2011 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Poets runner-up: Sam Langer
Sam Langer was born in February 1983. He lived in North Fitzroy for 26 or so years. He moved to Berlin (Germany) in October 2011. He edits Steamer. His work has appeared in a few different places, including Otoliths, Overland, the Age, Cordite, John Tranter’s The Best Australian Poems 2011, and Steamer.
Sam Langer’s ‘Clouds fall like snow on the sky’s clear rocks’ is a remarkably lucid account of looking at clouds at night. One of the most spectacular and beautiful cloud formations to be observed under a good moon on a still summer night is the altocumulus mackerel sky. Rather than undertake some kind of ego-correlation or assertion, Langer just stands and looks, allowing the metabolism of cognition and image-making to freely rise and form, just like the clouds.
You can read a short interview with Sam Langer, and find more links to his work, after his poem below.
‘Clouds fall like snow on the sky’s clear rocks’1one way is for the temperature to fall this happens on clear, calm summer nights. a cloudy sky acts these clouds do not produce rain or snow when clouds appear these look like scales of a fish, like ‘alto’ clouds fall and consist mostly of water, except during winter when cooling may occur during a clear, calm night accumulate as an ice cap, some water infiltrates deep into the ground as though describing how water moves, even though clouds are absent in a crystal clear blue sky. the sky was clear. the rocks were described as polished pebbles. the crust on the top of it seemingly fell from the sky along with fresh snow. every day, a money rock, also known as a bell rock, will randomly appear, striking smiles. a clear waterfall whose blossoms fall into the entrails. do you see a rock orbiting earth? the sky clouded and a light rain began to fall.
1 Gig Ryan, ‘Fog (1)’, Pure and Applied, Paper Bark Press, Brooklyn, NSW, 1998
Who are you reading now and why do they turn you on?
I read a lot of different things and, to some degree, at the same time. For example, right now I am reading these words, and looking at some words on the cover of a Student-brand notebook lying on the table: ‘Made in Germany’, ‘Mit praktischer Ausreißhilfe’. I start more books than I finish (preferable to vice versa). On Monday morning I was queueing for hours at the ‘foreigners’ office’ here and reading The Literary Space by Maurice Blanchot. This was a bit like when you read someone’s complex interpretation of a book that someone else will write in the future about what is happening to you yourself, now; I’m not sure if that turned me on, but it did make me feel like I was using my time in line wisely.
My reading may be compulsive. As in, no one could say that I rationalise my reading for turn-on delivery. I probably have no idea what reading is or what being turned on is. Is it saying ‘I Like Oomph And Permission’ – to wit, Lautréamont, John Ashbery, Tom Raworth, Gertrude Stein and William Carlos Williams (especially ‘A Novelette’)? Definitely, as the computer game put it, contemporaries are needed: Michael Farrell, Corey Wakeling, Fiona Hile, Ella O’Keefe, Melinda Bufton, Oscar Schwartz, Leah Muddle, Will Druce, Tim Wright, Astrid Lorange, Nick Keys, Joel Scott, Ann Vickery, Duncan Hose, etc. Accurate crystals that are there momentarily eclipse precustomised death, such as the word crystals: Gig Ryan, John Wieners, Tom Lee and Marty Hiatt.
How often do you write? Do you have a writing practice?
I would love to have my own practice, with my name on a brass plaque next to the doorbell. Under my name can be read, PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT; and then in smaller writing, ‘Each perfect is made individually and by hand, so marked irregularities in the dimensions should be anticipated and are not refundable. Perfect is sold at 5 cents per square centimetre/inch. Prince, oops, price, includes carbon offset’.
When you think of Australian poetry, do you see an elephant in the room? If so, what is it?
I was recently doing some summer holiday teaching work at ‘English camps’ for German children and teenagers. One of our duties was to teach the campers about our home country. Occasionally I ran a game called A–Z, in which two teams race to come up with 26 things to do with some particular topic, in my case Australia, and the English word for each thing has to start with one letter of the alphabet. So, I noticed that many kids would call out things like ‘Zebra!’ or ‘Anaconda!’ or ‘Elephant!’, which were just wrong (in a way); or then things like ‘Mountains!’ or ‘Rivers!’ which were correct, i.e., within ‘Australia’ as ideas, but not really specific enough to be awarded points. Look, my experience is that the extended use of Hans Arp’s ‘The Tyrolean Elephant’ tends to replace all other approaches to life’s problems, including Australian poetry. I would say that elephants can be a lot of things that certain books can also be – large, greyish, angry, smart, dangerous, placid, dead, heavy, endangered, impressive, a source of ivory or a source of entertainment.