priceless moments caught in the act

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					Hazel Smith                            Priceless
I crave a politics which is non-                                            Suddenly you are a trapeze artist.
reductive and self-critiquing. I                                            It’s exhilarating! You are balancing
know that this can be viewed as                                             mid-air, taking one step and then
an impossible task, because                                                 the next. You look in both
political action often involves
                                                                            directions, and one way you see
suppressing information which          racism in the crack of their
might undermine the “better”                                                Australia and the other way you
                                       eyes, lurking in unseemly            see Britain.
position. But I am always looking      corners, dressed up in fancy
in my writing for          political   clothes, racism with its own
flexibility, a right to investigate                                         You don’t want to fall because that
                                       acidic vocabularies, inside          means you will drop into one place
and a right to disagree. This can
be harder than it might seem to        our hats, hanging on to the          or the other. You want to be there
be.                                    whites of our eyes, tireless,        always:
                                       nimble and evasive.
                                                                            a dangling woman

                                       Political thinking begins at home.
                                       The injustices       of mandatory
                                       detention for asylum seekers; the
                                       treatment of indigenous peoples
                                       and confronting the ‘stolen
                                       generation”; the need for the
“We think the price is worth           government to apologise for the
it”                                    wrongs of the past. And the
                                       urgent necessity for Australia to
                                       set fire to its shadows and become    I curl myself round the concept of
                                       a republic.                          heritage, and ask why some need to
                                                                                wear their heritage like a coat,
 Madeleine Albright on the                                                   while others want to leave it at the
deaths of half a million Iraqi                                                              door.

                                       racism as full white lips staring blankly into the future

  The politics of the indirect.        Concentration
Oblique modes of writing. The
performative and multi-voiced.
Thoughts and ideas migrating           There are concentration camps in Australia today

    into different registers.     but no one seems to care

                                  There is no smell of burning flesh
                                  but holocausts are hovering

                                  Jews are not Israelis and Israelis are not Palestinians
                                  nor are critics of state terrorism
  No longer only the page but     automatically anti-semitic
 the screen, the studio and the
                                  Parallels can paralyse don’t you think?
                                  But I remember the boredom of school detention
                                  the staying behind with our hands on our heads
                                  I’d gaze into space

                                  I never could concentrate
                                  and I find it difficult to be in one camp
                                  without being in the other
                                  you have to take a stand against the biggest stench
                                  and ignore the rest, that’s politics

                                  Every issue is about minorities
                                  but once their hands can sense the wheel
                                  they victimise and vaporise the rest

                                  Writing is the same
                                  the best writers are hardly known
                                  but the famous ones smother the others

ethical diasporas                                               heroes
                                  Mercy (less) killing          heroin

The interweaving of
voices and the                                                  Someone is throwing in bombs at her
technological                                                   window but she sits reading her book.
                                                                She rhythmically and mechanically
transformation of voice in                                      turns the pages. Everywhere round her
voicescapes. The                                                furniture, curtains and books are

voicescape is potentially                                        furniture, curtains and books are
subversive in destabilising     The significance of the          exploding. And she thinks to herself:
                                                                 keep still, ignore it and it won’t touch
notions of identity, gender     unnoticed
                                                                 you. Pretend it isn’t there, so you don’t
and place.                                                       get caught up in the flames.

                                The incisiveness of the

                                The inclusiveness of the
Australia’s most experienced                                     the micro scale, the small scale,
military leaders have warned          As a Jew who               the little moments, the tiny
  against any unilateral US                                      differences, the mini gesture, the
action against Iraq, saying a       questions her own            unheard thought, the whispered
 pre-emptive strike would              Jewishness,               protest, the solo demonstration,
     jeopardise security.           she is exiled twice          the slight gesture, the seeding
                                           over.                 debate, the pinprick analysis, the
What kind of war is this that                                    light touch of the everyday
 even the military oppose?
                                The @ sign in emails is           Recently I have found fictocriticism
                                actually a 500 yr old sign. It      (the juxtaposition of academic
                                represents an amphora—a           theory and other literary and non-
                                measure of capacity based            literary forms) a useful way of
You cannot conceptualise the    on the terracotta jars used to   bringing together the academic and
cultural moment you are in      transport grain and liquid in                    creative
because that presupposes        the ancient Mediterranean                   worlds I straddle.
unity.                          world.

                                                                 the textual tightrope

You are simply aware of
moments colliding with and
contradicting each other,
moments of technological
growth, developing
knowledges, racial conflict,

war and ecological              peoplefallingoutofwindo                    political vertigo
destruction. Moments            wspeoplefallingoutofwi
cancelling out and              ndowsepeoplefallingout
complementing each other,       ofwindowspeoplefalling
climbing in and out of          outofwindowspeoplefall
words, moments often            ingoutofwindowspeople
marred by your own failure      fallingoutofwindowspeo
to understand them.             plefallingoutofwindows

The semiotics of stocks and             John Milton (who       If all nations suddenly claimed
shares. We all recognise the             served as Oliver      territory which their forefathers
signifier, but what is being            Cromwell’s press         had inhabited 2000 yrs ago,
signified?                            officer) argued that          everyone would be in a
                                 killing a ruler who turns         permanent state of exile.
                                  on his own subjects is
                                 moral, as well as poetic,

   The punishment looking
    fruitlessly for the crime                                  responsibility
                                Poets do not remain in one
                                place. They migrate,           bureaucratised
                                carrying with them always
                                the traces of all the places
                                they have both inhabited and
                                imagined. The poet who
                                writes is the poet who

establishing nationhood         means giving it back           to others

distortion as the                                              6000      children    die
dominant paradigm                                              everyday because of lack
                                                               of clean drinking water.
                                                               And what do poets do
                                                               about it?

