Launch-speech for GIRLERY by Melinda Bufton (Inken Publisch, 2014), at Collected Works Bookshop, March 1st, 2014
First, some thanks. I’m not even sure who I owe thanks to, but definitely to Ann Vickery for feedback, and to Melbourne poetry editors Gig Ryan, Jessica Wilkinson and Pete Spence for publishing some of the poems, and of course Greg Taylor the book. And maybe Duncan Hose as an example of Boyery. But mostly I – we – have to thank Melinda Bufton for being the person who can write poems like this. Free verse isn’t a waste of time. I already knew that really, but Girlery’s a reminder. It’s a fresh book: 2 parts Tyra Banks and 3 parts country girl. The first poem ‘Goddesses, the Bomb’ is a declaration that the poems will be as literary as fuck, but they won’t groan about their own weight. Hooray! [Optional signing of punctuation with your finger.] Bufton’s lines are like planks that shift about a treehouse, like you’re playing an electronic xylophone with your feet-eyes. You can tell why she’s had so many office jobs too: she makes it sexy. ‘Lessons learned’ manages to be light-hearted and feminist while integrating an under-emphasised activity of country life: a lot of TV. Pop stars seem to already have everything, but ‘Lapel’ shows us the work involved, the subversive-sounding complexities of online shopping, perhaps suggesting that the Marc Jacobs dress was rescued from the store. Clothing is a medium for Bufton, the way feminism or cricket is for other poets: it is its own romance. The voices can be something like a fairy godmother entering with her lines of advice but who then starts talking about her own life while nudging the princess bassinet away with her foot. And really, princesses have had enough attention. There’s something like Frank O’Hara in Melinda’s vignettes of a Girl-about-town – like Colette out of bed – and the way she can get out of a poem like the narrator getting out of the lift in ‘Like a fingerprint’, part good-humoured don’t-need-a-man-today, part Warholian blank intrigue. The variably light tone allows for throwaway brilliance in verb and adjective, such as alice (a verb) and carethrift (an adjective) in ‘Pincushion’. Girlery abjures earnest diction, while showing how deft the playful can be: ‘Bunnies of yore my gate to the wallop’, from the church of WTF, or the devastating ‘Sonnety’, for example, which not only does the sonnet but puts it in its place, both by giving it a one-word volte (‘divot’), and concluding with a summary that’s a meta-psychological-ethical complex. A question for reviewers is how a daggy version of punk comes off as stylish? The answer’s here as plain as Paris, however: study and practice (and did I mention ‘tuneliness’?) Letter cases go up and down like heels or collars coming off, just to check your attention. Bufton knows that work can be dreary and tiring, but – and perhaps there’s a fallacy that names this – the poems don’t have to be. You can call it Romanticism, putting a nice edging on your view of the world and its working dairy, or you can call it synecdoche, citing the sweetspot that makes life worth living. A quote from ‘Bumper book for girls’:
Never mind whose territory. We had all reason to
shudder when seeing texts flung about, aimed by the
lipless to pelt us on fishnet hip, or worse,
in the soul. Look here my satin-doubters
I have never looked better than this costume
allows, there is no evidence it kills my healthy sponge
brain cells. I read theory faster in heels.
Australian poetry can risk being a bit more chick literate, ie Girlery is for boys too: a unique book in the Victorian Grain, I give you Melinda Bufton and Girlery, the bomb. [Exit as you will]
[Michael Farrell sent his text from Rome; it was read for him in Melbourne by Fiona Hile.]
[uploaded from the Alive and Well and Living in Dorset blog, stingyartistindorset.blogspot.com/]
Saturday, 10 March 2012
A DORSET TROUBADOUR WOULD SING OF PAUL BLACKBURN
Written IN Weymouth & environs - ON buses or ON coffee-house tables - ON my laptop, IN a notebook, or ON my lap - here, there & in various PREMISES - but essentially @ home @ Golden GOJI Hermitage, drinking IN & out of poetry - ingesting this or that - and THAT is what drew me to Paul Blackburn many moons ago = ALE HOUSE POEMS, BAKERY POEMS, THE PROVENCAL TROUBADOUR POETS.....earthiness & classicism. BUT what does this Great Fool, w/out a passport to his name, know of such a wor(l)d ? Albeit that his mother came from Alexandria, and gestated sons who loved books and great libraries !
