Wednesday, August 29, 2007



In the closing bars of the Great Rock'N'Roll Swindle's title track, Ten Pole Tudor (a welcome addition to the film, tho' a less than adequate replacement for Johnny Rotten, a position he was touted to be filling at the time - '79) shouts, "Sid Vicious - a rock'n'roll cliche," a slogan that came to pass as a summation &/or condemnation &/or epitath for the man, and stands (along with two posthumous tributes : "Sad Vacation" by Johnny Thunders & "Love Kills" by The Ramones) as the only musical acknowledgment of John Beverley's short existence on this wretched mortal coil. As for Sid's own musical legacy, apart from his few "contributions" to the above mentioned double sound-track L.P. (pedants will note that I'm including amongst these the live version of "Belsen was a gas" on which he indisputably plays bass - altho' credited on "Never Mind the Bollocks", it's commonly known that Sid's bass parts were played by Steve Jones or Glen Matlock on all Pistols recordings issued during his tenure with the band) & a handful of live bootlegs recorded from '77 to'78 with the Pistols, we're left with "Sid Sings" - a live L.P. of dubious quality issued by Virgin to cash in on his death in '79. Slim pickings, indeed, & not much to base a legend (even a "rock'n'roll cliche") on. Huh? Well, I'm here to tell you that that aint so, & that in my view "Sid Sings" (much derided in its day & almost universally forgotten/ignored now) is a fucking gas, if you'll pardon my French! In fact it's one of my favourite & most played records, from the time I had my Dad purchase it at Gaslight Records on the way home from his work in 1981 to the present day, & it's this very same scratchy, well-loved copy that I drag out to liven up every party I have & is in fact playing on my scratchy, well-loved stereo as I write this (at the god-forsaken hour of 2 in the morning, no less!). Due to its lack of credits, it's virtually impossible to know who the musicians on the L.P. are, tho' I've read numerous suppositions over the years. My own theory is, as the L.P. is culled from one (or more) of the four Max's Kansas City gigs (booked by Sid's "manager" of the period, Nancy Spungen) Sid played in late '78, early '79, the rhythm section is (definitely) Jerry Nolan, of Dolls/Heartbreakers infamy, on drums, Arthur Kane (ex-Dolls) on bass (I'm guessing here - photos exist of the "Killer" on stage with Sid at Max's) & as for the guitar - someone who does a very good Johnny Thunders impersonation - I've heard Clash's Mick Jones mentioned, but I'm placing my bets on Walter Lure - surely Jones would've been too busy w/ the Clash's own vigorous touring & recording schedule in 1979 to be bothered slumming it with the cream of N.Y.'s junk-rock crop at this stage of the game. As you'd guess from the players on the L.P., the set-list leans very heavily towards Dolls' & Heartbreakers' songs, but who's complaining? Some of these uppity & straight-arse contemporary punkers should take notice of this L.P., 'cos in my humble opinion, this is a close to unbeatable selection of bona-fide punk rock classics, which raises another important issue. "Sid Sings" single-handedly introduced me to the work of some of the genre's pioneers & is still seen by me as a virtual "classic" punk text-book. This was the place I first heard "Born to Lose", "Chinese Rocks" & "Take a Chance on Me" by the Heartbreakers; these were the first versions of "Search & Destroy" & "I Wanna Be Your Dog" by the Stooges I ever heard. It was this version of the Dolls' "Chatterbox" that I transcribed (I'd assumed Thunders' own version on the 2nd Dolls L.P., "Too Much Too Soon", was sung by a female vocalist, making it (perversely) unintelligible to my untrained, male-dominated 9 year old ears!)(side note : I'd read that female singing group The Stillettos backed up the Dolls, so at this point in my life I imagined it was Debbie Harry singing "Chatterbox"! or maybe that was just wishful thinking : remember, that was the era of "Heart of Glass" & "Rapture", & it wasnt easy getting my primary school chums to tune into this punk rock garbage I was getting into... Perhaps if that spunk Blondie was in on this racket I'd gain some schoolyard cred!!). The album's only dud moment, to my ears, is the studio out-take of "My way" - presented in this setting minus Steve Jones' ripping guitar track, & Sid's greatest Rotten-inspired vocal of the more commonly known version (off, once again, "Swindle"). The one original, perhaps the only song Vicious actually wrote, "Belsen Was a Gas" (& introduced fittingly by the man himself as "Belsen Was a Gas - By Sid Vicious", making a mockery of the bogus label-credits, which suggest the rest of the Pistols to 've been co-writers of the track... Anyone who's read Jon Savage's exhaustive book, "England's Dreaming", will no doubt have noticed the original lyric sheet of the song, originally composed for Sid's 1st band, Flowers of Romance, in Sid's handwriting, reproduced within) is presented in the Ramones/Heartbreakers style one imagines Sid originally conceived the song to be &, as such, rocks along very nicely indeed. As does the entire album by the way. Not convinced? Here's some other reasons why Hemensley considers "Sid Sings!" to be such a clas-sick : great RAW AS SHIT low-fi sound quality, with loud guitars, & a primal rhythm section BIG BEAT that cuts thru the NOISE like a hot knife thru stubble. So, what have we got? Exciting, fun versions of GREAT rock'n'roll songs ("Something Else" shits on the "Swindle" studio version, & "I Wanna Be Your Dog" rocks with the kinda conviction only somebody with Sid's total lack of self-esteem & extreme nihilism could muster - not to mention a genuinely PROPULSIVE & gut-thudding bass performance : one note has never sounded so good!) by the Stooges, Dolls, Pistols, Heartbreakers, Eddie Cochran & The Monkees (a version of "Stepping-stone" every bit as good as the Pistols & better than the Heartbreakers in my estimation); oh, and one other important factor that used to be a prime consideration in this type of rock'n'roll - ATTITUDE. The type of attitude that may've made Sid "a rock'n'roll cliche", but a hell of a more entertaining one than some of those alleged "survivors" of the same era, who got out of their lives minus their integrity. "Sid Sings" is everything a live rock'n'roll record should be : raw, trashy, powerful, dirty-mouthed FUN. Turn it on, turn it up, TURN IT OUT!

