Sunday, May 27, 2007



I first read Joel in the 4th issue of the sad-to-say defunct Melbourne poetry mag, Salt Lick Quarterly. I was launching it --reemerging from a period of 'retirement'! I probably had Joel in mind when I commented upon the "poets of every type" publishing in the magazine, including, I said, "the no-type-at-all (who seem to me to be finding form for their spoken, spieling poems)"--
I have a memory of Joel, in a huddle with Retta on the bare boards at Dante's in Gertrude Street, saying he hoped he wasnt one of those 'non-poets'! But no, I hastened to console him, I was welcoming the non-affiliated poets & their new poems, and I sincerely meant that they were story-tellers coining forms --I wasnt disowning them at all --
At that time I didnt know Joel, and didnt have a handle on his poetics --but influencing my proposition was a feeling that the traditional pleasures of poetry, found in the music or shapeliness of the words & ideas, had to reaffirmed in order that there was a point in calling a story a story and a poem a poem! Ultimately the writer makes the call, whether or not satisfactory to the critic or the reader; but constructively raising the question is always to the good, especially in a time of wholesale relativism & the abandonment of specific value & distinction.


Conversation on the Midnight Stream (on page 18) --which is soft & limpid as the sleep-talk or dream-talk it emulates --is an unusual poem to be written in Melbourne in this time. Poets rarely stray from monologue --and here is this dialogue, as fleeting & confidential as nocturnal exchanges can be. "'Are you sleeping?' / 'I want to, / I've been trying to, / but I cannot / sleep.' / 'Don't worry. / Time's black tide will catch us soon, / then we'll both be sleeping.' // 'A welcome sleep?' / 'A welcome knowledge.' / 'I'd rather a welcome memory- // Like Ubud.' /"
Another kind of story is told on p32, Under Westgate, whose form resembles a James Dickey poem --that great poet of rage & rampage, --that is the poet most intimate to the energies of human occasions --
Joel's poem is the Melbourne auto-poem, par excellence. I'm probably the only person in this room who doesnt drive and has never driven --but why do I need to with this kind of literary experience? "As the lights slowly roll green to red and back again / we wait in the outside lane for our turn / and when it comes I gun it to the floor / Through first second third fourth then overdrive / with the landscape towering and throbbing through / my one-way mind at the speed of / but watch me now / double-clutch then handbrake slide into Lorimer Street / with the chassis squealing in expectation of / Never mind"
Of course it's a poem of a state of mind, of abandon & distress via the agency of the car.
This first book of Joel's poems is preceeded by his novel, Another, also published by David Reiter's Interactive Press [Queensland]. It's a book of short episodes, practically self-contained --they're almost like prose-poems, except that prose-poems arent usually full of action & dialogue.
I wonder if one could say : Joel's novel is written by a poet; his poetry by a novelist?
In the novel it's his ear for the music of the speech of the characters he's invented that impresses one. He creates a space --call it poetic --around their non-reflective interaction. He makes a musical construction of monosyllabic utterance, a musical theatre of a one-dimensional world.
In his poetry we would, traditionally, assume his ear, his rhythm, his cadence, his craft and then be ready to be surprised by the stories, reveries, snatches of conversation, dreams & day-dreams; and to be moved by his thought and his perspectives.


Because the first poem I read by Joel was Lager Pistol, for William Burroughs [as published in Salt Lick Quarterly], here in the book on p48, I always associate him with Burroughs & the Beats. Burroughs is the only major literary dedicatee in his book so perhaps one can assume a certain significance --
"We play William Tell.
What better way to mark Burroughs' passing
from Beat to truly beat, we decide over Tequila,
salt crystals and diamond hard methamphetamines."
(Talking with our Beat scholar acquaintance George Mouratides recently, I posed the question : What would the Beats make of the current political situation --international terrorism and the War on Terror including the Allies' war in Iraq? George said we knew what Ginsberg would think --others were less predictable --but coming out of Spengler (the author of The Decline of the West), Burroughs would say it was always doomed, the whole box & dice, no surprise. Kerouac & Corso maybe neo-cons we thought, to balance the leftism of Ferlinghetti & Ginsberg --but, and I said, it sems to me that Spengler's philosophy of history plus oodles of Buddhist & Catholic compassion is the relevant Beat attitude for the day!)


"For the members of my family; living & dead" writes Joel. He means the ancestors and the contemporary old ones & young ones. The hearts of all those who know Joel go out to him & Kirsten in respect of the tragedies that have befallen them... As a poet, Joel has no choice but to make wine of the tears of grief --he makes poems, he remembers his stillborn, his would-have-been children along with those who survived, indeed everyone who survives as Family.
From my own experience of being a parent and losing a grown-up son, I've learnt that dead does not mean cease to be. The world, as I said at Tim's funeral, is, after all, composed of the living & the dead. One carries one's dead child, as well as one's ancestors, within one until we too die...
The counter-culture biographer Miles describes Burroughs' Navaho sweat-lodge ceremony late in his life; the shaman praying, "Family, all one family, no matter what race we are from. All relatives together in a room."
Joel writes, "There is no country. Only family."
This epigram informs the major structure of Subterranean Radio Songs : the family, history, Australian place of the 1st half, South; and North, in which the poet-narrator is travelling abroad in the USA & Latin America, in Britain --an acutely felt & observed travel-diary but one constantly interjected by the concerns, the Angels & Demons of Family.


In a way it's all there in the first poem of the book, The Bridge at Avenel.
The crossing of water, the grave that water can be, the lure of crossing, the necessity (and I'm thinking now of the poetic rather than the economic or political necessity) --the necessity of crossing.
In this poem Joel Deane states, "I cannot find a way across" because of the particular reasons for that poem. But the poet will, --and certainly will attempt that crossing again & again in his career --a career begun tonight with this collection, which it is now my great pleasure to declare launched.

