Stick in a thumb and pull out a plum: Poetry and Consumption … Plumwood Mountain Vol 5 No 1 is live

A new issue of Plumwood Mountain, self-described as ‘An Australian Journal of Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics’, is now live with 31 poems guest edited by Michael Farrell on the theme ‘Poetry and Consumption’, a bumper set of 20 book reviews, an essay on Amitav Ghosh by Jennifer Mackenzie and the section ‘Poets speak up to Adani’.

Plenty to sink your teeth into here, opening with Michael Farrell’s challenging introduction entitled ‘Poetry and Consumption’. (Challenging? Perhaps ‘polished outrage’ is a more appropriate descriptor, where outrage isn’t necessarily obvious – Michael’s wording is considered, erudite –  but I imagine there’s a causal connection).

There is a philosophical, and practical, movement known as “voluntary simplicity” which cuts down on consumption through living more simply and sparely. This notion, of “voluntary simplicity”, challenges the usefulness of the term “sustainability” which, in its function as a buzzword, encourages consumption. Many poets live a life of involuntary simplicity, at least relative to their earning peers. But how do we think this through in poetry, poetics? The spare lyric may appeal to some, but do we all want to write like every word that comes out of our world-destroying laptops is precious, and should be scratched on a bone in a field and praised in the New York Times? (if you count sales as praise). It sounds like a recipe for kitsch: the opposite of necessary (unless you’re a kitsch fetishist). The earth is not spare. Fire, for one thing, is more baroque.

Anne M Carson’s review of Marietta Elliott-Kleerkoper’s popped out at me as worth the read, as did Daniela Brozek Cordier’s review of Kristen Lang’s SkinNotes, Brianna Bullen’s review of Petra White’s Reading for a Quiet Morning; and the section ‘Poets Speak Up to Adani’, (poems were posted as part of an online day of action at Plumwood Mountain journal on 30 October 2017 and include Judith Rodriquez, Jennifer Harrison, Anthony Lawrence, Jill Jones, Susan Hawthorne, Jennifer Maiden. Judith Beveridge, Alex Skovron, Kevin Brophy, Robert Adamson, John Kinsella and many, many more).

Visit the journal at Plumwood Mountain Volume 5 Number 1

Further discussion, ‘The cult of the noble amateur’ (Rebecca Watts)

Rebecca Watts, ‘The Cult of the Noble Amateur’, PN Review 239

Hollie McNish’s response, PN Review
Melanie Branton, Accessibility vs elitism
The Guardian, ‘Poetry world split over polemic attacking amateur work by young female poets
Responses by Don Paterson and Rebecca Watts, The BBC
A Poetry Foundation response, Poetry Foundation

Two Indigenous views of Australia Day





Alexis Wright, The Guardian, 26th January 2018
I am talking about time immemorial experience – how to grow roots like that. Not like scrap of paper made yesterday – a second ago, flimsy, impermanence, that type of thing saying you got the title over blackfella country, you are on top. That’s nothing. You are not owner. Scrap of paper only painful in the heart, only cover the surface with poison. It can’t get inside proper deep law in my head. Lies type of thing like that fall apart eventually, eroding unfortunately, like sickly wind vaporing out of any little whitefella powerhouse thing called government. That’s only tiny. Big deal. Paper gets blown away. Paper only good for that.

Read more from Alexis Wright at Alexis Wright’s poem Hey, Ancestor! ‘It’s the 26th of January again, old Whitefella Day’

Melissa Lee-Houghton: ‘Articulating your experience is remarkably life affirming’

There’s a disturbing line – actually, the whole piece is disturbing – in poet Melissa Lee-Houghton’s Guardian article of a couple of years ago wherein she discusses the importance (for her psychiatric recovery) of writing.

She writes that The nurses in the hospitals seemed bored and often bullied me in disturbing ways, which inevitably prevented me from speaking with them at all.

When last in hospital myself (triple bypass), I felt the nurses (and doctors) to be on my side, ‘willing’ me to recovery. Somehow that perception (naive of me?) had significance, I needed faith in the system and in the goodwill of the people I was dealing with on a day-to-day basis, the sense that they were behind me. Melissa’s experience – the nurses’ boredom – shows another side of the system which is at odds with what you need for survival when you’re at your lowest. An isolated experience hopefully – then again, we’re all human aren’t we, even the nurses on whom we’ve occasion to pin our hydra-headed hopes?



(Melissa Lee-Houghton writes)
‘When I had first arrived on the ward in 2002, I had written a book-length poem describing my experience of grief and pain; on submitting to a staggering regime of pill cocktails, I ceased to write at all. I also stopped reading; a copy of Adorno’s Minima Moralia was swiftly confiscated as a particularly derisive nurse expressed her opinion on its damaging effect on my mind. Whenever I attempted to write something down, it was remarked on as a manifestation of my illness – never a possible route to its cessation.’

