Poetry Pick #2: Lisa Gorton, ‘Press Release’

Published by Giramondo Poets, Lisa Gorton’s Press Release is a fantastic first collection. It is unsurprising that the work received critical acclaim, with Gorton receiving the inaugural Vincent Buckley Prize, and becoming 2010 poet in residence at the Australian Poetry Centre. With such high praise, the book could hardly disappoint.

Press Release takes its title from one of the collection’s sequences of three poems, entitled ‘Sci-Fi’ and set in the future. ‘Press Release’ itself, set in the year 2020, begins rather appropriately with a futuristic science-fiction press release. However, this emotionally and temporally distant beginning is merely the context for what we then read a very tender poem from the point of view of a mother letting go of her child. While remaining beautifully crafted poetry, this dramatic monologue gives a raw and genuine portrayal of human emotion. The voice of the mother sounds unforced and honest as she speaks to her comatose child. Perhaps the most beautiful part of the poem (even possibly the entire collection) is its end:

 

Press release, my darling,
and do not sorrow. Do not once sorrow.
If you will think of me, think only of these years
I held your unfailing present in my empty hands.

 

The carefully crafted simplicity of these lines alone makes the collection worth reading. But these lines also reveal another, more personal side to the collection. Gorton very cleverly uses the double meaning of ‘press release’, both as a noun indicating a statement to the press and as an instruction: to ‘press release’, as the phrase appears within the context of this poem. This context throws the entire collection into a new light; what Gorton’s collection becomes is is not simply a statement of a publicised self (or rather, a projected self), but also an attempt at a release. What both reader and poetic voice seem to be released from through the collection becomes clear in the telling lines: ‘his will be an innocent world / conquered in peace’. Through her poetry, it is possible that Gorton is attempting to release us from the weight of the past.

It is interesting that Gorton does not shy away from using more traditional forms in her poetry, with the collection containing both a sonnet, ‘Aeroplane’, and a pantoum entitled ‘Petrol’. What this acknowledgement of structured form adds to the collection (the majority of which is written in free verse) is not only a sense of the effect that the past is still having on us, even as Gorton is attempting to release us from it. Gorton is a far superior poet than that. Instead, she uses these forms as a new (or perhaps reclaimed) discourse for aspects of modern life.

There is definitely a weight of history in the collection, particularly in the Mallee Sequence, which is set in Victoria, Australia, largely at the end of the Second World War. However, this weight is not always negative, and Press Release is also permeated by a sense of light and air. The collection opens with a poem entitled ‘Graffiti’, which beautifully outlines the interplay between the weight of history and the lightness of being in an almost Kunderra-esque fashion:

 

Out of the dark, ashes fall softly.
We have to stand up again and again to shake them off.
What a weight of light!
The dark is smaller than you expected.

 

This reworking of the weight of the past into something light and freeing is something which Gorton continues to do right through the collection, in form and theme alike.

Press Release is a beautiful and intriguing first collection. It is an easy book to read, and Gorton’s portrayal of human emotion is so natural and seemingly effortless that it draws the reader in. It is not only from the weight of the past that Gorton releases us, but from the weight of ourselves, as we are invited to slip easily into the perspective of her poetic creations.

**

This Poetry Pick was chosen by Katie Hale, founder of [insert text here].

Born in Cumbria, Katie’s first story (written aged four and entitled It’s Not Fair) received much critical acclaim from indulgent parents and well-wishing neighbours. Since then she has been published in Velour, anthologies 11 Poets and Above Water, and university magazine The Jam, and has twice won the Anne Pierson Award. She spent a year living in Melbourme, and is about to move to St Andrews to begin a Masters in Creative Writing.

**

For Lisa Gorton reading at a TEDx talk in Sydney, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_WDM4mNWT8

The Red Room Company’s profile of Lisa Gorton: http://redroomcompany.org/poet/lisa-gorton/

Giramondo Publishing information on Press Release (cover image taken from this site): http://www.giramondopublishing.com/category/author/lisa-gorton-author

Poetry Pick #1: Jennifer Copley, ‘Beans in Snow’

‘In fairy tales, only the good fairy wears wings.’

