I was so thrilled to see ‘Darling’ find its first home in ‘PULP’. That issue was published a little while before my 25th birthday, so I was almost but not quite too old to be sending poems to Voiceworks! As for the process, Voiceworks is very hands on, and I so admire the time and energy the editors put into their writers’ work, especially young and emerging writers. On the other hand, I’m inclined to feel that work should be accepted or not accept as is; that there’s something sort of tricky about accepting a piece of writing conditionally, with suggested edits, especially where such edits are extensive or significant. I suppose this depends on the writer and their experiences, and whether they’re looking for feedback, or to workshop what they’ve written. And honestly, who doesn’t love a reader—someone who will read your work closely and offer a detailed response of some sort? That Voiceworks also offers feedback to both successful and unsuccessful contributors is something else I really appreciate. Read more…
STACEY: Hi Lucy, thanks for agreeing to answer some q’s. You run an online lit journal called Shabby Doll House, do you want to tell us a little bit about that?
SHABBY DOLL HOUSE: Hi Stacey.
Shabby Doll House (est. 2012) is an online publication that I started in order to showcase work that I felt excited about, but that didn’t seem to have a home. We publish various forms of literature alongside original visual artworks made specifically to accompany the writing. We have published short stories, poetry, tweet compilations, gchats, watercolour paintings, .gifs, photographs, collages… It is kind of a mix of everything, but I think it has developed a particular style and sense of aesthetic.
I edit the website with Sarah Jean Alexander, and we aim to curate a cohesive collection of work every quarter. The general theme or aim, I think, is to distract or prevent people from feeling lonely.
S: Seems like a good thing for a online publication to want to achieve. What is the submission process like and roughly how many pieces would you get for every issue? Are there particular things you look for when selecting? Read more…
Verandah is a literary and visual art journal published in Melbourne, Australia. Founded as a student-run publication, the first issue launched in 1986. Originally situated beneath the shade of the vast verandah’s surrounding Victoria College, a place in which the journal takes its namesake. The publication puts emphasis on new and emerging writers and fosters creative talent and skill. It honours the work of Deakin University students, but also calls for submissions from across international writers and poets. The journal also gives out prizes according to category. The Matthew Rocca Poetry Prize was named after a dedicated student of Deakin, who unfortunately passed away during a year of study, his parent’s have fossilised his love of poetry within this prize.
2013 will mark its 28th year in print and editors are currently seeking submissions of short literature and poetry for publication later this year. Your closing date is June 1. We are honoured to extend this invitation to Metre Maid readers and look forward to reading your submissions. Submission fees are fed back into the publication at no profit to the University or volunteer staff.
For guidelines, check out www.deakin.edu.au/verandah
This years editors are Hayley Ryan-Elliot, Jonathan Lawrence, Kyah Horrocks, Lauren Hawkins and Leizl Bermejo
SUSIE: Hi Stacey! For people who don’t know you at all, can you start by introducing yourself?
STACEY: Hello Susie + reader, I am 23 and I live inAuckland, NZ. I work with animals, write poetry and make zines. How would you currently describe your own creative output?
SUSIE: Creative output is a big sort of term … I guess I kinda write poetry from time to time, I really like baking and crafts though. Sometimes I feel like a bit of a housewife in terms of my hobbies but writing-wise, I made some zines about crushes a few years ago … and this year I’m trying to make enough poems/stories for a chapbook. What were your zines about? How did you transition from working with animals to writing poetry?
STACEY: The zines I write are mostly ‘personal zines’, and they help me to catalogue my life in a way. For example, I am doing a zine for every season, and in those zines I put bits of writing and poetry, drawings, etc that are loosely related to the season and/or that three-month period. The fact that I work with animals and write poetry have little to do with each other, although I suppose I have referenced animals a bit in my poems, so it’s not like the two things are mutually exclusive. They are two things I love, but I see working with animals more as a career and writing poetry more as a hobby. Do you think you could ever make writing into a career of sorts? What do you want to do as a career?
SUSIE: Hm, that’s interesting, I never would have thought of zines as not being personal. For me, at least, being personal is what makes a zine good. It’s just interesting to see the different sort of lifestyles that poets have and whether this is reflected in their poems or whatever. As for me/my career, I dunno. I really like doing communications (marketing/promo/social media) for arts things, whether that be festivals, galleries, websites or whatever. I like connecting people with creative stuff. Is that a career? Sometimes, I think it would be good to write a novel but I know I am a loooong way off ever doing that. What about you? You have been published on a whole bunch of websites, would you ever think seriously about trying to do the same in print?
