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a.j.carruthers, Axis Book 1: ‘Areal’

With AXIS Book 1: ‘Areal’, the inaugural part of carruthers’ long poem project, each ‘axis’ cuts, layers, folds, and accumulates language in two columns. One side often plays the support role, an ‘accompaniment’ for the other side. Elsewhere they merge, intersect, cross, or even obliterate each other. Book 1 is the first test of this structure, a laying out of fields, of poetic ‘areas.’ AXIS begins with questions like these: Can utopia be lived inside the work? Is there a place for the political in the poem? What is the fate of community, of the chorus, of lyric time? Could there be such a thing as poetic geography? Poetic science? What doesn’t poetry know about music? The AXIS system is designed to work in the future with three,- and four-columns of text, bringing together discourses of science, pharmacology and contemporary art.

"Big, bold, brainy. An experimental tour de force."– Kate Lilley

"With Axis, a.j. carruthers explicitly aligns himself with the lineage of the long poem. It is a bold move, if we consider that the major exponents of the form, from Ezra Pound to Anne Waldman, had invariably produced significant bodies of work prior to embarking on their poetic marathons. But ambition is fundamental to the long poem, and Axis, comprising thirty-one extended sequences and billed as ‘Book the first’, certainly outstrips Pound’s inaugural efforts – a mere sixteen Cantos issued in 1925 – by a country mile . . . AXIS proves as much a delight for the eye as for the ear." – Australian Book Review

"If he is also engaged in deranging formal play, Carruthers evinces a different kind of aesthetico-ontological program. An axis is — as the great Chinese Taoists liked to say — the void about which the wheel turns. This ‘wheel’ is as cosmic as it is quotidian . . . one further suspects a literally cosmic ambition for his work, which attempts to establish the very axle of existence as the power of absence. Hence, in a post-Mallarméan fashion, many of the numbered (and sometimes unnumbered) ‘Axis’ poems here are split across a central hinge of the page itself, not to mention the crease between pages, or between words or letters or lines. A ‘turn’ in poetry can designate a strophe, a turn of a line, a trope or figure, a narrative, a character’s fortunes, a shift of tone, and so on — so Axis takes its task to assemble and expose in all such turns their conditions of possibility, their axes, annexes, appendices, adaptations, antitheses and anaesthesias, their abecedarian and auratic apertures." – Justin Clemens, Southerly

"Playfully provocative, urgently provisional, Axis, Book 1: ‘Areal’ begins an ambitious mapping of poetry as imagined area and airing of the real, as space for epic renewal rather than that which is simply anew. As an extended chorale, it splices traces of past voices — poets, musicians, the dictionary, blackbox recordings — with a more intimate contemporary ‘we,’ replete with asides, suspicions, splutters, and mis-soundings. Carruthers meditates on what it means to be in common, what language and its rhythms can carry or elide across time, friendships, and cultures. Attention is drawn to both the scale and pace of experience, moving between ordinary routine and a more global witness or exchange, between the drawn moment to a series of quick, quirky riffs. Crossing the poetic, dramatic, critical and dialogic, this volume fine-tunes our sense of the modal while always returning to the materiality of word and sound. Delightfully challenging, citationally swift, notationally profound, Axis is, in all respects, a virtuosic debut."– Ann Vickery

"For the poet-critic — never mere hybrid or moonlighter — the task of writing is always a symphonics. Notation, citation, edge note, floating index, list, query and lexicon contribute to the complex labour of occasioning the poem and its critical orbit, the essay and its poetic afterimage, the score and its rippling extension. Carruthers engages a scholarship at once promiscuous and keenly focused: his is an inquiry attuned to tuning and to the intersections of grapheme, phoneme, line and break that constitute a poem, a conversation, a position statement, a speculation. Axis, Book 1: ‘Areal’ is the first of a projected long poem and scores the material of Carruthers’ significant engagement with poetics, philosophy, politics and community. Its gesture is one of boundless generosity — to those who track alongside, called in, or remembered."– Astrid Lorange

"A. J. Carruthers’ Axis promises to be a long poem, perhaps a very long poem. This “projected life-long” work belongs to the tradition of the “life-poem” which has emerged in late twentieth-century American (and, with Carruthers, Australian) avant-garde writing . . . I can only urge those interested in the future of truly innovative poetry to look to Australia for new takes on the traditions, and, as innovative poetry has always offered, on the idea of tradition itself." – Calum Gardner, Glasgow Review of Books

a.j. carruthers is an Australian-born experimental poet and critic. He teaches at SUIBE.

a.j.carruthers, Axis Book 1: ‘Areal’
2014. 204pp. ISBN 978-1-922181-32-9
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