Landscape Photography With Dogs, an e-chapbook by Coral Hull in this issue.
More poems by Coral Hull in our Winter issue.
Coral Hull is the Editor of Thylazine, an electronic journal of contemporary Australian art and literature on landscape and animals.
Photo of Coral Hull by Iain Fraser copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.
Images of thylazines, Thylazine Logo, all written quotes, used by permission of Coral Hull copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.
Other interviews in The Drunken Boat:
An E-view with Coral Hull
Editor of Thylazine
By Rebecca Seiferle
Coral Hull was born in Paddington, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia in 1965. She is the author of twenty-five books of poetry, prose fiction and digital photography. Her work has been published in literary magazines in the USA, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. She is also the Editor of The Book of Modern Australian Animal Poems, an anthology of Australian poets writing about animals from 1900-1999. She has lectured and read poetry at various venues, festivals and conferences both in Australia and internationally. Her published books are: In The Dog Box Of Summer in Hot Collation, (poetry), Penguin Books Australia, 1995, William's Mongrels in The Wild Life, (poetry), Penguin Books Australia, 1996, Broken Land, (poetry), Five Islands Press, 1997, How Do Detectives Make Love?, (poetry), Penguin Books Australia, 1998, Remote, (photography), Thylazine Publishing Australia, 2000, Zoo (with John Kinsella/poetry), Paperbark Press, 2000, Inland, (photography), Zeus Publications, 2001 and “A Note For Johnny”, (chapbook), 2River Press, 2001. Her forthcoming books include; Holy City, (poetry), Vagabond Press, 2001, Bestiary, (poetry), Salt Publishing, 2001, Gangsters, (novella), Jacobyte Books, 2001 and The City of Detroit Is Inside Me, (novella), Jacobyte Books, 2001. Coral is an animal rights advocate and the Editor of Thylazine, an electronic literary journal featuring articles, interviews, photographs and the recent work of Australian writers and artists working in the areas of landscape and animals. She completed a Bachelor of Creative Arts Degree (Creative Writing Major) at the University of Wollongong in 1987, 1st Year of a Bachelor of Visual Arts Degree (Conceptual Art) at the South Australian College of Advanced Education in 1990, a Master of Arts Degree at Deakin University in 1994, and a Doctor of Creative Arts Degree (Creative Writing Major) at the University of Wollongong in 1998. Her awards include: Second Prize and Commended, Eaglehawk Arts Festival Literary Competition, 1985; Winner of The Philip Larkin Poetry Prize, The University of Wollongong, 1987; Winner of HM Butterfly F Earle Hooper Award, The University of Sydney, 1993; Highly Commended in The Red Earth Poetry Open Category, Northern Territory Literary Awards, 1995; Commended in the Poetry Book Club of Australia's Seventh Selection, Wollongong University, 1997; Winner of The Victorian Premiers Award, C.J. Dennis Prize for Poetry, 1998; Shortlisted for the Queensland Minister of the Arts Poetry Prize, 1999; Shortlisted for the Adelaide Festival John Bray Poetry Award, 2000.
Seiferle: Perhaps you'd like to begin by introducing Landscape Photography with Dogs. What particular forces brought this work into existence?
Hull: My two dog companions Binda and Kindi have travelled and lived with me for twelve years during my photographic and writing excursions in outback Australia. I think they have seen more of Australia than most people. I brought these two dogs into my life at a time when a marriage between mental poverty and physical poverty existed. My friend Nicki and I shared an old house with no running water, six dogs and sixty mice in South Australia. We lived on cheap noodles and jars of peanut butter for months priding ourselves on the ability to get by on 50 cent meals. Meanwhile we spent out dole cheques rescuing and feeding dogs from local pounds and shelters and trying to save the world. This kept us going longer than the food did, even when I had been very ill for many months. My will to help others was a way of keeping my head above my own situation. Binda and Kindi who were just pups at the time slept across my stomach and in my bed and in many ways they saved my life. After another severe breakdown I was forced to regain my health so that I could look after them. I cannot imagine what living would be like without them. What my dogs have experienced so have I and vice versa. Our eyes have scanned the same landscapes and have been lit up by the same sunsets. Our feet have walked on the edges of the same oceans and through the same city parks. Whilst writing my Master of Arts exegesis I looked back into my work and found dogs in abundance throughout most of my books. Dogs allow me to learn about a landscape by my observations of their actions. They teach me how to enjoy the world and how to live entirely in the present moment. By painting portraits of dogs interacting with environments, I am painting my own portrait. Dogs are free to be themselves and in doing so, they give me that same freedom. They are great teachers by example and hence the perfect companions. I remain truly amazed by all animals and wouldn't necessarily describe myself as your typical dog lover. They are love and that's what its really all about – landscape photography with love.
