Greetings from the abandoned goldfields of Central Victoria. It's time for what's-ups from yours truly.
Apologies for not getting one of these out in May - I was working hard on my Poem: Spaceknight sequence, more of which below, so the newsletter had to miss a month. But we're back now.
To start with, here's a little T-to-the-L-to-the-D-to-the-R:
This was written on the land of the Dja Dja Wurrung and Wurundjeri nations.
- Poem: Spaceknight: I have written 79 poems about sad cyborgs in love.
- My website: I shut it down because arts funding is fucked.
- Anticline: My free poem about rock formations is once again available.
- Another book of poems: I made another book of poems.
- What I've been reading: Lots of Aussie poets and a comic about spies.
So I finished that Poem: Spaceknight thing
On June the 14th I published the 79th and final poem in the series of poems about 1980s space-cyborg comics I've been working on since January. That last poem hit the interwebs roughly six months after I penned the first one, which timeframe has a pretty nice ring to it.
It was a slog at times, particularly toward the end there, but I made it. What began as a dumb-throwaway-summer-holiday-down-the-beach idea is now sixteen thousand words and change of space cyborg poetry. This makes me extremely pleased with myself.
All 79 poems are still up on the Poem: Spaceknight site for all to see, but I will probably take them down in about a month so that I can do some other things with them. Such things may include:
Stay tuned to this newsletter for developments with regard to the above. In the meantime here's the last poem in the sequence (spoiler alert), which I'm quite pleased with, for your enjoyment (or possible re-enjoyment).
- Putting together a live performance I can trot out hither and yon, possibly featuring multimedia muckamuck and a cyborg-poetry showbag
- Recording a poem-by-poem podcast featuring readings of all 79 poems
- Editing all 79 poems in order to make a poetry manuscript I can hock at publishers
- Submitting the odd poem to literary journals to see what sticks
(Rom #75, February 1986)
— for Bill Mantlo —
There is no one left to fight. The sorcerous
alien conquerors have been banished from this
dimension. The tyrant traitor's forces shattered
with their leader at his feet, victims of their
own cruelty. His humanity has been returned.
He had laid a silver hand on the floating globe
of light and the armour that had encased him,
the circuitry that had woven through him,
the technology embedded deep inside, his
saviour and his suffering, was finally gone.
With his whole, his human body, he weeps.
For all the dead of his homeworld he weeps.
For the fellow cyborgs who lost their way
he weeps. For all the fallen soldiers he has
buried or left to drift alone in space he weeps.
For the enemies who would not stand down
he weeps. For those whose humanity could
not be restored he weeps. For two hundred
years of death and collateral damage he weeps.
And as he weeps she weeps at his side,
both of them finally truly human together
at the same time. With countless galaxies
between them and the planet where they
met he holds her hand and for the first time
feels its warmth. Her nervous grip matches
his nervous grip. He looks into her eyes with
eyes unenhanced by artificial lenses, eyes
that wince at the light of the setting suns, eyes
that blur with tears. He sees a tiny human face
reflected. He is finally who he wants to be,
finally where he wants to be, finally with the
person he wants to be with as the person he
wants to be for her. This is not a dream. It is
not an illusion. It is not an imaginary story.
He is neither clone nor doppelganger. She is
neither android nor impostor. He is not a time-
stolen twin. She is not a pawn in a despot's plot.
He is himself for the first time in two centuries
and she is here with him. As night arrives the
cooling air settles on his skin. He looks up at the
stars as they begin to appear, unable to isolate
or identify the frequencies of their light. He looks
at her and cannot gauge her pulse-rate, does not
see the infrared halo caused by the warmth of
her body. He is finally by her side and he will
never leave her side again. Together they will
mourn the dead. Together they will grieve for the
lost and the wounded and together they will love
each other as human beings have loved each other
for as long humans have called this universe home.
Yeah arts funding's pretty fucked and all
I've been taking an interest in recent conversations around Federal arts funding, particularly the part where it just keeps on getting hacked to fuck by a government that seems not to give two shits about what arts finding is even for other than generating photo opportunities in marginal seats and propping up already-adequately-funded practitioners of some goddamn Victorian-era Oxbridge concept of "high" art as practised by people with relatively secure and well-established careers.
