Saturday, January 14, 2017

THE BEACH REPORT, 12/14-1-17

At this level of reality (or do i mean perception?) --Malcolm Lowry's, mine, even Dad's (his rhetorical question regarding the overwhelmingly attractive thought that a journey might continue infinitely, --to keep walking to wherever & as long as the path or landscape, the amplified energies, led one on), & if Dad's then, with all due respect, anyone's, everyone's --the journey isn't particular though abounding in particularities. No, it's the ultimate generality whose idea suffuses one from even before the outset, aggregating every step, minute, mile, --filling, fulfilling, fuelling expectation --the promise inherent in Journey…


Freighters in the Bay, near horizon. The first one with green flanks carrying red containers; the second, smaller, rust-brown painted. Clear blue sky. White-caps on the shoreline, & gulls sitting in the sand, nestled, nesting. Even from a distance see a large man in long grey shirt, brown trousers, sock & shoeless, curled beside the gulls, his head supported with right hand, left hand on upjutting left hip. Canary Row i'm thinking : fellow stumbles out of alley, first light of day, shuffles to the beach, follows gulls' example, snuggles into nest of sand. Falls into sudden deep sleep, Rock Candy Mountain sheer relief. Awoken by sea's soughing & feels the spears of sun warming one or other side of face. On the street dosser can be moved-on but not i suspect on the beach. Darkness benevolent in that respect, daylight a dobber. In 2016 this is how it is in a novel because, apparently, city by-laws no longer apply to pavement sitting or sleeping --corollary of which, no contemporary bum distinguished by epithets of nobility including freedom, or rather, no erstwhile bum today would associate with the misfits on the city's streets since, motivated by self-respect (unless also banned by Health & Safety cum Human Rights regimen?), sufficient to cobble together minimum dollars for a room or accept the Salvo's dormitory rather than lay-about in sorry stupor or sometimes belligerent bravado beneath the necessarily purposeful feet of the citizenry.

Now, where's his shoes? But rolls over, then's sitting facing the sea and i realise she's no more derelict than i am, has a mobile-phone as well in which she's more interested than the tidal oscillation a hop & a jump ahead of her. It's a gardener's hat pulled down her face, the beach must be bottom of the old suburban block, this her daily constitutional. Stands up, collects sandals & is on her way. Trudge.


Couple of years ago wholesale change of staff at the kiosque. --the mix of English & Spanish replaced next season by the current local boy & girl. Even so recognition's still champion. Third season's hello ("How's the family?" "All well, the kids are at home driving tier mother mad!") bestows consummate belongingness. Come to think of it, never see the old parents now. Passed on? But old cant be older than me!


Seagull gives me the stare. Surely toasted sandwich crumbs not as good for you as plankton? Go on! Get out of here…


THE BEACH REPORT, 6/8-1-2017

6th, 7th, 8th January, '17

The funeral guests follow the coffin out of the chapel into blazing sunlight. We're listening to the adult purr of Charles Trenet's La Mer. Our friend is there mingling on the pavement with her own & suddenly gone mother's family & friends. We waved from our hearts, i explain. We had Charles Trenet's permission to return to the sea --mother of all elements, elemental mother... Our friend's given names --Franceska Jurate Kristina, like the sea a complex manifold. Lithuania, Russia, Germany, Europe, Australia. Imbroglio that is legacy, discordantly chorused as history, life-long striving for singularity sounded through fracture.


Swish motorboat anchored on water's edge. Black-gleaming outboard motor like a gun-mounting. 30-something dad on board relaxing, all the time in the world, waiting for young teen son who's  picking way across the sand with ice-cream cones & large bag of potato-chips from the kiosque. Helps him aboard. The two laze on the deck, eating, taking in the view including yours truly swimming, keeping clear of their mooring rope. Now father & son bob in the water, pull boat away from the shallows. Father & son could do anything & everything together. Son's The Man in lieu of dad's work-mates or brothers. Son is forever the long awaited one, manifestation of own childhood regained, happenstance twin signifying far deeper than reflection, so atavism pronounces its own relations. Now another dad & boy stride off the beach & into the water with rubber-ring to skid & bounce off the surface, footy leap & catch, dive, matching throw for throw, cry Oh & Aah, crow claim to Elwood Beach champions.