                                         The westernised imperialised
                                         concept of ‘sovereignty’ cannot
                                         necessarily be easily
echoes which spell their                 transferred to the notion of
                                         indigenous land rights.
own tunes
                                                                              Self defence only legitimates an
She found awesome the kinds of                                                immediate response to an actual
decisions    dissenting      political                                        act of aggression, not an
figures make for their nation. Like                                           anticipated act of aggression.
Suu Kyi, who didn’t go and visit         the backhandedness
her dying husband in England.
But she could never make those
                                         of talkback radio
choices herself, because for her
the personal is always more
powerful than the political.

ways of writing which constantly
move between different times and                                      Consumers are supposed
spaces, different historical periods                                         to love choice
and        geographical      spaces,                                       is a terrible thing
superimposing past, future and                                             too many poems
present psychological and political                                    fighting to be performed
registers and realities.                                           afterwards the nagging ghosts
                                                                        resurface and reshuffle

                                                                     Some say Beazley couldn’t
                                                                       detonate on detention
                                                                       means he had a choice
                                                                    that wasn’t in his interests
Muds and bulletin boards                                          Eichmann claimed obeying orders
open up new ways of                                                             as excuse
                                                                    for terrible things are choices
interacting. They fulfil the                                            which we can’t evade
need for community which                                                      is what I fear
has developed out of the
                                                                             the moment
demise       of   traditional                                              when they say
community.                                                                 if you don’t do
                                                                      this unspeakable thing
                                                                          we’ll shoot him

                   (Kim Beazley: the leader of the Australian labour opposition defeated at
                   the last election. Many labour voters defected and voted Green because
                     he did not take a strong stand against mandatory detention of asylum

A community               Information Communication Technologies will promote
      of                        information to unprecedented numbers of people.
                                   But information does not automatically empower.

  process       peoplefallingoutofwindowspeo            The office is on top of a tower detached from
                plefallingoutofwindowspeoplef           the rest of the world.
                ngoutofwindowseoplefalingout            In the office someone is pressing keys. The
                                                        sound fills the air with its own hideous
interactivity   indowspeoplefallingoutofwind
                                                        mechanical rhythm.

                owspeoplefalingoutofwindows             Every time that “someone” presses a button it
networking      plefallingoutofwindowspeoplef
                                                        causes a death. But there are no corpses: only
                                                        the clear, hygenic sound of the pressed button.

                ideas collapsing into each other until there is nothing but rubble


                “That which you find hateful to yourself,
                do not do unto others.”

                My aunt used to read me Rumplestiltskin
                fairy tales make light of ethics
                with their cut-out heroes and villains

                In the real world war is accountable as pacificism
                and terrorists are people that you don’t agree with

                Those sessions were magical
                I thought I knew what the stories meant then
                but perhaps I didn’t
                and that’s why
                I could savour them over and over

                When you read all you have to do is speculate

                                    it’s more difficult to act
                                    I like to think I’m on the left
                                    but the left can’t keep to its side of the road
                                    that’s why it gets run over

                                    We all know that literature can’t
                                    right anything
                                    a ladder of words
                                    for the tower of Babel

                                    Meanwhile the world grinds on
                                    taking the poor and illiterate with it

Poetry on the page cannot say
everything anymore. We have to
expand beyond the page into other                                              She spins the globe round and round, until
modes such as performance and                                                  it moves so fast she cannot see any
new media.                                                                     particular country.
                                                                               She spins the globe until there is no
                                                                               landmass: movement is everything.

                                    DEAD OR ALIVE?

                                                                               In her dreams: all those unsigned
 The same poem can be about                                                    email petitions.
  everything in the world and
         nothing at all.

                                    I fight
                                    therefore I
                                                                               Saddam has ordered genealogists
                                                                               to construct a family tree to link
                                                                               him with Fatima, the daughter of
                                    We give a performance and
                                    there is no one in the                     the prophet Mohammed.
                                    audience. Live performance
Last month Karl Kulper died         is becoming less and less
in Sydney, after 20 years of        important. Teenagers go to

living in a street shelter.          hear DJs rather than live
Celebrities were at his              bands.
funeral, and his death was a
                                     The studio      displacing   the
spectacular media event.             concert hall.

Hidden lives
Media Hype
The potentialities of hyperlinking   llingoutofwindowspeoplefalling
interactivity, spatial design and    outofwindowseoplefallingoutof
animation that the new media
                                     seoplefallingoutofwindowspeop      Genocide as ‘targeted
 This is where radical new writing

I have a desire to find a politics which is non-reductive and which is self-critiquing. To some extent I
know that this is an impossible task, because political action often involves suppressing information
which might undermine the “better” position. However in my writing I am always searching for political
flexibility, a right to investigate and a right to disagree. This can be harder than it might seem to be.


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