Last Thursday forward slash was released into the stratosphere via Melbourne’s 2012 Poetry Symposium – The Political Imagination: Contemporary Postcolonial and Diasporic Poetries. Corey Wakeling’s kindness permanently abounds and he launched this li’l ole journal for us. You can read Corey’s speech below.
We’ll be podcasting the launch as well, which means you’ll be able to listen to Corey’s speech, as well as Michael Farrell and Duncan Hose reading.
Online purchase of forward slash will be available soon. Collected Works also has copies if you’re in Melbourne.
forward slash launch speech by Corey Wakeling
The Queen, Elizabeth II, is glad this journal exists. It is sign after all that the Commonwealth is still wretchedly in effect, the colonies clearly and seamlessly in dialogue across the seemingly impassable thousands of kilometres to the North, and the North to South. “A collage of Australian and Canadian innovation” write editors Jeremy Balius and Matt Hall. It is not by accident that we then release this journal to the post-colonial subject in situ – we are after all in attendance at a conference entitled ‘The Postcolonial Imagination’. Indeed its troubles, its criminality, and its critical heritage, are herein displayed, written by seven of the finest Commonwealth poets. The British Empire has retracted, the imperial gesture disseminated, now rather laid like new broadband into the loam and concrete beneath our feet, working less like a brain now than a lymphatic system attacking satellite infidelities and acute threats.
Little does the Queen know, in all of her enamour of the exuberance and colonial specificity of the curatorship of this journal that the agents chosen by Balius and Hall happened to be double, arch and diabolical mutineers, fiends, cultural extortionists, saboteurs. In postcolonial times a sophisticated poetic of dissemination, probes of hottest imagination, devisers of transformative syntax, are perhaps a great exacerbator of the retraction of empire, methods to instantiate transcultural cross-germination, and better acknowledge the bequest of diasporic, processual traditions of nomadicism and expression under duress that have for so long sustained the fixities of national identity like that of the subject of the Commonwealth.
The postcolonial subject is neither severed from national technologies to which it is under duress, nor is it passive to identity politics in formation, in deviation, in conflict or contradiction to the national. It is compositely colonial and postcolonial. Why can’t you speak about the body and technology exhort Louis Armand, Michael Farrell, Duncan Hose, Kemeny Babineau, a.rawlings, Jay Millar, Astrid Lorange. Why can’t you speak about the body in technology beg Louis Armand, Michael Farrell, Duncan Hose, Kemeny Babineau, a.rawlings, Jay Millar, Astrid Lorange. Why can’t you speak about technology in the body, technology of the body retort Louis Armand, Michael Farrell, Duncan Hose, Kemeny Babineau, a.rawlings, Jay Millar, Astrid Lorange.
As the hypothetical philosophers of language, or the language philosophers of hypothesis, or the hypothetical linguists of philosophy, these poets in particular have an active intervention into landscape and language’s prosthetic eye on it with consequence. Louis Armand writes in ‘“EROSION MIMICS A FRAME”’: “the sentence “is” a body…” The reciprocity between language and landscape – at once elaboration of the teasing proximity language brings to ambulations and memories of landscape and yet too elaborating the rejection of words by the landscape – produce, frankly, devastating, cosmic, and singular hallucinations in the work of these poets collected. Hallucinations because they are ecstatic, and because they see what they are thinking, and that after all is impossible. These are reliable maps in another sense, however, reliable topographies of place thought, thought indicating its setting as much by its flight and repulsion as its disseminations as probing retina.
Each poet collected appears fascinated with this limina, and if they’re anxious, then they’re performatively so. Just see a.rawlings spreadsheet poem ‘THE GREAT CANADIAN’, with its page saturating refrain: “I will not ruin the environment”. More on that cascade later. For each poet it is not remiss to surmise each poet landlubber of a psychic art turns to the criminality of the topographer-fencer, and makes a riot of his or her former small time. This is big time crime, but for that hardly less true because the landscape is making them do these terrible things. This is Whitman in the woods, but also Whitman in black.
