Sunday, October 4, 2015
Now I'm one of the old men with thin legs in long shorts by the sea…
I had in mind to write a paragraph about the old men, which would then refer to Bill Downing as the oldest of them as per his visit to the Shop a few days ago*. Ive been thinking about him as one of the many characters around La Mama (the place and, importantly, the Poets Workshop, the poetry sheets, little mags, poetry readings, meetings) ca '68/'69. For example, have begun piece about Paul Smith describing our dispute about self-immolation political protest, wch i'd mocked in poem & he'd responded, rebuked me. May well refer to Garrie Hutchinson's reconnoiter of Vietnam War era in his book from '99 wch ive picked up again recently. Ive described Michael Dugan in the Paul Smith piece --Michael being our reporter from the Melbourne front during '68 when we met, filling us in on all the history other side of Loretta's red flagging & Eltham lore i'd learnt through '67, thus Geoff Eggleston, Paul, Meher Baba, home grown mysticism, Beats etc… Michael prime candidate for retrieval, certainly as a character (a figure) and surely a place for his poetry as well…
Time doesn't stand still when one's youthful/active. It does later --a chance to recuperate, retrieve, right the wrongs…
Bill Downing dropped in & then without goodbye shuffled out. Returned a few minutes later to ask me how he cld use his mobile phone to get money! I wouldn't have a clue of course so i took him to see Mary Farrugia next door. Introduced him to Mary & explained the problem and she & her customers said we shld go to the 7Eleven! Down in the lift we went, luckily no one in their shop & they were able to explain Bill needed 'sim card' & ID & etc. Said we shld find Vodaphone shop in Bourke Street… I suggested to well & truly baffled Bill it was too complicated & that we shld now ring his wife who might then be able to come to the City? Upstairs at the Shop again i rang her (Bill knew how to locate her phone number on his mobile), explained the situation, and she said he wld have to return home & she'd help him from there! So off Bill went to catch the train. Loretta said i'm 'very kind'. Let's hope people are as kind when we're old i said. Which is the truth of it…]
Sunday, October 4th, '15
The third season begins.
Corp on cell behind me, appropriately disembodied voice : "Harry? Harry? You're dropping out. I cant hear you." But I can amigo!
God help us!
OK, it's behind me, literally. Focus instead upon the white sand & placid sea & cloudless blue sky from umbrella-less chair & table on the esplanade.
First weekend in October's pre-summer heat wraps around old bones like The Past --the past, as aggregate of equanimity that is --as --as just this, --this sea-side, --this sea-side note-book jotting, as though all perfect unbounded Mind. Then, across the sand, down to the sea and first immersion!
Cold, predictably, but not like some occasions previous summer's end. It's approaching midday & I'm the only bod in the sea, old or young. Old or young same difference in swimming togs in the sea.
Head under the water, can claim real swim now. Kick legs behind me, eyes wide open dead man's float.
Tread around small rocks on pleasantest gradation, seaweeds bobbing.
Then sudden return to the sand and stand for blissful minutes in comparative tropics --hah! --as it always was for English migrant, remember first Melbourne autumn & winter, 1966, --such cold as English made summer of…
Now ah & ah…
Thursday, September 3, 2015
Regarding Ian Brinton's post of the news of Charles Tomlinson's death : First read Tomlinson around '67, at the State Library of Victoria actually, the Dome reading room. Introduced by criticism I came across as the foremost British connection to / interpretation of William Carlos Williams... not insignificant in an age when there was no free flow, so to speak, across the Atlantic or between Australia & the US for that matter... I vividly recall Q & A with Al Alvarez , an extension lecture at the Univ of Melbourne, would have been in 1968 sometime, --Bill Beard heard Alvarez was in town so we attended-- Alvarez fielded a question/comment about WCW with a terse "William Carlos Williams has always been a blind spot for me!" OK as a personal response, but Alvarez was talking in Melbourne with the authority still vested in British opinion... There was laughter & applause from a section of the lecture theatre wch Bill identified as the English department claqueurs! Now that's half a century ago, and tangential to response to Tomlinson... Hearing this news I initially searched the Web for Tacita Dean's film of The Orchard, then realized I'd muddled Tomlinson with Michael Hamburger! --yet when I reread C T I'll be interested to see how the Englishness plays off with the poet's pro Americanism & internationalism...
