Saturday, April 19, 2014


[April 17/'14]

Off the top of my head about Ikkyu on or about 600th anniversary of the death of his master, Keno

for Bernard H & Robert L

A few days after a conversation about Ikkyu, Robert Lloyd leant me a copy of John Stevens' translations, Wild Ways : Zen Poems of Ikkyu (Shambhala, 1995). We stocked it years ago, perhaps in a different format? Also Stephen Berg's versions of Ikkyu, Crow With No Mouth (1989). I'm enjoying this re-immersion in Ikkyu. Ever tickled by dates I realize this is the 620th anniversary of the year of Ikkyu's birth, and, importantly, the year of the 600th anniversary of the death of Ikkyu's first great influence, Keno, "the Modest Old Man, abbot of Saikinj. Temple of Western Gold." Via Google I found very interesting extract from Perle Besserman & Manfred Steger's book, Zen Radicals, Rebels, and Reformers (Wisdom, 2011). Nothing wrong at all with John Stevens' potted biography, there's just more in the Besserman & Steger.

"Keno's example, and Rinzai's beforehand, exerted such a powerful influence on Ikkyu's mind that he never accepted or gave inka throughout his life as a Zen student or teacher. For the legitimate heir to Rinzai, true Zen meant transmission beyond words, scriptures, or written certificates of enlightenment. And Keno was just such a master --unconventional, uncompromising, strict in his dedication to meditation, with no worldly ambitions whatsoever. Ikkyu spent four years training in the lonely temple of Western Gold [Ikkyu was his only student], until Kano's sudden death put an end to his Zen idyll."

Suicide attempt, the search for a teacher, from Keno to Kaso, & eventual enlightenment --awoken from meditation by "the cawing of a crow in early evening, Ikkyu achieved his great satori. the entire universe became the cawing of the crow..." John Stevens translates the enlightenment verse : "For twenty years I was in turmoil / Seething and angry, but now my time has come! / The crow laughs /, an arhat emerges from the filth, / And in the sunlight a jade beauty sings!"

Writing this as crows are popping up again hereabouts, bringing in Autumn & Winter in Melbourne, reminding me of my feeling for crows. Here are two from The Millennium Poems (1997-2000), contributed to Raffaella Torresan's anthology, Literary Creatures (Hybrid, 2009) :


milkcloud-sky canvas
leafless branches red tin roofs -
artist-crow due now


raven on favourite branch
confides to the tree
that as far as friends go
ravens' loyalty outdoes

trees' imperturbable
where raven's merely proud -
a bunch of people scuttle past -walking trees! scoffs raven -
leaves! exhales the tree


Amours, sex, & philosophy in Stevens's Ikkyu but no crows! Lots like this though :


One short pause between
The leaky road here and
The never-leaking Way there:
If it rains, let it rain!
If it storms, let it storm!


Sexual love can be so painful when it is deep,
Making you forget even the best prose and poetry.
Yet now I experience a heretofore unknown natural joy,
The delightful sound of the wind soothing my thoughts.





Amazin', as Tommy Hafey might say... Sitting yesterday, late afternoon, at the Kiosk on the beach, writing abt Dimitris Tsaloumas who swam right here for years, --thinking about that sentiment he expressed in a poem, that the mermaid doesnt swim here anymore, --pollution on his mind but also the degradation or loss of meaning, the loss of significance of classical myth, and probably his own sense of meaning as he turned back to Greece again, --writing about this when I saw dark shapes, fin, disturbance in the sea, and thought 'whale' but then 'dolphins'... And so it was! DOLPHINS, at least three, maybe half a dozen. WONDERFUL! Man with family sitting under brolly beside us leapt to his feet, shouting for people to LOOK! Everyone peering at the dolphins swimming from right (Point Ormond) to left, and then the sunbathers along the beach, standing, looking... I say swimming : the dolphins were jumping, up & under again, --and of course then Ezra Pound in my head, "Came Neptunus, dolphins leaping" --and I felt it was a 'reply' to Tsaloumas... You had to have been there!



Bernard Hemensley's message : "Jack Shoemaker : Alive and Well!...You'll be pleased to know, our telephone conversation. Ah! How we enjoyed those yellow-paged paper catalogs from Sand Dollar some 40 years ago!!!"

