Friday, October 09, 2009

Congrats Emma

Earlier this year I trumpeted young ex-pat poet Emma Jones' first collection, The Striped World, and so not only am I happy to announce that it has been awarded Britain's prestigious Forward Prize for a first collection of poetry, but that the judges actually offered a relatively coherent, cliche-free justification for their choice.

Josephine Hart, who chaired the Forward Prize judges, described Jones yesterday as ''an ambitious and intriguing new voice''. Her poems ''are both elliptical and visionary - inhabiting a parallel world of strange, disjointed images within which we nevertheless find echoes of familiar experience''.

What Sydney "critic" Jaya Savige meant by his comments that follow in today's SMH article is anyone's guess. Something about Dead White Males, presumably. Maybe someone should tell the kids at Darlington that po-po-mo is done and dusted, because if there is one thing Emma Jones' collection does not smack of in the least it is any effort to please the professors. In other words, it is genuine and heart-felt and profound. Maybe that's what Jaya meant in his glib reference to the "yellowed pages of tradition".

Click on the post heading for the full article.

John Hospodka's South Side

I received a welcome gift in my inbox recently from the Chicago poet, John Hospodka. Titled "South Side Trilogy", it is a fascinating multi-media collection of immaculately wrought free verse accompanied by audio and illustrations, mostly in pastel. Not so much a verse-novel as a poetic snapshot of life in Hardscrabble, the legendary slum of Chicago, the work somehow manages to exude a wistful air of nostalgia while bringing the day-to-day life of contemporary Chicago to the foreground, as though you didn't just rub shoulders with ghosts in the windy city, but walked right into them.

The Night They Tore Old Comiskey Down

Middle-aged men in a sagged circle
of unplanned stillness outside a funeral
parlor: one visualizes the deceased’s use
for a nicknamed slang, the other four weigh
temptations affected by the nostalgia playing
a heady deaf tongue to their collective grievance.
Two elderly ladies share a cigarette and gossip
spiritedly about a lesson about something
other than a headlong retreat into the hunched
idealism that declares one must never trust
a fellow who tucks in his shirt on the weekends.

Within the parlor a new widow scans
her only child’s altar boy eyes, but she can
-not yet locate any semblance of biography.

A spleen-driven spasm redirects the foul
trail of a cop’s demystified secret from his spine
to his colon: “I’ve gotten to the least of me!”
His partner, troubled by this overdue reaction,
half-mouths: “Relax, that scum’s ghost is going
to turn out to be the best friend you’ve ever had.”

Last week’s church bulletin comes to a respite
upon the tar-pimpled sidewalk that red-carpets
an unnamed Hardscrabble saloon. An untried
front page from the Chicago Tribune tumble-
weeds audibly atop the bulletin, pauses against
the slightly glass-speckled breeze, clutches
the bulletin’s unbiased ink, steals away for
the unresponsive gutter at Fibs and Teeth St.
A college dropout struts by the saloon, peeks in
through the smoke-mirrored window, spots
an unspoken-of relative:  You’ll see, one day
I’ll be an historian.

According to the publicity, the "South Side Trilogy" can be obtained in traditional hard copy as well as accessed online. Just click on the post heading for details.