A short talk by Chris Edwards, poet, designer, typesetter and collagist, on designing Vagabond Press' deciBels poetry books - delivered at the launch on Sunday afternoon, November 30th, 2014 :

                     deciBels / design

I’ve been asked to say a few words about designing the deciBels series, and specifically to talk about fonts. So I ask myself, what is a font? Keith Chi-hang Tam, in Digital typography: a primer, explains that “a digital font … is a piece of computer software that contains a collection of vector ‘drawings’ along with spacing and kerning data that can be accessed through the keyboard.” As he points out, “these ‘drawings’ are often letters which, when combined sensibly, form meaningful words.”

Now, there are two fonts — two “collection[s] of … drawings” — used to form meaningful words in these books. The body typeface — the font used for the poems themselves — is Adobe Minion Pro. Minion was designed and drawn by Robert Slimbach for Adobe Systems in 1990. It’s a serifed typeface in the “classical tradition” — which, according to Paul Caputo writing in the IBD Blog, is “designer code for ‘It was designed to look like pretty much every other serifed typeface out there.’” Caputo goes on to say that Minion “is one of those typefaces that only a typographer could love (not that other people dislike it; they just don’t notice it). If Minion were at a high school dance,” he says, “it would sip punch with its back against the wall, trying not to make any sudden movements …” “There’s nothing,” he adds, “to dislike about Minion. Sure, typographers who like to argue about the tiniest of details will say things like, ‘The slight upward angle of the cross-stroke of the lower-case e is too whimsical,’ but it’s expertly designed to maximize legibility, and the practical advantages to most designers are immeasurable.” Minion contains more glyphs than most other fonts and comes in multiple weights as well as old-style letterforms and small caps. This makes it flexible, which along with its legibility helps it to blend into the background, letting the content take centre stage.

It’s common typographic practice to team a serif body typeface with sans-serif headers, and that’s what we’ve done here. For book titles, author’s names, poem titles and so on, we’ve used a font called Swiss 721 — Black Condensed for book titles, Bold Condensed for authors’ names. Swiss 721 is really Helvetica under a different name, with a few very subtle variations. Helvetica, in fact, means Swiss. Swiss 721 was cloned from Helvetica in 1982 by the Bistream type foundry. I may of course be imagining things, but I like to think that its condensed weights are slightly more elegant than those of Helvetica, which is why I suggested using it, but Swiss and Helvetica are essentially the same font. So, what can I tell you about Helvetica?

Helvetica was designed in the late 1950s by Edouard Hoffmann, director of the Haas Type foundry, and drawn by Max Miedinger under his guidance. They were trying to improve on the popular late-nineteenth-century typeface Akzidenz Grotesk, from the Berthold type foundry. Personally, I’m not sure they succeeded, but a lot of other people seem to think they did. Four years after its release as Haas Neue Grotesk, Hoffmann and Miedinger’s font was reworked for the Linotype Company and re-released as Helvetica, which, during the 1960s, displaced Futura as the most popular sans serif typeface in the world. Since then, Helvetica has become ubiquitous. Linotype’s restrictive licensing policies are sometimes blamed for the large number of unauthorized copies, and may also have played a role in generating genuinely re-worked versions like Swiss 721. Stephen Coles, writing on the FontFeed website, says that “there are many reasons why Helvetica is so widespread, the most obvious being that a few weights have been bundled with the Mac Operating System for years. It is arguably the most respectable of the ‘default’ fonts. But it’s also used because it’s a safe, neutral choice. For many purposes, typography is more about content than style. Fans of Beatrice Warde will tell you that typographers should communicate without distraction. Helvetica, with its simple, unadorned forms, is the perfect crystal goblet. Even its ubiquity contributes to its neutrality — letters so common they become invisible.”

So, Swiss 721, to sum up, is the market-driven clone of a collection of drawings whose aim is to be invisible.

