Sunday, April 29, 2007


Denise Enck's EMPTY MIRROR BOOKS is a great resource of Beat literature& news,Beat author profiles & apposite sites.
Empty Mirror is related to
The site's critical style combines enthusiasm & scholarship (see contributions by Eric Lehman, Eric Patterson). Recent features also include interview with Carolyn Cassady, the Ted Joans tribute, A D Winans on Bob Kaufman & Jack Micheline. Fascinating links to fraternal sites, e.g, Michael McClure & Ray Manzarek which includes other luminaries such as poet Joanne Kyger & writer-commentator-activist Rebecca Solnit.
Kevin Ring performs a similar labour of love in England. (like his magazine, BEAT SCENE) is an exciting,hugely informative Beats & co site with its relevant English take on the well-known identities as well informing us of the British end of the phenomenon.
John Tranter's JACKET needs little introduction in Australia as the major literary magazine of the new poetries in English taking their lead from the great Modernist adventures of early to mid 20C Anglo-American poetry, continuing in their Post-Modernist phase. A mind-boggling line-up of poets is permanently maintained in huge issue upon issue since 1997. See
Coral Hull's THYLAZINE FOUNDATION : ARTS, ETHICS, & LITERATURE is a magazine & noticeboard representing its title's mission. Thylazine maintains a register of Australian poets featuring photo, biog & biblio. See

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Kris Hemensley's Eulogy for Tim including some messages from family & friends, Springvale Crematorium, July 30, 2003


Tim's paternal grandmother, Tina [Berthe] Hemensley [nee Tawa], on behalf of my father, Alan, & herself: "Dieu te benisse a la fleur de l'age mon cheri" trsl "God bless you in the flower of his life"


Tim's uncle Bernard [who'd enjoyed Tim's visit to Dorset,UK a few years ago] : "The little bird [in his condolence card] sang to me of Tim, his little spirit... He lived his life on his own terms & with none, or few, concessions. Buddhist terminology comes to mind -- 'no birth, no death, no coming, no going, not the same, not different, no being, no non-being.' Love, Bernard"


From Roman Tucker, in London at the moment with his band [Rocket Science] : "I feel enlightened to have known him & proud that I was his longest friend.
I watched him with admiring eyes as he put comic plays together or wrote in his fanzine PUNK PURGE (TEDDY BOY TALES), selling it on the street corner for 20cents.
I loved his room, it was wild, with pictures & junk, horror toys, books & cartoon he had created. When Tim asked me to join Royal Flush I was ecstatic.
Playing gigs in adult bars, we were well read little children, singing about concepts & experiences that lay ahead... The foundations were set & for both of us there was no looking back.
Long live Royal Flush, God, Bored & The Powder Monkeys -- Long live Tim Hemensley."


From Helen Gardener this quotation from John Donne :

"We your sad glad
friends all bear a
part of grief"


Kris Hemensley's Eulogy for Tim :

I am speaking to you, this afternoon, aware of so many contradictions...
We're here to farewell Tim who has died.
He is dead -- And that means forever.
For all of us it means we will grow old, n'sh'allah, without our darling Tim, our grandson, our nephew, our cousin, our son, our brother, our dear,dear friend.
And this is shocking.
And yet, it isn't a shock.
It is unbelievable, yet it is awfully believable.
Let me say then, as gently as I can, that whilst it is wonderful to Retta & I that you are all here --all of our families --Garveys, Kennys, O'Briens, Massaraneys, & in spirit Hemensleys, Tawas --all of our friends & colleagues from Tim's schooldays, from the kindergarten, the bookshop, from the literary world and, crucially, from the world of rock & roll music and performance --whilst this is overwhelmingly beautiful & comforting, it's surely a tragedy that we're all here at all.
We are here to celebrate Tim, and to mourn him.
But we were happy to celebrate him alive. We would so gladly have him back... to an anonymous life...
Tim was devoted to his art and life in rock & roll. It was a practice and a culture. In that sense he was truly a rock & roll hero.
To be so committed can make one a martyr to that practice.
But Tim is a hero & martyr, if you like, within the art & life of rock & roll music and not of or to heroin.
He is not a heroin hero.
Heroin was a hoop he apparently enthusiastically leapt through.
He didnt ultimately complete that leap into further adventures and the marvellous discoveries of any simple life.
Addiction put him on trial day & night, it tested his friendships, it (in the phrase of the poet Philip Larkin, writing of parents) it fucked him up.
There is a crucial discussion we all of us have --it is about quality & quantity, quality versus quantity.
I thank Justin Negler for describing to me so succinctly the other day how the dynamo that Tim was at his best --the informed, energetic, hilarious, brilliant young man --was the product of all of his activities, all of his involvements, all of his commitments including heroin. The life measured as quality is indivisible -- Indeed--
And I also have subscribed to that idea of quality being more important than quantity-- Except that I have enjoyed the slow evolution of my life in which the idea of longevity seems equally rewarding--
I believe in quality but I like some quantity too--
I dont believe Tim wanted to die-- He had so much more to do--
Retta had an enormous involvement in his music life -- You were a wonderful ally Retta --His dancing, his ryhthm has everything to do with you-- As you have reminded us, Rett, you sang The Trogs' Wild Thing as you were giving birth to Tim, in Southampton General Hospital, in England on that wintery, November 23rd, 1971--
I was on the edge of his professional music in person though in my mind there too--
But I looked forward to an older Tim --or the same young Tim, if you like --to be with me as I grew older-- I looked forward to a continuation and development of our conversation. I confess that I feel cheated of that prospect.
I liked Tim's mind, his critical & conceptual ability, and I knew he would inevitably return to education formally or, like I did, off his own bat. I liked his imagination-- I believed, as he did too, that he would write prose-fiction, prose-essays one day --that the writing he did in rock & roll, both as lyric & review, would lead to story-writing --even to films, his lifelong love.
I liked his humour, his mimicry, his wicked parodies --
I was a willing accomplice in Tim & Retta's sending-up of my seeming elitism & pomposity, my thick-headedness before a film's story-line not to mention characters, my putting-my-foot-in-it in umpteen social occasions --I played along & fell about with them in helpless laughter --

When he was 9 or 10 he busked outside of Myers, a spikey-top, singing Jonathon Richmond's Roadrunner, accompanying himself on tambourine. What else did he have to prove in terms of courage? At the 2nd Surrealist Festival in about 1981, he read his epic poem The Punk Poema (which included the line "Fascism is boring! Long live art!") against a room of heckling plus amazed laughter and eventually great applause!
I was at Retta's side when Tim was born --look! I shouted at her through her shot of pethadine --look! the baby's coming out! When the baby didnt immediately respond to the midwife's little smack Retta thought he was dead! Is he dead? No, I said-- of course not-- myself waiting for that miraculous cry--
Retta & I found Tim in the outside loo of our small backyard-garden on Monday the 21st-- 10 days ago-- He'd dropped from the toilet seat onto the floor, head into the base of the door, legs crazy around him-- Rett applied mouth to mouth as I ran to phone O.O.O. --
The paramedics arrived & dragged him into the night garden beside the leafless apple tree & the dug-over tomato patch... They worked on him in torch-light --like a battle scene-- for 45 minutes but couldnt bring him back.
Rett & I have literally seen Tim into life and out of it, into his death...

We are heavy-hearted, sad but not bitter--
He lived his own life, he died as a consequence of his own lifestyle--
We love him, we're proud of him, we will miss him forever even as we understand that the world is composed of who we call the living & who we call the dead.


Poem by Tim [notebook, 02/03?]

Every Monday nite i watch
"the Sopranos";
Every Monday nite,
i eat, & eat & eat.

i eat more more -- bread, cream-cheese portions,
salami, turkey-breast, pretzels,
fried eggs, toasted cheese sandwiches --
on a Monday nite whilst watching
"the Sopranos"
than i ate on every
Monday nite last year put together;
consequently, it could be said
i am putting on a little weight
at this point in time.

when i see the ease with which
Tony Soprano glides thru each episode
munching, chewing & gnawing all manner of food stuff
with undisguised relish however,
i can honestly say that this development
is no great cause of concern to me.


Poem by Kris Hemensley


Tell all
tell everything. Dont fling love
back at me. Dont ditch it love
dont give it all away.

Tell all
this dying day lest we die out
before everything's spelled out.
Spill it out. Love enough

to snuff out deathly
cutting-off. Tell all
without fear of tax or toll.
Love more than there is

so that more than there is
can grow. Tell all
against the threat of all hell
breaking over love's only child

whose telling all
even softens death's absolute fall.
Tell its unloveliest tale until
it calls love of life its own.

for Tim


Retta Hemensley read Anna Bronte's poem, Farewell :

"Farewell to thee! But not farewell
To all my fondest thoughts of thee;
Within my heart they still shall dwell
And they shall cheer and comfort me.

