Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Interviews & foreign languages


Selected interviews with Pam Brown:



  • The Conversant - interviewer Jane Joritz-Nakagawa - February 2014

  • Australian Poetry Library - interviewer Claire Nashar - March 2014

  • Cordite Poetry Review - interviewer Corey Wakeling - May 2012

  • 12 or 20 Questions - interviewer Rob McLennan - February 2011

  • Poetry International Web - interviewer Michael Brennan - July 2011

  • Jacket - interviewer John Kinsella - July 2003

  • Australian Book Review - interviewer Rosemary Sorensen - April 1994

  • Honi Soit - interviewer Anne Talve - April 1977 (Pam Brown & Joanne Burns)



  • Pam Brown - selected works & interviews in other languages :

  • Alibis - selected poems in French & English, translated by Jane Zemiro, Sociéte Jamais Jamais, 2014

  • Poem in Spanish translated by Luis Alberto Arellano - Santa Remedio, May 2014

  • Authentic Local: A global referential, Aryanil Mukherjee, Kabisammelan : Poetry Conference
    Bengali Language Monthly, November 2014

  • Six poems in Chinese, translated by Iris Fan Xing - Wombats of Bundanoon - Twenty Australian Poets,Association of Stories Macau, 2011

  • Poem in Chinese, translated by Ouyang Yu - Contemporary Australian Poetry, Australia - China Council 2007

  • Berlin 2001 : Prague 2009 : Hanoi 1992

  • Here in Berlin - Overland #165, Summer 2001

  • 'City' translated into German by Jurgen Brocan - Die Welt uber dem Wasserspiegel - Berliner Anthologie, Berlin, 2001

  • Two poems translated into German by Jurgen Brocan - Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin Katalog, Alexander Verlag, Berlin 2001







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    Thursday, May 29, 2014

    Launch talk for Louis Armand : 'Indirect Objects' (Vagabond Press 2014)
    (Saturday May 24th, 2014 at Sydney Dance Lounge, Sydney Writer's Festival)


    Louis Armand is one of the most productive writers I know. He's seemingly irrepressible. He has so far, published eleven collections of poetry, sixteen critical books and four novels. He is also the publisher of Litteraria Pragensia and founding editor of the extraordinary VLAK magazine, which is a big fat international omnibus of incisive articles on happening culture, wonderful post-punk graphics and terrific poetry. Louis has lived in Prague in the Czech Republic for twenty years. He works there at Charles University. He has also been a James Joyce scholar. Louis is also a visual artist, and this is reflected in many of the poems in Indirect Objects.

    Louis' ekphrasis is not made from any critical distance - it's an immersion - he gets in to a painting like an all-night drug tripper gets in to the dawn. For instance, the bluesy punk impressionism of the opening poem 'Acid Comedown & John Olsen's Five Bells'

         Call it topographic, eyeball to eyeball with invisible fidget wheels, the whole
         blueprint in acid-dissolve.

         Intelligence reports arrive from remote space colonies dot-dash-dot
         on tree-branch telegraph wires,

         meteorites and pool hall metaphysics.

    This is John Olsen's painting 'Five Bells' - a tribute to Sydney Harbour and the famous Kenneth Slessor poem. The poem's associated with venues just around the bay from here - the Opera House and the NSW Art Gallery make their appearance. Jorn Utzon's Opera House is seen as 'cranes/stooping/over the quays' - where, for me anyway, the cranes can be both the birds as the so-called 'Opera House sails' and literal construction cranes about to alter another tiny bit of Harbour. And the party's over, coming down in the tickertape detritus, like a starry New Years Eve under the fig trees, Louis offers a televisual, possibly-empathetic, political gesture to what's happened to cities in this country -

                  Slow-motion videos of a city
         in mid-construct - Wandjina Man drunk under a wall

         dreaming of blonde missionary ancestor spirits
         turned to coruscated glass and steel

    then everything goes grey and rainy and a little grim as dawn arrives.

    So from the start, this is an atmospheric, moody set of poems. And that's just the beginning.

    This book is loaded with attempts to build something different out of a kind of destruction or destroyed world (this one) and it shares with the reader the proposition that some new thing can be made. But not without regard for the past.