Sad news as e/one says... but hopefully a good innings... RIP
So here we are, renewing acquaintance with Charles Tomlinson, in particular & what's often my own concern : the status of the English home or base, the English locality, from perspective of cosmopolitan.
Notes as I read Tomlinson's Oxfords & Carcanets at the Shop, pen in hand.
Tomlinson vs John Berger in The Garden? : "this crass reading forgets that imagination / Outgrows itself, outgrows aim / And origin; forgets that art / Does not offer the sweat of parturition / As proof of its sincerity."
The almighty 'what if' : "Had you stayed on / Twenty years ago, had I gone" , apparently resolved in "we / Were right to choose the differing parsimonies / Of the places we belonged to." Echo of Celan, via Billeter advocacy & translation, Melbourne '70s, "our own particular narrowness".
Tomlinson's take on Hopkins, Hardy --which I found myself reading as if about GMH! but is suitably Hardyesque, "You were a poet who put on the manners of ghosts." ('he was a man who remembered such things…')Memorable passage : "Even in paradise, what you would wish for, / Would be to lie out in the changing weathers here, / And feel them flush through the earth and through you, / Side by side with those you had known, who never quite knew you, / Dreaming a limbo away of loam, of bone, / One Stygian current buoying up gravestone on gravestone."
I rise to the figure of Ivor Gurney invoked in the poem for Donald Davie's 70th birthday, To a Yorkshireman in Devon, --Gurney one of my own, enigmatic & unfinished despite Carcanet's great project to retrieve everything from the notebooks & manuscripts… "And yet, is it, Donald, utterly absurd / Like Edward Thomas to accept a war / Convinced it was Eden you were fighting for? -- / That Eden Gurney found on midnight walks / Glimmering along boughs, up nettle stalks, / Through constellations that the Romans knew / Standing on that same damp of Cotswold dew / On sentry go." etc The literary task of the poem is to marry the American & British poetry of mid-century Modernist acclaim. Tomlinson describes the "approbation of your level gaze, / Though not so partial that you cannot praise / Writers whose premisses dispute your own, / Oppen and Olson, Niedecker and Dorn", and then "Gurney himself whom we rejoice to see / With Bunting at our island's apogee."
Good memory of visiting the exhibition of Charles Tomlinson's prints at Cambridge during the inaugural poetry festival of 1975. Reminded now by Timothy Clark's The Poet as Painter chapter in his monograph on Tomlinson, published in '99 in Writers & Their Work. Cezanne's 'objectivity' via Rilke adds another dimension to the discussion of Objectivist poetry with which Tomlinson early interacted (Oppen, Zukofsky, Niedecker et al).
Sunday, August 23, 2015
Well, why shouldn't Brian Hassett's The Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac [The Adventure of the Boulder '82 On The Road Conference --Finding Kerouac, Kesey and The Grateful Dead Alive & Rockin' in the Rockies; introduction by John Allen Cassady; published by Get Things Done Publishing, USA, 2015] read like a breathless telephone call or letter, a cassette-tape transcription, an inventory, itinerary, annotated bibliography, since it's all of these, --a fifty-four year old catching up on his own twenty-one year old's [on-the-] road trip, a teen&twenty out of rock 'n roll, and his reader, such as I am here on the cusp of seventy, happily hooked on the spirals of my own life story and always knew it as story, even my first pages from 1963 of manuscript so grateful I haven't lost entitled JOURNEY with in-between parts called PETER WHICH WAY, SONG OF THE SEA, THE CHANGES, flirting with overall title BOOK around '73 as 'writing' seemed to transcend 'autobiography' --thus my fellow-feeling for the young guy, Brian Hassett, forever younger, unembarrassed by the notion of heroes & hero worship, the Beats his hearth gods & goddesses, his pantheon, thus another way into history, what I call intersections --utterly at home with his thinking aloud, reportage, fast & free, as I cant or wont let myself completely be, devoted to British English's musicality, both street talk & literature, its textured ear, the more so as it collides with one's parallel love, the American colloquial, particularly the post-literary, the journalistic, the epistolary & journal-ism, --except that I conjure a 'literary' which swallows it all, spitting it out, compelled to truth, thus clarity however close to blurting's effluvium, adjacent to effulgence, humorous, true however knowingly comic, without spoiling or obscuring the candid, naked, generous moment!
