Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Land of the Beigists

Could the national epidemic of somnambulism and mediocrity become an election issue? Steve Burrell set the ball rolling in last weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald with a competent if not overly original article on the current intellectual and spiritual malaise overwhelming this country. He was careful not to slide into political polemic, for the current Federal Government is merely one symptom of a chronic distemper that has afflicted the land down under since its earliest days as a colony. The old excuses no longer wash, however, and it seems our egalitarian legacy is only ever flaunted these days in defence of the average. I encounter people almost daily brimming with energy and ideas, but what Steven Burrell and many others are worried about is that they seem to be working in a bubble that eventually either bursts quietly or drifts off north of the line to people more receptive to the fresh and extraordinary. It is not a problem unique to Australia, of course, as the post-war generation ages and constantly shifts the cultural, economic and political goal posts to suit its changing needs, but we are perhaps more vulnerable than most because more practised than most at dragging down the “tall poppy” in the name of an egalitarianism that never really existed.

Now the deputy leader of the ALP, Julia Gillard, has stepped into the debate with her address last night to mark the 75th anniversary of the Australian Quarterly. She views the erosion of once vibrant cultural institutions in this country as a deliberate and sustained attack by some on the right of politics who feel compelled to fall into line with the nascent “global monoculture” of expediency and silence. “Their attempt to denigrate people like our philosophers, artists, writers and even climate scientists as out-of-touch, inner-city elites, and to claim that our egalitarian values are unsuited to new economic necessities, risks subsuming us into the blancmange of an emerging monoculture.”

Fighting words, Julia! But I would take issue with her on the origins of this attack. As far as the old right-left divide holds any relevance at all, there has been a steady erosion of values coming from both sides, often from within the very institutions themselves. I find it ironic that the culture of the individual has fostered a resistance to comprehensive education in much of the three post-war generations and that this has in turn peopled the world with semi-literate somnambulists barely cognisant of their rights and potential, let alone how to go about defending them.

In the world of international poetry, to bring this argument a little closer to home, there are already strong signs of this monoculture taking hold as the academies spit out armies of bright shiny things, their heads crammed with faux Ashberrian angst and the latest post-modern antitheses of eloquence and aesthetic. Anyone who doubts my take on things (and they are legion, I’m sure), please take some time from your busy schedule to surf the net and sample what’s on offer in all the major English-speaking cultures re all things poetic. Then track down some of the latest work being translated from the French, German, Romanian, Russian etc and much the same pattern emerges. Does this reflect the majority of what is being written and read and experienced by young poets, or simply what is being sought by their ageing, cloistered doyens? Some of it is very good, of course, but I am concerned here with the emerging global monoculture and what poets could and should be doing to arrest or even reverse it. The poetic, after all, is a duty not a right. Comments always welcome.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

No Reaction

We're gettin' no reaction, with due apologies to this nation's Shadow Minister for the Environment. I asked for submissions recently, but perhaps you are all holding off waiting for the new website to be up and running. Well, you may be waiting sometime as my designer seems to have fallen asleep at the wheel and I am about as IT savvy as my nine year old dog. So please, feel free to send me poetry or stories (max 1500 words). NO ATTACHMENTS PLEASE. There are submission guidelines below the merchandising, but I pride myself on being less pedantic and far more punctual than most.

Trends in German Poetry

The Writing & Society Research Group
presents an informal symposium with
poet in residence Ulrike Sandig
on trends in contemporary German poetry
and her German-English translation project
with Australian poet Jane Gibian
Friday 15 June
Fair Trade Coffee Company café
33 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe(www.fairtradecoffeecompany.com.au)

Ulrike Sandig was born in 1979 in Grossenhain Saxony, and lives in Leipzig. She has studied and worked in France and India, and has a Masters Degree in Religious Studies and Indology from the University of Leipzig. In 2001 she co-founded the literary group "augenpost". Her publications include a volume of poetry Zunder (2005), and der tag an dem alma kamillen kaufte (an audio book with Marlen Pelny, 2006). In May 2006 she was awarded the Meran Poetry Prize. She is currently a student at the Leipzig Institute of German Literature.

Ulrike Sandig's residency in Sydney is hosted by the UWS Writing & Society Research Group and the UTS Centre for New Writing, in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut.

Latest JS Harry

The Giramondo Publishing Company
invites you to the launch
of the new poetry collection by
J.S. Harry
Not finding Wittgenstein:
Peter Henry Lepus Poems
to be launched by
David Malouf
and Kerry Leves
on Thursday 21 June
6 for 6.30 pm
upstairs at Gleebooks
49 Glebe Pt Rd
RSVP: 9660 2333
Giramondo Publishing from the
Writing & Society Research Group
University of Western Sydney

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

New Poetry by Wayne H.W. Wolfson

A Single Veil

I walk.
A ghost which looks like you in the fog, it is just a memory which has yet to be burned away by the dawn.
The mornings are now damp, a gossamer of fog wraps itself around everything.
I walk among the canals, there is a scent, anisette and spoiled milk, which makes me dizzy.
I walk.
I stumble.
I know.

- Wayne HW Wolfson 2007


You are hurt, but not even sure why. Ah, where are you my autumn friend? Your name is now alien in my mouth. Heavy on my tongue, a piece of paper.
All the paper on the table, hanging off the edge of the table, flapping slowly. Sunday night coming down, a sheet at a time. Pages, swollen, pregnant with words.
My only friend, duty. My autumn friend. Fall. Somewhere is a place with no words, I will go too, when I have no choice, holding her ink stained hands.

- Wayne HW Wolfson 2007


Death is private, but eventually we are all there.
Tiny yellow flowers shot up from in-between the rocks. These little patches of color could hypnotize if you walked the whole shore.
Now she is on top.
Many rocks go without her flaxen hair.
There are some greens to be seen too.
Thin violent jags.
This morning, coming out of the shower, I thought I heard her laugh, but it was only yesterday.

- Wayne HW Wolfson 2007

Wayne is young poet from the States who has just returned from a yearly sabbatical in Paris.