Let's take a quick break, actually: Eddie Hopely in performance
Toby Fitch, following Eddie Hopely’s reading at Sappho’s monthly "Avant Gaga" poetry night (August 9, 2016) described Hopely as “the ultimate troll.”
Hopely is this and more. His work is striking for its uncompromising (and potentially self-sabotaging) interrogation of the bodies and frameworks that support/facilitate/provide space for (his) poetry. To edit, publish, stand near (or, for that matter, write on) Hopely’s work, is to risk appearing earnest, naïve and kind of establishment in comparison to his anti-institutional poetics. From the United States, Hopely's irony (or anti-irony?) could be situated among US poets of his generation (Diana Hamilton, J. Gordon Faylor and others) but in an Australian context, in a Sydney reading, Hopely's work becomes inextricable from Australian poetry’s long history of anti-institutional experiment (see, for instance, the poets associated with Collective Effort in Melbourne), where formally disruptive, radical poetics can be located outside (and against) centres of cultural capital. In other words, Hopely's determination to unsettle the spaces which promote/publish his work both continues an Australian anti-institutional tradition, but is also an oddity within the Australian poetry "scene."
A poem like “(untitled)”, for example, is more than a variation on blank-space-as-poem: it uses the “comments” function of the online Cordite Poetry Review that publishes it. It inhabits the margins of the online journal's space:
[. . .] This comment is a test. I intend to discover
what kind of information will be included with
Eddie Hopely says:
February 3, 2016 at 9:28 am
each comment (e.g. date and timestamp
of submission or approval and posting?—I
don’t know) and therefore what kind of information
I can expect to be legible, affective.
An A4 printout (3 single sided sheets of paper) of "(untitled)" or "(untitled) 'Kenternet MacCorditer'" to use the name the title the comments section is "leaning towards," was on sale at Sappho’s August Avant Gaga night for $5, among the other books and chapbooks on sale by poets reading that night.
Just before his reading, Hopely put on more formal attire over the outfit he was wearing: he buttoned up a white shirt over his Tshirt, then over that a suit-jacket. Then, when Fitch (who convenes the Avant Gaga reading series) introduced him, Hopely covered this ensemble with another outfit, a tracksuit, and over the tracksuit’s hood a baseball cap. Attired thus (in)appropriately(?) for the reading, Hopely moved through the discomforting, artificial space of a "poetry reading," He fiddled with the microphone, twirling and untwirling the cord, lifting it up, shifting it, then putting it down again.
Crucial to the performance was Hopely ostentatiously reading from a page where he had lines of phatic expressions: “So, eh, do you mind if I go and grab a smoke real quick.” And, towards the end of the reading: "So, before we get started is there a particular kind of thing you are looking to find tonight?" Perhaps "avant-garde" poetry's ultimate conclusion is stand-up comedy ("Tough crowd," "I feel like I’m in Plato’s crave over here").
At Sappho's, Hopely's poetry was a specific response to the conditions of his reading. the performative equivalent to the exploration of digital space by "(untitled)" (or "(untitled) 'Kenternet MacCorditer'"), and, also, for that matter, the site specific trolling of "(untitled)" in its manifestation as a print out of a freely available web page on display for purchase on a table of chapbooks and books. Hopely's work is potentially hostile, uncompromising, difficult, hilarious, discomforting, trolling, embodied. . .
"Thanks so much for having me today, so um, how did you first meet Toby?"
1. Eddie Hopely, "(untitled)" Cordite Poetry Review 53.0 "The End" ed. Pam Brown, February 2016. Cordite's managing editor is Kent MacCarter (hence "(untitled) 'Kenternet MacCorditer'").
2. All quotes from Hopely's performance at Sappho's are my transcriptions (from the video).
Sydney reading experiments: Poetry in performance