Sunday, September 29, 2013



June 30

Tom the Street Poet in my mind (aka Poor Tom & then Tom the World Poet, as he is now, based in Austin, Texas), early 1980s, Swanston Street, centre of Melbourne, the old City Square, --he's pointing out passers by, seemingly plucking poems out of the air --rhymes, riddles, sooth-sayings --a kind of thespian rap, well ahead of the game that's even playing now, & even then its possible origin as Beat poetry long forgotten. I'm reminded of Tom as I skim Ken Trimble's The Barking Mad Poems (published this year, 2013, by Christine Mathieu's Little Fox Press, hidden away in Fitzroy), some of which I've previously read on Facebook --direct action I thought --apparently written straight to screen, thus instantly 'published' --something I daren't do myself though many do including my brother Bernard ("Stingy Artist") Hemensley, at least as far as blog & Facebook publishing is concerned-- for me, even when it's simple, the poem's worked, and publication always feels premature or a put on, but that's my problem which I'm sidling up to here!

I wondered years ago how spontaneous were Keith Jarrett's concert pieces --surely he had entire tunes at his finger-tips & ingeniously led into or found them as he improvised? The old question of the original & unrevised --Zen's suggestive yet problematic "first thought, best thought" proposition --more a question for poetry than jazz, say. All this a long or probably unnecessary bow, though Ken's a jazzer and so already on this page.

One's come to say of Ken Trimble that he's the Real Deal (I can hear our mutual friend Robert Lloyd in this chorus) --which, of course, begs the question of the literary scene's status ('real deal' where the rest of it aint?) and of the literary stance, the literary per se (notwithstanding Literature's insatiable absorption of all that's written irrespective of writer's & writing's disposition). One could say that the anti-literary is spoken in Ken's poem, One Word. It is a 'skinny poem' par excellence : the mostly one word per line of it's 27 illustrates & dramatises its particular emphases : "One day / I will / find / simple / words / to tell / you / how / I feel / so / you / can / know / in your / heart / the / clarity / of / my / seeing / and / the / truth / of / my / knowing."

It's a communique since "you" is the poem's reader, the reader or hearer without whom the poem has no point. The 'literary', in comparison, is in & of its own art, which is chipped off the old block of valorised form & content. (This is not a complaint but a description.) As I write this the example of another Ken, namely Ken Taylor, occurs to me as similarly oriented. I'm sure he'd append his name to Trimble's petition ("simple words to tell you how I feel"); for example, "As I came up from Binghamton / snow joined the / black road to night, in spindrifts / and / I dreamed again of coming out of the mountains / four of us / over the ton at / five in the morning. / Frosted cows / hedgerows and bands of / fog, / night again, / night after night of / lights brakes belts and / blinding day, / over the ton in hedgerows." (Over the Ton in Hedgerows (for Jack Ellis --who drove), from At Valentines, originally Contempa Publications, 1975, most recently Picaro Press (Art Box Series), 2010.) Taylor's poem is intimate, confidential, urgent; owing its existence to solo mulling or scatting, & it's luminosity to the telling.

Although anything might enter the poem in such a mode, there's no discounting its directness. The impulse to speak (utterance) & the drive to tell (story) are as much the attributes of the literary poem as the spontaneous, except for the obligation in the spontaneous poem to the unadorned, the naked truth (however problematic that is) : truth against art or even beauty except if & where truth is beauty! Now who & what is barking mad?

[23/30 June, 2013]


August 25

 Besides the impressive ornithological & topographical chronicle [see], I'm touched by the fact of Harry Saddler walking with his old man and also by his comments on wildness/wilderness. I never experienced anything like Harry's long walk, but am reminded by his reference to their conversation & mutual excitements of the inevitable talking accompanying such walking. To an extent, the walking liberated one from talking's house-bound conventions; the out-of-doors place always larger than oneself and, therefore, the philosophical or reflective mind triggered alongside the observational. I remember Dad once taking my arm on a particularly steep & tricky pathway in Devon I think it was, early '90s --I'd offered a steadying hand --and he accepting with the comment, You realize I wont be able to return the favour! A unique happening all bound up with his sense of absolute self-reliance... Another occasion, walking up & up from Porlock, through wind-echoing woods, he joined me where I'd gone ahead (leaving him to his own pace); first thing he said : You almost killed me! He laughed, and we rested ten minutes before the far easier return walk...