#1) My brother in Oz, prodded me to write about P.B., following my quirky, previous blog-post on here, which referred to Paul Blackburn. i dismissed the idea w/out even considering that i write anything = just not up to such things (?)....less than 24 hours later, i found myself working, as if on benzedrine, on this essay/blog-post. And it is work. And it is a practice...s'thing i had never accepted 100%, as i had the practice of zazen. Just sitting, was all that mattered = SHIKANTAZA = the practice of DOGEN. Katagiri Roshi's remark to Nathalie Goldberg, that WRITING should be her LIFE-PRACTICE, never quite accorded. After-all, for Dogen, ZAZEN WAS BUDDHISM. Likewise, when Franco Beltrametti told me in the 80's, that he practiced WALKING MEDITATION, i thought - not the real thing. i had not matured by a mile. Slowly, more teachings percolated into the mind of this great fool. THICH NHAT HANH talked of WASHING-UP MEDITATION.....life itself is the great practice, life and death, THE GREAT MATTER.
#2) Could not, for the life-of-me, find Paul Blackburn's books when i wanted'em. Searched the library in vain. Then, sidetracked by rearranging some BLACK SPARROWs in studio/conservatory, i find "THE JOURNALS" under my hand & gaze. i flick thru, happy to have found s'thing. i knew Blackburn had died "young" - but OH! - only 45! (1926-1971) and realised, in that moment, that when i first read him, he was already dead. Robert Kelly writes, as editor of this book - "The last writing in it comes up to six weeks of his death in September, 1971."
What i "liked" about Paul Blackburn was the "open form" and his ease with contemporary NEW YORK city & translating from the Spanish eg. LORCA. He won a Guggenheim Fellowship...etc...To quote Robert Kelly, once more - "In New York which was most his home and center, he could find the sunlight on a wall not different from Barcelona."
#3) It has been so long now, since my readings of the 70's that, as i sit in "COSTA COFFEE",(decaff.espresso & soya milk), with "THE CITIES" before me & to hand, it strikes me, that these poems are "new"/still fresh. @ 45, Blackburn was still "young enough" to have gone on and worked & practiced, for many, many years. i think of Bob Dylan's refrain = "may we be forever young"...but not in this way, to not have gone on...And there are many...THE POETS OF THE GREAT WAR, JIM MORRISON, HEATH LEDGER...and in "our" family, TIM HEMENSLEY (of the POWDER MONKEYS) - i blub into my coffee. No one notices.
#4) "THE CITIES", (Blackburn's "first, extensive collection of verse" -(Grove Press - 1967)) the Author's Note reads - "Every man's stand be his own. Finally, it is a construct, out of my own isolations, eyes, ears, nose and breath.." ....i hear an echo of CHARLES OLSON in that ="No such thing as mass, as much as, many people, each with eyes in their heads, to be looked out of." Do i misquote ? That is what i have as my memory of it. i do not want to rise from my place and search it out...do not even really know where to look...Human Universe essay ? Do not wish to interrupt this flowing of "mountains walking"...?....? BUT, maybe i will...SUDDENLY, i feel i have written enough in this first draft/ this blog-post...appropriately, it is young/ still fresh...ready to be played with in this warm and early spring of ours in Weymouth, where the cherry blossom, out front, has passed full-bloom, and is falling to the ground, even as i write.....i will wait, stay my hand, and WAIT and see if it PROVES, like the bread-dough in tins, waiting for the heat of the oven.....i will soon make my way into the world - to find some fresh, young heirs (pun intended)...."The air sweeps out the odor of love from rooms / the air we love, we weep, we read, sing.."(from "The First Round", Paul Blackburn - AGAINST THE SILENCES - Permanent Press - 1980).
#5) I'm going to THE KING'S ARMS on the harbour. Not a drinker as such - i like a good taste - a good taste of real ale, home-baked bread and poetry....a half-pint will do me. & a packet of s'thing salty....just a half-pint to keep me hand in!!....How else to encounter the world ?/ this world. It is the friction / our continually rubbing-up against / this buffering away, that will reveal the new in which we are moment by moment, breath by breath, being reborn...and it is in this, that those who are no longer visible are held in our hearts. This is all we have and it is the whole created world. It is enough....
[finished @ 17.30 hours,10 / march / 2012.]
Kris Hemensley's COMMENT
(collectedworks10 March 2012 18:06)
Evidently youll be continuing from yr favourite spot in the Kings Arms, perhaps the higher bar, looking out onto the Old Harbour... So,you have your Blackburn in place, you have him as poet of 'being-in-place' rather than the distinctions of any particular place? Or it seems i might, which is ironic given the inventory, the wardrobe he sits up in, peers out of! Similar search as you (where are my Blackburns?!) find first of all his poem in Allen de Loach's INTREPID magazine, #18/19 , '71, one poem's kind of ho-hum (Windsound), mere sketch, the other's HUMMM-HO, justifying the triumphant claim "All of it sung." Last line, is psycho-topography, genealogical geography, the roll-call of his place that whiskey'd moment, glass in hand saluting Olson, Julio (is that Cortazar?), Ginsberg, Snyder, and most of all Pound --memorable snapshot, "Ez's eye fixes the machine from under his neat / Alpine hat, the clean raincoat . fierce & friendly to / the mustache bristle, beard-jut, but the eye questions / the other end of this gondola, where do the steps lead? / The oarsman ferries him across to / wrap a death with windows...." etc.
