Permapoesis at the Victorian Writers' Centre

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I gave a reading of mainly new work at the Victorian Writers' Centre last night. I came to the centre from a peripheral place, and spoke poetics, ecology, food, energy, climate chaos, population dispersal and 'slow text', among other things.

In question time I was asked about 'food security' and quoted this report in my reply.

Meg and I took hawthorn fruit leathers to share so as the audience could more fully embody the video-poem, 'A place of simple feeding' (see video on previous post), that I finished my reading with. We were gifted in exchange some home-brewed beer made by the director of the VWC, Roderick Poole. This sort of exchange or gift – the hand-made or home-made – is incredibly touching, and exemplified another key area of my talk – uncapitalised exchange.

Roderick and I had never before met, however we share 4 very similar and wonderful things: side burns, a love of home-brewing, permaculture and the love of a good Jewish woman.

Extrapolating on 'free-dying' beside Roderick Poole
(after Michael Farrell asked the question).


The Middle Kingdom of Weeds

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I was asked to contribute something to The Middle Kingdom of Weeds Festival, which I was naturally enthusiastic about.

'A place of simple feeding' is a line from Jean-Luc Nancy's book 'The Birth to Presence' (1993), which I gobbled up as the title for this work. I made a simple video as a poem-recipe celebrating autumn's hawthorn (crataegus) berries, using a recipe appropriated from UK forager and BBC presenter, Ray Mears.

In Australia hawthorns are considered pesky weeds, but this passage from Alfred W Crosby's 'Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900' (1986), puts this limited attitude into some perspective:
"The weeds, like skin transplants placed over broad areas of abraded and burned flesh, aided in healing the wounds that the invaders tore in the earth... The colonizing Europeans who cursed their colonising plants were wretched ingrates." p170
Are we all 'in abandonment', as Bossuet spoke of the West, or are we in varying degrees of naturalising our wounds and settling in?

Aboriginal bush foods, cultivated garden produce, some wild meat, and weeds and wild herbs altogether constitute the mainstay of our relocalised diet. Autumn, for us, is a time to ferment and preserve the bounties of the warm months, to use as medicinal foods throughout the winter, as our ancestors once did.

Hawthorn berries have been used continuously in both Eastern and Western medicine traditions for thousands of years. There are around 200 species, although that figure is a little ambiguous. All species, as far as I'm aware, can be used for human consumption, and are especially good for treating heart pathologies such as high blood pressure and hypertension.


Reading Nancy in the Kitchen

Monday, March 21, 2011

I'm not sure we can speak about the end of wilderness when the autonomous yeasts in our homes still raise our breads and enact our ciders. An end to presence lies in the cultivars of representation, whereas birth, in the formless breaths of being, owes itself to wild fermentation.

A moment arrives when one can no longer feel anything but anger, an absolute anger, against so many discourses, so many texts that have no other care than to make a little more sense, to redo or perfect delicate works of signification. Jean-Luc Nancy, The Birth to Presence, p5, Stanford University Press, 1993.


A little help from Costa

Friday, March 11, 2011

We launched the Daylesford Community Food Garden yesterday with the energetic help from SBS gardening guru, Costa. This garden is on a disused council site that we've temporarily taken over to grow free, organic food.

So far council are supportive of our squat (by virtue of the fact it still remains) and we are therefore very supportive of their position of support. A few years ago there may have been an extreme ideological battle to be had, but the current council seems to be increasingly open to new modes of thinking.

However, just in case council's response was less than positive, we prepared a positive response that they could freely use (all rights relinquished):
Council applauds the efforts of this community group to work towards food security in the shire.

Council recognises the need for community-led organic food systems to attend to the health crisis that nutrition-low, carcinogenic-high fast food and supermarket food has delivered to its residents – slow death by industrial agriculture.

Council recognises the social merits of such a project, and encourages other community groups to work together to prepare for worsening climate change and energy descent scenarios, and therefore further rising food and energy prices.

Council recognises that we are all squatting on Djadjawurrung land be it at the Town Hall or the Daylesford Community Food Garden. There has never been a proper sale or transfer of land either under Aboriginal or European law.

Council is thrilled that a community group has taken over the maintenance of this site, and that council workers no longer have to use polluting and expensive resources – herbicide and petroleum – to maintain it.