B H of Vancouver, teenage veteran of touring with Yes, The Rolling Stones, Cheap Trick, Dr John etc, gets himself a gig back in '82 with the staging of the first Jack Kerouac Conference --could say, gets the gig for the rest of his life. Of course he's already a reader --Ken Kesey one of his stars, & Kerouac... Hilarious story of the frustrations of trying to find a copy of On The Road to inspire his girl-friend's sister, finally locating it at a store which has "this giant [Kerouac conference] poster on the wall and there in large print --"KEN KESEY" And in tiny print at the bottom--"partially funded by The Grateful Dead." !!! Right away I got on the phone before I got On The Road. The conference cost about $200 or something, which is like two million today, so I told them I was a show person and could help them stage it from a production standpoint, and the coordinator said, "Yeah, we could use you. Come on down."
Having hitchhiked from Canada to Boulder --and how familiar his description to anyone who's stuck out a thumb, hoping, praying, cursing --though he's the lucky one, scoring rides with like-minded drivers --he falls among friends, Kit & Arthur Knight for example, lends his ear to J C Holmes, Michael McClure, Herbert Huncke et al, clicks with one & all, and immediately starts scribbling in his own, let's say it, holy notebooks, which were lost or hidden or unattended for all the years until the day in 2013 when he sat down to write a resume of the conference, which grew like Topsy, listed in the book as Some of the ingredients in the kitchen, to wit, "Two different road notebooks from the trip; three hitchhiking logs; typed post-trip Log Notes; multiple cassette recordings made at the conference and on the road/; an inch-thick folder of papers from the conference including schedules and newspaper clippings and to-do lists; other Beat folders full of gems; my 1982 datebook; my Grateful Dead set lists and show notes; photo albums; Cliff Miller's photos and memories; letters and postcards home; letters to friends during and after it; recent conversations and emails with fellow attendees."
Literature, as I always say, voracious of appetite, its capacity determined by overview not insight, the absolute hold-all unlike its alienating attribute the literary which insists itself between subject & evocation or is of such an imposition that subject's mistaken, misperceived, which it never can be in genre writing --sports, crime, music --and no distinguishing here between succinct & rhapsodic since the particular may be caught in either.
Welcome to the Fan-ily! A comment from Neal & Carolyn's son John Cassady says it all : "For some reason, Brian ended up in the middle of our family, and we were never sure why, but maybe he reminded us of someone who was always part of it." And the fan from NYU & rock & roll promotion, who aggregates the intel, surrogate chronicler, quasi historian, --fan as devotee, implicitly democratic therefore as to how & where his interest falls, affectionate to main & bit players equally --undergrowth as fascinating & instructive as the grand stand, the nub of local history, indeed the invigorating factor of history per se, the proximity that makes it bearable, demystified because tangible, present.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Irish Murphy's, Ballarat on the site of Camp Hotel, 38 Sturt Street, erected 1907, original 1861 on the site of the Little Engine Mine. Haha! Best Guinness on tap I've swallowed since ever! Trailed around the town for ye olde but although the streetscape promised plenty there was nuthin! No pubs at all, sir! Continued through the drizzle & wind in wrong-weather sandals, admiring the solid city architecture. Top of town spotted pub-like appearance across the road from the Cathedral but disappointingly it was an immense cafe, generic post-pub, bah! Almost gave up then & there, prepared to investigate the Cathedral but breakfast was long overdue (surprisingly no buffet car on the train). Asked Chimney & Friend at pavement table if there were any old style pubs or any pubs at all in Ballarat? And, joy of joys, they offered simple directions to Irish Murphy's at the bottom of Sturt Street, further down from where we'd already fruitlessly & soggily tramped.