Saturday, May 26, 2007



I've been reading Anthony Lawrence's The Sleep of a Learning Man for several weeks. Of course, I look at other books too --I can't help myself in the bookshop I pass my days in! And most of the time that's what passes for reading : I look at books, I flick pages, I catch lines, passages, sometimes entire poems but rarely read as I once did, cover to cover! If I'm reviewing a book it's different, but left to my own devices I'm more likely to honour the responsibility to Poetry, per se, than to any particular book. This is an excuse but also a kind of rationale for which I'm unapologetic!
Reading Anthony's book I've been reconnecting with Poetry, enjoying the resonance good poetry invites, as well as reading the very particular poems of a very particular book. Reading other books I've been reminded of what was forming in my mind as Anthony Lawrence's project. For example,one of the first notes I made --on New Year's day, in a friend's idyllic, naturally lit, Mediterranean-like Richmond lounge, --was from Louis MacNiece's Selected Poems, -- "When we were children words were coloured / (Harlot and murder were dark purple) / And language was a prism, the light / A conjured inlay on the grass, / Whose rays today are concentrated / And language grown a burning-glass (...)"
Quite a metaphor : magnifying-glass, loved by kids, burning what it's made to examine! Tagore said something of the sort about Tennyson I think --in the East the flower remains intact as it's celebrated; in the West it's destroyed petal by petal as it's defined. MacNiece adds : "Now we are older and our talents / Accredited to time and meaning (...)"
I felt I was in the ken of Anthony's poetry --I felt I was in his den. And whatever MacNiece intended, I was understanding the distinction between the so-called child's and the so-called adult's relationship with language and of language's treatment of the world. And I was given a figure for Anthony Lawrence as a poet for whom sensation or the language of the palpable was a bulwark against the death-dealing of Time, --which is to say, the death-dealing of the Intellect in its vain attempt to transcend annihilation by, of course, measuring & controlling it; but even that language can sustain life if it is memorable, when its music is at least as important as its intended meaning.
And our host, that New Year's Day, had passed me Julian Croft's edition of R.D.Fitzgerald's writings, because I think she'd known his son, and I serendipitously opened the anthology on his discussion of Judith Wright's Gum Tree Stripping poem --and I excitedly proclaimed the synchronicity : the similar & exemplary contradiction of sensation & meaning or of saturation, immersion in palpable experience versus objective, rational interpretation.
And notwithstanding a high regard for Judith Wright, I would turn her caution against the "gluttonous eye" (that makes of Nature a bountiful "breakfast") into approval for a principal of Anthony Lawrence's poetry. I think Anthony's "gluttonous eye", his immersion in material, does in fact lead to the measure which is meaning; it leads to grace contrary to the philosophers' absolute distinction between matter & anything of mind & spirit. This language, Anthony Lawrence's poetry, has nothing to do with child versus adult, with the cliche subjective versus objective. It may be synaesthesic, but as gift and not pathology!


The poems in this book are fictions which bear the full burden of testimony. The brilliant first poem of the book, In late September the dunes, ends as a refrain of the first verse, thus : "In late September the dunes / shut down, and what has taken shallow root / - feather, footprint, rainfall, stone - / will flourish until wind erases them, beginning / again a ribbed advancement / of sand and curious animals."
I take from this that human being is also "curious animal" --curious to see & imagine, and animal, which brings this man into the Nature which defines him even as he seeks to define it. And in poem after poem, Anthony does very well that simultaneous being inside-&-out of experience --involved & observing. You might say that in an Anthony Lawrence poem, phenomena is always event.
The poem, Pastoral, invokes "amazement" twice. For me, to propose amazement is to admit limitation albeit via wonder. The perspective for limitation inevitably includes the anathema of the contemporary sensibility, the Absolute, here as always named as Mystery. "Not since the royal spoonbill / winnowing sandgrains and fish / that could pass as fractals of wave light / into the pulse of an open mudshell / have I been this amazed ..."
It doesnt alter the fact when he adds, "amazement is never sufficient / when grief is bloodflow and ebb." This isnt a caveat but a following to its depth of an intertwined thought & image. This pastoral isnt landscape, it is blood-scape whose extreme is the okel dama, the field of blood, of life & death.
In this book, Anthony Lawrence is the poet of flesh & blood which gifts him places as the fluid events one might be tempted to call mystical, but which materialism can also claim if matter is properly understood, and poetry often appears to understand it. The task --I also say the trick because there's more than a little magic of acute sense & perception at work here --the task is to be so immersed in the matter at hand that, almost unbeknownst to oneself, one exceeds the facts and enters the sublime...


Within a poem, namely Another Kind of Death, about the tragedy & mystery of beached whales, there is invocation of The Poet (here it is Delmore Schwartz, "who understood / that to be alone for too long is another kind of death") and of the dead father ("another [whale] tail-whacked the sand, then made a sound / he'd [the narrator] heard in the palliative care ward // on the night his father died.").
These privileged if not esoteric analogies again require us to recognize Anthony Lawrence's poetry as one whose drive for connection suggests the mystical axiom of the world in a grain of sand. The meaning Anthony Lawrence makes of life --of being alive --depends upon its coherence. Without the chain, the net, the web of connections there isn't meaning.
And I'm suddenly reminded of the idea of Deep Image and sense Anthony's affinities with its modes. Those American poets of the late 50s, 60s & 70s, principally Robert Bly & James Wright but affecting others --from James Dickey to William Stafford & Galway Kinnell, from Kelly to Rothenberg... In the late '60s I thought it was a tendency characterised by effects which had something to do with a conflation of European symbolist & surrealist poetry. But dwelling on, and dwelling in, Anthony's book over the past few weeks, I've been won to the idea of underlying & overlaying meaning, articulated in as rich & redolent an imagery as can be created. And created in such a way as it feels as though it's been found --as the favourite of my youthful practice, Charles Olson, said of the poem, "that it be like a thing of nature, there amongst Nature's things..." And you can even hear Holderlinean romanticism rustling, nestling there too!
Deep Image or hologrammic poetry --where the specific part or detail implies the whole story or picture...
No contradiction at all when I say Anthony Lawrence is a literary poet. Often when mentioning speaking or speech he immediately names poetry if not a particular poet : "knowing how well / the spoken word travels over water / I want to read them a Lorca poem". Maybe subconsciously this is Homeric --the apposition of sea-faring & story-telling, of water & history, of work & poetry... "his breath renaming several species of bird..." ; "a fisherman unclips the outrigger of a thought..."


An English acquaintance from the '70s, a great writer in the pastoral mode, unknown poet these days, name of Michael Chamberlain, referred to work that was more than merely generically acceptible (that it was, without saying, good stuff) as the BIG poems. I think he had the following in mind or the following is what I've made of Michael Chamberlain's comment : that BIG poems somehow hit the nail on the head, they touch the ineffable, they reveal something in the course of their making. They're BIG poems and they're memorable poems, because the good-stuff-without-saying has risen to the somewhere-else, the something-else.
Prim & proper poetics worries about the hurdy-gurdy music of the kind of poetry I've been thinking & talking about, but maybe even that position could be assuaged by the experience of something being spoken out of the song & dance!
So let me conclude : I think AnthonyLawrence's The Sleep of a Learning Man, beautifully designed by the Giramondo Press and published by Ivor Indyk, is a memorable book of poetry featuring many memorable poems, --by which I mean that the language is memorable, that it sings memorably, that it isnt shackled by the pieties of anti-lyrical ideology which refutes the notion of author & poetic authority and decries the pursuit of the last word --the last word which is the epitome of the memorable because it is the fitting word, the word that completes, the poetry that actually lasts.
I'm happy to declare The Sleep of a Learning Man hereby launched!