--Tim Hemensley
[This piece written on front & back of a Commonwealth Employment Service letter to Tim, dated 27th February, 1997, advising him of changed date of appointment with the department's psychologist... I imagine Tim's "re-examination & review" of Sid Vicious as preempting the CES's own examination of himself!]

Sunday, August 26, 2007


From Tim Hemensley Diary, c December, 2000 / June, 2001

the biggest regret of my life --
in 1986, Johnny Thunders played at
Melbourne University & i couldnt go
(i had school the next day) --
echoes still through the fog
of memory & across the years;
16 years since then -- i've
lived my life around this event,
& even now the memory strikes me
as (blackly) humorous : i missed seeing
Johnny Thunders & his band (included
Jerry Nolan & Glen Matlock on bass, too)
'cos it was a sunday nite & my
folks figured i'd had plenty of
nites out lately & in my case
it was a sunday nite & i had school
the following day -- school that i
ultimately failed every subject
in & left as soon as i turned 17!
school that i have virtually
no memory of now -- nearly no GOOD
ones, anyway! yet i still kick
myself EVERY DAY for missing out
on seeing Johnny Thunders (& Band)
that nite 16 YEARS AGO.
& my recall of that nite comes
back as vividly as if it were
yesterday :
while Johnny Thunders & Band
played at Melbourne University,
i sat at home in my bedroom
(downstairs in the bungalow)
& played my New York Dolls tape
("too much, too soon") whilst smoking
a pack of cigarettes (a rarity for
me at that stage -- i neither enjoyed
cigarettes nor wanted to learn how to enjoy
them -- at 14 i considered tobacco to
be worth smoking only when mixed
w/ marijuana); my only consolation
on that crap evening was the vague
thought in the back of my mind -- "NEXT
BE THERE" & we all know how that little
hope ends up!
no, i NEVER got to see Johnny Thunders --
not that nite or any other;
& tho' it is my "biggest regret in life",
it's also one of my most vivid teenage
memories -- a nite when i stared
disappointment in the face & attempted
to make do w/ the next best things
at hand! -- & as such
it brings a smile to my face as well
as a frown to my forehead! --
the eternal duality of existence
expressed in one fell swoop!! --
& i cherish it, this memory of
a gig NOT SEEN OR HEARD, in fact
i cherish it -- as my memory,
& they can't take that away from me.



Goldy Hermitage
Weymouth, UK
5 th January,2005
Dear Kris, Here's some of the latest. Little poems written in the last 12 months or so...


tearing down the road
at break-neck speed
a blackbird

must be getting old
even in a dream
couldn't stiffen
for the girl

starlings gathered
on the railway sidings
dried grass seeds

weathered garden shed
looks so right
no need to paint anew

sitting zazen
mouth waters at
thought of smoked tofu

[The Bernard Hemensley Archive will gather poems & other writings scattered through the past few decades. Not sure whether to refer to the demise of B.H.'s little press, Stingy Artist, or merely its long hibernation, but whilst his press was active in England (from Alverstoke, Hampshire in the late 70s, Weymouth,Dorset in the 80s) there was every hope he'd make his own work available in the small editions he favoured. This archive intends to gradually reverse the hiatus.]

