Sunday, September 4, 2016


May 8th

Friday the 29th April '16 was the last possible day to receive mail in Weymouth, eve of the early drive up to Heathrow, with Robin H, and the long flight back to Melbourne. Great pleasure & surprise, then, when package from Kelvin Bowers & Dooze Storey in St Ives was delivered : their gift of David Whittaker's book, Give Me Your Painting Hand : W.S. Graham & Cornwall, published by his own Wavestone Press []. Everywhere I went this English Journey '16, conversation ensued in which Sydney Graham's name came up. Kel, Dooze & I talked about him when we looked at the Tate's St Ives book of 1985, in which Graham's poems for painter friends appear within the illustrated text about that golden period of Cornish abstraction (Graham's more or less the poet of that practice I'd like to say). And again, just around the corner from Kel's place, with poet John Phillips, which I worked into my (compulsory) Lighthouse poem soon after. And continued in Weymouth with Lucas Weschke, and then in the New Forest with Tony & Sonia Green (whose new book on Sven Berlin is also recently published), and in Blandford Forum with David Caddy. W.S.Graham was the common un-common element in all my meetings!

Curious to read the headline in the Cornish Review, "neglected giant of Cornish literature"... In our neck of the woods, Sidney Graham is celebrated not neglected. I guess that's the disparity between mainstream & whatever our community of reading & writing is called! Certainly since Faber's whopper of a collected, Graham's been front & centre... And didnt I meself attempt a critique of WSG at the Melbourne Poets Union event at the VWC when it was next door to ‪Collected Works Bookshop‬ in the Nicholas Building ten or so years ago? Rhetorical question! I did! With a little bottle of whiskey beside me --I was sitting on panel with Jordie Albiston & ‪Susan Kruss‬-- the whiskey was the ghost of St Ives you could say, and I was talking about Sven Berlin and other friends of our poet, imbibing as I delivered. It's on film, incidentally, but i think I'm too embarrassed to view it again! 'My Life in Theatre' indeed!


I should have shared David Caddy's review in the TEARS IN THE FENCE blog a month ago of Sonia Green's biography of Sven Berlin, but my trip to England & not always having access to a  computer got in the way... Better late than never... I've mentioned Sonia Green [Aarons] below in the note on David Whittaker's book on Sydney Graham... suffice to say I met her in 2015 through my woodworker youngest brother Robin, whose art-work relocation had led him to the Greens & their incredible archive of Sven's work... When he was introduced to the Greens he suddenly remembered my own story of meeting Sven in 1963 at Home Farm, Emery Down, in the New Forest, via college friend Billy (Will) Fisher. Robin told the Greens about the elder brother & arranged a meeting. A year on I've met them again, this time via my sister Monique who, remarkably, was able to tell Sonia her memory of Billy at our home in Thornhill, Southampton, on one or two occasions, recalling his vivid blue eyes, his beard, and long locks! Bethatasitmay, in the meantime Robin & his crew moved Sven's major sculpture, The Stag of the Forest, from the Fawley industrial complex (where our father worked for decades, at the Esso oil refinery) to the Greens' garden; and Robin built the protective shelter which has survived the long English winter Tony told & showed me. There's a photo of Robin & crew beside the shelter at the end of Sonia's book, Timeless Man (Millersford Press) and very proud of him we are too! Ah, such legacy mounted on serendipity : the figure Sven became for me, and Billy (Will) too; my life as a poet especially amidst painting & painters; the importance to me of the St Ives scene... such circles, spirals, of significance...I almost swoon!