Life seems more sweet that thou didst live
And men more true that thou were one;
Nothing is lost that thou didst give;
Nothing destroyed that thou hast done."



[Other contributions from Tim's funeral service to be added as they come to hand]

April 25th (Anzac Day), 2007

Sunday, April 22, 2007


28/30 December, 2006

Dear Bernard,
The day I read your letter at the Shop I'd just opened box of books from Ingram International and imagine my astonishment, with your reference to Anthony Bourdain fresh in my mind, to find him quoted on the back of the John Fante Reader (Ecco,'o2)! To wit, "John Fante was the grand master of So Cal underbelly fiction. His unblinking eye and heroically unsparing prose gave no quarter and took no prisoners, yet his work --however debased, deluded or cruel his subjects --remains always beautiful. No one working the same side of the street --then or now --can touch him." Fante was always one of yours, via Bukowski I guess, but how interesting to find Bourdain there as well --the "brotherhood of the grape" perhaps?!
I cant claim synchronicity for the Bourdain I'm now reading. Retta has been aware of my new enthusiasm for a while, which then climbed a notch after the July UK visit when you & I watched a couple of episodes of his tremendously entertaining television series together, but her Xmas gift was a pleasant surprise. His chapter in Kitchen Confidential (Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly) about the precocious little kid he was, in France holidaying with brother & parents, hating everything except fries & burgers until the moment of his life-determining gastronomic awakening, is guilelessly poignant. His humour hardly disturbs the text's limpidity. I'd like to see his fiction now if only for a test of his narrative style. But what could beat this : "I'd sit in the garden [in the Gironde] among the tomatoes and the lizards and eat my oysters and drink Kronenbourgs (France was a wonderland for under-age drinkers), happily reading Modesty Blaise and the Katzenjammer Kids and the lovely hard-bound bandes dessinees in French, until the pictures swam in front of my eyes, smoking the occasional pilfered Gitane."


I'm also reading Vanity of Duluoz and, you'll be amused to hear, enjoying it. A great deal changes in 40 years! Because I havent yet located a copy of my rejected 1969 review in all my mess of manuscripts & diaries, I'm intrigued to find what might have been the references & passages that offended me back then.
Perhaps the address "wifey" provoked me from the outset --I could well have conjured mysogeny from that device. Today I immediately pick up on the Celinesque gambit of regailing the recent past from the very present with a narrative profitably unsentimental & spikier I think than earlier Kerouac. But "wifey" gratuitously makes one eavesdropper rather than direct recipient of the narrative. I suppose I'm being too literal --after all, Kerouac is really only ever talking to his reader. Vanity of Duluoz is subtitled "An Adventurous Education, 1935-46". It is a concertina of a book, expanding, encapsulating, digressing and eventually reaching both the chronological & philosophical conclusion signalled at the beginning.
How & why then is "mysogenist, anti-Semitic, conservative rant" the main memory I've coddled all these years? Che as Fascist would have been a severe irk in 1969! "In those days [the Fourties] we were all pro-Lenin, or pro-whatever, Communists. It was before we found out that Henry Fonda in Blockade was not such a great anti-Fascist idealist at all, just the reverse of the coin of Fascism, i.e., what the hell's the difference between Fascist Hitler and anti-Fascist Stalin, or, as today, Fascist Lincoln Rockwell and anti-Fascist Ernesto Guevero, or name your own?"
My 1960s leftism was, I've come to realise, influenced as much by "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" politics as by genuine idealism --psychologically explicable for a 20-yearold though ethically monstrous at all times. Kerouac's equation of left & right-wing politics as the same kind of gangsterism employing the same lies was too confusing then for me to comprehend. It took me a long time to appreciate anti-totalitarian dissent. "Commitment" blinkered me for years --mind you, by the end of the 1970s getting into the 80s, I was beginning to see clearly again...


Something about Snyder I found in Rebecca Solnit's stimulating Wanderlust : A History of Walking (Penguin, 2000) : quoting from David Robertson's book, Dharma Bums, in Real Matter (Utah,1997), she refers to Snyder's encounter with the banned 19C mountaineering religion Shugendo while he was studying Buddhism in Japan in the 50s. Snyder & Kerouac's climb was "not the object of a quest, as for the grail. Instead it goes round and round and on and on, rather like the hike that Kerouac and Snyder took and even more like the poem [Mountains & Rivers Without End] that Snyder projected writing..."
This brings me to the book I sent you for Christmas, Opening the Mountain (S&H,'06) : Searching on the internet for David Robertson, jumping around the Gary Snyder sites, I found the account of the 1996 circumnambulation of Mt Tamalpais when Snyder & Robertson led what has become the annual hike. It's a lovely book & record in itself but the inspiration I hoped for you wasnt at all on the Mt Tamalpais scale. The reverse, though definitely connected. About Tamalpais Snyder wrote : " Circling -- climbing -- chanting -- to show respect & to clarify the mind. Philip Whalen, Allen Ginsberg & I learned the practice in Asia. So we opened a route around Tam. It takes a day." Cutting to the chase alright!
My journeys with Cathy O'Brien,in the late 80s & early 90s, to Port Campbell, where the Southern Ocean meets the limestone & bush of the national park adjacent to the green agricultural inland, had this celebratory & meditative quality. Our friend, the late John Anderson, had, as you might recall, suggested that the South-west Victorian coastline might be the closest I could get in Australia to what I'd been experiencing in Dorset, Devon & Cornwall. He was right. What would it have been like to have hiked with him? I can just imagine he & Cathy ambling along in endless, wide-awake dreamland! Dead nine years now...
Similar sensations on the small walks on the Dorset Downs, solo or with the family, and particularly many climbs up & around St Catherine's Mount in Abbotsbury overlooking Chessil Beach. And it all began with the circuits of Radipole, the RSPB sanctuary you introduced me to in 1987. As Snyder implies, it's the respect of nature & the clarification of mind the place affords. That's why Haiku Bums popped into my mind when we were on the phone at Christmas speaking about these things! We'd like to be Dharma Bums --and what an example Cathy is to us, there in Laos, schoolteaching, experiencing the animist & Buddhist life, continuing now waht she began as a hippy girl, overland with boyfriend in Asia, in the 1970s --but ours is an imagined project extended on the far smaller physical scale.Or what?
Happy 2007!
Love, Kris



(7/01/07) I knew Trip Trap years ago --thought I knew, I should say, though it may not be faulty memory but the case this current edition has extras like the Lew Welch novel extract, his letters to Kerouac (1959-60) and perhaps even Albert Saijo's A Recollection (1973), which is one of the best pieces in the book. I ordered copies for the Shop after you mentioned buying a copy (from Alan Halsey's catalogue or your esoteric book distributor?) --they've arrived and I'm thoroughly charmed!
I reread the sections of Big Sur (Saijo refers to it as the "beautifully sustained prose of his book of suffering") in which Saijo , "a serious young lay priest of Japanese Buddhism when all is said and done", is a character alongside Lew Welch.
I'm writing this at Kris Coad's flat (I want to say "great little pad" a la Saijo's evocation of his San Francisco neighbourhood fifty years ago) : a ceramicist (for some reason I resist the present usage "ceramist")' s environment. It's all on display, her studio & living-space. Table-ware, prayer-flags, stuff found along the shore, objects she collects. Half Morandi, half Buddhist monastery! In the breeze now of the early morning "change" the humidity of the night-before disperses. Cathy's farewell dinner-party last night the reason why I'm still here with a little hang-over! She flies back to Vientiane via Bangkok tonight. Kris has booked her ticket to visit in February. Come & go, here again then gone again...
(9-01-07) How else to be but matter-of-fact when flux is so evident?It's a state of mind isnt it? Thus the matter-of-fact style of the Buddhist Beat writers, infused with the wistfulness of the ancient Chinese (Taoist?) poets they loved.
I "googled" Albert Saijo... The photograph heading the article in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin for July (?) 1997 I've copied & sent to you, entitled "Running on Rhapsody", is exactly how one imagines Saijo from Kerouac's description of him as George Baso (surely pronounced Basho). He has the same kempt, bony, bespectacled features as Snyder --little, wiry & more ageless than the epithet "old" (Kerouac's "little, old, George Baso") confers (ditto Snyder).
If he's still alive he'll be 81 or thereabouts. In 1997 he'd have been in Hawaii six years, enjoying its multicultural alternative to mainland American "white-male dominant society." None of his books appear to be in print, aside of the collaborative Trip Trap. I'll write to Bamboo Ridge Press in Hawaii for Outspeaks a Rhapsody (1997) though --"a series of stream-of-consciousness rants and rhapsodies on topics such as the pain ("Analgesia --Land of Pain Free") and the horrors of a technological society ("Luddite Manque")." --according to the article.
I wonder if my attraction (yours too?) to the bit-players, the extras, is because that's where we also fit in to this weird & wonderful scheme of things. "All the world's a stage" etc. As you said, in different context, "sitting up, lying down, do the best you can." Add : And not giving in to conformity; not closing one's mind to wisdom, beauty, wonder; not disqualifying one's own contribution amongst the big glister & bluster! Hail Albert Saijo! Hail John Montgomery! Hail Will Petersen! Hail the Haiku Bums!