[At the same event, Chris Wallace-Crabbe launched Judith Beveridge's Wolf Note, also published by Giramondo.]

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


7-12th, March,2007

Dear Bernard, A delight to have your January/February letter. The late Summer humidity knocked me around --couldnt really write in a concentrated manner. I'd made a couple of notes waiting for yours, though, which I'll include here. Since our last communication I've been reading John Steinbeck whom I always regarded as a precursor for the Beats, at least in Cannery Row. Describing its characters recently to an acquaintance I ineptly used the term "disenfranchised". He yelped disdain and quoted Scott Fitzgerald's contempt for Steinbeck. I hate the disenfranchised, he laughed. I corrected myself : they're not disenfranchised; they're just not bourgeoise! And that's the crux. Steinbeck's characters arent properly working-class either although the fishing-town of Monterey accomodates the bums, the lost & down & out, the whores, the eccentric loner marine-scientist-ecologist. The whole place seems fuelled by alcohol but the marvellous mess of their lives isnt a footnote to alcoholism --it's the real thing; life completely outside of the Protestant work-ethic & the bourgeoise ideal. No sense of respectability or upward mobility, which was the model threatening us when we were young.
Time for me then, this Summer, to revisit Doc (Ed Ricketts) & the bums after a year hobnobbing about Steinbeck with his greatest fan around here, short-story & haiku friend Michael de Valle. Of course I remember you as a reader of Steinbeck in the'60s. I still remember the smell of those new paperbacks --not only the Steinbecks but your other love, H.E.Bates (whom I quickly collared as our time's successor to my master, DHL). This isnt purely nostalgia : we luxuriated in the pleasure of purchasing, collecting, reading these books, apprentice seekers & writers connecting to the wider world! You shocked me, though, when you recently told me Dad turfed out most of your books, including the Steinbecks, when you moved out for your first away-from-home jobs. I'm still shocked.
(14/2/07) My Steinbeck binge is full on : three-quarters through Cannery Row, a third into Travels with Charley, begun The Log From the Sea of Cortez and today Retta gives me Sweet Thursday for St Valentine's Day! Realizing Sweet Thursday was Cannery Row's companion volume I've been searching in Melbourne's second-handers. Rett found it at the book market in Federation Square on Saturday at a stall I'd twice approached earlier only to be told by the bookseller that he was still unpacking his boxes, nowhere near his esses! I complained to Michael, who's been running his own stall for a few weeks, bravely trying to move his own titles. He also promised to keep an eye open for me!
(18/2/07) On page 50 of Travels With Charley, Steinbeck's describing "the strangeness of Deer Isle" --the "sheltered darkling water seems to suck up light , but I've seen that before." I'm thinking somewhere else in America during a life of travels, but then he mentions Dartmoor. And then the coup de grace : about Stonington, "Deer Isle's chief town", he announces "it very closely resembles Lyme Regis on the coast of Dorset, and I would willingly bet that its founding settlers came from Dorset or Somerset or Cornwall. Maine speech is very like that in West Country England..." and so on until, almost inevitably, the similarity proceeds to Avalon! I knew I should be reading this book today after our good phone-call (our constant recapitulation feeding ever-present pasts into the future) abruptly ended : quickly got my things together for Retta's early-morning excursion to the beach.
Something meant-to-be about that also : for there was Dimitris Tsaloumas standing at the water's edge. Havent sen him for a few years --you know, he spends Melbourne Winter on Leros, returns here for Summer. I told him we had his new collection (Helen of Troy, UQP). He said it contained 4 typos! I said I hadnt read it except for the haiku series. He laughed sardonically. He said he hadnt thought there were any poems left in him, and he was ill with a mysterious dry-skin condition, but then the haiku came. I said it was only when I counted the syllables that I realized the poems more than simply resembled haiku! He sucked in breath, pursed thin lips and said that only me with my close reading would expose the truth that one of his tanka wasnt syllabically (he said metrically) accurate! He laughed, one arm around my shoulder. Haiku? Shrugged, laughed. Haiku!
(19/2/07) Actually, I think it's one of the haiku that's "wrong" --six syllables in 3rd line of IX ("now sunset fires gold / of autumn in your soft hair. / Birds riot in the plane.") --But the two series of tanka (57557) are impeccable. And yet, elegant poems though they are they lack the immediacy of, say, Kerouac, Welch & Saijo's Trip Trap. Hardly any of the Trip Trap poems fit the formal scheme but most have the haiku spirit. Like all beat writing, conventional literary values & imperatives are called into question. As for me, I'm probably more likely to emulate Dimitris than Trip Trap although I have played with the instant mode forever --from Kerouac to New York & Bolinas --wherever the Buddha sits!
How do you characterize your own haiku or the kind of thing in the American mag you publish with, Hummingbird [ed Phyllis Walsh, PO Box 96, Richland Center, WI 53581]?

I note you make the same point about haiku vis-a-vis great literature and extend the thought in your conclusion about ordinariness & enlightenment. At the same time, realization remains crucial --that is, it isnt the mere doing but the quality achieved --without sacrificing the purity of the act or the art. I suppose that conundrum is where the Zen comes in!
You have your Chafey's & Radipole-lake pathways as I have my Elwood/Point Ormond coastal walk to St Kilda or even the daily crossing of the bridge on High Street overlooking the blessed Merri Creek. Our dreams of the big treks is definitely linked to these. Travels With Charley relates to this too --"once a bum always a bum" he jokes, but at age 58, on the cusp of older age, he surrenders to the innate restlessness, to be on his way and on the way. He wants to rediscover "this monster land", the wild sociologist, one truck, one dog.
For myself I care less about the sociology than for the "monster" within, whom one reintegrates into the world, especially the world beyond human saturation --a pathway or a mountain provide the same opportunities.
We've talked about Taoism recently in the context of your second thoughts about the value of emersing yourself in the complexity of Buddhist philosophy. Your abbreviation of the whole thing was Buddhism deals with Mind whereas the Tao is concerned with man in Nature. I know that's a cartoon but I like it. The Dharma Bums is somewhere in that frame.
Rereading Arthur Waley's Han Shan translations (my 40 yearold paperback of Chinese Poems), in acknowledgement of Han Shan as the figurehead of Kerouac's book, I'm inclined to fabricate the ancient mountain poet as skirting one (Buddhism), escorting the other (Taoism). Han Shan in the mountain country, the mountain's daily visitor whose witness is of mind, pincered by sight & seeing, poet of the bafflement of what-is. More or less what Ray Smith is in TDB.
Japhy spins the Buddhist lore all day & night, wherever he goes. He's in Buddhist heaven! I must reread Snyder's Cold Mountain translation, but in my head is the thought that the reflection of Han Shan in TDB, in Smith's ultimately ambivalent excursion, is true of a poet for whom neither parable nor analogy banishes existential trepidation. No Zen in this song, Han Shan wrote --wistful & brave.