Dried, dressed, sitting on foreshore bench, wondering how safe is the blow-up plastic dingy & the tiny children within it which their mother --perhaps their sister? hardly larger than the kids --attempts repeatedly to launch on a wave. Couldn't it so easily propel into deep water? Concurrent image then of those children on the wild beach at Mount Lavinia, gleefully jumping the waves which suddenly became enveloping, overwhelming monstrous maelstrom --and the men on the beach, slow to react, but then brothers & fathers & uncles to a man, frantically, furiously swimming out to the tragedy occurring before them --everyone on the beach, then, shouting, calling, crying, then cheering, laughing, congratulating the rescue, embracing their almost drowned children --and i mean theirs, this Ceylonese community, fishermen & hotel workers & the village infrastructure around the foreign tourists, their avoidance of tragedy, their communal deliverance --i was 19yearold sailor boy, secretly courting the Scottish hairdressers --where was the Fairstar? --how far from the port this storm-ridden resort? --could have been witnessing stomach-turning disaster as if nightmare story expelled from out of one's own sick feelings --journey's excitement & education but simultaneously perilous, on  one's sailorboy tod, no one but no one to save my soul, no body that is, but some books surely and the pen & paper by which one confessed, call it journal or novel or poem of the boiling blue sea, the dark blue day, the blue dark night, as many hours of the day that were free of roster & crew's assumed obligation to the Company & one another… And when a man in familiar lifesaver yellow & red gear walked by, yelling into megaphone, i thought he was reacting to the potential danger of the little family in the plastic float, but then heard him say we had to clear the beach, the beach was being temporarily closed because SHARK had been sighted in St Kilda, a hop & a skip down the road… SHARKS! now that's a first for Elwood, friendly as a back-yard pool… SHARKS!


Serving "who's the coffee? tea?" to the table --would have thought i'd know by now, lad laughs --but i didn't know or remember he wasn't English backpacker for in this moment i'm sure he's Greek, especially if over-familiar man under further canopy of kiosque forecourt, adjacent to concrete esplanade & the beach, is the dad? Ah, couldn't be! --mebee related to the little Greek family business, --partner? --a regular customer, little business's esteemed 'regular', every day of the  season like old-timers in pub hoping for a pot on the house, picking up the dead glasses & carafes, this guy gathers tea & coffee cups like kiosque's best girl or boy, otherwise sits at a table, grey & white fluffy dog at his feet, -- he reads the paper, drinks his coffee, pecks doughnut or chip, converses with whomever's closest, the weather, the government…

Only the third attendance of the summer yet seems the British & Europeans aren't here, working or playing. Index of world economy --less travel-money, change of visa requirements, reduced energy, curiosity. Instead, different leagues of local --arrived such & such a year, live in that street, suburb, or came after, but long enough to establish cactus in rockery, privet bush above subterranean car-port --or always wuz 'ere, almost original, like Arthur, Peg Cregan's husband  --his all-seasons' browned legs --like Peg herself --that is, Arthur like Peg, her standard, sockless, sandals --his Diet Ale, her claret --dressed up when he had to be --Australian Railways Union business --but at home, whoever was around, in his garden shorts, colourful shirt flapping --easy in his own skin --seen & heard it all yet attentive, curious, for duration of any conversation --Peg's poets, painters, musicians, --eccentrics --his trade unionists --all of 'em their comrades… "Look at this house Mr Brezhnev" i had him saying in The Poem of the Clear Eye (1972/3), "a worker's house comrade a bloody mansion!" --as too the prettiest terrace on Victoria Parade, "(with blistered feet i come to savour your cool / ness Princess at the offices of Amalgamated / Engineers (our Movement / the beer & mighty bulls refined by / a frieze of realistic art & discourse / Watan & Counihan the mild Jack Hutson the dreaded / Carmichael the gallant O'Neill the last Paraguayans / mate & mate mopping up blood of comrades in Jakarta every / where" --and why have i been thinking of him recently? --figures of age, of ageing, of the older into which one's moved unintentionally…

And the floppy beach hat i retrieve from the water after my dip --thought it was a jelly fish --like one of Arthur's --no tickets, that's what it is, talking about the Australian character, --any kind of hat, anything'll do, anything if it does the job, --sounding like Lawrence now narrating Kangaroo --British but without the pettier class reflexes, imposed & reversed snobbery --Jack as good as his master --shock of the colonial new --one can be lighter there, my Lawrence says, --refreshed, renewed, and transformed --transformation in the fullest brightest light, not a smidgin of the ambivalent dark, dark sun & et cetera --imagine him, his surrogate, intuiting, sounding off like that. It's a child's hat. Yours? i indicate to sporty man striding towards me along the water line. No! he laughs, not mine! Slim girl in bikini actually rises from her sunbathing beside us & suggests the owner's to be found among the group of little kids & adults previously playing in our vicinity --screaming, in & out the water after dad has rafted three lucky ones to deeper water & back. She's right. Not that the mother immediately claimed it --but one of the five children did, raising hand as though in yesteryear's classroom --it's mine, she said… And that was that...


