TRIBUTE TO JOHN ANDERSON, SERVICE OF THANKSGIVING, 5th November,1997
To Sheila, John's mother, & to his father; to his sisters & other members of John's family; and to his closest friends, especially Emma Lew; my deepest sympathy to you at this time. My love & strength to you as you live with & without John forever after.
I've been asked to speak into our memorial service for John the sorrows & kindest thoughts from several poets & writers whom I contacted last week, namely from Robert Gray in Sydney, Alexandra Seddon in Candelo, from Anna Couani in Sydney, & Alex Miller locally. All were shocked at the suddenness of his illness & death, and spoke fondly & appreciatively of John as a person & a poet.
Another of our mutual colleagues, Javant Biarujia, dedicated the poetry reading which he was mc-ing on the night of that awful Tuesday to John.
For the poets, the words are almost all-important.
This totally consuming labour extracting poetic harmony, poetic truth, poetic meaning, poetic value even poetic justice & poetic consolation from the language in which & by which we know the world. These are the accents & complexions of the world the poet makes --and of the life the poet makes --of the reason for it & the sense of it --its poetic sound & sense.
And all of it made by the poet with eyes & ears, mind, tongue, senses ever sensitive to what is given --to make something of what is given even as it presents itself complete.
John was part of my extended domestic & literary family since the early 1970s; intensely in earlier times, less so recently. He brought his friends & references into the conversation, as it were, and went away with mine.
Important as traditional British & Australian & modern European poetry were to him, so would become certain contemporary American poetry or at least certain of its poetic precepts.
His landscape poetry , which I persist in thinking of as cosmological, issues in his work as the product of that great Twentieth Century contradiction, the wonderfully artificial & the wonderfully real.
John was perplexed to find, one day, that a photograph for which he'd been very carefully posed by our late friend Bernie O'Regan, no longer included him. There was the Merri Creek & a particularly dramatic section of rock, but he'd been literally cut out of the picture! I'm moved & amused by that tale, for though John has been cut out, the landscape that remains bears him faithfully, for, as far as the poets are concerned, he also named the place and shaped it forever for us to see & to hear & to read.
As follows [from THE BLUEGUM SMOKES A LONG CIGAR, Rigmarole Books, 1978] : THE BRACHYCHITON (Kurrajong)
Study the leaves of the Brachychiton
And you will be ready for any turn in the conversation
What holds true in a grove of Brachychitons
Holds true in wheatfields and oaks
The kind of thought that I aspire to
Would not disturb one leaf of Brachychiton
I am not self conscious in the Brachychiton
Some are afraid in the Brachychiton
Enter the Brachychiton
After a while my thoughts fly
When I chant "The Brachychiton"
They sit down and most move around in the Brachychitons
I thought my jeans were Brachychitons
Nirvana Brachychiton. Brachychiton Das Cyclamens.
It is different each time in the Brachychitons
The Service of Thanksgiving for the Life of John Douglas Anderson, 1948-97, was held at St Mary's Church, North Melbourne, 5th November,1997. Celebrant, Father Jim Brady. Tributes were made by friends & family including Ned Johnson, Paul Poernomo, Elizabeth Connell, Kevin Pearson, Roger Smith, Cassie Lewis, Kris Hemensley, Peter Freckleton, Christopher Mariolle, Geoffrey Egglestone.