Wherever there is a need for translation there is discomfort – a chasm that must be scaffolded, or connected by branch, bond or bridge. There is almost a desperation in the need to both enlighten and to be understood.
What can the original concepts underpinning psychogeography lend to a discussion of the relation between poetry and place in contemporary Australian poetics? Can the Paris-based wanderings of Guy Debord and the Situationist Internationale (SI) bring to the fore new meanings of being and creating in urban Australia? To delve into these questions this essay conducts a psychogeographic reading of Carmine Frascarelli’s 2016 book, Sydney Road Poems (Rabbit Poets Series), using key concepts put forth by Debord and the SI.
In 1890, an American aeronaut named Millie Viola departs the Geelong showgrounds in a hot air balloon, in order to give an assembled crowd of onlookers a parachute jump display. Her ascension followed foiled attempts earlier in the week, but, according to the Geelong Advertiser’s archives, ‘Mademoiselle Viola’ at last ascends – to the gratification of ‘an increasingly dubious crowd’ – to around 5000 feet (1540 metres), and comes close to being swept into Corio Bay.
To enter the mind of Philippine literature in English, it is important to note the evolution of English in the Philippines. We were colonised by Spain in 1521 and sold to America in 1898. According to eminent Filipino poet and scholar, Gémino Abad, Philippine poetry in English only took flight in the 1920s – it is a considerably young poetry, being less than a hundred years old.
Filipino-ness is a weight I did not choose to be born with, but I carry on my back every day. As an immigrant to Australia, I am expected to uncritically wave the flag and do my birth country proud with my achievements; be the smiling migrant who hangs out at Australia Day parades, tags oneself on Facebook selfies beneath the Melbourne Central shot tower, lands a full-time office job, acquires property and authentic Louis Vuitton handbags, wears the trappings of aspirational middle-classness with the serenity of one who has ‘made it.’
On my frequent trips back to Manila, I often marvel at the range of books and literary material now occupying the shelves of bookstores. There’s the usual fare of fiction thrillers, children’s books, academic and scholarly reference books, and religion-based how-to guides. There’s also a flood of young adult and poetry books.
‘There is an assumption that real art only comes from the city,’ writes Winnie Siulolovao Dunn in her 2017 essay, ‘FOB: Fresh off the Books’. Dunn is writing about the stigma of hailing from both Mt Druitt and Tonga. For the young Dunn, the ethnically diverse Western Suburbs of Sydney seem far removed from any cultural centre.
I once read that the word ikebana (生け花), denoting the Japanese art of flower arrangement, can be roughly translated into English as ‘living flower,’ or ‘bringing life to the flowers.’ This summary sounds too easy, too graceful; there is an air of internet mythology to it, the truth of it smoothed and polished like a well-handled stone until it becomes convenient, small enough to tweet or swallow.
Sometime in 1953 my parents bought a house in Clayton (Victoria, Australia), then on the edge of south-east Melbourne. We moved there from a decidedly different environment: the guest house that my Grandmother owned. This was on Beaconsfield Parade in South Melbourne.
This is going to be a rather disordered list of undeveloped and not closely connected thoughts about ‘the suburban’ and its binary partner ‘the urban’. Not my thoughts, for the most part, but my list of thoughts generally available.
There is a preconception that small presses, existing as they do outside the mainstream, publish poetry that is wilder, stranger, more political, and more ethnically diverse. Poetry that the university publishers have turned away, or whose genius such presses have failed to recognise.