I should explain at this point that although the design and typography of this first deciBels series are attributed (inside the books) to me, the design in particular was collaborative. When Michael first told me about his deciBels idea, and explained that he’d asked Pam — and she’d agreed — to edit this first series, I seem to remember Mike stipulating some kind of design continuity for the set of 10 books, and I certainly remember him telling me that Pam had some definite ideas about the design. It’s part of Michael’s brief for the deciBels series — not just this one, but future series as well — that “form and genre are open and up to the editor, as is the design and format.” It was Pam who suggested a small, square format and type-only covers that were simple and uncluttered. I came up with some font suggestions, a few dummy layouts for the covers, and various ideas for a deciBels motif, and Pam chose those she liked best.

I constructed a basic shell for the covers early in the piece, and as manuscripts arrived we began selecting colours. I made the initial choices, and some of them were more or less rational: the cover of Stephanie Christie’s The Facts of Light is a photograph of the sky looking from Bondi toward New Zealand, the musk-stick pink and cherry red of Ann Vickery’s The Complete Pocketbook of Swoon are, potentially at least, reminiscent of school-yard crushes, Toby Fitch’s Jerilderies may be bush colours at dawn or maybe bushfire colours at midnight, and Rachel Loden’s Kulchur Girl more or less chose its own colours: those of the ticket documenting Rachel’s attendance at the Berkeley Poetry Conference of 1965. More often I chose instinctively, in ways I’d rather not analyse, and my choices were then worked over with Pam, either by email or at my computer. Pam, I discovered, is a skilled tweaker, with a fine eye for subtlety and detail — very easy to work with, too. The only difficulty I encountered, in the various sessions we had together, was deciding what to have for lunch.

The poets also collaborated (knowingly or not) on the internal design. It’s not my role to talk today about the contents of the books, but I will say — regarding what are technically called their “innards” — that from a typographer’s point of view, it’s been a pleasure to work on such a stylistically diverse range of books. If the fonts we’ve used — Minion and Swiss — do succeed in disappearing, or at least blending into the background, it’s partly due to the formal variety on display here, not only between books but often within them. One poet, Toby Fitch, typeset his own book using deciBels fonts and style sheets. He took liberties with the style sheets in keeping with the style of his poems, and I, too, found it necessary to adapt or augment our standard styles for other books in the series. You might notice, if you look closely, that all ten share the same fonts and so on — the same typographic style — but what you notice first, I think, is that their compositional styles are all different. That’s the visible part.

Coordinating a project like this is a huge job, so I might end with an appropriately huge thank you to Michael Brennan, who came up with the idea and went to a great deal of trouble to ensure that the end results were as good as they possibly could be, and that they were delivered on time, and to Liz Allen for organising today’s launch, for housing the books temporarily in her home, and for seeing to it that they make their way in the world. I’d also like to extend my warmest congratulations — to all ten the authors on their individual books, each of which is well worth celebrating in its own right, to Pam who chose them and to Michael who chose Pam to edit the first of the deciBels series. Let’s hope we see many more.


I want to draw attention to a short pamphlet recently published by Wave Books. It's called Freely Frayed,ᄏ=q, & Race=Nation and comprises three brief but powerful talks given by Don Mee Choi at a couple of conferences in the USA earlier this year. Here are two brief extracts from ᄏ=q - the central talk : click on the images to enlarge the text :

For further information and/or to buy a copy click here

Don Mee Choi's booklet Petite Manifesto was launched
by Vagabond Press in Sydney this week.

For further information and/or to buy a copy click here


Vagabond Press invites you to celebrate
the launch of the 'deciBels series'
in Sydney & Melbourne

New state-of-the-art poetry by Anselm Berrigan, Don Mee Choi
Stephanie Christie, Toby Fitch, Angela Gardner, Jaimie Gusman
Rachel Loden, Susan M. Schultz, Ann Vickery & Maged Zaher

Series edited by Pam Brown
& designed by Chris Edwards.

With the completion of the iconic Rare Objects series in 2014, the deciBels series was established to open the Vagabond list to fresh poetry & new forms for the years to come. Over the next few years, Vagabond Press will collaborate with guest editors to bring together sets of ten works. Form & genre are open & up to the editor, as is the design & format. Transnational, working across styles & categories, the deciBels is an experiment in publishing, aimed at taking the press & its readers off on new vectors. One editor, ten contributors, wide open space.

