14 November 2012


[a declaration in progress]

FOR TOO LONG has poetry been disregarded as a valid vehicle for the exploration of real world experience. Too often has poetry been filed in the ‘too hard’ basket and deemed ‘irrelevant’ and ‘inaccessible.’ This declaration calls for an end to the mistreatment and marginalisation of poetic language; an end to the segregation of poetry from and by the authoritative discourse of prose. We summon forth the potential of poetry to expand our conceptions and perceptions of the ‘real.’ To this end:

WE THE POETS Jessica L. Wilkinson and Ali Alizadeh, and others who shall soon join us, in order to advance and expand the field of writing, declare the following conditions for the Realpoetik, an unavoidable and necessary code for the art of non-fiction poetry:

  • The Realpoetik recognises the unquantifiable potential of poetic writing to convey a deeper experience of reality and ‘real life’ accounts than may be possible through conventional non-fiction prose.
  • The Realpoetik celebrates the power of the poetic form to realise and enact factual content.
  • The Realpoetik unsettles the historical landscape of facts and accuracies, and directs the poet/reader towards the enlivened dramatic stage whereupon the past may be launched into action.
  • The Realpoetik travels through gaps in the historical imaginary.
  • The Realpoetik demands a poetic reclamation of the historical field, the biographical portrait, the autobiographical reflection, the scientific analysis of facts.
  • The Realpoetik demands that poets join novelists, historians, memoirists, biographers and philosophers as writers of the real world.
  • The Realpoetik hears Ed Sanders calling, and we reply Yes! The poets ARE marching again upon the hills of history.
  • The Realpoetik encourages the trawling of libraries, archives, newspapers and museums, for poetical fodder.
  • The Realpoetik advocates rigorous research as poetic process.
  • The Realpoetik respects the gifts of poetry: the line and the play; the rhythm and the space; the sound and the silence.
  • The Realpoetik may incite bold experiments with the line, with rhythm, with form; it revels in words that function not only as signifiers of linguistic meaning, but as visual and sound potential.
  • The Realpoetik follows the revolutionary threads unravelled by Julia Kristeva, Rachel Blau DuPlessis et al. and welcomes the immense power of the semiotic undercurrent of poetic language.
  • The Realpoetik hears Alain Badiou calling, and it breaks with arrogantly lyrical, fashionably experimental and simply educational schemata.
  • The Realpoetik rejects the view of the poem as an exercise in classical versification and conventional aesthetics.
  • The Realpoetik rejects the view of the poem as an exercise in formulaic experimentation and sophistic aesthetics.
  • The Realpoetik rejects the view of the poem as an exercise in prosaic representation and populist aesthetics.
  • The Realpoetik reclaims the view of the poem as an exercise in direct intervention and dialectical aesthetics.
  • The Realpoetik does not conceal the poet’s entrance into, and dialogue within, the world of facts.
  • The Realpoetik celebrates the performative, the playful, the adventurous.
  • The Realpoetik claims a space for the frivolous alongside the serious.
  • The Realpoetik encourages tea and cake.
  • The Realpoetik willingly follows the White Rabbit down the hole and into a world fit for alternative thinking.

EVERY POET sees the world through a unique lens; hears the world through their own exceptional ear. The Realpoetik does not curtail such diversity through stringent adherence to formal Law, but instead opens the field to these singular engagements with real world content. We aim to establish an expansive literary space within which poets can openly engage with auto/biography, history, politics, economics, cultural analysis, science, the environment, and all other aspects of life in the real world.

WE PROMOTE a poetry that is multiple, transformative, moving, contradictory, evental, rhizomatic, inaesthetic, evolving, whispered, piercing, stuttering, disruptive, performative, active, enveloping, epidemic.

We invite YOU, the poets of the world, to join us in our expedition through and across the excitable terrain of a non-fiction poetics.


Jessica L. Wilkinson           Ali Alizadeh           

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  1. metaboleus says:

    well said, and these are ideas bubbling away under the surface for many of us. my feeble attempt can be seen here

  2. Cam says:

    What about hamburgers?

