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the word on poetry blogging

91When I first started posting poetry on the Overland site, I was visited by Gingatao. And visited. And visited and visited and visited. I sent an email to Jeff: who IS this guy? But on further investigation Gingatao, aka Brisbane blogger-poet Paul Squires, is everywhere online that there is poetry, and poetry is everywhere on line he is, creating mayhem across cyber-space. If you are an Australian poet who blogs, you have most likely come across him. Poet-bloggers hate him. Poet-bloggers love him. They hate to love him and they love to hate him. Given the combination of poetry and blogging that’s been the last two weeks of the Overland blog, I thought I’d vox-pop the man and reveal some of the mystery behind the poet not short on confidence or comments:

Poetry blogging – why?
So many reasons. To be part of a creative community that isn’t geographically bound but which happens in real time. Because the discipline of posting regularly has been good for my writing. Because the old fashioned way is so slow and exclusionary. Because the internet (and in performance) is increasingly where poetry happens before its dessicated mummified corpse ends up on display in the museum of literary respectability. It’s fun.
Really all you do it for?
gingataoThat and the fact that the capitalist, colonialist, militarist scum have control over both the education system and the media. They’ll never get control over the internet and it is the most subversive, democratising tool since the printing press. Information is power, people talking to each other is power.
How long poetry blogging?
My first post is dated August 17 2007. It’s a love poem (another reason why I started by putting the poems in a blog instead of trying to get them into literary journals, unfashionable ‘sentimentality’). It’s called, without any irony, Quod Erat Demonstrandum.
Why not print?
Why not both?
What if someone steals your shit?
Smack them up side of the head with a sledgehammer. People scan paper journals into a computer and steal that too. As soon as your work becomes public it might get stolen. When I post something on the internet it is time and datestamped and everyone knows it’s mine. No-one could get famous or significantly monetise my work without me and hundreds of other people knowing about it. This is the old chestnut, last resort, of the fogeys who don’t like poetry blogging because it undermines their positions as arbiters of quality and taste. It will pass away just as the idea that journals won’t publish poems that have been in a blog has passed away.
Are you serious?
Being a poet is not about writing a poem, it is about building a coherent body of work over a lifetime. Being a poet who is completely serious all the time is like painting a landscape without any sky.
Are you crazy?
Have sanity and conformity become the same thing? Taoism is an ancient and noble philosophy. Einstein and Stephen Hawking both agree that time is not linear. Eccentricity (like being unhealthy or poor) is now seen as a kind of moral failure. The Australian literary scene is as boring as batshit, which is why no-one except the people involved give a fat rat’s arse about it. Let’s have the old discussion about the connection between creativity and seeing the world differently. No I am not crazy but I am capable of writing in a range of different voices, sometimes in the same sentence.
Who visits your blog?
The other day someone got to my blog by searching for “an Australian poem about bastards”. That made me very happy.
Seriously who visits you?
Funny, smart, interesting, creative people from all over the world.
Can we trust you?
Every writers voice is an artifical construct. I am not asking anyone to trust me. Evaluate the ideas, enjoy the writing. Besides everyone knows the scariest people in the world are those who make the most effort to appear normal and likeable. The number of people I have offended, it should be quite obvious I’m not lying to you in order to get you to like me or to trust me.
Why are you smiling like that?
I am smiling because change was necessary and change is happening.
Plug your blog.
I do my best in my blog. I have always done what I can to improve Australian poetry and give it a voice on the internet. Lots of people from all over the world enjoy my writing. Come and see why. (But please don’t arrive waving a fistful of documents and claiming to be very important.)
Plug it again.
My poetry has been read over a hundred thousand times in two years. I am the loudest (at last count most widely read) Australian poet on the internet.

the pornography of the self
 
I have a red rubber nose and bright red fingernails,
a green felt hat and an oversized geranium.I have a history of Abbie Hoffman,
a box full of astonishing connecticons,
assistance apparent from mysterious sources,
a Chinese Puzzle Box
and several spies with flowerpot eyes but
because you asked so nicely,

(the grass is damp but
i will still sit on it i
have a new book of
haikuschmaiku
written by worldfamous
masters of modern haikuschmaiku
so i will sit
on the damp grass
on my fat arse
and read it.)
 
