Monday, June 11, 2007

An Afterthought...

When I start posting entire operas on my blog, could be I need to find some other medium of publication...

No, no, I'm not giving up blogging or anything like that. But operas - even if they are operas about tea - sort of go beyond the limits of what blogger can achieve.

I think I might try to find me a theatre group, as well as some paying publication that will give me big dollars for some of the weird stuff that I keep coming up with here. Any suggestions, anyone?


nailpolishblues said...

Changed your mind on the above shit?

I know remarkably few people in Melb theatre groups - this surprises you, no? Are Rinns and Mish still doing their mag? Hell, start your own.

nailpolishblues said...

Oh right, you wanted money. Damn.

TimT said...

I once had a wild and crazy notion of getting published in The Monthly, but I really, really dislike their features, and their style is much too regimented to admit my weird mental meanderings.

nailpolishblues said...

Do they do any fiction at all? Not really their bent, I suppose.

TimT said...

They used to, when they started, because they were all into Supporting Australian Writers and shit, but now they've dumped that.

I wonder who exactly their target market is, but whoever they are, they seem to be attracted by articles by Helen Garner (and lots of them), Robert Manne and Clive James. Basically, the same old names who appear in the newspapers and on the telly with a little kulcha chucked in to complete the package. They do pay well, but.

Tim said...

I'm ambivalent about The Monthly. Last month's Monthly was pretty good, this month's Monthly has almost nothing of interest. To me, that is. I suppose they probably consider other people's interests when putting it together. Then there's the name. Presumably they had other potential names - the fact that they settled on something as bland as "The Monthly" says a lot. Then again, I do enjoy coming home and telling my partner that I've got my Monthly. It's a joke that never gets old, believe you me!

Good publications willing to take risks on non-standard material (or even just funny material) are few, if any, in Australia. Still, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to place some of your stuff. You certainly have plenty of comedic ideas. (I currently have one comedic ideas and tragically it involves a sad play on the title of a certain Australian news and culture magazine...)

nailpolishblues said...

The name puzzles me too.

I suppose, Tims, that they target people like me who just read any old thing and know, basically, fuck all about fuck all. I quite like it, for the most part.

Karen said...

I love your writing, Tim, and I think it's a terrible shame that there are so few venues here for your style of material.

I must confess that I haven't actually looked at a copy of The Monthly yet. I'd be surprised if they took unsolicited submissions. There are a few things which do, but more in the essay line of things.

I suppose what it comes down to is that you have to do it yourself! Which doesn't mean any money, of course.

TimT said...

What gets me is there are so few places to publish poetry as entertainment, as opposed to poetry as serious art. Did anyone see The Australian magazine, what, two weeks ago? They published four Australian poets responding to four Australian paintings. And the poems were all crap! They could be summarised as poems about nature, with philosophy chucked in. Boring. But *all* the Aussie poetry magazines - Meanjin, Overland, Southerly focus exclusively on this 'serious' style poetry. And as a result get no readers. Presumably this is how they like it. (Quadrant is in some ways an exception to this - they still have no readers, but some of their poems are interesting).

Newspapers and general magazines sometimes publish light poetry, but all of it is awful, non-grammatical doggerel that just happens to have rhymes in it. Such is life!

As to The Monthly, they are a weird magazine. I think a lot of big publications have deliberate bland names. 'The Monthly'. 'The Times'. there's the Dailys - ie, 'Mail', 'Telegraph', etc. 'The Age'. 'The Sun'. 'The Atlantic'. My favourite title is 'The New Yorker'. It seems to work.

Some of the writers for The Monthly are good. Clive James and Helen Garner, obviously, and a few of their paid journalists as well.

TimT said...

And thank you, Tim and Nails.

Must rush, have a play to see.

Karen said...

Well, I think you're going to have a fairly tough time finding an audience for poetry full-stop, whether it's serious or comic. I'm not sure publishing light or comic verse would really increase the readership of the publications you mention. I did see the poetry feature in The Australian, but my eyes sort of glanced over it. I suppose that's part of the problem, since I really should be slam bang in the middle of the target audience.

But maybe the problem isn't entirely with the literary magazines. Maybe it's also with what fits into a comedy format too, especially since you seem to be thinking of your material more in terms of performance than print. There's very little true wit in a lot of what gets seen and performed there too.