January 4th, 2017

Head full of Greece out of early morning emails with Jenni K --reciting the influence of the Durrells, Miller, Clift & Johnson, Leonard Cohen (--i appear to be the only one of the generation who never went to India or Greece or Paris for that matter --friend Cathy's 70's overland adventure its epitome --though naturally always in my head, --and Paris on the map in 1964 but something happened to prevent Christopher Owen, with whom i shared a passion for Oscar Wilde & whose idea it was to drop out of the Tech College in Southampton & go to Paris with me, --my actor friend with the parley vous & the aristo manners & a double crown, --suddenly we werent going -- his pater he said, or his mater, no money forthcoming --ah well, i went to South Wales instead ℅ of a few quid from Aunty Lydia who shared my disappointment at the abandonment of the Parisian reconnoitre -- yet Amsterdam was ever mine, & Ostend & Aachen & some of the German towns, especially Koln, Soest, Dortmund --and India, Greece…? --hmm… "next life" i mutter…) --once more at the kiosque --heard you were still here, Happy New Year--

--but the Point Ormond end of Elwood Beach's sou-westerly bluster's more like the Skegness of another life's forbearance --that is, desire's English inventory of never-visited seaside towns, fed by schoolfriends' holiday reports. However, there was always the Isle of Wight, a jewel compared to the smaller, shalier, stonier, scrubbier Hampshire resorts. Bournemouth we never ever got to, --posher, cosmopolitan, sandy, everything the Aunty in her sophistication would insist as almost acceptable in eternal competition with the Alexandria of her childhood & youth.


When encountered, Summer's here-again-ness could never not have been! One minute of summer day's sand, sea & sky causes instant forgetfulness of Winter --the cliche of the constantly warm-weathered Australia absolutely restored…


Two little boys squabbling over ball, bucket, ice-cream; third little feller inured from the fight by innocent infancy. Mediterranean mother sprawled in the recliner on the sand shrieks instructions for the three to enact the perfect family photograph, otherwise ignores their mayhem. Kayakers return to the water's edge, survey the chop, then quickly into their craft & paddle out. Three swimmers who pulled past in deep water far beyond where our kind of splashers on a brighter, stiller day would abound, reverse now on seemingly effortless point-to-point. From rocks & sea-wall a hundred, two hundred yards away near the old yacht club, the children's playground, toilet block, food vans, presently closed restaurant, back to Point Ormond…


Port Philip Bay's EPA warnings taken to heart --spit out face full of salty, sea-weedy water. One immersion's enough. Throw strange ball back to player with bandy bat. What's that? i'm asking. Thank you, he says clubbing the ball fifty yards across the grass. Curling, he says --it's an Irish game!  Ah --I was thinking lacrosse or a form of bush tennis. Now dried off & dressed, notebook in hand,  i've commandeered the best bench. Only now, Loretta observes, are others entering the water. The sun's hotter. Your reporter's on his way...

DAVID MELTZER, 1937-2016, R.I.P.
[Found a post from Joseph Murray on the Jack Kerouac site this afternoon. Mr Murray's preface, "David Meltzer, one of my favorite beat poets died today after suffering a major stroke. This article was written last year." But it's disappeared from my page in the hours ive been elsewhere. Will attempt to rewrite what i had put up... ]

Sad to hear that David Meltzer has died. His name's been in my head for decades. Probably first found him in Donald Allen's The New American Poetry (1960; my copy the tenth printing, purchased in 1967). I have a memory of seeing his magazine Tree in Nat Tarn's library late '69 or '70, must have been '70 +, and also at favourite bookseller Nick Kimberley (Compendium Bookshop)'s place either '70/72 or in '75 when i was back in England from Melbourne again. Wherever & whenever, a great era of widening, deepening sources & corollaries for the new poetry, including Meltzer & Rothenberg's work with the kabbalah. 
R.I.P. David Meltzer, 1937-2016

Further : Alongside Ron Loewinsohn, Meltzer's the youngest poet in the Donald Allen anthology. How the years fly; 79 now. Four poems there, 2 of his Ragas series, and a lovely thing, Prayerwheel / 2 (for John Wieners). Reading it now, as tho for the first time, I hear both New York & San Francisco in it. Start of it recalls Lee Harwood (r.i.p.) --maybe a Boston thing then! For example, "Don't worry about growing old. / When we talk / it is the sea I see from your mouth. / The winds, the wee fish (silver / parasites) feeding on the whale's white hide. / Why not die alone?" He refers to the "gone Bond sign -- once high / above Broadway. That's it. / What I mean, when I talk about poetry." And the beautiful last lines of the final stanza, "Somewhere, without mind, / Love begins. The poet begins / to examine the dissolution of Love. / The sea continues. We continue / talking, growing nervous, drinking / too much coffee." The magic is in that glint of true feeling off the contemporary poetry of the era's sardonic play... Must look in the catalogues now for the poetry & maybe the music too...


