Friday, July 28, 2017

Thought Provokers


This week I'm turning my feature over to Jeltje Fanoy, one of the founding members of the Melbourne Branch of the Poets Union of Australia, which has now long been known simply as Melbourne Poets Union.  

In this post I share what she said at the 40th anniversary of that founding, a few weeks ago, including some of her own poems which she read.

I was another founding member, but as I no longer live in or near Melbourne, I didn't attend these celebrations. Jeltje kindly sent me her notes for my interest, including the poems. (Pity I can't give you the accompanying guitar performance too!) She graciously agreed to my immediate request to share them with you, along with a photo of her taken on that occasion.

What happened in Australian poetic history 40 years ago is probably only of passing historical interest to those it doesn't touch directly. However Jeltje raises points which are still relevant, I believe, to poets everywhere – e.g. about the notion of 'the genius poet' (a rare and exalted breed, apparently) and what is or isn't fit subject matter for poems. 

I particularly like what she says about treating poetry as a craft to be learned.

Note: When Jeltje speaks of 'neo-liberalism', below, she refers to this phenomenon.

Aside from her thought-provoking speech, the poems she included are thought-provokers themselves, both in style and content. (That's intended as a compliment, of course.)


 



40 years of MPU 
Jeltje Fanoy (founding member)

My name is jeltje, and I’m a founding member of the Poets Union, and collective effort press.


Poem: I died in…

He came & went, like an advertisement for
Unemployment. Everyday the same: no house,
no job, no car, no fancy food. While he said: No,
advertisements screamed: YES! For FAST CARS! YES!
for HOUSES! YES! For expensive trips overseas!
Life had become a duality of YES! and NO,
(& nothing much in between)

did SHE have a job?
did SHE have a job TO GO TO? (everyday, or:…eh…
from time to time… saying YES! from time to time)
Yes Sir, Yes Madam, Yes Car, Yes House,
Yes Fancy Food, Yes Trips Overseas (No’s for Nobodies),
Yes! Is for US! (No’s for Them)
Yes! Is for the LIVIVG! (No is for Them,
their bodies a question mark? an afterthought?)
after YES!?

Did they exist anymore? She wondered,
SOMETIMES, in between advertisements

(self-published in Poetry Live in the House and, also, by Melbourne Poets Union)


Many moons ago, the Poets Union was dreamed up by poets all over Australia, to give poetry more of a community focus, and I happened to be alive in those times…! 20 years ago I was asked to cut the cake for the Sydney Poets Union 20 years celebrations, during the Sydney International Poetry Festival. It’s great to be here tonight celebrating Melbourne Poets Union 40th!

I think the main idea behind setting up a poets’ union was, for me, to do away with, once and for all, the 19th century concept of the genius poet… reducing 99.99999 % of the population to silence or, at their best, second-rate class poetry citizen status. This was a feminist pre-occupation, in the seventies: I had poet friends who put up signs above their kitchen sink, with” Hey Genius, do the dishes…!”  It was like:  everyone could have a go at writing and performing and (self)publishing their work, and be justly rewarded for their efforts. The emphasis was on effort, and commitment, and working hard at your craft.

I guess I saw myself as being engaged in learning a craft, and, as time went on, becoming better at it.

Poem: when all of this started…!

when all of this
started,
we didn’t
know that,
when we started,
we didn’t
know that’s when it started, that, when it
started, that this is what it was, when it started
was it the start
of hearing each other,
did anyone see us,
the first time, in public, I don’t know,
perhaps,
they saw a flyer,
were they
there, for us, or just
happened
to be there,
did anyone know any
one, did we, ourselves,
know each other, at all,
well… well… well…well

(published in Unusual work 22, collective effort press)


Who were “we” when we set up the Poets Union? 

I think the general feeling at the time was that performance poets were involved in the project of “freeing” poetry from the clutches of Academia, away from stuffy self-importance and expensive private school and university college peer group approval.  Poets, no longer striving for upper-class endorsement, needed their fellow workers to support them as fellow Poets Union members.

Of course universities are far more inclusive than they were, when we started the Poets Union. However, the “genius” aspect of poetry still seems to be a populist perception. With the rise of neo-liberalism and subsequent diminishing opportunities of being published, and being paid for it, there is a tendency of seeing only a very tiny number of people as being successful at making the grade, and the community focus of poetry eroded.
In opposition to the 19th century Romantic genius poet, I write about everyday things, finding common ground within a post-colonial context. In the early years, some MPU members considered me a “dangerous” feminist and I was confronted by angry, self-righteous male poets at public readings, but this seems to be, thank goodness, all in the past.      
The following are two migration poems, and a poem I first performed for Marietta Elliot-Kleerkoper, a past President of MPU, for her birthday.
I’ve asked Sjaak de Jong to play with me, on guitar, for the last two.

 the empty streets (Melbourne 1960s)


The many snapshots   don’t really   in any way         tell the whole story there’s us        opening           presents       from relatives     flash     from far                    away            the many            cards      the Christmas tree

I recognize       an elderly    relative        looking exhausted          after the long         journey          but     still smiling     and  sitting      finally at                   our table             we’re   all   caught smiling    like maniacs

I remember how             at first            only            in Collins Street            a couple of                 couples here         and      there         sitting outside a café   coffee       and cakes         dressed                 in their Sunday Best

escaped     toasted sandwiches all around       from some sort of     curfew   that was never talked about    we      emerged together               in greater numbers  like   in Paris  underneath   branded    sun  umbrellas


painted into a corner
(for our refugees, on Manus)

painted into a corner  not letting go  it’s a form of torture  without a name  and holding on  not letting anyone down  th humbled shoulders  and driven there  th language hurts  th crying eyes  someone holding on to something
not letting go 
without a name 

not letting anyone down 
and driven there  th crying eyes 

not letting go 
not letting anyone down 

th crying eyes  not letting anyone down  not letting anyone down

painted into a corner  not letting go  it’s a form of torture  without a name  and holding on  not letting anyone down  th humbled shoulders  and driven there  th language hurts  th crying eyes  someone holding on to something
it’s a form of torture 
not letting anyone down

th language hurts
it’s a form of torture  it’s a form of torture

painted into a corner  not letting go  it’s a form of torture  without a name  and holding on  not letting anyone down  th humbled shoulders  and driven there  th language hurts  th crying eyes  someone holding on to something
without a name 
and driven there 

without a name

(published in Unusual work, 20, collective effort press)



Life-saving innuendos


The whistle on a lifejacket

The solid mass of posterity

Resistance to a chaotic mess

Our life-force, intermittently


The Earth’s rumbling interludes


A traffic island in a traffic jam

The curtain going up, just one more time

Summer beach infatuations

Life-saving innuendos


Sun-dried emotions, on a slice of toast


Sunny gold-coin donations

The past catching up in a gust of wind

Lines engraved on the palms of hands

Immodest dreams of peace


(published on Audacious 2 CD, Melbourne Spoken Word)



Material shared in “Thought Provokers’ is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.

13 comments:

  1. What a wonderful feature, Rosemary. It reminded me of the Clayoquot Writers Group, when we so humbly began 20 years ago, (LOVE that poem!) And how far it has grown. Loved this offering. Thank you both.

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  2. I agree what a delight Rosemary to read this poetry offering.....

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  3. Another splendid post, Rosemary. I found 'Life-saving innuendos' particularly thought-provoking and compelling.

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    1. I particularly love the line, 'Immodest dreams of peace'.

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  4. How energising it was to be introduced to a Melbourne poetry scene via Thom street poets and Fringe. To be around so many confident, creatives especially women set me on life's course.
    My one woman poetry show at La Mama was where I met Rosemary and Bill. It all meant a lot and now in reminiscing.The networking propelled me into drawing attention to the younger than me!@ Melb.Fringe.

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  5. This really struck me: " I think the general feeling at the time was that performance poets were involved in the project of “freeing” poetry from the clutches of Academia, away from stuffy self-importance and expensive private school and university college peer group approval. Poets, no longer striving for upper-class endorsement, needed their fellow workers to support them as fellow Poets Union members. " I remember those freeing times as well....when I became aware that I didn't have to follow any classical form, that poetry was whatever a poet wished it to be. I imagine that when the Melbourne Poets Union was formed it was kind of like when we formed sites such as Poets United. Very empowering. And wow, it seems that there were so many new poets coming out of the woodwork back then. It seemed like a movement - something very new that we were glad to be a part of! Very nice post, Rosemary. Made me reflect - both on the poetry & the movement.

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    1. Yes, it was a true revolution, happening not only in Australia, and later continuing in a different way via the internet. I always take a private pleasure in the fact that PU to me means both Poets Union and Poets United – two very important communities in my life with some superficial differences and many deeper resemblances.

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  6. Love the poems shared here specially "painted into a corner". Thanks for the wonderful post Rosemary.

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  7. I also loved each poem. She has certainly learned her craft well! Thank you so much for sharing this poet and her work.

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  8. Jeltje was unable to register to leave her own comments here. She wants you to know that she very much appreciates the things you have said.

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