    Snake Bay is a bay in the Tiwi Islands, up north, past Darwin. Fifty-five years ago Russell Drysdale painted indigenous figures in his 'Snake Bay at Night.' In Louis' poem about this painting

                 ..occasionally memory creeps in,
         like an irrational return to a point we started from.

    and the 'great montage' in the painting might have been made by
              ...some demon of history like a mind gone astray
         in the night, mad with visions of sexual punishment.

    There's a fabulous aggregate of extraordinary, iconic Australianisms in this book : - a northern river meeting a night sea in a kind of dreamy humid methadone metaphor, the tropical erotic-exotica of Donald Friend's Balinese pen drawings, Richard Lowenstein's classic-80s rock film Dogs in Space alongside a junkie Darlinghurst Gauguin selling his drawings to get money to score in a poem for John Kinsella that proceeds by a seedy Sydney-urban philosophising and aspires to a better life, 'Patrick White as a Headland', Charles Blackman, Francis Webb, and in Melbourne - a monologue from an Aboriginal boxer in Fitzroy, freeze frames at St Kilda Beach, Swanston Street, Brunswick Street and so on.

    A critic * speaking about Louis' novel 'Canicule' recently, said "Armand uses language to paint a picture just as vividly as if we were watching this unfold on screen...." which is a good way of putting it. Some of these paintings-in-poems are in the first section of the book called 'Realism', which, in my view, is an odd heading for a collection of poems definitely located in Australia. 'Realism' in some ways seems a sombre tag to the book's title 'Indirect Objects'. Indirect objects can be rare. You can sometimes read for pages before you encounter one. Everyone can recognize a direct object when they see one, but an 'indirect object' is an odd grammatical concept. I'm not an expert but the term seems stretched enough here to mingle with the melange of allusions, similes, descriptions and metaphors that contribute to these vivid, image-rich, hyper-real poems.

    I'm aware that I won't have time this afternoon to talk about everything in this fantastic book but I want to mention one poem that had an especially powerful effect for me.

    It is 'Realism' - the extraordinary title poem that ends the first section - a poem comprising four preludes three in couplets, and one in quintets (or five line stanzas). It begins with a quote from William Carlos Williams that says in part - 'The only realism in art is of the imagination'. I'd say, in Louis' case that it's also art's relationship to emancipation that registers strongly. This remarkable poem moves in its preludes through an initial anxious energy as an exhausted persona/the poet travels through harsh sheep country where alcohol and over the-counter-drugs smother the numbness and anomie a young jackeroo or farmhand, say, might feel in the face of slaughter yards and endless plains' horizons broken by occasional silos and surreal sunsets that eventually seem conventional, leading to a sense of desperation -

         A hundred pages on
         through plotless outcountry

    There's a turn in this road trip in arriving at the east coast's 'flat edge of pacific breakers'. Then the collision of the ocean and urbanity reminds the jetlagged-yet still-thinking prodigal of lost political causes

         We could've been the children
         of Whitlam and Coca-Cola.
    which is an Aussie remark on Jean Luc Godard's intertitle between chapters in his 1960s film 'Masculin-Féminin' - "The Children of Marx and Coca-Cola".

    One of the challenges of minimalism is finding a way to gouge relatable connotation from simplicity and Louis is really good at doing that. The poem traverses grinding hard yakka and the tedium of distance - hauling along through the dead of night between outback mining towns and salt flats pushing past 'a punchline without a joke' until daybreak reveals 'barbiturate cloud patterns' and 'unfamiliar / regions of cross-sectional debris'. Attempting to get a grip on this place, he asks the question - is 'the scene ironic or insincere?' The reply -

         An ambiguous terrain, its objectivity
         is a thing of the mind, una cosa mentale.

    In the second prelude the prodigal poet returns to, in a way, the foci of his journey. In a kind of monumental segment of five stanzas of five lines each, he is in Sydney, addressing the Road Builders’ Obelisk and colonial history, or mis-history. It's the oldest true obelisk in Sydney, built in 1818. It's located in tiny Macquarie Place on Bridge Street and was designed by Francis Greenaway. This elongated sandstone pyramid's purpose was as the geographical milestone for the measurement of road lengths in New South Wales. Especially apposite to this circuitous road poem.

