PTERF\DFGTYLS

,
AND
OTHER WEIRD
JB These ones are very impressionistic,
Virginio Woolf-ish, they
iust fade,
some-
times it's surreal and sometimes it's spirit-
wl. You
iust
catch it and let it go. where-
as other poems I do are really tight, be-
cd$e they're like weapons or something.
I've got this thing a,bout hot and cold poe.
tr.y, like McCluhan, that dichotomy abctut
hot and cold.
I found some of your poems reatly tight,
very well-argued, rational. Whereas Pam-
ela's poetry I found based on the images,
feelings.
JB Yeah, I've been criticised becduse I
istst
let images explode, inrages
iust
keep conx-
ing all the time and there is no developntent
ot'on idea. But tlwt's a very male thing,
1'rsu
know, 'form', where you hive this luc-
id exposition of an idea.
PB Thnt's what we were talking about yes-
terday, how nten buikl.
JB Yes, how men build antl construct and
won'ten express. And often men put wo-
men's poetry) tlowtt because it's very immed-
iate -how they-feel now rather than attach-
'
ing themselyes to sonrcthing. . .
PB I
iust
think the di.l.ferenc'e is that wo-
nten's poetQ is real$; entotirtnal and that
ntale
Etetr.v
is reall.t, obtuse, obliclue.
But with your poetry, Joanne, obviously
I wouldn't the poems are really powerful,
td.neous
*.*u*.*********ffi
fr f-"ffi ffi
t*u*r*+ry*r*urffi
,,i
---..r1^-r
aL ^- -,1!----^l- -
---.--- ---
But with
Vorr
p".try, Joanne, obviously
the poems are really powerful, I wouldn't
say that they directly express subjective -
emotaons the way Pam's do.
JB No, nry cntotions arc expressed thnsugh
the lnttguage I use, lhe texture, the sounii,
and the rh.t,tltnts -the eclge ol'words, per-
sonal entotiortol
.f'eelings are o bj ec.tiJ'ietl in to
a subiec't outside nq,sel.f. The emotion ts
there in the texture, rutlter than in what
I'm tvriting about.
Have yoJ ever written really subjective
poems?
JB / tlrirtk sontetinrcs when I write really
subiective things they get very intense,
too intense. The novel I'm cloing at the
ntonrcnt, which is obiective becouse it Lras
a c'haracter in it, is really too concentrated
Jbr
o novel because I'ye proiected so.tttuc,h
of nry own
feelirtgs into it. It's become so
thick there's no distan(:e
from
it, and tlis-
tonc'e is something I ltave to c'reate becuuse
I tltink probably I'm too enptktnal, I hove
tu stond back and ttse choracters to proiec.t
nryielf into, ntake sure I don't use too much
of nry direct self.
What about you Pam, do you do the same
sort of thing, have that conscious thing
about distancing yourself from the stuff
that you are writing?
W No not ot all, I always write out tfi'an
emotion rather than an idea and work to
fit
an image to the emotion. I think I't,t
basically a gtet of the entotions. I think
I'm more like a
filmnwking
poet, a
t'ilnr
poet rather than a word-poet, on itrtogist.
It's not really conscious, I don't start out
with a conscious ideo-it's all
lrom
on enr
otion, I write strictly
from
an entotion. I
work to pare down the image, to nwke the
image exact. I'm really into eutnomic poe-
try. I don't like poetry that you have to
wade through, those greot emotional swomps,
I'd rather
just lwve an image that soid sad,
bad, good, etc.'I don't think obout subject-
ive
fobjective,
I'm just subjective.
..,ii'ii.'.titt"liil,il.ii'iiii.
Some of your poems Jo are written about
things you seem to be observing, like the
one about going to the theatre and observ-
ing those 'peacock people', do you go into
situations thinking'l'll just
sit back and ob
serve, do you consciously think l'm going
to write about this?
JB No, I just get really turned on, there
is usuulll, an instant energv which nrcans
sonrcthing, like people ore not jttst individ-
ta\s t hey. reprcsent so nrct hing s.t, ntbo lic,,
something I like or ltote or
find
powertill
<tr tragic.