Installed now beneath pressed ceiling, charmed by the woodwork & various signage, Test cricket on wall television, small stage in the corner by the street windows for the music Ms Chimney said she'd be attending "tonight", and judging by the traffic off street through the rooms seems we're only at the beginning of the infinite pub. Likewise, only the beginning of the infinite Guinness, the tallest, creamiest pint. Thus begins a round of salutes to the living & to the passed, recalled in absentia in the infinity of recollection, --recollection of infinite regard, so much so I repeat the thought came by years ago, at Wollongong university, guest of Ron Pretty & John Scott, in the course of writing, making a poem, --natural enough to our own though generally bizarre : is life lived, I thought, only in order to be remembered? The extraordinary length & breadth of it, Twentieth Century's literary practice of elongation, mind loosed to infinite expansion of what daily life loses as the assimilable thus forgettable minutes, days, --longeueres…
Sunday, June 28, 2015
6th April, '15
On the Downs, beyond Bowleaze, ascend first 'height', sit on bench (inscription : IN MEMORY OF BILL FROST WHO LOVED THE SEA). Man comes up from the beach/holiday-camp path. I comment that the path is further inland every year-- "maybe not every year but since I first came here" -- "yes" he says, "& that's what it'll keep doing, it's the way it was made!" -- Indeed --the geological truth spares vain handwringing -- first cause of erosion is God!
"MAN WHO LOVED THE SEA" --looking at it, --like me sat here? --sailing on it? --fishing? Everything connected with it --the sea, the sea --local to his boots or in retirement in Dorset, up onto the Downs, this place, for sweet reverie, all weathers, can suppose jumpers, coats, or like today kissed by sun, combed by breeze. "WHO LOVED THE SEA" --at the end what else to say? (Poet take note, all verbiage lost, poem like carved last words, resonant, constant.)
Other day as we approached The Old Rooms on the harbour, B. nudged me to look at a man hunched over a courtyard table --It's --Yes, Sir G! --no longer resplendently His Honour's familiar self --I mean, jacket & shirt to hang a crevat on, an aura around the courtly, portly, golightly authority, permanent lunch-time feature at the Dorset Brewers, oh the golden age one begins to reclaim with fat jar of the Reverend James this Easter Monday mid-afternoon when 'heatwave' came to town! No, he was sunken, another kind of erosion, with awful short-in-the-leg troos & white socks filling the gap, Falstaff's demise, o the pity of it.
Tall-masts glide through the Harbour --from my chair-less stand only have partial view of the Harbour, but evidently the Bridge is up, open, like eyes & mouths of Easter visitors, cameras primed for several-times daily Weymouth event...
THE PROPERTY REPORT
Easton Square, Portland. Walking around with B's prospect[u]s in mind and think this section of the island has a distinctive (that is non-suburban) feel & look... And a short bus-ride down the hill & you have the Cove & yours truly sitting at bench at wall overlooking Chesil in full earshot of that incredible advance & retreat of the sea, --thrust & crash, rush & smashing suck as the long wave breaks along the beach-mile of pebbles, --that phrase about shells singing the ocean pops into my head --echo deep-&-wide shattering boom as though, like the Southern Ocean at Port Campbell in South-west Victoria, undermining the cliff itself, --like ocean tunneling beneath the limestone --echo upon echo, echo within echo within echo--
Fishermen lying on the stones, rod & line upended, looking after the business I'm listening to--
Middle-distance, horizon half a thumb further, three black dots. Not flat-bottomed, chap corrected me another day, double-ended--
Complaining about the service he received, the Portland surfer says he was doin nuthin more than payin their wages, --I'm good for five pints but at three pounds eighty a pint you deserve better...