I could be waving a polkadot flag and creating revolutions of clownish
mayhem, throwing flour bombs at the smugly complacent and
confabulating the hypocritical but because you asked so nicely I will
just sit here on this damp grass staring blankly into a mute mirror
and practise the pornography of the self.

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

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Comments

  1. I like your line that ‘being a poet is not about writing a poem… but building a coherent body of work over a lifetime’. I also like how poetry is an increasingly networked medium, and less about individual capital P poets (or hierarchies of national literature). And I too would like literary mags to publish poems that have been on blogs and am all for DIY publishing. I just see being poetry editor of Overland as an opportunity to curate a selection of poems, and so I’m more interested in the collection than the individual poems (and often read poems on blogs that I’d like to magpie).

    But I know we must also disagree on some fronts as I’m not necessarily anti-Universities in terms of how writers engage with them, and to me a lot of what you are saying still fits with the philosophies of what is known as the ‘post-avant’ in poetics? Or is that just wanky academia as opposed to the outsider keeping it real?

  2. Gingatao is a phenomenon. Because most of us only know him from the internet he feels less like a man than some vast poetic entity. So this interview is a great insight into the enigma (we even get a picture). When I started reviewing Overload I was most interested in pure performance, because there’s been more than enough done about page poets, (even though I’m one of them). But then there’s Gingatao, and he seems to be ushering in something else entirely. I know he performs and heaps of his material could be published in any magazine with sense, but there’s something unique about what he’s doing. Gingatao is as much a communal phenomenon as an ego driven unit. You simply have to look at the volume of what he reads and who reads him to realize that the voices of Gingatao are oceanic. I honestly don’t think that in twenty years from now we’ll be talking about some guy in Queensland called Paul Squires – there will be an icon called Gingatao.

  3. Yeah, the whole thing about blogs and lit mags is odd.

    I agree with what you say, Keri, about the ‘collection’, rather than the individual work. I was asking Lisa (from GDS) about this on Sunday night – whether poems were considered independently for publication, or as a ‘group': in which case you’d presumably want light an shade…some kind of balance. I’d be a hopeless poetry editor because I would just have to call the publication ‘Poems Maxine Likes’… not that that wouldn’t be a great publication :) How do you go about it? What is the process? Do you shortlist to poems you want to publish, then look at them together and carve the shape for the edition?

  4. Keri! Thanks. It doesn’t sound like wanky academia to me. The post-avant and I share similar concerns about the type of poetry promoted by the literary establishment and why it is promoted. We have irreconcilable differences when it comes to aesthetics (which I prefer to ‘poetics’ in this ekphrasic age) mostly based around the word ‘epiphanies’. There are many stylistic differences as well.
    I’m not anti-University, I am anti thinking a university degree is a qualification to write or to know good writing from bad.
    Cordite and Extempore are two Australian journals that accept poems that have been in blogs, I’m sure there’s more and the rest will follow.
    When you see a poem in a blog you would like to ‘magpie’ for Overland, why don’t you just ask the blogger? Think of all the time it would save wading through all those submissions and it would be environmentally friendly too, saving paper and fuel costs. Thanks again for the comment, you rock harder than people realise.
    Alec, Maxine and Gabrielle, you are too kind, thankyou.

  5. there is so much good stuff here: the traditional methods are so exclusionary, how true! And “people talking to each other is power.”
    “Being a poet is not about writing a poem, it is about building a coherent body of work over a lifetime.” this was a fantastic interview and gingatao is a remarkable blog. I would not have encountered nearly the talent in this world if I had not found the links at his site. Paul, your poetry is amazing and your taste for art is too.

  6. Paul Squires is irreverent, intelligent, and amazing and each time I visit Gingatao, I know I will be surprised, delighted, challenged and charmed. Thank you for interviewing a poet who is light years ahead of linear time.

    I nominate him for Poet Laureate of the Universe.

  7. “Why not both?”

    Exactly! I think one of the beautiful ideas that has come out of the Overland-Overload blog is that many people still believe in being multivarious with their words (print, online, performance). I’ve never understood why there has to be be these lines in the sand of ‘you’re this kind of poet or that kind but you can’t be both’.

    I think Jennifer Harrison is a great example of that, someone who is known for being a page poet who was also in the first wave of Boston Slam poets, still loves performing her work and does it beautifully. There are many examples. Poets like Dorothy Porter, who wrote verse novels and librettis, which are written specifically for performance.