I'll end on that note but must slip in a new title which came my way recently --Iain Sinclair's Edge of the Orison (Penguin, 2006), sent to me by jazz musician & literature fan Scot Walker in Sydney. The subtitle, "In the traces of John Clare's Journey Out of Essex" says it all. I hope you can track it down in the wilderness you sometimes imply of provincial England's bookshops. I've begun Sinclair's latest adventure and have to say it achieves the tone I strive for in my topographical writing. Simple difference : Sinclair is a walker, practices what he preaches. The job's all before us, bro'; we'd better get cracking!

Love, Kris


April 2007

Dear Kris, If I still had the Steinbecks I'd get them out and share your delight and enthusiasms. I've looked out for him in second-hand bookshops, hoping to dip in again. Didn't want to buy new paperbacks. In collector mode I fancied 1st editions... but I'll never afford that. By the way, a 1st British edition of Kerouac's Vanity of Duluoz was L120-. It's still, needless to say,sitting in the shop I saw it in, in Dorchester. It's been there some time.
Talking of the 'lost' Steinbecks, I also don't know where my H.E.Bates and French classics are. Oh, well. At least my record collection is mainly intact. I have too many books anyway. I must slim down. Make the library more manageable. Especially if I have to, or need to, or want to move at some point in the future. So difficult, I've already found, to part with any. I'm a collector. I really must get Anthony Bourdain into my collection. If his writing is as good as his narratives on his t.v. programmes he'll be indispensable. Not that I eat his sort of food. I look to John McDougall, M.D., for that. I have a pretty regular dose of him every day. He espouses a low-fat vegan diet that I follow almost to the letter. 99%. It's an unprocessed, starch-based diet (e.g. rice, millet, potatoes, beans, corn, breads) with the addition of fruits and vegetables. He does allow occasional use of nuts, seeds and soya products (e.g. miso, tofu, spya milk) but not T.V.P. etc. And no oils.
McDougall is a very straight guy. But radical in his field. It was great fun to see him have a beer on his latest DVD --"McDougall Made Easy"! He's trying to appeal to everyone --ordinary people. He's telling us he's a regular guy. Anyway, I love him. And I love Bourdain. Who you follow will decide which way your weight, blood-pressure and cholesterol go! Tough choice for me. But I am decidedly vegan at the moment. With whom to have fun becomes an awkward equation. Does one want to have fun? Uchiyama Roshi in Refining Your Life : From the Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment" says something interesting -- "...somehow, the word 'fun' is not exactly the way I would describe my activities... Anyway I suddenly recalled one thing I do which you might call fun, and that is sipping three small shots of whiskey after the day's work is done. ....Personally, I do not care much for alcohol and cannot stand sitting around drinking with a bunch of people. The reason I drink is because even after I have been in bed for some time my feet never seem to get warm.... The life we lead here at Antai-ji, however, is far from the kind that allows the sipping of hot sake and the nibbling of snacks with it. I drink with the express purpose of warming my feet, and I have grown accustomed to taking the whiskey straight to maximise its effect.... Now if the word 'fun' could be applied to this situation,then this is the time I have 'fun'."
I remember Ted Enslin's lines in a poem from The Country of Our Consciousness --"I tend to congratulate a life, that lived, is harder than it need be." Enslin would congratulate Uchiyama Roshi. McDougall would understand. But Bourdain wouldn't see the point. Not sure where I stand. I know I'd like to be out in the world with Bourdain on his t.v. trips in my fantasy life --but I'd also be at Artai-ji doing 14 hours a day of zazen at sesshins. I think Ray Smith and Japhy Ryder would be a mixture too. But can't see Ray Smith on food for health. You never can tell what people will do though. Even Bukowski took to health foods, vitamins and supplements towards the end of his life because ill health forced his hand. There's no knowing what people will do when the elephant stands on your chest.
Presently, I'm reading in The Dharma Bums where Ray Smith goes home. It struck a chord with me --being home, meditating, trying to explain myself to the neighbours. I don't mention Buddhism to them. If only I had a trip planned to the West Coast, like Ray. I sometimes dream of living in the south of France and maybe being near Plum Village and Thich Nhat Hanh. And, of course, sometimes the dream is to be with you in Oz. I'd have to go back many years when I felt free enough to just take-off somewhere tho'. Too many! But there is still in me a seed for adventure. Ray is heading for his fire lookout job for the U.S. Forest Service on Desolation Peak. That great book, Poets on the Peaks by John Suiter (Counterpoint, 2002), gives a thorough account. No, I'm not suggesting anything like that for myself. But the spirit is there.

Love, Bernard

Sunday, May 20, 2007

LINKS, 2nd Posting

Bob & Susan Arnold (Longhouse Publishers & Booksellers, 1604 River Road, Guilford, Vermont 05301,USA) have continued the late Cid Corman's magnificent ORIGIN project as an on-line literary magazine. They're working towards publishing 4 large issues this year. Origin 6th Series #1, saw light of day March 12th,'07; 6th Series #2, April 15th,'07; 6th Series #3, NOW published; 6th Series #4 is due out in June. The address for the magazine is and the address for the bookstore & etc is

Sue Bursztynski is the sci-fi & fantasy buff who put us onto the Andromeda Spaceways pulp couple of years ago and whose enthusiastic conversation about Tolkien & Co, not to mention the classics of horror & detection, maintains the pulse in that section of the Shop. Her own site is at


SOME WORDS FOR CLAIRE GASKIN : Saturday 23rd, September,2006 at the Victorian Writers' Centre. Launching of Claire Gaskin's A Bud, published by the John Leonard Press.