Love, Kris


17th January, 2007

Dear Kris, Too much! Your letter just in! It's a huge thing we're doing! I hadn't dreamt it would grow and envelop so much. I do like Albert Saijo. Many thanks for printing that stuff off the internet for me. He's a little man, isnt he? Looks like a Japanese Gandhi in the picture. I like that. Small people are more handy. Less expanded. More yang. I'm reminded also of Haru Arai --a traditional Japanese Barrel Maker (Okayasan) as described in one of my favourite books, Cullinary Treasures of Japan. "He was very small, under five feet tall and about eighty pounds, with gentle black eyes and short silver hair. He was dressed in a traditional thick cotton vest and baggy pants with a split for his big toe... Arai-san was exceptional; his skill, strength and wittiness are rare at any age." He's described felling a large bamboo (thirty-f00t and one-hundred pounds), picking it up and shouldering it down a steep mountainside at 71 years of age. Albert Saijo would be good company for him. The same breed I'm sure. You say Saijo is Roshi now. I wonder,living in Hawaii, if he's something to do with Robert Aitken.
"A Recollection" by Saijo is great opener for Trip Trip. I wonder what stirs in our imaginations to relate to the "trip" so strongly? I guess it's voyage of discovery. Inwards and outwards. As you say --we'd like to be Dharma Bums / Haiku Bums. Got to get my shit together!
By the way, I ordered Trip Trap from my 'friends' at Green Spirit Books in Wiltshire. They belong to the Schumaker Society (small is beautiful) and are a not-for-profit business. They'd never heard of Kerouac when I asked for a list of his books in print!
The haiku/poems in Trip Trap are playful and fun to read but not eminently great. Maybe it's not the point to make great literature. Just get it all down, record the trip/ the journey.
I picked-up on the fact that both Kerouac and Lew Welch had their mothers figuring in their lives. And here am I living with Mum. Twenty years now. And alone together now since Dad died. It made me laugh that we had that something in common.
John Fante? I haven't read him for over twenty years! I was very excited when I received Ask the Dust from Black Sparrow Press, knowing he was one of Charles Bukowski's inspirations. That would be 1980. And unfortunately Black Sparrow is no more. I can agree with Anthony Bourdain, whom you quote from that John Fante Reader, that the writing is "debased, cruel and beautiful." For example, "Treat her rough, Bandini, treat her around and she'll wrap around your cock and die there." (Prologue to Ask the Dust, Black Sparrow, 1990.) Buk was onto a good one there! Sadly, I've so many books piled-up here and there about the house I can't find Ask the Dust --I've just had a look for it. It must be upstairs in the loft maybe. So many books. Might well be a good idea to finally get that bookshop and be a bookseller like you. Who would be interested in Fante and Bukowski in Dorset tho? But I did see a mass-market paperback of Buk's Factotum when I was in Dorchester last week. Shop might be the best thing before the books get damaged. Been dreaming of a bookshop for thirty years now! Two of my social-work friends and I were actually looking around Gosport for premises in the mid'70s...
(11-February'07) 4.15 a.m. Still very dark. Birds chirping outside --accompaniment to the radio. I thought birds waited until first light? Maybe it's the street-lights. I've been reading George Crane's book --about the monk T'sung T'sai again. But I've just been downstairs to fetch up TDB and Opening the Mountain. Birds and radio apart nothing intrudes and obsessions of the day haven't started on at me.
Opening the Mountain was such a wonderful present to get from you for Xmas. I love the photographs. That picture of mushrooms... Just me to pick out food!
I do understand what you say about making our own walks a ritual, our own environment 'sacred'. Don't have to go to Tamalpais or Higi or Kailash. But wouldn't it be great to do just that. To be able to do it. Walking up to St Catherine's at Abbotsbury that first time with you last summer (June'06) was great for me. It took me 20 years to think my heart would take the effort. Ah, the view. But we climb the mountain to climb the mountain. As Snyder says, "The main thing is to pay your regards, to play, to engage, to stop and pay attention. It's just a way of stopping and looking at your self too". And Smith (TDB, p63) quotes "the famous Zen saying, 'When you get to the top of the mountain, keep climbing.'" Smith realises then that he doesn't have to climb the mountain. And that everyone's trip is going to be different. "Now there's the karma of these three men here : Japhy Ryder gets to his triumphant mountain-top and makes it, I almost make it and have to give up and huddle in a bloody cave, but the smartest of them all is that poet's poet [Morley] lyin down there with his knees crossed to the sky chewing on a flower dreaming by a gurgling plage, goddammit they'll never get me up here again."
This ascending mountains, or circumnambulating is not about getting to the top or walking all day. The journey is the thing. Just being on the path is enough. Being on the path is enlightenment. "Ordinary mind is enlightenment itself," as an 8th Century Chinese master said, talking about zazen. Being ordinary is enlightenment... I have my Chafey's and Radipole paths...

Love, Bernard

(to be continued)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

SHOPFRONT : NEW BOOKS : April 21st,2007

New books..."new" books? Part of this project is constantly restoring key authors & titles ('contemporary classics' as they say) to the shelves. Presently Collected Works Bookshop is waiting on Shakespeare's Complete Works from Palgrave Macmillan (in association with the RSC). Another Shakespeare? Yes, but...edited by Jonathon Bate (acclaimed biographer of John Claire, in stock) & Eric Rasmussen (associated with the Arden Shakespeares, in stock), based on the 1623 First Folio. Includes the poetry, the thought- to- be doubtful & marginal works, extensive appendices, glossaries, summaries. At $95, hb, ready to go head to head with the Oxford!
Jump three centuries : We have Randall Jarrell back on the shelf. The Complete Poems (FSG), $42-95; No Other Book : Selected Essays (Perennial),$31-95; Poetry & The Age (FSG), $45; Randall Jarrell's Book of Stories (NYRB), $27-95 (great anthology, the introduction alone worth reading). While we're in the jays there's The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (Stanford), $65, in Tim Hunt's definitive edition containing long narratives & shorter poems.
Delighted to find Louise Bogan's The Blue Estuaries : Poems 1923-68 (FSG), $27-95, still available. And it's an occasion of that once-or-twice-a-year that the Complete Poems of e.e.cummings, 1904-62 (Liveright), hb, $95 is in stock. (Selecteds & others, ditto.)
The hb T.S. Eliot Complete Poems & Plays, $85, sometimes seems unavailable but is currently in stock. Coincides with the slim series Cambridge Introduction to T.S. Eliot, $29-95. (Other volumes so far include Yeats, Joyce, Beckett.) Speaking of Eliot, we have a new & elegant hb edition of The Private Devotions of Lancelot Andrewes (trsl by Cardinal Newman), $60. Whilst in that neck of the woods there's John Donne : Man of Flesh & Spirit, $29-95; and in the English Monarchs series from National Archives press, James I, The Masque of Monarchy by Travers, $39-95; James II, the Triumph & the Tragedy by Callow,$39-95.
We've recently scooped something resembling 'the Charles Williams collection' and will follow suit with his fellow Inkling, Owen Barfield, soon. The Inklings (the group, their sources from Norse & Old English to the Golden Dawn) lorded over by Tolkein & Lewis, is an endlessly intriguing section of the Shop. Our restored Charles Williams include The Descent of the Dove (A Short History of the Holy Spirit in the Church) (Regent College)$44-95; Outlines of Romantic Theology (Apocryphile Press), $45; The Place of the Lion (Regent), novel, $38-95; Collected Plays [intro. by the late John Heath-Stubbs](Regent),$49-95. A good introduction to "the mentor of Eliot, Lewis & Sayers"[D. Steere] is Mary Mcdermot Shideler's The Theology of Romantic Love : A Study in the Writings of Charles Williams (Wipf&Stock),$49-95. The same publisher gives us Barbara Reynolds' The Passionate Intellect : Dorothy L. Sayers' Encounter with Dante, $55. From Harper is Sayers' The Complete Stories, nearly 800 pp, $33-95. Two ancestors of the Inklings, certainly of Tolkein & Lewis, are George MacDonald & William Morris. We're happy to have The George MacDonald Treasury, ed & publ by Glenn Kahley, a 650 page whopper, $49-95; and two from Aegypan Press by Morris, The Wood Beyond the World, $21-95, & The Roots of the Mountains, $34-95.


