Soundings'gT

:

Third Biennial National
Conference on Poetry
Pam Brown

t

was wARNED by an experienced
poetry conference participant of
the possibility that the Third
National Poetry Conference might be

fI

"a bunch of poets standing around
glowering at each other". This
prediction, a popular and standard
perception of poets-in-groups, was
proved wrong.'soundings', organized
by Jeri Kroll and Lyn Jacobs and held
in Adelaide in November tggT,was a
showcase of difference and its
exchange, and of diverse positions,
styles, politics and ideas.
Because of the concurrent
sessions there were several papers
I

d wanted to hear but had to miss

Lee Cataldi and Fred Jensen on

-

their

collaborative video-tropes project,
John Mateer on Vygotsky's

linguistics, Moya Costello's'The
prose poem says find me'and a
reading by Miriel Lenore. The
conference proceedings will be

published and Mike Ladd recorded
the readings for ABC radio but, here,
I'll give brief impressions of the
presentations that I found most
impressive.

Ann Vickery's reclamation and
exposition of Anna Wickham, the
English/Australian poet whose
dislike of bourgeois married-life's
complexities and frustrations led her
to produce erotic poetry. She was
encouraged by her father but, after
the publication of her Songs by'John
Oland'(a pseudonym) her husband
had her committed to an asylum for
six weeks in order to prevent her
poetic pursuits. Anna Wickham
suicided by hanging inry47.
Elizabeth Parsons tackled notions
of authenticity and historiography "can poets speak for the unspoken
past?"

-

using Dot Porter's

Ahkenhaten' and Susan Howe's
poetic fictionalizing of Jonathan

Swift's'Journal to Stella'.
Lyn McCredden wanted to know
"Where are all the real poets?" by
examining the worsening relations
between academics and writers.It

seems'real poets' and'real
academics'are making
pronouncements in this "intellectual

liberations offered by hypertext, he
had some doubts about poetry as a
medium for propaganda.
I shared a reading with Dinah
Hawken, a brilliant poet from
Wellington, New Zealand whose
measured, slow reading style allows
her images to sneak up on and

battlefield" even while wishing each
other would go away, disappear off
the edge of the rifle range.
Steve Kelen's'When holograms
kiss: poetry and Star Trek'showed
clearly that poetry is likely to last
into many millenia to come and'Star
Trek'knows its literary theories well.
- "Remember, it is among the
Klingons that Iove poetry achieves
its finest flower" - Worf.
no's keynote presentation on
'dialect'poetry in Australia was a
tour-de-force and set the agenda for
an immediate flurry of discourse
leading,later in the day, to the
session'Transcreations' in which
Tom Shapcott examined the
(im)possibilities of translation and
Adam Aitken,looking at hybridity in
poetry introduced the work of the
Hawaiian'creole' poet Lois Ann
Yamanaka and also talked about

'An opiate to your amphetamine"
was how Steve Kelen put it to me.

Lionel Fogarty.
Rosemary Huisman, a semantics
expert working in Sydney

On Saturday, out at Flinders
University, the action was in the
happy blathering that occurred in

University's English Department,
took a break from her daily grind

response to the morning's papers at
lunch al fresco over a refectory
canteen sandwich and a styrofoam
cup of lukewarm instant coffee. On
Sunday, in the restaurants of Rundle
Mall, grouped around cool, dry Fox
Creek whites, e-mail adversaries

and presented a witty and

percipient paper on avant-garde
poetics including an uplifting, overthe-top literal rendition of a Dada
sound poem.
Lisa Bellear, an enthusiastic, ad-

libbing yarn-spinner, came across
a natural comic in the face of the
huge adversities currently being
experienced by Aboriginal people.

as

Kevin Brophy's impeccable light

touch illuminated the urban-rural
dichotomy and the concept of 'place'
in Australian poetry - focusing
finally on the poetic community of
suburban Brunswick in Melbourne.
Philip Salom's address ranged
broadly - excited by the potential

surprise an audience - from Ifte

Harbour Poems:
Tumed awayfromthe lecture on
sexual economics
she goes down into the sexual
garden, under its dark spread

and into its detail: ecstatically

branching magnolia, tuberous
roots thrusting up huge leaves. Fuck
the tulips in their damned
obedient rows. Stop. They're finally
opening their throats!
They have dark purple stars! They
have stigmal They have style!

reconciled, poets and academics
chatted and gossiped together,
displaying no hint of the afflicting

"worsening relations" on the
magazine battlefields, and
interrupted by only occasional
bragging of brushes with poets more
famous than those present.
An event in association with the
conference was the launch of Ken
Bolton's Untimely Meditations at a
city wine bar. Old timers'
meditations - old friends with new

1998.15o.overland 1or

poems

- John Forbes, Steve Kelen,

Ken Bolton and myself, newer poet
Cath Kenneally and New Zealander

Dinah Hawken gave a reading to
celebrate the new collection. A nice
way to complete an intense and
vital dose of poetics.