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Emerging poet series: Marty Hiatt

Marty Hiatt is a Melbournite. Before realising he was a poet he erroneously wrote a novel. It ends badly. He also translates and occasionally writes criticism. He is the author of the chapbooks Rook’s Lair on a Lever (2012), portfolio of nothing file of cream (2013), and festivalize this (2014), which he put out himself with Bulky News Press. Now that he’s learnt basic layout and has a clandestine printing network, he’s beginning to publish others too.

 

please, step into my orifice

no wayt
the page hurts
bracing again
in scabrous abeyance
wonder
wounderer with the pounding drum
for to convince oh
yea to be along
so say my twin
my twin and his
the team are saying
being out and doing
by surface reach
sonic rope thrown
dragnet edge still falling
say no and am
say yes and am and arent
say and rope thrown
folly rope
and hubris anchor
spinning dead
nathless
we are all here
, between ,
we are not all there
a talk or similar
a cage of rhythm
the many of happenings
i touch them all
with imitation rope
melody stolen from my twin
in ruction at playgroup
i recount nothing
no wayt
i liken everything
being of no interest
making mocking with adze
air of confusion hanging
in an english language
who left my insides
on st kilda rd
a gift to being
in the eventine city
in the permanent interregnum
a talk or similar
a mess, first and foremost
her first in 11 years
a sector
of ordinary reality
sent to transfer station
for processing
civet extracted
from civet
lets celebrate
the centenary
of military aviation
weve come so far
with our propellants
ratcheting us up
suspension of crimes
and high-tensile trials
over midden-guard
air of confusion hanging
in the unstill interregnum
rounds of intensive talks
parallel to official negotiations
preliminary and secret talks
in an english reality
in an english dragnet
nuclear climate peace talks
closing the space they open
squatting the generic haven
the team are saying
time for cool heads
and cold bodies
all here not all there
all propelled
by a single space
a single sprocket
clunk into the clinker
endless cage stretching
beyond the atmosphere
the touch of air
on bare iron stave
confusion construed
from parallel law
talks are along
to envelop exteriors
and many of happenings
the arras of the eventine talks
each with their own way in
to the high-tensile stoff
and fandangled clinch
lugging kith and problems
and imitation rope
the team are saying
straddle the symbol
you veteran juggernaut
of no interest
woven silken traps abound
in a sector
of an ordinary english
language wrapped around
particle-wave scars
lets celebrate a mess,
first and foremost
and finish up the bruise
whatever it is
with an adverb
bursting through the infinitive
a boundless yes

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

I read all kinds of things at once. I used to feel guilty about it but no longer. It’s a vaguely neurotic obsession. Sometimes you don’t even know what you’re doing or why. You aren’t necessarily being turned on, maybe you are trying to flee the text before you, the serifs and the stops. But you soon learn to make friends with your neuroses and collaborate.

The major reading experience of the past year has been (randomly) discovering and devouring Kevin Davies. I had been pursuing a kind of open-form writing, but vaguely, blindly, (obsessively,) trying to explore a particular space, and I failed at it but I also couldn’t give up on it. Then Davies’s books fell into my lap and they were a superlative realisation of what I was only dreaming of. He had evidently done all kinds of hard work exploring the formal and spatial possibilities of his writing, and the result is that the organisation of it projects particular phrases over great distances, like darts that land elegantly in unsuspecting eyes. The cumulative effect of it makes it effectively uncitable. The language radiates. There’s no shame in reading such books three times over and still being thirsty for more of it.

I’ve also been checking out a number of younger UK writers, in mags like Materials, No Prizes, Hi Zero. I especially enjoyed recent chaps by Ian Heames, Justin Katko, Ulli Freer. I just ordered one by Lisa Jeschke. Of those whom one is always reading, I’ve recently dipped into Spicer, Raworth, and Berrigan from ‘there’ and Ryan, Brown, Edwards and Farrell from ‘here’. Then there’s those you’re translating, which lately has been Char and Michaux. And then of course the locals, those going into it with you, those with whom reading and writing are almost no longer separated, but get all knotted up into a giant virtual (and neurotic!) skein of sovereignties.