    As you might expect, soon enough, yet cautiously, the poem heads out again and the third prelude recounts 'The Effect of Travelling in Distant Places' where some experiential resolution or 'answer' is sought and

         the sick man groans,
         dragging his sack of instruments

         on into the immeasurable -
         beckoned by its fool's glimmer

    the problems of religion, greed, capital, false gods are all encountered in eight couplets then 'the eye too, is a product/of history'. Or you could say 'seeing isn't believing' as the poems' slightly abstracted ecological predicaments, like brackish bore water contaminated by alkaline salinity, are reduced - 'Being/ so much dreck and signage'. The body suffers in parallel with the land and, finally, there's a 'Reprise' -

         we reached the next turning point
         and came to a standstill:

         from centre dead up against periphery
          (no things but in relations).

    The reprise is of the times - briefly. It's a sleaze reprise, back in Sydney, a place once nicknamed 'Tinsel Town', - at the harbour -

                   A bridge to the
         promised land in perpetual
         strip-tease slung above the 100,000

         expiring light bulbs of LUNA P RK.
         undressing the blacked out scar of

         decommissioned navy yards, dry
         docks ... Our hungers for elsewhere

         were free to enlarge, conscripted
         to the Big Idea - not by ballot but by
         lottery -

    In the final twenty-or-so couplets the poem briefly laments American influence in Australia, revisits the outback journey, remembers earlier times - 'the halo formed/around the analogue dial/ wandjina like, and electric as/spirit medium shot at high speed.' There is no actual conclusion to 'Realism' but 'Escape was a sad parody of a film/ that's been running for a century' and the prodigal, back on the western highway, checks out the rearview mirror - 'testing the stringency/of what it means to be invisible - /though drawing no conclusion from it.'

    There's a big complicated mind driving the imaginary in these poems. Louis' analytical and motile thinking upsets conventional expectations. He arranges a kind of sur-or hyper-reality and fashions something new as images and metaphors tumble over each other and extensive transcultural classical and popular cultures combine to make poems that are often reminiscent of large colourful, layered, goopy oil paintings or stacked banks of video screens simultaneously playing different images.

    I've only talked about a small part of this book and although it might seem a bit exiguous after the time I spent on the great poem 'Realism' - but because you'll be wanting to hear from Louis Armand himself - I'll end by offering you a couple of sets of lists to give clues to what extraordinary congeries of ideas and things you will find here: - the poems embrace innumerable literary, philosophical, mythological and artistic figures like Arcimboldo, Rachmaninov, Aristotle, De Kooning, Blaise Cendrars, Charles Mingus and many others and they roam through many places, considering them as both actual and imagined - a sample includes Las Vegas, Cittavecchia, Manhattan, Paris, Bolzano, Rapallo, Ravenna and, of course, Prague.

    The dedicatees in this collection are as various as the poems' influences, themes and associations comprising a transnational ars poeisis - some of them are Gwendolyn Albert, Anselm Berrigan, Ali Alizadeh, the late Amiri Baraka, John Tranter, Karen Mac Cormack, David Vichnar, Kenneth Koch, Howard Barker, the late Mahmoud Darwish, David Malouf, John Kinsella, Charles Bernstein, Bruce Andrews, the late Cy Twombly and many others. This book pays its dues to a veritable pantheon of cultural figures - poetically, it's totally in the black.

    It's with tremendous pleasure that I'd like to welcome these amazing poems and Louis Armand back to Australia, and declare the collection, Indirect Objects, open for reading ...

