Tuesday, November 25, 2014

CHARLES BOER, R.I.P.


[From Stuart Pearce, Melbourne]
24-11-14

Hi Kris
 

I only just got this. I’m extremely upset. I only communicated with him a few weeks ago. To think that was the last…
Please remember to add me to your list of events at the bookshop.
Keep in touch
 

Stuart


oOo


[From: Jay Livernois [mailto:jaylivernois@hotmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, 20 November 2014 3:32 AM

Dear Friends,

I just learned from The Overlook Hospice that Charles Boer died last night in his apartment in Southbridge, Massachusetts, peacefully, at about 10pm. April (his caregiver) was with him, he had his supper, was just getting ready for bed, went unconscious, and passed. He lived much longer than the 3 months he was originally told that he had and got to see the Red Sox go from last (2012) to first (won World Series 2013) to last (2014), have another season eating his beloved Morse Farm corn, finally got to see all the episodes of The Sopranos (whom he called the personification of Bronze Age Man and ethics), and enjoyed another year or so of seasons when he thought he wasn't going to have any. I know that I am not the only one to greatly miss his genius, friendship, wit, humor, and generosity.
I plan on having a funeral service, burial, and a noon-time memorial meal for him in Southbridge on a Saturday in the near future. It will be private, so if you would like to attend, please email me.

Yours sadly,

J

oOo

[From Kris Hemensley, email]

Dear Stuart, Just looking at my emails and find your sad news... Deep condolences to you... Shocking despite the length of Charles Boer's illness, especially to the intimates of whom you are one...

I had the barest connection as you know --I read him of course and we exchanged letters in '72 --but since our own serendipitous meeting at the bookshop & much talking with you this last year or so I've felt closer. Charles Boer for me was a part of the Olson family; family for all of its divergences. Which is another way of saying he was a contributor to that most fantastic 20th/21st Century scholarship & imagination channeled through a very particular Anglo-American poetry in which the classics appeared as contemporary as anything of the present day. I especially liked the suggestivity & adjacency of the Olson/Black Mountain and Jung/Hillman/Eranos/Spring projects.

All best wishes, and through you to Charles Boer's family & friends. Chin up & cheers,

Kris Hemensley

Sunday, November 9, 2014

MYTHS & TEXTS



MYTHS & TEXTS


Ive signed & inscribed it "from Retta, Myer's sale, Feb. 68" --amazement & glee when she presented Gary Snyder's little book, Myths & Texts, to me. Avant-garde hunter gatherers in them thar days. The shining lights of the New Writing ever in our sights. Golden season of Franklin's bookshop in Russell Street throughout '66, first year of my emigration, when every visit turned up something --a paperback Kerouac, Holmes or Brossard, Broyard, Cassil, Mandel (a hardback), Salinger, Mailer et al… And continued after I met Loretta, --through '67, '68, all & any of the many Melbourne bookshops --Gaston Renard, the Russian Bookshop, Cheshires, the Anchorage, --but Franklin's by far the best 2nd hander…

In February '68 I'm in the lap of luxury having been let go by the Education Department (Technical Division), advised before end of term, December '67, that I wouldn't be re-employed at Williamstown Tech after the summer holiday, yet fully paid for the entire period! Friends told me to go to the Teachers Union and fight it. The Union said it was a strange case since a sacking before end of school year normally meant no holiday wages at all. Unless I seriously wanted a teaching career they advised me to take the money & run!  I'd known from the moment I set foot at Williamstown Tech that the Principal couldn't handle my looks or my books --long hair in a pony tail, poetry anthologies & anarchist tracts --and the Teachers Union anti-conscription petition I pinned up on the staff notice-board the last straw --unless it was the cricket match I unilaterally abandoned (defacto sports master & umpire in addition to my English & Social Studies brief) when one team's Anglo-Australian boys and the Greeks & others of the opposition attacked each other with bats & stumps --'race riot' as I declared it, occasioned by the Greeks belting the Aussies around the park, wielding cricket bats as though baseball clubs, not guarding their wicket, no technique, solely eye & instinct… Next day at the staff meeting, a more liberal minded teacher than most, a literary man, Tennessee Williams enthusiast, interceded in my castigation. If Mr H agreed, he said, he'd gladly cane the perpetrators, beat some respect into them! Culture & race had nothing to do with it, discipline was the key, he said!

Another teacher I occasionally spoke to, Mrs Brass, sympathised with me about the incident. Over the years I've thought her husband was the journalist Douglas Brass because of their shared name and memory of her reading & discussing articles in The Australian for which he was a columnist, but it isn't so.  Additionally Ive found her on the Web described as teaching at Williamstown High, so perhaps she was only temporarily at the Tech school. Like me she wasn't trained but hired on interview in that uncredentialed era. Ruth Brass was from Germany and if we spoke in the staff-room I'm sure my friendship with Inge Timm & visiting her in Soest, Westphalia in '65 would have cropped up. She was connected with the Goethe Institute in Melbourne and the thought begins to percolate that late '70s, when Walter Billeter introduced me to its splendid library, I may have talked to her there and perhaps brought up our earlier Williamstown connection!

Peter Norman was my head of humanities, an athlete, to whom I told the story of visiting the great Percy Cerutty at his famous Portsea training camp, under the wing of my friend Kelvin Bowers, British middle-distance junior champion, whom I'd met on the migrant boat in '66, & who'd been invited to train there. I remember Peter as often around the corridor in track suit as in shirt & tie. I probably thought he was quicker on his feet than tongue. I'd picked up he was Christian and though he generally agreed with my anti-war politics, didn't sign the anti-conscription petition. I was appalled. Only a year later imagine the surprise when I saw my regular-guy colleague in the Black Power protest on the hundred metres medal podium at the Mexico City Olympics?  A la Spike Milligan, had I played a part in the Aussie sprinter's radicalisation? Nah!  That was the era and zeitgeist impossible to buck, or what?

I'd've been home in my tiny rented terrace cottage in Canning Street, Carlton, next to the all-night thumping of the bakery and its permanent bread-dough aroma, almost suffocating in mid-summer, the bread smells trapped in the airless heat. I'm typing poems or letters, being paid by the Education Department essentially to sit on my arse, read, study, be a poet, when Loretta came in with her prize! Perhaps I'm psyching myself up to fulfil the curtain-raiser for Michael Hudson's production of Peter Schumann's Bread & Puppet Theatre at the La Mama cafe-theatre around the corner in Faraday Street, Betty Burstall's good idea to justify the night's billing of such a short play, and redeemed she was when our poetry began pulling an audience in its own right. It  grew another leg when Bill Beard joined me, so that Mike's Bread & Puppet appeared to be supporting us!  But here it is, my God, Gary Snyder's Myths & Texts, published by Corinth Books, "in conjunction with Totem Press/Le Roi Jones" --wow-ee! What on earth was it doing, engulfed by bad popular fiction, romance, thrillers, on a sale table in the book department of Melbourne's flagship department store? The only copy, the only poetry book! What were the odds that Retta should find it? Incredible!

[22/26-5-14]


oOo


On misty, damp, after-rain morning, writing as I stand in doorway section of smooth-running stop-all-stations train from the 'Garth & Creek's quasi rurality into the Big Smoke, surrounded by pleasant hum of commuter small-talk --like I'm Walt & not Gary Snyder, subject of the memorandum I'm heading to, --Walt & not Gary, definitively, because in Gary's poetry the daily milieu is foil or natural context but its candour never so grown & substantially remarked as in Walt's inexhaustible ledger, small glint of which is mine here --and plainly isn't the point of it, isn't his ideology,  like Walt's Song of this and Song of that, determined to include everyone & everything within the call's special ring, like an auctioneer in Kentucky or, nodding back through the years to my sister Monique who sent me its postcard, the Appleby Horse Fair, long long ways as these may be from Camden, New Jersey --hoo! Gary, hoo!


*

And chatting with Chris Wallace-Crabbe one morning in the Shop, on his way over the river to the William Blake exhibition at the NGV, --bright as a button, dapper as Barry Humphries --in response to his polite question about reading &/or writing, --Snyder I said, and searched for the right word to describe him --irony? no, --separateness? exclusivity?  --And though we're all carried by Walt's democratic ebullience, this civic ecstasy not expected in Snyder contrary to an image perhaps preceding him? --because Snyder is found in singleness, singularity, singing also but to distinguish not occlude --each natural jewel of rain sun forest (--this is some conversation! ) --I just happen to be supervising a student in Snyder at the moment he says --laugh : let's tutor him/her together, I say! -- What I like, I say, is the simultaneity of American & Japanese --Chinese, Californian, Chris adds laughing --

But stay with the double outline, the casual slippage of ancient & modern, registered as here & now --no more arcane than acorns are --seamless  collage --logger, Marxist, Wobbly, hitch-hiker. folklorist, Native-American, Chinese, Japanese, Buddhist, lover, shaman --

"Bodhidharma sailing the Yangtze on a reed
Lenin in a sealed train through Germany
Hsuan Tsang, crossing the Pamires
Joseph, Crazy Horse, living the last free
starving high-country winter of their tribes.
Surrender into freedom, revolt into slavery--
Confucius no better--
(with Lao-tzu to keep him in check)
"Walking about the countryside
all one fall
To a heart's content beating on stumps
." [from part 6, Burning; Myths & Texts, 1952-56]---

Snyder, --like at Collingwood Farm I told Chris, drawing the cabbage with two pencils in my hand, the blurs outlining instant contradiction, adding dimension, so is our subject all-over, all-around, always, expressed as the simultaneity of alternating here & now -- 


*


1968 reading Myths & Texts same age as when Snyder began writing it. What accomplishment, teens & twenties! --especially as the post WW2 generations become younger, suspended by personal prosperity/social welfare in new norm cotton wool adolescence. Reading Snyder, there's no discount for youth -- realise Snyder is as Snyder does, was ever who he is --which is how one appreciates all notable & memorable writing in the retrospect one never thought twice about at the start of it. Not that '60s reading was at the beginning of anything other than that season of English & Australian youth's education. But if only for Myths & Texts, Snyder could uncontroversially have qualified for Robert Duncan's class-roll, The Lasting Contribution of Ezra Pound (Agenda vol 4, no 2, 1965), wonderful to read in Melbourne in '68 --describing the importance in the late '40s, early '50s, of Pound & Williams in opening "the way for a group of younger writers --Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov, Larry Eigner, Paul Blackburn, Gael Turnbull, Theodore Enslin, Cid Corman and myself --who were concerned with immediacy and process in the development of their poetics." Pound & Williams are unambiguously sounded by Snyder --and the only magpie would be seen & heard along what's become his very own way, killing the Buddha at every bend.


*


Walking/working backwards from his influence --on Franco Beltrametti's Nadamas for instance --I cant put my hand on the chapter he published (his own & Judith Danciger's translation) in the Grosseteste Review, '72, so refer to the section I published in Earth Ship #10/11 (Southampton, August, '72, just prior to returning to Melbourne), summed up in this sentence : "Here we are again in the  swing of the events following each other always more rapidly so that you don't have to be interested if they overlap or ride over one another." As Beltrametti so Snyder --the absolute presence of the narrative, no progression only what's current, and time passing's subsumed within the concurrence or simultaneity. Beltrametti's 'additional handwritten poem' in the signed edition of Face to Face (Grosseteste Review Books, 1973) makes the same call :

"reckonings don't come even
roughly on the same latitude as
Seville / Richmond / Wichita / Nigata /
Seoul / Askhabad
magpies
from one carob tree
to the next"
[10/7/70]



*

And though Snyder's Myths & Texts does 'contain history' after Pound, Williams' grafting (for example the young feller Ginsberg's correspondence included in  Paterson, which serves to bless the incidental with the historical) is a propos --real bits of world, documents, quotation, letters as they come, as world comes, observed, overheard, perceived. (No reason to be peeved, if he really was, when his own stuff landed up in Kerouac's Dharma Bums. Material is material and the private subordinate to a larger literary good?) All of which suggests the fluidity or openness of the poem as the measure of experience yet the Snyder poem is also composed --much more of a made poem, confirmed by standard capitalisation & lineation, than the rangy field-work of the first poems of Mountains & Rivers Without End which chronologically follow Myths & Texts.


*


What to say of his Jewish joke not quite lost in the anti-Christian jibe :

"Them Xtians out to save souls and grab land
'They'd steal Christ off the cross
if he wasn't nailed on'
The last decent carpentry
Ever done by Jews."
[from Logging, section 10, Myths & Texts]?

Sure, Snyder's target is both bible-bashing colonialism and the theologically guaranteed human dominion over nature, the bete noire of the ecological philosophy & politics he champions. An example of casual anti-semitism maybe, and only funny within it.  Sure, hearsay, quoted speech, but seamless in Snyder's drawl-scrawl, his droll-scroll…


*

P. S. : Rip Rap


Permit mind blown in the fatal collision of wilderness & industrial civilisation --"I cannot remember things I once read / A few friends, but they are in cities." Consider the few days between worlds, and all gone that other one --and what another one "Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup / Looking down for miles / Through high still air."  --what room for anything else when this other imposes such permanence that the very notion of contrast shrivels, no register except "caught on a snow peak / between heaven and earth" --except the lad is a scientist, can unsentimentally state "in ten thousand years the Sierras / will be dry and dead, home of the scorpion." And the Milton he's pulled out of his ruck-sack's (as last of August light extended by camp-fire's) "Too dark to read". Hah! --pun into blackguard Milton aka Western dramaturgy, --but as though autobiography, Cold Mountain's just the place to slough off "Damn me a fool last night in port drunk on the floor & damn / this cheap trash we read. Hawaiian workers shared us / beer in the long wood dredgemen's steel-men's girl-less / night drunk and gambling hall, called us strange sea- / men blala and clasped our arms and sang real Hawaiian songs " ---Ah, right royal navvy's days & nights…

*


In Rip Rap's 50th Anniversary edition there's long footnote apology for a phrase in the poem, For A Far-Out Friend. He confesses it's earned him flack over the years but now it's time to clarify. "Because once I beat you up / Drunk, stung with weeks of torment / And saw you no more", was an untruth right from the start he explains. She was the violent one, not he. "She started beating on me in some anger and I let her whack me (protesting) till I got her into the car. (….) I thought that saying I'd hit her was the more manly, or even gentlemanly, thing to say, an idea that comes from chivalry, perhaps. I never laid an ungentle hand on her. My critics, especially my colleague Sandra Gilbert, have said that there is no excuse for treating violence against women casually, and they are absolutely right. This note seems the best way to deal with the problem rather eliminate the poem or change the line in silence." Hmmm. Didn't want to change the original poem he says but bows now to feminist pressure and seeks to 'explain'…There you go. But surely, what's good for the goose is good for the gander? Snyder evidently doesn't blush for the "kulak" reference describing farmers & landowners in one of his much admired Han Shan translations, Cold Mountain poem # 16.

"Cold Mountain is a house / Without beams or walls. / The six doors left and right are open / The hall is blue sky. / The rooms are all vacant and vague / The east wall beats on the west wall / At the centre nothing. // Borrowers don't bother me / In the cold I build a little fire / When I'm hungry I boil up some greens. / I've got not use for the kulak / With his big barn and pasture - / He just sets up a prison for himself. / Once in he cant get out. / Think it over -- / You know it might happen to you."

'Kulak's traditional meaning is "a tight-fisted person"; "a peasant wealthy enough to own farm and hire labour" (Concise Oxford). But it's inextricable from the vicious Soviet connotation. This term from the Stalinist lexicon refers to as wicked a pogrom as any in the USSR, its horror & madness if anything magnified when the attitude was inherited by Maoist China. What did Snyder intend? "You know it might  happen to you" a little more sinister than a comment on personal salvation? Simplest & kindest to say that in the '50s, as a young man of the left, revolting against the American way, he's amenable & acquiescent to leftist gloat and a say-what-I-like macho glib… Fiftieth anniversary or not, time's ripe, methinks, for more clarification of such hot & cold war attitudes & language… The Right is unfailingly called to proper account for its reflections of Fascism & Naziism, but the Left hardly at all for its toeing the line of iron fist Communism, Stalinism, Maoism and whatever flows on through contemporary Socialist reflexes & assumptions…

The older & younger survivors of the ideological storms are we, especially as the poets we're able to be… Time to be poets & not suckers & saps… hoo! hoo! hoo!

[7/10-10-14 (4-11-14)]



*


P-P. S


The issue of what is or isn't 'politically correct' is prickly enough in the present day. And there's a greater problem with the retrospective judgement of previous generations, earlier societies & epochs, according to contemporary attitude & belief, and not least because the legitimation of such attribution implies a standard set, unchanging through time. This installs the progressivist depiction of human affairs as the only one, coacervate, indeed, with history itself. On the other hand, reform & repudiation of atrocious acts is generally laudable & necessary. I guess expression, whether or not literary or artistic, being what is held, spoken, depicted, is rightly personal --eccentrically formed, not legislative whatever its aspiration. So the  question I ask of Garry Snyder is as reader-writer of a colleague poet, though he be exemplary, & one who hasn't confined his work to the literary domain. If you like, when reader-writer addresses another it's poetry & literature of which the question is asked, asked whatismore within & behalf of poetry & literature.

[5/9-11-14]

Friday, October 31, 2014

THE GUINNESS REPORT


THE GUINNESS REPORT


'In the midst of' though not quite, for instance walk to Clifton Hill station to catch train to the City, quick smart through waiting-room, past groups of Cats supporters, bedecked in blue & white scarves & bonnets, onto train to sit a few seats behind black & yellow swathed Tigers fans, and reminded instantly of growing up in England, die hard follower of the Saints in football & speedway, qualified thus as a local, at last graduating from a kind of emigre family's uninvolvement, yet no more connected than that… All the fans alight at Jolimont-MCG for their big game. Saw the huge flood-lights from a station or two before the famous destination, as ever outside looking in…

Similarly in England, first years of home visits after the Exile which twelve continuous years in Oz created… Vicarious for want of belonging, the experience defined as "Ghost" --an invisible man in the middle of jumpin' seaside town. Tried on Dorset accent once as I intersected transaction between gypsy posy vendor & holiday-maker, yet remained unremarked as though unheard, unseen… But it's the writing which delivers me from the nebulous arrangement. In Melbourne I become poet of the Delphi cafe or the Elwood Beach kiosk, in Weymouth poet of the Old Harbour or Radipole Lake --poet of the place the writing makes. Become person --feet on solid ground, head rocking through a very particular air --why wouldn't it riffle reeds, bobble viscous water, prick hot cheeks emerging from The Boot's close atmosphere --loaded with one or another of Ringwood Brewery's traditional beers, primarily Old Thumper but nothing wrong with Fortyniner, even the Best Bitter or, for a complete change of taste, the Guinness…

[4th May,'14 (July, '14)]


oOo


Take your chances in Young & Jackson's main bar since this time the side bar's too cramped & Twilight Zone-ish, if you know what I mean, like the one arm bandits bar at the Clocks on Princes Bridge, last section of which overlooks the river, not only society's flotsam & jetsam but Time's. In the main bar, plenty of room by the taps to order & peaceably wait. It's Guinness so that's hardly loose talk. Young Gurkha who serves me is yet to acclimatise. It won't be long he says. But at Y & J' s you pays your money & happily wait.

NRL on the big screen, Rugby League's halftime rap, which then reverts to Aussie Rules, Gold Coast Suns vs Sydney Swans. The camera only has eyes for Ablett, class act of the competition, picked out for merely breathing, gold dusted, shimmering in the winter sunshine, like the woman suddenly alongside me, not drinking but studying the screen, in her own space, and truth is I'd noticed her when I bought my Guinness, sitting high on a stool she was, at the long table at the top of the bar, distinctive blond hair escaping brown cowboy hat. Then I'm aware of brown coat long to her ankle boots & her unflinching self-containedness. And at last the Guinness has risen, the beautiful long drop, full bodied, cream on top.

