The 2018 Event Horizon of Micro Press Poetry Publishing in Australia

5 December 2017

Although I am not sure what literary organisation in Australia is not independent (minded, at least), Subbed In, a new outfit run by Dan Hogan and Stacey Teague, touts itself as an ‘independent literary organisation which produces regular readings, workshops and associated publications’ with ‘aims to provide grassroots support for new and underrepresented voices’. The first three chapbooks from Subbed In – collections from Emily Crocker, Allison Gallagher and Aisyah Shah Idil – also sport a template driven text and cover design that is clean, approachable and smart. Revisiting the first line of this paragraph, and goings on in Victoria, Owl Publishing – quite possibly Australia’s only true independent chapbook publisher with an established history (like Cordite, Owl describes itself as ‘not commercially driven’, though unlike Cordite, very much dependent on government monies, Owl is not) – has been going for nearly 20 years thanks to its indefatigable (there’s that word again, equally as deserved as Shane Strange) champion, Helen Nikas, and her unwavering support of Greek Australian literature. True, Nikas has done more full length books than other formats, but she has a fecund nous for chapbooks. Hers are replete with template driven text and cover design – sound familiar? It’s a sturdy model – and fill a critical niche in Australian literature by presenting work from writers like Dina Amantides, Anna Couani, Zeny Giles, George Vassilacopoulos, Erma Vassiliou and Dimitris Troaditis. I very much hope that Subbed In can continue to produce more of what they have, and for many years to come.

I’ll conclude in Woolloomooloo, where Firstdraft, an artist-organised space and program that ‘creates an environment for artists to imagine the expanded possibilities of visual art practices’ is in an extended purple patch. Firstdraft is not a publisher, but I include it here because it is an arts organisation and gallery wisened to the inclusion of written works in its purview, recently by collaborative output with poet and editor Emily Stewart. It is within environments like Firstdraft that the definition of ‘poem’, ‘poetry’ and a ‘national poetic’ can expand and expand, and new work of this genesis could well appear in a great many of the aforementioned press’s publications, and, hopefully, singularities of the future.

Regarding the attributes of the publishing sample group noted – proximities to the meta-singularity proposed, have I located the 2017 event horizon for Australian poetry publishing? Not exactly, no. But, inexactly, perhaps. There is clear evidence that there could be one, if you’re willing to consider this astrophysical-literary conceit. I have referred to an assortment of publishers producing creative works that travel from zero to … something (let’s assign it an integer; 1, say), whatever that thing may be, and whomever that thing may include. It’s a primal and critical astronomical unit in the space that Australian poetry publishing is, a finite band of activity frequently ignored outside of the minuscule population of poetry readers, writers and publishers like you and me.

There exists a bounty of poetry appearing in publications that orbit just within or outside the event horizon, and this is evidence that poetry writing in Australia – that first triggering motivation to write a poem and its subsequent first, oftentimes only, publication – is happening at an exciting velocity. The speed and direction in which a poem forms and exits this band of activity, or not, in part because of the vehicle it was printed on, varies greatly. (Too, there exists a range of cultural biases that will expedite or retard that speed, and as a white, English speaking male, I am not best placed to emote these strictures, though I can publish against their presence. Please see Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement’s The Big Black Thing, Chapter 1.) Were each poem written today and tomorrow a charge, then we have a mighty and ever shape-changing cumulus building. Yet this system of ambiguity blasts along in the slipstream of our literary modernity. I don’t know what will happen next? or what new dimensions and publication formats will form to take the shape our future poetry demands.

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