Wednesday, October 21, 2009

THE MERRI CREEK : POEMS & PIECES, #15, November, 2009





I heard
back from
Leonard Cohen.
He wants me
to join
his tour.

Unlike the
other members of
the troupe
who wear
snappy little hats,
I'm to wear
a dunce cap.

There'll be a
gold leash
around my neck &
when Leonard
yanks it
I blurt out
a Shard.

No talk of
my playing
but if things
work out well
there's an
off chance
of our
cutting a
record together:
Leonard & John,
Looking Back
Thru the

My friends
tell me
this is
the chance of
a lifetime,
but I'm a
little uneasy
about the
dunce cap &




If you join the dots on
that famous polka-dot shirt,
they form a picture
of a man as lost
in the wind as all
the answers
he once

This thought came to me just now
as I sat in the sun and watched
the wind suddenly fill
the sleeves of my old, flannel shirt,
pegged on the line, making
a man of me at last.



Hotel room -

guitar on the bed

woman on the floor.


No direction home -

then, now

and forever.




SINCE THERE ARE no more poets
and the MUSICIANS HAVE FLED the stage
packing pens in oak trunks/TEA CHESTS
since all the artists have GIN BLOSSOMING

Since beauty and DESIRE STOLE OUR last can
Dle and left us in the da
rk since the gaunt got garr

otted and fled SINCE ALL TYPOGR
aphical THINGS GO AGAINST ME since all the
RES DECIDEd to hang thems

WN and my rage filled to OVERF
lowing, since venus AND ALL HER MAT
Es stopped DRINKING IN OUR BAR the O
NLY THINg left is to


As I rounded the corner

I saw him
in a white Alfa Romeo
red leather seats
on Broadwick Street
gold ring, gold watch,
white shirt, blue with white polka dot tie
dark blue mohair suit
quality shades, Gerry Mulligan crew cut
black Italian loafers
In the background
John Coltrane was easing
into the midday sun

I saw the past and my future
blurring into one


On Seeing Slim Gaillard in London three days before he died

He strode through Golden Square
shrouded in a huge woolen coat, scarf, beret, beard and a scowl.
I walked by him and as I did so
He turned his weary old head and looked me in the eye.
and then he was gone.

Over and Vout!

(pub. Soul Bay Press (Sussex,UK, '09); see]



An Orchestra's Day Off!

string section

the thoughtless strings resonate
down an endless hallway
looking for a score!

horn section

the horns eat abalone alone
in a brightly lit restaurant!

the percussion section

are rapping on an avenue of doors
where no one is pretending
to be at home!

if the wind section

comes in from that quarter
for 3 days it'll rain!


when struck by lightning
the orchestra members
showed no spark of enthusiasm
for the gesture
being well acquainted
with the piece at hand!

the parts

are blowing in the wind!




its your birthday
but you won't hear
Siegfried Idyll live
from the bathroom!!

what will
the dogs
and parrots do
now that
Wagner's out??

though vegetarianism
is not so passe
as an industry
is total drama!!

here's hoping
for an opera
with acne!
maybe we
can count
all the spots
before Lunch!!


apart from Hasse's
La Serva Scaltra
the whole year
can be spielfrei!!
who needs
a ringside seat
in Beyrouth?
i'd rather
be a trainspotter
in Birdland
(is that "peace
from delusion")
than a member
of the Cameroon
Wagner Society
taking a nap
in the garden
at Wahnfried!!




Warren Burt

Wed, Oct 7, 2009

Hi Kris!

Continuing our discussion of months ago, when I was in the shop, you asked about why people (these days) would use non-personal processes (for lack of a better term, and I'm sure there are lots of them) to make work. I found this quote from Herbert Brun the other day. Brun (1918-2000) was a composer, writer, computer pioneer, and political activist. Born in Germany, and riding out WWII in Palestine, he taught from 1963 at the University of Illinois, and a list of his students is a who's who of composers, writer, cyberneticians, and activists. In fact, for the past few years, students of his have been the controlling faction on the Urbana, Illinois, city council, making that city a model of Green politics in the USA. He was one for the bottom-up approach in pretty much all things, and whereas I was saying that one might use "non-personal processes" (how to encapsulate a world of extremely different ideas and techniques in a sound byte???) as a medium of discovery, Brun expresses it much more politically:

"It is one thing to search for events that will produce the sound one wants, and quite another to discover the sound of the events one wants. In the first case the wanted sound renders desirable the necessary events; in the second the wanted events are the standard for the desirability of the resulting sound. These are not only two different approaches to the composition of music, but also two different political attitudes."

