There are two characters in this new collection from Flying Islands: the fox, and the farmer. They are opposed but share an existential problem. The more charismatic figure is the fox (female, only once owning ‘vixen’) who is trying to understand her environment, the role of the farmer, the singing fences, the farmer. The farmer is a solitary figure walking with a gun, trying to get things right. Each have their own good intentions; neither of them entirely comfortable where they are.
What came before
Somewhere between Daylesford and Castlemaine in Victoria, Australia, they have a fox problem. Australia in general has a ‘fox problem’. Foxes are not indigenous to the continent, and they are predators of the kind that small marsupials were unaccustomed to resisting. Foxes, along with feral cats, and various other creatures which took up ecological niches, took a great toll on the wildlife.
It is also thought, believed strongly, that foxes attack livestock, often taking only the most delectable parts of an animal. They are not beloved by farmers. There are three ways of expressing their relationship to foxes: traps, guns, poison (1080). Savage traps are not legal, cage traps are ok – except now you have a fox in a trap; 1080 is often used but seen as unnecessarily cruel by some; and then there is the direct honesty of a gun, though less efficient.
Nevertheless, they are beautiful, alien animals; independent, foxy. In the wild they live for about three years (in captivity, much more), and their social structure depends on the conditions encountered. In some conditions there is only one breeding pair, in others all the females breed.
They are invaders, but have made the country their own. They know nothing else. The farmer of foreign heritage and the fox are not different in that respect.
Somewhere between Daylesford and Castlemaine there is the foxline: about 200 dead and scalped foxes hung from their heels on a fence by the roadway. So beautiful in the sun.
Who and what
This year saw two publications that are especially important to me: Foxline from the invincible Flying Islands, and 101 Quads from a new conjunction of publishers Puncher & Wattmann and Thorny Devil Press.
Among a dozen or so previous books are Spine Lingo (from Kardoorair) and a collection of short prose fiction, Schadenvale Road (from Interactive Press). Seven Stations was published by Wellsprung Productions. This is the text of a song cycle (music by Andrew Batt-Rawden) that premiered at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and was subsequently released on CD by Hospital Hill.
I work in a number of poetic forms, much of it experimental and in the alternative, or in unusual physical forms.
Some other titles include: Letters and The View from a Beach , Love Poems , The Fickle Brat (text + audio CD), Day Easy Sunlight Fine and Mortifications & Lies and some smaller publications and non-fiction. I have also published a children’s book, written a number of plays. I am publisher at PressPress and been a mentor to several Australian poets.
I won the Queensland Premier’s Award for Poetry and have been short-listed for the National Book Council Award and the NSW Premier’s Award and won the Amelia Chapbook Award (USA) and the Meanjin Dorothy Porter Poetry Prize.
There is more information on my site at www.chrismansell.com