In a way this fraction of a session is compensation for not finding either Michael Hartnett's or Peter Fallon's poems on the Irish shelves at the Shop, urged on me by Libby Hart one Thursday afternoon which was confirmation of the feeling growing in me for Irish writing but also Scottish, anything not English, which comes upon me from time to time, the marvellous resource it is, like Guinness. I'd come in, extra-mural, for the Gary Snyder I'd forgotten there & needed at home to work with. Found the Snyder at once but wandered over to the Irish section like a kid in a  candy store, alone among the books. No individual collection, as I say, but some Hartnett translation of Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, yet enough of an eyeful to boost the image of the impending drink at Y & J's! Hurried down the stairs of the Nicholas building, onto the chocka Swanston Street, through the blue sky chill which may as well be the same cut piercing t-shirt & jumper as accosts you in the England I remember or the Ireland Libby had talked about.

Entered the bar with the Hartnett translations from the Gaelic in my shoulder bag and straight into the pint thought of all the way into town. And suddenly popping into my head the actual comment I wanted to make to the man requesting the new Gerald Murnane back in the Shop recently, instead of the small talk, though accurate, around a flicked upon upon sentence which grew into several pages, a section I could have followed forever, with which I entertained the both of us. And now I realise it was the first paragraph of the promotional sheet accompanying A Million Windows, "Gerald Murnane, from a letter to Teju Cole, April 2013", as follows : "I hardly needed to remind you that I think of mind as space. I long ago rejected the popular theories of the mind advanced in the Twentieth century. For me, mind is extent and, quite possibly, endless, that is to say, infinite. This would entail, I suppose, the belief that all minds are one or even that everything is mind, but that sort of speculation is not for me. I have enough to do during my lifetime with uncovering the patterns of imagery in my corner of mind without seeking further." All of which is to say that whatever's in mind, or what's in place or in train, in or as mind, enjoys coalescence, seamless adhesion, of time & space, known as the incidents & objects thereof.

All of that, all of this, the public bar's voluminous etcetera --and why not stand on ceremony --of Melbourne itself, ancestor felons, free or freed settlers (though no one like me can talk credibly of 'ancestors' --our account's dribbled out in & as generations on no parchment but the black ink entries of births, deaths & marriages in cased municipal Domesday registers)-- I am johnny-come-lately in what pundits of every complexion call the end of time. And all of this the only Australia I stand up in, leaning on an Ireland, so it seems, compacted in poetry & stout, for as long as fate's deemed I'm removed from fatherland, compromised as that may be for the both of us, Dad & I, our mothers protractored either pole of the immense & pink blushed continent of Africa…


[8-19/6/14 (October, '14)]

AGAINST OBLIVION : F/B POSTS RETRIEVED, July/October 2014

July 3 / 14

re Bonny Cassidy's  FINAL THEORY (Giramondo) launch by Lisa Gorton

Thank you, Lisa, for your (important) part in Bonny's great launch last night at Collected Works Bookshop. Wld love to read your speech, but came away (wrongly perhaps) with the question about lyrical frame-of-mind's encounter with a something-else --along lines of a discussion I saw on F/book some months ago re- 'non fiction poem', to wch Kate Middleton responded contra a kind of knee-jerk rejection by several others (like, huh? 'facts' more 'truthful' than fiction?). Closer perhaps wld be preferring 'world' to person (Yeats, Pound) wch Ive been thinking abt again after nibbling at Robin Blaser as it happens, wch is beside the point of course! The second thought growing in me as I write this is that Bonny mixes it up, poetically (or poetistically) neither [not] this or [not] that!

Further to the above : The poem is very much a narrative and therefore what might be 'flat' as per lyrical persona is actually delightfully all over the place as 'fiction'! (All these terms begged, naturally.) Yday & today began seriously reading, exchanging some thoughts this morning abt it with ‪Sam Moginie‬...


oOo


July 5 / 14
[after correspondence with Natalle Irene Wood]

Ive been reading a bunch of contemporary Irish poets, published by the fabulous Gallery Press (County Meath), leant to me by Libby Hart, and including Dermot Healy's A FOOL'S ERRAND (2010). The loan came out of an enthusiastic Irish poetry conversation plied with Guinness! But the other day I heard from Libby herself just phoned up by friends from Ireland that Dermot Healy had died suddenly. Ive been enjoying A Fool's Errand --if it's not the barnacle geese then it's funerals & music... The book's a sonnet variation, 2x2, 3x2, 2x2 --I'd been wondering abt the composition and suddenly that jumped out of me from the page...

Anticipating a little Melbourne wake here is a  posting from Ireland.
From Terry McDonagh : "Dermot was unique and his star will rise and rise. I'd like to say a few words about his legacy as a person...his books can be read by one and all...
It was strange to see such a vibrant person lying in the coffin. I didn't know him all that well, but I met him many times...he read at a festival in Kiltimagh that I directed and, as always, he made a huge impression on the audience. At his wake on Wednesday, his wife, Helen, reminded me that he'd enjoyed himself at our little festival to such an extent that when he'd left the town to return home, he suddenly asked her to turn the car and come back again for no particular reason other than the fact that he'd enjoyed himself.
His support for budding writers was special. He is remembered fondly by many he'd published in Force 12...a magazine he'd edited. His years as Director (and escapades) of Force 12...later Force 10 festival in Belmullet County Mayo are legendary.
Last autumn he read at Westport festival with the poet, Ger Reidy...I felt he looked a bit tired and not quite himself, but his reading from his novel, Long Time No See, gave me special insight into his message and style."

oOo


July 21 / 14

In case anyone's in the vicinity of the Yarra Hotel in Johnston Street between 6 & 8,  The Family will be raising a glass or two and remembering Tim [Hemensley]...
Last night's cold brings back that terrible event. How interesting, though, his corpse was warmer than I was kneeling on the backyard path with him. Poor Loretta crazy crying in the house, me crazy talking to him in the cold night. And as the ambulance took him away, Cathy [O'Brien] arrived in her car to be with us.
Jamesons then for days & days!
Wish I could find the poem I wrote afterwards. Typically I cant find any of my stuff when I want it!
The catastrophe alleviated by friends' love. Thus The Family.
Ive been playing Time Wounds All Heels at Collected Works Bookshop all morning and now Loretta's arrived with the whiskey!
Marvelling at the sound of that band. And the voice. And the words. And the colour of the music. And the drive.
"...was i scared? no not at all..."
Tim H, a continuing tragedy and, simultaneously, an inspiration.
Thanks for the messages. Love from us to all Tim's rock n roll friends & followers, including of course those others who've perished along the way.


oOo


[Via Robert Lloyd]
ROBERT CREELEY
from LINDA WAGNER: AN INTERVIEW 
WITH ROBERT CREELEY

. . . I’ve come in the past few months at least––whether from fatigue or from a kind
of ultimately necessary conservatism––to feel that there can be at least one kind of primary measure for the activity of poetry; and perhaps this statement will seem oblique, but in any case what really sticks in my head through the years as a measure of literature is a pair of statements made by Pound––years ago, I would think. One is, simply, "Only emotion endures." And the other is, "Nothing matters save the quality of affection." Now these offer to me two precise terms of measure for the possibility of a poem. I feel that what the poem says in a didactic or a semantic sense––although this fact may be very important indeed––is not what a poem is about primarily; I think this is not its primary fact. I believe, rather, that it is that complex of emotion evident by means of the poem, or by the response offered in that emotion so experienced, that is the most signal characteristic that a poem possesses. So, the measure of poetry is that emotion which it offers, and further, the quality of the articulation of that emotion––how it felt, the fineness of its articulation. . . . Last fall Basil Bunting told me that his own grasp of what poetry might be for him was first gained when he recognized that the sounds occurring in a poem could carry the emotional content of the poem as ably as anything "said." That is, the modifications of sounds––and the modulations––could carry this emotional content. He said, further, that, while the lyric gives an inclusive and intense singularity, usually, to each word that is used . . . there’s an accumulation that can occur much more gradually so that sounds are built up in sustaining passages and do not, say, receive an individual presence but accumulate that presence as a totality. So that one is not aware, let us say, that the word the is carrying its particular content; but as that e sound or the sound accumulates, it begins to exert an emotional effect that is gained not by any insistence on itself as singular word but as accumulation. To quote Pound again, "Prosody consists of the total articulation of the sound in a poem"––that’s what I’m really talking about.
[Robert Creeley. "Linda Wagner: An Interview with Robert Creeley," originally in Minnesota Review, copyright © 1965, and Contents of Poetry: Interviews 1961-1971, copyright © 1973 by Robert Creeley and the Four Seasons Foundation.]

One used to teach 'sound & sense', and 'emotional rhythm'.... my poor old Adult Education classes (1975 to '87)! Some areas of poetry wouldnt at all agree with Creeley as speaking for them though... Of course it speaks for him, helps explicate his practice but not theirs... I remember listening to a radio piece by Robert Ashley, perhaps it was called The Park, not sure, late 70s, early 80s --in wch the author's/actor's/speaker's accent & intonation produced for me a totally & explicitly emotional text & experience... but the semantic content wasnt especially 'emotional' at all, rather the opposite, --lets not say banal but entirely normal, undramatic, occasional particulars... It was the accumulation of propositions wch delivered a narrative, and the accent of the telling wch endowed it with emotional colour... Creeley Ive liked very much though not much thought about for some years... I imagine youre reading this, Robert, from perspective of songster (poet with guitar in hand) or art-music composer...?


oOo

August 21 / 14

Thank you everyone for last night's reading : and it was a great room as they say! David Morley was wonderful to MY ear, because all of a sudden that hurdy gurdy spin of particular English country (imagination & evocation of country) within the argument John Clare & Wisdom Smith [The Poet & the Gypsy, Carcanet/UK] are made to carry, thus as I offered DM, possession & dispossession... the rich dialectic of the romantic trope... politics & sensibility etc... suddenly it was there in our room! 'and desert was paradise enow', words' world... Perfect foils for David in Will Eaves & Gig Ryan.... each one demanded an ear... Gig Ryan's classical Greek readings, and what appeared to be a new mss of poems, and her offering of a Martin Johnston sonnet... Will's larrikin Larkin (did he say?)!... Waking up to this morning after, still brimfull of delight in the poetry of the event let alone first class wine & company... Cdnt help myself interjecting Beowulf (after Will's translation)/Hopkins/Bunting/Thomas to hold David M's performance...
Oh me o my, much much much more to 'unpack' as they say!


oOo


August 23 / 14

Stephen Burt : "We're all going to die --and poems can help us live with that."