A play? How wonderful! Do tell all about it.

Karen said...

I suppose the other thing (sorry to go on) is that if you do something comic or light it's probably going to be slotted into the whole performance poetry genre- and much of that is just horrible, with only a few real gems from time to time.

TimT said...

Spring Awakening, by Franz Wedekind. Doncha just love German Expressionist theatre. 'Every piece of homework, a new chasm of agony!' Or something.

Most poetry should be light. There's only so many serious thoughts possible; when you try to be serious, you often end up being pretentious.

Karen said...

Doncha just love German Expressionist theatre.

Yes and I'm deeply envious.

So it was a good production?

when you try to be serious, you often end up being pretentious.

Well, if I can't be serious and boring and a sad sack I might as well just shoot myself now, just after I arrange for you to be summarily executed for taking your tea with milk.
Sometimes the laugh is the easy way out. I hope you write "serious" stuff sometimes too.

TimT said...

I don't know. Most poetry I read is fairly unoriginal, thought-wise. I'm not particularly interested in reading a modern Profound work if it's just going to turn out to be the recycled thoughts of Wordsworth, with no particular form or style. You know how some people can develop a fixation with one particular sub-genre of writing? Doctor Who, Agatha Christies, and so on? It's like some poets have an fixation with one particular idea or emotion, and can't let it go. It just strikes me as being a kind of dishonesty.

I think you're an honest person and you're obviously not averse to a bit of disputation and philosophical inquiry and so forth, so I very much doubt your writing is boring, though it may be serious.

Maybe you should have a blog!

And yes, it was a good play.

Karen said...

I don't know what you read, so I probably can't comment. Still I don't think poets could have completely exhausted all the available ideas at their disposal. It's much the same as anything else- there's a lot of "fuzz" you have to sort through to get to something which really hits the nerve and maybe there are times when you have to burrow a little more to get there.

As for getting stuck on the one idea or emotion, I suppose it depends on what it is! It's not necessarily dishonesty. Sometimes it just takes a long time to puzzle something out. We all have our foibles and our hang ups!

Thank you for saying that. I think maybe I'm a little more "honest" (in the sense of open) on the internet than I am in person. There are two sorts of writing- the academic stuff and the other stuff for myself. Strangely, the academic has more jokes in it! I think I would be a little apprehensive about starting a blog- either I'd become so obsessed with it that I'd never get any work done or I'd agonise so much over each entry I'd write barely any. It's certainly not something I'd have the time to do now. I do sometimes ramble incoherently on (in a whispher, behind my hand) myspace, for the benefit of tolerant loved ones. Do some people just become serial commenters?

TimT said...

I don't mind if ideas are unoriginal, so long as the writers have engaged with them. It's just I think there's a sense that some people are more interested in being poets than in writing: ideas turn out as Wordsworthian (or sometimes Eliot) because that makes them look like poets. But I'm splitting hairs a bit here.

The suggestion about self-publication is interesting, obviously; I think a lot of interesting writing has probably come from small magazines put together by groups of friends/people with mutual interests. Sometimes these things just seem to fall together when the right personalities come together! And not to seem too fatalistic, but I think this sort of thing could be happening in Australia over the next decade...

I'm not sure about serial commenting, but I was thinking of doing a post about serialism. I wonder if that counts?

Karen said...

I think (and I don't know if we're perhaps beginning to say the same thing here) that a lot of poetry has that dull stasis about it because the poets aren't engaged with the literary traditions into which their work falls. Sure, you can have something that's completely raw and comes out of someone's personal experience without being self-consciously literary, but there are very few cases where it really does work. But a lot of stuff, as you say, is trying to be self-consciously literary without the writer really having thought about what that might mean. And then there's that whole creative writing course style, which might as well have a big neon sign at the beginning of it.

Does this make sense? I'm just typing out what comes into my head, so this isn't a properly reasoned argument.

I don't know a lot about small magazines- and I wonder to what extent the internet has overtaken them-?

A casual post on serialism? Yes please! I have been wondering though- I do write such long comments sometimes and it's perhaps a little irritating. Maybe I should have my own disposal unit...

TimT said...

I think (and I don't know if we're perhaps beginning to say the same thing here) that a lot of poetry has that dull stasis about it because the poets aren't engaged with the literary traditions into which their work falls.

