Clubs and Societies is the latest project of Sydney-based poetry organisation The Red Room Company. Last weekend I saw some results from this project at the Melbourne Writer's Festival. The concept is to link a poet with a club or society, and to commission them to write a poem about this contact. The two examples on display were poets Ali Alizadeh (assigned the Existentialist Society) and Omar Musa (Motor Gliding Club), who performed their poems at the event. The brains behind such Red Room schemes is Johanna Featherstone, who MC'd.
Free verse isn't just for students. One of the most interesting practitioners of the line - perhaps the most - in Australia is Claire Gaskin. Gaskin's use of the line is always working the line over other formal elements, even when she enjambs it:
suppose, for instance, that men were only
represented in literature as the lovers of woman
This is from the poem 'Paperweight', just one more poem from Rabbit #1. Whereas other poets worth reading work the line to energise a stanza or their poem as a whole, Gaskin's focus is on the line. This allows, I suppose, for readings of her work as dispersed, disjunctive blah blah, but such readings miss the point. Gaskin's power is that of a haiku-inflected, feminist-charged, Surrealist fission. Not fusion, as a lazy music as soup metaphor might have it. (Because we who love to not love formalism have heard all that 'line' before.) There is a post-formal feel to such 'free verse' too; not the echo of metre, but the echo of the line-based form of, in particular, the pantoum, in the recycling of sentiments and the 'soap in the stocking' line. In the above, though Gaskin is making a point, a not perhaps startling one, the emphasis comes down on 'says Woolf', giving her an authority that is common in many places, and yet in texts by men, generally subsidiary to the list of modernist men.
Tim Wright's poem (see previous post, Magazines #3) plays off a fusion of open field and New York poetics pioneered by poets such as Laurie Duggan and Pam Brown; yet 'Suns' subscribes to neither, nor is antiformalist in the way of his precursors. Rather, I suggest Wright is conceptual, aformalist, in employing a kind of relaxed proceduralism. Which might sound like Ashbery by another name - yet the poem produced is unlike Ashbery's - for one thing, the tone is very different, its play both more random and more active.
Rabbit editor Jessica Wilkinson has fusslessly put together some of the best newer writers around in this new print-on-demand poetry journal (based at the University of Melbourne). The poems are generously spaced, each poet has their own title (or name) page; there are photographs, reviews, an interview with American visitor Lesley Wheeler (as well as her cracker poem 'Virginia is for Heterosexual Lovers').
Rabbit 1 includes a couple of long, what I call aformalist poems, such as Tim Wright's 'Suns'. The poem is in dialogue with the form of a list, but Wright counteracts that with different deployments of single lines, enjambed lines, short couplets, such as:
Since the proliferation of internet magazines it seems there has been a corresponding proliferation of visual poetry. I'm not sure why. That colour reproduction isn't a money issue is perhaps one, and that we have stopped seeing the visual aspect of text in print. The internet wants to be a movie. One aspect of reading visual poems online is that of movement and perspective.