Pam Brown – follow up post

This is the follow up post to my interview with Pam Brown. I asked her a couple more questions…

You are the associate editor of online magazine Jacket2, formerly Jacket magazine, which is now hosted by the University of Pennsylvania under the PennSound (a web archive of audio recordings of poetry and criticism) and The Kelly Writer’s House – all vibrant hubs for contemporary poetry. Jacket was founded in 1997 and has lasted longer than most print magazines do. Today there is a lot of talk about the death of print (and indeed of many kinds of art forms) and a scrambling to find the format that will monetise Internet/electronic publishing.

Why do you think Jacket (and Jacket2) has lasted and is growing?

 Jacket was an unfunded enterprise. Originally John Tranter did everything himself – collecting material, images, designing, corresponding and then coding and uploading . He used the service provider that his family business, Australian Literary Management uses.

At one stage John made enquiries of the Australia Council for the Arts’ Literature Board about getting some financial support but they were unwilling to fund a magazine that was not exclusively Australian.* Jacket and Jacket2 are international English language magazines.

I think, in an unexpected way, not being constrained by a funding body freed Jacket (i.e. John) to publish whatever it liked, however, whenever.

Also I think that Jacket appealed to English-language poets everywhere because of its extraordinarily broad reach in classic twentieth and twenty-first century poetries in both English and in translation (and, of course, the influences of C19 poets on that).

The fact that it is freely available it is (and was) also means that it’s visited by very many, in fact thousands of  readers interested in poetry and poetics. John was amazingly prescient in engaging the magazine with the poetry world beyond Australia while continuing to include work from here.

I think when he asked me to join as the associate editor in 2004 he knew that I would continue and possibly even develop the Australian poetry content. And I did that.

When Jacket began, the slightly overwrought discussion about the internet replacing print was not quite as desperate as it seems now so it wasn’t really an issue. The internet was then welcomed not only as a venue that provides more page space more affordably than print but also as a place for archiving (all issues of Jacket can be easily accessed on the www.) Commercial publishers and the workers in the publishing industry – editors, designers, publicists, newspaper literary editors/reviewers, agents, printers (mostly offshore now anyway)  –  are driving the discourse because they’re worried about what electronic tech changes will do to their profits.

But I don’t think that there’s much of a problem in co-existing. I don’t think that the book form is totally doomed or dying. I also think there’s nothing frightening about e-books. Remember the fear that video would replace cinema. Films are still being made and marketed, albeit they’re often being downloaded and watched on home entertainment systems rather than the cinema. Poets were dropped from mainstream book publishers’ lists quite a while ago in Australia and they turned to independent small presses, self publishing, print on demand and the internet to place their work before readers. Chapbooks seem to me to be thriving at the moment.

Melbourne-based poet, Ali Alizadeh has an interesting article on this question. You can find it on the web here –

Do you think discussion of formats is overshadowing the discussion of what shape writing for the 21st Century will or should take?

 I’m not sure – I’m not really much of a futurist . But I think my earlier comments address this question to small extent.

Are we in an age when the technology does drive the writing produced?

Yes in some ways.

The experimental Canadian Christian Bok is using bio-technology to make a poem called ‘Xenotext’ – and he also wants to inscribe his poetry with DNA –

Those are perhaps literal uses of technology for writing but there are also countless examples of digital visual poetry and text scrambling programs. One example is the Brekdown program that has been used here by John Tranter to make what he calls ‘Terminals’ (using the ends of other poets’ lines to make new poems)** and prose that’s comprised of mixed cut-up texts from say Gertrude Stein and the childrens book The Bobsey Twins.

I think that because poetry is made “in the world” it always engages with whatever’s current and technology is part of practically everything we do in developed countries, so it’s part of poetry making.

What things happening in poetry today (whether print or online or elsewhere) excite you?

 Too many things really.  But a few things would be that in Australia there are many younger poets writing, thinking about and publishing poetry again now ( there seemed to be a hiatus in the early 90s) and that makes the local poetry world very lively. There’s are also a resurgence of using D-I-Y methods to produce magazines and chapbooks so that’s very positive.