I totally agree with that, and not just because it appeals to me sense of old fogeydom, (although that too)!

Join me in my campaign to get the little tackers speaking in Iambics again!

TimT said...

You're quite right that the internet is changing publications, too. But who knows where it could all end up? It's certainly resulted in a whole lot more writing, although quality hasn't always accompanied quantity!

Karen said...

Would you like me to respond to your comment at Larvatus Prodeo here?

I didn't mean what I said in an old fogey-ish sort of way (although I suppose some would see it that way) and I don't envisage drumming iambs and dactyls into a captive audience of youngsters. I'm bothered by the very low value which seems to be placed on a liberal education these days, that's all. I have a suspicion of writing courses which take this overly vocational approach, without making any gesture towards educating their students about larger literary and cultural traditions. It makes writing very self-obsessed, I think- something you do only to learn about yourself. And if you don't know the iconography or cultural history of a particular symbol or subject you're writing blind, in a way. It is intellectually lazy, yes.

I think my experience of the NSW education system was somewhat different to yours. We had at least one unit of work devoted to a Shakespeare play every year from Year 7 onwards and there was often an Austen too. No Young Adult material after Year 8 that I can recall. I thought everyone did that, but I realise this wasn't the case the more I compare notes with others. At my school one had to study both history and geography for at least two years and then at least one for at least another two years. It was compulsory to study a language until the end of Year 8 and the timetable was so arranged that you were strongly encouraged to continue it until the end of Year 10. Science was compulsory until at least the end of Year 10 and you could only do the advanced course, but most people did at least Biology or Chemistry for the HSC. It seems like I had more Maths in the junior years too.
Of course it was a selective school and therefore isn't representative of what was going on in govt schools at that time. I certainly appreciated the opportunity to study Latin and the rate at which we were able to move through things, but there were many aspects of the school which were quite damaging- that sort of high pressure "If you don't get a TER over 95 you'll be lined up against the wall and shot" environment. I know quite a few young women from the school who really aren't very sure of themselves and haven't been able to do anything with their talents (and who also have very self-destructive relationships with men). They did very well and got into the university courses of their choice, but many didn't finish them. I think a lot of people are rather deluded about what goes on in selective schools and also about how much value a particular HSC result really has in the long term.

I deeply resent the way education gets picked up by politicians as an easy means of generating outrage or manufacturing a crisis when they want to turn the public's attention away from something else. The values debate is just the biggest load of cod's wallop! And then there's this obsession that education has to be unpleasant to be effective- Gradgrind lives on! It's also interesting the way that "vocational" angle gets pulled out with professions that are associated with women. Certainly one wouldn't go into teaching for the money, but that doesn't mean that teachers should be like self-sacrificing seminarians, putting serving other people's children above their right to have the same financial and social opportunities as everyone else. I find the sort of contempt many politicians express for educators profoundly depressing, although in degree and frequency it is not quite as bad as what one sees in the US. I think too little emphasis is put on the influence that parents can have. If a child is not encouraged to read at home the teacher is often hard against it to begin with.

This comment is getting a bit too long, so there's a start, if you want to discuss this at length.

TimT said...

A good response! And I think even if you didn't mean your response in an old fogeyish way, it's a point on which a lot of people could agree upon anyway.

My beef with my public education is that I was never once really challenged. (And I've got to admit, once, when I took correspondence German, I flunked: laziness. I don't want to blame school for my own inadequacies!)

I don't think we need Gradgrind back, but I think it would be just terrible if we stopped calling for better education in grammar, language, poetry and poetic techniques, etc, simply because it was competitive, or wasn't politically expedient, or it didn't produce quantifiable school results.

Karen said...

I'm glad you liked it. I suppose I do have a bit of a curmudgeonly line- at least, that's what friends say.

The thing that really surprises me as an adult is how few people read for pleasure, whether it be fiction or non-fiction. Not reading has a huge effect on the way one writes, post-school. Very few people write well- not just adequately, but with real flair. It's not simply a matter of drumming in rules, but also of having a real passion and love for language. I think developing that has a lot to do with outside influences.