But in Jennifer Copley’s darkly enchanting collection, Beans in Snow, good fairies are few and far between.

Far from the Disney fairies we have grown all too used to (fairies of good magic and household spells, who ensure that true love triumphs in the end), Copley’s collection returns us to the original and unsettling nature of fairy stories: told to disquiet, and even at times to scare. This is a world where beans in snow ‘won’t grow’, where ‘brothers and sisters get separated’, and where ‘children, smelling of gingerbread, cry out to them from cages’.

Copley’s poems whisper dark suggestions to their reader. They display such a control over the stories they reference that, much of the time, we are unsure whether the unsettling occurrence has taken place in the poem itself or in the unexplored caverns of our own imagination. The poems are filled with unanswered questions; we are the ones who must provide the answers, and they are not pleasant ones.

However, Copley is not tied to the realm of the fairy tale. Perhaps the most disturbing, and at the same time most beautiful, aspect of the book is the way it blurs fiction with biography. In the second and third sections of Beans in Snow, Copley writes about the loss of her own brother, who died in his late forties. We see Copley’s own pain in the context of the darkness of the stories. Snow (standing in for death, blankness, and eventually a new start) is a recurring theme. As the collection’s titular poem states: ‘Beans in snow won’t grow’.

But the collection ends on a hopeful note. The third section begins with a poem entitled ‘First Night in Heaven’. This section follows Copley’s brother after death. Here, we witness Copley’s creation of a fairy tale of her own. Building on the first two sections, this final one shows how stories (as well as being dark warnings against wandering alone in the forest) can be a way of healing. In the stories we create ourselves, Copley seems to be telling us, there can always be hope.

Beans in Snow is a beautiful, dark, funny and emotive collection. It draws on traditional fairy stories, but in a way that targets a modern reader. What emerges is the potential to create our own stories and our own potential endings. In the same way that Copley works so skilfully on our imaginations in the first part of the book, she also shows us the power of our own creativity in understanding our own misfortunes.

Giants and Snow Queens there may be, but there is also hope, and the good fairy of our own imagination.

**

This Poetry Pick was chosen by Katie Hale, founder of [insert text here].

Born in Cumbria, Katie’s first story (written aged four and entitled It’s Not Fair) received much critical acclaim from indulgent parents and well-wishing neighbours. Since then she has been published in Velour, anthologies 11 Poets and Above Water, and university magazine The Jam, and has twice won the Anne Pierson Award. She spent a year living in Melbourme, and is about to move to St Andrews to begin a Masters in Creative Writing.

**

Related sites:

http://www.jennifercopley.co.uk/

http://www.smokestack-books.co.uk/book.php?book=21

Poem: ‘Fairy Tales’

Poem: ‘Coma’

Poem: ‘Princess’

IT’S HERE!

The paper copies of the zine are now complete!

And they look beautiful.

‘Dawn Killing Darkness’, poetry zine, May 2012

It’s been great producing them, and we really enjoyed reading through everyone’s submissions. Obviously we couldn’t include everyone because of space, but the amount of material we received was incredibly promising. It got [insert text here] off to a good start. Let’s keep it up, folks!

We will be distributing them over the next couple of days. Keep a wary eye out!

Unfortunately, we can’t afford to send out copies to everyone who would like one. However, if you desperately want one, then contact us, and we should be able to post you one at cost (plus postage).

Meanwhile, check out the content online.

Bundled up ready for distribution…

(Thank you to Royal Holloway Students’ Union for use of their extra long stapler. We couldn’t have done it without you.)

Zine Publication: ‘Dawn Killing Darkness’

That’s right – the zine is here!

The physical copies will take a little longer to complete, owing to the need for superior binding technology (in other words, a bigger stapler). However, because we’re so lovely at [insert text here], we didn’t want to keep you waiting. So we decided to put the pages here on our site for you. They don’t look quite as pretty as they’ll look on the paper version, but the content is all there (minus the blank pages, which we didn’t see the need to upload – after all, everyone knows what a blank page looks like).

You can check the zine out here.