Read more at ‘Melissa Lee Houghton: Articulating your experience is remarkably life-affirming’

Interview with Stephanie Conn

Stephanie Conn is a poet from Northern Ireland. She visited Tasmania in 2017 where she was a featured guest of the Tasmanian Poetry Festival. The following extract is from an interview published on Paul Stephensen’s blog ‘Poems, Poetry, Poets’ (19th January, 2018).


Paul: While the book opens with Holland, as McGuckian indeed says, it journeys on in the latter half towards Australia. What makes ‘Australia’ so distinct and unique for you?

Stephanie: I never had any desire to go to Australia, it was never on my to do list. We went to spend a Christmas with my sister-in-law in Tasmania and I absolutely loved it. Tasmania is a beautiful island and for me, a place of contradiction – Christmas decorations in the sunlight, penguins in the blistering heat, picnics on a beach where the next land mass is Antarctica; the stunning scenery of a former convict colony.

Paul: Do you have a favourite place in Australia?

Stephanie: As I said above, I love Tasmania but sailing out of Sydney Harbour heading to Manly was a stunning experience.

Paul: Have you read many Australian poets or poetry magazines? What/who do you recommend?

Stephanie: Yes, when I was writing and researching the book I read some Tasmanian/ Australian poets and a couple of the poems in the collection were response pieces to work by Lyn Reeves and Louise Oxley. I also read work by Anne Collins, Sarah Day, Adrienne Eberhard, Gwen Harwood and Vivian Smith. I got to go back to Tasmania in September 2017 to read at the Tasmania Poetry Festival. I had the pleasure to meet some of the poets I’d been in touch with by email. I was also introduced to the work of other Australian poets – Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Young Dawkins, Emilie Zoey Baker, Dan Disney, Luke Wren Reid and Sarah Holland-Batt. I absolutely love Sarah Holland-Batt’s work. Sarah is also the Poetry Editor for the Australian journal ‘Island’.


From Paul Stephenson’s blog ‘Poems, Poetry, Poets’; more HERE

The cult of the noble amateur

Rebecca Watts, PN Review 239, Volume 44 Number 3, January – February 2018

What good is a flourishing poetry market, if what we read in poetry books renders us more confused, less appreciative of nuance, less able to engage with ideas, more indignant about the things that annoy us, and more resentful of others who appear to be different from us? The ability to draw a crowd, attract an audience or assemble a mob does not itself render a thing intrinsically good: witness Donald Trump. Like the new president, the new poets are products of a cult of personality, which demands from its heroes only that they be ‘honest’ and ‘accessible’, where honesty is defined as the constant expression of what one feels, and accessibility means the complete rejection of complexity, subtlety, eloquence and the aspiration to do anything well.

More at PN Review 239 HERE

Pete Hay reviews Rachael Mead and Amanda Joy

… below the hard packed earth
the dead slowly get on with their dark work
of sifting themselves back
into the green world.

I read those lines and straightened my back – I’d just experienced one of those rare ‘I wish I’d written that’ moments. This is a fine small collection, then, one that does the chapbook format proud – tightly themed, resonant and democratically accessible.


Read Pete Hay’s review at Cordite, 16th January 2018

Loop (Liminal Presents 2018)

Studio-shot choreography of Adolfo Aranjuez’s dance piece for Liminal Magazine and Signal Arts’ ‘Liminal Presents’ event, held on 18 January 2018 at the Signal building in Melbourne.

Adolfo Aranjuez is from Melbourne, the editor of Metro, Australia’s oldest film and media periodical, and editor-in-chief of sexuality and gender magazine Archer. Adolfo writes nonfiction and poetry, and appears at festivals and arts events to speak about race, queer and mental-health issues, the publishing industry, and various other topics. His natural dance genres are hip-hop/urban and commercial, with notes of lyrical and house.

Liminal magazine is an online space for the exploration, interrogation and celebration of the Asian-Australian experience, founded in 2016. (Visit here for a conversation with the creators of Liminal Magazine, streamed live from the Digital Writers’ Festival, Oct 2017).


Here’s something different … mentioned in a post to the British-Irish-Poets email list at JISCMAIL.AC.UK


… the online collaborative wikisite of The Peripatetic University – Prifysgol Y Treiglo. A repository of online workshop tutorials, inviting multidisciplinary collaboration, writing experiments and teaching between poets, text artists and interested others.

The Peripatetic University/ Prifysgol Y Treiglo is a nomadic college of experimental writing and Summer school seminar series, offering mobile seminars, walking conferences and travelling workshops. With an interest in walking poetrypsychogeographyprocessual poetics and cut-up procedures, lessons take place on the hoof, our campus is in cafes, pubs, markets, shopping arcades, public lavatories, train station foyers. “If you know where to find it, the university will be there”.

Website at The Peripatetic University – Prifysgol Y Treiglo