Friday, June 29, 2007

I've just received

my copies of the latest round of Otoliths books. One of the many disadvantages of living beyond the edges of the known world is the length of time such things take to get to me. Across the continental US, transship, across the Pacific to Sydney, the only city on the Australian landmass most people are aware of, transship, to Brisbane the state capital, transship, to the backwaters of Capricornia. Deliver.

It's because of that delay that I never to see the books in proof stage — that stays with the author in, usually, the US. Sure I see them in manuscript, in mock-up pdf, in print-ready pdf; but until, late in the piece, when they finally arrive on my doorstep, not delivered by the postman but by the local courier company, I have no idea of how they actually look to the eye, how they feel in the hand.

This latest round delights me, makes me extremely proud of what I've done. The quality of the context & the production, their diversity, the fact that in many cases these were projects that nobody else would be willing to take on. & I'm especially proud — & this is taking nothing away from the other books in this offering — of being able to publish Nick Piombino's Free Fall.

This is, to put it simply, a GREAT BOOK, & will undoubtedly be recognised as such in, hopefully, the not too distant future. Nick created his notebook in 2001, back in New York after a trip to Amsterdam, in the days immediately after 9/11. It's a "visual collage novel", made up of strips & cuttings from posters he'd torn off the walls. It contains no text except that which was in the posters themselves, it's as bright & vibrant as the designed-to-catch-the-eye purpose of the posters, each page is brilliantly constructed, individual works of art, the entirety flows, has continuity. I am aware of only one similarly constructed book, & that by Max Ernst, so the precedent is rare but the pedigree is exceptional.

Nick & I laboured long & hard putting this rendition of his notebook together. The original was a work of art that couldn't be destroyed or put back together again if the pages were removed. So a series of double-paged scans that then had to be cropped & trimmed, aligned, not too much of the spiral binding, not too much of the edges of other pages that crept in in the scanning process. Part-done print proofs sent to ensure the integrity of the process. An eventual manuscript that took the better part of two hours to upload to the printer. A labour of love that the original labour of love deserved. There are some pages included in the last issue of Otoliths, there is a preview up on the Otoliths Shopfront at Lulu. If you go no further than that, they should be checked out.

The response from those who've visited the sites is effusive; but the complaint is that the book is "so expensive". It gobsmacks me, strikes me as being a perfect exemplar of this barter economy we seem to have developed. "Sure I'll support other poets, but only if they give me a free copy of their book." Or: "Give me a copy to review" but the review never comes.

I would possibly sell more copies if I distributed through SPD or Amazon. But, apart from the very basic reason that they don't like to — or won't — deal with non-US publishers, their markups would push the price of Free Fall up to $50 or $60, closer to or beyond the latter if I wanted to recoup any of the costs. So I stick with Lulu & a minimal markup, $35.95 plus p & h. For what Free Fall is, for what it cost to produce, it's not expensive at all, in fact, it's a bargain. &, as I said before, a GREAT BOOK that, putting it together, I have fallen completely in love with.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Today the
postman brought
me a kilo of
feathers & a
kilo of lead. He
wants an answer
by tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I'm in the zone

No, not the comfort or creative zone, rather the zone centred on Guam, the major forward base for the US in the north-west Pacific. But Guam lacks the landmass for combined air, sea & land training, so the zone's been increased southward somewhat, & now takes in the area around Rockhampton, especially Shoalwater Bay, less than a hundred kilometres north from where I'm writing this.

Shoalwater Bay is not only breathtakingly beautiful, but also of vital importance to many endangered species & critical habitats. It's part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park & sits adjacent to a significant Ramsar wetland area & the Byfield National Park. But Shoalwater Bay is now one of the Pentagon’s largest & most important training areas & bombing ranges in the Asia-Pacific region.

In 2005, the Australian government entered into an agreement that provided the US long-term access to, & joint use of, the Shoalwater Bay Training Area. This agreement ties Australia to the rapid military build-up taking place in the north-west Pacific, particularly in Guam. The Talisman Sabre exercise is a result of this agreement.