To be launched in Sydney
by Pam Brown & Chris Edwards

with readings in person by
Angela Gardner, Toby Fitch & Ann Vickery
& Anselm Berrigan, Don Mee Choi, Stephanie Christie,
Jaimie Gusman, Susan M.Schultz & Maged Zaher
appearing via Skype from Hamilton, NZ & Seattle,
New York & Hawai'i, USA.


3.30pm Sunday 30th November

where -
gleebooks, upstairs
49 Glebe Point Road
Glebe, Sydney

everyone welcome

For more information & rsvp click here


no skyping, but the scintillating Justin Clemens
will launch the deciBels series

Angela Gardner, Ann Vickery & Toby Fitch will read

Chris Edwards will perform work from his new book
After Naptime

(hosted by Liz Allen & Pam Brown)

6pm Wednesday 10th December
where -
The Alderman Hotel
134 Lygon Street
East Brunswick

everyone welcome


For information on each of the books visit Vagabond Press
Scroll down & click on the book covers to read about each poet & notes on the books

If you can't come to the launch party
you can order copies at the website here.


Today I read Citizen, a very powerful, succinct book by Claudia Rankine - it tells exactly what it is like to be a black citizen in the USA and is important everywhere for those concerned about racism - it is also, in the face of sorrowful everyday realities, a work of art. (It's published by Graywolf Press)



Dominik Mersch Gallery
1/75 McLachlan Avenue
Rushcutters Bay
16th October until 15th November 2014
Further information here


Presenting ten square format booklets from Vagabond Press:

New work by Anselm Berrigan, Don Mee Choi
Stephanie Christie, Toby Fitch, Angela Gardner,
Jaimie Gusman, Rachel Loden, Susan M. Schultz
Ann Vickery & Maged Zaher.

Series edited by Pam Brown & designed by Chris Edwards.

For more information - biographies of the poets & notes on the work -
please visit Vagabond Press
While you're there you can pre-order copies of these exciting booklets.


Seizure Magazine is doing a series of Late Night Library events
in Haymarket, Sydney. ALL CUT UP is on the 1st of October:
an evening of collage poetry featuring readings by Kate Fagan,
Pam Brown and Chris Edwards.

(the blurb) Hosted by Toby Fitch and featuring work from three contemporary Australian poets writing in the anti-tradition of collage, 'All Cut Up' is a night for new poetry. The readings will lead provocatively into a hands-on collaging session where the programmed poets will each provide unusual source material (government docs, etiquette books, who knows...?) for attendees to chop up and recombine in whatever illicit way they see fit.
Scissors and glue provided. BYO mental shears and word processors (if you prefer electronic cut-and-paste).

There will also be wine and cheese.

KATE FAGAN — poet and musician whose books include First Light (Giramondo Publishing)and The Long Moment (Salt Publishing).

PAM BROWN — poet of 17 books including Home by Dark (Shearsman), Authentic Local (papertiger press), True Thoughts (Salt Publishing),and Alibis (with French translations, Lulu).

CHRIS EDWARDS — poet and editor whose books include After Naptime (Vagabond Press),People of Earth (Vagabond Press), and A Fluke: A mistranslation of Mallarme's Un Coup de Des (Monogene).

TOBY FITCH — poet of Jerilderies (deciBels series, Vagabond Press),Rawshock (Puncher & Wattmann) and Quarrels (Stale dePress).

Haymarket Library is on the corner of George St & Hay St,
on the Capitol theatre side.

Wednesday 1st October, 8-9pm sharp
so get there from 7:30 onwards.

Free! But book here! because it's a small space.


I've added some recent reviews to Extras on the 'the deletions' side bar - including my review of two books by Jane Joritz-Nakagawa in Plumwood Mountain and a speechette I made at the launch of Kent MacCarter's new book Sputnik's Cousin in Sydney in early August. It was published in Rochford Street Review. The most recent is from The Critical Flame - a review of Rachel Blau DuPlessis' latest collection Interstices published on September 8th.


