Sunday, November 22, 2015
GOOD MORNING GIONA, GOOD MOURNING
Wake to 'friend request' from Giona Beltrametti! (Wake to the light of day, of course. Raise bamboo blind for Ushas… Flick desk-computer on…) Giona is Franco's spitting image. Notice the birthdate in the Facebook sidebar. 1966, five years older than Tim Hemensley. Son loses father, father loses son. Good morning Giona, good mourning… Twentieth anniversary of Franco Beltrametti's death --Franco, like so many other British, American & European poets, ushered my way by Tim Longville at Grosseteste Review, editor & proselytiser supreme...
"I am not immune", said in softest caveat upon involuntary vanity that perceiving flux spares one from its fateful vicissitudes --insight more fragile than Lao monk-blessed baci such as Catherine ties around my wrist, protection ensured by animist conflation of material & metaphor (--we've been here before : the feminine's place in all of this --60s & '70s paeans to the immortal dyad; fusion then return to sovereign parts, over & again, women & men in ecstasy's every combination --and recall '80s reading of the slanders upon Lou Andreas Salome for a sister's collegiality with Nietzsche, Rilke, Freud, Buber, analogy of the further trivialisation by contemporary sexual politics of muse, soul-mate, lover, protege --and I admit my head full of fathers, sons, brothers here but sisters, mothers, neither lesser nor ever forgotten) --yet while the moment flares with knowledge, the infinite delight of illumination subtracts from commensurate world. In no way a handicap when one belatedly realises Franco Beltrametti isn't narrator of the peripatetic (except of the means it is to experience geography as itinerary, simultaneous & indivisible), but meditator he is upon transience & impermanence, the willingly conscious & joyous recorder of world-as-time : "imagine : incurable! a precise / sensation (not unpleasant -- not pleasing) / that everything is happening somewhere else / at the speed of light SVAAAM while here / 24 hours in a bolt of lightning of 6months as it was / the twisting road / up and down across the valley [3/31/70]"
Apropos 'joyous' : I wonder what my own brother Bernard wrote to him in 1992 for Franco to hope I'd be "more joyous soon"? Twenty-three years since their correspondence & five years after Bernard published it in facsimile (Stingy Artist Editions, UK, folded card; Franco Beltrametti, Two letters to Nado / Bernard Hemensley, 2 poems i.m. Franco Beltrametti) I ask myself again : weren't those good years for me? The return to England beginning 1987, visits every or every other year. Discovering the S W Victorian coast, reflection it would be, John Anderson promised, of my new found Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, --Port Campbell to Warnambool, little towns nestled within limestone cliff & agricultural green, pummeled by Bass Straight & Southern Ocean. This time of new reading & thinking in philosophy & religion. New writing albeit substantially relinquishing publishing. Perhaps post partum anguish each time leaving England, dramatising life-long identity questions, -- but what misery implied?
After Bill Brown & Maggie Brown, most named is Franco Beltrametti in James Koller's Snows Gone By : New & Uncollected Poems, 1964-2002. For example in the poem of 30 Nov 1995 :
"Rising before me now
these mountains are the Sierra,
where you built your house.
Remember the sign : three peaks.
You & I found them,
Truth or Consequences.
I take out the red
harp, Raffaella's, play it --
hear your shadow
caught in the wind."
Helped select it, probably build it. Friendship was never more brotherly… To see a shadow 'caught in the wind' startling enough, but to 'hear a shadow' plays with kinaesthesia whilst eliciting 'shade' from 'shadow'.
