Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock writes, ‘Our contemporary moment is a haunted one’ (2013: 61). Weinstock attributes the ‘spectral turn’ in contemporary cinema, television, literature and academic inquiry to a ‘general postmodern suspicion of meta-narratives accentuated by millennial anxiety’ (ibid.: 62, 63).
Material poetics is not a new concept. The last century has seen the boundaries between creative genres dissolve, allowing attentiveness to materiality — once the exclusive concern of sculpture and craft — to pervade and tantalise less tangible practices. The development of a digital realm has not destroyed materiality, as originally feared, but served to foreground it; and the collaboration that can take place between digital and analogue, verbal and visual, is what drives this issue.
When we first announced the international symposium, Inside/Outside/Carnival, that took place at the University of Winchester, UK, in June 2017 (a collaboration between the International Poetry Studies Institute (IPSI) at the University of Canberra, and the University of Winchester, with invited guest speakers from the USA, Australia and the UK) we prefaced it with, ‘Into the cauldron of 21st century writing - Tipping a hat at Bakhtin the word Carnival is ambiguous.
This issue of Axon is the second to relate directly to Poetry on the Move, the series of festivals run by the International Poetry Studies Institute based within the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research, Faculty of Arts and Design, University of Canberra. The theme of the festival in 2017 was Boundary Crossings, and it was offered – in a slightly expanded version, as a focus for poets and academics to interpret in their own fashion within this issue.
“[P]lay is the laboratory of the possible. To play fully and imaginatively is to step sideways into another reality, between the cracks of ordinary life. Although that ordinary world, so full of cumbersome routines and responsibilities, is still visible to us, its images, strangely, are robbed of their powers.” (Henricks 2006: 1).
The academic critique of the conditions of creative work has always been slightly disingenuous. In the name of a ‘workerist’ critique – one which highlights the poor returns to artists according to normative models of labour market analysis – the study of creative labour has de-emphasised the fact that the modern notion of ‘work’ is itself placed in question by artists. But the artistic critique of work, as Luc Boltanski an Eve Chiapello usefully describe it, has been central to the vocation of the artist since at least Industrial Modernity.
Poetry on the Move was initiated in 2015 as a three-year poetry project hosted by the International Poetry Studies Institute (IPSI) based within the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research (CCCR), Faculty of Arts and Design, University of Canberra (UC).
The question of collaboration is one that arguably can't be ignored in contemporary academia, creative fields, or current philosophical and critical landscapes. The word ‘collaboration’ at once brings to mind the conspiratorial nature of crime as well as the cooperative nature of teamwork and the harmonious meeting of minds and practices. It is, then, a slippery word, and for this reason serves as a fertile provocation for the inquiries unpacked and developed in this special issue of Axon.
This issue brings together various explorations of assemblage theory with a number of critical and creative works that relate to it in subtle and surprising ways.
The pull towards poetry is strong. Owen Bullock approaches the theme with reference to Sylvia Plath, Page Richards offers a close reading of Derek Walcott, and Dennis Haskell brings in T. S. Eliot, Kenneth Slessor and Stephen Carroll. Lachlan Brown investigates the meeting of poetry and computer games.
In this issue, I wanted to escape the recent incarnation of ‘creative cities’ as a policy provision for artist-led urban renewal in western cityscapes rapidly transformed by de-industrialisation and the continued expansion of suburban living. Instead I wanted to return to a basic sense of the interaction of art and city: to see how artists, writers and poets worked within and tried to understand ‘the city’ or ‘the urban’ in and through their own practice: as inspiration, as material, as context, as milieu.