STACEY: Well, I mean ‘personal zines’ are just one type of zine, there are a tonne of other types of zines to do with politics, feminism, music, art, etc. I see what you mean about poet lifestyle, for e.g. people who have actually studied English and want to be a writer or people like me who have completely unrelated aspirations. I don’t think I could make writing into a career because I enjoy not having to be pressured to write. Writing is a function of my body, it’s like an exhale of breath. If I had to write about specific things, deal with deadlines, etc, it would seem less natural to me.
It seems like nowadays the only time I submit to anything is if I am personally asked to, so I mean I don’t feel overly concerned about being published in print. I feel more interested in self-publishing my own chapbooks sometime in the future. Do you think there is more value in a poem being published online or in print?
SUSIE: That’s a real good question and it’s something that I sort of wanted to get at with the thesis I wrote last year. But I think the key word there is ‘value’. I mean there are so many types of poetry that appeal to people for varying reasons, so somebody might find that the type of poetry they like online, so for them a poem found online would be more valuable. But for others the same could be said of print. I think the ways that poetry is finding a home online, through online archives and websites like the poetry foundation, and then start up journals like All Write Then, Let People Poems, funded journals like Cordite Poetry Review, or other poetry projects that can only be done online (likestarlings, internet poetry, or RMIT poetry).
These, for me, are valuable, because they unite poetry with a new demographic/audience, unlimited by geography. Also, they provide relative anonymity and diminish a literary hierarchy that sometimes dominates print poetry. But having said that, I really like print objects and that was one of the reasons I thought it would be cool if we made Hands Like Mirrors. And also, I think online poetry influences print communities. But that is a bit of a different story. Can you explain your idea of the philosophy behind HLM? What did you like most about making it?
STACEY: For me, it seemed like there were no publications that featured predominantly young NZ writers, or at least, there were no publications that featured the kind of poetry and short fiction that I personally wanted to read. You felt the same to some extent, thus we decided to make a print publication featuring young NZ and Australian writers. The most exciting thing for me was looking for people to contribute to it. I did a call out for submissions but I also did a lot of research, talking to everyone I could and asking if they knew anyone who wrote, asking friends and friends of friends. We ended up with some really good content. How did you feel about the end product of HLM? What do you think could be done differently for the next issue?
SUSIE: I loved it. It was a really rewarding thing to do and is something I’m really proud of. Next time I’d like to make it bigger and try to get more artists involved so we can get more visuals in it. I also want to work harder on stocking it places so we can share the lovely words people wrote with more peeps. I’d also like to have a launch inMelbournenext time. It’s a lot to take on but I think doing the first one was a really good learning experience, so I’m looking forward to doing it again.
There are a limited number of the first Hands Like Mirrors journal still available. See handslikemirrors.tumblr.com for details and stay tuned for news about HLM 2012!
Many see poetry as far removed from everyday communication. Generally, it would be acceptable to say that one was harassed by ‘a million mosquitoes’ when there were probably no more than thirty. Or to characterise a satay as ‘sweet’ when, really, it had a hint of citrus, a trace of fish sauce, a few bitter, burnt nuts. When using language on this pragmatic level, the underpinning criterion is that of intelligibility: Are my words sufficient to put my point across? With poetry, there is a greater sense of responsibility. To the poet, it is imperative that words — brittle and mutable and fleeting as they may be — are deployed with the utmost concern for both clarity and connotation, understanding and undertone.
Despite this, Plato warns against poetry’s power to ‘seduce’ the intellect. In The Republic, he contends that poetry leads us away from the Truth arrived at through logical argument (and the capital is here deliberate, for Plato was using the term in its putative, oppressive sense — Truth that is ‘out there’, untouched by culture and context). As poets focus on the sensual and empower emotion, Plato feels they celebrate the world as it is to the ‘everyman’, not the philosopher. And as such, they are no different to the Sophists, Ancient Greece’s masters of rhetoric, who swayed audiences through emotive language instead of logic.
Plato’s view betrays what ties philosophy with both poetry and rhetoric: the idea that words are immensely powerful. In their various forms and combinations, words have the capacity to inspire and transform, to enrich and enliven. They can also injure, bemuse, denigrate and eradicate. It’s this spectrum of effect that poetry manages to access, thereby articulating aspects of the world that elude overly logical and pragmatic thinking. To be clear, I’m not denying that philosophy is crucial to our understanding of the world (I studied philosophy in university and fancy myself a philosopher, after all). Nor do I disagree that sometimes it would be excessive to use words with poetic exactitude (my work as an editor plays itself out here). Rather, I’m focusing on the point — which Plato himself admits — that poetry helps to foster an inclination to appreciate beauty: it trains us in the appreciation of Truth.
