The Material Poem

The Material Poem is an e-anthology featuring the work of some 28 Australian poets, artists and critics, all of whom are engaged with poetry and, more broadly, language as a material form. I edited, designed and published (through non-generic productions) the anthology. It originally appeared as a free-to-download e-book in 2007. In 2009, I designed and published a print-on-demand edition.

The back-cover note for the anthology reads as follows:

This body of work is inter-disciplinary, inter-media and often collaborative, spanning a wide variety of formal contexts – page, screen, canvas, space, book, performance and more. The Material Poem showcases the vibrancy of experimental writing in Australia, demonstrating how writing functions as a practice that is never purely literary.

The full list of contributors is listed on the non-generic productions website.

[Gallery: Typical spreads from The Material Poem; promotional flyer]

About

I discussed much of my rationale in commissioning, editing and designing the anthology within the work itself, especially the extended introductory essay ‘The Art of Writing’. Any remarks here should be read in conjunction with those writings. In this instance, I want to contextualise The Material Poem in terms of the overall body of work generated as part of this Masters of Creative Arts.

The Material Poem was the first project completed as part of my practice-based research. This was no accident: one motivating factor was my desire to meaningfully engage with those writers and artists in Australia whom I might consider (if not now, then one day) as peers.

The other principal motivation was to celebrate these peers’ work by creating a reference tool for others concerned with the materiality of language and/or experimental writing. A critical reaction to the anthology’s achievements in this regard can be found in Jacket Magazine.

Finally, The Material Poem was also an opportunity to develop my skills as a graphic designer and typographer. An essential reference was Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style (Vancouver: Hartley & Marks, 2003, 3rd ed – revised) as well as Herbert Spencer’ Pioneers of Modern Typography (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press 1983, c1982).

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[Image: Patrick Jones performs a part-improvised piece at the anthology launch, UTS, 2007]

Although ostensibly a practice-based component of this Masters of Creative Arts, my only “creative” input was as the publication’s designer. The rest sits more comfortably in the domain of critical studies and traditional research. As such, I have chosen not to submit this work to an analysis driven by my model of materiality [see Chapter 3 of the accompanying exegesis].

My only comment in terms of materiality would be that The Material Poem, despite being conceived as an e-book, remains embedded in a print aesthetic: it is designed to be read in hard-copy format. The internet has principally been used as a means of distributing a print anthology for free (though the inclusion of multimedia work lends complexity to this equation). The only incarnation left for the anthology to assume is as an .html-based “website” rather than a PDF document.



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