Three short weeks ago --is that a long time? --three long weeks ago, I saw Claire read at the Melbourne Writers' Festival --saw her and heard her. I only attended two sessions --Jenny Harrison's book launch [Folly and Grief, Black Pepper Press, with Dorothy Porter doing the honours] and what I think of as Claire's reading --two of my favourite women on this diverse & ever stimulating Melbourne poetry scene --and they were both superb-- looking & speaking exquisitely-- picking their words perfectly.
About Claire's gig, I wrote this in my journal : "I think the reading revolved about music or sound & sense. Brook Emery all sense and [to my ear] little sound [that not being where his poetry's located]; George Szirtes the perfect balance; Mark Reid more in line with Brook and with genuine comic touch; Claire's almost total investment in imagery, for which she's found a measure, quite unusual for English-language poetry... George followed her reading with her book [on his lap] --he looked interested-- I wonder if he found an affinity via East [& Central] European surrealism? Claire should feel more than relieved-- She's grown a leg --the book is compelling, her reading as clear as she could make it --brave as a writer & performer on the day --I'm moved & proud of her..."
Now --Grant [Caldwell] is launching this book and I'm just saying a few words! Inevitably, though, I began constructing a piece in my mind [the moment my plane took off for Europe a couple of weeks ago] : "Some Words for Claire Gaskin". What words? Maybe words around the letters of her name, Claire. Same time as thinking these things I was being haunted by lines of a song by Jane Birkin [the CD given me a couple of months ago by Cathy] --you may know it --from the album Rendezvous -- "The simple story, that you told me / As if you / lay down with a dream you'll wake up lonely" --The connection with Claire is in my image of the poet she may be --a kind of surrealist, a type of dreamer (--the references in her book to Neruda, the reply to Andre Breton) --And it anguished me to think of Claire as the unhappy surrealist! What an irony that loneliness would be the price of the oracle?
So had I followed my initial plan, "C" would have gone something like this : "A calamity it would be if the dreams which fund her poetry, rob her in daily life..."
Oh dear! Heavy! And this isnt the launching speech; just a few words, an accompaniment...
I'd also thought of quoting a passage from my journal of 20-odd years ago when Claire came to my creative writing class at the CAE in Degraves Street --but I can neither find my notes for that series of classes nor the relevant journal --Maybe it isnt 1986 but '84 or '85 or'87? Following my alphabetic plan [this] "C" would have begun something like : "Class of '86 (or whichever is the right date) whose two bubbliest students were Claire Gaskin & Lisa Jacobson" --though I think Lisa was the verbal one --I imagine Claire in a green jumper or jacket --I remember her as a teenager, as a sweet, delightful youngster --I remember her smiles, her quiet enthusiasm...
The "A" of Claire would have been for John Anderson --and it's probably his version of the dreamer that's closest to Claire --I remember her telling me years ago how taken she's been by his "dream lines", the words, phrases he'd wake with, and his use of this dreamed material in his poetry, ultimately following his friend Emma Lew's idea of using the pantoum to bring out the full poetic energy of the lines... And I'm reminded in a way of John in Claire's forming poems of amusing, wry, poignant, cryptic phrases & sentences --it's a kind of resurrection if you like --not merely hommage but a continuing life... John Anderson : "the choice of a subject like the choice of a glance / I hold things to the wall. What wall? Your choice and mine."
So, here am I with my unrealized idea, but with a few more things to say...
Firstly, a qualification of "dreams" & "surrealism" & so on : Claire may or may not be a Buddhist, but she certainly practices yoga & meditation... It's come to be seen, especially in Beat & "Language"-writing, that there's a link between the super- or trans-realism of the classic 20thCentury European poets & their English-language epigones, and the Zen poets' hyper attention to the objects of consciousness, whether in dream or world (and that continuum of dream & world)...
Claire's practice as a poet in Melbourne means she's been writing at a time when free-verse poets have been stimulated by the neo-formalists --Her poetry is, like other Melbourne poetry, often more obviously artful than Californian poetry for example --but a typical Californian like Joanne Kyger is in her practice a cousin for Claire --and for me --and this poem tells us something of Claire and something of me too : "This poem is more / like a picture / postcard isnt it // romantic? I'm in / god's fussy hands / leaving these words for you"...
So, without further ado, may I hand over to Grant Caldwell...

Thursday, May 17, 2007


WORDS FOR MICHAEL DUGAN (9/10/1947-16/3/2006)

In his darkly humorous poem, How To Succeed in Death Without Really Trying, from his booklet Returning From the Prophet,published by Robert Kenny & Philip Edmonds' Contempa Publications in 1972, Michael imagines the dead poet reincarnating as his own biographer! Now that his biography is beginning we, his biographers, must welcome his benevolent spirit.
I'm honoured to have been asked by Michael's dear sister Sally to say a few words about those late 1960s when our lives as poets in the world began.
I wish, of course, that this was another kind of occasion, twenty years on from now let's say, and Michael & I meeting with all of you for a long jar & jaw about the good old days including these. But it's not to be.
Now we must remember. "Remember to remember..." For instance, Ken Taylor showing me at his Parkville home or telling me on the phone from the ABC, April'68, to visit him because he had something very exciting to show me --me who was working on the production of the first issue of my little poetry magazine, Our Glass --I ought to know, he told me, that one, Michael Dugan,had just published a little poetry mag from a Heidelberg West address, called Crosscurrents. Astonishing!
Something was indeed happening!
The something-in-the-air of the 1960s, which had impelled one towards performance & publication, -- that imperative for the New, particularly with war around us, had simultaneously inspired two 21, 22 year old poets on opposite sides of the city!
Dennis Douglas, poetry editor at The Age, later called this the "mini-mag explosion" --the start of the Poetry Revival! I introduced Michael to Betti Burstall's La Mama cafe-theatre --and "his people" & "my people" met! And the rest is history!
I remember Michael then as someone already on the inside of a Melbourne literary world and with a similar passion for the new & young poetry & art & music as me. I was a migrant from the U.K. to whom the ins & outs of Heide & Ern Malley & Meanjin & etc had to be explained. Michael explained.
I remember Michael enjoying the Counter Culture but advocating change through education & literature, the schoolroom & not the street. He spoke as a Fabian Socialist I suppose. My own revolutionary aspirations flourished then dissolved. His Fabianism continued. I think he was on the right track!
He was also right about Jimi Hendrix! I momentarily allowed me head to be swayed by a musician friend who said anyone could waa-waa like that! I should have believed my belly & my heart like Michael --and bit my tongue on smart-arse rhetoric. Hey Joe was & is a brilliant anthem!
I remember Michael as the most loyal & dependible friend & ally --opening up the venue, La Mama, if no one else was around --always attending the reading or the all-night eating & drinking and usually providing most of it. As it was around La Mama so too in the rest of his life, especially at the Fellowship of Australian Writers. Many times too when Michael would leap & shout without restraint, responsible for his own happiness rather than others'.
Michael rang me a few weeks ago to run past me, he said, a sketch for the autobiography he'd decided it was time for him to commence. With some feeling he said : "I dont know if you agree but I've always considered my relationship with you & Retta & Tim very important." I took a deep breath and said it was the same for me because despite different directions, different opinions, despite breaks in contact, what we'd experienced & shared was real --it was the beginning of a great many marvellous things-- it's a reality that can't be denied --it's inscribed in our hearts--
As, dear friends, Michael himself now can only be, but for always.