Substitute words for sound, poetry for music, or whatever medium one is dealing with, and the quote may be more or less applicable.....

Brun, by the way, was one of the idols of Mr. Mann - whenever Chris was in the US, he would make a beeline for Urbana to have a cup of tea and "good old Berlin Jews arguing" with Herbert.

I liked seeing your early 70s poem-portraits on the CW web-thing the other day, by the way. It occurs to me that whatever styles we work in, even when we know each other, the work itself remains often inaccessible. Which reminds me - I promised myself that October would be the month I got my website and source of materials up and running, and here we are 7 days into it, and I haven't even started yet!

Hope you're well, and cheers,



Kris Hemensley

Thu, Oct 8, 2009

Dear Warren, Thank you for yours... Yes, it was a good little
discussion that day at the Shop, an impromptu seminar! And Alan [Pose]
recalling La Trobe University days & mutual tutors, colleagues,
friends in your music department... We were talking abt computer
generated language programmes, and the criticism I'd heard of John
Tranter : not that he was employing a particular programme but that he
then edited or corrected the results. My acquaintances must be closet
dadaists! I have problems with both the computer generation and the
criticism made of Tranter's correction!
Interesting what you say about Herbert Brun; firstly, because of the
tantalising adjacency of poetry & music regarding composition &
especially where any degree of abstraction is involved (& perhaps it
is always involved!); secondly, for the distinction Brun finds
between the 'wanted sound' & 'wanted events'... I'm reminded of the
Wallace Stevens I've been (mis)quoting for donkeys years; his response
to the "but what does it mean?" question : Mean? says Stevens : It
means nothing but the heavens full of colours & the constellations of
sound (or vice-versa --and that vice-versa is a funny one too! --what
status any proposition that can be so immediately reversible?)!
Creeley's quip "form is never more than an extension of content",
though liberating was always problematic. Could the Brun's proposition
be understood as politically desired & approved content guaranteeing a
work irrespective of its language --which to me is often recipe for
sentimentality or as George Oppen said about political intent,
therapy; And not what the poetry might be on about!
Best wishes, Kris


Warren Burt

Hi Kris!

Forgive me for treating you like a telephone book, but do you have an email for Walter Billeter? Sorry to do that, but you're the first person who comes to mind who might. I want to tell him about the radio show about Paul Celan that just came on Radio National. He might be interested.

A very good insight about Brun's statement! I think the reply would be that if one brings about desired political conditions, and then proceeds to write sentimental theraputic work in the same old way (think of Stalin Odes as the most extreme example), then the "desired political conditions" haven't gone far enough, or one hasn't really changed oneself enough. But I think what he was talking about there was more the use of processes to generate material and then the observing of the results of those processes. That is, to make a musical analogy - if one writes a program to generate a melody, and then listens to that melody with the same criteria one would judge a, say, Bach melody by, then the criticism would be that one is not listening to the melody with an open-minded enough set of ears, so that one can discover the inner-structure of the machine produced melody, and find out what the program one wrote was really doing, on the deepest level.

