Nay-sayer though I am, I will resist the urge to skewer this review toward another dog-eared eulogy for the printed word. Reports of its demise, if not greatly exaggerated, at least labour under a flawed etymology. That said, it would be hard to argue with those who deem the publishers of Perth’s Regime Books as “courageous” for comitting themselves to the publication of high quality books of poetry and fiction, as well as this, their flagship of new writing, Regime Magazine.
As Bluepepper is first and foremost concerned with poetry, I will focus on the poetic fare in Regime 4. This is no great challenge, seeing as two-thirds of the magazine appears to be devoted to the second-oldest vocation. What first struck this reviewer was the relative youth of most of the featured poets, names familiar to followers of Bluepepper but perhaps not yet to the wider community. Michele Seminara, Stuart Barnes, Robbie Coburn, Phillip A. Ellis, Cameron Lowe (no relation), these are poets who are already re-shaping the landscape of poetry in this country with their wry, wise, vivid voices that appear momentarily lost on the tin ear of the more established literary magazines.
However, the quality is far from even, leaving this pickled pedant to question the inclusion of older, more established names on what may have been an editorial call based on reputation alone. To my enduring shame I have been guilty of such calls myself, knowing that people read indexes before handing over their readies. It doesn’t help that many of the weaker pieces in Regime 4 are also some of the longer pieces, running against a laconic grain in Australian literary culture that favours the short sharp shock of the twelve-liner “Aussie haiku”. As an example of the latter, I will quote in full Andrew Bifield’s “The Car Will Not Start”:
The car will not start.
We can hear him
From the beer garden,
Trying to get the engine to turn over
Without flooding it.
‘It’s not going to start,’ says Brit,
Looking at her empty cigarette packet.
‘Why doesn’t he just call a mechanic?’
She doesn’t understand
As in any selection of Australian poetry, there are the poems of place. Not always my favourite sub-genre, but this new generation have introduced a metaphyical element (in part inspired by Michael Dransfield) that was largely missing before. Mike Greenacre’s “Preston Point” and Robbie Coburn’s “The Invisible Sister” are perfect examples of this new and exciting trend. And the sheer exhillaration of Carly-Jay Metcalfe’s “Primitive” was a true revelation. It is the exception that proves the rule regarding the longer poems, a cinematic rollercoaster ride of a poem that set this bruised old heart racing with lines such as “Eating from the hands of the land,/summer steals in”. In the same vein, although from outside Australia, was American Mather Schneider’s “Almost Everything” which begins: “I have wine, pozole and clean air”.
It is the thrill of such chance discoveries that make publications such as Regime 4 so invaluable to the literary wealth of a burgeoning culture. Such serendipity has long been leached from the pages of more august publications in this country, where the same old names from the same old generation continue to pepper the indexes as though “Oz lit.” were in perpetual holding pattern. For such serendipity and courage, Bluepepper dips its hat to the editors of Perth’s Regime Books.