Female names dominate the dedications and acknowledgements of Emily Stewart’s book of poems, Knocks (Vagabond Press: 2016). The closing sentence of the acknowledgements section? “girl poets everywhere: this is for you.”To read Stewart is to be in the company of women. The launches of Knocks have so far embodied this sense of a poetry girl gang. In Sydney, it was launched by Pam Brown, with readings by Elena Gomez and Holly Isemonger (August 14, 2016).
Pam Brown's recent gigantic feature for Jacket2 titled "51 Contemporary Poets from Australia" had a ghostly foreshadowing a year or so ago, in Pam's "Rewriting Australia" feature in Jacket 39, where some Australian poets wrestle with their poetic forebears. Banjo Paterson shows up as a punching bag several times, perhaps because he is an old, dead, conservative white male with his portrait on the Australian ten dollar bill.
[»»]Pam Brown: Rewriting Canonical Australian Poems: Introduction [»»]David Brooks: Cracks in the Fray: Re-reading ‘The Man From Snowy River’ [»»]Justin Clemens: Dürer: Innsbruck 1495 [»»]Michael Farrell: the king [»»]Michael Farrell: Anti-Clockwise Judith Wright: A ‘Widdershins’ Reading of ‘Bullocky’ [»»]Duncan Hose: Blue Hill 404 [»»]Banjo Paterson: The Man From Snowy River; John Tranter: Snowy [»»]David Prater: Three poems: Red Dawn Ward / Oz / “The Campfires of the Lost”
So Pat had access to a typesetting machine + layout facilities + there was an old offset press in the office where she worked. We scrounged the paper to do the book from offcuts or somewhere + asked a friend if he'd print it. So four of us went to occupied the office after hours with a flagon of wine + probably a few joints + printed, collated + stapled the book in a night. With that book there was no copyright - this was because of my wonderfully noble + idealistic anarchism — + the opening statement in the book read "if anyone wants these poem use them" + they were used - they turned up in magazines and so on. So the book cost very little, I think we spent about $20 + I also learned a bit about layout, printing + collating. So I had had the big light bulb go on for me, a highly illuminating experience + I loved the idea of publishing + the freedom of self-publishing where you could design + construct a book in any way you wished, you could say whatever you wanted to — NO LIMITS, no restriction.
The next year Pat drove moved to Sydney, driving up from Melbourne with an offset press in her V.W. – with a few clothes, no furniture or other possessions – the press taking priority in the car. She moved into the our house + the offset press was set up in the front room until it became too chaotic + a space in an old ex barbershop in Glebe was found for it. this was the So that's part of the story of the beginning of Tomato Press.
(Pam Brown, notes from a talk on self-publishing, given at the Women & Arts festival, Sydney, 1982. 'Pat' refers to Pat Woolley, publisher with Tomato Press and later, Wild & Woolley. I transcribed these notes from a scan of Pam's handwriting that she was kind enough to send to me. Apologising for the roughness, she commented on pre-digital note-taking, when "PowerPoint was a nightmare up ahead somewhere." I've honoured the cross-outs and false-starts because they are perfect records of almost-instaneous edits. Note the shift from "went to" to "occupied.")
Refuting Critical Bewilderment in Twentieth Century Australian Poetries
Philip Mead’s Networked Language: Culture & History in Australian Poetry is a much needed, dynamic ingression in the tiny field of Australian poetics. Critical writing on poetry in Australia is incredibly scant considering the sizeable publication (and associated activities) of poetry. However, as tiresome as it is to note once more, in spite of its volume and vigour, poetry itself remains marginal to Australian culture.
Practising poets need to read poetics. My own bookshelves house many books of essays on poetry by contemporary North American poets and critics, some European and some from the UK, yet relatively few books on Australian poetics. Strategically, Australian poet-editors use their introductions to infrequent anthologies to gesture towards a poetics. So, Philip Mead is working in a disappointingly small world. In his introduction Mead discusses the dearth of critical writings on poetry and, in fact, of Australian literary theory in general.