May 11th

Re Sharon Thesen F/b post about the Hammer Museum's Black Mountain exhibit at UCLA….
To a certain inner circle of that Melbourne incarnation, 1967-70, namely the La Mama cafe-theatre, established by the late Betty Burstall, with poetry centre stage (--"Tuesday Nights Forever!" : recall when I returned from England, late '72, young poet Pi O visited me in Kerr Street, Fitzroy, quizzed me about that claim... "So what happened?" he demanded! That's history though isnt it! --what happened...? --well, I said, I went back to England for 3 years!), --myself coordinating from start of the year, '68, after Betty's & Glen Thomasetti's Sunday salons from Winter to Summer, '67 --and this Melbourne new poetry platform arguably an outpost of the Black Mountain College we conjured from various sources... The "we" was mainly Bill Beard, Ian Robertson, Paul Adler, Geoff Eggleston, Garrie Hutchinson, Charles Buckmaster, Allison Hill, John Jenkins, Mike Dugan, Mal Morgan, ambivalently Ken Taylor, detachedly Sid Clayton, James Crouch ... I was saying to Aidan Coleman just the other day, --interviewed for his Oz Po research, especially on John Forbes --that Melbourne was Black Mountain (include a couple of Sydney poets in that, Nigel Roberts, Terry Gillmore, the poets around Free Poetry magazine, Johnny Goodall another) whilst Sydney was New York (I'm thinking of John Tranter especially) --I characterised it at the time as Melbourne/Black Mountain 'Honest Joe' vs Sydney/New York 'City Slicker'... In '73 I met Robert Kenny & Walter Billeter and that Black Mountain discussion was on again! Colin & Frances Symes came out from England (Colin's Poetree wall map, an insert in Earth Ship #1 in Southampton, 1970, already a cult reference for our group regarding the Anglo-American, especially Pound/Olson, legacy). Clive Faust returned to Melbourne from Japan & met us via the Cid Corman connection. Bernie O'Regan & Judy Telford came to Melbourne from London and were part of the enthusiasm. Met Finola Moorhead at Adelaide Festival '74 and she joined the parlez (included in the Rushall Crescent Avant Garde meetings). We met the Cantrills who touched similar base via experimental filmmaking (Stan Brakhage to Charles Olson e.g.). Same early '70s add Laurie Duggan, John Anderson, Alexandra Seddon, Ian Reid (with his Levertov, Duncan, Blaser connections)... yes, quite a crew, and my mag of that time, The Ear in a Wheatfield, our international transport... There were of course Black Mountain enthusiasts in Sydney, for example Carl Harrison-Ford, & Bob Adamson, either holus-bolus or for particular poets, Robert Duncan for example... In the early '80s add Pete Spence, Des Cowley, Jurate Sasnaitis...This aint nothing more than thinking aloud folks! Not a thesis so plenty of holes I'm sure! Also to say from the late 60s I'd been aware of New Zealand/Black Mountain connections (Freed magazine), and was in touch with Alan Loney mid-70s... Yep, it's a LARGE subject!


May 13th

Regarding Hugh Tolhurst's memo about the POW! issue of Meanjin Quarterly... and cryptic comment, "happens to all no (A.D.) Hopers, eh Kris Hemensley"...
Not sure if we're on same page here, Hugh... Glancing at the Meanjin Quarterly preview/editorial it looked a bit 'same old' as they say, that is same-old newbies, new-old same-old & the other 57 varieties... I was there once myself, and folks like Ken Bolton quite rightly wondered how it had happened : editor of The Ear in a Wheatfield also poetry editor at Meanjin? People on t'other side asked same question, Dracula at the blood-bank... Hmmm... At that time, 1975, Jim Davidson wanted to make his own mark & to align with 'the new', so his opening salvo including me as poetry ed, Terry Smith sniffin out the art, who else? Finola Moorhead who'd been reading fiction with A A Phillips, and had pushed for me to come on board, was charged with wimmins business...
A D Hope, yes... I once declined a poem or two from him... a discussion around that could have been interesting re- old & new, laying out attitudes... it actually wasnt the poem per se but that it appeared to me to be his patter, --as I said, poetry couldnt be reproduction of one's patter... it had to be addressing the poem's possibility always anew... Ah well... a long way from POW!!!!


May 28th

Susan Fealy commented on Iggy McGovern, "He held the room with his poetry and his storytelling. A really lovely evening that opened up into great chats about poetry. Thanks Kris and Retta for such a warm, relaxed and stimulating evening. So good to be at a Collected Works event again." 'Great chats' indeed, Susan... George Genovese enquired as to the choice of sonnet for Iggy's William Hamilton book. Iggy discussed Petrarchan & Shakespearian --"And plenty more beside" he said, which gave me an opportunity to describe the 'mirror sonnet' I've been writing for 20/25 years! After the free verse adventure the 'return of/to form(s)' is similarly experimental, I said. And then Patricia Sykes opened up deliciously, instructively, on EE Cummings' sonnets.... Now that was but one portion of the session!

[Patricia Sykes‬ : I second that about the "lovely evening"; such a pleasure to have time to chat at some length about and with a visiting poet in such a welcoming and convivial setting: thanks indeed Kris and Retta. Keen to read one of your latest "mirror" sonnets Kris. Must correct one comment though: It wasn't sonnets I was discussing in relation to eec but the spin-off about form and song the sonnet discussion generated. Lovely way to spend a couple of hours on a damp and cold Melbourne night.]

As ‪Susan Fealy‬ says above, Iggy held the room or at least our circle in the middle, and his storytelling (explications of the poems & their form) took us right into mathematics, poetics, history... By the way, the book is A MYSTIC DREAM OF 4 : A sonnet sequence based on the life of William Rowan Hamilton (Quaternia Press, '14). The book's 64 sonnets are arranged in 4 parts entitled 1805-1820, Geometry; 1820-1835, Algebra; 1835-1850, Metaphysics; 1850-1865, Poetry... What with Jessica Wilkinson's non-fiction (& specifically biography) poetry project via her Rabbit magazine, Iggy's presentation was timely!


