Jill Jones’s prompt for submissions
… Thoughts on things
above the river beds
(Lorine Niedecker, p.246)
These few lines from an untitled poem by Lorine Niedecker remind us of the way thinking, and writing, folds and unfolds as things expand, contract, decay, dissolve, regenerate or repair.
I am inviting poets to send work for this issue that look at matter beyond the human and the animal, that think about or do things with things.
Things can be massive – oceans, magma, air, light – or very small – microbeads, sequins, dust. They may be things made by humans, or their origins may pre-date human existence, or they may be a mix of these states.
Things change as they pass from hand-to-hand, system-to-system. This exchange value and symbolic value changes over time, with technology, fashion, usefulness. Things decay, rust, are trashed, discarded, neglected, lose their charge, move or are moved to sheds, dumps, sewage systems, land fill.
Things aren’t singular; even though we give them names, they partake of wider systems. They are shape-shifters. They are between – sand, wharves, cars, rivers, windows. They are also part of us, inside us – foods, medicines, prosthetic devices, toxins. Our skin and slough becomes part of the dust of the world. Things are written over by other things, by war, eons of human and animal use, climate change.
Thus, I am interested in how writing can show us things as they exist and operate in ecological systems, climate systems, disturbances, big world systems, tiny bioregions, our own bodies. This can include the way they exist as traces, and absences.
Jane Bennett in Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things argues that matter is not ‘dull matter’, but rather things are vibrant, they have power, they operate within us, around us, beyond us. We form attachments to them, with them; they are part of the world’s ecological systems. They are not inanimate in a passive sense, and they are not out-of-sight out-of-mind in some kind of forgotten stasis. As she notes, ‘our trash is not “away” in landfills but generating lively streams of chemicals and volatile winds of methane as we speak’. (p.vii)
I am also interested in how a poem could evoke or record the grain of matter, to indirectly evoke Barthes, and this could include a thing’s voice, that is, its sound or sounding within systems. For instance, say I begin writing what might seem mundane, ‘the sound of a storm in trees’, nonetheless, already the prepositions place the storm and involve the trees. Then the poem might open out further to ask what causes the storm, what larger climate system is operating, are the trees growing in a particular place because they were planted recently, or ages ago; are they remnant, exotic, conserved, still almost ‘wild’? And how is this ‘sounded’ by a poem?
I’m particularly interested in poems that move beyond the figurative or the literally representative, that work with the idea of the folding and unfolding of matter in systems, of correspondences, patterns, the contingent, rather than simply the metaphoric, inscription rather than description alone. These could be taxonomic, talismanic, utilitarian poems. They could become systems within systems.
Inger Christensen, in whose poems things exist in mathematical and relational consort with the world and ourselves, says:
If we call things by their true names, that doesn’t mean that the names are being used to represent the things, and it doesn’t mean that language mimics reality as a thing that is separate from language. Rather, a kind of threshold condition arises, where language and the world express themselves with the help of each other. The world, with its natural extension in language, comes to a consciousness of itself; and language, with its background in the world, becomes a world in itself, a world steadily unfolding further. That’s why it can be said that by writing poetry, we’re trying to produce something that we ourselves are already a product of.
Of course, poems are also things, made by things, produced and distributed by other things. Words produce meaning, pattern, shape, sound, feeling. Poems are matter, words are shapes made of paper or screen, sounds made into air, or recorded. All this involves matter. And paper has an ecological impact as does recording equipment, all our recording devices.
I am also interested in things in poems, things as poems, not as simply representational but as sites of refreshing materiality or signification, as parts of the systems of the world, as not simply indicators of, but actual resonating affinities of, matter in the poems.
Here’s Robert Grenier’s challenge in his 1985 pamphlet, Attention: Seven Narratives:
What if life remains to be discovered? What if language still could be used to wrest ‘objects’ from ‘experience’ towards reality in the literal strata of the words? What then would be the purpose of preaching the ‘end of the world’ – if by your very usage you had abandoned all interest in further life via syntax?
What is your interest in things and their syntax? How might a poem discover their vibrance, movement, resonance, their turning? So, sound, narrate, list, complicate, fold and unfold the things of this world, in their over-thereness, in their beside-hereness, in their still life, their other life, their non-human-life, their between-life, their part-of-human life. I want to read this.
Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2010
Christensen, Inger. ‘Silk, the Universe, Language, the Heart: The poetry of parts of speech.’ https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/articles/147738/silk-the-universe-language-the-heart
Grenier, Robert. Attention: Seven Narratives. http://eclipsearchive.org/projects/ATTENTION/Attention.pdf
Niedecker, Lorine. Collected Works, ed. Jenny Penberthy. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002
In one email, send up to 3 poems in Times New Roman 12pt font, 1.5 spacing with each poem as a separate attachment. Each poem should be no longer than 50 lines or 2 pages (where your poem is in a form such that line length is not relevant). Poems should not be previously published, but simultaneous submissions are allowed. Please let the managing editor know if your poem is accepted elsewhere. Poems should be submitted as .docx, .doc, or .rtf files (send visual poems as both .pdf and .jpg.) to: email@example.com .
Submissions are read anonymously. Do not include your name or contact details on the poems themselves, and please delete personal information from your electronic file properties. Include email contact details and a brief (50 word) bio in the body of your email. Also include your postcode if you are resident in Australia. This will not be published.
Plumwood Mountain also publishers book reviews and photo essays.
Book reviews should be 800 – 1000 words in length unless otherwise agreed. We do not accept unsolicited book reviews. See our Notes for Reviewers, also the list of available books. To read previous reviews visit the Book Reviews page. If you would like to review one of the books listed or would like to suggest a book to review, please contact the managing editor:
Style for reviews: Times New Roman, left justified, 1.5 spacing, with endnotes, or author-date, and bibliography, following Chicago Manual of Style.
All reviews should be submitted as .docx, .doc, or .rtf files by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
For multimedia, photographic essays, sound recordings and visual art, please first discuss the submission process and formatting with the managing editor at email@example.com
From December 2017 Plumwood Mountain is no longer considering unsolicited scholarly essays or creative prose. From time to time, there may be calls for such genres. Submissions already in process are still being considered.
Copyright of poems, artwork, articles and reviews remains with the contributor.
For the February 2019 issue, Plumwood Mountain journal will pay Australian-based poets $75 per poem published.
Plumwood Mountain: An Australian Journal of Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics