Archive | May, 2012

Going Down Swinging still going strong (1989)

17 May

First Published in Editions Issue 2 September 1989

Going Down Swinging Issue 9, 1989

Distribution has always been a problem for small literary magazines. The eco­nomics of producing a literary magazine means that, in most cases, editors would have to pay one of the mainstream distribu­tors to take on their products. Most maga­zines, therefore, rely on direct sales to a handful of more or less sympathetic book­shops and subscribers. Even here, howev­er, things are not all they should be. Bookshops will generally take between 25% to 40% of the retail price of the magazine and, as most bookshops will only take mag­azines on a ‘sale or return’ basis, the editors only get paid for the number of issues sold (or so the theory goes). Building up a sub­scription list can be just as daunting.

Without the funds for effective publicity campaigns most magazines are forced to rely on ‘word of mouth’ and mentions or free ads in other magazines to attract poten­tial subscribers.

There have been various attempts to change this situation by setting up co-oper­ative based small press distribution net­works and small press publicity campaigns. But to set up such a project costs money and the funding authorities, for the most part, seem content to hand money out to a handful of magazines on an individual basis rather than to build up an  infrastructure which would help all magazines.

Recently a group of six magazines com­bined resources to produce what they call ‘The Small Press Package’. This scheme is essentially a sampler: for $21.50 you get the current issues of all six mags. Presumably, once you have a copy of all the magazines you can then decide which ones to sub­scribe to.

The six magazines on offer are Going Down Swinging ‘a prose and poetry maga­zine that publishes the writing of new, unknown, and/or young writers’; On the off beat ‘a publisher of women’s short sto­ries and a focus for continuing support of good contemporary women’s fiction’; Studio a Christian literary journal ‘publishing poems, short stories and articles from established, new and aspiring writers’; Brave New Word  ‘a publisher of contempo­rary Australian short stories and poetry, and sometimes interviews related to Australian writing and publishing’; Writing ‘a magazine coordinated by the Victorian Community Writing Committee. Writing gives preference to unpublished, or as yet unpaid writers, and to writing groups’; and The Famous Reporter ‘a short story maga­zine publishing the work of both new and established writers in a wide range of styles and themes’.

One of the most ‘established’ of these magazines is Going Down Swinging which has just published its ninth issue. It was established by Myron Lysenko and Kevin Brophy in 1980 and has produced an aver­age of one issue a year since. Like many magazines it seems to have been born out of a feeling that the existing magazines were ignoring a section of the writing and reading community. In the editorial for the ninth issue Brophy and Lysenko, along with Associate editor Nolan Tyrrel, make the point that it is through magazines like Going Down Swinging that many writers make their first contact with editors. The comment and reaction they receive can be the first steps away from keeping their work to a small circle of friends’. Going Down Swinging has therefore always had a policy of ‘reacting specifically and personally to all submissions’.

Probably as a result of this policy Going Down Swinging has become one of the more innovative magazines in Australia, consistently publishing original, interesting and non-mainstream work by new and/or unknown writers. Issue number nine is a good example of the success of this policy. The work in the issue ranges from the real­ism of Leah Nischler’s opening piece ‘Barbara Cartland does a bunk’ to the fast-moving prose in Doreen Sullivan’s ‘Johnny Fish-Face’ and the measured emotionalism of April Phillips’ (I’m sure that’s a pseudonym) ‘Cage, manger, rack’.

There is also some impressive poetry in this issue. Colleen Farrell’s seven poems stand out. Her opening lines are constantly a particular highlight, an example being the Plath like opening of Ten Tulips’:

‘Do you know the dying stages of a

tulip? I do I’m learning.’

I also liked Rosanne Musu’s descriptive poem ‘Ship building’ and Christine Lindberg’s ‘All that jazz’

It’s interesting to note that the majority of work in this issue of Going Down Swinging is by women. Their confident experimentation is in contrast to the gener­ally ‘safer’ more literary work by the male contributors.

Another strength of Going Down Swinging has always been its reviews and interviews. Over the years it has contained interviews with writers such as Peter Carey and Murray Bail. In this issue there is a very interesting interview with Adelaide writer, performer and, most recently, chil­dren’s verse writer, Jenny Boult. Boult, who has been a long-time champion of small presses paints a gloomy picture of creative writing in the late 1980s: The sixties and seventies were boom years for poetry but the late seventies and eighties have put the lid on it to a great extent… publishers .are tending to publish much more mainstream, popularist kinds of poetry rather than tak­ing risks with new people and different styles of writing.’

If you’re interested in writing outside of the mainstream then Going Down Swinging number nine will provide you with an enjoyable introduction to a range of new(ish) innovative writers. Or better still choose from a cross-section of small liter­ary magazines from the Small Press Sampler.