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


For Kris Hemensley : remembering John Steinbeck

The memory
of reading
John Steinbeck
is the feeling of a Wright Morris
shred of dusty lace
shadow drapes across
the muted glass...
peeling flaking paint dresser
bundled cutlery wrapped
in motley cloth
rusty old tobacco tin
lid slightly ajar
weathered tracery disintegrating...

Light and shade sepia
Beyond the open doorway
A hope and despair...

[Wright Morris in Laos]

(February, 2007)

Dear Kris,
After I said the opening lines to you, on the phone, I did sit down and try and make a poem, which is something I seldom do...I find it difficult to catch the sentence...eluding me like a fleeting brushstroke across my thoughts...(or a reflection of the moon, rippling, in the sake, in the bowl, held in the hand of a wandering poet, sitting out on a frosty night, of a full moon, drinking from a fine porcelain bowl...) then it's gone...later I found Cannery Row in Isabel's bookshop in Luang Prabung (L'etranger) and reading the introduction I thought I did remember John Steinbeck...after all, I could have made up what I remembered...and I had taken out the word "splintered" !!! I write this to you, for your birthday, listening to Issan music falling glass through my ears with the split on split sound of the rain on the tin roof outside my window...the rainy season prelude...

Cannery Row, Introduction
"Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood....."

Why write when you can gather these wonderful pieces of text from here and there...

Catherine O'Brien
(April, 2007)

Friday, August 10, 2007


Back-cover blurb for Ahmed Hashim's BAGHDAD IN HAIKU'S EYES : Only the Donkey Knew the Truth

In a sense the poet is forever at war though Heraclitus isnt my only reference; moreso that vestige of Romanticism where poet exhorts of his own condition in the less than wonderful world. So here is the horror of life in war-torn Baghdad, rendered diaristically in a kind of sad amusement; tender, intimate, tragic. Here is Baghdad between the bombs & clandestine bottles of wine, hospitable despite its ruin. And here is Ahmed Hashim, poet in Melbourne, poet in Baghdad, the poet at war defending his vocation with haiku.

[Baghdad in Haiku's Eyes , Ahmed Hashim's 36 page chapbook of haiku-like poems, written in Baghdad between 7/2/06 & 26/4/06, was published in Melbourne, July 2006. A second edition has recently appeared which includes colour photos of everyday life taken by Ahmed on a recent trip home. The poems are translated from the Arabic by Ahmed Hashim & Susan Manton. The following examples express the flavour which attracted me :

check point on every road
looking for bombs and alcohol
alcohol can't explode mosques

looking for terrorists and drunks
the drunk can't fight -
because he's drunk

they say they defend God
God doesn't need defending
that's what he said to the drunk

(Kris Hemensley, August 10th, 2007)

Sunday, August 5, 2007


LAUNCH SPEECH for SALT-LICK QUARTERLY, volume 4; 13th March,2004 at Dante's Restaurant, Fitzroy, Melbourne.

I dedicate my comments this evening to the memory of Cid Corman. Paul Croucher, one of the founders of Salt-Lick, rang me this afternoon with the sad news that Corman died on 12th March, 6 a.m., Japanese time. For several weeks he's been in & out of coma.

"Death always
us - a breath

is a breath

The sound and
spirit of
a poet."

Corman was one of the great editors. When the best of his magazine,Origin, was published about 30 years ago as The Gist of Origin, everyone could see what a grand job it had done --providing a platform for the inheritors of the Pound-Williams-Zukofsky tendency --chiefly Olson & Creeley, the Black Mountain poets --and their colleagues & successors --all the way down to [contemporary] San Francisco poets like George Evans & our own Clive Faust, who lives quietly in Bendigo...

Corman also published important translations, ancient & modern, from the European languages & Japanese, Chinese. Whilst he supported Olson & co., he stuck by his own tastes & values against their hectoring & egotism --a bit of both of which rubbed off on me!

These days, with my bookseller's hat on, I will say that Salt-Lick is the best purely poetry magazine in Australia. But what would I have said thirty years ago? A magazine which just published poems without a literary or linguistic [poetic] programme? Wasnt that what the "new poetry" & the "new poets" wanted to transcend? Didnt we think of that sort of thing as the merely literary, the journeyman mainstream? I remember --at least I think I do --arguing the point with Michael Dugan in 1969, but I wouldnt these days --not since the '90s! Forgive me Michael...!