THE AVALANCHE [a.k.a. New Australian Poetry]

Suzanne Edgar, The Painted Lady (the latest from Ginninderra's INDIGO imprint), arrives with blurbs from L Murray & J. Owen, $21-95.
Three from the astonishing ginormous SALT : Dennis Haskell's All the Time in the World, $33-95; Paul Hetherington's It Feels Like Disbelief, $24-95; Nicolette Stasko's Glass Cathedrals : New & Selected Poems, $39-95.
Geoff Page, hot on the heels of Agnostic Skies (FIP),$18-95, presents Lawrie & Shirley : The Final Cadenza : A Movie in Verse (Pandanus),$19-95.
Two of the last titles Ron Pretty will see through to press are Michael Sharkey's The Sweeping Plain (FIP),$21-95 (which follows History : Selected Poems, 1978-2002, with FIP) and Louise Crisp's Uplands (FIP),$21-95, her first larger collection since Ruby Camp ten years ago.
Judy Johnson's verse novel Jack, enthusiastically blurbed by Dorothy Porter, who should know about such things, $24-95 from Pandanus.
Kerry Scuffins, Litmus (FIP), her 6th, $18-95, more often heard (like winning the Dorothy Leadbetter Poetry Cup for instance) than seen.
Claire Gaskin's A Bud, one of the new John Leonard Press series, $21-95, continues its splash on the local scene.
Of recent self-produced books Alan Murphy's Somnambulent in Wetlands, $15, collecting published & unpublished poems, a song, some autobiographical material including Raffaella Torresin's splendid portrait from Melbourne poets' exhibition, is recommended.
The Best Australian Poems for 2006, ed. Dorothy Porter (Black Inc) has become a popular anthology, and John Leonard's New Music : An anthology of Contemporary Australian Poetry (FIP), $29-95, five years on is a showcase good as any (everyone from Elizabeth Campbell, b.1980 to Rosemary Dobson, b.1920)...

--April 21st,2007

Sunday, April 15, 2007


October 4, 2006

Dear Bernard, I'd begun writing my next letter (22/8) a few days before you commenced yours. And of course when the sad but inevitable event of Dad's death occurred, on September 5th, we agreed we'd exchange letters in person when I came to Weymouth for the funeral.
Dad's early influence upon us and latterly his illness has been present at the edges of our correspondence; now his death takes centre stage.
From the late 80s on, when I began to regularly visit you all in England, I accepted he was who he was for all the strife it had caused me and tried, thereafter, to be a friend for him on his walks & in his talks. For some years I think he reciprocated although you always said that how he presented himself during my visits wasnt what he was like usually. You also said that his walks around Radipole Lake bird reserve or on the first stretch of the Dorset Downs had less to do with environment or aesthetics than his own physical constitution, though he could wax lyrically about the experience. Unfortunately any weather less than golden summer kept him indoors. So he really wasnt a walker & philosopher like your Goldcroft Road neighbour Anne Axenskold's late father, Frank Brown, whose two posthumously published books of "reflections" one might have thought would have interested Dad. But Frank Brown appears to have been a contemporary man for whom the references & concerns of tradition continued to resonate, whereas Dad took refuge in the effects of the past : a nostalgist, outide of culture & society. He was increasingly reserved in his interests & opinions with less & less time for other people & the world.
Relating this to The Dharma Bums for a moment : when I first encountered the figure of Japhy's father in the book, a kind of Pan who outdid Japhy in his partying, I seriously wished Dad had been the same kind of turned-on man! Rereading TDB I'm not so sure! And the awful thought arises that perhaps Tim had to contend with me as libertarian rival during his youth? But, Tim left home early, had his own social & music scene and a secret life which didnt overlap ours... An interesting tack, maybe, to account for Japhy in the light of his father's example --age-old theme, of course; fathers & sons...


(August/September,'06) Have we asked the question, what & why the attraction to the whole Beat thing, especially the concept of "dharma bums"? I probably can't do better than quote the grab from The Listener, on the cover of my Great Pan paperback, "Adds up to one hell of a philosophy of life"!
Before the Beats one had an idea of the artist's life, fed as much by the 19thCentury images of poets & painters in Paris as anything contemporary or local. "Artist's life" conflated with "student's life", especially the example of the art college student's. You know, I can still feel horror at the prospect , then, of living & working for the whole of one's life in a small town such as Southampton was in the 50s & 60s, without ever experiencing the bliss & revelation anticipated in one's reading. Living in a conventional manner in Southampton was the premature burial writ big : Pete Seeger's "little boxes". Eric Burden's "I just gotta get out of this place" was the anthem of escape!
I suppose London was the obvious location for an English boy's alternatives, but how was a provincial lad to make a life there? And the alternative wasn't altogether defined by getting a start in the literary mainstream either. In the generational hiatus between Beats & Counter Culture there fell our reading, writing, hitch-hiking, emigration... To an extent, the life I lived in Melbourne in 1966 & 1967, before & after I met Loretta Garvey, continuing through the La Mama cafe-theatre years, 1968-69, was my truly Beat phase. Finding a place in the progressivist culture & politics as a poet was as significant to me as gaining publication. That age-old contradiction of opposition & disaffiliation on the one hand, and seeking acceptance on the other. (In that sense, cliche or not, Kerouac's inability to cope with success was a blessing since it always returned him to the world. The novels which record actual disintegration foretell his doom and are part & parcel of his legend. Minutia is irredeemable but Kerouac's Whitmanish accumulation and the drive infusing it is the means of its transformation.)


(October 14th-18th incorporating August,06 notes) Tedious to trace one's Beat affinity through forty years but misleading if I dont state my falling out of love with Kerouac in 1969 and the many years in which the Beats were only in the background of my thinking.
In 1969, Henry Rosenbloom, nowadays the publisher of Scribe books in Melbourne, solicited a review from me of The Vanity of Dulouoz for the Melbourne University magazine. He'd heard from one or two of the student poets who'd joined us at La Mama (which since '68 had become the La Mama Poets' Workshop) , namely Marc Radyzner & Garrie Hutchinson, that I was a Kerouac fan. But the politics Kerouac paraded in that book shocked me to the core. In that black & white era of the war in Vietnam and the international youth culture, Kerouac was suddenly an enemy! I damned the book for its red-neck conservatism and the editor rejected my article. He wrote to me that I evidently didnt realize the importance of Kerouac! Me, Kerouac's number one fan? I was hurt, indignant & confused.
I dont think I properly mourned Kerouac's death later that year because of this volte-face. Retta & I, in England now, were visiting George Dowden, the American poet living in Brighton, who was working on Ginsberg's bibliography amongst many other things. He'd taken us to meet Bill Butler, another poet & American ex-pat, who owned the prestigious Unicorn Bookshop. We'd hardly exchanged greetings when Bill, clutching the New York Herald Tribune, asked if we'd heard Kerouac was dead? We stood around gawping at the obituary. Bill was serious & seriously affected. George produced a small, hardback notebook : my new notebook, he said showing it off; I'll write a poem about this, it'll be the first entry in my new notebook. Bill barely glanced at it : I've always found, he said, that one only writes small poems in small notebooks. Quite a deal of tid for tat between them.
Although I recorded a talk on the 10th Anniversary of Kerouac's death, broadcast on the ABC, and wrote book-discussion notes for On The Road a year or two later, it wasnt until 1986 or 7 that the love-affair resumed in earnest! That was the year of Richard Lerner & Lewis MacAdams' wonderful documentary Whatever Happened to Kerouac? There they all were --the oh so familiar names with their twenty years' older faces : Corso, amusing & insightful ("Kerouac had talent but Shelley was divine!"); McClure still the handsome man described by Kerouac... I think Retta, Tim & I saw it together or they saw it in Sydney and I attended by myself in Melbourne. I was exhilerated --skipped the couple of miles from the Valhalla cinema, then in Richmond, home to Westgarth. It was time to begin building my Beats & Co shelf at the Shop. In between his rocknroll, Tim joined the conversation, eventually preferring Burroughs to all the Kerouac he'd borrowed from me --for obvious reason as time would ultimately & tragically tell...


It occurrs to me that the viewing of the film coincided with the period I've called my "enlightenment reading" in the mid to late 1980s, when I read extensively in the areas of psychology, religion, & philosophy attempting to find a way around the cul de sac postmodernism had become for me. It seemed to me that personal & common experience was now denigrated, and that personal expression & expressive writing was thought to be passe. It was time for me to turn away from "theory" and re-encounter self & world more or less transparently. Some of my greatest literary pleasures in recent years have been types of memoir & commentary in which questions about life & orientation are the actual basis of the travel, natural history, topographical, spiritual, even cullinary writing at hand.
Larry Schwartz, journalist friend from The Age, said an interesting thing at the Shop today. Why do I love all of this Beat stuff? he exclaimed. Is it because they liberated us? he said. I agreed that they had. And the kind of literature they were writing was one we identified with, I said. So is it our own lives we're reading about then? And are we writing those books? he said. I think that degree of transparency is involved insofar as the author is soliciting identification & correspondence. That's been the case since Whitman but it gathers steam with the Beats and their legacy...
A slim volume I intend sending to you is Kenneth White's Travels in the Drifting Dawn (Penguin,1990) : definitely not the work of genius claimed by the blurbs and perhaps also by the author but White's tastings of British & European places & atmospheres occasionally do convince one that something more suggestive than an adolescent egotism is at stake. I mean, give me Kerouac's ego any day if Kenneth White's Sixties' good times are the alternative. With Kerouac one would flee the pseudo-intellectuals & artists to whom White so readily submits his gift (and he has a gift undoubtedly). But you be the judge --the literary & philosophical references are familiar even where the landscapes are not. You'll think of Basho as well as the Beats...