 The other thought then, compelled by this of Harry's : "More, though, the search for wilderness misses the point: we learn most not in those few places where humans are absent but in those places – temporal and physical, psychological and concrete – where humans have touched the landscape, or where the landscape has touched them; where the boundaries between human and non-human, more tenuous than we usually care to admit, come closest to dissolving." Now. I dont necessarily agree that there is less to learn in 'real' wilderness, but do entirely agree with the rest of his proposition. I'd add this : the physical dimension for 'real' encounter (for encounter with the Real) doesnt have to be very large at all! Nor of very long duration. Exquisite moments...



Homeward bound from Leon Shann's posthumous book launch --"in his absence or presence" Kevin Brophy said, exemplary mc for half-&-half memorial & literary event at the Fitzroy Library, Sunday, 26th May --I drop into what was the Birmingham on the corner of Johnstone & Smith, unprepared for the OMG make-over. Recall drinking there one late evening after a gig at the Tote, friends & family in all directions except mine, hopeless compass at best of times --and a wunnerful Twilight Zone occasion was that, sir! --buying drinks for some out-of-work guy whose gripe camouflaged me in that no-hoper hospice --short-circuited the post-industrial lament trading labourer's stories from the not so distant past, my railway labourer's experiences, his the automotive industry, though my walking out of jobs the opposite of his near fatal redundancy…

I'm in-between trams from Smith Street to Northcote, Chuck Berry's honky-tonk in the air --"c'est la vie say the old folks you know you never can tell!" (--you may also need to know that the inching of grey clouds only a metre or two above the balcony facade of the shopping-strip terrace opposite me is faster than my brother Bernard's Canaletto effects on Facebook) --it had truly been the dive of dives unless you accept the Hopetoun in Mitchell Street, Bendigo as the very worst, where I spent an hour one hundred-degrees afternoon --the convenience of that watering-hole enlisting me amongst Bendigo's least respectable according to the oracle, Mrs O'Brien, had there been any other patrons that day, only leather jacketed, knuckle-dustered vibrations & shadows --though how was Iain Sinclair's or Anthony Bourdain's cousin to realise? --following nose, up for anything, destiny claiming serendipity till the cows come home…

I look out the ultra-clean window onto Smith Street's motley and think of Leon Shann --always an English friend, Melbourne Poets Union loyalist. Pimpernell isnt the description --actually, Garth Madsen, taking the launcher's baton from Brophy, had it, not so much Leon's suitability as a spy, but that "some people reveal it all in their conversation; Leon retained it for his poems". I guess I'm in the former camp --depends of course on what "it" represents, or "all" for that matter…

Hold that earlier thought : 'English friend' …and the Englishman abroad as only a member of the same species recognises --Leon forever "coming home to somewhere else" --home & away as exotic as each other with the passing of time, not that this man's poetry sports with time. Sport it is though, putting on funny voices --the lad the vocative employs. Theatre --for theatre it was --but pulpit never.

R.I.P. Leon Shann

[26-30/5/13; ed 8/9/13]

[ps : Leon's friend & supporter Marietta Elliott-Kleerkoper wrote, "Many of you will be familiar with Leon's work, which he regularly performed in his fruity baritone. He was a keen observer of even the smallest details, which he would present with his characteristic self-deprecating irony. He travelled not only around the world, but into his own spirit and emotions."]



I confess : not that I actually 'follow' Hawthorn but it has been the favourite of my teams and that's been constant since I first emigrated. In fact, not long after Kelvin Bowers & I disembarked (& I joined him at Mrs Crispin's boarding house in Burwood Road, Hawthorn, opposite the station wch was very handy for me, a notorious oversleeper at that time, so I cld leap out of bed, throw on clothes, race across the road to my job at the station, booking clerk for Vic Rail!)-- it was late May or in June '66 --we attended an Australian Rules game at the Glenferrie Oval, just down the road, --Hawthorn vs St Kilda. A bizarre experience for English football fans --the colossal score, the waving of streamers behind the goal as the kicks were taken, the game itself like rugby & basketball but with the atmosphere around the ground of soccer. Ive always remembered, though, that Peter Hudson & Daryl Baldock were the respective champions for Hawthorn & St Kilda. So, not entirely dispassionately, I listened to some of yday's Grand Final on the radio as I munched in the kitchen, home from Collected Works half-day session, and then ten minutes before end of 3rd quarter turned on the telly, and watched it to the end. Ah yes, we're a happy team at Hawthorn....


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