Michael's funeral service , Wednesday, 22nd March,'06, at Le Pine, 1048 Whitehorse Road, Box Hill. The celebrant was Lee Burgemeestre; other speakers included Doug MacLeod, Sally Dugan, Jo Swarc, Petro Georgiou, Jane Tanner, Barry Dickins.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

SHOPFRONT : NEW TITLES, May 12th, 2007

THE AVALANCHE : aka New Australian Poetry
[Melbourne/Victorian writers indicated by *]

Eighty Great Poems : From Chaucer to Now, ed Geoff Page (UNSW Press),'06; $34-95
Groundwork, ed Brian Edwards [A collection of writings from members & associates of Deakin Literary Society, inclu Connie Barber, Carol Bradburn, Justin Clemens, Ross Gillett, Anthony Lynch, David McCooey,Alan Murphy, AG Paradissis, Rhonda Poholke, Ted Reilly, Maria Tokalander, Marguerite Varday & many others]; (Deakin Literary Soc.).'06; $29-95
Jennifer Allen, The Cut Worm (Precious Press),'06; $15-95 *
Suzanne Edgar, The Painted Lady (Indigo / Ginninderra Press),'06; $22-95
Sue Stanford,Opal (Flat Chat Press),'06; $20 *
Greg Murphy, The Emperor Sonata : Byzantium Revisited (Interactive Press), '07; $24-95
John Egan, Not the Rain, The Wind (Poets Union), '07; $7-50
Jordie Albiston
, Vertigo : A Cantata (John Leonard Press),'07; $23-95*
Louise Crisp, Uplands (Five Islands Press),'07; $21-95*
Julian Croft, Ocean Island (John Leonard Press),'06; $23-95
Brian Edwards, The Escape Sonnets (Papyrus Press),'06; $19-80*
Basil Eliades, 3rd "i" (Interactive Publications),'06; $24-95
Warwick McFadyen, The Life & Times of Mr Agio (Half Moon Press),'06; $15*
Peter Gebhardt, Another Place (Helicon Press),'06; $24-95*
Denis Haskell, All The Time in The World (Salt),'06; $33-95
Dominique Hecq, Couchgrass (Papyrus Press), '06; $18-70*
Anita Heiss, I'm Not a Racist, But... (Salt), '07; $27-95
Paul Hetherington, It Feels Like Disbelief (Salt),'07; $24-95
Barry Hill, The War Sonnets (Picaro Press), '06; $6*
Judy Johnson, Jack (Pandanus Poetry),'06; $24-95
Aileen Kelly, The Passion Paintings : Poems 1983-2006 (John Leonard Press), '06; $24-95*
Peter Fitzpatrick, Westering (Puncher & Wattman),'06; $24
Dorothy Porter, El Dorado (Picador),'07; $32-95*
Kerry Scuffins, Litmus (Five Islands Press), '06; $18-95*
Tom Shapcott, The City of Empty Rooms (Salt), '06; $34-95*
Michael Sharkey, The Sweeping Plain (Five Islands Press), '07; $21-95
Nicolette Stasko, Glass Cathedrals : New & Selected Poems (Salt), '06; $39-95
Tim Thorne, A Letter to Egon Kisch (Cornford Press), '07; $19-95
Dimitris Tsaloumas, Helen of Troy & Other Poems (UQP),'07; $23-95*
John Watson, Montale : A Biographical Anthology (Puncher & Wattman),'06; $24-95
Amanda Wilson, Cities of Liquid Night (Papyrus Press), '06; $19-80*
Petra White, The Incoming Tide (John Leonard Press), '07; $23-95*
Eddie Burger, Funny & Strange (Poets Union), '07; $7-50*
Charles D'Anastasi, The Unreliable Harbour (Poets Union), '07; $7-50*

Limited stock! Hurry, hurry , hurry!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


[Contribution to the launching of Letters and Characters, at Collected Works Bookshop,April 20th, 2001]

A few words about Selwyn...
I like the way he calls me "you swine" --out of The Goons-- in fact I like a lot of what he's often casting off & about --his Englishness, his Welshness, his Britishness --I especially like it here in Australia, where it's part of our New Australianness...
I like Selwyn's connection with the British literary high life! I came from the poetry underground you realise, frightened by, as much as opposing, the Oxford & London poetry scenes! --I feel I'm getting a second chance now to know those people & that poetry via Selwyn's benevolence...
I'm astonished at his sense of purpose --the battle-plan he draws up on behalf of his army of poems --I'm amused, amazed & always pleased for him when he reports a successful campaign...
I liked his Chinese poems [Lunar Frost, published by Brandl & Schlesinger] because they made good sense in an English I recognize, whatever debate they can arouse amongst other Chinese scholars & translators...
I'm very pleased for him that this book [Letters and Characters, Cornford Press], once upon a time "Pritchard's Pomerania", is now published...
"My Dear Wraithe" Selwyn addresses the first of the two long epistles comprising this fat little book --It's obvious, though, that particular manifestation, the ghost glimpsed before death, has been chased away or has given up on our happily long living poet! ["Wraithe" is an old comrade as far as the book's dramatis personae's concerned] Long may you prosper!
And yet --this is a type of night poem, as in "the dark night of the soul" --or, at least, night thoughts --as he has it himself in the second half of the book, "Quiet Night Thoughts" --but that's between the poet & his Chinese correspondents --For mine, the thoughts are anything but quiet --Every now & then they penetrate the daily life, the political commentary, the 'gross natural array' as Goethe called it (distinguishing autobiography from life)...
"Silence so complete the pulse drums in my ear." -- Selwyn fills it up with the story, or stories, of his life --his lives : the Army --wonderful anectdotes strung between The Goons & David Jones; the Socialist, out of anger it seems to me, lambasting middle & upper classes for all he
& they are worth; the anti-American; the commentator on West & East, insider of one empire, journalist in the other; the New Australian, caustically loving his new country not least because it's so far away from what he takes to be his atrocious origins --the atrocious origins of his country mind you, for his deep conservatism is really founded upon family & ancestors who would seem to be exempt from the iniquity, the inequality, the unfreedom of that country --almost that is! --a Right Wing Brother lurks!
But at the heart of the dark night, of the deafening silence, is the figure of the Little Boy. The little Hayden haunts the poem, as he haunts the poet, and he'll haunt the reader too --So very hard to conceive, to conceptualise --Terrible to read, but, I think, unavoidable :

Dead son, dead son, I can no longer
hold you in my mind
as once I held you in my arms :
it can't be done, it can't be done.

