Southerly Journal: four more excursions into poetry & bodies

Last month, I was the guest blogger for Southerly Journal.  For those of you who missed it, I made various attempts at hacking through the dense undergrowth around poetry, form, embodiment and otherness (as is my wont).  I won’t reproduce the posts here, but here are some teasers and the links…  Thanks to Tessa Lunney and David Brooks at Southerly for their support and kind words.

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1. Normal Land: Poetry, Disability and Solidarity (by way of Ian Dury and Quippings)

The more I immersed myself in poetry – reading it, writing it, performing it – the more I began to feel that poetry derived its power from the bodily experience of solidarity. The Macquarie Dictionary defines solidarity as “union or fellowship arising from common responsibilities and interests” or “community of interests, feelings, purposes”.7 Solidarity is complex, especially because what is “common” is not always obvious. Solidarity can be latent, persisting underneath our social reality, in our biology and chemistry and physical interdependence. Something needs to unearth and activate it, some experience or event which prompts us to recognise that our lives are inextricably connected.

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2. Poetic Tourism & Deforming Form: India, Ghazals & Otherness

I’ve suggested elsewhere that we encounter poems as physical objects, textual bodies which have their own particular shape and energy, as a result of the subjectivity embedded in them14. Each poem is a mix of order and chaos, of expectation and surprise. On the page, and as sound, poems are instances of particularity, where precise detail catches our attention and where form refers back to cultural norms. And, in my experience, the ghazal is a particularly heightened example of this. There is a “normal” ghazal, just as we have a certain image of a “normal body”, and it is in the ways in which we depart from this norm that intrigue and frisson occurs. Of course, relatively normal bodies and formal ghazals, too, have their own undeniable, disruptive energies.

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3. Poetic Epigenetics: Bodily memory, silence & community

What my body is and what it isn’t seems like a pretty straightforward distinction. But perhaps “my body” as a phrase isn’t quite right – it assumes certainty and singularity, yet if we look closer, in spite of the continuity and stability we feel in our bodies, we might detect numerous possibilities, even multiplicity.

Certainly, when I look back at what I’ve written over the years, I can see the inflections and energies of other poets and writers. They course through my body and writing as disturbance and affirmation. And I can’t imagine who I am without recalling them. Think of this as poetic epigenetics.

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4. “Becoming-Marfan”: Poetry, Genetics & (Auto)Biography

Becoming proliferates in the soil of the complex instability of each body. The writer mines the multiplicity of their body in order that their writing becomes truly creative and viscerally connective. The writing implies not just one writer and one reader, but many others. Deleuze asserts, “[h]ealth as literature, as writing, consists in inventing a people that is missing”.15 Reading this kind of writing involves a kind of recognition, a sense that the reader’s own intuitions and bodily stirrings have been acknowledged, and even encouraged. The lone reader, sensing other hypothetical readers, suspects the existence of a community she might belong to, or come to belong to. In fact, she creates it by affectively engaging with the text and her own multiplicity.

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launch of “Immune Systems”

Yes, another book.  I’m humbled and excited to announce the imminent release of “Immune Systems” through Transit Lounge.  “Immune Systems” is the result of two trips to India, and a lot of percolating.  The first half is kind of verse novella on the uncanny and fraught world of medical tourism.  The second half is a suite of ghazals on travel, desire, estrangement and (yes) bodies.  For some insight into the process, check the posts here.

The launch is on Tuesday 17th March at 6pm (for a 6.30pm start) at Collected Works Bookshop, Nicholas Building, 1/37 Swanston St, Melbourne.  The book will be launched by the multi-talented poet and artist Luke Beesley.  I would love to see you there.

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Thanks to Transit Lounge publisher Barry Scott for his faith in the poems; and to Anjum Hasan and Ali Alizadeh for these generous quotes:

‘Andy Jackson has made a most delicately probing poetry out of the detritus of urban India. This is a humane and moving book.’
−Anjum Hasan.
‘Andy Jackson writes exceptionally well about India. But, as though unsatisfied with merely writing about one of the world’s most wonderfully complex social scenes, Jackson is drawn to the country’s medical system. This focus perfectly suits his terrific poetic gift for fusing the clinical with the affective. The poems in Immune Systems are succinct and absolutely engaging expressions of a humanity caught between the demands of the body and the vagrancy of the mind.’ – Ali Alizadeh
There’s a Facebook event set up for the launch if you’re that way inclined.  If you can’t make it and would like to buy a copy, you can order it through Transit Lounge or of course drop into Collected Works any time after the launch.