Thursday, December 8, 2016


A great pleasure to have met Mark Olival-Bartley over the last week. Could hardly not feel well-disposed to a man who makes the following observation, "Collected Works Bookshop, a literary haven and quite possibility the best antiquarian poetry bookshop in the world." I dont know about that; if it's anywhere near so then my world is reducing. English-speaking world one wld have to qualify.
From Hawaii & living in Munich ("presently reappraising the sonnets of E A Robinson for his dissertation at Amerika-Institut of Ludwing-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen"), Mark was poet-in-residence at the recent international Eco-Health Alliance conference in Melbourne.
First question he asked when he walked into the Shop was whether we had any Edgar Arlington Robinson. Turns out he might be our time's expert on Robinson! We did of course have Robinson in the Boydell series of Arthurian poets, also Yvor Winters' little guide and a 1st edition Robinson, Matthias at the Door. Proves that every book has its reader and obscurity a relative concept.
We've talked long & variously about poets & poetry, including the scene in Hawaii which I experienced in 1990 for a week when I was there as a guest of Kiki Davis & EWEB/University of Hawaii Press.
We bandy about the word 'form' in Melbourne, but chatting with Mark it's obvious we're largely on a different page. In my own case, the forms were available once free verse ceased to be the exciting adventure of my beginnings. Late 80s early 90s I was extricating from avant garde cul-de-sac. Not a formalist but happy to experiment with the forms. Sonnet sequences, for example, and latterly syllable counts. Not a formalist but happy as poet to restore to my reading what free verse had junked.
We spent a little while on Wednesday a/noon reading & discussing Mark's possibly favourite poem of all, Robinson's "Eros Turannos". It aroused a thought in my mind about the relationship of the form & the story --seemed to me, on the spur, that a couple of verses stood alone as beautiful constructions whereas the form felt a little strained as the story pushed through in the poem. I'll be rereading it of course. (Mark points us to Robert Pinsky's discussion of the poem available on the web in Harriet, the Poetry Foundation's blog.)
And thanks to the web we'll stay in touch!

[Melbourne, 8th December, '16]

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