In more contemporary times, poet Seamus Heaney discusses how poetry can ‘redress’ aspects of this world, allowing us to see it in a more consoling, more exciting light. And the source of these alternative views is the poet’s imagination. But for these to be tangible to their readers, poets must tap into a ‘new world’ in which the ideas and ideologies that predominate are theirs. What results is a sort of ‘creation through destruction’, whereby the socio-political structures of the ‘real world’ are usurped by the poets’ imagined ones. It is this that leads to poetry’s distinctive use of words. Metaphors and metonyms are not merely gratuitous diversions from convention; rather, they are the indispensable tools with which poets actualise their worlds. How else are poets to describe the particular yellow of a sunrise, or the heaviness of the chest that results from watching a loved one being shot?
To Heaney, what poetry does is offer non-poets ‘another truth to which we can have recourse, before which we can know ourselves in a more fully empowered way’. The truth (lowercase this time) that he identifies may not be universal in Plato’s sense, but it is nevertheless universal because it highlights the shared-ness of the world being written about. Despite the need to create a world for themselves, poets still take inspiration from the ‘real world’— why else would figurative language be necessary, if not to link the imagined with the real? This ‘empowers’ readers in two ways: first, because the same world is seen through different (more poetic) eyes; and second, because these poetic views can be incorporated into the everyday. Much like the prophets of yore (and, indeed, philosopher Martin Heidegger has equated poets with prophets), it seems the duty of poets lies in seeing a little more than is needed, in hearing whispers in abandoned places, in rousing the populace from its complacency — in offering more truth than Truth can ever provide.
In this light, Plato’s characterisation of poetry can seem a little unwarranted. Poets may not bring Truth, but they do invoke truths of their own creation: truths of a subjective kind. So it’s no wonder that, unlike pragmatic communicators, poets are so scrupulous with their words — after all, these words bear the weight of ‘prophecy’. A colleague (a fellow editor with a PhD in poetry) once told me that, as part of editing, she asks writers to justify each word they’ve used in a stanza or paragraph. The reasoning behind her (yes, quite severe) method is that poets should know their words intimately. Auden encapsulates this idea well when he wrote:
Language is prosaic [or, in terms of my dichotomy, pragmatic] to the degree that it does not matter what particular word is associated with an idea … Language is poetic to the degree that it does.
Indeed, truly poetic works are those that have not only mastered this process of refinement, but also revel in it. The poet’s gift to the reader is a world that has been carefully conjured, lovingly built of imagery, line-break and rhyme. For what else is poetry, if not poeisis (Greek for ‘creation’)?
Adolfo Aranjuez is the editor at independent publisher Melbourne Books and its annual anthology, Award Winning Australian Writing. He is also a nonfiction editor and sub-editor of the literary journal Voiceworks, and the editor of arts and culture magazine Fragmented. This post is a modified excerpt from Adolfo’s ‘Editor’s Introduction’ for Award Winning Australian Writing 2011. The 2012 edition, which will feature a foreword by the 2011 Montreal Poetry Prize winner, Mark Tredinnick, is due for release later this year.
I know next to nothing about poetry. This is a recent development; it hasn’t always been this way. On the very week in early September that I officially signed up as a poetry editor for the magazine Pathlight: New Chinese Writing, my father, who had Lou Gehrig’s disease,passed away before I expected. This sudden disappearance of the man who taught me poetry awakened me to the fact that my poetic aesthetic was fundamentally his, and that I had but few truly independent opinions. Yet it was at this juncture I made an acquaintance who seemed to be on the same path as I, and whom I hope will continue to walk with me in the future. I share this relationship temporarily with Chinese poetry.
My father the poet was an American Modernist. He admired structure, but only in the service of the meter-making argument. He memorized Yeats (as did I, eventually), admired Ezra Pound’s prose but hated the Cantos, adored W.H. Auden. Ferlinghetti was spotty at best, and Ginsberg absolute anathema. An English teacher before he was a farmer, he taught me poetry out of a textbook called Sound and Sense, by Laurence Perrine. It’s a very well-done book, yet only five months ago, as I was taking stock of the poems I knew well, I discovered that all the pieces I could recite in full came from there, while the poets I had sought out over the years were sort of cut from the same cloth. As for the poetry I wrote, well, my father had been my most consistent source of criticism all along, so there was even less to say.