In Jim Koller's Coyote's Journal, #10, 1974, are Franco's Five Poems : linked (and linked by Franco or Koller)? They don't follow chronologically --February '72, November '71, January '72 --but unsequenced in Face to Face (Grosseteste Review Books, UK, '73) which suggests they're random. Yet, thematically, if the (SHORT REPORT) : (TOWARDS NOVEMBER) is a five-part poem's foundation, then a psychedelic sense could be made of "a series of irresistible waves / from all directions", or "1, 2, 3 rainbows", given the explicit reference "A. Rouhier, le Peyotl, 1927 Paris"… Hadn't checked before --imagined a Paris street upon which may as well be unknown rake illicitly tripped out! But belatedly discover the pharmacist & Left Bank book publisher Alexandre Rouhier is the man, one of Andre Breton's hundred guiding heads, mescaline experimenter in the wake of Havelock Ellis & others, --the occultist Monsieur Rouhier, member of one of several underground cells, student of Fulcanelli & spoken of in same excited breath as Alistair Crowley, his "astonished eyes" as per "La Plante Qui Fait les Yeux Emeveilles : Le Peyotl", a good look for Franco & the '70s desert mountain back-country crazy gang whose total countercultural beckoning ironically induced in me the opposite reaction, freezing one in English forbidding, making perfect halfway house of Australia, as though it were the Gauguinian, Whitmanic come-all-ye Down Under, --until now that is, NOW! that these alchemical documents thaw the erstwhile timid set, flow & fly one into Illumination (poetry & world thereof)…
Nothing met, named, without contiguities which aggregate Real World. Same apparent obliquity first appreciated in Jung's reading of family tree. Nothing more certain than psyche nor misleading as genome, --synchronicity, sirrah, not logical progression...
Two peas in a pod, Aunty Lod of my brother Bernard & I. I didn't plan the radical separations 1966-69 or, as potentially corrosive for all its benefice, the exile I came to call it, 1975-87. Air-letter correspondence there was, the correspondence which carried the entire poetry scene, both local & international. But from children to old men are the essential divergent journeys, mutually exclusive experiences & investments, partial to the Way's myriad matings. And brief or extended circumstance parents all manner of relation, chips off old block, motes in ur-family's eternal light.
For some years I've misremembered Charles Olson telling Lew Welch at the 1965 Berkeley reading (transcribed by Zoe Brown, published by Jim Koller's Coyote Books, '66), "I'm not your father, you had a father!" Now, as I read it again I find it's otherwise. Olson's talking about Worcester ("Wow, I never wrote about Gloucester like this."), reading from An Ode on Nativity, --banter with Lew Welch follows but at this stage of the night Olson confesses : "I am a perfect father, until I am not. And that's another thing I hope is happening tonight, Robert [Duncan]. And I know that beautiful story which you've told to me, that you said a thing which cleared me when you told Richard Duerden, 'He's, Olson's not your father. You had a father.' Am I right?" (The exchange with Welch always struck me as paternal, even paternalistic yet imbued with the kind of love that leadership, as epitome or at least ramification of responsibility, implies. The relationship's ambiguous for although Welch is his own man & no kid at 39, he & Olson are colleagues within a family & community of which poetry is the life-blood. --parents, aunts & uncles, siblings born & adopted… ) In the transcript, Olson is speaking about writing & publishing & the status of talking (addressing the world as if arbitrary room has become the ideal) -- : "I am now publishing. Tonight. Because I'm talking writing." Whatever he was thinking, Lew responds with the literal, "I read forty-seven times last year? Forty-seven!" Olson corrects him as he must : "Baby. Oh, I'm not-- Reading? This is a-- Are you kidding? You think this is anything but a-- […] I mean I think this is a political occasion…"
Ken Taylor wasn't my father yet his welcoming me in Melbourne,'67/'68, felt like it. I should have been prodigal son for my own father, but wouldn't have a chance to perform that role until late '69 when I returned to Southampton from Australia, by then fully fledged Melbourne poet & playwright, new husband & new Australian! But it didn't transpire; there was no reconciliation. Even the appearance of his first grandchild, Tim, didn't displace primary rancour. Not until 1987 when I was 41 and Dad 67, did he acknowledge me as an independent adult! With Ken, sixteen years my senior, amity was expressed in the combined relief & delight of mutual recognition, a relationship which inaugurated the New Melbourne Poetry centred on the La Mama cafe theatre, late '67, early '68 and on, ultimately appreciated as a domain of the New Australian Poetry, the Australian wing of the international "new"… Back in the day, Geoff Eggleston nominated Ken & I as the La Mama poets' "elder brothers", while Ken referred to La Mama's inner circle as "brothers & sisters". Far away from Australia's sun & sea, I thrilled to reports of the brothers & sisters piling into Ken's kombi van, driving to Merricks on the Mornington Peninsula, seventy odd k from Melbourne, to commune & cavort, and why not a version of Kesey & Cassady's magic bus, Taylor's Pranksters… Thrilled & envied --my gift it seems for always missing one or the other country's great cultural events : working in London in '65 at the time of the Albert Hall Reading, I was both timid & unbelieving that the Evening Standard's headline (BEATS COME TO TOWN or BEATS TAKE OVER THE ALBERT HALL) could possibly be true; --in Melbourne in '67 missing, therefore, England's Summer of Love; --in Southampton '70-'72, missing the momentous Moratorium marches in Melbourne, and Ginsberg & Ferlinghetti's visits to Australia for good measure! Et cetera. Of course much to be counted on the other hand…
In 1970, Frank Prince was certainly old enough to have been my father, 58 to my 24. From the start he welcomed me as a new friend into his just then rejuvenating literary life --Stuart & Deirdre Montgomery at Fulcrum Press, via Lee Harwood, were bringing out his Memoirs at Oxford, his first book of poetry since The Doors of Stone, in 1963. He imagined my coming from Australia to England, albeit a return, as similar to his migration to England from South Africa in the '30s, when also in his twenties. Of course, the English wouldn't do this, he told me referring to my zeal for correspondence & communication, soliciting poems for my magazine, describing it as the "colonial energy" exemplified by Pound! Eliot wrote the better poems, he said, but Pound was the poet, the figure who attracted one to poetry as a life. Son or young friend? He complained to me once or twice of difficulties with his own children, whom I figured were older than I, as though we were contemporaries, fathers & men of the world, (--Henry Bolingbroke sotto voce in his cousin Westmoreland's ear of the disappointment young Hal was, especially compared to Hotspur)… Ken Taylor, similarly I recall, granting that parity, sounding me out, '68 or '69, on the New Age protocols concerning wives & their occasional suitors, accepting my advice that punching out the Natural History chap from BBC Bristol was ridiculous & patronising, as plainly antiquated & bad as forbidding one's spouse, he said, to smoke cigarettes in public!
One time Frank asked me to accompany him to a reading by poets from Southampton University, down town somewhere --the Bargate or St Michael's House?-- but at the last minute couldn't bring himself to attend. He hoped I'd still go, essentially to be his spy. I imagine he'd rather renounce his faith so adamant was he not to be there! In a sense his absence was a continuing renunciation of the literary life he'd surely conceived back in the '30s, perhaps defending himself from a repeat of the rejection which followed Eliot, his hero's, initial lionisation. Generally speaking he was a loner and until the Fulcrum Press volume not expecting a renewal of the celebrity he'd enjoyed before & after his war-time poem, Soldiers Bathing. Speculate that the Southampton University prof was at odds with the poet and only after moving on (via a series of overseas appointments) did the poet rejoin the wider world. Not quite true though --he was as happy to meet "the younger poets" as Andrew Crozier, upon hearing of our friendship, was keen for such engagement to occur. I felt then that Andrew, like me, subscribed to lineage & amelioration. It was ripe time, long overdue, for Frank Prince to meet with us, Andrew said. What did or didnt transpire at our Portswood tete-a-tete is another matter but I brought the poets (the Johns, Hall & Riley), he got the beer & Elizabeth the supper! He'd begun to subscribe to the Grosseteste Review journal & books in response to my enthusiastic prompting. He was on the board of the Poetry Review during Eric Mottram's editorship and whatever his opinion of the poetry said he believed in the younger generation, characterised by 'feeling' in terms of love & protest. It was the same feeling he was moved I'd found in his otherwise stumpy rhymed Oxford poem, as I described it in a review I blush to recall, --the feeling animating form he'd explain, --from which I extrapolate the vital part of romanticism's issue modernism, --I hear him saying that, except that he didnt, though modernism out of romanticism is his --not yet stifled by the Auden ascendancy --"a bit of a fat head" he'd quipped, rival we suppose, --over whom he briefly enjoyed Eliot's favour --but of all such brevity, jewel flash moment, is this life made...
[1-11-15 / 22-11-15]
Of Franco Beltrametti, to Judith Danciger
"whisky wont lack"? Dear Judith what
ever i'm missing of your translation
this Englishing'll do for me :
whisky no end of (wouldn't say no
black ones [bears] no end of (no shortage (overrun
curiosity no end of (vivacity (naturally turned on
Franco no end of
no end of simpatico lifting into
whole heart sky
blooming from vulnerable chest
no end of exultation
heroic for its heedlessness
of ever more tedious