    *Kristen Valentine



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    THE LEE MARVIN READINGS

    at
    Dark Horsey Bookshop
    Australian Experimental Art Foundation
    Lion Arts Centre, North Tce [West End]
    Adelaide
    South Australia

    This coming Tuesday
    JUNE 10th
    at 7:30pm for an 8pm start
    $5 entry

    LEE MARVIN in
    ON BEING JOHN MALKOWICZ
    Cath Kenneally
    Ken Bolton
    Pam Brown









    Sunday, April 6, 2014

    Pam Brown Authentic Local (SOI3 Modern Poets, 2010)

    very slightly edited extract from a club sandwich review
    by Les Wicks in Famous Reporter #42 , February, 2011


    Late last year Pam Brown started a bushfire with her blog the deletions. She questioned the uncritical acclamation of what some claim is a "new Australian lyricism". Over the course of the weeks that followed we were treated to a rich discourse of wildly differing views often focusing on lazy reviewing, inherent conflicts of interest (particularly amongst academics and those who study with them), gender in the 21st century, the effect of campus based writing courses and where writers stand within the spectrum of the various camps. Many raised the point that most of us have a voice that has elements of the Lyric, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E etc. Ours is a "mongrel" inheritance, we are free to pick whatever rags and ribbons that we like. Other disciplines are beginning to formally study intuition and I think this is the rudder to so much good poetry coming out now irrespective of the poet’s chosen platform. That combined with veracity; maybe even ferocity sees a vital, engaged and engaging book.

    Reading Pam Brown's latest book Authentic Local is a kind of market experience; we're almost guided to that analogy with several references to shopping within the book. The reader wanders the aisles/laneways of the poems, picks treasures that personally resonate whilst wandering past other explorations with barely a nod. However, I'm almost sure the next along at that stall will pick up something quite different. This is a catalogue of concepts and experience.

    The poet's voice, for so many decades so masterful, continues to enrich and astonish the reader through its deft use of deceptively simple language successively put up then burnt away by the incandescent.

    
    in a gadda da vida
    and other stormy music
    
    *
    
    a million droplets,
    influenza
                                                                      Dry Tropics
    
    a semi-droop enfolds
    	the golden lens
    of the globe
    	in a halogen headlight
    	caressing a shining
    		chromium bullbar
                                                                              Thanks
    

    Authentic Localhas much commentary on the quotidian, but is full of marvellous surprises. In 'Polka Squares' a film on climate change is described as "a snuff doco". Brown asserts
         I want to come back as
          a false witness
                                             Self-Denial Never Lasts Long

    At her mention of having had 36 addresses, I found myself counting my own (24), this is a classic example of Brown’s deft explorations across language, enticing us into reflection and recollection.

    
    	randomised,	double blinded
    	dose and duration,
    			pin drip red
    
    	it worked
                                for the rat
                                                                         Pin Drip Red
    Age, health and loss are all explored with a mix of white-light objectivity and vulnerability. She has a remarkable sense of play on various poetic styles.

    A personal favourite is the final poem in the book: elegant, privately public, universal. She offers:
         knowing nothing,
         the true thoughts
         of an amateur thinker

         unconcerned
         with identity
         this is all
         I have to work with
                                             Alibis




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    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