I am not reading any Paris Review interviews with writers.

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

I write obsessively, continually, sporadically, haltingly, despairingly, pathetically, maniacally, numbly. I jot down notes, copy things down, hew bad prose, abuse other works, collage my own, sit down with blank paper and just force it, etc. I’m getting to the point where to even do anything I have to have first written it down on a to do list. It all goes through the text. I’ve long since banished any idea of routine. It’s often just an fetish image of dedication. When you actually commit yourself, the need for this fetish evaporates. You get to the point where you need to ‘make time’ for things that aren’t poetry.

If the practice could be described as “as variously as possible”, there are still some common elements. You pitilessly disrupt your own tendency to inertia, to the factory farming of your language (unless that is itself a disruption of something else), you ruthlessly attack your ego with a poison-ink-tipped arrow when it starts to slip back into trying to be a ‘good’ writer, you try to invent practices as much as create poems. Most importantly, you persist, however vainly, in assuming your finitude. At a basic level there’s a feeling that comes on, a symptom. Schiller described it as a musical mood (as opposed to a having something to say), but for me it is more like an onto-historical migraine, a total despair at even the possibility of being what one is, being a someone, being this person, being anything at all, and things generally being how they are, as insane as they are, as deliberately hideous as they are. We tend to align this despair with the inability to employ language, but the thing about it is that it also effects a kind of breaching of the given bounds of the selves, institutions and objects (whether conformist or critical) that we take to constitute our world. And that is invaluable to art. To pass from the migraine to actually writing necessitates an acceptance of one’s ignorance not of ‘who one really is’, but of what one is literally doing right at that moment: writing, considered in its utter exteriority. The funny thing about accepting this ignorance, which is a way of assuming finitude, is that it both proves your despair right (it is indeed impossible to be who one is, etc., etc.), but at the same time it obliterates it, because it renders it powerless to inhibit your actions. This is a kind of minute yet supreme defiance of the despair and its causes, and their supposed ability to silence you, or to determine your behaviour in any way whatsoever. Ignorance also mars your ability to evaluate what you create, not to mention your ability to truthfully discuss the process of writing in the abstract.

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

Leaving aside the politics of national cultures (which others in the series have already adequately broached), I’d say that one of the many elephants in the room is dissensus. Disagreement is as pervasive and profound as it presumably always has been, and with art it is often absolute. ‘“Don’t mention the War” is the reigning protocol.’ What is wanting is the means and willingness to assume the reality of it: to be willing to take clear positions, to develop arguments for them or against others, to produce a discourse that is grounded in the basic separation of the work or argument from the one making it, and in the recognition that the culture one is creating and participating in is a public one, no matter how incestuous it may seem. This is obviously a sort of meta-elephant, in that poetry is (in)different to any discourse about it. And perhaps that goes some way to explaining why we poets can be so dismal at it. But at the same time, the recognition of the difference should mean that people are capable of both. With almost no social differentiation between those who write poetry and those who write about it, those who publish it in books and journals, those who offer grants, those who are friends with poets, etc., it isn’t enough to wait around for non-poets to come help out. “We will never agree, or come to an agreement.” Of course we won’t, but discourse has other goals and benefits than accord. Friends as well as supposed enemies stand to gain much more from substantial and rigorous disagreement than either vague publicising or acrimonious take-downs, both of which stem from bloated egos and foster an air of generalised meaninglessness. I don’t mean that anyone active in poetry should be obliged to enter into any kind of discussion of their work or of someone else’s. I only mean that those who do so should ensure that what they contribute is free of both flattery and ressentiment and full of thought pursuing itself, rather than the other way around.

 

 

Links

Bulky News Press

Cordite
January

Overland
transit of venus

Otoliths
put down the years
3 poems
whats

5 translations of Nicolas Born

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

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