We went to the lively and crowded Haldon Street Festival in Lakemba, Sydney today. You can see some more photos of
this annual multi-cultural celebration here.


Sputnik's Cousin takes off in Sydney

You are invited to celebrate the Sydney launch of Sputnik's Cousin
by poet and Cordite Poetry Review editor, Kent MacCarter

Bonny Cassidy, Ross Gibson and I will be praising this incredibly unpredictable book by Melbourne-based Kent MacCarter who has published just about every contemporary and past Australian poet in Cordite Poetry Review.

Gleebooks, Thursday August 7th 6 for 6.30pm

For event information, address etc follow this link

Everyone welcome
Hope to see you there


new art writing

A Rainbow Reader is a work of creative non-fiction which looks at colour from the personal perspective of Tessa Laird, an artist, writer and lecturer based in New Zealand.
'In 2009, Tessa Laird began investigating the (r)evolutionary power of colour, from a personal, and political, transformative angle. A Rainbow Reader is the result of that study. Consisting of six chapters, one on each spectral hue, colour becomes a catalyst for speculative writing encompassing art history, literary criticism, personal anecdote, philosophy and anthropology. Each chapter of A Rainbow Reader is bound in the appropriately coloured card; together, the six chapters form a rainbow spine and operate as a kind of edition-based artwork, a veritable rainbow on your bookshelf.' (notes from the publisher)

A Rainbow Reader is published by Auckland-based art books press Clouds. Further information - here.

The Dark Horsey Form Guide, Archive & Punter's Companion
Critical writing by Ken Bolton


Sarah crowEST — A Serious Of Objects — Australian Experimental Art Foundation, May 22nd—June 28th
Sam Howie — Survey — and Return Threshold—Patrick Hartigan, Michelle Nikou, Marcin Kobylecki, Charlie Sofo—Fontanelle, May 18th—June 8th
Peter Atkins — Silence — and James Guerts—Topography Of Water—Greenaway Art Gallery, May 28th—June 22nd
Juz Kitson — Still Life: Sleep of non-being — Greenaway Art Gallery, June 25th—July 25th
Joe Felber — Kontaktraum : Auslander (space of contact—foreigner)— Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, June 13th—July 13th

Download pdf here.
Earlier Form Guides available here


It's impossible to synthesise or to summarise the extraordinary poetic poeises of the last couple of weeks. It began with the CONTEMPORARY WOMEN’S WRITING AND ENVIRONMENTS conference at the State Library in Melbourne, Victoria from the 3rd until 5th July comprising dozens of brilliant contributions and five great keynote speakers Chris Kraus, Lyn Hejinian, Alexis Wright, Kate Rigby & Deborah Bird Rose.
See the entire program here.

Immediately following the Melbourne conference, EXPERIMENTAL, convened by Associate Professor Kate Lilley, Director of Creative Writing at the English Department, University of Sydney, began on Sunday July 6th with a mistress class by Carla Harryman and continued the following morning with an official program that can be viewed here.

The information -
Join us for a pre-symposium reading at Gleebooks on June 30th, 6 for 6.30pm with Pam Brown, John Tranter and John Wilkinson.

This exciting 2 day symposium on experimental writing and poetics features Carla Harryman, Lyn Hejinian and Barrett Watten, three of the most significant and influential architects of the movement which has come to be known as Language writing, live and in person. The important English poet-critic, John Wilkinson, will also give a keynote reading. A fantastic lineup of participants from around Australia includes: Pam Brown, Andy Carruthers, Kate Fagan, Toby Fitch, Anna Gibbs, Ross Gibson, Melissa Hardie, Luke Harley, Martin Harrison, Fiona Hile, Eddie Hopely, Ella O’Keefe, Astrid Lorange, Kate Lilley, Philip Mead, Peter Minter, Sam Moginie, Gig Ryan, Chris Rudge, Ann Vickery, Corey Wakeling and Jess Wilkinson.