    poetry today: position and process : a montage

    
    I am going to present a montage. I'm going to read it. In this montage of a selection of quotations everything will probably sound like an 'aside'.  But as you know, a lot of things can happen in an 'aside'. Poetry now belongs to a subculture. It is no longer part of the mainstream of intellectual life, it has become the specialised occupation of a relatively small and isolated group. (Dana Gioia, Can Poetry Matter, The Atlantic 1991)...isolated from a larger engagement with society, 'with a lack of connection to the reader' and readings attended only [mainly] 'by other aspiring poets'. 'It's an unsustainable system. Even the most niche of niche artforms has a- [public] audience. Not so with contemporary poetry'. (Daniel Nester, The Morning News, Sept 2009/June 2010) Sometimes it seems as if there isn't a poem written in this nation [country] that isn't subsidised or underwritten by a grant either from a foundation or the government or a teaching salary or a fellowship of one kind or another. (Joseph Epstein, Commentary Magazine, web 2011)...the questions of relevance, of audience, of efficacy, will always haunt us. (Susan Schultz, A Poetics of Impasse in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry 2005) One of Malcolm McLaren’s art teachers told him : “We will all be failures. But at least be a magnificent, noble failure. Anyone can be a benign success”  not sure about magnificent and noble there, it was Britain in the 70s!  But we could all name dozens, maybe hundreds of “benign successes” and everyone knows what Samuel Beckett said : Try again. Fail again. Fail better. Only what does not fit into this world is true. (Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory)“…I feel whatever I say will be inadequate to articulate the hours we spend in a condition of poetry, or I find it difficult tonight to separate myself from my work and my work with the world. It is an unruly drama of desire and its depiction. A shape, or a sound, a sentence to compose what is and what isn’t. A circulation that travels an ellipse; sometimes it wobbles and then breaks and from that a poem will begin to take form. A figure announcing itself beside itself. It needn’t be fancy: not unlike a dog barking at its shadow, confusing its own sound as the other’s. Or a solitaire in front of the television speaking back to it out of habit. A mother singing in the nursery. A stoner at the light talking to himself with the radio blasting ‘it’s like this and like that and like this and a.’ I balk at description. It fails me just now. I question even this rhetoric.”(Peter Gizzi, from “An Open Letter of Poetics to Steve Farmer") Novelty is now so thoroughly established as an aesthetic virtue that "innovative," "experimental," "fresh," "original," and the like are all terms of praise. It was not ever thus: in the eighteenth century Lord Shaftesbury could write about beauty as a timeless, natural harmony, and condemn innovations in the arts such as orientalism or the gothic with the epithet 'novel'. Even as late as the romantic period (late C18th early C19th), when the concept of originality or novelty was gaining philosophical ground, it could still be looked upon with suspicion...much of the suspicion had to do with whether the new kind of art would be of lasting interest. In fact, this sense of the moment-bound nature of the interesting has continued down to our own time, although without the accompanying suspicion. (Robert Archambeau, Harriet blog August 2013)And here's a plug for the Elizabethans (the golden age of the late sixteenth century) :...the journalistic critical cliché about a young poet is to say that [these days] “[s]he has found his her own voice,” the emphasis being on his [her]differentness, on the uniqueness of his [her] voice, on the fact that he [she] sounds like nobody else. But the Elizabethans at their best as well as their worst are always sounding like each other. They didn't search much after uniqueness of voice…. It would hardly have struck them that a style could be used for display of personality. (Thom Gunn,‘Nowadays’) the poet's discourse can be compared to the track of a charged particle through a cloud-chamber. An energised field of association and connotation, of overtones and undertones, of rebus and homophone, surround its motion and break from it in the context of collision...Multiplicity of meaning, 'enclosedness', are the rule rather than the exception ...Lexical resistance is the armature of meaning, guarding the poem from the necessary commonalities of prose. (George Steiner, 'On Difficulty')Poetry shows the ink the way out of the inkbottle  - (Charles Bernstein) the way out of the hard drive - (Pam Brown )
    Poetry’s social function is not to express but rather to explore the possibilities for expression. Poetry is difficulty that stays difficult.(Hank Lazer via Pound/Williams)
    Conservative anti-modernism continues and appeals to those who claim they can't understand the dislocation, post-subjective non-narratives in much contemporary verse, for the conservative complaint often refers back to a supposed golden age of the coherent, stable "I" of a writer who has straightforwardly true things to express. (Al Filreis, March 2013) So much depends on what you mean by failure, what you want from success, and what you imagine poems do. Insofar as a poem is successful, it fails to fail, but, in failing to fail, it also succeeds at failing. That's a lose-lose scenario (which in the alchemy of poetry we imagine as win-win). Poetry is to the classroom what a body is to a cemetery. If reading poetry is not directed to the goal of deciphering a fixed, graspable meaning, but rather encourages performing and responding to overlapping meanings, then difficulty is transformed from obstacle to opening. (Charles Bernstein - NO: A Journal of the Arts #6, 2007, and in Recalculating, 2013) Mallarmé says he uses “the same words that the bourgeoisie reads every morning” – in the newspaper – “exactly the same! But… if they happen to find them in this or that poem of mine, they no longer understand them.” (Roger Pearson) Poetry anthologies pile up by the side of the internet, rusty as a prayer belt while witches dance around them in army uniform.(Michael Farrell, An Australian Comedy) Now I'd like to quote myself  about poetic process, extracting a few short stanzas from a poem called 'Twitching': 
    
    atoms of language
    
    'her cinematic oeuvre'
         sounds like
        her breakfast
    
    We appear to be reduced 
    to apostrophe : the elegant
                           Gee Whiz
    
    interstitial thinking -                                   
        everything's
                    a particle
                    ('Twitching' p31 Dear Deliria)
    
    
    and this poem -
    
    Retarded pretensions
    
            "They won't come through. Nothing comes through. The
    death
              Of every poem in every line
             The argument con-
                                                     tinues."
            Jack Spicer
    
    nothing more untoward
    than monotony
    has occurred
    
    my process commences
    without instruction,
    with an artless question
    "anyway, why communicate ?"
    
