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Greetings from the abandoned goldfields of Central Victoria and welcome to the latest one of these things.
It’s been mostly a behind-the-scenes time, with more editing and submitting than actual writing, but here’s a quick update on what I’ve been up to, firstly in the form of a TL;DR:
- Poem Spaceknight – recording & editing & ripping off Mental as Anything (sort of)
- What I’ve been reading – poems about Gene Hackman & multiverses
- Anticline – chatting in Chewton & scoring (then losing) a new box
- Waiting to hear back about 25 poems out there in the wild
This was written on Dja Dja Wurrung and Wurundjeri lands.
If a cyborg reads a poem in a soundproof booth or a comic shop after hours and nobody hears it…
Late August saw me working with producer extraordinaire Camilla Hannan to record a version of “Arrival”, the first poem in the Poem Spaceknight sequence, for publication on the Going Down Swinging website as part of a spoken word mini-feature.
Camilla’s expertise guided me through the process of reading the poem while accompanied by a nifty bit of music I scored from the similarly nifty Kevin MacLeod, aka Incompetech, whose creative commons music library I heartily recommend to you all.
Not sure when the final product is going to appear on the GDS site, but you can sign up for the GDS newsletter to be notified of exciting things such as this as they eventuate.
In the meantime you can listen to me read “Arrival” and “The Beginning of the End of the World” and talk about Rom Spaceknight on episode 46 of Radioactive Lounge, a funny and fun comics podcast recorded upstairs at All Star Comics in front of the toy cabinets in all their expensive-old-Masters-of-the-Universe-toy-holding glory.
Otherwise I’ve mainly been revising in preparation for pitching to publishers. I just put #5, “A House is not a Home”, to bed, which is now a riff on old 1980s text adventure games instead of a riff on JRPG video games as it was in the original version, after I realised references to JRPGs were anachronistic for a poem about a comic published in 1980.
Anyway here’s a sneak peek of “The Fire, the Friend and the Foe”, which I revised to my satisfaction last week. It’s rhythmically based (loosely, let’s say) on the Mental as Anything song “Berserk Warriors”, which I was listening to a lot around the time I wrote it.
The Fire, the Friend and the Foe
(ROM: Spaceknight #4, March 1980)
Casey has a telescope.
Points it every evening at the stars.
Wants to be a scientist
like Maria Mitchell or Grace Cook.
Tonight she’s looking westwards.
Just below the moon she sees two lights,
a silver and a crimson one,
too small and too fast for satellites.
She adjusts the focus,
corrects the angle.
And then a flash comes from the red one.
And then another from the silver.
They’re circling each other.
Moving in together, then apart.
The silver one flies higher.
Jagged lines of red streak after it.
Bolts of silver lightning.
Tiny fires snake across the sky.
Now the red one’s falling.
Silver dives to follow red’s descent.
She adjusts the focus,
corrects the angle.
And did she really see what she just saw?
Two fighting stars with human outlines?
And did they vaporise each other?
Or only fall below the horizon?
How will she tell her friends about this?
When will she see those stars again?
What I’ve been reading
Ellyn Touchette’s The Book of Gene is a suite of poems that tell the story of Gene Hackman visiting the narrator one day and demanding to be taken on a tour of Maine.
They take in a spa, go on a lobster boat, visit a farmers’ market, make prank calls, read at an open mic and visit the narrator’s therapist. It’s a funny, sweet and slightly dark book that takes the goofy concept somewhere more sincere and moving that you might expect.
Rob Sturma and Ryk McIntyre’s Multiverse! is an anthology of superhero poems that certainly hits the target at least as often as it misses it. Most of the poems consider specific already-existing superheroes rather than playing with the tropes of the genre, but that’s cool.
The best poems are either the ones that tell personal stories without leaning too heavily on the comic characters, like Theresa Davis’s “Superhero” (about her relationship with her son), or the ones that move beyond the well-worn parameters of your Batmans and Spider-Mans and Wonder Womans and tackle characters like Patricia Smith’s angry poem about disco-era heroine The Dazzler or Robbi Ramirez’s tragic take on super-baddie The Absorbing Man.
Anticline: some press coverage and a new box that got stolen
Anticline cracked it for the August cover of the Chewton Chat, the local newsletter run by my home town’s historical society. I had written to them hoping for a spot on the letters page, and ended up on the front page. Which was nice.
My letter (and Youngest Daughter’s photo of me) successfully drew attention to the Chewton installation of said poem booklet. People took some home and someone even replaced the shitty plastic takeaway container I’d used to rainproof the booklets with a much sturdier transparent tacklebox. Which was even nicer.
Youngest Daughter and I dropped in on the booklets a week later to restock, only to find that someone had nicked the new box, leaving the wee booklets to fend for themselves in the local weather. Which wasn’t so nice.
We took the poor things home with the intention of reinstalling them in a fresh new shitty takeaway box. As of this writing that hasn’t actually happened, and currently neither local anticline is attended by poems written in their honour. I’ll get onto that soon, I promise.
Meantime I got a lovely email from a woman in Barcelona who’d encountered the Castlemaine installation while walking around town with her mother, and apparently the two of them took turns reading the poem out loud to each other. Which was very nice to hear about indeed.
Waiting to hear back
I currently have about 25 poems out there in the wild, waiting to hear back from various journals and competitions.
Some of these poems have been out there for around 6 months, while others only went out a week or two ago. That’s a pretty standard timeframe, but it doesn’t make it any more fun. After six months of hitting the refresh button on my inbox I sometimes find myself hoping they’ll just hurry up and reject me and kill the suspense.
I’ve had a couple rejections too, mostly polite and speedy, that really took the edge off the burn with their efficiency and consideration. It’s the long waits I struggle with. And don’t get me started on the ones that just don’t reply at all to unsuccessful submissions.
This newsletter comes out once a month. You’re reading it on my website right now, but if you want to sign up for it you can sign up for it here. You can also see older issues of Adam’s Occasional Poetry News here.
The next newsletter will come out in early 2017. I’m going dark for a couple of months while I go on holiday.
Comments, criticisms and suggestions can go to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading.