I have just done an interview with The Muse: An International Journal of Poetry. It will be online shortly at: http://www.themuse.webs.com/
Thanks to Pradeep!
In the meantime, here is a selection to whet the whistle:
“Even in the Dark is a compilation of poems written over several years. I taught literature at Monash University for 20 years, and poetry analysis and criticism had always been one of my key research and teaching areas. However, I did find it difficult to find the head space to write poetry in the context of academic life; I know some can combine these activities, but for me, it has taken the time and opportunity provided by not being involved in teaching and research that has allowed me to become immersed in the writing of poetry. I also had two important periods where I was attached to Marlboro College, Vermont, USA, as a visiting scholar; these times were crucial for me in terms of finding new life rhythms and a concentration on poetry writing as a craft. I think that standing outside the sphere of one’s familiar or habitual life, can sometimes offer great possibilities for creativity and new perceptions. Even the differences of landscape can operate as triggers for heightened ways of seeing. I think that seeing ‘place’ differently is also a way of seeing ‘self’ differently, and thus shaking up and reconceptualising the vital inter-relationship between the two. Even in the Dark contains poems from this North American experience, as well as poems very specifically centred on Australian landscape and experience, as well as a suite of poems which are more concerned with enlivening moments within the intimate and the domestic.
One of the things that has come to me over a long association with poetry writing and writing about poetry, is that creativity, or a sense of the luminous, often arises out of the experience of the everyday. Moments of the extraordinary can be found within the ordinary; a heightened awareness can both unravel skeins of possibility from within the quotidian, and, paradoxically, teach us that living is not just about the ‘highs’ of the extraordinary but about being ‘present’ within the fabric of our daily lives. The business of ordinary living- working, the domestic, children, routines – has become an important source for the writing of my poetry…”
In my experience, art and life are inextricably interconnected. Especially with a genre such as poetry, which works so closely with the personal, I find that the experience of the intimate and the everyday will always closely inform the poetry. It is out of the business of living – of feeling, connecting, risking, sustaining – that the insights or germs of potential poems arise. The poem comes out of the wash of life experience as well as the subliminal, dream-level of response which is always seeking to decode and reframe the componentry of those experiences. Having said that, I am also acutely aware of the labour which is required to transition the experience or the perception into the ‘organic mechanism’ of the poem, if I can describe it like that. The poem is, above all, a communicative device, not just a method of the externalization of the private, and if it is to function adequately as communication, then there is also a very conscious task involved in shaping those responses – images, emotions, even the visceral patterns of blood and breath – into the living form of the poem. I would describe the living poem as one in which individual experience is translated into a form which can evoke similar experiences in a reader – or perhaps at least some embodied experience, given that who really knows the precise contours of another’s response!
.. The natural world is the fundamental basis of human experience. I think this is true even for those of us who live in urban environments. We are still grounded within the sphere of seasons, daylight and darkness, and the world of growing things feeds us in terms of spirit as well as body. To lose track of the natural environment in the course of one’s life, is to lose a vital element of human experience. In this sense, I see poetry’s relationship with the natural world as operating in two ways: first, the natural world is a source of great connection and inspiration. What else do we write about, on one level, except the place in which we find ourselves and our experience of our selves within that specificity? Second, the act of poetry is a way of encouraging and communicating the focused looking which allows us to recognize not just a backdrop to a narcissistic self, but rather a gateway into alterity…
I think there is often a sense that poetry that takes the natural world as one of its primary subject matters is merely trivial, a decorative art that deflects any real understanding of human interiority and interconnection. I suppose some poetry may be like this, but I have always felt that the opportunity to bring one’s attention to the dynamism of the natural world is to find a still point of reflection that will ultimately tell us as much about ourselves as about the specificity of the world.