    It’s a sad day when poets allow ourselves to be limited by convention. Thank you Paul, you’re a beautiful soul, and thanks to all at Overland; it’s been a mess of fun : )

  8. Paul! This interview is a delightful honour to you, and hugely deserved. I can’t decide whether to celebrate you, or to celebrate the community that you are shaping, or to celebrate me! Oh to hell with it. I celebrate me. Me, me, me.

    In less than two years your writing has led me back through centuries of tradition and culture. Your work has encouraged my thoughts forward into possible realities. You have confirmed that learning, and moreso thinking, even in an academic environment is to be applauded. You have given me a few swift kicks up the backside when my writing demonstrated a need for improvement, and you have generated in me a passion to engage with the community.

    Your work and your passion have made the Australian Literature scene and the world of creative endeavour as a whole a better place to be in precisely because through your work I am in it.

  9. i’m surprised that Paul didn’t drop “rage on” into the interview somewhere. he had five or seven prime opportunities. cool interview but.

  10. An icon called Gingatao indeed :)
    Great interview! Paul has been so supportive of my blog (including any random attempts at poetry). He even takes the time every now and again to explain to me some of his stuff that goes over my head! Love ya, Paul!

  11. About time too. I see there were more posts than usual posted today in this here magazine but none so commented as this. A point perfectly proven perhaps? People know Mr Squires is someone with something to say. Even if they disagree with him, it is almost impossible to not be fascinated. Great interview.

  12. I could say ‘There’s only one Paul Squires’, but then I’d only be guessing.

    We may disagree on certain things, but the name ‘gingatao’ is a stroke of genius.

  13. Paul Squires is a delight — he’s one of my very favorite poets. He inspires me, makes me think, makes me laugh, and all of those at once. Excellent interview, and I second Patrice’s nomination of Paul for Poet Laureate of the Universe.

  14. I could not have said it better myself. I am so heartened to know that in our current age of dumber and dumber, there are still a few authentic, dedicated and intelligent characters out there holding up the unique artistry of the poem.

  15. Paul ‘Gingatao’ Squires is a legend. His omnipresence is unbelievable. This was an absolutely awesome interview. Maxine Clarke & Paul Squires together on one page would defy any Einsteinian concept of the universe, these two poets individually create supernovas, together, our entire being is threatened by brilliance.

  16. Holey Mackeral! Heh, Jeff! I had an idea. What if the government took some of that money they are spending on the Education Revolution and set up a website, or just a youtube channel depending on budget and broadcast lessons from some of our top teachers, actual lessons from the classroom anyone could look at. Is that a real stupid idea? I never know, that’s why I ask.

  17. i have never met paul squires, and i have also never met maxine clarke, but without their influence and infinite kindness and support my blog and its attendant twitter novel would be read by almost no one. not only are they two of the greatest poets of this new century but they both are cool as hell to boot. paul’s words on the freedom/protection of internet posting poetic works should be emblazoned across the cyberspace sky. notebooks out, plagiarists!

  18. So far Jeff one mother has said it would be great, really help her to help her kids with their homework. And my plumber said he’ld like it cos he left school at year 10 but now has a time to learn a bit of history. He doesn’t care about the diploma or anything, so it would be cool for him too. And we could have superstar teachers like they do in Japan and China and other places. Anyway, have a lovely day. Thank god that dust has abated, maybe we should think about treating the planet a bit better so she stops screaming at us?

  19. I’ve read your interview Paul and now, for me, you are less of a cyborg and more of a personality, but I doubt that was your intended effect.

    I have to say that I see the terms ‘aesthetics’ and ‘poetics’ as incomparable and not exchangeable at all. They are separate terms – you can have ‘aesthetic poetics’ though.

    Also not sure what you mean by ‘this ekphrastic age’ – doesn’t have to be, does it?

    It’s great that you have had so many terrific responses. You must be feeling very pleased.

    Best wishes from me too

  20. Upgrades and rights. Cool. Just came over to grab a copy of this one before the upgrade. If there’s any reproduction rights issues, let me know. Great work, keep it up. Especially that Tim T guy he is brilliant.

  21. he’s a good dude; we’ve talked a number of times via different websites over the last, i think, three or four years. he is really supportive of a lot of different endeavours which i have embarked upon designed to help the writing community and, combined with his integrity and restless creativity, he is always someone that i like to see hanging around my sites. he brooks no bullshit, which is rare.

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