The Symposium will end with a celebratory reading at Sappho Books, 51 Glebe Point Rd, Sydney, July 8, 7pm.

L t R : Karen Sonnenschein, Pam Brown, Nola Farman, Kate Lilley, Lyn Hejinian
& Carla Harryman at Sappho's (foto by Luke Harley)

Kate Lilley & Barrett Watten at Sappho's (foto by Luke Harley)

Lyn Hejinian heard by Astrid Lorange, University of Western Sydney

On Wednesday 9th July Kate Fagan, poet and Lecturer in Literary Studies at the Writing & Society Research Centre,University of Western Sydney hosted a reading and conversation with Lyn Hejinian. Lyn read 'Lola' a chapbook segment from her book Saga/ Circus and a selection from her latest book The Book of a Thousand Eyes. After morning tea, Lyn Hejinian and Kate Fagan conducted a fascinating conversation with participation from the audience.
There are more photos of this event here and here's my photo of one member of the audience, poet and recent PhD recipient, Andy (Ampersandy) Carruthers :

& here's Ampersandy's photo of me talking with blurry Sam Moginie & Ella O'Keefe at the same event:


A Sue Ford Retrospective

In 1962, at the age of 19, Sue Ford was one of only two women enrolled in the photography course at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). She continued making photographic work throughout her life. Sue and I became good friends in the late seventies. Sadly, Sue died in 2009 (noted here - obituaries can be found here and here.) Now the National Gallery of Victoria is exhibiting a retrospective of her work at the Ian Potter Centre in Melbourne. It runs until August 24th. You can find information here and here. Read two reviews here and here.

the deletions presents a sample of photos from her life and work
(as usual, click on the images to enlarge them):

Reel Women, a feminist filmmaking group, Victoria, 1981 (Sue is at the rear of the ute)

Ben Ford (who has helped curate the NGV exhibition) & his mother Sue in 1980
photo by Micky Allan

Micky Allan, 1975, photo by Sue Ford

Shadow Portraits by Sue Ford, National Gallery of Victoria, 1994

Discussions Between Bob Hawke and Galarrwuy Yunupingu
(Galwarrway is painted with his father’s body design from the Gumatj clan)
by Sue Ford 1988
(courtesy the Estate of Sue Ford and Arc One Gallery, Melbourne)

Sue Ford -Self-Portrait 2004 (courtesy the Estate of Sue Ford
and Arc One Gallery, Melbourne)

Snapshot - Sue & crazy-smiling Pam, Sydney 1982

And The Road, another photographic exhibition including work by Micky Allan and Virginia Coventry, and other friends and colleagues of Sue Ford is showing in Melbourne at Monash Gallery of Art this winter :

click on the gallery invitation to enlarge it



Dark Horsey Bookshop
Australian Experimental Art Foundation
Lion Arts Centre, North Tce [West End]
South Australia

This coming Tuesday
JUNE 10th
at 7:30pm for an 8pm start
$5 entry

Cath Kenneally
Ken Bolton
Pam Brown


the deletions is very pleased to host the internationally renowned poet, critic and academic, Rachel Blau DuPlessis making an astute response to Michele Leggott's latest book Heartland.

Reading Michele Leggott's Heartland
(Auckland University Press, 2014)
Rachel Blau DuPlessis

    Michele Leggott's essay on blindness and insight (delivered in Canberra in November 2013), "Small Stories from Two Decades," is both specifically moving and ontologically lucid. It tracks what one might call her "influences" - particularly the poetry of Robin Hyde and of Alan Brunton (as well as the filmmaking of Sally Rodwell, Brunton's wife). Both New Zealand poets have been subjects of Leggott's scholarly contributions to literary study as well as key poetic sources for her. One central topic of her essay is: What happens when the sighted poet goes blind? Not so much an essay about the major, unsettling physical, technological and familial adjustments nor a confessional essay displaying feelings on the surface of her reactions, this essay is rather like an in-depth sounding, in vignettes, of the rhythms and perceptions that have collected for her around the works and lives of these other two poets and that arrive in her own "heartland." This final moment of the essay contains a realization - an epiphany, in fact - that even the magnification of the computer screen is now no longer enough for the progressive failures of retinitis pigmentosa. In addition, that screen and that technology are now taxing and debilitating to her. She is, at that moment, truly blind. And Leggott says, with great spiritual poise and equanimity: "[My eyes] have done their work and I am thankful for it. Without them I would not have deep reservoirs of visual memory. Let us go on into the dark and not be afraid." This fearless and touching insight also saturates the book Heartland, but it is not the only feature of this multi-ply work of synthesis and perception - personal, cultural, historical.

