Thursday, January 26, 2017


from Journal,

At the Shop talking to a man looking for a couple of volumes of the Complete Shelley. He's been a celebrant for 22 years. I referred to Jurate's mother's funeral & their celebrant from Alison Monkhouse, a friend of Jurate's. He said you stand up there & face the family & friends of, let's say, an 85 or 90 year-old, but what on earth do you know? what do you say? Described himself as a bookaholic. (Hah! You're in the right place then, my man!) I mentioned Des Cowley's reading of Little Gidding in the service. Obviously he knew it personally, big fan of Eliot, perhaps the later Eliot more so he said. But many of my 'customers' are from the Western Suburbs, he explained: "T.S. Eliot? wasnt he a cricketer?" But poetry of all kinds, he said, the words & music, touches & informs where the facts of a life might not…

Having utilised what could be called experimental writing's template when I began teaching at the Council of Adult Education in the 1970s --believing that contemporary poetry's adventures were far more efficacious for my liberation seeking, mind expanding classes than an historical examination of form --I  was redirected by later & perhaps somewhat older students into the classics. I dont mean Greek & Latin or Shakespeare, the Romantics, but the tradition as it ran through the late 19th & 20th Centuries. I had derived exercises from Whitman, Gertrude Stein, Fielding Dawson, Joe Brainard, Dadaists & Surrealists --the tradition of the New but nothing of the Tradition per se. For example, a particular gentleman tested me with his enthusiasm for G M Hopkins. For modern classics I had Robert Browning, Pound, DH Lawrence & a small amount of Eliot but now took on the Hopkins, which had probably defeated me at Tech College in the early '60s, if only to keep the discussion going at the next session! So my reeducation commenced. Similarly, I was asked for both Virginia Woolf & Sylvia Plath, for gender reasons, and investigating them anew realized their abiding value. (All true but this broad brush omits such correctives as, via a lesson Eric Rolls gave to a workshop class we shared in Bathurst,NSW in 1974, De Quincey's marvelous word music in a looping passage of The English Mailcoach --19th century? My hitherto indubitable historical aesthetics could now only unravel! Perhaps on a par with my Cambridge pal John Hall's 1969 lesson --no university in me you see-- making a relation for Robert Herrick, say, & our new British & Americans, Williams to Creeley & Oppen, including Crozier & Prynne...) When I think of it, despite one's wide-ranging reading in the new poetries, mutual exclusivity was rampant & profound. An abiding avant garde bridge should have been Zukofsky's A Test of Poetry --his blind selection (that is, unattributed selection of authors) which could often find one preferring the classic to the contemporary! Now I understood Zukofsky's test of ear, by ear, begging questions of sound & sense…

A resume might run like this : In lieu of traditional form one has a syntax informed by conversation & 'utterance' (from natural strong expression to cultivated Expressionism). Conversation (good hearing / scoring by ear) might have become decoration --the decoration of the ghost of form such that it is seen or hinted at, but without the erstwhile style or gravitas. I mean, of course, the sonority --but without one, none of the other? What is said --what & how --is the priority which required poesy's junking, 19th into 20th Century… the force of saying, of telling --testimony as the new eloquence. And maximum attention to what was previously marginal --poetics of  interpolation & interjection on the rebound from the excess of the literary. And so it is --1970s "literature after…", "poetry after death of…", the "belated", the "posthumous"… But, swings & roundabouts --& the gift of a slightly longer life than youth's Lyricism predicted --here one is again in & with 21st Century's "whole house of poetry" (my proposition in the mid 90s, argued in Ivor Indyk's Heat magazine)... For years now literary & anti-literary/post-literary on the same or at least facing pages... the same & not the same... Tis all good my friends... [Available for painting & renovation, local tradesman, CV on request…]

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