So I arrange your smiles,
print dates, chart your curve
beyond our knowing, only here
in God's gravity record the faint pulse
of love's disproof of time and space.

Letters and Characters is a poem to argue with --I've remarked to Selwyn that agreeing with its opinions is one thing, but the opposite doesnt stop one reading it--
The strength or bitterness or vitriol of the political opinions seem to me to draw off of the terrible vibe or energy from the loss of that boy, that lost boy... "Daily our eyes opened and closed on grief." "Doc Gill wrote from Australia to say / he thought I was unhinged!" Well of course he was --is-- as a poet is --unhinged from the regular round even when a celebrator of it --That's why Beauty is an interruption to the habitual, to the amnesia of the natural --Beauty, Truth --and Longing...
And a Dream arises --and not, I think, a political dream, where Selwyn's version of Paradise will have its chance of levelling the playing-field, so to speak --but a poetic dream of an unsullied country, people, language --poetic, atavistic, certainly consoling --this dream of Wales and a return to Wales, whether in person or spirit (thus language) hardly matters for it still to be a fact...
And so the narrative, unexpectedly perhaps, produces a redemption --not English, WELSH he'll say of himself; and not England but WALES --this despite "the air that tears around this latitude / between Patagonia, South Africa, and here. / It inebriates even an old man, but you know, / I miss North Wales, I do."
There is, of course, the abiding redemption of Family --the most seriously adored "characters" of the title...
Perhaps the sweetest of the little poems in this spiralling narrative is the poem for Miriam, the life-long partner, "Domestic Interior", which ends, "How lovely, lovely you were and are, / Soap in your eye, stumbling, almost falling."
Selwyn might now take that cue, --fall round and around into a Welsh-Antipodean poetry, --fall down & down, and find the soft down again...

--April 20th, 2001; Collected Works Bookshop, Melbourne
LETTERS AND CHARACTERS, published by Tim Thorne's Cornford Press (Launceston, Tasmania), 2001. Tim Thorne also spoke on the occasion.

SHOPFRONT : NEW TITLES , May 9th, 2007


Artaud, Watchfiends & Rack Screams : Works from the Final Period[trsl Eshleman w. B Bador],(Exact Change), $35-95
Haim Nachman Bialik, Random Harvest & Other Novellas (Toby Press/UK), $32-95. Fiction by writer "considered the greatest modern Hebrew poet(...)belongs to the Golden age of E European Hebrew & Yiddish literature."
Alexander Bogdanov, Red Star : The First Bolshevik Utopia (Indiana),$39-95. Prescient sci-fi by one of the founders of the Bolsheviks; apparently historically prophetic...
Jean Cassou, 33 Sonnets of the Resistance, inclu orig, introd. by Aragon; [trsl T Ades & A Elliot] (Arc Press/UK), $29-95. The collection of poems, written while imprisoned by the Vichy government, wch brought him to prominence.
The Selected Writings of Juan Ramon Jimenez [trsl H.R.Hays] (FSG),$42-95; poetry, prose-pieces, selections from Platero & I, essays.
Primo Levi (with L de Benedetti),Auschwitz Report (Verso),hb,$32-95. The report, never before publ in English, prepared for the Russians on the concentration-camp conditions in 1944. Could be considered a prototype for his later writing.
Mallarme, Divagations [trsl B Johnson], (Harvard),hb,$59-95; "a salmagundi of prose-poems,prose-poetic musings, criticism & reflections..."
Jacques Reda, Treading Lightly : Selected Poems, 1961-75 [trsl J Feldman],(Anvil Press/UK), $29-95. His first English translation. "A formative influence on the 'new lyricism' that was to change the direction of French poetry in the 1980s."
Tomaz Salaman, Row : Poems[ trsl Beckman & Salaman]. (Arc Press/UK), $32-95. "Perhaps the most popular, prolific & cosmopolitan poet in C. Europe today."
Conductors of the Pit : Poetry written in extremis in translation [ed & trsl Clayton Eshleman], (Soft Skull Press), $32-95. Includes Artuad, Holan, Cesaire, Vallejo,Breton,Neruda,Radnoti,Rimbaud & others. These are the poets Eshleman considers "uncontaminated by what might be called 'official verse culture'. All practice a language that lives out on the dragon's tongue."

Limited stock. Hurry hurry hurry!

Saturday, May 5, 2007


[Testimonial, written March 4th,1999]

Flicking through the September of 1968 issue of New : American & Canadian Poetry, edited by his friend John Gill in up-state New York, looking for a context for Ken Taylor's publication there of the most memorable of his "Maurie" poems (Maurie speaks about a secret Australia while in Iceland), I chance upon poems by Michael Ondaatje & Raymond Carver. They're obviously on the first legs of their life-journeys, like Ken Taylor, still starting out. Those three, Taylor, Ondaatje, Carver, linked by John Gill's contemporary selection, appear to have the best poems in the magazine, and Ken Taylor's is magisterial on top of the eye for image and ear for phrase he shares with the others. I'm not about to draw any length of bow upon the coincidence of their co-publication, only the conclusion that the string of sex & violence which trails through that world at war, underlines & guarantees even the outstanding poems of the time, in books, anthologies & little magazines.
Times change, contexts shift, dissolve. Ken Taylor's place in the 1970s anthologies, Applestealers & The New Australian Poetry, was historically & politically right & proper. His absence from subsequent compilations is unfair & regrettable. But in the last year or so he's returned, almost inconspicuously --just another poet, as he was in John Gill's magazine, thirty years ago-- with a new poem in John Hawke's Nightjar (Newcastle Poetry Prize) anthology and an old one in Michael Duffy's Poet's Choice (courtesy of John Olsen's nomination). And now we have the prospect of a new volume, The Taste of Me.
Times change, contexts ditto, yet these new "love poems" turn about the same violence as disclosed in the Vietnam War 1960s. Not any local savagery perhaps, but rather a general state of threat & upheaval which, according to Ken Taylor, always besets the corporeal person in the material world.
If At Valentines (1966-69) is arguably his major poem, then Pictures from the Sea (1969), similarly designed as worldly narrative & visionary coda, is the next --and it's this marine repertoire, both port-side & oceanic, this sea of very particular matter & metaphor, which courses The Taste of Me. It's a reader's privilege as to whether a particular lovers' tryst or the human condition's intimate revelation is the central feature of this sequence of poems. In any case, they're irrevocably intertwined --as any deeply human experience causes all the world to be. What may begin as chanson inevitably spirals into heart-rending aria -- "late that year / he fell in love" on one side of the skin, "the simultaneous destination / of his death / and his beginning" on the other.
I'm very happy to commend Ken Taylor's new beginning, hoping it'll find a happy ending!

