Issue 19: Angela Gardner


Architecture, of all the arts, is the one which acts the most slowly, but the most surely, on the soul

                                                                            Ernest Dimnet, What we Live By (1932) pt. 2 chap. 12

1 - Hotels

Hotels must accommodate, the almost alone. Curved hours

of meeting, late not leaving, and trembling bursts of singing.

Windows should overlook, not distance, nor too-close walls

but the voices we give inanimate objects, cameras that comfort

entranceways, and then catch all our unintended compositions

in grainy narratives. Shall we enter these rooms as certainties

we no longer believe, but behind a wash of air-conditioned

conversation, leave as an unintelligible hush of dimmed light?

Remember this is rented space, not just for the business of sex

or gambling, so balconies need only be momentarily giddy.

Money should instead be spent on the loneliness of carparks,

impressive foyers, staff that will not disturb carpeted silence.

In the bar always the same two clients, existing in the almost

visible, almost accessed half-life – the self in empty corridors.

2 – The Private House

It is not surprising that some may turn to Brutalism, but

on steep inclines it can never compete with bright metal.

Why not think of demolition and self-build by androids

rather than the versant psyche? Let large boring machines

provide an in-detail look at how we choose to live.

Exposed heretics upscale Rachmaninoff’s ten preludes

and fill a room more successfully than formal furniture,

though freeing delicate wasps to inhabit overtired rooms

may create interest. Are we coincidental with possessions?

Could we know that for a shroud or a strait-jacket when

it is the sky, motionless and unconnected, that closes in?

I can’t help excavate the foundations of such morality,

but with wallpaper flashcards, lesson plans, worksheets,

we may just teach a house to become a home again.

3 – Shopping Malls

Prevent direct sunlight from entering, but instill belief

in boundless stairs and in blank walls that complement

the factories that produce our shiny fairground things.

These desiring machines should be entered dumbstruck

until all unbearable needs conceal behind sheet glass.

Design to contain, to trammel, and to control. Imprison

at eye-level in static terror close by needful shiny wares

that shove against each other humiliated and pursued.

Our Age’s grand architecture, greater than human scale!

Lower ground this reduces all preferability to degrees

of pleasantness still disconnected and made for landfill.

And while we broil in fat suits to feast on pallid chicken

we know this is the place where people spend their lives…

these are silos of heavy responsibility.

4 – Car Showrooms

While the dollar drops buy anime but discard other therapy.

Choose instant retrieval at nightclubs and find luxury in the

sea’s discreet emotional toll as it sweeps into well-lit atria

or navigates forests of kelp, dense with the latest song titles.

Between dysfunction and happiness are sex machines so big

their interior space can completely fill these sparkling reefs.

Those entering mustn’t realize their worthless flush of skin,

or discern that it is chrome polished to its own quickness;

but be amazed by distance, carefree moments of hardcore

whimsy that will show places in seawater to dive for trinkets.

Where we are is but an aspect of time, as if the mind ready

for release is happening before our past, after our future.

Use the rule of unintended consequences to not turn away,

to not turn back: for love maybe, not for human propulsion.

5 – Piers

Contemplate consoling, without poverty, the ocean’s flow;

the return of a ship to its chain of stars within the liquid sky:

it is a challenge to in-sea building of tangential apparitions

the continuous and undirected movement that washes over.

Novelty sheeting such as sequins should adorn your pier so

at night, in starlight thus festooned, it emanates fragile epilepsy.

Will it walk on water or promenade gently under a weak sun?

Raised walkways depend upon their shape to float or sink

so choose Euclidean figures for firm but lightweight geometry.

Finally to these foundations of difficulty attach a spiny handrail

and landing stage for the rapid exchange of each sweet vice.

The question to ask is – how this structure, so seemingly male,

so hopeful in its quest, wears undergarments of lacy ironwork

so visible and proud, that say - why fix when you can float?

6 – Towers

This isn’t glass or steel we make, but captured sun and

cloud, fastened only with such impossible ideas as built

the towering air itself. While birds will test its heights

have we allowed for music and emotion that may surge

at windows in gusts of light that fill with flapping sky?