Ive read Stephen Burt but not seen or heard him before... Re- "we're all going to die... poems can help..." : Round age of 32 it was writing a story abt visitation of angel of death (who promised to spare me the dread of death --consciousness of time passing/G Stein --if I pledged to receive the angel (& the anxiety) twice more, at each doubling of my age... I situated the first encounter at age 16, so the second at 32, the third at 64... The story was a cure or coincided with the lifting of that anxiety... My education was completed when I lay on ground with Tim's body July 2003, --the image of death as edifice entirely dissolved, and via Tim appreciated it as the achievement of a moment, a passing away (Tim's passing)... no big deal, one dies... I'm probably in more than two minds abt Stephen Burt's lecture, which I enjoyed listening to by the way... Thanks Paula [Caine], my dear, for sending it...


oOo


August 24 / 14

Thanks Bernard Hemensley. for telling me about the Berlin family exhibition. Envy your visit to the Bridport Art Gallery to see the show. Important to me because, although Billy Fisher doesnt remember me (according to email exchange couple of years or more ago, and he something of an hero for me, a dream figure for my poetry), meeting his stepfather Sven Berlin at Emery Down in the New Forest (Hampshire) that Whitsun long weekend in 1964, when Billy invited some fellow students up to help bring in the hay, was momentous! Forever etched in mind & heart! Wonderful, too, exchanging email messages with Greta Berlin same time as Billy's no-go.


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August 28 / 14

As Peter Robinson writes on his F/b page, "Carol Rumens has chosen 'The Book' by F. T. Prince as her Guardian Poem of the Week. Reading it with the argument of John Donne's 'The Sun Rising' in mind helps, I think, with any of the trickier bits ..."
I hadnt thought of FTP as undervalued these days but that's a consequence of living in my head and in Oz! But I'm delighted to read further that Peter R & Will May are "editing a couple of chapbooks of uncollected FTP poems for Perdika Press..." , including Keats Country...
Great news! It was Lee Harwood suggested I contact FTP back in 1970 when I'd returned to Southampton after three years in Melbourne. How can you live in Southampton and not see Frank Prince? he said. We saw each other regularly, and corresponded after I returned to Melbourne late '72. Most visits to England until a few years before he died I'd visit. I describe some of this in the piece I wrote for Geraldine Monk's CUSP anthology a few years ago. And that Keats poem he published himself after missing deadline for the official Keats anniversary collection he told me. I wonder if his translations of St John of the Cross are available? Maybe they've been collected? Dont have my Prince volume to hand. He sent me a copy but stressed it was not for republication! But your news makes my day --for FTP legacy but also the FTP that's part of me, if you know what I mean! All the lives which possess & animate one... Thanks for your good work here...

oOo


September 3 / 14

Thank you Juan, Ive heard of the Turnrow anthology but not stocked here yet. Our social-political situations are so different, impacting so differently upon our roles as poet and the poems we might write. Here are some lines from my Midnight Interrogation series, ca 73/4, from A Mile From Poetry (Island Press, 1979) : "The Poem is the barricade which ought to be realized by the people who take the poems, even their poems, to the barricades. // The Poem is a halo. It is the endowment of sovereignty. It gives voice its independence. The Poem is voice's reward. The Poem is the voice abroad, But abroad is no poem of yours, boy. // The Poem is an expression of the dignity of each voice's difference. Blood tends to confuse, stain & clog. Neither poem nor blood clarify the issues. Each is the issue of itself. Red is not always the colour of the equation." and so on. I must reread Nicanor Parra and bring his books back to the shelf! Best wishes, K

Juan Garrido :

Talking with Nicanor Parra in Santiago in 1981

Young poets/say whatever you want.
 Pick your own style/  much blood has gone under the bridge
 To still believe-I believe/ that there’s only one way to cross the road:
 You can do anything in poetry. Nicanor Parra

I remember
 When we arrived at your home in la Reina.
 The dogs barking at us..
 After a few minutes you appeared 
Like a ghost in the afternoon.
 Mr Anti-poeta
 I was born in the Barros Lucos’ 
Hospital.
 I never went to the University.
However, I swing between two oceans. 
I translate poetry in English into Spanish,
 As a creative pathway (Puente) 
Between two different cultures and lands.
 Here I am
 Listening to a Chinese-Australian poet 
Listening to an Iraq poet 
Listening to Aboriginal poets 
Reading with my mind Australian poetry.
I agree with you
 The style doesn’t come from a creative writing course.
 My style comes from reading other poets, from passion 
and learning the rhythm of the bird in a tree. 
Learning how to plant seeds; preparing the plot, watering,

Looking after them everyday.
 I agree again with you
 Mr. when you say
 Much blood has gone under the bridge.
 Most of my poets are dead.  Some of them 
Have been killed or have suicide.
 Essenin, Roque Dalton, Neruda, Vallejo..
 Only Huidobro was a poet of the bourgeois-revolution.
 Ernesto Cardenal survived the Pope’s sin against the Revolution 
as well as the collapse of the Sandinista revolution.
 So they killed the poets amongst the struggling people.
 I have been on the path of the struggle, in prison,
 Being tortured by the Chilean secret police.
When I went to your home
 You welcomed us.
 In this time I was an invisible poet with a few poems in my heart.
 Victor Hugo Romo talked to you.
 You showed us yours rooms, 
frames on the walls with newspaper headlines,
 as great paintings.
Your cat was like a prince in the poet’s palace.
You were happy to read your poems at the concert 
That we organized in tribute to Violeta Parra.
After more than twenty years 
I am sure you remember me very well
 If I say my name to you:
I am Juan
 My nickname was el Negro.
 I worked in Nuestro Canto’s office 1980
 With Miguel Dagvanino and John Smith.
 I wrote a book
 Variantes de la Libertad Definitiva
 By Samuel Lafferte,
 Published by Hondero Entusiasta Press.
Yes I remember you very well.
Your house 
With pictures from newspapers on the walls 
Replacing the painting of Picasso, Miro or Dali.
 By the way 
Could you tell me how to find the way out of this conversation?
Nicanor Parra say:
You can do anything in poetry.
You can do anything in poetry.
You can 
do anything 
in 
poetry.

by Juan Garrido-Salgado

Happy Birthday Anti poeta!!!!!
[This poem appears at "The Turnrow Anthology of Contemporary Australian Poetry"
editor John Kinsella &Jack Heflin and William Ryan Series Editors (US)]


oOo
September 12 / 14

Home from excellent evening i/f Daniel White's book-launch at Collected Works Bookshop. Impassioned & informed younger generation 21C Labor visions, Republic Earth quoting Buckminster Fuller! Hey, thats OUR language baby! Very interesting. "Democracy our greatest achievement" : yes, wch means no gun at head whatever politics faith colour of citizens. The global ambition stops me but lots to consider. Wdnt it be fun to be around to see how it all pans out! Lovely chatting to David & Mary White. Congratulations the White bros for their project!

"Republic Earth is an educational, social, political, economic and technological ideology that aims at the establishment of a full global democracy that values all aspects of humanity around the world. Republic Earth primarily aims to build a global online democracy using the technology of the digital revolution, as soon everyone on Earth will be connected if they wish to be...." from Daniel's book. Web address is, ‪www.republicearth.org‬

My feeling is that the 'digital revolution' aspect is the goer and even there asserting only the most positive assumptions of the technology... RE- 'democracy', I realize from Daniel's definition (wherein republic is its only legit. manifestation) that I, like most others, have a common usage appreciation of the concept, so the greatest diversity of types coexist. Re- the monarch, there've been several occasions during the past decades when the neutral authority has prevented coup or civil war (Spain, Thailand...)... Additionally ours is a constitutional monarchy.... How Oz Labor can re-present the Republic debate with any chance of success is the question. Of course it's an Australian decision. Once again I'm the visitor... And not at all sure how I'd respond in the English context.


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September 20 , 14

[to Grant Macracken, re- the Scottish Referendum]

I'd love to see demographic analysis of the vote : I wdnt be surprised if young people (how define that? let's say 30 and under) were a majority for Yes... The safest position to stay with the status quo, and admittedly there wld have been a great deal of political economic readjustment between Scotland & the UK, but independence is a worthy emotion & project... Imagine what a referendum for Britain to exit the EEC would be be like? I remember twentyfive years ago big discussion around the table at Charnwood with Cathy & Des & Jurate, maybe also Robert Kenny, about the Baltic states and their dire struggle with the Soviet Union. Jurate argued passionately for independence there & then, whatever the cost. I thought independence was eventually inevitable but didnt realize how fast the wheels were turning.... Incredible courage of the Lithuanians... This has been in my mind with the Scots... At the same time I'm no longer a unilateralist nuclear disarmer, especially when the Yes position would have maintained the umbrella but pushed the missiles out of its domain... But all v interesting... And, Grant, the campaign in Scotland has drawn propositions for a rather different UK in the near future... Slainte!

