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clubs and societies

I guess poets are all trying to swim in the same stream – the same stream as Shakespeare and Yeats and Sappho and Hughes and Carson – and whatever strokes we make, large or small, are a striving to be part of that same vast human conversation.
– Candy Royalle

The Scrimmage

There is violence here
an abundance of it
fists and elbows and tongues that lash out
ankles and knees that fight to keep balance
________this is violence.
There are gestures of thrusting hips
arms extended
anger exposed
speed enticed by wheels of rubber and steel
sounds of strained voices
________this is violence.

Apparently there is no fresh meat here.

These skates are worn
by bearers of flesh experienced
to the feel of burning skin
red raw from fishnets rubbing surfaces exposed
to the elements of an unforgiving floor
________this is violence.
One body is lost on the battle field.
A veteran flat on her back
cries out in agony
for she has been winded
________wiped out

All her sisters
on the same side and opposing
All her sisters
fall onto bended knee
– except for their wheels
which continue to turn
sighing in their trucks
perhaps the thoughts of those that wear them
as stripes flock about her
flapping squawking
placing hands with the lightness of feathers
upon her panting body
she rises with a cry
and all applaud
________this is violence placated.

The scrimmage starts again
the circle is skated
and if there were ice
it would be thin
bones be brittle
and tones be laden
with frothing spittle
declaring the calls of an imitated war
and the reasons (or lack of) for
________this is violence.

Candy Royalle has a practice that combines performance, monologues, poetry, storytelling and written poetry.

Wollongong Illawarra Roller Derby formed in January 2009, and have been a key force in the establishment of the Eastern Region Roller Derby Leagues.

i’ve been inspired by pia’s practice and the conversations that i’ve been having with pia about tekhne ghosts huanted media and the strange things that she does with electrictiy and i’m particularly taken by this phrase she has of letting the non-human life live so letting something which might not meet human definitions of living or which might not fit into a rigid binary of non-living and living but nevertheless to let those things live to let the ghosts of electricity live i do have an interest in what you might call the art of ghosts which is another way to say what the activity of the dorks at dorkbot is is that it’s the art of letting the ghosts speak for themselves
– Nick Keys

Ghosts of Technology
– an excerpt

dance is a skill speaking is a skill a skill
i’m not doing very well at the moment language is a
skill rhetoric is a skill and poetry is a skill
so it’s very hard to figure out where the limits of
tekhne stop and start

so we need another story for the origins of humanity
and a different one to the blob one that went
nowhere okay so i’m a bit more relaxed
now so with the blob one we went up to heaven
right we went up to heaven right we were
going up to heaven and zeus was like na i don’t
like that so i’m going to strike these blobs down
with thunderbolts and then he was like
no that will kill them what i’ll do instead
is that i’ll chop them in half right so we he did
was he chopped us all in half so these arrogant
spherical blob creatures that we were who kind of
just rolled around on the ground and masturbated
and ate and were just totally in love with ourselves
right so he chopped them in half and then he left
it up to apollo to sort of stretch our skin over the
top of us re-aligning our limbs and over to the
belly and stitch us up there and so the belly
button is the scar left to remind us of our prior
arrogance which of course then we forgot
and that was the point and so that story is
in fact the origin of the myth of love and
what i like about it is that when humans are made
it means love is there at the beginning of humanity
in this myth which is a very appealing idea
when humans start they start because of love
perhaps what’s no so appealing about this story is
the brutal cutting in half and the implication
that love is loss as well that love is lack
where as i was kind of hoping that the idea of love
was binding was fusion was not bifurcating
putting things into two equal halves
okay so there is the blob story
but there is no tekhne in that and
that’s a problem so there’s another story
another greek story about the origin of
tekhne that is also the origin of humanity: zeus
decides that non-immortal creatures so
mortal creatures need to be brought from night
and into the light and so he goes to prometheus
and prometheus is the titan blessed with foresight
blessed with knowledge blessed with immaculate
memory and prometheus sort of comes with his
twin brother who is also his double who’s
epimetheus who’s not really blessed with
anything or he’s blessed with forgetting he
forgets epimetheus is the dude who always forgets
now zeus says to prometheus okay now that
we are bringing these mortals from out of the
night and into the light it’s your job to give
them qualities it’s your task i bestow the
task upon you to give them qualities and so
prometheus is like okay yeah fair enough
and epimetheus is with him and he begs him
please please let me do it i want to do it
it will be awesome if i do it and prometheus is
like well it seems like an arduous task
so i’ll let him do it and so he lets his little brother
or his twin who is in fact just a double of himself
the opposite of himself but he lets him do it
so epimetheus goes around with a basket of qualities
and hands them out to all the creatures right
so to the zebra he gives stripes and speed
to the lion he gives power and roar these kind
of things and so he does a great job
especially for epimetheus of distributing all the
qualities very evenly and this distribution of
qualities is responsible for the ecological balance
the even chance that things have to survive right
except that when he gets to humans he looks in the
basket and there is no more qualities left so
humans are those things that are forgotten
left naked and forgotten with no qualities
prometheus is like shit i’m going to get in
trouble for this so he decides that he will go
to zeus a pretty mad decision i would have
thought and steal fire from zeus and give it to
humans so he steals fire and gives it to
humans and as a punishment for this zeus
straps him to a rock that’s right
straps him to a rock and an eagle comes and eats
his liver and then the liver grows back
and then the eagle comes back and eats his liver
and that happens for a long time so
prometheus really suffered for giving us fire
so fire is the symbol of technology okay so
in this myth of the origins of humans
technology happens at the same moment as humans
happen so instead of having humans who
invent technology what we get is humans that
are constituted by their technicity
that’s one way of putting it in a sense we are
technological beings okay now this has
some consequences for a lot of binaries in
in in our society that that we rest
that we hold dear to ourselves anthropology
and technology so the human and the technological
that’s a split there’s also nature and
and there’s also subject and object but if
humans are technological creatures from the
beginning that is to say that they are
defined by the fact they are technological then
these kind of oppositions they don’t work so well
okay so the the father of anthropology rousseau
who was a really interesting writer and he
searched for an essence of man an original
and eternal man and he wasn’t a fool he knew
that he couldn’t search for the origins of something
without making a fiction about it so he knew
that he was dealing in a sense with fiction
but nevertheless he was searching for this eternal
figure now he was then accused later on
by nietzsche i think rightly of falling into
the trap that so many philosophers have fallen into
nietzsche called it a family failing a family
failing of philosophers is that they will not learn
that man has become so there is this
search for an eternal being this kind of pure
nature and essence but the reality is
of course that we have always become

