Hazel Smith

The Accountants (or Brexit for Breakfast)

Should we hold a referendum on reality? There are a lot of different ways of counting votes. 

We could set off an emergency evacuation, then everyone would have to leave the world.

The backroom operators have disappeared before their time. The deals are locked in 
showrooms, until someone throws them away.  

Dubbed speech is out of synch. Teleprompters everywhere are refusing to convey what they 
are told. 

Have you heard the news about the universe? They say it refuses to remain. 

The ocean is turning into plastic, whales are being swallowed whole by sharks.

Everyone is confused about entrances and exits. Imperial perfumes have lost their fetid 
smell; royal titles their inherited sway.  

Red lines are morphing into mothballs, yellowhammers strut their dwindling prey.  

The economics of the casino, proroguing as a national sport. 

The girl with the scarred face is the only positive thinker in the room.  


Faking It Lee Israel forged the letters of literary luminaries to boost her flagging bank balance but the main satisfaction was planting writing even better than that she parroted is forgery creative rather than contemptible? authenticity types with many hands sprouts hybrid languages the experts (blindfold) could not tell the Stradivarius from the cheap contemporary model Picasso once said he ‘would sign a very good forgery’ as if reproduction could summon up the real and the self might swap places with a shade (if I found my violin was a fake I would still enjoy playing it) a man sometimes forged his wife’s signature arguing she would have penned it had she been there she presumably agreed to this eclipsing intimacy some fake pleasure finding reward in counterfeiting or trying to live up to what they think others want to hear some never seem to be telling the truth even when they are (artificial flowers are not the same as artificial intelligence) sporting hero dopers may outgrow those who stayed spotless — some of my students probably plagiarised their poems without my discerning it — but does a trophy shine when dulled with fake attainment? a friend sharing a hoax on his Facebook page did not realise it was a trick you cannot survive in a world where you believe everyone is telling lies advertisements sell fake tablets for arthritis didgeridoos and boomerangs mass-produced in Bali politicians repeat stale mantras as experts pile on proof that everything they said was phony it is 1475 fake news is big in Trento the claim: the Jewish community had murdered a two-and-a-half-year-old Christian infant Simonino all the Jews in the city arrested tortured fifteen burned at the stake sometimes writers parody themselves known for a distinctive style they are doomed to adopt it many a poem struggling to be sincere seems false a robot could do better
Emergent Emergencies she engaged with the plants and the birds, beyond names, beyond taxonomies sometimes in a restaurant I finger the flowers to test if they are artificial the mis-capes of our senses, the mistakes of imaginations she realised now how much she used synaesthesia as a technique and toolbox it was unclear from the muggy conference paper what the speaker was mistily proposing his home was a converted warehouse where he held gigs for the underplayed they mapped their indigenous homelands together with him to resist the threat of mining the island of Sommarøy self-declared itself as the world’s first time-free zone kingdoms that had previously been united started breaking into tiny pieces is my microphone on? she asked, igniting the loose switch of hearing a woman woke up from a coma after twenty-seven vaporised years for enjoying music, you are more of a performer than a listener don’t treat as a metaphor that which is completely literal who killed Dag Hammarskjöld: do we even know that he was murdered? the girl never looked up from her phone in eye-assaulting surroundings she was blind but saw concrete objects, he pierced the world through a muting haze melting ice and psychological meltdowns made for a cosmic cocktail

When she read the letter again, she felt the same dismay as when she first encountered it. It was surprising that the letter had survived, interred under other letters. It was over forty years old, part of an era before email. It should have been torn up or burnt; it would have been better if it had been, but it had endured.

The letter had been in a box with other letters and although she had sorted methodically through that box several times, she had never found it. Then suddenly, when she opened the box yet again, it rose up still alive, unlike its author or the sentiments it transmitted.

The box was the archive she had made of her mother’s papers. Her mother had snatched the letter from her and then kept it. She had saved it as evidence but evidence of what?

She had a choice because she could avoid reading it again. At the moment she could only remember the tone and the drift and not the actual words. She did not need to invite the letter back in, allow it through the door.

But the letter offered itself like a sick temptation and so she did read it. It was still disturbing even though so much time had passed and everything in the letter had been resolved and no longer mattered. The pain was quieter, much quieter, but it was still drawing breath. Nothing in it was meant or felt anymore. Yet those words had been said, and words cannot be reversed, though they can be forgiven.

The letter had been written to try and stop her from marrying. But marry she did.

She did not want other people to read it and it would have a different import for them. Only she could unpick its code. Only she could know that its threats were not really threats and had evaporated, as if they had never been.

Only she could grasp that the sender had never wanted to write the letter in the first place.

Much had happened since she had last read the letter. She had acquired a context for it; she could see it in a less destructive light. She still disagreed with it, she brooded about why anyone — let alone a father — would pen such a letter, but she also understood it a little more.

The letter was present in every other letter she received even though it was a remnant from the past. It had outgrown itself, had evolved beyond the moment in which it was written and the fear that induced it. It was warning and incentive, meaning and its collapse.

It formed the basis of everything she had since read, everything she had since written.

Cool Shrug

tall gesture    road mine    bloated stance    unsafe dousing    changing lunacy    shuddering reminder resisting incest    buoyant depletions    dreamt menstruating    unsettled chicken    cool shrug    suddenly seen    ideas squinted    deftly counting    assumed ambit    chickenfeed composite     burbling tombs  sense unwrapped    plaza wavering    unsettling cooking    nearby homebody    child’s absorption

unsafe road    tall tombs    child’s shrug    unwrapped chicken    composite ideas    incestuous burbling buoyant wavering     bloated homebody    sudden dreams    deftly cooked    seen resistance     changing absorption    assumed menstruation    depleted stance     nearly counting    chickenfeed sense    doused plaza    cool reminder    squinting lunacy    mined ambit    unsettling gesture    cool shuddering

burbling stance    bloated gesture    composite shudder    dousing tombs    unsettled plaza    chickenfeed stance    tall ideas    coolest depletions    suddenly deft    changing shrug    homebody squinting    dreamt reminder    mine child    wavering absorption    buoyant resistance    nearly lunatic    cooked chicken assumed road    unsafe ambit    incest unwrapped    menstrual counting

Hazel Smith has published four volumes of poetry including Word Migrants, Giramondo, 2016, and numerous performance and multimedia works. In 2018, with Will Luers and Roger Dean, she was awarded first place in the Electronic Literature Organisation’s Robert Coover prize for the work novelling. Hazel is an Emeritus Professor in the Writing and Society Research Centre, Western Sydney University. She has written several academic books including most recently The Contemporary Literature-Music Relationship: intermedia, voice, technology, cross-cultural exchange, Routledge, 2016. Her web page is at www.australysis.com

She writes that Cool Shrug "is a computer-assisted poem. The words were generated by Roger Dean by means of machine learning (deep learning) techniques in the computer platform Python. They were then algorithmically (and non-computationally) organized by the author."
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