Poet and Novelist
I began this item as a blog note. The matter strikes me as a particular problem in writing fiction and poetry and in time I will say more about it within a poetry context, but for the time being... fiction. Then it became a bit too long and its first example dragged me into Ondaatjie country. It is too long for a blog and long enough for a Short therefore I will place it in my Shorts column (see above). Shortly.
Update: It is now in Shorts.
Puncher & Wattmann have just re-printed Keepers and this means all three books of my recent trilogy are available. It might have seemed strange for anyone wanting the first of the three - after hearing that The Keeper of Fish and Keeping Carter are out now - to find it out of print. In poetry terms, that can be really terminal: no resurrections guaranteed in poetry. Not the case in this case. The world is happily unreal, thanks to David Musgrave.
In the new year David will also be re-printing my last book with Fremantle Press - The Well Mouth. This book came out with Fremantle in late 2005, and was reprinted in '06 and again in late '08, so it has kept on. It's worth saying again ... booksellers ... if poetry books are on the shelf they will slowly sell. They are an in-elastic commodity, they don't sell radically more because of big machinery, as Penguin discovered, and they rarely sell in big numbers (for more than one or two poets) but they do move if they are available.
Here is a link to a 40 minute audio interview and reading by Jennifer Harrison and myself for the Up Close team at Melbourne Uni. The interviewer is Jennifer Cook and the production team is led by Eric van Bemmel. This invitation to speak and read arrived care of my being an Honorary Fellow... the Melb Uni variety of Fellow, that is. Unless they decide it is an honour they can remove! I hope they don't, I'm proud of having left paid lecturing with some earned honour apart from vague memories in the minds of a few students.
Jenny and I talk about poetry generally but our recent books more specifically - Columbine (Jenny) and The Keeper of Fish and Keeping Carter (mine). Here are some brief excerpts from our talk.
I’m restless aesthetically and artistically but I’m also indifferent to the idea of having a single identity or self that is to be established and, to some degree, even made a fetish of in poems. Some poets do this. ... Other poets, of course, use that as an extraordinary strength and it is precisely that quality of strong single identity that gives them their power so it is by no means one thing or the other. For me, I prefer the power of the language and I prefer the power of the particular imaginations that I bring to that and when I write and collect those poems into books.
I particularly remember Octavio Paz talking in his Nobel address in 1990 about his idea that poetry falls very much into that sense of separation that a child experiences, the sort of knowing that a child comes into when they realise that the world’s a much bigger place and that one is alone in the world. Paz describes that as quite a deep place where everything that we experience, dream, strive for perhaps is directed towards trying to connect with the world again and I feel very much that that was my experience in childhood of feeling that this was a way of connecting the self with the world.
Well, the Sydney launch of The Keeper of Fish, Keeping Carter and Simon West's The Yellow Gum's Conversion went happily and noisily and no doubt went through Puncher & Wattmann's generous bar tab, too. That's what it's for. Thanks to all who attended - but especially those who bought books, of any of the titles P&W brought along - and for the pleasure of your company that afternoon. In his brief speech David Musgrave announced a snappy shot or two at a recent poetry anthology (yes, that one) but, more importantly, a big year ahead for Puncher & Wattmann's publishing program. Many new titles and some big names joining the list. He even has David Foster's latest Dog Rock novel in the line-up.
It was a flat-out few days for many poets in that fortnight, with launches bursting out everywhere in Melbourne. I attended at least five and had to miss a few others. My own launch of those titles above will be late in February, 2012, at the Bella Union bar, when the next year has started buzzing and the hangovers have settled, ie: time for another one.
Information will be posted closer to the date.