We came about this issue’s theme by dumping loved words into a shared document: nouns, verbs, phrases and onomatopoeia that stirred a shared love of intimacy with language, of play and tricksterism. It came organically to us to follow the ones we especially adored through to their etymological origins, excavating what has been evaded over time, what surprises were nested in a patina of use. As poets, we liked travelling these pathways of speech, as much evolutionary biographies of language, as they were a kind of epistemic cypher for the logics of empire, historied English. It was telling that devotion reappeared as dedication’s close friend and placeholder, an almost-malapropism that gave way to a network of linkages, each becoming the other’s obverse at nodes in a web of quotes, synonyms and citations that enfleshed the theme.
From the Latin dedicare, ‘dedication’ (from the early 15th Century onward, ‘to set apart and consecrate to a deity or sacred purpose’) has retained its original sense of the sacred, of solemnity. Devote, from devovere, its prodigal counterpart, becomes variously, ‘to doom, or consign harm or evil’. From the 1600s, ‘to bewitch, or curse’. Somewhat of a cliché, the interplay of sacred and profane in the entangled etiologies of both might index the warped affective economies of empire, where all feeling is dysregulated, a standard made of exploitative relation manifested through a proto-capitalist directionality of interests: the patrons and the patronised. Worshipped and worshipper. Idolatrous infatuation.
So, the dedicatory urge is always on the verge of teetering into dangerous excess, of self-immolation. Or else, dedication might register an insistence on the worth of something; the recognition of something against an assertion of its non-beauty, its non-existence.
The poems in this issue continue to cartograph well beyond what we could have imagined for the theme. Julia Rose Bak’s invocation to court the body at its slowest frequency exhibits dedication in a more intimate light, where the speaker becomes the subject of a kind of kin-shipped attention:
this sliver of breath an invitation to press harder: a call to tenderise. Now stop. Gentler.
Elsewhere, the call to dedication causes the very eruption of an object at which to direct one’s devotional attention, as in Harry Sherratt’s contrapuntal poem, ‘The Library of Babel’, where one possible reading spells out desire’s luckless aftermath, the speaker now ‘never ever even / certain of what [they] want’.
Between those poles, poets speak through the modality of their particular lexicon to coordinate dedication at points on a map of feeling, sentiment and emotion, never once freezing its geography in amber. Mark Lester Cunanan’s ‘Memory of’ follows the longue durée of paternal history to excavate a network of bereaved affect constellated across space and time, ‘our own crucifix pointed at / trajectories of foreseeable futures’. In Jamie Marina Lau’s ‘UFO virgin’, astronomical phenomena become blood cell becomes sign in a metamorphic ensemble of collective dreaming, gifts dedicated to the universe and to a loved other. Here, the linearity of white time is captured at the moment of its obliteration. The object of dedication defies easy location in space-time, always just beyond the horizon, or only briefly in view of the present before receding into a past or future rendered touchable, like Chris Tse’s ‘reverse-moon casting spells to turn / grainy VHS fantasy into hard reality’. Alison J Barton’s ‘as we are’ speaks directly to story’s power, asserting that against the colonial
fiction / of brutal modernity storytellers break grow plait.
Attentive to Heriberto Yépez’s reminder that poetry unchecked can corroborate a state of crisis, becoming a ‘measure to make ourselves forget we live in cultures that are dying, cultures that want to kill’, poets in this issue underscore the dedicative function of poetry in its trickster utility, becoming weaponry, instrument, fugitive means to ends. Ender Baskan’s ‘best australian poem 2023!’ makes of poetry a renegade comrade, poets ‘tinkerers and bureaucrats’, ‘guerrillas’, ‘poetry as pathology, as ornate junk, poetry not seen at all’. A familiar hunger resurges:
waiting for our acceptance emails i can attest that the mobilisation is linguistic riffs poems chants graffiti are the oxygen of revolt.
Michael Mintrom’s ‘Ars Poetica, St Kilda’ localises that linguistic mobilisation, the speaker’s directive to ‘compose / off-beat sonnets in coffee shops, pen your elegy / in a parking lot’ joining Paul Dawson’s manuscripts ‘like delirious skies drowning in rivers’ in ‘dedication to all those poems that never see the light of day’. For Niko Chłopicki’, the drudgery of anti-human work, bureaucracy, the real estate market and communist party hook-ups fiesta in raucous, tongue-in-cheek ensemble, where ‘the next office well / being seminar on how to delete […] mental health to focus on productivity’ side-steps into trollism, ‘posting poop on a pig’s / balls to bring down free speech’.
In Moten’s contention that ‘poetry is what happens on the bus between wanting and having’, poetry’s incantatory power lives in the cracks of possibility prised open in the fabric of the daily by desire: what we are dedicated to is perhaps made real in the space-time invented by that very dreaming. After Joel Seddano in ‘Citrus Grove: Land Back’, the ‘area’s schematics’ are ‘ingrained in memory’, where we might
‘remember clearly, amidst blooms, crates, and insectoids droning throughout, another world bleeds beyond threshold…’