Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Potential Titles

First Born, Then What?
The Wolf Market
Idea for a Film (Short?)
The Arborist
On Parole
The Evangelical Book of Unconvincing Certainty

The Evangelical Book of Convincing Uncertainty
Wolf Music

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Folio is being rebuilt at an excruciatingly slow pace.
I've got about 25 pages settled in, so it should be simple just to spatter a few more in there, but no.
Haphazard rewriting, a bit of a mess of ideas overall and no real structure to speak of. What fun!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Arabic Star

Let's talk fonts. Who votes for Palantino? I like the space it has. This place seems to have a reasonable range of free serif fonts. I think I'll look for something similar to Palantino, but less Microsofty.

My biggest break through has been to go for the six pronged asterisk, otherwise known as the Arabic star.

Also most of the books I've been looking at seem to have different justifications depending on the overall width of the poem. I like that idea too. There is nothing uglier than having a short lined poem left-justified with an ocean of white space between it and the edge of the page.

And of course have decided to go for slightly larger font titles, bolded and title-cased. I used to do lower case titles (except for the first letter), but this looks too grungy I think and doesn't really separate the title from the poem. Makes it look a bit like a first line. When you are as rubbish at coming up with titles as I am you need to keep them as separated as possible.

Think about it people.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Michael Palmer talks about the difference between the 'laws of form' and the 'rules of form'. The latter being able to be learnt, seemingly fixed and in many cases not particularly exciting. While the former, can never be learnt, but also can never be broken if writing good poetry. I like to think of the 'laws of form' as being completely different for each poem. Where one poem might require couplets and end rhymes, another might want to be a single stanza of variable lines and syncopated enjambments. You can't learn what those might be, in fact I don't think you can even plan it. Until you start writing the poem it will be formless. Until a conversation, a subject or a tone starts to emerge there are no laws. It's a blank page after all and what form do you put on a blank page?

From The Danish Notebook (quoted in Active Boundaries. New Directions, 2008) which he was apparently asked to write as a kind of journal, 'connecting the dots', type thing:
I once thought I should find a form for this little book you have asked for, but now it seems unformed would be better, a book at fault. Displaced. I accepted your invitation because it seemed an impossible thing for me to do, against my nature as a writer. Of course one should never have such a nature. If you discover that you do, you must erase it, as violently as possible. Coup de torchon. Clean slate. One of our cats, the apricot-colored one, is sleeping on the computer as I write this. He doesn't give a shit one way or the other. As long as the computer stays warm.
He goes to say that the book did eventually find its own form "beyond conscious intent or design" that exposed "hidden memories and patterns." That last little bit about the cat is indeed against Palmer's nature. I've never seen him write anything so mundane and confessional before. It was very exciting. I think I'm going to have to try and track down that book. Hopefully it's not out of print.

I think pattern is good way of looking at it. Where is the pattern in this? And there is no pattern that can be imposed on an unwritten work.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Passive resistance

Three things have happened lately that have made me think about how politics (not sure that is the right word) interacts with poetry/art and if I should be doing more of that, which in short I think I should. So...
  1. I've been reading Michael Palmer's essays in Active Boundaries (New Directions, 2008) all of which so far are as much concerned with politics as with poetry (in his mind they don't exist without each other I feel). He talks about George Bush, the Iraq ware, Vietnam, The Cold War - all the things that shaped who he is/was as an artist I think. He is so passionate about it and yet from his poetry, you would struggle to find an overt political subject. But it seems if he is always thinking about it working on what he seems to feel is a 'war on language'. So that was really interesting.
  2. I went to the start of the World Peace March (it starts in NZ and goes around the world in 90 days), which was also a celebration of Mahatma Ghandi's birthday. I'm not what you'd call a peace activist, but I'm certainly a pacifist and I think passive resistance is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen (I have seen it on a small scale and it's impossible to beat). So I was incredibly interested in that.
  3. I watched the Tua vs. Cameron boxing fight which made me feel sick. I am not against sport or competition or even aggression in the context of those two things and the actual boxing match was not such a bad thing. I think it was the spectators that bothered me the most, the baying for blood. The comments after the match - how wonderful it was, how sensational - it had been a particularly short and brutal knockout. Cameron was out of it by the end of the 1st round and at the start of the second Tua had him on the ropes and was pummeling him even as Cameron's legs collapsed and he fell to the ground. So by anyones standards it wasn't a tense battle between two great sportsmen, it was one guy getting the shit kicked out of him by another guy, but that's what these particular spectators wanted. And while I am loathe to draw the connection between that and greater issues of violence - international war, domestic violence etc. Maybe it does start in places like a boxing match at mystery creek?

So I guess I'm saddened by the whole thing. But then what do you do with that? How do you write a good poem about it. Palmer might use the bullshit hype/marketing speak of the fight promoters to illustrate something (however obliquely) that way, but what should I do? Describe the fight in detail? Describe everything about the fight except the fight itself? Talk about what I would have been doing instead of watching it? Run with the words 'Mystery Creek'? Have a dream? Talk about hippos and dinosaurs? I dunno. My poetry is often meaningless and that seems to be my violence, the thing that saddens me the most.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fergus Barrowman

Yet another speaker last week. This time Fergus Barrowman from VUP. He talked about a whole bunch of stuff about the NZ book industry, including the slow demise of Whitcoulls, which has apparently allowed the independents like Unity etc. to have bumper years (yay!). He had a whole bunch of other depressing facts and figures, but the most interesting thing about him was how genuinely positive and optimistic he was. Especially about the digital 'revolution' and how that might allow good writing to rise to the surface and allow potentially much larger readerships than is possible with conventional books.

It seems we are in a fortunate space, geographically and culturally in New Zealand. We are in a position to both benefit from having a small market and in the future being able to go global through the digital thing. I'm feeling positive too. Thanks Fergus.

At the half-time coffee break I tried to crack a joke and asked him whether as writers, we should think about putting often-searched keywords into our work for better google-books indexing. Like 'Britney Spears' or 'Blowjob' or something. I don't think he got what I was meaning though and I kind of blurted it out in a really offhand way. He kind of laughed weirdly and I had nothing else to say. An awkward silence descended over the whole room, until I stood up and pretended I needed to go get something. I'm so cool sometimes.
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