Yes indeed... very relieved & happy for this news! (For some reason I'd suddenly thought otherwise...)
Hugely deserved award! Another bookseller, publisher. poet! I'll drop him a line! 



[copied from B H's page] Rereading : So the award was made in 2013. Missed it or have forgotten, but thinking of the news today all the sweeter! As you remark about his catalogues, they were like a curriculum; for example, and at random. I've picked out Sand Dollar Books new titles list #23, dated 26 April 1978, --his categories were poetry & fiction; literary magazines; Japanese fiction; Sources & texts. It was the 'sources & texts' wch indicated poetry's reach, if you like, an expansion of the possibility not a single track. For example, from this 'yellow-paged paper' marvel : J Blumenthal's The Printed Book in America (Godine); Alfred Brendel's Musical Thoughts & Afterthoughts (Princeton); Haslam, The Real World of the Surrealists (Rizzoli); Mitchell, Blake's Composite Art (Princeton); A Rich, Of Woman Born (mass p/b); E Weston, Nudes (Aperture).... The most expensive book Jack listed in that catalogue was the Bibliography of the Grabhorn Press 1957-66 & Grabhorn-Hoyen 1966-73, ed R Harlan, printed by Andrew Hoyen, ed of 225 copies; "this supply is already exhausted and we have only one copy left", $250... worth what today? I published a poem sequence by Jack --Magical Mayan Survival Techniques : A Gathering for Michael Palmer-- in my mag The Ear in a Wheatfield, #17, Autumn 1976. My contributor's bio for him goes : "Jack Shoemaker is better known as a bookseller (1205 Solano Avenue, Albany, Cal. 94706) & as a publisher (the excellent Sand Dollar programme). His identification of Australia as the stop beyond Fresno on the American poetry circuit is an indication of his rare perceptions." For 'American', understand 'new poetry' tho I do recall Michael Wilding at the time suggesting that Oz become the next state of the Union & thereby qualify for its subsidies & literary recognitions! Of course, political teasing but a smidgin of the truth of the feeling of the time!

[B H on his own page] : "Yes, wonderful catalogs to complement what came thru via Nick Kimberley at Compendium and then his Duck Soup etc. What i obtained from Jack were lots of rare books (now) = titles by Bukowski, Enslin, Eigner, Creeley and Dawson. i would receive special lists of the titles available and order = Well-paid social-worker at the time! Of course, it was Jack Shoemaker's MAYA QUARTO chapbooks which caught the imagination for me when i started Stingy Artist publications in 1978....and the first one was!!! = Montale's Typos by KH!!!"‬


[March 26/'14] 

‪Thanks for the link, Kent MacCarter...[‬‪] I remember all of this from when it occurred... the controversy surrounding John Mateer's poem for and about the Noongar warrior Yagen... Reading the 'Nativism..' essay I'm struck by John's split or double characterizations as also last night at his excellent reading at Collected Works Bookshop... I'm moved by John's investment in the Poet which is both the simple & the imaginative figure, sincerely bearing the existential burden... Seemed very strongly to me that Mateer's poetry is the act which precedes politics (even its own). Felt, thought, expressed, and as I would say, warts & all. The alternatives are of diplomacy & politics; decorums which are not essentially poetry, that is Poetry, the parallel dimension where The Poet might exist... Part of that parallel dimension is Storyteller, --contemporary lyric poet become or returned as storyteller. Different subtleties, different transparencies... Asking me about the 'few words' of my introduction to John's reading last night, Fiona Hile wondered if it was 'off the top of my head'. Yes, sort of! Off the top of my head, but I wrote the words down, I joked! Like I do here --which always feels like someone else thinking through me (however straightforward); off the top of my head, thinking with my pen... No obfuscation in John Mateer's dreams of the world; to reiterate, he is bearing the existential burden --dreams of the parallel worlds... 'next life' always this life, which is where I meet him...