I’m certainly not trying to refute any of my father’s poetic principles, which he gleaned through years of writing and waiting, or to demean their importance, but only to suggest that no matter how significant the father’s ideas be, the son still has to form his own.
I think a lot of new Chinese poems betray the same sort of pressure.
We take for granted that bending and subverting ideology is something all poems do by definition. Yet I see Chinese poetry distancing itself also from two outwardly positive traditions, the ponderous canon of ancient Chinese poetry on one hand and contemporary English-language poetry, which slid into Chinese poetry as the Chinese language was Anglicized, on the other.
The Body and History
By Xi Chuan, translation Lucas Klein
Double corneas, earlobes hanging past the shoulders, arms surpassing the knees,
and occipital bones protruding from the back of the head—
people who suffer such are bound to be buried. History is not theirs to decide.
Instead they have to show off their intelligence and usefulness by currying favor
with people of more conventional appearance.
Covered in spurs, webbed fingers and toes, the triple-headed and six-armed, third
eye wide open—
people who suffer such hurry past, never living up to the hopes of those with more
After death they choose to follow behind those of conventional appearance,
stepping in silence to make sure they have food and drink.
History disguises itself as a storyteller to obsequiously flatter those people with
But in the end it doesn’t give a damn about them, as if they were just earwax or eye
History disguises itself as a person I know (name withheld); this person both
fetishizes novelty and has conventional tastes.
Published in Pathlight #1 and Notes on the Mosquito
Obscure to a Western reader, “double corneas” and heavy earlobes are references to Xiang Yu and Liu Bei, two of the great heroic figures of early Chinese history. In fact, all of the described abnormalities are references to specific mythicized figures. They are characters whom historical and poetic narrations have always served, never satirized.
This English translation, the careful work of Lucas Klein, also transmits another distinct characteristic of Xi Chuan’s work: its intentional arrhythmia. If one look at the poem closely, one will find the constant meter of regular human speech frequently interfered with. Bei Dao and Yang Lian have done this before, too, though not always so consistently. Now, this is a supposition, but I expect Xi Chuan and many of his contemporaries are as sick as I am of having to hear about Tang poetry. The lovely square poems of Du Fu, which are marvels of introspection and craftsmanship, are still ancient history.
Another influence I see being battled in Chinese poetry is the tendency to sound American. I have read a number of poems in Chinese that feel like translated contemporary American poetry. On a linguistic level, this is in a limited sense unavoidable, as the Chinese language has been Westernized so drastically over the past hundred years, and the speed never slowing. As Xi Chuan once pointed out, Chinese was originally a short-sentence language, and it was the coming of the works of Marx and Lenin in Chinese that made it into a long-sentence language. In the 1920’s, poets like Xu Zhimo and Bian Zhilin tried writing sonnets and other forms of English formal poetry using Chinese; in the 80’s and 90’s a large amount of work was produced in imitation of Beat poetry. Not to oversimplify; those were both times of wholesale importation of Western ideas, which were valuable because they were new. Now, I see Chinese poets trying to leave that alone—not with the bombastic, jingoistic language of their “literary officials,” but with unpretentious expression:
Prayer-Poem on Mt. Jinuo
By Lei Pingyang, translation Eleanor Goodman
Oh spirits, thank you for
letting us catch a small deer today
please let us catch a big deer tomorrow
Oh spirits, thank you for
letting us catch a deer today
please let us catch two deer tomorrow.
Published in Pathlight #1
By Shen Wei, translation Eleanor Goodman
Village in a valley. The hillside is a graveyard
Year by year the village shrinks, day by day the graveyard grows
The village is below, in the deep shadow
The graveyard is above, under the intense sun
In the vineyard the villagers pick fruit, bustle about
When they raise their heads, they gain from the dead
an angle from which to look down at themselves, a pair of eyes
Published in Pathlight #2
Lei Pingyang and Shen Wei can get a little too affectedly “ethnic” at times. How about one from Zhai Yongming:
By Zhai Yongming, translation Andrea Lingenfelter
In springtime, when a treeful of artificial flowers blooms like a face flushed with wine
I long for tradition Those real mountains
real waters realistic paintings of real birds and flowers
Those colors that gave young girls beautiful complexions
were derived from plants Their beauty
came from life
Sleeping in the mountains also became a tradition
like the practice of a yogi
Thinking of that Master in the mountains
waking washing training
born to poverty
disconnected from all dynasties
meeting up in poems
in lotus leaves or among schools of fish
Nursing a sense of antiquity I can’t shake off
I use a brush: broken brushwork, dry brushwork
Splintered brushwork, parched brushwork
can’t prop up this inner lethargy
When paper and ink turn in towards the heart
they fly onto a section of landscape
Published in Pathlight #2
I like this poem because it makes good use of the interpretive space that exists between Chinese characters in logical progression. This is due to a phenomenon in the Chinese language called parataxis, which I’ll leave you to look up on dictionary.com.