PB I renrcntber one night ot 'Rub-t, Red's'
tott
ltttllccl
out
))our
ruttebook, thi
t'eeling
there tlwt ttight.vvas reall.v s;trange and vott
pic:ked it up ruther tlwtt just
being there.
Do you choose what you will write about?
JB t used to write a lot ntrre instontane-
oltsh', I d sce things antl thert vtritc about
them, nov, I'ttt nrut'lt nrur_e sclcctive, I satt
'retnentber tlwt'and ustulll' take tutes, i.f)
it doesn't secnl in4xtrtant tt+,o wceks lotcr
then l'll
lbrget
about it.
ff't
still
Jeel
a ceft
tain ancrg,t afutttt u poem I start thett I'li'
set dorvn and work on it, &t l'Dt selective
in v'hat I c'htxtse to write about but I ney
cr thirtk anyntora tltnt I sltould be writittg
about so nret hing, anj t hittg.
I should think that it would be a real bind
on someone on a literature grant to have
to 'produce' something, have either of you
had to labour under that sort of pressuie?'.;
:
JB t wottltln't kiow, l've neyer hatl one!;.
PB / had a silk-sueening grant once so I
suppose the
feeling
is sirnilar, I kept
feeling
that I had to produc:e all this stufl'to meet
the Board, things I really dicln't want to do.
JB I applied two or three yeors ago arul it
wasnT even looked at so I never bothered
again. I'll probably apply again this year
thottgh, but it reolly oll depends on who
yott krunu on the Boorul ancl the sort ot'ex-
posure
.'rott'ye
lwd.
What about politics, does that come into
it, in terms of the fact that both of you are
feminists?
PB I tlort't know, in rcgard to nty stu!!'it
wws prubab$t reject<:d because it wos too
' c'o ttil t c r- c' u I t ura l', i t wa s s e
$'-
p ub li s hetl. B ut
selt-trtttblic'atittn is a
Txtlitic'al
thing to do,
it t'ttls ttut the 'niddle nton' c'ompletelT',
1,ott do
.t,our
own dis,tnbutiotn,.l,ou hove
the
Jreetlom
to prini:a.nd distribute wlwt-
ever
you
wonl. It daes nrcatt thottgh, tlwt
onl), o relatively snwll tturttber ol'peoplc
get to read it, yttu isually onl1, distribute'
it withirt a 'sat'e'a,igrla or area, so iu sonte
: worts it,is restric:tii.e,:Bttt I do krunt that
'' the Literature Boa.rd doesn't like selJ-pttb-
tished w,ork ot all; thcT"re ticd to the gow
crnnrcnt, the gorentnrcnt is tied to big bu,s-
ine.s.s, the pblishittg intlustry bette'.lits Jront
tltc alliance, et('. Abotr:'t behry o wotltun
tfutuglt I suppose sonte xrt oJ'discrinin-
atiott operates hut I lwren't experienrctl
it tlirectll, or overtl)', You exTterieru't' i! to
solnc extent in the
Wctr]'
Scctt(' itseu', the
nule poe ts wlw all write poctns afutut and
,t'
to cacli otlrcr. . . ,",',.'i
JB Yeah, thot's very iweresting, became
iomen donT usually say 'l wrote this
Wem for
so ond so'. When men present
their wo* they speak of it in just that way
'my work', becouse they're buikling nton-
.
uments
for
eternitlt, they cut the 'self' off
from
it. F-or exomple, I donT write about ,
myself clirectly, but the eruotion is therc,
whereas a lot of men don't like enrutiorwl
Wetry
because it lws to reyeol
t'eclings,
You can be enutiorul and project
),our
efiDtions onto o choracter or be clirect$l*
cmotiotutl, but o lo1 of nrcn don't like it,
it's ttot 'eternul'.
But by the same token Jo, your poetry is
veryintellectual ...
JB Do
ltou
think so? I w,rite o lot
from
an-
ger ond ift)n.,J', I like irony. I haye thesc re-
curring
t'igures,
sort of alians
l'rom
soc'iety
who wolk tlrc streets. I keep tvriting obout ,"'
them beruuse they seem trs lrut'e, a really
q)tlcentrated energl,, they sele<'t o ter))
snnll sec'tiort oJ'tltc worltl lo take with
thctrt.
