Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Rhythm & Muse: Chris Mansell in Conversation


Chris Mansell
Photo: Gaillyn Cooper












Chris Mansell's latest books are Spine Lingo: New and Selected Poems (Kardoorair Press, 2011) and a collection of short prose fiction, Schadenvale Road (Interactive Publications, 2011).

She is an editor, runs writing workshops both in Australia and elsewhere, and has been a mentor to several Australian poets.
   
Her previous titles include: Letters (Kardoorair, 2009) and The View from a Beach (PressPress, 2010), Love Poems (Kardoorair, 2006), The Fickle Brat (text + audio CD) (Interactive Digital), Day Easy Sunlight Fine (Penguin) and Mortifications & Lies (Kardoorair, 2005) and some smaller publications and non-fiction. She has also published a children's book, written a number of plays and is publisher at PressPress.

She won the Queensland Premier's Award for Poetry and has been short-listed for the National Book Council Award and the NSW Premier’s Award.

1. What was cathartic about preparing Spine Lingo: New & Selected Poems
Just about everything. Reading all the poems and having the predictable and mad oscillation between the poles of chirpiness and despair: either the poems were great or terrible. After a while you become blind to the work and need help. I had chosen not to go through books and pick a few but review all the work I thought I might want to include (as there were things which I hadn't included in books but which weren't recent). I did a list as an Excel spreadsheet and couldn't decide what more to cut so I sent it to someone I trusted who knows my work and who is a good editor (Paul Cliff). I asked him to mark 30 per cent for relegation. He did that (colour coded for priority) but then added an additional third that he thought had been unfairly left out! I half listened to him. I deleted a lot of what he suggested and included none of the newbies.

2. Did it take backbone?           
Ah. I don't think I want to claim backbone.  There is a pic of my lungs on the front cover though.

3. What’s your favourite new poem and why?
Of my own? I'm working on a series of poems called HANDWRITTEN. There's one done which is a love poem, handwritten into a book. There are only three copies of that. The next has photographs with handwritten text (ten of them), and a few visual interactive poems. And I've just put together a set of small posters called Folio five (ten copies only). And another project which I'm calling Words for Girls. The new book will follow this visual theme as well. It's a stream I've always had but not published much in that line (some digital though).

4. In your Inspiring Author TV interview you advise poets not to be afraid - what is the most unafraid thing you have done?
For me the political poems are the bravest – people are very judgmental about that sort of thing because it's not nice. Sometimes too I have the urge to protect myself when writing about things of the emotions. At the moment, it's publicly going into areas (visual) which are not native to me. Mostly I want to quietly write and hang out by myself in my study.

5. What makes you flinch?
Good question! Crappy poems. Pomposity. Meanness. Wankerdom.

6. Are poems all you have? [Country in Mortification & Lies]
Essentially.

7. Who are the poets who ‘lie in the bones’ with you?
I'm glad you picked that line. Anne Carson. Her work really speaks to me.

8. What about sass? In his Cordite review of Letters Stephen Lawrence suggests your ‘sass appears to be diminished.’
As if he'd know. Really. But one does not have to be 25 forever. There are bigger and riskier things that I go for now.

9. What’s your view of Australian poetry today…is it beached?
There's a lot of it. I don't think it's beached. I think there's a generational shift – as there always is and the younger poets, some of them, are taking things off elsewhere (when they are not re-inventing the wheel).  I do get a bit tired of some of the poetry which is going through the motions, which has a technical competence but nothing much to say. Competence is good, but not enough.

10. What drives you to keep publishing other poets’ work?
No idea. Seems like a good idea most, though not all, of the time.

11. What question do you wish people would ask?
Unfair! How about: Would you please accept this large cheque?

12. What’s the answer?
I think you know what the answer would be.
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Further links:
Review of Spine Lingo: New & Selected Poems (Kardoorair 2010) by Patricia Prime at Graham Nunn's blog Another Lost Shark 

Review Something Disconcerting and Delicious: Mark Roberts Reviews Schadenvale Road by Chris Mansell — Rochford Street Review

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Rhythm & Muse is an occasional conversation with poets Lizz Murphy has met. © Lizz Murphy and the guest poet

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