[January 2nd, 2017]

Click "culturecountermag" and find David Meltzer in the index...

Monday, December 26, 2016


Introducing novelists Colin Talbot & Shane Maloney at Collected Works Bookshop recently, for the former's book launch on December 9th, '16, I described a potential customer's enquiry as to whether we stocked any "amusing travel books"… Jules Verne? I wondered to our audience. Joseph Conrad? Malcolm Lowry? B Traven? Traven Collins aka Colin Talbot?

Long captivated by the splicing of author & character(s) in novels, I'm led to ask the question What is "fiction"? --what is fiction for Colin Talbot, for example, who's first to confess that his form of detective fiction isn't concerned with serial killers! He'll say it's his vehicle for writing, writing per se. There'll be another opportunity to discuss Talbot's work, but since mentioning Lowry that night the latter has been in my mind, and only yesterday did I select Hear Us O Lord From Heaven Thy Dwelling Place as my travelling companion to & fro' the sea on the 246 bus, & whose author was then quoted into my Christmas Day "Beach Report" largely written in situ (posted on F/book & the Poetry & Ideas blog).

Thinking about Malcolm Lowry and reading the collection's first couple of stories, The Bravest Boat & Through the Panama, moved to say that it's a writing laden with 'the art of'. Author's investment in novel as if mythology --concurrent levels of the revelatory fiction. Author here symbolist but not psycho-analyst whatever the volition of his time. He is artist projecting own system of significance but intuits there's no interpretation ahead of the experience which, for consummate writer, is doubly recollected --by & as intense memory & intense invention, & remembered again & again.

Imagine Lowry --poet, poetic intellectual, novelist in age of realism become more-or-less reportage --Bellow, for example, in the '40s, memorably exploiting one of Joyce's tricks without concomitant commitment to larger scheme or idea --story-telling entirely within rhythm of the colloquial, sounding out 'as we think & speak' which was called, when we were young, "contemporary", meaning, I think, post-literary --H E Bates for example, as present-time D H Lawrence one thought then, having cut to the vernacular chase, as earthy & corporeal as DHL but novelistically one-dimensional… Imagine Lowry seeking something else, perhaps as something-else's conduit… Doesn't he let it all slip there on p27 of the paperback collection (leapt when I read it)? "The further point is that the novel is about a character who becomes enmeshed in the plot of the novel he has written, as I did in Mexico. But now I am becoming enmeshed in the plot of a novel I have scarcely begun. Idea is not new, at least so far as enmeshment with characters is concerned. Goethe, Wilhelm von Scholz, 'The Race with a Shadow.' Pirandello, etc. But did these people ever have it happen to them?
Turn this into triumph : the furies into mercies.
-- The inenarrable inconceivably desolate sense of having no right to be where you are; the billows of inexhaustible anguish haunted by the insatiable albatross of self."

Philosophical complexity of 'having no right' allows practical translation at least as no ease with conventional relations, that is regarding definition of the story & story-telling, where elegance & efficacy congeal, & the edges refined, the bumps & whorls of perception's plenitude eliminated…


Sunday, December 25, 2016

THE BEACH REPORT, Christmas Day, 2016

Malcolm Lowry's Hemensley is no Old Man of the Sea --how could he be? so grounded (Lowry & Hemensley both) in --in his books -- so enfolded in ground, exactly like the longed-for earth after weeks at sea on one's sole working voyage --Perth wasn't it? maniacal drive with the Ship Shop's manager & deputy --Fremantle to Perth --is that possible? -- t'other end of which kicking a football around on the dewy lawn of house of Shop manager's Australian mate --one starlit night on the Earth in 1965 --& heaven on earth after the constant heave of ocean --yet that billowing, sometimes bellowing push & pull of sea is solid ground's eternal counterpoint  --and the rest of it, fierce wind, rain-like spray, errant waves, from which any Crew Only door's an escape but full roar & only man on deck's the opportunity usually experienced in books, best written when author's unhooked from feather-down suburbia -- bliss though in quiet room in quiet street, reading, writing…

"…in the park of the seaport…" our Lowry will write --understanding, like his Hemensley, that even the terrestrial accoutrement is suffused with sea --for example, that bunch of men in the parcels section of the Post Office, Southampton, Christmas '65 & again in 1970 --one of those forever available jobs, you'd simply turn up & apply, last years of the industrial age --a bunch of men in-between ships, best bets for unflagging labour, night shift --of course they were sailors but their camaraderie & gusto surely inspired the landlubber casuals, transformed the parcels room into ship's hold, the parcels into slithering fish, the parcel sacks into overflowing fishing nets--

"…in the park of the  seaport…" --first sight of Elwood's grassed & shrubbed foreshore, before the sand & the bay of blue sea, the entirely blue sky…