[March 23/'14]


Quoting from what might be the last of the series, several not yet posted, --in this piece I'm discussing Fielding Dawson :

(......) I abjure saying 'one dimensionality' --he was a collagist damn it! --not only the frisson of the cut & paste but the curious images & strange feelings emerging between the rough cut edges, flickering like revelations but for the understandings thereof, & like shadows, Jung & all, --because the whole truth of the matter's what's at stake, otherwise odious conformity, dissembling that negates the particular in favour of at all times politically correct cypher --which Fielding Dawson never was. His greatest value surely candour about personal relations, its powerful resonance founded on fine ear & fluent speaking style... And he wrote this --first words of his I ever read, published by the late, lamented Andrew Crozier as a beguiling, black-covered Ferry Press booklet, THREAD, which begins, "I have green eyes, I sit at the table nervously listening to them I am watching myself listening and looking I am telling myself to pay attention, see and listen and not see and listen, my hair is a little grey, a woman walks in me, she pays no heed, I sit there and listen and look, I am myself(....)" --I was hooked, riveted -- "a woman walks in me" spoke to me of floating gender, a poetic life's polymorphous potential... I set it as an exercise in the Adult Education classes I taught in Melbourne, mid '70s, the phrase as is for the men, the reverse for the women ("a man walks in me"). It seemed always to open things up --themselves, the class, their writing...

Apropos here a reference to Fielding Dawson in letter from Larry Eigner, written Sunday, Feb 16, '75, included in the pamphlet AH ! published as # 15 of my mag, The Ear in a Wheatfield (August, '75). In the letter Larry describes what he's read of issue #9 of The Ear : "(....) AE Coppard stories on Masterpiece Theatre these last two Sundays [and Dawson's story is after Coppard]. I never got to a Dawson story much, following it and taking it in (a lot here for years unlooked at) til last night when I read "The Man Who Changed Overnight" before watching "Boy", 6th in a series of Japanese films with Ed O Reischauer (et al) commenting. Eye-openers, quite a lot. That Dawson hits very substantially (H James, G Stein, Creeley, Dawson...) --the vivid mix of experience. (.....)"


[January 23/'14]

Thank you for this, Nick Dryenfurth [Norman Geras: an obituary;
... The obituary went through to the keeper, as they say, so it's opportune to reconnect here...
N D : "It's now 4 months since the great Norm Geras was taken from us all too early. I miss his blog everyday. Reading over his many obits I was struck by the ungenerous offering of Overland. In this fantasy Trotskyite world of the Sparrow-ites Norm's ethical and morally-grounded politics is utterly disconnected from his Jewishness. Indeed, the author cannot bear to call him a Jew at all. In a word: shameful."
Re- 'ungenerous' : relates for me to what Ive thought about for many years as 'humility before the fact' versus a variety of 'vanity'... I understand Philip Mendes' reading of Geras (above) within that perspective... Best wishes to you & all who sail with you!


‪From the Guardian [UK]'s obit last October, this summary does for me : "From his perspective, the response to the events of 11 September 2001 was appalling. He found the readiness of many to blame the US for bringing the terrorist attack down on its own head to be intellectually feeble and morally contemptible. He argued that this section of the left was betraying its own values by offering warm understanding to terrorists and cold neglect to their victims. He detested the drawing of an unsupported and insupportable moral equivalence between western democracies and real or proposed theocratic tyrannies in which liberty of thought and speech, and the protection of human rights, would play no part. Norm wanted to engage in this debate and not just with academics. So he went online, to provide himself with a space in which he could express these and other views, and Normblog was born."


The name 'Normblog' rings a bell now but I'd never followed it... These notes & comments, conversations, encounters, are all occasions within a journey; opportunities for clarity, knowing oneself better, as clean & bare as one can be... Romantic anarchist & communist beginnings, mixed with art & literature & poetry's education, mixing DHL & Miller & Durrell & all & the cavalcade of existentialists, surrealists, dadaists, Beats, --and that's just into my 20s!!! ---45 + years since then --and the examination continues as it must vis a vis individuals, communities, society in which one lives... Here, via Nick D's interjection, accept serendipity's invitation to reflect upon it again. Much dismay there has been (since, for example, the party sec in 1962 equivocated & lied about Hungary --Ive written that story, must resurrect from moth-eaten mss!) -- but these days 'warts & all' is the sometimes rueful but oftentimes best of smiles I visit upon the world!