I've gotten pretty sick of how pissweak either of the major parties' arts funding policies are, and the egregious contempt being shown by the current government for both art in general and the people in the crosshairs of all the funding cuts, so I replaced everything on my site with a statement to that effect in protest and in acknowledgement of the fact that, if it weren't for the federal arts funding that supported all of the organisations I worked with when I got my start as a writer, I realistically wouldn't be a writer today.
You can read that statement on my website, which includes links to ways you can petition the government (and aspirational government) to restore or even, god forbid, improve funding to the arts in Australia.
I made another book of poems
I recently heard back in the negative from Tupelo Press, the US publisher to whom I sent a poetry manuscript as part of their Dorset Prize (judged by the dulcet Robert Pinsky no less), but that's cool because now I have a poetry manuscript to send out to other publishers.
I added a few more poems that I'd written or finished while waiting to hear back, and now You Should Have Killed the Monkey First is just waiting for me to get some feedback from a few readers before I compile a list of publishers and send that baby out into the world.
Those of you keeping track will note that YSHKTMF joins Poem: Spaceknight and Super Giant Combatron Mega 7 as the third completed manuscript of poems bouncing around Chez Ford at the moment, so I think my workload is probably going to shift from writing mode to editing-slash-submission mode for a while, if not the rest of the year. We shall see.
Get Yer Anticline Here!
After a minor setback due to vandalism, my poem about Castlemaine's anticlinal fold has been reinstalled atop said geological feature on the corner of Lyttleton and Urquhart Streets in Castlemaine. Free copies of this teeny poetry booklet can once again be had for the taking by anyone passing by.
Furthermore, a second collection of booklets has been geocached opposite Chewton's own anticlinal fold, the existence of which was recently pointed out in an article in the Chewton Chat. That box can be found just down from the railway overpass on Railway Street in Chewton, beside the walking track that advantages a clear and distinct view of the fold.
And as far as I know the poem can also be had by those of you in Melbourne from the legendary Sticky Institute underneath Flinders Street Station.
If anyone is aware of other anticlinal folds that should be adorned with piles of tiny poetry booklets, do get in touch.
Some of the things I've been reading
Been reading lots of new-release Australian poetry books as it happens, like:
I also read Justin Heazlewood's Funemployed, which is a funny-sad memoir-slash-how-to-guide about how hard a slog it can be to hang up a shingle as a full-time artist in Australia, drawing on his own experiences as a musician-cum-comedian-slash-writer. It was nice to see my own damage and foibles reflected in someone else's actions in a way that created a sense of solidarity and encouraged us both to do better next time.
- Joel Deane's Year of the Wasp, dark visionary poetry mainly about recovering from a stroke, but also things like running over foxes and the toughest, most realistic and convincing love poem I've read in a long time.
- Natalie Harkin's Dirty Words, an A-Z of powerful, angry and heartfelt responses to the insidious and cruel bureaucratic language that frames the Indigenous experience in contemporary Australia
- Rachael Briggs's Common Sexual Fantasies, Ruined is pretty damn funny and pretty damn clever, straddling an intriguing place between experimental and traditional forms with a distinctive and fun little light-verse note.
- Andy Jackson's Immune Systems, which puts a spin on travel poetry by drawing on Jackson's travels in India and his insights into medical tourism.
Funemployed got turned into a Radio National documentary series a while back. Which is nice.
I've also been listening the bejesus out of Beyonce's Lemonade and Megan Washington's I Believe You Liar and deriving as much inspiration from their songwriting as the poetry I've been reading. (Seriously. "The Beginning of the End of the World" in Poem: Spaceknight, was completely rewritten after I binge-listened to "Don't Hurt Yourself" on repeat for an hour on the way to work.) You should own these albums. Yes, both of them.
Finally I just re-read all of the issues released so far in "Acedia", volume 3 of Matt Fraction's ongoing Casanova comic series. If you've never encountered Casanova before, it's possibly the coolest and most visually striking game-changing science-fiction superspy neopulp hyperintelligent-popcultural comic ever made. Ev. Er.
The titular hero is Casanova Quinn, a dimension-hopping double-agent who looks like a cross between Jagger and Steve Tyler and rocks a lanky, catlike cool that Alan Cumming and Tilda Swinton wish they had.
As well as the current volume coming out chapter by chapter there are two complete volumes out there, "Gula" and "Luxuria". You can order print copies at all good bookstores - just tell them it comes out through Image Comics - or digitally through the Image Comics website.
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