June 5th

Two wonderful meetings last summer in & around Melbourne, the first with Sharon Thesen, the second with Stephen Ellis; two North American poets & scholars, serendipitously in Oz, with Olson & co at centre of their conversation... A propos her article in Dispatches ["Charles, Frances, Ralph, and me"], our summertime tete a tete meant that I was already across the issues; laudable that Sharon's described here candidly, & so generously, what went down in making the important volumes of the Olson/Boldereff correspondence. She is beautifully found in this comment from the article : "[Which is why] we need artists, poets, and visionaries; philosophers, mystics, and geniuses; autodidacts, elders, and scholars: for the sake of joy. For the sake of the everything that is the world and the everything that is poetry.. "


June 12th

Have begun visiting artists who exhibited in the recent Dorset Art Weeks exhibition, that is via the fabulous catalogue!
As you know, Dorset is where I've been visiting family ever since life-changing 1987 trip. Weymouth in Dorset's become my English HQ & prism. Happy to be a poet amidst painting & painters, especially the West Country section.
 I'll not launch into vast essay here, about home making & self defining, --suffice to say this late March + April 2016 visit, which included St Ives for first time in years, fell just short of the annual Arts Weeks, but had I been there I would have tried to get around the galleries & studios. 
So far Ive loved the web sites &/or Facebook pages of Peter Ursem [], Colin Moore (& the Chaldon Studios)[], Caz Scott [] & Carolyn Lyness [].
Charmed, to say the least, by the stylization of their landscapes (oh yes, I should say that representing landscape, abstracting landscape, is my continuing & sustaining concern). 
Needless to say, this will become a larger reconnoitre and find it's way to ye olde blog. In the meantime, Good Morning Dorset from your Melbourne friend!


From the Journal,
DREAM, 13-07-16

Discussing Brexit with Cathy O'Brien & other friends in the conference room I recognize from other dreams, --sunlight through large glass windows, different shades of brown-stained wooden furniture, walls, floor. [Possibly regurgitation of  conversation about Brexit with Rob Kenny, his colleague Carol, Loretta, Richard Mudford, previous Sunday afternoon at the Kelvin Bar in Westgarth...] So what about Quebec? I say, and also enter Macdiarmid's defence ("you gotta have some nationalism to be 'inter' with")? Rising from low table I cross the room to where Sharon Thesen in rolled-up shirt-sleeves stands smiling, the sunlight catching her arms. I'm wondering how Durham got on in the Referendum. Basil Bunting's great isnt he? she says. Oh yes, I agree --how I wish I could have visited him in Durham… But you can now, she laughs, now you're free… But I'm 75, I say, how can I at 75? How old would you like to be? she jokes. Well, forty, forty-five… She brushes then holds my arm --let's ask this man, she says… Michael Farrell's been standing near us, listening in… I introduce them --Sharon Thesen, Michael Farrell… He's smiling. Dont ask him, I say, he's only 10!
I wake from warm, affectionate dream, telling myself to write to George Stanley to thank him for copy of his book, North of California St., received a couple of weeks ago --initially believing Sharon sent it but George's name is on sender (New Star Books, Vancouver)'s label. Also write to Sharon, so bonny in the dream.
Time flies. Eeek! Write tonight.

P.S. [7th August,'16]
Eeek indeed! Almost a month passed. Distractions, diversions. George Stanley's book is a selected poems, 1975-99, published by New Star in 2014. I think Sharon told me last Summer here that he has another in the making. Or maybe this is that volume. I've read Sharon's introduction a couple of times. So nice to know & here to say, we're on the same page. She refers to his "aboutism" wch has theoretical/political implication but also the straightforward concerns with "ideas, thoughts, locales, occasions, persons, and words…" She says that "aboutism and transportation are natural companions"; hear hear I say often enough myself in train-carriage or tram with notebook!
"Stanley's airplane poems are almost always about mortality and fatality. Flight is a subject that creates opportunities for fear of the loss of "plain reality", of losing touch with the earth, which Stanley likens to 'the truth'". Sharon Thesen continues, "The sense of loss, inspired by flight, of the world, the person, the real, and the familiar, is not a backward-glancing nostalgia for a 'golden' past, which we know, or are told we know, is a fiction; but rather derives from a sensed absence or emptiness in the present…"
Having just handed over my own mss to Kent MacCarter which means having been deeply immersed in it, in its 'vision & process' modus operandi as it may well be, I'm more than a little sensitive to the adjacency I pick up from my Vancouver correspondence…
Now it's 5-02pm!
Time still flying!
A wine date in the offing!


August 6th

Regarding the  event on the 21st July arranged by Lisa Gorton... good readings by Lisa (--quite a contrast to the park/topographical poems she read at the Devin Johnston event) & Chris Wallace-Crabbe ("the Puckish chap beside me" she introduced --and his John Keats meets Robert Burns poem, published in the latest ABR, lived up to that) in support of Paul Kane's Welcome Light poems... Ive been thinking about American & British English since the night, including Australian English's situation... Broad-brush as annunciated here of course, but... And though I offered Paul probability of such concern being passe from his point of view he felt it wasnt, still an interesting thought he said... I wondered if inflection within the plain speaking American line (the conversational syntax) might dummy for my sense of British 'music'? And et cetera...


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