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Michael Farrell: a note on Googlecholia

The award-winning Melbourne poet Michael Farrell reflects on Googlecholia (October 2022), his latest poetry book following Family Trees (2020).

Googlecholia is my sixth book with Giramondo, but its publication is not something I take for granted. The book’s title obviously alludes to melancholia, which, in the context of long-term depression, might be seen as a relatively manageable period. Elsewhere I have referred to the affects associated with using the internet as a writing resource (in a conventional research sense, rather than, what used to be called, the ‘google sculpting’ of Flarf, and the wholesale appropriations of what was conceptual poetry). 

The titling has come to seem less neutral since first writing the manuscript, as I began to suffer from screen sickness, due to severe depression and anxiety, exacerbated by Melbourne’s lockdowns. (Writers – be careful.) During this time (about eight months) I found it difficult to look at my phone – let alone make calls – use my laptop, or watch TV. I could not read or write. In my morbidity, I sent the manuscript to Giramondo more as a safekeeping gesture, than as an expression of readiness. Eventually I emerged from the worst of it, and was able to work further on the book. 

The forms of the poems themselves vary. While some appear relatively standard, in terms of type and stanza, the newest poems (‘In The Year Of Our Modernism 1922’, ‘The Big Blue Play’, ‘Where Her Refers To Lydia Davis Or Proust’) attempt to unsettle these forms; to resist verisimilitude. While experimentalism, as a framework, can defuse the impact of specific experiments, for myself, in this case, it keeps the writing alive to poetry’s possibilities: not just in terms of form (in its various aspects), but in terms of what can be said, and the range of voice deployed: the positions and positioning of voice. 

More recently I have been writing new poems, so, hopefully, the books will continue. 

— Michael Farrell

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