(Mate passing by asked by girlfriend of the posse if he's working? Who works more than 2 or 3 hours a day? he says, especially on a day like this...)
Ah --the Cove's Adnams goes down very smoothly --cool temp, refreshing, Old Thumper-ish, that is the darkest an ale will be before shape-changing into stout...
Oh my --on such a day --But is Portland all of that? --on its day closest thing between Lands End & Dover to St Ives magic --but starved of sun perhaps its society's brought down to grey stone, grey outlook, grey bottom-line? Add winter, bleak house minus shelf of anything resembling O'Brien sisters' Belleek booty (but they were the beauties sir, even if I say so myself, oh doze photies from their ancestral journey way way back in me funny famleys' album, treasured yet in both hemispheres)...
'On its day' is docile, fait accompli --Thing is, to make of it what you will --thus vision --your creation, the inner compulsion...
[April 15, 2015]
In the quintessential English churchyard at St Nicholas's, Abbotsbury, with St Catherine's Chapel on the Mount in direct view's first quadrant from where I'm sitting, relaxing on solid bench. An afternoon with the Lord, tasting country village Anglicanism again, and the Summer's day that Spring's extraordinarily produced --bumble & honey bees around shrubs & flowers, and the shiveringly sweet scents of Easter Lillies in large vase in the porch, filling nostril. What to say? North-country tourists : "What a beautiful little village" "Doing a nice sketch are you?" "No!"
(April 15/17, 2015)
Off to meet David Miller for 2pm at The Bull in Bridport. Excitement of reconnecting after decades and only because the more recent Australian ex-pat Laurie Duggan let me know of D M's imminent move to Dorset. Given continuing self-doubt regarding my own patrimony, I set out as The Chronicler or, short of that exalted role, The Journalist (that is, regional roundsman aka rat-bag & rouse-about). (Looking out of the X53's top deck across at The Fleet on Chesil Beach as we pass Australia Road! Mightnt that say it all?)
Winding road to Portesham & Abbotsbury is one of Dorset's joys. (Victoria Inn's free house, a minor spell.) Even the coast-side field of rape-seed flashes as the light pierces the fine mist. Have to be a curmudgeon not to smile in return. How decline that bright yellow summoning? (Possum House? Come on!) Since 1987, Portesham, St Catherine's Mount, Abbotsbury village --can now say mine (like the gout claims an unfortunate's big toe, like the sea-mist drifting over claims the ridge before the descent to Swyre)? Mine, oh mine...
The Three Horseshoes, Burton Bradstock, --blackthorn snowing in littlest breeze, brother Bernard's proud reckoning of the village in his inventory, his own really-me awakened every time the X53 barrels through the narrow road, bargaining with the twist & turn like deeply felt memory.
Ahead of the meeting, mist & rain heavy about the bus, fog beyond the steamed-up windows.
[April 24th' 15]
[previously published as "Notes" on Facebook]
Crossing from the Northcote Shopping Plaza to the older market section revamped by the Aldi store, I don't immediately recognise the tall man in shades as Andrew Sant but it's him alright, obviously so when he removes the sunglasses. What are you doing here? he says --it's Thursday : shouldn't you be sitting in a cafe near here writing? I'm going there now, I say, --done my shopping… Just doing mine, he says… Ive been in England for a month, I say… I'm going later, he says --how was it? I'm pulling a face, composing a proper reply… You didn't want to come back! he says --adds : I know how you feel, haven't got it as bad as you but I know exactly… I begin explaining & describing : Got further into the West Country I'm forever dreaming… discovered more people & places & art & beer… you know! He smiles & nods, shakes my hand again, --got to go, he says… One day when we're both in England, he says… Yes! that'll be great!
