“To stick to things, to sail over them, both are wrong,” writes utopian Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch in The Principle of Hope. In scenes of emergent Australian poetries, a new generation of experimental writers equipped with “radical hope” pursue the dream of the New as the avant-gardists did; but understanding that the way to do it is neither sticking to what has been (past vanguards) nor sailing over those works.
16. Toby Fitch
Two versions of a poem, above in Otoliths (journal) the other in The Bloomin' Notions of Other & Beau (Vagabond 2016)
The tension between sentence fragment, sententia, long line, short line, and break is bravura. Also“cura,” with a certain care with language, following Rachel Blau DuPlessis in Blue Studies: Poetry and Its Cultural Work (2006). Address. Discussing the work of McKenzie with Pam Brown recently she recounted a seminar at UTS (University of Technology, Sydney) organized by Peter Minter around 2005, where McKenzie performed her poems, all memorized, no script to read off.
7. Geraldine McKenzie (born 1954)
In Geraldine McKenzie’s poem “Full Bore,” included in her collection Duty, a stanzaic pattern emerges. Here’s how it begins:
Full bore. As at. The statement should be the clearest possible
In the voiceover to the 1991 film Eclipse of the Man-Made Sun, a film about the “language of the user” of atomic bombs and nuclear energy in times of proliferation, directed by Amanda Stewart and Nicolette Freeman, Stewart exposes the language of nuclear weapons. This is a film attentive to cinematic language and its particular modes of invention. Letters crop up red across the screen with the acronyms (Permissive Action Link [PAL]). So the language tells us, they’re your “pal”: the weapons are humanized, the victims, dehumanized. Later on, the documentary enters into increasing levels of abstraction — some might see a resemblance to the “Star Gate” sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey — but it’s that abstraction that becomes the critique. The saturated color breaks away from the cinematic citation of advertisements and clips from mid-century Australian propagandizing around atomic energy and the use of uranium.*
The poet thalia (miniscule-t) was born in Katerini, Greece, in 1952, migrating to Australia in 1954. As a coeditor of 9.2.5., a worker’s magazine by and for the workers, and a founding member of Australia’s Poet’s Union, thalia’s work is informed closely and in a lived way by radical politics and radical feminism. Her most sustained lifelong project to date has been her visual works (begun 1972) with Shorthand, culminating, magisterially, in an enormous 2015 volume titled A Loose Thread that collects these works, complete with 190 or so plates (twenty-one are rendered in colour as centerfold, as in many Collective Effort Press books) and an introduction by Π.O.
After Christopher Brennan’s 1897 post-Mallarmean experiment, the Musicopoematographoscope, a handwritten, part-parody, part-founding poem in the history of Australian inventive poetics, it is difficult to find sustained instances of avant-garde or neo-avant-garde poetry in Australia. But there is one figure from the postwar period that stands out as coming close to such a representative: Harry Hooton (1908–1961). Hooton was a member of the anarchist Sydney PUSH movement, a leftist interlectual subculture that thrived from the ’40s to the ’70s and gathered loosely around the University of Sydney, and editor of the literary magazine 21st Century. Philosopher, poet, and raconteur, “unjustly neglected,” “forgotten,” “scorned by the literary establishment,” Hooton, who fashioned his own philosophy of “Anarcho-Technocracy” was a “cult figure in Sydney’s libertarian circles,” as the back cover of his 1961 collected poems Poet of the 21st Century put it. Harry Heseltine is similarly prophetic: “occasionally such a figure is suddenly seen to redefine himself at the center and to generate a whole new output of mainstream poetry.”
1. Harry Hooton (1908–1961)
After Christopher Brennan’s 1897 post-Mallarmean experiment, the Musicopoematographoscope, a handwritten, part-parody, part-founding poem in the history of Australian inventive poetics, it is difficult to find sustained instances of avant-garde or neo-avant-garde poetry in Australia. But there is one figure from the postwar period that stands out as coming close to such a representative: Harry Hooton (1908–1961).