This doesn't mean that one creates processes uncritically, or listens to/observes the results of the process uncritically. The famous example (at least I tell everyone about it) is the tell-all interview that John Cage gave to Stephen Montague in the late 1970s, where Cage discusses his "random" composing methods, with especial reference to his orchestra and chorus piece "Apartment House 1776." Cage recounts that the piece went through seven complete rewrites before he "got it right." Each time before that, the process was producing results that even by Cage's Buddhistic "listen to everything for it's own interest" standards, were just dead boring. It was only on the 7th attempt, that the de-composition / re-composition process (he was using American colonial tunes and hymns by the 18th century maverick composer William Billings) he was trying to make finally produced results that made Billings work come to (a contemporary) life in a way that pleased him. You've probably never written an orchestra piece, but you've written books, so you have some idea of the amount of work involved in seven complete rewrites of a major work. Astounding! This was also a period in Cage's work where he was re-examining the idea of harmony, which he'd given up on after 2 years of Arnold Schoenberg's harmony bootcamp in the 1930s (apparently Cage was brilliant at the counterpoint exercises, but they meant nothing to him emotionally - he said he had absolutely no "feeling for harmony.") At this period Cage was talking a lot with James Tenney, who was re-evaluating harmony in terms of the microtonal practices of the ancient Greeks (we were all doing that in the 70s - me too! someday someone will have to write a paper about the Ptolemaic-Archytan revival in Western classical music of the 1970s!), and the eventual results of that thinking were, among other things, Cage's last series of works from the 1980s & early 1990s "the number pieces," where his choices of pitches to randomly order in time are just exquisitely sensitive.
So back to Brun - he was concerned with an attitude to politics that wasn't just one party or another, but one which changed the individual (very much like Ghandi - "democracy is not so much about self-rule and self-transformation" or something like that). And knowing him, I know he was absolutely opposed to mind control or processes of change imposed from the top-down (or peer pressure processes imposed from both sides!).
Anyway, this could go on, but I've got to finish up a review for a Brazilian webmag, and continue celebrating my 60th birthday, young pup that I am!






November, 2009

Kris, I feel privileged to read Tim Sheppard's marvellous writing [see TIM SHEPPARD, blog 8/11/09]. A writer can do no more with the dark and light of words on a page, and on the screen of creation. Here is the form and the content. Everything is here. Tim's writing spans the dreaming universe. Time and space fade inside the moment of poetic clarity. In such moments, the reader can sense their true self, within and without. The true self is boundless.




Light penetrating
the early morning stillness
seeking its own within each new
form of life,
each giving to the other
a strength and purpose vital
to its own being -
admired for its own sake - - - - - while
colour and tone acting with incredible
play havoc on the grass
each shaded by its own perfection of loveliness.




There is a tree
I know, that talks to me at dusk

Yellow light falling

I walk past you
and hear the ringing
of church bells.

Oh but I was mistaken
It's a symphony
playing Birdland.



White moon sits

on a black canvas night

Come home.



Under the barren red mountain
I had come for Shiva's night.

A festival of fire
to the un-manifested
becoming manifested
as the sun dissolves into

Ten thousand strong
with the moon
in their eyes
and fire in their hearts.
we waited for the Brahmin Priests
to light the ghee.

An ancient cry of O shiva, O shiva
as a wild woman came
with snake apparitions in here eyes
ablaze with the madness of love
to Arunachala.



Silent waters
yellow moon,
mountain mist,
and deer on the run.
Prayer mat and beer
which will I have first?

Drifting silence and wet afternoons
I think I'll read Kerouac,
perhaps St. Augustine
the black.

Lonely sun
tired days,
friends come around.

[these poems are published in Clouds on Hanover Street, published by Littlefox Press, 159 Brunswick St., Fitzroy, Vic. 3056;]



Allen Ginsberg, the real story

I slept all afternoon and when I awoke it was morning; I didn’t know where I was — I had no name for India. — Allen Ginsberg, Indian Journals

Where to begin? Firstly, dear reader, in my story Allen Ginsberg is but one of many players but I did meet him (sort of) and even exchanged words with the Great Man. It was 1980 in Vienna and winter was starting to dig in its bitter heels in more ways than one. The reason I was there, and still the only one that now or then makes any sense, was the enchanting Eva. We’d met at a Buddhist retreat in the south of England, had a sweet love in the summer sun time together and then she’d gone back to Wien to finish her medical studies. When I’d rung from London she’d told me it wasn’t a good time to come, she was studying for her finals etc but still I went.