A whole lot of water under the bridge since the '60s & '70s. (In 1968 Michael & I published magazines, Our Glass & Crosscurrents, on different sides of the city, and until Ken Taylor told me, ignorant of one another! This event was the beginning of the "mini-mag explosion" --the rest is history!)

What I've learnt, since the '60s, is the limitation of any ideology --or certainly, the limited tenure of any ideology. In my own case, as editor/publisher & poet, I realised that the pursuit of a poetical-aesthetical & literary-political line eventually ran me into a massive cul-de-sac. I needed, personally, to re-think & re-read. I was never happier than in the late '80s, critiquing my philosophical & literary position. I felt re-born in the '90s, and I'm still reaping the benefits.

As far as I was concerned [after that re-think], postmodernism (the catch-cry of the '70s & '80s) meant, at the very least, the re-admission of all the types of poetry which had been reduced or thought to be debased & therefore excluded in the time of the ascendancy of Modernism. This meant my experiments as a poet could now also include the traditional forms & privileges of poetry in addition to all of the gifts of the wonderful adventure of free-verse from Whitman & Rimbaud to the present.

Salt-Lick is a magazine whose take on poetry & poetics is pluralist. Whatever is meant by that blurb I've read which describes Salt-Lick as "favouring Australian free-verse", it's clear Salt-Lick actually publishes poets of most tendencies writing today --it publishes poems which stand up as poems in themselves (in the very way Jenny Harrison discussed in her judge's report for the [Melbourne Poets' Union] National Poetry Prize earlier this year), poems which are self-sufficient whatever their formal or experimental entry-point.

Salt-Lick is a magazine whose production values are those of the finely printed poetry-book. Poets & poems are treated to elegant design --readers are given the best chance to enjoy the work.

Salt-Lick is a magazine with a Melbourne address. It's our magazine! Melbourne poets or Melbourne-gravitating poets regularly get into it; poets of every type, including the no-type-at-all (who seem to me to be finding form for their spoken, spieling poems)!

Salt-Lick has an e-mail address & a website. Overseas poets, presumably correspondents of the magazine, also publish in Salt-Lick. This throws up another interesting discussion. When I was actively publishing & reviewing, between the late'60s & mid-'80s, I was described as an internationalist. But it's apparent that in the age of the World Wide Web, "international" either goes without saying or "local" includes the www potential wherever one happens to be. Perhaps international, in the sense of anti-parochial, trans-national, is almost beside the point nowadays?

Salt-Lick, then, is quite obviously a Melbourne-based magazine, featuring a great range of the elite, the up & coming and the quite new poets & poetry in Australia. It is local, but it is also in the world --it receives the world into its Melbourne & Australian hospitality.

This fourth issue has changed the colour of its cover, from different shades of grey to bright red, but not the colour of its generous project. The contents page reveals the proverbial embarrassment of riches : Douglas Barbour, Peter Rose, Adrienne Eberhard, Jane Gibian, Peter Boyle, Earl Livings...Lorin Ford again!...Myron Lysenko ("biggest storm / in a hundred years - / i sleep through it" ; "too much beer / i lie in bed / & almost see something") --ah, divine!

We have four contributors to this fourth issue to read today --John Mateer, Sandra Hill [now Fitts], Ross Donlon & Danny Huppatz.

We dont have with us either Margie Cronin or Rae Desmond Jones --amongst many others --who are interstate, overseas, otherwise engaged. I'd like to offer something of these. MTC Cronin's poem, "Inviting Rain, after Tu Fu, for Kris Hemensley", includes words of mine from an e-mail exchange between us : "The man said / he is wearing his dead son / like a cloak of air"... Notwithstanding that [the sad & awful reference as well as the kind acknowledgment to myself], it's an intriguingly complex poem from a prolific & ingenious poet... Rae Desmond Jones' poem has a wonderful colloquial purr, like its subject, Dean Martin. ['"i can stay for one song" he murmurs "then i gotta go." / he turns & crosses lackey street but the kids on their skateboards don't know him. / as he passes the dribbling fountain the drunk on the bench opens one eye & watches / him wander out among the cars whispering inaudible as angels in the darkness."] His contribution allows us to recall his place in the 1970s little-magazine culture, care of the inimitable Your Friendly Fascist [the magazine he edited in Sydney], but that's yet another story...

[This launching-speech was published in Ralph Wessman et al's Famous Reporter, #29 (June 2004). It caught a few typos, subsequently attended to with elegant correction slip.]