To be a poet one needs the six P’s – the pencil, the paper, the perception, the passion, the persistence and the unshakable persuasion that the poem is in fact possible and attainable. - Grace Perry

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Round Table with Mark Tredinnick

Mark Tredinnick - photo by John Brown
Thank you to everyone who joined Mark Tredinnick and I at Gilbert's of Mittagong on Saturday the 10th for a chat about "the emotions, ideas and madness" behind his poetry, to borrow his words.

Mark Tredinnick was the winner of the Montreal Poetry Prize (2011) and the Cardiff Poetry Prize (2012). He is the author of numerous works of prose and poetry, including The Blue Plateau and Fire Diary. Mark is a busy person, and I am very grateful that he donated his time to us.

Mark appreciates Charles Wright's endeavor to "...write language, landscape and the question of god" and seeks to explore these themes within his own poetry. Mark's father once told him that "all good faith includes doubt and if there is not doubt it is fundamentalism". Therefore, Mark likes to question the existence of god in his writing. A good example of a poem by Charles Wright that does this is 'Last Supper'. Tredinnick's poems ‘The Kingfisher’ and ‘Catching Fire; or, The Art of Sitting’ are also good examples of this. 'The Kingisher' was short-listed for the 2011 Montreal International Poetry Prize. These poems are canticles of the world, they sing the world, praising the world. Indeed, Mark asserted that "all good poetry is religious in the sense that it is a reconnection with place, with nature". Monica Donoso Markovina said "we are like ants... part of the world and the poet is about making that reconnection".
"We are a society that is addicted to happiness and speed and light" - Mark Tredinnick
John Brown asked Mark, "When you write a poem, if you keep adding do you find you over work it?". Mark explained that sometime this can happen, but that normally "the Capricorn in me comes out and I stubbornly make it work". Indeed, he does make his poems 'work'. 'Frost', in Fire Diary, would be one of my favorite of Mark's poems. It blurs the distinctions between the human and non-human world, as the animals take on human actions, but the reality of this is questionable, as suggested through the use of the soft colours in the first tercet, which allude to a dream-like state. 'Frost' establishes an idealised place, one characterised by the pleasant atmosphere of a country setting. This is constructed through the fantastical imagery of a place that is softly coloured with ‘catkins’ and ‘pinkblossoms’, where a horse ‘slips his coat’ and ‘bluewrens picnic’.

A photo by John Brown
Greg Tome asked Mark if he ever used rhyme in poetry. Mark asserted that end-stop rhyme, or rhyme at the end of the line is archaic and that "rhythm is the real god of poetry". In saying this, he did note that there are 21st Century poets who use rhyme and use it well, such as Stephen Edgar. Mark believes that "most people need to be freed from rhyme to be able to write a real poem, they might be writing verse", they might be conforming to the rules of verse, but not be writing a good poem.

Monica told us that poetry is about appealing to the senses: "it's a sense thing, painting a picture in your head and feeling the rhythm". Mark agreed, stating, "poetry is something about lyricism... a poem is like a leaf that tells the tree... a poem is about everything".

Mark reminded us that if you want to be writing poetry you need to be reading it. He recommended joining the mailing list of www.poets.org. This website emails daily poems, including classical and contemporary poetry. Another useful website to follow is www.americanlifeinpoetry.org. This site emails contemporary American poems weekly. Mark said that "you read it all and then you shake yourself up and then you don't think of it at all". What you read will influence your thinking and your writing.
"A poem is a window, it gives you the view and the viewer at once and the dance... but the poem is the glass, it orchestrates a relationship" - Mark Tredinnick
Mark told us about his friend Li, who noted that Mark has a gift for sadness. Mark's poem that won the Montreal Prize, 'Walking Underwater', and his poem 'Cleave' in Fire Diary capture a sadness. Li said that the sadness in her poetry is wet, like rain, but the sorrow Mark captures is frozen like the ice in China in the winter time.
A photo by John Brown

Mark told us that every line of a poem is a poem and this is why he capitalizes the first letter of the line in some of his poems, to stress the line as a poem. This can be seen in his poem 'The Child & Time', which includes lines like "... / The child’s the string that played those words, / ... / Now he’s the syntax of the broken phrases of his sleep". Each line does indeed stand alone as a poem, exploring language and imagery.

Judith Beveridge once said that "the words are the story in the poem, they may tell a story as well". Mark quoted this sentiment to us as a demonstration of the importance of language in a poem. A poem may tell a story, but it should also be concerned with the meaning that sound, visual layout and language convey.

It has been said that Mark's poetry is a geography, "it is what it is and it has depth and bird music". Frans Wright believes that a poem doesn't want to describe a place it wants to be a place. Mark has pondered over these kinds of sentiments in writing his poetry. He likes to think about the relationship between his poetry and place as a correspondence, whereby the poetry is a reflection of the place, as well as there being a communication between the poem and the place.

One of the poems that Mark shared with us was called 'Global Warming'. Monica commented that as readers we are being lead through this poem through the rhyme and structure. Mark told us that that is an important point, "if you want to keep someone in your work you need to keep reminding them of the theme, content and what it is all about".

One of the guests asked whether Mark should be using Australian flowers in his poetry, which is set in Australia. Mark said that he doesn't believe so. He believes that nationalism gets in the way. He prefers to think of himself as a poet who writes on the South East coast of a continent, thus acknowledging the local and the universal in his writing.
"Nature is the story we are just in it" - Mark Tredinnick
Mark told us that many of his poems have started off as notes in his iphone. When he is out walking and a phrase comes to mind he has to record it. He said that if it is a "core phrase and I think that's too good to use so I have to make a poem to use that". I am glad that Mark does this and I look forward to reading more of his poetry in the future.

Please check out Mark Tredinnick's website here.

You can purchase Fire Diary at http://spunc.com.au/members/puncher-wattmann/product/9781921450402/