The problem with what a lot of the pollies do is that there's this continual appeal for more and more "quantifiable results", so you end up with that "teaching to the test" phenomenon, which is what I would see as the real problem with the NSW education system. With the English curriculum, you can set all the Shakespeare and Austen you want, but some people are still going to approach it from the standpoint of "What do I have to write for the exam?". I had friends, some studying 3-unit English, who didn't even read the books at all, just the study guides. So they studied the "great works" of Western literature, but very little of it really went in. There really isn't a lot you can do about that.

This is not an argument against teaching Shakespeare or Austen of course, but whether people will be receptive to the texts when you do teach them is a much broader matter than simply assigning them.

My experience of high school was constantly feeling, along with every other student there, that we were not up to the mark and were going to fail. Then you get the letter and it's ninety something something something and it doesn't really mean anything- you enrol in what you want and forget about it. I learnt a hell of a lot more at uni then I did at school, or so it seems to me. And I learnt the most doing a PhD, which is essentially teaching oneself.

This is a very serious conversation to be having whilst drinking non-alcoholic wine out of a coffee mug (it's a tribute to my childhood birthday parties).

TimT said...

Yes, reading is more of a wider cultural phenomenon, and I would say that like most important things in life, one learns most about it outside of school, either amongst your family or through friends. Or even your own personal explorations.

I think, however, I would have taken quite easily to literature if I was challenged more with more grammatical tests, rhyme, and rhythm, etc. I take quite well to maths - I liked maths very much, and would have responded similarly if shown this and that about literature. Obviously my experiences don't necessarily reflect upon the experiences of most students, but I can't help but think that a lot of mathematics and physics wonks would have loved it, too.

Karen said...

It's very telling that when they do those polls of people's favourite books (like the one the ABC did a few years ago), people do seem to nominate the things they read at school and various publishing phenomena, which does make you wonder if they've read anything that was significant to them since.

I think you'd be pretty hard-pressed to teach poetics or prosody in a serious way at the high school level, although I did get a bit of basic stuff in that line. It's not unusual though, to find that one's adult self has interests or appreciates things one's teenage self did not and I'm not sure how much of that can be attributed to maturity and how much to the way something was presented. You have such a flair for language and word play that it's difficult to believe that you didn't always know that about yourself. And you've said that you read a lot of sci-fi. So if an imaginative child with a flair for language isn't suckered in that suggests there is a failure somewhere. Lots of people, especially men, have said to me that they wish they'd paid more attention to English/literature when they were at school, although none with as much obvious literary talent as you. Note- I don't say that to inflate your ego. I honestly think it.

But, as I keep saying, I'm not sure how much of it has to do with teaching or the curriculum and how much has to do with broader influences. The humanities and literature really aren't valued beyond a certain point by a lot of people. Hell, engineering friends of mine have told me stories about the compulsory report-writing classes they did at uni (which were essentially remedial lessons in how to construct a grammatically correct sentence) and the awful and sometimes abusive behaviour the teachers had to deal with there. That was intolerable Humanities wankery, as far as they were concerned.

I write too much sometimes, don't I? You don't notice how long the comment is when it's in this box and then there's the embarrassment when it appears!

TimT said...


And I don't know whether prosody is really that hard. It's just counting, really... all it needs is an ability to speak fluently, and almost all kids can do that - if they're given the chance!

Good education can sometimes be very strange; I was struck by the eccentric nature of C S Lewis's education. Three public schools (two of which he hated, one of which he really loved), and then a long period learning Greek/poetry/literature with a professor as a personal tutor where any pretence at maths and science was utterly neglected. Thee results? He was crap at maths, flunked his Oxford entrance exam, was let in on a technicality, and went on to become a lifelong scholar. He also went on to defend the English public school system, too! Who would have guessed it?

Karen said...

What about John Stuart Mill's education?

The English system is like that now- kids have to choose a particular stream (and it will usually be either/or, not both) very early on. An English woman I know in her mid-30s, who has a PhD in Chemistry, startled me by telling me that she'd never read or seen Shakespeare, because she only had to do English until the end of Year 9 and she had the same teacher for the whole three years and the teacher didn't like doing Shakespeare. You can imagine the gaps people must end up with, depending on which path they choose.

I would do my high school education completely differently too. I did a lot of Maths and Science because of parental pressure. The real benefit of it was that it convinced me to thumb my nose at parental pressure when I chose my university course.

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