Friday, October 02, 2015

On Writing #73 : Pam Brown

Pam Brown

Rachel Blau DuPlessis said 'a poem builds up, in a steady accretion, like plaque'. True. In general, this describes my method.

My own poems have a notational style comprising a kind of linguistic debris. In some instances it's a Sydney-noir-comedy-debris and sometimes it reads like I'm suffering from bleak romanticism. But I'm usually paranoid enough to be aware of those traces & to comment on them when they occur.  I think I use a kind of ‘philosophical' 'I' to examine my situation as a poet in the culture-at-large.

Technically, in writing I don't always punctuate where punctuation should be. I don't like colons much. I really dislike semi-colons & tend to use dashes instead. I don't always use a full stop or a comma where convention might expect one.

I don't like Italics for titles or emphasis either.  Although sometimes I have used Italics for emphasis. Five years ago, I did compromise when one of my books, 'Authentic Local', went from manuscript to publication - replacing underlinings & single quotes & so on with Italics & capitals because of the publisher, papertiger media's house style.

I find in writing a poem that it's 'difficult' to get it right - to have it look, sound & read as I intend. I can spend ages adjusting punctuation & spacing & lineation. Also on keeping things clear. Sometimes having my fragments connect to my meanings is really a challenge. I live in my own private metonymy. I guess, with indirectness, which is how some of my poetry can operate, that good old representation is a kind of solution. I'm not a formalist. I don't work within particular poetic forms. I've tried various forms and they usually fail to conform. I do think that it's difficult to have formal poems retain a  procedure & avoid seeming contrived & tight. I like content to work easily without being obstructed by the form. I don't want that kind of structural difficulty. 

I usually say that a benign compulsion nudges my writing practice. The process, although somehow mysterious to me, seems to be to track lines of thought, to collect & record glimpses, to use snatches of language & elemental situations & try to place them at a slant to a linear norm. I could say that I make 21st-century poetry in the shadows of the 20th-century's post-Modernist idea that after the atomic bomb, linearity is anachronistic.

The eruption of innovation in poetry (& every other art-form) in the 1960s, in tandem with a new wave of global politicisation, influenced my generation irrevocably.

I've been making & publishing poems for over four decades now. I used to say that generally my continuing aim was intelligibility but I renounced aiming for intelligibility about a decade ago (not that I replaced it with deliberate ambiguity or obscurity or anything like that).  I realised how 'out there' poetry is to central culture. I became used to a more eccentric approach rather than thinking about rendering poems 'intelligible'. (In a way it was almost a reclamation of some early looseness of style).

If my poetry has a narrow appeal I don't mind -  it's been a long time & if my small audience isn't a 'general' one then that's ok. Though of course it would be nice to be read by as many interested people as possible.

If I think about it I probably do hope that my poems 'connect' with the social (meaning the polis) somehow. For poetry to exist in corporatised western societies, where the context is always power, then it has to be sceptical of the status quo, questioning, probably experimental, or at least apply an unanticipated use of form & language.

My attitude? Anti-Wordsworthian, still.

Pam Brown's seventeenth book of poems, Homeby dark, was published by Shearsman Books in 2013.  A bilingual edition of her poems, Alibis, translated into French by Jane Zemiro, was published by Société Jamais-Jamais in 2014. Pam is a contributing editor for several magazines & independent publishers. In 2014 she edited the 'deciBels' series – ten international poetry titles for Vagabond Press. Vagabond will publish a new collection of her poems, Missing up, in late 2015. Her blog is & she lives in Sydney, Australia.

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