Then weld whole blocks of cloud, water or gases into arcs

to resist these high winds in all their unreality. They are

gods - unruly, thunderous, beautiful, and insensitive.

Your roof should forgo both antennae and satellite dish,

instead install a tuning fork of a delicious tonic hum,

to form sky pagodas inside each worker’s puzzled head.

The sky is molten, sheer and un-climbable, so lose your

self, lose sight and overreach, for what could we see

from these heights? Who could we be at these heights?

7 – Bridges

… And so to build a bridge that is interpreted from stones

that are smooth as birds’ eggs, with its many arches thin

shelled in glass fibre concrete. It should be self-anchored

and knowable, and never once delimited by its function.

The dimensions of it are deep and difficult to calculate;

the approach to it a long and curving anticipation, so that

the lights upon its far shore may mimic migrating geese.

Under construction, it could resemble psychology,

as much as steel, to cope with the unequal pressure.

Let it underpass or overpass as required. And although

you’ll improvise upon the builder’s central piers, ability

to carry us over obstacles; it will be our own imperative

to leap cleanly over spaces, that will, by clever thievery,

show us a width of sky below its span.

8 – Pleasure Grounds

Let us speak pleasingly of affinities and a place of pleasure

where brief doves wash full stops from many hours of repose

and almost perfect cloud-grapple escapes the walls of reason.

Only yesterday the rush to know: for things to start at the end

and pleasure and beauty not to be such obvious beginnings.

Recall idleness. Question plenitude: windows and rainstorms,

our strict observance of a world that is now a store of wealth,

our pittance of crows, and stones, the tail ends of our journeys.

Quietus isn’t an entry condition, so I wouldn’t start from there:

instead use the steps of an escalator as they topple at the brink.

In some ways it is best to avoid the infinitive although you can

be guided by available materials such as milksops and honey.

You may include sundry domes and various other pleasances

include a final scent: a lover’s mind, our own…

9 – Demolition

During dissolution, breakages, concrete rubble, corroded metal

pipes or rusted wire, will trail unread onto the wrecked walls.

We’ll long to build our plinths not in tiles or vitreous enamel,

but using shadows and malaise … in dark materials that require

us to abandon the bright-coloured machinery of prior projects.

To look instead for an imperfect backdrop to install our signs

that must point to missing objects of no obvious purpose.

Build silhouettes: of hoppers, wheeled cauldrons and trolleys

that lack any opening to interpretation or to the story world.

Through this state of grace withheld, they’ll bring the ultimate

excuse for paradox and the libretto of trucks. Precision objects

that are from such decay reconstructed, cannot achieve posterity.

Designate days of hardship, resist self mutilation’s understorey

–   much can be made from indirect entropy and preformed lulls.

Angela Gardner’s first poetry collection Parts of Speech (UQP, 2007) won the Thomas Shapcott Arts Queensland Poetry Prize, then followed Views of the Hudson (Shearsman Books UK), and two fine press collaborations twelve labours, with visual artist Gwenn Tasker and The Night Ladder with artist Lisa Pullen, all 2009. Her poems have been anthologised multiple times in the ‘Best Australian Poetry’ series most recently in 2017. She has received a Churchill Fellowship, an Australia Council Literature Residency among other awards, residencies and commissions. Her most recent collections are The Told World (selected poetry) Shearsman Books UK and Thing&Unthing, Vagabond Press, Sydney both 2014 and a chapbook, with artist Caren Florance, The future, unimagine, Recent Work Press & Ampersand Duck, Canberra, 2017. A manuscript Some Sketchy Notes on Matter is currently shortlisted for the Dorothy Hewitt Award for an Unpublished Manuscript 2018. She edits at Thanks to the editors of Magma where 'Piers' first appeared (# 54). 'Pleasure/Demolition' an artwork by Caren Florance using words from the poem was recently shown at the 2017 Nonesuch Art Of Paper Awards, Canada.