My first year at Overland has been an eye-opening entree into the politics and practice of publishing, writing and public debate in Australia – and in 2010, there has been much to debate.
During February’s Meanland: Reading in a time of change panel, literary critic Peter Craven argued that the future of books might depend on our ears.
In her article ‘Driven to distraction’ (Overland 199), Cate Kennedy critiques contemporary internet culture from the perspective of the creative writer. While not opposed to the internet as such, Kennedy seeks to demonstrate that Web 2.0 technologies and the activities they facilitate (such as social networking, blogging and video-sharing) are rendering us permanently impatient, disinhibited yet isolated and unable to concentrate.
There used to be a billboard in Melbourne that advertised milk by depicting young, large-breasted women cavorting on a trampoline. The radical graffiti activist group Buga-Up painted the words ‘Women are not cows’ in large letters across it.
Forty-three-year-old Gilda Civitico and I are sipping tea and talking about craft in the open-plan rear extension of the modest brick home she shares with her partner, electrical engineer Andrew Peel, and their two young daughters.
‘Colonisation,’ Césaire argued, ‘dehumanises even the most civilised man; … colonial activity, colonial enterprise, colonial conquest, which is based on contempt for the native and justified by that contempt, inevitably tends to change him who undertakes it; … the coloniser, who in order to ease his conscience gets into the habit of seeing the other man as an animal, accustoms himself to treating him like an animal, and tends objectively to transform himself into an animal.’
If it is possible to assess the current state of Australian literature through a reading of four novels published in late September and October 2010 – three first novels, Notorious by Roberta Lowing, Night Street by Kristel Thornell and Utopian Man by Lisa Lang, and one second novel, Bereft by Chris Womersley – then I’d say Australian fiction is haunted, preoccupied with the past.
Long before population became a public issue, debate had been stirring behind the scenes. There had been internal arguments within the environmental movement, with tension between those who recognised population as one of the three drivers of environmental damage, and those who wished to avoid taking a public position against population growth for fear of alienating some of their members.
The feet were the first to break away. I put on weight quickly in the months following the fires and so my feet spread out for balance. They reverted to feet from some human prehistory, all stiff hair and hide, the toes blackening. Whose feet are these? I looked on dumbfounded as they tried to stuff themselves back into the shoes at the end of the bed. Stamping around the hotel with that Neolithic gait, the unfamiliar, cavewoman pelvis – and whose feet had I dragged out of the aftermath?
For the past two hours the dope has been wearing off and your mother has been wearing you down. She offers you and Lucy a lift home. Even though the thought of catching a crowded tram makes you want to throw up – you can barely stand the touch of your own clothes on your skin – you turn her offer down.
That winter there was an image on the internet of a late-teen trapped in a frozen family swimming pool, his body half-submerged in ice, the other half attached to the lithe crane that was attempting to lift him out.
There is always rubbish at the South Point landfill. I’ve pushed it around for months now but it never goes anywhere. My boss simply says, ‘make sure the rubbish is gone by next week’. But the next week he doesn’t show up and the rubbish is still there.
Loved each other they did, and unconventionally
not at all, and times there were for foolishness,
undermining the mind of they tellingly, and faith
I’m twitchy as a debutante
on a hot October joyride
doing two hundred down the hill road
My eyes are like machine code, running lines up from the lanes and screens or avenues of trees my limbs walk down
He’d just been shopping. Nestled
inside the bags were jars, tins,
vegetables, maybe even a whole
Little remains at track. Creepers, winding where the graded bed has grown so dank and soft
Sun-damaged, sporty, wearing tracky-daks, passengers can’t be told from cabin crew apart from their uniforms, their Australian chilliness
They have no wish to
they’re happy in their work.
This is a poem on the long road
A trip to no where
Step by step he drags his foot
Brief squalls of blue, spliced between persistent rain.
I tracked hints an e-thylacine shrieked at the black
market – a thicket of kitsch spruiked inside browsers’
pawn. Trickling wingdings apace in blogosphere talk
when straight friends change teams / when something that appears to be a nest isnt. because the drive, because the expansion.
I want it so the dead are blind. Blind the way Easter comfort washes a stick-dry corpse, passion
i had a bath. life continues
so you see it was necessary to have a bath.
i turned the light off so the air was blue.
It seems as if Maxine Clarke wins every poetry slam she enters. Clarke writes poetry and produces freelance articles, often dealing with African descendants in a white culture. More importantly, she performs her poetry.