Day one: I’m in Wien, staying with E (in her spare bedroom) and we’re at her folks’ place for lunch. After the meal, E’s dad who’s a doctor and, it turns out, an ex-Nazi, gets out his scrapbook of the War. There’s a comic-book type picture of Russian soldiers being blown up by Panzer tanks. (There’s also a black and white photo of him as a cavalry officer posing next to his horse in the snow, which is somehow touching). I say something about how killing all those Russians wasn’t very good to which he retorts: 
You Australians, you know nossing!
Well, in this case, he was probably right. We end up in her brother’s room where he proceeds to assail us with, to my ears, some fairly disturbing music. He also whips out a joint from which Eva takes a toke and I, in true biblical style, inhale (right in) too. By now the music has grown more disturbing and I say something like, could we have some Donovan or something and he just laughs, sneers is more the word. Was E sneering too? I can’t remember but already I know this boy from Newcastle is way out of his depth. Please remember, dear reader, that until my time in the meditation centre in England, I’d been almost five years in India, meditating, living for lengthy periods in the Himalayas with a few fellow seekers amidst goats and sheep. We end up at a party across town where I feel like I’m in a scene from a Hermann Hesse novel. There’s a band playing some fairly smarmy jazz and I’m sitting on a blanket on the floor. I’m wearing, in classic nerd, a tweed jacket someone in England’s given me, corduroy (beige) trousers and a scarf of many colours about ten feet long that I found in an op-shop in Cambridge. Suddenly I hear the cry Achtung Achtung! but already my scarf, which seems to be following me around the room, has knocked over someone’s glass of wine. By then E, I can see, is starting to wonder where she could have found me.

Not long after I decide to withdraw the forces for the evening. Some of E’s friends can let me off (without her) at her place. Auf wiedersehen, I say clambering out of their car and I wave as I walk to her place and pull the heavy wooden door (Vienna’s apartments are like medieval forts) behind me. But it isn’t her place and through the fog I realise I’m locked in. Oh well go up the stairs and ask some kindly burgher to please just press the ‘open’ button. Only no one wants to know me. Nein Nein is all I get when I gently knock on each door and burble: ‘scuse me kind sir…really sorry and all but I’m locked in… from Australia you see just arrived in your fair city. Finally I press a button. Almost immediately, it seems, the ground-floor door bursts open and four young guys in navy blue uniform rush in carrying machine guns. I’m strangely unperturbed as I walk down the stairs to greet them.
Sorry man, wrong door didn’t mean to disturb anyone, just arrived, you know, errr…
They can see I’m harmless, let me out and I’m back just behind E who treats my lapse as another sign of my total imbecility.

So this is the background to my stay although by now I’m starting to get out and about including to a chanting group where I get to play harmonium and sing bhajans and a classical Indian music performance by the Dagar Brothers (one of the many versions), held in some rich guy’s chateau just out of town. He’s got a world-famous collection of erotic art in a huge private gallery which looks bizarre after hearing such sublime music. But Allen Ginsberg is coming to town, turns out he’s a follower of the Tibetan Rinpoche, Chogyam Trungpa. E knows some people in town who are also disciples and they’re involved in organising Ginsberg’s reading at the university.

I can’t remember there being too many at the reading (50, 60?), pretty well a standard crowd for a poetry event anywhere. Peter Orlovsky, I remember, did a lively enactment of a poem about fucking a woman outside on the grass and a marvellous one about recycling human shit to make vegetables and flowers grow (music to my ears after weeks in a very intense Wien). I can’t remember much about Ginsberg’s offering except that many of his poems were performed on a portable harmonium and accompanied by a young guy, Steven Taylor, on guitar. (I’d studied Indian music in India and learnt to play simple ragas on harmonium and when a friend sent me Ginsberg’s First Blues Rags, Ballads And Harmonium Songs, I’d started playing chords and doing some of the pieces such as Father Death Blues.) The highlight was when Ginsberg closed the evening with Blake’s The Nurse’s Song, turning the last line ‘And all the hills echoed’ (with emphasis on the final syllable) into a powerful mantra. The small lecture room almost shook as everyone joined in. It’s still one of the most powerful performances of poetry I’ve seen.

