My name is Hazel Smith. I am not a talk-show host, poetry’s answer to
Oprah Winfrey. I don’t like public speaking and I can’t crack jokes. I
am probably not even your idea of a poet, since I can’t hang onto
metaphors or hold a monolithic voice.
was born in Britain but I am not quite British, I have sojourned in
Australia but I am not quite Australian. My grandparents left Lithuania
in a hurry and I am often in a rush, but that doesn’t make me
Lithuanian. I am not a violinist though my violin sleeps in a cupboard,
I am not an academic though I have a PhD, and I am not a poet though I
am often held to ransom by the metonymic. But there have to be some
putative commitments, some concessions to containment, some
gatecrashing of normality. And so it seems I am Hazel Smith,
British-Australian, a search term on the internet, a candidate for
lunacy, no more, no less.
My grandfather was one of the first Zionists, which probably makes me a Palestinian.
who have served their time sometimes have their biographies managed for
them. Their address books rubbed out, their photo albums morphed. Your
memories turned to manure, imagine that! And there you are, a prisoner
of alien fantasies, a swerve on the ice-rink of identities, a winter
born on someone else’s summery breath.The
Brits usually send their reinvented killers to Australia because they
think Australia is a convict colony. So much for the British grasp on
forgot to add a few more notes to my list of not ams. I’m not David
Antin though I might like to be, nor Spalding Gray who tragically but
This is my elegy.
when I’m buying a washing machine, or booking a hotel I’m known
fleetingly as Hazel Dean. I’m not ashamed of it either. It takes more
than marriage to wash away a face
therefore I am
Smith. I was born somewhere in the middle of the last century, and ever
since I have been bobbing and berating at the interfaces of massacre,
violence and exclusion. You can smell me in the smoke at Auschwitz,
hear me in the voices of the Taliban, find me amongst stolen Aboriginal
children. But I am as much predator as prey. Everywhere I see fires I
have carelessly lighted, evictions I have callously condoned. In these
contexts I would rather not be than be, but I am terrified of dying and
would like to postpone it for as long as possible, so mostly I would
rather be than not.
If I could be a witness without eyes, a listener without ears. If I could be, as I have said before, a poet without language.
continue — My name is Hazel Smith and I have written a script that I
can speak from. And as you can see I am reading from it, which you are
not supposed to do if you want to be successful in the theatre. So I am
already a poet who has lost her way, a performer without a stage, a
has-been that never could act.In fact it is impossible to keep to what is written on my piece of paper. The more I still the words the more they relocate.
see there are two types of improvisation pure and applied, and there
are two types of talk primary and secondary, and any poem worth talking
about has multiple addressers and addressees
reminds me: I’m Hazel Smith. I am your lecturer for today. I am from
the School of Creative Communication and my topic is the erotics of the
inexact. It is hoped that you will learn something however intangible,
however crass, however profane, however illegal. You will learn but by
the most round about of routes, I will hang myself with academic ropes,
and we will talk and laugh and shout and shit until at last we swoop on
the ultimate and life-defying question
know the one: whether or not I am what I pretend to be or whether I am
simply a landfill of fallen states, the bone of irrelevant contentions.
Despite my initials, my hold on history has slipped. I do not know why
I am speaking to you, and it seems like a senseless exercise in
such moments I am unlikely to be myself, which in these days of
audience participation and writerly intent begs another salient
I am not, who is Hazel Smith, since she is definitely down to speak on
this occasion. Are you Hazel? Or you? Or you? Or you? Come on my dear
audience, own up. Despite all our claims neither of us is what we deny
or seem. No, I am not Hazel Smith, I am not Hazel Smith,
but I can spot all the Hazel Smiths amongst you.
written by (yes) Hazel Smith