Overland Emerging Poets Series: Fiona Hile

2011 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Poets commended poet: Fiona Hile

Fiona Hile’s poems have been published in the Age, Overland, Shearsman, the Sun-Herald, Rabbit, Steamer and Cordite. Her chapbook, The Family Idiot, was published by Vagabond Press in 2012. Her features, book reviews, and interviews have been published in the Age, Southerly, Art & Australia, Art World, and The Monthly. She is currently completing a PhD on Michel Houellebecq and JM Coetzee at the University of Melbourne where she also tutors in Literary Studies. Her essay on the hermeneutics of equivocation in Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello is forthcoming in JASAL.


Mondrian Green

Sitting with your back to the elm-filled window, 
laked extract of ripe Buckthorn berries
retro-teaching skipping girl how to skip,
you applaud the absence of Mondrian Green.

Faulty pylons screeching sparks into the cindering
daylight Semaphores in the first night Purgatory
of the Act One day the child of Dickens new
corridor transitions burn misrecognised in
the vinyl overlays of heliotropic figuration 

Fast Green Lake sprays panoptic quietude
in the TEx mEX panoply of bands named after
words: if all of our communications belong
to others and the minimal distance between 
your shirt and my shoulder is all we can share

But the cosmic exposition of the passionate two is also nature itself 
So the muscles tensed for flensing in the trigonometry of information
fail the test of morning Stepping out into the molecular heresy of leaves
subjections of signs give play to the dissimulation of danger 
What can I do? A goldfish swimming in a room full of skulls is not 

indiscernable Outside my office window the throng of voices
Rises up on the paralytic point by point Escapade of natural oblivion, 
your voice leaves its name to join the soundtrack of the new world Spring 
mist plots a graphic heteronym that I call nature, each leaf distinct as
illness Numbering the pages of a parallel history in which we marry and spend

Mondrian! There isn’t a poet alive who would disagree with your conception of nature.
For them, the Sublime is a handle for the grinding of sausages. Sublation is useful in the construction of powerful individuals. To be a poet is to hold
every opinion, to know that nature does not exist and to tolerate 
the impossibility of whole parts. I confess:

The Lilliputian threads of the old ways make me want to lose a limb
I have tried to be everything and I cannot do it.
stupid permanent estrangement 
promises to forget childhood promises in the forging of our new life

In the shrink reduce distinct of Bentham-by-way-of-Burke
our silence is creating new forms of interaction. 

Giving in to what you will not be, indifferent personification 
gasping in the terrified light Your terminous gaze imposes 
movement on the move from impotence to impossibility Flees 
inductive exposition of the count says An easel is a guillotine 

by means of which we exploit image, comparison and 
rhythm Ideally, we would have nothing of subjective confidings 
Yet, to love poetry is to love not being able

to choose On an intransitive note I think
the light transfigures you as you speak – Lisbon 6am 
slip insert desire for describe

Harem skerrick of horse Twice-listed how you become me
Presentations of liquid description annihilate the disperse and leak of
thirsting for armature, the dry pad trickle of foreign Projection 
Dissembles in the prevaricatory jungle Assembled incontestate at the 
frontier :  I like your idea of an objectless love

drawing of a tree 

Atrium’d windache apocraphies bending situationist branches 
Fouled by the gold leaf declensions of Eleven shimmering 
navel oranges descending Incrementally


Who are you reading now and why do they turn you on?

I recently sat in a lecture theatre and listened to the poet Andrew Motion talk about poetry of the First World War. I sometimes harbor petty suspicions and unwarranted aversions to particular forms of poetry. Often, on hearing something I was sure I wouldn’t like or had previously decided wasn’t my kind of thing I end up changing my mind. Henry Reed’s ‘Naming of Parts’ really stayed with me: I love the alarming and saddening juxtaposition of technology and nature. I’ve since been looking into what I consider to be some very fine examples of Australian war poetry – contemporary works by Jennifer Maiden, Gig Ryan, and A Frances Johnson. The second lecture dealt with World War Two poetry and so I’ve been reading Paul Celan and an excellent essay by Marjorie Perloff called ‘Sound Scraps, Vision Scraps’ that sets out to move beyond the conception of Celan as a ‘holocaust poet’ by examining instances of his work at the level of sound structure, rhythm, lineation and syntax.

I tutor in literary studies so I’ve also been reading Waiting for Godot, The Wasteland, To The Lighthouse and essays on Modernism. Soon I’ll be rereading Sylvia Plath and John Forbes. I remember last semester mentally tallying the week’s reading, which happened to include reading for supervisions and thesis examinations. I came up with Great Expectations, Romeo & Juliet, Othello, Jane Eyre, A Doll’s House, The Cherry Orchard, Perloff’s Differentials and Unoriginal Genius, poems by Tom Raworth and Robert Duncan, and numerous texts on Jean Baudrillard and science fiction. Bits of all of these are still finding their way into my poems.

How often do you write? Do you have a writing practice?

In general, my writing practice seems dependent on chance and the goodwill of others. Recently I have been thinking about a poem that I encountered when I visited the office of a poet who works and studies at the university. He wasn’t there so I sat in his chair and chose a book from the top of the pile beside his desk. One of its pages had been bookmarked with a German-language travelling ticket dated 2003. The poem it marked read:

Closer yet I approach you;
What thought you have of me, I had as much of you –
I laid my stores in advance;
I consider’d long and seriously of you before you were born.

I read these lines out to the poet who shares the office with my friend. The next day, after having coffee with another poet who works in the building, I wrote a draft of a poem. I called it ‘Walt Whitman Poem’ but I will probably re-title it ‘Courtly Love’. I type bits of things into my phone and forget about them. Sometimes I re-find the scraps and invite them in to whatever poem I’m writing. I get together with friends about once a month to read poetry – our own and the works of others. We rarely have anything to say about each other’s poems at first. There might be the occasional sigh or grimace, the lurch of red wine onto the carpet. As the evening progresses, high enthusiasm!

When you think of Australian poetry, do you see an elephant in the room? If so, what is it?

I think poetry is the elephant in the room. I think poets are those who love elephants.


Other work online:
Jacket magazine

Peter Minter

Peter Minter is a leading Australian poet and writer on poetry and poetics, and Overland’s outgoing poetry editor.

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