Love, Kris

Halloween, 2006

Dear Kris, Sleepless early hours of the 31st October --uncomfortable chest easing as I write. The Doors' "Light my Fire" prompts me on Janice Long's morning radio show. Got me to thinking that it was really American music that led me. Kerouac and the Beats came afterwards. It was the mid-Sixties that I turned on to the folk music of Peter,Paul & Mary, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Leadbelly. That was when I started buying records in a big way. I remember having Bob Dylan's "Blonde on Blonde" and Dad actually allowing me to play it on Xmas Day, '66 --usurping Harry Belafonte! But the electric music wasn't in keeping, I know, with a family Christmas, much as I was keen to hear my favourite --"Visions of Johanna". (Bob Dylan and Joan Baez were all the rage at Southampton Tech College the year I was there in 1965.)
To think I've been back home with the parents twenty-five years. Time has collapsed, as I did, like a concertina. Whew! I've lived here all that time --apart from when dad resisted welcoming me home to "his" house. Like you, I felt he wasn't the father I wanted. I consciously looked for a father-figure for years --someone who could tell me something. Never found one. I think I felt cast adrift in an unfriendly universe --heightened, possibly, when you emigrated to Oz --and then suffering years of apprehension and existential terror. But nursing Dad along for his last two years we did share something. Poor Dad, all he wanted to do at the end was pull the covers overs his head, sleep and blot everything out. Possibly the metaphor for his life.
He was a solitary man. A man who would've liked to build a boat and sail around the world to a South Sea island, as you mentioned in your eulogy for him at St John's Church.
(11/11/06) One thing that did irk me about Dad's illness was that he would never accept the help of a more healing diet. My low-fat vegan diet might have assisted. Or macrobiotic diet. Or raw-food diet. All of which I know about. But he didn't have any faith in such things. I'm pleased we could accomodate his tastes in what he wanted to eat --cream cakes for afternoon tea! bangers & mash! --he loved mashed potatoes. And although all his life he ate steamed vegetables he couldn't tolerate the taste towards the end. Tho' he liked green peas. I'd try to encourage him to eat a different diet; tell him about miso soup or fresh fruit & vegetable juices, but he didn't want to move in that direction. Ah, well!
Talking of food, I saw our friend Anthony Bourdain on t.v. last night. We've agreed he's a Kerouacian figure --writer, traveller. How much Kerouac was into food I don't know. We know of his love for booze! --but food in TDB was nothing to write home about. Japhy had his bulghur wheat for the mountain trip up the Matterhorn. But when they came down it was a "great dinner of baked potatoes and porkchops and salad and hot buns and blueberry pie and the works." Anyway, the highlight on Bourdain's programme for me --he was in Korea-- was watching his young companion making country-style kim-chee pickles. I didn't go much for eating chopped octopus that was so fresh the suckers on the tentacles were clinging and clamping on to Bourdain's mouth as he ate! Wriggling on the plate! I'd love to make pickles. Get into home food production. Sourdough breads etc. And if I could make amazake myself I'd save a lot of money. Naturally fermented foods are very good for you...

Love, Bernard

(to be continued)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


25/6-28/6/06 , rewritten August, 2006
Weymouth & Melbourne

Dear Bernard, Regarding your day of Kerouac synchronicity & scores has me thinking of the way Kerouac entered my life. The first Kerouac I ever saw & purchased was Big Sur, a Mayflower-Dell pb, found right under my nose amongst the general literature, thrillers, romances, in the tiny kiosque I was required to work in, on the tourist deck of the then Sitmar Line's flagship, Fairstar, late September, 1965. Just as I'd been disbelieving of the hoo-hah around the Albert Hall poetry reading earlier that year --one of those "almost" experiences because I was working on the railways in London and could have attended-- so was I suspicious of Big Sur's lurid blurb, "the story of the crack-up of the King of the Beats"! However, I enjoyed it and the clincher was the fantastic sound poem at the end of the book, Kerouac's transcription of the ocean at Big Sur... Back home from the voyage (Southampton to Australia via Suez, Aden returning via Singapore, Colombo, Aden & Naples) I researched the Beats at our beloved Reference Library at the Civic Centre and began hunting for Kerouac & Co. around the new & secondhand bookshops in town.
I found On The Road on a stall in Kingsland Square Market; The Dharma Bums somewhere in St Mary's Street; new editions of Lonesome Traveller, Visions of Gerard, & Burroughs' Dead Fingers Talk at the Paperback Parade, bottom of East Street & adjacent to the Tech & the Art College in the Docks area.
In 1964 I made the momentous discovery of Whitman's Leaves of Grass in an 1896 hardback pocket edition on the pavement table outside Gilbert's! When I read Ginsberg later on I immediately sensed Whitman as his progenitor. Whitman was my daily companion when I sailed for Melbourne on the migrant ship Fairsky in 1966.
On the family summer-holiday on the Isle of Wight in 1965, prior to my voyage on the Fairstar, Uncle Dennis (Bean), Dad's step-brother, gave me a copy of the first issue (Autumn, 1952) of Perspectives , which I thought a wonderful American literary mag (and in retrospect I've realized it had to be since it was probably doing its cultural-political bit in those first years of the Cold War), containing poems & prose by William Carlos Williams. The poems astonished me (they included Proletarian Portrait, Poem /"so much depends", This Is Just To Say /"I have eaten the plums")! I hardly believed they were "poems" at all coming as I was from an enthusiastically consumed diet of DH Lawrence & the school syllabus of Chaucer, Shakespeare,R. Browning et al! I remember discussing the poems with you --it seemed like the simplest sentences had been rearranged vertically and called poems! We were shocked, amused, delighted by the simplicity. I tried my own hand at the style --wrote 20 or 30 in a day-- they werent any good but at least the cat was out of the bag...
In Southampton I looked for WCW at the Civic Centre Library but could only find Charles Williams. Had I not been exposed to WCW, Charles wouldnt have seemed a dud, and it wasnt until the late 1980s that I read him again (in the context of the Arthurian mythos & the Inklings I was happilly researching for myself & to stock at the Shop). But you came home one night from work with WCW's Kora, Or a Season in Hell, snaffled at Gilbert's, the best bookshop (new & secondhand) in town. Later you brought home Paterson , in the Macgibbon & Kee edition, which you must have ordered specially. Paterson, of course, carried dedications & material for Allen Ginsberg whom we'd read in the Penguin Modern Poets series, in the volume with Corso & Ferlinghetti. In retrospect, what a marvellous period of literary discovery, characterized by the displacement by the new Americans of the British & European (mostly French) writing we'd thrived on previously. Important to state here that the Beats were slotting into the place made by the following American writers (I quote from the lists I have from 1965-66) : Faulkner, Saroyan (read as early as 1963),Baldwin, Steinbeck, Caldwell, Hemingway... That time's crucial academic critics for me were Ihab Hassan & Leslie Fiedler, and foremost of the new commentators was Norman Mailer following on from the great trailblazer Henry Miller...
The hunt for Kerouac & the Beats resumed in Melbourne after emigration in 1966. My Alladin's cave was Franklin's, the secondhander in Russell Street on the edge of Chinatown. Maggie Cassidy , The Subterraneans, Protest (the anthology juxtaposing the Beats & the Angry Young Men, to the former's obvious advantage one must say), The Village Voice Reader, all came my way in quick succession. The fuller context included Randall Jarrell, Bellow, JD Salinger... I bought Desolation Angels from the South Yarra bookshop in Toorak Road, around the corner from where I was living in Park Street (Lorin Ford's dad's boarding house as fate would have it --and that's a whole other story). There it was, the Andre Deutsch, British first-edition, in its silver dust-jacket, in the bookshop window, waiting for me! The baby of a girl-friend wet on it one day, soaking the front-cover & ruining the end-papers. Although aghast I had to accept it as a Beat annointment!