Nick Keys is a Sydney-based writer, blogger, researcher, website producer and collage artist.

Dorkbot Sydney is a regular social gathering for “people doing strange things with electricity”.

NOTE: Read about THEthe’s collaboration with the Red Room Company here.

Across Australia, each state, city, suburb and street autonomously divides itself into thousands of clubs and societies. Sport, politics, art, craft, collectors: people gather voluntarily, outside the confines of their immediate geography, social class or profession. They gather around a shared passion. As such, clubs and societies are sites of sharing: sharing of knowledge, stories, skills and resources.

Within these shared circles, language takes on a special role. Since members don’t have to articulate themselves for a general audience, vernacular becomes increasingly specialised. Often the assumed knowledge that lies within any given statement is so huge that, to an outsider, conversation at a club meeting would seem like a foreign language. For poetry, these distinctive argots provide fertile fields for experimentation, since every unique language has the potential to inform its own unique poetics.

The Red Room Company (RRC) set out to explore this terrain in 2011 through our major project, Clubs and Societies. We even set up our own Clubhouse in The Rocks in Sydney, complete with bunting, dartboard and our own selection of club records. There, we played host to clubs and visiting poets alike. We also produced an exclusive club pack for new members, with specially designed membership pins (one of the pleasures of being in a club is allowing oneself to get a little obsessive over things…).

The project worked by pairing up 15 poets from across Australia with 15 diverse clubs and societies. Each poet and their club was handpicked by RRC Artistic Director – and Club President – Johanna Featherstone. Poets were chosen both for the quality of their work, as well as their potential to creatively engage with their host club as a kind of Club Poet Laureate.

Poets were asked to open their practice to the experience as much as possible, and we encouraged experimentation and a free interpretation of the notion of ‘poetry’. In some cases, the club’s influence is discernible not only in the poem’s content, but also in its form. Kit Brookman, for example, paired with the Astronomical Society of NSW, collected smaller, imagistic poems–little vignettes – like the singular view through a telescope of a section of night sky. Ali Alizadeh, on the other hand, responded to the lecture-based Existentialist Society with a longer, discursive, almost essayistic poem. Meanwhile, Michael Giacometti, working with the Central Australian Bushwalkers, collected over 20 short poems and haikus, quickly scribbled at breaks along the track: evocations, often humorous, of exhaustion and thirst through the middle of Australia.

Over the next month we’ll present a selection of the commissioned poems, as well as snippets from a research report compiled by Jacinta van den Berg, which investigated links between poetry and clubs in Australia. Within these works, poets represent the customs of clubs in super close-up, like cultures in a petri dish. In contrast, the research project zooms out, considering the role clubs and societies play in the broader social picture, and how that role is comparable (or incomparable) to poetry’s. We hope that readers, whether poets, club members, both or neither, enjoy this selection.

A limited-edition Clubs and Societies publication is also available from www.redroomcompany.org.