Poetry, Texas is a lyrical work in which an ensemble of voices, snatches of actuality and compelling narration is woven into a meditation on a fading way of life and beauty within the ordinary. It's a piece in which style and substance figure as enamoured equals engaged in a delightful dance. Malinovski's journey into the heart of the Texan town of Poetry is the central narrative frame of this work. An ensemble cast of fourteen characters including a cowboy called Rooster, Don Strictland, the undeclared mayor of Poetry, schoolchildren, various religious leaders and the local historian gives voice to the community. The sonic frame of Poetry, Texas articulates two distinct aural planes that both extend and enhance the thematic dynamic he develops between the literal and literary meaning of 'poetry’.
Malinovski’s physical journey and the town community are both represented by earthy unrehearsed location recordings. The recordings position the listener as an observer rather than the one spoken to. The material feels experiential and ‘of the moment’; it is steeped in a diegetic sense of a lived environment and continuous timeframe. In contrast, Malinovski’s narration is controlled, scripted and recorded in a dead room with a warm, close microphone. A strong reliance on this form of authorial first-person narration can easily become heavy-handed and narratively swamp and overpower other voices and sounds. Of course the mitigating quality here is the poetic inclination of Malinovski's narration – the degree to which his thoughts, ideas and arguments provide a permeable and playful series of observations, connections and resonant sound-word ideas for listeners to engage with. Like a flip card with a picture of a bird on one side and a cage on the other that is animated through movement, Malinovski manages to capture and express something about Poetry that is intangible, provocative, playful and beautiful with a delightfully light touch.
Kyla Brettle is Lecturer in the Media Program at RMIT University, Melbourne and an independent radio documentary maker. Her work explores the theory and practice of observational radio and the rich affordances of audio in non-fiction storytelling. Her features have been broadcast internationally and she has won Best New Artist at the Third Coast International Audio Festival. She is completing a PhD examining online and participatory audio documentary production. Poetry, Texas received a special commendation from the judges of the Prix Europa 2012.
Recommended CitationBrettle, Kyla, Poetry, Texas: a critical reflection, RadioDoc Review, 1(1), 2014.