Wednesday, December 5, 2018

An examplar of respectful quotation

Goodbye, Cruel by Melinda Smith (Pitt Street Poetry, Australia 2017)

I'm happy to recommend this book by Canberra poet Melinda Smith, who is a previous winner of the Australian Prime Minister's Literary Award for poetry. To learn more about the poet and the book, have a look at the excellent launch speech by John Foulcher.

"Smith’s newest collection is in part a paean to life even as it elegises several deaths. However, her primary concern is the binary opposition of scribing and erasure. She uses erasure to great effect in poems such as “Darkling with temazepan” (44), her version of “Ode to a Nightingale” and, through her inking and inscription, Smith forges a connection with the dead whom she memorialises and the living who read her work. That connection may be tenuous, a thread as short and slender as a line of poetry, but it is a link nevertheless, and one of great importance. This book is the work of a vivid, vitalic voice in Australian poetry." (from the Pitt Street Poetry website).

In Goodbye, Cruel Melinda Smith has cleverly and movingly drawn from excerpts of poems by Janet Frame for two of her poems. Before she published this book she  asked permission of the copyright owners (the Janet Frame Literary Trust).  I'm glad she did because it has been good to get to know Smith's work. 

It's always gratifying when an author does the right thing and asks permission (if a work is still in copyright) and also clearly indicates the source of the text they quote, enhance, chop up, play with or otherwise utilise for their purpose of following their own poetic vision.  

Conversely, it is disappointing to come across, as I do now and then, examples of Janet Frame texts used for 'erasure' or other exploitative poetic formats without the Janet Frame copyright being properly acknowledged.

I wish that more of the creative writing schools in New Zealand would teach the basics of professional ethics and copyright law, surely it isn't so difficult! 

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