There seems to be a current in the Women's
Movement which teirds towardi very sub
jectivist
sort of piletry, yery personitised
and irnmediate, have you ever been critic-
ised by,.other feminists because your po*
try has been seen as too intellectual or eso-
teric?
JB Mr.
PB I clc.f'initelt,,thirtk tlrut tlwt is a trend
thrrugh, I
J'ell
ittto it itt 1975,1,ou kttow,
thc greot
teminist
ycar, ntairtll, betause
tltost ol'thc literature which (urue
out tlur-
Q)
G
o
tr
c
ii
o
o.
ii
'
,i''tti"-t'
ffilrl+,
s*,,;'.'.','
ffi.;.'1.;l;l+.'t.
PAGE I O
."6*rJ I
I
gTH
APR I L, 1977
| 1 \- . t.-1-., i -. 5
SdiFSl#J#Jsrr.r4i+dv.rsrrilk:]Ti(.)T*\-{..7-.r:tBlCri$i{.r*-
the hierarchical coktnial tradition what
you can't accepl you sfunsh
But do you as a poet depend on that sort
of feed-back?
JB No, but I know I'm going to get certain
sorts of criticisms:l write too clensellt, I
write too thickly, the poems don't develop,
they are too obseure, too ruwny words, etc,
You develop a certain kind of writing per-
sonne which some people are bound to
hote, some people hate Patrick White nov-
els ond some love-them, There's no give
and take on the part of some critics at all,
ihey
iust
soy it's one thing or the other.
PB I think o poet is her own critic, yott
know
for
exomple when you?e self-indul-
gent, you know whnt you're doing. When
I write a poem thot's sentinrcntal or selt'-
indulgent I know it and expect certain
sorts of criticism, you end up knowing
))our
weaknesses
from
criticism you have
had in the gnst.
You'ue said Pam, that your style changed
fairly drastically when the feminist 'trans-
formation'occurred, did that happen to
you also, Jo?
JB / used to write a lctt ot'peotry wlrcn I.
was about l8 or
j,9,
vosi philosophical ''
WemS.
... :
''/'
.
"
PB
,
. . the turgid adolescent p,hose , :.
JB
,Yes, rhen l,stopped.
fo,r a wnit[ dnn t
faund
ou.t
t?nt
there wai somethittg'mi
in nty lite, norhing I did satisl'ied ny(. .
'Ra t z' and' Adr enalin I;licknife' are pub lished
by the Saturdalt Centre, Box 140, PO Cammeray.
,\l:^S.l'4 2062.
'Cocabala's l;unny Ptcture Book' snd'Autonat-
ic' Sad' can be obtained through Honi Soit.
ACADEMIC
he may be brilliant
LISTEN COCKROACH at writing
the southern end
listen cockroach of sentences
if iwanted he cannot calculate
a mexican sunrise the yarrow straws
maybe i'd nerid you or understand
down here/coming down
the readout
in the white walls,
th-e-wroru brand
:'' pamela cocabola blown
of paperbacks
and the humming fridge
singing i\,
keeps on
talking to me
cockroach
movement cockroach iam close tei.
movement one you?
move cockroach i am closed too.
i am closer to
listen cockroach
mexican energy/
the moon
i;6u"ft;;fiioacrr
than.
watch it.
You?
your shins
pamela cocabola brown
ililf,,t,".
pamela cocabola brown
SHINS
Y.aY
JV Yeoh sure, I stopped writing pocms
- aboqt baked beans,
fttr
exanrltle, I t+,rote a
.
po?m once about boked beans and Buddha,
'
-l'ott
end up realising that
1,ou
haven't got
to wasle, I suppose tlnt wos the
ntbst iintrwrtant thiltg I reali-Setl after that
period.
