Interview with a poet: Scott-Patrick Mitchell
How does it feel to be included in an anthology alongside David Malouf and Dorothy Porter
Amazing. At the outset I never realised that the anthology would include such great writers. When I look at the final product, I’m a little overwhelmed at being included alongside people I not only respect but immensely admire (particularly Dorothy Porter).
How did it come about?
It was a project Michael (Farrell, editor) had asked me to participate in, which I gladly did. Michael had been in Perth for the WA Spring Poetry Festival during 2006 and I had billeted him at the time. During his stay we became quite good friends and he kept me included on whatever projects he was working on at the time. So he asked to submit work, and I supplied. I didn’t realise the immensity of the project, just that Michael had my best interests at heart by asking me to participate.
Tell us briefly about the poems that were included.
Ah, the poems. Two of the poems are early versions of work that appears in my PressPress Award chapbook, songs for the ordinary mass. They’re stark city poems, tight little shattering diamonds of insight into life on the streets. The other poem is a love letter to the ocean. It’s been described by one reviewer as having a ‘sharp wit’, and I like how wistful it is. Together, these poems point in different directions and investigate different sites, and as such utilise different techniques in doing so.
I’ll admit that at the time I submitted these works I wasn’t having the best relationship with my writing, and as a result submitted poems that tested the edges of what I was doing. Still, I think these poems give a glint into the writing I produce now, an instance of refraction into my psyche… albeit only for a moment. They aren’t definitive, merely a taste.
Why do you think the anthology is significant?
I think this anthology is significant because of the poets it brings together, the voices it summons as a whole, voices which communicate the multiplicity of a community that is comprised of so many parts, gay and lesbian only being two instances of that community. It’s significant because it’s so comprehensive. Michael Farrell and Jill Jones have done a phenomenal job, the strength of this anthology being in its details: the fact that it brings together both established and emerging poets; the fact that it’s square in size, referring back to the box shape of the title; the alphabetical layout of the poems in an attempt to give prominence to language rather than any one person. It does what no other anthology is attempting to do at current: map a landscape of Australian poets who are openly gay or lesbian, and in turn investigate the world they create between them all. It’s ambitious, but rightly so.
How did the process differ from what you are currently undertaking with Tracy Ryan for New Poets?
It was a lot looser process than the one that took place with Tracy. I found that Tracy was incredibly diligent, which is understandable: the work we were creating together was more focused in its distinctness. Not that Michael and Jill weren’t diligent – I think the scope of authors included reflects exactly how diligent they were. But the experience with Tracy was far more intimate and personable. It gave me a greater insight into how my work is perceived as its own unique voice, rather than part of a distinct national voice like the one generated through Out of the Box.
Tell us what you working on / what’s coming up next for you?
Too much! I’m still working for OUTinPerth, WA’s only gay and lesbian newspaper, writing arts, fashion and music. I just got accepted into Masters at ECU, so I’m exploring how autobiography informs performance poetry and how it in turn shapes language on both the page and the stage. I’m doing some workshops with Peter Cowan Writers Centre, so keep an eye out for them. Cottonmouth has just launched the Cottonmouth Anthology and we’re gearing up for some more nights later in the year. I’m also getting together another issue of my incredibly irregular literary street art zine MoTHER [has words…], so I’m seeking submissions for that. And then I’m appearing at the Emerging Writers Festival in Melbourne in May, participating in their ‘Stuck In A Lift With…’ interview series, where I’ll be interviewing an incredibly prominent Australian poet. And that should get me up to June… at which point I’ll be helping launch a new publication here in Perth which at the moment is a little top secret. For the moment. After that? There’s still plenty, plenty more happening….