[21/9/14]
Around 70/71, Andrew Crozier sent to me packet of materials he'd received from Allen Van Newkirk (in Nova Scotia?). As far as I recall he was part of the Olson network. Intriguing man. (And what happened to him?) One paper he enclosed concerned the 'break up nations', and Cornwall & Brittany were among these. And it felt convincing to me, almost like a contrary energy to the 3rd World defined as the rise of new nations, --this 4th World, the break up of old nations especially when equally old cultures had been absorbed/subjugated. Thus the age old Basque struggle, the Irish, et al. I suppose the outsider's fear (mine) at time of the Baltic states uprising against the Soviets was that the small communities would be destroyed. Nothing like that in the UK of course. Nor will be.

oOo


September 25 / 14

Emerging from the Delphi [Continental Cakes] in N/cote with Ken Trimble after accidental meeting, we pass a sign in window of one of the Northcote second handers, "20% discount for Teachers". Decide to put sign up at Collected Works Bookshop, "30% discount for gurus". For some reason Ken & I think this is enormously funny, and that's before we get to the Peacock for a pot! I'll be hitting the road soon enough to set up the evening's gig for Libby Hart's WILD (Pitt Street Poetry) book launching we're presenting with John & Linsay Knight. In fact better go now! See you all later...


oOo


October 8 / 14

Ian Brinton's notification re- Lee Harwood, not to mention his review of his book, tugs heartstrings... on which theme, email from Edward Mycue similarly affecting : thus,
"Writers here on Saturday Oct 11 at lpm --come with your scraps and scrolls that are diamonds pulled from your minds' caves
we have been doing this monthly a small round-robin for a couple of hours 
many can't come but i ask anyway for ald ang syne (SP?) -- jerry flemming's in paris, jules mann in london years now, kris is in melbourne and has never been here except in my heart, jeanne bryan in Sacramento, Helen Sventitsky-Rother near Munich, Carl Ginsburg nr Vienna I think, Carla Bertola and Alberto Vitacchio in Turin, Anny Ballardini in Bozen on the east side of those Italian northern mountains, Bryan Monte in Zeisst, The Netherlands, Ruth Fainlight/ London who has never been here except in spirit (she has a beautiful poem about her mother's purse and the smell of the coty powder) & so it goes. I usually forget somebodies & usually those closest (!) because i just punch in the names and know that someday i will have to make some sort of "list" in the computer (but where is the fun in that!) -- and if I ever do that will be the end of the 45 years of person to person (remembering now that on one of those person to person 'connections' in the group many many years ago there was a BIG fight between harold norse and jack gilbert -- and then after that we changes locations and so now it is and has been on my little turf for tufts of years all gone patchy now (as myhair once became before it emerged as a pate smooth as a baby's bottom some have concluded)

To wch I reply,
"Hi Ed, What a surprise to be included because of course "never been" nor could ever except, as you remind me, in your heart, and mine too -- so many as I could also call their names as you do warmly here...
Thank you... Hope it goes well..

Kris in Melbourne, Spring morning, minutes away from hurrying up to Clifton Hill station for the train into the City and another day at my lovely bookshop!

Hope youre very well... saw pic of you & Richard I'm assuming on holiday..."

Ed Mycue : "Thanks, Kris. What a lone history we have since I think it was the early 1970's and of the time when you were the poetry editor of the iconic Meanjin [Quarterly]  and you published all the new gals and guys that made it so exciting to read -- you kickstarted that venerable institution back to life when you were hellming (yeah helming w 2 'L's) and ever since then have remained a force from 'down under' with your bookstore and your magazines and publishing and writing(s) of all kinds. I doubt you will ever be a grand old man to yourself, but you seem from this distance to me to be a world force in poetry in the English language(s). What once seemed experimental and wild even have earned emeralds in value."


oOo


October 8 / 14

[Re- Morris Lurie]

Colin Tad Talbot :
i was sitting with David N [Pepperell], making his day much brighter as usual over a caffe late, when he took a phonecall which stopped him...a dear friend had disappeared into the blessed state of non-being. It's not my place to give the details but I imagine Dr Pepper will, when he feels okay to post. All I'll say is that his good friend (also a friend of mine) was a great man and will be remembered well.

K H : Sorry to hear of this Colin... Met him [Morris Lurie] several times over the years via the Shop or literary events... Commiserations to David Pepperell and all his friends here... On several occasions he almost bought a book from us, but always found a reason (the cover, the size, the price, the first sentences, his opinion of a previous title by the author etc etc) for returning it to the shelf... The architect at the Nicholas Building, Ken Edelstein, was a great friend of Morris... No doubt he'll come by some time and tell me some more stories... RIP, M Lurie


oOo


October 8 / 14
[Re- aniversary of the Gallery 6 Reading in San Francisco, 1955]

Thanks for the memories, Brian! Wonderful date memorial! Ive been reading Rip Rap again (50th anniv ed) last few days... Also the Snyder/W Berry correspondence, Distant Friends... good pun... Also, working something out abt G S, looked him up in Peter Cayote's memoir... My philosophy or attitude is 'warts & all' so it's all good as they say! That is, points of difference are what they are, --i do my best to contextualise o/wise carps they'll remain, somehow mean... However... On with the Show! Best wishes, Kris

Oh and Allen Ginsberg and all & all... But what about Rexroth? Ive never really u/stood his omission from The New American Poetry anthology, unless he himself declined? I'm not talking abt fights & spites but from the point of view of the poetry... First read him in an old Perspectives magazine, his poem Starting out from San Francisco (I think it was)... 1965, Isle of Wight holiday at my g/mothers, I was back in the South West after working a few months on British Rail, shortly before going to Europe again and then early '66 it was Australia! But, the question's still in my head...


oOo


October 12 / 14

Just happened, last Thursday, to be cutting through Block Arcade en route Bourke, when I saw the display of portraits, the Lord Mayor's [small business] Commendations for 2014... took a closer look in case i recognized anyone and up they popped! SAFF! that is, Saverio Fazio of Saff's Hairdressing in the Pt Phillip Arcade, where I get shorn every couple of months or so! A silver gong! Good stuff! And then PAUL CAINE our cousins, Caine Real Estate, a bronze! And then FIONA SWEETMAN fellow tenant at the Nicholas Building whose Hidden Secret Tours was the first to steer visitors Collected Works Bookshop's way! Great little booklet available from City of Melbourne with all the pics & captions. Our Town ay?!


oOo

October 19 /14


At the the Heidelberg garden centre sitting on bench opposite myrtle in bed of Snow Maiden (raphiolepis) & Heuchera Berry Smoothie in the one arc of shadow of otherwise full sun courtyard, turning around in my mind funny old term "smashing", long gone from the common vocab, as in smashing day and most of all the mural along & around farthest extent of enclosed display sheds, so large & detailed one's literally The Man Who Entered Pictures as of Opal L Nations' surreal prose pieces, published in the English little poetry magazines of the early '70s ("I like these without reservations," Andrew Crozier remarked; "What have you got against Indians?" Opal responded) --Walk around wonderful domestic perimeter of original colonial horticulture prospect, beginning at the house & garden, espaliered grape-vine, down gradient to the laid out plots beneath the purview of the hills, this romantic perspective including tromp l'oeil shadows of ghost gums angling across the painted tree trunk of same, or falling away from the leafy crowns --A stage set, the whole thing, first-rung experience where potential fuses with imagination, for a moment what the garden at home could be --Back in my room what I actually dig up is the Postscript from The Poem of the Clear Eye, and transplant it here, weeding as I type the errata & silly mistakes from 40 years ago :

"The mural on the walls of the fried-fish & chips shop is idyllic. the brothers over the gas-rings with scoops & mesh-buckets occasionally glance at the bay painted around the L of the walls. both brothers cannot be the isolate island fishermen. one must be elsewhere. or drowned. the fisherman hauls in his baubled line. a basket of fish beside his thigh. seagulls hang in the sky over the tallest palm-tree. the island's air is the same as the shop's of course. which explains why the fisherman has his back to the counter & the fryer brothers glance out often to the mural sea. i queue for coconuts though i order scallops & chips. the brothers merge in the imagination of the island fisherman. he has his back against it all right --what with turbulent winds & man-eating sharks. he dreams his escape. along the same passage of delivery the three men pause as they pass the unsung fourth. he resembles me apart from age & girth. a slender twenty year-old. ambitious for the gold of the future. they shudder & slide on in their various directions. i pay the bill --pennies flung into the blue swell. the fryer brothers pull in the coins adept as fishermen. they glance at the seagull on the wind's meander over the heads of their customers. the queue maintains its claim on their conscious attention. they miss nothing however of the mural's intentions. we know what we know.
[1972-3, 1974; Melbourne.]"

We know what we know.


oOo


October 19 / 14

Good to catch up yday, Denis, at the Fed Square for Robert Lloyd's Dylan Thomas celebration... BUT, thanks for the clip of Freddie & the Dreamers! As I was telling you the other day, Freddie & the Dreamers shot a promo film or advert at Bricket Wood station, on the St Albans to Watford Junction loop, in 1965, c/o of myself, Kris Hemensley, grade 4 booking offfice clerk but temporarily Acting Station Master of Bricket Wood, owing to the Station Master being transferred to Watford Junction (my home station) as Inspector of Platforms, --I'd given Freddie's manager permission to shoot film! Couldnt think of anything better! Freddie & the Dreamers! Never occurred to me seek permission from British Rail! Bloody anarchist! Anyway, I met everyone, and very soon they were cavorting all over the station & the track and on the little bridge into the estate. And they ate at the pub on the village side of the station, as I did, --i probably told them they cld get fantastic bread & cheese & corned-beef rolls & pork pies & etc! End of first day of filming the Station Master returned from Watford Junction, asked me what the trucks were parked outside and who were these people milling around. Were they passengers etc? Theyre Freddie & the Dreamers, I began to explain. He was a bit like Blakey in On the Buses! He almost exploded! I told him theyd be gone by the end of the following day. I think they were. This & other unorthodox behaviour didnt endear me to British Rail, yet it was I who eventually resigned and not BR sacking me! A wonderful few months. As for Freddie Garrity, I still have soft spot for his hits, You Were Made for Me, I'm Telling You Now, If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody, etc But have to confess I dont remember Do The Freddie!!!