There has been no disclosure of the terms of these agreements or what weaponry will be used in military exercises. The exercises will include live firing & bombing, underwater detonations, the latest laser guided missiles & “smart” bombs, ship to shore bombing runs, bombing from US bases in Guam, land-based artillery firings, nuclear powered submarines using high-level sonar frequency & nuclear weapons capable vessels & planes. There are no contingency plans for nuclear accidents, but they've announced that if whales or dolphins are sighted, then all underwater sonar activity will cease.

Recently the Australian Government changed the way it administers Environmental Protection Legislation, removing the usual need for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for all Australian Defence Force & foreign military training & infrastructure development if the ADF deem it unnecessary. The EIS is replaced by a Public Environmental Reports (PER), commissioned by the ADF, paid for by the military, reviewed & released by the military. The public input & consultation process is controlled by military & has been privately described by ADF personal as embarrassing & a disgrace.

Beginning Monday — & the buildup's already well underway, tanks & other heavy ordinance being ferried up the highway & through the town on trailers, ships up & down the coast; a tent city is springing up across from the airport; soon the Hercules will start rumbling into the airport — is Talisman Sabre — actually, I'd better start writing that as Saber — the name for this round of the biennial joint war games.

Talisman Saber is the largest joint US exercise conducted in Australia & involves more than 20,000 US & 12,000 Australian personnel. These war games are considered vital to the US dominance of the region through the Pacific Command in Hawaii & are linked to other military bases in Guam & Alaska. They're also considered vital to the economy of Rockhampton, since this, what is now euphemistically called, "military tourism" injects millions of dollars into local businesses. The neighbouring shire of Livingstone hates them since Shoalwater Bay is within their boundaries & all those tanks & troop carriers play havoc with the roads &, since the Government doesn't pay land taxes, the shire has to foot the bill for repairs.

& me, I sit here listening to a helicopter drone overhead & wonder what benefits holding military games in this sort of physical environment will accrue to the US. It's nothing like Iraq or Afghanistan — or Iran or Cuba or North Korea for that matter. Possibly it might provide acclimatisation for an invasion of New Zealand or Indonesia, even Australia (though why bother since the US has already prevailed here).

Or maybe it has nothing to do with climate. Maybe this is the only time the US actually gets to win a war. Carpe diem.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

a thankyou to harry k stammer

It's an opportune time to publicly thank harry k stammer for the great work he's done with the covers of the Otoliths books. My sincere thanks harry.

New books from Otoliths

They have been delayed a little by production problems, but Otoliths is pleased to announce the balance of its quarterly round of books — Nick Piombino's by now legendary "visual collage novel" Free Fall, Sheila E. Murphy's first integrated linear & visual collection The Case of the Lost Objective (Case) & Rochelle Ratner's memoir / found text / poetry journal Leads.

Free Fall
Nick Piombino
168 pages, full color
ISBN: 978-0-9803-6590-0
Otoliths 2007
$35.95 + p&h

"Free Fall was created in several steps beginning in July, 2001 when I collected a stack of advertising posters off buildings on the streets of Amsterdam. The serendipity of a period of rain had caused many of the ads to blur and run and to have already partially removed themselves from the walls. In a series of visits I tore down quite a number of them, and before coming back to the US, made a selection. Once back in New York I xeroxed a number of copies of the poster fragments in order to work out mock-ups of the collages, and purchased a 5"X7" artist's sketch book to paste them into. Over the years, since creating my first collages in the late 60's in Rapallo, Italy, I had begun several collage books, none of them completed, so I had some idea of what I wanted to do. I did further xeroxing in Provincetown, Mass. in August. Sitting outside a small cottage near the Wellfleet bay, I made the entire series of 154 collages in about a month. For this edition, the collages were scanned in during March and early April, 2007.

The creation of Free Fall was bookended by two tragic events. The first was the suicide of a popular musician in Holland, Herman Brood, shortly before I arrived in Amsterdam. About ten days after the completion of Free Fall came the events of 9/11.