Second thing i find is Pierre Joris's excellent Blackburn issue of Sixpack, (Spring/Summer, '74), indispensable really, i bet you have it under a mountain of health mags! --wch has in it this contra note, from Barry Alpert (edited the splendid Vort in that era, and who popped up on F/book recently!), whose comment puts in a nutshell not only Blackburn's situation but a larger gauging of poems/poetry... For, despite PB's obvious relish in Lorca's idea of duende, 'the straight fight with the creator on the edge of the well' (Alpert's source dramatically clearer than P's paraphrase) --& despite one knows that's the whole point of the daily witness poem, --yet in Blackburn acc. to Alpert, "most of his published poems uphold his self-abnegating conception of himself as street poet, bar room poet, occasional poet..."
That is to say, the huge risk of so-what/ery in that type of stance (i joked in my classes 40+ years ago, "I came, i saw, i wrote a poem!"), the loss of distinction or the memorable in the apparently ancient Chinese humble happenstance.
Very good to read you here!
As Blackburn has it in that instructive poem for (& against?) Ed Dorn, Pre-Lenten Gestures,"Thank God one tone or / one set of decibels is / not all there is."
INTRODUCING JOHN MATEER; Notes, March 25th, 2014
Welcome to Collected Works Bookshop for this reading by John Mateer.
I have a few copies of Emptiness : Asian poems, 1998-2012, just published by Fremantle Arts Centre Press, and some of the previously published but still recent Unbelievers or 'The Moor', from Giramondo. So, although this isnt a formal launch, it is a celebration of John & his practically concurrent new books.
Yesterday was the Seminar at the university ["LIFE IN THE SECOND LANGUAGE : Taking his own work as example, poet John Mateer present an argument about the origins and strategies of his last four books – Ex-White: South African Poems, The West: Australian Poems 1989-2009, Southern Barbarians and Unbelievers, or ‘The Moor’ – and will read and reflect on his relationship between history, poesis, translation and self-hood. He will discuss the circumstances of Afrikaans as national language in South Africa, the problem caused by Aboriginal language or its absense for a grounded poetics in Australia, and the possibilities presented by reconsidering the cultural formations of East and West through imagining the colonial effects of Portugal and Spain in this part of the world. "]-- Today, here at the bookshop, it's the Reading. Not having participated in a seminar for a very long time, I'm not sure how different a poet is in the one situation from the other. I guess this evening the poetry is expected to stand up by & for itself --which I'm sure it will have every opportunity to do!
For introduction to the well published & travelled John Mateer, perhaps an anecdote instead of interminable CV --I don't mean John's CV is interminable but CV per se!
I remember the judging of the Victorian Premiers Prize back --when? --late '90s, early 2000s? --in the company of Doris Brett & Kevin Hart. Our deliberations had come down to a debate about the merits of collections by Bob Adamson & John Mateer amongst others --I cant remember --Tranter, Gray, Rowland, Ryan?-- all good names anyway. We'd read the books, discussed, ticked & crossed, totted up our little columns of scores on pieces of paper --crass & brutal but there it is! A competition with only one winner! The decision was made easier by the technical requirement for the majority of a collection to be "new". And so Kevin regretfully let his man, or men, slip. Adamson, Gray… At least I think so, I think that's who & what it was! I'm sure it's in my diary of the time but confess I don't quite know where that is!
In retrospect --in this possible/ retrospect --it's fair to say we found the young Mateer's poetry quite unlike anyone & anything else in that particular Premier's Prize season-- And I wonder now whether the matter of 'location' came up-- If, for instance, we were attracted by Adamson's (if it was him) --his Hawkesbury River (and perhaps the book was Juno Gemes' beautiful photo anthology, the Language of Oysters and not the Mulberry Leaves as I've been thinking? --late '90s & not early 2000s then?) --Adamson's Hawkesbury & Mateer's --what? --what & where would it have been? W A salt & wheat? A South African elsewhere? The Non-White African's elsewhere? (Tutuola's My life in the Bush of Ghosts?) Already then the awareness of John's neither here nor there --the no place or no where (which sounds like Paul Celan) --and the possible Japanese pun, the Noh where!--
Ah well --
Absence & presence
as though each other's
And so, John, to quote & misquote you from a poem in your latest book, --"dear poet, close your eyes, this brothel is the only world, and we are the bhodisattvas!" -- Please welcome John Mateer...
[April 5th, 2014, Westgarth by the Sea]