PB l'eah, but about the baked beans,l
tvottlcltt't wipe it ofl'so e,lsih,. I re,ntentber
ffiYNTMK,
pffiffiTm,
PffiffiNffiMffiNK"[E
a kihd of exit / for Virginia Woolf
t"Whatever the light touched became dowered
with a fanatical existence." "THE WAVES"
i. offerings of pure green caves
: dtoms of soft blue
intimate single sparks of the sibyl
',
.flowing out of her marvelous head/diaphany
'
of waves and their feathers/f ine ether flights
propel us to her personal epiphanies of light
iii haruks rove in their season
r ,
to prosecute the dream and
its sheer beliefs/hover closest
to.the preisures of faith and
freeze her light
,
moths waver in fractured circles
, round fossed globes/the centres
' flounder on pages like shiverinS
butterflies on the erratic pace of clouds
'. voices coil like mournful snakes
, along the pen / muffled codes iniuring her air
iii. the'shadows of blotching fearc
darkened the eye, weighted the hoods
with deep imagery concussing in
her mind her flow of light dammed
up with the hear4y throb
:
of trapped blood/she arranged
'
her hat on her stick in the mud
like a scarecrow her clearest essay
of form and left the damp dark
fields to the liying/what else
to do but descend
down the cool stems
of the Ouse to the flowing
watery flowers luminous
in an opal lighl
this/ death has no murky
,Joahl{e Burns
mg thnt year was very nxuch like tlat, this
think you should stay with that;it's
lust
like shaving your head you end up letting
it grow.
JB I think there is prcbably a difference
between the women who were poets before
feminism
and those who became paets af-
terwards, Adrian Rich
for
exomple, her poe-
try luis always been very ual'tswoman-like,
Erica Jong, etc. Onceyou lwve built up a
set of tools you can't deny the use ol'them,
you cant
forget
them.
PB / think a poet who wosn't a poet and
who is now o poet is Alta. Someone like
tlwt, a womon who is a
feminist
poet and
who came to write o poetry through
femin-
ism. Which makes the stvle and the whole
of seeing things, very ditferent.
I really agree with
you Pam, about the dif'
ference bitween the poetry you wrote in
'Automatic Sad'and the poetry of the 'ar'
dent feminist year', the poems in lAuto-
'matic
Sad'are much more crystal, more
sharp, the others seem less striking as if
lfie change in style required you to give
up that unique use of images . . .
Pts t have difficulty acc'epting the Ig75
periad, tlwt's wlnt lwppens whenever you
write something. If you go back to the
lFunny Picture Book', which is about being
a druggie, the style was very different. The
clwriges:and ty'cles in your life are reilW
diffrcult to accept, but they're obvfutwly
retlected in the poety you'write.
-. au,b ib nt ip to. t hi nn',- li La v * i ll tt u d i ro t't lu n hrt t t t
PB 'wlwt is this cloul oh, heights, deptlts
'''L,-
.
'
' ;..-, ' '"
ldifficulttoaccept,butthey?eobviously
; Ag
th,oiyear wat y!-ry mylh like tlw.t, tltis
riflected in the'poetry you write.
your cunt or
iowlperiod.
I went through
'
"a
whole style c:hange which c'oincided with
thc fact tfiat I alstt-bec'ame an ardent fem-
;;;'liki;;';'-;;;'i;;i';i;i;:"s-i';"';i;
But in vour-poetrvlhose
chanses are rair'
-;i;i
i ioti o sense of imagery, it was cer- ly easy to discern, whereas in Joanne's poe'
;;;ly"iiiii iii t ,,iotty
irrf
rur* that it k. try less of the self intrudes, for e.xample,
s,oietlring very much- of 1he
past, it's real- in your poems there is an incredible amount
b''ii*i;;.
ti
iou
can iitegritg tllings; like of drus- imagery and ttrat obviouslv reflects
Tni iiiitiiy within th{self, if you can your lifestyle, whereas in vours
Joanne
;;;ii;;;ilr,r,
tlrc polarisation ii the intel' th-ere are none of those concrete
personal
icit"and'the bo:dy ihen you've got really ref erence points . . .
good
PoetrY.
in nt1t li
!
e, nor hins- t';;; ;;;;7;;';'";)i::
PB 'wlat is this clowl oh, heights, d.ytths
of despir'.. .