M. Farrell: “George Clooney is walking across the A landscape. He’s what makes it.” ‘INVISIBLE AMERICA’ (10)
D. Hose: “When did Tasmania get so / German anyway / Here we are in German Tasmania / Appeldorff, Little Alp, hills are randy / w/ tearful horses, / Hohenzollern barns engineer the air to chasten / horny grasses \” ‘LIQUOR’S NOT LIKE THAT’ (3)
a.rawlings: “Descend from a cliff into a forest near a field by a shore on a river that empties into a language.” ‘THE GREAT CANADIAN INJURIES’ (16)
L. Armand: “… crude ore / dark floe from the un/conscious / belies geo-strata not yet raised to perception – / intestinal montage of / red black / fossilised in its veins’ metastasis / becoming sub-specie …” ‘“EROSION MIMICS A FRAME”’(23)
K. Babineau: “Marri Douglas Canoe / rip A Ford Near Moscow // A Delusion of Pat Anderson, 1915-”
A. Lorange: “needle along the edge of a river such a / slab of science emptying itself on the banks” ‘GRUBS’ (36)
And J. Millar’s hallucination, or the truth of the matter: “Foot after foot atmospheric / melodies repair each one / higher than the next, a trail // of geographic outcroppings / & visual stimuli that oppose / news. What sits there remains – / millennial drones of rock // & shoreline collections of / mosquito bites, a pure pure / Canadian tropism entered into / the record books as whims.” ‘GATHERED FOR THE PURPOSE’ (39)
It seems Canadians and Australians have been dreaming the similar dreams, or at least tangoing together under shroud of oneirodynia, the disturbed sleep. Yes, these poems, all of them, are of disturbed sleep – Hose’s post-coital, pre-coital; Farrell at his most O’Hara-esque incubus-like swimming through the dreams of others, for Farrell it is Richard Roxburgh and baby boomers dreaming Hendrix; rawlings ‘The Great Canadian’ a litanical nightmare of the suffocating demands of the intra-festal obsessive compulsive declamation “I will not ruin the environment” turning at once from denial, remorse, fecklessness, pomposity, demand, imprimatur, injunction, thesis, antithesis, synthesis, transition, in the accretion of its stupid inexorability. Indeed, rawlings is the most self-interrogative, and her transformation from ‘SUBJECT’ to wolves in ‘WOLVES’ ENEMIES’, the wolves supplanting the once pathological reiterations of the ‘I’ and words’ clamour on the ‘I’s superficies, this roaming collective of wolf in plural, wolf mapping territory, wolf territorially pissing, the preposition “to” ever turned to verb-like to end on as salve to perimeters of ‘I’, its borders and fields. rawlings explains:
Shown urine from wolf on the to
the wolf or of wolves run.
But aren’t these poets big personalities too, not just big wolves? I mean, aren’t these poems big architectures? I mean aren’t these poets big ‘I’s? I mean, aren’t these poets big programmes? I mean, aren’t these poems catastrophic erosion, hangovers, lusty pinions, mouthpieces, fears, ruins? Perhaps it isn’t size at all, perhaps sprawl instead, contagiousness! Listen to Matt Hall and Jeremy Balius speak and it’s the maximalism fusillade, which might be better considered part of our poetics. This maximalist turn is delightful in forward slash, performed with dexterity and wit.
Condensation however is certainly not left to the periphery, what Ezra Pound did to the Homeric verse, what Charles Olson did to Ezra Pound doing the Homeric verse, what Duncan Hose did to what Charles Olson did to what Ezra Pound did to the Homeric verse, is part of this weird Commonwealth journal: the turbid juices of something other than style is certainly being condensed here. What Stephane Mallarme did to syntax, what Christopher Brennan did to what Stephane Mallarme did to syntax, what Michael Dransfield did to what Christopher Brennan did to what Stephane Mallarme did to syntax, what Michael Farrell does to what Michael Dransfield did to what Christopher Brennan did to what Stephane Mallarme did to syntax, is demonstrated here as part of the syntax elaboration in contemporary poetics, questions of syntactic transfiguration, interrogation, extenuation – this is entirely traditional and rabidly deterritorialising (what Farrell might call un-settling).Precision, the diamond tip of the probe: this certainly is the horizon here in the pages of an undeniably perky journal.
Jay Millar is the most cautious, and that is why he appears the most serene and delicately pensive. Duncan Hose’s agents are bleeding, goosing the temple bell; and he has had his “cup of the coward’s bouillon”. Faire du skeptique, to the sceptical, he writes: “I keep finding pearls”. Has a geologist ever found so much movement in the earth, and yet simultaneously been as conscious of the uncertainty principle, as Louis Armand? His work does not demystify the processes of geological formation nor the body’s reliance on them, rather his findings are drawn up by the ghosts of illegibility and the mirages of articulate palimpsests. Armand is the most foreshadowing of his prosthetic I/eye, Astrid Lorange the least: she is the eyeball disturbed and unsocketed, roaming wildly pontificating rather on the ear. She says:
of speaking (not at all like fasting)
full-bodied and fruit
rattling into the ear
the first available name (34-5)
And it is this, the “first available name” that Kemeny Babineau versifies and sends rustling through the capitals, proper nouns, of history as towns and towns as historical human beings, “Saul, ‘The stars are glittering in the sky’ / 1818 ‘O! Come / in the Orilia Woods // Mair Tecumseh / Lanigan Threnody / Isabella The Helot” (27). Yes the locale is but a cut-up of old Canada, and yet my boots are wet and muddy, and somehow Flanders Field got on them, John McCrae’s old war threne somewhere within “The Pomegranate Mouths / Drunk on Crutches”. Unbelievable!
I would like to propose to launch forward slash, but then to me it appears it has launched itself, perhaps one of the most exciting new poetry journals since Vlak.
Instead, may it live long.