We all end up in some basement cafe downtown, a gathering of local poets and Trungpa devotees. I remember talking to Orlovsky about India and his telling me how he’d love to go back one day. Everyone is gathered round a long table. I’m sitting across from the great man but end up talking to Steven Taylor about music and Bob Dylan whom he sometimes hangs out with back home. Ginsberg is in a dark suit and tie (part of Trungpa’s teaching about the necessity of living in the world) and he’s polishing off a steak and a few beers (also, I’m told, part of the practice of engagement with worldly life) and ends up picking his teeth and holding court to a retinue of local poets, even drawing up lists of essential reading of Central European poets for them. Ginsberg doesn’t seem overly interested in me. I seem to remember saying something slightly inane earlier about how he could come back to E’s and we could play some records or something, to which he says something like it sounding like a lot of hippy shit etc, so I’ve pretty well decided to cease any further dialogue. (Why didn’t I mention I played some of his songs, had read (several times) Indian Journals, was a big fan etc? Maybe I’d fallen into the role of playing the buffoon from the bush and couldn’t stop.) A young Viennese poet whom I’d met before is telling me how I should visit Venice in winter when all the tourists are gone and there’s fog over the water and the walls are covered in moss. He also says something I’ve never forgotten and which at the time perfectly describes my sense of the city I’m marooned in: Ze valls are tsickar (thicker) here in Wien.

Dear reader (are you still there?), the one scene that stays with me now is Ginsberg having what looks like a very taut conversation with a young local poet who’s all in black and is festooned with gold chains (what you now might call bling). Suddenly Bling stands up, steps back a few paces and calls out to Ginsberg: What? You mean you don’t like me or somezing? Ginsberg, still seated and picking his teeth, looks at the guy for what seems like a minute or so then slowly answers: No, not really…pride…too much pride. Soon it’s time to go. Ginsberg wants to visit the large Breughel collection at the City Gallery in the morning and we’re invited.

Outside Bling walks along with E and me or should I say, with E, and me coming along. He’s telling her of his accomplishments and how he writes poems for all occasions and makes a good living at it. Fortunately he leaves us after a few blocks. Then it’s just E and me walking along in the almost deserted streets. We walk for miles not saying much but it’s a ritual I’ve come to enjoy with her. I decide not to join the Breughel tour in the morning. An idea starts to build in my head: I’ll get back to my friends in Rome, find a cheap ticket to Sri Lanka and take the ferry across to southern India then travel through to Varanasi. There’s a blind singer I heard singing at a house-concert down an alleyway there. I’ll find where he is and study classical vocals with him. As Eve and I cross a footbridge, I can see the Danube under the streetlight. There’s ice on its banks and it’s moving swift and strong through the night.




translated by Cornelis Vleeskens


I wish I were a bird
and flew with them above the fields
where no farmers sowed
and no horses ploughed
and the people sighed in the camps
while the birds flew free

I wish I were a bird
and not the rabbit I waylaid
to ease my hunger

when the people put on their uniforms
they were no longer people
they no longer had faces
but the birds flew free
the crow and the blackbird
(but not the rabbit)
I wish I were a bird

[included in NO HOLDS BARRED : Dutch Poetry in the Post War Years, published for the exhibition & catalogue, intensely dutch (Art Gallery of NSW; 5 June -23 August,2009)]




Now that New York
and tut-tutting
through a 60s-style romance
spurred by an impetuous remark
about the Parisian prettiness
of hardworking security guards
and a misfit's adventure

Who could
coax a 60 year old fountain
prime cuts?


A cut above the visuals
the painted ladies
their own
fish and chip shop farce
through neutral territory

And while
well-placed brushstrokes help
barefoot thespians
ANGLE fragrance-free
forget grosting
for no other reason
than a climatic one


Euphoria's bimbo talk
makes the media
saddle up her mother
for skewed angles
high heels

Le puriste
new long lasting

And musical and literary figures
POST cartoon-style topless babes
in Swiss organic cheese


It may look
but a far-flung
tiger packing a punch
in l'espace lumierre

And you encouraged him
with style and humour
coming on vertically
insensitive to
the horror
and anguish
in this squatter's rest

As the economy lifts off
your RIDER has gone home
and a new language is
brewing in the auction rooms



"the nothingness of human matters" --de Man quoting Rousseau

How many suburban shopping centres
have I walked, only to see you
in the eyes of the man
who wanders rootless by himself,
torn summer t-shirt and hooded
winter jacket. He isn't you

yet I see you in his faulty step
forward, hear you in his every phrase,
a patois of too many pills
and sleepless nights. Bored,

security guards name him
The Professor, then offer him
the door, bowing, mock courteous
in their security.

