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WriteSites: Papertiger, a new world of poetry

Jo Gray

Australian poetry culture is experiencing major shifts which, given time, will see new challenges for publishing houses, literary journals, poets and readers alike. Readers and artists are still there, eager to give voice to their meditations, but the financial support is not. Massive funding cuts to publishers of this work is seeing poets turn away from the traditional champion of their articulations, the print industry, to embrace the liberating possibilities of a new medium.

This transference not only means that poets may sidestep the economically driven publishing industry, but that their work now becomes available to a new, more dynamic and diverse audience. Working in CD-ROM, poets can experiment with the neoteric forms such a medium invites and invokes. The tangible qualities of print are hybridised with a multimedia aesthetic, and a marriage between textuality and movement is born.

Papertiger: New World Poetry is one such creation. Its eclectic style is generated by a heterogeneous mix of poets from around the globe, who form a polyvocal international revolution in poetry. Papertiger incorporates the work of artists such as Melissa Ashley, S M Chianti, Michele Leggott and Lisa Jacobson, catapulting Australian artists onto the international stage. Papertiger is a theatrical experience for the senses and it is refreshing to see a strong cast of local talent taking the lead.

Once installed, the reader/user/viewer is invited to begin a journey into the rich matrix of possibilities on the screen. A seductive, linguistic striptease announces Papertiger’s arrival as ‘the true art of our time’—not far off the money. As words slide in and out of the screen, an oral backdrop shapes what is to be a dramatic reading experience. Subject matter ranges from chaos theory to the subjectivity of corpses, with much contemplation in between. In chasing the maps of such poetics, one is simultaneously grounded in the acute intimacy of observation and the awareness of a ‘bigger picture.’

The poems (some 100 plus) are divided into 4 sections: yama, agni, varuna and ishana. While most are presented in a more traditional manner—a linear, stabilised textuality—there are some that experiment with the liquid flexibility of digitised space. Michele Leggott, for example, showcases her four-part poem a woman, a rose, and what has it to do with her or they with one another by overlaying the text with spoken word. A soft, feminine voice guides the reader through a rich lamentation of loss and longing, and it is the poet’s acoustic presence that secures its siren-like quality.

This new-found projection into acoustic space is taken to another level with Patricia Smith’s Chinese cucumbers. Here there is no text as such—at least, not in the way we have come to think of it. This poem is more like an avant-garde music video. Once again, the poet’s voice takes us through interweaving images, some out of focus, or in slow motion, some intimate and others confronting. This intertextuality mirrors the reader’s movement as she glides over the top or dives deep into the poem’s delicately woven fabric.

Each meditation exists as an autonomous entity, a moment of pause or a grating fragment, but it is the reader, and her desire to drift or to dip, to create fissures of her own making, that makes Papertiger a truly innovative reading experience.

Papertiger: New World Poetry captures the moment of a revolution in form, stylistics and energy, and I encourage readers to embrace this dynamic experience. The book of the new millennium may be dead, but its poets have only just begun speaking.

Papertiger New World Poetry #1, editor Paul Hardacre, Papertiger Media, rrp for CD-ROM,

RealTime issue #46 Dec-Jan 2001 pg. 22

© Jo Gray; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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