JB Yeah tlwt sort o!'stull', I tried theote
ond I tried singing and there wos still a
huge gap in nry heod or sometldng, sonte
nrt ot'gap of expression, Then I w'ent otter'
seds to write ancl while there I c'ast tlrc
past onrpletely asfule, oll that heari.t'lan'
-gmge,
ali the abstractions, orrtl
ittst
c'otu'en'
lra{ed on smnll inwges, Seni-p;op pttetry. I
anded up writittg httnuturot$, pop tl1irtgs*
word plays, sendilry a
few
arourtd to ror'
ious urulerground papers, {'tc'., tuttil ot'rc
Wper
cglled 'strange I'-oe'ces', a verl' sur-
Veal sort of nmgazirte, occeptetl.lheru ancl
thctught thcy were great . . .
But what about feminism?
,
, JB Yeah,l'trt i'ttntittg lo that. Thntugltitttt
thnt ltear
the poerns starthtg bet'oning tt.L.)re
'sdvage,
nu)re angryt.
PB But v,hat was hnppeniltg irr
)'our
li.l'e
at the tinte, be<'ause i!')',ru gt tltrtttglt ntas-
sive changes politic'all7' ,,rr,,
)'our
v'lrule-
percept iott of tltirtgs dwnges, .t'ttu
itterprc I
things tlitlerentlv.
PB l'eah, but about lhe baked beorts, I
v,otrlcln't wipe it ofl'so easill'. I renrcntber
v,riting a poem aboUt a 'strtoottftil ofcleael
bbwllies'and at that tinrc I was liriitg
qtiite seltdestructivel!' arrcl tlrut qxtonful
of deod blowl'lies reflectecl nry cynic'isnt,
(ause I
feet
tlat I write with nt1' c'1'nical
eye.
JB But il's rtttt like' tlpse pol>poeilts
li'ant
tlrc pust.
PB No, hul I dort't reall-t' tltirtk tlut tlrt'
poem gets acr<tss the sel./-clestru(tiott,
.l'ott
atten4)t Io t'ltoose att ittwge v'lticlt c0tt ('oLr'
turcit...
JB You cltoose kt v'rite about blow'.f.lics
atul ttot plaslic'.flowers . . .
PB l.xat'tlt'.
JB Btrt
jtrst to tie up tlrc last'questiott, ott'
<'e I becanrc nrure o:n,are <tt'.t't'tttittisttt tttt:
poetry becanrc nurch tttQtt' saruge attl tlrc
Ittttrtour nrut'lt blocker. l'ou catt sce tlrc
trottsiti<ttt
littttt
'Ratz' to tltc otlter,
)'ott
gel atryry'.
But how valid do you think poetry is in a
political context, do you think it has pow-
er to initiate changes or influence people's
emotions?
JB Very intpr)rtont..).ottk at Robitt XIor-
gatt atttl llrc p<trr't't'.'her poelr.t' ltocl orcr
Tetl Htgltes! Poetr1'is pott'er betause it
gets ittt.tt
1:our J'eelirtgs,
ir goes rigltt intrt
-r'our
head. l,ika Btrh Dvlan
's sorlgs -//te'
'lx)rver
tlrc), hatl to itt!'lueuce a ulrcle gen'
1,y.gli1Dt.
PB lt's o t,totter ofprbritie.s, .s()rrr(' rerttl-
t t t i o n arie s, so t t rc a ru tle n i c' r ero lu t io t tot'i e s,
jttst cltttt't t\>nte iltttt t'utta<'t tvitlt poetry)
antl untsecluentl-t' tlrc.t'tlttttl see it as ittt'
portnilt. Tlwt's their prioritl' atul poctrt
ls srlltcrtlle else's priorit.t'.
JB Yott clo vtlls[ r'ott <'an best, tlrc best
rvl)' lor )'ou
to expres.s tt'/tdf l'tttt ttwttt to,
to e-\press vour otger atul use
)'ottt'
p()etn'
os o \veap(trt. Like Clris Sitko wrote itt
'I{otlrcr l'm Rootatl','l,et nty words b*
d)tttc bullets and nry teors bec'onre bullets',
lrcr poetrl'tt'os o weoqotl.