    Heartland, the title, perhaps a superficially sentimental word (the land of the heart, the center of a nation state), should fool no one - the book is a tensile work that works with three interlocking themes: travel and place, family history including - appropriately for the anniversary year 2014 - WWI, and blindness. In each thematic zone, the compound word heart-land metamorphoses, torques, pulses. As Leggott braids these strands together with skill, research, poetic subtlety and a spiritual inhabitation, the reader might find that this 16-line extended sonnet "degli angeli" (p. 28) offers one "topic sentence":

    I saw my angels they were beautiful
    beyond compare flags snapping above the headland
    combed blond by wind they were sitting
    each with disaster in a small pocket and they were
    so beautiful in their resistance to the idea
    of letting it fall into the world they were meeting
    in a room with light powered by small engines
    perfect examples of resonance and the distribution
    of energy to this evolving flute that tapering cup
    in the hand of something like god or the sound
    of wind across hillsides how to say it they were
    complete they were not defined they were still
    and they were moving each moment closer
    to each other and further away I saw them they were
    beautiful they were the winds of heaven
    in a small cup unbreakable and looking at me

    This poem shows Leggott's characteristic "streaming" sound, a distinctive way of suturing materials without punctuation (which is possibly an aural and visual encumbrance). The lines create a filmic experience within the mind-that-makes-language. This poetic tactic constructs an airy, yet dense texture in the poems, over-passing phrasal and sentence-based line breaks, and it proposes constant rushes of apprehension - meaning both alertness and shadows of worry. Very intense and yet also quite sustained across poems, this line is like the running of time in space: "dazzling in its troubadour take / on real life" (p. 9). Leggott tells us, as a kind of poetics but also ontological insight, that she has "changed hands" - first "alpha" held her, but now "omega" does (pp. 24 and 25) - first she worked from actual vision, and now from sound and the visionary gifts of memory and reconstruction.

    Key words in "degli angeli" (and, in the heightened angelic context, possibly surprising ones) are "disaster" and "engines," but also the sheer question of movement (moving together? moving apart? "complete"? "not defined"?) and the question of a specific wind-swept headland geography. This material joins with traveling, and a with singular dark illumination given these angelic debates about outcomes, because those inevitably frame precariousness. These questions and ambiguities are all tokens redeemed in the book itself. The place names as well as the peoples' names work so that people become places and places become people - it is odd, but one actual effect of a settler society (both Maori and Europeans are settlers to New Zealand). In these opening poems, the light-filled, evocative spaces and the litany (of Maori and English names, of place names and person-names), emerge in a sonic tracking shot across the New Zealand landscape, and in this sound of the place, a remarkable book takes shape: one moving, subtle and skilled, authentic by being demonstrably researched - but also uncannily inhabited by spirit.