Based on the art of its streets, Free Fall insistently invokes the celebratory character of this tolerant, life affirming city." Nick Piombino

The Case of the Lost Objective (Case)
Sheila E. Murphy
84 pages, color
ISBN: 978-0-9803-6592-4
Otoliths 2007
$20.00 + p&h

This vibrant collection of new work by Sheila E. Murphy encompasses both lineated and prose poems. In addition, for the first time, selected prints of Murphy’s visual poetry, some included in private collections and in gallery exhibitions, are presented in book format. The range of work within these pages attests to the versatility and depth of this poet, and invites being read aloud to reveal the full range of perception and innovative use of language.

Rochelle Ratner
128 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9803-6591-7
Otoliths 2007
$12.50 + p&h

"The germs of this book began in 1977, when I visited friends in London. As a child, I’d been told I had a speech impediment, but I vehemently refused voice lessons. Then, in a London pub, talking with a friend from the Lancashire/Yorkshire border, it was almost as if I fitted in at last. Without realizing it, I’d probably inherited aspects of my grandmother’s accent. And I’d never missed her as much as I did at that moment. That was when I began planning a trip to Leeds, where my grandmother was born and spent her childhood. I knew I had to write about it, and began a series of poems as the journey took shape. Once there, I copied from books and records I’d found in the Leeds library. I began writing down what people said. What I hadn’t expected was that, as I later tried to shape the materials, I would find other peoples’ words more powerful than my own. Poem? Journal? Memoir? Found text? Think of Olson’s Maximus or Paul Metcalf’s writings." Rochelle Ratner

They join the two other books brought out in this round, Tom Beckett's curation of E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S: the First XI Interviews which was launched early in response to popular demand, & Mark Young's Falsely Goethe, a collection of 101 "day poems".

The First XI Interviews

Tom Beckett (Curator)
252 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9775604-9-3
Otoliths, 2007
$16.95 + p&h

Tom Beckett's E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S website has become, since its inception in 2005, an important source of information on contemporary poetry and poetics. This book brings together the first eleven interviews from the on-going series, augmented by bionotes and almost one hundred pages of self-selected examples of the interviewees' work.

The interviewees (some of whom later reappear as interviewers) are Crag Hill, Thomas Fink, Nick Piombino, Sheila E. Murphy, Eileen Tabios, Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, K. Silem Mohammad, Geof Huth, Barbara Jane Reyes, Paolo Javier, Stephen Paul Miller and Jean Vengua.The other interviewers are Tom Beckett, Ron Silliman and Mark Young.

Falsely Goethe
Mark Young
108 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9803-6593-1
Otoliths 2007
$10.00 + p&h

Day fifty

Today the
postman brought
me “Ventriloquism
for Dummies”.

"As a matter of fact, I can’t remember laughing as much reading any book of poetry before, especially not any book of putative light verse. These poems, though, are not just about joking when they joke; the jokes are, like the one above, tiny metaphysical statements. They unwrap language, reality, even pop culture (a beast a bit different from reality, even if related to it). The shortest of these joke-poems are as perfect, intellectual, and literary as the best Stephen Wright one-liners. The joke-poem is an instant of insight, a Zen koan." Geof Huth, from a post at dbqp:visualizing poetics.

These & other Otoliths books, including print copies of the e-zine are available from The Otoliths Storefront.
Nothing is
ever for the
first time

        she wrote

nor is it
ever for
the last.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Today the
postman brought
me a little
book by
Geof Huth. It
was totally
Out of Character.
I love it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A note for Nicholas Manning

It is raining on Rockhampton.It is raining on Rockhampton.It is raining on Rockhampton.It is raining on Rockhampton.It is raining on Rockhampton.It is raining on Rockhampton.It is raining on Rockhampton.It is raining on Rockhampton.It is raining on Rockhampton.It is raining on Rockhampton.It is raining on...

&, perhaps, a note from Nicholas

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Twenty Forty Years Ago Today

Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play
They've been going in & out of style
But they're guaranteed to raise a smile......


What good is
having the ghost of
Sengai inside you
     when you've
gone out w/out
     yr black-ink
     utensils &
     yr short-term
memory loss means
that you won't
     remember the
hawk against the
          grey sky curvi-
linearly focusing
     in on the object
of its desire
     by the time you
finally arrive home?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

e                               agerness