oOo


October 26 / 14

This is for Dave & Ricky Rogers, our Southampton near neighbors late '69 to late '72, our very first new English friends after returning there from Melbourne. Loretta & I make their acquaintance at La Sainte Union one night where we're all attending performance by Bob Cobbing, concrete & sound poet down from London. Incredible! This is what I'd call music I say, recognising the layering & polyphony from the ISCM concerts attended in Melbourne couple of years before, organised by Keith Humble, back in Oz from Paris & musique concrete. Wonderful serendipity : La Sainte Union is also where the father of my tech College friend from '62-'64, Nick Buck, is the English prof. Catching up with Nick comes later, nowt to do wi' this tale! So, thick as thieves with Dave & Ricky. It's summertime 1970. We're all interested in dropping acid for the first time. One of Dave's friends can help us. Dave describes the guy to us. Nero, friend from Art College or on the scene made by the Art College students. Nero... And Dave imitates his way of talking:  How fantastic this or that batch or crop was. His hand gestures : part drumming, part slashing : thaaaat good! Nero's wanted Dave to come & see how he's redecorated his place, Dave being a painter, with eye & technique, graduate from the Art College where one of his teachers is Amanda Wade, close friend of Lee Harwood, a poet I'd love to meet, encountered in the little mags I've read at Mike Dugan's place in Melbourne '68-'69. And she arranges a meeting one Sunday afternoon at her place. Lee puts me on to F T Prince, another Southampton neighbor, and that is definitely another story! Dave & I walk around the block. Nero has a brother. They look & talk the same. Artists, musicians? At any rate, heads. One or other of them lets us in. We step into the house and immediately into the freshly painted living room. It's white, all over. Gleaming white. And Nero is wearing white. White pants and loose top. This is my WHITE ROOM, he says, and giggles in that give-away head's way. Spells it out, W- H- I- T- E.  R- O- O- M. And giggle-cackles again. Can I please have Cream playing full blast in Nero's house in this reminiscence? Full blast. "In the white room with black curtains near the station / Blackroof country, no gold pavements, tired starlings / Silver horses ran down moonbeams in your dark eyes / Dawnlight smiles on you leaving, my contentment / I'll wait in this place where the sun never shines". Jack Bruce & pop poet Pete Brown. "In the white room…" "In the white room…" "In the white room…"

Sunday, July 6, 2014

AGAINST OBLIVION : POSTS SAVED FROM F/Book, April-June, '14

June 28, '14

Great to read this blog, Bernard [B. Hemensley's blog]... Life of books, important relationships through such books... The synchronicity of the Blackburn-owned Eigner in the copy of Clouding... My feeling always to make the most of these conjunctions... Rereading your Birds [Towards a Classification of Birds, Stingy Artist, '14]book ive been thinking again of the nado / (Beltrametti) nadamas connection, luxuriating in the 'field' thus opening up to the reading... Each week Denis Smith selects a card from the box of Nat Portrait Gallery cards on the desk, as he says his 'occult method', ie, blind, and i'm sure it's another sign of his openness to the whole world appreciated as gift! But, returning to yr posting, enjoyed looking at your snaps of those Eigner covers, priceless in every sense!

Your snaps of the Eigner & the Blackburn from those 60s70s times are a reminder of the extent to which the little mags defined poetry's parameters for many of us --the production of the books & mags, the ambition for the poem itself, the world that such involvement in the 'new' & 'experimental' writing enabled... And it is an important question to ask of oneself as well as of the succeeding times, "what happened?" How did we change? How did the poetry scene change? How did life change? It does depend on ourselves, enthusiasts, to advocate for our poets, especially after their time. Life as a continuing im memorium, poetry as a continuous rereading (riff, elegy, celebration)... In which regard, i copy this passage from ‪David Caddy‬ 's recent review of the latest issue of the Long Poem Magazine (#11, 2014), --"Issue 11 is no exception to the usual high standard. Robert Vas Dias’ essay on Paul Blackburn’s The Journals (1975) is a wonderfully written personal and critical introduction to the subject. It is highly informative, providing a contextualised reading of a neglected, major American poet. By the way, Simon Smith is editing a Paul Blackburn Reader for publication by Shearsman in 2015, which will include hitherto unpublished material from the Blackburn archive at San Diego." --We've recently, indeed often, spoken about the dropping out of the conversation of so many poets we've regarded as major --fashion as instrument of oblivion --Paul Blackburn for one. So it's great to be given the opportunity to think about P B again via yr lovely note and to anticipate both Vas Dias' & Simon Smith's re-views! (I still have Robert V-D issue of Sixpack devoted to Blackburn, when was it, London '75? --just after the Cambridge Fest, his party for Jackson MacLow in Hampstead wch John Robinson & i attended... another great story!)



oOo


May 17th, '14

How's this for a synchronous series : from K H 's Journal, 13-5-14

Does anyone remark a connection between Howard Skempton's piano pieces and Herbert Howells' clavichord compositions (played by John McCabe, Helios, '93)[present from Alan Pose]? Or is it simply the English miniature tradition?
Shared this question with Paul (Georgie Fame, Mose Allison etc fan)-- he's brought in for me a 2011 disc of Robert Wyatt… Coincidentally, the other Paul (Harper) has 'burnt' me a copy of Zoot Sims' Baden Baden concert (June 23, 1958) --Paul first heard ZS playing in the Shop… and because of affinity i felt between his poems (PH's) & what i remember of Kenward Elmslie, and after John Tranter had spoken to me about Elmslie this morning (for instance, wonderful reading he gave in Sydney a few years ago), i suggested Elmslie to Paul who's looking for new reading matter --He bought City Junket & also Clark Coolidge on Kerouac & jazz, Now It's Jazz --Paul's poems & methods do also remind me of Coolidge….



oOo


April 20th, '14

Thank you Denis... ASYMPTOTE [on-line ; www.asymptotejournal.com/] always interesting. Permit me to sidetrack on its theme of diaspora. When i began regular home trips back to England in '87 it occurred to me one morning at the Dorset Brewers in Hope Square, Weymouth, as i looked at the postcards & photos behind the bar, that a fundamental dynamic of that little seaside town cld be summarized 'those who stay and those who go away'. Those who stay remember those who went away, and the latter think of home & intermittently return. It's the foundational equation. 'Diaspora' has become a loose ascription due to overuse. Many people & peoples in the world have had to leave their homes. As an expat ive experienced all emotions from anguish to nostalgia, and i'm a voluntary exile. Diaspora = post-colonialism's looking glass. When i was responding to Geraldine Monk's commission for her CUSP anthology, it was a shock to realize how long i'd lived in Melbourne and how warmly i felt towards it. In a way i was part of it, yet only accidentally... Darzet isnt my Darzet no matter what the song says! Southampton was more so because i grew up there. But Melbourne isnt mine either. And postmodernism's 'no home' isnt a salve at all. Circa 1972, I accepted totally Bolinas poet John Thorpe's proposition that Romanticism's Stranger was not the figure for our time & condition. Yet i struggle to be 'here' unconditionally, privileging particular (other) place(s) in the world... And so it goes, on & on!




oOo


April 6th, '14

Regarding :
Thank you Geraldine Monk... Brilliant! When i was growing up in Thornhill/Southampton there was definitely a Southampton accent wch itself differed from the County accent (both posh & broad). Years passed and then the great population 'spill' out of London enveloped Southampton, so much so that the 'original' local sound was more or less lost to it. I'm very happy (aappy i mean) that the family moved to Darzet in the mid '80s, and though that accent is probably being affected by looser Londonese it's West Country, innit? sufficiently, at least for my arrs to feel returned to childhood's home. We probably have an Aussie Andrew Jack to perform similar trick here, to demonstrate the differences between the various Australian states. But that doesnt account for the non-Anglo speakers whose English language is affected by their own original or family influenced accents. Nor indigenous people's distinctive English speaking. Thanks for ringing my ears!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

POSTS RETRIEVED FROM F/BOOK OBLIVION : IKKYU; ON DOLPHINS; JACK SHOEMAKER; JOHN MATEER; FIELDING DAWSON; NORMAN GERAS; ALAN BURNS.

[April 17/'14]

Off the top of my head about Ikkyu on or about 600th anniversary of the death of his master, Keno
 

for Bernard H & Robert L

A few days after a conversation about Ikkyu, Robert Lloyd leant me a copy of John Stevens' translations, Wild Ways : Zen Poems of Ikkyu (Shambhala, 1995). We stocked it years ago, perhaps in a different format? Also Stephen Berg's versions of Ikkyu, Crow With No Mouth (1989). I'm enjoying this re-immersion in Ikkyu. Ever tickled by dates I realize this is the 620th anniversary of the year of Ikkyu's birth, and, importantly, the year of the 600th anniversary of the death of Ikkyu's first great influence, Keno, "the Modest Old Man, abbot of Saikinj. Temple of Western Gold." Via Google I found very interesting extract from Perle Besserman & Manfred Steger's book, Zen Radicals, Rebels, and Reformers (Wisdom, 2011). Nothing wrong at all with John Stevens' potted biography, there's just more in the Besserman & Steger.

"Keno's example, and Rinzai's beforehand, exerted such a powerful influence on Ikkyu's mind that he never accepted or gave inka throughout his life as a Zen student or teacher. For the legitimate heir to Rinzai, true Zen meant transmission beyond words, scriptures, or written certificates of enlightenment. And Keno was just such a master --unconventional, uncompromising, strict in his dedication to meditation, with no worldly ambitions whatsoever. Ikkyu spent four years training in the lonely temple of Western Gold [Ikkyu was his only student], until Kano's sudden death put an end to his Zen idyll."

Suicide attempt, the search for a teacher, from Keno to Kaso, & eventual enlightenment --awoken from meditation by "the cawing of a crow in early evening, Ikkyu achieved his great satori. the entire universe became the cawing of the crow..." John Stevens translates the enlightenment verse : "For twenty years I was in turmoil / Seething and angry, but now my time has come! / The crow laughs /, an arhat emerges from the filth, / And in the sunlight a jade beauty sings!"

Writing this as crows are popping up again hereabouts, bringing in Autumn & Winter in Melbourne, reminding me of my feeling for crows. Here are two from The Millennium Poems (1997-2000), contributed to Raffaella Torresan's anthology, Literary Creatures (Hybrid, 2009) :

 

milkcloud-sky canvas
leafless branches red tin roofs -
artist-crow due now

*

raven on favourite branch
confides to the tree
that as far as friends go
ravens' loyalty outdoes
humans'

trees' imperturbable
where raven's merely proud -
a bunch of people scuttle past -walking trees! scoffs raven -
leaves! exhales the tree

*

Amours, sex, & philosophy in Stevens's Ikkyu but no crows! Lots like this though :

 

One short pause between
The leaky road here and
The never-leaking Way there:
If it rains, let it rain!
If it storms, let it storm!