On the spur of which I speed through the run-down arcade, blocking nostrils to the combined fug of Vietnamese nail repair salon and Greek fast food, onto High Street , cross on the lights & whaddayaknow see Pi O at the tram stop, saluting me I think, so I respond, "hello again" forming on my lips but perhaps it was someone else entirely he'd acknowledged, -- he's turned to the kerb as I pass full-tilt for the Delphi… Two whom I could imagine bumping into are Lloyd & Trimble, locals after all, around & about my own cafe & the Northcote Social Club & the old Town Hall et al --the Village in other words --the Greek village --but oh no, suddenly overcome by the image of the Widow's beating & stoning in Zorba the Greek --Irene Papas --what horror! --and then killed! --first time the other night seeing it again for many years --superstitious, bloody-minded, pre-modern, peasants-- islanders, just like Anne Axenskold was saying, treating me to afternoon tea, the day before I left Weymouth for Australia couple of weeks ago, talking about Portlanders in same tone of voice as we've reconnoitered Thomas Hardy's & JC Powys's weird & wondrous characters, --that other tribe across the Causeway, mysterious & hostile not the half of it…
[7-May, 2015/ 27-28 June, 15 tweeked]
YEATS ALL THE WAY
Damen O'Brien (to whom congratulations for taking out the WB Yeats Poetry Prize, announced yesterday at Village Roadshow Theaterette/ SLV) asked fellow contributors to the YEATS DAY '15, if anyone has heard the Waterboys' album of Yeats settings and what did they think of it (and of contemporary musicians' versions in general)? And Ronan McDonald, who organises a Bloomsday in Sydney I believe, whose morning paper, 'Common Things that crave : animal cries in Yeats's Poetry', I'd missed, piped up that he'd heard the album and in a word it was magnificent (whether or not with Bono's imprimatur), part of a long tradition of such collaboration… And I thought to myself this banter would be perfect for a note I could write about our long Irish weekend (Yeats x 2 and Joyce (Bloomsday) on Tuesday) --the bridge between Declan Foley's Yeats 150 seminar on Saturday and Yeats' second coming this afternoon & evening at the Evelyn in Brunswick street… Having managed to get away from Collected Works Bookshop around 1-30, made it to the State Library in time to greet Declan, Caz Masel, Bob Di Napoli and grab a pew in the auditorium for the afternoon session, my own head still reverberating from the conversation with Carrie Tiffany & Lloyd Jones at the Shop about aspects of my recent English trip, the contradictions between South & West England and Melbourne Oz assuaged only by an investment in a parallel life, that ever deeper or entangled concordance of trajectories, the writing out of which might make boon out of bane… (--almost Yeatsean that, even if I say so myself! --catch a falling gyre & etc!) Apparently I'd just missed Chris Wallace-Crabbe, but did see Earl Livings at the stage, & heard him introduce the Yeats Poetry Prize judge & winners… Pleased to hear Damen O'Brien & Alana Kelsall read their poems, and Carolyn Masel deliver the extensive judges' report on behalf of herself & Penny Buckley. Frank McGuire, MP, made the presentation, eloquently describing the Parliament of Victoria's embrace of Joyce last year & Yeats this, advancing poetry at the expense of the conventional paddywhackery so to speak! The afternoon's piece de resistance was the presentation of Yeats' s noh play, The Dreaming of the Bones, directed by Jessica Bellamy & performed by Tony Yap & Brendan O'Connor as a largely silent dance work. I cant say anything about the discussion, The place of the Arts and Humanities in the 21st century, because I had to be elsewhere… So it is, ditto, in two or three hours time I'll be out of here too! At the Evelyn for Michael Plater's Before the World Was Made : A Musical Tribute to W.B.Yeats...
[June 14, '15, at 1-36pm]