Seiferle: Is Landscape Photography with Dogs representative of your current work?
Hull: It is a selection of my work which spans a seven year period.
Seiferle: Since you've recently gone onto the internet with a magazine Thylazine: Australian Arts and Literature on Landscape and Animals, how has that influenced your work as a poet? What is your aim with the magazine?
Hull: My aim involving Thylazine is to promote Australian Arts and Literature on landscape and animals. On a personal level the intense process work involved in publishing an ezine gives me a necessary break from my writing and photography and provides a venue where I am able to put some of my other skills such as editing and publishing to good use. It also provides a sense of poetry community. I have always worked voluntarily for some kind of charity involving animals and the environment, so I thought why not combine creative arts as well. I enjoy giving Australian poets and artists an international presence through electronic promotion. The down side to Thylazine, which remains unfunded by the Literature Fund for the Australia Council for the Arts, is that there is a lot of hard unpaid work involved and for this reason I do have to give myself time out from the ezine, in order to get back to my own work. After just two issues Thylazine is already being used as a research tool by students and academics and is archived in the National Library of Australia and The State Library of New South Wales.. Thylazine was also listed as one of the top four internet magazines in the country by Jane Sullivan in the Melbourne Age during 2000, alongside Jacket, Masthead and Text Publishing. I also might add that Thylazine has been temporarily closed down whilst John Kinsella (Australian poet and publisher) and myself raise the money from the public domain and continue to apply for arts funding from the Australia Council for the Arts. The good news is that the next two issues of Thylazine are presently in production, and the archives, directories and photo gallery which remain online are updated regularly.
Seiferle: Do you find that being an internet editor/publisher provides new venues and sources of energy for your work as a poet?
Hull: It certainly provides me with a sense of a global poetry community. I am a minimalist who believes that precious paper books that once belonged to forests should now belong in public libraries available to all. Hence I own a notebook and access the world's greatest library via the internet, whilst donating all my hard copy books and journals to libraries in the poorer suburbs or rural areas. I would also prefer to have my work accessed by as many people and a wider audience as possible, which electronic publishing either as a download or via CD Rom allows me to do. The ebook and ezine are definitely my choice of publication over paper and cardboard. In some ways I would prefer to get published in some fluro underground ezine in New York City than a stale old academic journal in Western Australia that takes fifty thousands years to get published in and reaches 500 people. But why not send to both? The electronic revolution deconstructs the power base of an elite literary institution and gives those who can at least afford a computer and internet access the right to learn and be heard. Australian poet John Tranter writes about this in his ezine Jacket.
Seiferle: Can you explain the title of your magazine, Thylazine, and its significance.
Hull: The Thylacine was an Australian wolf. What made it unique is that it was also a marsupial, an mammal which carries its young in a pouch like a kangaroo or a platypus. Unfortunately the Thylacine was hunted to extinction (along with the Tasmanian aborigines) since the colonization of the country 1788. The last Thylacine died in captivity in Hobart Zoo in Tasmania on 7th September, 1936. I was recently at a Thylacine exhibition at the Australian Museum in Sydney. The first exhibit was a television set placed behind bars in a darkened room and playing on the television was a single Thylacine captured in black and white film restlessly pacing the cage of the Hobart Zoo. The same film played over and over again until it became emotionally unbearable. This was the last Thylacine in existence and I felt that acute sense of loss that is more than just about individual death – but instead a species death. Our ancestors had robbed the Thylacine, not only as an individual sentient being, but also its complete existence as a species and in doing so, they had robbed Australia of an intense and beautiful aspect of itself and in doing that, they robbed all the future generations of the pleasure in knowing that something as amazing as the Thylacine was still out there, somewhere. We hardly know these days whether it was there at all, or simply a mythological creature and a symbol of human stupidity. People still search for the Thylacine. I wrote about this is my first editorial..