: Ken Taylor's mss was published in 2000 by Five Islands Press as Africa. He won the NSW Premier's Literary Award for Poetry with it in 2001.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


Pretty good when a singer-songwriter finds & makes song of your poems, which is what we heard at Collected Works last Saturday, 28/4/07, when Gen Fitzgerald, guitar, returned the favour of Louise Crisp's reading from her new book, Uplands. I think it was the first time Louise had heard the song. Great compliment & potentially instructive interpretation. A pity that not many Melbourne poets or poetry audience were there (--I remember years ago Alan Wearne warning that Autumn & Winter Saturday afternoons were a no-no in Melbourne because of the footy, and in his case could not attend anything if the Dons were playing!). FIP publisher Ron Pretty explained it to one of Louise's supporters as typical of the Melbourne scene's response to out-of-town & inter-state poets : if they know you there's a chance, if not, not! But Louise Crisp has been around for many years, though Bairnsdale is a long way away, & maybe further in the imagination than Warnambool (--note that Brendan Ryan will be reading/launching in town soon, also for FIP) or Geelong, Castlemaine... Ah well, quality not quantity as they say, but audience is important not least because of sales & distribution of the project that's probably been in train for a significant time. I certainly dont go to everything so probably shouldnt grizzle, but neither do I restrict attendance to one particular venue or stable of writers. Event- saturation, restricted time & energy are proper excuses but lack of curiousity & other species of laziness dont wash!
Paul Sinclair's launching speech was a classic meeting of worlds. (Mr Wearne's still in my head for some reason but I immediately recall Judith Brett's speech for Alan's The Nightmarkets (publ. Penguin), back in the 80s (85? 86?), at the Napier Hotel, around the corner from Collected Works when it was in Smith Street : Judy's own Melbourne- politics- & -sociology enthusiasm & expertise was probably perfect reception for Alan's narrative. Sociology isnt often the most understanding of optics for poetry but, whatever I may have muttered at the time, it was for Alan Wearne that day.) Paul Sinclair, speaking as an environmental scientist (& the author of The Murray : A River & its People, MUP, '01), was eloquent & persuasive in his support of both the activism & the poetry that informs book & poet. Just as the fish of this or that river is imbued with the taste of its own place so, he stressed, is the language. Louise's language of rocks & rivers is particular to her place, and of late the Snowy has been her prime topographical & political location. Of course we would respond that the poetry, & Louise's in particular, isnt a transparent window on & for the place. But for one who's been where the poet's been, or wants to be so transported, who's drawn into & yields to that empathy, it is crystal clear! Certainly Dr Sinclair, for one, spoke as a true believer influencing us all to the same opinion! The qualification I shared with Andy Jackson when we chatted afterwards was that the literary references in this book are a counterpoint or a descant to her main voice, and that such references boost other themes & glintings. For example, Rene Char is a significant signpost in the book, but isnt the first reference when one thinks of environmentalism or even environmental poetry. Ashbery's there too, John Anderson, John Forbes, Cixous, Machado...
I look forward to the reviews...
At not too wide a tangent to the Crisp & etc, talking with Barry Hill recently about Gary Snyder, whose new book of essays, Back On Fire, has arrived, I said how the poet-scholar-activist Snyder still has, maybe always had, dirt under his fingernails (--I got the same impression about Paul Sinclair). There's a lumberman background there, a climber, a traveller. He's part of the world and therefore within the critique he mounts. And yet, in 1981, listening to him at the Montsalvat poetry festival, I had another point of view. It was in response to what I thought of as an earth [earth first?] fascism, which I'd broached regarding poems by Jonathon Griffin (for which I sometimes felt Tony Rudolf, his friend & publisher, never forgave me) : Snyder's blue jay scorning the humans on the ground as nuclear-armed jets screeched overhead...a bit like taking the side of the cockroaches as the great survivors! My point being (& Michael McClure's wonderful yell,"I am a mammal patriot!" still rings in my ear), surely it's disingenuous to forfeit or deny humanity (one's own type of being, one's only agency in Being) in order or by way of criticising human dastardry & silliness. I know Barry's been into Snyder for the past year or so but havent caught up with his writings yet. And I've been back with Snyder in Kerouac's representation as Japhy Ryder in The Dharma Bums' correspondence with my brother Bernard [see On The Dharma Bum(s) With the Hemensley Brothers elsewhere on this blog], which has returned me to Snyder's poetry (especially his take on Han Shan) and from there right to the T'ang dynasty poets and thinking about Taoism vis a vis Buddhism...
What else? Returning to the poetry & music theme : a marvellous feature of the programme for the launching of Kathryn Hamann's Saint Moon (from Richard Hillman's Sidewalk Books), at St Dunstan's Anglican Church, Camberwell (April 22/07), was her daughter Judith's perfect playing of the exquisite piece for cello by Latvian composer Peteris Vasks... Ignoramus that I am, I'd not heard of Vasks, but immediately felt this was the territory of Arvo Part, Aulis Sallinen... Apropos science & sociology meeting poetry (as per Brett & Sinclair above), Sue Stanford's speech was strung (more cello?) between social history & mythology. Most striking was the particularly threatening portrait she drew of the cultural & political milieu for the Australian family of the 50s & 60s ,from which the poet Kathryn Hamann emerges. Sue Stanford was relating the ramifications of attitudes of the day to the life of the family, suggesting that the poems in Saint Moon were an urgent recapitulation of such general & particular trauma. That sounds dry but it was a scintillating address...

May 3rd, 2007