Photo: Annette Willis 2007
A while ago I was at this li’l festival where I met Jill Jones when we were on this panel about something. There weren’t really any readings going down that weekend, so we threw a guerilla poetry event with some like-minded sweethearts, including Michael Farrel, Scott-Patrick Mitchell, Thuy Linh Nguyen, Kirk AC Marshall et al. All of whom are subversive and rebellious in their own way/right.
I remember it being cold that weekend in Melbourne.
At the guerilla gig Jill read from her collection Dark Bright Doors, which had just come out. In the meantime it’s been shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry. She’s won that before…
Bleary-eyed at the airport, homeward bound, I ran into Jill in the ticketing queue. Then my flight to Perth was delayed. Then her flight to Adelaide was delayed. And for the record, getting stuck in a departure lounge for hours with Jill Jones is an awesome experience. We discussed Ron Silliman, we debated the motivation behind or the inability of some to be poetically risk-taking, we talked about Dark Bright Doors, we Talked.
Wanna know why Jill rules so much? ‘Cause she says things like “The I is in the flow. The river always shifts. I, too, I am, and am wherever.” And her wisdom flows deep.
This is us kickin’ it:
What are the most beautiful sounding words?
The words that sound are all beautiful, but that sonic is surrounded by all that depends. Context, how said, who said, why said, and the rest. So it may be ugly or terrible sounding words that are also beautiful.
Where do Dark Bright Doors open and close to? Where do they take us to? What are they made of? Who is wise/foolish enough to grasp their handles and pull?
The dark bright doors of that book open on through. As there’s more than one door, it’s not all opening only or closing solely. These dark bright doors are made of language, words, phrases, lines, sentences, letters, punctuation marks, spaces on a page. Not all doors have handles. If I was the fool as writer (fool in sense of motley or the vagabondage or precipitousness of the Tarot fool), then a reader is wise to fool around in the words, to ask more than the normal questions, to take the risk of the doors, to try things on. The fool’s journey is the journey.
When “I” shifts from the centre, whereto does the river flow?
When was I the centre? The I is in the flow. The river always shifts. I, too, I am, and am wherever.
Spelunking into the sensual, in what ways are written words viscerally experiential?
You see them, in dark, through tears, in brightness. You sound them in your mouth or head and that is part of breathing. You could even trace them with your finger. On some pages the type is raised ever so slightly. You could tear them from the page, and that makes sound as well as movement; then you could put them around you to make other words.
Have you ever accidentally quoted yourself or a line from one of your poems in conversation with someone?
I may have. If they are words that I like, undoubtedly. It would be the sound of them, individual syllables and the words formed into phrases, syntaxes, and to have them happen as part of a conversation not about poetry would be welcome. I should make sure I do it. No-one need know, or would know.
Oh, how to breathe fresh life into a sonnet form?
Be in love with the old ideas and break their heart. Breathe. Collaborate with the canon then turn it around. Be promiscuous. Keep talking line by line. Steal. Love your patterns and blow them off. Sing – sonet is a little song. Repetitions and echoes. Permutations. Obssess. Detach self from making, sing outside yourself.
What kind of poetry excites you that may get dismissed by conservative editors?
To move through some negatives first: I prefer poetry that is not in love with the need for metaphors or big booming symbols, poetry that is not over-willed (this includes a lot of so-called avant-garde works as well), poetry that is not self-expression. I’m excited by poetry that is imperfect and undetermined, poetry that plays in the world, ie. is porous, poetry that loves language enough to muck it around.
High-brow, low-brow or mono-brow?
Plucked. You get different sounds in mono, hi-fi and low-fi.
What are you trying to get better at or improve?
And also to sprawl more on the wide space of the page in open and fresh-made ways.
How to steal from myself, brazenly.
Whereto from here? What are you working on?
Always working, even if in the head or my dreams. I have a series of poems without titles, this is new for me. I am retrieving, re-forming and re-purposing my own work, and any other words I like the look and feel of – breaching, colliding, dissassembling. I’m not a project person so the above is as close as I come. I have several small and large collections (literally) on the go and am doing the constant jigsaw game of arrangements.
Thanks Jill, for your kindness, and for this poem:
While it seems crazy in the spider season
not possessed not forsaken
perhaps it starts with the ravens
To a dream of your old clothes
these afternoons that do not, that bring you pain
perhaps the boxes will fall only for you
Knots in night, trinkets leaning
get along, little dreams, get along
if it wasn’t for the rumours
You could be anywhere pushing or lugging
and leave, I can’t show you exactly
into the rain, I haven’t had that dream
the least of my preparations
I ate the song positions
as I go a slow coast doesn’t differentiate
With a stolen leather jacket
the air is noisy on the stones
light is not always its light
The forecast has showered me
and will be thankful to walk is to
remain confused but now is enough
The factories of the road continue
feeling foolish to be free
left out in the rain and no longer white
The house is full of waterfalls
falling like this forever
back east they’ve got thunder
Is living days a pale back
you should never talk about
the lightness of the light
(from Jill’s Ruby Street)