Friday, April 6, 2007


WEATHER : It's Good Friday in Westgarth, climatically not unlike my recollection of childhood Eastertides in the village of Thornhill, 4 miles from the centre of Southampton, southern England. We've had sun, there's a breeze & a blue sky. We've also scoffed a plate of Retta's hot cross buns! In Vientiane the temp. is 40+ outdoors and inside Cathy O'Brien's room-of-her-own it's 32C. No Easter bunny there but the Lao water festival is just around the corner!

WORLD NEWS : At Collected Works Bookshop yesterday evening, 5 for 5.30 the invitation said and we got off before 6 ,if my good cask- red addled memory can be trusted, we launched Michael Sharkey's THE SWEEPING PLAIN, published by Five Islands Press. Ron Pretty called me to say a few words just as I was settling into my glass : an auspicious (aushhhhpisshhhous) occasion, I said : this book is one of the last batch that Ron will see into publication from go to whoa; it's also Michael Sharkey's umpteenth book... I think there are only 5 more titles in Ron's pipeline before Five Islands Press as his own imprint ceases to publish and a group of poets (Kevin Brophy, Dan Disney, Lyn Hatherley, Robyn Rowland) begin a new list with, I suppose, another rationale. Ron said of Michael that he was a poet in the old Bulletin tradition, satirical, political, humorous as well as the conventional "deep"; poets are generally a serious lot, he said. (It's true; didnt I just decline Mal McKimmie's offer of free tickets for a show at the Comedy Festival? I laugh a lot, but as a poet? Hmm, vurry interestin [EP of HD somewhere or other]) And Michael proved Ron's pudding sure enough. They was rockin in the aisles, sir, creased they was with mirth. A good audience, buzzing atmosphere, all done before 8 when a party set off to wine & dine up town.

ANTHROPOLOGY : What happens at book launchings & readings, especially amongst poets? What is it that gets into us (apart from the alcohol)? We're all recognized in Elizabeth Campbell's inimitable "hello gorgeous"! No, I'm being serious. We engage, we are engaged, we are engaged for angels' & devils' work. We are caught up in or by the social energy of
our heightened language. Hanging on words, looking into our colleagues' faces, as if trying to physically, socially unravell some mystery or the secrets that otherwise scramble our poems! (Elizabeth C has left the room by now, disgusted by this old man's superstition! And so she should be.) I re-introduced Alan Murphy to Chris Wallace-Crabbe early in the night. Turns out they were both contributors to the gatherings in the 1950s at Norman Robb's bookshop in the City. Keith Harrison too of course, Chris began to say... Yes, Keith Harrison, Alan said, I played recorder with him at the music afternoons... Norman Robb's Bookshop in Alan's head because I'd just told him of Peter Kelly's book on Harold Stewart, Buddha in a Bookshop, delivered recently by the author... What would you call that ? The importance of reminding ourselves, of discovering, our history; the importance of circulating that history...

--Kris Hemensley, 6 April 07

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