poetics has experienced in getting itself heard in New Zealand poetry given the decline in numbers of fluent Maori language speakers. There are direct connections between long and short form Maori poetic texts collected by Grey, the declining fortunes of his chiefly informants, and the improving fortunes of the imperial colony once headquartered in this very building.

Robert Sullivan (Nga Puhi / Kai Tahu / Irish) is the head of the School of Creative Writing at Manukau Institute of Technology, Auckland. His books include Shout Ha! to the Sky (Salt, 2010), and the long poems Cassino: City of Martyrs (Huia, 2010) and Star Waka (Auckland UP, 1999) and Captain Cook in the Underworld (Auckland UP, 2002). Last year his poem 'Kawe Reo / Voices Carry' was engraved on the front steps of Auckland City Central Library with a text sculpture that composed for the site.

John Adams first collection of poetry, Briefcase (AUP) was published last year.  His poems have appeared injacket2 and other publications.  He graduated MCW at Auckland University (2010) and is a post-graduate student at Auckland University.  He works as a judge, part-time.    up


Rachel Blau DuPlessis. Practice, practise, praxis

Rachel DuPlessisVideo
A folding and wrapping of short takes, long forms, digital and physical spaces experienced to date and with provision for conversations to come.

Rachel Blau DuPlessis, currently in residence at the University of Auckland as a Distinguished Visitor, is the author of the long poem Drafts, begun in 1986, and collected most recently in two books from Salt Publishing: Pitch: Drafts 77-95 (2010) and The Collage Poems of Drafts (2011).  Her newest critical book (2012) is Purple Passages: Pound, Eliot, Zukofsky, Olson Creeley and the Ends of Patriarchal Poetry from University of Iowa Press. Her work in poetry is the subject of Drafting beyond the ending, an on-line colloquium and set of essays published in Jacket2 in December 2011.     up


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Last updated 20 December, 2012