Thinking about Morley on the trio's mountain climb... Initially I accepted that the none too subtle foil he plays to his Zen-lunatic pals was all that he was, in every way the straight man. But,in retrospect, Morely actually survives the figure of irritating buffoon drawn by Kerouac, perceived by Ray. It took courage, after all, to climb the mountain by himself (a kind of punishment for his dereliction with the crank-shaft and the earlier problem with the sleeping-bag) --he accomplishes it with a humour that's somehow older & zanier than either Ray or Japhy. He isnt anxious about not climbing the summit, happy to lie on his back at the penultimate stage, content within himself. there's a nobility about him...
I wonder what you make of theBuddhism in TDB? Can you remember your impression years ago and how does it strike you now?

Love, Kris

26th August,2006

Dear Kris, Absolutely ages since I've written. I don't want that to be my constant plaint tho'. Or that I've been diverted --but I have-- Dad's illness having galloped on somewhat. He has leukaemia now and I don't think he knows. He told me his MDS had transformed to anaemia, the consultant informed him. But I think he misheard due to his deafness, and what the consultant actually said was leukaemia. Well, this is the Great Matter, Life & Death, that we are all involved in, which leads one to Zen --"trying to do something about 'me'!" Zen is the step one takes after psychiatry & psychology have failed according to Roshi Jiyu Kennett.
Dogen : "The most important question for all Buddhists is how to understand birth and death completely for then, should you be able to find the Buddha within birth and death, they both vanish."
Buddhism and Zen is what drew me to Kerouac. I don't think it was as early as you. First of all I bought and read Zen Flesh, Zen Bones --the Paul Reps compilation. I would quote 'stories' to everyone from it, circa 1970 --I don't have your memory for events and don't have voluminous diaries either. But about this time I was aware that something different was afoot. Different to our Western, Christian society (helped along by Jung and Hesse). My first reading of TDB would be after that. As to whether I was aware of Kerouac in the late Sixties --I don't think so. I was 20 in 1968, when I left home, and I'm sure I didn't know Kerouac then. I missed an opportunity, in 1969, to run the poetry section in a bookshop near Winchester Cathedral. Maybe if I had I'd've run into him. It seems to me that when I went to Buddhist Summer School in 1971 for a few days with my friend John, on the invitation of Patti Ellwood, his mother, I think I was aware of Kerouac. It was here I bought one of the volumes of R.H. Blythe's Haiku. I wish I'd bought the set.
I don't know what sort of meditation I was doing at the Buddhist Summer School. I just sat on cushion. Most people sat on chairs. And I don't remember the incident you've retold me of how I was still sitting on my cushion when everyone else had gone and the monk told me I could "go now"... I do remember the bell resounding, on and on, for an eternity. Then nothing. Blissed out maybe.
I follow Soto school of Zen now. That was my inclination since the mid-70s. Shikantaza = just sitting. I don't know what Japhy was doing when he sat and meditated with his eyes open, which was a revelation to Smith -- "and Japhy sat down in full lotus posture cross-legged on a rock and took out his wooden juju prayerbeads and prayed.' That is, he simply held the beads in his hands, the hands upsidedown with thumbs touching, and stared straight ahead and didn't move a bone. I sat down as best I could on another rock and we both said nothing and meditated. Only I meditated with my eyes closed." (TDB, p53.)
Hey, it's just gone five p.m. --time for my meditation/zazen. I've resumed my practice. Things are always changing. Nothing stays the same. I sit on chair now. Years on my little black cushion have ruined my left hip. But I'm just so pleased to be sitting again. Important thing is to be upright. Sitting on zafu is such a lovely feeling tho'! Not that "lovely feelings" are the point of course. Japhy obviously a young yogi to be able to manage full-lotus. I used to sit Burmese posture -- simply sitting with one leg in front of other, which I feel is no small feat in itself for me. Maybe if I can overcome hip problem through yoga I'll sit on cushion again one day. But who cares? Sitting up, lying down --do the best you can.

Love, Bernard
[posted 11 April '06] to be continued

Sunday, April 8, 2007


Through the bead curtains (unobtainable nowadays it seems) and up to the desk (that is, the counter). A small table display of recently received books. A small cabinet of magazines, pamphlets, chapbooks. The flat top usually features the latest Australian Book Review, Blue Dog, & some mini books. Small revolving stand holding back numbers of Rob Riel & Judy Johnson's WAGTAIL series of poetry tasters featuring contemporary Australian poets. They're up to number 60 or so now; recent poets include Chris Wallace-Crabbe & Robyn Rowland. $3 a pop. Along the wall to the left of the desk if you're sitting at it or to the right if you're facing it is the American section. Closest to the desk is BEATS & CO, four packed small shelves including a New York School section. Final two shelves is the African-American selection. Next section is called EMILY & CO, that is classical American literature (Dickinson, Emerson, Thoreau, Poe, Melville) followed by a chronological series of 20C authors. Different species of Modernism; 30s Realism; Objectivism; Pound, Eliot et al. Two shelves called AMERICAN CRITICISM (a title political types find amusing for some reason). From then on along the wall is the alphabetical sequence of American poets, Ammons, Ashbery, Auster & so on all the way to the Wrights (CD, Charles, James) & Zukofsky. Running along the top shelf of the entire section is an American Fiction selection.
On the small wall at the end of the room, if one was looking from the bead curtain, below picture board on which a signed James Dickey poster is pinned in a collage of photos & handbills, there's a small Canadian section & a Native American selection. Adjacent three tall shelves house a Professional section (dictionaries, how-to-dos), English-language poetry & prose Anthologies, Australian poetry & prose Anthologies. Around one goes past a cabinet of
special liitle books, collectibles etc and onto the far wall dominated by the AUSTRALIAN POETRY section. To its left is a tall ASIA-PACIFIC set of shelves (poetry, fiction, political & literary studies). The alphabetical Australian poetry sequence is followed in quick succession by Australian lit crit, biographies, history & society, the INDIGENOUS Australian literature, then Australian Fiction selection, Australian Classics, and a small but not insignificant NEW ZEALAND section. To its right a set of shelves devoted to Post-Colonial literary studies and various shelves of poetry & prose from the CARRIBEAN, AFRICA, the MIDDLE EAST, SOUTH AFRICA.
On the other side of the room if one were standing with one's back to the American section is the wall of EUROPEAN literature. Beginning with anthologies & literary & political studies from various European countries, one proceeds to the alphabetical sequence of European Poetry & Prose. It's more of a selection than the kind of comprehensivity of the American & Australian sections. From Akhmatova to Jelinek, from Junger to Zweig. Next is the IRISH section, prose & poetry combined. And then the British section divided into Scottish, Welsh & English divisions. Sharing thesecond English shelving is the BRITISH CLASSICS section, chronologically arranged, Chaucer to Hardy via the King James, Blake & the Lakes poets. Alongside is a section including BLOOMSBURY writers, THE POWYS FAMILY, LAWRENCE(DH) & CO, and some British Modernism. One could carry on around into the PHILOSOPHY section but before that one could turn at right angles into the main room for the THEATRE section and various small holdings of ROCK N ROLL, POLITICS, ART, FILM, MUSIC. On the other & blind side of these shelves are various subsets of Philosophy & History of Ideas. Off-centre in the room is a double-sided cabinet containing on the Theatre & etc facing side, FANTASY literature & its subsets, for example THE INKLINGS and their sources from the Norse & Arthurian Mythos to various histories & esoterica; DECADENT literature, a SCI-FI selection. On the other side of the double cabinet are the SOUTH AMERICAN section and the CHINESE, JAPANESE, KOREAN section (with a selection of Buddhist literature, Haiku & etc).
Here & there are other cabinets & shelves featuring NATURE, the kind of British selection the name SHIRE might evoke (from Noel Coward's lyrics to Chesterton, Belloc, Williamson & co), a FIRST WORLD WAR selection, and ever changing NEW TITLES selection.
By now one should be ready to perch on a stool or relax in a chair and take it all in!
MOBILE PHONES ARE DISCOURAGED AS IS THE DRINKING OR EATING OF STICKY FOOD. Not trying to emulate Borders bookshops we are not in favour of lying on the floor to read or to read books cover to cover. It is, after all, a bookshop in the old fashioned way.

