2011 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Poets runner-up: Patrick Jones
Patrick Jones lives on a quarter-acre permaculture plot in Daylesford, Central Victoria, with a small tribe of kin. He is a writer of essays and poetry, an artist of everyday activity, a parent and an activist. His work has appeared in a number of places including Artlink, Meanjin, Cordite, Arena, Jacket, Overland, Rabbit, HEAT, Southerly, MCA Sydney, MUMA Melbourne, unMagazine, ecopoetics (US), Spiral Orb (US), Tarpaulin Sky (US) and Angelaki (UK). He is currently undertaking doctoral work on scholarship within the Writing and Society Research Group at the University of Western Sydney, where he is developing the precept of permapoesis. His books include Words and Things (2004) and A Free-dragging Manifesto (2008).
Patrick Jones explicitly attacks the romantic self-consciousness that still affects some white Australian literary cultures, especially their oblivious transportation of European aesthetic modes into antipodean landscapes. ‘Step by step’ is not about ‘emotion recollected in tranquillity’. Its typographical interferences and static work to slow down, to hook and strain the reading process, such that emotion, reflection and cognition are caught and inflected in the present-time. Jones forces us to grapple with a specific set of poethical considerations: how does language-use contribute to the violence of colonisation and machineries and economies of ecological destruction? What kinds of vernacular interventions might inhibit such violence? Can poetry save the world? Jones’ poetry is challenging, perhaps not for everyone, but the world he is saving is the same one you’re living in.
You can read ‘Step by step’ here, and find a short interview with Patrick Jones and more links to his work below.
Who are you reading now and why do they turn you on?
Snu Vooglebreinder’s Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness (2009). It is an incredible 500-page, hardbound, self-published text written over twelve years by a community friend. It has everything in it from Camellia sinensis (tea) to ayahuasca (Amazonian ‘vine of the dead’ or ‘spirit vine’) – both of which I have taken and then experienced the profound love of plant chemistry. The book describes the ethnobotanical, cultural, chemical, benefits and application for use of hundreds of plants worldwide. The book itself is an act of love from a meticulous mind, and it celebrates the wonderful and uncivilised worlds of plants and how we can further engage with the more-than-human in bodily ways.
How often do you write? Do you have a writing practice?
I write every day usually, but I also like to have days in which I write nothing and do nothing. I also write poems with my body. I call these biophysical poems, which I generally carry out on long walks. Biophysical poems involve the body physically engaging with its environment. No planning is required, no thinking. The body is left to its own devices and makes sense through touch and strain. The poem may be recorded and shared as a video representation or it can be left as a trace.
When you think of Australian poetry, do you see an elephant in the room? If so, what is it?
I don’t really think of Australian poetry, or elephants. Neither enter my everyday experience as a poet-creature of place. Nations are created to enact mass death predation – interrupting war. Places are for beings and entities, for ecological prey and predator relations. Poetry under a flag has no agency for me; the symbolic world has a lot to answer for.