Seiferle: I was most struck in one of your conversations with Emma Lew by your sense of your work as extracted from the earth, from the particular landscapes of Australia. Do you feel that the earth, the particular regions where you have grown up and worked, is the power behind your work?
Hull: I grew up in the poorer suburbs of Sydney which ironically positioned me in close physical proximity with the natural world. I don't believe that I romanticise about nature as I do find a lot of it without empathy, but despite its horror there is something very spiritual in it for me. My recent photographic work book of photography involving the documentation of eight of Australia's well known outback tracks is teaching me how I see and document. During the course of my creative projects, I have spent a considerable amount of time in remote locations outside Australian cities and involved in landscape documentation. Each of Australia's inland tracks are unique in both their geographical location, cultural characteristics and their historical significance. In many ways a track appears to be a cross between a landscape and a highway, as though it hasn't made up its mind yet, as to what it will become. My intention is to take Australian icons such as windmills, snakes, barbed wire, water tanks, wrought iron, and reinterpret them. Each individual moment along a track of 'civilisations past' is beyond itself, opening itself to vastness and wilderness and there is an intensity or a sudden richness to the debris. I have a particular interest in ruins and how they settle into the landscape and how the landscape settles into them. I photographed railway fettler's cottages, old bores and various landscapes and historical landmarks. Tracks made by humans in arid areas often follow water sources. Features of the abandoned ruins included twisted sheets of corrugated iron, dusty broken windows, peeling paint, decaying wood, broken-down machinery, old and new graffiti – they are silent remote places haunted by wind, time and birds such as galahs and zebra finches. I am interested in the historical significance of the track(s) as well as the atmosphere, the reason, the consequences and the naturally occurring landscapes beyond them. My primary motivation in the documentation of Australia's tracks is psychological. The journey is internally complex as much as geographic. Each track represents a new environment or 'life.' It's like wiping the slate clean and starting out on a new route which is devoid of pain, unhindered by preconceptions, crowded by dreams and which provides limitless possibilities. There exists both a purity and sensuality in the remote location. The outback track is my way into a situation that allows me to simply live or perhaps to make the world into what I want it to be. The book will be about what is beyond the Track as much as about the actual track itself. The project makes the photographic interpretation an unconscious process before the immense life and landscape of remote places in Australia.
Seiferle: Much of your work is preoccupied with the intersection of the human and the animal realms, where the child is caught “in the dog box of summer” with a dog, a pet, who is her first true other. Is rescuing one realm rescuing another? That is, do you see, human and animal life as intimately intwined, and poetry as a means of giving utterance to both?
Hull: Absolutely. I developed an empathy with animals through my own experiences earlier in my life. This empathy brings a vividness or intensity to my experience today. A black cockatoo flying through a rainbow in the tropics can be so intense, that I have to sit down in order to conserve some part of myself in light of it all. The situation seems simple enough at first glance, but the closer you get to that situation the more complex and unknowable it all becomes - from the muscular action of the cockatoo's wing beats during flight, to how the dark breast feather repells water to how all the equatorial light refracts from droplets inside the rainbow. Often it's too overwhelming for words and I can only be amazed. One day I hope to be able to adequately describe animals and landscape. It is obvious at this point that I may easily and happily spend all my life trying to do it. As previously mentioned, I have also worked in various animal and environmental groups over the years. What attracted me away from the arts and into politics was that with political action and hands on work, there is an immediate sense of satisfaction and the illusion of speed. When all the sentient beings that you love in the world are suffering speed is of great importance. Poetry seems a very slow way of saving a rapidly dying world. I wanted to be right there in the line of fire in the presence of heroic people, with the crippled battery hen rescued from the cages on a farm safely in my arms, so to speak. But art has won out in the end due to its purity and depth. There is too much corruption involved in environmental politics which is just not me. When money and power are involved there is always compromise and it is only the animals, the cause and the art that can suffer. Of course this corruption is all too evident in the art world or any institution that involves human weakness, hence my decision to stay on the outside of things. I would like to educate through my work but mainly my purpose is an exploration of experience and the search for truth. My dream is to start an animal sanctuary and writer's retreat where I can attempt to create heaven on earth, not only through art but again in the physical world.