Going Down Swinging is published once a year and a subscription costs $10.00 for two issues from PO Box 64 Coburg, Victoria 3058. For more information on the Small Press Sampler contact Walleah Publishing, PO Box 319 Kingston, Tasmania 7051. (All six magazines cost $21.50, any five $18.50, any four $15.50, any three $12.50).*

Mark Roberts is an editor  of P76 magazine and has had wide experience in small press publishing. He will be writing a regular col­umn on small presses and magazines for Editions.


*NOTE: The contact details and prices above are now out of date.

  • Going Down Swinging is still very much in existance and can be contacted through it’s website:
  • Brave New Word is also still around – though it will fianlly end publication later this year. It can be contacted through Walleah Press
  • Interesting to note that Walleah Press were responsible for the Small Press Pacakage.

Installing Peace – Peace and Nuclear War in the Australian Landscape. (1985)

14 May

Peace and Nuclear War in the Australian  Landscape. An installation devised and assembled by Darani Lewers, Tanya Crothers and Jan Birmingham. At the Adelaide Festival Centre Gallery March 29 – May 5 (1985), the Gryphon Gallery Melbourne June 8 – July 26 (1985). Ivan Dougherty Gallery Sydney August 17 – September 7 (1985). Previewed by Mark Roberts. First published in Tribune 2369, 27 March 1985

Darani Lewers, Tanya Crothers and Jan Birmingham (left to right) sitting on a section of the 'duck board' whihc weaves through their installation 'Peace and Nuclear War in the Australian Lanscape'. - Photo: Mark Roberts

Darani Lewers, Tanya Crothers and Jan Birmingham (left to right) sitting on a section of the ‘duck board’ which weaves through their installation ‘Peace and Nuclear War in the Australian Landscape’.

Darani Lewers, Jan Birmingham and Tanya Crothers took almost three years to create Peace and Nuclear War in the Australian Landscape. The installation was assembled in a studio situated in an old wool shed in Ultimo, but its official opening will take place in Adelaide on March 30 to coincide with the Palm Sunday Peace Rally.

Dominating the installation are a number of constructions and large hanging canvasses on the theme of peace. These canvasses are divided into two groups. The ‘bush canvasses’ affirm life by evoking natural patterns of birth, growth and regeneration, while the ‘urban canvasses’ are concerned with human cycles of rest, work and leisure. The bush canvasses represent both original, unspoilt images of the Australian countryside and the cultivated landscape of modern agriculture. Pieces of a car, cricket stumps, a goal post, a tennis racquet and a wall of torn posters for rock bands are used in the urban canvasses. The images of peace conveyed by these canvasses is not always a happy one. There is a recognition that pain and suffering can be a basic part of nature. As Jan Birmingham pointed out, “there is a possibility of perfection in nuclear war. Peace is not perfect, but it is infinitely preferable to nuclear war.”

Connecting these various images of peace is an unstable ‘duckbord’. The duckboard was designed and constructed by Frederick Chepeaux and was based on the duckboards at the bottom of trenches in World War One. It snakes its way around the canvases and past various images of war, which, although not as imposing as the peace images, covers a large section of the floor and threatens to engulf peace.

A further dimension is added by the unstable nature of the duckboard. While most of it is built on top of bricks, a number of sections are supported by large inflatable rubber tyre tubes.  When you step onto an unstable section you feel as though you are about to be ‘tipped onto the X-rays of different parts of the human body, assorted charred pieces of ‘human debris and horrific newspaper headlines about nuclear war.

There are two videos incorporated into the body of the installation. Simply titled ‘Peace’ and ‘War’ they were produced for the installation by Sally Bongers and Paul Elliot. A grant from the Music Board allowed the artists to commission a young Sydney composer, Wendy Hiscock, to write a 15 minute piece of music.

The strong emphasis on peace is intended. Jan Birmingham explained how they had begun to work with the idea of using images of war, but realised that powerful sections of the media have appropriated many of the more terrifying images of war and made them seem glamorous and exciting. So the installation now concentrates on “the concept  of making peace stronger”. What is emphasised is not the act of destruction, the mushroom cloud and missile systems, but what would be lost, the familiar images of the Australian landscape which we take for granted.

A number of related activities have been designed to take place around the installation while it is in each city. In Adelaide it will be part of a larger exhibition in the Festival Centre on the theme of Peace and War. A peace conference will also take place in the Centre featuring Dr Trapeznikov from the Soviet Union and Dr Abrahams from the USA.

In Melbourne a seminar run by the Arts and Craft Teachers Association on a proposed peace curriculum will be run in conjunction with the installation. While in Sydney a number of events, including a Conference on Positive Peace Practices and a poetry reading organised by the NSW branch of the Poets Union will take place.

It is hoped that the installation will be able to continue touring after September. But that depends on the amount of support generated over the next six months. So make an effort to get along and see it when it is in your city.