April 8th, 2006

Saturday, April 7, 2007

ON THE DHARMA BUM(S) , continued (2)

May 31st, 2006
Melbourne, Oz

Dear Bernard, Two things for starters : Firstly, your pile of Buddhist literature beside TDB -- and "diverted" would be a censure were it not that our book is also a Buddhist novel or, shall we say, a novel in which 1950s Californian Buddhism is evoked; and secondly, the experience of literally sitting down to read the book...
I wrote in my notebook, "Never forget that the extraordinary amount of biography [i.e., Beat generally and Kerouac in particular] stands upon the actual words of the biography's subject. Here is that subject [Kerouac] as author. These are the words, the sentences, the pages; THIS IS THE BOOK! (May13/06)" Incidentally, I think that a famous book has the same aura as a famous poem. Lines of prose generally arent memorable as those in a poem, although there are great passages in TDB , but the aura of author & book bestows upon the words the expectation of the memorable. From another angle,one returns from the biography (which has come to parallel a particular social & cultural history) to the book & the story & the words. The whole edifice is stripped back. The opening sentence, quite formal in comparison to the confidential chat (epistolary) he largely disports, is poignantly transparent. There's more than a touch of Hemingway about it. "Hopping a freight out of Los Angeles at high noon one day in late September 1955 I got on a gondola and lay down with my duffle bag under my head and my knees crossed and contemplated the clouds as we rolled north to Santa Barbara." I did this, I did that, I did the other; that is, in order to arrive at the graceful pass this was done in that circumstance. The reader also hears the sound of his story. He's talkin' to ya!
Regarding the Buddhism : Preceeding or outside of this novel resides the story of how & where Ray Smith (Kerouac) came upon Buddhism, of a kind distinguished from but compatible with Japhy Ryder (Snyder)'s. In the novel one realizes that Beat's physical expedition , the journeys & kicks as it were, is saved by & savoured through the mystical lens. It's easy to forget this or for it to be displaced in the Proust/Joyce absorption of daily life whether reminisced, observed or cogitated. The characters strive to overcome the contradiction. Life is the practice -- Ray & Japhy are dharma bums after all -- and the point of it is self-realization & good old pilgrimage as its own justification. Concepts like salvation & revelation occur to me too but in the sense of redeeming or restoring wonder to a ransacked & mindless contemporary life.
I do agree that it's our "true calling" as you suggest! We'd be among the lost without it. Mind you, Kerouac lost it too and a book like Big Sur is as eloquent a document of self-destruction as Malcolm Lowry's Dark As the Grave... My thought in 1965 or so was that my life should be devoted to the search for truth and that one had to go out into the world, away from hometown, to discover it. Travel related to encountering & experiencing the unfamiliar. I was learning about hitch-hiking before I'd heard of Kerouac's (Japhy's words actually) "ruck- sack revolution". And as children we both knew about India (the Budhha, brahmans, the Hindu stories, yoga etc) & about China & Japan from Dad, inheriting his references (the Upanishads, Paul Brunton for example) ahead of anything from or about the Beats.
I do think of you as the "Abbot of Goldy Abbey" in all seriousness! "Poet" is also a matter of self-appointment. The fancy, "abbot", more truly describes your life than anything else and that's surely the point? You are willing to bear the real burden which the fantasy imposes. Ditto, poet -- after & because of which the mystery gradually opens up to one. Your extensive reading in Buddhism and many years of various meditation practice in your sangha of one confirm your title! "Goldy Abbey" -- amongst all that Weymouth bucket & spade who could guess what was going on in Goldcroft Road? Rather like Dad's secret life in Shelley Road, Thornhill when we were growing up -- who would have guessed the yoga, the trances, the vegetarianism, the interest in UFOs & astral travel? A great pity he didnt relate to our expeditions when we got to adolescence...

31/5/06 When you mentioned Ko Un to me one time, I confused him with the Korean poet published by Forest Books,London -- I thought we had two of his titles in the Shop. I checked & saw we had two other Korean poets, Kwang-ku Kim & Ku Sang, both translated by Brother Anthony of Taize. Then, synchronistically, I found Ko Un in the new University of California catalogue, his Selected Poems with, as you say, Snyder's introduction. When David Prater, who edits Cordite magazine, on-line nowadays, came by the Shop one day he told me he'd recently returned from tremendously enjoyable stay in -- surprise -- Korea! I said how Korea was beginning to feature in my life, for example Kris Coad's selection for the international ceramic award in Seoul, and then your interest in Ko Un. His eyes lit up! On this & subsequent occasion he's described Ko Un's unique standing in Korea, and Brother Anthony's work there.

5/6/06 Visited Ko un's & Brother Anthony's web-sites this morning before hurrying through winter fog & cold to the train -- both of them appear to be remarkable men. Brother Anthony, for instance, is now a naturalised Korean, still with the Taize community & teaching at Sogang University. Ko Un's statement on his life & poetics is unusual & attractive. He doesnt believe in the poem as a text but as belonging to the universe. (An echo of Olson there, "a thing of nature" & etc.) His poetry, he says, relates to the present & not to any literary history. (And yet very early in his Selected he's referring to Han Shan...)

Love, Kris

18th June, 2006

Dear Kris, I was sitting-up in bed early this morning with "our book", reading, at about 5.30 a.m. I suppose, by rights, as Abbot of Goldy, I should have stirred even earlier to "do" zazen, set a good example, but early morning zazen never suited me. And, of late, zazen doesn't suit me full stop. It's something about that upright posture. It is posture and not the concentration. It's a pity. A pity, also, I don't have a sangha about me. I don't want to be too secret. Don't want to be as isolated as Dad was. The trance visions he saw were too much to bear by himself. So he stopped. I think he stopped as soon as he saw the emenations of devils appearing out of his skull. And also maybe his chakras were too open due to vibration of Om chanting. I don't know. It's not really my area. I did mention the UFO stuff to him the other day. "What about George Adamski?" I asked him. (He had the book, Inside the Space-ships .) But he agreed it had been a false trail. In fact all his "interests" disappeared and he was not to lead us anywhere in life. Though probably my ongoing interest in yoga & vegan diet stem from him. And of his children I probably take the most from him...
I must tell you about a great synchronicity that occurred the other day. Mum & I caught the early Jurassic Coast bus to Bridport and I took The Dharma Bums along with me in case I needed to have a little read during the day. It proved to be talismanic. I called into the second-hand bookshop I always look in on and what do I find among all the usual books (no one buys from the poetry section) but Mexico City Blues, Grove Press, only L3.50p. I don't have it in my collection. I was ecstatic. Then, on way home, back in Weymouth again, staring me in the face in W.H.Smith's are a pile of copies of Big Sur -- this time only 99pence! Brand new paperback. What a successful day. A great trip. Mind you, I'd rather be with Japhy & Ray, where I am in our book, hiking up Matterhorn, composing haiku as I go...

Love, Bernard

(to be continued)

Friday, April 6, 2007


10 May 2006
Land of Oz

Dear Bernard, I realized tonight what a "gonzo" reporter Kerouac actually is. After all, what is The Dharma Bums but a travel book in which narrator & place are continually transposed, with either aspect absolutely crucial in evoking & defining the other? The genre didnt exist when he was writing, in fact he'd naturally call it a novel, as all his writing, though one should say that after Joyce & Proust the novel-of-life imparts a legacy of seriousness for the writer of fiction. The novels of life-as-lived, after Joyce & Proust, and Miller might be a prime example, allow their authors to seriously represent themselves, indeed to be fully present in their own analyses -- but as history, confession, topography, and not the pseudo science in that name. I'm half the book ahead of you in this re-reading (it's around 40 years?) so I've already escaped from the city with Ray (Kerouac), Japhy (Snyder), & Morley (John Montgomery) and climbed the Matterhorn in the High Sierras. And descended -- it's exhilerating!
When I say "travel", I include the journey or quest book that the genre has come to enthusiastically embrace. Inner journey parallels the outer. The "gonzo" slant subverts the public or conventional story -- it delivers the "secret" history. In The Dharma Bums the reader is given a key to the Beat Generation writers, mostly & importantly to Gary Snyder as the Zen Buddhist mountain climber Japhy Ryder. When I read Kerouac I'm also deciphering my beloved Beats, trusting the fiction as much as the ever-growing biography. In the 60s it was simultaneously biography. And we didnt appreciate how close we were to those characters & events. We were first generation readers, reading & emulating as we set out upon our lives.
The power of this book is seen in its basic situation; for instance, "I sat crosslegged in the sand and contemplated my life." Doesnt that grab you? Didnt it always? Isnt that what all art's about? Isnt that always where we were found?

Love, Kris

16th May, 2006
Weymouth / England

Dear Kris, Of course the whole dharma bums biz "grabs me". And I think it always did. Only wish I'd been more of a Zen lunatic/hermit -- my persona of Abbot of Goldy Abbey reflects this. Anyway, I'm diverted from my currentreading of The Dharma Bums continually. I've a whole load of books I'm reading concurrently. I'm rereading Bones of the Master (an account of an old Ch'an Master's return to Inner Mongolia), and today George Crane's sequel to this just arrived -- Beyond the House of the False Lama (Travels with Monks, Nomads and Outlaws)-- falls into the groove of TDB nicely, as do the other two books that came -- The Three Way Tavern : Selected Poems of Ko Un , and Vegetable Roots Discourse from Robert Aitken. Hope these don't divert me too much, plus all the diet and macro books. I'll have to just sit and get on and read it. I'm only a few pages in. And you're already half-way through! The last time we read a book together was John Cowper Powys' Maiden Castle. I don't think either of us finished in the end. But this feels different. Is this our true calling?!

Love, Bernard

P.S. Japhy (Gary Snyder) has written the forward for Ko Un's book. Good that he's still out there doing it.