*

Sexual love can be so painful when it is deep,
Making you forget even the best prose and poetry.
Yet now I experience a heretofore unknown natural joy,
The delightful sound of the wind soothing my thoughts.




oOo




DOLPHINS

[31-3-14]

A PROPOS BEACH REPORT : DOLPHINS AT ELWOOD BEACH!!!

Amazin', as Tommy Hafey might say... Sitting yesterday, late afternoon, at the Kiosk on the beach, writing abt Dimitris Tsaloumas who swam right here for years, --thinking about that sentiment he expressed in a poem, that the mermaid doesnt swim here anymore, --pollution on his mind but also the degradation or loss of meaning, the loss of significance of classical myth, and probably his own sense of meaning as he turned back to Greece again, --writing about this when I saw dark shapes, fin, disturbance in the sea, and thought 'whale' but then 'dolphins'... And so it was! DOLPHINS, at least three, maybe half a dozen. WONDERFUL! Man with family sitting under brolly beside us leapt to his feet, shouting for people to LOOK! Everyone peering at the dolphins swimming from right (Point Ormond) to left, and then the sunbathers along the beach, standing, looking... I say swimming : the dolphins were jumping, up & under again, --and of course then Ezra Pound in my head, "Came Neptunus, dolphins leaping" --and I felt it was a 'reply' to Tsaloumas... You had to have been there!


oOo


[26-3-14]

Bernard Hemensley's message : "Jack Shoemaker : Alive and Well!...You'll be pleased to know, Kris...re our telephone conversation. Ah! How we enjoyed those yellow-paged paper catalogs from Sand Dollar some 40 years ago!!!"

Yes indeed... very relieved & happy for this news! (For some reason I'd suddenly thought otherwise...)
Hugely deserved award! Another bookseller, publisher. poet! I'll drop him a line! 

*


[27-3-14]

[copied from B H's page] Rereading : So the award was made in 2013. Missed it or have forgotten, but thinking of the news today all the sweeter! As you remark about his catalogues, they were like a curriculum; for example, and at random. I've picked out Sand Dollar Books new titles list #23, dated 26 April 1978, --his categories were poetry & fiction; literary magazines; Japanese fiction; Sources & texts. It was the 'sources & texts' wch indicated poetry's reach, if you like, an expansion of the possibility not a single track. For example, from this 'yellow-paged paper' marvel : J Blumenthal's The Printed Book in America (Godine); Alfred Brendel's Musical Thoughts & Afterthoughts (Princeton); Haslam, The Real World of the Surrealists (Rizzoli); Mitchell, Blake's Composite Art (Princeton); A Rich, Of Woman Born (mass p/b); E Weston, Nudes (Aperture).... The most expensive book Jack listed in that catalogue was the Bibliography of the Grabhorn Press 1957-66 & Grabhorn-Hoyen 1966-73, ed R Harlan, printed by Andrew Hoyen, ed of 225 copies; "this supply is already exhausted and we have only one copy left", $250... worth what today? I published a poem sequence by Jack --Magical Mayan Survival Techniques : A Gathering for Michael Palmer-- in my mag The Ear in a Wheatfield, #17, Autumn 1976. My contributor's bio for him goes : "Jack Shoemaker is better known as a bookseller (1205 Solano Avenue, Albany, Cal. 94706) & as a publisher (the excellent Sand Dollar programme). His identification of Australia as the stop beyond Fresno on the American poetry circuit is an indication of his rare perceptions." For 'American', understand 'new poetry' tho I do recall Michael Wilding at the time suggesting that Oz become the next state of the Union & thereby qualify for its subsidies & literary recognitions! Of course, political teasing but a smidgin of the truth of the feeling of the time!

*
[B H on his own page] : "Yes, wonderful catalogs to complement what came thru via Nick Kimberley at Compendium and then his Duck Soup etc. What i obtained from Jack were lots of rare books (now) = titles by Bukowski, Enslin, Eigner, Creeley and Dawson. i would receive special lists of the titles available and order = Well-paid social-worker at the time! Of course, it was Jack Shoemaker's MAYA QUARTO chapbooks which caught the imagination for me when i started Stingy Artist publications in 1978....and the first one was!!! = Montale's Typos by KH!!!"‬


oOo


[March 26/'14] 


‪Thanks for the link, Kent MacCarter...[‬http://cordite.org.au/essays/nativism-and-the-interlocutor/‪] I remember all of this from when it occurred... the controversy surrounding John Mateer's poem for and about the Noongar warrior Yagen... Reading the 'Nativism..' essay I'm struck by John's split or double characterizations as also last night at his excellent reading at Collected Works Bookshop... I'm moved by John's investment in the Poet which is both the simple & the imaginative figure, sincerely bearing the existential burden... Seemed very strongly to me that Mateer's poetry is the act which precedes politics (even its own). Felt, thought, expressed, and as I would say, warts & all. The alternatives are of diplomacy & politics; decorums which are not essentially poetry, that is Poetry, the parallel dimension where The Poet might exist... Part of that parallel dimension is Storyteller, --contemporary lyric poet become or returned as storyteller. Different subtleties, different transparencies... Asking me about the 'few words' of my introduction to John's reading last night, Fiona Hile wondered if it was 'off the top of my head'. Yes, sort of! Off the top of my head, but I wrote the words down, I joked! Like I do here --which always feels like someone else thinking through me (however straightforward); off the top of my head, thinking with my pen... No obfuscation in John Mateer's dreams of the world; to reiterate, he is bearing the existential burden --dreams of the parallel worlds... 'next life' always this life, which is where I meet him...


oOo 


[March 23/'14]


IN BETWEEN THE BEACH REPORTS

Quoting from what might be the last of the series, several not yet posted, --in this piece I'm discussing Fielding Dawson :

(......) I abjure saying 'one dimensionality' --he was a collagist damn it! --not only the frisson of the cut & paste but the curious images & strange feelings emerging between the rough cut edges, flickering like revelations but for the understandings thereof, & like shadows, Jung & all, --because the whole truth of the matter's what's at stake, otherwise odious conformity, dissembling that negates the particular in favour of at all times politically correct cypher --which Fielding Dawson never was. His greatest value surely candour about personal relations, its powerful resonance founded on fine ear & fluent speaking style... And he wrote this --first words of his I ever read, published by the late, lamented Andrew Crozier as a beguiling, black-covered Ferry Press booklet, THREAD, which begins, "I have green eyes, I sit at the table nervously listening to them I am watching myself listening and looking I am telling myself to pay attention, see and listen and not see and listen, my hair is a little grey, a woman walks in me, she pays no heed, I sit there and listen and look, I am myself(....)" --I was hooked, riveted -- "a woman walks in me" spoke to me of floating gender, a poetic life's polymorphous potential... I set it as an exercise in the Adult Education classes I taught in Melbourne, mid '70s, the phrase as is for the men, the reverse for the women ("a man walks in me"). It seemed always to open things up --themselves, the class, their writing...

Apropos here a reference to Fielding Dawson in letter from Larry Eigner, written Sunday, Feb 16, '75, included in the pamphlet AH ! published as # 15 of my mag, The Ear in a Wheatfield (August, '75). In the letter Larry describes what he's read of issue #9 of The Ear : "(....) AE Coppard stories on Masterpiece Theatre these last two Sundays [and Dawson's story is after Coppard]. I never got to a Dawson story much, following it and taking it in (a lot here for years unlooked at) til last night when I read "The Man Who Changed Overnight" before watching "Boy", 6th in a series of Japanese films with Ed O Reischauer (et al) commenting. Eye-openers, quite a lot. That Dawson hits very substantially (H James, G Stein, Creeley, Dawson...) --the vivid mix of experience. (.....)"


oOo


[January 23/'14]

Thank you for this, Nick Dryenfurth [Norman Geras: an obituary; http://overland.org.au/2013/10/norman-geras-an-obituary/
... The obituary went through to the keeper, as they say, so it's opportune to reconnect here...
N D : "It's now 4 months since the great Norm Geras was taken from us all too early. I miss his blog everyday. Reading over his many obits I was struck by the ungenerous offering of Overland. In this fantasy Trotskyite world of the Sparrow-ites Norm's ethical and morally-grounded politics is utterly disconnected from his Jewishness. Indeed, the author cannot bear to call him a Jew at all. In a word: shameful."
Re- 'ungenerous' : relates for me to what Ive thought about for many years as 'humility before the fact' versus a variety of 'vanity'... I understand Philip Mendes' reading of Geras (above) within that perspective... Best wishes to you & all who sail with you!

*

‪From the Guardian [UK]'s obit last October, this summary does for me : "From his perspective, the response to the events of 11 September 2001 was appalling. He found the readiness of many to blame the US for bringing the terrorist attack down on its own head to be intellectually feeble and morally contemptible. He argued that this section of the left was betraying its own values by offering warm understanding to terrorists and cold neglect to their victims. He detested the drawing of an unsupported and insupportable moral equivalence between western democracies and real or proposed theocratic tyrannies in which liberty of thought and speech, and the protection of human rights, would play no part. Norm wanted to engage in this debate and not just with academics. So he went online, to provide himself with a space in which he could express these and other views, and Normblog was born."

*

The name 'Normblog' rings a bell now but I'd never followed it... These notes & comments, conversations, encounters, are all occasions within a journey; opportunities for clarity, knowing oneself better, as clean & bare as one can be... Romantic anarchist & communist beginnings, mixed with art & literature & poetry's education, mixing DHL & Miller & Durrell & all & the cavalcade of existentialists, surrealists, dadaists, Beats, --and that's just into my 20s!!! ---45 + years since then --and the examination continues as it must vis a vis individuals, communities, society in which one lives... Here, via Nick D's interjection, accept serendipity's invitation to reflect upon it again. Much dismay there has been (since, for example, the party sec in 1962 equivocated & lied about Hungary --Ive written that story, must resurrect from moth-eaten mss!) -- but these days 'warts & all' is the sometimes rueful but oftentimes best of smiles I visit upon the world!