  3. Amy Winehands says:

    this is such a good parody of the usual poetic wank

  4. I’m wary of manifestos, but this one makes me less wary. My other thought would be audience / reader / effects – what means, methods, media can carry poetry well these days?

    • Ali Alizadeh says:

      Thanks, Andy. An excellent question! Jessica and I will get back to you shortly on this. Live/spoken media is certainly one option, and Jess has done a terrific collaboration with a composer and live musicians. Your own thoughts on this would also be great. Would you say your own puppetry collaboration had a nonfiction dimension to it?

      • Cheers, Ali..I was certainly thinking of performance, which I think emphasises the relational & time-based nature of poetry – the community of it. There are no guarantees – performance can still be “product” and empty – and fusing poetry with other artforms can sometimes be the kind of trojan horse that never gets in (I haven’t heard Jess’ collaboration – would be interested…). Still, there’s a great power in presence that can’t be completely captured.

        But I was also wondering about publishing. I myself find poetry on-line hard to read (as much as I love Cordite…), almost counter-productively so. And I still find the book has a unique tactile beauty, and the current crop of publishers are producing beautiful books, on an un-cynical small scale. Perhaps even more relevant now in the current ultra-connected age. But do people buy them? And which people? Are we just talking to each other?

        Would love to hear more thoughts on this – yours and others, because my intuition is that while poems certainly mean things, their strength is that they do things between people. Anything that acknowledges that, I’m interested in…

  5. adamaitken says:

    I categorically reject the second last clause. I am on a diet.

  6. Dennis Garvey says:

    My blushes, I took the manifesto to have serious import when its comment box was still wet and wished to draw the line at tea and cake, but refrained, thinking the comment silly. Apparently not; there again, there is space designated for the frivolous alongside the serious. The score currently is 3 all. Count me…

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  8. Joe Dolce says:

    Komrades Wilkinson and Alizadeh I support this poetik movement and would like to offer my services in drafting a ‘Canon of Rules and Law’ of the Realpoetik and offer the services of my internal security organization, the Black Pens, to help enforce this Canon (at no extra cost, beyond obvious setup). Here are some rough sketches for armbands, caps and a flag. I have architectural drawings in the works for a ‘Ministry of Realpoetik’ to be located in Canberra. This is exciting and I look forward to being of humble service. Komrade Josef Dolce, Rottenfuhrer, The Black Pens.

  9. Dear Ali and Jessica. I read the Manifesto carefully and I fully agree. However, I’m concerning if and how all of us non-Angloaustralian poets who write in other languages (or in more than one language) can also fit in this. I hope we do though… Anyway, I’m going to republish the Manifesto to my blog at (with all its credits of course). And if anything organised I like to be part of. Thanks and keep going! Dimitri Troaditis

    • alializadeh says:

      Thanks, Dimitris.

      As far as I’m concerned, and I’m sure Jessica would agree with me, anyone writing in any language whatsoever could — indeed should! — write non-fiction poetry, and I don’t see anything specifically Anglophonic about the manifesto. (pls note that two of our references are Francophone!) However, I think your larger point about how those Australians writing in languages other than English may be included in the scene of Australian literature is worth considering. It’s an important and serious question to which I personally don’t have an answer — I write in English myself — but I feel bilingual versions (preferably with the poet translating his/her own poems into English, in collaboration with another translator and/or an editor, if need be) may be an option. There’s a tradition of this in Australian poetry, from Dimitris Tsaloumas doing that in the early 80s, to Ouyang Yu’s latest book. Would be interested to know your own thoughts on this, too.


      • Dear Ali,
        Thanks for the reply. I’m aware of various attempts etc for translating poetry into English from other languages. I’ve done so with some of my poems too, and I’ll continuing it… Regarding the Manifesto I’ve already re-published it in my blog and if I’ve got time I’d like translating it into Greek… Thanks again and good luck with whatever you doing…
        Talk soon…

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