D.J. Huppatz, ‘happy avatar’ in The Australian
Australian poetry: Atherton; Hose; Huppatz; Kocher – review by Michael Farrell in The Australian
The title of DJ Huppatz’s happy avatar… indicates a different concern with the linguistic present, loopily ironising consumer and internet culture. As the apparently found poem Herbal Essences makes clear, unsustainable products often self-accuse. Huppatz’s immersion in flarf (a New York-based poetry movement which produced poems from internet searches, often combined with deliberate bad taste) is apparent: but the tone is less aggressive, happier. happy avatar’s poems have a conceptual and syntactic ease: their register moving in and out of different modes of internet speak.
It may be partly due to the (small) font, but I had the impression of a particular, sentence-based, collage practice, of sentences arranged to fit regular stanzas. Huppatz’s tonal consistency means that linebreaks have barely any effect: “The afterimage of statistics / flicker under a fluorescent tube / and the carnival is so remote / you can only daydream its edges” (Keep Pressing). In On Golden Soil, sound deforms sense (a Russian formalist definition of poetry), yet a personal intonation in the last line has an ironic boggling effect, as if a computer just turned into a person, so of course they are making sense:
Iron or wiggle unwrought in
petrified matter the market
will bear lambast at last on
sunny shores a former silo
now makes a decent cappuccino
Online you forget china’s
peaks and scale time crusts
flooded or quaked rates are
rates but so much of what
goes on is beyond me
Narration veers from super-intelligent to moronic (rutabagas in Hollywood, anyone?) without letting go for a moment. It’s a highly Americanised work, but only, I think, the kind that an outsider can write; and Huppatz uses the approach in order to make local comment: “Whoa, slow down there Banjo, whaddaya / mean there’s a NEW Australian poetry?” (Please Upvote For Great Truth).
The negotiation of internet vernacular is a contemporary experience, and one poetry seems eminently suited to deal with. As is the dissolution — and re-solution — of the subject: “I seem sixty and married … ERROR: invalid access … I should really put in for a raise” (Invalid Access). I don’t want to give the impression of the poems as exercises in ironic knowingness, though that is a risk they take: as much as anything, they seem to be about complicity, of the world as anti-cookie jar, where everyone’s hands smell bad. There is no redemption here, or answers, unless hyper-discomfort can be said to be a form of grace (see Fuzzy-Wuzzy Angels). Yet Huppatz as avatar does seem, in this latest version of impersonality poetics, to be happy.