Another is that I read a lot of online material and I find the plethora of good critical poetry blogs quite engaging. There’s plenty to think about. Though I also enjoy real-life poetry readings, seminars and symposiums when they occur. I am interested always in conversations with other poets about everything there is to worry about or to celebrate in this odd vocation that we’ve chosen for ourselves.

And as an added online bonus, here is the text of Pam’s poem ‘Windows Wound Down’.

Windows Wound Down


parked under

a chalky old light pole,

windows wound down,

dozing on the front seat,

on the radio

Chinese classical music

hot night tonight,

across the road

a man is wearing

his hat, indoors.

the stars that I love,

when I remember

to look at them,

blink above the building


I’ve memorised

a Keats sonnet

for February

a Tom Clark poem

for March


julienned the  carrots

for spicy carrots

with harissa, cumin,

parsley, garlic, lemon,

while listening

to crazy music –

Albert Ayler


a Czech poetry paperback

bought in 1971,

there’s a 30 cent ticket

to the Penguin Reserve

on Phillip Island

and a poignant note

tucked between the pages

of a poem marked with a pencilled ‘x’

‘x’ – Vladimir Holan, Changes –

This is our hope : that we have passed

the limits of the last reality.

But while consciousness disappears

it is the very consciousness

whose constant changes

remain . . .

the note –


I can’t bring myself to write

what’s in my head

I am splitting up north I guess

I love you



The Collected Poems

of Gwen Harwood

is on the table

but I should

prepare a talk

for Zines in April


going on online,

a  small discussion

(between 3 poets)

about experimental poetry

and free verse that one poet says

is really

anecdotal ‘sincerity’

wrapped up in the unified ‘I’

oh dear I think that must mean me,

with whom I am definitely stuck,

I have

my limitations, though

not always ‘sincere’,

and never ‘unified’ –

only paranoid


do carpenters

read novels

about carpenters?

do pastrycooks

about pastrycooks?

poets read novels

by poets,


Roberto Bolano

yes, it seems so


another phone call

more cancer

and another

a month later

like Michael said,

now we’ll spend

the rest of our lives

watching our friends die.


End of the First Week



by the time they caught Karadzic

everyone here had forgotten

who he was, what he’d done


water on mars ?

let’s fuck mars up too

space terrain

flag a claim,

space fear sphere,

see you tomorrow


why not

recalibrate your lifestyle

how did Jean Genet

live in hotels

for so long?


she wiped her face

with the wettex

then turned to kiss me

let me

track your parcel



find a city,

well, find a city first, I agree,

find myself a city to live in.

David Byrne, Cities

I can’t google-map my past,

where we lived is classified



f u Peter P  !

u know y


walk the spoodle

and the labradoodle

past the pot of pesto

under the patio gas heater

grown men

with ridiculous dogs


End of the Second Week


the podiatrist’s fingertips

are orange with nicotine,

my corn recoils


lithium eclipse

a new cocktail

ice wine

a minor fever


booking into

the Nasty Uncles Hotel

one moonlit night,

a double-bed room,

a nasty argument,

a bus stop


the first Koreans of the season,

cloth hats, one silver coolie,

comic-print backpacks,

peering over fences at plants

imported from  Korea –

it’s Spring


End of the Third Week




gone solar


cicadas sucking sap

underground –

that’s optimism


I’m not going

to Zines in April,

too old too tired too late


still in opposition –

dead prepositions,

and needless adverbs


industrialising pollination

my white paper poem


no conclusion

I would like to see

some viridian,

in my opinion

a neglected colour


End of the Month


*Correction: The ACA’s Literature Board does fund publications that are not exclusively Australian but they ask editors to guarantee that at least half of every issue is Australian content – not something an editor of an international magazine can always guarantee.

**Correction: John Tranter did use the Brekdown program for the prose but Terminals are entirely human-made.