This is the second of my promised blog posts featuring Australian poets – this time it’s Joan Kerr, who writes delectable prose as well as poetry – more of that below.
Joan’s poetry has been widely published in Australia, including two appearances in Best Australian Poems (Black Inc, 2004, 2006). Joan has been published in the US and the UK and has been featured on Radio National’s PoeticA. She has won numerous poetry prizes including the John Shaw Neilson Poetry Prize, the Henry Kendall Poetry Prize, the Woorilla Prize, the W.B. Yeats prize and the Dorothy Porter Poetry Award, and minor prizes in the Gwen Harwood, Max Harris, Val Vallis, Tom Collins, Rosemary Dobson and Melbourne Poets awards.Her collection Human Voices was shortlisted for a Varuna Publisher’s Award in 2012. A selection is included in Triptych Poets Issue 3 (Blemish Press 2012). She also has a poem in the recently published Australian Love Poems (Inkerman& Blunt)
that time of year thou mayst in me behold
cloud light arches giving onto fields
and sometimes water, lying by the land
what are my walls what is sky water or earth
clouds the air’s shadow over the walls
like a gliding loss
the sound of my steps in vanishing corridors
under fog the water is so still
each boat stands on its own stiff shadow
and autumn burns the trees again
From: This vision thing (Melbourne Poets’ Union 2003)
When the phone rings in the night to tell him someone’s died
not unexpectedly, and without giving trouble,
he thinks as he lies down of the hurt red setter
he had to shoot, what, forty years ago? His heart flinches again.
His house flowering quietly around him
in this contented suburb, he lies awake until
the trees step out of the shadows. Fifty.
He wonders what he did for the rest of that day
and why he’s never seen, these forty years,
those trees with the ripped and shaggy bark
and under it, the silky heifer skin. That sky
so clean and glittering
it makes you want to weep.
‘Doctor’ was broadcast on RN PoeticA 12/3/2000
The autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
You knew genius when you saw it, you said.
Perhaps your cultivated
insignificance created shadow
in which it shone more brightly. Gertrude Stein
was your own household genius, not so much loved
as taken on, as an oriental monk
takes on the burden of the gods, whose service
depends on order. Bells are rung
to rule, and certain kinds of sweeping must be done.
For monks, it goes without saying
the gods are not indifferent to menu,
or to trademarks, or to fashion
and all their foibles are a kind of glorious cheek.
Because they can, they do
and this works well, as long as the god is stone.
But you are bolder and more knowing than monks
and you want more. Because you know
that genius is not stone, because you understand
how genius needs accomplices.
How like a blubbering child your genius is
standing at the head of the stairs
uncombed, half-dressed and pleading for your kindness.
You whisk by towards the kitchen.
Some third person is picking up its pen.
From: Best Australian Poems 2006 (Black Inc)
Here are some thoughts about poetry that Joan would like to share:
A poem is “an experience, a story, a piece of music, a set of images…” (Steve Kowit, In the palm of your hand, p. 125)
“Poetry expresses the passage from not-knowing to knowing through which we represent the world, including the perspectives of others, to ourselves and those around us.” (Kowit, p.14)
“The substance of a poem is not merely an expression of individual impulses and experiences. Those become a matter of art only when they come to participate in something universal…” (Theodor Adorno, quoted in Susan Stewart, Poetry and the Fate of the Senses, p. 43)
Mary Kinzie (A Poet’s Guide to Poetry) advises both reader and writer of a poem to think about:
“Words: you are not just reading messages or extracting meanings or drafting editorials to put into lines: you are thinking in words. You are thinking so hard in the atmosphere created by words that they enter you like your breathing. This means, first, looking at words by themselves, with all their weight and subtlety; it helps to think about their length, complexity, and language of origin too.
Sentence versus line: along with the form and sound of words by themselves, you are concerned with their connection into sentences, in whole or in part; some of these parts fall neatly into lines, others work against the lines.” (Kinzie, p. 6)
With her sister Gabrielle Daly, Joan writes comic novels under the pen name Gert Loveday. Writing Is Easy, by Gert Loveday, has recently been released as an ebook and you can find it on Authors Unlimited. It’s a great read!
Gert writes with authority on peculiar diets, exercise regimes, body makeovers, extreme fashion, gurus, pigeons, religion, poetry, politics, the health bureaucracy, gourmet cooking, reality TV and literature from the Norse Sagas to Jeffrey Archer, with a sharp eye for character foibles and the pricking of pomposity. Writing is Easy was shortlisted for a Varuna Publisher Fellowship in 2011.