    Motion is one motif, and it is quite "moving" as a motif, because of the insistent record of hopes and losses that it tracks. There is the motion of traveling - back and forth across oceans, up and down the difficult coastline, for the settlers are often found in motion - NZ to Australia, then to Europe and the First World War; NZ to Canada; NZ to England. And maybe back - some people chose to go back to their home on the islands, but some don't, and some have no choice - as the war section relates. Immigration/ emigration are constant. Distance itself is a constant loss, often leading to elegy, as in the poem where the father sees the poet off to Canada - the very last time she saw him ("harbour lights," p. 63). Then there is motion up and down the coast, including the family story in the book's final section that narrates a complex, difficult family history with, at the very end, Leggott's great-grandmother retrieving the body of her abusive husband and bringing it home for burial. This narration (using as much as one knows or can find of stories with many lacunae) assembles fragments of her own family "heartland"--one that (as all of ours) might have as many broken hearts as whole ones (as in the angelic "complete"? "not defined"?). The ways she treats emotional losses and incapacities (as in some of the family poems) are tactful and full of insight. ("the doll the chest the swords the delicate carving / he understood the wife and children he did not" [p. 62]). The motif of family stories - hope and loss - intersects with traveling (back and forth) - so that those stories are infused with the motif of simply traveling through life, as openly as possible, with all the risk and losses that "voyage" may entail.

    These historical stories intersect with Leggott's own voyaging. She includes a very neat section called Many Hands about going to Australia to visit friends - "Pam" and "Jane" among them, but also finding "Karen" - the prosthetic voice on the GPS [global positioning system], a voice also found on Leggott's computer to read to her, and Lola Ridge (a peripatetic poet). Ridge herself might exemplify that theme of emigration and motion: born in Dublin, immigrated to New Zealand as a child; then to Australia, and then to San Francisco, dying in New York City in 1941. Written with great fondness and charm, this "Tasman" sequence marks the differences and bonds among those two island countries (Australia and New Zealand).

    Second, as a motif in the book, there is a sense of disaster just on the edge (and sometimes even not so far away), with the uncommon bravery demanded by the ordinary lives and fates (and sometimes deaths) of ordinary people. This includes an astonishing recreation of the losses of WWI - the human disaster, in the sequence about the brothers. This work is a striking transformation of research and family materials into humane insight. In this regard, death is sometimes intermixed with disaster, as in the three poems about dogs, who do have a place in our human heart-land. This - at first seemingly simply occasional elegiacs - culminates in the jaw-dropping poem about the arrival of Olive, Leggott's actual guide dog, intersecting precisely, to the very day (a day whose events actually impeded the long-awaited arrival) - with the Pike River Coal Mine disaster in New Zealand in November 2010. This was a quadruple explosion in which miners - "the twenty-nine" - were buried alive or killed by methane, and it culminated (after the usual recriminations, investigations, and discoveries of unenforced regulations and inspections) in the resignation of the Minister for Labor (2012) and virtually no compensation for the families of the dead. In her poem, Leggott tactfully fuses one dark with another in a pitch-perfect fashion, tracking how, amid the horrible news, one yearns to keep hope alive but eventually all were faced with defining losses. The men could not be rescued. The dog eventually arrived, marking a new stage in the management of blindness.

    Third, in Heartland as a whole, there is the motif of the dark, coping with the dark, being in the dark, giving up the light slowly and writing a recurrent elegy for that fact. The matching sequence poems that deal with this material "experiments (our life together)" and "talking to the sky" (pp. 74-77) are major work. They are stunning and restrained poems about blindness. Both are in 5 line sections--a subtitle and response. Here is one example:

    here I give up my hand in front of my face

    she was there yesterday but now she is gone
    lifted into the plane of hand-coloured lace
    her smile her green eyes her lily of the valley
    bouquet the first day of spring and forever

But in all cases, the theme of - the charge of blindness - is accepted and managed with tact, fortitude, and sprezzatura. It is only one part of the general sense of precariousness that is at the heart of Heartland, and always at all moments addressed with tact and fortitude. This is a humane book because of its clarity about human fortitude. Heartland is a book of poetic elegance and tremendous generosity of spirit.

For further information, a pdf sample and to buy a copy of Heartland, visit Auckland University Press here

Rachel Blau DuPlessis' latest book is called Interstices, published in the US by Subpress in early 2014. You can find further information about it here and more about her life & work on her website here.


A Poetry Reading

Fiona Hile  :  Kate Lilley
Louis Armand  :  Pam Brown

on the occasion of two visiting poets -
Fiona Hile from Melbourne & Louis Armand from Prague

Fiona Hile is a poet, critical writer and scholar. She has published a chapbook called The Family Idiot with Vagabond Press and, more recently, her first collection of poems, Novelties, was published by Hunter.