They let you out yet locked you in,
didn't they. Now your day begins
in a chemical blur through
shrubbery in manicured gardens where
once you debated the de Man question.



Let's walk to get the city out
of our bones. I'll show you red gums,
xanthorrhoea with spears, flame-tailed
black cockatoos - no strangers here
unless you hear the protea's accent
on the evening breeze.

See, kangaroos' paws break
the tractor tread marks, while
off that story corner a body rusts,
wings and bonnets, flat trays
and drive shafts, welded
wildly by the elements.

Tonight, you'll hear boobooks
stretch silence horizon to horizon
in the bright moonlight. It sends
Pancho into a barking frenzy,
shouting down the ghost in the trees -
attack his best line of defence.

Sure as day follows night, there's
growth in decay. This land, once
Noongar, is now plotted and pieced. By
the water tank, old Buddha stands silent,
eyes hooded among raindrops sparkling
on gum leaves in sudden sunlight.

--Edited & typed 21 October/20 something, November, '09, come heatwave, deluge, & thunderstorm!--


, San Francisco poet & musician, Beat & underground affiliated, his poems once compared to Kenneth Patchen. Recent books include Firestorm (Pudding House Press), & Cobras & Butterflies. JB is on Facebook where this poem (he calls them shards)first appeared.
GLENN COOPER, long-time correspondent of Collected Works Bookshop, lives in country NSW, & has recently published Tryin' To Get To Heaven : Poems about, to & inspired by Bob Dylan (Blind Dog Press, USA, '08).
ANDREW FRANKS, born in Sussex, commutes between the UK and Sydney. Scratched in the stars, sprawled on the sand (Soul Bay, '09) is his first collection of poems.
PETE SPENCE, poet (forty years since his debut in Makar,Queensland) & international mail-art high roller (since the '80s). See previous issues (#14, #10)
DAVE ELLISON, poet, Melbourne muso & holy-roller. See previous issues, (#10)
The late TIM SHEPPARD (1955-2009), see selection of poems on previous blog post for 8-11-09
MAX RYAN, poet & musician, lives in Byron Bay/NSW. Rainswayed Night (pub. Dangerously Poetic, Byron Bay, '05) won the Anne Elder Award (Vic) for best 1st collection.
CORNELIS VLEESKENS, born in Holland, '48, lived in Australia since '58. Edited poetry mag, Fling, with artist Jenni Mitchell way back when; Earthdance is his little press (PO Box, 465, Glen Innes, NSW, 2370). Books include The Day the River (UQP,'84), Nothing Kept (Brunswick Hill,'86), The Wider Canvas : A retrospective (Earthdance, '96). Poet, artist, translator from the Dutch.
KENNETH TRIMBLE, much travelled in Europe & Asia, including to Bede Griffiths' ashram in Shantivanam, India. Lives out of town. His first book, Clouds on Hanover Street, pub. Littlefox Press, Melbourne, '09 (contains illuminating biographical note).
WARREN BURT, born in Baltimore, '49, in Australia since 1975; lived in Melbourne until 2004, thereafter Wollongong, backwards & forwards to Europe & the USA. Prolific composer, performer, writer et al; numerous publications, recordings, concerts, events, films etc. His website (, "gives some idea of what I've been up to".
ANDREW BURKE, a veteran of the 60s Australian New Poetry's Perth chapter, where he edited Thrust with Ken Hudson. His books include Let's Face the Music & Dance ('75), On the Tip of My Tongue ('83), Pushing at Silence ('96), Whispering Gallery (2001), & most recently, Beyond City Limits (Edith Cowan University, '09).

--all done, 28 November, 2009!--


Anonymous said...

Kris - posting a comment in case the email prob still evident.
#15 poems a treat.

Allen Ginsberg, the real story" - a lovely read and yes, very funny.
cheers Karl

Anthony J. Langford said...

Enjoyed Andrew Burke's enlightening Shopping centre sojourn.