*

Olson & that curriculum from '67; cant underestimate the political influence, elicited, imagined, as much as taught-- '67 to '75 contradictory paths, and all the way through to the early '80s when my 'turn' began! Rereading, rethinking the whole shebang... EP Thompson pamphlet re- implications of independent  East European Peace Movements, yes I remember that --and the East European & Soviet dissident literature & criticism... A return to the Zen which sits in with the existentialism & etc of early '60s... Incredible to think of such journey or spirals...Haha! impossible encapsulation! So must insert that comment of Lawrence's wch fired me very early on, For God's sake let us be men & not monkeys minding machines! The main dynamic ['crucial contradiction' the axiom as I taught it at CAE many years] is libertarian/individualist alongside social/communitarian... Kerouac's Dean (in On the Road) who excuses himself from the partying discussions for a few hours to go do his job then returns to the real life! That was something of a lifesaver for me, not to be defined by the necessary rent/food job... Ginsberg's 'be kind to yourself' mantra at Dialectics of Liberation conference London 1960s I heard on tape... Nat Tarn turning me on to Nishitani Keiji early '80s (I published his review in my H/EAR mag) was my opening to the Kyoto philosophers & their ancient & modern practice & theory wholly contemporary & present spin! And --this'll get up someone's nose-- G Gentile's remark abt the awful utopian error of 'sugaring the pill' (of the facts of life) --And and and...


oOo

 
[January 23 /'14]

via Ken Edwards' posting on Alan Burns' death 

Takes me back... Mid '60s in Melbourne began following the Calder & Boyars 'stable' of authors with Alan Burns very much at the heart of this new &/or 'experimental' prose --Carol Burns, Anne Quinn, --I'll have to think who else. Back in Southampton '69+ , publishing my own mag Earth Ship (mimeographed of course, '70-'72) wrote to him, solicited a piece, very proud to publish... Sad to hear of his passing... must reread the work... Uppermost in my mind is AFTER THE RAIN...

Philip Salom : He taught for one year at Curtin Uni - 1975? A great shock to that otherwise earnestly conventional system (then). His cut-ups and experiments in class were exciting highlights that long ago. His Europe After the Rain was read with wonder/doubt but read all the same. He also contributed to the 'dark' side in two agreeably interesting ways. ‪He was popular even among the students who wouldn't go along with his provocations. Sad to see (assume) his career didn't grow as I'd imagined it might. UK lit just too conservative.‬

K H : ‪Calder & Boyars was a life-line for this strand of prose... Of course, British literature not French whose authors we read avidly in the same breath so to speak, C & B publishing Beckett & the nouveau-roman at the same time... 'Just too conservative' like Oz I guess? Though my grumbles of the '60s & '70s have their best place there... Good experiences, grist to the mill happily still turning, grinding!‬
  
P S :Yes, like Oz. Or the publishers... At least poetry gets it done - in shakes and shebangs!‬

K H : And ‪how interesting to have been in his class, Philip...

P S :‪ Aye, it was. He talked about Max Ernst in one class, those rubbings and palimpsests etc, and asked us to take print and images from mags and make collages. One bloke who hated this resisted by ripping up paper and gluing it into a rough-edged ski-slope of cheap print. Burns loved it and praised him over all the rest of us!‬

K H : ‪Brilliant! Can imagine it! As writer as teacher! Superb!‬

P S : ‪I liked him a lot, was sad to see him leave. When he left, he did what most teachers at least fantasise when faced with weeks of marking - he gave out marks but took all assignments to the dump and burned them!‬

K H :  ‪Re C&B, as with Editions Minuit, this 'new novel' reflected the publisher the writers had in common as much as a poetics or practice... As a young reader one probably attributed a commonality, and some of that adheres to this day... Your last comment about A B 's penchant for the bonfire is most amusing! Also strikes me as very Zen! Am reminded of an account I read of Bukowski's stint as poetry editor of a mag... you can imagine the time passing and the pile of mss growing... he realizes he has to act and finally, months (years?) down the track he separates the SAEs from the submissions, sets fire to the pile of poems, pisses on it, & places a black deposit in each envelope to return! Zen bastardry!‬

P S : ‪This tale of burning arrived via a staff member who drove our Burner and our ms to the tip! I thought it was a bloody hoot. Zen, yes, but also Freud - anxiety over the children rising above. I had only written two stories (if that) when I entered his class, knew nothing at all, and only broke into poetry (with Bill Hart-Smith). Alan (giving me high but not v high mark) said I don't know what H-S means (with your extraordinary mark!) but I accept HE knows what he's doing. The nicest back-handed praise. I've thought of him often.‬

oOo

Friday, April 18, 2014

THIS WRITING LIFE, #4


Reading poems by Gu Cheng --a prior vague memory of his short life, killing his wife, his own suicide, but didn't know of his high reputation in China. Ouyang Yu would probably dispute it? He's certainly not one of the hundred contemporaries in Ouyang's anthology, In Your Face (Otherworld, Melbourne, 2002) --but he is a reference, an image, in the poem of one who is --Xu Jiang's The xiao jie at Dongdan (translator's note : xio jie = little sister, prostitutes).  I liked those poets, poems, when I first read the anthology, and right now Xu Jiang's impresses me as the kind of poetry I'm thinking my way into as the feeling of writing poems stirs inside me again.

Preamble : On the inordinately long bus ride into the City this day (the trains at Clifton Hill bizarrely unable to proceed down the line in either direction --imagine scores of passengers suddenly having to seek other transport, running across the freeway to the Queens Parade bus & tram hub) I read the poems of Dimitris Tsaloumas, --Helen Nickas's selection for the French edition (in which I'm astonished to find myself quoted in her introduction, in French so I cant really read it) --Un chant du soiree, published 2014, Orphee / La Difference, Paris. It's the book Petr Herel mentioned to me a few weeks ago when he popped in to the Shop and said it was a good translation as far as he could make out. I, of course, read only the original English, though Dimitris's earliest poems would have been translated from the Greek, followed then by the poems he wrote directly into English --the couple of decades he seemed to have accepted English language & life in Australia, in Elwood, alternating six months in Australia & six months on his beloved Leros in Greece. But not at the last --one day he dramatically claimed English wasn't the language nor this the place he wanted to be poet of or in. I read his poems on the stop start crawl from Clifton Hill through North Fitzroy & then Carlton & finally the City, and liked again the local settings, appreciating, again, how his classical poems, mythological & historical, have a similar purchase, --the parochial elevated to the Elysian & the Elysian made accessible, colloquialised --a switch of reference but the same tone of voice, --his tongue in one cheek & then in the other --chasing the same morsel around his mouth, doggedly. I quote here, Of Trees and Birds :


Three are the hardy trees that haunt
the space of my obsessions;


the cypress, pointed sharp in starlight
gathering shadows of friends long gone,

piercing the song of nightingales,
the break-of-day exuberance of larks;

the poplar, tremulous of yellowing leaf
in a far island's marshy cove

where September cranes land on their flight
from the oncoming snows of desolation;

the gum, its vastness of land and horizons
and sun-struck screeching birds that mock

the stubborn traveller who staggers on
trusting the certainties of maps.



I remembered some of the poems I wrote in The Red Book (1981-83) --naturally, another unpublished collection, still in handwritten exercise book, though at one time I began typing it, airmail-thin paper easily punctured by heavy handed typing, long lost now I think. The Red Book wasn't so much a parody of social, even socialist, realism but a redeeming of a bad idea by the lyrical & anecdotal of the higher literature. One poem imagined my own mum as its reader, the poem written for her to understand, intended to explain itself while holding a tone & shape which seemed true to poetry when it was done :

the rooster is bigger than the tree it's perched upon
the rooster is the rooster as the tree is the tree
nothing more a name could give to me


sky is blue
ground is white
houses village this terrain
snow pillages what spring'll regain

rooster is whatever rooster seems to be
ordinarily rooster's on its farm
out of harm's way
where's the farm you say
surely rooster's lost
and where is village come to that
& why's there snow on the longest day of summer?

sun's refraction above the hills
rooster's beak cued for crowing
metaphor & allegory might not at all
be blowing through
what breeze there is doesn't ruffle vermillion-red
yellow brown black & blue

you see through eyes which know what to see
does rooster see through our dreaming?
we groom our dreams & leave rooster to its crowing
what is is what it is & also what it's seeming
tree dreams its rooster whatever its human
coming & going



So now there is Gu Cheng (collections published by Copper Canyon & New Directions) & Xu Jiang --Xu Jiang's poem about working girls jumps with topicality yet is elegiac-- "it's knock-off time for them / the morning breeze in beijing was so gentle, blowing / across the faces of the harvesters / another night of labour / as gratified as gu cheng or hai zai [another suicided poet] / having just finished writing their immortal poems". I feel it's my kind of poem! --the language, the sound. As for Gu Cheng --five years of exile, predominately in Aukland --imagine that little house on a little island, the Chinese poet in New Zealand? --five years a lifetime and New Zealand another universe. At the last, October 1993, in the letter he wrote to his parents, this philosophy : "We have now returned from America, via Tahiti, to our small island in the sea. With that sudden change of winds, I have a better understanding of people now; I bear no hatred or resentment. To be separated, in the furthest corner of the world, is not easy; that people can be born and be together is the fortunate thing. Whether life is good or bad is really only a state of mind." (translated by Joseph Allen, Sea of Dreams : The Selected Writings; New Directions, 2005) --what equanimity! --but immediately followed by his atrocious act.

What is Xu Jiang's poem but a homecoming? --"at dongdan, i knew my life was light  / in that instant, waking up from all my wasted and tormenting / hours" --the "xiao jie, (in fact just women)" --that is the fact of the xiao jie, --thunderclap half-hidden in the bracket as Ouyang Yu translates it, --the otherwise diminutive or qualification 'just' is here the crucial foundation of the poem, the poem-of-perception --and not surprising 'so dazzling that i was shocked' --because 'grrrrls' aside, it is the way of seeing that's conclusively justified --the humility (as I'd say) of it, open sesame to golden treasury of world given up to poetry --the fact of the world, --& 'humility before the fact' first principal in my book, the which becomes 'The Book' through the years I've used it. Xu Jiang's poem ends : "i was lucky to encounter you at dongdan / and in that instant / i experienced the long-forgotten call of poetry again"... Touche! We shall see...


[15/18-4-14]