    surrounded by scenery.
    why don't those
    migratory birds
    leave here ?
    is it such
    a beauteous ecology ?
    
    having landed in times
    when the usual response
    to beauty
    is to buy it
    or to try to
              win it,
    I make my clunky gestures
    towards
    a build-a-bricks outlook
    (construction, not architecture)
    
    how do I do this thing
    & appear not to ?    at least
    never be seen doing it.
    
    not writing
    for any cause
    & feeling
    consequent guilt
    about it.
    
    (exactly
    how well-motivated
    are you?)
    
    an epiphytic magnavox box
    clings to a telegraph pole
    beginning the link outwards
    
    transitive and optimistic -     
    flick that crow off the antenna !
    head pell-mell
    for the grammar !
    
                   (p150   Dear Deliria (Salt Publishing, 2003)
    
    Now to return to some quotes:
    
    Referring to John Ashbery - "I think he demonstrates more what poetic thinking is. It’s both a jumble and coherent."(Alice Quinn New Yorker poetry editor 2013) And John Ashbery says : For better or worse, I do not think that writing changes things very much, if at all. For the most part, I think it leaves everything as it is. What does your poetry do - I guess it gives a kind of blue rinse to the language. At John Cage’s 1952 New Year’s Day concert put on by the Living Theater. Cage played “Music of Changes,” an atonal, rhythmless work for solo piano - “I was completely taken by surprise,” Mr. Ashbery said. “It was just arbitrary bangs on the piano over quite a long period of time. And long pauses. I had been in a drought with my writing. I felt I hadn’t written anything good in almost a year. It really gave me ideas about how to write poetry again.”
    _____________________________________________________________________
    
    A critic's question: What would I like about this poem if I liked it? (Peter Schjehldahl)
    _____________________________________________________________________
    
    A change:
    Distraction and digression as process :-
    
    Poetry '... that can be seen to demonstrate [a] dynamic process; it is both distracted, and attends to that distractedness. That is, it is able is to detach, drift off, and to simultaneously observe those operations as they occur. Distraction as a mode of thought and perception is consonant with the ‘process poem’. The emphasis ideally bringing out something of the texture, the individuality, of one’s own thinking, a kind of ‘hearing the gears change’. (Tim Wright on Distraction) Distraction ‘allowed me a way to find out what connections my mind did make.’ (Ken Bolton, 2011) Distraction and digression are... methods – as well perhaps, as ethical, democratizing stances - from which to write, and which enable a reader to chart the movement of thought. That a process poem contain – or live with - the contingent knowledges it admits is part of the poem’s contract, and, actually, part of its process. The connection between thought and affect or feeling is important.(Tim Wright on Ken Bolton) Digression has something like the form of bliss. Repetition of the theme is the very opposite of that. (Friedrich Schlegel, Literary Notebooks 1979-1801) Any digression enacts (although it may not intend) a criticism because, once one has digressed, the position from which one departed becomes available to a more dispassionate or ironic analysis: it must have been in some sense inadequate or one would not have moved away from it. The option in favour of digressiveness implies a general critique... critical of modes of authority (let's say kingship, or the power of the law, or academic authority) that depend on cultural conventions. (Ross Chambers, Loiterature) While poetry is, in theory, available to anyone, it is demonstrably not for everyone. (Ted Pearson) 
    
    Ludwig Wittgenstein said 'Explanations come to an end somewhere'
    _____________________________________________________________

    Friday, March 21, 2014

    Kerry Leves reviews True Thoughts

    Click on the image to read the review :



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