Olson & that curriculum from '67; cant underestimate the political influence, elicited, imagined, as much as taught-- '67 to '75 contradictory paths, and all the way through to the early '80s when my 'turn' began! Rereading, rethinking the whole shebang... EP Thompson pamphlet re- implications of independent  East European Peace Movements, yes I remember that --and the East European & Soviet dissident literature & criticism... A return to the Zen which sits in with the existentialism & etc of early '60s... Incredible to think of such journey or spirals...Haha! impossible encapsulation! So must insert that comment of Lawrence's wch fired me very early on, For God's sake let us be men & not monkeys minding machines! The main dynamic ['crucial contradiction' the axiom as I taught it at CAE many years] is libertarian/individualist alongside social/communitarian... Kerouac's Dean (in On the Road) who excuses himself from the partying discussions for a few hours to go do his job then returns to the real life! That was something of a lifesaver for me, not to be defined by the necessary rent/food job... Ginsberg's 'be kind to yourself' mantra at Dialectics of Liberation conference London 1960s I heard on tape... Nat Tarn turning me on to Nishitani Keiji early '80s (I published his review in my H/EAR mag) was my opening to the Kyoto philosophers & their ancient & modern practice & theory wholly contemporary & present spin! And --this'll get up someone's nose-- G Gentile's remark abt the awful utopian error of 'sugaring the pill' (of the facts of life) --And and and...


[January 23 /'14]

via Ken Edwards' posting on Alan Burns' death 

Takes me back... Mid '60s in Melbourne began following the Calder & Boyars 'stable' of authors with Alan Burns very much at the heart of this new &/or 'experimental' prose --Carol Burns, Anne Quinn, --I'll have to think who else. Back in Southampton '69+ , publishing my own mag Earth Ship (mimeographed of course, '70-'72) wrote to him, solicited a piece, very proud to publish... Sad to hear of his passing... must reread the work... Uppermost in my mind is AFTER THE RAIN...

Philip Salom : He taught for one year at Curtin Uni - 1975? A great shock to that otherwise earnestly conventional system (then). His cut-ups and experiments in class were exciting highlights that long ago. His Europe After the Rain was read with wonder/doubt but read all the same. He also contributed to the 'dark' side in two agreeably interesting ways. ‪He was popular even among the students who wouldn't go along with his provocations. Sad to see (assume) his career didn't grow as I'd imagined it might. UK lit just too conservative.‬

K H : ‪Calder & Boyars was a life-line for this strand of prose... Of course, British literature not French whose authors we read avidly in the same breath so to speak, C & B publishing Beckett & the nouveau-roman at the same time... 'Just too conservative' like Oz I guess? Though my grumbles of the '60s & '70s have their best place there... Good experiences, grist to the mill happily still turning, grinding!‬
P S :Yes, like Oz. Or the publishers... At least poetry gets it done - in shakes and shebangs!‬

K H : And ‪how interesting to have been in his class, Philip...

P S :‪ Aye, it was. He talked about Max Ernst in one class, those rubbings and palimpsests etc, and asked us to take print and images from mags and make collages. One bloke who hated this resisted by ripping up paper and gluing it into a rough-edged ski-slope of cheap print. Burns loved it and praised him over all the rest of us!‬

K H : ‪Brilliant! Can imagine it! As writer as teacher! Superb!‬

P S : ‪I liked him a lot, was sad to see him leave. When he left, he did what most teachers at least fantasise when faced with weeks of marking - he gave out marks but took all assignments to the dump and burned them!‬

K H :  ‪Re C&B, as with Editions Minuit, this 'new novel' reflected the publisher the writers had in common as much as a poetics or practice... As a young reader one probably attributed a commonality, and some of that adheres to this day... Your last comment about A B 's penchant for the bonfire is most amusing! Also strikes me as very Zen! Am reminded of an account I read of Bukowski's stint as poetry editor of a mag... you can imagine the time passing and the pile of mss growing... he realizes he has to act and finally, months (years?) down the track he separates the SAEs from the submissions, sets fire to the pile of poems, pisses on it, & places a black deposit in each envelope to return! Zen bastardry!‬

P S : ‪This tale of burning arrived via a staff member who drove our Burner and our ms to the tip! I thought it was a bloody hoot. Zen, yes, but also Freud - anxiety over the children rising above. I had only written two stories (if that) when I entered his class, knew nothing at all, and only broke into poetry (with Bill Hart-Smith). Alan (giving me high but not v high mark) said I don't know what H-S means (with your extraordinary mark!) but I accept HE knows what he's doing. The nicest back-handed praise. I've thought of him often.‬


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