Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How a poem frames a page



Leaving the studio after our on air conversation, Anne Kellas and I chatted about the nature of the (possibly, nearly, obsolescent) book - in book format - and she commented that a poem is restricted in a book - and how, by itself on a loose piece of paper, it frames the page.

Kellas is a poet, has always been a poet though was wary to call herself one, or even a writer, until one day it just became apparent to her that she was. She just was.
She has lived in the UK and also Australia, more specifically, Tasmania, where she arrived with her husband and sons after they chose not to live in Apartheid ridden South Africa. "We did not imagine Mandela would be free in our life times."

The poem that begins her first collection of poetry, 'Poems From Mount Moono' (1989) is actually the 'introduction to the author' - 'To Anne Kellas, in exile' - by Lionel Abrahams. She gently riles against the title of poet in exile, suggests that an exiled writer is one who has no choice - and that she chose to leave South Africa - though goes on to acknowledge that exile is about loss - and she lost her homeland to Apartheid.

Home is a recurring theme in both collections of her poems - as are tigers.
Her second collection 'Isolated States' was published by Cornfield Press in 2001 and she is currently working on her third.

Kellas, who is nearly sixty, softly spoken and considered with her words and language, first fell for Shelley in a poetic sense, more recently being inspired by contemporary Australian poets, Robert Adamson and Eric Beach - and translations of Georg Trakl.
She confessed to having had an allergy to poetry for a while and to not being "the world's biggest fan" of ABC Radio's Poetica, but recently did a u-turn back to poetry by going back to her first poetic loves, Shelley and Yeats.
To hear her read her own poems out loud on the show tonight completely changed my 'reading'of them. Thoughtfully paced, considerately weighted on words I would have skimmed, the poems took on a new and more powerful life. She felt, has felt, that poetry read out loud, by its author, is really being dictated by another poet residing in their heads - I imagine, for example, that any poems I read out loud in my early twenties would have the rhythm of Ginsberg, as they may have Mary Oliver coursing through them now.

Kellas teaches poetry - and feels that the crystalisation of our language, which is what poetry does, is teachable to those who recognise that. She works with each student from the point where the student is - and recognises the need for encouragement - and laments the abuse of empty criticism.

Of more robust and necessary criticism, she calls for non poets to review poetry - in more mainstream media - and I agree.... we need more poetry in our lives, we need poetry to be more accessible. We need to allow the insight and magic in poems into our lives - to swoon us away from scientific fragmentation and a periodic table view of this universe.

Anne will be reading at the Poets' Republic in July,
coedits The Write Stuff along with Giles Hugo
Blogs @ http://northline.blogspot.com/
and tweets @ http://twitter.com/TWS_tas

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