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This article is taken from PN Review 159, Volume 31 Number 1, September - October 2004.

Of Magpie Music, Faded Things and the Desert Music Gregory O'Brien

1. `Stammering concrete poetry'

`The poem is not its language,' Hugh Kenner has it, 150 pages into The Pound Era and with his foot firmly on the accelerator. `Hence Pound's reiterated advice to translators to convey the energised pattern and let go the words.' Bearing these words in mind, the assemblages of the Australian/ New Zealand artist Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-99) can be thought of as `translations' in which the rough language of highway signs and roadside bric-à-brac is made over into what she referred to as `stammering concrete poetry'.

Retro-reflective road signs flashing in and out of her peripheral vision as she headed off into the Australian outback, Rosalie Gascoigne was an artist with her foot, literally, on the accelerator. Her art was the by-product of numerous forays into the Canberra region, gathering materials which she later arranged into `energised patterns'. As an artist who was approaching sixty when her career began, she had to travel faster than most.

Driving big-bodied station-wagons with suspension to match the undulating land, she was often accompanied on these outings by the poet Rosemary Dobson. As well as recovering natural and human-made detritus from the roadside and adjoining country, they would visit council depots and tips, where old signs, soft-drink crates, fencing materials and other remnants could be bartered for or simply walked off with. The traces of written language on these objects were an important element in a practice that can be considered a kind of ...


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