JB There's a whole pctlarisation between
being honest antl sincere arul being stylilh,
usini style. Technique is a c'raft which is
tupfiusia rc be'too'traditional,
b-ut y<tu
t'in'' still use it anct be iery va*. F'otr exant'
ple. I wrote that poern'Enlistment'which
it irr., raw', it chnnges rhythms,-it c'hanges
lbrnt"
atl the way through; and Rttbin Mor'
'gan
uses a bt oJ'poetic craft par.ticulnrly
"ihetoric,
she uiei a lot of traditional Jbrms
ttf rhetorit' but her poetry is still raw, still
ionest. She uses those traditional fornts
antl she also uses rhyll1vn, the flow
ol'words'
in certian patterns to get the effec't she
wonts.
P8 Reading that book of hers, the lotest
book, I
found
tlwt she has donc. some
poenis which are clirectl-u entotitt.nal arul.l
'lbund
them ver.\' 'wel', I
iudge
them as be'
,hir rhetorit'al
poenxs ntore' like Josnne's
poetrt;.'thiev aie sirong. Thnt trend in thc
'Moviment,
that really raw trend I've conrc
to
itttlge lbirly
criticallT' b-ecause.l suppose
t m'inn thm
you t'an work a bit harcler.
JB
-/r 's all grtt to do with toking language
down'to iti sintplest, langttaqe con be sirrt'
ple
but 1,s1' c'harged, it t:an be syn*olistit'
'lnngwge
which goes beyond the wortl; but
iJ lansuage becttnrcs so plaitt, t+'ithout the
iecnfiqies, the rh.vthnn ofpeotry, then . . .
PB Btrt in solrtc wa)'s it's an hrcredibll' trxtl
itical thing to ckt . . .
JB Jttst like slwving 1'our'lrcotl
. .
,
PB It's exat'tl-t' thc sanrc tlirtg, it's a stoge,
wnrctlirtg
-t'ttit
lruve to do. Sttnrc sort ot'
sclf'-real'- tion as a writer, btrt I tlort't
JB / always thought W'
paetrlt was v€iy
repetitious, I
fcel
I'm doing the sarue thing
atl the tirue. There's o lot of satire, savage
rnockery of pettple, but ['m trying to get
nwre into the 'lyric:al iltterior'now, nlore
than iust
the imogistic exterior. You krtotrt,
the
ftashing
inwges; i've been ac'cused t{'
being flashy, iust
throwing irwges"ottt, o
smartorse .
PB This is a verv intere'sting tlting-c:ritic'
ism. Sonrcttne ac'cused-)'ou of being 'flssht"
,so
what did ytttt iitt, c'hange yoy...............r style?
JB No, I
t'ust
kept going. But there's thts
whole thing between the linear progressktrt
of an idea, and bdmbarding the reoder witlt
different approaches to the sonw thittg- ,
the rotlial efte<:t. So vou
ptt dit't'erert irtt'
oges out, dilferent ways oJ'lookitrg ot sonrc'
thirtg, alnrcst like nixed ntetapltors cit
times, but this is
iust
a wa-v ot'opproac'hirtg
it, by a radiol elt'ect rather tltan a lirrcar
,,nr.'Arrt prrptb
fitst
can't utPc tvith tlwt,
it's not rational enough, henc'e thc acuts-
ation of 'Jlashy'.
Just going badk to basics, who do you re-
ceive most of your.criticisms from, how
seriously do you take them, and do you al-
ter your style accordinglY?
JB Oh tto, tliJ!'erertt peotrtle -like clilf'erent
.rf'/es o/'writing, bttt itr Australio it's ver.v
irttolcraut, thc wlutle colortiol hierorc'hical
thirtg, il'sontcthitrg tkrcw't appcal kt yott,
-r,ou're
goittg to put it tlotutt bec'ouse \'ott
Itove to ossert yourscl.f'. lt's strt'lt a snutll
c'ircle tlrcre is n<tt rttut'h tolerance ttJ'tlit-
l'erent
s/.I,/c.$, il's ttot costttopoliton enouglt
to at'<'ept every.tlting, srt itt thc
l'ashiott
tt.l'
Photo: Barbara Levy
,'-,,1
I
gTH
APR IL, 1977 PAQE
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