(to be continued)


WEATHER : It's Good Friday in Westgarth, climatically not unlike my recollection of childhood Eastertides in the village of Thornhill, 4 miles from the centre of Southampton, southern England. We've had sun, there's a breeze & a blue sky. We've also scoffed a plate of Retta's hot cross buns! In Vientiane the temp. is 40+ outdoors and inside Cathy O'Brien's room-of-her-own it's 32C. No Easter bunny there but the Lao water festival is just around the corner!

WORLD NEWS : At Collected Works Bookshop yesterday evening, 5 for 5.30 the invitation said and we got off before 6 ,if my good cask- red addled memory can be trusted, we launched Michael Sharkey's THE SWEEPING PLAIN, published by Five Islands Press. Ron Pretty called me to say a few words just as I was settling into my glass : an auspicious (aushhhhpisshhhous) occasion, I said : this book is one of the last batch that Ron will see into publication from go to whoa; it's also Michael Sharkey's umpteenth book... I think there are only 5 more titles in Ron's pipeline before Five Islands Press as his own imprint ceases to publish and a group of poets (Kevin Brophy, Dan Disney, Lyn Hatherley, Robyn Rowland) begin a new list with, I suppose, another rationale. Ron said of Michael that he was a poet in the old Bulletin tradition, satirical, political, humorous as well as the conventional "deep"; poets are generally a serious lot, he said. (It's true; didnt I just decline Mal McKimmie's offer of free tickets for a show at the Comedy Festival? I laugh a lot, but as a poet? Hmm, vurry interestin [EP of HD somewhere or other]) And Michael proved Ron's pudding sure enough. They was rockin in the aisles, sir, creased they was with mirth. A good audience, buzzing atmosphere, all done before 8 when a party set off to wine & dine up town.

ANTHROPOLOGY : What happens at book launchings & readings, especially amongst poets? What is it that gets into us (apart from the alcohol)? We're all recognized in Elizabeth Campbell's inimitable "hello gorgeous"! No, I'm being serious. We engage, we are engaged, we are engaged for angels' & devils' work. We are caught up in or by the social energy of
our heightened language. Hanging on words, looking into our colleagues' faces, as if trying to physically, socially unravell some mystery or the secrets that otherwise scramble our poems! (Elizabeth C has left the room by now, disgusted by this old man's superstition! And so she should be.) I re-introduced Alan Murphy to Chris Wallace-Crabbe early in the night. Turns out they were both contributors to the gatherings in the 1950s at Norman Robb's bookshop in the City. Keith Harrison too of course, Chris began to say... Yes, Keith Harrison, Alan said, I played recorder with him at the music afternoons... Norman Robb's Bookshop in Alan's head because I'd just told him of Peter Kelly's book on Harold Stewart, Buddha in a Bookshop, delivered recently by the author... What would you call that ? The importance of reminding ourselves, of discovering, our history; the importance of circulating that history...

--Kris Hemensley, 6 April 07

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

BEST LITTLE POETRY BOOKSHOP ON THE PRAIRIE they say. Maybe this life I'll still get to visit the States and check out the San Francisco, New York, Boston, LA, and I dont know where else, bookstores. And that goes for Europe too. This life I certainly visit some of the British bookshops (though Charring Cross Road that was is now only part of London lore)... But, Collected Works, the bookshop of Poetry & Ideas, tries to be first cousin of the great poetry/ the great literary bookshops of the world. Rephrase that, because this is the age of the mega bookstore and we're never going to compete with those : we're first cousin of the great LITTLE bookshops of the world, the little specialists. And I'm thinking English speaking world : must be fabulous bookstores in Europe, Latin America and other parts of the world....
Half of the stock of our bookshop is a book of poetry or a book directly related to poetry. The rest of the shop consists of literary fiction, some biography & criticism, a professional section (how to do/s, guides, dictionaries) from Americans like Mary Kinzie, Kenneth Koch, Nathalie Goldberg & Harold Bloom to Aussies like Kate Grenville, Kevin Brophy, Ron Pretty, Kevin Hart (now," is he an Aussie, is he? was he?" who sang that?) and such British as Paul Hyland, Chris Emery, Terry Eagleton & Stephen Fry.... Then there is a philosophy section (ancient & modern), a bit of psyche ("Mind's Matter"), some old & new speerituality; there's a Nature section, theatre, art, music, film...But in no way a general bookstore. Thus, POETRY & IDEAS, poetry & its affinities... Wow, what a range! I delight myself. (I remember Bill Matthews of the excellent secondhander, City Basement Books on Elizabeth St Melbourne, advising me 20 years ago? that I mustnt stock my shop according to my own taste; that would cause me the booktrade equivalent of the sickness unto death (that's my paraphrase)...But I knew no better, and anyway wanted to play and wanted the world to come in , in their ones & twos, and play with me (so to speak)... And so they have! We survive! 1984 to 2007! Astonishing for amateurs, enthusiasts, dilletantes!
And who are the ubiquitous "we" (some of whom can spell better than others)? There's me, Kris Hemensley, who manages the Shop, coordinates its literary activities & etc, in the Shop every day except my rostered Wednesday off (home to write sir, at the double!); Retta
Hemensley, who moonlights as a kindergarten assistant when not at the Shop, creative in every way ; and Cathy O'Brien,day job teacher/ night job artist & writer, who came on board around 86 and was my deputy when I ran away three months at a time in those days to England, but these recent years lives & works in Laos.
And what of the Bookshop's past heroes & heroines (all of whom had some vital connection to local Melbourne writing to qualify as group members)? Well, important indeed to mention Robert Kenny, whose idea it was to have a shop which might house the fruits of the labours of the government assisted employment project (the Small Publishers Collective) back in 1984; he's an academic historian nowadays, a poet & prosewriter once upon a time, editor & publisher... Just prior to dissolution the group included Jurate Sasnaitis (now Greville Street Bookshop), Des Cowley (at the SLV), Nan McNab (freelance writer, editor), Pete Spence (poet, collagist, mail-art/ist extraordinaire), Rob Finlayson (a literature officer in W.A. in recent years), Michael Loosli (in the Sydney booktrade now)... But, oh, many, many men & women, worthies all...
Someone should write a history....

--Kris Hemensley, April 2007

Monday, April 2, 2007


Here we are in our 24th year! The major change since inception, when we were located in Smith Street, firstly on the Collingwood side of the street, next to the Last Laugh Restaurant, and then on the Fitzroy side, near to the Birmingham pub on the corner, has been the dissolution of the collective with which the Shop began. I should say, the last of the Collective since from the beginning there were always members dropping out. We were in Smith Street from '84 to end of '86 when we removed to the interim address of the maison Hemensley in Urquhart Street, Westgarth. The Shop's founder, Rob Kenny, had just vacated the loft at the bottom of the small suburban property and this allowed young Tim Hemensley to take it over and for the Shop to install its shelves in his little bedroom! I wonder what the post office thought as they delivered boxes & sacks of books from local & overseas suppliers! Viewings were on Tuesdays when yours truly was always home. Happily in 1987 the Hemensleys' acquaintance from New Theatre days of the late 1960s, Mark Edmonds of Book Affair, suggested the shop rent a space along the corridor of the 1st Floor at Flinders Way Arcade where his second-hand bookshop was situated. He'd also interested Arthur Hyland to set up the latest incarnation of Hyland's Military & Transport Bookshop on the corridor. Very soon there were three bookshops in the Arcade, later joined, tho for varying lengths of time, by Sainsbury's Secondhand, Santo's Sports Books, and briefly stores run by Paul Perry (ex- City Basement) & David Williams (whose Alchemical Vision bookshop stocked Jungian literature). Ah, those were the days! (Though, who ever realizes at the time?)
We enjoyed 12 years at Flinders Way Arcade before the property developers moved us on. Hylands & Collected Works moved to one of the Council of Adult Education's basements, at 256 Flinders Street, opposite Flinders Street Station, and were there in the damp & gloom (only joking!) from 1999 to the end of 2002. Another gang of developers moved us on again, this time to our present home on the 1st floor of the Nicholas Building at 37 Swanston Street on the corner of Swanston & Flinders Lane. You could say that since we moved to the City in 1987, we've managed to stay on the block of Flinders Lane & Flinders Street. And though we're officially at 37 Swanston, I feel we're back home in the Lane again!
I'll add to this COLLECTED WORKS BOOKSHOP HISTORY from time to time. Enough at this point to welcome visitors to the blog and also invite visitors to the bookshop in the famous Nicholas Building. One quick story though : the late, lamented Vali Myers told us ,when we were in the Basement at 256 Flinders, that we should get out of there ("darling") and come up to her building, the Nicholas. We had no idea that this would ever happen but circumstances led us there! An enormous shame then that Vali died before she could visit us on the first floor.
C'est la vie.

--Kris Hemensley, April 2nd, 2007