If you trust these are all good translations, you’ll see what I mean about the poems feeling influenced by contemporary American poetic language, in terms of how their voices are shaped. At the same time, you can also detect an attempt to put that influence down. As for what will come of that—well, if I knew that, I might be said to know something about poetry.
Canaan Morse began translating literature in the fall of 2006, when he translated and prefaced Wang Shuo’s novella The Stewardess for his senior thesis at Colby College in Maine. Immediately after graduation, he returned to Beijing to spend another year in school-two semesters of intensive Chinese at the Inter-University Program for Chinese Studies at Tsinghua, where he first seriously took up Classical Chinese and May Fourth literature as subjects for appreciation, study and translation. He currently resides in Beijing, China.
At the same time we are acutely aware that to achieve this, it is important to ensure that quality is at the forefront of what we do. To that end, we concentrate a lot of effort on selecting the right poets, and ensuring that they are really engaged with the commissioned work we ask them to undertake. With the HAMPSTEAD POETRY COMPANION, the first in that series, we are asking three poets to write four poems each about different places in the locality, and all of them have demonstrated strong associations with the subject matter of their commissions.
Our motivation for this is really two-fold (no pun intended!). For the first part, we wanted to create something fun for poets to interact with, and this was a very simple idea which ties in with our name. We are developing some other interactive, playful features at the moment, and they will hopefully begin to appear on the site in the next couple of months.
AB: What is responsive poetry? What does it mean to you?
OD: Responsive poetry, as far as we are concerned, is poetry which responds to a certain place, thing, or idea. In the case of the Poetry Companion Series, this means writing poems that respond to particular places in a specific area; such as the local cinema, coffee-shop, or park; or the ‘idea’ of the place as interpreted by local poets.
For our forthcoming HAMPSTEAD COMPANION, we are commissioning 12 poems about specific places we think ought to be included, and we have an open submissions process for anyone who has something to say about the area. Here it is on the map. The deadline for entries is the 27th of April, and so far we have been impressed with the range and quality of responses which have come in. Clearly, people have a lot of affection for the places in which they live.
In a wider, and, I suppose, more pragmatic context, responsive poetry is a concept we are trying to explore with various businesses as a way to reimagine their brands. We have on the horizon a couple of residencies whereby poets will be tasked with responding to a specific brief which aims to put in to words, or rather, to put in to poetry, the experiences people have when they interact with a place. Hopefully this will stimulate a bit of engagement with the customers of that business, and again provide a platform for the poets involved, and poetry in general.
AB: What’re you reading now? What do you think we should be reading?
OD: At the moment I am reading 52 WAYS OF LOOKING AT A POEM by Ruth Padel, which is thoroughly excellent, and is highly recommended to anyone, poet or not. I think it is incredibly important to question how you interpret things (not just poems), and in this book it is done in a very intelligent, accessible way. On the poetry side, I am sifting through lots of work by people who have submitted couplets for the Daily Couplet to try to get a better understanding of who we will be featuring.
AB: Why poetry?
OD: I am not all that well informed about the contemporary situation in the US, but in Britain, poetry seems to occupy a dichotomous place in the public consiousness. On the one hand, the poetry scene is thriving; it is fabulously rich and exciting, with all sorts of talented people producing amazing work; poets popping up at festivals and teaching in schools all over the place; and lots of coverage on radio and in newspapers. Yet in spite of this apparent popularity, poetry is still seen as a marginal activity, and that is what we are keen to address through the things that we publish. I guess that is what keeps me involved, and retains my interest.
Owen Davidson grew up in the North East of Scotland, before spending much of his early adult life working, travelling, and studying in France, Spain, Germany, Russia, and the USA. For the last 5 years has been living in London, working on a number of different commissioned poetry projects, such as We Eat Poets!, the critically acclaimed series of fine food and poetry fusion events. In 2012 he founded Couplet Books, a poetry publisher specialising in responsive poetry. Its first project is the Poetry Companion Series, a range of pamphlets and books which act both as celebrations of local areas, and alternative visitors guides.