Kate Lilley is a poet, editor, scholar and academic at Sydney University. Her collections of poetry are Versary (Salt) and Ladylike (UWA Press). She has also published The Blazing World - a book on 17th century aristocrat and writer Margaret Cavendish, and a chapbook with Vagabond Press called Round Vienna.

Louis Armand is a poet, novelist, visual artist, philosopher and academic at Charles University in Prague. He is the publisher of Litteraria Pragensia and founding editor of VLAK magazine. His latest book, published by Vagabond Press, Indirect Objects, will be launched in Sydney on Saturday 24th May (see below for details).

Pam Brown is a poet, editor and reviewer. She has published many books including two chapbooks with Vagabond Press - Drifting Topoi and Let's Get Lost (with cohorts Ken Bolton & Laurie Duggan). In 2013 her latest poetry collection, Home by Dark, was published by Shearsman Books.

The Common Room,
Upstairs in The Woolley Building
Science Road
University of Sydney

Wednesday 21st May
at 5 for 5.30pm

everyone welcome

books will be available for sale for cash only

for directions search 'Woolley Building" on the campus map

Booklaunch - Louis Armand's Indirect Objects

Vagabond Press is proud to announce
the release of Louis Armand's Indirect Objects
to be launched by longtime Vagabond collaborator Pam Brown
during the Sydney Writers' Festival.

on Saturday 24th May
at 3pm
at the Sydney Dance Lounge
Pier 4/5 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay

info & directions here

"Louis Armand is the international conduit for much of the dialogue that’s developing today. He is an internationalist, an innovator … he’s genre busting & on an ‘open’ passport."
                                                                               - John Kinsella
To order a copy - click here.



Dark Horsey Bookshop
Australian Experimental Art Foundation
Lion Arts Centre, North Tce [West End]
South Australia

every Tuesday of the month
at 7:30pm for an 8pm start
for $5

1. JUNE 3rd • LEE MARVIN in
Andrew Peek • Jill Jones
Heather Taylor Johnson • Stefan Laszczuk

2. JUNE 10th • LEE MARVIN in
Pam Brown • Ken Bolton
Cath Kenneally • Claire Roberts

3. JUNE 17th • LEE MARVIN in
Astrid Lorange • Tom Sullivan
David Mortimer • Naomi Horridge

4. JUNE 24th • LEE MARVIN in
Peter Goldsworthy • Angela Meyer
Shannon Burns • Caitlyn Lesiuk


The strange thing is, or is it a 'strange thing'? Is it a normal path-to-progress thing or whatever a usual expectation might be called? The thing is that, fifty years ago, there were three plump school exercise books filled with mostly dreadful adolescent poetry, with no Beat nor NYNY genius nor Russian poet within cooee for a couple more years. The exercise books were each called 'THING' - THING I, THING II and THING III. This third 'THING' has recently resurfaced and reminds me that nearly four decades later - decades of poetry writing - my book of poems called 'Text thing' was published by Little Esther Books. In 2002. I can only wonder. Or not.
Maybe I can only note the small coincidence.

The grubby beaten up THING III with its cliched maxims in teenage handwriting looks like this :

'Text thing' looks like this :

(for Rachel Loden)

Rachel Loden commented :

With trepidation, Rachel, I'll give you a glimpse of the very tentative, inchoate and pretty terrible poems I wrote day after day as a high school student in the subtropical heat of Brisbane, Queensland in 1965. These three fragments were from February. I wonder what was so great about 'Wednesday' and I can't remember who the 'you' I was longing for was. I think I'd read too much English Victorian poetry, or the capitals of Carlyle, for my own good. And as for the Tree Gods and Goddesses - who knows? The handwriting is really strange to me now too - apart from the capitals there are those weird angular 'g's and 'f's and 'y's. Anyway here goes - juvenilia is us - hope I don't regret it -