Greetings to the New Malleys

By | 1 December 2005

Ern Malley, the original dromedary of Australian poetry has been anthologised, criticised and mythologised beyond belief. It's perhaps sobering to reflect that while Ern Malley's creators, his twin Gepettos James McAuley and Harold Stewart along with his original sponsor Max Harris have passed from this world, Ern's legend lives on. What is it about Ern Malley that refuses to die?

I would suggest that the issues which originally caused such a furore in Australian poetry circles – surrealism and attacks on modernism, conservatism and attacks on literary freedom, literature and the farce of obscenity – are in fact also alive and well today. The poems in this issue bear an eerie resemblance to Malley's original manuscript, while updating some of McAuley's and Stewart's methods for the twenty-first century reader.

I suspect that if McAuley and Stewart were alive today, and were considering a similar stunt, they might well have considered using Google to create their poems (as Cordite contributors did in our pioneer Search Poetry issue last year). After all, where else would one go for the detritus of Western thought that spills from Ern's poetry?

I would also go out on a limb and say that no other literary prank, not even Araki Yasusada, comes even close to the sheer (but subtle) brilliance of the scheme which supposedly ensnared Max Harris in its sticky net of sarcasm, knowingness and humbug. The acceptance of Ern Malley's work into the annals of Australian literature speaks much of the experimental, brave and controversial impulse found in the work of many modern-day Australian poets.

We feature forty five poems by both Australian and international poets in this issue. Each poet has chosen a suitable nom de malley and has also contributed a biography. We will not be revealing the names of these poets, partly for fun but also because we would like you to have a go at guessing who they really are. For details of how to cast your guess/vote, visit our newsblog.

This issue is also Liam Ferney's swansong as poetry editor of Cordite. Liam has done a stellar job under often trying circumstances and he has played a large role in re-shaping the poetic style of the magazine. His six issues at the helm – Driver, Roots, Anti-Heroes, Submerged, Domestic Enemy and now Children of Malley – stand as a testament to his editorial tastes. Liam, we salute you.

The sheer number of submissions we received for this, our twenty third issue and our sixteenth online, forced us to take the somewhat unpopular decision to close submissions early. While some potential contributors may have missed out (and others have scraped in by the skin of their teeth), I would like to sincerely thank all of our contributors and readers, without whose support and lively creativity there would be no Cordite whatsoever.

Cordite will continue in the future as a bi-annual magazine, allowing us to compile issues featuring a similar number of poems and poets as the present issue. Our guest poetry editor for issue #24 (due online in June/July 2006) will be Claire Gaskin. We will be making an announcement shortly as to the theme for this issue – but in the meantime, why not save yourself some effort and sign up for our free subscriber alerts? That way, you won't be left in the lurch.

I trust that you will enjoy this special issue of Cordite as much as we've enjoyed putting it together. Beyond is anything!

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