look at what poetry does with us

10The Overland Overloaded team will be handing the Overland blog back to Overland at the end of today. Today we’ll be uploading our last few posts. We’ll let you sit in on our musings with the exhausted but triumphant Lisa Greenaway from Going Down Swinging, and taking one last look at the people and poetry that made the Overload Festival 2009.  For the moment though, Alec Patric’s getting sentimental about his time reviewing the festival. Almost makes  all us Overloaders teary…well, if we weren’t half dead with exhaustion. Alec writes:

So the Overload Poetry Festival is over and I can get back to finishing my second novel. Finally. But it was an interesting experience, especially moving in what is a counter intuitive direction for me. Journalism and the role of critic are such ridiculous roles to play. For me it’s like saying I’m a painter, but instead of finding a canvas, I’ll go and paint people’s houses. I won’t even ask them what they want. One day they come home and I’ve painted it periwinkle. Just because it suits my mood today. There’s also a repugnant sitting-in-judgment in so much of journalism. It seems to always search for black and white statements. Writing isn’t about ‘shades of grey’ either. For me it’s not even a range of colours. It’s animal skin and body heat after a run. It’s a soft-drink bottle left out in the sun. It’s the twist of the top. The whole black and white photographic lens lies to me. It says the world is beautiful, or it’s ugly, and we can sit and watch it. All of us are twisting the top off each day and there’s a kind of explosion we deal with. No one controls the experience. You drink some of it down and a lot spills out of your mouth. You get some of it on your clothes. Someone reporting on the event might think it all looks a little silly. That was my never intention with this Overload Festival. I wanted to taste the words of the poets living in Melbourne or visiting our city. I felt privileged to be offered a seat at the table. I recently went to an art exhibition called the Photobooth Project at the Majorca building on Flinders Lane and talked to the artist. Misster Dean said the photos were taken in a booth — every day — for five years. A wonderful idea, but I asked her how she would actually sell any of the art and she said she wasn’t interested in selling anything. I loathe consumerism as much as anyone but it still takes my breath away when people do something that is blatantly pointless, financially speaking. It impresses the hell out me as well when it’s as worthy of attention as the Photobooth Project. And of course The Overload Festival. With people like James Waller, the Director of Overload festival, and his simple but continuous zeal to provide an exhibition that doesn’t sell anything. But which gives poets a platform to perform from and for others to listen. None of it done with self importance or apparent sense of personal achievement. All I can do is step aside and shake my head. At all of these people we call poets and their dedication to giving us the most valuable things they have, and never even dreaming of turning a profit. After I’m done shaking my head all I can say is that it was valuable to me and I’m grateful.

what we’ve done with poetry

so we took the rhyme
out of poetry
and the reason
out of wine
we took rhythm
out of voices
chose flat, unpretentious faces
and smiled in ways and days
lazy eyes and wandering laughter
looking for new methods with dead means
inventing terse terminology for termites
found desiccated and deracinated dreams
flakes of skin and dusted hope
swept to the corners into piles
swept under and up and away
broke Shakespeare’s bones
skull-fucking the past, and fast
conquering death with a grin
one orgasm at a time
and we’ll call it poetry
in ransacked mother tongues
coming up with Roman coins
she whispers from the stage
‘the murderous heart of Caesar
must be unafraid of daggers’
because I’m still dreaming
Pax Romana without the Romans
without iron swords or empires
a new kind of colosseum
for a new kind of poetry, that
is ready for lions and bears
is ready for other Roman games
like crucifixion and decimation
that sees the stage as a place
worth spilling your blood
and now she says
‘I’ve seen the past and future
and you and I are neither
poetry is what remains now’
and she leaves me wondering
what else to do with everything
all the things that I need
to sacrifice
what should I do
with love
if I’ve lost all my poetry
she answers as she exits
‘we have hidden the world
in these ancient skulls
we wear as our heads’
a new kind of poetry
that requires Roman skills
with hammers and ladders
aqueducts still running
that offer digital blood
digital circulation, a heart
a perfect reconstruction
that says
poetry is
poetry was
poetry never ceases
she whispers from the wings
‘it doesn’t matter what we’ve done
look at what poetry does with us’

Overland Overloaded

More by Overland Overloaded ›

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Related articles & Essays