nopoetryfortheenemiesofpoetry: a zine from 2004, with good, bad and indifferent work, published byErn Malley Press; now available here in pdf form.
nopoetryfortheenemiesofpoetry was a collection of some stuff written over the previous years (I think the earliest thing in it is from 1996). And for the Francophones and the observant that should be ‘le deuxième âge d’or : plus d’or’, of course…
For what it is worth ‘my head is bloom’ is my favourite and quite possibly best piece, if we consider this a hierarchy of poems.
‘The Key’ also has a place in my heart, the aforementioned work from 1996 that I held as a pivotal moment in the development of my poetic work. In it I tried to capture a moment from my childhood were I desperately craned and turned before the bathroom mirror trying to see the strange and necessarily different world I knew existed through the looking glass.
I don’t think I was ever particularly happy with this zine. Strangely enough I left out two of my best poems from that period that had, at the turn of the century, become favourites of the small performance scene in Canberra; namely ‘The Beat This’ and the oft requested ‘I Want To Get Into Your Pants’. Indeed this zine had originally coalesced as a very different collection scheduled to be released on the back of the Martin Bryant shootings and the election of John Howard. I had planned on calling it shoot me.
The main reason I published the nopoetryfortheenemiesofpoetry zine in 2004 was because apart from a few pieces that had turned up in collaborative projects I hadn’t put out a zine under my name since 1997 — i.e. The Journal of Doctor Shamass. Between 1997 and 2004 I had been taken up by other processes: parenting, ultra-left politics, dissolute behaviour. I had continued to perform poetry, in particular at the regular monthly gigs at Heaven nightclub in Canberra run by Xtian in 1998 and 1999, occasional gigs at the ANU Uni Bar between 1997 and 2002, and even briefly at the ‘Spacefish’ gigs at Toast nightclub beginning in 2002. And then, on the back of a serious illness at the end of 2002 I decided to return to uni.
nopoetryfortheenemiesofpoetry became then a way of keeping one foot in the rapidly expanding pool of zines flooding a world drowning in words that mostly work for a living. The title was inspired by an action that my comrade Gerald Keaney and I staged against that enemy of poetry Les Murray at Tilley’s café in Lyneham in early 1998. Back then there was a regular monthly poetry gig, at the time run by the late David Branson and Hal Judge. Gerry and I were regulars there, and although encouraged by the likes of Branno and Judge our conceptual antics were not greatly appreciated by the café’s management. For instance on one occasion a joint performance ended with artificial cream soaking into the plush carpet of the stage under the glare of the lights.
And then one day at the Tilley’s gig Les Murray — friend of the aforesaid café manager & local bourgeois — turned up to sniff around. Gerald and I decided to intervene against this inveterate racist and self-styled poet. So from the mic on the stage Gerry denounced him while I sidled up next to him at the bar and started a more intimate harangue. Soon enough Murray left in a funk. And shortly after Tilley’s management decided to take its revenge by cancelling the poetry gig; so much for freedom of expression, particularly when directed at a ‘national treasure’. For those interested in such things (like me), there is a partial account of this ‘scandal’ in the Canberra Times newspaper sometime in the first few months of 1998.
So the title of this collection, nopoetryfortheenemiesofpoetry, began life as a projected poster aimed at all those like Murray that conceived of poetry as something more akin to the competitive and hierarchical sport of careers in poetry rather than the free creation and transformation of everyday life. What remained of the poster, a tapestry of plagiarism, I placed on the back page of the zine:
We can only be sure about what is no longer the poetic adventure of an era: its false, officially tolerated poetry. Poetry must be made by all. Poetry will no longer give rhythm to action; it will be in advance. The beautiful illusion of the dream worlds, in the creation of which every human is truly an artist, is the prerequisite of all plastic art, and, as we shall see, of an important part of poetry also. Forget about your genius, your talents, and the talents of everyone else. Keep reminding yourself that literature is one of the saddest roads that leads to everything. Poetry is by nature stormy, and every image should produce a cataclysm. Let it burn! The thermogenic cotton of the poem. Fiery tempers. Never dilute your petrol with water, you wretches. Let it blaze! A poem must be a debacle of the intellect. Poetry is the opposite of literature. Poetry is a pipe. The real poet cannot be recognised as such if she does not oppose the world in which she lives by total non-conformism. The poet of today has no other choice than to be a revolutionist or not to be a poet. Let us immediately denounce a misunderstanding that claimed to classify poetry as a means of expression. The poetry which distinguishes itself from novels only by its external form, the poetry which expresses either ideas or sentiments, no longer interests anyone. To it I oppose poetry as an activity of the mind. Poetry must be understood as immediate communication within reality and as real alteration of this reality. It is nothing other than liberated language, language recovering its richness, language which breaks its rigid significations and simultaneously embraces words, music, cries, gestures, painting, mathematics, facts, acts. Poetry thus depends on the greatest wealth of possibilities in living and changing life at a given stage of socio-economic structure. Poetry: the loaves and fishes, or no less miracle.
I will shortly have more to say on the question of plagiarism, considering how the chickens are coming home to roost in the Australian poetry scene at the moment, cowering behind intellectual property rights and calls for a more police like attitude to poetry. Sadly the poets who perpetrated the plagiarism are just the flip side of such cop like attitudes, more concerned with the cash and notoriety they can suck from marketing themselves. Welcome to pathetic squabbles and desperate ploys of poetry incorporated.