Dear Overland, please do not go on strike.

The strange thing about being overseas is that I'm still habitually sending my poems to Australian - as opposed to Dutch or European - magazines. Maybe that's because my work is still written primarily for an Australian audience. But what does that mean, exactly?

The strange thing about being overseas is that I’m still habitually sending my poems to Australian – as opposed to Dutch or European – magazines. Maybe that’s because my work is still written primarily for an Australian audience. But what does that mean, exactly?

The lastest issue of Overland, for example, contains a poem of mine called Sunbathing written this year as part of my Secret Lives of the Colonial Poets project. The upcoming issue of Going Down Swinging features one of my poems, O’Dowd Seeks Whitman, another from the Secret Lives project. Finally, this year’s FourW features a prose poem of mine entitled Great Big Star (you can read it in its original format here – I’m still unsure of the ending).

I’m very much looking forward to receiving copies of these journals in the mail, not least because literary magazines constitute a vital lifeline for me back to Australia. I’m also not looking forward to receiving these journals in the mail, because they will remind me, once again, of the fact that I am now almost as far away as I can be from Australia without going into space.

Overland’s Facebook … ehm … avatar recently posed a question via its status update along the lines of ‘would anyone notice if a literary journal went on strike?’ While the question was asked in the context of industrial action at Victoria University in Melbourne, where Overland is based, I think it’s also a question that’s relevant to all Australian literary magazines, including Cordite.

Would anyone notice if Overland, Meanjin, Voiceworks, GDS, Cordite, FourW and/or about a hundred others all went on strike, at the same time, for a period of one year? Cynics would reply ‘probably not’, but I think that’s a lazy response to a deliberately provocative rhetorical question.

Feel free to contradict me but I’m pretty sure the Australia Council would notice. Therefore the Federal government would be obliged to notice. The contributors to each of these magazines would definitely notice, as their works would no longer be distributed. The thousands of people who regularly submit their unpublished work to these magazines would also notice when their envelopes started returning unopened, unacknowledged. Australia Post would notice.

The readers of and subscribers to these magazines would notice. The editors of other magazines would notice that their contemporaries and rivals were on strike. No doubt The Age would notice, and promptly publish one of their appalling template stories about the decline of Australian magazines. This would lead to The Age‘s readership noticing.

The Age would also hopefully stop publishing a poem a week in A2. The advertisers and copy-editors would notice. The publishers of Best Australian Poe(try)ms would have no material for their 2009 anthologies. The right wing ‘opinion leaders’ would pretend to notice but secretly not notice. Blogs blessed with a chatty readership would discuss the issue briefly, with compulsory bad haiku from their most smart-arsed interlocutors.

The greeting card industry would probably benefit. Don’t ask me how, it’s just a hunch. The environment might also benefit from the reduced use of tree-based paper products, if it weren’t for the obscenity of the entire book industry’s continual pillaging of limited resources. People who hate literature and literary magazines would be triumphant, until they realised they now had to find something else to hate and destroy.

Dear Overland, please do not go on strike. If you did, where else could I read an article such as Alexis Wright’s brilliant essay on Oodgeroo? Who else would publish political, aggressive, challenging, cantankerous and creative literary works with a brain? What would I have to look forward to receiving in the mail, if you and every other Australian literature magazine just disappeared?


  1. Congratulations! Getting in ‘Overland’ is still a major acheivement. You convinced me, too. Some people would notice but far fewer would care. I’m still unsure of the benefit of being publishing in these magazines. Seems a long slow career path to me, but I guess it depends on what you are trying to achieve and I can certainly understand the connection it gives you to your homeland where the sun is shining and the beach is beckoning (sorry).

  2. Hi Paul,

    I’m a bit confused about the whole thing myself – and you’re right, there’s a difference between noticing and caring. For some people I guess the point of submitting to these magazines is a) the payment (not much but better than nothing) b) the glory (see previous comment) and/or c) to demonstrate a track record of publication when applying for grants. That being said, I just enjoy reading them … and yes, dreaming of sunshine and sand. Thanks for that!

  3. I didn’t know you were the editor of ‘Cordite’, Davey. What a cool job. And coincidentally, the only ejournal poetry thingy I subscribe to. Can I be in it, haha? Sorry, insufficient schmoozing. I will go and look at the proper process. Is there an article on ‘musicality in contemporary poetry’? I reckon it’s gonna be a hot topic. And speaking of hot, whew, thank goodness for airconditioning.

  4. I would definitely notice if they went on strike! what no poetry!! Iz in newz ‘n’ mags where I lernz all I lernz about here and now, and my top shelf where I remember all I lerned once upon timez as undergrad.

    Hope you had a lovely white Christmas, David, and that all your mags came in.

Express yourself