Not too great with on-screen literature? Never fear – the zines will soon be spreading their metaphorical wings and making their way out into the big wide world. Once they’re complete (within the next day or two), we’ll be placing them in strategic top secret locations (well, maybe), where they will await the unsuspecting reader. We’ll keep you posted.

 

Just because we love you

Here is a picture of the [insert text here] staff trying to look both inspired and inspirational on London’s South Bank, and failing because of a combination of wind and hair.

(This is another of a taste-bud tickling photos relating to yesterday’s wonderful event, and is strategically posted in order to whet your appetite for more. In other words, follow the blog, ready for when we take the world by storm with the other pictures. Not convinced? Follow the blog anyway, so you can decide for yourself when the time comes!)

Staff on the Southbank, May 2012

SUBMISSIONS PLEASE!

Yes, that’s right!

[insert text here] are making a zine.

We are aiming for a very (very) quick turn around, so the deadline is in just two weeks from today. That’s Wednesday, May 23rd.

Like most things [insert text here] does, it will have a distinctly home-made feel to it, but that shouldn’t stop us from producing upwards of 50 copies.

Submissions can be poetry in any form, but bear in mind that the pages will be quite small (probably A6, so the size of a postcard), so shorter poems are prefered – though that doesn’t mean we’re definitely ruling out longer ones.

The only other requirement is that you keep it clean. As we hope to place copies of the zine in various cafes, where we can’t control who has access to it, we want something that would be ok for a child or grandma to pick up. That doesn’t mean it has to be geared towards children – just no swearing, please.

The zine will be produced in black and white, so if fancy colouring is necessary for your poem, then maybe it would be better to send something else.

You can submit poems via the submit page on the site (please make sure you say that it’s for the zine in the ‘aditional information section’).

Alternatively, you can email the poem to us at: manage.noordinaryblog@gmail.com

Make sure you put ‘Zine submission’ as the subject header. If you’re worried about formatting, send the poem as an attachment – Word only, please, no tricky pdf files, as we’ll have to resize the text, which is far to complicated for our untechnically minded brains.

As always, copyright remains with the author.

We’re very excited about this, and very much looking forward to receiving your submissions. Happy writing!

Deadline: midnight 23/05/12 (UK time)

EVENT

Here it is: the one you’ve all been waiting for.

Our first event! *cue excited squeals*

When?
3:00 pm, Saturday 26th May, 2012.
(Yes, we know the ‘2012’ bit was probably fairly obvious, but we put it in just to avoid confusion.)

Where?
Deptford Lounge
9 Giffin Street
Deptford
SE8 4RJ

For those of you who don’t know Deptford Lounge already, shame on you. It’s an amazing new venue – so new, they haven’t even got their website up and running yet, but you can check them out on twitter here.

What?
This event will be a reading – or rather, a set of readings / poetry performances. It will be in two blocks (probably around 20 minutes each), with a short gap in between for anyone who wants to grab a coffee from Deptford Lounge’s cafe.

Want to be involved? Of course you do! There are two ways to do that:

1) Sit at home in front of your computer, and read this post. Then, once the event is over, have a scroll through our photos and think to yourself,  ‘That looks like a good event’.

2) Come on down and support us! The reading will be in the library itself, so there will hopefully be a fair few people milling around anyway, looking at books or drinking coffee. But the more people we have, the better. At the moment, we’re viewing this as the unofficial launch of [insert text here], so it would be wonderful if there were lots of people there to cheer us on!

So, just a quick recap:

3:00pm, Saturday 26th May, Deptford Lounge.

See you there!

Special delivery…

Look what just arrived in the post!

And more of them:

Coming soon to a venue near you!

We will hopefully be putting these in all sorts of venues (bookshops, cafes, libraries), but obviously we are not omnipresent, and there are always going to be places we aren’t going to get to. So if you know somewhere with a counter that would appreciate a little stack of our cards, then please do get in touch, and we can give you some to put in aforementioned venue.

And of course, you already know the best way to get your hands on one of our beautiful new business cards, don’t you? That’s right – head along to our first event!

But what is that event? we hear you cry.

Well, never fear. We are girding our loins for the announcement in the next day or two.

But in the mean time, we will be getting these little beauties out into the big wide world.

Keep a weather eye open!

Welcome to [insert text here]

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