Council would be happy to work with this community group to help them relocate to another site for community food production if the library next-door needs to expand, or some other public building of merit needs to be built on this site.

Council recognises that although this mode of community participation is different to its own form, it nonetheless values such independent, creative and positive responses from its residents.

Council recognises that its own processes of behaviour change are heavily bureaucratic making positive change impossibly slow, and that residents will naturally move faster, working in small groups, and will at times better attend to the fast pace of global financial, social and ecological changes.


Permies and Fermies

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A little while ago I overheard some students discussing a paper given by a professor on the 'end of wilderness'. The justification I think, for this seemingly totalising view, is that anthropogenic climate change effects every inch of the world and therefore everything is now of human making.

David Holmgren, on a walk and talk a few weeks back, spoke about two dominant strains concerning 'the wild' in western thought. He posited historian Simon Schama's suggestion that there is the dark, foreboding and conspiratorial strain, and the pure, unadulterated and sacred strain. Holmgren spoke about how both predetermine land management and environmental politics today. On the one hand you have the 'better tame wild nature before it's on your doorstep' ideology – bulldoze, herbicide, sterilise, etc., and on the other hand you have urbane ideologues obsessing over the few last bastions of wilderness as it were a church, while flying all over the world and buying their food transported in – evidently sacredness is somewhere else.

All of this is a segue to singing the praises of Sandor Katz and his brilliant book 'Wild Fermentation', which I'm totally obsessing over at the moment. And there are many of us, permies and fermies alike, falling deeper and deeper into the everyday wilderness that is live-culture food. The wild is airborne. It is microbial. We speak it out and breathe it in. Below, you can see my new ciders (made from wild apples) gathering in the wild yeasts (fungi) inherent in our home. Some will be left open for longer to be further exposed to the vinegar microorganisms that are also everywhere.

Yesterday my awesome boy Zephyr turned nine. Our friend Brett came over to join the festivities and to teach a small group of boys to hand carve spoons from plum wood prunings.

With a lovingly carved spoon and apple cider vinegar on the make, Hippocrates knows we will need no petroleum-based pharmaceuticals once again this winter.


Greenwash #20 in Trouble - Post Carbon Food Systems (authorised and unauthorised)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I concentrated this month's Greenwash article on one specific chapter found in the very brilliant Post Carbon Reader anthology. The chapter is called Growing Community Food Systems and is written by US artist-farmer Erika Allen. Click on the image below, then click again to read in high definition.

You can buy a copy from HRN, or read free chapters online.

In news closer to home, last weekend a group of about 40 locals were involved in taking over a disused council plot and did what we've been asking permission for over many years – develop a community garden. Whereas I see some relevance in working with local government to plan against ecological and energetic crises, I don't believe we should wait around for any level of government to drive behaviour change.

When the current CEO at our local council took up her position I made a time to meet with her and raise my chief concerns in the shire – public transport, privatised bottled water and community food gardens. She agreed with me on public transport (and to give credit, there has been a little work done in this area, although she herself drives solo transit from St Kilda to Daylesford for work everyday); and she was interested in the bottled water argument (although nothing more has been done to curb this polluting, exploitative industry very specific to our shire - read more here); however she totally dismissed the community garden issue with the rationale that people in this region have enough space in their own backyards to grow whatever food they wish. This meeting was three years ago.

But to be realistic, change generally comes from a 'hacker' (in the broadest, McKenzie Wark, sense) or activist class, who aim to inspire a wider, bottom-up, grassroots movement to take direct action. By contrast, the bureaucratic class renders itself static through its own red tape. Politicians play between the bureaucracy and the hackers.

In our case this latest action is involved with developing another chapter in our local community food system. The shire council can either get behind us, ignore it and hope it goes away, or become adversarial. We'll see. Here's the wee video I made to document the first stage of this unauthorised community food project.

This garden (beside the Daylesford Public Library) acts as a continuation of a range of community food systems that have been developing in the area for many years. Such systems include a permaculture garden next door (behind the library) and my own public artwork comprising of 19 fuji apples (in front of the library), which were both planted in 1999 and are well used and tended by the community and wild bird population alike.


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